Proud Cord Cutters

We had talked about it for a couple years, but it took a move across the country to finally pull the plug…or should I say cord? When Sidney and I moved into our new house, we decided not to get cable.

In a different time, I would find such a proposition to be completely preposterous. What about my sports? My shows? My Weather Channel? But that was an era long ago and in this present age there are just too many reasons not to get cable than reasons to pay for it.

For Christmas, Sidney’s mom gave us a couple Fire TV Sticks and those things are fueling our television watching. To be honest, just having Netflix alone is probably more than enough but on our Fire Sticks we also have Disney +, NBC, and a great news app. The amount of content on these channels is enough to satisfy us for roughly the next 200 years.

We love our Fire TV Stick.

Over the past few days, I will admit it has been a little weird turning on the TV and not being able to browse a cable lineup. But just because I can’t access ESPN or CNN via a traditional cable plan doesn’t mean I can’t retrieve the gist of its content. I can easily download those network’s corresponding apps on our Fire Stick or simply pull out my phone and follow their social media channels to stay up to date in the sporting and news world. To say that a cable subscription is necessary to stay current and entertained is a straight up misconception.

There is another saving grace when it comes to these media streaming devices. It is called YouTube. If you are craving content that you normally would watch on cable, chances are you can access it just by pulling up YouTube on your TV. I am a big EWTN fan and all the programming I would watch on the cable station can be easily viewed on YouTube, including daily mass. In many ways, it is like nothing has changed. Our TV is still pumping out pretty much everything we watched on cable, we just aren’t paying for it.

If you are looking for a way to save some money each month, eliminating cable might be the way to go. Investing in a media streaming device and at least one subscription to a streaming service will save you cash almost immediately. I don’t know about you, but we are proud cord cutters. Don’t Blink.

Feeling Good

If there has been a personal positive result from the COVID-19 pandemic, and please know that I say this with the utmost sensitivity because I know this event has been so vicious to so many, it has been that my health has improved. Now I realize that statement in and of itself also sounds presumptuous given all the people who have fallen ill. But, because of social distancing and geographic factors, I have never felt better.

From March through today, I have not been sick once. As someone who develops a cold or allergies at the very least once every two months, it has been extremely nice to have lived in such physical comfort for the past 140 days. Especially since I view the symptoms that assault my immune system as particularly nasty (but doesn’t everyone?) I have tried not to take this reprieve for granted.

There really is something to be said about the effectiveness of social distancing. I attribute my longest clean bill of health in large part to the fact that I have just not been around people as much. Not reporting to an office each day or finding myself in the middle of crowds has done wonders for my health. To not have had a stuffy nose for five straight months is an amazing and refreshing feat for my body.

However, for those who think I am trying to push a political agenda with my personal success story of social distancing, I am not. Believe it or not, I also attribute my current favorable health to my physical location.

For nearly six years I fell victim to the allergens floating in the air in South Carolina. They beat my butt and made certain stretches in the spring very tough on me. Although Washington has its fair share of challenges for allergy sufferers, my body has never been impacted by them. For whatever reason, my system prefers the air of the Northwest to that of the South.

I hope that my body continues to take advantage of the current opportune conditions. At the same time, I think and pray for those who are struggling much more than I did pre-pandemic when I felt a cold was unbearable or allergies too intense. I definitely have it good now but I did back then as well. Don’t Blink.

A New Beginning

In early March, my family moved out of our house in Myrtle Beach. Until a few days ago, we had spent more than four months without a place of our own as we made a massive geographic and life transition. Thanks to Sid’s parents and my parents, we were able to spend stints of this time with them as we found and prepared our new home.

Last Thursday we officially moved into our new home in the Spokane Valley. The timing allowed us to get settled in time to have a nice weekend with just the four of us in our new abode. The four-bedroom, brand new duplex is perfect for us. With top of the line appliances, an oversized back deck, and a beautiful wooded view we are feeling very fortunate. Over the past few days we have enjoyed becoming accustomed to our new quarters.

Some photos of our new home.

But as I discovered over the weekend, we aren’t just becoming accustomed to a new house. Rather, we are getting acclimated to a whole new life that includes a new church, new neighbors, new grocery stores, new restaurants, and so much more. To be honest, it is absolutely thrilling.

Our view from the back deck.

