Christmas Hangover (at long last!)

Well, it’s been a couple months since Christmas, and finally we’re all getting healthy again and settling back into normalcy (thanks Nixon). At the moment [Dave wrote this several weeks ago] I’m sitting at the coffee shop wonderfully sans kiddos (I’ll be meeting them for swim lessons shortly), so I have some time to relay some of the joy from our recent travels. So grab your coffee, ’cause we’re off.

We started our Christmas vacation with a long drive across much of the country on the Saturday before the holiday. We piled into the car in the early afternoon and pointed Luna east. The drive out to Uncle Matt and Aunt Erin’s house in Ohio was a long 28-hour affair that featured a mini blizzard across much of Kansas. Trust us, snow doesn’t improve Kansas in the slightest (though it does wonders for the traffic). I honestly think we saw more cars off the road (in some cases way, way off the road) than we did on the road. Really, things weren’t that bad with proper tires, but that always seems to be a rarity. Eventually we did arrive in time for a late supper and some glorious sleep. We were glad to be staying put the next day!

We had a great time visiting the Hazelton farm. Phoebe got to see the chickens, pig, and cows, and eventually she came to like the massive porker. Unfortunately she did develop something of a cold and spent most of the evening on her frequently and rapidly deflating air mattress. This mattress would become the standard against which several others would be judged.

Look, Benjamin! Chickens!
Look, Benjamin! Chickens!
Phoebe didn't let the chickens peck corn from her palm this time. Older and wiser!
Phoebe didn’t let the chickens peck corn from her palm this time. Older and wiser!
Can you see the cow licking Benjamin's shoe?
Can you see the cow licking Benjamin’s shoe?
Uncle Matt caught a mouse in the hayloft.
Uncle Matt caught a mouse in the hayloft.

While we were sad to go (not just because it meant more driving), we nevertheless piled back into the car early on Christmas Eve for the drive into Pittsburgh, where we were planning to spend the evening with Grandma and Grandpa Gribble. Our plan was to go to First Lutheran in downtown Pittsburgh for Christmas Eve, but by the time we got into Clairton, Phoebe really wasn’t feeling well. Instead we took her to an urgent care and discovered she had a cold and maybe a small ear infection. Then we got Chinese takeout. Oddly, we bumped into a familiar face behind the counter (Grandma Gribble’s son Aaron). He was covering a shift for his wife so that she could spend the evening cooking for a surprise visit from her mom.

We revised our plans and went instead to Zion Lutheran church in Brentwood (much closer). After a few changes of mind, Phoebe decided to come to church with us and grandpa, so that meant Grandma could come too! It was a mad dash to get everyone dressed and off to church, only to discover that the church’s website had the wrong time. We had a good hour to kill, so we went looking for a place to sit while we waited for the service to start, but finding nowhere open, we ended up driving around and looking at lights.

The service was a bit contemporary, but nice. We got home and put up our stockings (brought all the way from Colorado) and some cookies for Santa. After getting the kids to bed, we were able to stay up a bit and chat with my dad and Sandy. It was nice and relaxing.

Luckily Phoebe rebounded on Christmas, and although she continued to cough a bit, was greatly improved. We got up at a fairly reasonable time (our kids aren’t that old yet), and opened our stockings/Santa gifts before the big brunch. That’s a tradition we’ve adapted from the Hazeltons. Sadly, after lunch we had to pack up again and move on to the next place—Jess’s other brother Nathaniel and his wife Laura’s. Thankfully it’s a much shorter drive (it took longer to re-pack the car) from Clairton to Allison Park. Sadly, we had to leave a few of the kids’ presents in grandma and grandpa’s basement, but that meant we had to make plans to get together again and retrieve them, so it wasn’t all bad.

How did Santa know I needed some new face soap?
How did Santa know I needed some new face soap?
Santa brought me my own camping bowl.
Santa brought me my own camping bowl.
My set of camping bowls is blue.
My set of camping bowls is blue.
A boy and his daddy.
A boy and his daddy.
Genevieve and Cordelia enjoy Christmas day at Grandpa and Grandma Gribble's.
Genevieve and Cordelia enjoy Christmas day at Grandpa and Grandma Gribble’s.
An art easel and supply kit!
An art easel and supply kit!
Aunt Erika did an amazing job on the monster hat.
Aunt Erika did an amazing job on the monster hat.

Despite the harrowing drive into their house, we had a lovely time visiting with aunt Laura and Uncle N. We discovered that Phoebe really likes to play with dice, and N really likes his dice well organized! We also got to play some fun grownup games after the kiddos went to bed. I don’t remember what this year’s new game was called, but it was a pretty fun tile-laying game where you develop resources. The winner is the one with the most resources at the end of the game. I’m not sure I really got the hang of all of the rules until pretty near the end, but that didn’t stop me from winning the game. Even Jess, who never fully got the rules and finished last, had a good time, but that could have been equally the result of ample wine.

