Baby's Day OutThu, 31st Dec '15, 11:30 pm::
Today was a fantastic end to 2015. I spent the entire day outdoors with Naveen. We went to a local nature preserve and saw a variety of birds, fish, crabs, and even a few water snakes. We took a nice long walk on the boardwalk and then played in the children's playground. Afterwards, we had some ice cream to cool off, followed by a lazy, hour-long lunch at a local Cuban deli. Post-lunch, we met up with my friends Kelly and Chris at the beach for some sun and sand. Their son Cameron is slightly older than Naveen and the kids played in the sand while us parents kept them from eating it. Once Naveen had his fill of the beach, we drove home, cleaned up, and got ready for a nap. Just then Juliet came home from work and as soon as Naveen heard his mommy, he forgot all about the nap.
Last week I took a few days off from coding so we could have a relaxing Christmas with family. We put up our Christmas tree earlier this month and spent quite a few evenings reading to the baby by its soft light. We recently bought a Nintendo Wii U and Juliet and I have been playing lots of mini-games after we put the baby to sleep each night. We're coming up with a new routine that works for all three of us and while it's taking some effort to get used to, it's definitely much better than the crazy, no-sleep life we had for most of this year.
I don't have any major resolutions for 2016 but I do want to keep up the progress I've made this year with my health, leisure, and social life. So instead of a specific goal like "go to gym 5 times a week", I just want to keep being active, attend more parties/events, take more vacations, and overall get better at planning how to spend the little free time I have.
Secret WeddingsTue, 22nd Dec '15, 11:55 am::
Congrats to all three different friends of ours who got secretly married to their long-term boyfriends/girlfriends in the past few days! Two of the happily married couples are still not making their marriages public for family reasons so I can't even mention them here. That leaves my college buddy Tony to capture the limelight. He married his long-term girlfriend Olya on Saturday and shared the news with everyone after the ceremony. Congrats!!! We were so happy to meet Olya earlier this year at our baby shower and wish you guys a happy, loving life ahead.
Another close friend of mine told me recently that he is going to have a court-marriage next month, while the public wedding ceremony might not be until a year later. Last year two other couples we know did the same thing. Having eloped ourselves in 2008 after an impromptu hush-hush wedding, I'm surprised that we are not alone anymore. In the last five years, more of our friends eloped or quietly got married than had a typical wedding with guests, invitations, and receptions.
It is possible that our circle of friends is an odd exception and there has been no change in wedding behavior. But looking at the societal and financial aspects of life in the 2010s, the trend seems very clear. People in committed relationships still want to get married. No change in that. There are a lot of tax and legal benefits. And the titles "Husband/Wife" carry more social prestige than "boyfriend/girlfriend." But more and more people no longer want to make a big deal out of it, regardless of their age, financial situation, or social circles. For centuries people have had weddings befitting their wealth - the rich have grandiose weddings, the poor keep it simple, and everyone else somewhere in between. But now I see even relatively well-off couples from wealthy families opting for a quick 2-minute court wedding with no reception.
The good thing to come out of all this is that no longer must everyone be required to have the exact same things in every wedding. Let's see the variations I have encountered from happily married couples:
- Sign the marriage certificate locally without fanfare, elope to a pretty place for pictures/honeymoon (our method)
- Get secretly married before December-end for tax purposes, have a big wedding and/or reception with family and friends later
- Get secretly married before December-end for tax purposes, announce on Facebook after professional photos are ready, no wedding/reception
- Sign the marriage certificate and don't tell anyone except your closest friends because if your family finds out, there will be a lot of drama and heartbreak
- Have a fun wedding/reception following all of the traditions
- Have a fun wedding/reception without any of the traditions
- Have a court-wedding with just your friends
- Have a court-wedding with just your parents/siblings
- Have multiple weddings - one for legal purpose, one for destination, one for religious/family
In the long-term, it doesn't matter if you had a blast at your wedding or if it was full of awkward family issues or even if you just signed a piece of paper and went to work the next day. What matters is how the rest of your marriage works out. So to all of my married couples, good luck with that!
