Family Visits

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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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wherein we learn you may be “just a shark”.

So, Alex holds up his stuffed shark and…

Alex: Is this a megalodon?

Me: Sure, if you want it to be.

Alex: No, it’s just a shark.

Shark

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It’s always a GREAT day when the boys get to visit their GREAT grandfather (a.k.a. “Pa”). Pa was a sharecropper and a respected man among the other farmers in the area…around town they still refer to him as “Mr. Lee”

Mr Lee

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After a great 4th of July weekend with the grandkids, the boys and I are taking a road trip to Virginia to visit the grandparents (and great grandpa!). We arrived yesterday and after a good night’s sleep, headed-up the Blue Ridge Parkway for some breakfast at Mabrey Mill. We come here often when we’re visiting the family. It’s a great drive up the mountain and the scenery is breathtaking…

Mabry Mill

and the obligatory family-in-front-of-the-old-mill picture is…

Family

They used to make molasses, apple butter, and cornmeal using the old farm methods, but in recent years, the health department said they couldn’t do it any more because it wasn’t “safe”. Of course, it had been done this way for more than 100-years…well, anyway.

You can still see inside the working mill…

Inside the Wheel House

and learn about moonshine, blacksmithing, weaving cotton, and playing checkers with little corncob checkers…

Checkers Checkers

and best of all, to stroll down memory lane remembering the boys first visit to Mabry Mill…(then and now)

Adam and Alex in the Wagon Adam and Alex in the Wagon

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Hard to believe, but were heading out on the water AGAIN! Today, we have Jess and Emilo and family, plus Kameran’s plus one. So, we’ll be taking out a pontoon boat…and this Sweatwater beauty means we’ll be riding in STYLE

Sweetwater

Soon, the brood is onboard and we’re underway…

Underway

We don’t really have anything planned today. Just cruise up the St Johns into Jax and maybe we’ll spy a dolphin or two. It was great just to relax and enjoy the time together.

Mom and Dad

Alex Surfs Adam and Oliver

Jess and CJ

And of course, with all these mates, I don’t have to sit behind the wheel…

Adam Drives Kam Drives

And Cindy even get’s in a little Rodan+Fields work…what a GREAT office!

Cindy Works

We docked at the Jacksonville Landing, and walked around the restaurants and shops for a bit. Since it was Sunday, a lot of them were closed. Still, it was nice to get out and stretch our legs a bit, before climbing back on board and heading up the river to see if we could see some Dolphins.

Jax Landing

Emilo took the wheel as we headed under the Main Street bridge. While the kids kept their eyes open for dolphins, I just enjoyed the sunshine.

Watching for Dolphins

And it didn’t take long before we saw a entire POD!

Dolphin Pod Dolphin Pod

We were able to get pretty close as they swam alongside the boat.

Dolphin Close

After the dolphin show, we took Jessica Lorraine to see the Jessica Lorraine

Jessica Lorraine Jessica Lorraine

It was a great day! Everyone was a bit tired, but still wore a smile…except for those that were asleep!

Kam and Oliver

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