Tuesday, December 30, 2008


After much discussion and procrastination, we finally decided that we would drive to Peoria for Christmas this year instead of flying. Considering the high price of plane tickets and the lack of space in the overhead compartment for things like pack 'n' plays and Big Wheels, I'd say we made the right decision.

We left Sunday morning and made it to Fayetteville without a hitch, where we stayed with our friends Katie and Scott for the night in order to break up our long thirteen hour drive. Alex was wired when he got out of the car, but slept hard and didn't get up until after eight o'clock in the morning.

The weather in Fayetteville was a blustery 18 degrees, and as I attempted to repack our overnight stuff into the van with frozen fingers, uttering things like, omigosh, I'm going to die, it is so cold, I'm going to die, I'm going to get frostbite on my fingers, then it will turn into gangrene and spread up my arms and onto my chest and into my legs until I will need a full body amputation, then all I will have is my head, which will freeze because I won't have hands to put a hat on, and then I will die a cold, cold, freezing cold death, Timothy reminded me that, at 7 degrees, Peoria was a whole 11 degrees colder than it was in Fayetteville. For just a moment, I had visions of Christmassing on the beach in Hawaii, of palm trees strung with lights and surfers in Santa hats, but then I realized that my family wouldn't be there, and decided I would brave the cold (and certain death) to spend the holidays with them.

So off we went, the only silly birds heading north for the winter. We were afraid that we might run into some bad weather, icy roads or blizzard-like conditions, but the roads were clear all the way to P-town, and we arrived in good time Monday evening. After dinner from our local fave, Avanti's, Alex crashed in his pack 'n' play and slept in again. He tends to do that, to sleep in after long road trips, probably because he doesn't get his usual 2 hour naps in the car. I'd rather him get good sleep during the day to prevent potential beastage, but being able to stay in bed past seven is nice, too.
This was the first time in a looong time since my whole family has been together now that my brother is living in Chicago and my sis is in Colorado Springs, so it was fun to reminisce about the "good ol' days" in the house where we grew up.
Every year, we spend our Christmas Eve at my aunt's house, and it is a big "to-do", so we spent most of Tuesday at the house, preparing food and wrapping gifts for the following day. Dad has become the resident chef in the family, and he had plans to make two large batches of his delicious homemade jumbalaya - one shrimpy batch and one shrimpless - in order to accommodate the varying palates in our family. I have to admit, I thought his plans were too ambitious and doubted that he would be able to get both batches ready in time. Luckily, Alex was willing to pull up a chair and pitch in to get the prep work done.
So he did much more eating than he did prepping. He had some celery, carrots, green peppers, and even some onion. He is definitely his grandfather's grandchild.

Mom was on dessert patrol and made cookies, although none of those cookies actually made it to my aunt's house. In fact, some of that delicious cookie dough never even made it into the oven. Salmonella, shmalmonella.
Once we got our work done, we spent the rest of the day goofing off. Here's what happens when you ask people in my family to pose for the camera:
Before Alex went to bed, he snuggled up and watched Christmas movies on the porch with Uncle Nick.

After A went down, we stayed up and played games, one of the things I most look forward to at the holidays. Maybe because I'm good at games and like to talk trash, but also because most of the games we play do not state "age 12+ months and up" somewhere on the box. No, these are "5+ years" games we're talking about, none of that sissy stuff that Alex and I play. You know, the kind of games that you've got to be more smarter than a toddler to play. And sometimes I just need to prove that I'm more smarter than a toddler...
Anyway, things went well enough for the first few games.
Then, I don't know, someone must have spiked the eggnog or something, or at least that would have been a good explanation had any of us been drinking eggnog, but things started going horribly awry. First, my sensitive, artist-type brother pulled out his crochet hook and went all Granny Fannie on us. I can understand a man being in touch with his elderly feminine side, but seriously...
Speaking of elderly and feminine, things didn't get much better as far as the girls are concerned.

Mom was self-admittedly having "hair issues", although I can't possibly imagine why.

Oh Mommy dearest, poor, poor, dear mother of mine, you didn't really think that I would let these pictures sit in my computer without posting them, did you? Let's just call this payback for all the embarrassing pictures you taped to my locker during my tumultuous teenage years. I'd say we're about even, wouldn't you? Luvya, mean it!!

Needless to say, we had a ton of fun, and we hadn't even gotten to Christmas Eve yet! More on that later...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rum-pa-pum-pum on his drums

I neglected to mention one little detail about Saturday night that happens to be a crucial component of this tale. Around 10:30pm, hours after Alex had gone to bed for the night, our game-playing came to a sudden halt when the sounds of Alex's wailing filtered into the room. This was nothing like the whimpers and groans that he occasionally makes in his sleep, so rather than ignore it like I usually do, I headed to his room to check on him. He was curled up in a ball at the foot of his bed and appeared to be crying in his sleep, so I moved him back up to his pillow, covered him with his blanket, and patted his back until he fell back to sleep. It is so out of the ordinary for him to wake up at night or to really cry out in his sleep, but I determined it was just "one of those things" and tried not to worry about it.

However, Sunday morning, he woke up at the crack of dawn and was crabby, to say the least. Come to think of it, he woke up pretty early the morning before, too. But he occasionally goes through "early wake-up" phases, so again, we ignored the metaphorical red flags and went about our normal routine. He cheered up long enough to open presents and eat a few bites of breakfast, but quickly transformed back into Alex the Beast. Grrr.

We thought a change of scenery and some fresh air might improve his mood, so we decided to go outside to try out his new toys.

