We had a nice Christmas.

Paul had to work a short day Christmas Eve and I had to work a full one, but when we finished up, we got our stuff together and headed over to my parents’ for my mom’s family’s annual Christmas dinner. We all went over a little early to help out, which basically just means we all wanted to play with the dog.

And it wouldn’t be a holiday without my mom coming back while I’m getting dressed to say, “Your dad’s driving me nuts.” Ah, the true Christmas spirit.

It was a nice evening, and it included the gender reveal for Brandon and Kelly’s baby, as their appointment was that morning–they’re having a girl, and her name is real cute and pretty but is not to be announced until she arrives.

The original plan for the reveal, by the way, was my hair–I was gonna dye it accordingly. My hair appointment was a few days before they found out and our original plan was to lighten it and lift out the purple, but then I remembered that, you know, having to work Christmas Eve meant I wasn’t really gonna have time to do that, dye my hair, and get ready for the rest of the holiday. But my mom’s probably relieved it didn’t work out. She’d still be rolling her eyes at us if it had worked out.

All four of us–both kids and our spouses–spent the night, which my mom was adorably excited about. I kind of thought she’d think it was a pain in the ass having all of us over, but she was happy and I think we all had fun. Brandon and I kept saying we were gonna wait up for Santa, but naturally, everyone went to bed at a pretty reasonable hour.

In the past several years, maybe from my teens on, two things have always happened on Christmas–everyone gets up before me and has to bug me to get up and I insist on opening presents Christmas Day. We also usually start by watching the dog open his presents first.

My mom’s been adamant for the last few years that we don’t need more “stuff,” which is true, so she’s been sticking to a few small things to open and money–a lot of money, to be honest, and she’s very seriously thinking of not renewing her contract at work this summer and keeps saying she wants to do that kind of thing while she knows she still can. We appreciate it. Ours went to help pay off furniture before we got hit with interest on it this month. But I also got some makeup I’d asked for and Paul got a Henry Rollins book I knew he’d had his eye on.

Brandon and Kelly didn’t stick around too long in the morning before they headed to her family’s festivities, but Paul and I had a few hours to kill and hung out for a little bit. Then we made our way to his parents’ house for dinner, which was a smaller, more relaxed deal since we’d done all the gifts and such on Sunday while Julie and Michael were in.

We came home sometime in the evening to a cat who was not pleased with us for leaving her alone. It’s kind of sweet, honestly.

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In the week or so leading up to Christmas, we crammed in as much of our usual Christmas stuff as possible–The Nutcracker,Β B.C. Taylor, an evening trip to Phipps to see their annual Christmas flower show, and plenty of get-togethers.

At this point, we’ll cram a ton of stuff into a day if it means seeing people we don’t get to see often. And that’s exactly how the day before Christmas Eve was. We started at my mom’s Aunt Elaine’s annual Christmas party and had a nice time eating and hanging out with everyone for a couple hours.

From there, we went to Paul’s parents’ house. Julie and Michael were in town but weren’t gonna stick around through the holiday, so we did our family gift exchange then. In the fall, we used the Internet to do a Secret Santa between the siblings and spouses/significant others–I got Josh and totally nailed it with a video game he wanted, but also a bonus of a chocolate game controller. Julie had me, and she got me a bunch of candles, vegan lip balms, and soap from a craft show up in Erie, which was pretty much perfect. Paul gave Katie a Cards Against Humanity expansion pack and fuzzy socks, and from Jacob, he got a dinosaur wine-bottle holder. On top of that, we got one of our late wedding presents, a signed, framed print from Paul’s favorite childhood book, Dinotopia. We knew it was coming, but there were issues with the original frame and it took them this long to get it fixed. Now we just need to figure out where to display it. But the big moment of the night was presenting Paul’s parents with their gift, a summer trip to Canada. Well all pitched in for it, and Julie was hilariously excited for them to open everything and figure out we were sending them on vacation.

