On Saturday the 1st we were up super early and on the road. We were trying to get to the Metropark transit center in New Jersey by 9AM. Miraculously, we got there at 8:40. We took a NJ Transit train to New York Penn Station, where we met Jill’s mom Sue and her niece Ava, then went upstairs so Nina could get her first look at New York City.
First stop was Macy’s, where we checked out the shop windows on the west and south, then went upstairs to look around and Nina wrote a letter to Santa. We went back outside and saw the windows on the east side, then walked over to the Empire State Building. Several hours later, we’d been to the top and the gift shop, and were running a bit behind. Luckily we got a free ride on the subway as the lines for the fare machines were very long and soon got to Radio City Music Hall where we joined the long lines waiting to get in. My mom joined us as her train had arrived and she’d taken a cab over.
We got inside just in time and rushed the girls upstairs to see the Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes while the rest of us dealt with lines for food, drinks, souvenirs and bathrooms. The show was pretty good (although more explicitly Christmas-sy than I realized). After the show we made the mistake of trying to get a picture of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, along with about 10,000 other people (the first Saturday after it’s lit is a very bad idea). Mom got lost looking for a bathroom and ended up in a church â€“ in the meantime Jill and her mom took the girls to FAO Schwartz. We had wanted to get dinner together, but by the time we’d all found each other it was time for Mom to go. Nina and I helped her hail a taxi, then the rest of us made our way back to Penn Station. We had time for dinner there and I went upstairs to Pennsy to get sandwiches for Jill and I from Pat LaFrieda.
We all left for our respective trains, and then started driving. I’d decided that 9:30 was a little late to drive all the way home since we’d gotten up so early, so we stopped for the night at the Hampton Inn Bordentown. In the morning Nina was in the pool again (more energy burn off), then we drove home.
Monday night I drove up to Strathmore to see concert #52: Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman with Marty Stuart. I missed out seeing The Byrds, but I couldn’t miss this tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. With Marty Stuart sitting in for Gram Parsons as they performed the entire album and other Byrds classics, they managed to surpass themselves with a tribute to collaborator Tom Petty during the encore. And totally worth it, the vocals, the jingle jangle of Roger’s Rickenbacker, it was all there (plus Marty Stuart owns Clarence White’s guitar). Have to remember to find a better parking place next time, as getting out of the garage was a real mess. Interesting side note that in the last month, I’ve seen 5 acts for the first time – an oddity when you’ve seen more than 3000 concerts.
Thursday the 6th Jill said “Not sure whether Nina is more excited for the start of competition season or Christmas… it’s a toss up!”. Friday Nina had a ice skating birthday party she attended. Saturday we drove down to Richmond for a cheer competition and we stopped in Ashland at my alma mater on the way down so Nina could see it. I’m glad we did – looks like they’re about to knock down the Holiday Inn I spent my freshman year at. Nina got to swim at the pool with her team and they all did their hair while I had dinner at the Secret Sandwich Society. Early the next morning Jill woke me up with the news that the competition had been canceled as a dusting of snow had changed to a serious snowstorm, and we were on our way home as the flakes started coming down. That night I wondered what did parents do before superglue?
Monday after Nina’s nightly compulsory reading was done she chose to read her new Descendants graphic novel. On the 12th I wasn’t expecting to have to take Nina to a concert I didn’t want to go to so soon. Now we’re heading to JoJo Siwa 7/19 at Wolf Trap. Jill said “Ever since we need to do curls for cheer competitions this girl has been asking for curls to wear to school for ages. I finally obliged – fingers crossed!”, and the next morning “and after! This girl loves those curls!” Nina also got to share what she loves about her school with friends in an official video that day.
Saturday the 15th we went to National Harbor for the next cheer competition. With a couple hours to kill, I went over to the Brass Tap and had tater tots with beer cheese, chicken sliders and a beer sampler, then went over to the thunderously loud ballroom where we’d spend the next several hours, and came up with 3 rules to survive cheer competitions:
Happily Nina’s team won their category â€“ her first time getting first place in cheer (and her first cheer medal). Our friends Meg and Toby stayed with us because they had an overnight layover at Dulles, so of course we took them to the holiday party hosted by our neighbor John. The next day we had our holiday party in the afternoon (because there was literally no other time in December that would work) and had a nice turnout as we had cookie decorating for everyone. That night I didn’t know why some places are banning â€œBaby, It’s Cold Outsideâ€ when “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is so problematic. She started asking questions about it that night. Luckily the worst one was “How does he stay warm?” I also saw they did a Doctor Who Christmas Special after all!
Saturday the 22nd was concert #53: Todd Wright’s Annual Santa Clauster-f@%! at Jammin’ Java. Unfortunately Nina was under the weather with asthma so I was solo – on the plus side I got to see the whole 3 hour plus extravaganza and got to see my first live performance of one of my favorite songs, Tom Petty’s “Christmas All Over Again” by Anthony Fiacco. Meanwhile Jill and Nina had a Christmas movie marathon. Jill said “I love that she chooses the Tulle shawl I made for her to help comfort her while she’s sick”. The next afternoon was concert #54: Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Capital One Arena. With lunch at Nandos beforehand, Nina had a fun day, only complaining because we left early. Later was the church Christmas Pageant, representing the “kings and queens”.
On Christmas Nina was delighted with her big gift of a Barbie Dreamhouse and lots of LOL dolls, then Jill had a 3 hour nap. Dad and Patricia joined us for lunch and we had ham with all the trimmings, then I got a nap before Jill left for work that night. The next day Nina and I built the Lego Hogwarts Express she’d received from my mom. Jill took Nina back to National Harbor for ICE! on Thursday, saying “we had a fun filled day at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel to experience ICE! It was pretty cool (see what I did there?) . We also walked around the National Harbor, then dropped into Fibre Space on the way home (and shockingly just browsed!)”
Friday the 28th we endured all day rain on our drive up to Boston, stopping at Nina’s new favorite restaurant, White Castle. We arrived at my sister’s house in time for Nina to have dessert and go to bed. Saturday we had a belated Christmas with them and my mom and David who’d driven over as well. That night we had Chris and Jess over as Jill and I made fajitas, then Chris, Jess, Sharon, Tom, Jill and I went to concert #55: Enter the Haggis at Spire in Plymouth, MA. Because in the season of friends and family you go to your last concert of the year with friends and family. Great gift, sis! Too bad they shut down Plymouth for an event making it tricky to park.
Sunday we drove over to Jill’s sister in western Massachusetts and stopped for lunch at Stone’s Public House for a delicious brunch. Delighted to see the Ashland in Massachusetts also has train tracks running through town. Melissa made spaghetti for us for dinner. New Year’s Eve Jill’s younger sister Robin came over with her family and we opened gifts from Jill and Robin’s dad who was sick. We and the Bradys went out to see Mary Poppins Returns in the afternoon (practically perfect), then Jill and I sent Nina back with them and got drinks while we waited to get takeout from North Garden (totally slammed). After dinner, we opened crackers. Nina had campaigned hard to stay up for the New Year. Her youngest cousin was, so we let her (her first intentional one), then everyone went to bed.