An interesting Christmas

This Christmas was quite a bit different from last year. After spending last Christmas in Florida with both sets of grandparents, I expected it would be.

We have been sick since Thanksgiving, so I really didn’t want to plan too much for Christmas anyway. The kids have been passing around a virus for about a month, I was sick for three weeks straight, and even Todd was sick for about a week.

We typically do not have a “big” Christmas celebration. After many years of Todd working on Christmas Day, we have sort of settled into our own quiet traditions. We usually put up a Christmas tree with a variety of decorations that we have accrued over the years. I don’t do much else in terms of decorating. We make sugar cookies and decorate them, and make other treats–some to eat, some to give away. We usually have our main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve and just have snacks and leftovers on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, we read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 and then open our stockings. Yes, the kids often eat all of their candy before going to bed. Then on Christmas Day we open our presents.

Two years ago our Christmas tree had declined to the point that I decided we needed a new one. Last year we had no need of a tree, and I just didn’t feel like going out and getting one this year with everyone not feeling well. Since we had no tree, we strung lights across the piano. It was actually quite pretty! We did make and decorate some cookies. I mixed up the cookie dough and left the kids in charge of the decorating and baking, because I just felt awful.

We had our Christmas Eve dinner and read the Christmas story. Then the kids opened their stockings, ate their candy, and went to bed. (Surprisingly, we’ve never had trouble getting our kids to bed on Christmas Eve or with making them wait until after breakfast to open their presents.)  Then we went to bed looking forward to a quiet Christmas morning at home before we went to our friends’ house in the evening.

Christmas morning we had breakfast around seven (our normal time). Of course, Micah was too excited to eat much. Before we had finished eating there was a knock on the door. Our next-door neighbor was there. Normally I would not mind neighbors stopping by, even on Christmas morning. But this particular neighbor is crazy. After rambling on to Todd (who had gone outside when he answered the door) for a few minutes, he left. About ten or fifteen minutes later he came back and knocked on the door again. (I suppose I should mention that our dog starts barking like crazy every time she sees or hears him.) Todd went outside again and listened to him again and he left again. (This time he was talking about what the people who live in his attic were telling him to do–no, I’m not kidding.) The kids started opening their presents. And then there was another knock on the door. It was him again. At this point, although I’m annoyed with the interruptions, I’m starting to feel more and more apprehensive. (He has never come over repeatedly before this. He mostly yells things that don’t make sense. But he seemed to be getting more aggressive over the last few weeks.)

The kids finished opening their presents and were playing with their toys. Then he came back a fourth time and a fifth. After the sixth time, we called the police, just to let them know what was going on. (I’m not saying that he is dangerous, but I’m not convinced that he isn’t.)  They came and talked to him (and some of the other neighbors who have had problems with him) and he hasn’t been back over here since.

We had a wonderful evening with our dear friends, laughed a lot, and ate too much. It was an interesting, but a merry Christmas!

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2600 miles, part three: Getting home

Part One

Part Two

I never quite got around to finishing this post last month.

As our time in Florida was winding down, I started looking at the weather to find a good window of opportunity for our return trip.  After checking the weather at home and along our route, I decided that driving home in the rain was better than coming home to an ice storm or a snowstorm.  So we planned to leave Thursday afternoon and stretch the trip out over three days instead of two.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do the trip in two days again, it was just too hard with no one else driving.

Micah had been sick on Tuesday, but we hoped that it was something he ate or that it was a virus that only he caught since no one else felt bad. He slept all afternoon and was a good bit better that evening.  He was back to normal by Wednesday evening, so I thought we were in the clear.  We packed up some things on Wednesday, intending to finish packing on Thursday morning.

On Thursday morning, Mark woke up sick.  He wasn’t able to keep any food or water down all morning just like Micah.  The rest of us really didn’t feel good either, so I wasn’t quite sure if we should head home or stay.  We finished packing and loading up the van after lunch.  Mark seemed like he was ready to go to sleep (like Micah had), and I thought if I get him in the van, he can sleep while we drive.  No one else was feeling any better, but we weren’t feeling any worse either so we hit the road.

As soon as we got in the van, Mark perked up and was fine.  I, on the other hand, felt worse the longer I drove.  We stopped several times just so that I could take a break.  When we were almost to Pensacola, I knew that I needed to stop, not just for dinner, but for the night.  I called Todd and asked him to find us a hotel room.  It was such a blessing to have him handle all of that from home.  We found a McDonald’s right next door to the hotel, so we stopped there and took our food with us to our hotel room.  We settled in and found one of the college football playoff games on TV to watch as we went to sleep.  I was almost asleep when Mark got sick again, all over the sofa bed that he and Matthew were sharing.  After much cleaning up (and bagging up of clothes), we got to sleep.

