Tag Archives: Christmas

A Christmas to Remember

Christmas is such a nice time of year.  Like most people who celebrate Christmas, we enjoy the time with family, the great food, and the fun we share exchanging gifts, baking cookies and listening to holiday music.  It’s always a special time and a real joy for me.

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This year (actually just a few weeks ago), my parents have bought a house nearby and came to their new place (into which they have not yet really moved).  My elderly aunt and uncle and my brother and sister-in-law came and stayed with my parents in their new house.  My gang hung around the new place too and it was setting up to be a really fun time.  My brother and I planned to do a few projects to “tighten up” the new place and then just goof around for fun.

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The house had been empty for a good period of time so there are always kinks that need to be worked out.  The kitchen and bathrooms were remodeled and had never been used so we figured there might be a few little things as is common with new construction.  Little did we know…

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As people started using the plumbing, we discovered that the shower drain leaked, the installers had cracked the tub spigot, the door was not sealed in and the water control valve was not installed correctly.  My brother and I set about remedying all of those issues by basically yanking out all of the things and re-installing the tub/shower correctly.  Meanwhile, we found that the wax ring on one of the toilets was leaking.  It turns out that the plumbers had not tightened the hold-down bolts at all…it’s a wonder the toilet didn’t just topple over when used.

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Meanwhile, my Mom was cooking in the kitchen and ran some peels down the disposal.  I think there was a drainage problem beforehand with a clogged pipe, but the peels made it very apparent and stopped up the kitchen drain completely.  We had a snake and ran a good bit into the drain to clear it but it was a job for a plumber…after-hours on a weekend.  The guy came out and was great and ran 50 feet of snake into the drain and made it better but definitely not clear.  He’s coming back to finish later this week when regular rates apply.  Hopefully that will be a simple fix!

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My aunt became very ill during the shower fix and we were concerned that she was in very bad shape during all of this…it came to the point where we called an ambulance to take her to the ER.  Since my brother and I had the shower apart, Emily volunteered to go along to the hospital with my aunt and uncle.  About 5 hours later, we found she had both kidney and gall stones and all was basically ok (the wonders of medicine!)

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Around 8 or 9 that evening, when everything seemed to be winding down and it seemed like nothing else could go wrong…you guessed it…more went wrong!  The hot water heater started leaking water pretty badly…it turns out there was a faulty pressure relief valve that didn’t really need any pressure before it decided to relieve itself.  No hardware stores were open when we figured out what was going on so I got a new one the next morning.  We were back in business in 20 minutes or so and everyone could get hot showers!

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As bad as all of this sounds, for some reason, it just wasn’t a stressful weekend for me.  LOTS of stuff went wrong, but it all had fairly clear solutions.  I knew everything was going to be ok and that I’d have a good story to tell.  I doubt it is necessary to document this entire weekend here as I doubt I’ll ever forget it, but just in case, this was definitely a Christmas unlike any other!

Abigail’s trio

Abigail started taking flute lessons in 3rd grade.  It’s had its ups and downs but mostly she enjoys playing and she has done very well playing in various school events in elementary school.  Now she is in middle school where she is in the school band, a five-days-per-week endeavor.  Of course, with a lot more playing time, she has really seen a jump in her ability.  Practice makes perfect of course!12_23_2014 006The other day, her band had the opportunity to play various duets, trios, etc at the local mall.  It was packed with shoppers and felt all festivey, especially with the beautiful music the kids played.  I am always amazed at the ability of these kids and their band instructor to make kids, many of whom had never touched an instrument, into pretty amazing musicians in a year-and-a half or two years!  It’s really wonderful and makes me so proud!

 Performance 1

Performance 2

Anyhow, Abigail was (I think) the only 6th grader to play in the group.  She had a duet and a trio.  I recorded both but the acoustics in the mall along with my position make it harder to hear in the video than it was in real life.  Anyhow, I loved hearing the groups play Christmas songs and carols and have a good time!

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At the end, they decided to walk to the next stage area over and have a group shot with Santa.  He was a pretty good sport!

Hide the pickle

We like to play hide the pickle at our house.  It’s an old tradition meant for the whole family to enjoy.  We sometimes play hide the pickle when guests come to visit also.  Gosh, I love to play hide the pickle!

Hide the pickle!

When we lived in Nashville, we had a friend who worked part-time at a place that sold Christmas ornaments.  One night at a get-together, she asked if we wanted to play hide the pickle.  Being young and carefree, we eagerly agreed.  She gave us a box with a glass pickle inside.  I had never heard of the tradition but apparently folks back in the old country would hide a glass pickle ornament somewhere in their Christmas tree (check this out for an explanation).

Our Christmas tree!

