Here's an update from the last little while...
The weekend before Christmas brought bowling and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as planned. The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit was very interesting, though not perfect. It started off really well, with some live presenters introducing the story of the discovery to us. Really cool intro. And the set up of the whole place with lighting and everything was really good. I just wanted to see more on exactly what was recovered in the hundreds of documents. A visual list would have been nice.
Monday before Christmas Brandon took me to the airport and we said our good byes before I caught my flight to Nashville (first class - a rarity!) and he headed home. Kyle picked me up in Nashville and we drove back down to Huntsville arriving just in time to go to bed. Because of the plethora of people in the house, Morgan and I stayed at a neighbor's house across the street. This turned out to be both very comfortable and somewhat amusing. These particular neighbors were mostly out of town for the couple of days we stayed there. We had the company of one of their more friendly cats on several mornings.
Tuesday - Christmas Eve - was mostly a take it easy day. We wrapped presents and cooked delicious meals, hung out and talked and played games. There were - let's see, 16 of us in the house of a regular basis? My parents, grandparents, four siblings, two spouses, five nieces/nephews (niecen - the best plural word I've come up with for nieces/nephews) - definitely a full house.
|Christmas horde for 16!|
|Syliva and Dathan wrapping!|
|Vivian being cute!|
Along with a full house came a stomach flu-ish bug that took turns working it's way around the house. Not fun, but mild enough to not be debilitating for anyone. I didn't get sick until the Friday after Christmas and even then I just felt a little sick to my stomach and it was mostly gone by Saturday.
Christmas morning we woke up early and everyone took their stockings down and sorted through the goodies. My parent's house has a mantelpiece but it doesn't have a gap in the back to catch hooks and after the fiasco of the mantelpiece falling off the fireplace a number of years ago when we had about this many people, we elected to hang the stockings in bunches on hooks in the kitchen. It worked quite well.
Once breakfast was wrapped up we all gathered round the literal horde of presents to begin the unwrapping party. Sixteen people, particularly when five them are children, means potentially a lot of presents. I got a number of wonderful gifts, particularly board games. :)
The second gift was Morgan's to Kyle. He opened up a giant TV box full of stuffing to find a tiny slip of red paper that led him on a treasure hunt from Morgan's coat, to our world map, to the book A Christmas Carol, to the DVD of V for Vendetta, and finally out to the pond dock where a tiny bottle bobbed at the surface of the pond. He grabbed the bottle and pulled the foot and a half length of twine attached to it that led to a package weighted down and sunk with rocks. A brand new frisbee once all was said and done. A fun variation from the normal gift giving.
(Morgan and I sank the frisbee the evening before and had some trouble in the process. We'd wrapped the frisbee well and taped a rock to the bottom of it, but when we tried to sink it, the air inside the bag wrapped around the frisbee kept the whole thing afloat. We added another rock to that and the whole thing finally began to sink with lots of little bubble coming up, only to descend about an anticlimactic foot into the water. All that work for a foot of water. ;) We dragged it a little farther off the dock, but it was still shallow enough to see.)
Much of the remainder of Christmas was spent preparing a large meal for the 16 of us plus six more when more family came. The dinner was delicious and my grandparents presented a special gift to each of their grandkids. We sang Christmas Carols and washed dishes and had a wonderful evening. Morgan and I turned in early to watch Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind. We didn't make it more than half way before falling asleep.
Boxing Day Thursday arrived and a good day of rest was deserved all around. The kids played with their toys and we went and took some family pictures before coming back to play games and relax. In the evening we played Pandemic and kept in touch with Brandon who was headed to the airport. He called us with an entirely different fiasco on his end and we spent the next several hours trying to help him from afar. Things resolved to a point and we proceeded to save the world from disease (in Pandemic) and called it a night.
Friday morning I woke up not feeling great and with no appetite but we got everything packed and headed South to Florida just after lunch. Long hours of conversation and driving with a few detours to escape traffic on the way. We got to Orlando just after midnight and headed to bed.
