In speaking with BT from the pond on a recent visit, it was brought to my attention that I have let the blog languish for far too long again. I must apologize again and can only explain the absence as part extreme fatigue, part forced withdrawal, part seasonal running about, part residual moving mayhem and part "I simply should not post that"-ness.
Anyhow, the Christmas week was insane and we should be labeled criminally insane for even attempting to do what we did. And, before I delve into anything else, I must lay credit where it is properly due. As much as TC and I did our best to help and do what was asked of us, everyone knows DW performed the bulk of the work and took on the majority of the headache. We love to host events and we love to socialize but my wife is the wizard in the kitchen (now fully endorsed by my entire family) so the success of those events typically weigh heavily on her shoulders.
After the Annual Open House on the 17th, we had a week to prepare the house and the baked goods for the onslaught that would be Christmas Day. Oh yeah, we also had to finish up the Christmas shopping as well. As the hosts, we felt obligated this first year, this first time almost all the family (except my stupid older brother and his absentee family) would be together for Christmas. Extra special to this was the presence of my cousin RickyRic and his lady from Trinidad. So with our three, my little brother's three, those two, my cousin's five, my sister, my nephew, my niece's two, my father, my mother, my other cousin, a family friend also in from Trinidad and another friend, that made twenty-two for dinner. DW's mother, younger brother and a family friend in from Winnipeg visited with us earlier in the day; her older brother and family was in for the Open House but went back to Chicago already. No, our dining table does not sit that many (it sits ten) so we had people in the dining room, kitchen, family room, living room and stairs.
Ooops, got ahead of myself for a moment. Let me get back to dinner later. First, the week. So, I was off-call but had to go in at least twice since I committed to not one but two potluck lunches at work. I actually started the tradition back in an old job where the potluck centered around one's family's background and traditions. This made for a very diverse, very tasty experience and I have carried that tradition with me through my career. As my current workplace is spread across four main areas, it gets harder to participate with all my colleagues and friends. Since I was graciously included in downtown's event, and I wanted to see everyone since I do not get down there as often anymore, I accepted and also joined the Secret Santa. Big English got me a gift that I intend to use on TC soon so I will write about it when I am able to pull it off. I had to attend the Markham lunch because I was asked to again organize it. Both lunches were successful and there really is a diverse culinary feast to be had for not much effort.
The other days were spent cleaning, unpacking glasses, shifting alcohol, shoring up stocks and shopping. Shopping was more lean between us directly because funds were super tight due to the grand moving experiment (more to come on that still). Also, on a whim, we committed to spend a fair amount on a purchase for TC, which we surprised her with when she got home from school on the Friday before Christmas and the holidays. It took her a little while but she was quite excited when she finally figured out what had changed in her room. Since the bed was sitting almost six inches higher, it was kind of hard to miss. When TC first started coming back to stay with us, we bought an occasional mattress as it was not going to get daily use so why spend large funds on it. It got a lot of use in spurts and really was not the most comfortable thing. So, as she is with us permanently now, we decided it was time for a change to further signal the many changes to come in 2007. Sleep Country had an end-of-line unit that is actually more comfortable than our Obus Forme bed. We got it at a decent price with delivery but it still turned out to be the highest single purchase of our holiday season. Needless to say, the child will be using it until she can buy her own in adulthood.
She also has gotten a spark, seemingly out of nowhere, to truly start reading. Her and I were in Chapters (ugh) looking for books for her mum when she saw this book that interested her. We have always told her that no will come easily for frivolous crap but yes will come just as easily for books and things of an educational nature. As many books as she can read, we will buy; that may appear costly now will this new focus. So, based on this, DW got her a book that DW first read herself (with TC constantly wanting to know what she was reading) and several books from the book Fairy (AKA Grandma R). We also gave her a gift card to Chapters for her next purchases. On a lark, we got her the three Burger King video games that are being sold at BK, but forgot to put them into her stocking so I gave them to her this week. She got clothes and money from several other sources, plus candles and bath sense.
On a quick aside, and this is not a complaint really, just a dose of reality for us this year since things were beyond tight and we had to do some constructive "you're not getting paid this month" shifting of bills to pull this all off. Next year, we are probably going to have to entertain a cut-off point for buying gifts for other children. The problem is, where our family is concerned, everyone only has a single child to considered. From our side, almost all of our friends and family have multiple kids to consider. It is simply getting to be a real wallet crusher come Christmas and birthdays throughout the year. We could probably cut down on the cost of the gifts but to be frank, we LOVE being the aunt and uncle (and Godfather) that the kids look forward to getting stuff from because we ensure it is something they want and we try for the cool factor wherever possible. This year was really tough with a sweet sixteen, a new teenager, new babies and more. Heh, who am I kidding? If we are able to next year, this will all be moot and we will probably do it all again. We just want to make sure that TC does not feel left out in the "getting" at the end of it. I know that is not want the "giving" is all about, but you know what I mean.
