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December 27, 2003: Christmas - the after

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It is a firm and fast tradition in my family that the day after Christmas, my mom and my sisters get up ungodly early and hit the after-Christmas sales. Normally most of us are not hard-core shoppers, but for this we are willing to deal with the combat shopping, if only to score all the stuff we need for the following year. This year we ended up doing things a little differently. Richard and I and my little sister and her husband all got up ungodly early and drove for a very long time to go to a huge nursery called Molbacks, which also sells all manner of gorgeous home decorations. We sat in the car for a while since we got there too early but eventually slipped and slid our way across the icy parking lot to the Starbucks across the street for some desperately needed caffeine. Then we got into line and joined the throngs of people who poured into the store to ransack the rather impressive remains of their Christmas stock.

It's hard doing combat shopping when you've only got limited room in your suitcase, but nevertheless, Richard and I managed quite well. We found all sorts of marvelously silly Christmas cards, and there were some adorable ornaments for next year's stocking stuffers, and a gorgeous nativity scene that is all one piece and looked sturdy enough to withstand feline intervention. And in the meantime (or at least during the car ride there and back, and during the side trip to get coffee), we got a chance to chat with my little sister and her husband, just the four of us. Considering I don't get a chance to see them very often, it was a nice bonus.

We met the rest of the family at a restaurant for lunch (they'd decided to actually forgo the early morning combat shopping), and then once the kids were down for their naps, my mom and sisters and I set off again, but this time to the fabric store.

I think if I'd been back home I might have had a problem resisting all the cute things, but I kept whispering 'suitcase space' to myself and avoided buying anything. Well, okay, that wasn't technically accurate. I did succumb to the urge to go visit the yarn aisle, and after perusing a few pattern books I ended up buying two skeins of gorgeous soft yarn and a new pair of large circular needles to make scarves. In my defense, one of the scarves will be for me.

I did better than the rest of them, I think, since after I'd finally broken down and picked out yarn and needles, I found the rest of my female relatives pondering lace and flannel, and eventually enough fabric was cut to make a whole plethora of flannel pajamas for all three of the kids. When we all finally escaped that store we ended up meandering around Target until my cell phone rang and we realized it was time for the shopping to end.

Then it was back to my little sister's house for a dinner of all the leftovers from Christmas, plus more cookies and more candy and more laughing and knitting (As an aside, note the picture by this paragraph - every single one of those tins was full of cookies). At one point we lured all the kids downstairs to the family room and left them, slack-jawed, in front of the television watching Veggie Tales Silly Songs DVD while we adults crowded around the kitchen table. Out came the cards, those husbands who are still a bit unfamiliar with the game (like Richard) were given extremely hasty tutorials, and the annual family game of Nerts commenced. It's a wild and raucous sort of game, where speed is of the essence, and since we were playing in pairs there was a lot of hollers between partners as hands would grab for the same cards, Cards flew across the table and more than once we all broke down laughing so hard most of us were red-faced and crying. The kids, I am sure, thought we were all just a little bit insane, and to be honest they were probably right, but it didn't matter. It was a lovely way to end the evening, even though that hadn't been the original end in mind there was a movie and we were all going to go downstairs and watch it, but by that time I was starting to feel queasy again so Richard and I regretfully headed back to the hotel so I could crash for the night.

That brings us to this morning, where we woke up to discover that sometime last night it snowed, just barely enough to cover the grass and cars with a fine layer of frost. It was enough to get the kids excited though, and I took complete advantage of the situation. We got them into their coats and boots and then we slapped those goofy hats I made onto their heads and let them loose in the yard to run around and laugh and play and enjoy the beautiful day.

At one point my younger brother-in-law scraped enough of the snow off the cars to form snowballs, which he doled out to eager little hands to fling at the rest of us. I think the kids would have been perfectly content to stay outside and romp through the frosty yard for hours, but eventually we adults got too cold and ushered them back inside with promises of stories and hot chocolate (and of course more play time with silly plastic lizards and make-believe insects).

Richard and I hugged our goodbyes and then my brother-in-law drove us to the airport, where we joined the huge lines of people who were also headed home from the holidays. The plane home was just as full as the one we took earlier in the week, but the ride was smooth and it landed on time, and Richard's parents met us at the airport and drove us back to their house, where we sat around and talked for a bit and played with their cat and dogs before finally loading up our car with all our luggage and presents and heading home.

The cats have been milling around, wanting to make sure we remain in eyesight at all times. There is a huge stack of mail to wade through, and I still have yet to sit down and do an hour or two of practicing on the piano, since I'm supposed to be the accompanist tomorrow at church. I have a feeling we'll be up late tonight, and that the cats will do their best to prevent me from getting much sleep at all. But that's okay. We had a fun Christmas and it was lovely to spend all that time with all that family, but it is just as lovely to be, finally, home.

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