We are now much more at ease. We have a new place of our own, we aren’t taking up other people’s space, and we are sleeping in our own beds. After transitioning and preparing, we feel like our newest life chapter is starting in earnest. What a ride it has been to get to this point.

Here’s to plenty of good times and memories! We are happy and blessed to be here and are excited to take things one day at a time. Don’t Blink.

Blue Crush Thursday Rundown

We are in mid-July and that means it is prime summertime! Sure, things feel different this year but I hope you can still enjoy the sunshine while practicing social distancing. I hope you can also enjoy my latest Thursday Rundown…

Fun with Cardboard – One of Sloan’s greatest traits is her imagination. She can have fun in any situation simply by stipulating a scenario or coming up with a game. This past weekend, my dad cut up a huge cardboard box that held one of our mattresses. He took the pieces and laid them out across the front yard as a path. Sloan loved it and soon developed a game of “Lava Monster” where the grass was the lava, the cardboard pieces a shaky bridge, and her daddy the monster. It was good for about an hour of entertainment on a late Sunday morning.

A look at the cardboard path that my dad made for Sloan.

Resemblance? – This montage shows Beau and Sloan at the same age…around 5 months. At times I can see an obvious resemblance between the two but I don’t know if I see it in these images. What do you think?

Sometimes I can see a resemblance but not always.

Supermarket Sweep – Netflix has added some good movies to its repertoire this month. In the past few days, I have watched “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Firm.” But it might be the TV show the streaming service added that has me most excited. Last night, Sid and I sat down and watched a couple episodes of “Supermarket Sweep.” That’s right, you can watch the 1990s version of the game show with David Ruprecht on Netflix. It was about as glorious as I remember. Completely outdated with old products and older hairstyles, we had a lot of fun answering the questions (which I can now answer) and holding our breath during the “Bonus Sweep” when the duo would try to find the $5,000. Although I have tried to work on limiting my commentary during TV shows, I couldn’t help but give Sidney lengthy explanations about what my strategy would be for the “Big Sweep.” Sorry!

Supermarket Sweep is pure gold.

Dollar Store Energy Drink – Recently, I have used my Thursday Rundowns to review random energy drinks (here and here and here). I continue the trend tonight and I do it with a beverage that is a little off the beaten path. I purchased this Rip It energy drink at the Dollar Tree. How good could it be, right? Turns out not that bad! The flavor was live wild lime and didn’t taste like a low budget energy beverage. Best of all, it did the trick in a smooth and alert way. Don’t want to spend $3.49 for a name brand energy drink? Head to the Dollar Tree!

This Rip It energy drink was decent and very affordable!

Blue Crush – The latest soda to try on my checklist is this brand new blue raspberry Crush flavor. I have tried a similar Jones Soda flavor before but I think a blue raspberry carbonated beverage from a can would taste especially good on a hot summer day. I will keep everyone posted.

I would like to try this soda one of these days.

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As always, thank you for reading. Let us continue to pray for a COVID-19 vaccine and for those who currently have the virus. Don’t Blink.

Hospitality Beyond Words

Well, it wasn’t so bad living in my parents’ basement for four months. And when I say it wasn’t so bad, I actually mean it was incredible.

Tonight we will spend the final night with my mom and dad in what was my childhood home. It is truly bittersweet. By us leaving my parents’ house, it means that my family’s next era in our beautiful new house will finally begin. It means more independence, a better air conditioning system, and many happy memories to come. But while all that is certainly “sweet,” it doesn’t account for the “bitter.”

What a privilege it has been having my kids live under the same roof as their grandparents.

To put it in simple terms, my parents treated us like gold. But before they spoiled all four of us, they spoiled me. As I chronicled before, I spent a weird and surreal two months with my parents before my wife and children arrived. As I started a new job and the coronavirus started to shut the country down, I missed them terribly. But my parents were there to support me and keep me sane. They made sure I was as comfortable as possible and extremely well-fed. Even though I longed for Sid, Sloan, and Beau, I tried to take advantage of the opportunity I had to spend time with two people who I didn’t see nearly enough over the past 15 years. As we were locked down in the house, the three of us would watch movies, take walks, and enjoy lively dinners at the kitchen table. It was so nice to re-connect.

My dad and I in April, prior to my family arriving in Spokane.

When my family arrived on May 8, I was overcome with joy. As Sidney and I looked for housing, I told myself in the meantime to relish the rare gift of living under the same roof with the five people I love the most. That set my tone for the next two months.

