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First Hanukkah and New Years back east

As has become tradition, we spent the last two weeks of the year in Philadelphia celebrating Hanukkah and New Years with family and friends. This was the first year for Adam though! MJ and I never did Hanukkah gifts, but things are different now with little Adam, and during our visit over Thanksgiving and in the weeks before the holiday, we went shopping for toys and books.

And then I piled them inside the tracks of the O-scale train I keep in Philadelphia to make it a Hanukkah train.

The train is set up on the card table we keep in our home office downstairs. It was just before setting it up that I discovered that the square table expands out into a large rectangular one. While we were in town we also made our first visit to the local model train shop and picked up a model of Independence Hall, as well as a little diner and some cows and sheep.

I won’t have any kind of permanent setup there for the train, but it is fun to buy some easy-to-put-away buildings and scenery. I also was a little sad that I bought pre-assembled buildings instead of one of the kits that I could put together and paint myself, but I have to be realistic about the amount of time I have for hobbies these days.

But Hanukkah! It’s always been an enjoyable holiday with the candles and all, but having a little one who gets to open presents during each night of the holiday adds a whole new dimension to how much fun it is. One evening the family came over with gifts, others we spent just the three or four of us, but each night Adam got at least one new gift that we helped him unwrap.

The visit also saw my first and second viewing of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I loved it. My first viewing was by myself on the Friday we arrived in Philly, which was opening day. I’ve seen all the modern era (1999-present) Star Wars movies on opening day, so it was kind of a big deal that I complete the set, even if that meant seeing it after coming off an overnight, cross-country flight and juggling Adam care for the afternoon, and as a result not having MJ there with me. Later in the visit we snuck out for a date night together while grandparents were on babysitting duty to watch it.

On New Years’ Eve we made our way over to MJ’s father’s house to enjoy an evening of Georgian food and family time. Adam got to meet Carmen, a large German Shepherd who was incredibly sweet with him, even if he calls her a cat (any fluffy animals are currently “kee” for “kitty”) and is still a bit grabby with animals.

The weather throughout our visit was on the warm side for winter in Philadelphia, so we took the opportunity to take Adam down to the Philadelphia Zoo to see the LumiNature light exhibit one evening. We were all still bundled up, but it was a really fun walk around the zoo and Adam seemed to enjoy it until the end when he got bored with sitting in his stroller and I ended up carrying him back to the car.

We also were able to celebrate Adam’s birthday while we were in town, which I’ll write about a bit later. Suffice to say, he had a lot of attention for his first birthday, which was celebrated across three states with various members our of family, friends, and neighbors.

I was working pretty extensively while we were there, only taking off from work a couple days during the visit. I took two weeks off for the Jewish High Holidays back in October, so the major religious holidays for us were already behind us. Most of my colleagues took time off though, which meant I had two weeks that were meeting-free and I had the flexibility to catch up on training, writing, and more, all of which had been sidelined during the busy conference time in October in November. I like my job, but having this much time to work on whatever I wanted was a real treat, and meant the work was actually peaceful and relaxing.

MJ took several days off late in our stay to work on the house. He was able to make progress on the biggest home improvement project we have going on, but most noticeable for the rest of us was getting a giant play pen put together for Adam in the living room. Now that he’s crawling everywhere, we needed to do something baby-proofing-wise and figured keeping him in a large, gated area would be the best bet. Even as big as it is, he’s not super keen on being in it alone, and gets annoyed if there are too many people on the outside while he’s “trapped” inside, but it is full of toys and he’s got more than enough room. And let’s be honest, there’s almost always someone in there playing with him.

Play pen almost complete! By the end of the visit, MJ had secured a couple more pieces of fence and completed the missing bit along the wall

In all, it was a great visit and our trip back to California on January 4th was uneventful.