Twelve Days and The Queen of the Night

One thing I didn’t mention in my previous Christmas posts is that on Christmas Eve we watched Ingmar Bergman’s film adaptation of The Magic Flute. It’s something I’ve been meaning to share with my kids for a while (it’s not the absolute best staging of my favorite opera, but it is certainly the most kid-accessible) and since it’s traditionally shown on Swedish television at Christmastime — why not?

And Randy missed the first showing, so he put it on again on Dec. 26.

And Caitlin made sure we all listened to Florence Foster Jenkins’ epic terrible performance of the Queen of the Night’s “I’ll have revenge” aria.

Which led to the entire family humming various snippets of the opera for the next several days. (William created a “whale version” of the Queen of the Night, which was hysterical.)

So  . . . when you see the following photographs showing our adventures between Christmas and Epiphany, keep in mind that there is likely at least one person in each shot humming Mozart under their breath.

Dec. 26 is Uncle Jake’s birthday, so Erica always makes an effort to have some fun activity for everyone to do. Usually this has been a movie, but this year there weren’t any films that the whole group wanted to watch. So I suggested something that I’ve often passed by while driving around town, and always wanted to try:



If you’re unfamiliar, let me explain: Whirlyball is like lacrosse . . . played with a whiffleball . . . and you shoot the ball into a basketball hoop . . . all the while driving bumper cars.

Bumper cars! The sport of kings!!

We were able to finagle a reservation, and it was JUST AS FUN as I imagined it would always be.

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Practicing hitting the targets


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Learning the rules

And since I’m taller than most of my in-laws, this was the first time I’ve felt any kind of particular advantage while playing a sport — my longer arms were way more adept at scooping the ball off of the floor — although the award for Most Dedicated Player certainly goes to Randy.

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This was so fun.

Eleanor made a few key shots, as well. It was great. My only regret is that nobody realized that it wouldn’t be a good game for Erica to play, what with the Frostbite being in utero. But at least Jake had a great time. (He was elated when, upon the first game’s conclusion, he was informed that we had the court rented out for another full hour. “Whaaaat, we can play again???“)

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We also had birthday crepes, as per tradition

The evening was more restless — we were driving to Utah the next day, and the in-laws were flying home — so the afternoon was a whirlwind of laundry, packing, cleaning. I turned on a few Christmas movies to settle down the kids while I sorted out snow gear, and chose How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas. It had been ages since I had watched those shows, and the charming thing is that my in-laws must have felt the same way, because one by one they each walked through the living room, saw what was playing, and were immediately drawn in to watch. Everyone was amused that we could still remember the songs from Grinch, even after all these years.

Then . . . the drive to Utah was the next day. Hoooooooooooo boy.

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There was a blizzard in Snoqualmie Pass, so we decided to take a detour and drive through Portland.

But when we reached Portland, my dad called to tell us that I-84 was closed down in the Blue Mountains. So, we had to take a detour off the detour — following a two-lane highway through central Oregon and then meeting up with the freeway again in Ontario, Idaho. Our drive had exploded from the usual 12 hours into 18 hours.

We also took a moment to purchase snow cables for our tires in Portland. This was wise, because we had to drive up and over Mt. Hood, which looked like this:


Yeah, it was beautiful. Beautiful and terrifying.

The thing we didn’t realize is that there would be no commercial services for the bulk of the drive. Just before Mt. Hood, we stopped at a convenience store/hunting supply shop (seriously, there were mounted elk heads all over the inside, and the cashiers were wearing camo) to use the bathroom, but after the mountain . . . nothing.

Like, nothing for miles. We were driving behind pickup trucks hauling hay bales. The kids complained about being thirsty, and we’d say there was an upcoming town on the map, and then we’d pass an intersection with a feed store, and nothing else. “I guess that was the town,” we’d say, and the kids whined for water.

This was fortunately the only time the kids whined. For them, our extra-long drive just meant more time to lounge in pajamas, watching movies, playing video games, and eating junk food.

