We had The Meal at my aunt's house, whereupon I discovered four more cousins I didn't know I had - second cousins, really, if you want to get technical about it, but they range in age from five to 17, so since they're close to my age, they feel like first cousins. I had never met them before, but had a good time playing badminton with the younger two (boys ages 8 and 5). Catie and I started counting on the way home and realized that although we only have 10 biological first cousins, that if we include second cousins and cousins by marriage, that number expands to a ridiculous tally. We can name 21 for sure, but then there are still 4 more uncles whose siblings' children (or lack thereof) we have no idea about. Not to mention the fact that our grandfather has something like 9 brothers and sisters, some of whom must have children and grandchildren. Weird how quickly the family tree expands.
The other sort of cool thing we did was go to the annual boat parade downtown. Dad and his connections got us VIP tickets, so we got to go to a dinner catered by Johnny Carino's (delicious!) and eat at fancy tables outside next to the water while listening to a live jazz band perform holiday music. The St. John's River cuts right through the middle of Jacksonville, so the 'boat parade' is basically everyone who owns a boat and feels inclined to drape it in Christmas lights and sail it down the river. Some were pretty plain, but there were some really neat ones, too - a Viking-style one and even a green-light-draped dragon with wings that flapped. And afterwards, there was a fireworks display the likes of which I have never seen. I may complain about my city being the 'armpit' of Florida, having too many rednecks, et cetera, but we know how to do fireworks up right. There are seven major bridges in Jacksonville, and the riverbank where we were sitting was between two of them, so there were fireworks being shot off of both bridges, off two of the major city skyline buildings, and off a barge that was moving back and forth in the space between the bridges. The coolest part was when they did the 'firefall' - sparks came off the edges of both bridges in a slow-falling curtain of fire, down into the water below. Gorgeous. Apparently they'd done that for the Super Bowl, but that was my first night working for Runways and I didn't really get to see any of the festivities. Anyway, it was really, really neat. (I mentioned it to my aunt, and the first thing out of her mouth was, "Oh, you mean like at Tom and Katie's wedding!" ... LOL.)
Anyway, when this trip was still in the works, I was a little afraid that I might not want to come back once I got home - but it was quite the opposite. I had a good time at home, and it was great to see everyone, but it's also great to be back in my little 'niche' in Chapel Hill. So I guess we can call it a successful trip, if for no other reason than that it was what a trip home should be. Hang out with your relatives, eat some good food, take a couple of long hot baths, and then head back to your own little corner of the world.
My little corner is still humming along much the same as ever... I have a total of about 30 pages to write in terms of final papers, but I prefer that to the usual slew of menial assignments. I'm still on track with my training for the half marathon, although I have yet to do a run longer than 5 miles - I was supposed to do 6 over the weekend in Jacksonville, but for some reason the run was incredibly difficult (I suspect I didn't drink enough water beforehand) and I had to mix in a lot of walking. Hopefully this weekend's long run will be better. I'm glad I only have one more month before I can go back to swimming. My resting heart rate has dropped a little more, though - it's down to 54 - so the running is good for me on a cardiovascular level, if nothing else.
Also, Liz discovered a basketball court belonging to one of the other apartment complexes which is, if not exactly abandoned, definitely neglected, meaning we (as non-residents of that complex) can use it without anyone noticing. She's a former basketball player, too, so she dug up her old ball over the break and we played a little last night. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy basketball. I was never any great shakes as a shooter (a 5'5" white girl who can't jump), but I was always good at defense. Hopefully we can find (or buy) a ball that isn't quite so flat, and maybe drag a few more people with us one of these days.
I'm typing this while babysitting, and will post it when I get home. Unbelievably, the baby is STILL sleeping, and it's a quarter till 11. Usually he only sleeps until 9:45 or 10ish. Of course, now that I've written that, he'll be up within 30 seconds, but still, I had a nice long break in which to get my Persian done, which is always appreciated. It's easier to work when I'm not at home (meaning the apartment) with all sorts of fun stuff to distract me.
Oh, and I got another babysitting job - two girls, ages 2 years and 2 months. I start in a week or two. Mostly I'll just be responsible for the baby while the older girl is in day care, but I'll have to make her something simple for dinner most nights, too, because apparently she likes to eat as soon as she gets home. (Can you tell the family is pretty well off?) Hope she likes mac and cheese and omelets, 'cause with me on KP, there's not much chance of her getting anything else...
((EDITED at home to say that there are times when children are not so much fun. The baby slept until 11:15, and I was singing his praises on the way into his room... until I discovered the poop explosion he'd so thoughtfully created for me. Half a box of baby wipes later, I could still smell it (possibly due to the fact that I also managed to step in some of it and track it across the cream-colored rug). Yeah... kids rule.))