2018 in hindsight

Last hurrah for the old attic

I suspect I say this every year, but man. A lot happened for us in 2018. Walking back through my pictures and notes, perhaps one of the biggest changes in our house and life was the transformation of our attic from a partially finished bedroom and unheated office into a palace of delights and things that work. We did a huge attic project, including adding plumbing, electric, HVAC, insulation and flooring (and walling) for a full bathroom, bedroom, closets & walk in closet. We’ve finally gotten the laundry room up and running (a sad & sordid story). But every day I’m delighted by living in such a beautiful space. Due to the eviction of cats and children from the floor, it’s also clean and peaceful. Ahhhhh.

Fun with radiation

We had an interesting spell last year where both children had ER trips in a three week period due to snow sports. My “medical notifications” folder is thick with 6 month late-arriving bills from random radiologists in that period. Grey took a tumble on the slopes which ended up being fine, but which involved the neck. Thane broke his wrist snowboarding. We’re headed out again in a few weeks to the Whites. I’m wondering if we’re going to end up snowboarding/skiing. Or maybe just tubing and snow-shoeing, which are not safe but have slightly lower risks.

Tropical Island paradise

Thane got his wrist brace off just in time for us to go to Cozumel. There was superb snorkeling and the weather (as always) was magnificent. The children also somehow just hit the age where it seemed fine to leave them in the hotel room while we went snorkeling, which meant that Adam and I got a lot more great swims in than we have in the past. Thane made friends with the iguanas, Grey was an all around good sport, and we played a decent number of board games. Alas, no beach vacation is in store for us this year. I’ll just have to gaze longingly at the pictures of previous trips.

First geocache

When we got home, Grey took up geocaching – which is an activity all of us love. Yes, let’s wander through the Fells looking for hidden treasure! Grey also set up his first cache, hidden in public lands near the soon-to-officially-open TriCommunity Bikeway (with all requisite permissions). We’ve hit about 40 caches in total. He often points out to me that he’d spend sooooo much more time geocaching if he had his own smartphone. I guess that’s something for him to look forward to!


My parents came out to visit at Piemas time. We were lucky to see them a few times this year, including the week where they were blowing in insulation into the walls of the house which therefore became a death trap and we all (including cats) had to vacate it. Good times. But the pie was great and my mom claims that I’ve probably made more of them than she has! So I’m not complaining. Not too long thereafter my brother accepted a transfer and went from being one town over to living in Omaha. We miss him.

Desperate measures

As the winter posted a hard freeze after some warm weather, I started obsessing full time about my plum tree. There were several months there with multiple updates a week on the plum status. My over-the-topness began with this scene, where my long-suffering and loving husband is rigging up a heat reflector for a space heater for my plum tree so it doesn’t get too cold. I learned a lot this year – my tree blossomed beautifully, set out several hundred small plums and then dropped most of them. There were about 20 that survived that purge. Another 15 or so died off at the size of cherries. Three plums made it to maturity and were integrated into a mixed plum batch of jam. According to my consult with my cousin (whose husband is a orchard keeper), likely I insufficiently watered and fertilized my tree. I can assure you that will not happen again. I’ll come up with new ways to have my crop destroyed. Or possibly I’ll get a bumper crop of hundreds of plums and no way to handle them all. I keep hoping for that particular disaster. Better yet – I specifically bought a damson varietal because I read a book growing up that claimed they made the best jam. Most damsons are purple. The fruit from my tree is definitely greenish/yellow. So either it’s not a damson, or maybe it’s a greengage damson. And I have no idea which.

And yes, my plum woes was of greater interest to me most of the year than many other topics of conversation.

No, he didn’t get to drive it

For April break we sent the kids off to various grandparental residences, where they spent time eating foods we wouldn’t feed them and doing things we wouldn’t let them do and generally being spoiled. And a good time was had by all. Meanwhile, Adam and I got to *go to museums* together and have conversations about something other than whose turn it is to do the dishes. Fantastic.

They hit a home run just as I snapped this

Grey turned into a bona fide teenager this year. His shoes are bigger than his father’s. He’s taller than me. He and I went to a baseball game together and he was protective of me in the jubilant post-game crowds. It’s been amazing. He’s also grown his skills and abilities along with his height. He’s been cooking and baking pretty regularly. He transports himself by bike when the weather allows. He’s thoughtful and intelligent. And he’s started shaving. Heaven save us all.

