Baby it’s cold inside

Even though we’ve caught a bit of a reprieve over the past few days, the last couple of weeks have been pretty rough, temperature-wise. We knew, of course, that our big, old, drafty house would probably struggle a little bit in the winter, but as this is the first full winter we’re going through in the house, we hadn’t yet gotten the full experience.

Well, let’s just say it’s been an experience.

Granted it was record setting cold, but our furnace just couldn’t keep up. It was running nearly constantly (20 1/2 hours one day!) and it could barely manage to creep the temp over 60. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the furnace running in a house while the temperature continued to go down!

Upstairs was actually pretty comfortable (with the exception of Ollie’s bedroom), but it was a little hard to hang out up there with people over. And in retrospect, you could tell the cold was on our minds, since all of our Christmas presents for each other were things like slippers, long underwear, and heated blankets!

If nothing else, living in this house has taught me some things about Victorian England. NO WONDER they were always wearing a shirt and a vest and a jacket and a top hat and a bustle and fifteen other layers! NO WONDER they went to bed with a long nightgown and a cap on their head.

NO WONDER THEY DRANK SO MUCH TEA!

In any case, we’ve done a lot in the last few days, and I think we’ve gotten it under control (doesn’t hurt that it’s suddenly 50 degrees warmer!). Plastic on some of the worst windows seems to be the main thing, combined with new space heaters, new comforters, wearing long underwear around the house, draft things under the doors, heated blankets, going to bed by 9 pm…

Is winter over yet?

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A look back on 2017

My birthday being so close to the beginning of the year, I’m usually feeling pretty retrospective around this time.

I think this is the first time that one of these hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, but I’m not going to lie: 2017 was a hard year. It is not lost on me that I’ve lived a semi-charmed kind of life up until now, and that my problems tend to be of the “first world” variety. I’m not trying to say that I have it harder than so many people. But, you know, I only have this one life to live, so.

I’m generally a pretty upbeat, optimistic kind of guy, and stress usually just kind of rolls off me. So maybe I’m just not used to dealing with it, I don’t know. But I do know that 2017 has been, by far, the most stressful year of my life and, in retrospect, I have not been handling it well.

There was the drama of buying / selling houses, the tremendous amount of work we’ve put into said new house, and just generally having a one year old running around, to say nothing of the mugging and subsequent identity theft. (You might even be surprised to learn there are other things that I don’t even share on the blog!) And honestly, parenting the big kids has gotten quite a bit harder too, partially because of all the activities and things they do, which require a lot of time and effort on our part, and partially because as they get older, their problems (and the remedies to those problems) get more nuanced and complex.

(Just to talk about the mugging for a second: on one hand, I would say I’m well and truly over it, and it doesn’t impact me anymore, and on the other hand I would say that it’s been 9 months and not a day goes by that I don’t still think about it.)

So there are good days and bad days. It is certainly true to say I have probably cried more in 2017 than the previous 5 years combined (probably more in the last MONTH than the previous 5 years combined). I think maybe I had my first ever panic attack. But there have been a lot of good things too, not the least of which is my health. I ran not my customary one, but TWO 5ks this year. My weight has been maintaining somewhere around PRE-COLLEGE(!!!) weight. I have three very intelligent, very unique children, and a wife that I love very much, and we live in a house that is so amazing that I am consistently embarrassed by it.

I find myself reminiscing fondly for a time life was simpler (like, 2016 forex). At the very least I’m hoping for a calm, uneventful 2018, after which we will look back on 2017 and see it for the aberration it was. Just one blip on the radar, not the beginning of a trend (please not the beginning of a trend; I can’t handle another 2017!), just a one time course correction before everything settles down.

In the meantime, I am reexamining everything. Typically my approach to difficulties is just to keep my nose to the grindstone and work as hard as I can until I get to the other side. Just keep those legs churning. It has lately occurred to me that that approach only works if I am pointed in the right direction. If I’m throwing myself into work in the wrong direction, that is, in a way that is not recognized or appreciated because it’s not what everyone else wanted or expected, then I’m actually just digging in deeper and making the problem worse.

So my New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to realign and strive for Zen. Hopefully, if nothing else, I can learn some lessons that will help ultimately redeem 2017 into something worthwhile.

Here’s to a peaceful, calm, Zen 2018!

Christmas 2017

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The Dog Days of Winter Break, or, everything is symbolic of life these days

Yesterday was the family Christmas party and we told the kids we weren’t going to monitor what they ate as far as sweets, but that they should “use good judgement” and “try to eat SOME things that are good for you”.

Naturally, every time we saw them, they were grabbing a few more cookies or candies. What can you do, though? Some lessons you have to learn yourself.

Cut to 1 am when Ollie came into our room to say he threw up. As I scrubbed his floor he held his tummy and said, “I’m never going to eat sweets again!” (And so far he has kept to his deal; he hasn’t eaten any candy in the first four hours of this morning!)

