Hm. I'm feeling kind of tired tonight (up way past my bedtime last night for New Year's Eve), and I've written, deleted, and rewritten this opening a few times. I've got nothing clever to say. Here's yet another post with lots of pictures and probably too many details about our trip to Colorado for Christmas. It's taken me 2 or 3 days just to upload the photos, which has made me really lose steam as far as finishing this post.
A couple of weeks ago I was feeling pretty good about our upcoming trip to Colorado. Mike had agreed to leave work a little early on Tuesday so we could get a 1 hour head-start on the first half of our drive (we were planning on driving to Kearney, NE, staying the night, and then going the rest of the way on Wednesday). Sunday I got all the laundry done so we could all get packed on Monday, and the plan was that I'd have the car basically ready to go Tuesday afternoon when Mike got home so that we could just get in the car and go. Sunday night I got the whole house vacuumed, dusted, and the bathrooms all cleaned so that we could come home to a clean house. Then I got up Monday morning and checked out The Weather Channel, and saw that basically all of Nebraska and western Iowa were under a severe winter storm watch starting late Tuesday night and going through Thursday. Travel was not advised. I made a quick call to Mike at work and told him I thought we needed to head out early. He called back a few hours later, and told me to get packing because we were leaving that night. Ugh. So much for feeling calm and ahead of the game.
Anyway, I did a pretty good job getting things taken care of. In the few hours between Mike calling and announcing our imminent departure and the actual departure, I got the boys and me packed, got the dogs' food all scooped out and packed, got most of the clothes I thought Mike would want laid out, went to mall (where I bought pants to wear on Christmas Eve because I had none and let the kids ride the Santa train and play in the play area), remembered to call the hotel in Kearney to change our reservation, and had pretty much everything in the car when Mike got home from work. When we got to the hotel that night we realized I'd forgotten a couple of things, but when you're packing in a rush for 4 people and 2 dogs, you're bound to forget a few things, right?
The drive that night was not too bad. Drew has never made the 10 hour drive from our house to my parents' house, so I was a little nervous about how it would go. Thankfully we have a DVD player in the van, and between that and eating dinner in the car, we ate up a lot of time. We stopped around 8:30 at a gas station where we got the boys into their PJs and brushed their teeth, and then I read a couple of books and told them it was time to go to sleep. Zach hadn't napped that day, so he was pretty wiped out. Drew was tired, too, but like any almost 2 year-old, he wasn't dealing with it so well, and he sat in the back crying and repeating, "Owwwwieeee...owwwwwieeeeeee...owwwwieeeee..." over and over. Mike snickered at him one time, which ended the owies and commenced the really pissed off screaming. That made for a fun ride. We'd try putting our hands on him to calm him down, and he would say, "NO!" and push our hands away. Finally he fell asleep, at about 9:30 or so. Thankfully he stayed asleep when we got to the hotel around 10 or 10:30, and the crib was already set up in our room, so Mike was able to just carry him in and lay him in the crib, and he never woke up. He slept quite well- better than the rest of us, anyway. Tuesday we got up and got on the road by 9 or so, and the drive went very well. Mike had asked me to agree to let the boys watch movies for all 5+ hours in the car that day, but I just couldn't agree to it. I just have a hard time agreeing to that when they're so little. So we sang songs and played travel Bingo for the first hour or hour and a half, and then watched a movie. We stopped for lunch in Fort Morgan, just about at the same time as the movie was ending. Then the last hour to my parents' house (at which point I was wise enough to offer to drive and let Mike do the entertaining), we played 20 Questions and read books. It was tough, but the boys did such a great job. It went much better than expected. And we never saw one snowflake until we were safely settled at my parents' house.
Here are some pictures of the boys early on in the ride on Tuesday, while they were still in good moods. Actually, their moods stayed pretty upbeat throughout the drive that day. Just the last half-hour or so were they getting noticeably sick of the car.
Tuesday afternoon we just laid low at my parents' house, but on Wednesday morning, my sister Sandy, her husband Will, and their son Anders arrived from Minnesota, and my sister Becky and her boys Cam and Myles came over, too. My sisters and I got started in on some cookie baking right away. Zach and Cam were so very excited to be reunited and immediately got to playing with each other.
It had been a couple of months since Drew had seen Anders, but they seemed to get right to playing, too.
