Monthly Archives: December 2022

this and that on St. Stephen’s

Isla learning her rope routine in rhythmic gymnastics below.  She will compete / perform her rope routine for the first time in January.

Our flight from Santa Rosa was canceled both the day before and the day after we flew, but thankfully we got home on time.  We had a very relaxing Christmas and have barely left the house since we got back from CA.  I have been working, but in a relaxed sort of way – the way you work when the office is half empty and you feel like anything you get done is gravy because everyone else is slacking.  I’d hoped to go skiing, but it’s been so warm it’s been raining on the ski slopes.  On the plus side, I’ve been able to run in shorts today – it was 51 or so for my run today.

See below for our tree in all its glory.  I do love having a beautiful Christmas tree.  It brings me joy every time I look at it.   We have given up cutting trees, something I used to be very enthusiastic about, and just get a tree from our local grocery store.  Next year, of course, it won’t be our local grocery store any more.  We’ll be living in a whole new place.

My Dad finally got Covid, and I thought it might be useful to share his experience.  My Dad is 81, and he has fairly severe high blood pressure (multiple meds) but is otherwise in decent shape.  I don’t think he shares with me the full extent of his medical issues, though.  He had surgery in this year in January or February, and the recovery was a struggle.  Needless to say, I was worried about how he might fare if he got Covid.  I’ve encouraged / hassled my parents to get every shot available to them, but I was insufficiently annoying or persistent this winter, and so he hadn’t had a shot since spring.  In other words, he’d had four shots in total, instead of the recommended five.  When he tested positive, I obviously regretted not being more persuasive about getting this fall’s shot.  My parents intended to get it but were just being kind of lazy and felt they’d gotten lots of Covid shots; did they really need another?  While I’m very skeptical about the need for, say, college students to get another booster or for 3-year-olds to get a shot of unproven efficacy, I am 100% on-board with all the shots for oldsters and feel that yes, they did need to get another shot.  One thing I did do right was mail them Covid tests periodically and remind them regularly about the importance and value of testing if they experienced symptoms so they could get Paxlovid, which greatly reduces risk of hospitalization.  If you have elderly or vulnerable parents, relatives or friends, and you think they won’t take the initiative to get tests, I highly encourage you to send them some.  Paxlovid is a game-changer, but many people won’t get it promptly because they don’t have tests or don’t know how to use them or don’t understand or know about the importance of Paxlovid.

In any case, my Dad experienced very mild symptoms Tuesday evening and more significant symptoms on the Wednesday (fever, coughing) and tested that evening.  He started Paxlovid Thursday morning.  Covid turned out to be extremely mild for him, a day or two of fever and mild to moderate cold symptoms.  He felt that Paxlovid gave him insomnia but nonetheless finished it.  In other words, Covid was mild and NBD, thanks no doubt at least in part to the vaccines and Paxlovid.

Meanwhile, my Mom and Dad took no precautions whatsoever to prevent passing it to one another, but my Mom never caught it.  (She took three or four tests.)  Her last vaccine was six months ago, and she’s almost certainly never had it.  Crazy!  But obviously I’m super happy.  The thing about Covid is that you never know who’s going to get seriously ill.  Anyone over 65 is potentially at risk.

Meanwhile, my brother’s MIL just tested positive.  They have a two-week-old baby and of course they were socializing together over Christmas.  If you read my blog, you know that I am fed up with Covid caution and in general am pretty anti-paranoid about Covid, the flu, RSV, etc.  But with a baby under 12 weeks, I always favor caution.  Before Covid, I personally went nowhere for the first 12 weeks of my kids’ lives.  Not to the grocery store, not out to eat, literally nowhere except for a walk or to the park by ourselves or whatever.  We wore masks before they were a thing when S came home.  Tiny babies are just so vulnerable.  I’m very worried about the little one.  Hopefully everything will be OK.

Tracfone and phones for kids

I think Tracfone has a reputation of being an inferior phone service, but I believe this is quite wrong.  In fact, I’ll call it an official Great Thing.  In general, Tracfone offers all the things that the major carriers do, but for less money.

