Our Caribbean Vacation in Puerto Rico

Wife and I snuck down to the bar. It was a nice getaway from our getaway. Someone would look for us. I told Wife to keep her head down.

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There was a lot to do during our time in San Juan. As usual, different people wanted to do different things. We divided our time between finding out what everyone wanted to do and taking in everything a new destination had to offer.

Puerto Rico’s Capitol Building.

Upon touching down in San Juan, we collected our luggage and our children and stepped outside to find a taxi. Certain children needed to be reminded we were in public, and everyone needed to pretend we were a nice, normal family. We found a taxi and were brought to our hotel. Wife and I got keys to our rooms. We had rooms next to each other. This was an improvement from last year, when our rooms were on different floors. That made coordinating events of the day a little challenging.

Nice to be at the Hotel

There was a little special something included with our keys. I’ll get into that later on. Anyway, everyone got settled into where they would be staying and sleeping for the next few days. Bags were unpacked and warmer clothes were exchanged for summer attire. It was single-digit temperatures when we left Logan Airport, and we were basking in 80-degree weather in beautiful San Juan.

We were all a little weary from our sojourn. Flying four or five hours is bad enough. Having to sit up in seats that don’t recline didn’t make it any easier and having our flight delayed didn’t help, either. Thankfully, all of that was behind us. We were ready for the warm temperatures and blue skies that San Juan had to offer us. Well, the warm temperatures were there. We needed to wait for the blue skies. Our plane landed after sundown.

The Boy wanted to see the pool. Other cherubs asked about the beach. We reminded everyone we had days to see everything in town, including the pool. For now, we needed to find somewhere to eat dinner and discuss our plan of attack.

The Oppressed in front of the Christmas tree in the hotel lobby.

Christmas Day

Christmas was spent in the hotel and at a local restaurant. Before leaving home, I called a place that wasn’t far from the hotel. They assured me they were open on Christmas and could accommodate my family (all seven of us). I played it safe and made a reservation for one o’clock in the afternoon. We arrived at the restaurant and celebrated “Navidad” in an air-conditioned restaurant. This was a far cry from the cold Christmas we celebrated last year in New York City. This year we were walking in the warm Carribean weather. We got back to our hotel for more swimming and a little more rest.

I spent my time in the hotel room doing crossword puzzles, reading Christmas stories, and watching “A Christmas Story”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in Spanish. I thought I would since I was in a Spanish-speaking land. That was alright, though. It was easier for me to follow along, which made it easier on my brain.

Beach and Pool

If we weren’t swimming in the pool, we were swimming at the nearby beach. The water was warm, and we were there for hours on end. Our favorite activity there was riding the high waves that came rolling in and crashing down on the shore. Everyone had fun getting knocked over. Wife and I took time from the waves to look around and make sure all of our children were still alright from time to time.

How Many Chairs?

Our hotel had a part of the beach where people staying there could use lounge chairs put out by the staff. If we needed a break from the water, we could just head over to the chairs. Wristbands showed the staff that we were with the good guys.

Upon confirming our stay with the hotel, people manning the chairs asked us how many chairs we needed. We needed seven. Their eyes widened when they learned Wife and I were with five children. Chairs were brought out and, sure enough, there were five little cherubs with us looking for a spot to leave their things while we were in the warm Caribbean water. Not only that, but there were spots in the shade that allowed us to cool off out of the water when we weren’t in the water.

Their eyes widened when they learned Wife and I were with five children.

The beach was great. There was something about being able to swim in the ocean while people back home were dealing with cold temperatures. We were all working on our tans while friends, family and neighbors were working on their snowblowers and car batteries. We had a lot of fun at the beach and at the pool.

I liked the beach. Not only was the water warm, but the waves were high. Everyone got into the water and rode the waves. We jumped into the waves, tried to dive under them. Went out into the water and rode them back to shore, then went back out. The water was warm, but it still cooled us off.

A New Friend

I think The Boy had the most fun at the pool. One day while hanging poolside, we met a family with a young boy. “M” and The Boy got along and started playing with each other. From that day on, the entire family knew The Boy’s vote when it came to deciding beach or pool. Getting to the pool became the priority all day every day for the boy. No matter what we were doing, The Boy wanted to get back to the hotel so he could change into his bathing suit and see if “M” was there.

Wife and I also enjoyed talking to M’s parents while we were hanging out working on our tans. We talked about our lives back home and what we did for work. It was okay for me if we got down to the pool and they weren’t there. It gave me a chance to read my book while the kids splashed around in the pool.

St. John the Baptist

Further away from the hotel, the family took a tour of Old San Juan (also called “Viejo San Juan”). We saw the fort and walked down the streets of the old city. The family was near the church where Ponce De Leon was buried. Alas, it closed before we got there. The Oppressed and I were upset to learn we wouldn’t be able to see this. That’s alright, though. There were plenty of other things we say on our tour. We even hiked through a rain forest. That gave everyone in the family a chance to work off some of the extra calories we had been consuming.

Two of the cherubs walking the streets of San Juan.

Eating in Puerto Rico

Speaking of food, there was plenty of it to sample while we were down there. I was tasked with finding a place to eat on Christmas Day. We figured we could always eat at the hotel if we couldn’t find an open restaurant. Luckily, I was able to find a place that was open, and it wasn’t far from the hotel. I made reservations. They were able to accommodate seven people, bless their hearts. We were at the hotel for lunch. After lunch, a little nap and then back to the pool for a little swim and then back to the hotel rooms for some down time.