Myles doesn't really care about his cousins yet, so he took a nap.
It had snowed all night Monday night, so there were a few inches of snow on the ground. Zach and Cam were pretty excited to get outside to play in it. Sadie seemed to be having fun, too.
It looks like Sadie managed to get away, but Zach and Cam weren't too upset about it.
The boys decided to get out the Jeep that my parents have, which has no working motor. It was a lot of work for them to push and pull it around in the yard.
Later they got Mike to go out with them and they attempted to build a snowman, but I think the snow was a little too dry and wasn't sticking very well.
Myles finally woke up and decided to show off one of the skills he picked up since I last saw him at Halloween- smiling. What a cutie!
After lunch we let the boys watch a show because they needed a little rest time. Can you tell how tired Drew is? He didn't get to see the whole show because it was nap time.
Myles decided a nap sounded good, too, so he let me hold him and bounce him to sleep. I thought he looked so cute when I laid him down that I had to take another picture.
That evening after Cam, Becky, and Myles headed home, Zach decided he'd play with the little boys. I love the look on Anders' face in this picture.
Then Mike got some good snuggling in with Drew and Anders as he read to them before bed.
We were supposed to get together with some of my high school friends on Wednesday night, but the roads were pretty bad, so we didn't get to. That was a bummer. Instead Mike and I decided we'd get all of our presents for the boys wrapped. We had gotten Zach a small trampoline to be his main Santa gift, so Mike opened up the box to get it set up and realized that the box contained a frame, the bungee cord, and no actual jumping mat. Pretty hard to jump on a trampoline when there's no mat. Of course we ordered it from Amazon, so it's not like we could get a new one the next day to have in time for Christmas morning. I called Amazon and found out they were totally sold out anyway. So I called Toys R Us, and the lady there checked all the stores in the Denver area, only to find that they were all sold out. Any place I looked online said this particular trampoline was out of stock, so it wasn't looking good. We were worried because the main things Zach had been saying he wanted from Santa were a "real fire engine that shoots real water and the siren really works" and a snow plow. Well, we had the fire engine, but the snow plow was basically an $80 toy truck, and goodness knows we have more than enough trucks in this house, so we had talked up the trampoline big time (he also had that on his Santa list, but he didn't talk about it as much as the snow plow and the fire engine). Plus, that night before he went to bed, Zach came out and asked me to please write a note to Santa asking for a trampoline and a new driver for Dad. So we felt very strongly that we wanted to have a trampoline. I found a list of Alex (the brand of the trampoline) toy dealers in the Denver area, and the next morning, Mike got on the phone as early as possible calling them all. He found one store that had one left- a Christmas miracle! Ok, probably not miracle worthy, but still, it felt like it to us. We couldn't believe our luck.
So Wednesday morning Mike, the boys, and I headed over to Becky's house to hang out for the day. Before we left my parents' house, my dad and brother-in-law Will left to go to some antique store. My dad mentioned to Zach that they might run into Santa while they were out, and was there anything Zach wanted them to mention to him? Zach said, "Yes, tell him that Drew is naughty and pushes me and screams at me!" Great- he didn't mention that he wanted them to say how good he was, just how bad Drew had been. Nice big brother. Anyway, Mike dropped us off at Becky's and headed to the toy store, which was just 6 miles from Becky's house! Good luck again! Becky then headed out to pick up her new computer (they're finally a Mac family- woohoo!), and I got to stay home and take see what it was like to take care of 4 boys ages 4 and a half and younger. And, I might add, it was a breeze. Who says 4 kids is hard? Actually, Myles slept in the swing the whole time, and Cam and Zach entertained each other, so Drew and I played some and then Drew entertained himself while I made lunch. Becky and Mike got home right in the middle of lunch (after Becky picked me up a beef bowl from Kokoro- one of my favorite places in Denver), and everything was under control. Then Myles woke up and gave me this sweet look.
The kids played more, and Myles needed to rest again (this boy sleeps a lot!), so he found a nice, comfy spot on Uncle Mike.
Drew napped, Cam and Zach played more, and Becky and I got dinner prepared. Tom, Becky's husband, came home and we all headed out for a Christmas Eve service at Becky and Tom's church. When we got home from church, my parents and Sandy, Will, and Anders were at Becky and Tom's house, and dinner was in the oven.
