Saturday, January 07, 2012

Post-Christmas Trip

One December 26, we left the post-Christmas mess of our house and hit the road for a short but much-anticipated trip north to see my little brother, Jimmy, who had recently returned from deployment, and his wonderful wife and kiddos.  It's about a 4 hour drive from our house and we had stops to make on the way, so we got up and going.

I do have to admit making a few extra stops on the way, at both Wal-Mart and Target.  I'm a deal shopper so those day-after-Christmas deals were just calling my name.  Plus I had a HUGE rotary cutting mat to exchange (apparently "large" at my store is only "medium" at theirs. It took a roll of wrapping paper to wrap it, it was so huge. LOL).  Oh, and we made a quick stop at Nipps on the way through Longview, so the kids could taste the best burgers ever!

That taken care of, we hit the road.  Our first stop on the way up was in Lakewood, Washington.  In 2009, 4 police officers were killed in a coffee shop and we wanted to stop by the memorial.  It was a bit hard to find, but we finally located it.  There's no way to describe how seeing something like this feels.  I feel so much pride in what Brian does, yet at the same time there is the reality of the danger of his job.  This was a sobering reminder of those dangers as well as an affirmation that their sacrifice does not go unnoticed.  And having been touched by the death of Chief Painter, this is even more emotional for us.
Brian's favorite part of the memorial were some words etched way down on the bottom, under the names and nearly hidden behind all the flowers there... "praecessi in vulnero via".  They're in latin, but translated they mean "We go in harms way".

After freezing our butts off at the memorial, we got back in the van, cranked up the heat and headed for our next stop: Lynnwood, Washington and the American Girl store!  Carissa wore one of her other Christmas gifts, a dress for her and a matching one for Ella.  She looked so adorable and was so excited to finally be going to an American Girl store!  (Although she is freezing here!  Parking at the mall the day after Christmas is terrible!  We had to walk a long ways, it was freezing outside and she forgot to bring a coat... lesson learned my young daughter!)

Anyways... we finally arrived!
She walked the store in awe of all the stuff there.  She loved the horses most of all, but was astonished at their $75 price tag. Then she took Ella to the doll salon and got her ears pierced.  It's the one thing she knew she really wanted to do while there.  She paid for it using gift cards that she got for Christmas. 
While we waited for the ear piercing, we shopped so more.  I  must be rubbing off on her, because she looked at the exorbidant prices and went "Wow, that's too much!".  She walked out with only the ear piercing and a second box of earrings for her doll.  Even the "sale" deal of $25 for matching shirts for her and her doll couldn't tempt her. 

We were running later than we hoped, so we got back on the road for our final destination of the day: Jimmy's house!  We had dinner then just spent the evening chatting.  Randal had decreed that we would wake up and do Christmas tomorrow, so that's just what we did.  

We had brought bigger gifts than normal for Jimmy's kids, thanks to a merchandise voucher we had received for recalled Fisher Price toys.   They took up half the back of our van!  The boys seemed to enjoy them, especially Randal who played with his space shuttle a lot.  Our kiddos opened gifts from Jimmy & Virginia too.  Carissa couldn't wait to get home so she could play Wipeout Wii! LOL 

 We really didn't have any plans for when we were at Jimmy's, hoping to just have some down time to relax and hang out with them.  We talked, laughed and played video and board games (they introduced us to "Settlers of Catan" board game, which we now own and love).  It was just such a fun time! 

Tristan was most excited about getting to hang out with Alden.  Even though Alden is 2 now, Tristan wants to be picking him up, hugging him, sitting with him, etc.  Alden is his little buddy.  It's so adorable.  Have a mentioned what a great father Tristan will be someday?

 Chase got into the action too and he and Randal played around. 
Tristan's just had to put his new hat on Alden too.  Look how adorable he is!
 They sure have beautiful, wonderful, well-behaved babies.  I think they should have even more.  Just saying...

On our second day there we went out to eat lunch and then they took Alden home for a nap.  We took Randal with us and headed to Deception Pass, so we could see the area.  It was freezing (again) and Carissa had no coat (again... since it was still at home), so we didn't last that long outside.  We  walked about halfway across the bridge and then ran for the van.  It was cold even for those of us with coats.  We headed into town, driving by the base and seeing big planes flying by.  We filled up on gas then head back to Jimmy's house.  We stopped at the halfway point on the Deception Pass bridge and parked so we could run out and get a quick photo (forgive the crappy phone photo).
 Jimmy and Virginia went out that night so they could have a few minutes of time alone together.  Brian and I really enjoyed staying at their house hanging out and playing with their boys. 

