Where are you, Christmas?

What's the deal with Christmas? Why does everyone get so stressed and nearly kill themselves over it? I struggle to understand why people cause themselves pointless anxiety, and why Christmas has to be a big deal. In particular I don't understand the question "Are you ready for Christmas?" As if it's a storm that's coming.

To me Christmas means you put up a few lights outside (not an elaborate display, just a string on the house) and spend an afternoon putting some decorations up in the house. You do a little online shopping for the spouse and kids, and that's it. Why do we treat it as this huge obstacle to be surmounted? It should be a time that allows us to be cheerful and focus on other people, as well as religious devotion for us churchgoing folk. I just feel like 75% of what people give themselves to do is totally unnecessary (though this isn't necessarily limited to Christmas).

In other news, I just received this amazing sweater and am super excited about it.

Merry Sithmas.

Up Endoscope!

Most of my friends are in their mid-30s, and therefore have more than a decade to go before their recommended colonoscopy at age 50. Once anyone reaches that age, I highly recommend following the medical community's advice to have one done. To ease anyone's fears, I'll tell you all about the preparation in light of the scoping I had yesterday (my third).

First, you are supposed to pick up some meds that help "clean out" your digestive tract. There are a couple different kinds available. Suprep is the more expensive one (it cost me $45 even with insurance), but in my experience it's easier on the system and is worth the cost.

Then, the day before the colonoscopy you go on a clear liquid diet. You can probably have a normal breakfast, but afterward you can only have things like apple juice, Jell-o, Sprite, and chicken broth. No juice with any kind of pulp, nothing with red or purple coloring. In my opinion this is the most challenging part.

In the evening before your procedure you take the first dose of the prep. In the package is a 16-oz tumbler. You empty one bottle of the prep stuff in the cup, then add water until is gets to the 16-0z line. Then you drink it. This is the worst part of the whole thing, because it's this horrible sort of super sweet flavor, maybe cherry or something. It's hard to describe, but it's awful. Then over the next hour you have to drink two more 16-oz cups of water.

Sometime between 20 minutes and a couple hours later, you feel the need to use the bathroom. You'll go several times over the next few hours. This is where the Suprep is better than the other brands, because it doesn't make your stomach hurt or anything. You just use the bathroom as normal.

The next part varies according to your doctor and the time of your procedure. For me, checking into the hospital at 7:30 a.m., I had to get up at 3:30 and take the second dose of the prep, the same way as the first. This is especially hard because you remember the horrible taste of the stuff the first time.

Again, over the next few hours you will go to the bathroom a bunch of times. Eventually there's nothing solid left in you, and you're passing liquid, which is a strange feeling but doesn't hurt or anything.

You go check into the hospital as directed, and you change into a hospital gown with nothing else on. your clothes are stored in a bag with your name on it (they tell you to wear loose clothes and not bring any valuables). You sit on the bed and they cover you with a blanket, then start an IV. You'll probably need to go to the bathroom again as the prep continues moving through your body.

When the doctor is ready, they wheel your bed into the room for the procedure. You meet the people who will soon become intimately acquainted with your nether regions, and they position you on your left side. Then they give you the sedation and you drift peacefully off to sleep.

Some people may remember voices or something of the procedure itself, but I never have. I've always awakened after it's over, and they wheel you back to your room. It takes maybe half an hour before you feel fully awake. The doc may come in and give you a brief overview of any buried treasure or anything interesting they found, the nurse removes your IV, and you change back into your clothes. You'll use the bathroom a couple times, but it's mostly air that needs to come out. You'll probably have a bit of blood too, since they tend to take biopsies while they are in there.

You're not allowed to drive for the rest of the day, so someone either has to come with you or pick you up. I drive myself there and have Katie come get me, and then we just go get the car the next day. The best way to clear the anesthesia is to go home and nap for a couple hours, and then you are starving and really want food. The first bite of whatever you eat tastes amazing. You feel a little weird and bloated as food begins moving through your digestive tract again, but it's temporary.

Anyway, that's about it. If you actually read this far, congratulations! You're ready to get probed.

Are You Happy Now?

I think there are two kinds of happiness: moment-to-moment happiness, and overall happiness.

