Archive for December, 2008

Christmas Dream

December 31, 2008

We did make it back safe to Alabama and without any incident, unlike last year (sickness, snowstorm).  In fact, the drive was completed in near record time (12 hours) as we only stopped briefly for breakfast at McDonald’s at about the halfway point (in Kentucky) when Jet and Ben woke up at 7:00am.  Jet and Ben both fell back asleep and didn’t wake up until we were in Birmingham or only 1 hour from home.  Lots of sun, though, and it has been in the mid-60’s every day here.  That softens the blow from leaving family and friends behind in Milwaukee.

So what will I remember most from our Christmas trip this year?  Well, besides all of the sickness that everyone else seemed to have which ruined getting together much, the snow and cold would have to take the cake.  After all, first impressions can say so much.  When we arrived in Milwaukee, we stopped at Oakland Gyros by the airport and were greeted by mounds of snow on the islands in the road and streets, courtesy of the 15 inches of snow the day before that were not plowed that well.  It was only until we hit the side streets by Dad’s and Kristin’s house did we know what poor plowing was, or seemingly lack of plowing altogether.  There was quite a bit of snow to slither through on those side streets and in many cases, only enough room for one car to pass through the street.  And then stepping out of the car for the first time at Dad’s house and the plow had recently gone through leaving a huge snow bank to traverse (and fall into) while bringing each bag of luggage into the house.  What a Wisconsin welcome!  The kicker was waking up the next morning to warm-up the car so that we could have breakfast at Kristin’s house, only when I started up the car, it gave a weak “chug, chug, chug, chug” before finally starting, as if to say, it was 70 degrees 24 hours ago, and now this!?!  When the car did start up, the temperature gauge said -6 degrees.  Yikes!  And with that killer wind, -30 wind chills.  And with the extra foot of snow over the next 24 hours, what a Wisconsin welcome that was indeed.  I spent every day that first week in Milwaukee shoveling snow, most memorably at Sandy’s house when it was so cold and windy that my eyelids would freeze shut when I closed them.  Then by the end of the week after Christmas, it was 50 degrees, foggy and rainy, go figure.

Well, it was great having a chance to see everyone again, including Chris and Gina.  I hope everyone has enjoyed their thin mints by now.  And thank you very much Dad for coping with us in your house again for another week+ and everyone else for being such gracious guests and so friendly with food.  If you can believe it, I gained another 10 pounds over the stay, so that is as good of an indicator as any that we were taken care of well.  I am now nearly 20 pounds heavier than when we returned from Thailand only 4 months ago.  Looks like I will be making some changes down here to get back into shape.

Now that we are in Alabama, we have been catching up with the neighbors and doing some after-Christmas shopping at the stores to pick up some great deals.  We set-up our new 42″ TV yesterday (Tuesday) but we are not sold just yet on the “crispness” of the picture.  Perhaps that is because our cable company (Cable One) only offers a handful of channels in HD.

We are going to be quite busy over the next few days.  Today (New Year’s Eve) we have agreed to host a party from 5:00pm – ??? where we have some of our neighbors and friends coming over for snacks, homemade pizza, drinks, and dessert to celebrate the New Year.  For New Year’s Day (tomorrow), we will be heading out to the Thai temple in Atlanta for a celebration (and lots of Thai food).  On Friday, we were planning to visit some friends up in Jacksonville and come back for the Alabama game.  On Sunday, we will be heading out to Savannah, Georgia for the whole week for a conference that I have.  The spring semester begins a week from tomorrow too, so we really do have a lot on our hands the week ahead.  But it should be good to stay busy and get back into a new routine.

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Ready For Alabama

December 28, 2008

Sandy invited us to have breakfast (slappy jacks and sausage) over at her house this morning which is very nice of her.  I stayed at Dad’s for all of yesterday with Ben as it was raining, foggy, and just a plain glum day even though it was 50 degrees.  Jet got out for lunch and some shopping, but the weather just could not get us in an active mood.  Dad is hosting Ben’s birthday party later today which should be a lot of fun.  Dad is making ribs and he has been prepping them since yesterday morning.  With all of the eating we have done over the past week, I am sure that I will be very disappointed when I step on the scales for the first time when I get back home.  We are still planning on leaving early tomorrow (Monday) morning as it appears to be the best driving forecast in the past several days.  As I mentioned earlier, all day yesterday there was very bad fog out and moving away from the city there was very bad ice.  I hope that we are able to avoid all of that tomorrow morning, but there are no guarantees when driving early in the morning.  Wish us luck!

