Long Days, Long Nights

Our hospital system has upgraded to a complex new electronic medical record, and I’m one of the volunteers helping colleagues learn and adjust to the system. Problem is, I’m sort of learning on the job. 

I was on call for this first weekend, which forced me to figure a lot of the system out on my own. 

But lack of sleep hasn’t helped. There were some late night and early morning pages. There were overnight awakenings by restless kids and needy felines. Hubby came down with some flulike symptoms Sunday afternoon. The weekend was kind of exhausting. 

Then, Sunday night, Babyboy got the stomach bug. He was up vomiting multiple times. I would hear him cry out with cramps, and then I’d run for the bucket… It lasted until very early Monday morning. 

So the week didn’t start off well for me. Sleep is so essential… I’ve been impatient and annoyed with colleagues at times. I blame being overtired. 

Lack of sleep may also explain our kids’ most frustrating and bewildering problem behaviors. 

Between the holidays, the playoffs, vacation, and our trip, the kids’ bedtime routine got all screwed up, and Babygirl was having phenomenal, brutal meltdowns almost every day. It’s been awful.  

She pulled an hourlong tantrum on my mom at school pickup, and we powwowed. We hypothesized that Babygirl’s horrible behavior was due to lack of sleep. 

So, last weekend, we committed ourselves to cleaning up bedtime. The first day, we got them down by 6:30 p.m. The next day, Babygirl was so sweet and wonderful. My mom commented that she was “a delight” and “a little angel”. 

We managed to stick to it for a week… And no tantrums. 

Even Babyboy’s behavior improved… No toileting accidents for the past week. 

Go figure. 

So, hubby and I have really, really been trying to get the kids in bed by 7 p.m. At the latest. Full disclosure, it helps that Babygirl has terrible eczema and itching. Benadryl is helpful for more than just allergies… And, we discovered Zarbee’s natural honey- based cough syrup, with melatonin. The kids were sick as stink, and this stuff worked wonders. I’ll be honest, with the slightest sniffle, out comes the Zarbee’s. Our very conservative pediatrician okayed it, and I Pubmed- searched it. Occasional melatonin seems okay for kids.

So, seven days: Babygirl is back to her sweet self, and we haven’t had to clean a Babyboy poopie mess. I’ll take it!

Now, I need some sleep, too…

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When The Winds Of Change Blow…

Our entire massive hospital system is switching over to a new electronic medical record (EMR). From the outside, this doesn’t sound at all monumental, or even complicated. But for us, it’s pretty huge.

Up until now, we’ve been using five or six (or more) different programs, one for every distinct clinical task: scheduling, charting, lab ordering, radiology ordering, billing, et cetera. Some systems interfaced, some didn’t, or not very well. There has been a lot of extra complexity and wasted time.

So, we’re adopting a new EMR that does it all. It actually is quite a good program, but it’s big, and it’s so… different.

The training has been painful, and today is the big day that our OLD systems go down and the NEW system is live. This highly anticipated day has been referred to as “Go-live” for the past many months, if not a year or more.

It is also my day off.

I was sort of glad about that, because I figured I would have 24 hours for bugs and kinks to be worked out before I had to face (and interface with) the new system.

Then my pager went off at 4:45 a.m.

It was a call from a miserable-sounding, very sick patient of mine. They needed prescriptions sent in urgently, plus a status check later today, and they may end up in the emergency room or admitted… In short, I had to figure out how to write and electronically fax in prescriptions, send a flagged message to the nurses, and document in the chart, all using our brand-new EMR, on day #1.

But I figured it out. Yes, I sat at my dining room table and fussed through my pile of printed tip sheets and the online user’s guide and I stuttered and struggled, but, somehow, I made these necessary things happen.

It was ideal that I was alone, and had no one to complain to. Were others present, the struggle would have triggered griping, which then (too easily) can morph into a bitch session, and a lot of wasted time and energy…

We’ve already had quite a bit of that, with the mandatory training sessions and exercises. I’m making a conscious effort to NOT be negative, but when the task is hard, it is SO tempting to whine.

The old proverb is true: When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, and others windmills.

As painful and difficult and annoying as it will be to adopt the new system, I vow to build windmills.

