Four Christmas Celebrations in Four Days

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Christmas is a season of seeing families you do not oft see and traveling for our small family.  This season was no different, the difference was how close all of the celebrations were to each other.  With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, Haley and I had to work until the Friday before, so everything was compacted before Christmas.  Having survived this arrangement of the holiday season, I have to say that I enjoy working up until a few days before Christmas.

I posted som (blurry) photos of our first Christmas celebration with my parents, brother, and his wife, which started at the beautiful albeit crowded Gaylord Texan hotel where we took our annual visit to the ICE exhibit and ate dinner at the vaunted Old Hickory Steak House.  The theme for ICE this year was Madagascar Christmas.  I’ve seen the first of the Madagascar movies and was underwhelmed; oddly enough, this was the same reaction I had to the ICE show this year.  We all agreed that in terms of the sculptures this might have been the finest we’ve seen, but I think that they are running out of classic Christmas movies to create so they’re going for kid friendly animated movies.  After shedding the jackets you are obligated to wear and thawing out our hands we headed to the Old Hickory Steak House for our annual gorging.  Between the lobster bisque, my brother ordering wine, and the bone-in filet I had for dinner you would think I would know when to quit, but no I had to order dessert as well and I paid for it later that night.  Throughout the dinner we talked about how we will welcome the addition of our daughter next Christmas, or rather how she’ll be staying with a babysitter.  When we returned home we opened our first batch of presents.  The next morning we stowed our newest treasures with my parents and proceeded to my wife’s stomping ground for the remainder of our Christmas celebrations.

The morning of Christmas eve had us traveling down I-20 out of Dallas toward my in-laws house in Tyler, TX…yes, that’s right Tyler was headed to Tyler.  We arrived at just about lunch time and caught up until it was time to head to my father-in-law’s family Christmas celebration at a local mexican restaurant.  We ate a painfully slow dinner while watching the youngest of their family wander hither and yon around the private room we had been sequestered in.  I enjoy talking with this side of the family for a little while, and since I hadn’t seen any of them since last Christmas it was fun to chat about life outside of Dallas.  After dinner we headed back to the in-laws house for ‘Peppard Christmas’ and dessert.  Rather than buying gifts for each person in the extended family, we each bring a (roughly) $10 gift card and play ‘dirty Santa’ (aka white elephant gift exchange for you normal folks out there).  I ended up with a bit of spending money at 7-Eleven and Haley came away with a giftcard to Starbucks.  We went to bed that night with overly full bellies for the second straight night and thoughts of two more celebrations on the mind.

Christmas morning is quite a tradition in Haley’s family.  We all wake up in the morning and sit around the tree.  Someone hands out a single gift to each person and we all take turns opening them and praising the person who gave the gift.  This is quite a departure from my family’s Christmas where we hand out all the gifts to everyone present and let a Shark Week style feeding frenzy erupt until all the presents are opened.  We all left this Christmas celebration with many new gifts and a hunger in our belly, so we began to cook breakfast consisting of my father-in-laws famous eggs, 2 types of sausage, and biscuits and gravy.  We then spent the rest of the day trying to keep ourselves from falling into a food coma and researching various topics on the internet.

Later that night we headed over to my mother-in-law’s sister’s house with family for the last of four celebrations.  We each get a single present at this celebration and I love seeing what I get.  This year I got a devotional and a digital picture frame, which is just perfect considering we have a little one coming later this year.  We then proceeded through the random east Texas snow storm into their main house for dinner of green chili chicken and various games around the fireplace.  This is by far my favorite group of family to catch up with because you never know what they’re going to be talking about.  This year the boys were talking about the custom boots they had ordered for Christmas this year.

The following morning the fellowship broke as Haley’s brother headed back to Ft. Worth (something about going back to work) and we headed further into east Texas to visit one of Haley’s best friends in scenic Longview, TX.  We went to eat with them, took the tour of Longview, and played a game of Settlers of Catan (our favorite board game) before heading back to Tyler to pack up, spend one more night, and head home first thing in the morning.  I love Christmas break, and usually at this point it’s more than halfway over, but we have over a week left and more fun left to have.  It’s always a whirlwind, but Christmas couldn’t be better time to catch up with family.

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ICE at the Gaylord Texan 2012

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A Grinchy Kind of Season

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I sat down recently to see what was on the television and stumbled across “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and it took me by surprise.  I’m not sure exactly why seeing as how it is less than a week until Christmas, but it did just the same.  What was also surprising was that it was not the terrible Jim Carey version of the movie, it was the original Dr. Suess version of the movie which I hadn’t seen in a long time.

I love the holiday movies of my childhood.  I love every Charlie Brown and Muppet version of them and for the most part dislike all the modern revisions of them.  As I sat and watched I realized that it’s my job, in part, to instill the love of these movies in my daughter.  I want her to have the same love for the holiday season as I do and for better reasons than the ones I was raised on.  I want her to enjoy giving gifts just as much as receiving them and I really want her to be thankful for the gifts she has been given.

