Epcot

I started this post on our second day at Disney World over a month ago . . . then Mardi Gras happened.  So here it is a month later – done, moreso than perfect, as is the usual.

Day two was our driest, most comfortable day.  Chilly but not rainy.  As the prior day was the National Championships, in which Clemson played (and which they roundly lost, sob), we had worn our Clemson orange on day one.  Having properly mourned our loss that night, we woke the next day and put on the Mickey t shirts that Santa had put in everyone’s stocking.  Also, the Prof continued the process of shaving his beard – which I mourn even more than Clemson’s loss – and decided to do it in the most annoying way possible, i.e. in stages.  Day two was the handlebar stage.  Haha yes so funny but now you look WEIRD in all our Disney pictures, dear.

Mickey Shirts.

Mickey Shirts.

Spaceship Earth!

Spaceship Earth!

We did Epcot on this day in particular because it was my niece’s fifth birthday, and a princess lunch in the Scandinavian part of Epcot was on the radar for her birthday celebration.  Here she is, in her Belle dress and fuzzy coat because CHILLY.

Birthday girl at Finding Nemo ride - the aquarium after.

Birthday girl at Finding Nemo ride – the aquarium after.

Finding Nemo was first up – we had a Fast Pass, and hopped right on.  As I recall, the Prof stopped the whole ride trying to leap in with Liam last minute, as Liam ended up riding alone.  Heh heh, sorry ’bout that.  It was a lovely little “underwater” tour, after which you get spit out into a great aquarium area.  The kids enjoyed the aquarium, and I think it also around this time that we did “Turtle Talk” with Crush.  It’s an interesting concept – a comedian stands behind a screen and interacts with the audience, while somehow the turtle himself appears on the screen so it looks like the kids are interacting with the cartoon.  He chose to speak directly to my oldest niece – “the kid in the front with the floppy white thing on her noggin” (i.e. a bow!) – and my sister in law as well.  It was super cute, and the kids had a blast.

Posing after Finding Nemo

Posing after Finding Nemo

Selfie with the ornery three year old

Selfie with the ornery three year old

After the Nemo ride, Turtle Talk, and some aquarium time, we headed for the princess lunch.  When you walk in at your reserved time, you line up and are greeted by one princess (they rotate through) – and it happened to be Belle, Craig’s absolute fave.  The big boys were not interested in a photo with her, but Craiggy was all about it.

Craig gets to see his favorite princess the second time in a row

Craig gets to see his favorite princess the second time in a row

Then we were seated – somewhat squashed in at a table juuuuust big enough for us – and had a lovely meal, interrupted frequently by princesses stopping by for a picture and to sign autographs.

Buzz Lightyear drinks at the princess lunch in Epcot

Buzz Lightyear drinks at the princess lunch in Epcot

Princess in her birthday tiara

Princess in her birthday tiara

Princess number one - Aurora

Princess number one – Aurora

Princess 2, Cinderella

Princess 2, Cinderella

Jasmine - princess three

Jasmine – princess three

Princess four - Snow White, who had the perfect Snow White voice

Princess four – Snow White, who had the perfect Snow White voice’

Birthday girl blows out a candle

Birthday girl blows out a candle

We had some birthday drinks, the kids did a little parade, and they brought Harper a birthday cupcake so we could sing and blow out candles.  It was all very sweet, and I recall that the food was good (including a giant salad bar), though I have zero memory of what I ordered.

Next, we headed over to Chichen Itza, to ride the “Gran Fiesta Tour” with the Three Caballeros.

Chichen Iza - where we rode the Three Caballeros

Chichen Iza – where we rode the Three Caballeros

Inside the pyramid

Inside the pyramid

This is one of the Prof’s favorite rides, and it was cute – just following the three caballeros (Panchito PistolesJosé Carioca, and Donald Duck) through a sort of South American version of It’s a Small World.

After this, we split up – the girls and their parents and grandpa went to meet the Frozen princesses, and the rest of us went to Spaceship Earth (the ride inside the giant silver Epcot ball).  Spaceship Earth opened in 1982, but it holds up ok – it is a walk through history, or literally a ride through history (you sit in a clamshell type thing and ride along a track, from scene to scene). At the end, you get to program your own future using a touchscreen in your car.  I want to say we headed toward Soarin’ after this.  Soarin’ is quite moving – I mean I kinda wish they’d just put that extra “g” on there, but ok.  In Soarin’, you sit on a seat and your feet dangle down.  Several rows of dangly seats hang from some sort of contraption that lifts you up and moves you forward into a concave screen, so that you are surrounded by video.  And then you fly all over the world, seeing beautiful sights, really feeling like you’re flying because you are dangling and your entire field of vision is occupied by the screen.

