This year, my sister - Beth, and her 16-year-old son - Michael, are with us for Christmas. My mother was supposed to be with us too, but she had a shoulder replacement last month, and thought it would be best if she stayed in South Carolina for the holiday. We've really missed having Mom with us - and participating in so many of the traditions that we've conjured up over the years.
Including Monkey Bread on Christmas morning …
And ribbon wrapped stairway / hallway - a trademark move left for the children to show that Santa has been here on Christmas Eve!
We're having a really great time with my sister and nephew.
In the two days that we've been together, we went shopping so we could do a Secret Santa exchange on Christmas Eve … we volunteered at our church's Christmas service … we've played soccer, gone for walks, watched movies, played games, played ping-pong, and had some intense Star Wars light saber battles.
Here are the kids, waiting to start opening their stockings until 7:45 AM … on the dot.
Oh, the anticipation!
After breakfast, we opened the rest of our gifts.
It was a glorious and music-filled day!
In the mix with us this year is my co-worker's dog, Bella. We're dog sitting her for a few days while my co-worker visits family out of state.
I didn't mention it yet, but earlier this month, we bid farewell to our dog, Louie. I'd like to say it was a difficult decision to give him away - but it wasn't. For as much as we tried, we never felt the "click" with Louie. There just wasn't the right kind of chemistry between us - and for five years, I attributed it to me and/or the family dynamic. I wanted to blame it on the breed, but I kept thinking to myself, "A dog is a dog ... it's got to be a human issue. We're simply not trying hard enough."
The straw that broke the camel's back wasn't the nipping that he was prone to do, or the Cujo aggression he'd show to other dogs … it was that Louie kept running away. He ran away when we lived in Virginia, he ran away when we lived in Texas. He ran away when we went away on vacation in Michigan. Every time the children would go outside, and leave the door open - which is at least 2X (er, 4X) a week - the dog would be gone. Running away, as fast as his four legs would carry him, GONE. And hours later, we'd get phone calls, not from the neighbor next door, or down the street … but from the neighbors in the next neighborhood, across the street, through the woods, and over the river. "Hi, I think we've got your dog….?"
Yes, we love meeting new neighbors. But not quite that way.
Eventually, we decided that there's a huge difference in breeds, and Louie isn't the right breed for our family. He needed more than what we could offer him, and it wasn't fair to him - or us - to try to keep forcing something to work that simply wasn't working. The multitude of dog experts that we've talked with seemed to think it was the "Mountain Cur" part of his breed that made him take off the way he did and give him that unending uber energy. And you know, this family has got enough high energy without having a high energy dog, too.
Bella is a Golden Retriever / Labrador mix and she is the antithesis of Louie. We have discussed getting another dog - next summer when the kids finish school and we have time to devote to getting a new dog acclimated to our family. Another dog for our family, would be a dog like Bella. Or a dog like Pearl. Or a dog like Monty.
But I'm thinking that just watching Bella whenever her family goes out of town might be a better arrangement for us. We'll have Bella to love and care for roughly eight weeks a year - and in return, they get to handle all the dog care and vet expenses.
Ho, ho, ho … that's a win-win!