Camping Trip 1 of many

By my count, I slept in a sleeping bag on 7 different occasions this summer, mostly outdoorish (but sometimes rustic indoors). We did get in our traditional three trips with the boys for Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. Thane said today that he loves camping, and he wishes we did more camping. I’m utterly thrilled that I’ve so thoroughly corrupted him with my insanity. We’ve continued to add to our crazy camping gear, including hammocks for the whole family, new tents and insulated camping mugs.

My beloved congregation

I’m still recovering, I swear, from the pastor search process. This year has been less work, although interesting challenges have arisen for our congregation. I admire and respect the hard work, patience, loving-kindness and humor of my community.

The mulberry bush

All winter long I read books on foraging. In the spring, I manage to get one or two harvests in. But by the time there is so much to be eaten in late summer I’m drowning in farmshare produce and completely out of my mind with busy-ness and I never go foraging. This year I managed to get a few good trips in, including turning some early stage knotweed into jam. Thane helped me harvest these mulberries, and has declared them by far his favorite fruit. I made mulberry pie and mulberry jam, although the harvests were not vast. I need to find more supplies…

Tubing the Saco

One of my best investments of the year was a higher quality underwater camera. It allowed me to take pictures of tropical reefs, shenanigans in White Lake, and the scenic hours we spent lazily drifting down the Saco.

Camp Wilmot

Grey spent three weeks at Camp Wilmot this summer. Thane spent two. Adam and I spent that off weekend camping in the White Mountains. I think that weekend was a fantastic one for all of us, even though we didn’t spend it together per se. The kids are going back to Camp Wilmot for the maximum possible time, and Grey has stated a policy that he’ll be at Camp Wilmot any time he can be. Sneak peak to 2019 – it turns out they’ve added a fourth week (which how amazing is it to watch a Christian Camp growing and thriving like that??!) So between that and Camp Gramp I will not see my 13 year old for FIVE WEEKS this summer.

Baby’s first Backpacking

In August we headed out to Washington State for Camp Gramp, just as the wildfires washed the west in ash and smoke. I’d spent considerable time trying to find a way to go backpacking for a few days without my husband (since our vacation time isn’t quite synced up). I reached out to a bunch of tour groups etc. but to no avail. So in desperation I looked at my man-shaped teenager and conscripted him for his first ever backpacking trip. It was a short trip, but we had an excellent time! He said he’d go again.

Surreal theater in the smoke

Adam and I then went down to Ashland for the Shakespeare Festival, where all our outdoor shows were moved indoors and everyone was respirators. The mountains were obscured and the air was uncomfortably visible. Still, we had a great time seeing some amazing theater. We caught up with an old college friend we hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years and his lovely family. And we ate some superb food.

My little trumpeter

After one more camping trip to White Lake, school started again. Grey entered 7th grade (WAT?!) and Thane started 4th – his last year in elementary school. Thane took up trumpet, to my great pleasure. Then began one of the busiest falls I’ve ever had.

There was a girl’s weekend on the Cape (I only came for one day – after running a 5k in Stoneham)

Amazing ladies

The following weekend I ran a hilly 5k at Camp Wilmot, where I spent Friday with Grey. I was really happy to get to know this place my son loves so much a bit better!

Two 5ks in two weeks!

Then on Saturday I returned home in the afternoon to a 40th birthday party thrown by my husband, where he made all my favorite dishes and invited all my favorite people who all wrote nice things about me and read them out loud. It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Even my sister was there!

Her poem was entitled “The Brendigo”
My crew

The week after THAT I went to a camp in the wilds of Connecticut to do a not-quite-a-LARP called Otherworld, which was profound and amazing.

Excellent looking ranger

The week after that, I got news my nephew had died, which cast a long pall over otherwise happy times. Still, Grey celebrated his birthday (sleepover), we went to King Richard’s Faire, did our annual apple picking, finally moved into the attic and Adam celebrated his birthday (gaming). I snuck in a sleepover for Thane’s birthday before I had to miss Halloween to head off to Singapore for a work trip.


Seriously, I barely survived October.

November and December slowed down a bit, and there was so much catching up to be done. Of course through all of that, Adam and I worked two demanding full time jobs (both of us are lucky to have jobs that require us to be at the top of our games!). The kids went to school. And there is always and has ever been laundry to be done.

Here’s my “Best of” photo album. It was an incredible year. Here’s hoping 2019 is as full of as much good, with no bad to leaven it!

Good times!

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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