Saturday, December 24, 2005
Merry Christmas!
From Highland Gal, M. and Emma. Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday!

Annual Christmas Marathon commences today
Our Christmas routine is the same every year. And we like it that way...

As always, Christmas Eve begins with M. heading off to work. He'll keep the store open till about two o'clock. Meanwhile I'll be at home packing and counting down the hours. He'll come home and walk the dogs and take his lolly-gagging time getting ready to go. Then we hit the road. I'm praying that we're gone by 3:30 p.m. We head to the Popi's family Christmas celebration. This is a raucous gathering. This year it's at Noni & Popi's house. There will be about 20 of us tonight. Grandmother, three aunts, three uncles, cousin and husband and step-daughter, brother and wife and three kids, and then my little family. And lots of food and lots and lots of presents. My uncle, who loves to cook and bake (used to own a bakery) always brings a tremendous selection of cookies. Man I love Christmas Eve! When it comes time to open presents the volume level goes through the roof, with people trying to out-exclaim each other and yell their thanks as they find out what they got.

After everyone leaves we'll have my family, my brother's family and Noni and Popi left. After putting out their cookies for Santa (which they've already set aside from Cookie Day) the kids will go to bed and we'll invite Santa in to do his thing. Often by this point SIL is dead to the world so I get to help Santa along. Of course this year I have my own business to tend to. Finally around midnight or so, we fall into bed exhausted.

Christmas morning the requirement is that everyone has to be up and ready before anyone can go downstairs to see what Santa brought. Kids must brush their teeth and comb their hair. A few grown-ups take cameras downstairs and prepare to catch the kids coming down the stairs and spotting their loot. The kids will come down and we'll give them some time to explore their Santa piles. Then we tackle the presents under the tree. The last couple of years we've managed to open gifts one at a time. I love that because I get to see what everyone gets and I get to see people receive the gifts I chose for them. Of course the kids chafe at this, but it stretches Christmas morning out nicely. Finally, after all the gifts are open we take down our stockings and explore them. Finally, we clean up and thoughts turn toward breakfast. M. and I slowly pack up our stuff and usually we hit the road by 1:00 p.m.

We head to his Mom's for Christmas. Another round of gift opening and a big meal. I imagine this year we'll be having the ham my parents gave his parents. It used to be M.'s mom and dad and brother, his sister and her family, and us. Last year FIL died and SIL decided to go to Christmas with her new husband's family. So the Christmas afternoon gathering is much smaller and sadder now.

Finally, around late afternoon or early evening, we head home. We unpack all of the stuff we've accumulated on our whirlwind tour. Then we settle in for our Christmas. I put on my favorite Christmas CDs and we exchange our presents and our stockings. When this is all done I usually try to put my house in some order so I'm not overwhelmed when I wake up in the morning. I break down gift boxes and pack them away. I put all the new clothes on the washing machine (we pre-wash before wearing). And then we make an artful arrangement of our gifts under the tree. This is a tradition of Noni's, she's good at the artful gift arrangement. Unfortunately this year we may need to skip that part. If it's unwise to put wrapped presents under the tree because of Emma, then I can't imagine it's much better to put unwrapped presents there.

In the past, the day after Christmas was our day of recovery. M. only gets off Christmas and the day after so we'd usually do more tidying up and perhaps assemble gifts. It was a leisure day. Last year we invited Noni and Popi over to hang out with us. Then we ended up having drop-ins from M. sister's family and some friends. This year we've invited over Noni and Popi and brother's family. Which will be a houseful. Then just a day or so ago M. announced that he figured his sister's family will stop by too. Ack! Add two obnoxious dogs and that's more than a houseful. I'm trying not to dwell on it. Thinking happy thoughts...
Ornament of the Day
This is a favorite of mine. I just like how colorful it is and it features a snowman. Snowmen are also favorites.

Decoration of the Day
Here is our "formal" table arrangement. It features a table runner given to me by SIL last year. She got it in Germany. It's really quite lovely.

Friday, December 23, 2005
Home again
I had to come home to regroup. We're headed back over the mountains tomorrow for Christmas Eve at my parents. I've been cleaning my house, doing laundry and finishing up the last of the wrapping of presents.

I just discovered that our washing machine is leaking. Unfortunately the last load of laundry was the bleach load and I think it leaked into the dark pile of clothes on the floor that was waiting to go. I'm pretty sure my favorite pair of Emma's black pants were ruined. I'll know for sure when they come out of the dryer. It sucks because I had decided that she was going to wear those Christmas day. I guess you can file that one under "it figures."

