Christmas of 2020

I took very few pictures this Christmas but few pictures has never meant few words so buckle up.

We went to an outdoor Christmas service a few weeks ago but our church had candlelight services again on Christmas eve. They had four services to accommodate for the spacing of attendees. I wanted to ask the pastor if he was so tired of saying the same things four services in a row that he wanted to switch up the sermon a little. “What Mary really wanted was a soft pillow to lay her head on, but Joseph didn’t remember to put it in his satchel. They might have been newlyweds but they sounded like an old married couple when they argued about who was responsible for not packing the pillow all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Mary gave Joseph the silent treatment for several hours and did not offer to split the last fig with him.”

We got home from church just in time to have a video chat with my family back home. We were supposed to go home for Christmas but couldn’t because of current circumstances. Instead, several of us had a group facetime to visit and sing carols. There were all the freezing screens, mismatched audio, and garbled speech we’ve come to expect on these calls. We made lemonade out of lemons and had some good laughs.
We had our traditional North Pole breakfast on Christmas Eve. Annabelle “helped decorate.” It wasn’t necessarily how I wanted to practice patience but she enjoyed being part of the process.
AB was THRILLED to have Grammy and Aunt Elizabeth (aka Squizen, aka Betty Bopp, aka Squidelz, need I go on) here for Christmas. She was stuck like glue to her the whole time.
During Thanksgiving, AB asked me what I can’t get enough of. I said, “The learning of gregorian chants and the new Hebrew textbooks and ancient scrolls I just purchased.” Kidding. I said earrings. She gave me a lovely pair of earrings and told me I should have more since I can’t have enough.

Normally it is a huge struggle to find Christopher gifts. His birthday is in November so I have very little rest time between gift-giving opportunities. I like to think that gift-giving is one of my spiritual gifts so not knowing what to give him is very frustrating. This year I hit it out of the park. He has boxes of old t-shirts that he’s been saying he needs to have made into a quilt. I packed them up, sent them away, and presented him with a t-shirt quilt. It was really a gift for us both as I was tired of seeing the boxes of shirts. Our tenth anniversary is in April and I’ve been saving all my work money for our anniversary trip. I used some of my money and booked us a little airbnb in Atlanta. It was the cutest little place near several fun restaurants. We played rummy, walked in the few shops that were open, went to the art museum, and generally had a grand old time. Again, it was a gift as much for me as for him but I couldn’t send him off by himself!

our best guy

We celebrated our best guy on Father’s Day with a day trip out of town. We went to the park to play in the rocky river, got lunch from Jason’s Deli and swung by Aldi. Aldi is the dream destination of fathers everywhere!
I had a small logistical problem with Christopher’s Father’s Day gift. Namely, I forgot to order one in time for a Father’s Day arrival. I actually had two problems. The second is I didn’t realize it was being shipped from a questionable source in China, therefore I may have ordered a personalized box for coronavirus for twenty-five American dollars. 

Annabelle wanted to send herself to Christopher in the mail, but the closest we could get to that was her hiding in a suitcase outside the front door. She was so excited about it she couldn’t wait until Sunday to arrive. 

Annabelle and I have Mama and Sesame sleepovers in the living room every few months. She’s been wanting to have a sleepover with Christopher for a few weeks and they finally did it last night. I told Christopher she would want to talk for a while before going to sleep and he said it would be no problem. Before she and I knew what was happening, he was snoring away. I don’t think he made it through the first story. The dude can’t handle the sleepover scene!

Our church is doing virtual VBS this year. The children’s director made huge boxes for each child with snacks, craft supplies and lessons for each day of the week. She put so much effort into it. We made a tie-dye shirt the first day and got as much dye on our hands as on the shirt. 

On one of the days, we were talking about prayer and how we can talk to God about anything. She had several cards to fill in that said “God, thank you for ______,” “God, please help my friend ______,” etc. Her answer for the card that said “God, please help me______” cracked me up. She wrote, “please help me with my disappearing act.” We did talk about praying for anything!

We also prayed that we were thankful for Dad. He snores, is unobservant and says things that make us both roll our eyes, but he’s the best dad around.