I thought hotels would give people a little taste (See what I did there?) of what the area has to offer.

When travelling, we like to try local foods (and drinks). We have learned it’s hard to do that when you’re eating at the hotel. I thought hotels would give people a little taste (See what I did there?) of what the area has to offer. Why else would people travel to different parts of the country or the world?

This wasn’t the case, however, and most of the menu was your generic American fare. I don’t have a problem with typical American food at all. I was just hoping we would be able to order something nice and Caribbean.

I’m not saying the food was bad, either. It was good food. The drinks were good too. I was able to sample a Puerto Rican beer or two. Most of the time, though, it was your standard choices of beer. That hurt a little.

Happy Hour

Speaking of drinks, Wife and I found out about a nice little Happy Hour in the lobby where guests of the hotel were allotted two drinks on the house. That was nice, and we usually grabbed those drinks coming back from whatever swimming activity.

Sometimes, while the younger children were immersed in their screens and the older children were immersed in sleep, Wife and I snuck down to the restaurant for drinks and appetizers. It was a nice getaway from our getaway. Of course, one or more of the children would look for us, and their curiosity would lead them right down to the restaurant, where they would ask us what we were doing. I would tell Wife to keep her head down so no one would see us. Wife told me it wouldn’t matter. It’s not like we were behind a wall. We were sitting at a bar that could be seen by everyone in the lobby.

Dinner Plans Changed because of a Local

Our last night in San Juan was spent looking for a nice local place to end our week-long celebration of the Holidays. It had to be a place that wasn’t too far, and we couldn’t eat too late. I’ll get into that later on.

We thought we had found a great place to eat. It was close enough to the hotel we could walk. I liked that, especially since there was a lot of food and drink we had sampled and enjoyed during our vacation.

There were a lot of stray cats in San Juan.

Our walk was an interesting one. Everyone talked about how nice it was to be walking in shorts and short sleeves in December. Everyone was hungry from swimming. We were talking and nobody noticed how sketchy everything was becoming. There were some questionable looking storefronts. We were all looking around and soon we noticed our surroundings. Someone had noticed we were being followed by somebody. We all grouped closer together. Lucky for us, there was a CVS open. We went in there and waited it out. Our follower left not long after we entered the store. Adults checked outside to make sure everything was alright. We decided to go back to the hotel and eat there.

A Tough Flight Home

All good things must come to an end, including our trip. Coming home from a vacation brings you back to reality.

We were jolted back into that reality on the morning we flew home. The only flight available was at 5:00 in the morning. We were up at 3:00. Everything was packed the night before. We went to bed as soon as we could after our altered dinner plans.

We got up and dressed. Pants and long sleeves. We were heading back to Massachusetts and weather conditions we were accustomed to in December. Everyone but Slugger dressed warm.

Our flight wasn’t delayed this time. We left San Juan, the warm weather, the warm water, the scenery and the people (sane and sketchy). Soon we were back home. We loaded the van and drove back to our house. Our bags were left by the door and went to our bedrooms. We had been up since 3:00. People were tired and we needed to rest and recover so we could prepare ourselves to bring Doggie back home and get ready for the next exciting event that awaited us.

Travelling to San Juan and Warm Weather

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Like last year, Wife and I thought it would be better to travel instead of buying Christmas presents. After looking at options and seeing who could accommodate seven people during the most wonderful time of the year, we decided Puerto Rico was the place to be.

As usual, there were many details to tend to before we could leave. Doggie needed a place to stay, and we needed someone to check on Kitty, making sure she had bowls full of food and water.

On the human side, we needed to make sure the Miracles of Christ had everything they needed clean and packed. I tried to help The Boy, but he insisted he was fine and didn’t need help from any adult in the house.

Travel Day

The day of our flight arrived. Christmas Eve. Everyone descended from their bedrooms upon the kitchen for a quick breakfast. After grabbing whatever we could find, we loaded our luggage and our bodies into the van and joined the countless other jolly travelers who ventured out to Logan International Airport.

Off to the store for a $10 bottle of water and a $20 bag of chips.

We arrived at Logan. Our flight was delayed two hours. It was a bitter pill to swallow, even if I was prepared with my book, crossword puzzles, and beef jerky. We had a five-hour flight ahead of us and the delay gave us time to kill. Off to the store for a $10 bottle of water and a $20 bag of chips.

We spent our time as best we could. I read some chapters and did some puzzles. We ate at a restaurant since people only ate a little something before high-tailing it to the airport. When we weren’t at the restaurant, I tried to coax the children into a game of cards. They declined. Back to my puzzles.

We Work Here? No Food?

After suffering in the cold purgatory of Boston, we were finally invited to board the plane. This was an airline we had never flown before and after sitting in seats that didn’t recline with small, barely usable tray tables, I doubt we’ll be flying this airline again. Bringing our own snacks and drinks meant we didn’t need to buy snacks from the airline.

That’s right. While most airlines at least gave you a can of Coca-Cola or a bag of pretzels, this airline didn’t. If you wanted something to tide you over during the 5-hour flight, you had to pay for it. You would think they would at least give you some pretzels after checking in yourself and your luggage.

