It's been a fun year at the French residence. In February, Anne got to stay with her 3 year old niece Emily while her new sister, Amelia, was being born. There was a horrific ice storm that day but it lightened up enough by the time Amelia was born that Emmy & Anne made it to the hospital while `Mia' was just hours old. Quite an exciting day. Congratulations to Tom & Joyce!
The next several months were mostly spent working lots of overtime since we made 3 engineering releases of our F-16 software development environment products between April and June. It was a lot of work but it looks like Lockheed will make it to first flight by this summer. (Both of us still work for Texas Instruments on the F- 16 fighter jet upgrade program.) The last couple of years TI has been in the midst of major layoffs. We didn't know what would happen to our jobs. This year everything seemed to turn around. We are now doing major hiring of computer science people. So, for the time being, our jobs seem secure.
Then, off to fun. We got to visit Anne's sister, Trina & Steve & the kids in Houston and made the trip to the beach in Galveston. We had a great time watching the kids (including Trina and Anne) belly flopping on the boogey boards.
Late June, we went up to St. Louis to visit Anne's mom and sister Kath & her kids. Anne & Kath even got in a bike ride along the Mississippi River Road and into western Illinois. Kath managed to defend Anne against a pack of nine barking dogs but couldn't keep her from feeding her leg to a nice playful Border Collie later. Oh well, we got to meet some interesting folks (including a potbelly pig named Petunia) waiting for the animal control people to verify the dog's rabies status. The dog's vaccinations were up to date since he had been rescued from the Midwest flooding the previous December and cleaned up. The bite wasn't bad so Anne & Kath went on their way, peddling along while singing "Ain't Nobody Here but us Chickens" at the top of their lungs. Stewart meanwhile went on to Kentucky and had a short visit with his folks, but we got to see them again.
In October, we went to Washington, DC with Stewart's parents. We made reservations at an older, small hotel just north of the White House with the thought of walking everywhere. The hotel had character, and kitchens, so we loaded up on food only to find out they also had ... "water bugs" (as Maxine called them). The final straw was the Rock-n-Roll music blasting from the sports bar that was visible from our window. Stewart called the front desk and they said not to worry, the bar would close about 3:00am and it would get quiet then. Right then, Stewart got on the phone and made reservations at the Holiday Inn Capitol and we moved out the next morning. We were so happy with the Holiday Inn, just 1 block from the Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian. Don't ever stay at the ``Hotel Anthony'' in DC!
We had gotten tickets from our local congressman to sit in the gallery of the senate. We were lucky to see all of the senators show up for vote at about 6:30pm one evening. It was interesting and a bit depressing to see how our elected officials act, and the process they use to block any useful activity. The Smithsonian was wonderful and the bus tour we took in the evening was well worth it, with all the buildings and monuments lit up and an entertaining bus driver to tell us all about the "Supremes Court" and "Protester's Park."
At Thanksgiving this year we went to Lake Charles, LA and visited with Stewart's brother Morgan and his family. We flew there from Dallas-Fort Worth on an American Eagle commuter plane. We weren't frightened though, it had been pre-disastered just the previous week. We had a great time visiting, eating, and playing "The Secret of Monkey Island" with Cliff and Meredith on Meredith's computer.
Here in Plano, TX things are really hopping! People keep moving in and houses are popping up everywhere. In the past year, 3 new large grocery stores have opened and two have closed. In a 5 square mile area around our house are 8 large grocery stores! 2 Krogers, 2 Tom Thumbs, 2 Brookshires, and 2 Albertsons. It's nuts. Where do all the people come from?
Arlington, TX built a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers, "The Ballpark in Arlington". We got mini-season tickets that let us go to one game of each series. The ballpark is beautiful and our seats were fantastic ... front row third tier between 3rd base and home and looking straight into the giant video screen/score board. It was great until the players strike. Arghh!! Good thing the Rangers came in first place in their division (okay, I'll admit they were ten games under .500).
I always thought that those situations that Tim Allen got himself into on ABC's show "Home Improvement" were just made up by the writers. But no, they can happen to you! We had our flooring replaced this summer. The workmen managed to lock themselves out of the house one afternoon, and where did they call? The house! And left a message on the machine. They could have looked in and seen the light flashing. A cleaning crew came to cleanup after them when they were done. And what did they do? Locked themselves out of the house! She shimmied over the 8' fence and tried to get in through the back and in the process dropped her beeper. Stewart had to go home and let them in to finish up and get their stuff and phone the beeper number while people stood in back listened for it. Finally, on the last day, we wrote them a check and showed them the door. The next morning our neighbor 5 houses over on the next street knocked on the door at 7:00am. He had found our check to the flooring installers blowing down the alley! Then we found the check we had left for the cleaners still sitting on the kitchen table! I guess these people were all in it for the creative fulfillment. Luckily, they all did good jobs on the actual work and the house turned out looking great.
We started seriously bicycling this year, riding in several of the organized biking events around Texas. There are a lot of these! We rode in the Wildflower 100 in San Antonio, Collin Classic here is Plano, Solano Ride for life, Hot Rocks in Rockwall, World Bike Tour around Lake Lewisville, and the grandaddy of them all, the Hotter'n Hell Hundred. The HHH had over 10,000 people at it. Its held in August in Wichita Falls, TX. This year it hit 105 degrees. They had rest stops setup every 10 miles or so. That last few had people handing out iced towels and coaches stopping everyone asking "Talk to me... Can you talk to me?" to see who was still alive. We did the 50 mile course. 100 miles? Well, maybe next year.
Practically every weekend we get together with our friends, Alan and Maria, to ride around Dallas. Stewart loads up his bike with enough tools, kleenex, and food to keep us all going for months so A & M have started calling him "Pİpİ the mule". You sure don't want to find yourself stranded in rural Texas without Stewart! The rides have been great, full of wildflowers and wildlife. Late in October, we were able to do some biking near Austin and actually had deer jump out in our path.
The cats, Murky and Louie, have moved beyond the toleration phase and now occassionally acknowledge each other's existence, usually when they're fighting over who gets whose lap. But they've been fun, even though Louie learned a lot about wild blanket diving when Anne's sister Trese came to visit.
We're making the big trek at XMas this year up to St. Louis and Radcliff for the first time since the big blizzard of (what year was that we drove 800 miles at 40 miles per hour???). Well, I've probably just jinxed us but we're crossing our fingers.
Hope you have a wonderful holiday!