Hey everyone, it's that time of year again, Christmas time. Normally this is a time of going to my parents with a big party, going to McDonalds as Santa prepares Christmas at my grandparent's on Christmas eve, and wild lights with mskate. But with 2020 being, 2020 (crazy lockdowns if you're reading this in the somewhat distant future), things had to change.
I'll start off with a little black Friday fun. Normally black Friday is a blog all it's own, but thanksgiving was kind of bland with lockdowns and such, but it was kind of neat because I had to split my time between my biological family and in-law family, and that was a new experience. We had lunch with my parents and dinner with mskate's parents (or maybe it was the other way around). Either way, we ended up staying at her parents house for the night. As I've said in previous years, I go black Friday shopping every year. Ever since I took IRA with me last year he looks forward to going with me since his family isn't into in person shopping, or crazy crowds, or all the insanity that goes with black Friday shopping that he and I enjoy. Well thanks to 2020, it wasn't like any black Friday I ever experienced, and that was kind of a good thing. You see, ever since I started doing black Friday back in 2010, it's always been "early," like stores open at midnight or 11, or 10, or open all Thanksgiving. I know in the past they used to open at like 5AM or 3AM, so only the REALLY hard core would go out, because that's what my mom would do when I was little, but it just kept creeping earlier and earlier and a lot of people were vocal about their disapproval (like my highschool English teachers). Well because of covid and needing to reduce crowds, the stores opened at like 5AM like they did in the past. IRA and I went out at like 10PM and just kind of went the black Friday rout, and were only able to pick up some stuff from drugstores that were open on Thanksgiving. We went to bed and were going to wake up at 5AM, but I didn't set my alarm right so we ended up leaving at like 5:45. We still did the Black Friday rout, going to best buy, target, big lots, and walmart. We didn't pick-up as much as normal since neither of us really had much to shop for and most of the stuff was picked over because we were late.
OK, fast forward some weeks. Mskate and I normally go to the wild lights at the zoo, but it was too crazy this year with all the restrictions, so mskate found something similar but different. Our county does their own wild lights thing, only it's a driving thing through a large city park. We left a little too early though and the place wasn't open yet, so we decided to walk around the mall that was kind of close by. We didn't spend a ton of time there since we only had about an hour, but we walked around and got some steps in. After walking the entire mall we got back in the car and went to find the place. It was kind of funny, because the GPS wanted to take us through the street that was blocked off so they could have the lights, so we had to get creative. Mskate put a bank in that was close to the entrance and we used that to get us to the general proximity, and then we put in the actual park so we could go to the lights.
OK, now for the fun stuff. We enter the park and get in line. By now the car was starting to get warm, so I took my heavy winter coat off and was only wearing my light hoodie. Mskate pretty much did the same. What was really cool is that they had lights on the way in, so even when we were waiting in line there was stuff to look at. They also set-up a "scenic stop" as the way to turn around to go into the park, which was kind of neat. Lucky for me since mskate was using her phone to play music, she had to use my phone to take all the pictures, so that made it easy for me to get all the pictures up for you.
There were also a fair amount of animated lights, with a few frames a second. Here's a compilation (muted for copyright because we had Christmas music playing in the car).
It was a really fun little outing. It was about 1 hour of fun. There were 3 miles of lights set-up, and we only drove like 10 miles an hour and made stops along the way. Mskate also wanted to have popcorn and snacks for the drive, and that was a great idea and felt really great. I don't remember specific examples, but I do remember my parents driving me around to look at Christmas lights when I was really little, and driving around looking at lights with snacks reminded me of those times. We were also saying "we're definitely doing this with future kids; it's festive and pretty, it builds the memories, it's not too far from our house, and the kids just sit in their car seats without worrying about being too cold or getting too tired." And it was cheap, only $5 per car; we'd spend like $20 per person at the zoo, which also adds to the "we're doing this with kids" aspect. It was a great experience and probably the start of a tradition.
Speaking of new traditions, mskate and I also had a Christmas movie marathon list. Mskate made a list of movies on a piece of poster board and hung it on the wall. As we watched movies we would check off movies.
OK, now it's time for the real festivities. Because we had 2 families worth of gifts to distribute, our car was REALLY full. Lucky for us I have a Durango which has a lot of cargo space. Just call us Santa, because our sleigh was filled. Our time begins on December 24th Christmas Eve. We stopped at her parents first to drop off our gifts to her family and our overnight stuff, because we needed to clear some room in the car before our next stop. Now it's time for the main tradition, Christmas Eve at my grandma's house. We went to her house and unpacked our bag of presents for that group of family. Normally we go to McDonalds before exchanging gifts, because that was when Santa would deliver the presents when we were little and now we do it just because it's tradition, but because covid stopped indoor dining we just went right to her house. Mskate and I passed out our gifts to everyone. I got some gift cards, snacks, movies, and a charging dock for my PS4 controllers. We gave my grandma a red lobster gift card, photo frame from our wedding with her, and some other nice things.
