Reader, I'm back in Minnesota! My blogging is always a little kooky when I return home from a trip (ha ha, "always" - like I've blogged extensively after years of travels) because there continues to be real-time stuff going on as I post recaps. But I always like to celebrate the out-of-the-ordinary, and for me, this was the first Christmas away from home, so there were lots of new traditions and activities to experience. Now I'm back home at my parents' house to celebrate Christmas with my family. Josh will join us on Wednesday for a few days, and then we'll head back to St. Paul this weekend.
In lieu of my usual Monday post, I will start out with a Marvelous Christmas of sorts, recapping a few marvelous moments from yesterday (Christmas Day).
Background information: Josh and I arrived on Thursday night, just after a few more inches of snow fell on eastern Colorado. We were delayed an hour out of MSP, but that didn't seem all that bad once we arrived at Denver International and saw a packed airport full of stranded travelers two days before Christmas Eve. We drove slowly and carefully to his hometown in southern Colorado, which was still digging out of a monster blizzard that socked the Southwest early in the week.
To give you an idea of how crazy this blizzard was, here's what his aunt and uncle's picnic table looked like on Thursday night:
We visited and made a gingerbread house (more on this later this week) and prepared for Christmas festivities. On Friday, we went to Christmas Eve mass and then headed to his cousin's house, where 15-20 members of his family had gathered for dinner (Jeremy's manicotti) and the first round of gift-opening.
Obviously, we spent loads of time this weekend with Josh's nephew and niece - you know them as Loco and Lala - and it was the first year I've truly realized the benefit that Santa brings to the lives of parents of young children every December. Good behavior can totally be encouraged by noting Santa's presence (or potential lack thereof). On Christmas Eve, the local 9:00 news broadcast really went all out, interviewing city officials and meteorologists to get a good read on the conditions for Santa's arrival - and then, even the timing of his arrival. The anchor mentioned very seriously that Santa was expected in southern Colorado in the next hour or two, and Lala absolutely lost her mind. "He's almost here!" she yelled, and then wanted to go home so quickly that she didn't feel that she had time to put on her winter boots - I would have to carry her to the car in her dress shoes. We dropped the kids at their house, watched Lala and Loco and their mom sprinkle reindeer food (a tiny bag of glitter and oats) on the lawn and then rush off to bed.
On Christmas morning, Josh's extended family gathers for breakfast before each smaller family unit goes off to celebrate with other groups. Josh's mom and her three siblings take turns hosting. This year, we all met at a community center in town, and it was an absolute feast: biscuits and gravy, potato burritos with green chile spooned on top, cinnamon rolls, eggs, bacon and tamales. Tamales are a Mexican food - basically, meat filling rolled into a layer of masa dough, wrapped up and steamed inside a corn husk. I've tried them before, but on this trip, my life tamale consumption went up exponentially. Yum. They are so good.
Josh agrees with me. His aunt sent him home from breakfast with a few extra, which he carefully stowed on top of the coatrack at breakfast:
Lala and Loco were in great spirits, fresh off the discovery that Santa had brought them both bikes. Josh, Loco and I posed for a photo - with "crazy faces" encouraged by Loco. Loco was all "your crazy face wasn't that crazy!" and I argued that having to use one hand to take the photo restricted my crazy face. You be the judge.
After breakfast, we went back to Josh's brother and sister-in-law's house for stockings and another round of gift-opening. Lala brought me my stocking and helped me sort through it:
We also got to see some ornaments that Loco had crafted. Here's one, which he made out of a "googly eye" craft kit that Josh and I brought him at Thanksgiving:
Then Josh's brother and sister-in-law opened a gift from him: a magnet that, if possible, I loved even more than the googly eye tree. Honestly, I want to post this photo in my home to look at whenever I feel sad. It cracks me up.
Actually, I just love the entire gift-opening experience with the kids, start to finish. It was so much fun.
And there's so much more to come. When I'm not playing with my new sewing machine this week (yeep!), I will tell you all about it! It was a great trip and a great Christmas, and I'm grateful to Josh's family for bringing me into the holiday with such warmth.