Continuing my annual tradition, here’s my review of the past year in our life. We end the year pretty much how we started it with no major changes in our family or my employment. We have no new children nor pregnancies, which is like last year, but unlike every other year of our marriage. I have the same job and we live in the same house, driving the same cars.
So what did happen?
1. Same Job, New Job
In addition to my work as Communications Director of a collaborative of two parishes here in the Archdiocese of Boston (down from three at the beginning of 2015), I have now also been hired part-time as the Managing Director/COO of SQPN, which is quite exciting as I’ve worked with them for a number of years on several projects and been a part of the listener community for even longer, back to the beginnings. We’re just getting started, but our main priority in the near term is to re-focus on the mission of Catholic new media and begin putting our resources there. On the other hand, Fr. Chip Hines and I ended our weekly radio program on the Station of the Cross radio network because it was too much for us both to keep up with while doing our other work.
2. Star Wars
We started the year with me showing the kids “Star Wars” for the first time, which resulted in it occupying a lot of their imaginary games for the rest of the year. At the other end of the year, we had an actual new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens”, which I saw first by myself on opening night and then a few days later again, with Melanie. Short review: Awesome. Everything I’d hoped for and more.
3. Vacation at the Lake
In 2014, our big vacation was a trip to Virginia and Washington, DC, to visit my mom and sister. This year we stayed a bit closer to home, although even up to relatively late in the year, we didn’t know what we were going to do. It turned out that we were able to rent a lakeside cottage in western Maine at a very generous rate and it was amazing. For a week, we lived in a beautiful well-appointed house on a hillside so that it had three split levels. The main level included a deck overlooking the lake that was a quiet spot for early morning coffee and prayer while listening to the loons cry. There was also a swimming dock and the kids and I spent time nearly every day in the water.
It was so amazing to be there that I kind of went in mourning when we came back to our smaller house without it’s open, airy floor plan and serene vistas.
4. Sophia’s First Communion
While we had Sophia’s First Confession and First Communion in 2015, unlike Isabella’s sacraments, done by herself at our local parish, Sophia’s First Communion was done with other homeschoolers at St. Adelaide’s parish in Peabody, along with her cousin, my sister’s daughter, and other children.
She’s been so happy with receiving Communion, even if a bit less so with Confession. (She gets very nervous when we bring up the subject of Confession.) Just this past Christmas, she told me and Melanie that even better than going to Midnight Mass is going to Midnight Mass and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
Since her First Communion, either Melanie or I have had to make sure to go up to receive behind her because she’s so tiny that often the priests or extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist just pass over her. I have to make sure they know it’s okay for her to receive.
5. Hospital Visits
We didn’t get out of 2015 without our share of bumps and bruises, but it could have been worse. Lucia had the worst of it. She got a cold last summer that really made her latent asthma so much worse that Melanie took her to the local emergency room. They were concerned enough that they sent her and Melanie in an ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Boston where they stayed overnight. That was a little nerve-wracking. Thankfully, my brother John and his wife Patti and my niece came to save the day by watching the kids and picking up my car that I left at the hospital as I went into Boston to bring Melanie and Lucia an overnight bag of essentials. Everything turned out all right, although Lucia does have to take a round of nebulizer medicine every night before bed now.
Ben also got a visit to the ER in December when leapt from one piece of furniture to another, not quite making it and splitting open the skin over his eyebrow. That one took 10 stitches but he was a trooper as well, very stoic about it. That’s good because a few weeks later, he had to go to the dentist to get a tooth extracted and a couple of cavities filled. Oy.
6. Some New Tech, But Not All the New Tech
While my favorite technology company, Apple, was pushing out a bunch of new products, I did not jump at the biggest debut, the Apple Watch. I think it’s a fine product that will continue to evolve into something that I will eventually need, but for what it does today and at the current price, I can’t justify it in my life. For others, it’s just the thing and I’m glad for them. And while my iPad 4 continues to decline slowly following the dropping mishap last year, I haven’t yet reached the point where I have to replace it.
