Week of Dec. 7:
Hadn't been to see my Mom for a while, so, en route to RDU, we flew to OK on Tuesday. Had a brief visit with Mom, then enjoyed an evening at sister Connie's house. All six of her boys came to dinner (three are married; three are still at home), along with spouses and children. Also, sister Verla came over, too. Husband Tom was on an overnight business trip. We had a very nice, serene time. (Susie always says, "Connie's so serene.")
It was cold in NC, bone-chilling, in mid-30s. Andrew's first game was Thursday at 5pm, as the sun went down. As you can see, the stands were not packed. The lady in the red hat was there, though.
Fortuitously, we had parked at a spot overlooking the field where Andrew was playing. We went to the car at half time to warm up and didn't leave until the game was over. Matt had arrived just before halftime, coincidentally coming from business meetings in OKC, from whence we had just come 24 hours earlier, and he joined us in the car -- engine and heater running.
After the game we all had dinner at Cracker Barrel, then Matt took our place in the Holiday Inn Express (clean sheets?) and Susie and I drove back to Cary, in the Raleigh area, to stay with son Mike, Karen, and Jason for the rest of the weekend.
Friday Mike went with us back to Wilson for a 1:00 game -- a tense, hard-fought 1-0 victory for the Gladiators. Still cold, but enough sunshine peeking through that we watched from the sideline.
This was a huge soccer weekend in the Raleigh area. Something like 400 teams and 7,000 players were in action. Adding to this was the fact that the NCAA Division I Final Four in men's college soccer was also happening in Cary. Andrew's team went to the Friday night semifinals and Matt came to Mike's house to visit, stay warm, and watch the games on TV. The games were sold out when Mike checked Thursday, but, cold as it was, we couldn't say we were disappointed not to attend.
Saturday we switched our soccer allegiance to Jason, who is playing in an indoor soccer league. He scored a nice goal on a high, hard kick to the upper right corner of the goal.
Andrew, in his first year on the Gladiators, is the back-up goalie. On Sunday, we heard from Matt, he played 25 minutes or so in goal in their last game and did quite well. We were long gone by this time, catching a very early flight out -- not many seats available on outbound flights, due in no small part, we suppose, to all the soccer teams in town. Several of our recent flights have required getting up between four and five a.m. But, when you're flying free, how can you complain? Thank you, Mandi.
Monday we washed clothes and re-loaded our suitcases, the objective this time being Las Vegas and the grand opening of the new hotel/casino, Aria, located in the new and still building City Center. City Center is the nation's largest privately funded building project: 5 years in construction to this point, $8.4 billion, 18 million square feet in the total complex (the Aria casino and hotel, other hotels, a convention center, and high-end apartment towers) on 61 acres. Here's a link to a newspaper story about the opening of Aria. Click here for an interactive guide.
Wednesday afternoon we met Paul and Mandi at Planet Hollywood where they were staying, right across The Strip from City Center. We gorged ourselves at a PH buffet, shopped at the Million Dollar Mile shopping center in PH -- can you believe it? Susie found a purse she needed -- then went outside at 11:00 to watch the fireworks show on top of Aria.
Some more Aria info: The rooms feature "smart-home" technology. E.g., the rooms are programmed to turn on selected lights, adjust the temperature and drapes, and do everything but shake your hand as you enter the room. A single remote controls TV, video, music, drapes, wake-up calls, and room service. Computers will remember your settings and be ready for your next visit.
Malia's birthday was Thursday, the 17th. The big event, other than Nei-Nei and Grandpa's Friday arrival, was a Saturday party for about a dozen of her friends. The Cars theme was continued with a Lightning McQueen birthday cake. The party was held at a "Rompin' Room" facility that featured things to climb and jump on.
The Birthday Princess holds court.
We left early Sunday morning and drove to the Denver airport to surprise Mandi on her birthday. We had just been with her in Las Vegas and she is coming here for a pre-Christmas dinner on Wednesday, so she wasn't expecting us. Susie said it seems a shame to be this close and not see Mandi, so we did. (Background. Mandi just transferred to Denver where she is an operations manager. Paul will be transferring from Nashville to Denver as soon as an opening occurs in provisioning.) Very long lines at the SW area early this morning - around 8:00am. Business is good, but we were glad we weren't flying. We took Mandi flowers and a balloon. Later in the morning, we heard, the ticketing agents got the waiting passengers to sing Happy Birthday to her -- that SW family spirit.