R.I.P. Cutter Day

Cutter Day is a thing of the past.

In my younger days, I made the day before Thanksgiving into a personal holiday. I would take off from work and take a trip to Atlantic City with either my father or friends. Sometimes there were bus rides, and sometimes we watched movies of questionable quality. Sometimes I won money, more times I lost. It didn’t really matter.

Trips to Atlantic City are a thing of the past. (Image source)

Trips to Atlantic City are a thing of the past. (Image source)

It doesn’t seem that long ago, but thanks in part to a growing family and people moving away, I haven’t made that trip in six years. Time flies.

I also don’t spend Thanksgiving Eve at a hometown bar catching up with my high school classmates. If I went to one of those bars now, would I recognize anyone, or would I be left wondering why the place was filled with so many young kids?

A couple of years ago, I tried going out in Washington, but the experience wasn’t as rewarding as I had hoped. It felt more like I was making too much of an effort to recapture the excitement from years past. Last year, I had an opportunity to go out, but I passed. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to get a good night’s sleep tends to reduce one’s enthusiasm for going out drinking.

Nothing says excitement like Charlie Brown! (Image source)

Nothing says excitement like Charlie Brown! (Image source)

This year, no opportunities to go out drinking have presented themselves, and I haven’t felt inclined to seek any out. A peaceful night watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (Buttered toast and popcorn FTW!) is probably all the excitement I can handle.

That doesn’t mean the day will be devoid of fun. The Cutlet has an early dismissal from school, (I’m sure this is welcomed by parents who have to travel, but for the rest of us, it’s a slight hassle) so I’m planning on taking off work early and spending the afternoon with her. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but I’m sure that we’ll find a fun way to pass the time.

It might not be the same as a trip to Atlantic City, but in the long run, perhaps my memories of “Cutter and Cutlet Day” will end up being the more meaningful ones.

To all of of you, whether you’ve got a trip to the casino, a quiet day with family, or something else planned, I hope you have a happy Cutter Day as well! And while you’re at it, try and enjoy your Thanksgiving Day too!

Posted in The Cutlet, Trips and Events | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Fall Back…Into Happiness?

Here’s another one for the “my children are weird” files:

In the Spring, we were somewhat excited about the switch to Daylight Saving Time. We thought that by moving the clocks ahead, we’d artificially adjust the twins’ schedule to where we wanted it. Imagine our surprise when they countered the switch by spontaneously deciding to wake up an hour earlier than they had been.

We were justifiably scared of moving the clocks back this Fall. Parents of young children will tell you that the time switch can be an awful experience. The clock may say it’s an hour earlier, but that message doesn’t usually get across to children’s internal clocks. Those 6 AM wake up cries become 5 AM wake up cries, and neither Mrs. Cutter or I wanted to start our day at 5 AM. (Except when she wants to complete a fitness challenge; Then she’ll wake up. All other times? Nope.)

The night before the switch we kept them up later than their usual bedtime, hoping that it would help them sleep a little later. We know from experience that this approach often backfires, and over-tired children tend to sleep worse and wake up earlier. (Apparently not everyone realizes this. When complaining about being woken up too early we’ve been asked: “So why not just put them to bed earlier?”)

I went to sleep hopeful that they would last until 6:30. I was going to let them cry it out for a little bit, and I planned to resist going into their room until it became apparent that the crying would not cease without parental interference. I was quite shocked when the clock read 7 AM (after the adjustment) and I still hadn’t heard from them.

They started to stir a shortly after, and I finally took them out of their cribs at 7:15. They were surprisingly happy and it turned out to be a great day. We thought the late rising might have been a fluke, but we’re a couple of weeks into the new schedule, and they’ve continued to wake up after 7. More importantly, they’ve continued to be happy most of the time.

Apparently, the twins hate watching the sun rise. (Image source)

Apparently, the twins just hate watching the sun rise. (Image source)

While not completely tantrum-free, the Cutlass’ behavior has been remarkably improved. She’s no longer the tantrum-prone beast that would throw a fit whenever she was put down or whenever she wasn’t allowed to play with the telephone or remote control.

Were all of her issues simply a result of not sleeping according to her preferred schedule? Did it simply take moving her bedtime back an hour to make her into a happy baby? It may be too early to declare victory, but for now, the end of Daylight Saving Time has definitely made our house a more pleasant place to be.

Now I’m just worried what will happen in March when the clocks move again. We’ve got almost four months until that time, and I think I’ll make a point to savor every day of it.

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Do ALL the Things!

Tuesday was a productive day. I took care of two items that had been on my to-do list for quite some time: Get a flu shot and have the minivan’s oil changed. With those tasks done, I felt a sense of accomplishment. My “to-do” list was now a “done” list. I was free to sit back, relax, and simply coast through life for the next week or so.