A given day can swing wildly between happy and sad, but your overall happiness has more to do with overall satisfaction and contentment with life. For example, I have a loving wife and children, and nice home, and a good job. I am happy, and couldn't really ask for more out of life. But one day I might be sick, or the kids will be driving me crazy, or work is especially hard. In those moments I am not happy. But they don't really affect my overall feelings about my life. That is a lot harder to impact. It's kind of like when I'm running and I can look at my current pace or my average pace. It takes more miles of running faster or slower to change the average.

On the bad days I try to reflect on how nothing is really wrong with life, and I have no real cause to complain. I can't say that it always works, but it is helpful to remember that things do get better. 

Just my thoughts. But what do YOU think?


It was like being in a TV show.

Katie was rinsing out the tub when she turned it off, but the water kept coming out. Hot water. So not only was there a small danger of the tub overflowing (fortunately it wasn't clogged), but it was using all the hot water.

For a couple of weeks the handle had been giving some resistance when we shut it off, so we mostly had the kids using the other tub. But that day it broke. I removed the handle, but the only piece of hardware in there I could access was turning freely without affecting the water. Fortunately, our next-door-neighbor does some plumbing work on the side, so I shut off the main water to the house and ran over for help.

Fortunately he was home (he's a firefighter and therefore can be gone for a day at a time) and kindly came over to take a look. He could immediately tell that something called a "cartridge" had gone bad. It's a simple fix with the tools he had. Fortunately, Home Depot had the right replacement part, so I went over and got it, and he was able to get it fixed right away.

Apparently several of the houses in our neighborhood have had the same problem, and our neighbor had even had to replace the part in his own house. So it's just a bad batch, I guess. Apparently you can call the company (Moen) and they will send you a new one, so I could theoretically replace it in the package and return it to the store. Anyway, I'm thankful for good neighbors.

I'm an 8 Again...

Okay, there are two ways to go about this. The first is to read whatever it is that I'm about to write. The second is to just watch this video.


If that link is dead, or you just want to read instead of watch a video for some reason, I recently went to the emergency room. I had only been once before as an adult, although my parents claim I went all the time as a kid.

I had been feeling sick in the gut for a few days, and one day my body decided that it would try to wring everything out of me. I was trying to keep hydrated, but my mouth was completely dry and I was starting to get a dehydration headache. This had happened in just a matter of hours, so between that and writhing in agony I decided to go to the emergency room. Katie drove me, and when we arrived I thought about the part where Brian Regan talked about how valet parking would be ideal at a hospital.

I got checked in after a few minutes. I did get my own room, unlike Brian. Instead of someone moaning behind a curtain there was a woman crying across the hall because she was being taken to jail. She was pretty belligerent to the officers who came to take her away.

After a discussion on what was going on, they got to work getting me an IV of saline, and they gave me morphine just like Brian Regan got. It was a low dose, so I didn't go all weird, but it was super nice to feel the relief. Then they did a CAT scan, which I'm really looking forward to being billed for, and then I sat around for another hour or so and got a second dose of morphine and another liter of saline.

With the tests they did, they decided it was just my crohn's acting up rather than an infection, so they consulted with my gastroenterologist and got me some meds to get things back under control. And I was on my way. Within a couple days I was feeling pretty normal again, so things are okay. Overall I'm glad I decided to go instead of trying to tough it out (although again, I haven't gotten the bill yet, which may change that opinion). I probably would have ended up a desiccated mummy by the next day anyway had I stayed home. Yay for medical science!

Agent Isaac

Today this young man turns 12.

When Samuel joined our family, Katie and I were living in Provo in an apartment. I was in my final year of college, working two part-time jobs. It was a busy time, and as with many (all?) we felt like we had no idea what we were doing. I also came down with crohn's disease a few months after he was born, and that first year or so was kind of a blur. Now it seems so quaint to look back and remember having just one child to give all our attention to.

I think I'm coming around somewhat to the idea of birth order heavily influencing personality, because he seems to fit in there in the best way. Samuel is our helper, which shouldn't be a surprise. He has a good sense of responsibility and is often asking us how he can help. He can watch the other kids for us somewhat (we haven't left him with the other 3 kids for an extended period). James really loves Sam and often asks where he is. They play well together.