After all the gifts were passed out, my grandma pulled out a super meaningful gift for my brother and I. About 10 years ago my grandpa lost his original wedding ring, and when we were convinced it was gone for good my grandma got him a nicer ring to replace it. We even made a fun little nesting egg "70 years of life" thing. Then 5 years later we found the ring when replacing the clothes dryer, so he would wear both rings for the remainder of his life. Now with him passing earlier this year my grandma decided to give my brother and I his wedding rings as a keep sake. I ended up getting the original ring and my brother ended up getting the nice ring. It just so happens that his ring fits perfectly on my right middle finger, behind my college class ring that he got me as a graduation present. I now carry him around with me everywhere I go now.
OK, gift time over, now it's time for dinner. We had pulled pork BBQ take-out. It was really good. My grandma had some trouble understanding that mskate and I were eating out in the living room because we wanted to be away from everyone and not because there wasn't enough space. She kept trying to figure out a way for everyone to sit at the table, or trying to give up her space so we could sit there, but eventually we got through to her with "you will feel bad if we don't sit at the table, but we will feel bad if we do sit at the table which will make you feel bad that we feel bad." That normally gets her to understand "we are choosing to do this thing that you think is bad, this is what we want." After dinner we watched church on TV. This was the same priest friend that officiated our wedding. His church also gave out interactive bags, which had a battery powered tealight candle, book, and oplaki (phenetic spelling). When mskate pulled it out she asked "what's opalek?" and I didn't know what she was talking about. Then when she pulled it out I got excited because oplaki is a Polish tradition that I would do every year with my other grandparents, and it's great that we have it this year as well. Mass was pretty good, and then we packed up and went to mskate's parents.
When we got to mskate's parent's house it was pretty low key. We each opened up our pajamas, I matched with IRA and mskate matched with her mom and dogs. Well, she matched with 1 of the dogs; unfortunately the one pair of dog pajamas were too big for the one dog and we ended up regifting them to a friend that has a big dog they would fit in. We went to bed soon after that and her parents set-up all the presents. Now for one of the funniest things that happened. Mom-in-law put the dog's presents under the tree, and their dog Delila got into one of the presents I got her, bones with a peanut butter filling. It's about midnight, and her parents are woken up by the "thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk" of her picking up the bone and dropping it on the hardwood floor. The parents trying to handle this ended up waking up mskate, and then she woke up me to tell me "listen to the commotion outside our door." She was probably the happiest gift receiver.
OK, it's Christmas morning. I had a spot of breakfast before we started opening the presents, and breakfast was lemon merengue pie. Yum. I ended up getting a Super Mario Monopoly, 2000s trivia game, Blockbuster movie trivia game, socks, and some ornaments. Mskate primarily got clothes and ornaments, but she also got spongebob the musical (one of our dates) and a Hedwig lego set. The dogs also enjoyed the other presents we got them, and they didn't get into them earlier because her parents put them high up out of reach for them. IRA ended up getting a nintendo switch, and I helped him set it up since I also have a switch. After presents I went to our room and watched church on my laptop. After church we had brunch, and then after that we packed up our presents and went to my parents house for that gift exchange.
We unpacked our presents to my family and I set-up the presents for everyone. Mskate and I ended up getting some puzzles and movies, and I got an XBOX ONE controller charging dock. What was really fun was the stuff I got for my family. I got my dad a peanuts bluray set, vikingpolak a flashlight and lighters, and my mom a turvis cup. I got them some other stuff, but that was the most memorable stuff, and while some of that may sound trivial it's great for them since they love that stuff. After that fun vikingpolak went to get grandma and we just enjoyed some time together. We unpacked her and then had more Christmas fun.