Then I remembered that I’m an adult, and things don’t work that way.

I was reminded of a post on the blog Hyperbole and a Half in which the author laments about the never-ending responsibilities of life. You can have the most productive day ever, and you know what that earns you? A chance to do it all over again the next day.

Mrs. Cutter and I feel this non-stop cycle of responsibility most noticeably in our attempts to keep our house clean. And by “clean,” I mean “not a complete disaster.” Every night, there are dishes to be washed, high chairs to be cleaned, pots to be put away, and random toys to be picked up off the floor and put in a place where we hopefully won’t step on them. If there’s any additional time after that, maybe we’ll even try to clean the mess off the floor.

This is us every night. (Image source)

This is us every night. (Image source)

The twins are going through a fun phase where they are semi-capable of feeding themselves, and eminently capable of throwing their bottles and food on the floor. Their reasoning seems to be simple: “I don’t like this food item as much as some of the others. It goes away now!” and “I was drinking this bottle, but I don’t want it at this particular moment in time. Be gone from my sight!”

The result is that the floor surrounding their high chairs is a mix of spilled milk, pieces of food, and other unidentified substances that we assume might have been food at one point in time. (We’ve learned that those food items that were rejected earlier apparently become irresistible to them when they find it on the floor.)

This past Saturday, while the Cutlet and I were out, Mrs. Cutter went on a bit of a cleaning frenzy during the twins’ nap. She washed dishes, she vacuumed, she even straightened up their playroom. Instead of just repeatedly shuffling random papers from one table to another, she threw them out or put them away.

The house actually looked good. She sent me a text message saying that she was going to take a picture so that she’d have proof that there was a time – brief as it may have been – when our house actually looked clean.

As expected, the state of cleanliness did not endure. Within a day, the efforts of our three children (and to be fair, their parents aren’t innocent in the mess-making) had returned the house to its usual state of havoc. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

On the bright side, I probably won’t need to get the oil changed in the van for another nine months or so. That frees up my time to clean out the garage, put away the grill, rake the leaves, and about a thousand other things that need to be done. But once I’m done all that, THEN I’ll finally be free to sit back and relax! I can’t wait!

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Vegas Blog – Part Three: You Can Check in Any Time You Like…

While on our trip to Las Vegas, Mrs. Cutter and I learned an important lesson: You might be away from your kids, but you never stop being a parent.

For instance, it is tough to adjust to Pacific time when you’re used to waking up at 6:30 AM Eastern. (I realize that this problem isn’t exclusive to parents, but you’ll find that children don’t come with optional snooze buttons.) Every night, it felt like others were just getting started while we were yawning our heads off and trying not to pass out. It was especially bad on Friday night when the bride and groom rented a party bus, and Mrs. Cutter and I were both wondering how we were going to make it all night. (We didn’t; We ended up bailing early.)

We probably could have made more of an effort to adjust, but we didn’t think that was the best idea. Did we really want our bodies to grow accustomed to sleeping late since upon returning home we’d have a couple of children making sure we didn’t sleep past 7 AM?

Retiring early did have one small advantage: I got to see a rarely-seen side of Las Vegas.

I had no idea what time I’d wake up on Thursday morning. Even though I went to sleep later than usual, I wouldn’t have been shocked if I was wide awake at 4 AM. So when I managed to sleep until 5:30 on Thursday, I considered it to be a victory. (Lasting until 6 the next day was even better!)

After waking up, I took a look out the window, and realized that while the city never completely shuts down, 6 AM is about as close as it gets. All but the heartiest of late night partiers have headed home, while most of the early morning crowd has yet to hit the streets. As a result, the streets are relatively empty, most of the hotel room lights are out, and only a few of the casino marquees are still lit.

Las Vegas in the early morning

Mrs. Cutter soon woke up, and we proceeded to spend our morning in a most unusual manner: By doing nothing.

We didn’t get dressed for work. We didn’t serve anyone breakfast. We didn’t change any diapers. We didn’t get anyone’s lunch together. We didn’t nag anyone to get ready so that they wouldn’t be late for the bus. And we didn’t try to get anyone to stop crying because they’d go into an irrational screaming fit every time we put them down.

It was quite pleasant. We made sure to repeat the process the next two days as well.

Even that abundance of free time came with a cost. There are many stories of convicts having trouble re-adjusting to the outside world after being released from prison. They had become so used to an ultra-regulated schedule that they lose the ability to plan for themselves.

I’ve gotten so used to all my time being scheduled around work and my family that I have difficulty knowing what to do myself once freed from those concerns. I had nothing to do on both Thursday and Friday afternoons and in a way, I felt lost.

