december 2015

Thanksgiving this year was pretty low key, and it was nice in a year when I've done so much travel for work. My dad and stepmother came up on Tuesday and stayed through Saturday, and other than my sister and brother in law (who live about 45 minutes away), we didn't host anyone else.

On Wednesday night we went to the holiday lights in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which we did last year when my parents were in town as well (and which we've taken Will to every year we've been in Atlanta, just not always when we had visitors). It was fun as usual, but the really big development was that this was the first year Will didn't need a stroller. There's a lot of walking with this one, and he typically can't make it through the evening without at least a couple of rides, but we didn't even bring it this time based on his recent lack of needing one, and I don't remember him complaining once about being tired.

Thanksgiving Day started with Julie and I leaving Will with the grandparents so we could go run a 5K together down at Turner Field. It was our second time being able to run one together, and both were held at Turner Field, which is pretty convenient in terms of lots of available parking, etc. We both did better than we did last time (slightly different route, but still), and I posted my personal best for an official 5K race (not counting the runway one I did back in October—there's no way that course was a full 5K). I still have some work to do to get to my personal goal, but I've only been running official 5K races since April of this year, and I've already improved my times considerably in the last six months.

Because we knew we were going to be running the race, I opted to buy a smoked turkey from our favorite local barbecue place rather than cook my own (which I've done every year that I've hosted Thanksgiving up until now), so Will and I went to pick that up late in the morning, along with a fresh loaf of rosemary bread from our local baker. I heated up some dishes I'd made the day before (squash casserole and collards), made some stuffing and gravy while Julie made her sweet potato casserole, and then my sister brought mashed potatoes. It was a pretty low key meal compared to some other years (which fit the smaller size of our group), and it was nice not to feel completely exhausted by the time we sat down to enjoy dinner.

On Friday Julie and my stepmother wanted to go see the new Hunger Games movie, so my dad and I took Will on a little golf outing. My parents got Will his own little set of golf clubs for his birthday last summer, and although I haven't been very good about taking him out to the range, we did enroll him in golf club at school (which meets after school for an hour once a week), so I was curious to see what he had learned. We found a range not too far away and brought his clubs, along with my dad's.

He didn't seem to have learned much—he sort of knew how to grip the club, but didn't really have a good sense for how to address the ball or swing at it while keeping his eyes on it. He got better with some tips, and he did seem to enjoy it, so maybe it will be worth it to enroll him in golf camp for a week this summer.

Don't get me wrong—I wasn't expecting a five year old who hasn't demonstrated that he's particularly interested in athletics to know how to hit a golf ball consistently after a few weeks of playing around with an amateur coach (who is also coaching a couple dozen other kids of varying ages and skill levels), but I had hoped they had taught him a few more of the basics than he seemed to know.

After the driving range, we continued the golf excursion by taking him to a pirate-themed mini golf course that we've been to a few times before. He really enjoyed that, and he actually does seem to be improving there—he's much more likely to actually putt it than he is to chase it and essentially play hockey with the ball until it reaches the hole.

He did one thing surprisingly well, however: dealt with a disruption to the order. He's a little bit OCD (not diagnosable or anything, he just likes things a certain way and sometimes flips out when routines/patterns can't be followed), and so when we made the decision to skip ahead a hole because we were stuck behind a very large group (seven people, I think) who were taking forever on each hole, he became very concerned that we weren't going to get to play the whole course. After every hole, he would ask, "When can we go back and play hole 4?"

We finally saw an opening while we were playing the back half of the course, and we were able to play all 18 holes, just not in the right order. And even though he was a little stressed at having to play them out of order, in previous years he would have been distraught, and we might have ended up either having to play behind the slow group for the entire course or dealing with a a major meltdown. So that's good progress on an area we've worked with him a lot on over the past year (a year in which many of his routines have been disrupted with the move to a new school and then that school's move to a new building halfway through the school year).

My parents left on Saturday morning, and the rest of the weekend was pretty low key. Which was good—Will needed to have a little downtime to prepare for school on Monday, which was his first day at a brand new building.

So...I had some other entries written but apparently not backed up when my computer's hard drive crashed a few days ago. Luckily most of my data was backed up properly, and although it was an inconvenience that left me computerless for a few days. I actually had to have the hard drive replaced and do a full restore from my most recent backup, so even after I got the computer back it still took a day or so to get everything reinstalled, etc. But all seems to be well now.