After a couple hours there, we went to our last stop, my friend Leah’s annual Christmas party. She took a break from hosting it for a couple years but brought it back this year, and it’s one of those events that we love going to because of who we get to see there–she gets together a lot of our classmates who have moved away but come home for the holidays. Since we both had to work the next morning and had an hour’s drive home, we’d said we were gonna leave at 10:30. It would give us time to enjoy ourselves and would get us home late, but not so late that we’d be worn out the ext day. And besides, the next day was Christmas Eve, and at least there’s the promise of the following day off. If you’re gonna go into work tired from a night out, one day before a day off isn’t a bad way to do it. But then we got caught up playing games, and we ended up not getting in until after 1 a.m. Oops.

But I regret nothing. It was a busy day, we drove all over one county and back home to another, and we were exhausted, but we got to see a lot of people over the course of the day and we had fun. I don’t think we’d have it any other way.

Thanksgiving split over two days is so much better and so much easier.

Brandon had to work Thanksgiving day, so my family opted to eat dinner Wednesday night instead. The two of us and our spouses headed over after work–late because of weird traffic on the interstate–and had a nice, calm dinner. Rather than drive home only to come back out Thursday, Paul and I just stayed overnight and spent the day catching up on shows I’d asked my mom to record for us, like American Gods, which is taking forever for us to finish. The good news, for us, anyway, is it’s also taking them forever to do the next season.

We did it all again Thursday afternoon at Paul’s parents’ house, and honestly, this is probably the ideal way to do Thanksgiving. It’s kind of how we do Christmas, and it’s less hectic and you’re not cramming in two meals. And we got sent home with a ton of leftovers.

I had to work Black Friday, as usual, but Paul was off, so he spent the day at home while I was holed up in my office and then headed out with a friend.

We’d decided to have people over Saturday night, and first of all, never doing Facebook invites again. Too many people ignore them now, and I absolutely don’t blame anyone for that, but what should be a super easy way to invite everyone you want over is just kind of a waste of time. Direct texts to everyone next time it is.

It was pretty small, a lot like Emily’s birthday party, only this time, Marissa came over. I knew she was back in the area, and for some reason, something in my brain just kinda went, “Text Marissa,” and so…I did. And I’m so, so glad I did, so much so that the next day, I said that out loud a couple of times and Paul was like, “Yep, I get it.” She didn’t stay super long–really, we’re all so used to going to bed by like 10 that everyone decides to go home pretty early–but we talked pretty much the whole time and I think it was really good for both of us.

And now we enter the hectic holiday season. We’re pretty much booked from here on out, with something going on every weekend in December. I’m debating hosting for New Year’s, but I can’t decide. Normally, we hang out at Terra’s, which might be good to stick with since her migraines mean driving to our place can be dicey, and I’d hate for her to be missing out if that were to happen. But I’ve always wanted to do something for New Year’s, and yet I also know if we’re gonna be busy for much of the month, I might not feel like putting the effort in, and so on and so on…

But the start of the fun is this weekend. We’re going to see Craig Ferguson Friday night, and then on Saturday, my brother and I are going to a local radio station’s Christmas concert featuring The Struts. My mom wants to make my grandma’s pheasant soup and asked us to pick a day to go over, so I suggested Sunday. And if that works for Brandon, there’s my whole weekend.

I started my week with a fuckton of overtime. I worked a 12-hour day on Monday alone, so by then, I was already totally done with the week. Throw in a Fleetwood Mac concert Thursday night and waiting the whole week to find out if I’d be able to get Friday off, and the whole damn thing was a drag.

Fleetwood Mac was fucking fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to see them three times now–and of course a different lineup each time–and they’ve solidified themselves as one Β of my favorite bands. I went from being a casual fan of my mom’s favorite songs to falling in love with the songs my mom never played. I anxiously await the day they worked things out with Lindsey Buckingham, because unless this lawsuit really fucks things up, which it very well might, we all know this is just how the band works.

