I want to blog about it before the memories pass, like has happened 3,000 times before.
This Christmas, my first as a married man, was the best I've ever had. As I get older and wiser, Christmas is a lot less about the loot you haul in and more about time with family and friends. Also as I get older, family becomes friends in a very real and true way.
The holidays started at the beginning of the week with Courtney and Mark stopping in to visit us in Peoria. We had a few drinks, played some Pictionary, chatted for a very long time, and topped the night off with a couple episodes of Dexter. The next few days were a flurry of work, working on Hill's Christmas gift (we'd promised each other to get only modest gifts but instead focus on making something special for each other) and, of course, more work.
Christmas Eve Eve, Hill and I decided to start our own family tradition and open gifts, just her and me, all alone. We also cashed in one of our wedding gifts from the old crew at Illinois Mutual and went to stay at the Cornerstone Inn, a nice little bed and breakfast in Washington. It was a beautiful hotel, and we stayed in the President's Room which was decorated with all sorts of stuff from Abe Lincoln. With the exception of a couch issue at the end of our stay, it was an amazing visit full of pasta, fancy beer, and running into some friends in the downstairs pub.
The next morning we had a hurried breakfast prepared by the Inn chef, and we also got to share that all alone together as the only other couple staying in the Inn that night decided not to attend the breakfast.
After that it was a rush of driving out to my parents' house to pick up the dog, then back to Peoria to pick up the wife and head to Pontiac for those Christmas festivities. We arrived at Jeanne's house, just missing lunch after running around like crazy, for some night conversation and company, including conversing talking to Kristin, of True Life fame (and also Hill's cousin). Then it was time to head to Mimi's for a nice dinner, then on to the traditional church service. Even though Hill and I have had four Christmases together, this was the first year that we attended together. It'd been a long time since I'd done any church service for Christmas or otherwise, but it was a great time. I especially liked the part where we all shook hands and told each other they were the light of the world.
The other family tradition in the Fordyce household is spending Christmas Eve stuffing stockings full of random gifts. They like to get each other strange nick-knacks that are difficult to identify, remove the packaging and instructions, and let the recipient play guessing games to see if they can figure out what each gadget is. I was actually able to figure one out, a doorstop, but fell short on a few others like a toothpaste crusher and wrapping paper clip.
I came out the best present recipient by far, landing a Nintendo DS and also a lottery ticket that came out to be the big winner at an unbelievable $200. I called it my little Christmas miracle; a bunch of free money right before Hill leaves her job and we'll need it, that's for sure. Hill came out pretty good too, with a nice new camcorder. Sue, Mick, Mimi, Courtney and Mark went overboard and were far too generous this year, that is for sure. We left feeling very blessed and very loved.
Finally, on the way from Pontiac to Peoria, it began to feel like Christmas. Sure, it was cold and the Christmas lights were up everywhere, but in Central Illinois I can't ever remember a rainy, wet, border-line flooded Christmas. Without a little snow around, it's just not truly Christmas. Well, on the way to Peoria the sky opened up and dropped some snow on us. It was beautiful, and even though we spent a large portion of the holidays driving around with some driving still ahead, I was personally glad to see it looking a little more like Christmas. I think Courtney and Mark also appreciated seeing a little of the white stuff, since they don't really get that much of it down in Houston.
Anyway, we had a frantic stop at our place in Peoria to drop off gifts, pick up other gifts, feed the dogs and hit the road again to head to my sister's house for our final Christmas celebration. The kids were as cute as could be, playing with all their new gifts and begging to open the ones Hill, myself and my parents brought along. Jack absolutely loved his "U-Create Music" thing and had a hard time resisting running around like a lunatic to show everyone his musical creations. Peter really liked his color changing Hot Wheels cars, and Lucy loved her new princess toys.
Of course we always treasure the gifts that the kids get for us, and this year is no different. They are always thoughtful in their own way. Peter got Hill a little figurine of a cat coming out of a teacup that says "aunt" on the side. He got me a Chicago Bears bumper sticker, since he knows I'm a huge sports fan (I guess). Jack got me a money clip, since we're just rollin' in the dough, and he got Hill a book light. We also got some new hand-made ornaments to help decorate our tree. Ornaments are a yearly tradition from the kids, and we hang each year's up very proudly. They're sweet kids. Lucy is still a little young to be included in the gift-getting festivities, and instead this year complained that she didn't get any presents. We gently reminded her of all the great toys she got. Soon enough she'll realize what we already know; that it's a lot more fun to get presents for people and see their expressions when they open it then it is to get gifts. When I thanked Jack and Peter for their gifts, their faces lit up knowing they'd given me something I'll use and enjoy.
The breakfast casserole is the Wasson tradition, and I was shocked that it was almost eliminated this year. Sarah saved it for me after my mom (my own mother!) tried to replace the casserole with ham. Traditions are important, and even though our Christmas has moved back from a morning festivity to an afternoon one, the breakfast casserole is still a staple and will remain that way as long as I have something to do with it.
The other big deal this season was Lizzie and her disability. A tumor on her paw needed to be removed, which cost a lot of money and was a huge pain in our butt at a very inconvenient time. Her bandages can't get wet, so now every time we take her out is a big hassle with putting a boot on her foot and watching closely to make sure she doesn't kick it off while taking care of business. Anyway, the result of this injury and her surgery is that all of our Christmas photos of our family include a dog with a large, annoying cone around her head that the rest of us have to pose around for photos. It will make for fun stories and lots of questions when showing off the pictures.
Anyway, now we're back at the house, and I'm blogging and Hill is journaling our last few wonderful days, our first Christmas as husband and wife, and we're getting ready to watch Badder Santa. The other holiday movie we watched this year was Die Hard. I guess we should get these more adult-themed holiday movies out of the way before we have little kids running around. We have a lifetime to watch A Christmas Story or The Grinch, but just a few precious years left for R-rated fun.
This Christmas was easily the best I've ever had, and I am sure they're only going to get better.