So we all lined up for this and were placed in seats, except that I stood up to fasten kids’ belts and ended up without a seat.  I had to wait for the next ride – no big deal, and in the end I was allowed to choose a guest to stay with me and ride it again (I picked my SIL!) and given 8 generic fast passes to any ride I chose.  These ended up key later in the evening.

After Soarin’, we stopped with the littles at a Mickey pavilion to have their pictures taken and autograph books signed.  This was cuter than I anticipated.

Playing in line

Playing in line

Ready to meet Mickey

Ready to meet Mickey

Mickey autographs while charmed kiddos look on with wonder

Mickey autographs while charmed kiddos look on with wonder

Signing

Signing

All the kids

All the kids

A scrum around Goofy

A scrum around Goofy

Goofy points out that Liam and he have a similar front teeth situation

Goofy points out that Liam and he have a similar front teeth situation

All smiles

All smiles

Hi Minnie!

Hi Minnie!

My littlest niece is a little Minnie Mouse herself - super cute.

My littlest niece is a little Minnie Mouse herself – super cute.

After joking around with the characters – my favorite moment was when Goofy pointed to Liam’s missing two front teeth and then pointed to his own gap-toothed smile – we headed back out to decide what to do with our fast passes.  We had not ridden Test Track yet, and we had enough fast passes to take everyone minus my MIL, the two littlest kids, and Jack, god love him, who as we have established is not a fan of roller coasters.  so we ended up getting to ride Test Track, which hadn’t been in the cards given the wait and the Fast Passes being all snatched up.  This was particularly thrilling to my BIL and his dad, both of whom had wanted to ride it very much.

We ended up waiting forever in line anyhow, because something broke down – but nevertheless it was worth the wait.  First you line up with your riding buddy (Liam was mine) and design your car.  Our car was . . . well . . .

Tricked out!

Tricked out!

My design partner

My design partner

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

My niece's slightly more realistic car design

My niece’s slightly more realistic car design

The Test Track Crew

The Test Track Crew

Test Track was awesome.  You design your car, preserve the design with your magic band, and then you get into a roller coaster car that recognizes your design and flashes it up on a screen as you “test” certain features, like speed, efficiency, etc., and are ranked among the others in your roller coaster section.  The last test is speed, and this is where it gets awesome – it is SO FAST and it goes outside, which I did not know or expect.  It was frigid outside of course, and really woke us up, but I could not stop screaming with joy as we whipped around the track outside.  So cool – and it was a blast to ride with Liam, my little roller coaster junkie.

After this, we met up with the littles and got dinner.  We stopped by a few hamburger places but nothing was ringing my bell, so I suggested that we head back toward the Chichen Itza area to get some tacos.  Great suggestion – all of us thought it was the best food we had on the trip.  Perfect size, really good, didn’t taste mass produced at all.  Plus we each got a margarita, which was awesome. I hatched a plan to take the boys back to the Magic Kingdom – my favorite park, and one I didn’t see enough of – but in the end they wimped out.  We had just about decided at this time that we would have to spend an extra day at Disney, as Weather had closed several main arteries in Florida (the “polar vortex,” part of what made our own trip so unseasonably cold for Florida, had brought ice and snow to places that never see such weather, and it shut the whole interstate down for a while).  So we decided to make that a bonus Magic Kingdom day, although in the end it didn’t happen and we went home on time.  (Boo!  But much more fiscally responsible!)

Then we headed back on the bus.  The bus was one of the more charming parts of the trip – everyone crammed in, chatting about where they’re from, making a big deal about the kids’ mickey ears or minnie shoes or whatever.  It was really quite sweet – the instant, fleeting community moment.  This particular evening, we gathered together at first to open Harper’s birthday presents.  We had given her a little camera to carry around Disney, which she loved.  She got a few other things, and had a great time with the family fussing over her for her birthday.  After that, we split into our rooms to settle children down.  Every night when we did this, I would wash my feet in warm water, with a sugar scrub I got for Christmas from my sister.  There is nothing more revitalizing for achy feet, I tell you – I’d sit on the edge of the bath and run a little water, then scrub the aches away.  So nice.

