Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christmas Redux: The month in review - Part 1

Where to begin? I suppose chronological order would make the most sense.

Finals week: I'll keep this one brief. Tests were taken. Good grades were received. Several "A"s were posted to my transcript. The passive voice was used. :~)

The first day of Christmas for my wife and me occurred the weekend before Christmas with our trip to California to visit the Watson clan. Our plan was to get to California in the early evening, have mini-Christmas Dinner with Grammy and the clan, meet Grammy's new, adorable cat, open presents at Grammy's house and then head down to Santa Barbara and bed. You know what they say about plans of mice and men . . .

The weekend before Christmas marked the first GINORMOUS snowfall of the season. Through heavy snow and worse traffic, we didn't get to the airport until our plane was supposed to have left, but that was okay - the plane didn't leave until almost midnight anyway. When we reached the airport, the Departures display said that our 4:00 flight had been delayed until 9:15. We camped out near our gate, Nintendo DS and book in our respective hands, and waited. The time displayed fluctuated between 8:30 and 9:30 for a while, then they sort of gave up on updating it.
At about 9:15 or so, they announced that our plane was landing and would be disembarking shortly, eliciting great enthusiasm from the assembled passengers. In the overcrowded terminal, they announced that we should make some room, because we were about to make about 100 new friends as they got off the plane. The plane disembarked, the 100 people got off and they made another announcement. "Well, your plane's here, but we can't board you yet because there your flight attendants aren't here yet. They're in a holding pattern right now and should be landing in about half an hour." They left the door to the plane tunnel open during all this, letting cold air in (which didn't make my cold any better).

Half an hour passed. No word. After about another 15 minutes, they announced that a private jet had flipped on the runway, blocking it until they could get everything cleaned up. They told us that there were 5 planes in a holding pattern above the airport . . . make that 4, one of them just diverted to another airport and they couldn't tell us which one it was.

Long story SLIGHTLY shorter, we got to California a little after midnight. We said a quick Merry Christmas to Grammy, met her cat, headed home and got to bed at approximately 3:00 AM.

As has become a family tradition, we woke up for an early-morning choir rehearsal the next day so Emilee and I could join the ward choir at the last minute for their Christmas program. When your father's a choir director and sometimes addresses you as "My son, my friend, my tenor," how can you say no? Not that I'd want to say no - it's always a great experience to sing with Dad's choir, even if it is on 5 hours of sleep.

Christmas with the family was great - it's always nice to sit back and enjoy time with family, especially when it involves games, music and good food. On the subject of games and music, of special note is a fun game Mom got for us based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I set up a model of Mt. Crumpet atop which the Grinch and his sleigh sat. The basic objective of the game is to make sure that the Whos down in Whoville get their Christmas gifts. The Grinch, meanwhile, is trying to steal them all. Your secret weapon in this battle - music. Just as the Grinch's heart was touched by the song of the Whos in the village below, you can sing when the cards allow it and a special sensor below the sleigh picks up the music, sending the sleigh filled with presents down to spill out its contents, which can then be distributed to the Whos. While it's a little silly, it's a lot of fun and I'm glad we had the chance to play it together as a family. In a world of cutthroat competitive games, it's nice to play cooperatively as a family and have an excuse to sing Christmas Carols, even if the game is geared to a somewhat younger crowd.
On the subject of gifts, my wife and I are always grateful for the generosity of our respective clans. Wii games, board games, new clothes and a good pair of snow boots, books, movies and that remote control helicopter I've had on my list for years were among the wonderful things which graced the floor beneath our assorted trees.

Let me take a moment to go on a tangent here. Presents go beneath trees. Under trees. When was the last time you had your "presents on the tree?" I have issues with the lyricist who put together "I'll be Home for Christmas." It wouldn't have been that hard to put in an extra quick syllable for Under the tree, or (s)he could have done a classic Christmasy shortening and said 'Neath the tree, but the only present I've ever had On the tree is the Christmas Pickle, and even then what's "on" the tree is the thing you find in order to get the present, not the present itself.

And now I return to the circle. We returned from our extended Pre-Christmas weekend to more heavy snowfall, to the point that Emilee's mother (hereafter referred to as Mom Roach)convinced us to spend the night of Christmas Eve at their house rather than risk driving through the predicted heavy snow of Christmas Day. They had plenty of air mattresses for everyone. We arrived and watched Kung Fu Panda with Emilee's brother, Brian and Dad Roach while Emmy chatted with Mom Roach in the other room. Watching the film while lying on the air mattress assigned to us, I made an unfortunate discovery - the mattress leaked. Badly. Making use of my overly sensitive ears, we located a pair of holes on the underside of the mattress and quickly applied some duct tape. When we could locate no more holes, we refilled the mattress and got ready to sleep.

Predictably, we didn't find all of the holes. I realized that the mattress would retain air better if only one person were on it, so I moved to a comfy rocking chair and got what sleep I could. I got up a couple of times during the night to put some more air into the mattress for Emilee, but managed to get a couple of hours before our 3-year-old nephew, Isaac, woke everyone up at 6:00 to open presents. After presents were opened, Dad Roach allowed me to sack out on his bed for a few more hours. Again, thank you!

The following weekend, we were joined by Emilee's sister, Stacy, and her husband Jared. We enjoyed some games together, including Harry Potter Clue, an enjoyable variant on the timeless classic. For the first time in a very long time, I won, though it was admittedly by an unusual means. My wife went into Dumbledore's office to make her accusation and was wrong - it was revealed that Jared had forgotten that he had a particular room card in his hand which he should have shown Emilee earlier in the game. Thus, the guilty party and their weapon (Lucius Malfoy and the Sleeping Draught, if I recall correctly) were revealed - all that was left was the room.
This is when I decided to get sneaky. Since the moment anyone asked about a room which no one had in their hand would see a mad dash to Dumbledore's office to make the accusation, I passed into the Great Hall, whose card I held in my own hand. Emilee, of course, was out of the game, but had seen the real room in the secret envelope and a questioning look filled her eyes, met by a sly wink from me. Jared and Stacy both rushed to the office, Jared missing his chance by 1 step. A triumphant Stacy made her accusation and became quite upset when my trick was revealed. Jared, presumably deciding to make use of his rush to the office, made his best guess and was also wrong, leaving only me to claim the ultimate prize.

At that point, I realized that I had to make up to Stacy, so I made up a batch of ice cream with hot chocolate mix as the flavoring added to Ben and Jerry's sweet cream base. Stephen's hot cocoa mix in its many flavors makes some good mixes, so I put in a little Italian Amaretto and some Mint Marshmallow chocolate mix. It really turned out quite well, if I do say so myself.

My time grows short, so I'll have to bring you part 2 later on. In the meantime, Happy New Year!

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