Jan 13, 2015

Dec 25, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

We got the stomach bug. The one that's making half of America vomit. In a house with seven people, it takes several days for even a 24-hour illness to make its rounds through the whole family. Unfortunately this time it reared its head the week of Christmas. We had to bow out of parties on both sides of the family, and while it was disappointing, it actually helped remind us of some of the many things for which we are grateful. Like triple ply garbage bags. And Gatorade. And clean bedsheets.

And it inspired me to pen this dilettantish pastiche of the world's most famous Christmas poem. I think I may need to lay off the egg nog.

The Virus Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and finally somehow
Not a creature was barfing, at least not for now;
The laundry was running, checked the labels for care,
In hopes that the stains would no longer be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
With trashcans strategically placed near their heads;
And mamma in her sweats, and I in my shirt,
Tried to settle down while remaining alert,
When somewhere upstairs there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the bedroom at once I took flight,
Tore open the door and turned on the light.
The lamp was blinding, but my eyes did adjust
as I scanned the room to see who had fussed,
When what did my listening ears clearly hear,
But a cough, not a retch, I had nothing to fear,
Flipped the light off and crept out the room just as quick,
Thankful at the moment that no one was sick.
Had this bug run it’s course or would I catch the same,
I surveyed my drug cache and checked them off by name:
“I’ve got DayQuil! and, NyQuil! some Advil and Vicks!
Zicam! Sudafed! Theraflu and Mucinex!
No matter the symptoms to which I befall
I’ve got big pharm to cover them all!"
So back to the TV, in a matter of clicks,
in search of a marathon to stream on Netflix;
I’ve got wrapping to finish, no time for the flu
With a floor full of toys, clothes and books too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard from my throat
The rasping and scratching of a slightly off note.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
I felt a bit dizzy, my head started to pound.
On came an aching, from my head to my feet,
The signs I’d received my own viral treat;
A bundle of nerves were pinched in my back,
And I looked uneasy, I was all out of whack.
My eyes—how they watered! my tonsils, not funny!
My cheeks were all rosy, my nose it was runny!
The back of my neck began to act twitchy,
And the stubble of my beard was feeling all itchy;
On came the shivers, I chattered my teeth,
Sinus pressure, it encircled my head like a wreath;
My stomach was crampy, I started to bellow
I knew that tomorrow I’d be living off jello.
I was chubby and plump, a right sickly old elf,
And I cried when I realized what I’d done to myself;
A blink of my eyes and a touch of my forehead
Soon gave me to know I should be off to bed;
I spoke not a word, but trudged straight upstairs,
Grabbed a few tissues; and mumbled some swears,
And laying in bed with a stopped up nose,
Feeling all clammy, my temperature rose;
Then I sprang to my feet, ran right to the can,
Away the chunks flew, I spewed like a man.
But I managed to whisper, in the midst of my plight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Dec 3, 2014

Do the Earth

"I love it more than Christmas."

That's my oldest son's reaction when asked if he likes going on our annual camping trip over Labor Day weekend. I think I agree. It's a tradition in my family that goes back about 30 years. Some of my best memories as a kid come from our Labor Day camping excursions. I'm not even sure why. It was always hot. Or raining. Lot of bugs. Poison ivy. Burnt food. Cold showers. Hard beds. Cramped quarters. More bugs. Despite all the shunning of creature comforts, I looked forward to that trip all year long. I still do.

Apparently it's good for you, though.

Our family needs to do it more often. Lately, we only make it out twice a year. Next year I'd like to double that. It's a lot of work to pack up five kids and take them camping, but they really do love it. The list of benefits (especially for children) from spending time outdoors is growing. In Japan, they even have a concept called Shinrin-yoku, which translates to "forest bathing." It's considered a form of therapy and has been shown to decrease cardiovascular disease, lower heart rate and blood pressure, decrease cortisol and increase white blood cell counts. One study showed that a two night trip to a forest resulted in increased human natural killer (NK) cell activity, increased number of NK cells, and increased intracellular anti-cancer proteins with the effects lasting for more than a week afterwards for both men and women. So if the elements and poison ivy don't get you, spending time outdoors can have a real and significant impact on our health.

My kids won't mention the health benefits when they talk about how much they love our annual camping trip. It's fun for them. There's a certain freedom that comes with our week in the woods every year. I can see it in their eyes the moment they step out of the car. Freedom from schedules. Freedom from staying clean. Freedom from electronic screens. Freedom from boredom.

Here are some of my favorite photos from our 2014 trip.

My cousin organized an "obstacle course" for the kids. It was a blast.

It was competitive to say the least.

Sometimes it takes a few years to get promoted from the kiddie table.

Luckily this fella was behind glass.

Experienced hiker. No biggie.

The rocks were GINORMOUS.

Epic canyon hike. Felt like a lost world.

View from above.

Lots to explore.

It took a sharp eye to discover this little guy.

Just dangerous enough to get the heart pumping.

Highly recommended hike in Indiana.

Campsite clothes dryer.

The grown ups got to pretend we were 20 years younger than we really are.