It felt like we had been driving through central Oregon all day; it felt like we’d be driving through centeral Oregon forever. Towards the end of the detour, we began to pass through towns with charming little main streets. We admired all of them while doing our impersonation of Jimmy Stewart at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” happily greeting everything he sees: “MERRY CHRISTMAS, PAIUTE MUSEUM!” “MERRY CHRISTMAS, COUNTY CELLULAR!” “MERRY CHRISTMAS, TACO STAND WITH FAMILY KARAOKE AT FRIDAYS AT 9!”

We didn’t get to West Point until 12:30 a.m.

Fortunately, our adventures in Utah were blessedly snowstorm-free. I got to spend a leisurely morning thrifting at the DI with my mom (remembering the whining, I found water bottles for everyone in my family for the trip home) and we went to watch Rogue One at the movies (I had given Star Wars shirts to all of my children for Christmas, just for this).

Alex gave me a Christmas present, which was a plaid scarf, on the same day I happened to be wearing a plaid shirt and carrying a plaid bag

We also went sledding with cousins June and Emmy, and got to hang out with my brother for a while at his house. Sugarhouse Park is such an ideal place for sledding!

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The other girls were so fearless on the big hill! Katie, on the other hand, buried her face in my leg and sobbed, terrified. “But if I don’t go down, everyone will laugh at me!” she said, all teary-voiced and sad. Fortunately, Brian still had a bag of candy leftover from the movies and was able to lure her away for a nature hike.

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That evening we took the whole gang to see the lights on Temple Square and the “candy windows” at Macy’s.

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Brian’s brother Peter and his wife Katherine were able to meet us for dinner at the City Creek Center, which is great, since we hadn’t any other chances to meet with them during the holidays. I was greatly pleased to discover that The Red Iguana had opened a new branch at the food court. (Mango mole enchiladas. Nummmmm.)

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On the way back to my parents’ house, we stopped to drive through the light display in Layton city park. My favorite part is always the crazy tunnel, which is coordinated with Christmas music.

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The next day we headed up to Ogden to pick up Jeff’s friend Sol (who moved to Utah the previous summer). This was because Jeff’s big Christmas present was a chance to try out indoor skydiving with a friend.

Flying Jeff
Flying Sol

All the other kids (and June and Emmy and Grandma, too) came along to watch the amazing flying gangliness. It was far more entertaining than I expected it to be. Eleanor now says that she’d like to try indoor skydiving with a friend for her birthday.

Afterwards we took ’em all to Chick Fil A for lunch, and Jeff got to hang out with his friend and talk. And I got to do the same with my mom. Can’t beat that.


Later that day we headed down to Salt Lake for a Plethora party, and then onwards to Provo. We go to hang out with cousin Anderson . . .

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. . . and were happy to hear the announcement that there will soon be an Andersibling!

Katie was able to wear aunt Erica’s “Ginny gown,” something similar to what Eleanor used to wear when she studied dance at Virginia Tanner Dance. (It’s a Tanner dance tradition.)

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We also worked on our traditional jigsaw puzzle and ate lots of chocolate. I’m sorry I didn’t take more pictures of our time in Provo — which included New Year’s Eve (!) — but I was feeling pretty darn mellow at that point, and we were in a cat-like loungeabout mood. Nothing all that exciting to photograph.

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Disney/Pixar puzzle this year. Completed in West Point. The cousins all worked together to sort the different pieces.

Then the drive home, which was refreshingly uneventful, and one more day off school before winter break ended. I spent the day putting together this LEGO set with William. He is so delightful to work with. When we completed the project, he was so excited that he jumped up and down and scurried around the room, making little laser-blast sounds. He also insisted I take multiple photos from various angles:

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The following weekend, my friend Julia came up from Portland for the weekend, and we had a movie-fest that included viewings of Queen of Katwe and La La Land. And we took down the Christmas tree (which made the kids cry) and took down the Christmas cards (which made me cry).

Many happy returns of this season.

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