So...Thanksgiving. We decided to drive to Peoria for Thanksgiving because, long story short, we didn't want to fork over the $1600 it would have cost us to fly there and back. So we made the 14 hour road trip instead, left Tuesday afternoon around 3pm, and stopped in Springfield, MO, around 11pm to rest for the the night. After a deluxe continental breakfast, we hit the road again. Alex is really an excellent traveler, aside from the few minutes of near meltdown that occur when he gets really tired (the point at which he realizes that he will be forced to take his nap in the relative discomfort of his carseat) and we made good time, getting to Peoria around 3pm.
We were all very happy to arrive at my folks' house. Dad made a homemade chicken pot pie for dinner - quite possibly one of my favorite meals of all time - and we were so grateful to eat something that didn't start with "Mc". Alex made himself right at home in the kitchen while dinner was cooking - one of his favorite things to do at home is check on dinner through the window in the oven and let me know that "it's cookin'!".
Here he is showing us how he can "pick B up". He started this at home with me a few weeks ago and thinks it's hilarious.
He made a beeline for B's keyboard when he spied it from the kitchen.
Sometime after dinner, my dad ran out to get a Christmas tree so A could help string the lights. We are and have always been a "real tree" family - is there any other way, really? - and Dad has always been a stellar tree-picker. This year was no exception. While B and Grampa cut the netting off of the tree, A did his part by holding the flashlight. In fact, he had a kung fu grip on that flashlight about 90% of the time we were there. The kid loves a stinkin' flashlight, but we have hidden ours at home because he will play with it, roll it under a bed or stick it in a drawer, and we can never find it when we need it. If we do happen to find it, the batteries are dead because, obviously, he didn't bother to turn it off before he rolled it under the bed or stuck it in a drawer. Lucky for Alex, Grampa was willing to sacrifice a couple of D batteries in exchange for his happiness. Grandparents are such suckers...
Once A and B had strung the lights, we all hit the sack. We were hosting Thanksgiving the following afternoon, which meant that we'd spend the morning preparing to feed around 30 family members. But first, B had a few early Christmas gifts for Alex to open, starting with (sigh) a Thomas & Friends Christmas movie. Needless to say, Alex was ecstatic and wanted to watch it immediately.
He also got some puzzles featuring "things that go", which are two of Alex's favorite things right now.
And finally, onto his third favorite thing right now - making noise. Particularly, making any kind of loud and annoying sound that causes Murphy to make even louder and more annoying sounds. And what better instrument to achieve this end than his very own set of drums!!??
Have I mentioned that my brother and sister were in town, too? Well, they were, and the first thing Alex did when he sat down to play was to look at Nick and say, "Uncle Nick play the guitar, Alex play the drums!" And Nick did, and the two of them had a fun little family jam session right there in the foyer.
Folks weren't coming over until 2-ish, so the timing was perfect as far as Alex's schedule went - he went down for his nap a little early, around 12:45, and woke up around 3, right after most of the family had arrived, and he could make his grand entrance. He's the youngest in the extended family by eight years, the closest being my 10 year old cousin Ben. Nonetheless, the two of them were like peas in a pod. I think Ben, being a younger brother, was excited to play the big brother role, and he was instrumental in keeping A entertained and out of trouble.
Meanwhile, a feast was being prepared in the kitchen. My dad has recently become the designated Family Chef - aside from the fabulous meals he cooks for my mom on a regular basis, he cooks a big meal every Wednesday night for whoever feels like eating - usually my grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends, etc. And I have a bone to pick (no pun intended) about this whole thing, considering he waited until us kids moved away to discover his inner chef. How annoying is that?
Oh well, I suppose he made up for lost time at Thanksgiving dinner. He roasted one turkey and deep-fried a second one, made corn casserole, mashed potatoes, dressing, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, and surely about a dozen other things I've forgotten. And that's not including the dozens of other things the rest of my family brought, including the Errion family staples like Death Logs (sausage links wrapped in bacon and marinated in butter and brown sugar), Monkey Bread, and Taffy Apple Salad, plus veggie trays, cheese balls & crackers, liverwurst dip (the dark horse hit of the party - what can I say, my kin are mad about braunschweiger), and about half a dozen cheesecakes and pies provided by my Grandma Sally.
Alex didn't eat much of his dinner, but it turns out that he can eat his weight in pumpkin pie and whipped cream. He ate two whole pieces of pie and was spooning whipped cream directly out of the container into his mouth (thanks to his Great Aunt Suza, who decided it would be fun to give him the Cool Whip and see how much he would eat). He continued to talk about the pie all night, and we finally told him that it was all gone. At one point, I was calling for Murphy, and Alex explained to me that "Murphy go to store to get pumpkin pie". Yeah, if only that dog would earn his keep by doing the grocery shopping...
After dinner, we chatted and played games. Alex got caught up in a wild game of spoons - with my family, a normally innocent game of spoons ends up being a contact sport. But A held his own, thanks to a little protection from cousin Seth.
Next, they were onto some game where you flip a plastic cup around and hit your hand with it, then slam it on the table right-side-up, then upside-down...I wish there was a better way to describe it or that I had any idea what it was called...but basically everyone playing has to stay on rhythm and do the same movements or they lose. It makes a lot of noise and A had a really good time trying to play along.
It was getting late by this point, so I got Alex in his jammies and let him come back down to play for a bit. The cousins were playing Wii Sports, and A immediately confiscated a controller. Turns out A is an awesome Wii bowler. He refused to let Timothy or I help him, yet he nearly beat a couple older cousins and ended up beating poor cousin Ben by quite a few points. He had a handful of strikes and a spare or two under his belt by the end of the game.
Finally, it was time to tell everyone goodnight, including his awesome Great Grandpa Poppo.
We slept off our turkey dinners and piled into the car the next morning to go see a house my Dad had been working on, the one we went and saw back here, when it was barely more than sticks and bricks. It's almost finished now, and wow, what fine piece of craftsmanship my little ol' dad has created.
My little ol' mom ain't so bad herself. She painted this cool trompe l'oeuil mural inside this ceiling dome to coordinate with the wrought iron railings on the balcony.
Alex (and the rest of us) loved walking through the house and looking at all of Grampa's handiwork.
Alex got to ride the elevator (yes, the elevator) with Grampa, and he thought that these "Alex-sized" light switches were really cool.
Before we left, Dad had to saw some boards, so A got to see/hear a real circular saw in action.
I can't remember if I've mentioned this, but my family has studied Tae Kwon Do for years - my sister is a black belt, my dad and brother are 5th degree blackbelts, and my mom has an orange belt hidden away somewhere, I think. I'm the only one in my family who thought I was tough enough without martial arts training, I guess (ooh, am I gonna hear about that one). Anyway, my dad thought it would be fun to let Alex break his first board, which he did on just his second try.
No, this was not staged. Yes, he broke the board all by himself. And all that board breaking left Alex hungry and exhausted, so we had a quick lunch and went home for naps. We headed back home that afternoon and survived another uneventful road trip back to Dallas. A was pretty upset when we left Grampa, B, Aunt Rachel, and Uncle Nick standing on the sidewalk as we drove away. I think it's time for the Boettchers take a road trip to Dallas...