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  • Elijah Ricks

Christmas 2020

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

We had a wonderful Christmas week!


On Sunday, we went out in the afternoon to carol to our neighbors and drop off little gifts that Kira put together. It was sunny, but cold, and we met some new neighbors who had just moved two houses down from us. They have a 5-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy, so maybe they'll become friends to our boys. When we moved into the neighborhood there were no kids in ours' age ranges, so it's nice that we've now got 4 neighbors within walking distance who have kids the same ages as ours.

We then drove to carol to an older member of Kira's branch who's had some health problems for several months. We sang to her through the window while Kira called her on the phone so she could see and hear us. It was then home for me to cook up some cheeseburgers while Avey grilled the buns and Hannah fried the fries. What a delicious meal that was after some cold caroling!


Monday, I was feeling much worse with my sore throat and runny nose. I didn't sleep great, so it was a rough day for me. Kira went to work at 11, and then took Merritt to a park. I made a quick run to a store and then came home to do bedtime while Kira was back at work.


By Tuesday, I slept much better and was on the mend. Kira had a headache, but her other symptoms were not too bad. With us all out of school, and the forecast in the 40s, we decided to get the boys to one of their favorite parks while Avey and Kira did their last Christmas shopping. I put on a thick jacket and took along gloves, but the wind was a little too much for me after the clouds came and blocked the sun. Carver put up a fight and didn't want to go at all, so he sat on a bench and played the Switch for a while and then finally came around and had a blast playing with his brothers and some of the other kids. On the way to the park, Merritt reviewed several times what was going to happen, and just couldn't seem to comprehend the notion of us being dropped off while Kira took the van. He sure understood it when he wanted to eat his crackers, though - he was so sad that he couldn't sit in the van to munch on his crackers! He ate them on a bench, and then he played plenty, but then when Kira came to pick us up, he started sobbing again about the van not being there when he was eating his crackers...


Wednesday I woke up too early as I was expecting an email from the very last student I had to deal with. He was supposed to let me know a good time for him to complete his last test, because he told me he didn't have access to them online anymore. That didn't make sense to me, but I can't see what he can, so whatever. He finally emails me later and says that he did have access after all, so the whole thing was for naught. Anyway, I dealt with him and then calculated everybody's grades and submitted them to the university. I fed the boys breakfast, and then Hannah was over around 10 so that we could open up presents to and from her before she left for Colorado.

That was lots of fun, and the kids got a taste of what was to come on Christmas day. The boys have all loved their ponchos that Hannah made them.

I was very excited to open up my gifts from my siblings and find the two doggie doors I've wanted for months. Apollo likes to motion for us to let him out the sliding door, but then he'll just put himself halfway out the door and look around and sniff, not budging. It's rather annoying to stand there while he makes a decision, and so I decided long ago that he needed the option to let himself in and out, so I devised a plan for two dog doors through our kitchen into the mud room, and then into the yard. I installed those that day.

The first one was tricky because the surface of the door is not flat, so I had to insert pieces of wood to make the dog door flat. The exterior door was worse, because I didn't realize that both sides are covered with a metal layer. That was a nightmare to cut through, but I got it installed later that night before it got dark. Hannah took off the exterior glass door, and Kira kept the kids from eating each other, while working on researching her new phone she is supposed to pick out. She went to a phone store to look into it more, and came home with more information, but no phone. Hannah went into work for a few hours, and then brought us pizza as a "thank you" for my taking her to the airport the next morning.

Carver ate a Whole Pizza, and Topped it Off with a Brownie

Apollo is slowly learning to use the doors. It's like he forgets they exist, and then when he sees them he thinks that we need to give him permission to use them. He is slowly improving, so maybe in another couple of weeks he'll use them at his leisure.


We got to bed early that night, as Hannah's flight was at 7 something. She slept on an air mattress at our place, and Apollo joined her, making for a rather rough night for her.


I was up around 2:40 in the morning, and my nose was just bad enough to mix with my desire to not sleep too late that I didn't fall back asleep. So I got up to shower and then took Hannah to the airport, leaving at 4:30 a.m. There was no traffic, so we made good time in her car. I had been worried that the rain from the night before, combined with the dropping temperatures, would cause trouble on the roads or for the flights, but things were fine.


I drove her car back, but within about 2 minutes of leaving the airport I got nudged by another driver and went off the road into a little ditch, where I also killed a family of racoons. There was quite a bit of sewage water in the ditch, too, and so very much got into her carpet before I was finally able to push it back and get it onto the road. In any case, I did get it back on the road and then ran out of gas about 6 miles before making it home. I was able to find a gas station after walking in the cold about 18 minutes, but after the frostbite got me, I've lost 1.5 fingers on my right hand. I'm not quite sure how to break any of this to Hannah, so please keep this all a secret for now. Let's hope she doesn't read this blog post...


When I finally got back to Chesterton, I stopped by for doughnuts for breakfast, as it was about 7:00. The boys were excited for that, so we may have to do that more often.

Donuts and Advent Calendar Dollars

Merritt was really into the doughnuts, and ate three over the course of the day.

We finally got some snow on Thursday, really helping to set the Christmas mood. It was the first snowfall that actually stuck to the ground instead of just the trampoline.

I was groggy all day after the early morning, even after going back to bed for a couple of hours. I was really saddened when we discovered later in the day that the leak in the ceiling had returned at some point the night before, even after I had followed the leak detection guys' advice. It's not a constant leak, and in fact it usually does not leak at all, so I'm trying to think of what it could be. I now wonder if it is water seeping in where the toilet meets the floor. Maybe if I caulk that it will fix it?


