End of December Wrap-Up

All three of our Holiday Concerts went really well and we had great audiences for all of them, including a full house at our last performance in Panama City Beach, FL. This was one of my most fun group of holiday concerts in my 13 1/2 years in the Army. After the concerts and a few more days of work, it was time for our well-earned leave period!

We headed north to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Mom & Dad's for Christmas. Our first day of driving was uneventful and we ended at Cave City, KY. Day two of driving was uneventful despite the rain the whole way and we ended at my brother Rick's house in lower Michigan. The third day of travel really should have taken place a day later due to the weather, but you know what they say about hindsight. We headed north following my brother on the snow-covered and, in places, slippery roads. Well, about 45 minutes or so north of where I went to college we hit some ice and ended up in the ditch. All 4 of us are fine but the van suffered some cosmetic damage which the insurance will cover (after our deductible). I'm so thankful for having Roadside Assistance through my insurance at USAA – I called them and they got a tow truck for me that I didn't have to pay for! Rick stopped with us, of course, and he's the one that let Mom & Dad know about our little side trip. The tow truck came after about an hour and got us back on the road. Rick decided we should take the lead after that. We stopped for gas and then lunch and continued on our way. We were about 1/2 hour south of the Mackinac Bridge traveling in the right lane when a semi decided to pass us. I fishtailed (yes, I was driving) but was able to maintain my lane of travel. Then Robert piped up from the backseat – "Mommy, I don't think Uncle Rick is behind us anymore." Sure enough – he wasn't. He was in the ditch – actually in the median between the two lanes on the freeway. I woke Ryan up and we back up along the side of the freeway to where Rick was and I went to make sure he was ok before I called Mom & Dad to let them know. His tow truck finally showed up and got him out and we continued on our way again. He was fine and so was his almost brand new car. We finally got to Mom & Dad's – the drive that is normally 6 1/2-7 hours took us 12 hours. We were all glad to get to Mom & Dad's.

Saturday was a shopping day – Ryan, Robert, and Rick went and did stuff in one vehicle and Mom & I took Thomas and did what we needed to do. Sunday was church and just relaxing – and crocheting. I made crocheted presents for all the kids in the family and time got away from my so I spent every free minute crocheting to get things done. Monday was Christmas Eve. I got presents wrapped and we had our traditional dinner of pizza before church. Robert helped acolyte during the Christmas Eve service and I sang a solo during offering. After church, we all got lottery tickets from Rick (he's continued on what my grandpa used to do) and then Robert read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to the family. Christmas Day started with our traditional breakfast of homemade donut puffs and then opening our stuff from Santa. I got a "Hot Lutheran" travel mug, a coffee mug, some Mandarin Orange Spice tea for my Keurig, M&Ms in Green Bay Packers colors, and a few other things. Then we got ready and headed to my aunt & uncle's house for our family (mom's side) Christmas gathering. There were 22 of us this year including 6 kids ages 8 and under. There were a ton of presents for all the kids and the adults do a name draw earlier in the year so we each got one gift. I got a new set of dishes from Ryan (now I know why he kept telling me that he didn't need my help shopping for his "family person" this year). After the presents were opened, there was much food to be consumed and it was all delicious. It's always so much fun getting together with the whole family and seeing all my aunts and uncles and cousins. After some relaxing time back at Mom & Dad's, we opened our pile of gifts from under their tree. I got another set of dishes from Mom & Dad (same exact as from Ryan except green where Ryan's were purple), some plastic storage containers, glass mixing/storage bowls, kitchen utensils, and some dumb bells!! I love useful gifts and I love getting stuff for my kitchen. The weights were on my wish list as well. Both my boys got tons of great stuff and so did everyone else.

