I'm accepting that I'll never finish this post if I try to capture our whole trip.
First the low points:
Low point #1: As I was pulling clothes out of the dryer to pack the night before our trip---you know, that final load that has a bit of everything in it, I found a tiny, mostly melted-away brown crayon at the bottom of the dryer. And brown marks on all the clothes.
Goodbye white turtlenecks. Goodbye most of the boys' underwear. Why'd it have to be a brown crayon? I would've been able to live with them wearing orange marks on their undies...
Low point #2: Our second day in Illinois, our boys meet up with their cousins Maria (age 1) and Anne (age 6) and Aunties at Legoland. Brian pulls my camera out for the first time and discovers that instead of packing my digi Canon Rebel Xi, we somehow packed his film Rebel. Given that I was most excited about taking photos of my boys with family, this was a little devastating. Bri's old camera is a good one, but I'm out of practice using film, and with little ones, have gotten used to taking 30 shots to get that one really good one.
I had packed our point-n-shoot for the roadtrip, and ended up using that most of the time.
Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise to let go of capturing the moment. I think Bri was almost as depressed by this as I was, as most of his gifts to me involved the camera that wasn't there.
Low point #3: Basically the weather during the entire trip. We saw several accidents while driving through a blizzard in Iowa. Then there were freezing temperatures, then 24 hrs of snowfall, followed by fog and ice, followed by unseasonable rain that led to swift melting of all that snow and floods.
Our boys were dying to play in snow, but it was too cold to enjoy it much. They did get to sled a little one afternoon. I felt housebound much of the trip, which was especially hard with little boys who are used to playing outside daily. It also made us less willing to run out and drive across town more often...
Luckily the high points easily outnumber the low ones.
High point #1:
Aidan bought small gifts at his school's Santa Workshop, and came home ecstatic about his choices, which he kept secret until Christmas. All he would say was, "Mom, you're gonna faint!" and "I think Grandma/Gramare is going to cry when she sees my gift!" He also made some gifts, including a board book called Alien Leprechauns for my dad.
The high point of Christmas was watching him give those gifts, and the amazing reactions of his grandparents, who lived up to his expectations.
And I love my blue rhinestone, lucky-horseshoe necklace from Aidan.
High point #2:
My presidential moment. I won't go into the details here, because it reveals just how much of a geek I am and perhaps you have to be a middle child from a family of 11 to fully understand why meeting my sister Elizabeth's challenge to name all 44 presidents was such a great moment for me. And it was a gift from her--a totally perfect moment that cracked me up all week every time I thought of it.
High point #3:
Brian gave me, as well as his mom and my parents a gift about which I knew nothing. I had been disappointed by the photos I took when the boys visited Santa, and he tracked down the professional there that day and framed copies of this one:
I love that he took the time and effort to track it down, buy frames and wrap them and keep it all a secret. Nolan looks a little freaked out that we just abandoned him with some strange old man, but every year when we pull this photo out at Christmas it will remind me of so much more.
High Point #4:
Seeing family. Of course there wasn't enough time, and it was a little painful on the ride home to realize the trip was over and that was all the time we got (especially considering the 4o hrs of driving, roundtrip). I got to see my parents three times, and I'm grateful for it, but I wanted more. I'm especially grateful for the evening we went to their home for pizza, before the big Christmas Eve party my mom throws every year.
Looking at the list I wrote on Dec. 3rd, the season went well. We relished reading Christmas/Winter books at bedtime. We lit Aidan's advent wreath at dinner each night. We went to mass with Brian's mom and she made a Buche De Noel cake so the boys could sing "Happy Birthday Jesus."
Both grandmothers had been out here to meet Nolan, but this was his first time meeting his grandad:
Babies love my dad.
Nolan also met his godparents for the first time, Aunt Elizabeth & Uncle Gabriel.
If I had been thinking, I'd have made sure to get a photo of just him with both of them. Or of all three boys sitting in front of the Christmas tree like we usually take every year. Or of their expressions opening gifts (Sean's reaction when opening the Buzz Lightyear set from my parents: "It's just what I always wanted!"). Or of the boys with their Gramare, whom we spent all week with and have NO photos with---I feel bad about this but luckily we have lots of photos from her visits earlier this year (and we did give her a disposal camera in her stocking so I don't feel fully to blame!).
There are hardly any photos of the big boys at all, but I will remember Aidan playing beside his cousin Anne at Legoland, and how both boys relished making their cousin Leah laugh and hearing her sweet giggle (the next day Aidan declared her his "best friend"). I'll remember how my brother Kevin put on Sean's shoes for him, and how Brian sat beside Karen as she played Santa. I'll remember lil Maria singing "I'm a Little Teapot" and wanting to sneak her home with me. I'll remember meeting my nephews Henry and John for the first time--and witnessing my baby sister as a mom for the first time. I'll remember the traditional punch and my sons' excitement over getting cranberry sauce again. I'll remember Star and Melody putting on a little concert for the family, and how Aidan and Sean joined in at the end. I'll remember them decorating cookies with Brian's mom and how she went on to create several masterpieces on her own. I'll remembering getting to see "Slumdog Millionaire" on a rare night out with Brian---and how, when it was sold out at the first theater and we were driving across town to another one, he took my hand and reminded me that it wasn't about what movie we saw but about being alone together.
There were tons of presents and way too many toys, but these were the real gifts of the holiday and if I don't remember them, at least they are captured a bit here.