Thursday, December 6, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

While we can’t say things are exactly slowing down around here, we do feel like we’ve fallen into a pretty chill rhythm of life after 8 consecutive years of babies, new jobs, and moves. We’re pleased to report that we have no new major news to report in 2012.

That’s not to say that life is quiet. We’ll remember 2012 as the year Josh graduated from being “Baby” and officially became a Fox brother. This year, he was jumped into the gang and can officially run as fast, hit as hard, eat as much, and smell as bad as the other boys. There is now constant and relentless teasing, mocking, racing, and roughhousing, but Josh seems to be able to hold his own well enough given that he’s still half the size of the other two. Joshie is enjoying his last year of preschool and took a brief foray into soccer this fall before deciding it wasn’t for him.

Drew is in 2nd grade and the theme of his year has been athletics. He discovered basketball last spring and soccer in the fall and now happily goes from one season to the next without a break in between. He’s a model citizen at school, and after school he does things like free-hand maps of the world for fun, so when he’s not playing hard, he’s geeking out pretty hard.

Cade is in 3rd grade and the highlight of his year is that he’s in a classroom that is piloting iPads for each student, leading to a relentless campaign for an iPad at home (thanks, school district!). Cade took up guitar last year and has built up quite a repertoire. Aaron is teaching himself piano, so the two of them enjoy jam sessions when they are able to master the same selected songs (mostly Imperial March or Carol of the Bells). Cade’s sport is swimming, and this summer he completed his first Kids Triathlon. We thought he might expire before crossing the finish line, but he did it!

Aaron is still at Dell and has mastered his role there such that he has enough free time to coach Josh’s soccer team, lead Cade’s Cub Scout den, serve as Head Cheerleader for Drew’s basketball team, and manage two fantasy football teams. He’s also running a half marathon in January.

Cara survived her first year as Executive Director of The Christi Center, an amazing Austin nonprofit that provides free grief support services. Even with her increased job responsibilities, she’s been able to maintain the usual volunteer commitments (Cub Scout leader, room mom, Sunday School teacher, Junior League of Austin, gala committee for school district Foundation, etc.). Cara is running a half marathon on a daily basis.

We squeezed in a fair amount of travel this year (skiing in New Mexico for Spring Break, Chicago area (twice) for weddings of cousins, and a planned post-Christmas trip to Disneyworld. We made some updates to the house (visitors welcome anytime!) and begrudgingly committed to a new minivan when ours conked out prematurely this summer. We’re feeling pretty middle aged, but we can’t complain – life is very, very good for the Foxes.

We hope the same is true for all of you, and we wish you a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with all of the blessings you deserve.

Love, The Foxes
Aaron, Cara, Cade, Drew and Josh

PS - To get our awesome status updates all year long, find us on Facebook.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Return of the Fox Family Christmas Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

Those of you on Facebook are up to speed on the minutiae of our every day life – as far as the rest of you know, we fell off the planet, since we couldn’t get it together enough to do a Christmas letter last year. Yay for sorely neglected blogs that allow us to avoid tracking down holiday paper and formatting margins so we can actually get the letter out (up?) this year.

In case you missed it, in 2010 we moved from Georgia back to Texas. That whole transition, while fairly seamless, was a lot bigger transition than we expected, and included a lot of fun things like our Georgia house not selling due to the sucky economy and us temporarily living in a too-small apartment and then renting a too-small house in Austin. But it was all worth it to be closer to family and also have our kids in super-great schools. As a bonus, we both ended up in jobs we really love!

Lest we allow things to stay the same long enough to get dull, we bought a house in July of this year and moved over 4th of July weekend. The new house actually has a similar look/feel to our Georgia one – it must be our “type”. It’s got a nice big backyard, which the boys LIVE in, and lots of little custom touches throughout the house. We have some cosmetic renovations to do and eventually, when the boys get big enough to complain about privacy (or lack thereof), we will probably add another bedroom, but there are no time-sensitive renovations to be made, which made the house quite a find for our budget in this area.

The kiddos are doing great. Cade is in 2nd grade and Drew is in 1st. Their interests can pretty much be boiled down to 2 things: LEGO and Star Wars. Because we make them interact with the outside world, Cade has taken up guitar and Drew is playing basketball this year. Both are in Cub Scouts, forcing Cara to learn her way around the den mom world and even (gasp!) camp. Both boys do really well in school and save up all their orneriness for home, so we can’t complain.

Joshie, who will be called “Baby” for the rest of his life, is rapidly losing all semblance of baby (mostly because he is three now and not a baby at all anymore). Last year, we were worried because he was a man of such few words – now he NEVER. SHUTS. UP. He is under the impression that he’s at least 6 or 7, so he has us in stitches all the time with his precociousness. He’s super naughty but so darn cute - he has us all wrapped around his little finger.

