Sunday, December 27, 2015


The weekend before Christmas, Riley was super crabby. I suspected that she might be getting sick and by Tuesday evening she confirmed this by throwing up after dinner. She seemed a little feverish that night, but nothing else happened until very early Thursday morning when she puked a couple more times. It was Christmas Eve and we had a party to go to that night, but we made the decision that Jesse would stay home with Riley. I planned to pick up my dad and see my family who I haven't seen in over a year. As the day wore on I started to think that I was getting sick (not an unreasonable thought), but it was all in my head so I was happy that I didn't have to miss another year of Christmas.

I drove out to my dad's and dropped off his Christmas Gift (meatloaf and chili) and a card from Riley. I almost didn't give it to him, but decided he would understand the brutal honesty of a 5 year old and be able to laugh it off.

Haha. We've talked a lot about how papa Frank is old so I guess it was natural for her to write that (he's 87 so she got his age pretty close). The back of the card even said "so old". Oh, kid. Oh, and she originally had "I like you a little bit", but changed it to "love" when I pointed out that it sounded like she didn't really like him. I mean, I get it - he's isn't a warm and fuzzy grandpa so I don't fault her for writing it. It just turned into a little lesson in how you should express your feelings to others.

Christmas Eve was at my brother, John's house. He and his wife, Jodi, built their house years ago and recently finished off their basement. Upstairs they have a large kitchen and living area for entertaining and now they have one in the basement too. It's the perfect space for us all.

We typically bring appetizer type food to eat and then just socialize and play ping pong until the big event of opening gifts. The younger kids played a version of beer pong with water in the cups (and without drinking the water cause that's boring, of course).

My brother, Chuck, runs the awards ceremony and gift exchange. I've missed this part of the evening for years - well, since Riley was born. For the past 5 years we've left the party about the time gift giving started because it's already past Riley's bedtime. Most people stay late with their kids, but we know that ups the risk of a hot mess on Christmas Day so it's not worth it to us. Anyway, this year I got to stay and witness it all. The awards ceremony is new (at least since I last participated 6 years ago), but the gift exchange worked the same. I didn't actually participate (bring a $20 gift) because I didn't trust that I would actually be able to.

Over the years our gift exchange has changed from picking names, to writing a funny description on the gift and having everyone else determine who that gift should go to, but then Chuck heard about the dice game. You know the one that's played at baby and wedding showers? You roll doubles and you get to steal a gift from someone else. Yeah, that one... but Chuck added/changed the rules to complicate make things more fun. The biggest rules are to listen and follow the directions or you'll get the wrath of my brother. Besides his intensity about this game, it is rather fun.

So, the awards ceremony was first. Chuck basically, handed out a bunch of gift cards and tried to give an award to someone in each family. He almost held out on my family's award since Jesse wasn't there and apparently it was imperative for him to be there, but he gave in since he's been holding on to the award since last year when we missed the holiday gathering since I was sick. Anyhoo, Jesse got the Manly Man award and received a set of huge grilling tools (which we don't really need so not sure what we'll do with them). The award was related to our family football game on Thanksgiving of 2014 where Jesse caught a football with his "groin" as my brother phrased it.

The 'groin' catch of 2014

And then the dice game began...

There was a special twist to the game that involved two Clarence the Angel dolls from It's a Wonderful Life. These were two of the gift options and depending on which one you got (based on the serial number) it was either the 'stud' or the 'dud'. More to come on that ...

So my brother and my nephew ended up with the Clarence the Angel dolls. John ended up with 'stud' gift which was a diagnostic tool for a car and a bunch of small bottles of alcohol while the 'dud' gift Brandon got was a fat candy cane that his mom gave Chuck 20 years prior. I think the big question here is why would Chuck have a 20 year old candy cane. Weird. Also, if you asked any of the kids, they would have noted that Brandon did indeed get the 'stud' gift.

The other gifts included an adult coloring book, gift cards, work gloves, tools, hats, a giraffe head, a selfie stick, and a bunch of other things. My dad got a Gophers hat and a Vikings hat which he then re-gifted to me. The selfie stick appropriately went to my 17 year old niece.

Apparently my nephew never smiles in pictures so I consider this picture a big win.

I finally got my dad out of there around 10:30 and by the time I got home it was 11:30. I planned to add a couple items to Jesse's stocking and 'eat' Santa's cookie, but then stepped in cat puke... and then discovered that that cat tore up part of my stocking and then puked all over it. Merry Christmas to me. By the time I went to bed it was midnight - an hour I haven't stayed up to in a long, long time.

No surprise that Riley was up at 6:01 and ready to open presents. I reluctantly pulled myself out of bed, feeling woozy from the lack of sleep. I know, many people get less, but this girl needs her sleep. Riley and I headed downstairs first and she immediately pointed out that Santa only added a few unwrapped gifts (the hats my dad gave me along with a fruit basket, and the grill tools for Jesse). It was then that I realized that the Santa gift for her was still in the attic. Ugh, parent fail. I met Jesse on the stairway and asked that he create a diversion so I could put the gift under the tree.

As they stared at the empty cookie plate and talked about Santa eating his cookie and drinking the milk, I was able to slide by and hide the gift behind the rest... thus saving Christmas.

This thing is hilarious and annoying.

As Riley opened her gifts we realized there were a few things missing. Oops. Somehow, I didn't see the entire stash Jesse had hiding in the guest room when I was wrapping gifts. Luckily, they were small things and Riley didn't seem to care that they hadn't been wrapped. She was far too interested in the gifts she already had such as the singing machine aka karaoke machine. This was one of those "should we really subject ourselves to this" sort of gifts, but it was worth it since it MADE HER DAY. She loves to sing so this was perfect for her. Also at the top of the list was the Knock Knock joke book, a silly little talking snowball from Frozen, and choose your own adventure book from Inside Out. 

We planned to stay home for the rest of the day, but since Riley hadn't puked since the former morning we decided to go over to Jesse's mom's house after all... after I went back to bed for a couple glorious hours, that is.

First thing Riley did was talk about all her gifts and then she showed grandma and grandpa the book she made. Riley had been talking about making a real book for some time. I suggested we use cardboard for the cover and Jesse tried to explain that she'd have to get published. Then one day it hit me that she could create a real book with a little help from one of those photo books sites. Duh.

Riley wrote a story and drew pictures and then I added them to a Blurb book and ordered it. The book was scheduled to arrive on the 24th and was greatly anticipated by our wee one. When it finally came, she looked at it lethargically and went back to watching TV on the couch. Once her bug went away though, she was super excited to show it off.

After proudly showing off her book we ate, opened stockings and then gifts, and Jesse helped Riley put together a make your own headband she got from her Luxembourg family.

Another option for making your own book - it's pretty cool.

Showing off the headband she and her dad made. She was happy about this, regardless of her looking like it's her mugshot.

We ended the night with a game of Dominoes. Last time we played this was in Luxembourg and I had forgotten how fun it could be. I won a couple rounds, but it didn't help in the end as I came in last. There were some pretty funny moments and it was nice to end the night with laughter.

Not looking good for me.

And that was Christmas. I told Jesse that we were keeping decorations up until New Years, but our house was feeling soooo cluttered that I took it all down today (and now I miss the lights already). I thought this might be the second year without Christmas so I was quite pleased with how it all turned out.

Merry Christmas!