But I did not get Friday off. I functioned just fine, but man, I was really hoping to sleep in and chill out. On the plus side, if I’d gotten the day off, I wouldn’t have actually gotten overtime pay if I’d had the day off, and I believe that for the rest of the year, I’m only working two full weeks. I have two floating holidays left to use, too, so if I plan it right, I can probably get that down to short weeks for the rest of the year. Sure, we still haven’t taken a real vacation, but short weeks for two months isn’t a bad tradeoff.

On Friday, we ended up out on a quest for a card for Nolan and Brett’s wedding because I didn’t like any of the cards here in Washington, and as much as I really didn’t feel like driving into the South Hills, I’m glad we did because I’m pretty happy with what we found. And when my mother found out we were out, I had to look for a Snoopy Christmas blanket and pillow set for her, and throw in a few other stops I wanted to make plus dinner, it ended up being a whole trip out. We’d intended to go to the gym and had the time to make it, but that’s a terrible idea right after eating at Mad Mex.

The goal was to hit the gym Friday night then again Saturday morning before we left for the wedding because I wasn’t feeling great with how my dress I wanted to wear was fitting, and even though two gym sessions is definitely not going to make a noticeable difference, it at least made me feel like I was doing something. Sometimes that’s all that counts. Honestly, I probably should’ve scrapped the Saturday trip because we slept really, really late and the timing wasn’t great, but I thought I could squeeze it in. I ended up getting back home super close to when I wanted to leave, but us being us, we hadn’t actually packed yet, so by the time we did that, we were an hour behind with a pit stop or two we needed to make. But we made it just in time for me to get ready.

The wedding was nice and we had a good time, particularly with super drunk friends and some time hanging out in Meri and Erio’s room. The time change was a nice perk, too, since we didn’t wander back to the room we shared with my parents until 2 a.m. And true to form, I slept like trash. You’d think being up so late would’ve worn me out enough, but it didn’t. And I never sleep well when I travel on top of that, so although I felt fine in the morning–or rather, like five hours later–I’m exhausted now. But almost all of us made it to breakfast, and from there, Paul and I headed back to my parents’ house to kill a few hours before going out to dinner with his family for his mom’s birthday. I’d originally wanted to try and host some friends since people were home for the wedding, but clearly, we had no time for that.

Dinner was a nice end to a fun, busy weekend, but we’re definitely glad to be back home. The cat’s glad to have us back, too, and has been very dramatic and restless since we got in. I expect to spend my workday tomorrow having my feet bitten and toys dropped under my chair.

So what’s next? Nothin’. This marks the end of a string of busy weekends. Emily has a play at school in two weeks and we’re thinking of hosting a small shindig Thanksgiving weekend, but next weekend, we’re free to take it easy. We probably owe the cat a weekend of playtime and scritches.

Virginia Is for Lovers

This was one of those weekends that feels like a long way off for months and months and next thing you know, you’re like, “Oh, shit, I’m going out of town and haven’t packed.”

One of Paul’s cousins decided to do a destination wedding at Virginia Beach. We were on the fence about going for a good while, having just bought a house and all, but I figured we could swing it. Plus, being a destination wedding, most of the family couldn’t go, so it kind of feels like if you can go and be there for them, you should.

It’s also the off-season, so that made things considerably cheaper and easier. And honestly? If I were to plan another beach vacation, I’d do it in the off-season. The only issue we had was traffic on the interstates driving down, and I blame that on slow driving more than anything else.

We decided to make a long weekend of it and booked the hotel Friday night through Sunday night, and being fans of sleeping, we also decided not to do the usual thing where you get up and leave super early. Instead, we let ourselves sleep in, then loaded up and left. We didn’t get on the road until almost noon, but we didn’t think it would be so bad–we were due to get in in the evening, so we figured we’d have time for dinner and maybe a quick beach visit. Wrong. Said traffic killed us, putting us two hours behind. Ultimately, we got in after 9. Jacob and Katie drove down Thursday and we were originally gonna go to dinner together, but once we figured out we weren’t gonna make it in time for dinner, we told them to go on without us. Instead, we met up in their hotel bar for a drink, then moved up to their room for wine. And we walked there and back. I opted for a cheaper hotel than they did, so we were on opposite ends of the boardwalk, but the plus is we got a lot of exercise. And we still had a beachfront room, so, I mean…

