Back in the swing for 2017

After an excellent winter break, our family is back to normal and settling into a groove for the new year. Actually it’s a new normal, because we have several fun and exciting new things going on, but more on those in a few. First I want to take a minute to extend my sincerest gratitude to Grandpa Rick and Grandma Chris for everything they did to have us out for Christmas. This was easily one of the best Christmas holidays I’ve ever had, and of my 3 trips to Iowa, it’s probably fair to say that this was my favorite one. I certainly had a great time on the other 2 trips as well, but there was something special about this one that I’ll never forget. Looking back at everything Rick and Chris went out of their way to do in order to ensure we had a great trip, it just blows me away. I know they did it all out of love, and would be happy to do it all over again, but I just want them to know how much I personally appreciate it.

Although Jessica did a great job of describing our trip, there’s one part that I want to focus on a bit more: the food. One thing you know for sure is that when you’re staying at Rick and Chris’ house, you’re going to eat like a king, and this trip was certainly no exception. It’s nearly impossible for me to pick my favorite meal of the trip because we ate so well the entire time, but if I had to pick a top 3, it would be:

  1. Beef tenderloin at the Rudd family Christmas dinner
  2. Lobster, Crab, and Corn chowder on Christmas Eve
  3. Deep Dish Midwest Pizza (we had several during the trip and they were all excellent)

Honorable mention goes to the grilled Iowa pork chops Rick made on our second night there, and the ham we had at the Rudd family Christmas dinner. I’m definitely going to have my work cut out for me when Rick comes out for a visit this Spring, but rest assured, I’m already planning a menu 🙂

When we got home on Thursday night, I still had a four day weekend ahead of me before returning to Microsoft on Tuesday. Unfortunately we didn’t notice it until Saturday morning, but our furnace wasn’t working, and surprisingly enough, it was colder here in Washington than where we were in Iowa. By the time we noticed that the heat wasn’t working correctly (the house wouldn’t warm up past about 64 degrees), everyone was closed for the holiday weekend. Not surprisingly, it was freezing that weekend and we actually got more snow. By the time Sunday came around the five of us were staying bundled up with winter coats and hats all day, even though we were inside our home!

I called Rick and he guided me through a bunch of troubleshooting steps to diagnose our furnace, but unfortunately we were unable to get it fixed. First thing Monday morning I got on the phone looking for someone to come out and have a look. The first couple places I called were closed for the holiday, but luckily I got through with a company called CM Heating, and they were able to get someone out that day. The guy that came over was extremely friendly, professional, and even nice enough to let me shadow him throughout the process so I could learn more about how to troubleshoot the furnace. Turns out we had a drainage issue; the condensation that builds up when the furnace is running has to get drained out of the system, but a blockage had built up in our drainage pipe, so the water was backing all the way up to the water sensor. This explained why the furnace would fire up, run for 20 seconds, then shut down. Basically as soon as some condensation would form and try to drain out, it would hit the blockage, trigger the sensor, and the whole system would shut down. Luckily the repair was very inexpensive and I learned a lot about how a home furnace system actually works. As a first-time homeowner, there are plenty of lessons like this to learn, but I find this stuff pretty interesting. I’m just glad it wasn’t something major that would require a whole new furnace.

As far as the family goes, we’re all doing really well. The girls were excited to get back to school last week and see all their friends. In addition to their normal Tuesday Thursday schedule, Ava is now attending school on Fridays as well. This will be a nice way to ramp her up for Kindergarten, which begins in September.

Starting tomorrow night, Elise and Ava will be going to swimming lessons every Monday. I’m really excited about this because I want the kids to be comfortable in the water from a young age. My initial impressions based on experiences we’ve already had at swimming pools is that Elise is a bit more comfortable in the water than Ava, but hopefully that will even out very soon. I loved taking swimming lessons as a kid, so I hope they do too. If they get really into it maybe we’ll consider getting them into some type of swim team, but only time will tell. Regardless, I just want them to have fun, and develop good solid swimming skills so they’ll never feel uncomfortable in the water.

