Wow, it’s been a crazy couple weeks, very busy, but very wonderful! Because of my office’s work schedule (9 hour work days, every other Friday off) and our paid holidays, I was able to take just three days of PTO and have a full ten consecutive days of vacation over the holidays. I’ll tell you this much, it was ridiculously easy to get used to not going to work. So what did I do over those ten days? Let’s see if I can remember. I think I will have to make this a two-parter, or even a three-parter. We’ll see where it goes.
The weekend of Christmas was insane, running from gathering to gathering, from one family’s house to the other family’s house. It all started Friday night, December 23rd, at my in-laws’, in which the living room was so packed with presents that you had to do crazy maneuvers and painful leg contortions to get from one end of the room to another. It was a great night, and I just love seeing the joy in the little kid’s faces while opening their gifts. I know the holiday is about Jesus and everything, but seriously, those smiling little red faces, the cries of elation, the abundant thank-you hugs all around, that is the stuff I remember when the holidays are all over. They’re just so sweet and thankful, and watching it all unfold I can’t help but think that these are memories in the making, these are the moments they will think back on with fondness ten or twenty years down the road. All sappiness aside though, it was a good night, and even little Bella got a tasty treat and a new toy from Dan’s brother and sister-in-law.
On Christmas Eve morning we headed over to my parent’s house for brunch with my Dad and my two brothers. Ben made his famous omelets to our specifications (mine was a little lighter on the cheese that I would have liked, but I suppose that’s probably a good thing for my thighs), and it was a nice and relaxing morning. We headed over to my aunt’s house in the early afternoon and spent the day there, eating spinach dip, drinking red wine, watching my favorite Christmas movie ever, and just generally enjoying the company of family. (Gossip of the night: “Did you see *Annie’s face… what do you think that is all around her mouth and chin? Herpes? Well, she did have Chlamydia at one point, so it’s highly possible.”)
Promptly at 5:30, it was off to Dan’s grandparents’ for round three of the Christmas holiday (round four, I suppose, if you count brunch). Soon after arriving, we dug into plates piled high with Swedish meatballs, scalloped corn, mashed potatoes, and seven-layer salad, Dan’s family’s Christmas Eve traditional dinner. The kids were going absolutely crazy after dinner, their eyes glistening with greed, their bodies unable to control the present-induced excitement in the air, their brains all hopped up on the sugar grandma had abundantly planted all over the house in the form of gingerbread cookies, sherbet punch, and chocolate candies. I opened up the coat we had bought in Chicago and of course had a very hard time acting surprised. Around 9:00 PM we left and went back to my Aunt’s place, opened a few presents (Dan and I got $200 from my grandparents to buy curtains for our dining room… yeah!), and had a drink and talked and laughed until we had to leave for 11:00 mass. I was so exhausted by the time we were sitting in church, all I could think about was getting home, taking off the damn tights I was wearing, and getting into bed.
Christmas day started bright and early when we headed over to Dan’s parents house at 8:00 AM for Santa. I find it incredibly sweet that Dan is so committed to being a part of his little brothers’ and sisters’ lives. When asked why we even bother, he said, “I just want them to be able to remember us being around for stuff like this.” There’s such a huge gap in ages there, so huge that Dan was already moved out before the two littlest ones were born, and it’s really a testament to the person he is that he wants to be around as much as possible as they grow-up. After more present-craziness, we went home, made some eggs, and then opened our gifts from each other. I’ve had my digital camera since the beginning of December, but Santa also brought me some fuzzy slippers, a cute pink nighty, some new flannel pajamas, and a pair of mittens. I was pretty stoked, and felt very spoiled. Dan, he got a whole crapload of really random and some-what boring stuff from me: a North Face vest, a corduroy blazer, a wrinkle-free button-up shirt, a pair of Birkenstock clogs, a maroon U of M sweatshirt, a couple DVD’s, a tie-clip, pajama pants, and an under-shirt. Wow, really random indeed.
That afternoon we went to my parents’ and opened presents among our immediate family, which is always one of my favorite things about Christmas. I love when it is just the six of us, I love seeing what everyone gets, I love the joking and the jabbing and the laughing that goes on. But our time was cut short because we had to get organized for more family that was coming over for dinner. By this time, I was thoroughly tired of all things Christmas, I would have given my right arm for just a quiet night at home, or an early evening movie, but that was not to be. We had a big ham dinner, after which I fell asleep on the couch watching the Brandy as Cinderella movie and woke up to my grandmother insisting we play a game of cards with my Vietnamese foster uncle’s new wife whose grasp of the English language is at a very “beginning” level. I tried to be a good sport but I know I was getting very whiny and a little snippy. I feel terrible about it now, and the fact that I cannot even keep up with my grandma, who is not only old, but is courageously fighting cancer, is really just incredibly sad.
It was a great weekend, but I was so happy that it was over, and that I still had eight days left of my vacation.
*Name changed to protect the - very sexually active – innocent (my mom’s cousin).