We slept in Saturday and got up for breakfast down the road–our hotel was pretty affordable, but it didn’t include free breakfast. Then we needed to run some errands, and by the time we were done with that, it was time to get ready for the wedding. Fortunately, the rain held off for the nice, short beach ceremony, and the reception was essentially just a party in a beach house. The four of us hung out a lot with each other, plus one of Paul’s cousins. Normally, I’d spend the evening dancing, but we all kind of seemed to enjoy just hanging out, especially on the beach. How can you not walk down there around sunset and just kind of…stay there until it’s so dark you’re being harassed by small crabs?

It was an early wedding, too, so we’re at this beach house for hours, thinking that it must be like 1 a.m., and turns out when we were all getting sleepy by the pool, it was like 9 p.m. The music did have to be shut off around then, so we decided to get going and enjoy the hot tub in our hotel room, the other selling point of the place.

I learned pretty fast that if we wanted to do anything down there, I was gonna have to wake Paul up, so I started doing it a little earlier each day. So Sunday, we went out for breakfast again, and with pretty limited time for the rest of our stay, we settled on visiting the Virginia Aquarium a few miles away, which we enjoyed. It wasn’t a huge place, but they had pretty cool exhibits and we had a good time. And then we hit the beach proper–getting splashed in a dress at a wedding doesn’t really count for me. I mean, yeah, sure, I went in the water, but feet barely count. You need to go play in the waves, so we got ourselves beach ready then walked from our room down to the beach and had ourselves a great time. Then we hit a dinner buffet, because it’s the beach and you have to and Paul gets our money’s worth. Hard to argue with six plates of basically everything on the thing.

The one downside to the off-season is a lot of places close early, so when I wanted ice cream at 10 p.m. on a Sunday, it took a few blocks to find it. But Ben & Jerry’s came through for me. And then I had another round in the hot tub.

I really wish we could’ve gotten in one last round of proper ocean fun, but we just didn’t have the time for it. I thought I got us up early enough Monday morning to have a little bit of time, and really, we probably could’ve done it and left later, but after the hassle we had getting down there, I wanted to leave earlier than we had on Friday. By the time we were showered and packed, it was about time to go, but I walked down for one last quick dip in the ocean before we left.

The good news is we didn’t lose to hours to traffic, but the bad news is we still probably lost one hour and did stop more, so there went another hour. We got home around 8 after leaving at 11, much to the chagrin of the cat, who had Brandon and my parents checking on her over the weekend. I don’t think she was very pleased with us, but she got over it pretty quick.

It was a really nice, fun weekend, but it went by way too fast–even just one more day of sun and sand would’ve been nice, but our vacation days for the year are dwindling. It was the first real trip we’ve taken on our own, not counting weekends in State College, and we definitely needed the downtime, but it wasn’t enough. Hopefully, now that wedding planning and moving are over and done, we’ll have more time and money next year and can take another trip to a beach, or anywhere, really.

I accidentally gave myself a four-day weekend. I forgot that I’d be starting my weekend rotation and would have Monday off, and then I’d taken Tuesday off just to use a day. The only reason I picked that day was because not a ton of other people were off, so it worked, and thus, accidental four-day weekend.

And really, the only thing we did was go to a joint birthday part for Terra and her niece, Betty, which was fun. We hung out with her and Jon, were entertained by the kids, Jacob and Katie came for a bit, it was a good time. And the rest of the weekend was pretty much downtime.

It’s nice to finally not have an apartment to have to clean out, so having any downtime at all was nice, let alone more or less four days of it. Monday and Tuesday I mostly just spent at home hanging out and doing some stuff like writing, with a little gym time in the evenings.

