Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lots and Lots of Layers

It's 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. reports the temperature is 6 degrees with a windchill of -5 degrees.  The sun will be out later; at noon the temperature is expected to be 26 degrees with a windchill of 14 degrees.  You need to stand outside in the cold from 7:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. nonstop, with no breaks to go inside and warm up.  What do you wear?

Samantha's answer
On top: long sleeve thermal, long sleeve running turtleneck, hoodie sweatshirt, super warm down coat
On bottoms:  running tights, sweatpants, fleece pants
On feet:  three pairs of socks, lined snow boots
On head/neck:  sock hat, two hoodies, scarf wrapped around twice
On hands: gloves and mittens

Samantha's rating was warm.  Towards the end of the shift her feet got cold but otherwise this was a good solution.

Krystal's answer
On top: long underwear shirt, 2 Under Armour cold weather shirts, turtleneck sweater, fleece pullover, 2 hoodie sweatshirts, winter coat
On bottoms: 2 pairs of long underwear, running tights, 2 fleece pants, sweatpants
On feet: 4 pairs of socks, Eric's boots
On head/neck: sock hat, hoodie, scarf wrapped around twice
On hands: lined mittens

Krystal's rating was very warm.  I never got cold and -- even better -- my fingertips and hands stayed at normal body temperature.  Perfect!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Bathroom Remodel

Eric and I purchased our Sparrowwood home back in 2002 and we knew then we wanted to redo the main level bathrooms.  Certainly the main hall bathroom, which had salmon colored tile and bathtub, needed some updating.  Then we investigated price and amount of bother, and we decided we would delay remodeling.

We called in our trusty plumber many times over the next 12 years, but the collective problems kept mounting.  In 2014, in the hall bathroom, the toilet ran too long, the shower leaked into the basement, the tub faucet continuously dripped, the flooring was water damaged and not level, the exhaust fan was gunked up with roofing tiles.  The light fixture and the medicine cabinet reliably worked, but everything else was in various stages of broken.

The master bath was in better shape, with only two things technically broken:  the medicine cabinet and the sink stopper.  But the pipes, etc., were from the early 1960's and we all would be happier if they were updated to a reliable level.

We committed.  I spent a substantial portion of my summer shopping, comparing, measuring, ordering, and accumulating everything we would need for two bathrooms.  Yes, we decided to remodel two bathrooms at once.  The inconvenience level would be higher -- the five Whomptons would be restricted to one bathroom for the duration -- but the overall inconvenience would be shorter in duration.

Demolition began September 7th.  We came home from school to see a massive amount of trash in our garage and a cleared out space in the bathrooms.  When our contractor said he was ripping everything out to the studs, he was not kidding.

What was cool was looking from the hallway bath into the master bath.  If you look closely, you can see the two new bathtubs installed.

Then the walls went up and we had to peek into each room individually to see progress.  The process was fascinating to experience second-hand, as we would come home from work each day and progress had "magically" appeared in our absence.

Unfortunately, we're missing two intervening pictures.  I guess we never took them.  The tile flooring went in, then the cultured marble walls, then the painting and installation of last items.  We had three functional toilets by October 20th, which was an absolutely wonderful gift.

Here is the new hall bath.

And here is the new master bath.

We're looking forward to not calling our plumber for at least 15 years!

Thanksgiving in the North Carolina Mountains

The Whomptons joined the Comptons and Astorians at Green River Preserve, a summer camp that Stephanie runs in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina.  To get there from Saint Louis meant a healthy amount of driving.  We left STL Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Nashville at bed time; Mama Jo and Papa Bill joined us on the road early Wednesday morning as we headed out east.

Whomptons normally plan out our meal excursions whilst travelling due to my pseudo-vegan ways, but we failed to do so for this trip.  Chipotle to the rescue!  For multiple years, Raina has been able to eat an entire burrito bowl, and she did not disappoint here.  Lola pulled out all the stops, though, by eating a significant portion of my meal and an adult sized quesadilla.  Wow!

Then we entered into the mountains.  We took a twisty-turvy pathway that wound up and down mountains at 15 mph; we followed a river the majority of the way and had beautiful views.  The girls had great fun throwing themselves to one side of the car or the other as we made 270 degree turns.  I concentrated all energies on not being sick.

Then we arrived at Green River!  Woohoo!  Most of the family explored the camp, the lake, the trails. (Eric and Atticus are pretty cute together.)

 Stephanie stayed behind to make Wednesday night's chili and cornbread dinner.

One of the many benefits of celebrating Thanksgiving in North Carolina was hiking EVERY SINGLE DAY!  The family (sans Jerry) set out to reach the Lower and Upper Balds Thursday morning.  We had a rather harrowing drive to the trail head -- all occupants of the Prius exclaimed "look at that hole!" or "oh my goodness, we're tilting!" multiple times up the mountain.  But then we were safely at the trail head and we could delay thinking about the return drive for a few hours.  Instead, it was time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.  A gentle snow greeted us for certain sections of the hike, which matched the reindeer lichen all around.  We were able to look into South Carolina from our positioning.