Our little man Enzo is doing great as well. I can’t believe how advanced his vocabulary is becoming! When I see him around other kids his age it really stands out. While other kids are grunting and saying single words here and there, Enzo is dropping entire sentences. Granted, not everyone can understand everything he says, but Jessica and I can, and it’s impressive. Just the other night he noticed a new calendar on the fridge, pointed at it, and said “I don’t know what month it is.” Jessica and I were like, wow, did he really just say that? Plus, it was super perceptive of him to notice that the calendar has changed due to the new year. Impressive indeed. The other thing he’s been doing really well is throwing balls. He just has a natural throwing motion and throws things harder and faster than you would expect. He always seems to throw with his right hand, so it’s likely that he’s right-handed. Although I wouldn’t force anything on him, he may have some natural athletic talent, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Jessica worked a very long shift on New Year’s Eve while I stayed home with the kids. I felt a little guilty for not being there with her, because I had an offer to work, but finding a babysitter that night is much easier said than done. As a testament to her constant hard work and professionalism, Jessica received an impressive (implied) job offer to become the private dining coordinator of El Gaucho Seattle. This would be the perfect job for her, and we definitely considered it, but unfortunately the timing isn’t right. If the kids were in school it would be totally different, but for her to be able to take it now would mean major changes for the kids. We’d have to hire a full-time nanny, and the kids lives would be turned upside down, so we decided not to pursue it. Hopefully another opportunity like this will come up when the time is right. Knowing her, and how good of a job she does, I’m quite confident that it will.

Today Jessica re-joined at 24 Hour Fitness. She was going a lot last year with her friend Solana, and all the kids loved going there to play together, but after Solana quit Jessica decided to take a break. Lately she’s been feeling like she needs some physical activity to balance out her creative hobby of painting rocks, so she’s back to the gym, and I’m very proud of her. Hopefully she will enjoy going to all the various classes and will have something new to look forward to on a regular basis.

Speaking of new physical activities, I too have been feeling lately like I need a physical hobby to balance out my creative hobby of playing guitar. I used to have that with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when we lived in San Diego, but I was never able to find a school I liked in Washington, and subsequently gave it up. Well, after a bunch of encouragement from a friend at work, I’ve decided to join an adult beginner’s ice hockey league. I know it sounds a little crazy but I used to love playing street hockey as a kid and I think it will be a lot of fun. Fortunately I work for an awesome company that is so dedicated to employee health and fitness that they give us an annual fitness allowance to spend on stuff like this. Hockey is one of those sports that isn’t exactly easy to get into unless you grew up playing it, mainly because it requires a bunch of gear, and a membership in a league. If you don’t know for sure that you want to play, you’re probably not going to head out and buy all the gear, then pay to get into a league, but Microsoft basically alleviates those concerns for me, so I’m just excited to get out there. I went out this week and purchased all my gear, so now I can’t wait for my first session, which is 2 weeks from today. For now I’m just going for an hour on Sunday afternoons, then after this first session ends we’ll see where we’re at in terms of getting into an intermediate league.

On a side note, based on all the political stuff I wrote around the time of the election, I just want to say that since then I’ve had several very positive conversations with my Uncle Jim and my Father-in-law Rick, and based on those conversations I feel like I have a better understanding of the complete picture. I’m not saying my perspective has changed, because I still feel strongly about the environment and gun safety, but I now have a better understanding of where a lot of Trump’s supporters were coming from. Being back in Iowa and seeing all the factories, I can see how someone would feel if they were struggling to put food on the table because they had been laid off from the only job they had ever known, and the factory moved overseas. There’s no question that if I were in that situation, my priority would be on providing for my family before it would be on protecting the environment, so I get where they’re coming from. That said, I can’t help but take some pride in the fact that I’ve been able to put my family in a position where they will never have those types of worries, but I certainly understand and empathize with those who do.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, however, is separating the message from the messenger. The fact is that I don’t like or respect Donald Trump, so I tend to focus on his negative attributes, of which I feel there are many, rather than look for the positives in his statements. I’m also unhappy with his cabinet picks, and honestly I’m very concerned about our country’s future, but I would never direct any of that dissatisfaction towards his supporters, especially now. The outcome of the election has caused me to reflect on a moment I had with Rick on my first trip to Iowa, which was for Christmas, 2009. At that time, Obama had just been elected, and his election came up during our conversation one night. I remember Rick saying “He’s not my first choice to be our president, but regardless he will be our president, so I will support him.” I remember being really impressed with that type of level-headedness, and it has stuck with me ever since. Well, now is my chance to apply that same mindset because although I’m not a fan of the man, I am a fan of our country, and I only want the best for it.

For the near-term I’ve decided to take a break from politics and focus on things that are nearer and dearer to my heart: my family, my career, and my hobbies. Jessica and I have also incorporated some new environmentally-friendly practices into our everyday lives that we’re happy about, so that’s not going to change. What is going to change for me though, is the daily articles, podcasts, social media posts, etc. I’m just not feeling it right now, mainly because it does nothing but upset me, and I don’t like spending a disproportionate amount of time feeling upset. There’s simply too much good stuff going on in our lives right now to focus on anything else. 2017 expects to be an exciting year for us, and with all the fun new stuff we’ve got going on, I think it’s safe to say we’re off to a good start. Happy New Year!

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