Monday, January 13, 2014

Christmas vacation

Goodness, where to begin? Over the past few years, we’ve alternated going back to Ohio for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year was the year to spend Jesus’s birthday in the wintry North. That’s right Followers, we once again packed up the family truckster and trudged our blood-thinned selves north of the Mason-Dixon Line to spend Christmas with what’s left of our families in the Buckeye State. This was actually panning out to be a pretty good trip as we had quite a few things planned while we were back home.

First was a stop in Cincinnati to see what was left of my family. Since my parents don’t live there anymore, we stayed with my uncle and his wife whose kids are grown and gone. We got to see another uncle and his wife and (mostly grown) kids, as well as gorge on some famous Montgomery Inn ribs after spending nine hours in the car. The kiddos did amazing on the whole drive up, which made things much more enjoyable for Mommy B and I. We stopped a couple more times than usual, just so they could get out of their seats and run around a bit… and so our big girl could use the potty like she always does. But the extra stops made it totally worth it. Anyway, Alli fell asleep in my cousin’s room without issue (she’s always been our good sleeper), and Aiden slept for a few hours before deciding he didn’t like his accommodations in the Pack ‘N Play and commandeered our bed. It rained pretty hard that night, so that didn’t help matters much. He woke up every hour, couldn’t get comfortable, and tossed and kicked us as much as possible. Needless to say the three of us were rather worn out the next morning. However, that wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying the festivities we had planned for that day.

We drove a few miles north of Cinci and met Grandma C to exchange cars. That’s right! She took the kiddos the rest of the way to Findlay while Mommy B and I headed downtown to catch a Bengals game. As luck would have it, they were not only playing at home that weekend, but their opponent was none other than Mommy B’s longtime favorite – the Minnesota Vikings. The weather was as pleasant as it could possibly have been for a week before Christmas in Ohio – mid 50s and partly cloudy skies. We got the best of both worlds – Mommy B got to see her Purple People Eaters live and in person (which she’s never seen before) and I got to see the Bengals put a stomping on the visiting team. Thanks to an early 30th birthday present from Mommy B’s father, we were able to enjoy all the action from the 14th row on the Bengals sideline. It was by far the best game I’ve ever been to, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it with anyone else.

After the game, we headed towards the Dayton area so Mommy B and I could meet up with some friends from our past lives. Unfortunately Mommy B’s friend wasn’t feeling well that night, so she got to play 3rd wheel with me and my friend. Turns out, this particular friend is moving (back) to Charleston this fall. Small world we live in. After dinner, we headed back to the Cinci area to spend the night with my Best Man – Big Worm. Yeah, we’re big on nicknames around here. We hadn’t seen him and his wife in a long time, and we were excited to meet their new baby girl. Even though we were tired from the night before, we stayed up late catching up with them as though we had never been apart. He’s the reason Mommy B and I met in the first place, so the least we could do was spend as much time with them as possible. The next morning he treated us to a homemade breakfast… a small payback for all the homework I helped him with back in high school.

Then we headed over to meet the jeweler where I bought Mommy B’s engagement ring. As she mentioned in a previous post, a few weeks prior one of the prongs somehow got bent back and her diamond went missing. We were there to pick out a new stone for her ring and ended up having them all sized and soldered together. She actually ended up getting a “nicer” stone than the one I had picked out for her back in 2008. A small consolation prize, I know… but she’ll get over it I think. After that was all settled, we headed up to the great white tundra of northern Ohio as we watched the mercury drop. We arrived in Findlay a couple hours later and decided to make one last child-less stop for lunch – Steak ‘N Shake. It was just as horribly-glorious as I remember it.

After being reunited with the kiddos, who come to find out had already seen all the family members in town, we settled in for a nice Christmas holiday. We spent the next couple days staying indoors relaxing, opening presents, and stuffing our faces with all the typical homemade Christmas food. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep – I think the bears are on to something here. Speaking of sleeping, Grandma C somehow managed to get the kids to sleep in the same room together! We’ve never really tried something like that (because we never had to), but Alli claimed a twin bed and Aiden took a new liking to the Pack ‘N Play. She simply put them both to bed and firmly told them it was time to go to sleep. After a few minutes of “talking” to each other, the cold got to them and they passed out. And they slept like bears too… not waking up for 11-12 hours at a time.