Aaron is happy in his current role at Dell. He is managing a team of folks in several countries, and was excited to go to Brazil for the first time this summer. Cara loves her job at The Christi Center, a nonprofit that provides grief support and is a lot less depressing than it sounds (think angels on Earth).

Every year, we’re surprised to look back and realize that in addition to all the running around town to work, school and activities (plus the occasional trip to see the grandparents in Houston), we’re able to squeeze in a little travel as well. This year, various combinations of us hit up Disney World, San Francisco and Napa, a grand tour of Texas for spring break, the Kentucky Derby, Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, Palm Springs, CA, New Orleans, and Brazil. Whew! We hope 2012 brings as much fun!

We’re definitely counting our blessings, and you’re among them. We hope all of you have a wonderful holiday and a healthy and happy new year. Our door is always open, so if you ever find yourself in ATX, stop on by!

The Foxes

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Return to Normalcy - Whatever That Means

As a follow-up to my last vent post, I'm delighted to report that things are finally starting to calm down a little and we had our first fun-filled family weekend since moving to Austin.

The past two months have been absolutely consumed by moving-related activities and honestly, it's difficult to focus on much else when you're drowning in cardboard boxes filled with your life's possessions. It turns out that unpacking five people worth of stuff takes longer than one (including me) would think. We've been lucky enough to have my sisters and parents to help with the kids, which has been a HUGE blessing, but I've been feeling pretty guilty that while other people seem to be having lots of fun with our kids, we haven't felt like we could take the time to have fun with them.

This weekend, we'd finally had enough. We shoved the last few unpacked boxes into the garage to be unpacked at our leisure and mapped out a fun-filled weekend, kicked off by Pizza Night on Friday. On Saturday we checked out a fabulous little family-friendly Oktoberfest at a local microbrewery. Talk about a perfect afternoon - gorgeous weather, beer that surprised us by not sucking, and just the right amount of games and other activities for our crew. The afternoon was further sweetened by a surprise Texas win over Nebraska and a trip to one of my favorite college haunts for Mexican food for dinner. The kids surprised us by being on their best behavior all day long - until about the last 15 minutes of dinner at the restaurant. God love the little guys, they can only stand wearing their human costumes for so long.

Despite all the fun things on the list for the day, the Bigs cited their favorite activity as "playing Mario Brothers" on our old-school NINTENDO that Aaron discovered in the unpacking process. Yes - we are the only family in the neighborhood world that doesn't have a Wii, but can still rock Mappyland.

Sunday brought more play. I'm embarrassed to say that while finding a good women's Bible study was at the top of my list when we moved here (check), I had yet to report anywhere for Sunday services. I finally got it together enough to check out a new church this morning, and was comforted by how much it felt like the old one I loved so much in Smyrna. Afterwards, the Bigs and I met friends at a playground while Aaron suffered through a haircut with Joshie, who has been sporting the Cousin It look for several weeks now. In the afternoon, the Bigs and Aaron headed to a kids improv comedy show, while I tucked Joshie in for a nap. While reading his nap time stories, I realized that it was the first time in weeks that we were laughing and snuggling together and I wasn't fretting about needing to be doing something else - which felt really, really good.

Perhaps it's because I jumped back in the church saddle this morning, or maybe I'm just finally feeling like I have a little breathing room, but I was particularly grateful for this normal, average weekend as a family - with everyone in good health and good spirits.

Of course, never let it be said that there is a dull moment around here. In the afternoon, the church kindly sent a welcome committee member by with a welcome packet and a coffee mug. Aaron answered the door, with black grease and debris from fixing our grill smudged across his forehead, and directed the man to me. As I chatted with him, in the background the boys were panicking because somehow Josh had managed to eat the yellow color tablet from their science experiment. I hurriedly thanked the poor man for stopping by and hustled him out down the front walk, right past the boys' pumpkins, painted with robot faces and decorated with green feather boas and little pink cowboy hats (don't ask!). As he left, I apologetically said, "Thanks so much for stopping by - it's a little crazy right now." I wanted to add, "It isn't always like this."

But that, of course, would be a lie.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On the Move

Since about 2004, the only constant for our family has been change. It seems that each year has presented a different challenge that makes life seem a little harder than it should be. The past six years of our lives have featured such themes as "Have a Million Babies in a Row" or "Heading Back to Business School Without Spousal Buy-In" and my most recent favorite "Consulting: The Fastest, Most Sure-Fire Way to Wreck Your Family Life". The theme for 2010 is definitely "Moving Sucks".

