Merry!

Ah, what a lovely Christmas season this has been so far… Starting Thursday after work, I’ve been in RELAX mode, and trust me when I say: I needed this.

On Friday Amy, the beasts, and I headed to Maine for the celebration with her family there. Everyone showed up on Friday – sister and her family (including 2 dogs and the 2-week-old new niece), brother and his dog, cousin and wife (from California, so no dogs), and us (with two dogs) added to the two humans and 2 dogs who already lived there. For those keeping count, that makes 7 dogs, 3 kids under 4 years old, and 9 adults. Needless to say, we had a blast – much better than last year when brother didn’t come and one kid was exceedingly sick and moaned for 4 days solid.

HappyThe only real disaster this year happened at the very beginning of the annual Christmas Tree Hunt on Christmas Eve. (To set the background here, keep in mind that global warming is doing its best to keep Maine from getting any snow this year, and as a result it is extremely muddy in the woods.) We were about 30 yards into the woods when all of a sudden the dogs (all 7 of them) got into a game of chase. Our big galumphous, Otter, ended up being the chaser, while the others were the chased. So he’s flying by everyone at a dead sprint, which for a 90-pound dog, is pretty fast. Unfortunately for the 3-year-old, he’s also not very good with knowing exactly WHERE in space he is, and the hip-checking flying-child mud-puddle disaster was about as awful (and awfully funny) as you can imagine. After a trip back to the house (yes, I carried her the whole way out of a horrible sense of guilt), a change into clean clothes, and a mad dash back into the woods, all was better in the world. It’s neat to see her figure out a lot of self-control – she was done crying by the time I hauled her to the road, was laughing halfway back to the house, and was 100% sure she wanted to go help get the tree about 3 steps after that. Last year… well, 2 and 3 are very different ages. That’s all.

The rest of our time in Maine was great. We played card games, we ate lots of food, we went to a caroling party, I helped Amy’s brother finish his Christmas shopping, we went to a Christmas Eve honest-to-goodness smorgasbord dinner, and we slept a lot. Christmas morning was fun – Smartwools (cute ones!) in the stockings from Santa, books and DVDs and other nice presents from the family… And this year I finally figured out that how Amy’s family opens presents (all at once, en masse) and the way my family opens presents (one at a time, with oooohing and ahhhing) are just different – neither is better or worse, they’re just different. What a dumb thing to realize, I know, but how much more fun both present-opening experiences were for me after having the realization!

Christmas afternoon we left the dogs in Maine and drove back home to prep for our flight to MN the next day. I finished wrapping out-of-town presents (Amy mailed them the next morning), we did laundry, and we packed. Our flights to Minneapolis were good – I’m a huge fan of Midwest Airlines now, thanks to their incredibly comfortable seats! When we fly back here, we’ll definitely try them first, even if we do have to change planes, simply because they’re not as …. wretched? overpacked? dreadful? … as the other airlines who fly direct.

So we got here and an hour later my brother and his family showed up. We had our traditional meal of chili and fixins’ for dinner, then opened stockings and one present. Big stocking score: hand-dyed cashmere yarn, enough for a scarf, from School Products! Go Santa! And the present is wonderful – a print by Katsuyuki Nishijima of several umbrellas outside a shop. Today we opened the rest of our presents, which was a lot of fun. I think everyone liked the presents Amy and I got for them; my dad’s been reading the bird feeding books Amy got for him non-stop, and my mom already put in the earrings from Lawrence Nelson of Global Odyssey Designs. The big hit present of today from my folks was a red hooded sweatshirt from the Duluth Pack company. I’ve had it on since I opened it. Who knew? My other favorite gift is Domiknitrix: Whip Your Knitting Into Shape. As soon as I finish the very wholesome Janda I’m going to make something a little more on the wild side!

The very exciting event of the afternoon was meeting my godcousin’s new daughter (he’s my godparents’ son, so “godcousin” is the term I use to describe him and his sister). He and his wife adopted a little girl from Colombia and they only came home a few days before Christmas. She is one cute kid, and I can’t wait to get to know her as she grows up!
We’ve also played lots of games – Littlest Pet Shop, spoons, and pool are among the big winners this year. Tomorrow I’ve got a few errands to run, but think the rest of the day should be more of the same as today (without all the opening of gifts and meeting of new kids).

So to those of you who celebrate it, a belated Merry Christmas to you all. My wish to all of you this season (besides SNOW) is for good health, family and friends by your side, and love in your hearts.

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