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008

The big day has come and everyone seemed to have a good time and enjoy everyone’s company.  A very successful holiday if you ask me.  The dinner with Coach Mayberry and some old friends (Chris Thompson, Franco and Danny Trampe) went great and it was good to catch up as well as reminisce.  Christmas Eve dinner last night was extra special because we had it in the basement of Dad’s house.  Though there were not that many there, it brought back many wonderful memories of Christmas Eve dinners with Grandma and Grandpa.  Unfortunately, Jet is the latest to come down with an illness as she has felt bad for the past 24 hours – even getting sick in the middle of the night.  Hopefully it will be just one of those 24 hour deals and will soon be over.  Everyone seemed to enjoy their gifts too and the happiness was evident.  Dad was very surprised to get the Sirius boombox and car package as he was totally anticipating getting an iPod.  After I explained what Sirius radio was to him and the radio stations that he had access to, he got very excited and happy, which was a very good Christmas memory.

We are staying over at Kristin’s house tonight because Kristin has her surgery scheduled for 5:30am tomorrow morning and we will be watching the boys for her (Josh and Ty).  We are still planning on having a birthday party for Ben on Sunday and then returning home early Monday morning.  The temperature was 3 degrees this morning but is expected to warm up to nearly 40 tomorrow with rain, which will be a relief as I have shoveled snow every day since I have been here.  I have not minded shoveling snow, though, because I know in just a few days I will be leaving and not having to worry about that any longer.

Just one more quick update, Sup passed his visa interview on the 23rd and will be arriving at JSU in the next week or two.  He will be teaching and doing research with me over the spring semester, which should be both a lot of fun and productive.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Eve, Eve

December 23, 2008

Well, it has just been about surviving since we have arrived in Milwaukee.  We are lucky that we drove up on Saturday instead of Sunday as the gusting winds made for whiteout conditions and caused several multi-car pile-ups on the freeways.  The temperature of -6 degrees at noon was really just icing on the cake.  We did not take Ben outside much yesterday (Monday) because of the temperatures, even though it warmed up to 0 degrees at times.  I spent some of the morning shoveling out the 3-foot snow drifts on Dad’s sidewalk while he watched Ben in the house.  Jet made good use of the time by getting some coffee and shopping with Maggie.  With no big plans for the evening as a few over at Kristin’s house were sick, we took Dad out to eat at Singha Thai for some Lard Nar and Pud See-Eew and then afterwards, took a drive over to Candy Cane Lane.  Somehow Candy Cane Lane seemed less festive this year as there were only a handful of houses that went “all out” while the majority that did have lights, was pretty simple.

Well, snow is on the way today and tomorrow and I hear a good chance for another significant snowfall this weekend.  Yikes!  We are planning a birthday party for Ben at Dad’s house just after Christmas (I think on Sunday, the 28th right now), but we will see what kind of role the weather will have in this.  We will likely head back to Alabama not long after the party.  Jet is talking about going sledding with Kristin’s kids today, which should be a lot of fun for them.  I plan on staying behind with Ben as I my coughing has not improved and we don’t want Ben to minimize any chance of Ben getting sick before we return back to Alabama.  Although Ben might have some good fun in the snow (the snow is at least as high as he is), we don’t want to have the same experience as we had (“croup”) the same time last year.  At least the temperatures will be sky-rocketing up to around 20 today.  Tonight I will be going to dinner with some old friends from high school and my high school football and wrestling coach (Mr. Mayberry) at the Chancery in Wauwatosa.  I am really looking forward to this and the stories and catching up.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and my brother Chris will be in town from Omaha, Nebraska with his wife.  Dad has already cooked up a pot of sauerkraut soup for dinner tomorrow, so we are all set to go!  I got a sample taste of the soup and it just didn’t have the same bite as when Grandma would make it.  Maybe an extra day or two of aging will make a difference.

