Today feels like the calm after the storm. After five busy days of a having a full house (my parents and two nieces were staying here for Thanksgiving) my place feels strangely quiet today. There are no little girl voices and stomping feet chasing my cat and dog around the house. (The furballs are both sleeping heavily today). I woke up to a quiet, clean kitchen, but missed the bustle, the voices, and the smell of already-made coffee and sizzling bacon courtesy of my dad, the early bird.

But I do think we made the most of our few days of visiting. A few highlights: riding lessons for the girls and their newly-made friends. The kids ranged in age from 4 to 12, and my riding trainer, Carol Jones of WindyRidge Thoroughbreds, did an excellent job of introducing the reality of horses to the four wide-eyed little girls. She matched each child to the right lesson horse — my brave, stubborn younger niece rode an equally brave, stubborn (yet very patient) pony named Pearl, and my more reserved older niece rode a properly dignified older Arabian mare named Tarot. The littlest girl received a lead-line lesson on a fat, mellow pony, and the one slightly more experienced rider was paired with Saigon, a tall and elegant bay who particularly liked having his big fuzzy ears scratched.

On Saturday we loaded up the girls for the ballet (the guys opted to ditch out in favor of football, natch), where every child in attendance wore their holiday best. The Colorado Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House left every little girl suitably impressed — and begging for ballet classes — as they twirled and leapt out of the auditorium.

We only had one bad experience during our holiday hustling. A word to the wise: Casa Bonita should be avoided at all costs on the night before Thanksgiving. Crowded with large groups of visiting families, friends, and excited kids, the hour-long cafeteria line for food was interminable. And though the payoff was worthwhile for the under-12 crowd (Black Bart’s cave, cliff divers, mariachis, puppet shows, and a huge arcade), the adults were rewarded with nothing more than tired feet and Velveeta-smeared burritos.