Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Part 2 - in Williamsburg

We spent the second half of our Christmas trip with Dan's family in Williamsburg, VA. The weather was great - sunny and mid-60s, which is a far cry from last year when the east coast got so much snow our flight was delayed for 2 days! We appreciated the warmer weather, especially the evening we spent outside at Busch Garden's Christmas Town. We had a great time with Dan's family as always, playing games, eating great food, and just enjoying time together.

The nice weather was also perfect for Dad J's Christmas gift: a new shed! One man built the entire thing, and it took him a day and a half - Dad stayed outside with him most of the time to make sure he did it right. :) Dad teaches woodworking to our nephews who are homeschooled, so the shed will also double as his classroom a couple of days a week.

Robin bought tickets to Busch Garden's Christmas Town on Friday night for the whole family. It's become a fun annual tradition to spend one of our evenings there!

Benjamin and Dan stuck together while we walked around the park and rode rides

And Nathan and I buddied up. He's a daredevil on rollercoasters - a man after my own heart!

Tim, Dan, Nathan, and I are in the 2nd to last row on the "Battering Ram"

Benjamin and Nathan rode the hang gliders

Grandma and Aaron rode, too!

Christmas Town is best at night, when the lights come alive and music fills the air.

We wanted to eat dinner at Das Festhaus, which has indoor seating and a show, but the line was insanely long! So we settled for pretzel sandwiches and pizzas under the cold night sky before riding our last ride and seeing our last show of the night.

On Saturday morning, Dan and I drove to Fredericksburg to meet my brother, Steve, for breakfast. He was in Washington DC preparing for a job fair, which is only 2.5 hours from Williamsburg, so we agreed to meet in the middle. It was great to see him during the holidays, even if it was only for a couple of hours!

When we got back to the Jesters' house, Benjamin and Nathan's Christmas Eve gingerbread houses were being built and decorated with tons of candy!

We went to Christmas Eve service at church, and then ate dinner at Peking Chinese Buffet. Pete, Joyce, Christina, and Kimberly King were able to join us, too.

So much good food!!

We went to church on Sunday morning, then met back at the Jesters' house to exchange Christmas gifts.

Then the men got to work helping to assemble the new toys.

Nathan got a Lite-Brite cube! Four times the fun!

And Benjamin got this awesome pirate ship! The pool table was the perfect "ocean" to sail it on.

Aaron's favorite gift was a microphone that made you sound like an elf.

Later that evening, the Kings and the Baileys joined us for dinner, more gifts, and group games. Aaron and Nathan serenaded everyone with the sweet, soothing music of their accordion and harmonica duet. A match made in heaven. haha!

Mom J. and Mrs. Bailey

Christina, Joyce, and Kimberly King

Siblings Dan, Robin, and Tim

Our nephews Benjamin, Aaron, and Nathan, looking sharp in their Christmas Eve service outfits. They're expecting another little brother in March, and we can't wait to come back to meet him!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Part 1 - in Fort Worth

Keeping with tradition, Dan & I traveled coast-to-coast last week (from CA to TX to VA) so we could see both our families. It's exhausting, but well worth it since we love seeing everyone at Christmastime! We were able to spend 4.5 days with my family in Fort Worth celebrating in less traditional ways since Paul is in a rehab facility recovering from surgery again. He had been living with my parents, getting his strength back and focusing on pain management after having spine surgery this summer. But a couple of weeks ago, he slipped and fell in the bathroom and fractured a bone in his pelvis. He had pins inserted to hold the bone in place and has been in a 24/7 rehab center since then. We're all praying that he'll continue to mend, get back on his feet, and be back at home soon! It was hard on all of us that he couldn't leave the facility even for a few hours (Medicare will refuse to continue to pay for his treatment if he "releases" himself by even stepping out the door). But it was the best kind of circumstance in which to remember our Savior's miraculous birth, perfect life, and sacrificial death for our sins because of God's great love for us! We know we're not left alone to deal with hard times, and because of our faith in Jesus, we can turn to our Heavenly Father who is our comforter and source of strength. I'm so thankful that Paul is a believer, and his faith in God has been an example to all of us.

It also didn't feel like a typical Christmas in TX because my younger brother, Steve, was in Washington DC preparing for a big job fair and five interviews. He hopes to be hired as a philosophy professor at a university next year, and this was one of his best opportunities to interview without having to travel to multiple locations. We missed him lots, and my mom & I sent him a box full of homemade Christmas goodies so he could enjoy a taste of the holidays on the east coast!

The rehab center was nicely decorated for Christmas and all the staff members we met were so sweet. It was nice knowing that Paul was being well cared for, although of course he wished he was at home!