Keep An Eye Out For Us

December 19, 2008

Well, we will be on our way driving in only a couple more hours.   It almost reached 80 degrees today, which I guess will be a world apart from the conditions we are about to head into.  Snow.  Cold.  Cold.  Cold.  Luckily I found our winter hats, gloves, and scarves – they were in the last place I would have expected to look, packed away in our closet.  If only there was some way to figure out where that last place to look would be in the beginning.  That would have saved me a whole bunch of time.  Ben has been chattering away for the past 24 hours like he has never done before.  I wonder if he knows that he will be seeing Sam in just a few hours

Well, keep an eye out for us.  The weather looks like it will not be much fun, so if someone sees something developing that we should know about, give us a call.  I expect to be leaving our house by 1:00am, so that should put us in Birmingham by 2:00am, Nashville by 4:30am, Louisville (halfway) by 7:00am, and who knows afterwards.  Wish us luck and keep us in your prayers.  Oh, and here are some pictures from the past few days.  Enjoy!

Wait And See

December 19, 2008

We are keeping a close eye on the weather, but as of now, it looks like we will be driving back up to Milwaukee tomorrow (Saturday).  The next best option appears to be leaving on Monday, but that is just too long to wait for us.  Hopefully it won’t be a decision we regret making.  Regardless, we will be tracking the weather throughout the day and into the evening to see if anything changes.

I am still battling some slight congestion and some sluggishness that sets in late in the day, but other than that, there are no real complaints.  Hopefully we all stay healthy during our trip as that was surely not the case when we returned from our Christmas adventure last year.  I have already spent over an hour looking for my winter hat and gloves, which is driving me crazy.   I moved our winter gloves, hats, and scarves from our dresser drawer in the spring to make room for clothes.  What is bad is that both Jet and I both opened the same dresser drawer first thinking that they would still be there, but now I have no clue as to where I moved them to.  This is shaping up to be the challenge of the day as I will try to uncover every possible hiding place to solve this mystery.  Neither of us has started our packing yet, but that shouldn’t be a problem as we have a pretty good idea of what to pack after having made a similar recent trip to Milwaukee.  At least that will keep us busy today.

Brandon, the teenage son of our Wisconsin neighbor, will be babysitting Ben for a few hours this evening as Jet is scheduled to work and I will be attending the JSU graduation ceremony.  It should only be for two hours or so, but hopefully I will have all of my packing completed by then since I might be driving pretty early tomorrow morning.  So I guess it is still a game of “wait and see”, but it does look like tomorrow is the day.

Holiday Travel

December 17, 2008

I was sick yesterday (Tuesday), which may have been due to eating somefood not cooked right the night before at lodge.  That was a shame as it was 70 degrees on the ride home with the windows down.  Tomorrow the forecast is for 80.  I still remember on Monday checking the news in Milwaukee on jsonline and see 5 degrees for the temperature at noon.  My mouth hit the floor the same way Ben’s did when he saw Santa on Saturday night.  Now snow today, tomorrow, and over the weekend?  What gives?  Needless to say, we will be monitoring the weather very closely on Friday and may postpone driving back to Milwaukee until Sunday.

As for the week ahead, Dad mentioned that he may put a little Christmas Eve dinner together for us at his house since everyone else has plans.  My only request was Sauerkraut soup.  Yum, yum.  On Tuesday (the 23rd) I have a reunion dinner planned with some of the guys from high school and Mr. Mayberry (football and wrestling coach) who will be in town from Colorado for the holidays as well.  I got an e-mail notice yesterday that Jet and my Christmas present to ourselves (a 42″ LCD TV) will arrive on Monday.  It is a good thing I had it scheduled to be delivered to Donald and Linda, just in case it did not make it to us in time.  I guess we will have a nice present waiting for us when we return back to Alabama.  Maybe we should throw another pizza party to celebrate and watch some football games with it?