The next morning we had some breakfast, packed up the car (again!) and once more hit the road for a delightfully short trip. This time we were headed from Allison Park to my sister’s place in Carrick where we’d get to see Erika, Heidi, Genevieve, and Cordelia. We’d also see Grammie and Pappy. This would be our first visit with Erika and Heidi since they got married last fall, so we were definitely excited to see them and congratulate them in person. Jess was also jonesing for a run with Pappy.

At Erika and Heidi’s we gorged ourselves on Christmas cookies and embraced the chaos of cousins tearing into a seemingly endless supply of presents. For us it was the 2nd Christmas of four that we expected during the trip. Of course, the medical saga continued and Benjamin developed what was obviously a case of pink eye. Luckily that’s the one condition where the pediatrician doesn’t want an office visit, so they called in a prescription for some drops to the pharmacy across the street. As per usual, a day of meds really made a difference. Rather than bore you all with a lot of cumbersome prose, I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Three matching girl cousins and their little boy.
Three matching girl cousins and their little boy.
Hanging out with Dad.
Hanging out with Dad.
Hey, I got binoculars!
Hey, I got binoculars!
Mama and Pappy help Cordelia make an espresso.
Mama and Pappy help Cordelia make an espresso.
Have some yogurt, baby Benjamin!
Have some yogurt, baby Benjamin!
Yum, yogret (as Phoebe would say).
Yum, yogret (as Phoebe would say).
It's handy to have a picnic table in the dining room.
It’s handy to have a picnic table in the dining room.
Erika and Heidi's Christmas tree.
Erika and Heidi’s Christmas tree.
Whoa!
Whoa!
Genevieve opening some gifts.
Genevieve opening some gifts.
Grammie's looking for the next photo op.
Grammie’s looking for the next photo op.
Phoebe checks out her presents.
Phoebe checks out her presents.

The following morning, we tried to get out pretty early, as we were heading to Ohio, and Erika, Heidi, Genevieve, and Cordelia were also heading out. We knew that hanging around would make things even harder for them. Of course, Grammie and Pappy would have liked a longer visit, but hopefully we’ll get time to head out again later in the year when the weather’s a bit nicer.

In route to Ohio, we met up with Grandma and Grandpa Gribble again for a tour of the new and improved dino exhibit at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. I must say they did a splendid job with the renovations. I hardly recognize the place! The kiddos did get tired after a bit, and we had some extra exercise running out to feed the parking meter, but I think everyone had a great time. Phoebe was amazed at how big the dinosaurs really are. And without their skin too.

Finally we arrived in Ohio for our last stop. It was great to see the rest of Jess’s family (we even got to see Matt, Erin, Nathaniel, and Laura for a second time). The aunts (Nancy and Shirley) made an appearance and Jess’s Aunt Linda and her boys Evers and Ashe also showed up. Evers was very excited for Phoebe to open their present, which turned out to be an awesome pillow that Evers made. Phoebe has been using it every night (for her stuffed animals to sleep on).

Aunt Laura, Uncle N, Uncle Matt, and Aunt Erin.
Aunt Laura, Uncle N, Uncle Matt, and Aunt Erin.
Phoebe in the middle of the gifts.
Phoebe in the middle of the gifts.
Grandma opens something lovely.
Grandma opens something lovely.
She picked out this outfit herself; quite the fashionista!
She picked out this outfit herself; quite the fashionista!
Linda, Ashe, and Evers.
Linda, Ashe, and Evers.
Grandpa opens a bottle of soy sauce.
Grandpa opens a bottle of soy sauce.
Phoebe's ready for a rock concert with her new keychain light.
Phoebe’s ready for a rock concert with her new keychain light.

It was nice to have a bit of relaxation time before having to get back into the car for the drive back to Colorado. In the end we debated staying a bit longer as Benjamin was starting to come down with something, but we were anxious to get back and access his normal medical providers if things got really urgent. It turns out they did, but that’s another story that Jess has already covered.

Stairmaster

Don’t worry, we didn’t splurge on a new piece of cardio equipment. Rather, some of Benjamin’s swimming lessons seem to have inspired some crossover learning. On Saturday he applied his get-out-of-the-pool-the-baby-way (eat your heart out Tom Wolfe) training to the stairs and discovered he can climb. So one stair quickly turned into the whole flight, and he hasn’t stopped! He followed up the afternoon set with a command performance at Brenda and Michael’s house. We got another display (or two) this afternoon, so now we have a few videos to share. Enjoy!