Friday, December 30, 2011

Seven Quick Takes - Christmas Edition

--- 1 ---

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas! I'm writing this from my father-in-law's laptop; we're in Georgetown until the 2nd of January. It's been hectic, and both the kids are sick, but this year's Advent and holiday season have been wonderful.

--- 2 ---

We had several Christmas parties scattered throughout the month of December. Dave's corporate party was once again at the Chateau Laurier on the 3rd, while the corporate children's party was at the NAC on the 17th. Veronica was mystified by Santa. Teddy? Was NOT a fan this year. He held it together for about 20 seconds, then started bawling. Through his tears, we was able to thank Santa for his gift, give him a high 5, and blow him a kiss. He's such a sweet boy!

We had a party at Mark and Tania's, and Teddy's preschool concert. It's been a busy, busy month but it has been lovely. And the tree went up on Gaudete Sunday! The cats have stayed out of it, for the most part. :)

The Christmas preparation has kicked our butts, but it has been so, so fun this year.

--- 3 ---

Christmas celebrations are always a whirlwind. It's complicated by the fact that the 25th is also my Nonna's birthday; though it's a wonderful thing to celebrate, it adds to the time demands. This year, though, we've hit on a formula we like.

On the 24th, my parents and Nonna came to our house. We had lunch, opened adult gifts during nap time, then let the kids open theirs after nap. We went evening mass (NIGHTMARE! If only there was a mass earlier than 10:30 on Christmas morning at our parish), where the bulk of the congregation were mystified by the new translation. Dave and I opened a present or two after the kids had gone to bed.

--- 4 ---

On the 25th, we did stockings, then jumped in the car and drove 2 hours to Kingston. We all converged on my Uncle Sergio and Sally's house for the Panetta get-together/Nonna's birthday. It was great to have all 16 of us together, my Aunt Pat and crew having come up from Brampton, my parents/Nonna having come from Almonte. We hung out there until the kids were sleepy, then had a crazily long drive back to Ottawa through a snowstorm. Dave and I opened the rest of our gifts, then crashed.

--- 5 ---

On the 26th, we had visits from a couple of friends, and we got organized. It was nice to have a day at home, and we were able to set up Teddy's big boy bed which we'd picked up at my uncle's house the day before. This frame was my Mom's, my Aunt Flo's, my Aunt Pat's, a guest bed, Sierra's, Jacob's, and now Teddy's. It's almost an heirloom...if something from the '60s can be considered one.

--- 6 ---

On the 27th, we headed out for the GTA. We stopped in at my Nonna's house (the kids were so excited to see Bisnonna again), then battled more snow to get to Georgetown. We've been here ever since. We'll be here until the 2nd, able to eat the annual New Year's Day dinner that my inlaws' host. We've missed it for years, so we're glad to be attending this year.

--- 7 ---

The poor kids are both sick. Both have terrible colds and croupy coughs. It sucks being away from home when they're sick, poor babies. They're in good spirits, though.

One great thing about this extended celebration is that the present opening has been spread out over almost a week, so they've appreciated them much more.

And despite the lack of sleep (due to preparation and illness), it has been a wonderful Christmas season. I hope that yours have been as great.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wherein I admit several shameful secrets...

All over the blogosphere, bloggers are talking about decorations for the Christmas/holiday season. Plans for parties, awesome Advent activities, tree traditions, AMAZING menu plans - it's wonderful. But I feel like such a total holiday slacker, you guys. This is the reason why I'm not on Pinterest. I'd either be consumed by envy or feel awful about myself.

Needless to say, I don't have it together like these ladies. We have a few small decorations, as well as our Advent wreath and our Christmas books, but that's it so far. And I need to confess something else: since our marriage, we've never put up a Christmas tree.

Now, I've decorated many a tree over the years. Our family tree -- the one that now lives in my crawlspace -- and the tree that Beth gave me before she moved to BC were both lovingly decorated by yours truly a number of times. But since we moved to Ottawa, I've been a tree slacker.

We really didn't have a spot to put the tree in our otherwise awesome apartment. We did have an adorable ceramic tree that we'd display, but for '04, '05, and '06, that's all we had. We spent Christmas with my parents, my Nonna, and Dave's parents, though, so we were surrounded by decorations, if not at our own home.

We intended to change this pattern once we moved to the house in 2007. My parents gave me our old tree, happy to be rid of it. What? Their cat cannot resist the temptation to climb it! We got so far as to put up the fake branches, intending to decorate it on Gaudete Sunday. Which happened to be the day I started to miscarry at 12 weeks. The bare tree stayed up until the New Year, as we just really weren't in the mood.

In 2008, I was 37 weeks pregnant with Teddy, and Ottawa was embroiled in the never-ending transit strike which sapped my will to live. I was spending upwards of 3 hours in a car, doing a commute that would normally take less than an hour. Just thinking about that Christmas makes me cringe. No tree for miserable me.

In 2009, I was due pregnant with Veronica and morning sickness had started. Plus, I was due to go back to work on January 2nd, and just didn't want to stress of having to take the tree DOWN as we were going through such a huge transition.