Denver, where the souveniers are germs and tamiflu

Seven years ago my BFF of all time and forever got married and moved to Denver. I wanted to visit her for years but it never worked out. She came out to visit me a few times and we visited in MA in the summer but I never made it out west to her. I assumed it would cost several hundred dollars but low and behold, I found tickets for $97 round trip and we whipped together a last-minute visit. I’ve booked plane tickets dozens of times but I very seldom cross to a different timezone. That’s why I didn’t realize that arriving at midnight was the price I paid for such cheap flights. The website said we’d arrive at 9:40 which I thought was very reasonable. We ended up landing at 11:40 our time which meant we were both tired and very hungry. 

We special ordered some snow from Amazon prime and they really pulled through. AB and I were THRILLED. I miss snow so much. I don’t love the bitter cold of winter but I love watching the snow fall and taking walks in the quiet.

I’ll be honest- the trip did NOT go as we planned. We had so many fun things planned but they were all derailed when sweet Kezia came down with the flu. Instead of hiking and ice skating, we were quarantined to the house for the first several days. With each day that passed, Kezi got sicker and Annabelle got more cabin fever. On Wednesday we really reached the peak of things going wrong. We ventured out to the library and coffee shop while Katie took Kezi to the doctor. While Katie was at the pharmacy, she got an SOS from a neighbor asking her to watch their son while they went to the er. I stayed back at her house with the girls. Kezi could barely reach her cup without help and kept crying for her mom. Annabelle had enough energy for seven children. She knocked over three drinks, did backflips, bounced on a ball, spilled beads, threw pipe cleaners around “like snow” and made a ruckus. We had a runaround with doctors offices trying to get Annabelle and I Tamiflu to take as a preventative. After speaking to multiple doctors and being told we could get a prescription, I went to the pharmacy to pick it up but it had not been called in. We ended up rationing Kezi’s prescription between the three of us like we were living in a war-torn country with no medicine instead of a first world country with laws about transferring prescriptions across state lines. The day would not end. Katie and I kept saying if only we could make it to bedtime we could sit on the couch and watch a show. Kezi must have caught wind our of relaxation plans because a few minutes into Wonder Woman, she suddenly got worse and Katie was on the phone with the doctor at 10:30pm. We tried so hard to Wonder Woman our way through the day. We made it by the skin of our teeth, but our hair didn’t look nearly as good as hers. 

All that being said, I am 1000% glad we went out to visit. Kezi started to feel a little better on our second to last day so we took a trip to Ikea for bedroom decor. We went to the children’s museum and the girls had a blast. We were so happy they had some good play time before we left. Finn is a doll and he’s the first baby Annabelle really paid attention to and wanted to hold. Last time we saw him he had several baby chins and now he’s turning into a little boy.

There’s no one I can laugh with like I can with Katie. Even though almost nothing went as we planned, we had some great talks and laughed until we cried and couldn’t breathe which is my absolute favorite kind of laughing. This visit was the first time I had seen her husband since they got married and he had the great fortune of seeing us in rare form. He had a very similar look to Christopher’s the first time he experienced us together. It’s a cross between confusion and impressed that two grown women can laugh so loudly/long and communicate using so few words.

Katie is such a wonderful mother and I loved seeing her in her own home. We took a grand total of one picture of ourselves during the entire trip but it’s not great. I look like a beached seal and Katie’s hair looks like a founding father’s wig. We’ve been friends for almost 30 years so I’m allowed to make comments like that. 

I hope it won’t be another seven years before we make it to Denver again, but it for sure won’t be during flu season. 

our career as dancers will start as soon as we stop eating pizza on the couch

Happy Tuesday! Last night I made Christopher have a conversation about jelly flavors if you’re wondering the level of intellectual conversation I bring to the table.

Last week we made a quick trip up to Christopher’s parents. I have very few photos from the weekend, but I do have documentation of the most monumental moment of the trip: AB finally learned to pull her own luggage. Seventy-five percent of what we bring onboard is hers so it’s about time she starts pulling her own weight around here.

We had a nice time visiting with the family and AB had so much fun she told me multiple times she wished she could live with Oma and Opa. She ate chocolate, jumped on the trampoline in a fairy costume and walked the dog. It was her dream vacation.

On Monday we dropped Christopher off at the Columbus airport and drove to Michelle’s for a very quick visit. The drive to her house was BEAUTIFUL. Maybe one of our moves should be to Ohio where the roads are windy and the trees and fields perfection. We hadn’t seen each other in over two years which is two years too long. She’s one of the best gifts the internet has given me. Annabelle gave Gracie the side-eye for a few minutes but soon they were off digging in the dirt and “picking poisonous berries.” Every other time I’ve traveled to Ohio something has gone wrong and I REALLY didn’t want the catastrophe of this trip to be that my child generously shared berries with Gracie that ended up killing her. I don’t think they were poisonous, but I shut down the berry business just in case. They played so sweetly together. I so wish we lived 16 minutes instead of 16 hours apart.

