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Driving around looking at Christmas lights is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. We went earlier this month, on the 5th I think, and it was a total bust! We went out to a Mexican restaurant downtown first. The food wasn’t bad but the service was terrible. I don’t get how pretentious downtown restaurants are. They are expensive and snooty with the worst service. That was a little frustrating. I just need to remember that we are never happy with our experiences downtown.

The second part of our evening we planned to drive around to see festive decorations. We made our way over to Candy Cane Lane which was almost completely dark. Some houses had their decorations out on the lawn and lights strung on the house but nothing was turned on. What? It was disappointing yes, but weird would be a better word. As we pulled out of the neighborhood Heath said something like, “We came all this way for that?”

It made me laugh. It reminded me of another strange experience that ended with a similar sentiment. We told the kids they could choose a movie to rent from Red Box. They chose Home. It’s a movie I have never been interested in seeing but the kids were excited because it’s a cartoon with Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory) as the voice of one of the main characters. Red Box is only a dollar or something so why not? I went to sleep out of self-defense.

Then we forgot to take it back. For a couple of days we forgot. I don’t know what the late fees are. Probably not much but still. We were paying more money than the movie was worth by far! Hold that thought because it gets better. The day after we finally returned a really dumb movie, we opened Netflix after the kids went to bed. There on the top of the screen was a large picture of a suggested movie. Home. I freaked out.

“You mean we could have watched it for FREE!”

Heath laughed and it has become our own inside joke. We turned right out of Candy Cane Lane and Heath made his comment which made me say, “You mean we could have watched it for FREE!” That’s just how that night felt.

Last night I decided I was tired of escaping into TV and Hallmark movies. This has become my busy time of year and when I get tired of all the busyness I escape for a period of time. I missed the days when my kids were little and this was a magical time of year that seemed to last forever. Now the month flies by in the blink of an eye and I resent that we didn’t have more fun. I wanted a fun magical night dang it! So I hatched a plan and Heath was on board.

All five of us piled into Velma to take Gavin to scouts. I armed myself with a few Christmas CD’s. Gwen and Parker were told they wouldn’t get out most likely but to bring a jacket just in case. It was still 60 degrees outside so it was the warmest night of Christmas light seeing we had been on in a while. We dropped Gavin off at the church and headed toward downtown. We enjoyed the ambiance and decorations along Main Street. Then we made our way over to Candy Cane Lane. It was a much better experience this time around.

Slowly Velma moseyed all around town through neighborhoods. It was so much fun. The kids were pretty quiet in the beginning. We were enthralled by the magic of it all. Heath loved looking for houses with laser Christmas lights. We bought ourselves a laser that sprinkles green and red glitter against the house. The best is when it rains. Right now the rain is coming down pretty good. The lights on the front walkway blink as the rain moves in and out of the laser beam. Then you look up and see the rain twinkle through the lights. It is so cool!

Anyway, so Heath was having fun keeping an eye out for laser lights on houses. He wanted another so he headed over toward Home Depot. We learned that it’s late enough in the Christmas season that people are finally decorated but the stores are pretty picked over at this point. There weren’t any more laser lights. Maybe next year.

In the same parking lot is a Starbucks. One of our family traditions is to get hot chocolate and caramel apple cider from Starbucks while we drive around looking at lights. So we hooked ourselves up before heading toward the neighborhoods around the elementary school. Gwen requested going near her school. Not a lot of houses were decorated. So we moved into the elite neighborhoods near the high school and let our jaws drop at the opulent decorations on the massive homes.

There were a few more minutes before Gavin was finished so we stopped by our local Bob’s World Christmas house. That’s always a fun place to visit. They have so many things going on in every nook and cranny of the house and yard. As we were admiring the display in the garage, a boy announced he was going into the backyard. We all looked at each other. What? There’s more?

Sure enough around the corner there were more displays. Two large tables along the side of the house held miniature displays. The first one was my favorite. It was my favorite part of the whole experience. It was a detailed nativity scene. Not just the normal manger scene. It was a whole view of Bethlehem, or at least what it may have looked like. Shepherds and flocks, an elephant carrying a rider, palm trees, cross sections of homes, sand, a river. It was so rustic and beautiful. In the back, slightly off center, was the manger scene. Simple enough that if you didn’t look you would miss it. That’s how I imagine it really was that night. There were signs to point people there but if you weren’t paying attention you would miss it. I loved that table.

The other table had miniature ice rinks with moving skaters and ski slopes. Santa seemed to be featured everywhere. Relaxing on a hammock or dancing with Mrs. Clause near a sign that read December 26. That table portrayed the mainstream and fun part of Christmas. The first table was still my favorite. We put some cash in the donation box and headed toward the church.

It was just the night I needed. Earlier that night, after the kids finished homework and before Heath got home, Gwen taught us a fun craft. We made fun little paper bag puppets. For one night I was able to suspend all my assignments and worries and just enjoy time with my family. That’s what Christmas is all about anyway. Family.

To be continued …