The rest of the day was pretty low key. Once grandma was all in vikingpolak and I did the pickle, a German tradition where the parents hide a pickle ornament on the tree and the child that finds it gets a special present. I contributed the present this year, a bottle of hand sanitizer in a liquor bottle, because I picked up 6 bottles past the peak of covid and they were on sale, and I knew they would be great gag/white elephant gifts since I could wrap it to look like liquor but then it's hand sanitizer. Throughout the day I watched A Christmas Story on TBS, with pieces here and there over the 12 different airings of it. We visited and had dinner. My dad made a beef roast and it was really good. He learned from the best, my late grandma on his side. I can never have enough, there are never any left overs because I will eat and eat. For that reason I always have to go last, because otherwise I would eat half of it and there wouldn't be enough for anyone else. It was really good. After dinner my mom brought out some dreidels and chocolate coins. Sure, we're not Jewish, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy an old testament game. The last time I played dreidel I was probably 7. After that Mskate and I packed up our gifts and went home. I brought in all the presents and it was kind of exercise since there was a lot.
I might as well fast forward a little to new years. Normally I would make an entire blog dedicated to new years because I either go to a party, but there isn't much to speak of because of covid. Mskate and I went to IKEA earlier in the day and we got a new medicine cabinet, coffee table, night stand, and owl night light (because mskate loves owls). I assembled her night stand and she was really happy with it. I also assembled our coffee table, and had to get a little creative with how to start the holes for the mid layer, which meant making some pilot holes with a nail. Mskate went to bed early and I stayed up waiting for new years. I watched Cool Hand Luke with my HBO trial, and then woke mskate back up 15 minutes before midnight to watch the ball drop. We watched the ball drop, kissed, and lit off a firework I had left from 4th of July.
Now it's new years day, and it was time for the annual Christmas get together with my mom's best friend and her kids. I use "get together" loosely because it wasn't actually "together." Normally what happens is we go to my parent's house, spend 3-6 hours together typically playing some game, get pizza, and exchange gifts. Well that couldn't happen, so we did a zoom call with everyone. It was kind of cool because we showed off our houses to everyone. One of the "kids" is into nut crackers and has a large collection, and his brother is really into these special gnomes and has them around the house. I took this as my opportunity to show off my nerd cave. We talked some, and then it was time to open presents. For this group the gifts are mostly token stuff, like tolberone chocolate and kinder eggs, and maybe some socks. This year we also got some gourmet popcorn with chocolate drizzle and some classic games (like madgab). It was a fun little zoom call. Afterwards mskate and I just hung out a little and then went to bed.
Now for the last event, visiting my grandpa and aunt. Mskate and I packed up the car with gifts and my laptop, because earlier this year I digitized a bunch of VHS tapes for my aunt and I wanted to give them to her this trip. Ultimately I remembered it only 10 minutes before we left and was only able to give her 1/3 of the videos, but whatever I'll do the rest next time. We stopped at mskate's parents house to pick up some wedding gifts before we went to my parents house. We stopped at my parents house just to get caught up and follow them to my aunt's house, and wrap a last minute present. While I've been to her house many times, I generally don't drive so I don't know the exact route. When we got to my aunt's house we pretty much just visited; talking about our work, talking about my cousins' kids, seeing what he's up to, and what not. We had late-lunch/early-dinner of sandwiches, and then it was time for gifts. Gifts with my dad's side are not as elaborate as with my mom's side. I think I got some socks and candy. The main thing is what we got my grandpa. His favorite drink is Schweps Ginger Ale, but it's become rather hard to find in the past 10 or so years. You typically can't find it in grocery stores, but I sometimes find it in drug stores or dollar stores, and whenever I find it I always pick it up for my grandpa. I found a 6 pack somewhere and wrapped it up, and then a week before I found a 12 pack at a Rite Aid (which was the last minute gift). When I set it on his lap he was pretty surprised and then when he opened them up he was really happy. My aunt was also pretty happy since she likes it too. Now for a special present that I've been holding onto since Amazon Prime day. When I was about 8 my grandma gave me some elfwich fudge cookies, and she made a really big deal about them, and for some years later that was kind of a special thing she would give us. When I saw I could get a case of elfwich fudge cookies I knew I had to get them for him. When he opened them he didn't realize initially, but after I said "I couldn't remember if you or Grandma were into these, but I remember them from when I was little" his face lit up because he remembered the good times. My aunt was also happy since she likes them too, because they're good. It's also great because he needs to maintain weight and cookies are a good source of quick calories. We opened up one of the packages and everyone ate about half of the package. A little while after we went home. I unpacked our stuff and then we just kind of rested.
Well, that was my Christmas 2020, with some new years too. It had it's ups and downs. The main up was it was the first Christmas with mskate as my wife, and with my new family. The main down was this was the first Christmas without my grandpa. Mskate and I had a really fun time doing a new activity with the city lights, but that was mainly because we couldn't do wild lights due to covid. I still made the best of everything, which is what matters. This has been Pokematic, signing off, and bu-bye.