My family also has a tradition of going to see the Ice presentation every year at the Gaylord Texan, and I realized that this event will no doubt change next year with an eight month old.  In a way I will miss these traditions, but in another way I’m excited to start a new chapter in my life in a few short months.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

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Ok, I’ll admit it.  I’m a Tolkien guy, but I wasn’t always one.  I read The Fellowship of the Ring about a week before seeing the first movie and really hadn’t ever considered reading it before then.  I found that book good, but oddly slow moving so when I went to see the movie I had rather meager expectations.  Then I sat in a San Antonio, TX movie theater and watched one of the most awe-inspiring movies I had seen.  The book literally came to life (with a few things left out and the end of the movie being a chapter into The Two Towers, but I digress) and it made me want to read the other two as well as The Hobbit again every time a new movie in the series came out.  I’ll admit that I’m not the quintessential Tolkien fan because the movies drove my desire to read the books and I haven’t read all the “history” books that go along with The Lord of the Rings, but I do get pumped about these movies and The Hobbit was no different.

I tell you all that nonsense to tell you that I’m completely biased when it comes to reviewing any of the Peter Jackson adaptions of The Lord of the Rings.  I’m never going to say that he needed to leave something out or should have added something that was not in the movies (except for Tom Bombadil, but that will have to wait for another blog).  I also kind of go all out for these movies.  In college that meant going to the midnight premier even though there were Friday 8:30 AM classes to reckon with the following day.  It’s sad to say, but the wife and I just don’t make it to many movies any more.  One because she falls asleep in movies and also because we’re attempting to save money since we have a baby on the way.  All that goes out the window though when The Hobbit tickets were released.  I got online and bought tickets at the iPic Theater across DFW from us because I knew for sure that would get the wife to come with me.  If you haven’t been to one of these theaters, I highly recommend it but that’s for another blog as well.

I’m not going to spoil the movie for anyone, although I would recommend you read (and thereby ruin the movie for yourself) the book before seeing the movie.  Below is a short list of things I noticed about the movie:

  • It’s definitely a Peter Jackson film.  What I mean by this is that he has a certain style about him.  I love it, but I can see where other people may have an issue with the 48 frames per second frame rate, the lighting of many of the backgrounds, and the creative license that he takes with some of the story line.  
  • I do not interpret the books like he does.  There are parts of the movie that have a higher level of stress than I ever imagined when I read the books on my own.  It makes me question my own reading of the books from time to time, so maybe I need to read more critically next time.
  • The level of detail is astounding.  In this instance, I’m not talking about the frame rate, I’m talking about the wardrobe and props.  I’m the guy that sat around and watched all the different extended features DVDs that came with the Lord of the Rings and as I watch these movies I can see the differences in armor and weapons of the different races.
  • I need to go to New Zealand.  This country looks amazing in every one of Peter Jackson’s movies.  I realize that not every place is a post card waiting to happen, but I feel like I need to go and see these places for myself.

I was really blown away visually by this movie and it’s the first movie I’ve ever been in where I didn’t mind wearing 3D glasses for the entire movie.  I loved watching the movie come to life in real time, not just the cartoony way it did in my childhood.  I highly recommend the movie and I’m looking forward to the next two installments in the coming years.

Anticipation

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I’m up early this morning writing because I have to be everywhere at least thirty minutes early.  In this case, since I’m driving to school from Denton to beat the basketball team to the gym, I decided to be here around forty-five minutes early.  Today is one of my facovirte days of this year because I get to go to the basketball tournament with the 7th graders as well as go to see a much anticipated movie tonight.

I do love basketball season because of the complete change it is from football season.  The grind of football season is almost too much for me every year because of the immense time commitment.  Now that the pace has slowed a bit I have been able to get my feet under me and can relax from time to time.  I also enjoy basketball because there are fewer kids and I get to know them really well.  Most kids come in with some basketball knowledge so it’s more about developing skills rather than teaching new ones.  When you wrap all of those facts together you get a pretty enjoyable part of the school year.

After we’re done with the tournament, the wife and I are headed to The Hobbit in 3D, which I’ve heard is really good.  I’m a complete J.R.R. Tolkien fan.  I used to read The Lord of the Rings every year in January, but I haven’t had the time to do that in recent years.  I did make a point to reread The Hobbit in the past months in anticipation of the first of three movies.  I’ve been told the way they filmed it and the pace of the movie have derailed some of the majesty of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I’m pretty much going to see anything he puts out at this point.  We’re going to see it at one of the iPic Theatres tonight, which makes it even more of a special night.  Who doesn’t like private, leather recliners to watch a movie on?

I’m planning on reviewing the movie tomorrow, but I’m just pumped that I’m seeing it opening weekend at this point.

Lights

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Lights by Tyler.horner
Lights, a photo by Tyler.horner on Flickr.