The morning hike and exploration of Long Rock heightened our lunch appetites.  We returned to Stephanie's house ready to devour everything in site, and also to play with the bunny.  Jerry had an amazing spread with lasagna and apple pie.

Thursday evening saw us hanging around Missy and Sandy's house and planning the excursion for the next day.

Friday morning's hike destination was Pretty Place, a YMCA chapel with a gorgeous overlook into the mountains.  Stephanie, Eric, Emily, Jerry, and I departed early in the morning to hike the 3.5 mile path.  The view was absolutely worth it.

The rest of the family drove up and met us there; we huddled together for warmth and shielding from the wind.  Stephanie took the little kids back home in the car, while Mama Jo, Papa Bill, and Raina joined us for the hike back home.  Traditional Thanksgiving fare was served for lunch, and we totally earned couch sitting for a while.

But requisite family photos needed to occur.  Papa Bill loves group family pictures!  They needed to go quickly, though, because it was super cold.  This picture is my favorite, because we all tickle attacked Stephanie.

We enjoyed a campfire, silly songs, roasting marshmallows, and s'mores Friday night.

Saturday morning was our scheduled departure day, but we managed to sneak in one more hike before we left.  We trekked over to see a gorgeous waterfall.

We amassed on the covered bridge, overlooking the waterfall, for one last view.

And then it was time to go.  The Whomptons and Nashville Comptons crammed into cars and began the journeys back home.  Substantial kudos go to our camp director Stephanie for planning such a wonderful trip!  The Whomptons look forward to returning to Green River soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Joyous Appreciation of the Season

Tis the season for frantic holiday shopping, wrapping presents, lamenting lack of cash and/or extraordinary expenditures of cash, and hoping that everyone will be happy with the results.  Ah, Christmas. 

We Whomptons attended a NYE party last night and the guests were discussing how stressful this time period is each year.  One woman wished to have a vacation after Christmas to have calm days off to spend with family.  Another wished for a “no gifts” policy – she was certain that she would enjoy the holiday season more if she didn’t have this obligation of buying multiple items for every extended family member.  Eric and I looked at each other and said, “That’s what we do and it’s great!” 

Okay, so technically that’s not true.  Eric and I purchase one item for each daughter as a New Year’s gift.  This year, Lola received a $15 Elsa dress and Raina received a tabletop game for the entire family to play.  The girls are incredibly appreciative of their gifts and never complain (to us, anyway) that other friends receive many more gifts over winter break. 

When other adults hear that we don’t give gifts, they shy away a bit and say, “But Christmas is all about the kids!”  They are flummoxed that children can be just as happy with fewer items.  Our daughters won the genetic lottery by being born into our household.  We can financially provide them with everything they need – food, shelter, clothing, education, time, love – and with little visible cost.  What more could they want? 

Kids are happy with one gift and one gift only, provided they receive a gift that shows we know them well.  When the kids were younger, any item was instantly treasured and it was hard to go wrong.  Raina is now more discriminating and more aware and I have a little bit of terror that in the next few years we’ll get her the wrong thing and she’ll teenage meltdown, claiming that we don’t know her at all.  (To be clear, I’m worried that her criticism will be spot on and that we won’t know the teenage Raina as well.  That’s certain to be in our future, I expect, although I hope to avoid it.)  But she has pretty simple desires now and she wants the same things that all people want.  She wants to know that she’s loved.  She knows that folks show love by committing time to each other; when her grandparents asked Raina to make a wish list, she responded, “I want to see them more.” 

So, at core, we practice the philosophy of fewer material gifts.  And it does make for an exceptionally calm and joyous winter season.

Raina and Lola performed in their Winter Concert two weeks ago and then we joined friends to explore CandyCane Lane, multiple streets decked out in astounding holiday light displays.  We sang and gawked and enjoyed each other’s company.  That weekend we reconnected with two sets of family friends with whom we had not visited in months, volunteered as a family, and celebrated Good Cheer at the Ethical Society.  The next week saw six more kid playdates, an awesome trip to the STL Zoo, volunteering at the FoodBank with good friends, the arrival of Eric’s family, crazy cousin fun, a Science Center trip, and then the New Year’s Eve party with another set of friends.  Also during this time we furiously cleaned house, cooked a lot, played outdoors, went hiking, read lots of books, played board games, smiled a lot, said “I love you” countless times, and overwhelmingly enjoyed ourselves. 

To begin 2015, we Whomptons spent four fun hours playing the first installment of Raina’s Mice and Mystics game, ate traditional black eyed peas and other tasty treats, went for a family walk, Raina and Eric played the Lord of the Rings card game, and then Raina generously played waltzes on the piano so that Lola could imagine herself as Elsa at a ball.  Really, an incredible family day all around.

Our winter break has been calm and joyous, filled with family and friends, love and laughter.  I hope that 2015 continues with this same positive energy!