The Christmas holidays are but a memory now.
We are well back into the familiar routine.
For me, routine is like a cozy blanket. It's comforting, reassuring and familiar. It feels safe. I can hunker down in it and hide a little while the world rolls on around me.
Christmas holidays for us involved no routine. I was a little fearful of this. Of course, it goes without saying that I was very excited to see friends and family. I was expectant as I thought of my girls being reunited with their beloved friends, and what that would feel like for them. There were lots of people I wanted to see and conversations I longed to have. But in the midst of all this, there was a fear of how well I would cope with the mayhem that Christmas can be - especially when you're parachuting in after an absence.
I am happy to report that my coping skills weathered Christmas well. There were beautiful faces to look at, interesting stories to hear, and warm bodies to hug. There were frosty temperatures, delicious food and new discoveries. I am thankful that our biggest challenge was how to possibly see everyone that was important to us. Our family is very rich in the relationships we hold close. And those relationships were definitely the best part of our holiday.
We were greeted at the airport by our friends, the Toderash family, who lugged our luggage off the carousel and surprised the girls completely! The also fed us an awful lot, provided hours of entertainment, a sleepover, and an amazing safe place to catch our breath.
Why are we all wearing the most wonderful toques in these next pictures, you might ask? Well, for that answer, you must know that nearly every single day from October to April I would show up at Linden Christian School in Winnipeg for drop-off and pick-up in my toque. It's my winter companion. It covers over a multitude of bad hair day sins. And laziness. And no shower.
My dear friend Mary liked to tease me about this. Her daughter Grace is a special friend of Ellie's. I always told Mary she needed her own "cover-up". Well Mary did better than that! She got herself and Grace matching toques and a pair for Ellie and I to wear too. They've even got some bling. Can't wait until we stroll down Robson in our matching head attire when the Amadeo girls arrive in Vancouver in March!
Another long-awaited stop was at our old neighbors from the Robertson Crescent "hood". Mike and I had long-been salivating thinking about the feast from Siam Thai we were going to share with them the day Mike arrived. The girls could hardly wait to see Kiera and Thea. These girls are tight. They've grown up together on the south side, man. They've weathered some storms, but they always have each other's backs. The visit (and the food) did not disappoint. There was even some karaoke thrown in for good measure.
We're looking forward to the Wortley's visit in mid-February. We're already planning the menu and the entertainment schedule. Mike and Adrian are looking forward to doing some running together too. It's gonna be epic.
Sasha has written and received more cards and letters to her special friend Bronte, than to anyone else. She has a special affection for her. We planned a whole evening with the Rygiel family, but the stars aligned to "one-better" us and wouldn't you know it? Bronte's family was staying at the same hotel we were in Winkler while we were there! It was neat to watch Sasha and Bronte slowly approach each other with slight trepidation, and then carry on as though no time had passed.
Why are these kids eating crackers under a water slide? It's a tradition of sorts. Madeleine and Reece are the children of friends of ours from St. Catharines Ontario. Jenn has been my friend since she broke all my crayons in half in grade one. We go waaaaaay back. Sadly, due to distance, we only see them about once a year. Two years ago Madeleine and Sasha ate some crackers under our kitchen table in Winnipeg. It happened again last Christmas, and now it's tradition. However, in the absence of a table, you make due. You do it under a water slide! And so, the tradition continues.
I'll admit it here. I've got a crush on Reecer of gigantic proportions. It's the blue eyes that get me every time. I only wish I could see this family more than once a year.
When we got to spend our evening at the Rygiel's, Liam made my Christmas dreams came true! Much to his chagrin, I got a little snuggle in. Perhaps it doesn't look like Liam is enjoying this as much as I am, I'm sure he must be! Spending that evening with Liam and Bronte, Kent and Christine was a great gift. Liam has grown. I'm not just speaking about size. He has grown by leaps and bounds in so many delightful ways. One of my favorite Christmas memories was having a little "adult conversation" with Liam at the dinner table. There is so much substance in that little soul.
Christine and I sent the kids and the men downstairs and had a good, long, heart to heart. Just what I needed. Christine and I are so very similar in many ways. Our friendship has always epitomized the give and take of the strong offering a helping hand to the weak. We take turns.
Bronte and Sasha had time for a good play before it was time to say goodbye. Sasha's first letter to Bronte is already in the mail!
New Years Eve. The night of nights. Who better to spend it with than the Nolans who wrote the manual for how to partay. Like it's 1999.
Sophia and Hannah have been buddies for a long, long time. In fact, when I began to teach part-time when Hannah was 18 months old, Soph's mom Heather provided top-notch child care. Soph and Hannah got into a few shenanigans back in the day. Remember the baby powder debacle girls? These days they mostly like to choreograph dances, laugh, play games, perform their dances, drink a swig of root beer, and laugh some more. It's what 10 year old girl's friendships are made of.
And Luke. He's the man. Just look at his style and swagger as he pours the glasses full as we prepared to ring in the new year! Luke and Heather are the ultimate hosts. Great food. Lots of cold beer in the walk-in cooler, a little chit, some chat, some more chat with Heather, and then the games. It was the perfect way to usher in the new year.
All of our girls lasted until midnight for the first time in Pennerfive history. By the looks of this picture, the 5 year old was faring better than her dad when the clock struck 12!
And so it goes.
These snapshots are only scratching the surface of our visits with dear people in Winnipeg.
There were no pictures of Joyce and I sitting in Starbucks on St. Anne's for FOUR hours one glorious morning, getting right to the good stuff right away. There was no time to lose and many months to explore and blanks to be filled in. It was rich.
No pictures either, of Matt and I, having lunch together at "The Crusty Bun" and catching up on his journey. He is still one of the bravest people I know with strength of character that few could match.
Pictures are missing of my girl's night with my friends from high school that happened to be around over the holidays. There is no visual reminder of me laughing so hard tears were streaming down my cheeks as we ate amonia cookies and icy cold milk. Laughing tears are the best therapy. How many people are fortunate enough to still count their friends from high-school as some of their dearest companions?
You see, pictures only tell some of the stories, and parts of the others.
The stories - they go with me.
Until we add more chapters next time.