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Thanksgiving with the family in Philadelphia

We spent the week before Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving week itself at our townhouse in Philadelphia. Since this is just another home spot for us, we were both working most of the time, and the usual laundry, dishes, and house stuff. A few days into our trip, the dishwasher stopped working, but thankfully it had just come unplugged, and we were able to pull it out and swiftly solve the problem. There was also a drawer in the kitchen that and been badly installed and broke on our last family trip there, and we spent some time fixing that as well.

The last big thing to “fix” was taking down the play pen that MJ built all the way back in 2019. It took up nearly half the living room, but the pandemic rendered most of it’s useful life irrelevant. I’m not sure it was age-appropriate for even Aaron when we visited for the first time in 2022, but they had both definitely outgrown it now. It’s disappointing that we got so little use out of it, but we couldn’t have anticipated that a global pandemic would keep us away for over two and a half years.

Work-wise, it’s the time of year where we’re all putting a lot of work into finishing major milestones in our projects and looking forward to the next year, but I was able to squeeze in some time to present at a Philadelphia area Linux Users Group (PLUG) meeting. I hadn’t been to an in-person meeting since before the pandemic, indeed, they’ve only started resuming them a few months ago. It felt like a wonderful opportunity to see some old friends and meet some of the new folks that have since joined the group, or would come out of the woodwork for a talk about open source on the mainframe. Nearly 20 people attended, and I was able to put together some fun, historical Renaissance-themed slides with my topic, “The Open Source Renaissance in Mainframe Technology” (slides here). Since I had some familiarity with the group, I was able to shift into a very casual mode for the presentation, which lasted longer than the hour I had allotted. Following the meeting, several of us went to a nearby restaurant to continue discussions, including my close friends Danita and David who I was delighted to see had come to the meeting.

I took off from work on the first Friday we were in town since we had shuffled up our au pair’s schedule a bit for travel and she was entitled to a three-day weekend. It worked out well, since the day was unseasonably warm and gave me to opportunity to take the boys out to the Philadelphia Zoo! I drove them down in the morning so we’d have a chance at making it back for lunch and Aaron’s nap – which we did! We only shift the schedule by one hour while we’re in Philly, so that helps with a lot of things that open later and we usually can’t squeeze in before nap time. Aaron got out of the stroller as soon as we entered the zoo and got to exploring. For half the visit, Adam was in the stroller, glued to the map and hoping for a zoo train that I was 90% sure wasn’t running. Once he accepted that it wasn’t running, I was able to coax him out by suggesting that he could take pictures of animals with his phone. It worked like a charm! He delightfully spent the rest of the visit taking pictures, while Aaron and I enjoyed the animals and found things to climb on.

That night, Danita and David came by to visit and have dinner. Danita brought her tiny dog Blackie, to give the boys an opportunity to visit with a dog in a safe, controlled environment. They haven’t really been exposed much to dogs and tend to be a little fearful of them, so it was a nice experiment. By the end of the evening Aaron was giving him treats without hesitation, and after they left he told us, “I want a dog, that dog.” Later in the trip when we drove past the steakhouse we had dinner at, he mentioned the dog again. He left quite the impression! Before dinner, we also got to use MJ’s old telescope a little. I had brought it out for the boys a few nights before, but my own inexperience shone through and I couldn’t get it adjusted right to see anything. David had a go at it and got us pointed at the moon, unfortunately it’s missing some pieces and won’t stay in place, so every time the boys barreled toward it, it got knocked away from the moon again. I’ll have to see about getting more familiar with it myself and see what I need to do to fix it up.

I already wrote about the type-in we went to on Saturday. On Sunday we drove out to New Jersey to meet up with MJ’s cousins Phyllis and Jack. It was their first time getting to meet littler Aaron! We met them at their apartment and visited for a while, while Aaron got to feed his second dog of the trip. We had dinner at a nearby diner that we quite like and has some pretty delicious desserts. A dinner social visit was also made to a couple of MJ’s friends from back in his school days who I hadn’t seen in over a year.

