Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas in Minnesota

Jeff and I fell asleep on a plane in California, and woke up to a very white Christmas in Minnesota. It was about 6:15am when we landed, and my dad picked us up and brought us back to the house. We fell asleep for a few hours, and then woke up at a more reasonable hour to start getting ready!

I spent most of the morning wrapping presents. Amazon really saved me this Christmas - I had ideas about what I wanted to get, but I didn't have much time to shop and kept putting it off. Then I ordered almost all of my gifts on and on December 22nd, and they arrived by December 24th, so when I got home on December 25th, all I had to do was wrap all the boxes that had come in the mail.

By about noon, Brian and Emily had showed up, and so had David, Natalie, Drew, and MacKenzie. We had brunch - one of my favorite meals of the year. My mom makes an egg bake, a cheesy potato bake, sausages, fresh fruit, and Belgian waffles - pretty much everything on the table is a food I love.

After brunch, we opened gifts. Ever since my grandma and grandpa moved to Texas and we started doing Christmas brunch with just our family and my Uncle David's family - each family has mostly just bought gifts for the kids of the other family - so David and Natalie buy gifts for Brian, Katie, and me, and my parents buy gifts for Drew and MacKenzie. I think that made sense when we were in grade school, or even high school, and maybe college. But now that even the youngest (MacKenzie) is in college, and the oldest is married and having his own baby, the parents-kids distinction is getting to seem a bit silly. (I got a nice bottle of wine and a box of chocolates from David and Natalie this year, which was awesome, so I'm definitely not complaining, but logically it does seem that it might be time to change the process a bit.)

In Jeff's family, where they have a similar issue, everybody exchanges names so that each person buys a gift for one other person (with family and significant others involved - everybody who's at the Christmas gathering is in the gift pool). I think this could be a really nice way for us to do things, too - and maybe that way even Mamie and Grandpa could be involved (and we could ship the gifts if they're not going to be in town).

Out of the Box Publishing, Inc. Word On The Street - The Hilarious Tug Of WordsAfter doing gifts, we played a game, which is another holiday tradition we have. This year my mom bought a new game called "Word on the Street." It's actually a really fun game! You are split into two teams, and the board has a row of letters down the middle. When it's your team's turn, you get a 'category' card, and you have to think of a word that fits in that category. Once you've chosen a word, you move the letters in that word one space closer to your team. Then it's the other team's turn. If you're team moves a letter three spaces toward you (without the other team moving it back on their turn), it goes off the board, and your team has 'captured' that letter. The first team to capture eight letters wins. It was fun to play and it allows for a lot of chatter and discussion - everyone can be involved easily and it's really lively.

Here's Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of MathDavid and Natalie and Drew and MacKenzie left in the late afternoon, and then we opened the gifts from the immediate family. For my brother, I went in with my mom and dad to get a bunch of storage boxes he wanted for his house and garage. I got my sister a couple of fashion design books she wanted as well as a book called "NYC Free & Dirt Cheap," which I actually got her last year and she really liked, because a new edition came out in November 2010. I got Emily a box of "Emily" chocolate-covered marshmellows and a lavendar-dark chocolate candy bar. I got Tom a book about unique things to do in NYC. I got my mom a sweater (almost the same one I was wearing) and a gift certificate to a restaurant she had been wanting to try. For my dad, I got George Bush's book, and two books about teaching math - "Hear's looking at Euclid" and "What Successful Math Teachers Do, Research-Based Strategies." I got Jeff a whole bunch of new clothes from Banana Republic. We actually went shopping there together. He's lost a lot of weight in the last few years, and had no idea what size he was anymore. He went into the store wearing pants that were size 36x32, and after some help from the people there, discovered that he was actually a 32x34.

I received really nice gifts from other people, too. From my parents, I mostly got clothes - which is what I asked for. I also got a Caribou Coffee gift card. My brother gave me cash, which is what I said would be best for fixing up our apartment. Katie gave me clothes that she had found in New York. Jeff got me a new point and shoot camera with a really good HD video capability, which I'd really been wanting. Here's a video of us hanging out on Christmas.

After that we all relaxed for a while. We worked on the puzzle for a while, and then most people took a nap, but I started reading Dune and get engrossed in that.

At about 6pm, we went to my Grandma John's house for Christmas dinner. Grandma John's is always fun - my dad is one of five kids, and all of those kids are married and have kids, and some of my cousins have kids too, so it's always a full house. Each year we take a family photo, and it's really fun to look through all the different years.

This year, we also took a photo with just the girls, but then my Uncle Dave jumped in. The camera snaps five pictures in a row, so you can see the action unfold.

After eating dinner, we opened gifts - I think all of the Aunts and Uncles get gifts for my Grandma John, and Grandma John gets gifts for everyone - even Jeff and Tom always get a gift, which is really nice. After gifts, everyone lounges around and chats until it gets late, and then we all head out!

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