Arcing Back Toward the Sun

Well… That was a quick 4 months.

Between the holidays, preparing for winter, and a whole lotta day job (and the need to rest after all the hours at said day job), there just hasn’t been time for me to write.

So, let’s try to catch you all up… And we’ll need to go quite a ways back to do that, won’t we? Brace your Internet connection, because there are a whole lot of pictures coming…

First, and I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this prior, my neighbor and I split the cost of a moonbounce for all the kids back in October.

Yes, I have a bouncy castle timeshare

And so, with winter fast approaching, we were getting as many uses out of it as possible. The below video is Daph’s second round of jumping…

She jumped around like that for at least 2 hours while I raked up all the fallen cherry tree leaves in the yard. Which, as it would turn out, would be a Sisyphean effort…

The bouncing was not to last, though. Shortly after this video was shot cooler weather arrived and jumping around in bouncy castles would have to wait until spring.

Instead, Halloween was suddenly upon us…

Solid Force Push pose happening here.

Yes, sometimes Padawans wear Nikes. And they also occasionally get Jedi Halloween care packages from family back in Texas…

Llama Llama Trick or Treat was a hit.
The pumpkin-shaped popper on the right I totally get, but what’s that pink one there on the left? A spleen?

Our chickens did just fine throughout the fall as well, growing like little feathery weeds. Partly from the Himalayan mountain of chicken feed they went though and partly, I’m convinced, of how much one of our residents happens to love them…

“Our house now, you big bearded rooster. Out you go.”

And as of yesterday, they are officially no longer freeloaders.


Shortly after Halloween came our first (mild) snowfall of the season.

Which meant I was officially running out of time to winterize the house.

Fortunately, the wood stove we’d ordered back in July arrived and they came to install it the week before Thanksgiving.

Yes, that’s a very large hole in our wall. And yes, I was so uneasy at this point that I took a picture of their progress.

But they did a nearly flawless job with the installation. I say “nearly” because they did forget to give all the bolts a final tightening, which caused each handle on the stove to fly off in my hand in the following weeks.

But, after purchasing the requisite Allen wrenches and replacement hex nuts, we’ve been extraordinarily happy with it.

The ability to keep the house livable in the event of a power failure was something very high on my list of priorities after the Texas Grid Debacle of 2021. And I can say that having this woodstove has alleviated much of the stress where that’s concerned. With it, my family will stay warm, even in the absence of electricity…

This is actually a picture of it today, after a winter of near daily use…

The thing has been rock solid all winter. And so I wholeheartedly recommend Vermont Castings stoves, should one of you be in the market for one of these. And no, I have not been compensated in any way for saying this. Quite the opposite, in fact. (They aren’t exactly cheap.)

But bourbon by the fire when it’s snowing outside is a lovely thing.

What we’re desperately looking for at this point is a mason able to put a brick veneer behind the stove, which will hide those lines where the built-in shelves were, and generally hygge-fy that corner a bit. Alas, we haven’t been able to find one willing to do the work yet. The search continues…

Anyway, as we’re all aware, it’s roughly seven breaths after Halloween before Thanksgiving arrives. And our first holiday in Vermont was a good one.

All our usual dishes were represented, including green bean casserole, my hyper-garlicky mashed potatoes, and one of those alien cranberry cylinder things.

J.T. came back up to spend the holiday with us, so that was awesome as well.

There was, however, moderate concern when, just before dinner, the neighbor’s dogs decided to come by and let us know how thankful they were to have us in the neighborhood by utterly terrorizing our chickens.

They chased them in circles around the yard until our entire flock ran off and hid in the Christmas trees, with the exception of Mabel who’d been caught and was bitten/shaken by one of the dogs.

We actually thought we’d have to put her down since when we found her she was unable to walk without falling over.

But I’m happy to say that they all returned home a couple hours later, and little Mabel staggered her way back to the hen house and spent the next few days recooperating. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist that one…)

Then, on Black Friday, the first “real” snow came.

And I must say that the world has been pretty snow-covered up here ever since…

Of course, this officially began the Christmas season and we obviously didn’t have to go that far to pick out a tree this year…

Right around here, somewhere.

This trudge through the snow to find a tree slowly turned into…

A WILD interpretive dance of Christmas tree selection!