It was January of this year when we first starting kicking around the idea of moving back to Austin to be closer to family and awesome, free public schools. If you had told me back then that it was going to take nine months of strategic plotting and planning to somehow get all members of our family and a houseful of furniture to Austin with at least one person securing a steady paying job, I might've said, "Thank you very much, but Atlanta works just great for us!"

And Atlanta did work great for us. But Austin is already working better. The PROCESS of getting settled in Austin, however, is well...a process. A process involving a lot of change. And it's starting to wear on me a little.

First came the process of getting the (still unsold) house on the market. Then came the job search process. Thankfully, the job acceptance process came with a whole lotta benefits to make moving easier (thank you, God, for relocation packages), but we still had to make the actual move. Aaron came first, followed by the kids and I a week later. Since relocation benefits included 2 months of furnished corporate housing, our furniture stayed in Atlanta to keep our house "staged" and (presumably) sellable. We settled into the temporary housing, while looking for more long-term housing. We secured long/mid-term rental housing, designed to buy us some time to figure out where to buy long-term. We returned to Atlanta to pack up furnishings, moved them into the Austin house, and are now in the process of getting unpacked.

Somewhere in all that change, we got three kids settled in new schools as well as t-ball, chess club and cub scouts, and got Aaron settled in a new job. Thankfully, my job remains the same, but the mechanics of continuing to do it while moving a household, as well as accounting for the hour's time difference between me and my partner and clients throws a few wrenches in the works, just for good measure.

The good news is, nothing has really gone any differently than what I expected. It's just that what I expected is a lot harder than I expected. I'm tired of living in transition. I'm tired of meeting new people (not a good thing, when you're in a new city). I'm tired of turning utilities on and off and registering for tags, titles, and licenses. I'm tired of missing my Atlanta friends while trying to make new ones and unpacking a house while owning one in another city that sits empty. Most of all, I'm tired that my Blackberry broke and I haven't had time to get a new one so I'm using an old-school flip phone with no email access - in a part of town with crappy cell coverage.

On the bright side, we love Austin. We love being closer to family. We love the schools. We love our new (slightly downsized) house with a fenced-in backyard in a great neighborhood in a great central location. And did I mention the awesome, free public schools? So I know that all the change will be worth it. But I'm just ready to be past it - so we can move on to next year's change.

Which, God help me, better be something as simple as getting a cat.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If You Can't Beat the Heat, Join It

One of the very few things (ok, the only thing) I dreaded about our move back to Texas was the heat. Granted, I grew up in Texas heat and Atlanta ain't called "HOTlanta" for nothing, but Georgia is not nearly as hot as Texas and I'm convinced that you lose heat tolerance really fast. And with actual temperatures close to or over 100 in Austin in recent weeks and the heat index soaring WAY beyond that, I was pretty much convinced I was gonna melt as soon as I crossed the state line.

But it actually has not been bad - I've learned that you've just got to modify your lifestyle. Just like it actually makes a difference to wear a hat and layer in the winter (I speak of other places - Texas, of course, doesn't have a winter), there are a few things you can do to mitigate the heat here. Things that have worked so far for us:

1. Keep all shades drawn at all times. Sure, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder all summer long, but losing my mind is preferable to suffocating from the heat.

2. Run all fans on high at all times. You may feel like you're about to blow away every time you sit/stand still, but that's better than sweltering in stillness.

3. Run all errands in the morning. Joshie, who has a vocabulary of like 2 words, added the word "hot" about 2 days after we got here. That would be to describe the buckle on his car seat after sitting in the sun all morning. It's really best to stay away from your vehicle from the hours of about noon to 9 pm.

4. Shade helps. Parking in shade will lower your internal vehicle temperature about 10,000 degrees. Standing in shade will not lower your body temperature at all, but it will delay heat exhaustion by a good 10 minutes or so.

5. Drink lots of water. Every family member has a water bottle and I fill it up before we go to the park or outside, but it never seems to be enough water. I'm getting ready to install a water cooler in the van.

6. Wear lightweight, light-colored, breathable fabrics. I'm totally bummed that my spandex catsuits aren't going to be getting much use here, but I'm probably getting too old for them anyway. It's cotton sleeveless shirts and skirts for me all the time now.

7. Humidity matters! In Houston, where it is 100% humidity year-round, you need another shower the second you step out the door in the morning. But Austin has more reasonable humidity levels and it's amazing what a little less moisture and a slight breeze will do for you. Just another one of the million reasons why Houston sucks and Austin rocks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Move to Austin: Week 1.5

It seems that I must update my status on Facebook a lot more than I think I do, because several friends have emailed in the past few days wondering if I am ok because it appears that I went out to buy lunchboxes and never came back.

