Hanukkah down, more to go!

We braved the storm and ORD to visit the Detroit area this past weekend for Hanukkah with my DH’s side of the family. πŸ™‚ Despite receiving 8-10 inches of snow on Friday early morning and morning, our trip to ORD from Gurnee was relatively uneventful. We’d packed two large check-in suitcases, one of clothes and toiletries and one of presents. All the presents made it to Detroit safely, with wrapping intact. (I took the risk of wrapping the presents before leaving home, because I had wrapping paper that I wanted to use up, and I like to hide the presents.) I’d shipped two of the larger presents directly to our destination, and I got up a little early on Saturday to wrap those.

The weather had prevented our Adorable Nephews (AN1, now age 7, and AN2, now age 3) and their parents from arriving until Saturday afternoon. We had made arrangements to have lunch and conversation with some friends that moved to Grosse Pointe this past year, Jim & Stacey. So, we didn’t see the ANs until after we got back. We had a really enjoyable visit with J&S, though. They took us to a great pub, and they took us on a brief driving tour of Grosse Pointe’s mansions. There are some really neat houses there, of all sizes. It wasn’t cookie-cutter at all, which I found refreshing. I mean, I love our house and our area, but the houses are from one of four layouts, some reversed or shifted, with varying trim and colors. It’s not as bad as the intro sequence of Weeds with the little houses all made of ticky-tacky, but it’s in the ballpark. On our tour, I was most attracted to the houses with towers and turrets and intricate brick and stonework. (Having done some cursory research this morning, it seems I am most attracted to a style of home called Richardson Romanesque. But, really, I just like towers and turrets and stonework. πŸ™‚ I guess I really want a castle.)

We played Bridge with J&S, and I sampled a gingerful ginger cookie that S had made. Oh, it was so good. I love ginger cookies. Do you think ginger kids like ginger more than normal people? I wonder.

J moved to take a job teaching, and it really served to remind me that my DH would be an excellent teacher. Part of me really hopes that he ends up teaching as a late-life career. But, I’m off topic. πŸ™‚

So, after lunch, touring, and bridge, we rushed home for Hanukkah dinner so as to not displease the hostess. I quickly changed from my jeans (which had gotten wet and soaked from snow-walking) into a pretty skirt that I’d gotten during the awesome IGIGI sale. I’d planned to dress up a bit anyways, but in this case, it was motivated just as much by not wanting to have cold legs. The ANs were thrilled to see us, and we promptly (well, mainly my DH) started an activity for them in the basement to help burn off energy before dinner. The first activity was trying to catch a ball thrown by DH in mid-air, and plopping down onto a cushy exercise mat to land safely. My part of the activity was to try to catch a picture of each AN mid-flight. I got LOTS of good pictures, too. πŸ™‚ The second activity was a race around the basement (hard to explain, but it’s nicely laid out to be a racetrack), with a hurdle leap. The mat was the hurdle and the landing point. Our adorable cousin, who is the same age as AN1, joined us for the race. Then, our last activity was another mid-air ball catch, this time using an old playset as a jump point. All of this was video-d and photo-d by yours truly. πŸ™‚ Adorable cousin’s younger sister (who is just a bit younger than AN2, I think) joined us for the last activity, although her jumps were assisted by her grandpa, and her ball catches were after she had landed. She clapped and celebrated every time, though, and she would have kept doing it over and over all night had we not stopped the fun for dinner.

For dinner, I had LOTS of latkes. πŸ™‚ I love latkes. I also had some kugel, which has never been as good as the first year that I had it. It was a meatless dinner (well, there was tuna salad, but that’s out of my bailiwick), which made me a little sad. On one hand, I firmly embrace the idea that milk stuff and meat stuff should not go together, in my case for taste reasons rather than religious prescription. But, given a choice, I eat meat. πŸ™‚ Also, my MIL makes an awesome brisket. Nonetheless, it was all delicious, and best of all, I didn’t have to cook or fetch any of it. πŸ™‚

After dinner, adorable cousin (who really needs her own moniker…maybe AC1?) led AN1 and the rest of us in a Hanukkah singalong, with songs that she’s learned at school. (Yeah, I video-d it. πŸ™‚ ) And then, she passed out papers that she had clearly written and made herself with the following written on them:

My tradition is___________
(and she informed us that she forgot to put “How” but that we should add it…she also clarified that it did not have to be a Hanukkah tradition but that it should be our favorite tradition)

Her mom told us (as we were teasing her for making AC1 write out 22 sheets of paper by hand and not introducing her to the concept of a printer or copy machine) that AC1 had completely surprised her with this…that she had just asked her mom how many people would be at the party and then showed up later with this pile of papers and told her mom what she was going to do. πŸ™‚ So, I thought this was the coolest thing ever. My tradition was the (for lack of a better title) Aunt Barbara gift game, which I will get to next. πŸ™‚ But, the best part was getting to hear everyone’s traditions and what they wrote. I think AC1’s mom is going to type it up at some point. (AC1 is my friend on Webkinz, by the way. She and her mom are as into Webkinz as I am, which is cool. AN1 is getting back into Webkinz again, too, which is also cool.)