A couple of the entries I had written were my weekly updates on the Ravens, so I'll resummarize those here:

November 30: A week after losing franchise quarterback Joe Flacco for the rest of the season with ligament tears in his knee, Baltimore eeked out a win against the Cleveland Browns. This one came down to tremendously bad luck on the part of the Browns, a franchise that kind of has a lock on bad luck and bad decision-making over the past two decades—the game should have ended with the Browns kicking a field goal as time expired to win 30-27; instead, the Ravens blocked the field goal attempt and Baltimore safety Will Hill recovered it and ran 64 yards the other way for a touchdown to end the game with the Ravens up 33-27. In a year when the Ravens have had stupendously bad luck, this was a rare bit of good fortune that gave Baltimore it's third win in its last four games.

December 6: A game in Miami that, like so many others this season, the Ravens could have won this game, and would have stood a much better chance if not for the back-to-back interceptions that were turned into two touchdowns for Miami in the space of 20 seconds. Those two touchdowns (including a 2 point conversion) were the only points Miami scored all game, so take even one of those back and it's a very different outcome. Still, a loss is a loss, and the Ravens are really piling them on this year.

December 13: This was a home game against Seattle featuring Baltimore's third starting quarterback of the season that they were expected to lose big time, and boy did they ever. They scored only two field goals the whole game while letting the Seahawks cruise to a 35 point game in the first blowout of the season for Baltimore (up until this game, every single game they have played, win or lose, has been decided by a single score). Things don't get any easier this Sunday with a game against another playoff contender, Kansas City. This season is a lost cause at this point anyway, but it would be nice to have at least a couple of solid victories to hang our hats on heading into an offseason of rebuilding.

So here's what I'm going to be doing all day (and I do mean all day) tomorrow: a Star Wars marathon. Here's the schedule:

Episode 1: Phantom Menace (Run Time: 136 minutes)
3:30 a.m. to 5:46 a.m.

Intermission—14 minutes—Movie Poster giveaway

Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (Run Time: 142 minutes)
6:00 a.m. to 8:22 a.m.

Intermission—33 minutes—Catered breakfast—Eggs, Pancakes, Fruit and Sausage, Coffee from 8:22-8:55.

Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (Run Time: 140 minutes)
8:55 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Intermission—10 minutes—Drawing giveaway

Episode 4: A New Hope (Run Time: 121 minutes)
11:25 a.m. to 1:26 p.m.

Intermission—34 minutes—Catered lunch—Pulled pork sandwich or Burger, Fries, Southwestern Eggrolls, Veggie Tray

Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (Run Time: 124 minutes)
2:00 p.m. to 4:04 p.m.

Intermission—11 minutes—T-Shirt giveaway

Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (Run Time: 134 minutes)
4:15 p.m. to 6:29

Intermission—31 minutes—Move to GTX #16 to watch Episode 7, The Force Awakens in 3D—Reserved seats

Episode 7: The Force Awakens (Run Time: 145 minutes)
7:00 p.m. to 9:25 p.m.

I've never done anything like this before, and I expect it will be a pretty memorable experience, good or bad. The things that have the potential to make it good are 1) the first six movies will be shown in one of those dine-in theaters with big leather recliners grouped in pairs, so it will be much more comfortable spending the day in there than in a normal movie theater seat and 2) I'm going with a friend, so even if this turns out to be a terrible experience, I'll have someone to hang out with and laugh about it with.

I'm getting a little excited by this new Star Wars movie—I've been fooled before by good trailers (all three of the prequels had great trailers), I don't trust Disney, and I don't trust Abrams, but I'm still hopeful that this will turn out to be a decent movie. I'm taking the next two days off work (one to do the marathon, and the next to recover from it), so I'll see you next week.

I think I really like the new Star Wars. There's lots you can nitpick and criticize if you want to, especially if you're a fanboy who can't move past A New Hope and Empire Strikes back being the only great Star Wars movies, but the fact is, if you open yourself up to the experience, this movie is just plain fun to watch, something that hasn't been true of a Star Wars movie since 1983.

I'm going to take advantage of my mother staying with us for a few days to take Julie to see it tonight, and I have a feeling I'm going to end up seeing this one more than twice in the theaters. If it holds up for a second viewing, I think this one has a chance of becoming the third best Star Wars film ever.

I'm taking a holiday break starting tomorrow, so this will likely be my last post of 2015. My new year's resolution is to keep up with this blog more consistently—I've gotten in a bad habit of writing notes or almost-complete entries every day but not getting around to finishing them and posting them for several days, sometimes in large batches all at once. We'll see how that goes...

december 2015
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