Most of Friday was a blur.  Matthew was feeling really sick (headache and congestion) so he slept most of the morning.  Having your navigator go to sleep is not ideal, but Maggie filled in and after one missed turn, we accidentally figured out an easier route to take. (Take that Google maps!)  We drove most of the day in the rain and stopped a lot earlier than I would have liked, but we made it to Texas.  That left us with about six more hours to drive on Saturday.

We made it home around lunch time after all the ice thawed and before the snow (which ended up as just flurries) arrived.  Home sweet home! I have to say that the concrete floors never looked so good!

2600 miles, part two: Three Christmases and a birthday

(For part one click here.)

We spent the majority of our vacation just visiting with family.   We went to church on Sunday; then two of my nieces came over to visit for a little while.  On Monday, the kids and I drove (in the rain again) down to Homosassa Springs where Todd’s parents and sister were staying at his aunt and uncle’s house. We had an early Christmas and the kids got to open their gifts. They enjoyed playing and spending time with their grandparents, although I think Maggie was a bit disappointed that it was too cold to swim. We spent the night there and drove (in the rain again) back to my parents’ house the next afternoon.

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Wednesday night Dad and I drove to the airport in Jacksonville to pick up Todd. (I wasn’t driving so this isn’t included in the 2600 miles, and yes, it rained at least part of the way.) It was so good to see him. Even though I talked to him every day while we were gone, it just isn’t the same when we’re not together.

Christmas Day was pretty laid back. We got up and ate breakfast and opened presents. That afternoon my older sister and her family came over and opened their presents from my parents and vice versa. (They do that every Christmas.) Todd’s parents and sister also came up from Homosassa.

On Friday Todd’s parents and sister came over one last time before they headed back home to North Carolina. And that evening my younger sister and her family came up from south Florida. This was the first time I had met her husband and his daughters, as they just got married earlier this year.

Then on Saturday everyone from my side of the family was there and we had Christmas part three with my younger sister’s family. It was kind of crazy with nineteen people there, but it was a lot of fun and we took pictures of the whole family together.

The next Wednesday morning we went to the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It was cold and rainy so the butterflies were not really flying around, but we were able to look at them really close up and Maggie loved seeing the birds that were in there with the butterflies. Matthew was not impressed with the butterfly exhibit, but enjoyed the rest of the museum. Mom and I took a break with Mark and Micah in the kids’ Discovery Room while Dad took Matthew and Maggie through the natural history exhibits.  Wednesday night we celebrated Mark’s ninth birthday.

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The rest of the time we mostly just relaxed, played games, and explored Mema and Papa’s yard (they have five acres, so there was a lot of exploring).  And most of all enjoyed the spending time with family.

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2600 miles, part one: getting there

The kids and I hit the road early Friday morning, bound for our Christmas vacation in Florida.  To make things a little more fun, we decided to go with a little bit of a military theme.  Matthew was in charge of intelligence, logistics, and navigation.  Maggie was the personnel and supply officer (keeping little brothers occupied and handing out snacks and water as necessary).  Obviously I was in charge of transport.  Mark was primarily tasked with pointing out every single truck on the interstate and Micah was responsible for asking questions.

We drove eleven and a half hours on Friday and it was foggy for the first five hours and rainy for the last nine.  I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t add up.  That’s because for about two and a half hours it was both foggy and rainy.  Most of the rain wasn’t more than a drizzle until we got to Mississippi, and it actually helped quite a bit since there was no one working in any of the construction zones that we passed through, and traffic was probably lighter than it would have been if the weather had been clear.

The kids are all pretty good travelers, so we had a long, but fairly uneventful trip.  That changed when we were trying to find our hotel.  I had made reservations ahead of time, partly to make sure we had a place to stay (I didn’t know how busy hotels would be the Friday night before Christmas), and partly to set a goal for myself so that I would get most of the driving accomplished on the first day.  It was dark and rainy, and I was very tired, so we followed the directions that I had printed off of Google maps.  Instead of our hotel, they led us to a shopping center parking lot.  Since we were right off the interstate, I figured that we would see the hotel if I just drove around the general area.  After about five or ten minutes of searching, I stopped in a parking lot and pulled up Google maps on my phone to see where the hotel was in relation to the business we were parked at.  It said it was just a few hundred feet away, so I headed that direction but still couldn’t find it.  I stopped at a different hotel and sent Matthew in to ask for directions.  We followed those directions to the letter, yet I still drove right past the hotel.  Matthew spotted the unlit sign in the dark and we drove back and I still nearly missed it.  (I later discovered that we had actually been right behind the hotel at least twice during our search, but couldn’t see it because the lights were off.)