I think whoever finds it has to clean the kitchen or do push-ups or something like that.  The kids love that of course!  So, we put our tree up the other night.  Only since we moved back to West-by-God-Virginia have we had a real tree in the house for Christmas.  We headed to the farmers’ market to get a tree grown in WV (which isn’t all of them at the market) the other night and finished decorating it finally.  The finishing touch was for me to hide the pickle deep in the tree which delighted Abigail.  Really, it’s a great tradition and one for which I am thankful!

Happy kid!

Well friends, I don’t know about the people with whom you spend time, but if they ever ask you if you want to play hide the pickle, cautiously nod your head and see what happens!

A letter to Santa

I think all kids probably write letters to Santa at some time or another.  My brother and I always used to sit at my Mom’s typewriter with the JC Penny, Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas/toy catalogs.  We’d pour over them for hours if not days.  I don’t know whether we were greedy or anything but I do know that the letters we typed were pretty much to the point…something like , “Dear Santa, here’s the stuff we want…”

Isaac and Abigail have been pretty varied in what they want for Christmas and how they ask for it.  One year when Isaac was much younger, he asked for batteries and a peach.  I guess we hadn’t replaced the batteries in his noisy baby toys soon enough to suit him.  That explains the batteries but I don’t know where he got the idea for the peach.  Anyhow, I still smile when I think about how simple his wants were back then.  Gosh, one year he asked for bottled water.  His tastes have gotten a little more sophisticated but he really only wants one thing this year…a pellet gun.  Now, he doesn’t want a Red Rider or anything like that.  In fact tonight, he quoted to me, “Dad, I think that pellet gun we saw at Gander Mountain (an awesome outdoor-sports store) shot pellets at 1600 feet per second.”  That’s no toy really at that point but still, he only wanted that one thing.  Isaac has never been much on writing stuff down so I think he had to hope that his Christmas wish-list made it through the ether to the North Pole.

Abigail's letter to Santa

Abigail, on the other hand, is very expressive in her writing, and, well, everything really.  So a couple of years ago she wanted an art easel which she loves to use.  Recently she has taken to writing notes to Emily and me on the dry-erase part so it is pretty common for us to see a very detailed message or a clever note in her hand-writing on the board.  A few weeks ago we noticed an updated message and I have to tell you, I laughed out loud and still get  huge smile on my face when I look at the picture.  You see, Seph, our little orange kitten is a full sized cat now but he still likes to bite a little and can be quite the terror.  I don’t think Seph was actually chewing on Abigail when she wrote the note to Santa, but I absolutely love her creativity.  The best part is, after all of the details of the note, at the bottom she adds all that she really wants for Christmas – a chess set of her own.  We probably have 5 others laying around but she wants a nice one that is just hers.  I suspect Santa will help her out on her wish.  And besides my pride in her excellent writing, I am so glad that she, like her brother, has such simple Christmas wishes.  Merry Christmas kids and my blog friends.  I hope your Christmas is a simple one heaped full of awesome and love.

Edit:  It turns out that Santa just passed through and he left this note:

Santa's letter to Abigail

Our first indoor allergy-maker!

Tomorrow is my birthday…it’s not a big one…not a decade mark, but I am pretty happy to celebrate another year.  Both Emily and I have been around the sun a few times though and had never experienced a live Christmas tree.  We never had live trees growing up because I am allergic to everything.  Of course, I grew up in the woods so I was surrounded by evergreen trees, but they were never in the house.  Anyhow, since I have been so sick the last month or so, I decided that a new tree can’t possibly make me feel any worse than I already do.

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We loaded up the kids in the van and headed to the Capitol Market in Charleston, one of WV’s best farmer’s markets.  This time of year, the sell only one thing…Christmas trees!  We wandered through hundreds of trees looking for the cheapest price….erm..I mean the best shaped tree.  About 2/3 of the way down the market, we happened upon the cheapest…erm…best shaped…trees.  We talked to the folks working there and they told us where their trees were grown (locally) and their price was good so we picked out a tree.

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The guy working there ran our tree through the wrapping machine and offered to run Isaac through as well.  I told him I would pay him $10 extra to run both kids through but we measured and his machine would not quite handle their size.  I bet for $20 he would have made it work.

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Anyhow, we tied the tree atop the van and proceeded to cruise over all of the hills and curves back to the house.  Neither of us wanted to look back fearing we’d see our tree rolling down the hill towards the next car in line.

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We made it home and I manhandled the tree into the house and set it into the new tree stand we bought.  The kids cut the tree-wrap into hundreds of tiny pieces that were left strewn about the house.  Emily cut the last bit of the wrap as the kids and I cowered in fear of the tree’s opening.

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We put lights on the tree and, of course, the kids started to fight.  The good news is, they seemed to fight in rhythm with the Christmas carols we had playing so it felt like Christmas indeed!

So far, allergies have not been a factor and I have not yet keeled over dead.  I am not any better, but I am not much worse either!

So, do you set up a tree?  Live or artificial?