Christmas Vacation Part 1

Jess says it's my turn to blog, so we'll see what we can do here.

We got to the airport about 2 hours before our flight. Which was good, because we were apparently going to need most of that time. We went to the American Airlines self-check-in, walked up to a computer, punched in our information, got our boarding passes, and then waited for someone to come down, put the luggage tag on our bag, and place it on the conveyor belt. And we waited. And we waited. We watched while the guy who hates his job wandered up and down the line throwing people's bags onto the conveyor belt. We watched while other employees walked into the back room and disappeared for several minutes at a time. We watched while people piled up at the kiosks and the line. After something like 30 minutes of standing there someone finally came around to take our bag.

Then we got into the security line. Something like 7-10 TSA employees to run a single line. By the time we got halfway through from where we started, the line was twice as long as when we got in it. They eventually opened a second line which sped things up considerably. I won the security-theater lottery and got patted down. Nothing like having your 4th amendment rights violated to make the holiday season cheery. However, TSA seems to be making some intelligent improvements. Further in front of us a mom and a dad were both holding small children when they got to the front of the line. The TSA employees allowed them to go through the metal detectors while holding the kids. Previously I've seen the employees demand that the children walk through by themselves, so the screaming, crying kids who have no idea what's going on get pushed and prodded through the detector. So I'm glad someone with intelligence decided it wasn't any less safe to let parents carry kids.

When the plane started boarding, the airline was offering $500 travel vouchers for people willing to bump to another flight. Which seems pretty decent, but that wouldn't have covered the cost of the flight for our tickets; we might have considered it except for our hotel reservation and the plans for the next day.

The flight itself was uneventful, though American Airlines didn't give us anything but a couple cups of soda during the 5-hour flight (you could, however, purchase a small sandwich for $10, or crackers and cheese for $5).

We arrived in JFK and went down to get our bags. For unknown reasons, the baggage claim signs weren't providing any information at all, but the captain had announced which carousel our luggage would be at. That took forever. We did finally get the luggage and meet up with our pre-arranged car which took us smoothly to our hotel.

After checking in around 1:00 AM we asked if there was somewhere to find food. We were directed to a 24-hour deli on the corner which was acceptable.

The next day we checked out and left our bags at the hotel while we wandered around the city. When the rest of the family arrived (after a delayed train) we further wandered around the city ending up at Macy's. We walked through their "Santaland" and then had dinner at one of the several restaurants in the store (there are something like 3 or 4 Starbucks inside Macy's!).

N08_secondary-banner_colorOnce we finished up at Macy's we booked it back uptown to see The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet. It was fun. Jess didn't cry and was able to enjoy the show. After the show we went back to the hotel and got our bags and then headed towards Grand Central. Jess had a battle with the subway again. She was being too nice to the ticket reader and it kept telling her to re-swipe. Once she flicked it through nice and quickly, it let her in.

The train ride back was fine, although we had to switch trains because there was some concern about whether our train was in proper working condition or not. I also spent most of the train ride fixing the Board. There were a few minutes when Mom and Dad called me over to solve a logic puzzle for them (which was part of an ad on the wall).

The next day we did nothing: our muscles and joints were a bit sore (did I mention that we walked around NYC for 6 hours?). Today we also did mostly nothing. We went over to the high school for a few minutes to say hi to some of my old teachers. Due to vehicle scheduling conflicts we then had no ride back home. So we walked home, pausing at Subway for lunch and to warm up again. This evening we went up to the Trinity College campus and watched It's a Wonderful Life on the big screen, which Jess had never seen.

That's been our vacation thus far.

Mini-Christmas: Your Pictures, Our Frame

Jess' parents sent us a Christmas present (of the afore-mentioned eyes-closed-wrapping fame). We were told we could open it before we left for Connecticut. So today we had Mini-Christmas. We got up, turned on the Christmas tree, put on the Christmas music, and opened our present while wearing our pajamas.

We received an Internet-enabled digital picture frame! We've been having fun playing with it and getting it all set up and such. One of the nifty features is that you can email pictures to a service which the frame will then grab and display for you. It actually provides two different services you can pick from which offer this feature. The first one we tried "MemoryFrame.com" is having some technical issues, but then we discovered the other one, "FrameChannel.com", and it's tons better. It allows you to monitor RSS feeds and all sorts of things.

So now we have some information gathering to do.

Do you have an account with a photo-sharing website? If so, we can probably connect our frame to your shared pictures so we can see your pictures right in our own picture frame! So let us know.

If you don't have a photo-sharing setup, you can still share your pictures with us easily by emailing them to KBD_JHD ( at ) framesend dot com. But, you know, make that look like a real email address. Hey, you can even send us messages by writing something in Microsoft Paint and emailing that to us!

We're hoping to get enough feeds from our friends and family set up that the frame will act kind of like a digital window to all of you.

I will admit, I'm quite impressed with the simplicity and quality of integrating the FrameChannel website with the frame itself. The combination of the two basically fulfills all the awesomeness that digital picture frames promised.

So far Christmas is off to a great start. Hopefully the gimongous snow storm on the East Coast won't cause us any trouble.

I had a busy end-of-last-week/weekend.

