It doesn’t seem possible, but my and Kristin’s second Christmas as man and wife has come and gone, filling me with a sense of contentment and gratitude to God for granting me the love of my life, and a sense of wonder at the swift passage of time that has brought us this far already.
Christmas Break heralded its arrival with the return of Joel, Jared, and Jason Amundson from school to the soft plains and rolling hills of southern Wisconsin. Fresh snow lay blanketed across the landscape, traversing the noisome metropolis of West Allis to the subdued hamlets of Rock County and stretching all the way to the bustling cityscape of Rockford, Illinois, enveloping all the Midwest it seemed in its white, powdery embrace.
Kristin began her two weeks off from work by leaving the school early on Friday the 17th so as to prepare for the kids’ activity at church which we were in charge of that night. I looked forward to the insanity to come with eager anticipation and tackled the evening headlong with feverish frivolity. I did not expect however to fulfill a similar role the following morning during Choir practice, but some of the kids waiting on their parents to finish singing were a little on the rambunctious side (understandably so, I mean). Seeing the nervous eyes of moms and dads darting back and forth from sheet music to their kids shouting and playing with reckless abandon, I took the bull by the proverbial horns and corralled the kiddies into the church lobby for semi-organized mayhem so as to leave the Choir in relative peace and quiet. Three important life lessons gleaned from those precious moments:
- Wrestling with four- through six-year-olds will ultimately end in your defeat. You’re stronger than they are. But you will never, ever have the endurance or patience to suffer defeat after defeat that they do. You will win the first 400 battles, but they will win the war.*
- As much as I love Star Wars: Battlefront 2, I’m absolutely terrible at it on PSP. I got pwned.** By the same four- through six-year-olds previously alluded to.
- There are some Transformers which I simply do not know how to transform from robot mode to vehicle mode or vice versa. At risk of sounding old, they were a lot easier to figure out in the 80s.
After lunch with the Bixbys at an all-too-rare Taco Bell/Pizza Hut conglomeration, we returned to our fair jewel of the North Janesville for a few moments of downtime before heading back out to meet up with Tim and Lizzie Adam in Delavan. Dinner at Chili’s and engaging discussion on science fictional galactic politics and hypothetical space fleet engagements*** never lacks for fun in my book!
Sunday witnessed the magisterial Christmas cantata at Morning Star which Kristin sang in and melted my heart. In a wonderfully providential turn of events, my dad and grandma visited to see the performance and were thanked by being paraded around by yours truly to be introduced to practically everyone who regularly attends. I’m so thankful they were able to hear beautiful music celebrating the majesty and awe of the Incarnation in addition to Jess Miller preaching on the preexistence and lordship of the newborn Jesus we are presented with in the Nativity story. And now everyone at church can put faces to the names, so it truly is a colossal win!
We stayed in Rockford for lunch with Kristin’s mom and Anna before going back for the evening service to see the children’s Christmas program (arranged by Brian Hanson- kudos!). It was upon returning home that night that we made the awful discovery of Mrs. Hudziak’s passing. A tragic and inauspicious beginning to Christmas Break, indeed. Kristin’s presence was tremendous consolation in that dark time as we offered our farewells to the most precious of rodents in the history of the 21st century.
Sadness gave way to joy soon afterwards however when Joel called me to join him and his clan in watching the Packer game (though that turned out to be a scandal and an outrage… I still don’t like talking about it) at their country manor in Milton. I stayed long after the (terrible) game was finished, talking, trying to render some characters with a new animation program Joel has, and watching videos of terrible guitarists shredding it up. When I say “terrible,” I don’t mean terrible in terms of technical ability, because these dudes can rip 64th note, sweep picked and/or tapped solos in B Lydian (with occasional forays into B Ionian just to show they really know what they’re doing) like no one’s business! It’s hilarious to watch, but is of precisely zero musical value to anyone with the emotional aptitude of a fifth grader. Needless to say, we giggled like giddy schoolgirls ‘til the wee hours of the morning.****
Monday was spent lounging for the most part and sleeping in for the first time in a long time (what a novelty!), knowing what the rest of the week would hold for us: madness! Madness!
We drove up to West Allis the following day to pick up Ben and Sarah so they could stay in Janesville for a few days and help around the house at Kristin’s parents’ in anticipation of Uncle Bob and Aunt Sandy coming to visit; this manifested itself as a three day odyssey in which significant headway was made with, as Winston Churchill once said, “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”***** We all grew closer to one another through our solidarity in giving Mom and Dad a hand; when the going got tough, we could take refuge in each other’s humor. Together we persevered. Sarah’s dog Chutney, however, couldn’t help out that much and lamentably found herself cooped up at our apartment whilst we labored at Mom and Dad’s, but soldiered on in those lonesome hours by seeking solace in the soothing R&B of our Motown mix CD. I’m pretty sure Chutney knows all the lyrics to “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by the Four Tops by heart now.
A few trips with Ben to Menard’s, Home Depot, Sears, Best Buy, and Ace Hardware later and we had new blinds but none of the appliances we went in search of in the first place! I also made my first solo voyage to the dump and was verbally accosted by four dudes which I in turn handled in a totally unbiblical manner via my quick wit. Later, I discovered I may have misunderstood their banter, interpreting it in the wrong light entirely and that they may in fact only have been giving me directions for proper dump etiquette. Shame on you, me!
Our endeavors at Mom and Dad’s were brought to an earlier end Thursday as I had to work, so Kristin, Ben, Sarah, Anna and I took the opportunity to have lunch at Noodles and Co. (gotta love free lunch coupons!) and to finish some Christmas shopping so we could complete our inventories for the following day’s planned gift exchange in West Allis. That night, spent from the past few days’ efforts, we slept the sleep of champions, like cherubs in repose.
I don’t really know what that last phrase means exactly… but suffice it to say, we slept well!
Anyway, that takes us through Thursday the 23rd, and there’s far more yet to delve into, so stay tuned for more madcap hijinks, hilarious bedlam, zany misadventures, and clever turns of phrase should the Lord so will it.
*It’s kinda like a pre-K Vietnam if you think about it.
**They told me so, too, which is even more humiliating.
***If West Point ever offers this as a course, I would hope they’ll call me to teach it.
****Thank you, Michael Angelo Batio and your double neck, ambidextrous guitar skills.
*****Not “blood, sweat and tears” as it is so often misquoted.