The kids were naturally much more into Christmas this year, especially Alli. She was more than happy to help her little brother “open” his Christmas presents and show him how to use them. However, there was one present that Aiden didn’t need any help with. That would be the toddler-size Dyson vacuum cleaner that Mommy B’s dad got for him. Holy cow, you should have seen this kid’s eyes light up when he saw the box. It was like watching a younger version of a Christmas Story. We don’t even have a Dyson vacuum at home, but he sure as hell knew what it was. We magically obtained a few C-size batteries and he was off to the races. Grandma C had the cleanest carpet in the neighborhood with Aiden around that week! I couldn’t complain about my presents either, as Grandma C had picked up eight (yes, 8) six-packs of Great Lakes Christmas Ale for me to enjoy during the holidays. Obviously I wasn’t going to drink it all while we were there, but I made darned sure it all fit in the car on the way home.

After having Christmas at Grandma C’s house, we went over to the Great-Grandparent’s house where the kids were spoiled even more. They were also total hams – hugging on and playing with everyone as if they had seen them every day of their lives. Once again, no Stranger Danger there – which I guess is a good thing (for the time being). Alli played all over Great Uncle Tim, and Aiden found Grandma Great’s Dirt Devil and spent the rest of the evening cleaning the family room. The next couple of days were pretty lazy, but that’s the point of vacation, right? Grandma C and Mommy B took Alli to see her very first movie in a theatre. They saw Frozen, which apparently is very good even though it’s target audience is probably a little older than Alli. But, she’s always been ahead of the curve. Mommy B tells me that she was absolutely enthralled – she sat in her seat (with her popcorn of course) the whole time and watched the movie as intently as any three-year-old possibly can. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to share this experience with her, but I thought they could all use a three-generation “Girls Day” so I stayed home with Aiden and we watched football. Well, I watched football and Aiden vacuumed.

The week had come and gone, and it was time to head south again. We packed all the Christmas presents (and my beer) into the car and aimed to make the entire drive home in one shot. Again, we took our time and made some stops so the kids could get out and run around a bit. This probably didn’t make some of the gas station attendants very happy, but if they’ve ever been on a long trip with small kids, they’d understand. After 13.5 hours of driving (including two delays for construction), we pulled into our driveway around 11:30pm that night. We were hitting the maximum amount of time allowed in the car for the kids, as they were getting a little cranky at the end before falling asleep. I won’t mention the fact that the gas light came on as we were about 30 miles outside of town and no, I repeat, NO gas stations were open directly off the highway. Oops. We coasted into Summerville and were able to gas up without waking the kids, but it had Mommy B in a mini panic attack. But, Dad-E saved the day and got everyone home safe and sound.

All in all, it was a great trip. We got to see family and friends that we hadn’t seen in a while, and the kids simply could not have been better in the car. After our last trip home (in which Alli threw up in the car twice just as we were getting back to South Carolina), I was worried that we might be in for another trainwreck crazy adventure. But since they’re into longer movies now, our lives are much easier. I’ll take 5 Toy Stories over 20 Elmos any day. My mother has always told me that they get easier to travel with as they get older, and the A Team proved her right on that one. I’m so proud of how much they’ve grown and how well-behaved they are – most of the time, that is. I’m also thankful for the amazing family we have – both here and back in Ohio. They love our children so much and it shows in how they act towards them when we visit. In fact, even though Grandma C was worn out after the week we spent there, she’s already planning her next visit down here so Mommy B and I can have a weekend without the kids! We’ll call it our joint 30th birthday weekend away – and I’m taking Mommy B to the mountains of North Carolina to teach her how to snow ski. I know we’ll miss the kiddos while we’re away, but I know they’ll be in good hands with the best family members anyone could ask for.

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