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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ricks

Christmas Wrath

Updated: Jan 2

We are finishing off this year with a fizzle after some unexpected repairs put a damper on our celebrations.

We had a fairly lazy Christmas Eve last Saturday, and just watched a movie while we sorted laundry during the day. I cleaned the rat cage and the two older boys sorted the presents by name for more efficient unwrapping the next morning. I got the pancake ingredients all set to mix the next morning, and got the bacon out to thaw. We had dinner and then went through the traditional Christmas routine of reading Luke 2, acting out the nativity story, and then watching an old recording of Kira's family members singing "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." It's strange to watch now that three of the singers have since passed on.

The kids opened their ornaments for this year. We try to give them something that symbolizes what they were like for most of the year, at this stage in their life, or a big event that defined much of the year. Merritt got a glass-blown ornament that looks like a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, as that has been his go-to snack for most of the year. I made Jesse a clay model of his haircut that has been so central to his persona this year. Carver got a small cello replica, and Avey got a replica playbill for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I tried to find a tiny model spotlight to make into an ornament, but I just couldn't seem to find anything.

We then played some games and got everyone to bed. Avey, Kira, and I then stuffed the stockings and prepared the downstairs for the morning. We made the rule that the boys could not wake us up until 6:00.

Jesse apparently did not get the memo, because he knocked on our door at midnight to tell us that Merritt had just thrown up in his bed. Kira got up and helped Merritt get cleaned up, and I worked on cleaning up the mess in his room. Avey helped to remake his bed with some clean sheets. Carver slept through the whole thing. We were all up about another hour dealing with that, and then finally got back to bed, but Kira and I had a hard time falling back asleep after the adrenaline surge from the crisis.

Of course, then 6:00 a.m. came much too early. The boys woke us up with instruments: Jesse played his recorder and Carver brought his cello into our room. We peeled ourselves from the bed and staggered downstairs to get the festivities going.

It was a great time - the kids were very thrilled with everything, and Kira and I had wonderful gifts as well. Apollo was very interested in the new socks that everyone got, but he was pretty good about sticking with his new dragon chew toy.

We finished the presents around the time we had needed to stop to get everyone ready for church, but after Merritt's stomach problems during the night, I stayed home with him. Of course, he felt completely normal and ate his usual breakfast with no problem.

While everyone else had left, I cleaned up the chaos, and tried to keep the chocolate and treats out of Apollo's reach. Then Merritt and I started putting together his gifts. We hung up his new map of the U.S.A.

He took a little while to understand that it was just a larger version of a section of his world map, but now that he gets it, he's having fun figuring out the fastest way for us to get to Canada and things like that. We also put together his model of the solar system:

He had fun with that and couldn't wait to test it out after dark because it projects images of the planets on to the ceiling.

I also put our new heated mattress pad on our bed, washed the sheets while I was doing it, and unpacked some other gifts. We are so thankful to all of the family and friends who contributed to our Christmas to make it really spectacular!

When I was washing our sheets, I went to inspect a sink that Kira had noted did not have water pressure. It appeared that the pipes had frozen, which was strange because our pipes hadn't even frozen during the polar vortex several years ago when it got into the negative 30s and such. I decided to shut off the water valves to the sink and toilet that were affected, but the toilet valve popped off in my hand before I could give it any pressure:

Sure enough, those pipes were full of ice. I got nervous about just how much damage there might be, so I started making a game plan. I set up a system for if the pipes thawed out and dripped, although the weather was not supposed to warm up for another couple of days. I contacted a plumber, apologizing for doing so on Christmas, but telling him what was going on (all through text). I then looked to find that the heater vents to that bathroom were closed. I thought it was extra cold, but it hadn't occurred to me that the vents were closed, so that's on me. I opened them up to see if that would thaw them out...

When everyone else was home from church, I made pancakes and bacon for lunch. Jesse and I then set up his new kit to grow Venus fly traps. The boys spent a lot of the afternoon playing with a foam axe throwing kit that Merritt had bought for Jesse. It has been a very popular gift, so that was a solid buy. Despite the cold, we all went outside for a while - Jesse was especially excited to try out his coveted snowboard that a relative gave him:

He got to test it a little in our yard, but of course ached for the chance to go to a larger hill.

We had leftover turkey that we had frozen from Thanksgiving, and played a few games together. After getting the boys to bed, I shut off the water to the house and left a note for Carver about it. The plumber called me and said he would send his guys out the next morning. I was so glad to hear that, as I worried it might be a few days before they could get to us. We then got to bed a little earlier after our very rough night.

By the morning the pipes had thawed out all the way, thankfully. Of course, that meant that we could not turn our water on lest we spew it all over the bathroom floor. I had filled a couple of pitchers the night before so that we had some on hand, but of course in retrospect I wished I had filled up a lot more for handwashing and brushing teeth and such.

We had a bit of a rough morning without water, and I was anxious about just how bad the plumbing problem would be, although it sure seemed like the only issue was at the toilet. I went down into the crawlspace to see if there was a shutoff valve for just that section of the house, but I could find nothing.

I got word that day that my doctoral student's dissertation was accepted as a paper presentation at a conference this coming year, so that was good news for a change. She and I will attend the conference in Philadelphia in March.