As I pulled into the parking lot, I started to wonder if the hotel was even open.  There were a few random room lights on, but no exterior lighting on the building.  The sheltered entryway where you can pull in out of the rain was blocked off with plywood leaving just a few feet open through which to enter the hotel.  The desk clerk told me that she had no idea that the lights weren’t on.  We checked in, ordered a pizza, and pretty much went to bed after we ate.

Saturday’s weather was about the same as Friday’s.  When we were almost to Tallahassee, the sun briefly peeked out from beneath the gloom. Mark and Micah shouted, “The sun!” and I realized that we hadn’t seen it since before we left Oklahoma.  Saturday’s drive was a lot shorter than Friday’s and we got to my parents’ house around 4:00.  It was so good to see them!

To be continued….

Getting it all done

We are on a deadline.  We need to leave early Friday morning.  And it ALL has to be done before we leave.  All the packing for our trip, all the laundry, all the cleaning up and packing up to have the floor and carpet installed, it all needs to be done by Thursday.

Will we get it all done?  No.  Not the way that I want it done.  I would like to have everything packed neatly in labeled boxes so that we can find everything when we get home.  I want to finish sorting through things and cleaning them out before I pack them up.  I want to make a list of everything that we need for our trip and check everything off as I neatly tuck it into a suitcase.

In reality, the boxes are not labeled (except for one that says “fragile”).  They are neatly packed, if by neatly packed you mean that I have utilized the maximum amount of space in the box regardless of what things I am packing together.  I have cleaned out a lot of things, but not nearly as much as I would like, because I don’t want to regret a rash decision to dispose of something and I’m in the frame of mind to get rid of it all.  I do have a list of things to pack for our trip and have been checking things off–as I throw them into a pile in the corner next to the suitcases.  Neatness went out with the old floors!

Reality seldom turns out like what I envision it to be ahead of time.  And I can be frustrated by that–usually my default choice–or I can accept the differences as they come.  My plans are just that–my plans.  If things aren’t done the way I plan, it isn’t the end of the world.  If I have to hunt through boxes to find things as we unpack, then I will.  Maybe I’ll take the time to go through things as I unpack.  If I don’t get everything organized for our trip, we’ll make do; it’s not like they don’t have stores where we are going.  If I can let go of my frustration, I can appreciate what we have managed to accomplish instead of focusing on what we missed.

Matthew’s birthday

Over the weekend we celebrated Matthew’s 15th birthday.  The years have really flown by and it’s hard to believe that he is that old already.

Of course it’s not hard to believe when I look at him.  He’s about 4 inches taller than I am and has the beginnings of a mustache!  He is growing up in to a fine young man that I am proud to call my son.

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We celebrated with McRibs from McDonalds for dinner and a German chocolate cake.  We had a lot of fun making the cake and trying to make frosting look like gold.  The cake is supposed the be the “One Ring” from the Lord of the Rings.  I’m not sure we succeeded, but I think I learned some Elvish in the process of writing the inscription. 

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It’s Fall!

Fall is here!  At least I think it is.  In Oklahoma it’s hard to be sure. It usually comes and goes a few times before winter descends on us with a vengeance and all is gray.

Fall is my favorite season.  I love the cooler weather.  Time to break out the long sleeves and sweaters.  Time to start making pumpkin bread, pumpkin pies, and pumpkin everything.  Time for soups and chili.  And, of course, time for hot chocolate!

Another reason I like Fall so much is that my parents usually come up to visit at Thanksgiving.  We don’t get to spend a lot of time with our extended family.  My parents and my sisters live in Florida and my husband’s parents and sister live in North Carolina.  That’s right, both sets of grandparents live over a thousand miles away.  It’s difficult for Todd’s parents to travel very far because of health issues, so they have not been out to Oklahoma since the month we moved here six years ago.  My parents have come every year at Thanksgiving, but that’s the only time that they can work everything out to be able to come.

Thanksgiving is usually a time we look forward to taking off a couple of weeks of school.  (Yes, you can do that when you homeschool. It’s one of the perks of making your own schedule!)  In fact, I often start planning our school calendar with Thanksgiving as the main time I need to plan around.  This year, however, we will not be taking off more than a few days at Thanksgiving.  My parents aren’t coming this year because . . . . . we are going to Florida for Christmas!

This will be the first Christmas that I have spent with any of my side of the family since Todd and I were married.  Seventeen years!  Needless to say, we are all very excited about the trip.  (Okay, I’m not excited about the driving 1200 miles by myself with four children.)

It seems very strange that after nearly a decade of having my parents with us at Thanksgiving, that they won’t be here this year.  Seeing them in December will be worth it, though.