After the kids were asleep, we came back to convene in my in-laws’ room for a bourbon and to decompress and chat about the day. The next day – our Animal Kingdom day – promised a chilly raining morning, but sunny skies in the afternoon.  So we all went to bed early, ready to tackle the challenge of staying dry the next morning.

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Weddings, Snowstorms, and Hello to the Mouse

Friday morning, I woke at 4-something-early-o’clock and pulled together a backpack with underthings, pajamas, a pair of fancy shoes, and work laptop. The husband would start driving the children to Orlando on Saturday morning, alone, while I would meet them in Orlando midday Sunday by way of Pittsburgh, PA.   My cousin planned a last minute, “I would like to deduct my three future step-kids on my 2017 taxes” wedding for December 30, so the Prof found me the cheapest flights possible from NOLA to PA, and PA to FL (hence not even a carryon or purse – Spirit airlines charges $30 to use the overhead bins and won’t even pass out free water, but the fare is low low low).

My mother’s brother’s son was getting married.  Since my mother’s side of the family was thus fairly occupied with quick wedding planning (and cookie-baking, for the traditional Pittsburgh cookie table), we stayed with my father’s side – his sister, and her husband.  This was during the heart of the polar vortex, so it was about 1 degree and snowed heavily all day Friday.  The drive to my aunt’s place was hilly and a bit slippery, but we were firmly ensconced in her warm, welcoming home when it started really coming down.  I enjoyed being there – and I think she enjoyed having all of us there.  My entire nuclear family wasn’t able to make it, but a lot of us were – me, my brother, my youngest sister and her baby, and my parents.  Five of the “original” seven, plus a bonus baby to boot.  It was lots of fun sharing him with the extended family.  He was 7 months just about exactly at this time – busy, heavy, almost army crawling.  And of course now, three weeks later, he can crawl, sit up, and pull up – it happens so fast!

Bringer of joy

Bringer of joy.  My brother Randy on the left, baby Charles, and my Aunt on the right

Uncle and nephew

Uncle and nephew

I spent much of the wintry, snowy day working.  I was able to do it in the room with everyone – it was a doc review, so nothing too taxing, but I did have thousands of pages to try to frantically get through before the Disney trip.  I tried to keep one eye on the doc review, and the other eye and both ears on the conversation around me.  So goes the life of a BigLaw lawyer.

The snow stopped midday and my uncles spent some time blowing snow off the drive and walkways.  So many chores we Southerners never grapple with, never think about.  We made it through the 1 degree, windless frigid air to the wedding.  Where Charles was passed around among aunts, uncles, and cousins, while enjoyed the hospitality of cousins we wish we saw more of.

Great Aunt.  Though not really old enough to be one - my mother is the oldest of 7, and she married the youngest.

Great Aunt. Though not really old enough to be one – my mother is the oldest of 7, and she married the youngest.

Pittsburgh wedding cookie table

Pittsburgh wedding cookie table

My sister holds her baby (right), our cousin holds her youngest (left)

My sister holds her baby (right), our cousin holds her youngest (left)

Pittsburgh.  Cold.  1 degree cold.  Not my jam, but pretty for a day.

Pittsburgh. Cold. 1 degree cold. Not my jam, but pretty for a day.

I fretted pretty much the whole evening that I wouldn’t make my flight in the morning, or that if I could it would be delayed due to ice.  However, none of those things happened, and I arrived in the much warmer climes in Orlando midday Sunday.  I caught the Mickey mouse bus thing from the airport to Port Orleans Riverside, and I beat most of the family there.

Decked out

Decked out

I lined up in the lobby of the Port Orleans to check in, and my in-laws texted that they were right outside and would take me to my room adjoining theirs.  We met and drove over, and very shortly after arriving, the rest of the crew showed up.

Mickey's bud

Mickey’s bud

Our rooms were all in a line along the second floor.  The resort itself, modeled after the French Quarter and Louisiana swamp (ha!  a home away from home), was lovely and comfortable.  We had two queen beds in our room, plus a fold down twin that Craig slept in.  Our first day, Sunday, was not a day in the parks – we would meet, get settled in, have dinner, and wish each other happy new year before an early bedtime (normally I’ll stay up til midnight, but it seemed more prudent to get some rest before the long next day).  At dinner we feasted on Mickey ear ice cream bars, and then the boys swam and played on the waterslide at the pool.  This was the only warm day there – we would not get out the swimsuits again.