Last year, I had two kids under two and was so.darn.tired.

This year, though, what's my excuse? Frankly, the reason I'm writing this post is to shame me into action. This weekend, we have the time to do it - no holiday parties, no other commitments. No more excuses.

So while I'm admitting stuff, I should probably cop to the fact that I've never cooked my own turkey or roast. We always go to someone else's place for any and all holidays, so I've never needed to! Yes, I'm 34 years old.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Seven Quick Takes - Where We've Been Edition

--- 1 ---

I am alive - I swear! It's just that on November 5th, we loaded into the car and headed south. We crossed at the Thousand Islands Bridge, drove through New York and into Pennsylvania, spending the night in the Poconos. On the 6th, we drove through the Delaware Water Gap and into New Jersey, headed to Cape Liberty. Once there, we embarked on the Celebrity Silhouette for a 12 night cruise to the Caribbean. It? Was a lot of fun.

The trip was to celebrate my Dad's 65th Birthday, and we'd been planning in since April 2010. On the reservation, Veronica was listed as "Baby McLean" as the deposit was made well before her birth. It had been on the calendar for so long, it was almost a shock to have it start.

--- 2 ---

We'd cruised out of NYC before, back in 2006 when we went to Bermuda. It was fun, but I'm not sure I'd do it again. It's great to be avoid worries about luggage restrictions as well as paying for flights. But the weather can get rough. In 2006, we hit the roughest seas I've ever seen when we sailed through a Nor'easter. This time, we hit the outer bands of Tropical Storm Sean. Like a fool, I thought "I'd better not take Bonine because I'm nursing." Not my best idea, let's just say. I got seasick for the first time ever. I caved and took the drugs, thank goodness, so I eventually felt better. But never again.

Also, we weren't big fans of the other cruisers. It was a brand new ship, and so the sailing was touted as a big deal, but the folks on board were GROUCHY. The less said about them, the better.

Silhouette is a lovely ship. We've cruised on one of her sisters, the Equinox, twice before. The Equinox is our favourite ship (possibly in the whole fleet) but we'd go back to Silhouette if the itinerary and the price were right.

--- 3 ---

One of the best parts of this trip was the 'Bonus Shannon Time'. I'm sure I've mentioned Shannon in other posts. She also grew up in Georgetown, practically around the corner from Dave and me, and she and I were close friends/student government nerds in University. She's married to an Australian and lives there now. But the two of them have worked on cruise ships for years, he in the casino and she running the Youth Program. We've had the good fortune to cruise with her twice before, down the West Coast and across the Atlantic. She's currently on a project where she travel to all the ships in the fleet to train Youth Program staff, and she was onboard Silhouette for 8 days along with us. We love you, Shan!

--- 4 ---

We visited some familiar ports (St. Thomas, St. Maarten), and some new ones (St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Antigua). We knew we'd hit beaches in a couple of ports, but we underestimated how much both kids would love the water. Teddy was able to both run towards the water (a no-no at pools) and throw sand/rocks in the water, as well as swim and get hit by waves. Veronica LOVED being in the water, too. We had brought their floaties along, and there made things so much easier. We ended up riding a train in St. Kitts, but in every other port we just went to the beach. After the last 3 beach days in a row, both kids were sun-kissed and exhausted.

--- 5 ---

On our way back, we stayed in Scranton for a couple of days. We celebrated my Dad's actual birthday at Steamtown National Historic Site, which is amazing. I'm not even all that into trains, and I enjoyed it. Teddy and my Dad, though, were in heaven. I highly recommend it.

We almost didn't get there, though. Our original hotel had no water, as the city had inadvertently cut off the supply to a whole section of Dickson City while doing roadwork. Thank goodness that there was room at another, older hotel nearby. Then, a Santa Claus parade that cut off every single access point to Steamtown. No word of a lie - we drove round for 25 minutes and had to illegally drive around barriers to get to the entrance, around which the parade was not running. We were the only people there for the first hour, so we did get the personal touch. But come on Scranton - get your act together! You and your confusing roads and your non-existent signage and your traffic.

--- 6 ---

We got back on the 20th and, well, re-entry has been a bit of a struggle. The kids are doing great; it's me who's struggling! It's such a busy time of year and I feel like I can't get my act together. Twitter is overwhelming me - there's so much going on! Blogging has obviously suffered, especially since I keep thinking: "I need to write something amazing! I've been away for ages." Clue in, Sarah - your writing isn't amazing. That's now why you do this. Stop procrastinating and start doing.

So I'm going to try to post frequently about little things. Stuff like Veronica's sleep improvements, or fun Christmas gifts I've purchased. All the awesome travel stuff I've booked on POINTS ALONE or Teddy's new favourite songs.

You've been warned.

--- 7 ---

One of the awesome trips booked on points? Is to New Orleans next November for The Blathering. I am so, so excited! I've never been to LA, and I'll probably try to take a quick drive to nearby MS so I can visit my 35th and 36th states. I'm flying in early and staying late. NOLA, I am coming for your turtle soup, your beignets, and your hurricanes. Blathering Organizers, I'm at your disposal.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!