I’m finding myself daydreaming more and more about how having a child is going to change my life. As I was driving home this evening I kept getting hung up on Christmas lights. I’ve never been a fan of going and putting up lights for a month or paying someone entirely too much money to do the same. But is having a child going to impact that?

Growing up my parents did very basic all white Christmas lights around the eves of our home. My grandparents both did the same but with colored lights. As I drive down the streets of my neighborhood I’m seeing more and more lights as well as all kinds of blow-up santas, moving LED lights, and creatively wrapped trees of all colors. Is my child going to beg me to put up similar things? Will I be willing to sacrifice multiple days outside rigging various electrically unsound devices to please my child? Or will I willingly want to do all these things to watch the fleeting smile of my daughter? Who knows, but I’ll find out in a couple of years (I’ll wait till she asks me).

Baby Teeth

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My wife started complaining about how bad one of her teeth hurt last night.  I blamed it on the fact that she hadn’t been to the dentist in a while, but she laughed that notion off.  I didn’t really hear much from her for the rest of the evening, but little did I know that was the calm before the storm.

I woke up this morning to a messy kitchen because she had been up late into the night looking up home remedies for toothaches.  Apparently I didn’t know the one about putting vanilla extract on the tooth will help numb the pain.  I went about my morning routine and headed in to work…did I mention it was below freezing and lightly snowing in north Texas?

I got to school and began to get ready for our basketball game today when who would come walking across the gym?  My wife brings my lunch that I’d forgotten, and tells me that she had an appointment with a dentist to look at her tooth.  At this point I began to prep for the worst.  She reassured me that they can’t do too much to a pregnant woman, so I calmed a bit.

I forgot to cover her class for her accidentally, but she told me that her sinuses were so inflamed that they were pushing on the roots of her teeth and that’s what’s causing the pain.  Luckily, her doctor was able to call in some medicine for her and the dentist was going to get paid through the insurance, so everything is fine.  I didn’t know all this could happen over one little tooth ache.

Dim Sum, Ducks, and Trains

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I’m finding myself observing how little kids act as I go about my day to day activities, and it’s making me more and more excited to welcome our baby girl into the world.  Some friends of ours invited us to our first dim sum, basically Chinese brunch, and then to go visit the North Park Mall Train exhibit today, and we said we’d love to.  Their son is almost 2 now, so it was fun walking around and seeing him interact with all the stimuli of a mall alongside hundreds of other children of all ages.

Dim sum was actually really good, but I was happy someone knew what to order, because I sure didn’t.  Somewhere during the meal I channeled my inner Andrew Zimmer and ate my first chicken foot.  It wasn’t what I would call ‘bad’, but I can assure you it’s not something I’ll crave any time soon.  We sampled various types of dumplings and noodles and it was all really fantastic.

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We then headed to North Park Mall in Dallas for walking, talking, and trains.  I remember going to the model train exhibit at the Galleria Mall when I was a boy, and it was very similar to the one we visited today.  Tons of awesome trains and models wound around the venue and it was packed with parents trying to take pictures of unwilling kids and mothers grabbing the hand of little children before they grabbed a train straight off the tracks.  I was happy to see that Big Tex’s legend will continue after he met a tragic end this year at the State Fair.

While we were walking around the mall we stopped at a little group of ponds that had turtles and ducks floating around in it and kids stopped in their tracks mesmerized by the little animals.  It was funny to see how boys and girls alike looked in wonder at a few turtles that barely moved and it gave me a minute to think about baby Horner.  I wonder if she’ll be an animal lover, if she’ll be shy in front of the camera like her father was growing up, or if she’ll love wandering around the mall when she’s little.  I wonder how I’ll react when it’s my daughter screaming when she doesn’t get her way, when she wanders off in a crowded place, or when she gets a little too close the the ducks in the pond.  I wonder so much about my baby girl and I can’t wait to meet her.

A First Time Daddy

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I know people that have started websites and blogs for any number of reasons.  I feel like most of the time people start one because they are headed on the trip of a lifetime and want people to follow their journeys.  Sometimes people are after the fame and fortune associated with writing and having opinions on the worldwide web.  I know I’ve started blogs for different reasons only to have myself lose interest entirely and not post for months at a time.  I’m not saying that this blog is going to be any different, but I hope it won’t.

I’m writing this blog for my wife, my soon to be baby girl, and me.  I want to chronicle our lives together and how we grow as a family.  I want to blog to savor the good times, remember the struggles, and more than anything to remember.  Sometimes my memory fails me, especially as I grow older, and I want to make sure that I have memories of the past.

I found out earlier this week that I’m going to be a father to a little girl in April and I’m both excited and worried all of a sudden.  Pregnancy has been different, but not that different until we found the gender of our baby.  Somehow it went from being a great future with a little unnamed baby to we’re having a girl and she’s healthy and growing.  I feel like my spare time is being used wondering about things, planning for future events, and having the slight worry in my stomach.  I love the idea of having a little girl, but my whole family is full of boys, so I’m about to get a crash course in little girls, but I can’t wait.