Michelle wasn’t feeling well the whole time and I felt bad taking over a corner of her couch and talking her ear off, but I’m SO GLAD we got to visit. We had the best time. We watched Dancing with the Stars and laughed like I haven’t laughed in so long. We didn’t get a picture together, but I did find this paparazzi shot of us with Sean Spicer, the former White House Communications Director, after his DWTS debut. Not everyone can pull off a sequined pineapple top but Michelle can and that’s a quality I always look for in a friend.  
(I will require that Michelle and I both use this photo as our 2019 Christmas cards.
I spent four Peppa Pig episodes and delayed snacktime twice while creating this masterpiece
using my limited photoshop skilz.)

Mainely we ate

Of the three members of the Single Ladies Club (SLC), I am the oldest, therefore the first to reach the big 3-0 milestone. The two youngsters in the group planned a weekend extravaganza to celebrate my birthday. 
It took place on the second weekend we were visiting at home, so AB would have a weekend o’fun with Grammy while I galavanted around the country with the party animals. It was the day after Annabelle had gotten sick, and the same day she developed mysterious spots on her arms, so I hated leaving her. I didn’t want to leave a sick child with Mom. Our pediatrician had diagnosed it over the phone as something more serious than HFM, and I didn’t want Mom to be in the position of having to take her to the ER if needed. Mom kept saying it was fine so after many tears from Annabelle and much hesitation from myself, I decided it was ok to leave.
Autumn and Joanna wouldn’t give me any details beyond that I needed to be ready to leave around 10:30. I rushed to leave Aunt Camp and make it back to Mom’s house in time, but A&J didn’t show up until noon. Autumn’s life is always 2-3 hours behind the rest of us of it wasn’t much of a surprise. They offered to let me sit in the front but I’m terrible with navigation so Joanna was the copilot. I can get almost anywhere I need to in my home state without knowing street names. I barely know highway numbers. I know where to turn based on what houses and Dunkin Donuts I drive by. It’s not foolproof but for the most part, it works well. On this trip, I was kicking myself for not being better at directions. All I knew was we were traveling north/north-east. Mom and Aaron could have mapped out the whole route in their heads within 5 minutes.
Given that we were driving and would only be away for 2 nights, my main guesses about the location were Cape Cod, Maine or possibly New Jersey. I highly doubted NJ since none of us love it there, but I wasn’t ruling it out completely. I would have had a great time with any location. Autumn and Joanna are a hoot anywhere we go, so we could have gone to the parking lot of Pier 1 and had a great time. To my great joy, they took me to Old Orchard Beach, Maine. They didn’t know Maine is one of my very favorite places but they couldn’t have picked a better spot.
Our first order of business after dropping off the luggage at our Airbnb was to get lunch. Eating was the main activity of the weekend and we started off well. We got shrimp wraps and fries and took them down to eat on the beach. For some reason, we started talking about old age and death which turned into me saying they should have living wills and make sure their affairs in order. Is this what old age is like? You get together for the weekend and spend time discussing who in your life can make your medical decisions if you’re in a coma?
“Let sparty.”

We spent the first evening eating our way through Portland. We started around 8 o’clock with dumplings and pork buns, then walked around town for over two miles, stopping to eat wherever we desired. At one place, we ordered a bread and cheese platter. The thin bread came with three small pieces of cheese with a dab of pepper jelly, little squares of jam and a swirl of organical sourced honey. It was all superb but tiny. Any of us could have eaten the entire plate as half an appetizer. We were still hungry after that, so we found a more substantial third course that we topped off with dessert from a chocolate restaurant.