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Sunday Night Tantrum

It’s 9 p.m. on a Sunday, and I’m sitting here watching Babygirl, who is thrashing around on the floor at my feet, howling and crying, pulling at my legs, pulling my arm, yelling:

“I’m hungry Get up Put your computer away Get me a snack I won’t go to sleep until you get me a snack!!!!”

She didn’t want to eat dinner when it was offered. She was also offered a heavy snack before bedtime, yogurt with whipped cream (a fave) but she picked at it and I had to wrap it up and put it away. I made her a glass of warm milk with Carnation Instant Breakfast, anticipating that she’d get hungry; the drink is right here on the bedside table, but she’s refusing it.

“Get up Get up I need you! I need you to get me a snack! Get up Get up Get up I’m trying to tell you something- You have to get Uuuuup!” She’s poking at me, screaming, pushing and pulling at me.

Meantime, I’ve explained once that she needs to eat when it’s time to eat, and if she doesn’t want her warm milk, she can go to bed.

Still, she howls.

Sigh. We’ve had tantrums from Babygirl almost daily. Something will set her off, and she’ll go on and on for an hour or more.

Up to now, it’s been a good weekend. Hubby was away with the team, but the kids and I got in alot of fun activities, and even did their homework. Today, they even went sledding for the first time! It was a hit, which surprised me. I personally hate sledding. I hate the motion of moving downhill with speed. I hate sledding, skiing, slides…. But the kids apparently didn’t inherit that gene. At least, they had no issue with the small hill they went down today.

They helped cheer for their team today, to no avail. Hubby’s season is over, which is both good and bad. Good, in the sense that we’ll have far fewer solo parenting stints, and we can actually make plans. Bad, as Hubby will surely be bummed, and, well, it’s just bad when the team loses.

“Mommy Mommy Mommy you’re NOT doing your job! I need you to get up and GET ME A SNACK! If you don’t get up I’ll keep acting like this! Can you please get up! GET UP UP UP UP” pushing and prodding, poking at me “Momy Get up Get Up Get Up I need a snack I NEED A SNACK…”

Then, “What are you typing?”

Me: “I’m writing down every word you’re saying.”

“Why? You’re not writing to Santa Claus? You’re not telling Santa Claus are you?”

Me: “What if I am?”

Babygirl: “DON’T! Don’t send it to Santa Claus!” Here she tries to pull my hands away from the keyboard. “PLEASE DON’T SEND IT TO SANTA CLAUS! Erase all of it!”

Me: “Why don’t you want me to tell Santa Claus how you’re acting?”

Babygirl, crying hysterically: “Because he’ll get mad! He’ll get mad! Erase it!”

Then, thinking, “And, he may get so mad that he doesn’t bring you any presents either! Don’t send it to him, you won’t get any presents either!”

Me: “How about if you drink your milk, and then I’ll erase it?”

We negotiate. She drinks some milk. Then:

“Can I sit in your lap?”

Okay. Time for night-night!

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The Lady With The Pearl Necklace

We flew back from Guatemala yesterday- me, Babygirl, Babyboy, and Nana. Two flights, via Atlanta. Babygirl threw a tantrum right at the beginning of our first flight. I panicked internally, worrying that this would be another three-hour megafit. But the flight attendant OK’d her watching the iPad during takeoff, and disaster was averted. Yes, we got many an evil eye from the rest of first class. But when she fell into a Pink Panther- induced stupor, I almost cried with relief.

We don’t usually travel first class. As a matter of fact, I’ve never traveled first class. But when we were buying tickets, there weren’t four seats together in coach on the flights we needed, and there was a good deal on upgrading to Priority. Plus, Nana insisted, explaining that we’d need the extra room and service. So we sprang for it.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Seriously, for traveling with little kids, first class is awesome. We booked the front row on all flights, so the kids couldn’t kick and push the back of anyone’s seat. The extra room was key, and the extra attention as well.

Of course, I was acutely aware of the expectations of the other people in Priority. Or at least, I was paranoid about it. Priority-type people do not expect small, loud, messy children to be traveling near them. Priority-type people would prefer that small, loud, messy children travel in the hold with the dogs. So when Babygirl had her fit, and I was desperately shushing her and counting and threatening and begging, I was not surprised when several people made very loud sighing noises, and others leaned way out into the aisle to see what the heck was going on. This is what I was expecting, and so I did not meet the eye of anyone else in our section on any of the flights either way…

Until the very end of our last flight.