What I use:

  • $200 annually, $223 including tax – works out to $18.40 / month
    • Unlimited talk and text
    • 24 GB of data total
    • Once data runs out, it must be purchased at $10 / GB.  I typically use less than 2 GB per month, so this works for me. (Note that the phone will simply stop providing data; there is no auto-purchase option.)
    • No hot spot capability – never needed or wanted this

What J is going to switch to:

  • $35 / month, $40 / month including tax
    • Unlimited talk and text
    • 8 GB of data total
    • Once data runs out, it must be purchased at $10 / GB.  (Note that the phone will simply stop providing data; there is no auto-purchase option.)
    • Hot spot capability included – important to J

The only major drawback I’ve noticed with Tracfone is that international calling is a plan.  While on Har.bour Island in the Baha.mas, I was unable to get international calling working on my Tracfone.  I do think it might be easier for other countries, but proceed with caution if you need to make international calls regularly.

Has anyone else bought a phone for their kids?  We bought a flip-phone for L.  I’ve posted on here about communications difficulties with her gymnastics coaches, and I basically was very concerned we’d leave her at practice and she’d get left on her own at some point.  The building where the gym is (a Salv.ation Army) also serves as a soup kitchen for the local homeless population, and I just felt it would be safest if she had a phone.  She is on a Tracfone plan as well.  For $100, we got a year’s worth of service plus 400 “minutes” which can be used for talk, text or web, which is Trafone’s cheapest option.

ski day #3 of the year

We took another ski day yesterday, this time taking S with us again.  I have to say, after two attempts to ski with S, taking a 3-year-old skiing is truly an existential struggle.  I’m not sure it’s worth it.  I love having J at the mountain with me (as opposed to being alone with the kids), but given that we can’t really actually ski together, it might be better to just take turns.  It is nice being able to have lunch together and have company on the long drive to and from the mountain, though.

I discovered that you can get a private lesson for a 3-year-old.  (She is too young for group lessons.)  It’s very expensive – $175 – but I figured we could do it a couple times this year.  Watching the instructor work with her was very enlightening and I think will make it more productive to “ski” with her if we decide to take her again.  On the plus side, there were no tears from S the whole day.  L likes skiing and had a fun day.  The problem is that I actually ended up briefly in tears myself.

We arrived at 9 am, and J didn’t take his first ski run until 10:40 am.  Yup.  We parked in HOV parking, and discovered the shuttle didn’t stop there.  I guess you’re supposed to walk.  I think it’s less than 200 yards, NBD for an able-bodied adult.  Even B at 8 cannot carry her skis that far, though.  So I carried my skis and B’s skis.  L managed to carry her own.  J carried L, and then made a second trip back to get the rest of the stuff.  Keep in mind all of this was done in ski boots, and also that we left our house at 7:20 am and had been up since 6:20 am.  And that the night before was spent laying out and packing everything we need.  The weather has been cold, so there is a lot in terms of jackets, mittens, balaclavas, etc.  Anyway, in a state of exhaustion, we finally got ourselves to the lodge.  Writing it down, it just does not sound like a big deal.  All I can say is that the reality was rough.  In any case, I took the two older girls to the bathroom where, naturally, there was a long line.  I shepherded B to a stall then went to go myself.  After I came out, B was missing.  She is a wonderful girl but still little and sometimes has a tendency to get lost or upset, so I was worried about her.  I was hustling back and forth trying to figure out where she was in the noisy bathroom when I completely wiped out on the floor.  That’s when the tears briefly came and I decided that skiing was just not for me.

Anyway, I got the two older girls to their group lessons and hung out with S for a while as J started skiing.  He was a little rusty at first but had a good time after he warmed up.  His skill level is about the same as mine.  He skis less than me but is more athletic and brave.   The best deal at Crystal is an afternoon season pass – for $300 you can ski all season after 1 PM – so that was what I was using, rather than buying a lift ticket for the day.  So I hung out with S, got her to her lesson at 11 and watched from afar (so as not to be a distraction).

