Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The True Chicago Experience

Cold and windy weather, stuffed crust pizza, and the Sears Tower: all elements of a true Chicago experience. We got in two of them. After church we went straight to the train station. Which is closed on Sunday. Forcing us to sit out in the cold. The very cold. I have to say I've never been so cold in my life. I'm sure 25 degree weather with 25 mph winds is like summer to some northerners, but to this American-African who now resides in Georgia, it was pure torture. Although the 15 minutes seemed like 15 hours, the train finally arrived.

The kids had a fabulous time on the train where we found a spot on the second level.

Once downtown, we braved the weather again to walk the streets of the Windy City in search of a pizza place. We finally found one and settled in. By "settled in" I mean that it took us a full 20 minutes to take all the layers of clothes off of everyone. We then took up a whole extra table to pile 11 people's coats, scarves, hats, gloves, and mittens. We had our pizza. I can't say it was fabulous; I think I'll stick with Atlanta-style New York-style pizza. Then it was another 20 minutes to get all of our clothes back on to head back out in the cold.

WHO willingly chooses to live there anyway?

We had grand plans to take on the Sky Deck of the Sears Tower. I really wanted Alex to see Lake Michigan. On our drive to Chicago, every time we would drive over a small lake or river, she would ask, "Is that Lake Michigan?" I kept explaining that it looks like an ocean from the shore, but it would have taken seeing it to understand. Anyway, we didn't make it to the top of the Sears Tower because it was a two hour wait, half of which was outside in the cold.

Don't get me wrong. We had a great time. I'm happy to say we had a true Chicago experience.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Redneck Snow in Chicago?

OK, so snow in Chicago isn't quite like the redneck snows of least in amount. In longevity, however, this one was a match. When we arrived yesterday afternoon, there was a lot of snow on the ground. By this morning, though, most of it had disappeared in torrents of rain and near-60 degree temps. Knowing through forecasts it would soon disappear, the kids wasted no time in heading out into it as soon as we arrived yesterday.

The trip from Nashville to Chicago was a long one with lots of fog, traffic, and potty stops. In fact, the Princess informed us in Indiana, "I really need to go potty." The only options were industrial ones, so we told her to hold it. When we got to my sister-in-law's house, though, she was so excited for a romp in the white stuff that all things potty were forgotten...until about 10 minutes after we had dressed her in all of this:
My sister and brother-in-law were so kind to gather all of the kids' "snow stuff" we, gloves, snow suits. They were unable to find boots for Jacob, however, but he did just fine. The answer? Redneck snow boots:

As much fun as they had, I don't think it would have mattered to any of them if they had been wearing plastic shopping bags from head to toe.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Our Opryland Christmas - A Photo Tour

We began our Opryland Christmas at The Cascades restaurant where we indulged in their special Christmas buffet. Everyone enjoyed it; Daddy's crab legs may have been the biggest hit. And who said you can't play with your food--especially on Christmas? We all had our fill with the exception of our pickiest eater. I think she may have eaten a roll and a little dessert. Even the dessert wasn't to her liking because the chocolate stuff was not milk chocolate. Ironically, she's the only kid we had to pay for.

The highlight of the evening was the water show with colorful fountains dancing to a narration of the Christmas story and various Christmas songs.

And's on to the North Pole!

Celebrating on Japanese Time

Our Christmas day began yesterday on Christmas Eve around noon...when Christmas actually began in other parts of the world. We had a wonderful time of unwrapping gifts with the kids and both sets of grandparents. A wonderful time too of trashing the living room followed by hours of struggling with an incomprehensible number of twisty ties that stubbornly held on to each toy with a vice grip. The kids had a great time and made out like bandits. More Legos for Lego Boy, lots of Littlest Pet Shop Pets for the girls, and a stealthy spy remote-controlled car for Jacob. Alex also joined the group of elite DSers; now she doesn't have to borrow the boys'. Michael promptly retired to his workshop to make quick work of the Lego set. And Jacob was quick to begin his spying.

Our Christmas festivities continued with our "Christmas Dinner", if you can call it that. We cheated and got much of it at Sam's. Which means there was little preparation--not our typical kind of meal. It was a dinner around the world: chips and salsa to represent Mexico, tortellini with alfredo sauce for Italy, croissants on behalf of the French, moroccan couscous, and rotisserie chicken--American, I guess? Despite the strange meal, we filled our bellies and had some time to relax before our Christmas Eve service.

The kids did great in their play. And my little sheep, despite her costume, was the cutest lamb of them all. I have a couple of readers who might disagree with that, but that is their right as mommies. Just as it is mine! Besides being adorable, Audrey even participated by singing and doing the hand motions...a huge step since Aloha! VBS 2008 when all she did was play with her hula skirt. Jacob made great progress as well. Surprisingly, he not only made it up on stage but sang his little heart out.

When we returned from the candlelight service, we had our traditional reading of the Christmas story and then sent our little elves off to bed. Our night wasn't over, though, because even though we unwrapped gifts and had our faux dinner, we were unable to reschedule Santa. Guess he was busy on the other side of the world.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Random Ramblings

Random Ramble #1
We took in the Magical Nights of Lights last night at Lake Lanier. Thankfully we got there right at dusk because the crowds followed us. Apparently the recession hasn't yet hit the hundreds of thousands of cars that snaked down the road leading to the park entrance. This is tradition for us, and usually we get out at Santa's Village to purchase ornaments. We had a sick one, though, so we figured the 30 degree weather couldn't be good for her. We're trying to get her healed before we arrive at the North Pole.