San Juan

We touched down in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico. Looking out the window, I noticed palm trees gently swaying. We have our luggage and all of our children. No matter how hard I try, I can’t lose any of the Miracles of Christ. We get a cab and take the short drive to our hotel.

Everyone changes out of their pants and long-sleeved shirts. It was single-digit temperatures back home. We change into shorts. Bathing suits. There is a pool at the hotel, and we’re going to use it. The Boy lives for the hotel pool and it’s going to get even better for him very soon.

My Favorite Christmas Carols

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This is the time of year when almost everyone is playing Christmas music. Love it or hate it, there is no escaping it. There are people like my mother, my sister, and my aunt who can’t get enough of it, and there are people like me who believe there is a time and place for everything. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it.

Photo by Blue Ox Studio on Pexels.com

I think it comes from working retail during the Christmas season. I had Christmas music in my ears the week before Halloween. One year, on June 26, I told my boss there was six months until Christmas. Where was the Christmas music? He wasn’t amused. There was another year I worked two retail jobs. From 9:00 in the morning to 9:00 or 10:00 at night it was Christmas music. That sort of thing wears on you. On nights I worked alone, I changed the radio station to the Celtics game. There were people who came into the store and were grateful for the break from the Christmas music, even if they weren’t sports fans. I was glad I could help them out.

There are some songs I like more than others. Everyone has their favorite Christmas Carols. With Christmas around the corner, I decided to share some of mine.

Good King Wenceslas

This is one of my father’s favorite Christmas carols. I thought it was okay until one time I heard the full version telling of the good king and his page braving the elements to bring Christmas cheer and warmth to a poor man. Then I really got into it. It’s cold and windy, and the page wants to turn back. Good King Wenceslas urges the page to continue with him. The song is based on Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia.

Photo: Wikipedia

The song is set to the melody of a popular spring song (“Tempus adest floridum”) from the 13th century. John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore wrote the lyrics we know in 1853.

O Holy Night

I like this song. I think it comes from a year I played Joseph in a Christmas pageant, and this was my cue. I would be in bed falling asleep with the radio on like I did when I was a kid, and the song would come on. It was a nice mental break from thinking about having to go to school the next day. Fun fact: The original name for this song was “Cantique de Noël”, and there are rumors that the song’s composer was, ironically, an atheist.

“O Holy Night” was based on the poem “Minuit, chrétiens” by Placide Cappeau, written in 1843. Composer Adolphe Adam (the supposed atheist) set the poem to music four years later and we have the song we know today. One of my favorite renditions is from “South Park”.

Snoopy’s Christmas vs. The Red Baron

Anything with Snoopy is worth a watch in my opinion. My favorite scenes in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” all involve Snoopy (eating bones while reading the newspaper, dancing on Schroeder’s piano until being noticed by Schroeder and Lucy, and doing the animal sounds). I’m not even sure how I came across this roasting chestnut. It was probably something I randomly found on the radio.

If you’re not familiar with the encounters between Snoopy and the Red Baron, our courageous canine is constantly flying his doghouse engaging in dogfights (no pun intended) with arguably one of the greatest flying aces of the first World War. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” dedicates a scene to Snoopy and The Red Baron battling for air supremacy.

In this carol, performed by The Royal Guardsmen, Snoopy is called upon neutralize “The Bloody Red Baron” on Christmas Eve. Snoopy preps his plane (or doghouse) in minus-40-degree conditions. One finds the other in the sky among church bells pealing below.

The Royal Guardsmen (Photo: Tampa Bay Times)

The Chimney Song

This is a funny, morbid song that a select few adults will appreciate and enjoy. The song is taken from the “Twisted Christmas” album by Bob Rivers and his Comedy Corp. In the song, a child is up all night waiting for Santa Claus, who never shows up. No one in the house can understand why Jolly Old Saint Nicholas didn’t visit. They also can’t understand why the dog keeps barking at the fireplace or where that weird smell is coming from. Again, the song is morbid, but it’s funny.

Photo: Amazon.com

The Twelve Pains of Christmas

Another Bob Rivers selection. This song takes the most common complaints people have of the Holiday Season and turns it into a fun-loving parody of spending time with relatives and dealing with bratty children. I first heard this song when I was in high school. A friend of mine and I would constantly tell each other, “She’s a witch, I hate her.” (That’s part of the song.)

What is your Favorite Carol?

So, there is a list of my favorite songs for this time of year. Everyone has their favorite song that has a special memory for them, or you just like a song for your own reasons. Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Memories and Traditions with the Family

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Christmas means different things to different people. For children, it means Santa Claus will visit and leave them toys and maybe some goodies. It means a break from school for older children. For adults, it means some time off from work and a chance to reconnect with family and friends.

Santa Visits but What if…?

Like other children, I would get excited when Christmas came. I would have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve thinking about what would be under the Christmas tree the next morning. What happened if I had to go to the bathroom? What if Santa Claus was there?

(L-R) My brother, Santa, me.

