Twas the Night Before Our Second Christmas…

Hello all,

It’s an odd night to make a blog post, but the interwebs hasn’t heard from us in over a month, and I’m a little jacked up on Mt. Dew (but more about that later).

I remember, one day when I was a kid, finding my father standing in the bathtub with all of his tools on the floor, ankle deep in poop water. He was trying to unclog a drain so crap could run downhill like it is suppose to. All I remember is thinking how gross it was to be standing in that opaque liquid that usually leaves our house rather quickly never to be seen again. My father was tired, frustrated, and focused singularly on the task at hand, and I knew now was not a time to ask a bunch of questions or bother him at all. Upon noticing I was there, he said one thing to me that I still remember as if it was yesterday: “Sometimes it sucks being the old man.”

I understood in my head what he meant, but after days like today, I understand in my heart as well. After all, at that time, I could just shrug my shoulders and trip off to my room and play Legos until the whole thing was over. Now, I’m the line of defense between my family and metaphorical (and sometimes literal) poop water.

Christmas was rough this year. First, we were on a compressed time-table. Thanksgiving was late, so our normal marker for heralding the Christmas season was only 3 and 1/2 weeks before the actual day. We also were quarantined in our house for a weekend due to what I’ve heard several call “Icepocalypse”… Further, the university wrapped up classes on Thursday, so I was grading papers up until 4 days before Christmas. Once all of my occupational obligations were done, I busied myself helping Beth save some money by making Christmas presents and watching kids so she could make cookies, go shopping, and otherwise prepare for the big day.

Over the weekend, the “check engine” light came on in Beth’s van. Check engine lights can be tricky. They can be anything from “Hey, I think it might be a good idea to make sure the oil cap is on a little tighter” to “I’m having a baby in about two seconds, and I’m going to call it ‘Transmission’ – look for it in your rear-view mirror”. Because of that, I try to check those pretty quickly. My first opportunity was last night after I got home from work. I went to Autozone, and after putting it on their machine, the code I got was “P0191 – Fuel Rail Pressure Sensor”. The good news is, the probable cause is likely a clogged fuel filter, and those are relatively inexpensive and easy to change. I’ve seen this done by my father about three times, and I’ve done it myself twice before… no problem. Ford has a quick-disconnect fuel line system, which is unfortunately mislabeled. It really is a “Add-an-extra-5-hours”-disconnect fuel line system. I think I ruined my Christian witness with my gas tank and muffler. My hands were raw, dry, cracking, and cold by the time it was over. Also, concrete sucks the heat right out of your butt cheeks on a 29-degree morning. FYI – If you have a Ford and need to replace a fuel line, I have the special tool you need if you want to borrow it. I broke down and bought it around hour #4.

Beth had a few unexpected fires she needed to put out over last week, so she didn’t get a chance to mail our Christmas letters out. They were written and printed, but not in envelopes. The hours between 9:30 pm and 3:30 pm had me addressing, stuffing, and stamping all of our Christmas letters to beat the 4:30 postal pickup so it could only be a couple of days late instead of three. Quality control was not very good on the batch of Ampad, “release and seal” envelopes I bought at Walmart, and one side was not bonded correctly. I had to put a piece of tape on 3/4 of them to keep the letter from sliding out of the side.

On my way to the post office, Beth tells me that the bathroom sink is not draining. I return and quickly get to work disassembling it. Obviously my children decided this was a great place to put things over the year and a half they have been with us. When I pulled the trap off, I found a necklace, a plastic knife from the play kitchen, a bobby pin, and a little fluffy ball from the top of the oldest son’s toboggan. The fluffy ball was what pushed it over the edge. When I saw it, I may have blown my Christian witness with that fluffy ball. After calming myself down, I discussed the dos and don’ts of household plumbing with my children. FYI, this has been an ongoing problem, not so much with toys, but bathroom use/abuse in general. We have to unclog the toilet about once a month now that we have kids. We applaud their fastidious nature on keeping their back ends clean, but we believe a few less squares of toilet paper and a few more courtesy flushes would go a long way.

While all of this was going on, Beth scheduled an appointment at the doctor’s office because she was feeling a little ill along with our middle son yesterday evening. This morning, they were feeling a little better, but the youngest and oldest were starting to go down. The verdict – we have influenza… in various stages. So far, I am OK along with our youngest son, but everyone else has been hit. That means the Icepocalypse won’t be the last time we are quarantined at the house this Christmas season. We were told to be on lock-down for 48 hours… 12 hours into Christmas Eve. Medicine was bought, evening festivities were cancelled, and relatives were informed. This included not going to the candle-light service at church or opening presents with my family tonight. It also warranted a run to Pizza Hut as no one was in the mood to do much other than sit under a blanket.

The kids were held up way past their bed-time by watching a movie and having a family Bible and prayer time over the Christmas story. ¬†Once they went down, Santa could start working. Santa, always in an effort to spread Christmas cheer for the least amount of money possible remembered that we had a Nintendo Wii that the kids had never seen. It’s weird, but they have never tried to open up the cabinet drawers under the TV to find it. I bought it about 5 years ago and haven’t used in about 2. Our thought was Santa could “give” that to the kids as a group gift. At about 10:45 pm, it occurred to Santa that it might be a good idea to fire up the Wii to make sure everything is good before five kids are hovering over my shoulder wondering why Santa delivered a broken toy. Thank goodness we thought to do that! It didn’t fire up immediately! I was a little bit in panic since I didn’t have a plan B… I unplugged it, disassembled it, and tested the power supply with my Fluke to make sure everything was getting power. After blowing the dust off the leads, saying a few prayers to Jesus, and reassembling it, it came on. Praise Jesus! It was then time to get some fresh batteries for the controllers… but I had forgotten that I had put the last of the double-A’s in the boys’ RC cars a few weeks ago. This meant a trip to Walmart at 11:15 pm.

Beth, after inspecting the individual piles to make sure no one kid was loved by Santa any more than another, said that the middle son was a little low, and it might be a good idea to get an American football (we have to specify because we are a Latin family) for him to even things out. So I headed out. I was a little worried about crowds with last-minute shopping, but (un)fortunately, this was not an issue. Did you know they close Walmart? I didn’t. I’ve never seen it closed, and I have gone at some weird times, although I confess, this is probably the weirdest. Being the resourceful father I am, I cruised a little while until I found a Loves truck stop still open. Along with some liquid stimulation, I found batteries, and, who would have guessed it, a football! It was a Christmas miracle! It was clear to the others in there buying lottery tickets, beer, and gas that the guy with a football, a Mt. Dew, and 8 double-A batteries at 11:45 pm on Christmas Eve was thinking to himself, “Sometimes, it sucks being the old man.”

Fortunately, all preparations have been made, we have working plumbing and a working van, and presents are waiting for five little kids who should have a merry Christmas tomorrow. On a side note, when we prayed tonight, our oldest asked God to help others all over the world and in other countries know about having Jesus in their heart! Beth and I opened our eyes and looked at each other in mid-prayer when he said that, both smiling! Sometimes being the old man is pretty cool too.


At the dinnermesa,