We were just coming into Boston. It was just after dark, and Babyboy was watching the lights of the city. He was excited, but at the same time, he was sort of holding his left ear, pulling it and whining. “Owie, owie.”

As we descended, the pain escalated. “Owie! My ear hurts mommy! Owie, owie! It hurts!”

Then: “OWIE OWIE OWIE OWIE MY EAR HURTS MY EAR HURTS!!!”

If anyone had napped through the captain’s announcement to prepare for landing, they were awake now.

I made him sip his ginger ale, water, open his jaws wide, tilt his head from side to side… Bless him, he tried so hard, doing everything I suggested, hopeful that it would help.

But it didn’t, and tears were just rolling down. He cried: “It still hurts mommy, owie, owie! IT STILL HURTS!”

I gave him chewing gum, Nana offered him cough drops. I rubbed his ear, sang to him, massaged his back. “Ow, Ow, Ow! Mommy why does my ear hurt so much?”

Then, a woman appeared next to me. She leaned down and smiled, said “That happens to me, sometimes, too. It can really hurt.”

He was startled, and though he was still holding his ear and crying, he was quieter, listening to the lady. She started talking to Babyboy, asking him simple questions: “What’s your name? How old are you? How was your trip?”

He stammered out answers, and this worked for a minute or so, pure distraction. I was thankful.

But he must have had a sudden jolt of pain, because he sat straight up and stuck his finger in his ear, howling, crying out “Ow Ow Ow, OOOOWWWWWIE!”

The lady watched, concerned. I felt bad. “Thank you for trying,” I said, thinking she would give up.

She stood, but instead of walking away, she reached up to the strand of pearls she was wearing. “Listen, my kids are grown up now, but when this happened to them, I would give them some piece of jewelry to play with. Something sparkly. It usually worked to distract them. Let me try,” and she undid the clasp and leaned forward again, this time dangling her pearl necklace for Babyboy. “Hey, do you know what these are?  These are pearls. Have you ever touched a pearl before?”

Babyboy was again startled. He looked up at her, unsure.

She smiled warmly and reassured him: “Here, take them, can you count them? How many are there?”

Babyboy reached up and touched the pearls. She cupped his hand and placed the necklace right in his palm.

“I’ll be right back, meantime, you count those pearls, okay?” As she stood to go to the lavatory, she added, jokingly: “Um, I will need those back before we deplane!”

Babyboy felt the necklace, inspected it, and counted, slowly, up to ten.

“I’m too tired to count any more,” he sighed. He handed the necklace to me and nestled with his lovey (a small stuffed cat named Gus). He curled up and laid his head on the armrest, with Gus as a pillow, pressing firmly on his ear. And then, he was asleep.

Meantime, I took a good look at the pearl necklace.

The necklace was quite heavy, much heavier than it looked. The pearls warmed in my hands.

Now, I know that nowadays, they make pretty realistic fake pearls. These were not fake pearls. They nearly glowed in the dim overhead lighting. They had that warm lustre that only real pearls have. The necklace was of graduated size pearls, with larger ones in the center, fading off to smaller ones on either side. The larger ones were very large, probably twelve, maybe fifteen millimeters. The holes were perfectly smooth and there were no burrs or chips. The string was knotted silk that was a bit yellowed. The clasp was ornate gold, antique-appearing.

I have no doubt that I was holding an antique or estate necklace, made with unusually large and high-quality Tahitian pearls.

When she returned, I thanked her and handed her back the necklace. “It worked,” I said. “Look, he’s asleep.”

She smiled and nodded.

I spent the last few minutes of the trip wondering what kind of a person hands a random screaming five-year old a piece of jewelry worth maybe ten thousand dollars, as a distraction from pain.

