Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas 2013

**These vacation/holiday posts are always so hard to write.  So much happens when we visit, and many memories I fail to document, or quickly forget right after they happen.  So many activities!  It's good fun, but it's just....a LOT.  Sorry. ** 

Earlier in the fall, we discussed the idea of venturing to our Utah families' homes for the Christmas holiday.  We've never really done that since we were newly-married, and even then, we still had our own little home nearby.  I hesitated because I felt like last year we finally established a lovely series of family traditions, that I was really looking forward to repeating.  I also didn't want to impose on our parents, and the memories of our last long road trip were still painfully fresh.  However, our holiday from school is so long (over two weeks), and since Josh's Grandpa recently passed away, we felt like it would be a good time to visit and reconnect with our families.  I'm really glad we did!

The drive down was our absolute BEST ever!  I was so grateful!  We took two days, and with Yaks recovering from a 24-hour stomach bug (bless his heart), it was actually quite pleasant (sorry Yaks, but it was)!  We left just before a storm in WA, and arrived after the roads had been cleared of the storm that hit UT the day before.  We finally gave books-on-CD a try this trip (best idea).  I had Boo and Yaks each choose one from the library.  I picked out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, promising that I would let them finally watch the movie once we "read" the book!  At the end of our two-week stay, we had read SIX chapter books (A-Z Mysteries, Harry Potter and some Magic Treehouse)!  Yaks said it best, "Wow, I can't believe we didn't watch ONE movie the whole trip!"  It was incredible and such a change from the usual road rage we typically feel during that 11-hour drive!  Books are better than TV, friends!

The first evening we were there, Josh and I took off to the annual "Bros & Wives Christmas Party", which we've missed for at least four years, due to living away.  Each year Josh's buddies (all friends since high school) host a Christmas get-together with dinner and a white elephant gift exchange.  The personalities of the "Bros" are hilarious, and it was nice catching up with their lovely wives.  The elephant gift exchange did not disappoint!   Some of the memorable presents were a live lobster, a live chicken (the carton of eggs was the take-home gift), a creepy dish of porcelain hands, an antique shotgun, and Josh's contribution of "Poo-Pourri"!  We went home with some brownie mixes, which are delicious!

Abby hosted a cookie exchange and brunch.  It was wonderful to see Grandma Quilter and the other Quilter girls.  Boo had a great time judging the cookies and awarding prizes along with Emma!  That night we met Tim and Kellie to see the lights at Temple Square.  Yaks wasn't a fan of "going somewhere just to see Christmas lights", and grumbled the whole time, but it was so nice to catch up with Tim and Kellie before they took off to Hawaii for a tropical Christmas!  I'll say it again, I'm a big fan of these little one-on-one outing with my siblings!  It give us and the kids such a nice chance to REALLY talk and get to know one another.  Tim and Kellie let us come back to their home (a great condo in the Avenues), and they treated us to some delicious Papa John's pizza, and a tour of their home!  By the end of the night, Diddles was calling Kellie "My fwend Kewwie."  The highest compliment one can be paid.  :)

We got to see our old singles' ward bishop Floyd Hatch on our way into the church building on Sunday.  It was so fun to let him see our kids, and report on our callings we hold, where we are living, working, etc.  He looked as proud as a parent!  What a sweet, special time of life that was.  It was great to see him.

We spent the next several days in Christmas prep-mode, playing with cousins, etc.  Yaks loved being around BOYS!  Hooray!  Boo loved having a girl her own age.  Diddles loved being left alone without any teasing!  :)
Boo loved playing Nana and Papa's piano!  She learned "Away in a Manger" in one day,
and then performed it for a crowd of people the next!

This chess set of Papa's was really popular!

So was this cute baby!

The apple of the cousins' eye!  Oaklee.

Playing dress-ups at Nana's!
Christmas Eve morning we had brunch at Grandma Quilter's home.  Everyone missed having Grandpa Quilter there, but I thought it was so sweet how his children/grandchildren stepped in so well to fill the void.  So many thoughtful gestures and helping hands.  I love to see that in families!  Grandma gathered all of the children around, and called them her "jewels", and gave us a copy of her testimony.

That night we gathered at Charles and Marie's for the Paulsen Christmas Eve.  Delicious dinner with lots of happy faces and big, Norwegian hugs!  A wonderful music and spoken-word program afterwards.  Back home to open new pajamas and sing carols and watch the Nativity video.  Everyone tucked into bed by 9:30, excited for Christmas morning!
Check out that "kids'" table!

Shushing us to be quiet.