Don’t worry; Between the shooting range, the pool, and a trip to downtown Las Vegas, I was able to fill the time adequately. I even got to sit and read a book. How often does that happen?

Unfortunately, the relaxation wasn’t complete. Every night we called or FaceTimed home so that we could see how everyone was doing and say good night to the Cutlet. On Thursday night, this became a problem when the Cutlet freaked out.

I’m not sure what happened. She had a small (barely visible) cut on her leg, and she reacted as if her leg had been chopped off. She refused to calm down, and unfortunately nobody could seem to console her.

I eventually got her to calm down, but it wasn’t easy; I had to pretend to run into a wall and hurt myself and promised her that Grammy would apply a Band-Aid to her cut as soon as possible. (Which wasn’t all that soon because once again the Cutlass was being clingy.)

Obviously, her freak out wasn’t really about her “injury” and more about being upset that we had left. That put a damper on our mood. We wondered: Were we bad parents for actually going away without the kids? Or was having some time without them necessary for our marriage, and in the end will make the entire family stronger? (Did I ever mention that I’m really good at rationalizing?)

The day after we returned, the children were all quite happy. In fact, it might have been one of the twins’ happiest days ever. I guess they missed us. And while it was nice to get away for a few days, I think when it comes down to it, I really missed them too.

Have any other parents experienced something similar? Do you have a tough time truly leaving it all behind?

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Race For Every Child and Other Halloween Happenings

Weekends are always busy at the Cutter household. When you’ve got three kids, there’s very little time to simply lounge around and binge watch Netflix. But even taking our usual level of busyness into account, Halloween was an especially hectic day.

Race for Every Child

Halloween might usually be associated with spooky sunsets, but this year I actually got to watch the sun rise. It provided a pleasant background as I drove into Washington DC to run in the Race for Every Child.

RFECThe Race for Every Child is an 5K held to support Children’s National hospital. Two years ago, I was able to join my friends’ team. Last year, the race was scheduled about one week after the twins’ due date, so I didn’t think it was a good idea to make any commitments, especially since I (correctly) assumed that I wouldn’t be in race-running condition.

With no further children expected to arrive this Fall, I felt free to sign up again.

The race was originally scheduled for October 3rd, but due to weather concerns from Hurricane Joaquin, they had to postpone. In early October, I felt like I was in good running shape, but in the weeks since, a combination of a minor foot injury, busy home/work life, and general laziness caused me to slack off on my training. My goal was to finish under half an hour, but I wasn’t 100% confident I could do that.

I shouldn’t have been too concerned. Much like two years ago, the extra adrenaline that the actual race brings helped me finish with a faster time than any of my practice runs. (Either that or my iPhone’s RunKeeper app isn’t super accurate.) I’m not sure what the results mean, but I finished somewhere between 26 and 28 minutes, which was good for 19th (out of 112) in my age bracket. Considering I’m not a runner, I thought that was pretty good.

I also re-learned that I am not a runner at heart. Some people talk about a “runner’s high” and how they feel free of all cares and concerns when they run. Meanwhile, I’m there wondering where the damn finish line is.

Mrs. Cutter’s Hell Week

I didn’t have much time to bask in my better-than-expectedness. I needed to hurry home so that Mrs. Cutter could participate in a physical challenge of her own.

OTF-LogoShe attends weekly classes at OrangeTheory Fitness, which are essentially 60 minutes of intense cardio training. These are really intense workouts because every time she returns home, she describes the class as being “really tough.”

The week before Halloween, they held a “Hell Week” challenge in which participants needed to go to a class six days in a row. Their prize? A T-shirt!

Since we don’t have a plethora of time in the evenings, Mrs. Cutter would have to go to early morning classes. That meant that she would have to wake up at 5:30 AM three straight days.

I am aware of how much Mrs. Cutter enjoys her sleep, so when she first mentioned this plan, I actually laughed in her face. Apparently, my lack of faith provided her the motivation she needed to complete the challenge. So really, I’m the big hero here!

Children + Halloween = Win

Halloween is one of those days where it can actually be pretty fun to have children. Kids are generally in a good mood, you get to dress them up in cute costumes, take lots of pictures, go Trick-or-Treating, and then indulge in a share of their candy.

Surprisingly, the Cutlet was not a princess this year. Since she was on a four-year princess streak, we had taken for granted that we’d just be able to pick one of her many princess dresses and be done with it. We were a little concerned when she decided she wanted to be something else. Thankfully, she chose to dress as a cat, and it was simple enough to throw a pair of ears and a tail on her.

The twins are less able to communicate their costume desires, so we still get to choose for them. That meant that they were going to be dressed as Hollywood’s most famous set of boy-girl twins: Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa.

