Family Visits

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Last night my inlaws (Junior and Linda) evacuated Sarasota with Linda’s daughter and her family. They arrived at our house last night. Hurricane Irma passed over Key West as a Cat 4 storm and entered the Florida penninusla around Marco Island as a Cat 3. At 5 a.m. this morning, she’s a Cat 1 and headed up central Florida.

Hurricane Irma Cone

The wind has been picking-up since about 2 a.m. and is whipping pretty good now. We have a couple of minor leaks, but nothing too serious.

Leak

UPDATE: 8:00 a.m.

Irma is coming through the panhandle now and is somewhere around Lakeland, Florida. It’s still a Cat 1. The wind is really gusting outside, but I’m just sitting here sipping coffee.

Hurricane Irma Cone

UPDATE: 8:00 p.m.

Well, the day is coming to an end. Our evacuees laft after the wind died down (about noon) and headed back to Sarasota. Although we were on the wrong side of the storm, we really dodged a bullet. The original predictions for this storm were pretty bad. As it turns out, we didn’t even lose power. I can’t say the same for a lot of people in NE Florida, though. There are a lot of folks without power and there was a lot of flooding along the river.

Hurricane Irma Cone

Overall, we had very minor damage. A couple of leaks, my pool pump isn’t working (think it might be the capacitor), and the wind pushed over my Big Green Egg…

Big Green Egg

Feeling very fortunate.

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So, as you know, Cindy is in the U.K. visiting her dad. Looks like she’s having a good time, too! Sharing a Gunniess with the ol’ man…

Cindy sipping Gunniess

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This weekend, Cindy took the boys to visit big sister Jessica in Alabama. They’ve been wanting to see “Baby Oliver” and Carter John and their new puppy, Cooper! Today the took a trip to Birmingham to visit the McWane Science Center and Cindy got a picture of all the boys. How she got them to sit still to do it, I’ll never know!

McWane Science Center

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Another reason for the family trip to SW Florida was so we could present this shadowbox to my father-in-law for his birthday. He served 20-years in the US Air Force, but he didn’t have ANY reminders of his service, they being lost to the passage of time. All he had were some papers in a briefcase he kept in his closet. Fortunately, one of those papers was his DD214, which contained most of the of the information needed to construct the shadowbox, and short conversation provided the rest.

Happy Birthday, “Poppy”…and thanks for your service!

Shadowbox

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This weekend, while I enjoyed (??) a Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Cindy and the boys met Jess and her family in Orlando for a mini-vacation. Today, they started with a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious breakfast at Disney’s Grand Floridian, then will be moving on to Animal Kingdom.

Here’s the gang with The Mad Hatter…

Mad Hatter

And Kameran and Kalie don’t seem to mind the rather creepy looking Mary Poppins, but Cater John is a bit leery…

Mary Poppins Mary Poppins

Oliver was thrilled to meet Pooh, and A2 always enjoy hanging-out with Tigger…

Pooh Tigger

So, how do you top this breakfast adventure? How about a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

Animal Kingdom

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…wherein we delay the traditional Holiday meal until the day after Christmas.

Dinner Selfie

In addition to the ham and other staples, we have our traditional Christmas crackers…

Dinner plates

which despite the boys’ impatience we enjoyed AFTER dinner.

Christmas Crackers Christmas Crackers

The Christmas Cracker King…

Christmas Crackers

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Well, the boys were up at 5:00 a.m. and a few minutes later they were at the side of the bed informing me that Santa had indeed visited them while they slept. This was a great relief for Adam because he was almost certain he was on the naughty list. Anyway, everyone else was still snoozing, so I started some coffee and the boys brought their stockings to the front of the tree…

Boys with their stockings

Fortunately, Santa had left the boys enough in their stockings to keep them occupied until the coffee was done and everyone was up. Then, we passed-out the presents and they went to town…

Opening presents

Opening presents

My favorite presents every year are the one’s the boys’ buy at their school’s Christmas shop…

Opening presents Opening presents

After the gifts were opened and the wrapping paper, boxes, and other packaging were cleared-out, we retired to the kitchen for breakfast, which included Cindy’s specialty, reindeer pancakes, for the boys…

Reindeer Pancakes

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and the family is gathering at the home of my 97-year-old grandfather, affectionately known as “Pa”. In about an hour, this old turn-of-the-20th-century house will be filled to the brim with people, all family…

Pa's House

Something like this…and this isn’t everyone! Six generations are represented here tonight.

Crowd

Of course, the highlight of the evening is the kids sitting at Pa’s feet and opening their presents . When I was a kid (and the family was quite a bit smaller) we all used to draw names and each would buy a present for the person he or she chose. Now, it’s become a bit unwieldy, so parents bring modest presents for their kids and Pa presents his gifts, and everyone brings something for Pa. This year, Pa’s gifts included a Florida Gator hat (I wonder who got him that 😉 )

Kids opening presents Pa with his Gator hat

After the Christmas Eve activities at Pa’s, we returned to Mom and Dad’s cabin on the hill to get ready for Santa’s visit. So, after a couple quick photo’s with the selfie-stick…

Family Selfie Cindy Selfie

the stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

Stockings

in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…

Santa

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Nana and Pop wanted to wait until the boys arrived to put-up the Christmas tree. But first, we have to cut down the tree, which means a visit to the tree farm. Once there, the boys are given a mission: Locate the Christmas tree…

Christmas Tree

Finally, among the hundreds of trees lining these hills, we find the perfect tree…

Christmas Tree

And with the pull of the cord and a quick swipe with the chainsaw, Pop cuts down our Christmas tree. The boys are pretty proud of themselves

Christmas Tree

Now, we’re gonna meet Mom and Nana for breakfast! Then Mom and Nana can decorate the tree 😉

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There’s a song by Kenny Loggins called, ‘Celebrate me Home’. It’s about a man (Kenny, I suppose) who returns home for the Holidays to be among his friends. They play music and sing. For the man, the music recalls memories of home when he’s away. Kenny sings,


Please, celebrate me home
Play me one more song,
That I’ll always remember,
And I can recall,
Whenever I find myself too all alone,
I can sing me home.

So, what’s the point? I originally heard this song in 1977 and had a copy of Kenny’s album of the same name. At the time, ‘Celebrate’ didn’t have much impact on me (my favorite song from the album was ‘Lady Luck’). However, I would rediscover this song almost 10-years later. In 1986, I was living in Colorado Springs and on my first Air Force assignment. Until this time I was never more than 2-3-hours from home, so it was easy to return for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now, I was 1,500-miles from home, which is no easy drive. In December 1986, I was spending my second Christmas away. Although I had a family of my own (my son was less than a month old), nostalgia was tugging at me, then I heard ‘Celebrate’ on the radio and the song took on a whole new meaning.

This year we’re spending Christmas with my folks and extended family. And although I can ‘count on being gone’, for the next few days you can ‘Celebrate me Home’…

Celebrate me Home

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