December 29, 2011

Christmas with the Kerns -2011

Here's the tales of the Kerns' Adventures in December :

Earlier in the month, Melissa wanted to go to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge Tennessee. It was a couple of chintzy towns full of restaurants, hotels, go-kart tracks and T-Shirt shops along a single road in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, but it has a great charm to it when it's decked out for Christmas. Loads of lights along the strip, and some snow on the beautiful 30 mile mountain pass to get there.

Blue Ridge Mountain Pass 01 Snow on Blue Ridge
Pigeon Forge Patriot Park Christmas LightsPigeon Forge Patriot Park Christmas Lights2

We took Matthew to the Ripley' Aquarium there, which he loves, and for the first time, we visited DollyWood - Dolly Parton's Country theme park. (I have to admit, when I think of Dolly Parton and Mountains, my first thoughts aren't of a family-friendly park, but it was very nice.) Christmas at Dollywood

It was seriously cold that day, and after Matthew and I rode our first Coaster (the incredible Wooden Twister "THUNDERHEAD"), we (and most of the other guests) made a Bee-line to the entryway gift shop to pick up hats and gloves for everybody.
Dollywood_Hats

Christmas Week, we had a bit of a scare. Crispin the Kingsnake got out of his cage again.

WALL-E and the King Snake
He stops eating in winter sometimes, and there's nothing quite like the smell of a dead mouse that's been left, uneaten, under a basking lamp all day, so I assume that in my haste to dispose of the mouse, I probably didn't double-latch the cage top. We searched in vain all afternoon, but not a trace of him. We knew he'd have to come out soon for some water at least, so we just let him be.

Two days later, Matthew spotted him coming out of the linen closet and slinking down the stairs. Before I could grab him, he slithered back INTO the linen closet, where I thought I had him. But apparently he can climb up that 3 feet to the first shelf. I saw that all the shelves in the closet were wire, so he could get as high in it as he liked. So started a very amusing 7-MINUTE CHASE, with him slinking over every towel, sheet and pillow, me furiously taking out all the linens I could, and him wiggling free to the next shelf just as I get back. Eventually, the closet was emptied and he had nowhere to run, so I had him back in the cage, and locked the lid tight this time. So we had THAT as an early Christmas gift: No longer fearing putting our hand under the tree or sitting on the couch.

Christmas Eve, we were preparing to go to our church service, where I'd be singing in the choir. Unfortunately, Melissa was having some digestive issues and we reluctantly admitted that she would have to stay behind. This was the first Midnight Mass that she has missed since she was about 12, so it was quite a sad moment. (She even went to it when she was on strict bed-rest while pregnant with Matthew.) Since she was staying, and I had to go, her parents stayed behind to take care of her, and I went with our friend Shawn. It was a very nice service, and our singing was great, but I missed having her out in the congregation. I hated the fact that she was missing out.

By the time I got home it was past midnight, and I got her ready for bed. But before I said goodnight to her, I picked up "Flamingo's First Christmas" and read it to her. She gave me that eye-roll and incredulous grin that she still hasn't lost, as I read each page and showed her the pictures.

Christmas Day, Melissa and I woke around 10:30, apparently the folks had satiated Matthew by giving him their gift-a Lego "Alien Defense Command Center". That kept him occupied enough to let us be for a little while. Around 11am, we all moseyed into the (now Snake-Free) Den and opened gifts.
Kern Tree 2011 Xmas Ornament- CrackerBarrel Xmas Ornament-F&F

Mel's friend Dawn got her this TOTALLY MELISSA ornament! Xmas Ornament-Mel's Shoes

Matthew got loads of Lego Sets, a remote control helicopter that shoots pictures, and a Nintendo 3DS. Mel's parents got him a telescope, since he often goes out at night with binoculars to look at the stars. (Now all he needs is a leg-cast and a murder across the street...) Matthew'sGifts Telescope Cats love Helicopters

Melissa got me some shirts (I never shop for clothes myself) and a nice gift card for Fry's Electronics. I got Mel tickets to see Jeff Dunham, and a little project I've been working on. She watches movies on Netflix or DVDs from our collection most of the day. We have a HUGE number of DVDs, and I usually have to pick an arm-full of them and bring them into her room for approval. So I had the idea of digitizing our entire collection, to make it easier for her.

Christmas Server
I put a Network Attached Storage (NAS) server on my Amazon Wishlist, mostly for a reminder for myself, but my parents actually bought it, and it arrived two weeks before Christmas. I saw this coming together, so I put some DVD-Ripping software on the list, which was quickly bought for us by my aunt and uncle in Florida just a few days later. So for 2 weeks, I've had our old computer dedicated to ripping our DVD collection to the new network server. It takes roughly the same amount of time to rip as it does to watch them, so I get a short stack of them done each day. By Christmas, I had over 100 movies, ready for her to just click and watch, straight from her PC! It made her smile, so that made it all worth it.
Our DVD Collection

I'm back at work, having no vacation days left (FMLA will do that to you), but I think all the work this holiday was worth it. I did the bulk of our shopping by Amazon (Free 2-day shipping is SO worth the annual price of Amazon Prime!), and I got a lot of packages out this year, so I am pretty impressed.

Hope everyone had a great year-end!

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