Now a silent night

Ah, another early start to a day. I set my alarm (or rather, I had Richard set his alarm, since my clock was still in the kids’ room) for 5:30 and got up and took a very quick shower, and then went upstairs and woke up both sisters. We tried tip-toeing around the upstairs in mostly darkness, but as I’ve mentioned before, old houses have noisy, creaky floors, and I think the kids were still too excited by yesterday, because at 6:30 on the dot, all of a sudden up the stairs they came. Heh. At least this time they knew the rules (silly aunt Jennifer for not getting that info from their moms *before* yesterday morning!) and waited until exactly the time that they were allowed to be out and about.

My sisters and I grabbed some leftover pumpkin scones and cinnamon rolls and headed off to pick up my mom, who was waiting with my dad in the parking lot at their hotel (they stayed in a hotel because for some reason they thought that might be quieter than a house with six adults and three small kids. Heh). And then we were off, for the traditional after-Christmas shopping.

The lovely thing about the day after Christmas is that the shops only open about an hour earlier than usual, instead of the insanity of the day after Thanksgiving when shops were opening at insane times like 4am, or even midnight. Since we’d scouted out where we were going to go yesterday, it was easy to get there, and even though this is a new place for all of us to go, we remembered the lessons of previous years and avoided any sort of indoor mall.

We hit Target first, which meant once we’d exhausted the holiday stuff, my sister and I could make a quick detour through clothing, since we were both in need of some new jeans and pants. There’s also a Starbucks in that Target, which was quite lovely, as there had been no coffee for any of us until then. And while we were there my younger sister and I browsed through the toys and games, and she helped me pick out what she promises will be an awesome present for my niece’s birthday next month.

We next swung through Cost Plus, because it seemed the sort of place that might have a lot of cute Christmas leftovers, except there wasn’t much leftover from Christmas. Nevertheless we did have fun there. I picked up a few necessities – a new set of measuring cups and a citrus juicer – and a few things I didn’t need, but got for fun, like a little set of adorable juice glasses, each with a little animal on them.

Our last stop was Michael’s, because big craft stores always have lots of Christmas things. We spent an hour or so there, poking around in aisles and snagging some fun stocking stuffers for next year, but by then we were all started to fade. My younger sister kept making noises about not having had any food except one cinnamon roll at o-dark-thirty in the morning, and my feet have been sore since the ice skating experience on Sunday, so I was more than ready to find a chair and sit for a while. So we called my house and got all the guys to pack up all the kids and head out to meet us for an early lunch.

While we women were out shopping, by the way, Richard and I had found this really fun idea for the kids to do – marshmallow shooters. I’d seen them for sale in stores and catalogs for about $20 each, but then I stumbled over instructions for how to build your own from lengths of piping and a few plastic joins, and so the days before Christmas one of the tasks we had to do was get to Home Depot and stock up on a whole pile of T-joints and elbows and end caps and a few long plastic pipes, and Richard cut them all up into the appropriate sizes. I guess the kids weren’t entirely sure about the whole process until Richard brought out the prototype we’d put together earlier in the week, and even then the youngest nephew wasn’t sure he wanted to play with his until they all trooped outside and the mini marshmallows started flying. And flying, apparently, they were. I’d tested our prototype with one marshmallow at a time but, considering this was a group of kids and dads and uncles, I guess it wasn’t long until they were all seeing how many marshmallows they could cram into the mouthpieces at once. We’d bought one large bag of marshmallows but completely forgotten to pick up a few extra bags, so apparently after they’d made it through the bag, they started ‘recycling’ the marshmallows, except that after the second or third use, they were starting to get a bit sticky (they did this outside, and the grass was still all covered in frost and dew). This certainly explained the strange white marks all over the jackets of some of the kids and the t-shirts of some of the guys – heh.

After lunch – and lots more fortification with coffee – we all headed back home. There were suitcases to pack, and video games and beds to disassemble, and boxes to stuff full of things and seal for shipping, and once that was all done we adults had just about had it and collapsed weakly in the living room. Kudos to my younger sister, who managed to distract the kids (all of whom wanted to run-run-run) by reading most of a book of Shel Silverstein poems to them until it was time to go.

My older sister and her family left first, and then my parents headed out, and then we packed my younger sister and brother-in-law and niece and all their stuff into our cars and drove them to the airport. Lots of hugs and thanks for all the help, and we really loved having you guys here, and then they were off to the terminal and Richard and I were back to our cars, and back to our home, now oddly silent and feeling extra-large and empty, now that rooms were no longer full of day beds and trundle beds and air mattresses, and all the piles of presents and stockings and bags of wrapping paper had been cleared away.

The cats have been slowly creeping around the house, giving quizzical chirps here and there as they search for those interesting smells and people that are no longer there. Richard and I have been camping out either on the sofa in the living room, or in our computer chairs, trying very hard not to do anything at all. I loved having my whole family here, and I am so very glad we got to host because it really was so much fun, but I am also just as glad to have the house back to the way it was – calm, quiet, filled with nothing more than the clatter of fingers on a keyboard or the occasional holler or purr from a cat.