I wasn’t sure which Luke costume to get Cujo. I opted for the white robe rather than the X-Wing pilot outfit. (And yes, we got him a lightsaber too!) As for the Cutlass, I thought it was more appropriate to go with the white dress and “bun wig” rather than the more questionable “slave girl” outfit.

Probably not an appropriate costume for a one year old. (Image source)

Probably not an appropriate costume for a one year old. (Image source)

The costumes were a little big. Okay, the Cutlass’ costume was very big; it actually fit on her big sister. But seeing her with that wig on was priceless. And we’ll probably get to use it again next year!

Our neighborhood held a Halloween block party in the afternoon. They closed off a section of the street, everyone supplied some food, and a few cornhole games were set up. The Cutlet got to run around in the street with some of her friends, while the twins were able to stumble around freely.

I think Mrs. Cutter and I might have even had five minutes each when we were able to sit down and talk to our neighbors…but I’m not entirely sure. Most of my conversations these days are held while chasing down one of my children, or at least making a token glance to make sure they’re not putting anything too dirty in their mouths.

After the party, we headed home and rested up for a little bit to go trick-or-treating. Since we already had the twins out, we decided not to push our luck with them. They stayed home to “help” Mrs. Cutter hand out candy. Meanwhile, the Cutlet and I met up with her friend to seek out some candy goodness.

Our neighborhood is excellent for trick-or-treating, and the streets were full of kids. The Cutlet’s bag filled at a rapid rate, and it soon became tough for her to carry around. It wasn’t long before she asked if she could go home and eat the candy, but I told her that once we went home we were done. Since Halloween only comes once a year, she had better tough it out.

Soon after, she was getting pretty tired – partly because her candy bag now weighed about as much as she did. Satisfied with her haul, we headed back home.

Once home, the Cutlet wanted to enjoy the spoils of her work. Before she could indulge, Mrs. Cutter and I had to perform a taste test to make sure all the candy tasted good. It seemed okay to us, so we let her have a couple of pieces.


We had obtained some pumpkins a few weeks ago, but we had never gotten around to doing anything with them. The au pair and her boyfriend wanted to carve them, so after returning home, we did so.

For some reason, the Cutlet wanted me to carve a snail into her pumpkin. Here’s what I came up with:

Much like with the race, I thought it was a decent effort for a non-expert.

A few other Halloween notes:

I was surprised to see that the Cutlet had a full-sized Zagnut bar in her bag. Does anyone out there actually eat Zagnut bars?

She also received a Fruit Roll Up. Now, Fruit Roll Ups might be good in some situations…but Halloween isn’t it! Come on, people! That isn’t candy and you know it!

I was disappointed that no houses gave out “parent treats,” aka alcoholic beverages to the parents of trick-or-treaters. (Don’t worry, I brought a drink with me, so I didn’t go thirsty.) Maybe next time, I’ll set up in my driveway and offer out some shots. It might spark a new neighborhood tradition!

How was your Halloween? Do you have kids to dress up and trick-or-treat with, or is Halloween more of an adult holiday for you?

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Vegas Blog – Part Two: Guns and Gambling

On Thursday, Mrs. Cutter decided that we weren’t spending enough money on this vacation, and planned a trip to the hotel spa. While she was busy getting seaweed wraps or whatever, I had a bit of free time. How did I pass this time? By shooting guns!

Of all the potential activities Squinty could have chosen for the day after his wedding, going to a shooting range would have never crossed my mind. Having never touched a gun before, I was slightly hesitant, but as the saying goes: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

We went to Battlefield Las Vegas, and I was a bit overwhelmed by the choices of weapons. While firing cannons might have been cool, I figured for my first time, it was probably a good idea to start small. While some of the others went with exotic packages like the “D-Day Special” I opted for a simple Glock.

Here’s one thing I hadn’t realized about guns: They are loud.

I didn’t expect it to be a quiet experience, but until you stand near a firing gun, you have no idea just how much noise they make. Some of the others in the shooting range were firing some heavy artillery, and even with the benefit of ear protection, the sound was near deafening.

Die, paper target! DIE!

After receiving some instructions, I took my turn. Considering it was my first attempt, I thought my accuracy was pretty good. Maybe I should buy a gun for my home. I’m sure Mrs. Cutter will be on board with this idea. After all, with three small children around, I can’t see anything that could go wrong.

There were no set dinner plans for that evening, but eventually, we decided to go to Gordon Ramsey’s BurGR restaurant in Planet Hollywood. Apparently, quite a few people decided on a similar course of action, because there was an hour long wait.

I was in a casino with an hour wait ahead of me. If only there was some way to kill that time! Mrs. Cutter chose to visit the Miracle Mile shopping mall, and since she was determined to give the casino as much of our money as she could, I figured I might as well do the same. And so I made my first visit to the blackjack table.