Then we lined up for lunch – 20 minutes to get a table and put our order in.  Without S, we can eat at the top of the mountain where lines are much shorter.  But with her, our options are much more limited.  We finally got seated and ate a tasty if overpriced lunch of mac ‘n’ cheese and clam chowder.  J joined us just before 1, and he sent me off to ski.  Despite our pleasant lunch, by that point I was so exhausted and demoralized, I never wanted to ski again.

Once I got going, I did have a great time.

I skied for two hours, and I did hit Downhill, the easiest Blue run at Crystal, in the afternoon for the first time this year, though I didn’t ski it confidently at all.  The lower half of the mountain was completely socked in, and it was actually very creepy, especially since I was skiing alone.  You really couldn’t see very far – just white mist everywhere.  Up at the top, the mist cleared, and it was just beautiful as usual.  The snow was wonderful – about as powdery and you’re likely to see in WA.

We actually know a lot of people who ski, but they are mostly better skiers than us.  If you and your kids can ski Blues confidently, it makes sense to go to a closer resort.  However, that resort is really not a good option if you are mostly a green skier.  J and I could probably ski there (as the blues are a bit easier than Crystal), but B in particular really couldn’t quite yet.  The lift lines are absurdly long on the green runs.  As a result, we end up going the extra hour to Crystal and skiing by ourselves.  I think maybe next year we can switch to Snoqualmie, but we’ll see.

Skiing is just so much effort and so much money for a few hours of joy and peace.  Is it worth it?  I don’t know.  Sometimes it feels like the answer is definitely yes.  Sometimes, like yesterday, it feels like the opposite.  How much effort do you put in for two hours of happiness?  It made me really question our decision to go on a ski vacation this year, but it’s too late to cancel our VRBO and lift tickets.

dystopia in the offing

Locally, there has been a lot of hysterics about flu and other respiratory illnesses in the news.  I think this is also the case nationally, though to a lesser extent.  So, let’s look at the numbers.  Source: CDC.

The CDC has two major sources of flu data.  From the first source, we have the following plot.  Note the x-axis is week number, 1 to 52, and is 1 to 2 weeks behind.  (In this case, the data is from the week ending 12/3.)

Now, one data point does not a trend make, but we’re talking about a lot of data here.  It’s not particularly noisy.  My very strong suspicion is that we’ll see at worst a plateau next year and more likely a drop.  Here’s their second source of data:

In this plot, which covers the same dates, the trend is very clear.  The peak has passed.  In fact, the peak was nearly a month ago – the week from 11/13 – 11/19.  And yet, reading the news, you’d believe quite the opposite, that we were building to some kind of flu crescendo.

Next question, is this flu season historically bad?  I’ll give you one guess.  Answer: almost certainly not.

The trend line to the far left is this year.  Clearly, flu season began earlier this year.  Is that “worse”?  I think that’s unclear.  Mainly, I would argue it’s different, and not bad I think Covid has yet to peak.  If hospitals are “overflowing,” you can’t blame the prevalence of flu.  Levels are similar to those in two of the last three “real” flu seasons.  And how do those flu seasons compare historically?  2017-2018 was on the high end, and 2019-2020 was pretty average to low.

Of course, there could be a double hump.  You can see that’s happened in a few seasons.  Let’s hope for the best.  But so far, I see no reason for panic and hysteria beyond what the media used to drum up before Covid.

What is interesting to me is that here in WA, we actually are having a more severe flu season than usual.  Why?  I’m guessing it’s because this state was far more aggressive in mandating masking, closing schools, shutting down extracurriculars, and getting people to work from home, so we probably have zilch in the way of natural immunity.  Of course, the graph is absurdly unhelpful since it has only one data point on it – 2019-2020.  We haven’t had a normal flu season since then.  It would be a much more useful chart with more than one past data point.

Of course, the giant headline splashed across the front of Seattle Times was a dire warning to mask up.  With some difficulty, it’s possible to extract useful data from public health agencies, but at this point, I don’t trust a word they say.

It’s time, Washingtonians: You should resume regularly wearing a mask indoors, if you haven’t already.

The new guidance from 12 county health officers and 25 hospital executives is fueled by the region and country’s surge in viral respiratory illnesses — mainly influenza and RSV, though COVID-19 numbers are beginning to creep back up.