After a spectacular brunch the next morning, Autumn wanted to visit a cryptozoology museum. She studied each and every plaque as if her life depended on it. She believed every single word. Joanna and I breezed through the exhibits in no time and rolled our eyes the entire time. It was so fake. There was even a sign that said, “Upwards of eighty percent of the data is misidentifications coming from known species. For example, a sample of sasquatch hair that turns out to be from a buffalo rug.” If Jojo and I hadn’t been skeptical before that sealed the deal. There was a display of sasquatch and yeti themed games, one of which was Yeti in My Spaghetti, a game we have. How ironic that the yeti from our spaghetti game has not been seen for many a month, much like the yeti that is supposedly wandering the earth.
We wanted to visit a cheese factory but ran out of time, so we went to a chocolate store and saw the worlds largest (and probably only) moose made out of chocolate. For supper, we went to a gourmet pizza place and we’re still talking about how delicious it was. I CANNOT emphasis how good the pizza was. We ended the evening with gelato by the pier and a movie night.
We didn’t stop talking for nearly 48 hours. We’ve been friends for 26 years and come from very similar backgrounds. We’re VERY different in some ways now, but we all accept the differences of the others and it doesn’t hinder our relationship in any way. We can talk about what we think and believe and not once get offended or feel insignificant because the others might have different opinions. 
We’ve come a long way from the days I wouldn’t hang out with them at church because I thought they were too young to associate myself with.

our best friendship of 28 years is going strong

As has become our late spring/early summer tradition, AB and I traveled to Massachusetts for our twice-yearly visit.

The trip here was filled with quite a bit of metaphorical turbulence. 

We’ve flown so often we have a pretty good system down. I know I need to have extra patience and be 300% on. Not only do I need to keep her occupied for hours, I need to keep her safe. It’s a lot of work but we usually make it with little to no issues (unless someone throws up in which case BIG issues). We didn’t get delayed or have air sickness, but every other little thing that could go wrong went wrong. I went to bed at 10 the night before we left but didn’t fall asleep until 2:30. I got up at 4am. For those doing math at home, that’s one and a half hours of sleep. It was barely a nap. Annabelle had gotten up at 4:30am and by the time we were about to board the second plane, she had been wide awake for nearly five hours, eaten two breakfasts, played with all the toys we brought, rubbed her hands on the toilet seat, smelled her strawberry-scented jelly shoes 15 times an hour and flopped down on the carpet in the boarding area. I barely had the energy to correct her. She talked nonstop the entire time she wasn’t sleeping. I was not in the mood to talk which presented an issue. 
We got on the plane and were settled in when two ladies said we were in their seats. I didn’t realize we had seats 34C and 35C instead of seats in the same row. We moved, then the ladies moved, then their friend in row 33 moved. It was musical chairs in the crowded plane aisle. We’re all going to the same place and getting there at the same time so why does it matter if the seats are wrong? Honestly, I would have been happy to hand Annabelle off to someone in row 34 while I relaxed in row 35. 

We seldom travel with a car seat but I did this time since I was renting a car. I didn’t factor having to carry the car seat as well as our two bags and carry on, so I looked like a pack mule. A kind TSA agent took pity on me and asked if I needed help. I said we were trying to get to Enterprise and he looked at our mound of possessions, looked at AB and her flipped over unicorn suitcase and told us where to find a shuttle that would take us to car rental. I almost kissed the feet of the man driving the shuttle. I would have been 35 years old if we had to walk there. There were several issues with getting the rental car but I finally got on the road. I put the address in the gps and somehow ended up with directions to Greece. 

It was worth all the angst and frustration because look who we were reunited with the next day after two years apart- my very best friend Katie.

She gained a child and I gained several pounds in our two years apart, but we’re just as close as ever. We picked up right where we left off and stayed up late at night eating ice cream. We had so much to catch up on. We had a rocky start with the girls because Annabelle started crying the minute we arrived to pick them up, but she recovered and they had a great time. 

It’s so much fun to see them together. It was especially fun since they got to play at the same lakehouse Katie and I played at 23+ years ago. They were sleeping in separate bedrooms but had the classic sleepover conversation of “if I wake up first I’ll wake you up, but if you wake up first then wake me up.” Last time we visited, AB was in diapers. This time we set out breakfast on the table at night and told them to have at it and serve themselves breakfast in the morning. It was a new dawn of parenting. 

The first full day we visited the beach in the rain. We said we’d visit for just a few minutes didn’t bother bringing the kids a change of clothes. What a rookie mom mistake. Of course they went in the water, rolled in the sand and got wet! We let them get as wet and dirty as they wanted. We live so far apart and never get to see them, so this was a fun memory to make. We wrapped everyone up in towels and listened to the new Aladdin soundtrack on the way back to the house.
God bless Massachusetts and God bless a Dunkin Donuts that makes good ice coffee.