Mickey ears ice cream

Mickey ears ice cream

The first day - bewitchingly warm

The first day – bewitchingly warm

Overnight the polar vortex had made its way south, and the morning dawned chilly and misting with rain.  Nevertheless, we were prepared for this, and we suited up in warm, waterproof clothes, gathered our Mickey fanny packs (the boys) and Mickey ears (the boys) and maps and iPhone apps (the adults), and headed toward breakfast of Mickey waffles and sausage, and then the bus.

Soldiers marching off to war/taking down Disney World

Soldiers marching off to war/taking down Disney World

We had a fast pass for Space Mountain first thing, so we headed straight there.

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland

Thpathe Mountain ith awethome

Thpathe Mountain ith awethome

Three Musketeers

Three Musketeers

Liam loved Space Mountain – this was the beginning of his love affair with roller coasters.  It was also proof that Jack’s hatred of roller coasters has not dimmed.  He had a panic attack, bit through his lip, banged his head uncontrollably on the seat back – all in all made me deeeeeeeply regret having him ride.  It set the tone for the rest of the trip, making him nervous and obsessive about each later ride.  Whoops.  Mistake.

After Space Mountain, we headed towards some indoor rides to spend some time out of the rain, including Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, the Peter Pan ride, and It’s a Small World (sadly, broken so we never did ride it).

My SIL, who hates this picture, but doesn't read this blog, so shhhhhhh

My SIL being cheerful in her poncho,, who hates this picture, but doesn’t read this blog, so shhhhhhh

The kids waiting in line at Belle's house

The kids waiting in line at Belle’s house

Beauty and the Beast is his favorite movie you guys you just don't even know

Beauty and the Beast is his favorite movie you guys you just don’t even know

Learning their roles in the Beauty and the Beast "play"

Learning their roles in the Beauty and the Beast “play”

Liam was the beast, because he was best at roaring

Liam was the beast, because he was best at roaring

In awe

In awe.  Belle was a “tier 1″ princess for sure (my BIL has a ranking system for how convincing they are – she was tip top)

The Peter Pan ride

The Peter Pan ride

Lunch at the Pinocchio Haus

Lunch at the Pinocchio Haus

After Pinocchio Haus, we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean, one of my favorites.  Then we coaxed Jack to ride with us on Splash Mountain.  It was a chill day, but heck we were already wet.  My brother in law liked to fake Jack out by hollering at every drop, even the tiny ones, and by the end Jack had good humor about it.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Got this dude to ride it

Got this dude to ride it

After this, we hoofed it to the Country Bear Jamboree to try to warm up inside a bit.  Craig had had a mild fever part of the day, and I felt a little bad dragging him around in the cold and rain, but he was a real trooper.  It was good to get him warmed up for a bit.  We also did the Tiki room, the Aladdin magic carpet ride, and got some Dole Whips.

Aladdin magic carpet

Aladdin magic carpet

I was there too

I was there too

Magic carpet

Magic carpet

Frigid Dole whips

Frigid Dole whips

Then the littles were really cold and it was time to take them home.  Dee Dee and Chip Ip walked them and our non-roller-coaster-rider Jack back to the hotel, and the rest of us rode Thunder Mountain Railroad.  And it. Was. Awesome.  Then we shivered our way back to our rooms to get warm and rested.

Thunder! Mountain! Railroad!

Thunder! Mountain! Railroad!

Walking back, past a castle covered in "snow"

Walking back, past a castle covered in “snow”

The Roller Coaster Cousins

The Roller Coaster Cousins

Christmas decorations - they slowly took them down during the days we were there.

Christmas decorations – they slowly took them down during the days we were there.

Tree

Tree

We stopped at this confectioner's on Main Street on the way out, to get a sweet treat

We stopped at this confectioner’s on Main Street on the way out, to get a sweet treat

One last magical look

One last magical look

And that was Day One!

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Christmas Day

Christmas Day dawned bright and chilly.  The boys raced downstairs and commenced with opening.  I got very few pictures because I was just enjoying it, and also indulging in my OCD need to keep up with the mess.  I took some videos, but pretty much the only pictures I got were of food:

Someone got a lot of Batman stuff

Someone got a lot of Batman stuff

Cinnamon rolls, pre-burned butter

Cinnamon rolls, pre-burned butter

Snacks on a cupcake stand - great idea I got from somewhere

Snacks on a cupcake stand – great idea I got from somewhere

Prime rib Christmas dinner.  Man was it good.

