This Christmas we drove to Utah. Paul kept checking the weather forecast to see what conditions were supposed to be like going over Donner Pass and we decided to leave late Thursday afternoon to beat a snowstorm that was heading in late that night/early the next morning. We got to Reno around 10:00 and checked into a cheap casino room that we found on hotwire.com for $20. We didn't sleep all that great so around 5:30 when we were both awake and feeling unable to fall back asleep, we decided to head out and finish the drive.
Clara did great for the entire 12-13 hour driving time. She played with her buckle toy (something I made for her that I plan to blog about soon), read books, played with the "It's a Small World" app on my phone, and napped most of the way. Occasionally when she would start to fuss, Paul and I would turn off the audiobook we were listening to (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and sing every song in our toddler repetoire for her including primary favorites such as "Once there was a Snowman", Christmas classics like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and old-school tunes like "How Much is that Doggy in the Window?". Occasionally Paul and I would attempt a round of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".
We had a fun few days leading up to Christmas itself - playing in the snow with Clara for the first time (she was not a big fan), initiating a new tradition of playing carols on handbells, eating way too much food, and spending time with family playing pool or just chatting. I have some snow photos that I will post separately. I had fun playing Christmas songs on the piano and Clara enjoyed transferring presents all over the living room into new stacks. She is apparently very into organization. Clara perfected the words "snow", "brrrrr", and "freezing" during this trip, complete with crossed arms indicating shivers along with the correct pronunciation. She liked looking out the big picture windows at the winter wonderland on Christmas Eve.
Christmas morning dawned beautiful and very, very white. There was SO much snow. We had gone out the day before to do some last minute shopping (and visit BYU campus and eat at J Dawgs) and hadn't been able to get back up Paul's parents driveway. In true Amy fashion, I woke up all night long in eager anticipation of what morning would bring and finally gave up the fight around 5:30 and got out of bed to surf Pinterest and put on make-up. It took FOREVER to get everybody up and ready. Clara hung out downstairs with daddy and the cousins and aunts and uncles while I made breakfast (caramel nut rolls and a breakfast casserole that I found rather disappointing).
One of my favorite things about Christmas morning as a kid was seeing the pile of gifts that Santa had left displayed in a beautiful heap. It was fun creating that for Clara this year (not that she cared). Since Clara was so good this year and made the Nice list, Santa brought her a LeapFrog computer (which we took back since my mom got one for her too on a better deal than I had), a Disney memory game (which we took back since Paul's mom found an even cuter one that we liked better), colored chunky beads to thread, a safari puzzle, fingerpaints and paper, a coloring book, a magnetized drawing pad (maybe one of her favorite toys now), some balls, four books, and a basket with fruit and a cutting board.
Her stocking had some surprises as well, including a rolling pin, plastic measuring spoons, a toy firetruck and sports car, and a hairbrush and comb set.
Oh, and some tubes of mini-M&M's. She is obsessed with those and knows they are called "candy". She immediately started pleading vehemently for me to open them for her. I refused but only because she was sitting on my lap and I didn't see this face of pure desparation.
She even offered up her orange in the toe of her stocking to her dad in exchange for the promise of M&M's. She still didn't get any until after lunch.
It was nice spending the holiday with Paul's brothers and their families. Everybody seems to have a lot going on these days - Bobby finished his doctorate this year and he and Holly are thinking about moving to Utah County from St. George; Dave is in his last year of MBA school and he and Deborah have a lot coming up this next year including their second baby boy due in June; and John has just applied to law schools and is waiting to find out whether he gets accepted. Clara knew pretty much everybody's names by the time we finally said our goodbyes and headed to my parents house.
Clara was not very happy or interested in taking wrapping paper off of presents. She kept escaping to the laundry room where Bobby and Holly's dog was in a kennel and would have spent all morning in there with the dog (and probably even climbed into the kennel with him) if we had let her. Every time we dragged her away to open another gift she twisted to get away from us and back to that dog. Eventually we knew she just needed a good nap so she missed out on about half of the unwrapping portion of the morning. Hopefully next year she will be more into it.
Paul and I got Bob this "War on Terror" game that is supposed to be kind of like "Risk". We didn't get around to playing it but it looks hilarious.
After eating Christmas dinner with the Nash family, we packed everything up and headed to Farmington where my family lives (about an hour north of Paul's parents' home). Clara opened a couple more presents, including a little white rocking chair from Pottery Barn Kids that she LOVES.
We waited to open the majority of presents with my family until the day after Christmas though when my sister Jennie and her family made it up from Spanish Fork and my grandparents and aunts came down from Pocatello. First we ate a yummy dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu and played handbells. A friend in our ward has these handbells and she let me copy her large posters with colored notes for 7 different Christmas carols. It was SO much fun playing these and one of my favorite things about the holidays this year. Next year I want to step it up a little and practice the songs and go to neighbors' houses to carol with the bells.
Clara was slightly more interested in opening presents in the evening before bedtime than she had been on Christmas morning when she was needing a nap. It also helped that she had her own little chair to sit in and there were no dogs around to distract her.
One of the cutest things Clara has started doing is imitating me and Paul by wanting to get behind the camera and look through the lense to take a picture. I am loving it although I wish she would finally figure out when I want her to look at the camera.
I was so excited to spend time with my nieces Emma and Lily. They are such fun little gals with totally different personalities and Clara adores them and says their names over and over. We are excited to be getting another little niece this next April/May when Jennie has her third girl! She just found out on Christmas Eve.
Another of Clara's favorite presents: shoes. This girl has an obsession, I tell you.
I think Paul and I were so excited about Clara opening presents and getting toys this year that we didn't get pictures of the very nice gifts we received. One of the big hits was a toy helicopter for Paul that his parents got him as a surprise. We also got a Vitamix, quite a few new (and much-needed) clothes (thanks mom & dad!), jewelry for me, pepper spray and a survival knife (these made us laugh but actually I'm sort of glad to have the pepper spray for my 72 hour kit), Scattegories (who wants to come over for a game night?!), a mani/pedi (my sister Jessica got them for me and Jennie and my Dad got a gift card for my mom so all us girls went - it was my mom's first time and we had SO much fun - great idea Jess!), Usborne books (love those) for Clara from my sister Jennie, and other fun things.
But we really love being on the giving side even better than the receiving side and we had so much fun getting gifts this year. We did a lot of homemade gifts and we tried to make them really nice. I made birthday buntings for each of my sisters, my mom, Paul's mom, and Kayli and they turned out so darling (even though it took forever to cut out the triangles with pinking shears then sew them all together!). We made calendars for our moms using each of Clara's monthly pictures from this past year. Paul built wooden garden boxes for me so that we can try square foot gardening this next year. I also made felt crowns for Emma, Lily and Clara that turned out really cute. The only thing I have a picture of though is the crowns from the day after Christmas when Paul was reading to Clara and Lily. I will have to take a couple of pictures of the other gifts to post on here.
It was another wonderful Christmas and we loved seeing our families and spending time with them.