We drove to Arizona for Christmas and for Brent’s youngest brother’s wedding to be on Dec. 28.
The drive took 26.5 hours. And because Brent is such a marathon driver, we drove straight threw in our trusty (but very mocked by siblings) 1995 Toyota Previa, which upon arriving in Mesa, has officially been driven by our family from Coast to Coast (in random order: San Jose to Provo; Provo to Mesa; Mesa to Chicago; and Chicago to NYC). And I, who normally struggle with more than an hour of monotonous freeway driving, was determined to make my husband proud this trip by taking the wheel for the critical 2-6 a.m. shift of driving through Oklahoma. The kids slept a great deal and listened to music/ebooks. And we only had one incident of car-sickness with Allison…poor Brent…that was the only other time I was driving.
Due to our big trip, we celebrated Christmas early in IL. We gathered the family on my grandmother’s 89th birthday for a dual party. She’s an amazing lady whom Kenny says looks only 70 and acts only 20 because she still cooks great meals and drives all over the place (but he probably meant she acts more like 50 because I don’t know too many 20-year-olds who cook great meals…Brent and I were eating mac-n-cheese and the really disgusting microwave burritos under our college budget and my 20-year-old cooking). The girls received doll furniture and beautiful dresses with matching doll dresses (dresses from Grandma and Grandpa), Kenny wanted an electric tooth-brush and an mp3 player, and Diggy was most excited about getting a wooden model ship to build.
Kirsti, Kirsten (the doll), Allison, and Cienna. The other two girls have non-American Girl dolls that fit very nicely into matching dresses, too, but just aren’t pictured.
My personal favorite part of the gift exchange is watching the kids pick out (primarily from dollar sections), buy with their own money, wrap, try not to tell, give hints, usually tell, and then still anticipate with full excitement the opening of each other’s gifts. A few highlights include: Kirsti picked out Hello Kitty socks for Allison; Diggy bought Kenny a compass for drawing; Cienna helped wrap up some doll shoes for Kirsti and Allison; and Diggy knew about the 12” Christmas tree from Kirsti for his pet giraffe, Gerry, early enough to go out and buy a few mini ornaments for himself in prep for decorating it immediately after the grand opening.
Gerry and his Christmas Tree
We also dug out the chimes again this Christmas. With another year of musical experience under our belts, practices went more smoothly than ever. “Angels We Have Heard on High” was the song of choice as we rehearsed for our first public debut at the Ward Christmas party. Cienna helped Dad hit his notes, and Allison knew right when her low “Ri-Ah” notes fit in on the chorus, which turned into a big crowd pleaser. We’re planning to rehash it for the Extended-Family Nativity tonight.
Kirsti was in elf in the 1st grade Christmas show called “Santa Goes Green.” We had the pleasure of hearing clever lyrics all season long about powering the sleigh with windmills, how to detect a green house effect, and recycling grandma’s fruitcake.
The kids took turns exhibiting the persistence of Sam-I-Am in order to convince Cienna that a visit from Santa Clause is a good thing. They talked excitedly about how he comes at night…with reindeer…on Christmas Eve…and comes down our chimney…when everyone’s asleep…and brings us presents! And because she’s not familiar enough with presents to accept them as a reasonable reward for having a stranger creep into her comfort zone, with every new detail, Cienna insisted, “I not like Santa. I not like Santa.” I even saw her swallow hard when she saw Santa’s picture on a magazine. The Santa debate when on for days until Allison said, “He brings us prinkles!” (which interpreted means Pringles—equivalent to the Christmas Orange at the Smith house). And thinking she heard ‘sprinkles’ (which I’m not sure she really likes that much, but it was at least something she recognized), Cienna finally began chanting, “I like Santa! I like Santa!”
She ultimately decided that as long as Mom was holding her and she didn’t actually have to see him, the benefits of Santa coming (especially to Nana’a house instead of her house) should outweigh the costs. His visit is now much-anticipated tonight…even though the kids know he can’t bring anything that doesn’t fit in their backpacks for the trip home. And I have to say, because of Santa’s down-sized visit, much excitement (but definitely not all)has been shifted to giving away all the home-made gifts they’ve made for extended relatives this year.
Cienna adding her hand to an apron.
We have LOVED returning to Arizona for the first time in 3 1/2 years. We left a White Christmas, but have hardly had time to mourn because we’ve been outside every day playing in short sleeves and flip flops. And being around Brent’s ENTIRE family is such a treat!!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!Ken, Allison, Brent, Kirsti, Amy, Cienna, and Diggy
Stay tuned ‘til tomorrow for what I think will be the whole family’s favorite present this year…