We closed out 2016 with a nice variety of winter break activities. The break here is shorter than in other places, so it took some effort to fit everyone's requested activities into the allotted days, but I think we managed a good mix. None of us are ready to return to the school/work routine tomorrow, but maybe we can have a bit of a rest next weekend.
The boys had a bunch of projects and tests the last couple weeks of school before break, so things were pretty busy. Poor Charlie was sick a lot in November and December, and was starting to feel stressed and behind in school after Thanksgiving. We eventually shifted gears to a homeschooling-style routine in the evenings and on weekends when he was feeling well enough to do more than nap. It helped. He's back to getting good scores on tests, so we must be doing something right. He can learn a lot of material quite quickly when David or I go over things with him. It just took us a while to figure out exactly what concepts he needed to be learning. They do fun, integrated-learning activities instead of discrete units from a text book or work book, which is great if you're in school every day, but not so easy to catch up on with make-up work. Tommy's only missed a couple of days, and finds his classes here way less challenging than his classes in Albuquerque, so he's been doing fine.
As usual, we waited until the second weekend in December to do our Christmas decorating. We decided to buy a skinny, apartment-sized fake tree for the two Christmases we will spend here. There just isn't space for a big tree, and we didn't feel up to figuring out the logistics of chopping down or buying a live tree that we would then have to dispose of a few weeks later. We have a hard enough time finding space in the dumpster shed for our regular trash! I do like the skinny little tree we ended up with. I'm not a fan of huge ornaments anyway, and prefer a folk-art, understated style, so all of our favorite ornaments look nice on it. There wasn't room on top for an angel or star, so we opted to give Bumble the Snow-Monster from Rudolph pride of place. We all perked up a bit once the decorations were up, and then the presents started showing up. Squee!
We all had some fun parties, outings and social events in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Tommy went to a play at George Washington University one day, and Charlie's holiday party involved silent, independent reading and cups of cocoa. They both enjoyed them. I'm especially thankful for my new friends here. It's nice to be able to schedule a lunch out or to go out to coffee with a friend on dreary, wet, winter days, and I did this many times in December. David had 5 or 6 work-related parties on various work days, and he and I went to one evening work party at the Old Ebbitt Grill in DC. We even scheduled a babysitter for it! Tommy and I went to hear my friend's bell choir perform at the Kennedy Center one night. That was a fun mother-son outing. I took Charlie out for lunch and a haircut on a different day, so that he had some time with me too.
Then it was finally time for Christmas! It was a multi-day feast for us, as usual. We made jerk chicken, candied yams and bacon-y greens the night before Christmas Eve. It was such a hit with everyone, we'll probably make the meal a new tradition. Then we had our traditional pork chops and sauerkraut on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas morning nosh was just the way we like it, and we made a nice prime rib roast for Christmas dinner. It's a good thing I enjoy cooking and baking! The nicest thing about holiday meals at home without any company is that we don't have to dress up or even put on clean shirts. Yes, these pictures were taken on different days. No, none of the boys had showers in between. I'm not even sure that all of them were wearing pants. (Ha!)
In between all the eating, we opened presents, and lazed about. You know how we love a good sloth-cation! We read, played video and board games, watched movies, puttered around with hobbies, and just enjoyed each other for a few days. Our sloth-cation wasn't nearly long enough this year, in my opinion, but we enjoyed every minute of it. My little family is pretty great to spend quiet days at home with. David and Charlie even spent a couple of days learning to play the ukulele. Then David decided that we needed to all play/sing Silent Night together as a family. It was a ukulele-guitar-trombone-singing combo. No, I didn't record it. It was more for fun than for anything else.
David really wanted to go to Colonial Williamsburg over the break, so we headed south on Tuesday the 27th. We spent three nights in Williamsburg, and got passes for all the Colonial Williamsburg areas as well as Busch Gardens.
We were pretty underwhelmed with Busch Gardens. We tried two different evenings, and never really enjoyed anything we did there all that much. We might like it more during the regular season, but their "Christmas Town" just wasn't our thing. The holiday lights were absolutely beautiful, but it was super crowded, and the boys were not impressed with the few rides that were open. They wanted to leave after just a couple of hours. We went back a second night to see the half of the holiday lights we missed and to try one of their shows and a special holiday meal, but the show we chose was embarrassingly corny and the meal was spectacularly bad. I suspect Disney World has completely ruined us for other theme parks, especially since I can plan things at Disney World so that we don't stand in lines for very long. Oh well! Not everything can be as awesome as Disney World.
We did really enjoy all the different things we saw in Colonial Williamsburg though! I wish we'd skipped Busch Gardens and just done more things in the colonial city. We pretty much saw everything on the map that any of us were interested in seeing. Charlie had lots of conversations with crafts-people and taught us a lot of things he's learned about Virginia history in school this year. David spent hours in the museum looking at furniture. Tommy seemed to have a good time too, although I can't think of anything he particularly liked. I enjoyed having a nice long holiday break from cooking. We ate some pretty fabulous meals while we were there.
We drove home from Williamsburg Friday afternoon, and then rushed around buying groceries and cleaning house to get ready for company. Sloth-cations create a lot of mess! David's brother and family came to spend New Year's Eve with us. It was just a quick visit, but it's always nice for David to get some time with his brother. We rang in the new year with them, and had a nice New Year's Day fondue feast with them at the Melting Pot.
Now it's time to get back to school, work and the usual routine. I'm excited and interested to see what 2017 might bring. Happy New Year!