The next morning we got up and hung around a few more hours, then got on the road towards home.  We did make a few stops though.  Since our anniversary trip to downtown Seattle in September, we've been wanting to take the kids there.  We'd talked up Kukuruza, this caramelcorn store we found, and thought a quick stop might be fun.  We hit Pikes Place first, walked around a bit and took a few pictures.

Then we walked the 3 blocks to Kukuruza.  We each tried a different flavor of caramelcorn.  Brian got a big bag of regular caramelcorn, while the boys and I settled on sharing a bag of Rocky Road caramelcorn.  It was delicious and didn't even make it home!  Yum!

 We went back to the market for some fresh made mini powdered sugar donuts, walked around a bit more and then got back on the road.  Our only other stop on the way home was at Cabela's, which is our traditional stopping point.  The boys bought AirSoft guns with their Christmas money and we all spent time in the shooting gallery, which was free that day.  Then it was back in the car for an uneventful ride home.

It was a lot of driving but so worth it to spend time with Jimmy & his family.

Friday, January 06, 2012


Well, it's time for another catch-up post.  Christmas has come and gone and I wanted to share just a little of our season. 

Here's the kids putting up their Santa sign in the front yard. 
I'm not sure how much longer this sign will last, as each year it gets smashed up just a little more than it was the year before.  We've had it for 10 Christmas' now and it's definitely showing it.  At least for this year, it still made the traditional posting in the front yard.
And just because I feel like the kids have grown soooooo much this year, I wanted to compare this to a similar photo from a previous year.  The earliest one I could find on here was from 2007, though I know we have them every year since at least 2001.  Anyways, 2007 was just 4 years ago but look at the difference.  And keep in mind that we put a new, longer stick on the sign a few years ago.
Aaaahhhh... Christmas Eve.  Here they are before opening the traditional Christmas-Eve-Pajamas present:
 ... and here are the cookies left for Santa, along with a carrot for the reindeer and the Christmas pickle for Santa to hide on the tree.  As a side note, this is our third year with the Christmas pickle and Chase found it this year, after two years in a row of Tristan.  This meant that Chase got to open up the first gift all Christmas Day. 
We watched the traditional "Polar Express" and the boys laughed at me as I cried (which I do every year at the end of that movie). 

Then the kids changed into their PJ's.  The boys were thrilled because they got "Angry Birds" shirts to wear with their PJ pants.  Chase's says "This is what awesome looks like" and Tristan's read "Crush your enemies".  They were pretty excited about them.  Carissa got traditional PJ's, which came with a matching PJ for her American Girl doll, Ella. The little stuffed animal in the photo is Sugar, Ella's pet Yorkie dog.  Carissa had received that as a gift from Chase for Christmas.
Right after the movie and PJ's, we stuck with tradition and read "Twas the Night Before Christmas".  I *love* the new timer on my camera, which let me set this up, press the button and it just took photos at regular intervals over two minutes. 
After this, it was off to bed with the kids.

Christmas morning they were allowed to wake us up no earlier than 6:00 and they were right on time.  I didn't get photos of their gifts and stockings this year, but Tristan got a very cool purple skateboard with green and purple wheels.  It's one of those "good" skateboards that actually works and replaces his Hot Wheels skateboard that was cheap and lame.  Chase received a gift card from Santa to help him save up for his Kindle Fire.  This was a theme of the day for him, as everyone gave him a little something towards it and by the end of the day he had enough money.  He was thrilled and loves it!  Carissa got a pink guitar and a book to help her learn how to play. 

Family was plentiful on Christmas Day.  Dad and Linda came over in the morning.  This is one of the only photos I took on Christmas Day!  It was such a crazy day that I just didn't even remember to pick up the camera. 
Anyways, after they left Brian's parents came over, then Mom and Jim joined the party and we all enjoyed a ham dinner.  By the time everyone left we had full bellies and lots of gifts to enjoy.  Once they were gone, I saw Violet taking a nap in her beloved spot under the tree (now that all those annoying presents were gone and she actually had room!).  I snapped a few pictures and thought that this looked like a perfect idea... nap time!  Unfortunately, the day was almost done. 
 I eventually realized that I didn't have many photos from Christmas, so I set up the camera on the tripod and turned on that wonderful timer to get some shots.  We're all a little tired, but we had enjoyed our Christmas day together.

 On to the next holiday... new years.  Brian had the chance to work the road on New Years.  He's been jonesing a bit for the excitement and adrenaline that you find when working the road (which he doesn't get now that he's on the water), so it was nice for him to get a day to go out and run code throughout the county.  He was able to stop by the house and take a dinner break.  He timed it so he'd be home for the new year and he was.  Here's a photo we took (using that timer again!) right after we rang in 2012.
*sigh*  Another year gone, a new one just begun.  So many changes came in 2011... so much growth and adjustment with the kids, so many new friends and new experiences.  I wonder what 2012 will bring.