After I got him tucked back into bed, I went to rinse out some of the rags I had used to clean up. When I started the bath I discovered that someone had left the shower plug up…discovered by receiving a full blast of freezing cold water on the back of my head.

I have to say, there is something special about a full blast of ice water on your head at 1:45 am when your hands are covered in someone else’s puke. Somehow it just felt…apropos pro.

2017 going out with a bang.

“Omg squirrel trapped in garage with me”

Yesterday I had an all-morning work training to attend. At the beginning, the trainer made a big deal about how distracting our phones are, and how we should make sure they’re off, put them away, etc. Being the rule-follower that I am, of course I complied.

I mean, I don’t mean to act like that was a big deal. I’m not some high powered business executive; most mornings I don’t receive any texts at all.

Except THIS morning…THIS morning I received something a little bit more interesting. When I got around to checking my phone at lunch time I had a series of frantic texts from Sara, starting with, “Omg squirrel trapped in garage with me”

“Hope it will run out now!!!” she continued.
“It is either out or hiding”
“Was running up garage door when I first noticed it”

And then? Nothing. Not for a whole hour after. Was it rabid? Did she escape? WAS SHE DEAD?

Naturally, I texted her immediately and got the rest of the story. So it seems like maybe the squirrel came in when she drove into the garage, or maybe it was already there. When she got out of the car to get Alex out, it was *climbing up the garage door*, a few feet from her head. Natch, she dove back in the car, abandoning the field to the squirrel, and started furiously texting me.

A real Cujo situation here.

She opened the garage door, and hoped for the best. After a while, she didn’t hear anything. So probably the squirrel is not in the garage anymore, right?

Right?

Halloween 2017

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Every year I tell the kids to make the face they want for their pumpkin. Unfortunately, Alex refused to make the face for the picture (and also insisted on putting sunglasses on his pumpkin).

I went back and looked through all the pumpkins we’ve ever carved for Evelyn, and this is the THIRD TIME she has wanted a crying pumpkin (with tears!) Why does she like crying pumpkins so much??

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We practiced many times with Alex. Sara and I would get blocks and he would come up to us with his pumpkin, say, “Trick or Treat!”, we would give him a block and he would say, “Tank Yoo!” Sometimes he would also say, “I’m a turtle!” since we prepared him that people might ask that.

Of course when it came time, he absolutely refused to say anything, mostly just shaking his head no at the people. He did get into the spirit, though, and didn’t seem to be afraid to go right up to people.

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Of course his favorite parts of the evening were seeing the giant, inflatable cats and spiders, and when the two people dressed in T-Rex costumes had a fight. What more could a boy ask for?

Another 5k in the books

This is now my 2nd consecutive 5k after vowing never to run another 5k in my life (though last year I clearly just blocked the entire thing out of my memory and didn’t even blog about it).

Last year I got suckered in by the insistence that “the WHOLE FAMILY is going to run”, and it was the same this year as well.

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As always, the highlight was the face painting. We have had a lot of cool face painting over the years, but the dueling, “Eastern versus Western dragon” face tattoos were pretty awesome.

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Alex asked for a “cake” on his face:

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“Dada, take a picture of me eating mine bacon!”

My time had actually gone up a few seconds between year one and year two (36:38 vs 36:56), but I was pleasantly surprised to be under 35 minutes this year at 34:43. A year older and a whole two minutes shaved off my time!

I ran with Sara this year for the first time, and I was definitely struggling to keep up…until I found a little bit left in the tank at the last minute to beat her by 2 seconds. 😉 “I knew you were going to do that the whole time,” she said (and she was right! How well she knows me; I was definitely going to do that the whole time.)

Oliver absolutely hates our practice runs and spends the whole time complaining about how hard it is. Often I have to hang back with him and try to motivate him to keep going.

Which is why it’s totally surprising that, come race day, there’s no catching him!

Last year he started off like a flash, but I hung back thinking, “Okay, he’s going to get tired and when he does, I’ll be back here waiting for him.” Eventually he got far enough ahead that I actually couldn’t catch up! Sara and Evelyn had started at the front of the pack, and we started at the back, so I struggled to keep up with him long enough for him to catch up to them, and then gave up and ran the rest of the race alone (well, technically I had Alex!)

It turns out that Oliver actually turned in a time of 32:57 and won his age group last year! Unfortunately we didn’t even consider that possibility and left before they called his name for the awards.

This year, he beat his time by almost FOUR MINUTES!! 29:13. That is…unbelievable. We thought for sure he must have won his age group, so it was no surprise when they called, “Oliver…” but it turns out there was a FASTER Oliver in his age group! Oliver beat the next closest person by about four minutes, but this other Oliver beat him by almost FIVE minutes! That’s nine minutes ahead of 3rd place! Yowza!

Too bad for Ollie, because he would have been so excited to win, but I still can’t believe he just went out and threw down a sub-30 minute 5k. After all the complaining he did, that little stinker!

Afterwards we went out for some post-race breakfast, and the kids got chocolate pancakes and hot chocolate. All in all, it was another great day at the race!

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