The new iPhone 6s Plus might be the reason why. When the iPhone 6/6 Plus came out in 2014, I was torn over whether to get the larger screen. So many reviewers and pundits made such a big deal over how large it is and unwieldy for people with small hands (and I do have stubby fingers) that I had stayed away. But I finally decided that the bigger battery and video and photo stabilizations that it has and the plain old 6 doesn’t made it worth it. Then when I finally had it in hand, I realized all those size concerns were overblown. It’s such a great screen and so large that I use it for some of the things I used the iPad for.
As for other tech, I did spring for the new AppleTV 4, whose biggest distinction is the ability to have 3rd-party apps. With the addition of the Plex app and having a Synology network-attached storage, I can now drop ripped videos from DVDs and Blu-rays onto the NAS and play them on our TV in glorious HD with no muss or fuss. The combination of the three pieces have been a wonder.
7. Books and More Books
At the beginning of 2015, I signed up for the Goodreads annual reading challenge, in which I pledged to read 30 books last year. It wasn’t exactly a lofty goal, compared to some of my friends or to Melanie’s book-consuming rate or even to me in my reading prime, but for me now, this would be a substantial increase over my recent consumption of books in which I read three or four books per year.
I’m happy to say I managed to complete 32 books in 2015 and that’s how many I’ve set as my goal for this year. This is a pace of two or three per month. That’s a high rate for me even now, but possible, especially if I intersperse some of the denser non-fiction reading with some light science fiction like I did last year.
Some of my favorites from 2015 are:
- Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine
- Sailing to Sarantium: Book One of the Sarantine Mosaic
- Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish
- Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples
- Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse Book 1)
- The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Bampton Lectures in America)
- The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup, and One Family’s Quest for the Sweetest Harvest
- The Glory of the Crusades
The secret to my increased reading success has been my reliance on the Kindle for all but one of the books I read, which gave me the ability to read in bed in the dark without waking the baby or Melanie. Plus the impetus provided by gameifying the reading challenge. Nothing like a bit of competitiveness to get me motivated.
8. Family Visits
Most of the usual host of out-of-town relatives came to visit this year. Melanie’s sister, Theresa, came in April for Sophia’s First Communion–since she is her godmother–and then again for Christmas and New Year’s. Melanie’s mom and dad also took turns visiting, her mom coming in August and then her dad in September for a week or so each.
These visits are so nice, not just because we get to see them and the kids get to spend time with their grandparents and aunt, but also because having another adult gives Melanie and me the opportunity to go out for a night. When her mom came in August, Melanie and I had an amazing dinner for her birthday at the Scarlet Oak Tavern in Hingham. We drive by it every time we go to the farmers market and have wanted to stop in. And in December, it was Theresa’s visit that allowed us to go out to dinner and then see Star Wars together.
9. Museums and Field Trips
We had a number of fun trips out and about this year. In the spring, once the great thaw actually began, we drove up north of Boston to Hollis Hills Farm to watch them make maple syrup. It was quite impressive to watch all the steam bubble out of the evaporator. They also raised other crops and animals and provided a full breakfast of their own eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage and, of course, maple syrup.
We also ventured out in April to Lexington Green the week before Patriots Day for the dress rehearsal for the re-enactment of the “shot heard ’round the world.” (The dress rehearsal is not as crowded as the actual re-enactment if not quite as polished.) It made quite the impression on the kids as later in the summer we found Lucia marching about with a stick, proclaiming, “Lay down your arms, you rebels!”
Continuing to revel in our Revolutionary War history, we took another day to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston. Even though I grew up here, I’d never done it, so we drove into Boston, parked under the Common, and then followed the trail from the State House to the old Granary Burials Grounds to King’s Chapel to Fanueil Hall with a couple stops in between. Despite all the walking, the kids handled it very well. The trail goes beyond Fanueil Hall into the North End and over to Charlestown so maybe we’ll do that this year.
