So much was going on in December I wasn't able to blog at all. Now that the new year is here, Happy New Year by the way, I figure I should catch everyone up on what kept us so busy. Technically this story is going to start in late November but hopefully you won't hold that addendum against me.
Emily turned 5 on Nov 26 amidst great fanfare and even greater parties. I'm not sure how many she had but trust me, there were a bunch. Lisa's parents drove down when all the hoopla had pretty much died down and we had one last gasp (well not really the last but I'll get to that later). While they were here we decorated the yule time tree and stood in a circle singing carols. Ok, so we didn't actually stand in a circle or sing carols but it was a nice rockwellian image wasn't it? (unless you have heard me sing then perhaps it was a scary image).
I had to work for the first couple of days of December (making sure to call my mother on the 2nd for her hundredth birthday or some huge number like that; it was also my friend Mike's birthday). On around the 5th we loaded up the family cruiser for a trip to Disney World. Fortunately we only had to drive the cruiser about 1 hour to the airport where we then flew to Orlando by way of Atlanta. We stay at the cheapest hotel at Disney, the All-Star Sports/Music/Movies. Our room was at the All Star Music. If you paid attention 2 years ago you might remember that we stay in a family suite which is really just two hotel rooms merged into one with a small kitchenette. It's perfect for the four of us because it basically has two bedrooms but we don't have to pay for two full hotel rooms.
The last time we were at Disney Emily was sick with some kind of flu. This time she was healthy the whole time and, I think, old enough to really get into everything. Earlier I mentioned the last bash for Emily well it came at Disney this year. We had pre-ordered a cake with dumbo on it saying Happy Birthday Emily and some balloons (free with the cake, sweet!). I had to pick the cake up from the hotel restaurant our first night there. However, I had to wait a while so I sent the girls ahead to the park to get some early rides in. Finally I got the cake and brought it back to the room with five balloons. Then I hustled back to the hotels bus stop so I could get to the magic kingdom and find the rest of mi familia.
Sadly, the cake wasn't really seen that night because, by the time we got back to the hotel, Emily had fallen asleep. It was understandable considering the drive, the flight, the bus ride to the hotel, the ride to the magic kingdom, the rides, the fireworks, and then the bus ride back to the hotel; she is only five afterall.
I'm reluctant to describe our entire week at Disney so I'll spare you most of the details and I'll just stick with the highlights for the girls; the biggest of which was their trip to the Bibby Bobbidi Boutique which is kind of like a beauty parlor for kids. The girls both had their hair done in a Cinderella hairstyle, they had makeup applied, and "pixie dust" liberally coating them. They both seemed to really dig the whole experience and they both looked cool when it was all done. It was weird seeing Emily with makeup on. Shannon has had to have heavy makeup applied before for dance recitals but Emily hasn't; it was really really strange to see her all dolled up. You can see a bunch of photos from Disney if you'd like
Overall, the weather while were there was cold but dry except for the Thursday of our week when it rained hard. We had gone to the Animal Kingdom and we were soaked and cold by the time we got back to the hotel so we spent Thursday afternoon at downtown Disney checking out the shops. We did that all backwards because Thursday afternoon turned out to be really nice. The best thing about the rain in the morning was that the Animals were all out on the safari ride and all of the characters were in one building (which was mostly devoid of guests) so the girls were able to meet 7 or 8 characters without having to wait in line at all. We also got to see a monkey going through dental surgery which was kind of cool. They had just brought in a local dental surgeon come in to do it since the procedure was pretty much the same for the monkey as for a human.
After we got back from Disney I had to work for one week before starting my 2 weeks of holiday vacation. It was the first time since 2009 (our honeymoon) that I had taken 2 weeks off in a row. With weekends that equated to 16 days off! Sweet. For the first four days I called it "Billcation" and I mostly just sat around and read some books. At the end of the four days Lisa was then off work and we celebrated our own little Festivus on Dec 24 where I gave Lisa her big gift, a trip to the Grand Canyon this summer. I went to the canyon while I was in the Army and it was amazing. Lisa hasn't seen it so I think she will really dig it. We will actually be staying in Vegas and my brother and his wife will be joining us which will make it extra cool.
After our little celebration we loaded up the car for a trip to Cleveland where we spent about 7 days with Lisa's family. It is always nice to see them. My nephews are all basically young men now which is a little strange but cool. One night my three nephews and I went to a local university to play some pickup basketball. It turns out I still suck but now I am in such bad cardio shape that I couldn't even make up for my lack of skill with effort. Danny and Chris both tried hard and Pete was doing really well from three point land. We played 3 games of 2-on-2 with Pete and I winning the series. Then we switched to a four on four game where Chris (the youngest and shortest) played much better. He had to guard a really big guy (wide, but not really tall) who was pushing Chris all over the place. Chris didn't back down and even swatted a few of the other guys shots. It was great. Danny ended up getting some seriously nasty looking blisters so he and I sat out after the first game of 4-on-4 so that the teams would be even still.
Danny, Chris, and I along with the girls went bowling one day where I dominated with an avg of 146. We all went again another day with Lisa, her sister Jane, and her dad as well and, while I had the best average (146 again) Lisa had the high score of the week with a 178. She had been using a 10 pound ball and was struggling, she moved up to a 12 pound ball and never looked back. It was really cool to see her do so well. I think she and I need to go bowling more often. We both enjoy it and it isn't too expensive (though for the 17 games our group played plus shoe rental it was over $100!)
The only truly negative part of out time in Cleveland, for me, was that I am now officially burnt out on Hand and Foot. We were playing with 7 people in each hand and that is just too many. We really should have broken out into 2 groups because each game just took way too long.
Once we returned from Cleveland my Dad, Patty, and my brother Chris, swung by and we had a nice dinner and they gave me a really nice Scarf for Christmas. I already had a Liverpool Football Club scarf but it isn't very long and its very red so doesn't go that well with my work clothes. It has been fairly cold and windy here lately so a nice scarf fit the bill pretty well. This one is green and gray striped and is very long so I can tie it on like I saw everyone in London doing so now I'm not only warm but fashionable!
Ted sent us a digital picture frame with about 500 photos of his part of the family on it. That was cool because we tend to harass him about getting some photos. My mom sent me three books I've been wanting to read and I've already finished 2 of them. In fact, over the past month I've knocked out 11 books. I have some serious reviewing to get to over on my book blog. Lisa's parents gave me some new rubber for my mountain bike tires that should help improve my grip. I haven't been out riding in a while but I am hoping to hit the hills this weekend with Ed and Mike (and maybe Gilbert).
Finally, we had a small party for my dad's 63rd birthday the night before his actual birthday. We had paella and apple pie. It was great. Plus my dad had put together a prototype for a secret project we are working on and the prototype was perfect. We agreed to work on the final version sometime in the next couple of weeks and I'm really excited about it coming to fruition. I suppose I'll probably let the cat out of the bag when it is done just because I will be so excited about it and want to show it to everyone! Stay tuned.