Prime rib Christmas dinner. Man was it good.

We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and sadly I stupidly did not put them on a jelly roll pan because I don’t have one, and somehow did not think about the fact that the butter in the filling would melt and pour off the baking sheet and burn on the bottom of the oven.  Which is precisely what happened, making it a challenge to get them fully cooked.  We managed and everyone ate them, underdone and somewhat charbroiled, but I need to buy myself a jelly roll pan for sure.

For lunch we had finger foods – cheese, crackers, fruit, chips.  And for dinner we had really fantastic prime rib which I undercooked and had to put back in but it worked out, plus potatoes and cheese grits and green beans and whiskey glazed carrots that were truly divine.  Those I will absolutely make again.  It was a really good dinner.  The day itself was mostly eating, playing with toys, managing trash – there might have been a nap.  A perfect day.  I’ll never forget my brother putting together this laser game (not real lasers, fake string “laser beams” that protect a prize and you have to wind your way through them, Mission Impossible Style, without touching), and also him and Craig playing a 4 foot tall jenga game (Craig was really, really good).  We built new Lego sets and played with new art supplies and Liam played a new video game or two.  All in all, a great day, insufficiently captured in photos but so it goes.

The day after Christmas I took off work, and mostly actually got to be off duty.  At this point I don’t remember much about this day except I think we went to see a Christmas light show that we had not yet gone to this season, and got burgers at a local place

Uncle Randy reads.

Uncle Randy reads.

Liam focuses on Legos.

Liam focuses on Legos.

Uncle Randy reads part two

Uncle Randy reads part two

Burger time

Burger time

Liam is just this bad at smiling for the camera, whereas Jack was seriously grumpy and faking a smile.

Liam is just this bad at smiling for the camera, whereas Jack was seriously grumpy and faking a smile.

This was Craig's outfit for the Christmas lights.  He charmed many.

This was Craig’s outfit for the Christmas lights. He charmed many.

Uncle Randy went home the next day.  I went back to work. The Prof kept the kids the rest of their time off, spending some days at the zoo, at the movies, and otherwise hanging out.  The following week was in-law time – we had skipped Christmas as their house so we could save up the vacation/travel time for an epic trip – to Disney World!

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Post Holiday Update

I have sat myself down to write some updates a few times, but technology has always foiled me.  So many barriers between me and my one true love – writing for pleasure.  (OK, I have more than one true love – making music, exercising hard, cooking, acting, but that doesn’t work as well rhetorically).  The Prof has been out of town for several days, and thus I have had no uninterrupted time for a while.  Nevertheless, though he’s not back yet, I am sitting down and attempting an update.  Assuredly I will be interrupted a billion times and probably by the end of this, my tone will be exasperated and distracted.  But done is better than perfect, at least as far as this blog is concerned, so here we go!

  1. Christmas
Christmas Eve table

Christmas Eve Eve table

I love to entertain – to set a fancy table, plan an elevated menu, get out our seldom-used silver and napkin rings.  This is My Jam, and my Christmas treat.  I couldn’t manage it (without being bitter and overworked) on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – there are too many kids and not enough adults to do the other Holiday Cheer Creation Work that needs doing – so I did it on Christmas Eve Eve.  Our menu was giant homemade meatballs and marinara on rigatoni, salad, and garlic bread, and yes the children ate it at this white table on this china while sitting on these nice chairs and the only one who spilled was me.  We are working on civilizing them.  (Liam tends to eat with his fingers like a caveman and then wipe them on the chair he’s sitting on, so we draped his chair in a towel.  One day he’ll stop this, but in the meantime, we take precautions!)

Lucky us – my brother came to spend Christmas with our family this year.  He is a biologist doing a post doc in Germany right now, and came home to my parents’ for the holiday.  This is an “off” year for my side – all the married kids spent Christmas at the in-laws’ this year, leaving my parents alone – so I invited my parents to our place but they were taking a break from travel after a lot of recent trips.  They sent my brother down to us, though, which was wonderful for multiple reasons not least of which being Uncle Randy was awesome at playing with the kids and their new toys.  And he is another adult to enjoy my fantastic cooking (*brushes shoulder off).  He came in town on Christmas Eve Eve and tucked into meatballs with the rest of us, which was great.  He then went to bed at like 7pm because he was still on Germany time – ha!