I’ve discussed many times how my luck at gambling has kind of sucked in recent years. I knew that if I walked up to a table stone cold sober, I was going to lose, and probably quickly. I remedied that problem by downing a strawberry daiquiri.

Everyone knows that it is impossible to win money without a few drinks.

I found an open table and hoped for the best. I started off well enough, but as soon as a new dealer came to the table, I started to really get on a roll.

She had blue hair (I don’t think it was her natural color), and was super friendly. She was cheering for the players and giving out advice. Buoyed by such a positive presence, I went on a winning streak. Others at the table might not have had great luck, but I was kicking some ass.

Finally, it was time to eat, and I headed towards the restaurant feeling good about my winnings. That euphoria quickly died upon learning how much money Mrs. Cutter had spent at Sephora.

She tried to rationalize this expenditure by pointing out:

  1. Others in the group spent more. (I suppose I should admire her restraint or something?)
  2. She didn’t spend the money on makeup, but rather primer. (Whatever the heck that means.) It’s especially galling since I actually think she looks better without any makeup on.

After dinner, we met up with one of Mrs. Cutter’s friends who happened to be visiting Vegas. When we sat down at Planet Hollywood’s lounge, we just thought it was a pleasant place to get a drink. We had no idea what was in store.

Out of nowhere, a band took the stage. And when they opened with Tubthumping by Chumbawumba, I instantly knew that good times were ahead.

Scarves and Tubthumping: What more could you ask for from a cover band?

The band might not have been the most talented in the world, but their playlist was awesome. They played a bunch of hits from the 90’s and 2000’s. As I remarked to Mrs. Cutter, “It’s like they’re playing the soundtrack from our college years!” The lead singer also wore a scarf so I felt we had a bit of a connection.

The good times didn’t last. Energetic 90’s band or no, Mrs. Cutter and I were tiring quickly. We still hadn’t adjusted to West Coast time, so 8 PM felt very late. So as most of the people around us were just beginning their evenings, we dragged ourselves back to our room.

We felt a little lame, but as I’ll discuss further in part three, we were learning that even though we weren’t with our kids, we hadn’t escaped parenthood.

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Vegas Blog – Part One: Squinty’s Wedding

Mrs. Cutter and I don’t get away much these days. With three small children , even a simple night out for dinner can seem like an impossible task. So it may surprise you that we just returned from a three-day trip to Las Vegas.

What prompted the trip? Five years ago, with all of his friends reproducing and becoming less social, Squinty decided to leave the East coast and move to Las Vegas. Upon arrival, he engaged in one of his favorite romantic activities: Dating a co-worker.

It’s probably good they both didn’t remain employed at that company, because their relationship was able to last. It lasted so long that he even obtained an engagement ring (The ring wasn’t even from a mall!), and asked her to marry him.

Since this was his first wedding, Mrs. Cutter and I figured we’d have to make an effort to witness it. Actually, we kept telling him that he could call off the wedding if he really wanted to, but we had a flight and babysitting, so we were going to Vegas either way.

Plane drinks!!!

Plane drinks!!!

Grampy and Grammy Cutter were foolish nice enough to watch the kids while we were gone, allowing us to have an actual vacation as a couple. We were so overjoyed to have freedom that we didn’t even get into our customary fight about going to the airport.

Not having to worry about children also allowed us to partake in the ultimate in airborne pleasures: Plane drinks! Mrs. Cutter was reluctant at first, but after I pointed out that we left our responsibilities at home, she decided to have a refreshment of her own. Apparently, one drink at high altitude causes Mrs. Cutter to find Geico commercials hilarious.

The wedding was on a Wednesday, which confused most people. Those people underestimate just how much of a nerd Squinty is. Fans of the Back to the Future movies will recognize October 21, 2015 as the day that Marty and Doc Brown travel to in Back to  the Future Part 2.

Squinty's shoes for the wedding

Squinty’s shoes for the wedding

While he did wear a pair of BTTF2-inspired sneakers (sadly without auto-laces), I was disappointed he didn’t fully commit to the theme and wear a Marty McFly style vest. Mrs. Squinty decided to go with a traditional wedding dress rather than anything from the movie. (At least she didn’t make us look at etchings during the wedding.)

We’d be staying at the Cosmopolitan, which is one of the newer hotel/casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. I had never been there before, and I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be one of my favorites. Why? Because the Cosmo smelled bad.

It reminded me of when I was three years old and my family visited Disney World. We stayed at the Polynesian Resort, and while I swore that the lobby of that hotel had an odd odor, nobody else seemed to notice. (I have seen online message board posts discussing an odd smell, so I know I’m not the only one.)