“Annnnd…YOU! You’re the one! You’re our tree!”

And so, I dutifully cut the tree down…

Gave a quick pose or two for manliness points since I wasn’t wearing gloves…

And now here’s the moment when it hit me that we were a full quarter-mile from our house, and I was going to have to drag that tree all the way back there, bare-handed.

But getting it into the living room, then lighting and decorating it, made the whole thing worth it. It smelled absolutely amazing throughout our downstairs.

A couple weeks before Christmas, we took a drive down to Newport to visit Grammy and Munka who’d come up to use their annual timeshare. (I mean, it’s not a bouncy castle or anything…but it’s pretty nice nonetheless.)

We also found what has become one of Jen’s favorite stores, Kiel James Patrick.

Daphne, however, was not nearly as excited.
She did like the dog outside the door, though.

And she definitely enjoyed climbing on the giant anchor with Grammy.

Unfortunately, I became rather ill on Saturday evening and ended up bedridden for the entirety of Sunday. No idea what hit me, but fortunately it left as quickly as it came on and we headed back home on Monday morning.

Then, Christmas. And I’m happy to say that Santa was quite kind this year.

This, in addition to the snowboards that were technically part of Christmas, made for a lovely day. And Daphne opened nearly all of her own gifts this year, which was a first.

Speaking of snowboards… Daph had her first lesson (without bindings just yet) and did amazingly well. Turn the volume up and you can hear how much fun she’s having…

And, as it would turn out, she seems to be goofy footed, just like her father. Although I suppose that’s not entirely surprising. She inherited his “I aim to misbehave” grin as well.

God help us.

Those of you looking closely at the Christmas morning picture up there will also note a rather large, plaid-cushioned toboggan being ridden by a stuffed bear. And the answer to your next question is, yes. We have indeed taken it down our big hill.

Several times in fact.

You might also have noted some snowshoes in that Xmas picture, which Jen and I now use 2 or 3 times a week to take walks in the morning after she drops Daphne off at school. You may even have seen us livestreaming said walks on Facebook, during which time she strolls quietly with her coffee, taking in the stark beauty of a Vermont winter morning, while I pant like an asthmatic bulldog.

This brings us neatly to January which was, as you might imagine, cold.

“Sunny. As if it matters.”

There were several admonishments from the National Weather Service throughout the month about -45° wind chills and to not go outside for longer than 10 minutes, lest frostbite ensue. But, on the flipside, I seem to recall similar statements being made back in Houston about heatstroke during the summer…

So it would seem the weather is trying to kill us no matter where we live.

I will say that the cold did a number on the hot water pipe to our kitchen, though. Froze the thing up twice, which in turn caused a crack in part of our dishwasher and forced us to pay for rather costly replacement parts labor.

But overall it’s been a fantastic first winter up here. Daphne absolutely loves the snow.

And we aren’t going to need snowshoes much longer, as it definitely feels like we’re on our way out of winter. Today the high is well above freezing, and as I write this I can hear ice and snow sloughing off the roof and onto the ground in satisfying “shhhrrrrlump!” noises.

Okay! I think the last bit for us to cover here is Daphne’s AAC device, which was provided to us by the State of Vermont.

An AAC, or what we call Daphne’s “Talker” is essentially an iPad that has a sequence of pictures and words on it that help Daphne communicate. So by using this she can tell that she’s hungry, AND exactly what it is she wants to eat as well. (Which, more often than not, is yogurt and Goldfish.)

She’s really enjoying using it. And you can see how excited she is about being able to communicate something as simple as “Yes!” back and forth with me.

I’m actually signing “yes!” back to her, which is apparently why it’s so funny.

We’re super happy about this development and… sigh… Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a shot here…

We’re very appreciative of being in a state like Vermont, and in a school district like Kingdom East, that readily provides these kinds of assistive devices to kids who need them without forcing their residents into countless interviews, consultations, diagnosis referrals, waivers, contracts, etc.

Do better, Katy ISD. You might just have some happier kids.

You’d certainly have happier parents.

Okay, off my soapbox. Sorry about that.

That’s just about everything from up here. Hopefully it won’t be another 4 months before I make a post… Then again, I’m not promising anything either.

See you then.

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