I already wrote about our Timberline adventures this year, but that was just the start of our three weeks of merriment and holiday fun. Well, actually, Timberline was sort of the middle. The weekend before we left for Timberline, we went tree hunting with Cathy, Aaron and Will. We headed out to Apple Hill, where we got to cut down our own tree, go on a train ride, eat apple donuts and drink apple cider, and have a nice lunch. Once home, we decorated the tree. The kids had a blast, exclaiming excitedly with each ornament that we pulled out of the box, claiming each one to be a favorite. Alden loves plugging the tree in each evening. It was nice to have a tree up leading up to the two weeks we were away (and, of course, it was nice to have the decorating all done when we got home the day before Christmas!)
Then there was Timberline, which I already have written about. After Timberline, we headed into Portland to visit friends and family. We spent time with Amy, Dave, Leo and Soren doing puzzling and making our annual feast. The twins are great cooks, and wowed everyone with their pumpkin pie, apple pie, waffles, pork chops and gravy.
Next, we headed to Grammy's house for movie watching, present opening, and feasting. It was a relaxing few days. It was at Grammy's that we learned what a great present opener Alden has become. He really got into unwrapping gifts this year. He would dance around, grinning ear to ear, and yelling, "yes! yes!" as he opened his gifts. Then, once opened, he would clap and exclaim at whatever he had just opened. I hope he maintains this ability to be so enthusiastic about gifts. It is a trait that Kailey and I don't share with him. Both of us tend to be rather reserved when opening gifts and make expressions that are not congruent with how we actually feel about the present. Kailey loves giving gifts and also receiving gifts. But, her exuberance doesn't come across in the moment. With the presents she is most excited about, she tends to make a funny face -- overwhelmed at having gotten something so spectacular. I get where she is coming from.
Anyway, so Alden was a joy to watch as he opened gifts and delighted in both the unwrapping and in whatever it is that he uncovered. It was fun to watch him dance around, get wide-eyed and then break out in a goofy grin with each new gift. (Alden got a LOT of horses, stables, barns, and other horse related paraphernalia from Grammy. Kailey got crafting supplies, including a lot of paints and new paintbrushes.)
After Grammy's house, we headed to my parents' house for a couple more days and to celebrate Nonnie's birthday. It was fun making cookies, stomping in puddles, playing Tripoli, and taking Nonnie to Mexican food for her birthday, where they sang to her while she wore a massive sombrero.
After our week in the Pacific Northwest, we packed up the car and headed home. We left on the 23rd, intent on getting home by the morning of Christmas Eve at the very latest, so we would have time to get ready for Christmas morning. We got on the road at 9 AM and had planned on stopping at the outlet stores for some last minute shopping. Things did not go as planned. Instead, about an hour into the drive, Alden started saying he felt sick. Now, Alden says this all the time. One of his new favorite sayings is, "I'm sick", which he says while looking rather pathetic. And, then he claims his toe or his finger is sick. And, Kai also complains about being carsick with some frequency. Basically, any time she knows we are in for a long car ride, she starts to say she doesn't feel well. Fun times. Anyway, so Alden said he was sick. We were getting ready to stop anyway, so we told him we were getting off the freeway and he could have a break. Apparently, that wasn't enough. And, apparently, this time he meant it when he said he didn't feel well. We were literally on the off ramp of the freeway, and Kai yelled, "MOM... DAD... Alden is THROWING UP." Everywhere. It was everywhere. All down his front. Pooled up in the carseat. All over the floor. Ugh. We pulled into the nearest parking lot and assessed the situation. It required two outfit changes -- one at the car, just to get him into something clean to get into the grocery store where we could bathe him in the sink. And another to wear after the sink bath. Then we had to mop up the floor of the car and figure out what to do with the car seat. It was a mess. There really was no way to clean it -- and we couldn't imagine living with the smell for the next 12 hours while we were all cooped up in the car together. So, we decided the only thing to do was to get rid of it and buy a new car seat. This required a short diversion to Target -- and for the drive over, Alden sat in Kai's booster seat and Kai got to sit in a seat with no booster at all. Both of which are technically legal ways for them to travel, but far from the safest. They both considered it a huge adventure and laughed hysterically as we made our way to Target. It was funny in an otherwise annoying and disgusting morning.
Once we had the new car seat, it was time for lunch. We had barely gotten out of town, but had been on the road for 3 hours. It was far from the trip home we intended and meant no stopping at the outlet stores. It also means we hit the mountains as the sun was setting. It had been a somewhat warm day, so the roads were clear. But the temperature was dropping quickly and there was moisture in the air -- which meant snow. We knew if we didn't get over the mountains that night, we'd likely be either stuck or dealing with chains the next day. Neither sounded fun, so we powered through the snow and darkness (not a fun combination -- it causes quite a bit of vertigo to drive in snow at night!). Once we got through the snow, we had to contend with thick fog. Given that we had just spent money unexpectedly on a new car seat, we decided to just power through to our house, arriving at midnight. It was a LONG day (and I don't have any pictures from our "adventure" getting home).
Once home, we discovered that a water pipe had burst and a good chunk of our front yard was flooded. As was our basement. Ahh... home sweet home. So, Eric spent Christmas Eve fixing the water pipe and then, after that was fixed, ran out to do his shopping. It was all a bit stressful, but we managed to have all the stocking stuffers and gifts ready by Christmas morning, the water turned back on, and a prime rib roast ready for our Christmas dinner.
That night (Christmas Eve), the kids were bouncing off the walls. I thought for sure they'd be up before dawn the next day. But, instead, they slept until their usual time (about 6 AM) and then once they were up, they played together in the playroom rather than begging to go downstairs to open presents. So funny -- when I was a kid, I was so excited about Christmas. I couldn't wait to get to the stockings and presents. But, Kai and Alden take it in stride. We made our way down to the stockings about 7:30 AM, and they were excited to see their stockings full, the cookies they left for Santa gone (although, I put the kindness elves near the plate of cookies -- leaving Kai to wonder if it was Santa or the elves that ate the cookies), and about all the presents under the tree. We took our time opening everything, and spent the rest of the day playing with all the new games and toys. It was a relaxing day and the start of a relaxing week at home. The kids had a few days at school/winter camp, we had a few days to ourselves, and we've had a lot of time together at the house around the fire, playing Wizard's Chess (which Kai got for Christmas), watching movies, and puzzling. It's been nice to have a week at home together after our two weeks on the road.
I've written before about our evolution with Christmas, but at this point, we've just given into the madness. Clearly. The kids LOVE the holidays. They love Christmas. They love the kindness elves, stockings, presents, lights, the tree. It's fun to go tree hunting with them. It's hilarious to watch Alden imitate Santa. Kai refuses to not believe in Santa, despite the fact that we continue to be completely ambivalent about his existence (and she has never gotten a present that has been addressed from Santa). There's simply no avoiding the holiday -- so, instead, we've given in. And, it's fun. The whole holiday season is filled with excited children, anticipating each new stop along the way, relishing in Timberline, family visits, and the actual morning of the big day itself. In fact, at the start of our trip, Kai exclaimed from the backseat, "I LOVE the holidays. I love everything about them. I love family, friends, decorations, skiing. I LOVE this time of year." It's all it takes to completely remove the bah humbug that I held onto so many years. It's been a total transformation for me. I would have to say that, at this point, I love the holidays, too! Thanks to our beautiful children for helping us find all the love, joy and togetherness that is at the core of the season.