We had a very busy Christmas season this year. There were the normal Christmas activities to keep us busy, of course, but then we decided to throw a kitchen remodel on top of everything (who remodels their kitchen during the last month and a half of the year? No wonder IKEA had that special going on on kitchens). But, in spite of the chaos, we managed to have a lovely and fun Christmas season.
First off was meeting Santa. I was pleasantly surprised at Stella's composure. When we put her on Santa's lap, she just looked at him with great curiosity. She didn't cry. She didn't make a sound. She didn't even look back at us. She just stared at him (I could almost hear her thoughts: "you're not Santa. You smell like beef and cheese."). After a few moments, she was done and she turned and reached for us.
Our neighbor kitty-corner to us goes all out decorating his house for Christmas. He's got lights galore, music playing, inflatable stuff, light and motion lawn decorations, etc, etc, etc. As you might imagine, Stella would go nuts whenever she saw it. So, we decided to take her to see some good Christmas light displays. First off was the Oakland Temple. She loved it. She loved looking around at the lights, she loved wearing her hat and mittens, she loved having Grandma with us. It was a success. But, it was also freezing, so after walking around for several minutes, we were done.
Next we were fortunate enough to be invited by some friends to a private light display at the home of the Bonfantes. That would be the Bonfantes that designed and built Gilroy Gardens. They live here in Morgan Hill. Turns out the Bonfantes love Christmas and go all out decorating their home. 38,000 lights, a 51-foot wooden Christmas Tree with a light show coordinated to music. And they open it up for people to take in the festive awesomeness by invitation only. Thank goodness we were invited. They even had a live band, a marshmallow roasting station, cookies, and wassail. It was awesome and I wish the following pictures could've done it justice, but they really don't. As you can imagine, Stella was in heaven.
We decided to spend Christmas in Rexburg this year with Mr. Frisby's family. I am of the opinion that traveling for Christmas is difficult and it is immensely more difficult the more people you have traveling. And when those people are children who start to question the whole Santa thing because you're not at your house and you have to secretly tote all of the presents to your destination, it gets really complicated. Add to that winter storms and the possibility of bad driving conditions and traveling for Christmas soon loses its appeal. So, since we currently have one child who is not old enough to understand Santa, let alone question his antics, I decided we best get the Christmas traveling done now before it gets too complicated. And we just hoped for good weather. So, it was off to Rexburg. We decided to leave the Friday before Christmas. The trip between here and Rexburg is about 14 hours. That's only a few hours longer than the trip between here and Utah. However, those few hours become an eternity when you have a very curious toddler who doesn't like to be confined, so, while we typically do the Utah drive in a day, we prefer to split the trip to Rexburg. We opted to open all of our presents Friday morning, have lunch, then head out. We figured we could probably make it to Elko, NV or thereabouts and then we would only have a relatively short time in the car on Saturday.
As a huge storm started heading towards the Bay Area, we started to check weather reports. It seemed that while the storm was scheduled to hit Donner Pass on Friday, the worst of it wouldn't be until that night. So, we figured we would still open presents Friday morning, and then we would just hurry and pack up and go so as to beat the storm.
We got everything done that we could Thursday night and then got "Christmas" ready. It's so much more fun when kids are involved.
Stella slept in on Friday morning - Merry Christmas to us! Finally she woke up and I fed her breakfast and then we checked out what Santa brought. My parents came down to hang out with us while we opened presents. We decided to save our stockings to take to Rexburg, so we didn't open those. But Stella loved her new toys and caught on to the whole present opening business really fast. I think she still remembered how it worked from her birthday. And, yes, those are Halloween pajamas Stella is wearing. Her Christmas ones were packed and since I was doing laundry when she went to bed the night before, those were the only clean ones she had available.
Scout even got a new Raccoon puppet and she was thrilled.
After we finished opening presents, we got everything packed up and got ready to go as quickly as we could. Of course, it was right around lunchtime when we were finally ready to go, so we didn't get out as early as we would've liked, but we figured we could still get over Donner Summit before dark. We headed out and everything went smoothly until we got up north of Auburn, about an hour (in normal traffic conditions) from the summit. Then, we hit traffic. Stop and go traffic. We inched along and payed attention to weather/road reports. They were saying chains were required over the summit. We passed several chain installation areas and finally decided to stop and put ours on. The traffic was slowing us down more than the chains ever would. We got the chains on and continued on our way. We finally made it to the chain checkpoint and continued past. The chain checkpoint was what was causing the stop and go traffic and once we got past, the traffic was really light. But, they had imposed a 30 mph speed limit going over the summit and we couldn't go faster than that anyway because of our chains. So much for getting over the summit before dark and beating the storm. What should have taken an hour or so took over three hours. And Stella wasn't happy. She wanted out of the car by that time. I spent most of the drive over Donner sitting in the back feeding her dinner and trying to entertain her. At the suggestion of some friends (thanks Cutlers!) I had purchased a glow stick to keep Stella entertained when it got dark. It worked like a charm. She was fascinated by it. Too bad the one I bought for the trip home was defective and didn't work. When we finally made it to Truckee, we stopped to take our chains off and to get dinner. Stella did laps around the restaurant getting her energy out while we ate. There was no way we were making it to Elko that night. Instead we stopped in Winnemucca. Which is fine because they have a Holiday Inn Express which has a great free breakfast. Saturday's drive proved uneventful, we had much better weather, and Stella did really well in the car. We made it Rexburg Saturday evening safe and sound with our sanity intact.