“Then, you go really quick and get back in bed,” I remember by father telling me one Christmas Eve before my siblings and I went to bed. My sister’s bedroom was downstairs, but on Christmas Eve, she slept in the room my brother and I shared. This safeguarded the family from any mishaps. We were told if Santa saw you out of bed, he left immediately. No toys. Game over until next year. My sister willingly stayed in our room and moral support was offered if anyone needed to get out of bed to use the bathroom.

Opening presents in the morning wasn’t the end of Christmas, though. After the presents, we got dressed and went to church. The family came home, the kids played with their presents, and the parents took a little rest. After the rest, we got back into the car and went to my grandparent’s house for more presents, including presents from their neighbors. Some lunch, some mingling with friends and family, then back our part of town where we see my grandmother and all ten of my dad’s siblings. In those days, my brother, eventually my sister and I were the only niece and nephews in the family. Those were the Salad Days.

Christmas Growing up

Enjoying one of my gifts on Christmas morning.

Different Christmases were memorable to me for different reasons. I remember getting a toy Batmobile on the first Christmas I remember. A Batman and Robin came with it, so it was ready to go through the streets of Gotham City (my living room) and save the good people from the deeds of The Joker and The Penguin. The next Christmas I looked at my presents and thought about the Christmas before that and thought about the presents I opened in my “First Christmas” and what I would find under the paper during that “Second Christmas”.

An epic Christmas morning.

I don’t remember much about the next Christmas, except that one of my parents got a gigantic Hershey’s Kiss. I kept looking at that present and wondered if they wanted to trade. Then again, there wasn’t any of my presents I was willing to part with, even for a piece of candy that would take me a week to eat. That would be the last Christmas in that house. We moved across town the following summer, and when Christmas came, I think my brother and I (translation: me) got my parents out of bed before 7:00. It was the only time my parents caved and let us wake up early.

I got Sick on Christmas

The next two Christmases were memorable, but not for Christmassy reasons. I’m in the third grade now, and this was the Christmas I got the Chicken Pox. This was a most inconvenient time for me to get the Chicken Pox and I was hoping I could go through life without the Chicken Pox. Alas, that was not to be. I survived my illness and the itching that came with it. That Christmas was the first time I ever heard of Calamine Lotion.

Christmas and the Chicken Pox came and went. The next Christmas I had a fever. I spent the morning trying to open presents while keeping a blanket wrapped around me. It was tough, but I managed it. My mother stayed home with me while Dad and the sibs went to my grandmother’s.

I (and Mom) missed out on seeing my aunts and uncles (and her in-laws), and all of the food that was spread out in the kitchen: the turkey, the ham, the lasagna, the “mud pudding” my aunt makes for every get-together. It hurts just to write about it. I didn’t miss out on the presents, though, and my father returned home with a big trash bag full of presents just for me. That made the illness a little more bearable.

Christmas Changed as I got Older

At this point in my life, I’ve become an altar boy at church. The mass schedule became critical. I could handle serving a Christmas Eve service or even a Midnight Mass. Anything in the morning, though, would cut into Christmas Morning. I couldn’t have that. Luckily, I wasn’t called away from my home on Christmas Morning. The Spirit of Christmas was watching over me.

I moved from elementary school to junior high school and Christmas Break became more appreciated. Something happened in high school. I’m not sure what it was, but I went from wanting to get out of bed and opening presents to seeing how late I could stay in bed. “The presents were there,” I told myself, “They’re not going anywhere.” But I was outvoted, and I got out of bed to see the gifts that were patiently waiting for me under the tree.

Elf on the shelf

Now I’m a parent. Christmas is still fun, but the challenges have changed. Instead of the stealth missions to and from the bathroom without Santa noticing, I need to help Santa make his way through the house without disturbing the cherubim. Wife and I divide our time between attending to presents from Santa and making sure everyone is still in bed sleeping. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, there’s the issue of these elves who constantly visit us and end up in different places every day.

Jingles, Mario, and Pancake. Don’t ask me who’s who.

This, I think, is the highlight of the morning for The Boy. He never had trouble getting out of bed before, but the chance to find the elves and see where they’re hiding and how far they traveled from the previous day makes waking up in the morning a little more fun. Then they leave just as secretly as they appear in our house and move around.

No one can explain it, but that doesn’t stop The Boy from asking how they move or where they went. The questions keep coming. Did Santa like the cookies. I assure the boy Santa did indeed like the cookies. How do I know? I ask The Boy if there are any cookies left. He tells me there are none. I tell him, if the cookies weren’t good, he wouldn’t have eaten them all.

I Like Christmas

“The Night Before Christmas”. A Christmas Eve tradition with Wife’s family.

Like you, Christmas routines have changed for me over the years. I’ve gone from waiting for Santa to making sure children are in bed ready for Santa. The Oppressed has been promoted to “Magic Maker” and has her specific duties in getting ready for the big night and day. We visit Wife’s family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There’s always a fantastic meal when we visit. We see relatives, some of whom we haven’t seen since Easter or last Christmas.

Holiday wishes from friends and family alike.

My parents have a tradition of hanging the Christmas cards we receive over the doorways of our house. I’ve continued that tradition in my own home. I also love sending Christmas cards. There are people I haven’t seen in years, but I still send them a card. It allows me to send a quick hello and wish them well.

And I wish you well. I hope your Christmas is a merry one. I hope you are able to spend it with the ones you love, and I hope you have the chance to make someone’s holiday a little more merry.