But whatever that tone exactly was from my vantage point, my parents didn’t just meet it; they exceeded it. When it comes to Sidney and I, it is almost impossible to jot down everything they did for us. Rather, I think I can just give a few examples that convey how welcoming and selfless they were.

My dad with Sloan and Beau.

I am talking about things like them frequently telling us to go out on dates while they watched the kids. Or letting us park our car in the garage even though it meant they had to park theirs in the driveway. Or stocking the pantry with our favorite foods. Or preparing Beau’s changing area each night so it was ready for us when he got up in the middle of the night. Or, better yet, the numerous times when they would simply get up with him themselves. Or the weekend mornings when they told us to sleep in. Or how they took a whole day to haul all our belongings in Pullman back to Spokane. Or how they simply opened their house to us without any expectation of receiving even the smallest thing in return.

I could go on, but do you get the picture? Even with all this, the best part of the past two months was just watching my parents love our kids. The way they bonded with Sloan and Beau was an absolutely beautiful thing to watch. I seriously don’t know what my mom is going to do when we head across town to stay at our new home tomorrow night. She will finally have to hand Beau over which I know will be hard considering she has pretty much held him since the day he arrived. When it comes to Sloan, I know my mom will miss nighttime stories, making coffee together, and visiting neighbors.

The way my mom connects with Sloan and Beau makes me happy.

As for my dad, he is a softie. Every single morning before he left for work he would admire Beau as he rested in his rocker and when he arrived home he would hold him the second he walked through the door (when my mom would actually give him up). With Sloan, it has always been about making her laugh and allowing her to be his special helper. Whether it be planting vegetables, using the hose, or doing yard work, Sloan was often by my dad’s side…and he loved it.

My dad and Sloan grew a lot of vegetables together, including potatoes.

THANK YOU, mom and dad. Aside from loving us so unconditionally and authentically, you also set life examples for us that are invaluable. We will miss you, but 30 minutes away sure is a lot better than 3,000 miles away. Don’t Blink.

Beau’s New Hat

I grew up watching the TGIF show “Boy Meets World” with my brother and sister. A popular catch phrase from the show was established when Eric slapped Corey on the head and said “Life’s tough, get a helmet.” The three of us would routinely remind each other of this advice (head slap included) as we lived out our childhood days.

I never really took this advice from Eric Matthews literally, but lately it has taken on more of a direct meaning for me. Last week, Beau started wearing a corrective helmet.

It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that Beau’s head is a bit misshaped. The back of our poor little guy’s noggin is on the flatter side. This mostly resulted from him favoring certain sleeping positions early in his life. Just as concerning, his ears aren’t symmetrical with the rest of his head. We had known that a helmet for Beau was most likely inevitable and when Sid took him to the doctor upon arrival in Spokane, the medical professional confirmed it.

Thankfully, helmet therapy is extremely effective and risk-free. The technology is top of the line and the headgear is custom made to fit like a glove. Babies wear the helmet and their head is molded back to a normal shape.

A look at Beau right before he went to pick up his helmet and then right after.

Despite the positive outcomes, it is a little tough making Beau wear his helmet for 23 hours per day. He has adjusted really well but you can’t help but feel bad for him when he tries to scratch his head or struggles to keep balance with the newly added weight. As his physical therapist says, it is like a bowling ball (head) on a toothpick (neck).

Even with the helmet, Beau is still happy.

Perhaps the length of time he must wear the helmet is the most discouraging. Beau will sport his new headgear for the next five months. The average duration is three months but our son’s condition is a bit more severe than your typical case. His helmet will be squarely on his head for many milestones and special moments over the upcoming 20+ weeks.

But with anything, you have to look at the silver lining and that is what we are doing. If all goes well, Beau will be able to shed his helmet by Christmas, a holiday gift that will no doubt bring joy to us all. Also, the possibilities to decorate his helmet are endless as my wife made sure to order him a plain white one so stickers and elements will pop. Best of all, you can’t discount the end product: a normal, symmetrical head.

This little helmet is going to make a big difference.

The helmet journey has started and we are trying to make Beau feel as comfortable as possible. As long as we take it one day at a time and discourage Sloan from disforming the helmet by putting it on her own head, we all will be just fine. Don’t Blink.