It started on Wednesday night, actually, when I had to make 6 dozen cookies for a party Thursday night. I was invited to this cookie exchange party a few weeks ago, but I was thinking I probably wouldn't go because, come on, am I going to make 6 dozen cookies? Not likely. But I was temporarily forgetting who I am now married to, and when I told Kyle about it, he was all, "That's not that many cookies. I'll help!" The party was on Thursday night, so Wednesday night found us making 6 dozen pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. And by "us" I mostly mean "him." I started out well! I helped measuring out stuff, and mixing and whatnot. And I scooped out a tray of cookies. But we decided to have Panda for dinner, and somebody had to stay with the cookies (and clearly that needed to be him), so I went to get food. And he's the one who can tell when things are done cooking, and is a genius with cookies, so I fear that the remainder of the work somehow fell to him. But the cookies no doubt turned out much better for it! They were quite tasty...

Thursday afternoon I went visiting teaching, which involved a lot of being reassured that California winters are NOT THIS COLD. EVAR. (It's already warmed up again--last week was just freakishly cold, actually freezing! I even wore my scarf all week!) Oh, also, it was Kyle's turn to lock up the church building last week, so we got to go do that every night around 10. We got pretty good at doing it quickly (we had to check all the doors and windows and everything), and I think it's helped me figure out the layout of that crazy building. But of course it had to be during such a cold week!

So then the party was Thursday night. It was actually a lot of fun. It was mostly a bunch of women from the ward, and we sat around talking for a while. Then we played Christmas carols on handbells, which was a lot of goofy silly fun. After that, we loaded up our trays with a huge selection of cookies and treats (way too many for the two of us here in this apartment!) and talked some more. Nothing too stressful, so it was a good time.

Friday morning was my book group, which involved several of the same women as the cookie party. In addition to discussing our December book, we were coming up with books for next year, so I came prepared. I had a devious plan, and it worked! I managed to get several of the books from my wishlist on the schedule. So even if I don't get them for Christmas, I'll still have to buy them for book club! Bwa ha ha... I really enjoy book club, actually, because it gives me something to do and gets me out of the house and socializing. The other women are all older and have kids in middle school, so the conversations always end up being about that, but I don't really mind. It's still good to be out with other people, and they're super nice. Even if I always seem to balk at going the night before because...well...I'm me.

Oh, also on Friday, we got a package from my parents: our Christmas gift from them. They sent an email saying it was our Christmas gift, so not to open it yet, but Kyle had the idea to open and wrap it with our eyes closed. So we did. It actually came out really well, and now we have a present under Albert. (We actually think this would be a great FHE activity, perhaps especially for singles' wards.)

On Saturday, I went to a baby shower. I usually avoid such things, but I really like this lady, so I went. And it was okay, because her friend who hosted the shower also hates shower games. Thank goodness. I was telling Kyle about why I didn't really want to go and horrifying him with some of the games that get played at baby showers. But there weren't any! We talked, ate food, and opened gifts. It was good.

Saturday night Kyle was getting stir-crazy from being in the apartment all day, so we went to the mall to wander around (you just know this is something I would never suggest, but I went along because I love him). I did get a very good soft pretzel out of the deal, though. And it was very jolly and Christmasy and all. And absolutely packed with people. This is also when my throat started hurting. (Dun dun DUN!) Not like a sore, scratchy throat, just like it was swollen and hurting from the pressure. And not up where your lymph nodes are (at least not where the ones you normally think of are, up under your jaw; I know you actually have a bunch, and I don't know where they all are), but down at the bottom of my neck in front, where that little hollow is. It kind of came and went, though, so I mostly tried to ignore it and hoped it would go away overnight. Sometimes that happens, right?

Well, when I got up on Sunday to get ready for church, my throat was much worse. It throbbed very painfully every time I moved, though it still wasn't visibly swollen. I tried really hard, but I couldn't quite manage to stay calm. It was kinda strange, actually. I told myself over and over that it was almost certainly just a cold (granted, that would have been more convincing if I'd had any other symptoms, or if I'd ever had a sore throat like this other than last January, but still) and that I'm really not at any greater risk than anybody else for developing another abscess, which puts the odds at about nil. I told myself that it was probably only a little bit of swelling that was pushing up against scar tissue that has very little give in it, and that was what was causing the pain. Kyle also suggested that my body is just being hypersensitive to anything going on in that area, which is also a very good possibility. And I really did accept all of this stuff in my head. But for some reason, that didn't have much of an effect on the knot of terror in my chest, and I couldn't help crying every time my throat started throbbing. I decided I was in no shape to go try and teach my primary class (which made me feel stupid), so I called the primary president and told her I couldn't make it and Kyle went to church without me. I stayed home and read and watched TV--basically, I wanted to relax and rest inside, out of the cold and wet. It's so annoying to know you're overreacting but not be able to get a grip! By Monday, though, my throat was much better, back to only throbbing intermittently, and today it's almost completely better. So I'm fine, despite my idiotic overreactions, and hopefully, this episode will help me handle things better next time!

We don't have a whole lot going on this week except for preparations for leaving for Connecticut on Sunday. We've got Christmas shopping about wrapped up, thankfully. Kyle's work is fairly slow now since a lot of people will be taking time off. He's got a lot of parties, though, so at least that's keeping him busy.