Kira got word from her family that her sister who had just had a baby needed to go back to the hospital, so she kept a close eye on the developments there. She is doing much better now, thankfully!

The plumbers got there at about noon, and got right to work. They hoped to get the water main valve shut off, but of course the yard was covered in snow. I knew the general location where it was, so I shoveled off part of the yard to look for it. I could not find it! They kept working while I kept looking for the valve, but I never did find it. They were luckily able to finish even without shutting off the water to the house completely (the meter valve inside is not quite working), so they had us back up and running in about an hour. They still said that the water meter valve needed replacing, but I'd need to find the water main shutoff in the yard. I figured I could do that once all the snow melted in the next couple of days.

Once the plumbers were gone, I took the boys sledding. Kira and Avey joined us with Apollo a while later.

The kids had a great time, even if it was a little too cold and windy for my taste.

I left a little earlier to thaw out my toes, and then Kira brought them all home.

Jesse was excited to make some more progress with his snowboard:

We ate dinner back at home and then watched E.T. together - it was a gift from our neighbor along with some snacks for a movie night. That was fun to get to relax a little finally.

Kira and I both slept in on Tuesday, but Kira awoke with a headache. I ran to some stores for returns and some shopping and then came home to feed everyone lunch. I got a call back from the city guy about my mailbox. Long story short, they will reimburse me for the parts of my broken mailbox post.

A former neighbor invited us to go sledding again, so the kids all got their gear on and went back to the same hill as the day before. I started to hang Kira's new mirror, but then took Apollo to the sledding place also. Once we were home again, I finished hanging the mirror, fixed a part of the toilet in the mud room, and installed a bench vise that Hannah had given me. We finished up E.T. and then played some games at bedtime.

Wednesday was low key at first as we both slept in again. I cleaned up the garage and then installed my new mailbox post, and added an extra brace to help strengthen it. Let's see how long this one lasts...

Kira put together a play date with our old neighbors at an indoor playground at a church, but it was surprisingly hard to find anyone able to meet them there. It was nice to get the kids out of the house for that, at least. The snow was starting to melt pretty well in the warmer weather, so that was nice. Hannah was flying back that afternoon, so we had planned for me to take the train to the city and meet her near my office. I needed to get some work done and wanted to pick up two books from my office to help me prepare for the semester. I worked the whole train ride there, but of course the building where my office is is locked up tight until next week. The security guy wouldn't even let me run up there for 5 minutes, so that was a wash. Instead, I found a place where I could keep working on my laptop at least before meeting Hannah at the subway station. We caught the train and then made it back to Chesterton a little after 7. She said goodnight to the boys and then we watched some TV before I took her the rest of the way home.

I spent a good while the next morning looking for my stupid water main valve in the front yard. I had seen it before when mowing, and made a mental note of where it was, but I just couldn't seem to find it. I gave up after a while and then took down all the Christmas lights. It was a little wet out, but the snow was gone. The two older boys had been invited to a sleepover, and so Kira took them there, but also took Avey as they wanted to see the ice on the lake (where the family lives). Merritt stayed home with Apollo and me.

Merritt decided that he wanted to earn some money towards a game for his phone, so he got going on some chores, doing a great job.

It was a quiet evening without the older boys, so Kira and I took shifts waiting with Merritt to fall asleep, and then Hannah was there to watch some shows with us.

Merritt Tries a Peanut Butter Sandwich with Chocolate Syrup

It was nice to sleep in again the next morning, and Merritt was glad to get the TV all to himself with his brothers gone. I had a blood draw that morning, so Kira fed Merritt while I did that. I then ran to the grocery store afterwards. It was wet, but mild outside, and so I spent more time looking for my water valve. I finally texted my neighbor to ask how far his is from the street so that I could get a more narrow space to look. He measured it that night and then I finally found mine the next morning and marked it, and took detailed measurements so that I won't lose it again! The older boys stayed at the sleepover until the afternoon, so Kira and I both did work. Ivy came over to play with Apollo in the afternoon, and then I took Avey to hang out with friends at the YMCA while Hannah and I played racquetball. It was a typical night of bedtime routine and TV.

That evening Kira got word that a family's house in the branch had burned to the ground that day. No one was home at the time, but the dog died in the fire, apparently. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Kira woke up at 4:30 this morning when she heard Merritt up. She came back to bed, and then I got up to feed everyone. We took down the Christmas tree, and so we have just a few more things to put back in storage.

Merritt's Christmas Crafts

Kira offered help to the family whose house had burned down, but it seems that most things are being taken care of.

An Ornament Jesse Made

Kira's been thinking of taking the kids to a movie most of the week, and today seemed like the best day, but there are just slim pickings at the theater. Merritt and Carver are not interested in going, so it looks like I'll be staying home with them while Kira takes Avey and Jesse this afternoon.

The kids start school again this week, so we hope to get through the whining alright. I then need to hit the semester preparation hard, and maybe Kira can get a minute to breathe.

Isaac will be joining us again in a few weeks as he awaits his flight school. We will need to come up with some new ways to keep him interested in coming, so we may use the kids' Monday off that week to go to the Shedd Aquarium.

We are looking forward to a wonderful 2023, and hope that yours is full of joy!

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