I remember one day when Sam was in first grade or so, I read him Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss. He pointed out that there was no conflict in the book, something I hadn't even realized until he told me. Needless to say, his reading skills are off the charts. His recent standardized testing shows that he's reading at a 12th grade level and is in the 99th percentile. And while he doesn't think he's good at math, he is doing much harder work than I was at his age.

Samuel has a keen sense of justice and always has. He wants things to be fair, whether that is for his benefit or at his expense. He is scrupulously honest and never lied to us, even as a little kid to escape punishment. That means he also gets after his siblings when one of them is treating another one unfairly, which can lead to some contention.

One of Sam's most impressive achievements has been earning his black belt in taekwondo. He has stuck with his martial arts for four years now, even transitioning to a new studio when we moved. He's always thinking of how he could defend himself in different situations, and it's done wonders for his leadership abilities and fitness. He also decided to join band this year in school after talking with Katie. I was never in band, so I had no opinion (I don't want him trying to do too much, though), and he's started learning the trumpet. I think it's great, so long as he doesn't burn himself out with too many activities.

Samuel is everything you could hope for in a son. He's responsible and dependable, and someone I can always trust to look out for the little guy. Happy birthday, firstborn.

Red Delicious

One of these things is not like the others...

I honestly expected that we would have another boy. Over three generations of my family, the men had produced boys at about a 3:1 ratio. But I was excited when we learned we were going to have a girl.

I don't remember much about Katie's pregnancy with Allison. But when she started to go into labor we figured we would have a few hours, as we did with Sam. And one thing they drill into you during birthing classes is that deliveries always take FOREVER. So her contractions were 20 minutes apart when I hopped in the shower early in the morning, and when I got out a few minutes later they were two minutes apart. We were renting a house from a friend who lived in the connected apartment, so he came over to hang out with Sam while my parents drove over, and we rushed to the hospital. Because of insurance stupidity, we had to cross town and miss several closer facilities. Meanwhile, Katie notes that Allison was trying to join our family in the car.

The delivery was particularly stupid because we pulled up at the hospital and I ran to grab a wheelchair. The idiotic people in the hospital acted like they had all the time in the world, and we were typical panicky parents. They made Katie get changed into a gown, not bothering to check and realize that she was fully dilated. It was far too late for an epidural, and in the end Allison was born 15 minutes after we got there. The doctor happened to be there for another delivery, and basically walked into the room to catch her.

Allison was our littlest baby, at just over 6 pounds, and from the beginning she had her distinctive red hair. We had discussed names but never finalized one before delivery. So we were in the hospital trying to figure it out. We liked the name Martha, and Amelia, and my friend Todd had suggested Allison at one point. In the end I think Katie basically told me to pick. So I chose Allison. And I had liked the name Evangeline, but just gave her Eva for her middle name.

Allison was a good baby, pretty quiet, and was a much better sleeper than Sam had been. She was also a lot chubbier than Sam, and it's funny go to back through photos and see the contrast.

One of the most interesting things about Allison is that she can literally wear anything and look good. She even put underwear on her head the other day and somehow managed to make it work. She gets compliments on her hair wherever she goes. I honestly hope she's not too gorgeous as she grows up, or life could be as challenging as if she struggled to fit in appearance-wise.

But more important than her looks is her personality. Allison has a sweetness and shyness about her that is very endearing, and wins her a lot of friends, but she can also go from 0 to crabby whining like a switch was flipped in her brain. It's quite a process to watch. Like Sam she seems to just absorb knowledge and is turning into a very skilled reader. She also has a visual talent that must come from Katie's side of the family. She likes drawing and creating notes and other messages for people, and she has almost a photographic memory. When something is misplaced in the house I often ask Allison, and she can remember where she has seen it.

Clara often beats up on Allison, oddly, and she never fights back. She usually sits there and takes it rather than removing herself from the situation. Which is weird, but better than hitting her little sister, I suppose. This summer she gained a streak of independence, determinedly learning to ride her bike without training wheels and taking off around the neighborhood for hours at a time with her friends. This bothers Katie, but it was how I played as a kid.

She's a great kid, and it's wonderful to have Allison as part of our family. Oh, and Red Delicious is the nickname she likes best. I know it's the worst fruit, but let her have it.