“A Collection of Short Stories” is now available for purchase on Apple Books.

Here’s what I’m Thankful for on Thanksgiving

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Photo by AJ groomes on Pexels.com

Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving this week. It’s a day of football, turkey, gathering around the table and giving thanks for food, health and family. There are plenty of things to be thankful for. I want to share some of the things I’m thankful for on this day where everyone is giving thanks that they’re not a turkey.

What I’m Thankful for

  1. I’m grateful for my children and spending a couple of days with them. They’re grateful for extra days of screens and Roblox and Minecraft. They’ll be even more grateful if I leave them alone to play Roblox and Minecraft.
  2. I’m grateful for food and a chance to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. My kids will be grateful if they can skip dinner and just have pie.
  3. I’m grateful for football and a chance to watch it with my children. Bonus points if we can hit Canton High School to watch Stoughton play. My children will be grateful if there’s something else on TV.
  4. I’m grateful we live so close to Plymouth, America’s hometown. It gives me a chance to take in some history. The Boy will be grateful if we can just go home. The sooner, the better.
  5. I’m grateful for our health and being able to walk and get other types of exercise. My children are grateful for heated cars that drive them where they want to go instead of suffering outdoors.
  6. I’m grateful for school. It teaches my children. My children are grateful for holidays, snow days, and anything else that will get them out of school.
  7. I’m grateful for my wife. My children are grateful if they can get time alone with her, and I can leave them alone.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes, there are plenty of things for me and my family to be thankful for. Sometimes we need to remind our children of this, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this. As you sit down to your turkey this week, I hope you’ll take a moment to see what’s around you and give thanks. We should do it more often than we do, but this week they gave us a holiday to set aside time to actually do it.

School Vacation (and Easter) in Washington D.C.

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School vacation and Easter converged upon us this year. The Oppressed has long-expressed a desire to visit Washington D.C. I, of course, could never argue against this interesting proposition.

My youngest daughter and I went to work putting together a loose itinerary for the family. Wife, with a million things to take care of at work, was happy to have someone else deal with the details of the trip. I, with mountains of dishes and laundry to climb, was happy to have the diversion.

We decided to break the journey up into two days. We stopped at a hotel on Friday to eat and rest. On Saturday, we resumed the drive and arrived at what would become our base of operations for the next five days. We arrived at night and took an elevator that kept making weird noises. The elevator door opened and we were able to keep our eyes open long enough to make it to our rooms before collapsing on the bed.

Wait for it…

Easter Sunday Mass

Easter Sunday was spent at the National Basilica. For some reason, I tend to spend Easter away from home. Washington D.C. joins a list of places I’ve celebrated Easter Sunday that includes Tampa and the Netherlands.

Slick, The Oppressed, and I took in the Easter Sunday mass at the National Basillica. I thought there would be a problem getting into such a place on such a day. Luckily, we had no such problems.

We did run into a tiny snafu at the mass. Then again, it wouldn’t be a holiday or a vacation if we didn’t. The Oppressed suffered a minor injury when she accidentally scratched her thumb. It was one of those small cuts that irritate you and don’t stop irritating. We needed to find a restroom and do something about this cut. While we left the service and go downstairs to find a restroom to clean it, I was trying to convince The Oppressed to be brave and strong. I was also hoping for a little Easter miracle where my daughter would be healed.

We find a restroom and my youngest daughter is able to clean her wound. She emerges from the ladies’ room with a wet paper towel pressed against her thumb. We return to the service stealthily as if we had never left. The rest of the mass goes off without a hitch for us.

We went from the Basilica to a local donut shop, where we procured freshly baked donuts for the rest of the family. We enjoy a simple Easter brunch at our hotel room and proceed to our nation’s capital, where we take in the sites that are not closed for the holiday. This includes the Lincoln Memorial. It was imperative to The Oppressed that we visit the particular monument. She learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. She wanted to see where it happened.

The Oppressed is ecstatic about visiting the Lincoln Memorial and insists we call my father. Not call, FaceTime. My father is an avid Civil War fan and has probably read every book written about Abraham Lincoln. We call him and wish him (and my mother) Happy Easter. The Oppressed is excited to be able to share this moment with her grandfather.

What’s for Dinner? Food Trucks!

We see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument. It’s time for dinner. Obviously, we can’t just walk into a restaurant on Easter Sunday. We have enough problems with that with a party of eight on a regular day, let alone a holiday. Lucky for us, there happen to be food trucks on this day. Everyone finds a food truck they like and orders something. We enjoy our non-traditional Easter dinner on the grass. It’s not too cold. The food is good and some of us even get ice cream from one of the trucks after dinner.

Easter Dinner

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Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 5

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Stave 5: Christmas at Last!

It was a blanket, and I had it wrapped tight around me as I lay next to Wife. I could tell it was cold outside, baby; but thanks to the blanket, Wife’s love, and Kitty sleeping and purring by our feet, I had plenty of love to keep me warm.

I opened my eyes just a little to check on Kitty, who had lifted its head and started to look around. We both heard footsteps heading in our direction. They got louder as they got closer to our fortress of slumber. Kitty got up on all fours and leapt off the bed. Just in time as The Boy made his appearance. He had a smile on his face and air underneath his body before crashing down on the bed between us. I think Kitty still has PTSD.