Christmas Party Re-Cap

December 14, 2008

The lodge Christmas party was last night and we arrived without many expectations.  With Donald recovering from surgery and Linda still a bit under the weather, we would be attending this year really without anyone that Jet would know.  Once we walked into the door, some of the guys tracked me down and asked me to read the Christmas story (Luke, Chapter 2) in front of everyone before we began eating.  Since we arrived just a few minutes before dinner was to be served, I assumed that this task had been asked of many different people and likely all turned down.  I agreed and before I knew it, there I was reading the Bible in front of a large group of people.  After the fact, I actually felt quite honored to have been asked to do the reading as I suspected that this reading from the Bible meant a lot to everyone there and I ended up getting complements the rest of the evening for “what a great speaking voice” I had.  That made me feel a bit uncomfortable (is anyone comfortable with the sound of their own voice?), but the sentiments were nice.

The food was great as there was turkey, ham, and all of the fixings.  There was a strawberry dish (fresh strawberries in sugar served with cool whip topping) that was an odd choice next to the cranberries and not included with the desserts.  Jet just loved that dish and ended up bringing a little extra of that back home with us.  Too bad Ben did not have much of an appetite and did not eat much of anything at all.  The one thing that Ben does that annoys us both is that we give him some food to eat, he chews it, then spits it out.  He will also do the same thing when he sees something else that he rather eat or drink instead.  It’s always a rush to catch what comes out before it hits the floor and makes a mess.  At least there were a few other kids (girls) that were about Ben’s age and he had a good time running around playing with them instead.

The highlight of the evening was when Santa arrived.  Santa arrived in the front door after dinner and came in with a very loud “Ho Ho Ho” that shock the entire place silent.  Ben was standing a few feet from the door and his mouth hit the floor when Santa walked in.  What a great sight that was to see.  Of course Ben was both excited as can be and scared half-to-death of Santa – that perfect mix of amazement and fear to make everything magical.  Jet had been able to switch to a day shift working at the Olive Garden so that she would be able to attend and she had an awful day there with bad customers and even worse tips.  I could just sense all of that frustration flushing away with Ben’s happiness.  While Jet was at work, I stopped at Target with Ben and had him help pick out my Christmas gift for him – an indoor “frog” tent.  When we got home, Ben helped me wrap the gift and I hid it in the trunk of my car as I also wanted to surprise Jet with the gift.  I brought the wrapped gift to the lodge with us and simply told Jet that it was a small gift that we would be donating, which is a story that she seemed to buy.  When Santa called out Ben’s name to hand him his gift, I slowly got Ben to approach Santa and could only reach the point where Ben’s gift could be reached by his fingertips before he panicked and started to push back.  Ben thanked Santa for the gift and brought it back a short walk away to where Jet was waiting for him.  When Ben opened the gift (the same gift he helped me pick out and wrap), he looked at with it with such excitement, turned back towards Santa, and started to run back to Santa saying “Thank you, Santa” … only to get within a few few feet and freeze with panic once again.  It wasn’t much longer that we left, taking a to-go plate in hand for Donald, and a few priceless memories with us.  What a great evening it turned out to be.

Book Smart, Street Dumb

December 13, 2008

Another busy week has wrapped up.  Ben had a cold (coughing, congestion, no eating, but no fever) into Thursday when it appeared that his illness turned the corner.  Yesterday (Friday) morning started out well until we went out for lunch at the Porterhouse cafe’ at 11:00am.  Ben was cranky on the way there, while we were there, and on the way back, so we put him down for his nap a few minutes early (around noon instead of 12:30pm – 1:00pm).  Just under 1 hour later, Ben was back “half” awake as you could tell that he was still very sleepy, but continued to cry for no apparent reason.  Ben did not have much of an appetite again as well.  After Jet went to work at 4:00pm, I thought it would be a good idea to kill some time with Ben by taking him shopping with me at Wal-Mart.  About a half hour into walking around the store and not finding anything I needed on my list, I sensed a “meltdown” approaching.  Being a bit “book smart, street dumb” (thanks, Bryon), I thought I could buy some time by taking Ben to the toys section to calm him down.  That worked … for five minutes.  Unfortunately we were in the toys section of the store when the meltdown started to advance again, located in the back of the store, furthest away from everything on my list that I still needed to get and furthest from the checkout counters.  Another brilliant plan foiled.  That was the first time that Ben ever screamed on my through a store, or at least the first time I could remember Ben doing that in a long while.  Ben was still in a bad mood once we arrived back home, but the best I could do was just calm him down by watching Spongebob Squarepants and Thomas and Friends.  Ben still did not want to eat, but that did kill a little over an hour and got us to his bedtime, which he went down with no problems.  Whew!  As an aside, Ben likes watching Spongebob, but hisfavorite part of the show is when the pirate shows up at the beginning.  When this happens, a huge smile goes on his face and he turns to me because he knows that I will sing along with the pirate.  Even when Ben was as miserable as he was last night, a small smile creeped onto his face through his pacifier once that pirate showed up on the TV.

