It's time for December All At Once™! If you don't like posts with 80 billion photos, just move along. : )
Unlike last year, we a.) didn't have a weekend of precious downtime early in the month and b.) spent most of the month sick as dogs, though not all at once. Ironically, only Ellie survived the month in perfect health, haha.
The weekend after everyone left from Thanksgiving, we headed to Mobile for the 2014 Alabama State Compulsory Gymnastics Championships!
Gracie competed on Saturday; she earned a silver medal in the all-around in her age division, as well as the gold medal on beam! It was a wonderful finish to the season—especially since she fell off the beam for the first time in more than two years at the previous meet, as she had a mouthful of blood and a molar that decided to come out WHILE SHE WAS ON THE BEAM.
Maddie competed on Sunday and earned a gold medal finish in the all-around, making her a state champion in two different states in the same calendar year! She and Gracie actually tied for the highest score on beam in any age division at their level, which is pretty darn amazing. They were super excited to share that news with their coaches in Shreveport, especially.
We only had minimal time to sight-see in Mobile (a whole lot of homework accompanied us to the hotel and in the van) but we did get to gawk at the Mobile Middle Bay Port a little, which is a fascinating place.
The big football announcement was made the weekend we were in Mobile, so we spent a lot of time gleefully getting excited for Ohio State to beat Alabama, hee. That was actually true for the entire month. So glad we had the foresight to take this picture just in case when we were in Tuscaloosa in November!
Gracie completed a ginormous book report project (pictured) as well as the first 80 pages of her Alabama State History Portfolio (not pictured). I've said it 50 times but I'll say it again: 4th grade is no joke at her school. Whew.
I accompanied Bridget's class to DeSoto Caverns, which was a long full-day field trip and lots of fun. I am kind of amazed by caves. This was not the crawl-on-your-stomach variety of cave, but rather a large and cavernous cave with a hokey lighting show. The cave itself was something to behold, though, and I'm so glad I went.
On the way home I took a quick detour and drove out to a very isolated grist mill (the Kymulga Grist Mill), one of the only mills in the area not to have been burned to the ground in the Civil War. It was at this moment that I took this picture on the covered bridge that I decided it was super-creepy out there and I hotfooted it back to the van. Heh. I'm sure it isn't creepy all the time, but on this gray afternoon it most definitely was.
The same day as the cave/mill adventure I had to race back to school (two hours of racing) to pick Gracie up at a 4th and 5th grade dance. This is a terrible picture, but I am sharing it because I want to remember how much fun she had—apparently she and her two besties won the dance-off between the 4th and 5th grades. I wish I could have seen it : )
We got our tree decorated, finally! It was Maddie's turn to put the topper on this year (we have to use the photo record to determine whose turn it is each year). Whoever puts the topper on wears the tuba caroling hat.
Bridget won honorable mention in a writing contest sponsored by the public library! She would have been happier if she had won first place but it was still lovely : ) The library did a fantastic job making the awards a fun big deal, I thought.
On the same night as the awards ceremony, Maddie had her band concert. They sounded pretty amazing, and not at all like what I know many middle schools can sound like.
There is always a lot of driving downtown at all hours of the day and night no matter what month it is, but I'm glad we made a quick detour to check out the Capitol Christmas tree one night.
It wouldn't be December without Gracie's school birthday cookies. I'm telling you what: chocolate chip cookies are nothing exciting until you stick a stick in 'em and wrap them up in cellophane. Then everyone raves and gobbles. We've been fooling people into thinking this is an extravagant treat for years. Hee hee.
Gracie had her two besties from school over for a birthday gingerbread house decorating party. She is the shorty of the trio, ha. Gingerbread house decorating is not for the faint of heart even when there are only five girls participating, but it was great fun.
And then she turned ten! Her birthday deserves a post all of its own. We had a delightful Mama-Gracie date in Birmingham.
Matt and I made a small batch of chocolate-covered cherries for teacher gifts, but never got back to making more this year. They turned out beautifully, though, unlike last year's disaster.
I went to a Christmas tea in a very fancy and Christmas-y house. I wanted to take real pictures but decided that would be rude. Matt's seminar at school has an Australian in it, and the Air War College Australians have been cared for by the hostess of the tea for 30 years (which means the non-Australians get the same lovely care!).
Our traditional Christmas mail mess was made a number of times....
...and we made a whole lot of Christmas gifts. Kind of at the last minute, because that's how we roll. I have plans to share more details about this particular project later in January!
Christmas cookies didn't get made until Christmas Eve, because, see above. We delivered two surprise batches to local friends late in the day.
The sunset was absolutely stunning on Christmas Eve. And much-needed, as there weren't too many minutes where I just stood and stared at something in December.
The day after Christmas we piled in the car with our sweet dog (who has learned to go with the flow with her crazy adoptive family) and made the 13 hour drive to northeast Ohio. Hello, Cincinnati!
Christmas in Ohio is full of one family activity after another, so we did a lot of visiting and eating and catching up. The kids' table is a lot fancier now that the youngest Dillow grandkid is 7.5.
I think it's been six years since Matt's side of the family has been in the same place at one time.
Nana and Papa transformed their basement into fun activity room central: on various nights of the week, it was filled with Bingo, memory contests, Tripoli, marker-making, cards, and more.
We were able to attend Matt's extended family Christmas party, which we haven't been to in a long time. Pictured: Scott, Matt's first cousin and groomsman in our wedding (plus among the biggest Ohio State fans ever) opening a gift exchange gift. There is usually some stealing involved as the gifts are opened—both Gracie and I ended up with stolen gifts, which was fun.
Christmas celebrations continued with a brunch at my parents' house, where more handmade gifts were given.
We got to see the final chapter of The Hobbit with Grandpa, which means we've seen all three movies with him—in Wyoming, Louisiana, and Ohio. Not too shabby. Gracie and Bridget went this time, too; this is a terrible red-eye photo and Bridget looks like she is crying because she was (she took Thorin's death especially hard). But everyone was very glad to have seen it. Also, we are clearly out of practice for wearing appropriate cold weather gear.
Ohio gets an F for snow. Here is Bridget protesting the lack of snow for snow angels. Hmph.
I got to see Jesse!! Jesse was the matron-of-honor in our wedding and one of my oldest friends. It can be hard to carve out time for visits in Ohio but I'm so glad we were able to make a last-minute lunch happen. It's the best to be able to pick up as if no years have passed at all. Thanks, random Panera diner for taking our picture.
We spent a delightful afternoon in Hudson with Grandma and Grandpa for some bookstore time at The Learnéd Owl.
We spent the first half of New Years' Eve at the Marquettes' house, hooray! It was an aunts, uncles, and cousins party. The second half of New Years' Eve was spent with Dillow cousins, which also made it an aunts, uncles, and cousins party.
And that brings December to a close. It is important for me to keep this record so I will remember in December 2015 that we can, in fact, survive a busy month once again and live to tell the tale.