 

When we landed and the lights came up, I stood and again thanked her. Babyboy was still asleep, and I knew we would need to be the last people off the place. So, until the door opened, the lady and I chatted. She was trim and fit, with a soft cream-colored wool or cashmere overcoat, and tall calfskin boots. She was blonde, and wore little or no makeup. Her face was natural, no sign of any Botox. She easily lifted down her carryon suitcase, which I noted was Louis Vuitton, with a matching purse-tote. It was then that the light caught on her ring, a diamond ring. It was a brief glimpse- one doesn’t want to appear to be staring, you know! But it was enough to see a large, really large, 4 or even 5 carat emerald-cut diamond in an ornate, vintage-y setting. It was the kind of ring that would make almost anyone do a double-take. I took all this as further proof that the pearls were real.

The doors opened and she said goodbye.

So, what kind of a person hands a random screaming five-year old a piece of jewelry worth maybe ten thousand dollars, as a distraction from pain?

I decided it must be a very classy person.

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International Humiliation

Two major events yesterday: Babygirl had a monumental temper tantrum, and we were interrogated by armed guards. What do these two things have to do with each other?

I’m in Guatemala with Babyboy, Babygirl and Nana for a family wedding and mini- vacation. Respectable family friends offered to take us to the Zoo, and we were all very excited about it! We’d gone with them on our last trip two and a half years ago, and we all had a great time.

The zoo in Guatemala city is really nice. It features all the large animals you’d want to see, in beautiful and comfortable enclosures. There are also a number of smaller displays with jungle animals and birds, typical to Central America: jaguarundis and ocelots, coatis and pythons, toucans and guacamayas, on and on.

Even better, it’s very safe. It’s completely enclosed by with razor-wire topped twenty- foot high walls. This is not to keep the animals in. There are many armed guards outside, some manning the entrance, and the rest pacing and milling about. Generally, I find this reassuring, because there is a huge kidnaping problem throughout all of Central and South America.

We had arrived at lunchtime. Since the kids had snacks in the car, we decided to walk around before getting lunch. But, it was hot and sunny, and we all got dehydrated and cranky pretty fast. So we made our way to the food court.

There were ample familiar food choices: Frozen yogurt and fruit for Babygirl, fried chicken and fries for Babyboy. Even better, the fried chicken was Pollo Campero (arguably the best fried chicken there is!). He ate like a champ, and then some.

But Babygirl didn’t. She didn’t like the frozen yogurt, nor the soft rolls I got special for her, nor ice cream… She’d snacked on Cheerios in the car, and had sips of water, but apart from that, she hadn’t eaten or drank much all day.

Both kids ran and played on the large playground after lunchtime. Babyboy started walking funny and pulling at the back of his pants, signs that he needed to have a B.M. I took him to the bathrooms three times, but he would not go. It was noisy, and there were electric hand dryers…

So we went back to the playground. There were all kinds of families there: Mayan descendants in traditional handwoven dress, regular mestizo Latinos, and tourists. The only zoo in town is a great equalizer!

And they all eyed Babyboy with questioning or disgusted glances when he continued to bend forward awkwardly and pull at the seat of his underpants.

Time to go, I thought. So, we’d miss out on some displays. No matter, we’d been there for three hours anyways. The kids wouldn’t notice….

But on the way out, Babygirl threw herself on the ground and started tantruming. I don’t want to go, we didn’t see all the animals, turn back now! NOW!!!!!

I tried to calm her. After all, we were out in public. I was excruciatingly aware that we hadn’t seen any tantrums at all from the thousand for so other kids at the zoo. Seated near us was a Mayan mother in gorgeously embroidered dress, with her five perfectly behaved children, ranging from infant to about eight years old. I pictured them at home: where they likely lived, in relative poverty, with few material goods. And they were all sitting quietly, observing, mesmerized by Babygirl’s obnoxious tantrum.

I started counting: If I get to three, I’m carrying you to the car, and you’ll get a time out, I warned. Three came and so I hoisted her up.

She kicked, hit, flailed, screamed. I started walking to the parking lot. She screamed louder. I saw a guard shift his automatic weapon and start following us.

Jesus, he thinks I’m kidnaping her! I though, and I tried to move as nonchalantly as possible, while carrying the Excorcist child to the parked car.

She was no better at the car. I counted, I threatened, I basically stuffed her into the car seat. But she arched her back and howled, fought me, hit me. Our hosts were silently horrified.

I knew I was at the point where I was going to hit her, and with an audience of educated family acquaintances plus strange men with guns, I decided to back off.