On Christmas Eve, which was a Sunday, we skipped morning services as we had a full church evening coming at us.  Instead we walked a couple of blocks over to a playground/dog park/coffee shop that we love, and tossed a football a bit before enjoying some lattes and a muffin.

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop Dawg

Coffee Shop Dawg

After the playground, I squeezed in a little cooking prep before heading over for the first evening service at 2:30.  This is our first Christmas Eve at our home church, since we usually travel, and we learned that they typically do a family service/kid pageant at 4, and an adult candlelight service at 7.  I was backstage mom-in-charge of the Angels Stage Left for the pageant, and the two older boys were shepherds (Kneeling Shepherd and Standing Shepherd With Staff – a dangerous role to say the least and staffs had to be confiscated during practice numerous times).  The older youth group children read the famous usual Bible passages, while the younger kids entered at the appropriate time in their costumes and then stood in a nice tableau/wiggled and picked at their costumes and got into trouble.  It was all very wholesome and lovely, and I enjoyed getting to know the little girls in my charge.

Standing Shepherd with Staff shoots his mom a peace sign

Standing Shepherd with Staff shoots his mom a peace sign

Liam being an idiot in the front right

Kneeling Shepherd being an idiot in the front right

During the break between 2:30 rehearsal and 4:00 church, various shepherds, angels, and livestock oohed and aahed at the church train platform.

During the break between 2:30 rehearsal and 4:00 church, various shepherds, angels, and livestock oohed and aahed at the church train platform.

One of my Angel charges and one of my Shepherd sons in a pre-show chat

One of my Angel charges and one of my Shepherd sons in a pre-show chat

These flimsy halos required a lot of shoring up, and there were feathers everywhere, but man isn't it charming?

These flimsy halos required a lot of shoring up, and there were feathers everywhere, but man isn’t it charming?

Joseph checks his email

Joseph checks his email

Just a coupla sheep

Just a coupla sheep

Backstage whisper giggles

Backstage whisper giggles

Blowing out the faux candle was a fun activity that kept them busy for a while, as they waited for their entrance.

Blowing out the faux candle was a fun activity that kept them busy for a while, as they waited for their entrance.

I specifically requested that I not be in charge of my own children, but somehow a Shepherd snuck his way back into the Angel's backstage wings (ha! pun)

I specifically requested that I not be in charge of my own children, but somehow a Shepherd snuck his way back into the Angel’s backstage wings (ha! pun)

Once my angels made their entrance, I was free to sneak out to the congregation and watch - I got this pic during showtime.  They did great.  A little wiggly, but great.

Once my angels made their entrance, I was free to sneak out to the congregation and watch – I got this pic during showtime. They did great. A little wiggly, but great.

After the pageant was done, we took some pictures, helped pack up the costumes and props for next year, and then headed home where I heated up the turkey tetrazzini I’d pre-made for their dinner.  I left them all munching and headed back in for 6:15 call time for our 7:00 service – the choir had a major role in this one, so I couldn’t skip it.  We sang lots of carols, and Silent Night by candlelight is a lot more effective and lovely when it’s actually dark outside, so I didn’t mind going to 6 hours of church on Christmas Eve.  Although when I got home to do the usual Christmas Eve things at 8:30 or so, I was pretty wiped.

Nevertheless.  We wrote letters, we set out cookies and carrots, we sprinkled reindeer food, and we snuggled the Littles in their beds before playing Santa’s Helper.  My brother was around to help too, so it didn’t take long, and then we all went to bed ourselves, ready for an early morning.

Liam is no-nonsense

Liam is no-nonsense

Jack's gonna Jack.

Jack’s gonna Jack.

Craig managed to do a really decent job of scrawling his name to Santa.  That'll do, at age 3.

Craig managed to do a really decent job of scrawling his name to Santa. That’ll do, at age 3.

Santa food, in pinterest-worthy presentation

Santa food, in pinterest-worthy presentation

Sprinkling reindoor food on our postage stamp "lawn."  Frankly, its just One More Thing that I would love to not bother with, but they always get baggies of cheerios and glitter from school, so we do it.

Sprinkling reindoor food on our postage stamp “lawn.” Frankly, its just One More Thing that I would love to not bother with, but they always get baggies of cheerios and glitter from school, so we do it.

From inside the warm house Virgil be like - "why, fools?"

From inside the warm house Virgil be like – “why, fools?”

