Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas in Ohio Part 1: Florence Y'all!

Tim took the Big Three 45 minutes away to see Rogue 1 and have lunch out, and he is expecting that I'm going to get all kinds of things accomplished while he's gone: ornaments taken off of the deader than dead Christmas tree, new toys put away (or hidden away for later), suitcases unpacked, and clothes washed.. But when Joey is napping I can't seem to be bothered to do anything productive. Recording our family's memories -- that's productive, isn't it?

We drove up to Cincinnati last Wednesday to spend Christmas with my side of the family. It took us just a little over 12 hours with all our stops and an hour-long stop at Cracker Barrel for dinner included. It was an easy day and we were all in good spirits as our anticipation built. This was the first time we'd spent Christmas there in four years. The last couple times we've gone have been either spring or summer. In Florence, KY there's a water tower with "Florence Y'all" painted on it, and it is always a sight for sore eyes because it means only a half hour to go. I gleefully texted my mom and sister Grace, "Florence y'all!" as soon as I saw it. [That water tower is a landmark for everyone else in the family, greeting them at the end of a long day's journey back from a beach vacation. My sister Grace commented to me in a text that when she sees it she feels like she could just jump out the window and run the rest of the way.] Even better was when we came up over a hill and saw the downtown skyline all lit up and sparkling, and the kids were oohing and ahhing. Funny the things I used to take for granted but are so special to my kids and now me since I see it through their eyes now.
We stayed with my mom and dad in their beautiful little old house that is so cozy and welcoming, especially at Christmastime. Delaney, Annie and Timmy slept in the room upstairs, and Tim, Joey and I stayed in the finished basement. We were hoping to keep Joey and his nighttime noisiness isolated from everyone else this way, but we had to laugh because every step and every sneeze can be heard by everyone no matter where you are in that house. My parents still don't know how Tim managed to get three kids up and dressed and out of there at 6:30 in the morning without either of them hearing it. You almost need to be a ghost to accomplish such a feat. That was the first of many mornings for Tim's little breakfast club formed out of necessity because of Joey's restless nights and early mornings, resulting in my need for a little extra time for shuteye. Oh, Joe.

The day after we got there, my sister Grace had the honor of pulling out Annie's first baby tooth. We were all so excited. She is seven years and seven months old, and I was starting to wonder who'd lose a tooth first, Annie or Timmy. Annie's permanent tooth was already growing in behind it so it's a good thing that tooth is finally gone. 
I heart Christmas tree bokeh.
Later that day the plan was for a bunch of us to meet at The Christmas Ranch to walk around, look at all the lights, maybe have some hot chocolate and take a train ride.. But my brothers-in-law couldn't get out of work until at least 5:30, so we couldn't meet there until about 6:30 as it's about 45 minutes away. To our dismay we saw a very long line to get in -- like a long line of cars waiting on the road and it was not moving. Grace and Joey were the first to turn around and leave after a good half hour of waiting and not getting anywhere, with little Elise crying in the backseat. Tim and I hesitated because we didn't know what Mom and Dad and Damien were doing and they weren't returning my texts or calls. We kept inching along and wondering what do we do, what do we do. At last I saw a flurry of texts on my screen. Mom and Dad had turned around as well, and my sister Anna and her family had been warned away too. Mom urged us to "Save yourselves!" (lol) But we'd gone through the gate and there was no going back for us. We shrugged and said, "Well, we don't have anywhere else to be, do we?" So we decided to make the most of it.

We got a big old dose of winter that night. It was fun to wear hats and gloves even if it's maddening trying to keep track of it all. Joey was not enthused by the whole winter wonderland thing, but the other three liked it enough. I was appreciative of the flexibility of our kids, enduring that long wait in the car and the uncertainty about whether we'd end up going there or not. I was going to be so disappointed for them since we don't get opportunities to do things like this, living where we do.
The next day, we had another Brady kid reach a milestone. Joey stood on his own and took a couple steps! I do not have a picture. He'd do it, then we'd try to get him to do it again for a picture, and he'd refuse. What else would you expect? Since then he's been taking a few steps here and there, but he'd still rather crawl for the most part. He crawls fast.
We spent the day with this little guy too, Sophie's son Damien.
The girls went to Scotty and Faith's house to make cookies with their cousins Aspen and Jaden, while Mom took Timmy and Damien over to Anna's to play with her boys. That evening we had a fun kid-free dinner out with Scotty and Faith.
On Christmas Eve Annie suckered me into walking them to UDF (United Dairy Farmers - a gas station/convenience store/ ice cream chain in OH, KY and IN) to get milkshakes. As if we weren't going to have enough treats on Christmas Eve. My first job was at a UDF and I love taking my kids there now. It was also a nice, unseasonably warm day to get out into the fresh air and take a walk. So we checked the UDF box for this visit.

My mom and dad wanted me to look through some of the photo albums they'd acquired when my grandma (dad's mom) moved out of her house. There were some treasures in there. I love to look at old family photos and I snapped phone pictures of a few of my favorites. I had never seen most of these before.
Who is this apparent 15-year-old who was allowed to join the Navy? This is my dad's dad, Paul. He and my grandma (Betty) were something like childhood sweethearts. It's a cute story of how they got together. They had been neighbors all their lives, but he was several years older than her so it was a long time before he considered her as anything besides the little kid next door. She told me years ago that one day as a young girl she was doing dishes when she looked out the window and saw him in his family's yard, home on leave and wearing that uniform. She said, "That's the man I'm going to marry." It was a few more years before she grew up, he got home from the war and that dream came true. They had four kids and a great life together until he passed away from cancer in 1975.
She doesn't look like an Uncle Walter.
Dad and his sister Linda. I see Timmy in her dimpled smile.
We got to enjoy Christmas Eve Mass sans Joey because we left him with Mom and Dad. We got there in time for a seat too. It was amazing. After that we went to Scotty and Faith's. I took a lot of pictures there, and it's so hard to whittle it down to a few but I'll try.
Come on, Annie!
The newest addition, Anna and Robert's seven-week-old daughter Lizzy
My aunt Liz and nephew Roman
It started with the seven us: Sophie (the baby), Dad, Mom, Anna, Grace, me (the oldest) and Scotty 
Suddenly I looked at a clock and realized it was 9 p.m. 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve with a baby who was taking an hour and a half to fall asleep since we'd arrived at Mom and Dad's! Christmas Eve with still a few things to do to prepare for Santa! I alerted Tim and we gathered up our brood and all our presents and headed out.

Santa preparations took us almost until midnight when all was said and done. We had our roughest night yet with Joey unwilling to go to sleep, unwilling to stay asleep, and up for the day at the ridiculous hour of 4:30. We lay there in the dark listening to his cries that wouldn't stop no matter what we did and Tim said, "Where am I going to go this early on Christmas morning?" Thank goodness for Dunkin Donuts. Some would argue that no one ought to be open on Christmas morning, but for keeping the house quiet so everyone else could sleep, it was a godsend.

This is how Tim found Delaney Christmas morning. She had come down to see the presents and was too excited to go back upstairs, so she fell asleep while keeping vigil with Georgie.

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