Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bedlam in Bethlehem: Our Perfect Family Christmas

We did it, y'all. We successfully had Christmas with no one in the hospital. You may remember that last year, we had to abandon all our usual Christmas traditions because Charlie was very sick in ICU. 

And, wouldn't you know that little nerd tried to pull that crap again. 

In the words of the great Ham Porter in the cinematic masterpiece The Sandlot, "You're killin' me, Smalls!"

The night before Melissa, Pete, Charlie, and my canine niece Belby were supposed to drive to NC, Charlie had a fever of 104.6 and had to go to the ER. It was all a little too familiar. Fortunately, he did not have to be admitted. He was contagious but could travel. So we loaded up on antibacterial hand soap and anxiously awaited his arrival. I wasn't going to miss Christmas this year, even if it meant we all got the plague. 

Plus, I figured, I had two weeks off and would be at home. What better time or place to get the plague? 

But it never came to that. By the time Charlie arrived, his fever was almost completely gone and we were ready to get the Christmas festivities in full swing. 
As promised in my last post, here is the family Christmas card. It was too much to ask to have the baby and the puppy looking at the camera. Maybe next year. We're also photoshopped into someone else's house. Tricks of the trade.

Remember when I said I had two weeks off? Two weeks, you guys. I've never taken that much time off work. Ever. To a rule-follower like me, it feels a little illegal. 

In just the first week and a half, I've already done so much. I've gone to a Davidson vs. UNC men's basketball game (a heartbreaking OT loss for my 'Cats), celebrated Christmas, watched Pete and my Dad crash a toy helicopter into our neighbor's roof, spent a long weekend in Asheville, watched the Panther's clinch an NFC South division title, and seen a lot of movies. So. Many. Movies. 

Although, I have yet to see two movies on the top of my list -- Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Anchorman 2. We may go see Catching Fire later this week. However, I want to see a matinee because 1. I'm old and poor and a matinee is early and cheap and 2. I suspect there won't be as many 13-year-olds at the matinees even those this movie is hot with the teens.Those kids are noisy. Look tweens, don't get me wrong, and please don't be offended - I love you. I was you. I saw Titanic in the theater seven times. SEVEN TIMES. And I loudly professed my love for Leonardo DiCaprio every time he appeared on screen - which was THE WHOLE MOVIE. I've been there. We've all been there.  We all think Liam Hemsworth is attractive with his shirt off. But us grownups keep that thought to ourselves until the movie is finished. You'll learn that with time. But, for now, more often than not, you're noisy and you congregate in large groups in the lobby which makes me uneasy. [said in crotchety old man voice]

And that's why I haven't seen Hunger Games: Catching Fire yet. 

But that has nothing to do with Christmas, so let's move on.  

Brunch with the ladies. 
In the days leading up to Christmas, I got to catch up with friends and family I haven't seen in months over brunches, happy hours, and Christmas shopping. It was great to be back in the Queen City again. My mom had decorated the house beautifully, so it was impossible not to feel the holiday cheer. (Also, because I kept going around the house saying, "I love Christmas. Don't you love Christmas? Christmas is the best." I'm like the annoying tween of Christmas.) 

Since it was Charlie's first real Christmas, we pulled out all the stops -- special plates for him to eat off of, matching pajamas (which were actually his gift to us -- and thanks to the pictures, now a gift for all of you), holiday music, lights, and more. It was also  the first Christmas for the newest addition to our family, 15-week-old Grady. Excitement was in the air.


While we all still, obviously, believe in Santa, it was so fun to have a kid in the house for the holiday. For once, I wasn't the only one enamored with jingle bells and Christmas lights. 

On Christmas Eve, we went to the "family" church service which is unofficially-yet-affectionately called "Bedlam in Bethlehem" because it is loud, chaotic, and glorious. There were little voices talking in the middle of prayers (MELISSA), random cries when we were to be rejoicing, children waving to the congregation as they took communion, and Charlie aggressively shaking a package of "cheddar bunnies" while we were singing and then repeatedly knocking his noggin on the communion cup holder. It was busy and loud, yet festive and awesome. After all, a baby is the reason for the season, right? 

Traditionally, we've always watched a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve -- usually either National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ("Don't throw me down, Clark.") or A Christmas Story. However, my mom has been dying for us to see The Way Way Back and was campaigning pretty hard. This went against every bone in my tradition-loving body, but she finally wore us down. (She also called my dad who was with the church choir in between services to ask for his iTunes password so we could rent it.) She claimed it had "a Christmas message." While I'm calling BS on that "Christmas message" -- seeing as it takes place in the middle of the summer at a water park -- it was still an excellent movie. 

That night, we all helped Santa by setting up the toys he'd sent in advance for Charlie, including a large Thomas the Train tent that fits up to four children -- or up to two adult sisters in matching pajamas. Charlie also received a toy kitchen so that we can start training him to whip up all our meals and cocktails. 

Is this for ME?
The next morning, we arose at the crack of dawn (thankfully, I can now blame this on the baby) to gather in the living room and see if Santa came. As always, my dad filmed us. This is another reason why it is good we have a baby. You see, even as we all became adults, my dad would still film us walking into the living room -- to a joyous soundtrack of holiday hits -- to see our stockings and open presents. I appreciate the continuity of having such footage for the 28 years of my life, but the more recent years have included endless footage of me pulling shampoo and toothpaste from my stocking. Finally, we once again have footage of a delighted child receiving toys from Santa. 

Puppy's first Christmas.
After opening our presents and watching the puppy get tied up in ribbon, we had our traditional breakfast casserole, panettone, and mimosas in the dining room in our pajamas. One of us didn't join in that festivity because he got cranky after having a diaper change and needed a nap (but I won't name names). 

The rest of the morning and afternoon, we played with our toys and napped. You may think Charlie was the one most excited to play with toys. No, that would be, my dad and Pete. Melissa had gotten Pete a remote control helicopter and they couldn't wait to try it out. It looked like a drone and was supposed to take pictures (I'm pretty sure it's legal though.) We didn't take any pictures. But I did watch them crash it repeatedly into a tree and then into our neighbors house. They had to go to the door -- like 8-year-olds -- and ask to search for the toy they lost in the backyard.

The night concluded with a delicious Christmas dinner. It was a picture-perfect holiday. And I think Charlie finally understands that Christmas is something to look forward to -- not a time to go to the hospital. You save all your sick days for when you're in school and have a big test, kid. Everyone knows that. 

And no trip back to NC would be complete without a weekend in my favorite town, Asheville. After Melissa, Pete and Charlie headed on to Christmas #2 with Pete's parents, I joined my own parents (and puppy) for a relaxing mountain weekend. 
Happy Hour at the Grove Park Inn

Nearly sunset over Asheville at the Grove Park Inn.

Dad, Mom and Grady at The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. (We did more than just drink wine, FYI.)
Speaking of relaxing, I have to go take a nap now. Apparently, I have to stay up past midnight tonight. SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

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