After the kids opened their presents (and it was the celebration of excess that you would expect and want for a kids’ holiday gathering), we did the Aunt Barbara gift game. The game has two parts. The first part is for the kids (and I’m told that my DH did this when he was younger). Aunt Barbara has one present for each kid and puts it in a row. Then, the kids stand in front of the presents. When they get older, she will tell them things like “2 of you are correct” or “none of you are correct”…but at this stage and age, she just basically says “nope, that’s not right” or “yes, that’s right.” Once they are all standing in front of the correct gift, they get to open it. This is an awesome tradition, and it’s one that DH and I are hoping that we can inherit at some point. πŸ™‚ It’s a logic game and a present! What could be better?

So, the second part of the game is the adults’ part, and this is really kind of like a White Elephant or Yankee Exchange, except that all the gifts come from one person (or two people, since I’ve been adding to the pile lately). The gifts are generally things that Aunt Barbara gets as freebies from the casino, or at Black Friday doorbusters, or from coupons throughout the year. That is, it’s not necessarily great and awesome stuff…but it does all tend to be useful to *someone*. It’s very rare that there’s a gift in the pile that is just an absolute dud. I will say, though, that through strategy and dumb luck, DH and I have managed to score at the exchange every time. πŸ™‚ This year, he got a rolling briefcase with spinner wheels, and I got a beautiful bracelet. Last year, I got a tea set that I adore (even if I rarely have opportunity to use it), and he got me a necklace with a pink zirconia horseshoe charm on it. πŸ™‚ I’d added a bunch of earmuffs to the gift exchange, an SD card, and a pocket kite. Last year, I added a bunch of things I’d gotten through work to the pile.

The adults’ exchange is never without controversy. This year, the controversy was that one of our uncles decided to take a gift from the pile and not unwrap it. He just left it sitting there and dared anyone to take it from him. πŸ™‚ It was an interesting idea (and a brilliant strategy) but DH and I rightly pointed out that if we allow that strategy in future years, there’s zero incentive for *anyone* to unwrap their present. The first people will always leave it unwrapped. If it’s a good gift, they’re more likely to keep it. If it’s a less-good gift, they would have gotten stuck with it anyways. So, I’m pretty sure that will get added to the rulebook for next year.

There’s also always laughter. This year’s fun exchange item was a personal massager, which AC2 (who is ~3 and female, remember) really liked and kept wanting to use on people. I’m sure you can imagine the double and triple entendres that ensued, so I won’t recap them here.

Later on, we got to see AN1 and AN2 open Wii Rock Band. We think they’ll really enjoy it, and it’s something all of them can do together, which is cool. We also got them Bobbing Bumblebee (well, mainly for AN2), and that’s a fun one. πŸ™‚

In other holiday-ish news:

  • During the weekend, I finally got around to reading through the guidebook and giving my “must do” list to DH for our upcoming Disney trip. As I expected, there are more than twice as many things I want to do at Epcot as at any other park, included but not limited to the Japanese gardens and the Behind the Seeds tour. Animal Kingdom is going to be a big one on this trip, too. The San Diego Wild Animal Park gave me high expectations, though. Also on the list, I really want to take my parents to DisneyQuest, because it is uber cool, and to Disney’s mini-golf, because mini-golf is our family tradition. I am very upset that Disney has taken Pleasure Island away, because I *loved* Pleasure Island. I loved being able to clubhop without bouncers and without cover chargers. And, there was dancing EVERYWHERE…and good drinks!
  • We are planning to go on the (forever pushed back) inaugural ski day on Christmas day. Stay tuned for details.
  • I am sending out holiday cards this year (in usual Amazing Mail format and in the usual closer-to-new-year’s-than-Hanumastice timing). If your address has changed since last year or if I don’t have your address and you want a card, please e-mail me your address by end of day tomorrow. Do *NOT* put your address in comments on this post, as the comments are public to google.

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