Wife jolted awake. She was ready to kill him, but the boy gave her a big, tight hug and said, “Merry Christmas!” This festive greeting reminded us that we needed to be extra vigilant in controlling our homicidal urges in the spirit of the season.

“Merry Christmas,” I said as I rolled over to give The Boy a hug. He pushed me away and resumed hugging my wife. The Oppressed came into our room with a smile. Wife saw her.

“Merry Christmas,” Wife said to her.

“Merry Christmas,” she said back as she ran to our bed and hugged me.

“Merry Christmas, Daddy,” she said.

“Merry Christmas,” I replied. I asked The Boy if I could have a hug, reminding him it was Christmas. I saw the back of his head shake, indicating, “No,” and continued hugging his mother.

Lovie then entered our room. She had an even bigger smile than The Oppressed.

“Merry Christmas,” Wife said to her.

“Merry Christmas,” she said. “Can we open presents?”

“Can the adults have coffee, first?” I asked.

“How about we make coffee first?” I suggested “Then, we can open presents while it finishes, and we can drink coffee while you kids open presents?”

“How about we open presents and then you can make coffee?” Lovie suggested, ever the humanitarian.

Wife told her to wake her other brothers. I took this opportunity to go downstairs and let Doggie out of her crate. As Doggie raced to the door to answer the call of nature, I heard what sounded like a drug raid taking place upstairs. Lovie flew the door open to the boys’ room unannounced. I heard yelling from the room.

“Wake up! It’s time to open presents!”

“Oh my God, what time is it?”

“It’s time to open presents. Stop sleeping!”

“Shut up! I’m tired.”

“Sleep tomorrow!”

I was in the kitchen at this point making coffee. After a few minutes, I answered the scratching on the door, signifying that Doggie had finished what she needed to do outside. The love and spirit of Christmas continued down the stairs as Lovie led the charge into the living room to see the loot Santa Claus had left for everyone.

“I want to give my presents to everyone first,” Lovie announced to everyone. The rest of the children stumbled into the living room, including The Gaggle, who was staying with us for the week. Wife was the last to come downstairs, barely able to keep her eyes open. We hugged each other and wished each other a Merry Christmas. The pot of coffee had just finished brewing, and I poured her and myself a cup before entering the madness that was unfolding in the living room.

Lovie was arguing with Slugger, who, apparently, had taken her seat. Lovie wanted the seat closest to the tree so she could supervise the handing out of Christmas presents. Of course, presents from her had to be opened first, and if anyone else was handing out presents, there was a chance hers wouldn’t be opened first.

Slick made his appearance and took a seat on the couch. He didn’t care whose presents got opened first. All he cared about was someone rudely woke him from his slumber, and it was Christmas Vacation.

The Gaggle took a seat next to Slick. Lovie was able to muscle Slugger away from the tree and assumed her role of gift-giver. The Boy sat next to Wife and The Oppressed sat with me. Presents were exchanged and opened. It was a nice Christmas morning filled with secrets that had been protected for weeks. Packages that had been smuggled into the house and locked away from prying eyes were finally allowed to see the light of day. Children were excited to try their new presents. Wife and I thanked each other for our presents. I got some nice clothes and, after a shower, I was eager to put on my new clothes and continue the celebration of Christmas.

After a few hours at home, we rounded up the cohort, packed the car with more gifts, and drove to my in-laws. There we handed out presents to relatives and shared in the joy of the Holidays. Dinner was then served, another fantastic spread put out by my mother-in-law, who is always cooking incredible food, especially during holidays.

Dinner. Dessert. My diet went off the rails again and it was going to be back to carrots and protein shakes soon enough. But for today, I partook in the feasting and festivities.

We went home that night. Children resumed playing with new gadgets and toys. Occasionally, one child proudly approached us to show us a gadget and what they learned to do with it. It got later into the night, and one-by-one, children started to go to bed. It was Christmas, but I still had my Daddy Duties. I read to The Boy and hung out with The Oppressed, who briefed me on the joy she felt on this most wonderful time of the year. She fell asleep, and I left her room. I made my way through the rooms of the house, shutting off lights as I made my way into the living room to turn off the Christmas tree. I surveyed the mass of Christmas goods strewn about the floor. More things around to test my agility as I try to negotiate my way from one room to another.

I made my way to the Christmas tree. Something caught my eye before I made it. It was a bottle of beer, much like one of the bottles I saw when The Ghost of Daddy Present haun- I mean – visited me. It had a nice red ribbon tied to it and a tag tied around the neck of the bottle. The tag read “The Christmas Spirit” and I smiled. I wasn’t going to drink it tonight. It was late and Daddy needs his beauty sleep. I would put it in the refrigerator and chill it proper for the following evening. After all, we should all keep the Christmas spirit year-round, right?

It’s time to open presents. Stop sleeping!

Lovie

A car slowly made its way past my house. It looked like Mr. Farley’s car. A horn sounded as it drove by. I smiled and waved just before the car disappeared from my sight. The Christmas tree went dark as the car disappeared.

I went upstairs, turning lights off as I made my way to my room. Wife was already fast asleep, as were the rest of my children. I head Doggie snoring in her crate. Kitty was curled up at the foot of my bed. It was just Wife in our bed until I climbed in to join her. I wondered how long this would last before another child decided to join us. It didn’t matter. I was tired and I was going to fall asleep fast. I would know someone else was in the bed when I wake up and try to look over at Wife.