For the near future, that’s probably how things are going to be. The perk of Saturday rotation is that because no one else has Mondays off, it forces me to stay home and chill for a day, and at least for the next few weeks, we have no set plans. I’m hoping maybe we’ll get to the movies and stuff like that, but it’s nice to have an open schedule and a little freedom that way for the first time in a couple months.

This is probably the most stereotypical first-world thing one could say, but man, it can be hard to use three weeks of vacation time and three floating holidays in a year when you have no travel plans.

I mean, we’ve talked about taking a vacation, but because I’m a genius who decided to plan a wedding and buy a house less than a year later, we’ve just kind of been busy with one thing after another. But when one of your cousins gets married on a Friday, even when it’s minutes away from your work and you could easily only take off an hour or so, you think, “Fuck it, I have the days,” and not only take that day off, but you take the following Monday, too. Because why not give myself a few four-day weeks in a row? I’m probably doing it again next week after a concert.

This is why we didn’t do a Friday wedding, by the way. We didn’t want to deal with the schedule shuffling.

Meri came in for the wedding but was only gonna be around for a few days, so one of the ways opting for that Friday off paid off was that it freed me up to stay out late Thursday night and hit up trivia night out at Bud Murphy’s. It ended up being a small thing–just me, Nolan, Meri, and Emily–but it was nice and fun, although we didn’t win, and at least we got to hang out outside of the wedding.

The downside, as I told those cousins, was I’d said we’d make cookies, and after a few things during the week preventing me from doing the last batch, I ended up doing it the morning of the wedding.

Paul and I both ended up going all over the place Friday morning. He went into work for a half-day, and I stayed at the apartment to do a batch of lemon cookies. Now, I’d gotten a lemon–a whole damn lemon–with Greek food from the farmers’ market the week before and didn’t use it, so I had it for me cookies. Except I left it at the house. The good news is the house is just a 10-minute drive from the apartment, so I was able to go over real quick, but it just made the morning kind of a pain in the ass. I was planning to go over later in the day to do laundry, but since I had a batter started before I realized I didn’t have my lemon, I decided not to bother doing stuff like that and to do it later. So I got my lemon, made my cookies, gathered the laundry, stopped at the house, put the laundry in, pulled other cookies out of the freezer, took all the cookies to the hotel, went to the gym, and in between all that, I hoped Paul could stop at the house to move the laundry to the dyer to save me some time, but he had some mishaps of his own and basically went the wrong way down the highway on two separate trips.

The good news is the rest of the day went a lot smoother. We got all dressed up, headed over to the very lovely wedding, and drank and danced most of the night. He kind of crashed and got really tired and I wanted to keep going, but with most of the cousins and my brother gone, I had no one to dance and drink with. Plus it was almost over and we had his company picnic the next day, so we went home.

 

Back when we initially ripped out the carpet in the house, it was at the end of April–about a full month before Memorial Day. So we kind of figured that the new floors would easily be put in over the course of that month.

Not so!

I’m frustrated. On one hand, I get that with my father-in-law doing it, we’re not customers and he knows we have two months left on our apartment lease so there’s technically no hurry, but man, has it stalled everything else. We don’t want to move furniture until we have floors in, obviously, and as is very, very typical of me, I hate having to wait for other people to do things.

We decided to go ahead and keep our planned Memorial Day party on and spent a weekend buying some furniture for our nice, big deck. And despite a sectional couch, nice cooler, coffee table, and two chairs with another small table, one whole end of the thing still looks empty. Both sets of parents brought over folding chairs so people could sit inside if they wanted, but a lot of us hung out outside, despite the heat. And that’s the thing–normally, Memorial Day would be nice and sunny and warm, maybe border on hot, but not quite the level we got. It wasn’t unbearable, but it wasn’t ideal, either. We skipped spring and went right into summer scorchers, plus a lot of rain.