Finally! Chick-fil-A is Coming to Spokane

Go back a couple years and the crisis of the summer in Spokane was something much less serious than what we are facing today. Instead of a pandemic or racial injustice, the heartbreak of Summer 2018 was the news that Chick-fil-A would not be coming to Spokane.

Seriously.

The way it unfolded was especially cruel. An official press release from Chick-fil-A announced that a restaurant would open soon in the Gonzaga district. The news put the city in a frenzy as chicken sandwich-deprived citizens rejoiced and positive social media sentiment shot through the roof. Sadly, within hours, the fast food giant announced it had made a mistake and that Chick-fil-A would not be coming to Spokane––at least not in the location originally reported.

We have an active and fun group text messaging thread that includes my siblings and our significant others. There was absolute glee when the news broke that a Chick-Fil-A was opening in Spokane. Unfortunately, this release was published by mistake.

When I wrote my initial blog post about the snafu, my friend and Retro Donuts owner John Fine commented on the post. He said that even though we would have to do some more waiting, he believed that a Spokane Chick-fil-A would eventually be a reality and that it would be in North Spokane. What can I say? The man knows what he is talking about.

It isn’t rumor anymore, Spokane is actually getting a Chick-fil-A! In fact, the restaurant is under construction as we speak. Even better, the location is just minutes from my parents’ house. If only we didn’t move to the Valley…

Chick-Fil-A is opening in Spokane and the restaurant is already being constructed (photo courtesy of KHQ).

Well, now we just have another excuse to visit my parents! In all honesty, this is great news for Spokane. I know we live in a society that hypes up everything, but I can honestly say that Chick-fil-A is the real deal. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a skeptic too (I mean, how incredible can a chicken sandwich actually be?), but living nearly six years in South Carolina changed my tune. There really is nothing better than a fresh spicy chicken sandwich and hot waffle fries.

I am a big Chick-Fil-A fan so I am glad that a restaurant will finally be opening in Spokane.

I realize that the opening of a fast food restaurant can’t do anything to detract from the serious issues we are facing today, but if the confirmation of Chick-fil-A opening in Spokane brings a smile to at least one person’s face, I think we can all be OK with that. Hope to see you at 9304 N. Newport Hwy! Don’t Blink.

July Thursday Rundown

Good evening, everyone! Sorry for not writing much this week. However, there is no need to apologize to those who tell me they come to my blog just for the Thursday Rundowns. Well, that is where we are at again tonight…Five. Random. Topics.

Almost Home – Today marks two months since my family landed in Spokane to join me on this new life journey. The milestone will be followed by another one when we officially move into our new house this weekend. I will have more to say about this down the road but we are excited to finally move into a place of our own again. However, it will be bittersweet leaving my parents’ house. It is tough to adequately describe how welcoming and kind my mom and dad have been throughout these past several weeks. So while we are sad to leave their warm confines, we take solace in the fact that we will now be only 30 minutes away from them.

We will be moving into the left side of this brand new duplex.

Birthday Party – We celebrated my dad’s 63rd birthday on yet another gorgeous summer evening. We had a cookout on the back deck and topped it off with my favorite dessert that Sidney makes…candy bar cake! If you ever want to make something special for a loved one’s birthday, contact my wife and get her recipe for candy bark cake, you won’t regret it.

Riverfront Park – Spokane held the World’s Fair in 1974 and the green space that the event took place on is now known as Riverfront Park. After taking Sloan to the park during a visit to Spokane three years ago, we took her back this past weekend. She had a lot of fun playing on the giant red wagon, walking along the water, and feeding the garbage goat. Beau had a nice time too as he lounged with Sid in the shade.

TikTok Sensations – What happens when you have a couple toddlers and a 5-year-old perform a TikTok dance? Perhaps the cutest thing ever. Sloan and her cousins, Mikayla and Johnny, took a stab at one of the more popular dances on the platform. While Mikayla nailed it, the other two might need a little more practice. Seriously, watch it.

Tough Times for Bowling – They say that because of COVID-19, many bowling alleys (just like other businesses) might not survive. It would be a tough pill to swallow for both diehard leaguers and casual bowlers to lose their neighborhood alley. Does it stress me out? No. Two years ago on this date, I wrote about my feelings regarding the sport and the bowling experiences I enjoy most. To be honest, I choose to do other activities before play 10 frames.

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Thank you all for reading my latest post. Let’s not forget to pray for those working ferociously to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. Don’t Blink.

