2011 was an eventful year for us. Lauren and I spent last New Year’s Eve in a cozy B&B in Woodstock Vermont. This year we were home with our new son and all our pets. Both nights were low key and mellow but a lot has changed between those two nights. A year ago, we were just revealing the pregnancy to family and friends. Now, we are managing jobs with day care and beginning solid foods. Benton is an obvious difference, but a lot has changed in a year so I thought we could look back on what else happened in 2011.
At this time last year most everyone in Atlanta was holed up in their homes for a week as the city was coated in ice. People were skating on the city’s main thoroughfare, we were sledding in the park, work was cancelled. It was an interesting time when people walked much further than they were used to. Roads were slow and quiet. Everyone flocked to the bars that were able to stay open – and they soon ran out of food and beer since deliveries couldn’t make it in. January also introduced us to the first scare of the pregnancy when we fell into a high risk group following an NT scan. All that means is that the measurement of the back of the neck appeared larger than normal and we had to go through more testing. The next day Lauren had a procedure called a CVS and that week we found out we were negative for any of the suspected chromosomal abnormalities. We also found out that we would be having a boy.
In February we made the annual trip up to a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains with friends we made through Georgia Tech. We took the gathering as an opportunity to announce the baby and had the chance to find out about another friend who was expecting. Rebecca and Miguel came in from Boston and had similar news that they couldn’t keep a secret for long. In a matter of weeks we’ll do it all again this time with two kids in tow. During the trip last year we took a short hike on the Benton MacKaye Trail and for the first time we tossed around the idea of Benton as a name.
In March we made a trip up to Cloudland Canyon State Park. This was our first camping trip while Lauren was pregnant and Ben G. came along to join us, presumably while Katy was in some far off land doing good. We were happy to welcome them back this month after their detail to California. We hiked in to some of the ‘back country’ sites and went to Rocktown the next day for some bouldering. A highlight of the trip was making our own grill out of aluminum foil and sticks and cooking over an open fire. A super highlight of the month occurred at the very end when some of our best friends had their son Bazlo. It was good to have someone close go before us and great to see everything go well. Back in Atlanta, we prepared for our own son’s arrival with the help of my dad and Floyd who painted Benton’s room (and the living room and the bathroom and fixed the back door and…)
In April we were back up near Blue Ridge to celebrate my birthday in conjunction with Liz who, like Lauren, was pregnant at the time. We did a little fly fishing in the Toccoa and revisited the BMT. I turned 32 and am not sure how I celebrated. One event I am sure I attended in April was the 5th(?) annual(?) Lobsta Fest at Scheaf’s in Decatur. The most lobsters you will ever see in one place at one time (at someone’s house). March and April also saw the departure of a few good friends. In March Laurel headed off to Germany for a postdoc. We gathered at Manuel’s to wish her a fond farewell. She returned after 6 months before leaving to go study Spanish in Ecuador. Where are you now, Laurel? In April, Danielle took off to get married and start a life in Dallas. The climbing gym has not been the same, but neither has the Dallas Art’s Scene. She got sent off with a real Atlanta “thanks for stopping by” when she and her fiance got held up at gun point the day before they left. What a town. On the brighter side, in April my friend Thura welcomed another healthy baby boy to the world. I hope to see him again soon.
In May, I got to meet a local public broadcasting legend with Brennan. We were invited to the studios of Atlanta’s WABE to meet Lois Reitzes. Everyone in Atlanta knows her voice and her Second Cup Concert Program. We had a good time even if the picture didn’t come out that well. Also in May, Lauren and I made another camping trip, this time to Lake Allatoona with friends from Decatur. This was a more posh trip with gas grills, coolers, flat pads, restrooms and the like. As always with this group, it was a blast.
Matt and I also headed out to Utah one more time in May to make a grand trip. Not really knowing where we were going to end up this time, we stopped at a local REI on the way out of town from the airport and talked to some workers about places to head. We ended up in Zion National Park for some of their rainiest weather of the year. It had the makings of a country song. We spent one night up on the West Rim in snow, one night in a Cedar City motel with Dave, and we ran into too much snow going over the pass to the route we intended to take and had to turn back. Dave and Liza have since left SLC and so the next year’s trip will not be in that general direction.
At the beginning of the month there was an Atlanta Baby Shower to compliment one that my mom threw while we were up in MI in May. A lot of family came in and it was one of the last times we got to see everyone before the birth. In June we began to feel the pressure of an impending child and the heat of an Atlanta Summer. One particularly hot day, on the way to pick up Lauren for a doctor’s appointment and the car stalled while in the queque on Briarcliff, near Ponce. I had to get out and push it to the side of the road where I waited a bit, tried to figure out the new insurance policy, and eventually got the car to start. Not long afterward, before I could get to Lauren, it dies again and was not looking good. We moved quickly to procure a new vehicle, something that would fit all of the dogs we now house as well as a child and gear. It’s funny how families seem to take on some of the bigger ordeals in life all at once. Not that buying a car is that big of a deal but it is not something you do every month. I remember when some friends were about to have a child and they tore their house down to the foundation and began rebuilding it. I was stuck trying to figure out if it was the greatest idea ever or unnecessary worry. For our part, I’m glad we decided to seek out a new ride in haste.
