My mother-in-law flew into town the day after Christmas. She came bearing many of our favorite Rhode Island treats including pizza strips, egg biscuits and a huge tray of gluten and dairy free cookies for Baby Anne's current dietary restrictions. For our part, we only offered her soups made from our leftovers...turkey noodle soup and U.S. House of Representatives Bean Soup (made from our Christmas ham bone).
One of our favorite Christmastide activities when my mother-in-law is visiting is heading to the Brookland (or Catholic University) section of D.C. We begin with the Franciscan Monastery which is beautifully decorated for Christmas. Last year I spent most of our Franciscan Monastery visit in the car with a fussy, newborn Baby Anne. This year, Baby Anne and I quite enjoyed looking around the Main Church. We especially enjoyed the beautifully decorated shrine of Bethlehem, which was so seasonally appropriate.
From the Franciscan Monastery, we headed to the National Shrine. We were just there a week earlier, but this was our opportunity to see all the trees lit up. I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of the art and architecture of the Upper Church of the Shrine, but it is breathtakingly beautiful when decorated for Christmas. The many trees with their golden lights are quite a sight. From the Shrine, we headed for ZooLights--a legendary Christmas destination in D.C. This was our first visit and I was less than impressed. Perhaps it was because I had been planning to go for so long and my expectations were too high. Perhaps it was because the Festival of Lights at Bull Run Park (which we saw on Christmas night) was so good. Perhaps it was because we were tired. It was just unimpressive to me. Trees were lit up. There were a few animals made of lights. But overall, there wasn't much of a wow factor.
On Tuesday of Christmas week, my mother-in-law headed back home and my parents came into town. For the second year in a row, we went to the National Gallery of Art on New Year's Eve to hunt down paintings from our advent calendar. For the past two years, our advent calendars have featured paintings from the National Gallery. This year's calendar featured all Madonna and Child paintings. The girls get to know the paintings well as they open the little windows and it is fun for them to find the originals at the Gallery. It was completely their idea to go this year, but sadly they were not on their best behavior while there. The basic problem was a continuing fight over who should hold the advent calendar. At one point they were literally wrestling in the middle of a Renaissance painting gallery over the advent calendar. This was when I was happy to have one adult for each child. My dad took Meg to one room. My mom took Clare into another room. I kept Baby Anne (a.k.a. the easy child).
After our less than perfect outing to the National Gallery, we stayed pretty close to home. Meg and Anne had sniffly noses. Everyone seemed to like the idea of putting together puzzles, making art and doing sewing projects. The girls did decorate the house for New Year's Eve with streamers and 2015 signs. They had hats and noisemakers. We watched the New Year's fireworks in London (which happen at 7 p.m. our time and are up on YouTube well before our 8 p.m. bedtime). We went to Mass on New Year's Day. But overall, it was a quiet couple of days and everyone seemed to like it that way.
All the grandparents have gone now and we're a little sad. After all, grandparents are the best.