Nana was right behind me. I can’t fucking deal with her. Can you please buckle her in, I hissed. I had assumed that Babygirl would behave a smidgen better for Nana…. Wrong.

At this point, there was a group of guards around the car. One of them stepped forward and stuck his head in, and inquired what was going on. Another asked, if we were arriving or leaving. Our host tried to assuage them. They only looked more skeptical.

Nana knew the word for tantrum: berrinche.

Es una berrinche grande. No queria salir del zoologico... She explained.

I freely admit that I was sobbing at this point. I didn’t have our passports.  I hadn’t even brought photocopies of our passports. All I had was my driver’s license and a credit card and our travel insurance card. I had no idea how I would prove that this hell child was mine.

But the guards looked at her and at me, and though they stayed close by (and marked down the car license plate information), they stopped asking questions. Later on, Nana commented that they must have noticed how much Babygirl looks like me.

Babygirl was distracted by the guards, and Nana managed to get her secured in the seat. We drove off, with Babygirl screaming banshee-like all the way home. In traffic. For an hour. She screamed for another hour once we were home. She was awful, until she calmed down enough to eat two bowls of yogurt with maple syrup.

I realize now that she was dehydrated and hungry. I’m not sure what else we could have done under the circumstances, though.

I also realize that the guards were likely mystified by and suspicious of the car seat, since these are very rare in Guatemala. There are no automobile child safety rules, and the vast majority of Guatemalans do not use child car seats. I’ve seen close family friends drive off with their unbuckled school-aged child in the front passenger seat, and the baby cradled in unbuckled mom’s arms in the back seat. That is normal. So, the guards probably thought Babygirl’s car seat was a restraining device for use by child kidnappers!

We were all exhausted after this adventure. I felt totally humiliated.

We leave for home tomorrow, and we all decided that we won’t venture out in public again…

Until we have to go to the airport.

 

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Vacation Mode

Apologies for the delay in posts! I’m at a family wedding in Guatemala with Nana and the kids. Of course, traveling with kids provides ample fodder for parenting posts… Stay tuned…

 

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#momfail or #momwin?

I love sharing our family outing disaster stories. We need to do more of this, as a society. Let’s face it, we all tend to overedit our Facebook posts…

Right now? I’m a mess. My lower back is killing me. I’m overdosing on Aleve. I smell like Ben-gay.

Why? Because I was obsessed with getting the kids outdoors on New Year’s Day.

There’s a state park with a popular family-friendly hiking trail not ten minutes’ drive from our house. At the top, there’s an old, sturdy stone lookout tower. We call it the castle; the kids love it. There’s also a pretty neat weather observatory. It’s less than a mile up, but very steep. The trail is really rocky and rooty. There are also ski slopes, and in the absence of snow, the slopes are quite hike-able.

We’ve done this hike many, many times. I know the kids can do it, though Babygirl has often insisted on being carried. For this reason, I usually bring a backpack-style child carrier.

But we’d done this hike with friends just the week before, when the weather was unseasonably inviting. Sixty degrees the day after Christmas? We’re going outdoors! Babygirl had nonchalantly marched herself the whole way up and down, and I exulted, because I thought we were done with the carrying.

Not.

So, New Year’s Day was decidedly colder. The high was 40 degrees, 20 with wind chill. I love a winter hike*, and I want my kids to, as well. In any case, when we set out in the late morning, it was sunny; and at our house, it wasn’t that windy. So: We’re going outdoors!

We’d had the typical New England smorgasbord of precipitation in the days prior: a ton of rain, some snow and plenty of “wintry mix”. I’d forgotten about that. Even at the wide, easy base of the trail, there were large patches of crusted icy snow, and even more of mushy, cold mud. The wooden stairs were dripping, and even waterfalling in places. We had to pick our way around the edges, along the tree roots, to avoid getting wet sneakers.

Sneakers. We  wore sneakers: totally improper footwear for wet and cold conditions.

That may be part of the reason why Babygirl insisted on being picked up, very early in the hike. (Later on she cried: My toes feel tingly and ouchy! and I finally figured out, her pink sparkly Stride-rites had soaked through, and she was probably getting frostbitten toes.)