And it did help. He was much happier and ran around like he usually does and seemed like he was back to his same old self.

When we got back inside, it was time for Alex's nap. He was tired from getting up early and playing hard, so it was surprise to all of us when he woke up early from his nap, sweating, screaming, and utterly inconsolable. We don't have a pediatrician yet here in Dallas, so after many frustrating phone calls to determine which doctors are covered by our insurance, which are taking new patients, and which are available to see patients on Sundays, we ended up at the emergency room at the local children's hospital. We were told by a referral agency that there were only two kids waiting in the emergency room, so despite the fact that I suspected an ear infection and not a "real" emergency, we decided it was worth going and getting him checked out asap. Indeed there were only a few familes in the waiting room when we got there. The first waiting room that is. Then they shuffled us off to the second waiting room, where no less than fifty families were crammed into a narrow hallway waiting to be seen by too few (or too slow) doctors. It took about five minutes of Alex getting coughed on by sick kids for us to reconsider our decision to bring him. We decided to head home and baby him for the night, then take him to our family doctor the next day.

Meanwhile, poor Chris must have been having sympathy pains because he starting feeling sick Sunday morning, too, and by the time we had left for the hospital, he was in pretty bad shape and was dreading the five hour drive back to Eldo. Now, I don't mean to imply that the Whataburger he ate in lieu of my delicious Christmas feast had anything to do with the sudden onset of his food-poisoning-like symptoms, but let's just say that no one who dined at my table spent half of their day with their head in the toilet...

So Chris and Leah took off while we were gone, and Grammy and Poppa had to leave soonafter. It was a more painful departure than usual considering Alex's condition and all, but we assured them that he would be fine and there wasn't much they could do anyway.

Unfortunately, he wasn't really fine. He woke up around three-thirty the next morning with a fever and was pretty upset, and the only way I was able to get him to sleep was to rock him and then lie down next to him on the guest bed with piles of pillows to keep his head elevated. I took him to see a doctor the next day, who discovered that he has a bad double ear infection and prescribed him and antibiotic. I had suspected as much, but man do I hate that prognosis! He had had a nasty cough for about a week or so, but it wasn't until Sunday that he had shown any other signs of having an infection. I hate that there's nothing I can do until it's too late and he's miserable.

And boy, was he miserable. That's where the "near-nervous breakdown" came into play. Not his, mine. It's unbearable when your child is obviously in pain, and while you do what you can to make him comfortable, sometimes nothing seems to work. I spent the whole week trying to calm him during inconsolable hissy-fits, both of us getting more and more frustrated that we couldn't communicate with each other, and me feeling guilty for not being able to make him feel better. Fortunately, after a few days of antibiotics, we started seeing a marked improvement in his attitude, and while he's still not 100%, he's getting there. I guess I'm just thankful that this all happened between "Christmases", and thankful that it was something as treatable as an ear infection. Now, we just have to make it through a thirteen hour drive to Peoria. And I thought last week was difficult...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve

Sooooo, a whole lot has transpired since my last post, including an attempted visit to the emergency room and a near-nervous breakdown. And while that might sound exciting to all of you, I am going to start with our Pre-Christmas celebration with the Evanses last weekend and get to the rest later, when I have mustered the strength to write about it.

Bill and Vicki got here Friday evening. We spent Saturday morning at the mall, where we shopped, listened to children's choirs sing carols, listened to school girls play instruments, ate at the food court, watched toy trains run tracks, and decided against waiting in line for four hours to see the world famous Northpark Center Santa Claus. Maybe next year. By Saturday afternoon, Chris and Leah had also joined the party. Of course, they quickly pooped our party and left to have dinner with Chris's family and missed out on a delicious, home-cooked meal created by yours truly. The menu included sweet potato casserole, seven-layer salad, cheese potatoes, peas, corn casserole, rolls, and a turkey that took about two hours longer to cook than expected. It was only a little bit raw. But juicy!!

Chris and Leah got back in time to play a few rounds of Phase 10 before we all passed out in our designated sleeping areas, where visions of sugar-plums danced through our heads.

Sunday morning, we were pleased to discover that Santa had shown up early. There were dozens of presents piled around our tree, and not surprisingly, most of them belonged to Alex. Apparently he convinced Jolly Ol' Saint Nick that he had been a good boy this year, or at the very least, that he was a little more nice than he was naughty.

Murphy* designated himself as Alex's pinch present-opener, so when Alex was tired of unwrapping, Murphy opened the presents and then Alex played with them.

He got a ball...

...a slide...

...aLightning McQueen laptop...

...a Magna-Doodle...

...a See-and-Say...


...a Radio Flyer tricycle...

... and a Sit-and-Spin that plays loud and obnoxious music (thanks a lot, Auntie Leah and Almost-Uncle Chris).

He also got to open one of his "big gifts" from Santa because Santa didn't think that he'd have room to transport it to Peoria in his miniva-er, his sleigh, so that he could open it on Christmas morning.

The rest of us got some fun things, too, like scarves, handbags, and serving platters.

After presents were opened, we had a big breakfast and then got ready to play with all of our fun stuff. Well, we got ready to watch Alex play with all of his fun stuff. Fun times ahead...

*Please, please believe that my dog is only wearing a sweater because he is suffering from some mysterious ailment that causes him to chew all of the hair off of his back, and if he wasn't wearing this cute little sweater, he'd be wearing a full-body shield fashioned out of a tube sock. I just went with the lesser of two evils...