Twas the Night Before Christmas and All Through the House, Shirtless Boys Stick Their Hands Down Their Pants

Twas the Night Before Christmas and All Through the House, Shirtless Boys Stick Their Hands Down Their Pants

Bear, hanging on by a thread.

Bear, hanging on by a thread.

Not my best effort this year but it was a long day.

Not my best effort this year but it was a long day.

No hearth, so we improvise.  Also - I bought PB Kids matching stockings this year in a post-Christmas sale, and I'm v. excited!

No hearth, so we improvise. Also – I bought PB Kids matching stockings this year in a post-Christmas sale, and I’m v. excited!

Ready!

Ready!

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Christmas Menu

The last time we had Christmas at home was 5 years ago, in Alabama, and while we enjoyed it very much, it was somewhat marred by tornadoes, which is a natural disaster I do not weather well (pun intended).  Earthquake this California girl any day, hurricanes you’ve got plenty of notice, but a tornado . . .  Anyhow, I made a delightful meal that tasted like ash in my mouth as I watched stalwart news reporters calmly telling us when it was time to shelter, so I’m excited to give that meal a do-over.  (Knock wood, salt over shoulder, etc.)

So I’m excited to once more be holiday meal planning!  Meal plans for the full week below – I don’t really get much time off for Christmas (I’m taking the first week in January), so I want it not too complicated, but still special.

Meanwhile, just a few bullet point memories to capture here:

  • Jack is teaching himself how to play Silent Night on the piano.  He’s really stuck with it, and it’s the first piece he’s picked out by ear after a year or two of lessons.  I’m getting a video – I may even devise a duet for us.  He’s so earnest, so heartbreakingly pure still, here on the verge of 10 and adolescence and Feelings.  I’m excited to see who he becomes, but I love who he is right now so much.  He’ll still bring me a book and sit in my lap to read it.  (He’s way too big to do this.) (Of course, I suffer beneath his gangly weight and read for a while anyhow.)
  • Liam is just over the top enthusiastic about everything Christmas.  He just is absolutely thrilled by every tiny Christmas detail.  He’s missing his two front teeth right now, which exacerbates his lisp.  So basically we live with a short, excitable Daffy Duck, who shouts a very spitty “thith ith awethome!” every five seconds, and it’s pretty adorable since Liam is our little cynic most of the time.  He got fully into making gingerbread houses at a friend’s gingerbread house making party (yes – and it was so cute) – he is thrilled by lights on houses around town, he painstakingly decorated Christmas cookies at home, he screamed out the names of every thing he saw at the drive-through light show we went to last night, he proposed that on Christmas Eve we sit on our front porch and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows and sing carols (which YES).  He’s maybe going to be one of those adults who has a Christmas Year Round room in his basement.  Everybody needs a soft spot – Christmas is Liam’s, and Liam is mine.
  • This is a placeholder for a cute thing Craig did which I wrote down on a sticky note at work, and forgot there, but I’ll update and edit to add it since I’ve 100% forgotten what it was.  It’s not this, but I do know that we have a giant wooden advent calendar with little doors, and when you open each door we put three small candies in (3 M&Ms or something similar), except several mornings Craig will sneak downstairs and stuff his cheeks with candy from the wrong day, and we turn a blind eye because he’s so cute.
  • The Prof is our Christmas cookie maker.  He’s slowly adding a new variety every year – this year it was candy cane cookies, which is a strand of dyed red peppermint cookie dough twisted with a strand of plain dough, bent into the shape of a candy cane and sprinkled with crushed peppermints.  Mmmmm.

So that’s my little Christmas snapshot.  The boys are going to see the Star Wars movie later today, while I finalize wrapping and cook prep.  I’m desperately churning through an overdue doc review, but once I get that off my plate I can relax and enjoy Christmas Day.  Then I have a chaotic week back at work, and then a week off!!  It can’t come soon enough!

Here’s our menu.  Wishing lots of food, family, friends, and love to you and yours –

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Christmas Adam (this is a joke, but it denotes the day before Christmas Eve – I will be at church a million hours on actual Christmas Eve, so we’re having our fancy dinner tonight)

Christmas Eve

  • Turkey tetrazzini – I’ll make this ahead, and the boys can heat it up without me

Christmas Day

Christmas Night

Day After

  • Beef nachos (with the leftover beef)
  • Slow cooker refried beans (these are already made in the freezer)
  • A southwest style salad

 

Posted in Bitchin in the Kitchen, Holidays and Celebrations | Comments Off on Christmas Menu