The smell of the Cosmo was similar. It was fragrant and reminded me of walking through the perfume department of a department store. For someone as sensitive to scents as I am, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to spend much time in the casino or lobby, and our guest room smelled fine. Even better, the room came complete with a balcony; something I didn’t think actually existed in Las Vegas.

After we settled in, it was soon time to head to the wedding. Where did the nuptials take place? In one of the Strip’s newest attractions: The High Roller.

My guess is that someone tried to come up with a new attraction for the Strip. Eventually, they realized that there wasn’t a giant Ferris wheel yet, and the High Roller was born.

The High Roller is exactly that: A giant Ferris wheel that can fit about forty people in one of its pods and takes 30 minutes to make a complete circuit.

The happy couple – along with a select few family and friends – shuffled onto the pod. As we made our ascent into the sky, they exchanged their vows. Once the “I dos” were complete, we celebrated and enjoyed the view as Huey Lewis and the News played in the background. (It’s not like they weren’t going to go with “The Power of Love” on Back to the Future day!)

After the pod returned us to the ground, we headed over to Bally’s for a steak dinner. The steak was delicious but by the time dinner was served, it was 11 PM Eastern time and Mrs. Cutter and I were dealing with serious jet lag. Not wanting to pass out at the table, we excused ourselves and headed back to our room.

Would we be able to acclimate ourselves to West Coast time and sleep past four in the morning? Would I finally experience gambling success after years of awful luck? Would I try an activity for the first time? Would Squinty’s marriage last more than a day? For the answers to these questions, you’ll have to read part two.

If anyone has been to the Cosmo, or has another smelly destination stories, please share it in the comments!

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Milk: My New Enemy

Remember the days when I used to save 50% at the supermarket? Those days are over. Nowadays, when I head to the local Safeway, I feel ecstatic if I can get above 40%. Heck, I’m lucky if I even surpass 30%.

What changed? Mostly the fact that my household has doubled in size, and when buying food for six people, needs rarely line up with sales.

The au pair isn’t much of a problem. She has learned that when she asks for bacon flavored Ritz crackers, that pretty much means that she’ll get bacon flavored Ritz crackers the next time they go on sale and/or I have a coupon. The twins are less understanding.

“Sorry, kids. You don’t get to eat today. Maybe Gerber will have a coupon in the newspaper next week.”

Baby food may not go on sale all that often, but at least that’s relatively cheap. The real problem is milk.

They’ve recently transitioned from formula (which was extremely pricey in its own right) to whole milk. The problem is that milk is expensive and rarely goes on sale. Do the twins seem to care? No. They just drink the stuff down with no concern to how much it costs.

The enemy (Image source

The enemy (Image source”)

Actually, I’m kidding. Half the time, they end up refusing to finish their bottles, and I end up dumping it down the drain!

That wasting of milk is horrifying when you pretty much have to buy two gallons of the stuff each week. And some weeks, even that isn’t enough! (Yay twins!)

Did I mention that I have to buy organic milk? If they don’t drink the organic stuff, supposedly they’ll hit puberty at age eight or something. Do you think that organic milk is more expensive than the regular kind? You bet it is!

Organic milk was thankfully on sale this week. Saving a single dollar when a gallon can cost over seven, doesn’t do much to help the savings percentage, but I’m thankful for whatever limited savings I can get.

On the bright side, Bacon flavored Ritz were totally on sale yesterday. So at least the au pair will be happy.

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In Defense of Jonathan Papelbon

The Major League Baseball playoffs begin this week, and the Washington Nationals will not be participating. This is somewhat surprising considering that before the season started, it seemed inevitable that the team would win the National League East, if not the World Series. Heck, I even conceded the division to them.

When a season goes as wrong as this one did, people start looking for scapegoats. First on that list was manager Matt Williams who was fired last week. Nationals fans have also directed much of their ire at another man: Jonathan Papelbon

When the season began, Papelbon was the closer for the Philadelphia Phillies, and pretty much nobody was happy with the arrangement. When Papelbon signed with the Phillies before the 2012 season, the team was coming off five straight division titles. He expected that winning to continue, and as the team dropped out of contention, he expressed his dismay with comments like, “I didn’t come here for this.”

Both the Phillies and Jonathan Papelbon wanted their relationship to end. (Image source)

Both the Phillies and Jonathan Papelbon wanted their relationship to end. (Image source)

The team seemed just as sick of Papelbon as he was of them. They were paying him a lot of money, but having an expensive closer on a bad team isn’t a good combination. Unfortunately, that hefty salary – along with his sometimes abrasive personality – made him near impossible to trade, even though he continued to pitch well.

This year, with Papelbon’s deal nearing its end, a trade became a more realistic possibility. Especially when a certain would-be contender found itself in dire need of relief help.