We also returned to our old standbys as well. The Museum of Fine Arts, where we have a membership, had two great exhibitions this year, showing the art of the Japanese artist Hokusai and the Dutch masters in the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer. Both were phenomenal, going beyond just the art work to stimulate discussion of history, culture and society. The kids loved it as much as we did.
Our one-year membership to the New England Aquarium ran out this summer and so we made a last visit in July, taking the ferry boat from Hingham to Rowe’s Wharf as before. The boat ride is a much a highlight of the trip as the aquarium itself. While the animals and exhibits are great, the aquarium always seems to be so crowded so we tend to reach our limits early. And because we’re bound by the schedule of the ferry which runs with big time gaps in the middle of the day, we usually spend a lot of time waiting for the boat to come so as not to miss it.
Of course, we had a lot of other little trips to World’s End in Hingham and to apple picking and Melanie often takes them on school-related trips, but another big highlight for me came on an outing, not with the family, but with my work colleagues. One of my coworkers is a season-ticket holder with the Boston Red Sox and one of the perks is the ability to take part in a kind of public batting practice on the field when the team is out of town. So in late June, as a gift to the pastor, Fr. Chip, we boarded a charted bus, rode into Boston, and Fr. Chip took BP on the field. Afterward, we had the run of the place and were able to wander at will from the dugouts and locker rooms up to the luxury boxes and media suites and over to the top of the Green Monster. It was quite a day.
10. Catholic New Media Celebration in Atlanta
Also in June, I flew down to Atlanta to take part in the 10th anniversary Catholic New Media Celebration for SQPN. At that point I had not taken the job as Managing Director yet, so I was there as a friend and fan and contributor. I didn’t see anything of Atlanta beyond the airport hotel and convention center, but the weekend was well spent. I got to spend time with some of the most interesting people involved in Catholic new media, to brainstorm about ways we can continue our work, and to be inspired and entertained as we did so. This was my fifth CNMC and they’ve always been a delight, mostly because of the people I spend time with.
Last but not least…
11. The Winter from Hell
At the start of 2015, it seemed like we were going to have a dry, mild winter. On the day after Christmas, we had gone to the park and walked in light jackets. But by mid-February, we’d already endured the third-snowiest winter on record, getting as much snow in three weeks as we average over two entire winters (October-April). By the time we were done, we’d not only broken the previous record for snow; we smashed it. Just like our poor patio table whose glass top collapsed under the snow. Or our snowblower which gave up the ghost halfway through.
And the snow wasn’t the end of it because even after the last measurable snow sometime in March, we endured week after week of frigid, Arctic temperatures, keeping the snow from melting. Even though Easter wasn’t particularly early this year, we couldn’t do our Easter egg hunt because of the snow. We got to the point where pools for when the last snow would melt included dates in June and even July. (The last official recorded snow on the ground in Boston melted in June.)
So far, this winter replicates the early parts of last winter, but the forecasters say that El Niño this year will keep it that way. I’ll believe when I see it.
I’m not much of a prognosticator, but I’m hoping that we can have more of the same this coming year (except for the winter). We don’t have any particular milestones that we’re heading toward, but it’s my hope that 2016 will see us remain healthy as we raise our children in a home that is loving and faith-filled and full of joy.
- See my posts reviewing 2013 and 2014 ↩
- Speaking of midnight Mass, for the second year in a row, I wasn’t able to go. Whereas in 2014, both Ben and Anthony refused to be woken and dressed for the Mass, this year it was Anthony who we couldn’t wake up even a bit. So Melanie and her sister took the three oldest while I stayed home with Anthony and Lucia. And then in the morning, it was just Anthony and me, which was nice in its own way. ↩
- For reviews of most of these books, see either prior blog posts, my Goodreads entries, or my reviews on the Amazon product pages. ↩
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