Christmas Vacation: Part II

Happy New Year!

And you don’t know how it good it feels to finally be able to write that, considering I spent the weekend feeling like I was near death.

I woke up at 6 a.m. Christmas morning with a sore throat, a telling sign I was coming down with a good old-fashioned cold. The next morning, we said goodbye to my parents and the cold had hit me full bore. On the say Kates, Phoebe and I were heading to The Farm. But more on that later.

By the time we arrived back in The ’Ville Friday night, my cold hadn’t subsided. Saturday morning it worsened. We hit a high of 63 degrees outside, the sun was shining, families were playing outside. And I was bed-ridden.

I barely moved all weekend. My nose felt as though it was stapled shut, with a gallon of snot stuck behind it. The right side of my face felt like it had been hit with a bowling ball. My nose had me in so much pain, I wondered if it was broken. … Saturday night, as I sat in bed with Kates -- she was experiencing some aches and pains of her own, which we’ve since connected to the new baby’s growth -- and did a little investigating on WebMD, we came to the conclusion I had probably had a sinus infection. Lovely.

None of the medicines I was taking were working. Obviously. After an awful night of sleep, Kates switched me to some high-powered Mucinex Sunday morning, but I remained in bed for the day. Watching football and praying for a miracle cure. … Monday morning, Kates was due back at school while I stayed home with Phoebe; Phoebe and I weren't scheduled to return to school until today. I tried getting out of bed to do some things in the morning, but found myself back in bed during the afternoon with a pounding headache.

I must say, though, Kates and Phoebe were so sweet. Kates brought me meals in bed, and cute, adorable Phoebe brought me an endless supply of her toys and hugs. At one point, she was cuddled on the bed next to me rubbing one of her homemade bean bags on my shoulder, asking me every few seconds if it was helping me feel better.

Finally, today I felt well enough to get out of bed. I’m still not feeling 100 percent healthy, but I’ve been standing upright for most of the day. So I count that as a win … I had to take a sick day from work, but I badly needed the extra day of rest.

Perhaps the worst part of my plunge into sinus hell was that it killed the end of my holiday break. Once we returned from Wisconsin Friday night, I was looking forward to spending the next three days working around the house and catching up on some reading, writing and movies. I wanted to start working on the baby’s room and begin taking down the Christmas decorations, as well as the general cleanup that’s always needed after several days away, particularly with our car. None of that happened.

I didn’t have enough energy to sit up in bed, let alone concentrate on anything other than what was showing on the little TV in our bedroom. I was completely immobilized for the weekend.

On the bright side, I did catch some good TV. Saturday night, of course, we watched the Rockin’ New year’s Eve in Times Square -- and yayed and nayed at the results of the network’s countdown of the top 40 New Year’s Eve performance. (Jennifer Lopez at No. 1!? Gimme a break.) After the football Sunday, I watched all off “60 Minutes” and caught this dude (freaking amazing … ), and I got hooked on “Unforgettable,” which is now set up as a series recording on our DVR. ... Monday, I spent the late afternoon and evening hours watching the college bowl games, which I'll admit were all pretty good games.

I probably wouldn’t have watched the games otherwise because my disdain for big-time college football grows with every year the BCS formula remains in use, a coach gets a multi-million dollar contract or a cheating scandal breaks. And let’s face it, all but one or two of these money-grubbing, corporate-controlled bowl games are pretty much meaningless.

So that was how I spent the last few days. As for our visit to The Farm …

* * *

As if my poor health wasn’t a bad enough way to start the second half or our Christmas break, I discovered a tear in one of the Forrester’s front tires as I was prepping it for our road trip. We weren’t going anywhere until I could get it repaired. So I was on the Walmart’s doorstep not long after the auto center opened Monday morning. Two new front tires, $230 and three hours later, we were on our way out of The 'Ville shortly after 10 a.m.

Despite my condition, I thought I was ok to drive. But shortly after we passed through Des Moines I knew I had no choice but to give up the wheel to Kates. She took over and got us through Iowa City while I slept.

Phoebe traveled like a champ, falling asleep during the early part of the drive and then again during the late afternoon, watching a couple movies on her mini DVD player in between. It wasn’t until the last half hour or so that she started getting a little whiny. … So Kates took a hold of the iPod and kept Phoebe entertained with some of her favorite songs: “Deer in the Headlights,” “Fireflies” and “Now,” among others.

We arrived at The Farm around 6:15 and began settling in. As I unloaded the car and carried our belongings inside, it struck me that we didn’t have as much luggage as in past years. Then I thought, that will change next year when we have another baby.

* * *

Phoebe was at it when the sun broke Tuesday, running up and down the stairs and around the house in her Christmas pajamas, helping Grandma S. wrap presents and bringing them down to the tree one by one. Poor Chloe was parked under the tree and wanting to pounce on every new gift-wrapped box Phoebe brought. 