As of late July, the Nationals were in first place, but with only a two game lead over the Mets, their position was far from secure. There were many reasons why the team didn’t live up to expectations, but one of the most glaring was their bullpen. Closer Drew Storen was having a good year, but all the other relievers were struggling.

The Nationals thought that if they traded for Papelbon, they would then have two solid late inning relief options. The problem was that neither Storen nor Papelbon wanted to give up the prestigious closer role.

Due to a clause in his contract, Papelbon could block any trade the Phillies tried to make. He insisted that he remain closer no matter where he was traded to, so the Nats had to agree to that before they could make a deal. They eventually promised Papelbon he would handle the ninth inning, and sent a minor league pitcher to the Phillies in exchange for his services.

The trade might have worked out well, except soon after being bumped from the closer role, Storen went into complete collapse. In 19 post-trade appearance, he gave up 16 runs, and blew three saves. After the final blown save, he punched a locker in anger, breaking his thumb, and ending his season.

The Sucktacular Drew Storen. (Image source)

The Sucktacular Drew Storen. (Image source)

I’ve never been a fan of Storen. Maybe it’s because he’s had notable failures in the two postseason series in which he’s appeared, but I just don’t feel that he’s very good. Even though he had been successful early in the season, I actually thought it was wise for the Nationals to supplant him.

Some Nats fans claim that Storen would have been fine if they left him as the closer. But if a guy isn’t mentally tough enough to handle being removed as the closer, do you really trust him in a postseason game; especially when he’s already failed in that situation before?

For his part, Papelbon pitched well after coming over. Sure, there were a couple of blown saves, and yeah, he might have tried to choke the team’s best hitter, but aside from that, he was good.

Oh, right…the choking thing.

Remember how I said that the Phillies weren’t huge fans of Papelbon’s personality? The Nationals quickly learned why.

When the Nats played the Orioles in September, Orioles slugger Manny Machado hit a home run and apparently celebrated a bit too much for Papelbon’s liking. Papelbon decided to address this by throwing at his head the next time he came up. The other Nationals players weren’t thrilled about this. Bryce Harper complained, realizing that he would likely be thrown at the following day in retaliation.

A few days later, Harper hit a routine fly ball to the outfield. Like most major leaguers, Harper didn’t run all out on the play, understanding that it was almost certain to be caught. Apparently, this lack of total hustle didn’t sit well with Papelbon who made some comments as Harper returned to the dugout. When Harper said some things back to him, Papelbon grabbed him by the throat.

Between the post-trade collapse and his attempts to choke out the one Nationals player who actually exceeded expectations this season, Nationals fans have developed a strong dislike for Papelbon. Some of them think that had the team not traded for him, the Nats would have won the division.

Blaming Papelbon for the team’s failures ignores the fact that this Nationals team had quite a few problems. Thanks to their supposedly stellar starting rotation, this team was expected to breeze into the playoffs. However, every member of the rotation disappointed to some degree – including staff Ace Max Scherzer. Scherzer had a fine enough season and even pitched two no-hitters, but during the month of August, when the team was desperate for a shutdown performance, he came up small.

Jayson Werth (Image source)

Jayson Werth (Image source)

The offense also deserves a share of the blame. As is their habit, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman spent a good chunk of the season on the disabled list, and didn’t play all that well when healthy. Most of the other hitters also suffered through sub par seasons. The team ranked 3rd in the National League in runs scored, but that was mostly due to Harper who delivered an MVP-caliber performance.

Fans could also blame team management for compiling a bullpen that was so bad that they needed to make a trade. The bullpen was viewed as a weakness before the season started, and they certainly lived up to that expectation. (Hey, at least someone on the team did!)

Despite all those problems, most fans still think it was mostly Papelbon’s fault. Just think how they’d feel if he hadn’t pitched well!

The bad news (as if this season wasn’t bad enough) is that the Nats likely won’t be able to improve much this offseason. A few key players are due to hit free agency, and thanks to the already high payroll commitments, it seems that at least a couple of them will depart.

But don’t worry, Nats fans, there is some good news: Papelbon is still under contract for another year, so at least you’ll have a good closer next season!

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The Unwanted Summer Sequel

Summer is over. (I know the calendar says we still have another couple of weeks, but in the minds of most people, the season ends with Labor Day.) That means no more trips to the beach, no more cookouts with fruity wine coolers, and no more blockbuster movies in the theater. (At least until November!)

As for those summer blockbusters, like most years, there wasn’t a whole lot of originality in the theaters. Many films were either reboots of popular movies from days past, or additional sequels for franchises which most people didn’t think needed extending.

Yes, I know I liked it. But was it really necessary? Image source

Yes, I know I liked it. But was it really necessary? Image source

This summer brought the Cutter family our own version of an unwanted sequel.

