Both going and coming home, the car was so overloaded that the kids were lucky I didn't strap them to the top like grandma in National Lampoon's Vacation. Actually, they'd probably have had more room if I had! I very carefully went through R. and T.'s clothing to take anything outgrown down to my sister and her young brood. W. escaped the mad flurry of clothes trying on since his clothes just get passed directly to T. In addition to the clothes though, I weeded through the books and the toys as well. We are free of all learn to read books here and even though this means the kids are all reading independently and well, it still gave me a pang to get rid of them. I wouldn't wish for another baby or toddler or preschooler ever again but it kills me to give up books. I'm so maternal, aren't I? T. willingly gave up his Rescue Hero boat command center thing and all of his rescue heros so I had to pack an entire plastic toy bin in the trunk, which didn't leave room for much else. But I happily squashed everything in under the mistaken impression that I would be leaving with a much emptier car than we arrived in. Ha! The best laid plans and all that.
So with van groaning and tires so weighted down they looked flat, we headed out on the four hour drive. Amazingly, it was completely uneventful aside from the fact that the kids had to curl up into little balls to sit in their seats since I had managed to use all spare room for bags and that meant they had no leg room. No vomiting, no traffic, no nothing. We suspect the blizzard up north kept the highways relatively empty for us. Bad for them, perfect for us.
The day after we arrived, the kids were not thrilled about being woken up for church. They were even less pleased when they saw the clothes I'd brought for them to wear. One of these years they'll wise up and actually help me pack but this wasn't the year. And so W. ended up wearing dress pants that were two inches too short and a pair of sandals from last Easter that were likewise too small. Guess I should have made him participate in the clothes try-on frenzy before we left! He was not thrilled to hear that these were the same clothes he was expected to wear to Christmas Eve services.
T. and my grandmother have a very special bond so no one blinked when the two of them sat together at the end of the pew. But we didn't think about the fact that it would be the blind leading the blind trying to follow along in the hymnal. T. would wildly flip pages and finally settle on the current hymn just as it was ending. On the plus side, that meant only a handful of us were adding our croaky voices to the song. Between the two completely confuzzled and a couple more of us trying to stifle laughter, our off-key singing had far less volume than usual.
Come communion we all trooped up to the railing. The kids expected to be blessed so it was a bit of a surprise to W. and R. actually be given communion. Poor R. had no idea what to do with it. She finally popped it into her mouth and promptly gagged. T. was desperately hungry through the service and so when he was the only one left out of the body and blood, he turned to me and said sadly, "I didn't get any." He was unappeased to hear that it wouldn't have quieted his rumbling tum. Of course, when we got to brunch later, he promptly dropped (and shattered) his plate full of freshly made to order omelet and a mound of bacon so he just wasn't having a good food day.
For the first time over break, we signed the kids up for various camps. This was supposed to be so I could get a jump on wrapping the presents I had sent on ahead with my parents the last time they were here (you didn't really think I got *all* the presents for five people plus our gifts for seven more in the trunk with the Rescue Hero bin, command center and D.'s golf clubs taking up gobs of space, did you?!). In reality, it turned out to be a time where I just vegged, knowing that meant I'd probably be doing the Christmas Eve scramble to wrap again.
R. and T. went to a craft camp followed by swimming. Thanks to the crafts, we are now the proud owners of reindeer antlers. Is it problematic that the boy also added jingle bell earrings to his reindeer's ears? Maybe I should stop giving R.'s outgrown girl clothes to her cousin and just let T. cross dress. Certainly would save money! Well, except for the fact that camp was the last time we remember seeing T.'s winter coat. Honestly, I'm going to start stapling the things to my kids. Remember mitten strings so you didn't lose your mittens? I need the coat version and I suspect that it would be made of the aforementioned staples and duct tape. While the younger two were crafting and swimming, W. was off at tennis camp. Of the 3 days, he was monarch of the court the first day, and king of the court twice the second day. On the third day (this story would have worked so much better if it had been Easter instead of Christmas!), he got shellacked. My suspicion is that the 16 year old girl finally got tired of the gloating little gnat and played her A game instead of going easy on him. But he had fun and got a new t-shirt. Wonder if it's remotely thick enough for his brother to use as a winter coat?
After the requisite trip to the seventh circle of hell (aka Chuck E. Cheese), with ears still ringing from the noise and eyes still smarting from the flashing lights, we waited for the cousins to arrive. Once they did, my crew swooped in like locusts and smothered the little kids with love. Poor A., my 4 year old niece, had only one eye visible so wrapped in hugs she was.
The following day was Christmas Eve and we all dressed up and trooped off to church. When we got home, we sent the kids to bed. W. didn't want to go and after the littlies were out of earshot tried to lobby to stay up and help put the presents under the tree announcing "I know it's just you guys. I don't believe in Santa." My dad looked at him and told him that he should be careful because non-believers end up with clothes for Christmas. When W. opened a box filled with several new pairs of pants the next morning, dad's comment was, "See what I told you about the clothes?" Bwahahaha!
Christmas day was a whirlwind, per usual. The kids tore through their stocking bags and somehow T. had gotten ahead of everyone else (we are anal retentive and take turns opening so we can all see what everyone else got). He looked at me with a completely straight face and said, "I'm finished with my stocking. Can I go and start on my presents under the tree?" Um yeah, no. Meanwhile, my sister noted the rather large number of books in my kids' stockings so she asked R. if she liked to read. The answer? "I like to read plus mom is our mom." Wonder if that means Santa's lost another believer. We did all finally make it out to the tree and the glut of presents there and I think everyone was happy as little clams with their gifts.
We cleaned up the wrapping and ribbon mess and I had to pack the car up since we were leaving at 7am the next morning. Somehow we acquired enough stuff (including the large trash bag of Christmas garland my mother no longer wants) to make up for everything I brought to pawn off on my sister and the kids were no more comfortable on the way home than they were on the way there.
As we went to pull out of my parents' driveway, my dad tapped on my window and asked if we intended to take the dog with us. In the flurry of getting kids in seats and feeding in the last of the bags, we had let her run free and forgotten she wasn't in the car. Damn! I'm not only a bad human mom, I'm a bad dog mom! We popped her on R.'s lap and headed out.
At one point I glanced back and noticed that R. was reading one of her new books. It crossed my mind that the notoriously carsick kid should probably not be reading but I didn't say anything. When we stopped for gas, D. got R. a grape soda for the remainder of the trip. And she started reading again. An hour and a half from home, the dog bolted out of R's lap as she blanched white and wailed that she was going to get sick. The first bag had a slight hole in the corner and dripped on the seat despite me having pre-screened the bags on purpose. Double bagging solved that problem though. And blase parents that we are, we just made her hold onto the bag until we got home, knowing from experience that stopping wouldn't make her feel any better. You'll all be pleased to know though, that grape soda smells sicky sweet enough on its own to mask any vomit smells, especially when it has spent very little time in someone's tummy.
We got home, tossed all the Christmas stuff through the door and D. and I zipped off to work the Panthers game for R.'s dance. After a very long day, we arrived home to a complete disaster. The kids had opened boxes and strewn legos and all sorts of other Christmas presents all over the family room. It looked like we'd had Christmas at home and never gotten around to cleaning up. Next year I don't think we'll work the game immediately following Christmas so the mess can stay at my parents' (hi mom!).