Saturday morning bright and early we were up and at it! We drove down to Florida for a good friend, Lydia Weaver's wedding. My mom and Kyle were both shooting it. Pictures in the morning, pictures at the temple, pictures at the ring ceremony, and pictures at the reception. Long day but very fun. I'm really glad we got to be there.
Sunday morning we headed downtown to Island of Adventure. Michael, Rachel, Ari, and Kaleb had meant to go with us but they got another round of the stomach sickness stuff and decided to go another day. So the three of us headed to the park for one purpose: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. :) Prior to going, I'm somehow thought that "Harry Potter World" was a separate park entirely, but only once we were there did I realize that it was a new part of Islands of Adventure.
Let me first just say that this part of the park was exceptionally well done. All the details were spot on. Lots of creativity and thought was put into making this all seem real. The employees/cast of that part of the park were very active in their rolls, being helpful and unhelpful in their treatment of their apparent place in the world. One example of this was my mother inquiring about the empty space above some of the indefinitely closed shops. She asked if it was used for something and the lady we asked told us that those shops were just closed for the day. My mom rephrased her question once more before I realized what was going on and told her that the lady probably couldn't answer our question. After all, this was a real village and we were only muggles. ;)
We had some butterbeer, walked through the castle and rode the ride, poked our head in all the shops and restaurants, went into Olivander's for a wand presentation (they like to choose a child for this and the child they chose didn't speak very much English but did surprisingly well all the same), and window shopped to our heart's content. I think I might prefer the simple butterbeer I make at home, but everything was still very fun. The only complaint I had about that entire part of the park was that when we were waiting in line for the castle ride, at one point they rushed us through where we needed to drop bags off and systematically separated one person from each group to go put the bags away. They said that the individuals putting the bags away would be able to "catch up" but gave no direction as to how this would take place. Mom went with the bags but we didn't see her for about ten more minutes as she slowly worked her way back towards us. They really need to work on that system. It was pretty bad.
One fun thing about parks like these is people watching. I'm amazed that someone can think it is ok to be walking along in the middle of the path and then come to a complete stop to take a picture of something. This happened to us alone at least three or four times. I just don't know what they're thinking....another interesting thing we noticed is that the two most popular languages aside from English that we heard were Portuguese and Spanish. The hodge podge of people from everywhere was wonderful, but there was more Portuguese there than I've ever heard anywhere. Kyle had several nice conversations with different families. ;)
I'd tentatively thought about catching a flight back to SLC Sunday night, but ultimately that one didn't look great and the one Monday morning 7:30 looked pretty good. I set my alarm for 5:40 Monday morning but then tossing and turning during the night reset it to what I thought was 5:30 but was actually 1:30. So when I woke up at 7:00 and realized what time it was, I wan't particularly thrilled. If everything had gone smoothly, I would have made that direct flight back to SLC. Instead I got to sit in the Orlando airport from 9:30 until 2:30 when I finally hopped on a flight to JFK. All the while I was watching for good flight combinations. Getting out of Orlando was easy, but those connecting flights to SLC looked terrible. As I was sitting on the flight to JFK (with a connecting flight that left to SLC at 7:30), my Dad texted me that there was a 5:30 flight that I miiiight be able to make if I hurried once I got there. It was two gates down from the one I'd be arriving at at 5:17. Thirteen minutes and two gates? Maybe... When the seat belt sign turned off I grabbed my bags and politely asked my way to the front of first class and then ran up the jetway to the airport, raced the not-so-short distance between the gates and arrived just as the gate agent was punching in the code to reopen the jetway door to walk down and close the plane. She asked me to close the door, printed me a paper ticket of my seat, walked me down, put me on, and closed the door behind me. I was literally in the JFK airport for no more than about 60 seconds. Crazy! Thank you all you people who let me ahead of you!
I almost dropped my backpack on some poor gentleman's head in first class putting it in a compartment. Adrenalin and anxiety combined tend to occasionally give me poor coordination. ;) But I was on and super excited to be heading home. :) A friend from church picked me up and I happily fell into my bed when we arrived. And maybe signed up for Spartan Race before actually going to sleep! Woohoo! Good things ahead!
As usual, this is only a handful of the photos!