And just like that, another Christmas came to an end. Mr. Farley didn’t visit me again, which I thought was rude. None of the spirits visited me again, but between the love my family has for each other, there’s plenty of the Christmas spirit to go around. And between all of my children, there’s enough haunting without ghosts.

Oh, well. That’s the life of a parent. You understand, I’m sure. Thanks for reading this irrefutably true story of the Christmas I shared with ghosts and spirits. I hope this story found you well and kept you company as you made your way through your own madness of preparing for Christmas at your home.

Oh, yeah… And God Bless Us, Everyone!

Daddy’s Christmas Carol Part 1

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(With apologies to Dickens)

Stave 1: Farley’s Ghost

Everything was in place for Christmas morning. Wife was going to bed. I wanted to finish my drink before following her. There wasn’t much left, so I wouldn’t be long. I sat on the couch admiring the tree and all of its ornate glory. The decorations on the bottom of the tree came from The Boy, who was the smallest of the family and could only reach so high. Ornaments were hung here and there, almost haphazardly. Anyone who met The Boy wouldn’t be surprised by this display of roughshod decorating.

I took my last sip of Holiday Cheer. I needed to get to bed. It was after midnight. It wouldn’t be long before wife and I would be met with the giddy screams of children who live for nothing else but to ruin our peaceful slumber. Children who would come crashing into our bedroom and use our bed for some type of trampoline or gymnastics mat. I stood up and made my way to the Christmas tree. I turned it off. I was about to leave the room and head upstairs when I saw a car pull up to my house and stop with a lurch. It was an old car whose door creaked open and a silhouetted figure stepped out of the car. I couldn’t make out the person but I had an eerie feeling they could see me in the dark room and they knew I could see them.

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

The figure made its way up my driveway. As it came closer to my house, the tree lights somehow turned back on. They were dim at first but got brighter with every step the figure took towards my house. I couldn’t move. I stood there looking out the window, unable to take my eyes off of it as if it was silently commanding me to watch him.

Sitting by myself. I thought I heard something.

Soon it was at my doorstep. It’s arms didn’t move, but I could see the door unlocking, like Wife had installed one of those early-adopter apps she likes to use and she was using such a thing to remotely lock and unlock doors. The door opened and the figure I saw leaving its car and approaching my house presented itself to me. It was a ghostly figure in the form of a man.

“Who are you?” I asked him, or it, not even sure he could understand me.

“Ask me who I was,” he answered.

“Okay,” I said. “Who you was?”

“In life, I was your high school teacher, Jack Farley.”

Mr. Farley? I remembered him. He was my Psychology teacher in senior year. I remembered hearing he had passed away years ago. I was tired, but he just got here and I didn’t want to be rude.

“What brings you here, Mr. Farley?” I asked him.

“It is required of every teacher that they should walk the earth and see that the students they taught are doing well with their lives,” Mr. Farley said. “That they are leading good lives and setting good examples for the children they raise and the children they meet.

“I’ve been out of high school for over twenty five years, and you decide to look in on me now?” I asked.

“You weren’t my only student,” Mr. Farley reminded me. “I have other students to check on and it’s not like they gave me a new car to do this.”

I looked outside. I could see the outlines of Mr. Farley’s car. It looked well-used when I was in high school, and that was a long time ago.

“Well,” I said, “I can tell you that I have five children under this roof. Each and every one of them could use a dope slap every now and then, but for the most part, I think Wife and I have them on the straight and narrow. Look, Mr. Farley, I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s getting late and my kids, especially The Boy are going to be up long before the sun with tomorrow being Christmas, and all. I appreciate you looking in on me. Things are going alright for us. I can tell you I’m doing well and things are good.”

That wasn’t good enough for Mr. Farley. I could tell by the look on his face he had more to tell me. Honestly, I was hoping he would save it for another day (a day. Like daylight when I was up and awake and didn’t need to go to sleep) and let me go upstairs to bed.

“Tonight, you will be visited by three ghosts,” he said.

“Tonight?” I asked. “Halloween was two months ago. Why do I need to see ghosts tonight?”

“Expect the first tonight when the bell tolls one.”

We were really doing this. I could see it didn’t matter to Farley how tired I was or what I had going on tomorrow.

“Bell tolls?” I asked him. “Look, Hemingway, we don’t exactly toll bells around here. Even phones ‘ringing’ don’t sound like ringing bells anymore. No bell, no tolling, no ghosts. Sorry Mr. Marley – I mean – Farley, but this house isn’t going to be able to accommodate that.

🔔🔕🔔🔕🔔🔕🔔🔕🔔🔕🔔🔕🔔🔕🔔🔕

Expect the second when the bell tolls two.

Again with the bell tolling. What is it with this guy – ghost?

“The third will visit when the bell tolls three.”

“One, two, three,” I said. “Simple enough.”

“I tried to keep it simple for you, Gregory. Math wasn’t your strong suit.”

“Gregory?” I asked. “And when did you become a math teacher?”