We had a great time in Rexburg, but took very few pictures. All of Mr. Frisby's family were there for Christmas, so it was great to see everyone and spend time together. On Christmas Eve, we decided to check out an old ghost town where Mr. Frisby's great-grandmother lived. We had great adventures finding it and getting out to it and then getting back, but it was really cool and we decided we should check it out again when it's not so cold and snowy.
First stop was some old farm equipment. We figured there must be more, so we continued on.
Finally we found what was left of Mr. Frisby's great-grandmother's cabin.
Looking out over Herbert, ID from the old homestead.
After checking out Mr. Frisby's great-grandmother's homestead, we headed to this old building to check it out. And that's when my phone battery ran out so I got no more pictures (we had intended to take our awesome camera to take some awesome pictures, but forgot it while getting everyone loaded up to go). Just imagine a very old, falling apart building with rat poop covering the ENTIRE floor. I don't mean just lots of rat poop. I mean, every square inch of the floor was covered. With rat poop. Gross!
We had a great time checking it out and saw some other buildings that would also have been fun to explore. But, it was F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G! So, we hightailed it out of there and decided to come back in some warmer weather.
Christmas was lovely, but we took no pictures. We opened our stockings and a few other gifts that we had there, but since we had opened most of our presents at home, we had fun sitting and watching everyone else open their gifts.
The next day we planned to head down to Utah to spend a few days with my family there. As luck would have it, another storm was scheduled to hit the Wasatch Front that day, so we, again, hurried up to get things ready and get out quickly so as to beat the storm. I don't really think we beat the storm, but it wasn't as bad as it was predicted to be, so we made it to Utah with no problems and our sanity, yet again, intact. Except for the moment, about an hour into our drive, when we remembered that Mr. Frisby had left his snowboard at his parents' house and he would need it since he planned to go snowboarding with my sister and her family the next day. Fortunately, his sister had not yet left their parents' house and she was also headed to Utah, so she was able to bring it down for him and meet up to hand it off.
We had a great time in Utah as well and it was great to see my family, but we, again, took very few pics in spite of having lots to do. As I mentioned, on Thursday Mr. Frisby went snowboarding with my sister and her family. I stayed home with Stella and my sister's youngest, Leah. We decided to head over to my other sister's and spend the day with her. After the skiers/snowboarders returned that night, we headed down to Provo for a BYU basketball game. Stella was totally entertained with everything going on and she loved it when we sang the Couger Fight Song.
With all of the snow that Utah had gotten, we decided we better do a little bit of sledding on Friday, especially since Stella had never been. My sister (who we were staying with) has a very small hill at the end of her street, so we figured that would be perfect to take little Stella sledding and we headed over. Mr. Frisby was tired and sore from his snowboarding adventure, so he played photographer while I went down the hill with Stella and my sister's kids attempted to build a small jump.
We hadn't brought snow clothes except our jackets, but fortunately my sister had extras for us to use. I thought Stella made a very cute little snow bunny.
Stella's first sledding run! I think she liked it.
I made sure Scout got in on the fun, too.
I'm pretty sure she didn't like it, but she did love running around in the snow and chasing us all around.
Leah joined Stella and I for one run down and then I got Scout on with Stella and I for a repeat. She hated it about as much as the first time.
I showed Stella how to make a snow angel and then I helped her make one. It was about the cutest little snow angel I've ever seen. Mine is on the left and hers is on the right.
The next day, Saturday, we headed home. Once again, bad weather and poor driving conditions threatened to make our trip home difficult, but we were lucky and seemed to be hitting the difficult spots in between storms. Stella was a champ on the drive home and we made it back, safe and sound.
New Year's was a pretty quiet affair. We went to my sister's house for a dinner of hors d'oeuvres and played games until it was time to ring in the New Year. We put Stella down to sleep, but she didn't sleep too well and woke up just in time to ring in the New Year with us. After the countdown and "Happy New Years" all around, we headed home and Stella couldn't have been more thrilled to lay down in her own bed and go to sleep. That was pretty much how I felt, too.
And that was our holiday madness. Until next year!