UPDATE: Yep, they're completely ruined. I'm heartbroken. I had the perfect Christmas day outfit in my mind and now she can't wear it. And another outfit has to be pulled from rotation for lack of black pants. That totally sucks. They were those Target Circo pants that I love so much because they look so cute on her. Dammit!
Ornament of the Day
This is the fourth and final "Baby's First Christmas" ornament that Emma received last year.

Decoration of the Day
This tree was given to me by Noni. Most years I put it on my desk. So many people tell me that it reminds them of Charlie Brown's tree.

Thursday, December 22, 2005
This might give you a tiny inkling of what Emma has been dealing with the last three days...

Today's project
Brother and SIL went to northern VA today to look at houses and get a feel for the real estate market up there. The kids spent the day with us. We put them to work...

Decoration of the Day
This snowman I made and gave as gifts back when I was in college and dirt poor. I remember that particular Christmas well. It was the worst Christmas in my entire life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Paci attachment
No, I don't mean she's attached to it (although she is...) In this case what I mean is that her paci has an attachment.

Brotherly Ingenuity at Kohls
After we had lunch at a pizza buffet my brother's family took Emma and walked down to Kohls. I needed to stop by the car to drop off the booster seat and pick up the stroller for Emma. I was diverted on the way. When I got there I found that my brother had the situation fully under control...

What does this look say to you?

What was actually happening was we were just about to sit down to dinner and she was giving me the more sign so I would start feeding her. Now.
The family that plays together...
Our family is pretty physical. Lots of hugs and kisses (some more than others). But we also play physical. This is some of the fun from today...

Ornament of the Day
This one is for Noni...I guess it's a collector's item now.

Decoration of the Day
The stockings were hung by the bookcase with care...
See, we have a tradition of adorning bookcases with our socks. This is Noni's collection, waiting to be filled Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
They're Heeeeeeeere!
The cousins are here. And Boy Howdy! They are fascinated with Emma and all the things she does or doesn't do. When they were running around in Target it looked like they were herding her. She couldn't turn any direction without a cousin. Later on everyone adjusted to each other and they made some space. Emma is interested in them too, for sure.

Uncle B. Ain't Quite Right
Emma was running around with the can for the tinker toys, playing with it. She gave it to Uncle B. and he put it on his head. She considered him for a long time. When he took it off and handed it back to her she wouldn't take it. She wanted nothing to do with after that.

Ornament of the Day
This one I picked from Noni's tree because I liked it. I have no idea where it came from.

Decoration of the Day
Here is Noni's ceramic tree, the one that started my desire to have one.

Monday, December 19, 2005
Big plans
Today was my last day of work until after Christmas. My brother and his family are coming home from Germany for the holidays. As a matter of fact they probably cleared customs about an hour ago. Emma and I will be headed to Noni and Popi's tomorrow and will be staying until Thursday evening or Friday morning. Then it's home for a day, and then back again for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Emma has three cousins who will be sharing Christmas morning with her. Two girls, 3 and 4, and a boy, 8. People ask me if Emma is "getting" Christmas this year. I tell them, no, I don't think so. She loves the trees, she's enjoying the music, but she doesn't know Santa from an old smelly hippy. But what she will get, sharing Christmas morning with her cousins, is the excitement of Christmas. Once the paper starts shredding she'll be totally with us.

I'm looking forward to a great holiday with family. (I will try and keep up the blogging, "try" being the operative word!)
Ornament of the Day
This was gift I received today from Miss Angelika, Emma's library friend.

Decoration of the Day
This is a companion mouse to the larger one I showed you earlier...

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Braggin' on my man
He's the cook around here. Our arrangement is that he cooks and I clean up the mess. Suits me. Tonight he was very ambitious...he made Beef Wellington. It's beef tenderloin wrapped in puff pastry, with a layer of pate, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and parsley. You also have cooking sherry flavor too. It was very good, although the pate weirded me out and sullied the experience ever so slightly. The overall flavor was excellent.

Baby bunting
I found a suit in storage yesterday and washed it up. It's borderline too small, you can see how it pulls tight at the crotch. Nonetheless, it makes her look twice as wide as usual...

Daddy put her down on the snow...

But she didn't really want to be down.

Here, it's better in the grass...

Pretty snow scene.

Ornament of the Day (500th Post!)
Another Opus ornament, this time featuring Bill the Cat.

Decoration of the Day
Icicle lights. M. took this one last night. Pretty cool, huh?