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Winter Holidays in Philadelphia

On December 14th we flew to Philadelphia to spend three weeks with family and friends over the winter holidays. Things didn’t exactly go as planned.

As soon as we got into town it was clear that the kids had caught some kind of cold. A few days later MJ ended up on antibiotics, and the kids had full blown colds. Somehow, I managed to get out unscathed, but that meant I was taking care of everyone and doing sleeping shifts on the couch so I could more easily run downstairs to care for Aaron, or upstairs to check on Adam, all while letting MJ get rest so he could recover. I was also working to get my end of year tasks done at work and generally getting things squared off so I could depart for the rest of the year with as much done as possible. It was exhausting, and I kept having to pause and remind myself how lucky I was that I wasn’t sick too.

The first Saturday we were in town I also went to a Celebration of Life for CJ Fearnley, whose sudden passing I already wrote about. I wasn’t sick, but I was sure to mask up the whole time in case I was contagious. The grief I was feeling over that weighed heavy on me, and I was grateful that MJ was still feeling well enough at that point to watch the boys for the afternoon so I could go to the service. I said a few words, connected with some folks who I hadn’t seen in years, and in one case someone I knew through my work at CJ’s company years ago but never got around to meeting in person. Seeing how he touched so many lives and was soothing, and attending was a good step in my path to heal from this loss. In the time since his passing, I find myself constantly reminded at how many small ways he touched my life, he really was a wonderful person and mentor.

In more uplifting news, it snowed! Neither of the boys had experienced snow in person since we’ve been hunkered down in snow-free coastal California for the past three winters. The snow was brief, and the rest of the trip ended up being warmer and rainy, but it was enough for us to get outside for a few minutes to run around and take some pictures.

Everyone was on the mend by the time my little sister Annette and my nephew Xavier came into town to visit on December 24th. The last time we saw them was the summer of 2019 when they came out to California to meet baby Adam and spend a week with us. The pandemic sure threw a wrench in our ability to connect, and I’m really happy that the trio of cousins got to meet and spend time together, it ended up being the highlight of our trip for me. The cousins enjoyed a bunch of outings together, and some staying home playing video games (Adam played Mario Kart for the first time!) and doing things like decorating gingerbread men. It was also really nice to catch up with my sister.

With Hanukkah landing late in the year and at the same time as Christmas, we also had the treat of spending all of Hanukkah in Philadelphia. My sister and nephew got to experience the final two nights of it with us too.

The boys and I set up the model train I always bring out for the season, and I piled presents on the table. I enjoyed the train long before I had kids, but it’s nice to get to share that joy with kids who are happy to just spend a half hour watching the train go in circles as they move models around and see how much they can speed it up without a derailment.

We also met up with some folks from the Philadelphia Linux Users Group who I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic and we did a little outing to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown. Adam thoroughly enjoyed exploring the labyrinthine museum and all the curious items to look at, while Aaron seemed content to spend most of the time in the children’s room, which is a new addition since I was last there over a decade ago, and one of the only rooms with heating. Afterwards we all ended up at a Hibachi place for lunch, which was also a whole new experience for the boys.

Speaking of new experiences, we quickly discovered that the change of scenery of the townhouse caused Adam to explore his surroundings a bit more, which included hopping out of his crib and running around the house in the morning. Since this isn’t really safe for him, we started evaluating our options. We hadn’t moved to a toddler bed in California yet, but it swiftly became clear that we’d have to do something. Unfortunately the way the room and door are set up, there isn’t actually a place to put a bed against a wall that doesn’t collide with a window, closet, or door. Infuriatingly, the spot where his crib lived was about 2 inches too small to put a twin bed in the same position, so some creativity was required. We ended up going to Ikea and getting a MINNEN extendable bed frame and associated spring mattress which takes twin sheets and in the medium state fits perfectly in his room. The boys enjoyed helping us assemble it, and as a bonus, I was able to move the crib down to Aaron’s little room so he could take that instead of the Pack N Play with mattress that he had been using, and rapidly outgrowing. The first few nights were a little rough, but I think they were both much happier with the final result.

There are a lot of birthdays in our family in December, so while my family was in town we invited MJ’s extended family over for a big five-person birthday party. We also got to spend time with MJ’s family on New Years Eve in a little house party that had kids everywhere! It’s so funny reflecting on how our extended family was child-free until Adam came along, and now it’s all so lively and chaotic at family gatherings, quite the change.

At the end of our trip the weather warmed and dried up quite a bit, allowing us to go to a local park with MJ’s step-sister and her son. It was nice to get a little more time in with them and somewhat make up for the first ten days of our trip when we were all sick.

The flight home was uneventful, though we did have concerns about storms hitting the bay area upon our return. Thankfully there were no delays, and while it’s still challenging, we are getting better at traveling with two young kids. A big backpack full of snacks and activities, plus their own headphones and phones loaded with downloaded content were all lifesavers.

If I’m honest, the trip had bright spots but it wasn’t the reset I was hoping for. I came home feeling more exhausted and worn out than before, and I was already quite tired coming off of Thanksgiving. But it was pretty much on track for 2022, with our oldest starting preschool it felt like we were sick with something or other all year. Plus, with the addition of a “bed project” it meant that are already disrupted plans for house projects while we were in town were further shifted, which was also disappointing.

Here’s to 2023 being healthier, or our least our immune systems being better a fighting off whatever comes along!