Here's the obligatory Christmas Eve family picture. It's astounding to me how quickly I can go from fairly tan to totally pale and washed out looking. It's also a small miracle that we're all smiling in this picture. Big thanks to Will for getting that smile out of Drew.
The boys (Drew especially) were not interested in sitting still long enough for me to get a picture of just the 2 of them in their Christmas Eve duds, so this is the best picture I got.
I think this one of Zach and Cam is kind of cute, though. Neither one is really smiling, but I like this because they just have normal looks on their faces and I just to compare their features. Zach actually looks taller than Cam in this photo, but in reality, Cam is now a couple of inches taller than Zach.
Then we got all 5 cousins lined up on the couch for their first picture together as a whole group. They did amazingly well- WAY better than I expected. The picture goes, from left to right: Myles (3 months), Anders (15 months), Drew (21 months), Cam (3.5 years), and Zach (4.5 years).
I think this one is funny because they're all looking at the same person, unfortunately it wasn't me.
Later on that night Zach really wanted to hold Myles again. Here they are gazing sweetly into each other's eyes.
But, this sweet gazing didn't last long. Myles just was not comfortable. I love this picture because you can see Myles is unhappy, and Zach's face cracks me up. Maybe Myles didn't like the "Kiss me, I'm irish" headband Zach had on.
Probably the best part of Christmas Eve occurred on the way home from church. We were just about back to Becky and Tom's house when Mike's phone rang. It showed up as Mike's dad calling, but when Mike said hello, Santa was on the other line! He was calling to talk to Zach and find out where we were so he could deliver the boys' presents to the right place. Santa then called back a little later to talk to Cam, too. It was priceless to watch the excitement on Zach's face to to hear it in his voice as he talked to Santa. Thanks, Grandpa Kevin!
Christmas morning we got up early so we could be showered and ready for the boys to be up at 7:00. The boys opened their stockings and got started playing with their new toys. Zach was excited to have received his fire engine, and he never mentioned the snow plow, thank goodness!
When Santa called on Christmas Eve, he mentioned wanting cookies with walnuts. We hadn't made any cookies with walnuts, so we put out peanut butter cookies and figured those would suffice. Here Zach is showing us that Santa ate just about half of his cookie. Zach was happy to finish it off later on.
It took a little while for Zach to notice the trampoline, which is crazy, because it's big and was sitting right there by his stocking. When he did notice it, though, he was excited. At first Drew didn't want to try it out, but then he warmed up to the idea and hopped on.
Anders is a climber, so it took no time at all for him to climb up on that trampoline and give it a whirl. Check out his face- this kid has great facial expressions! I love it!
Then Drew and Anders decided to try jumping together.
After Becky, Tom, Cam, and Myles arrived at my parents' house, we had brunch (caramel rolls, souffle, and grapefruit, of course), we decided to get to the rest of the presents. Here's a funny picture of Sandy, Anders, Drew, and me preparing to open the stockings my parents put together.
And just a cute picture of Sandy and Anders.
Drew decided he better have a snack, even though we'd just finished breakfast. Normally I'd say no way, but I figured what the hell; it's Christmas.
Drew was happy to play with his new recycling truck from Grandma and Grandpa.
Zach was having a blast opening presents. The present opening got off to a crazy start thanks to a couple of eager kids. The funniest moment was when Zach opened a present and pulled out a nice serving plate with a moose painted on it and said, "Oh, wow!" I looked at him and said, "That's not for you! That's Grandma's present!" Zach said, "Well, it had my name on it," and I said, "Yeah, in the 'From' section!" Oh well. Grandma didn't care.
As usual, Myles thought the whole thing was boring, so he napped for awhile. When he did wake up and Becky got him out of his carseat, Drew couldn't help but point and say, "Ho ho ho!"
Once we got Drew and Anders down for naps, the rest of us decided to watch the Disney classic Peter Pan. Zach and Cam are big into pirates, so Grandma and Grandpa bought this moving thinking it'd be a big hit, and they were right. I love how Cam and Grandpa Dick are snuggling in this picture, and I love the look on Zach's face. That kid's face says it all when he's watching a movie. He loved Peter Pan.
After the movie, Zach and Cam decided to play superheroes. Cam had gotten a hero costume for Christmas, but Zach had to make do with a beach towel for a cape and his new hobo gloves.
They practiced their flying by jumping off the trampoline.