He wasn’t listening. He had already turned and walked through the door. At least I didn’t have to worry about him closing it, like I do with my kids. He walked down the driveway. The lights on the tree dimmed with each step he took toward his car. He looked at me one last time as he opened the door and got in. I’m wondering when and why he chooses to open some doors and walk through others. His car started and drove off. I stood there alone in the dark room, trying to figure out if what I thought I had witnessed had actually happened. Whether or not it did, it was a good enough reason for me to pour a quick one and process the supernatural events that had occurred. Once again, it had happened with no one else around, so if I decided to tell Wife about it. She would just tell me that I had interesting stories. My kids might believe me. Then again, they might not.

Next: The Ghost of Daddy Past

My Child’s Version of the Day they were Born

With all of the debate at my house, my child wanted to set the record straight about the day they were born.

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My child saw what I had written about the day they were born and they felt the need to straighten some things out when it came to that day. I didn’t think that was necessary, but they insisted on lending their opinion on the events of that magical day.

So, first I already know my dad is lying because I know I was born the day after Thanksgiving and my mom was in labor for 50 hours, so they would have been in the hospital since 1 a.m. that morning and MY MOM seems to have a different story and they don’t go to my aunt and uncles for Thanksgiving.

Brave Daddy here. We did go to my brother’s and his wife’s for Thanksgiving until they moved.

Plus, I have relatives to back my story up and I have asked my dad if am adopted and he says no.

My children seem to think I can be a little different when it comes to things I say and do. I don’t know where they get this. Seems unfounded to me. Anyways, there always seems to be some different recollections when it comes to that magical Thanksgiving and for some reason, they always seem to come up around Thanksgiving.

He was in the room, so he knows I wasn’t adopted. Well I disagree. (Being adopted is not a bad thing)

My child didn’t want any of their adopted siblings to thing Wife and I loved them any less because they were adopted, so they put that last part in there.

The point is, some people in this house seem to remember the day differently. Whatever happened, and we all know who told the REAL version here, Wife and I were happy to be parents. In fact, you could say we were thankful (see what I did there?) What ever you’re thankful for, enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving.

A Very Special Thanksgiving 🦃

There are some disagreements as to exactly what and when things happened, but you, a loyal reader are very, VERY well aware of the truthfulness and accuracy of the stories and events recorded and shared.

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This week is an exciting time for my family and I’m sure it is for your family as well. This is the time we all come together to visit loved ones or loved ones come to visit us. This is the time we all come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an especially memorable time for me and Wife because it is the first time we became parents. There was one particular Thanksgiving that will always have a special place in our hearts. There are some disagreements as to exactly what and when things happened, but you, a loyal reader, are very, VERY well aware of the truthfulness and accuracy of the stories and events recorded and shared. Because of this, you know of the historical accuracy of the tale I am about to impart.

A True Story

It was a quiet Thursday morning for me and Wife. We were planning to go to my brother’s house that day. The DVR was set up to record a football game. Wife and I were seated in the living room sipping our coffees. My coffee had a little something tasty in it. A little Amaretto or Bailey’s for flavor on this leisurely morning where no one needed to go to work and it would be hours before we would need to be at my brother’s.

There was one particular Thanksgiving that will always have a special place in our hearts.

The time finally came to hit the road. We drove to my brother and his wife’s house. There we saw relatives and loved ones. We chatted and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres. Some rooms had people sitting around talking. One room had the television on where people were getting ready to watch the football game. Wife and I made our rounds and said hello to our hosts and their various guests. Everyone knew Wife was pregnant and, if they didn’t, I think they figured it out when they saw her.

Wife found a seat and rested herself. People made their way to where she was sitting and wished her a Happy Thanksgiving. Everyone wanted to know how she was doing. Would she like anything? Could they get anything for her?

Called to Dinner

People continued to talk. I divided my time and attention between the game and conversation. Then, not long after we began talking, we were called into the dining room. It was a beautiful room, elegantly decorated. The table was beautifully set with various side dishes: stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, a variety of potato dishes. In one area of the table was a large bare spot. Very large.

Everything was in place. Everyone was in place. We were all ready to eat. But first, we had to give thanks for the bounty we were about to receive. After all, it was Thanksgiving.

After giving thanks, we passed sides to and fro. The turkey was carved. Wife and I passed sides to those next to us and around us. People passed sides to us. I was fortunate enough to get a drumstick, my favorite part of the turkey.

Ready to Eat

My plate was made. I was ready to go. I’ll never forget that drumstick. It was next to the mashed potatoes, which had gravy on it. The gravy was running down the potatoes and ran towards the drumstick. The tip of the drumstick had a little gravy on it. Just a little. Just enough to add a little more flavor.

Dinner Interrupted

The drumstick was in my hands and brought it to my mouth. I was about to take a bite of the crispy drumstick with just a little gravy on it. You could smell the delicious aroma of the bird. I was about to take a bite when I felt something on my arm. It was Wife tapping me and saying, “I think we need to go to the hospital.”

Two Become Three

And so we did. We said goodbye to our hosts and our fellow guests and we drove to the hospital, where we later said hello to our first child. This is the true, irrefutable story of how Wife and I first became parents. It happened on Thanksgiving. It was an exciting time, and it all happened just as you read it.

This week is an exciting time for my family,

and I’m sure it is for your family.

… and we were thankful.
Continue reading “A Very Special Thanksgiving 🦃”
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