So I picked her up, and on Babyboy’s lead, we left the mucky drippy trail, and headed for the ski slope. There, sun had quickly melted all the snow, and the ground was frozen grass, hard and dry.

But. The little trail through the trees had been protected from the wind. The smooth, verdant slope was a current of cold. Ooooh it was painfully chilly. I carried Babygirl piggyback, and she buried her face in my shoulder. I considered turning around, but Babyboy was way ahead, running, joyfully. He loves big, wide open spaces of nature.

I figured if we kept up our speed and upward effort, we’d warm up quickly enough. And, I was right. It was great exercise. By the time we reached the top, Babyboy and I were rosy-cheeked and toasty-warm. We found a wooden table (there were quite a lot of people up there!) and set up our little picnic snack.

The kids had packed their own preferred snacks, and the deal was, they couldn’t eat them until we were at the top. Babygirl stopped complaining about the cold and dived into her raisins and Cheddar Bunnies, and I realized that she’d also been hungry. Babyboy always eats a good breakfast; she does not. That was probably another reason she wanted to be carried.

It didn’t take long for cold to win out over hunger. The workout had created sweat, and the sweat was making us hypothermic. I realized that hiking back down on the gusty open slopes with that formidable wind chill wasn’t a good idea. So we cut over to the trail through the trees.

But it was steep, and rocky. I realized that I couldn’t navigate it while carrying Babygirl on by back- I needed my arms, or at least, one arm. Even then, it was pretty impossible.

So we backtracked, to the road. I don’t like taking the road, because the occasional cars tend to drive too fast, and there’s no sidewalk. But the road through the forest was at least semi-protected from the wind.

The road is also longer, and if we took it all the way down, it would add a quarter mile in distance. When you’re carrying forty pounds of whiny preschooler, that’s a quarter mile too far. I figured we could take the road down as far as possible and then cut to the woodsy trail, which, though rocky, wet, icy, and steep, was relatively short.

And that is what we did. That last little bit on the woodsy, rocky, muddy, icy trail just about killed me. I was holding Babygirl on my hip with one arm, and using the other to grab rocks and branches to try to keep my balance while picking my slow, unwieldy way down.

Babyboy, meantime, was a total champ. I marveled at his calm and competent navigation: balance-beam precision along the slim dry edges of a soaked segment of trail; running, skipping and jumping over roots and rocks, half-hidden by wet leaves and patches of frozen snow, slips and slides quickly corrected; a few falls, with rapid recovery, just bounced back up and kept on going, with a grin.

What’s so amazing about this is that he’s usually totally uncoordinated. He’s completely uninterested in sports. He trips over his feet all the time. He bumps his head daily. He drops things, breaks things, loses things… This is common in kids on the autism spectrum, the lack of body awareness.

But in the woods? He’s like a gazelle. I loved being able to praise his physical accomplishments:

Good job leading the way, you helped us avoid that muddy patch there!

Wow, I’m impressed with your climbing over that big boulder, bud!  

Holy moly, good catch on that ice, you kept your balance!

And this is one of the reasons I was determined to complete this miserable hike.

Unfortunately, in doing so, I made Babygirl miserable.

And now, I’m miserable.

My back started to seize up a few hours afterwards. Of course, it was from carrying a heavy, squirmy, asymmetric load on uneven, slippery ground. There was plenty of unexpected, unnatural torque and force on the old L-spine.

The pain was distracting enough that I couldn’t fall asleep. I got up and rifled through our medicine cabinets… Slim pickings for pain control. Aleve. Tylenol. I took both at max dose, even though I’d just taken the same doses two hours before.

Then, I found an old, expired tube of Ben-gay. It looked like it had been carried around in Hubby’s travel kit for years. I slapped that stuff on my left lower paraspinal muscles and massaged it in. It actually helped! That and some gentle stretches.

A few days and a lot more NSAIDS later, the lower back spasm is improving. Babygirl doesn’t seem scarred by the experience; she’s asked to go out and play a few times.

Worth it?

 

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This just about sums it up. 

 

 

*I didn’t always love a winter hike. I’ve personally been the limiting factor on more than a few cold-weather endeavors. I give myself credit for sticking with it, though.

 

 

 

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