All is fine here, it's just been a little bit of an adjustment and a few things are making it hard to communicate with the outside world on a regular basis.
  • We're currently temporarily living in a 2-bedroom apartment. This has the kids' sleep schedules all out of whack because they are in one room - they are up early, go to bed late, and naps are a crapshoot. Because of this, if they do nap, I am freqently napping as well because they exhaust me so much.
  • Also, they are not in school yet, so ALL THREE CHILDREN ARE WITH ME 24 HOURS A DAY. This is the main reason why you haven't heard from me. Honestly, don't be surprised if you come to see me and find my unresponsive corpse at the bottom of the apartment stairs - they are eating. me. alive.
  • Finally, the apartment has spotty cell phone coverage and we can't get the wireless internet to work. This means that I have to be either standing on the balcony to talk or within 3 feet of a wall so I can plug in the cable modem and type. Talk about old-school.
Basically, between the lack of space, the fact that it is 1.5 million degrees here all day so you have to keep the blinds drawn to keep the inside temperature at a reasonable level, and the many small children milling about with Constant Needs, I'm feeling a little like a cave woman these days. A cave woman with the granite countertops I've always longed for and a nice pool and fitness center, but still....

I think we'll head to the grandparents' house this weekend so we can spread out a little, and school starts for Cade on Monday, so that should help. In the meantime, if you're flying over Austin, keep an eye out for my smoke signal and stop by - I'd love the adult interaction.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Move to Austin: Week 1

Although this blog has been largely dormant over the past couple of years, I can totally see it taking on new life as a way to keep our beloved friends in Atlanta (and around the world) updated on what we're up to in Texas. With the bulk of my family now nearby, you will no doubt see the cast of blog characters expand as they make guest appearances in our household on a more frequent and consistent basis.

So far, life in Austin is good. Key highlights/updates:
  • Atlanta/Austin drive - can be summarized in one word - "sucked". My mom was gracious enough to fly out to the ATL and help me get our crew to Texas via car, because we decided that as hellacious as that sounds, it would be easier than me getting 3 kids, 3 car seats, a stroller and a plane full of luggage to Austin by myself. During the 2-day trip, the Bigs were as good as gold as long as they had a steadily rotating supply of electronic devices (iPod, Leapster, DVD player, etc.). Josh fussed and screamed the entire way and was just generally unpleasant to be around. In retrospect, I think he was getting teeth and we should have busted out both the ibuprofen and the Benadryl a lot sooner than we did. The real hero of the trip was my mom, who tirelessly sang children's songs across all 4 states and even learned to drive faster than 65 by the end of the trip. But in all seriousness, I could not have done it without her.
  • Austin living conditions - Our house in Smyrna hasn't sold yet, and we are temporarily in a furnished corporate apartment until we figure out whether we want to buy/rent and where. Said apartment is actually nicer than our house, has amazing views of the Texas Hill Country, AND comes equipped with a fabulous pool and fitness center that we do not have to maintain ourselves. The whole "no-maintenance" thing has us wondering why we ever wanted to be homeowners in the first place. The only drawbacks of of the apartment are A) it only has two bedrooms and B) it is on the third floor. We have circumvented these issues by A) putting all three boys in one room and B) teaching the Bigs how to be grocery Sherpas.
  • City of Austin itself - is still fabulous. Did I mention how pretty the Hill Country is already? Austin still has all the same amazing dining options I remember from my college days, only now I can actually afford to take advantage of them without a loan from my dad. What I had forgotten, and what I love MOST, is how laid-back it is here. I took the boys to scope out our Chick-Fil-A today and was amazed to note that only a handful of moms in the place were wearing makeup. Several were in *gasp* running shorts and t-shirts! The one mom that was fully decked out Atlanta-style in a precious sundress complete with jewelry, blown-out hair, and makeup, looked oddly out of place. FINALLY - a place where I can be true to my low-maintenance tendencies!
So yeah - all in all, it's pretty good. We still face just a few key challenges to getting settled, which include:
  1. Kids are making me crazy. School starts next week - that should help. Hopefully.
  2. It is hotter than hell here. Every day this week will be over 100 - no joke.
  3. Now that they are all in the same room and unsupervised for roughly 8 hours a night, the Bigs have discovered how to team-lift Baby out of the Pack-N-Play. This means that all three boys are standing in the doorway at the crack of dawn, greeting us with smiles. On the bright side, Baby's vocabulary is expanding to include "'Ello!" as a morning greeting. Obviously, a 2-bedroom apartment is NOT a long-term solution.
  4. Finally, the pesky matter of finding somewhere permanent to live. Do we buy? Do we rent? And where? Only time will tell...