Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Your cookie looks like a samurai!"

How do you sum up an amazing Christmas vacation? Photos!

I was counting down the days until my flight to Chicago. Since October. There were great expectations tied up with the flight home. Everyone knows that great expectations usually lead to a feeling of disappointment. Did my Christmas fulfill my images of sugarplums dancing in my head? Yes. And more. You can even throw in a Red Ryder BB Gun.

I left Okinawa on the 22nd and arrived in the arms of my parents on the 22nd. I love gaining a day! We took a white stretch limo from the airport to the hotel where they had dropped off the car. I wish I had a picture of my jet-lagged self relaxing in style, but unfortunately, all of my hydration techniques on the plane caught up with me, and I was darting into the Hampton Inn to use their facilities. After a few initial reactions to being home (“Wow, everyone is so big here!”), I was lugging my bags into my familiar and Christmasy home. And is there a better way to start a vacation than this?

That’s Izzy in all her full-grown puppyness. She is adorable and was the source of much amusement over break.

I had arranged to have a cookie making day with the family and it became a hilarious marathon of rolling, baking, and decorating. Everyone got into the action, including my Aunt Carol, and Izzy tried to step in a few times as well. (We took out the ones she licked.) My sister, Brooke, showed an amazing flair for making the most absolutely atrocious cookies and as much as the rest of the family tried to compete, we couldn’t top her creations. These are some of our more presentable cookies (without the bloody amputated ones)…

Christmas Eve was spent with my dad’s side of the family with Christmas gift opening, Eagle Brand pudding being consumed, and a rousing game of “Deal or No Deal” on DVD. There were more gifts to be had on Christmas Day and we took off to LaSalle to celebrate the day with Mom’s side. The highlight of the 25th? Counting Santa Claus pictures, statues, and any other Santa paraphenalia at Aunt Chris and Uncle Jack's house. Of course, the Dorsey competition noses were out for a kill and after Brooke and I strategically counted together and estimated how many we missed, I walked away with a victory and a cute Santa for the road. (The answer? 70 Santas. Really, Aunt Chris...) We also snapped some family pictures with my cousins, Tarah and Matt, and Grandpa Brown. Plus, I got the Dorsey crew to bring out their inner Japanese and pose accordingly.

To continue an American tradition, Brooke and I fought the crowds at the mall to score some big bargains the day after Christmas. Somehow, we ended up with numerous matching clothes and had to take a picture of one of our outfits.

After a couple of days of recover, the Dorsey clan took off for a big night in the city. We took the train to Chicago and spent the day enjoying the amenities of Tarah and Bret’s home, including their roaring fire and hot tub. It was a rough night of wine, delicious food, and games. The following morning was spent exploring Millennium Park and the famous “Bean” and ice skating.

My adventures in Chicago weren’t over yet, though. I took the train back downtown the next day to meet some of my Valpo friends for a day of lunch and wandering. Tammy, Kelli, and Laura were able to meet me and we continued a tradition of lunch at Bennigan’s before hitting some of the shops on the Magnificent Mile. We lucked out and the weather was tolerable for a wintery day in Chicago. The crowds were incredible and to console ourselves for being pushed around in shops, we enjoyed some Frango pie at the old Marshall Fields building.

The next day was New Year’s Eve and I hoofed it up to Schaumburg to see some more VU friends, including Laura, Carly, Kimi, and Jenny, plus their respective spouses and babies (in the tummy still). It was a night of delicious pizza, too many snacks, the Bears/Packer game, some Wii, and knitting. Yes, knitting.

On the first of January, I headed back south to visit Ken’s family. His entire family made an appearance and it was great to see them again! I gave Cole a bit of a sugar buzz with Japanese candy and was amazed at how big McKenna has become. She had just started proper crawling a few days before and was eager to show off.

The next day I drove my way up to Valpo to visit Tammy for the day. I visited the old haunts on campus, bought an obligatory sweatshirt, and got to eat Panera. Ah, those were the days. (By the way, it’s my 5th year reunion this year. How did that happen!?)

I finally had a few days to just relax and do nothing. Thankfully, my sister also had nothing to do and we teamed up on Izzy for three days while watching a VH1 “America’s Next Top Model” marathon… all three days. It was very relaxing to sit around on the couch in my comfy clothes and play with the dog. I also made a guest appearance in my mom’s second grade class and taught a few Japanese phrases and passed around some Pocky. They had some excellent questions and I realized that I talk strangely when teaching now, thanks to trying to be understood by my students here.

On Friday, I headed back to Josh and Laura’s for a yummy meal and then made my way to the Momence basketball game to catch up with some friends who I hadn’t been able to see yet. I forgot as I entered that I am a semi-celebrity among students there and when I walked in the gym, a dozen students stood up and yelled, “MS. DORSEY!!!!” It was cute and I appreciated being remembered. I spent the entire game gabbing with my friend, Amy, and left at half-time to meet Josh, Laura, Zack, Krystal, and Kevin out for some drinks and revelry. We stayed out late and it seemed like I had never left, except for the occasional moments when people said, “Wow! You’re sitting here!”

And then my vacation was almost over. I spent Saturday running errands and buying last minute items and then trying to shove said items into my luggage. On Sunday, my parents took me up to Regan and Kent’s house in Berwyn. Regan volunteered to drive me to the airport on Monday morning, which was much-appreciated. We enjoyed some Chinese take-out and a yummy brownie/cake for my birthday (notice how 27 candles would have taken down the whole house). Before I knew it, I was being dropped off at O’Hare and working my way through security lines and general pandemonium.

My flight was decent, measured mostly by the fact that the seat belt sign was turned off the entire time. It’s been a long time since I've had a smooth flight. I landed in Osaka with tons of military sorts who were also transferring to an Okinawa flight. It is still strange to board a plane in Japan and be surrounded by all Americans. And then to look at everyone waiting for arrivals and realize that they are all Americans too. Where am I?

Oh, right. Okinawa. And now I’m back to my old tricks of writing emails and blog entries at school. Where would I most like to be right now? Well, let’s just say, these pictures of Izzy are making me sad. And wouldn't you miss a family who enjoyed spending hours making photos such as these?

As some pangs of homesickness set in, I am consoling myself with the fact that once I break free from Okinawa in July, good times will be had again. And I will have a real bed... and a couch... and real cheese... Ritz Crisps... thousands of television choices... and of course, family and friends.


Juhi no Hana said...

Oh Rachel! i so understand how u'd feel getting back to ole okinawa. how can u live here without izzy? shez so cute! i especially love the cookie photos with her snout poking up! ten thousand hugs to u!!!

Mom said...

You did a terrific job relating your Christmas adventures. I can't believe how those pics still make me laugh! It was wonderful to have you home.

Carly said...

Great synopsis. Glad I could be part of your Christmas Adventures :)

Amy said...

I was glad that I got to see you while you were home. We miss you and don't worry the 6 months will go as fast as the first months went. Take Care!

Joyce said...

hey rach, wanna go iceskating saturday evening with me and hilary and gabe and jaimee? maybe a few more? not sure what time, could carpool!

Luey Fufu said...

Longest. Post. Ever. :)

Fun pictures!

Lisa said...

Thanks for blog stalking me via Carly ... it makes me feel so special! :) I also enjoy your blog (again, via Carly) and loved your Christmas photos.