For this trip we decided that we should host Thanksgiving for the extended family at our place for the first time. This made us finally buy a proper dining room table, since we’d long since outgrown the 4-person Ikea folding table that I bought for my apartment in Pottstown years ago. I knew I wanted to get one and we’d discussed furniture shopping, but it wasn’t until I had a few minutes before an appointment to get the car serviced and a popped into a furniture shop that we made a decision. The table was delivered on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

On Tuesday evening my mother, sister Annette, and nephew Xavier drove down from Maine to visit. Annette and Xavier came down for the winter holidays last year, but my mother had never met Aaron before, and the last time she saw Adam he was only a baby! Unfortunately, it was raining and they had to contend with holiday traffic, so the drive down the east coast ended up being longer than it should have been, but they made it and we had a pizza delivery timed for their arrival so they quickly got nourishment as well.

On Wednesday I took the day off from work to spend the time with my family. We enjoyed lunch at a Jewish deli where we were picking up some brisket and gravy, stuffing, green beans, pumpkin pie, and a loaf of challah. It was a pretty chill day though, I went to the mall with my sister and Adam, and then we all went out to dinner at Toscana 52, our favorite local Italian place.

On Thanksgiving we picked up the rest of our catered Thanksgiving meal from a nearby diner, so we could complete our meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, corn, and dinner rolls. We also totally rearranged the living room to make room for a couple 6′ tables we rented. We pondered buying a couple folding tables, but chairs were the real problem, so MJ looked into rental options and came upon Karley’s Rentals which worked out beautifully. Their prices were quite reasonable, their facility was clean, and their staff was incredibly friendly, helpful, and efficient. MJ and I drove down to the northeast to pick them up, and then drop them off again on Friday morning, which ended up being better than waiting for uncertain delivery/pick-up times. Bonus, everything fit in our SUV with a single trip!

Around 4PM folks started to arrive and I began heating up all the food. In addition to my family, MJ’s father and his partner, and her adult children with their own children who we’ve grown close to. It was a loud, chaotic Thanksgiving with all the kids, but isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? I also discovered that I love hosting. It should come as no surprise, it’s the kind of defined role with tasks to keep me busy and kept me away from awkward social interactions that arise when I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing (yes, even with family!). I didn’t even mind all the setup and cleanup, I like staying busy.

We had so much food. It’s what you want from Thanksgiving, but we were flying home just a day after Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t optimal to be left with a ton of leftovers. We ate some of it, and made sandwiches for the plane, but barely put a dent in what was left. Thankfully our family has keys and promised to clear out the refrigerator after we left to make sure as little as possible went to waste.

Friday was our last full day in town, and with my family, so we decided to spend the afternoon down at The Franklin Institute. After returning aforementioned tables and chairs, we loaded the boys in the car and my mother, sister, and nephew followed us in their car and made our way to the parking garage. We skipped the stroller, which was quite the gamble! But I had a feeling the boys could handle it. Still, the whole outing was kind of a gamble. We hadn’t really taken the boys to a place like that before, and with crowds and noise and unfamiliar settings, I’m never quite sure how things will go. Thankfully, it was great. Our first stop was the giant heart.

We were there for HOURS. They happily ate at the museum cafe, engaged with loads of exhibits, and didn’t show any signs of tiring until they both fell asleep in the car on the drive home. It was the first time I’d ever gone with kids, so I saw the whole place through a totally new lens. It’s also different than how MJ experienced it, because he grew up with this museum, he WAS a kid there at one point! I only ever saw it as an adult, with other adults. It was absolutely delightful to explain so much science stuff to the boys, even if they can’t quite appreciate it yet. And I loved seeing them have so much fun with their cousin, who was happily helping Adam through the neuro network “Neuro climb” and so much more. They’d enjoyed playing with Xavier the whole visit, but my hope is that this science museum trip is one that he could honestly enjoy too.

Saturday was spent packing and closing up the house, and it was a stressful one for me. I don’t know how it takes us so many hours to do this, but there always seems to be a huge list of things to do on our last day, even when we’ll be back in a few weeks. But we were ready when our ride for the airport arrived at 3:30PM. We didn’t get back home in California until 1AM Pacific, which we may have to re-think in future visits. The boys suffered from quite the sleep disruption that lasted several days due to that late flight. At the very least, we’ll have to see about making sure they eat enough in-transit so we’re also not trying to feed them dinner before we tuck them in to bed at 2AM.

We weren’t sure we’d do this trip at all due to how much it takes out of us to make the trip, and knowing we’d be back again for three weeks at the end of the year, but I’m so glad we did. Timing worked out for so many visits with friends and family that would have been impossible over the winter holidays, and it decreases the stress we’ll have on that second visit about getting all our social visits squeezed in. It was a wonderful trip.