Later, we were admiring Phoebe after she dressed herself in this colorful motif. Green and red Christmas socks, black leggings with polka-dots, a pink skirt, a white shirt and her sparkling red headband. When I observed aloud how colorful she was dressed, Phoebe exclaimed, “It’s Christmas!”

The day was a repeat of our stay at The Farm this summer, with Phoebe watching nearly every Disney movie she could find in The Farm’s movie library.

By early evening, Orrin and Kelli arrived. And after supper our gift exchange commenced. Chloe, who had waited patiently all day, got the first gift. Watch that tail wag ...

When the dust settled, Phoebe had another doll that goes potty, an Aaron Rodgers jersey, an oversized Dora the Explorer coloring book and a wooden princess dress-up kit. Better yet, she received a Woody doll and an orange teddy bear. So, counting the Woody doll as a legitimate alternative to a Buzz Lightyear, Phoebe had, somehow and totally unexpectedly, received everything on her very specific Christmas wish list except for the "Cars 2" movie. Amazing.

Among the gifts Kates and I received were some additional donations to our TV fund. I also received a vinyl copy of The Beatles' "Rubber Soul." And Kates got Bananagrams, the word game that's sweeping many of the families we know.

As soon as we could undo the packaging, we were at the dining table and playing Bananagrams until the early morning hours.
* * *

We filled the rest of the week with our usual Farm activities -- games, puzzles, movies, hikes and, of course, sleep. For the record, Phoebe also watched every version of Cinderella in the house -- Disney's 1950 version, Roger & Hammerstein's 1965 television version starring Lesley Ann Warren and "Ever After." In fact, "Ever After" got a showing at least once, sometimes twice, a day.

Wednesday was Grandma S's birthday, and we celebrating by having Uncle Rod, Aunt Helen and Great Grandma P. over for the day. We stuffed ourselves with appetizers and snacks before we could sit down for the main course, and then there was a chocolate cake for dessert. ... Intense games of Bananagrams dominated the remainder of the afternoon. And that evening Phoebe held Grandpa S. hostage to watch "Aladdin" with her, while the rest of us worked diligently on a puzzle.

Thursday, Uncle Alan, Aunt Linda and Cousin Andrew paid a visit. Again, there were bountiful snacks and appetizers, with more games of Bananagrams. Phoebe introduced Aunt Linda to the magic of "Tangled," and later we took one of our regular hikes to the bluff overlooking The Farm.

Thursday evening, Orrin, Kelli, Kates, Phoebe and I headed to town to pick up Grandma S. who had gone for the afternoon to help Great-Grandma P. move to a new room in the assisted living facility. On our way back to The Farm, we stopped at a Dairy Queen for supper, completed with ice cream desserts.
Our nightcap included a rousing game of Apples to Apples, and then ...

"Gremlins." As a child of the '80s, how I had yet to see this classic is unexplainable. It's been on my list of movies to see for far too long. Luckily, Orrin got it the DVD as one of his Christmas gifts, and we popped it in Thursday night.

I wasn't dissappointed and thought it was great fun from beginning to end, with believable special effects -- the way movies should be made. ... If the same movie was made to today, the gremlins and nearly all of the special effects probably would have been CGI. Blech!

* * *

Friday, after enjoying sunny weather with temps in the 40s for most of the week, we prepared to drive back to The 'Ville. While this was happening outside ...

After listening to a couple weather reports, we decided to go for it and pulled away from The Farm around 11:30 that morning. We pushed through the snow and sleet, and finally took a break around 3:30, stopping in Amana at Maid-rite for an afternoon snack.

Shortly after dark, Phoebe began getting restless and we employed the strategy we used when she got antsy late in our drive to The Farm. We played some of her favorite songs on the iPod, but this time her fit outlasted the songs, and we started traveling into Tantrum Town. Luckily, Kates stumbled on the Muppets album on my iPod -- an album I’d forgotten I had -- and with Phoebe’s recent discovery of the Muppets, it worked wonderfully. The music calmed Phoebe, and five or 10 minutes later she was sleeping.

By that time, we’d finally ditched the rain and sleet and had clear roads the rest of the way. Well, except for the final stretch through Iowa when our car came up on three deer standing in the middle of the road. We come up on two more before getting to The 'Ville.

We pulled into our garage at almost exactly 7:30. I think I say this every year, but I can‘t remember the last time I was so happy to be home, especially with my worsening cold. It had been a long day of driving, and I, of course, was feeling like I’d been run over by a truck.

I slowly unloaded the car while Kates prepped Pheebs for bed. By 9, all of us were in bed, and our house was dark. Our holiday travels complete for another year.

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