At some point in the afternoon we decided for another cousins photo, this time with Santa hats. I think all the Santa hats were infant sized, so Myles is about the only one whose hat really fit. It's not easy to get 5 little boys to sit still and smile nicely for a group picture, that's for sure!
The rest of the trip flew by. The day after Christmas my parents had a big open house, and many of our old neighbors, friends from my parents' church, and other family friends came by. It was great to see old friends again, and I got to see 4 or 5 of my high school friends, too, which was wonderful. Zach and Cam left the party early with Uncle Tom to head back to Cam's house for a sleepover. They watched The Polar Express, ate popcorn, and slept in sleeping bags on Cam's floor. Apparently they didn't get to sleep until 10:30, so they were definitely tired the next day.
Originally we had purchased one big Santa gift for each of the boys- the trampoline for the boys and the Step2 Up & Down Roller Coaster for Drew. We decided on the roller coaster sort of quickly because we felt some pressure to get things ordered and shipped to my parents' house so they'd be there in time for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we decided we didn't want to do the roller coaster, and instead we decided to make the trampoline be for both boys. We just felt like one big thing was enough for the boys to share, and I decided I didn't want the big roller coaster in the house, and though we knew it would fit in the car, we didn't really feel like lugging it back to Iowa. The box it came in was HUGE. So on Sunday morning I started looking up shipping costs to see what it would cost us to send it back to the company we bought it from. Well, the roller coaster cost about $80 plus $10 shipping, but using UPS to ship it back was going to cost $125!!! And using FedEx was going to be $75 (no idea why there was such a huge discrepancy between the two companies). We figured out that Walmart.com also sold this roller coaster, so Mike called Walmart and asked if we'd be able to return it to their store. Of course, we didn't get it from Walmart, so we didn't have a receipt, but Walmart took the thing from us and gave us almost $110 in store credit. I never thought I'd say this with anything more than sarcasm in my voice, but I am saying it very sincerely here, "Thank you, Walmart!" I have no idea how long it will take us to spend $110 at Walmart since we never go there, but I'm sure we'll find something. So between the 2 big Santa presents we nearly had 2 big problems, but somehow, we lucked out again.
That problem was solved on Sunday, the day that Sandy, Will, and Anders left. We had originally planned to leave on Monday and do the drive all in one day, but we decided on Saturday night to split the drive again. So after lunch at Becky and Tom's (Kokoro again- twice in one trip!), we said our goodbyes to them, Cam, Myles, and my parents, and we hit the road. Zach was in tears about leaving, which didn't surprise me. He gets so sad saying goodbye to my family when he knows it will be a long time before seeing them again. The boys took good naps in the car. Well, Drew did, at least. He slept until Julesburg, which is the last Colorado town before you cross the border into Nebraska.
The dogs also took good naps in the car. They were exhausted from all the excitement at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and from Sadie always trying to get in on whatever attention they were getting.
We stayed the night in Kearney again, this time arriving at a decent hour, but not getting to sleep any earlier because Drew decided to cry for an hour in his crib. The hotel was super noisy starting at about 5 a.m., and like the other hotel we had stayed at in Kearney before, the pillows on the bed were humongous- WAY too big to be comfortable. So it wasn't a good night's sleep by any means.
On Monday we were glad to have just a four and a half hour drive to get home. It was absolutely amazing to see all the cars in the ditch and median in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. Even more astounding was the number of cars that had flipped over. We had to have seen at least a dozen that were on their roof or on their side, including at least one semi truck. and there were places where we saw shrapnel from accidents but no cars. Seems like we missed some very bad driving weather; thank goodness our driving weather was perfect. Again, we were very lucky, I think. And the boys did well on the drive. Drew started crying as we excited the interstate a few miles from our home, so that worked out very well.
It was a fun, sometimes chaotic, trip back to Colorado. It was so great to be with the whole family, and for all the little boys to be together and to be with both of my sisters and brothers-in-law at the same time. It's depressing how infrequently that happens, all of us being together. It definitely makes me envious of people who live close to all of their family members. Thanks everyone for a great trip.
Wow, I've got a major sinus headache (aided by the 2 a.m. bedtime last night) and have got to get to bed, so no proofreading tonight. Just ignore any mistakes and areas where I make no sense at all, because I'm sure there are plenty of them. Happy new year!