You may recall that the Cutlass was hospitalized in early May. Remember how she came home with a clean bill of health and everything appeared to be fine? Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story.

Good health has been difficult to come by in our house this year. There have been very few days when at least one member of the family hasn’t been suffering from some ailment.

It’s understandable. The Cutlet probably picks up all sorts of fun germs from school, and the twins’ immune systems aren’t strong enough to deal with it. With Mrs. Cutter and I often being deprived of sleep, we’re not able to effectively fight off the germs either.

Those kind of germs usually result in colds, which is an annoying, yet temporary problem. It’s much more worrisome when for the second time in a month, you get a phone call from your wife alerting you that your daughter is running a high fever and her fontanel is swollen. Considering that this issue had resulted in a four-day hospital stay the last time, we decided to take her back to the emergency room.

As awful as the first trip to the ER was, the second one may have been worse. While the Cutlass didn’t seem to be in much distress, we realized the earlier diagnosis of “just a virus that ran its course” was inaccurate. We were facing the possibility of a more serious issue.

We weren’t reassured by the doctors’ inability to determine what was wrong. The re-occurrence essentially invalidated the previous diagnosis of viral meningitis (that almost never re-occurs), and since the tests from the first visit ruled out a bacterial infection, it seemed unlikely that she had one this time.

It felt like we were living in the first half of an episode of House. The doctors began discussing terms like encephalitis and hydrocephalus. We weren’t familiar with these conditions (thanks to the magic of internet, we soon learned), but we were pretty sure none of them were good.

We're still waiting for Dr. House to make the correct diagnosis. (Image source)

We’re still waiting for Dr. House to make the correct diagnosis. (Image source)

One of the doctors repeatedly noted how “fascinating” this was. After he used that term for about the fifth time, I warned him that if he used it again, we were going to scream.

In an attempt to determine the cause of her illness, the Cutlass underwent a chest X-ray and an ultrasound, but neither test revealed much. The doctors determined that the only way to really figure out if she was suffering from a major brain ailment was to schedule an MRI.

For adults, an MRI is relatively routine. For small children, it is much more complicated. The patient needs to remain completely still, and since babies only really stay still while asleep, the Cutlass would need to be anesthetized.

When the day of the procedure finally came – it had to be rescheduled due to yet another fever a few days earlier – everything thankfully went as expected. She awoke from her anesthesia happy, hungry, and no worse for wear.

Two days later, we received the results: Her head appeared perfectly normal. All of those scary medical terms? There was no evidence that she was suffering from any of them.

While this was a relief, we were still concerned because the problem wasn’t going away. Every two to three weeks, she would get a fever, usually accompanied by swelling of her fontanel.

One fever was determined to be due to a urinary tract infection. When she had another high temperature less than two weeks later, the doctors feared that she might be suffering from another UTI. It was recommended that we take yet another trip to the emergency room.

Our nurse wasn't as patient as Gabe Focker (Image source)

Our nurse wasn’t as patient as Gabe Focker (Image source)

At least this trip provided a brief moment of levity.

It was necessary to insert a catheter, so a nurse had to hold the Cutlass’ legs. The Cutlass was understandably agitated by this, and was determined not to make it easy on the nurse. “She’s too strong!” the nurse complained as she struggled to keep hold of my nine-month-old daughter’s legs.

The Cutlass proceeded to show just how upset she was by defecating on the nurse’s hand. At that point, the doctor decided to take a quick break before making another attempt. When the process resumed, a new nurse was tasked with holding her legs.

While she has had a couple of fevers since, thankfully the Cutlass hasn’t had to return to the ER. Unfortunately, her sister can’t say the same. When the Cutlet complained about an increasing amount of pain in her abdomen, we became concerned that her appendix was inflamed. We were relieved that it was merely severe constipation, but we could have certainly done without another trip to the hospital. (And another hefty bill to go with it!)

It’s now four months since the initial trip to the emergency room, and we still don’t know what is causing these fevers. An infectious disease specialist seemed skeptical that she was suffering from cyclical fevers. The best guess we’ve gotten is, “She just gets sick a lot.”

That isn’t especially reassuring, but thankfully, she doesn’t appear to have suffered any negative long-term effects. She continues to grow and hit her developmental milestones, and despite being subject to so many tests and doctor visits, she’s maintained a happy disposition throughout it all. (Aside from an occasional nurse pooping incident.)

Maybe I’m being foolishly optimistic, but it feels like things may be improving. The fevers seem to be getting both less frequent severe. The last time it happened, her temperature dropped before we even had a chance to take her to see the doctor!

I’m hopeful that this is merely a temporary problem. Maybe by the time May rolls around, these fevers will be a thing of the past, and we’ll get to spend our summer enjoying the nice weather instead of another lousy sequel.

Posted in Twins | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments