What a vacation!
A few sample thoughts and stories:
We started our break at the Novak household. Gorgeous snowflake lights and a softly-glowing nativity decorated the front yard, welcoming us home with the perfect beauty and peacefulness of the Christmas season. Completing the almost Rockwellian scene was a soft snowfall and a gigantic snowman standing complete with the mandatory seasonal garb - two eyes made out of coal, mittens on stick arms, a wool scarf wrapped around his neck, and sitting atop his head, the traditional bright yellow Christmas hard hat.
It was good to be home.
After visiting some friends that first evening, Laura and I snuggled into a warm cozy bed and drifted off to sleep. The next morning we awoke to the happy sounds of children playing. And when I say "happy sounds" I mean loud, strange noises, frequently followed by wailing.
In and among the usual crashes and shrieks there was Maria, who apparently couldn't remember all of the words to the Beatles' song "Here Comes the Sun", because we heard her sing the same line over and over. "Here comes the sun, dah-dah-dah-dah, here comes the sun, dah-dah-dah-dah, here comes the sun, dah-dah-dah-dah, here comes the..." On and on, at least a dozen times in a row. And a little later, she started up again, only this time she tried to get everyone to sing along with her. And none of them knew the rest of the words either.
And then there was Josiah (age almost-4) and Caine (age just-barely-2), who made strange "tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-THUD!, tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-THUD!" sounds. We finally figured out what this noise was when Emily, who was trying her best to supervise, frantically yelled "This is the last time I'm going to tell you kids: STOP RUNNING INTO THE WALLS!"
And a short time later we heard Theresa's voice call out with an exasperated question: "Ok, who put an apple in the toilet?"
And people wonder why we stay in bed so late...
After a day or two I unfortunately came down with a pretty bad bug. This really set-back our plans for visiting with folks because it was such a severe illness. Sometimes when you get sick, you can fight through it, and still manage to participate in some of the functions of daily life. You know, things like eating and talking and moving voluntarily. But this was no ordinary sickness. No, this was a severe strain of that most dreaded sickness: the 24-hour flu and spastic colon. About a week before our visit much of my family had come down with this bug, and apparently there was a germ or two still floating around. With my immune system still weakened from an earlier attack I call "finals week", I was no match for the 24-hour flu and spastic colon. It was utterly miserable. There would be no eating or talking for Matt, much less moving voluntarily. Instead, the 24-hour flu and spastic colon had reduced me to the point where there were only two things I could do, and both involved chunky-liquids being expelled from my body.
It was not fun.
After I recovered we traveled to Wabasso, to see Laura's family, and share all the wonderful holiday joys with her family: gifts, carols, cookies, and the 24-hour flu and spastic colon. Yes, I'm sorry to say that I inadvertently brought with me a little bit more than holiday cheer, and a couple Guetters also came down with the dreaded illness.
But on to happier things. Like whooping cough.
One of Laura's brothers attends a school where there had been an "outbreak" of whooping cough. There was really only one student who had it, but to prevent the disease from spreading, several students were quarantined, along with their roommates, if they suspected they might have caught whooping cough. Apparently this led their student newspaper to solicit answers to the question "if you had to be quarantined with any one person, who would it be?", to run in an article. Being an ardent Twins fan, my brother-in-law (B.I.L.) wrote in that he'd like to be quarantined with Joe Mauer. Apparently not everyone knows who Joe Mauer is (despite the fact that he led all catchers in batting average last year), because the student paper published their story, misquoting B.I.L. as saying that he wanted to be quarantined with John Mayer.
Which is really too bad for B.I.L., because now everyone thinks he's gay.
Apparently he called up the editor and asked for a retraction. According to B.I.L, the conversation went something like this:
B.I.L. - "Could you please print a retraction? I don't even like John Mayer."
Editor - "Then why did you write his name?"
B - "I didn't. I said I wanted to be quarantined with Joe Mauer."
E - "No, I'm pretty sure I know who you said you wanted to be quarantined with."
B - "Um, no. I wrote down Joe Mauer."
E - "No, you wrote John Mayer. I'll have to find that piece of paper so I can prove it to you."
Even if he were to get the Editor to believe him, I don't know that it would do much good. Apparently they don't print much more often than once a semester, and with the way rumors fly around a small campus, my guess is the damage is already done. Plus, if they did print a retraction, everyone would just think he liked the athletic type over the musical type.
One final story, to bring this whole vacation full circle. On New Year's Eve, the last night we were in Minnesota, Laura and I attended my cousin's wedding. My whole immediate family was there, and we had a terrific time. At one point, while waiting for the dinner to begin, Josiah decided that he needed to use the bathroom, and I offered to take him. When we got there, he led me back to the stall, and I helped him onto the seat. After a minute or so of clenching and grunting, all while I held him so that he didn't fall through into the bowl, he decided that maybe he didn't have to poop after all. So he stood up, turned around, and proclaimed "I just need to pee". This too took considerable effort, and I waited patiently behind him. When, all of the sudden, he was finally able to squeeze out a small stream, he quickly pumped his fist and shouted "OH YES!".
He sounded like he'd just won the lottery.
After he finished, he reached over to flush the toilet. Being a public restroom, the toilet was a high-pressure contraption, and very quickly and loudly the water was flushed down the pipe and replaced. Apparently this too was cause for excitement, because, not thirty seconds after the "Oh yes!" exclamation, Josiah again raised his voice with a joyful "whoosh! AwwwwYEAH!"
Sometimes, I'm amazed by the things children can find pleasure in, whether it's watching a toilet flush or running into a wall. Spending the holidays with our family was awesome. We hadn't been home in far too long, and we both had a wonderful time (when we weren't battling the 24-hour flu and spastic colon). Being back in D.C. is nice too, but you can be sure that we'll be homesick until we're back in Minnesota again.
And I say it's all right