Sadly, DW fared the worst is the blood-letting that was this holiday's spending. There simply was not enough funds for me to go and get what I wanted to give her as her gift. She already knows what it is so I can share it with you. A lot of marriages hit trouble when the two principals forget that they are the two principals. I learned that hard lesson and I refuse to relearn it. So, I was arranging an adult-only night out. TC would stay home or go by her grandfather or grandmother while we went off to a show (currently trying to go to Blue Man Group before it closes but Wicked is next on the list) and dinner. The whole family will be joining my colleagues for boxed seats at the ACC to watch a Raptors game on the 19th of January. DW also got a number of books she requested and another book that I found by the author of "The Devil Wears Prada"; she can post a review when she finishes that one. I think she is currently reading the Sue Grafton 'S' book.
As for me, I was not expecting much. After all, we were broke, tired and PROMISED again that we would not buy each other anything extravagant. I kept my promise and I did not buy her a third iPod (was going to get DW the 80GB iPod video with some nifty accessories). Instead, I choose to wait until Jobs and company finally releases the true Video iPod (hopefully at MacWorld this year). So with that in mind, I thought very little of what I was getting. DW, the stocking stuffer queen, got me a fully playable, KEYCHAIN version of Cranium; one of our favourite games to play on our adult gaming nights. TC truly surprised me when I learned that it was her pick for a large, coffee-table format book about Nelson Mandela. She wanted something that I would like, and actually read. Still, she was unsure of her choice when she really did not need to. Lots of people know I am dying to travel to Africa to not only visit South Africa but also the spot where the slaves took their last steps of freedom, shuffled onto waiting ships of servitude to America. Maybe it is because I am a black man that this is so important to me but I think even more so it is because I am a man and need to feel that pain so no one in my lineage would ever treat another human being like that.
OK, I got a couple of other things from people and we got house gifts and couple gifts as well. The final gift was from DW and it came in two parts. It was fair sized for a gift and it was heavy. Honestly, I had no clue what it was because with our recent proclamations of what would or would not come into the house, it was the last thing I expected to find under the tree with my name on it. DW, sneaky nymph that she is, scrimped and saved, and hid money in order to buy me this gift. Let's do a quick history recap on how she has shocked me in the past. One year, she had RedSometimes send me a fake email asking about this expensive video card for her husband. Yes, I researched my own gift that year. Another year, she brought me to actual tears as she actually listened to what was really important and treasured by me. That year, to my utter disbelief and surprise, she bought me an authentic Toronto Maple Leafs hockey sweater with my favourite player's name on it; Doug Gilmour.
This year, I was forbidden to get something I really, REALLY wanted until we got rid of at least one of the two older versions we owned (one modded, one original). I agreed to NOT get a Microsoft Xbox 360 until I did so, essentially paying off for the 360 in the process. Instead, I am looking to rebuild our MCE box this week so we can take advantage of the streaming goodness of this box. Our nephew has one already and has been bugging me to get online so he can kick my ass with our other nephew. Now I can thanks to a generous, good-hearted, unselfish woman who loves this incorrigible, PITA, difficult lump of a man. So, I got the Xbox 360 Premium bundle with Ghost Recon, Live Arcade, the headset, the hard drive and the wireless controller plus a bonus game of Blazing Angels. The second package was a second wireless controller.
The sad thing is I did not shed tears on this one when I opened it, even though I was it utter shock and disbelief and overwhelmed that she did this for me. Tears were shed though with the realization that we had stretched ourselves so thin that I may have had to carry it back in order for us to make it through to the 5th of January. You see, I had organized a little trip through Ottawa and Montreal for my brother and my cousin. I simply could not cancel it so no matter what, it had to happen. I was going to ask LB for funds but he is not rolling in it right now, just had to change his vehicle and has another little one on the way. It simply would not have been fair to burden him with that (and don't bother bitching to me about it now, LB). Rent was coming out on Friday so that could not be fooled with as it was our first one and it would be a bad precedent to either ask for an extension or to bounce the cheque. So, either we would be able to scrimp together what was needed to get us through the hump or the Xbox 360 (unopened and sitting on the bedroom floor) would have to go back. DW was not a happy camper and I felt like shit for even suggesting it but everything is a sacrifice of some sort. I told her returning her very generous gift would be a last resort. We simply needed to get creative and find the funds and live SUPER frugal for ten days.
Thankfully, I hate carrying change in my wallet so I tend to dump it all (yes, toonies and loonies) into a holding jar. Besides being for something useful one day, it is a nice emergency fund that I simply do not see so I do not touch. Combined with our ING savings and a pared down schedule, we were able to avoid the return, make the trip, get the final gifts for the pond kids, buy gas and eat. The box got opened on New Year's Eve when MS, PS and the wonder twins came over to spend the evening with us. The kidlets were all downstairs playing on the modded Xbox while we chatted, ate, drank and played the 360 upstairs. We called them up minutes before the ball drop, popped open some champagne and apple cider and called it a night. It was a very nice way to start the New Year and we hope it only gets better for us and everyone else as 2007 takes root.
To you and all of yours, best wishes of peace, happiness, love, safety and prosperity.
(NOTE: Sorry BT, another long post for you.)