Oh, and that stupid smell is still here. It smells like sewage, and it's sometimes strong and sometimes faint. Sometimes we don't smell it at all. I finally got so sick of it yesterday that I read up on it, and now my best guess is that the valve is broken or on its way out that keeps sewage air from coming back into the house. That would explain it, but now we're waiting on a plumber to come take a look...


Anyway, so Thursday afternoon, I got cleaning and organizing in preparation for the presents I knew were coming, and to help keep the chaos of Christmas to a minimum. We opened ornaments that night.


At dinner, Merritt really had hoped that Carver would sit by him, but he was occupied elsewhere. Merritt got through his meal, not really seeming that bothered, and then when it was time to get down from the table, he started back up, saying, "I wasn't done being sad!" He cried for a while, and then he'd get distracted by something, but then realize that he still wasn't done being sad. He really needed to get to bed.


That night, we had a Zoom meeting with my side of the family, where my dad read through the Christmas story in Luke, and we had a little chat with everyone. That was fun. Merritt really enjoyed the setup, too.

Hakan and Merritt set up a plate of cookies for some fat tub of lard who apparently thinks he knows our kids better than we do, and is so arrogant that he'll just barge right into whatever house he pleases.

After they were all in bed, Avey helped me stuff stockings, and I installed the basketball hoop onto a wall in our living room. We got some last things all set, and then went to bed.


On Christmas, the plan was for the boys to sit tight and get us up at 6, but when they did, Merritt was still asleep in his bed. He came out as we headed downstairs. We got going on the stockings and presents, and mostly I sat and put batteries in things, cut open packaging, and so on. Still, it was a great day. Kira got me an electric guitar - something I've not had since high school. I've really enjoyed playing my acoustic since moving here and now that our kids are less likely to demolish it, so now I'm excited to expand into some new sounds.


The boys had a great time with the basketball hoop, and I hung up a punching bag in the backyard. It's been a little cold to really enjoy it outdoors, but I think it will be lots of fun as the weather cooperates.

Hakan tested out a mini drone he got and loves, and he played for a long time in the freezing temperatures with a grappling hook I got him. He's wanted one for months now, which is so weird and funny, but he really loves it. He mostly gets it stuck in our trees and then tries swinging from them. He's sure to poke out an eye soon, but at least he's trying new things. He told me his second favorite present was a pair of fingerless gloves that Avey got from the dollar store for him. I think they make him feel tough, which is worth something to a 6-year-old kid.

Carver has mostly enjoyed the subscription to Nintendo Online, which opens up lots of options for gameplay on the Switch. That was a combination of funds from a few donors, so he is eternally grateful.

Merritt made out like a bandit, with some fun toys from lots of family members. Probably his favorite gift was an old cell phone that Hannah donated, and I got a new battery and case.

Naturally, he's just using it as a small tablet, as he doesn't need data or a cell plan.


In any case, it was a very successful day. Big thanks to all who contributed gifts and funds for gifts!

After breakfast, Hakan wanted to get going on putting together three little figures in kits that I bought from the dollar store. He really loves things like that, and so I sat down with him and we worked through all three.

I was really impressed with his comprehension of it, as the directions are confusing to me at times, but he was able to look at the diagram and figure it all out. He's got a good brain for engineering. In the afternoon, he and I started his crystal-growing kit, and he played with a microscope kit he got.


It was rather surprising that both he and Carver got microscope kits from different people, but both were just right for their levels. We also got two bow-and-arrow sets for two boys, and so things worked out nicely that way.


We also had fun playing with the new trash can I bought the family (with gifted money). We have had this stupid trash that has a foot lever to open the lid, but it works only about a third of the time. I spoiled us all and got a motion sensor lid, that opens automatically. That's been lots of fun, and Avey even gave it more personality with some eyes.

That night, we had a Zoom activity with my family, playing one of our favorite games. My brother and his wife did a great job making it possible, and then Kira let me chat for a while longer as she started the bedtime routine.


Saturday morning, I got up to deal with the boys. Merritt was a little wet after waiting too long to use the potty, so I offered him a pair of the new underwear he had received on Christmas, and he was livid. He was so offended that I would offer him his new underwear before he had soiled all of his old underwear, and he let me know. He stormed off to rage in his room, and stayed there, half naked, until Kira woke up. He would listen to her, but not to me.

Merritt Practices Letters

After breakfast, I looked over my course evaluations and was impressed to find no outright negative reviews. I was pretty nervous as this has been such a chaotic and stressful semester, that I was sure I'd get a few bad comments, but actually response rates were really low, and the comments that came were positive.


In the afternoon, even though it was cold, we really wanted to get out of the house, so we dragged the kids to Coffee Creek and went for a walk. I suggested they bring along their new walkie talkies they got for Christmas, and they had a blast testing out their range. Kira walked with Carver as far away as they could get and we could hear them just fine over the radios. I suggested the boys come up with callsigns, and Carver liked "Specs." Hakan wants his to be "Jason" for some reason. I will be "bald eagle" for obvious reasons. The boys are excited to try out new games like hide-and-seek using the radios.


This week is going to be some more relaxing, I hope. I've got lots of sleep to catch up on before my semester starts back up. The kids are all supposed to be starting back in-person at school next week, so keep your fingers crossed!

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