Mom and Dad

In the two months that Sloan has called the state of Washington home, she has started to become regionalized. One indication of this is how she addresses Sidney and I. Over the past several weeks she has phased out calling us “mommy” and “daddy.” Now, more often than not, she calls us “mom” and “dad.”

It is a little weird, I guess. While “mommy” and “daddy” are Southern monikers that are used by people from that region to refer to their parents over a whole lifetime, toddlers across the country also use them for a few years of their lives before graduating to more formal terms. Because Sloan had both going for her––Southern roots and being the ripe age of 3––I thought “mommy” and “daddy” might stick with her for a little longer. I was wrong.

Sloan is now calling us “mom” and “dad.’

In a way though, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I address my parents as “mom” and “dad” and Sloan observes this multiple times each day. She also hears her aunt and uncle do the same thing. Sidney hates that Sloan has adopted these terms. She much rather her daughter call her “mommy.” Although there is something definitely endearing about a little girl calling her parents “mommy” and “daddy,” at least she is addressing us by appropriate, acceptable terms.

Well, perhaps I shouldn’t go that far.

While she isn’t calling us Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, she doesn’t exactly always address us by a mother or father derivative. She is very much aware of our first names and takes delight at the annoyance in our faces when she calls us “Sidney” or “Brent.”

So, when I came across today’s Life’s Little Instruction, I couldn’t help but smile. I think the instruction was written in the first place because the author knew how cringe-worthy it sounds when a parent is called their first name by a young child. That’s why I like this calendar series so much, the people making it can relate!

This was today’s Life’s Little Instruction. It reminded me of Sloan!

From Sloan’s perspective, I think there are a couple reasons why she usually follows calling me “Brent” with a mischievous snicker. First, as I mentioned above, I think she savors the reaction it elicits out of me. Also, I believe she feels clever when she says it, almost like she has figured something out.

I guess I shouldn’t take what she calls me too personally. As long as I am relevant enough that she is addressing me in the first place, I should be content. Don’t Blink.

Red, White, and Blue Thursday Rundown

It is not often that a Thursday Rundown falls on the front end of a three-day weekend so this post must be special! So before you put on your red, white, and blue why don’t you read tonight’s five topics?…

Moving Things – This past weekend we emptied our storage unit we had in Pullman, put our belongings in a 26-foot moving truck, and transported it all to our new house in the Spokane Valley. After much deliberation, we decided to stay in the Spokane area. Once the WSU campus opens up again I will be making the daily commute to Pullman but we think it will be worth it. Although we moved our belongings into our new home, we won’t be able to actually live in it for a couple weeks as it is still getting finished. More to come soon.

My brother, dad, and brother-in-law filling our 26-foot moving truck this past Saturday.

Chicken Bog in Spokane – Five years ago, Sidney traveled to Spokane and wowed my family when she made chicken bog, the king of all Southern dishes. Well, she did it again earlier this week. Sid once again delighted my parents by making a big old pot of “bog” that tasted delicious and reminded me of South Carolina.

Sidney made this pot of chicken bog for dinner earlier this week.

State Countdown – I was recently reminded by Timehop of this very unscientific countdown of the 50 states that was written in 2015. I am proud that my state, Washington, was ranked #8. I guess spearmint oil production is good for something, right? Unfortunately, the other states I have lived in didn’t fare as well. If you are looking for a good laugh, give it a read.

This countdown is pretty good!

Night – On this date four years ago, Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel died. I remembered hearing the news and taking a couple moments to reflect. Wiesel wrote “Night,” a chilling account based on his experiences at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. During my junior year of high school we read the book in my humanities class. To conclude the unit, our teacher had several of us write letters to him about the impact the book had on us. It was a surreal day later in the school year when we received a letter back from Mr. Wiesel himself thanking us for reading the book and encouraging us to do what is right. “Night” should be mandatory reading for us all.

One of my best high school moments was receiving a letter from Elie Wiesel.

Fourth of July Garb – Let’s end the Thursday Rundown with some Fourth of July tomfoolery. As one who has always been up for dressing up, here are some of my favorite Independence Day outfits from years past. God bless America.

Some Fourth of July fun.

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It is my hope that you can have an enjoyable holiday weekend. I know for many it is tough to do in this current climate but I hope some patriotic joy comes your way. Don’t Blink.