Please note that the reasoning for the strong guidance to mask is based on the flu and RSV.  Will someone wake me up from this fucking nightmare?

The flu is expected to continue circulating for months, according to the officials’ advisory released Friday.

“As health officers and health care leaders working to improve the health of Washington residents, we recommend that everyone wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when around others in indoor spaces to protect against both acquiring and spreading these infections to others,” according to the advisory.

Gotta love this gem:

Because emergency rooms are so packed with patients, doctors recommend instead going to an urgent care clinic if you have non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, including coughing, wheezing, sore throat, mild dehydration or fever.

Really?  So if my emergency room is not crowded, I should go there if I have a sore throat or fever?

You might say, oh, this just a public health recommendation.  It’s not a mandate.  Well, in Washington state for the last nearly three years, mandates have generally followed “recommendations” with a two week lag at best.  I pray that is not the case this year, but I guess we’ll see.  I am so sick of the mandates, and I am also sick of worrying about it.  I want to live in a place where I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be able to find a preschool I can send S to that won’t require masks.  (As a side note, the awesome outdoor preschool we sent the older girls to was a casualty of Covid and doesn’t exist anymore.)

ski Saturday

I am currently catatonic on the couch, waiting for my husband and younger daughters to get home, at which point I’ll have to start getting things done.  But for now, I vegetate.  Yesterday, I took L and B skiing, and today I ran ten miles.  Given my current fitness levels, ten miles is enough to completely exhaust me.

The skiing was fun, if stressful getting there.  It’s nominally a 95 minute drive to the resort from our house.  J stayed home with S as he was a little under the weather from his last Covid shot, and we don’t want to necessarily take S with us every time.  Next time, he gets to ski and I stay home or try and teach S.  We’d had snow the night before, and the roads were a little dodgy all the way.  They weren’t terrible – you could see bare blacktop, but there was sometimes snow between black wheel tracks, and there was consistently snow or ice in the middle of the road and on the sides.  Traffic was slower so it took nearly two hours to get there, and I was pretty frazzled by the time we arrived.  I’m not used to driving in snow, and it stresses me out.  When we got there, we discovered they have a new shuttle system to get from the parking lot to the resort, and it sucks.  Yes, SUCKS.  It took 30 minutes+ to get the shuttle, maybe 40 minutes even, and I got yelled at for cutting the line.  (Obviously, I didn’t cut the line; the other person was confused and apologized, but it still didn’t feel good.)  It was very stressful because the kids had a lesson and the traffic delay plus shuttle delay made them late.  The front area is also under construction, and we didn’t know where to go.  When we finally got to the lesson place, we discovered S’s boot was missing a buckle, which just about made my head explode.

After all that, though, there is such a feeling of peace after getting on the lift and getting on the hill.  It’s just so spectacularly beautiful.  My stress level went from a 10+ to about a 2 by the time I got to the top of the first lift.

This photo only begins to capture it.  Truly, it was a stunning bluebird day.

The temperature was 20 degrees with occasional wind chill, but I took Becca’s advice and got a balaclava, and it made a huge difference.  Long johns + insulated ski bibs + turtleneck + wool sweater + down jacket + liner loves + ski mittens + balaclava + fleece cowl + ski helmet == comfort.  I actually felt great.  It’s a huge pain to get to Cry.stal as compared to Snoqu.almie Pass, a closer Seattle-area resort, but once you get there, the lift lines are short, the slopes are well-groomed, and it’s just wonderful.  (Come visit, and I’ll take you skiing!)

I was somewhat disheartened to realize that I’ve regressed a bit in a few short months.  I didn’t make it onto any blue runs, but just got comfortable doing the hardest green run again.  Next trip, I’ll ski the “easy” blue run again.  Still, I begin to wonder if it’s possible for a fit but uncoordinated and unathletic 42-year-old to really make any progress in skiing skill-wise.  I can never seem to get beyond easy blues.

I missed a run or two, but you get the gist.

The girls did great at their lessons, though.  At least they will be able to ski competently when they’re adults.  Still, even if I never do get off the greens, the beauty of Crystal would make a visit worth it anyway.  It just gives me a feeling of peace and happiness to see all the mountains and snow-covered trees in every direction.