It has also been a rough week for both Donald and Linda.  Linda has been battling a cold with symptoms similar to Ben and Jet.  Donald had two separate surgeries.  On Wednesday, Donald had a skin cancer removed on the back of his neck which went well, but I gathered was painful and has kept him from turning his head much since.  Donald has also been experiencing back pain for the past few weeks and has had various forms of treatment to address it.  His doctor in Birmingham finally figured the source of the problem and scheduled surgery for 6:00am yesterday morning to have part of the bone and ligaments in his back taken out.  This was obviously a bit more challenging than his surgery to remove his skin cancer, but we were relieved when his recovery after the surgery went so well that he was able to return home (instead of spending the night in the hospital) in time for dinner.  Like I said, a tough week, but at least it appears that they have been able to pull through.

Tonight is the lodge Christmas party.  I was very glad that Jet was able to switch her shift at the Olive Garden to be working during the day so that she would be able to attend with Ben and me.  By switching to the morning shift, that means that we will not be going to Atlanta for the last Aussie Rules match of the season.  Oh well, there is always February when the season starts back up again.  If there is a countdown, it will be roughly one week until we head back up north to Wisconsin for the holidays.  Since there has not been the same deals for flights as there were for Thanksgiving, it looks like we will be driving again.  Let’s hope that we have the same fortune for weather as we had over the Thanksgiving holiday (fingers crossed).  We will likely leave a week from tomorrow (Sunday) and return around New Year’s Day, but of course those dates can shift a little depending on the weather (I have learned my lesson).  On the 23rd, one of the grandchildren of our neighbors (Danny and Sarah) is taking part in a Boston Butt fundraiser, so unfortunately we will miss bringing BBQ back with us by only a couple days.  We would love to stay past the New Year’s holiday too, but we don’t know yet when Sup will need to be picked up from the airport in Atlanta and I have a conference to attend in Savannah, Georgia (home of Paula Deen) from January 5-9, which runs right into the first day of class for the spring semester.  Needless to say, there will be a lot of things waiting for us once we return to Alabama after the holidays and things should continue to stay busy.  At least we have the holidays.  Nothing to stressful about that, right?

And finally, congratulations Sandy!  It has been a long, troublesome journey with a lot of tough classes and countless hours studying.  Great job.  We couldn’t be more prouder, though we wish we could have been there to celebrate with you.  Congratulations indeed.

Country Christmas

December 8, 2008

There is one thing that I haven’t commented on yet since returning to Alabama … Christmas music.  There is now a handful of radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music since Thanksgiving.  This is a dramatic shift when I could not find any before the holiday.  My favorite one to listen to is one that plays nothing but country Christmas music.  It is just nice to listen to because there are so many songs that I have not heard before that are played.

Our weekend was pretty hectic.  Jet was very busy working all weekend and on Saturday morning, just before we headed out to Atlanta, Ben woke up with congestion.  He was pretty good for most of the day on Saturday and Sunday, but in the mornings and evenings, he coughed a lot and sounded pretty bad breathing at times – but no fever.  Jet told me that Ben also threw-up this morning.  Jet took Ben to the pediatrician this morning and she told Jet that it was nothing too serious as he didn’t have a fever and Ben likely threw-up as a way of getting rid of phlegm.  His runny nose was also clear so I guess that was another good sign.  The pediatrician gave Ben a flu shot because he hadn’t had one yet, although Jet was concerned about giving him that shot since he was sick.  The pediatrician said it would not be a problem since he did not have a fever.  She told Jet that his sickness could last up to 10 days … I sure hope not.

I did pick up Dad’s Christmas present for the group.  He should be pretty happy with his gift.  I am not sure how best to work out payment.  I don’t even know if I should post on here how much everyone owes.  It would be fine if we wait and settle this in two weeks when we are in town, but let me know what works best for you.