Christmas 2016 Newsletter

… and thank heavens 2016 is almost over!

2016 will be remembered as a year that was for many confusing, long, and tiring. A year that started with the death of David Bowie (or maybe he was just recalled to Mars) and somehow that was the high point. And now, at the end of 2016 I suspect this is a year that many of us would happily forget. Maybe we should all just wake up on January 1st and pretend 2016 never happened.

At least for the Peck family, though, it was an eventful year.

I suppose we should get some of the negative stuff out of the way first. In January, we had to put our nine year old cat Pumpkin down.

It was a difficult decision and one that we had been trying to find a solution to for months. Those of you who knew Pumpkin will remember that she was a difficult cat, to put it mildly. She was never really 100% with us to begin with, and after Scarlett was born her behavior only worsened.

For us, the final straw came on Christmas Eve 2015, at about 11pm at night. Pumkin attacked Sarah in her sleep, leaving a good deep scratch on her face. At that point, we realized we could not have this dangerous cat in the house any longer. We had been trying to find a solution that didn’t involve putting her down, but once she attacked a person in her sleep, we were left with no other options. It was a difficult process, but I’m hopeful that she is in a better place now. She was definitely not a good cat, but she was ours, and we still grieved her loss.

In February, Sarah and Rob saw Widespread Panic (again). It’s Rob’s favorite band, so we usually going to see them whenver they’re somewhere nearby. This time they were right here in Huntsville! We also saw St. Paul and the Broken Bones as well. If you like soul music, check them out.

At the end of February, Sarah and Scarlett traveled to Knoxville for what would eventually end up being a three month long trip. They were originally slated to be gone for six weeks while they helped Sarah’s mother recover from foot surgery. But the recovery was a slow process and it ended up being late May before they finally returned to Huntsville. Rob was driving to visit them every other weekend; it was a bit like when we were first dating. But her recovery was a success and she is walking much better now.

In the meantime, Rob busied himself with work, projects around the house and running his consulting business. He completely renovated the landscaping around the house, ripping out a lot of overgrown bushes and groundcover that had gotten too large to maintain as well as sodding the front yard (okay, he paid someone to do the sod). The results were fantastic!

While he was visiting in Knoxville one weekend, we went to the Knoxville airshow as a family and had a wonderful time. We celebrated Easter in Knoxville with an easter egg hunt especially for Scarlett. Rob also saw Widespread Panic (again) with some friends in Birmingham.

Sarah and Scarlett returned to Huntsville at the end of May, and 2016 marched ever forward.

In June, Rob attended Velocity in Santa Clara, California, which is a conference for web developers. This was his first time back in the Bay Area since 2011 and he had a good time catching up with some friends who moved out that direction. We also saw “Weird Al” Yankovic in concert in Huntsville.


In January when we put Pumpkin down, we decided to give ourselves some time to grieve her loss. At the end of June, we decided that we had waited long enough after putting Pumpkin down in January to get another cat. Or two?

Taking advantage of a program called “Clear the Shelters,” we adopted these two cute little fuzzballs. Meet Galileo and Sophia!

It’s funny how these two have just totally polar opposite personalities. Galileo is bold, brash and has zero fear of anything. He was roaming the house within minutes of us bringing them home. We love him, but he is often a pest! Sophia, on the other hand, is the most priss and proper cat you will ever meet. She took a few months to warm up to everyone but she’s out and about now.

The important thing is that both cats get along well with the rest of the family. They are actually out and not just hiding all the time and both are very happy little love sponges that will soak up any attention you give them. And can you believe these two were some of the last ones left at the shelter? We figure we’re cashing in the karma we got for taking care of Pumpkin for nine years.

In August, we had perhaps the biggest change of the year: our precious litle girl Scarlett started preschool! Can you believe it?

Scarlett is attending Whitesburg Weekday Preschool in Huntsville five days a week from 8:30am to 12:30pm. It was a long process finding a preschool for her but we are happy with our choice. One of the things we really liked about it is that it felt like a school. She has lunch in the lunchroom, gym in the gymnasium, etc. We figure this will ease the transition for her to Kindergarten in a couple years when she’s ready.

Scarlett, for her part, loves school. And we have been happy to see the changes in her as well. She’s learning a ton of things, making lots of friends and her behavior has shown a marked improvement since she started school. We’ve gotten into a nice rhythm now, with Rob taking her to school in the morning and going to work, and Sarah picking her up after school is over.

In concert with Scarlett starting preschool, Sarah returned to her old job as a veterinary assistant at Apollo Animal Hospital in Huntsville. She’s happy to be back working with animals again and is generally enjoying her time back at work. She’s also just around the corner from Scarlett’s preschool, so picking her up at the end of the day is easy.

In August, Rob traveled to Des Moines, Iowa to see a very good friend who moved there a year earlier. Following a few days in Des Moines, he traveled on to Chicago where he attended An Event Apart, which is a conference for web developers.

As September rolled around, we saw Widespread Panic (again), this time in Alpharetta, Georgia. As it is their final big tour, Rob was trying to get in as many shows as he could.

In October, the Peck family took a grand vacation, our first in more than a year. This time we joined Sarah’s parents in visiting the Northeast to see the fall foliage.

We started our trip flying from Nashville to Boston where we stayed overnight. We then headed down to Brooklyn, Connecticut to attend Sarah’s cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful drive through picturesque New England towns.

Following the wedding, we drove up to Stowe, Vermont to stay at the Trapp Family Lodge. If you’re familiar with The Sound of Music, this is the lodge in Vermont founded by the family after the immigrated to America. It was a beautiful location and we timed it perfectly to catch the foliage at just the right time. While there, we also visited the Ben and Jerry’s factory nearby and had some awesome ice cream. It’s even better fresh.

After a few days in Stowe, we drove back to Boston for the night. The next morning we took Scarlett to the Children’s Museum in Boston before catching our flight back home. All in all, we had a really great time!

Following our return home, we were piivileged to be a part of the unveiling of a monument dedicated to Frederick and Renetta Peck, who immigrated to Prussia in 1854, at the family cemetery in Killen, Alabama. They were originally buried under simple fieldstones. We took up a collection among the family to have a proper monument erected and it turned out beautifully. We also got to meet many new relatives that we didn’t know we had!

As November rolled around we found ourselves at another concert, this time seeing Dolly Parton in concert in Huntsville. She put on a pretty impressive performance especially considering she’s 70!

For Thanksgiving this year we hosted a large gathering at our house consisting of Sarah’s parents, her sister, and our niece and two nephews. That same weekend we also celebrated Scarlett’s fourth birthday! Can you believe it’s been four years?

Which brings us to tonight, where I’m laying in bed under my nice heated blanket typing this letter. 2016 has been a long year and, at a macro level, was not all that great. A lot of bad things happened, a lot of (good) famous people died. From the look of things I would say 2017 is not shaping up to be much better, but I could be mistaken.

But for us as a family, like many of us I’m sure, it was a year of ups and downs, strikes and gutters. Good times and bad, and we stay together through them all. And, I suppose, at the end of the day that’s all we really all have. Family and friends that stick together.

So give everyone around you a big hug, because we all probably need it. Remember that we’re all in this together, and let’s keep rolling forward into 2017 and try to make it better for each other.