He had physical therapy every day from 9 am - 11 am, so Dan and I would bring him some of his favorite fast food for lunch & then spend most of the afternoons with him. We brought his laptop and passed the time checking e-mails, showing him funny videos on YouTube, and watching movies.

My cousins, Tricia and Jeff, invited us over on Sunday afternoon to visit them and see their new house, which they recently bought and completely remodeled. They did an amazing (and fast) job! If we ever decide to buy a house that needs remodeling, we're hiring them out! The picture above from L to R: Emily, Tricia, Jeff, Kolby, Addi, Aunt Jane, my mom, Dan and Laura in the front. Tricia and Jeff's son Jackson was there, too, but he was probably playing outside when I took this photo.

The very best part about that picture is Addi, who is pretending to be a cougar. hahaha!

Me and my cool cousins, Tricia and Emily

After our time at Tricia and Jeff's house, we went to a candlelight service at my parents' church. Some of their friends told us about the amazing Christmas lights at the Pier One corporate building in downtown Fort Worth, so we drove there to see them. They had completely coated the trees on their property in different colored lights. It was just beautiful!

Well done, Pier One!

We had an early "Christmas day" at the rehab center on Monday, where we opened all our gifts together. I love calendars! I foresee more trips in 2012!

Paul got some video games to play while he's on the mend.

My dad got wireless headphones so he can turn the TV volume up as loud as he wants without driving my mom crazy. haha :)

And my mom got cozy Crocs and a mug with a hat to keep her drink warm.

Family Christmas Photo 2011

On Tuesday night, our aunts, uncles, & cousins on my mom's side of the family came to the rehab center to spend some time with Paul before we went to dinner at a BBQ restaurant. I love this picture of Remy & Addi!

And I finally got a picture of Jackson! He's a wild one! :)

Tricia is never happier than when her arms are full of babies. Especially Laura and Tucker.

I love that my extended family makes a point to celebrate Christmas together every year!

Then we had one more morning on Wednesday to spend with my parents & Paul before we flew to Virginia to see Dan's family for "Christmas Part 2 - in Williamsburg"!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best Friends Are Live-In Friends

(I'm catching up on December events, so scroll down to read about Dan's birthday weekend, too!)

We got to host our friends, Dave & Cynthia, their daughter Olivia, and their cat Kobie for a couple of nights while they had work done at their house. We had talked about how we hoped we'd get to see them before Christmas, and voilĂ ! Wish granted! :)

We loved spending time with this sweetheart. She's so much fun to play with and she's growing up at an unbelievable pace!

Cynthia created Kobie's Luxury Suite in our living room. He had food, a warm bed, and a litter box all on a cozy blanket with colorful walls to give him privacy. So naturally he spent most of his time hiding under our guest bed with the storage boxes and dust bunnies. Fortunately he has flashlights for eyes.

Dave's birthday was on Wednesday, and Cynthia fixed a delicious dinner with incredibly rich chocolate mousse cups for dessert. Olivia was already asleep by dessert time, so we whisper-sang "Happy Birthday" to Dave and lit a pink candle for him. Because you know, real men wear pink and all that. :)

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

...Dan's birthday!! His birthday was December 1st and I got the perfect gift for him this year. He's recently discovered a progressive rock band he loves called Dream Theater, and he listens to their albums all the time. So when I saw that they were playing a concert in downtown San Diego on his birthday, I had to buy tickets! I even managed to surprise Dan (not an easy feat), and he absolutely loved the concert! The musicians are amazing technically, and you could tell that the audience was made up of long-time fans (i.e., we were rocking out with a bunch of middle-aged men). :)

It was a blast and definitely a favorite birthday memory!

The birthday week menu consisted of all the free meals we could get by signing up on restaurant e-mail lists!

Over the weekend, we drove up to Anaheim to visit our friends, Chris & Adessa.

Instead of going straight home from Anaheim, we wanted to go somewhere to see Christmas decorations and kick off the holiday season. We were not disappointed by the awesomely over-decorated Mission Inn in Riverside! Get a load of all those lights on their palm trees!

And they had glowing horse-drawn carriages so you could live out your princess fantasy, like this man.

I loved all the lights on orange trees - only in Southern California! And yes, that is an elf sitting on a cannon. I assume he's responsible for the children on Santa's "naughty" list.

Despite all the kitschy decorations on the outside, the Mission Inn was surprisingly classy on the inside

They had life-sized animatronics figures all over the hotel, too. (okay, maybe "classy" wasn't the right word)

A view of the back side of the Mission Inn from Riverside's cute shopping square

By the time we left, we were fully in the Christmas spirit. Mission accomplished!