So, I didn’t announce it because I didn’t want to advertise that there would be nobody guarding the homefront, but I spent the entire week last week on a tour of the upper Midwest, visiting my family and my wife’s clan for the Thanksgiving holiday.

We left Saturday night after I wrapped up an appearance at PhilCon (thanks to everyone who came over to say hi!) and drove seven-and-a-half hours to my wife’s parents’ place in Ohio.

I have two boys, 6 and 2, and they’re excellent travellers. They made the haul like champs.

Of course, they had a little help. From Scooby Doo, Thomas the Tank Engine, Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Tick.

I have no idea what parents did before in-car DVDs. We bought ours at Target for $80, and it’s been the best money I’ve ever spent.

We stayed overnight at the in-laws’, and then got on the road early the next day to make the five-hour trek to my parents’ place in Bad Axe, Michigan. The last time we’d seen them was in March, so everyone was eager to get there.

Having been away for a while, I was really hit by, well, Midwesterness.

Seriously.

I was particularly hit by this Midwestern habit of positive/negative speak. They put opposite words right next to each other and manage to still make sense. It’s truly amazing.

For example, my mom told me that she was feeling awful well… right up until the time she got good and sick. I was later instructed to turn the coffee-maker on off.

When I was sharing this with my mother-in-law, later in the week, she tried to console me with some homemade pecan pie.

“I didn’t cut the pecans up,” she said, “I used whole halves.”

The visit in Michigan was awesome. The boys played with their 10-year-old cousin the entire time and I rediscovered my love for whiskey sours. And Euchre. Mostly whiskey sours.

Thanksgiving morning, we hit the road early to get back to Ohio for Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws.

Between my mom’s cooking and my mother-in-law’s — both are tremendous — I ate like a pig the entire week. Thanksgiving dinner was no different.

On Friday, our last full day of vacation, we took the kids on a Polar Express train ride, courtesy of my in-laws. It was based on the children’s book, with hot chocolate, cookies and a visit from Santa (who took time to talk with every freaking kid on all ten cars of the train).

Just before the train departed for its two-hour ride, my older son discovered that he had lost a brand-new action figure (Ben 10’s Chromostone) that he had received as an early Christmas present mere hours earlier.

Needless to say, he was distraught.

I searched the pockets of his jacket… my jacket…under the seats…everywhere. I assured him that I would replace it, in an attempt to cheer the lad. And it did. A little. The hot chocolate and cookies helped.

And then Santa came. My two-year-old made plans to “be nice to Santa… then tell him I’m sorry.”

The six-year-old prepared to inform Santa that he was “fond of super-heroes.”

The visit from St. Nick went swimmingly, and the rest of the train ride was enjoyable. We’re a train-loving family, thanks to the boys, so it’s hard to not have fun on a train.

After the train returned to the station, I picked up my six-year-old’s jacket from the overhead rack.

Out fell Chromostone… right out of the sleeve, where it must have lodged as he slid off his coat inside the train.

But the obvious Polar Express parallel wasn’t missed by us. It was quite a special night.

In fact, I can still see the wide-eyed wonder in my son’s baby-blue eyes as he stared up at me and said…

“Does this mean you’re not going to replace Chromostone?”