When you get close to the due date you don’t do too much. Sure enough, most of our July was taken up with waiting. If you read this blog regularly, or if you’ve tuned in at all in the last 6 months, you already know what happened in July. Benton was born and I’m not sure what else. I remember the women’s World Cup, but most everything else is hazy. I think someone told me about a Christian fundamentalist in Norway going violent, the space shuttle program ending, a new country being formed near Sudan, and another thing about Amy Winehouse but I could be making all this up. It was a super exciting event for us and you can read all about it here.
Much like when you’re waiting for the kid, you don’t schedule too much in the first few weeks or months while you are taking care of him. So our August didn’t include that much outside of the home. We did get some more visitors. My sister came in the first week after his birth, then my mom in August and then Lauren’s mom and sister came to visit and help. At the same time I took my first trip away from the newly expanded family. I went to a planning PhD writing workshop in Chicago for a few days. It was the first (next) step in moving closer to finishing my degree, after taking the comprehensive exams almost a year prior.
September saw more grandparents come to visit. First my dad came on a birthday plane ticket and then Lauren’s dad and Becky came for a weekend. Benton saw so many grandpas this month he nearly turned into one; telling me about the War and offering me seasoned advice from his armchair.
We also made our first ‘trip’ with Benton and went up to Rabun Gap for the day. This was an opportunity to go on our first hike with Ben as well as some other friends. We experimented with the best way to carry him for the next time. Trouble is by the next hike he’ll be too big or in a different state of mind. We found this out a month later at Arabia Mountain. In any event, it was a short hike and a long trip.
In October, Benton took his first flight when he went up to New England with his mom. He did a great job and benefited from so empty seats in his row. Next my parents came down to visit again. They left at the beginning of the week that Lauren had to return to work. That same week I went out of town to SLC, but this time for a conference presentation. It was a hectic first half of the month with everyone running around, routines being reset, and Benton being introduced to daycare. All of us really like it though. At the end of the month we celebrated Halloween by dressing him up and taking him around to a few homes.
November found us again on the road, or in the air rather. This time we all flew back to MI for the Thanksgiving holiday. We got to visit and introduce him to all of the family up there as well as many family friends. We finished the visit with a blessing at the church up there. Another very important thing that happened while we were up there was Benton’s first Michigan – Ohio game. He wore this cool shirt that someone from Penn State gave him (seems that everyone hates OSU) and it brought the Wolverines some good luck. They won the meeting for the first time in several years. May he never witness a Michigan loss at the hands of the Buckeyes. Also, in this month I was able to move forward and defend my dissertation proposal and move on to ‘candidacy’. Now, I just have to write the thing. It’s about how climatic events, like heat waves, interact with land uses that influence local climate. For example, if we know a parking lot is much hotter than the stand of trees we cut down to build it, we may wonder how this changes during periods of extreme heat. A friend suggested this working title and here it appears on an early working draft of the proposal, though I don’t think I can stick with it.
We spent our first Christmas with Benton at our home in Atlanta. We made dinner and opened presents with our families over the internet, as they were all home for the holidays as well. It was a great day. Very relaxing and peaceful and happy. Though we didn’t have any visitors for Christmas, the rest of the month brought a lot of people to town. It started with the Bakers coming down from Ohio – Liza and I have started a running bet on the OSU-Michigan game; when we visit each other next, the loser travels. Later that month, Ajay came through. He was in town for the annual Dirty South Beer Club Holiday gift exchange but also made time to stop by Emory’s 150th Anniversary where he was included among their 150 great alumni. Later in the month Jorge came up from FL to stay a night with us, meet Ben, and say goodbye to his girlfriend who was here studying. On Christmas night, Ajay stayed over again on his way to conduct research in India. Then the next day my dad and sister came down to help us for a week, and my cousins rolled through from NC on their way to Tampa.
That pretty much brings us up to New Year’s Eve where Lauren and found ourselves in much the same situation as the previous year. We were in bed as the calendar rolled over a new year. Though this year we were not in a quaint Vermont hideaway where candles adorn the window spaces of century-old bridges; we were in East Atlanta where they welcome the new year with errant gunfire. This year it was not just the two of us; we had the dogs and cat and our family had grown by a member (human this time, sorry pets! – and permanent, sorry Jorge!). Still we lay there, everything different and still familiar, looking forward to an exciting new year with plenty of expected changes and many unexpected.