That aside, though, I think we threw a good informal party. Plenty of food and alcohol, good stream of people, and it was nice to get everyone over and hanging out, even though it was heavily dominated by my friends and family and not Paul’s. But he chose not to invite them, so…

One of the things we’ve noticed over the years is that everyone’s busy, obviously, and ends up trying to juggle much-needed downtime with wanting to hang out with people, and that a lot of times, someone needs to take initiative. Everyone always says they should get together more and never does, and frankly, I don’t buy that that’s just a thing people say to be nice. Some do, for sure, but when people easily get caught up talking for hours, they really do want to hang out more. So I decided we have decent space–certainly a lot more than we have in our apartment–so we’re gonna be those people. Not everyone has to come every single time, it doesn’t have to be a huge thing every single time, but damn it, if it’s a holiday and people are off from work or cousins and friends are in from out of town, we’re gonna say, “Come over!” We leave things like this saying we had fun and wish we saw so-and-so more, so damn it, we’re gonna make it happen.

Otherwise, the minor work continues. We had a few paint spots to touch up pre-party but ran out of time, so that needs done. New carpet is going into the bedrooms hopefully next Monday, if they can get us in that day, and if I have my way, bedroom furniture will get hauled over soon after and we can at least stay there and be out of the apartment and just haul the rest of the furniture over when the other floors are done, then take our time moving any other little stuff and cleaning the whole apartment before we have to be out. Something went awry with the lawnmower that’s more than likely fixable, but we decided to invest in a new one anyway, party because that way, we can both be out there at once and get it down faster.

Basically, we’ve been spending a lot of time and money at Home Depot, but I think the end is in sight.

And the apartment is slowly being overtaken by boxes.

I feel like time is getting away from me, like last week was an endless succession of intending to tackle certain parts of the to-do list and never getting to any of it. Things just kept coming up or taking up more time or attention than I expected or wanted.

But Saturday, we got to enjoy a wedding. Paul’s work friend Andrew and his now wife have been together about as long as we have–about eight years for us–but also like us, waited a while to get married. We started hanging out with them after our wedding but during the course of their planning, and it was enough to get us and a couple other familiar faces from their work group on the guest list. It was a tiny wedding down in West Virginia, and we had a good time, as we always do at weddings. And I was smart enough to realize a week or so prior that we were not gonna feel like driving back home, even though it’s less than an hour, so I decided the smart thing to do would be get a hotel room. It turned out that the wedding did not last as long as we expected, and therefore we were not as drunk and tired as we expected, but still, a night in a nice, big king-sized bed away from home was nice. I feel like most people need a long, far-off vacation to recharge; I just need an overnight stay in a place that’s not mine.

We’ve been hanging out with toddlers a lot lately.

It kind of happened all of a sudden. Like, you think about your friends and relatives having babies and how it’s more of a gradual thing, having more babies in your life, but it seems like it was more like one day, we were going to one toddler birthday party, and then another, and now it’s, like, a thing.

Part of it is Terra’s niece and nephew–they were at my wedding, I was watching them with her one weekend, and now that we’re going out for the Supper Serenade, they’re sometimes there, too. They were there last weekend with new toys from Grandma.

And the next day, we had a birthday party for Emily’s daughter, which I honestly didn’t expect an invite to but appreciated, and we had a nice time. And since we were in the area, we also stopped over at my parents’ to do laundry and hang out with Seger, because obviously.

We’ve had a few questions about when we’re having kids, and I don’t mind them, but I do find it hilarious how tentatively people do ask. Like, they know it’s kind of frowned upon to ask but genuinely want to know, so they kind of skirt it. The answer is when we finally have a house. I’d like to give it a little time after that to get an idea of what monthly expenses will actually be like verses estimating and factor that in, but for the most part, all bets are off then. The thing too is I don’t want to have this huge age gap between our kids and our friends’ kids. It’s not a matter of keeping up, really, or jumping into it before we’re ready–and there’s no such thing as ready anyway–but more like it would be nice to be in a similar place. We just have no room for an extra human in this apartment. We barely have room for the two of us in this apartment.

And of course because I’m an idiot, I mentioned this sort of outlined future plan to my mother-in-law, so I’m sure once we close on a house, the grandkid questions will start.