Random Ramble #2
After lunch I began the Afternoon of Katy. I haven't had my nails done in forever, so I decided to try a new salon in our area. Very nice, but strangely, they had a movie channel movie playing for their clients' enjoyment. Did you hear me right? A movie channel. Which means anything naked people. At least it wasn't a love scene or something, but rather someone posing for an artist. Who happens to paint naked people. A little disconcerting on a huge plasma screen TV on the wall in a room full of strangers. Thankfully the guy doing my nails was paying attention to my nails and not to the movie. Before I decided on the Afternoon of Katy, I had toyed with the idea of making it a Girls' Afternoon so the girls could get little flowers and stuff painted on their nails. Thankfully, since Alex was sick, it was just me. Note to self: find a more family friendly salon. Or maybe suggest the Game Show Network or HGTV next time.

Random Ramble #3
My in-laws are here to spend the night and tomorrow with us. Today is really our Christmas Eve because tomorrow we are celebrating Christmas. My 80-year-old father-in-law just had a cup of coffee and noted that it was such a good cup of coffee, he felt like getting up and dancing. You don't usually get such a good cup of coffee at our house...neither of us drinks coffee; I don't even know how to work the coffee pot. This coffee was left behind when my brother-in-law was over the other night. I guess that kind of makes every event at our house a BYOC event.

Random Ramble #4
I waited in anticipation for my father-in-law to entertain us with dance, but my husband decided instead to introduce him to the Wii. He actually played a few minutes of Wii tennis the other day, but that was before we had hooked up the Wii Fit. I never thought I would find an electronic device as rude as my husband's GPS, but Rude GPS Woman: meet the Wii. When I play Wii Tennis, I always lose. When you lose, your Mii hangs its head and a gleeful YOU LOSE!! flashes in huge letters above the Mii's head.

That's not the worst part, though. Meet Wii Fit. When you first set your Mii up with Wii Fit, you take a little fitness test. My husband's Mii was quite entertaining to the kids. After the test, the Wii Fit plumped up his Mii character and declared him the Wii Fit age of 55! He has a good sense of humor, though. Much better than mine...about weight anyway. Thankfully, it didn't plump up my Mii, although it did put me at age 36. It said my Wii Fit age is +1. It had me enter my birth date. If the thing is soooo smart, it ought to know that I will be 36 in 2 months!!

The Wii Fit also has balancing and Yoga exercises. Just as I begin one of the stances and am about to relax, up flashes a balance circle on the screen. You are supposed to balance so that the dot in the circle stays IN the circle. Ideally, it should stay in the center of the circle. Inevitably, as I am standing there, my "Trainer" will say, "You're a little shaky!" Well, Wii Fit Trainer, you're a little....

At least it didn't give me the balance comment my husband and father-in-law got. By the way, my father-in-law's Wii age is 75! After they took a balance test, it said, "Balance is not your forte. Do you stumble a lot when you walk?" Surely someone out there will sue Nintendo for this rudeness?

Random Ramble #5
Due to illnesses, a last minute planned trip to the North Pole, and a general non-Christmas-y spirit this year, I had to cheat on Tradition. I never got to making cookies for decorating. So I purchased the Gingerbread People Kit. And the kids decorated them today. Anti-climactic. I'll do better next year, Tradition, I promise.

Random Ramble #6
We're taking my in-laws to a Japanese Steakhouse tonight, the kind with the hibachi where they cook in front of you. My in-laws love it, and my kids love it. Least most of them do. My now 9-year-old daughter is still afraid of the part where they set the grill ablaze. When she sees our personal cook make the preparations for the fire, she politely excuses herself to the bathroom.

Random Ramble #7
My little engineer continues to play non-stop with his Lego truck. He declared today that he found a mistake that Lego made. He's of the little men has his arms on backwards. Who else would notice something like that?

On another note, I was finally made aware today of the incredible depth of Michael's Lego Project when he showed me the 4 instruction books he followed to assemble his truck. Each book is approximately 50 pages long!

Random Ramble #8
In the words of one funny little Princess: Merry Tristmas to all and....dood night!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Update on Lego Boy

Michael is our one and only breakfast eater. I mean, the others will eat it, but only as a true break from the fast--because they're hungry--not because they really enjoy it. And Michael eats A LOT for breakfast. This morning, however, he was too busy for breakfast. He also informed us that he woke up at 1:00 to work on his project. We argued with him. "Wasn't it light outside?" "Well," he said, "it may have been just getting light. But I could see by the night light."

I can't say he was disappointed as he normally would have been when we pulled him out of church because our youngest wasn't feeling herself. We came home for the hour or so until choir practice and during that time....drumroll, please...he finished the Truck!

The picture doesn't show it well, but the screen and button he's pushing light up!

Not to worry that it's not even Christmas yet and the Project is complete--there will be many variations of the Truck being turned out at Michael's Lego Workshop over the next several weeks!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When a Lego Boy Gets a Gift

Since their uncle is going to Africa for Christmas, and we're going to the North Pole, we had Christmas tonight with Uncle John. And their uncle spoiled them rotten--spoiled us all rotten. Michael especially expressed his TOTAL excitement over his gift. Remember the Lego set Michael was "saving" up for? When Michael pulled back the wrapping paper and discovered the set, he gave a dramatic faint. Then after he had completely revealed the box, he issued another grand finale faint for drama's sake. He then disappeared to his Lego Construction Site for an hour, came to the table to wolf down his dinner, and disappeared again until bedtime.

The other ones also loved their gifts. Jacob figured out his remote helicopter by the end of the evening. Audrey got some more Pollies to add to her cruise ship, and Alex is enjoying listening to her i-Pod out loud on the docking station. As for the Lego Boy, we had to threaten him before bed not to be constructing by the light of a flashlight or nightlight. And I'm pretty sure he's not going to be happy about a whole afternoon of choir practice tomorrow after church! He'll have that truck assembled in no time, however, I'm sure.