Whew, it's been a while since I last posted. I didn't have much to write about until a couple days ago. After the flu, it was all about cleaning and doing laundry for our trip. I can't remember if I've mentioned it, but every three years, my family gets together wherever my parents are to celebrate Christmas. It's every third year so that we have one year with in-laws, one year at home (if in-laws aren't local), and then one year with our side of the family. This year, we have my grandparents, my parents, all three of my siblings, their spouses/significant others, and their kids here. It's pretty crazy, but pretty cool. My mother is a saint for hosting it. Not only must it be insanely expensive (extra electricity, gas, and food to feed all eighteen of us), it's kind of chaotic. Well, organized chaos, I guess.
Before we left for North Carolina, though, we did manage to steal some time to head up to the Wild Animal Park with the kiddos, where they saw Santa. I'll have to scan in the photo, which is of me with both kids-- one is smiling and the other is screaming. Can you guess which is which? Poor Marcie. Hope we didn't traumatize her. It's still a cute photo. I love going to the holiday thingy at the Wild Animal Park. They have snow for the kids to play in, a scavenger hunt, and special animal talks. On the 21st, we saw an owl and a golden eagle. Pretty cool stuff.
We left town on Friday, hit the red eye for a flight to my parents' house in North Carolina. Now if you are wondering why I had time to pack up and head out but not time to send you a Christmas card, no worries-- I just didn't get to all the cards yet and didn't bring them with me. But one will probably be arriving shortly after Christmas. When you're sick and stuff, something's gotta give, and this year it was Christmas cards (that and baking, which is fine because my sister is a way better cook and we knew we'd be headed for her delicious snacks for a week).
Casey was super excited to ride on a great big airplane. The crazy airline gave us split tickets. Casey and I had a window and a middle, with Marcie on my lap. Jason had the other middle seat in the row. This was particularly irritating because I'd confirmed our seats, which were supposed to be a middle, an aisle, and an aisle. Fortunately, this insanely nice man with the aisle seat traded his aisle for Jason's middle seat. I hope he gets some good karma for making the switch! After we'd settled in, a flight attendant came on the loud speaker and said they needed three more volunteers-- they were offering a night in a hotel room, guaranteed seats on the first flight out in the morning, and two round trip tickets for each seat given up. I wanted to totally go for it, but the kids were pretty well settled, so we decided to stick it out. It was pretty bumpy-- bumpy enough that I was actually secretly grateful my whole family was on the flight. I just figured if we were going to crash, we'd all go down together, and that saved me from mentally going through the details of my will during the turbulance (does anyone else do that?!?).
My parents were waiting for us at 6am when we landed-- very impressive considering they'd shuttled my brother's family home around 1am that morning. The boys (all five of them) were so excited to see each other and to play with the trains. They are all pretty close in age-- the oldest just turned 5 in August, Casey turns 4 in January, the next one just turned 4 in June, then one turned 2 in July, one turned 2 last week, and Marcie is 1. This makes them pretty great playmates.
The weather has been pretty temperate. Yesterday we were outside with the boys, playing in the grass and the leaves. And today we took a walk with Casey, Vince, and Marcie over to Birkdale, where they have animatronic singing bears (the one named Blue actually sand Blue Christmas). As we pushed the boys home, we all sang Christmas carols.
This afternoon we ventured off to Christmas Eve Mass, where we started with a rendition of Happy Birthday, Jesus. I've been thinking a lot about how irregularly we attend mass and how we should go more often, especially because Casey should be starting Sunday school in the fall. But then, when we are there-- I totally remember why we never go. Casey can never make it past the homily. Today he started chewing cheerios (which we probably aren't even supposed t have) and spitting them out on the pew. Megan took him to a play area to play in the sand, which he loved of course. Marcie flirted with the people behind us (I should pause here just to note I get a lot more stares here with Marcie than I do in San Diego. I'm not sure if this is because Marcie doesn't look like me -- and this is not so rare in San Diego, where there are lots of mixed race families. But it is just as likely it's because she is so darn beautiful. So I'm going to assume the latter, because it's a much nicer thought). Then she wanted to climb out of our arms and crawl around on the floor. I think I caught about three words the priest was saying during the whole mass. But I'm determined not to skip the big holidays, at least. My dad admitted, as we were leaving, that when my older brother and I were young, my parents took turns going to mass. And when he was out of town, my mom hired a babysitter. That figures.
After church, while we were getting dinner ready, my dad played the accordian for the kids, and we sang and danced. I love that he plays the accordian. I tried to convince him to play it during the cocktail hour at our wedding, but to no avail. Anyway, then we sat the kids down to eat pasta and meatballs. Marcie gobbled hers right up. Casey insisted on chicken nuggets for dinner, and we obliged. Then we had Christmas poke cake (which is white cake with green and red swirly layers from the jello poured into the cake). We sang happy birthday with a lotus candle for fun-- and it was pretty cool. Sal (the oldest cousin) even commented, "That's just like fireworks." And indeed it was. Hours and hours later it was still playing happy birthday -- until Jason finally dismantled the battery. We grown ups ate dinner while the kids watched The Polar Express. Marcie sat with us and ate some lasagna.
Dinner was followed by a tiny bit more of play, then setting out cookies and milk for Santa, then off to bed. We set out soy milk this year because Tram (my younger brother's wife, whose name is pronounced Chum) suggested that perhaps Santa is a bit lactose intolerant. Jason pointed out that he probably takes Lactaid if that's the case, but since we have the soy, we used it. Karin (my older brother's wife) recited a (memorized!) version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas before we tucked in the boys for the night.
And so here I am. I have pictures to go with all of this, of course-- including some excellent photos of stockings hung by the chimney with care. I'll even have some great shots of the FULL stockings tomorrow. There are eighteen of us here, celebrating Christmas together. And the stockings are hanging via 3M removable clips. So I'll be impressed if the mantle and the stockings are still hanging in the morning, after Santa has filled them all up. Tomorrow or the next day, I'll download and post them. I doubt anyone will be reading this on Christmas anyway, so by the time you read this post, photos will probably be up. If you are reading this on Christmas day, Merry Christmas!
Please check back soon!