Wednesday was a relaxing day at home and we made pasties for dinner that evening. Thursday we spent the afternoon running all kinds of errands and shopping again, including getting a new car seat for Thomas since he has reached the max height for his current one. We went out to dinner after we were done with everything and we had to go to 2 places to eat. The place we were going to go to because Rick had won a gift certificate for there had an hour and a half wait so we went somewhere else and had some really good pizza. Friday was our 10th Anniversary. I got the suitcases and Christmas presents packed up and Ryan got the van loaded. We went to the Up North Lodge for our traditional anniversary dinner with the family. Thanks again, Rick, for buying our dinner!!

Saturday began our three days of traveling home and all three days we had awesome weather and great roads. I did quite a bit of driving while Ryan napped, but I don't mind. Saturday night we stayed at Rick's, even though he wasn't there. Sunday we ended back up in Cave City, KY, and now we are HOME!! It's always nice to go to Michigan to visit but it's always nice to get back home as well. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight and running a familiar running route tomorrow.

A Busy Holiday Season

Life as an Army Musician gets crazy this time of year between parades and concerts. And rehearsals for those parades and concerts. And then, of course, there are still the regular ceremonies that we play weekly. It sure keeps us on our toes! Last weekend we marched 5 parades in 3 days and 3 of those parades were on Saturday. If you add in the one from the Friday night prior, that was 4 parades within 24 hours. But it's fun, despite the hours on the bus. I always bring a crochet project with me, and lately I've been working on Christmas presents while on the bus. Tonight is the first of our 3 Holiday Concerts – the other two are next Thursday and Friday. Our last two parades are tomorrow evening and Saturday morning. Add in the Cub Scout Christmas Party Saturday afternoon and the Band Christmas Party Sunday afternoon, and that makes for one busy mama!!

The boys are doing well. Robert is doing well in school and is learning multiplication. He's struggling a little with it, but I think it's more that he's not thinking the problems through all the way and less than that he doesn't know what he's doing. On the weekends, he's been spending time outside riding his bike with his friend who lives across the street. They'll stay outside and ride up and down our street for hours on end!

Thomas is still growing like a weed. He has 5 teeth now – a third one finally came in on the bottom. He's still working on standing unsupported and can manage a few seconds before falling. Still no solo steps, but he sure loves walking while holding onto furniture or our hands and pushing things (empty boxes, laundry baskets, his walking-push toy) around the house and the yard. He loves to play peek-a-boo, and he's starting to "talk" more and more. We know when he's saying cat, car, ball, bottle/cup (same word right now – and sounds the same as ball but accompanied by the sign for milk and sometimes he'll go to the fridge and try and open the door), mama, dada, and once in a while bubba (brother). He also knows that a car goes vmmmm. He loves playing with bottles, "inventorying" the plastic bowls in the cupboard, putting things into and taking them out of containers, and he's starting to have fun with hats – especially Big Brother's hat. It's so fun watching him grow from a baby into a little boy.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've seen that I've been running a lot more lately. I joined the Runner's World Holiday Run Streak challenge, where you run at least 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I finished day 15 today and I feel great (and it's actually day 16 of running every day since we had a Battalion run the day before Thanksgiving). I'm hoping that with this I'll be able to stay a lot more consistent with my running, and it will also help me stay running in the snow and cold when I go home to the U.P. for Christmas. I have a half marathon in February that I'd like to run – and it's only in Dothan so it wouldn't even require and overnight trip somewhere!! I'm also eyeing the Lansing Marathon in April, but I'd need a plane ticket to get there. I definitely want to run another marathon next year, as well as several more half marathons. The main reason I want to run another marathon (other than the challenge itself) is because the math between my half marathons and my marathons doesn't add up. My fastest marathon is nearly 6 1/2 hours. My fastest half marathon is 2:15. I *should* be able to finish a full marathon in between 4:45 and 5:00. Where is all that extra time coming from, other than from a lack of consistent training? I've had a great year of running this year (it's already my highest-mileage year ever and there's still almost a full month to go) and I want to continue to build on that progress next year.

Ok, I think I've rambled enough for one day. Until next time (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later). . . . . .