Season of lightsFri, 18th Dec '15, 3:15 pm::
When we moved into this house 3 years ago, I replaced most of the heavily used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to reduce our electric bill. But regardless of the brand, vendor, or quality of CFL bulbs I bought, they kept going bad in 6-12 months and I ended up using incandescent bulbs in more places than I wanted. So for years now we've had a mix of incandescent and CFL lights all over the house. A few months ago I estimated that over $100/month of our electric bill was just due to the tons of bulbs (candelabra and regular), recessed lights, and halogen lights!
A small 60w bulb left on at all times will use $70/year in electricity! Replace that with an equally bright CFL and while it only uses $20/year in electricity, in my experience there's a good chance the bulb will blow out within a year. But replace that with a $2.44 LED and the cost goes down to just $10/year and the LED is guaranteed to work for at least 3 years non-stop.
Last month I started the slow and tedious process of converting every single light in our house to LED. I spent about $300 and replaced every single light except for candelabra bulbs and some fluorescent tubes. I'm waiting for a good deal (hopefully under $500) to replace all the candelabra bulbs. Since we rarely use the fluorescent tubes and plan on replacing them with recessed lights in a few years, I don't see the value in switching them over to LED right now.
Once I am done replacing the candelabra bulbs, I estimate that lighting will cost under $20/month. This means the LED lights will pay for themselves in a year! After that we save $1000/year in electric bills, have a much brighter house, and I rarely have to change bulbs again. Next year I plan on buying a prelit LED Christmas Tree too. I love living in the future!
After years of discussing that we should buy a gaming console, this week we finally bought Nintendo Wii U. Juliet and I are not fans of first-person-shooters or fast-paced action games. I've always loved puzzles and she likes games that keep you moving so the Wii U was a perfect fit for us. We bought a really neat puzzle game called Art of Balance that I love and we'll probably get Wii Fit U so she can try out the different fitness programs. She refuses to play Wii bowling with me anymore (I won our first and only game) and instead wants to keep playing Mario Kart (she won 5 out of 6 rounds).
The last 10 months with the baby and the 9 months prior have changed our life so much that we forgot what our normal routine was. Now that Naveen is growing from an infant into a toddler, it is becoming easier to take care of him, giving us a little more free time to play video games or just relax after he's gone to bed. We have quite a few chores / home projects lined up before the end of the year but hopefully after that, we will get to spend more time doing fun things.
Next week, we're planning on doing a number of fun family things - decorate tree ornaments with baby, visit museums / theme parks, and go kayaking. It is way too warm right now and looks like it will be 81F/28C on Christmas Day! So instead of making snow angels, maybe we'll jump into a river.
Life updatesSat, 12th Dec '15, 10:45 pm::
This was a very private year for me. From the birth of my son to my family and friends visiting us, 2015 was all about real-life social connections and nurturing relationships. Most of the time, I kept the going-ons private and offline. We took probably 5000 photos of my son but posted only a handful of them online.
This was a year of learning and doing for me, very little introspection or relaxation. I could have easily made more time for kayaking (which is when I do most of my contemplation about life) but I just didn't want to. Maybe because I'm still learning how to be a good parent or maybe because of social obligations, but I didn't make much time for myself. Most of the year I was in autopilot mode, simply doing what I needed to without overthinking my actions or the reasons behind them.
This was a year without creativity for me and I don't want to repeat this again in my life. I can't look back at this year and proudly say "I made that" about anything. I don't regret a moment I spent with my loved ones instead of making something cool but I do know that I get my energy and drive from making, not consuming. So in the long run, I need to be more creative to keep myself sane.
This was a year when I came to terms with life, death, and everything in between. From insurance policies to prolonged illness, from baby's first words to news of a friend's death, this year drove home the point that I am smack dab in the middle of adulthood, accepting everything life throws at me. A few years ago I would lose my wits dealing with the ups and downs of routine life but the roller-coaster of this year makes the past turmoils seem almost smooth sailing. Apparently, this year I also started using a lot of conflated metaphors. I plan to put a stop to that right after this sentence.
This was a loving year for me. While not much changed in my career, finances, or social-standing, I have never felt so connected and loved by the people in my life. Juliet is an unbelievably loving mother and wife, my parents and sister are always there to talk to me about anything (especially Naveen), and my friends and coworkers have been so supportive all year. There was no drama, no guilt trips, no awkward social situations all year. It's been a wonderful year people-wise and I couldn't be more thankful for it.