Christmas Day dawned early!  I was happy we put them to bed early.  It made for a happier day.  Diddles was  ecstatic over her pink dollhouse ("It's pink wiss a widdow baby, an it wooks yike diss (makes a triangle with her fingers)"), which the kids had been threatening Santa would or would not bring, depending on her behavior!  "YES, SANTA IS COMING TO TOWN!?" Boo got a very expensive bike, which we left behind in Pullman, but she was really excited about the rubber band bracelet set Nana gave her, and a nail polish kit Santa brought.  Yaks made a nice haul of Beyblades, and we got a large assortment of card and boardgames, which we enjoyed the rest of the break!

"Diss is my dollhouse!"

Later that afternoon, we headed North to Grandma and Grandpa's house.  Lots of games, puzzles, food and music.  It was fun seeing James, who was in town!  Several families were down sick for part or all of the holidays, so we missed Andy and Cath and their families.
Mom made and decorated these gingerbread houses and men for their Christmas tree.
They were beautiful!
Dad has adopted these stray cats.  I think there are seven total.
He props the garage door open and lets them sleep in the garage!  The kids were thrilled!

"Let 'er rip!"  Beyblading

Dad bought 9 of these 100-piece puzzles.  They were a lot of fun, and the kids could easily work them!

Special thanks to Nick, who was able to figure out the rubber band loom for the bracelets.
It had me totally stumped!
Em, Nick, Josh, Mom, Dad and I went to the temple to do some family sealings.  We did 54 names in all!  It was a great experience!  

I got my haircut by my favorite stylist, and we took all the kids to see Frozen, which was an adorable movie!  Boo helped me organize the Nativity costumes for our pageant later that day.  You should have seen the two of us "oldest kids" bustling around and organizing with our checklists, piles and assignments!  Sort of awesome.  Sort of scary.

Shepherds and sheep

Beautiful angels
Imagine what it's like having a Mormon Tabernacle Choir member present in our "choirs of angels"!?

Recuperating Cath with her little "lambie"

"Mary and Joseph"

Wise-men conferring on the best route to the baby Jesus.
Peter won for best-dressed wise man!

She was a horse.  :)

They boys are always so dear to help Mom and Dad with their projects and ideas.  Josh jokes that he knows there is always a piece of furniture to move when he visits.  This time it was just hanging a large mirror!  

Apples to Apples Disney was a favorite game, as well as Sleeping Queens!  

Emily and Nick played approximately 54 games of Battleship!

A puzzle just Diddles' size and color. :)

Coconut cream pie!  My favorite!  Everyone else's too.  :)

Grandma gave the kids these USU nightshirts as a present.
That and banana creamies just oozes summertime!  
The next few days we divided forces.  I stayed up with Mom and Dad and Diddles, and Josh took the older kids back down to Salt Lake.  They were able to stay up late, play with cousins, swim in the hot tub, sled and play chess.  We were able to run errands, do some family history, and have uninterrupted conversations and playtime.  It was wonderful!
Jetted tub with bubbles!

Sledding with Cousins!

Doing some service at Grandma's Quilter's House
New Year's Eve I drove back down with Diddles, and we had a delicious dinner out at Market Street Grill.  Steak and Salmon, and their delicious clam chowder!  Great idea, Papa!  Boo got to stay out late with Nana and Papa, playing games with the extended family.  The rest of the family felt like they were coming down with colds/coughs, so we turned in early.  

We remembered that we have this wonderful museum pass that we hadn't used at all since we had arrived!  It got us in free at several museums and discovery centers.  We let Yaks choose our destination, hoping he would be a bit more happy to come along.  As the only boy and middle child, he often grabs onto Eeyore's view of things, and feels forgotten and excluded.  He picked the Natural History Museum.  I didn't realize it was a brand new museum.  Such impressive exhibits, and lots of interactive and hands-on displays!  You could take a whiff of carrion, see a real paleontologist at work, touch a dinosaur footprint, try to assemble a broken jug of pottery, etc!  The kids really enjoyed it, and we did too!  Really a gorgeous museum!

The following night, Josh and I got a night away!  Thank you again to Nana and Papa - it was such a treat to leave the kids happily behind!  We went out to dinner with Tim/Kellie and Megan/Isaac at the Copper Onion.  I ordered a delicious Beef Stroganoff and cleaned my plate.  So tasty!  Wonderful conversation and so fun to visit with such cool couples.  :)

We went to our favorite Bed and Breakfast - Inn on the Hill, where they upgraded our room from our bargain basement nook to the "most romantic room in the Inn!" free of charge!  It really was lovely with a huge fireplace and a gorgeous 4-poster bed!  What a treat.

The last few days we spent just organizing our stuff, making some purchases, running errands and getting packed up.  We hit the road in the afternoon, stopped in for a quick bite and hugs for Grandma and Grandpa, then made it to Boise and then home again the next evening before dinner!  Boo and Yaks were especially sad to go.  "I wish we could stay here forever."  All-in-all a great trip.  So fun to reconnect with family, spending time, doing service and having a great time together!

Merry Christmas, and happy New Year!

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