Christmas Journey

  We decided to take 2 1/2 weeks and travel to PA and then Connecticut for Christmas.  It would be the first time that many of our family members saw Rhys in the flesh.  We drove through the night and arrived at my grandma's house in PA just before a major ice/snow storm started.  Everyone did great on the trip including Rhys which is a miracle since we realized as we were leaving that the DVD players were not working.  We love driving through the night...less traffic and the kids sleep.  We stayed in PA for four days visiting family.  My dad drove up to spend a few days with us and so did my sister and her family.  We had an early Christmas dinner and all opened presents.  It was great to see Rhys playing with his little cousin, Luke.  My sister's baby is just 2 weeks older than Rhys.  One of the highlights of our time in PA was personal visit from Santa Claus.  He showed up at Grandma's front door. The kids were so excited that Santa came to see them.

After Santa's visit the girls got to decorate sugar cookies with nana and open presents with Aunt Helen.  These were the most heavily frosted and sprinkled cookies I have ever seen!!

  

The excitement was only beginning.  Jessica and her family along with Grandma Whitlow and Papa showed up shortly after that.  We got to open presents with them and Luke met his cousins.  The girls loved all their gifts.  Ellie got a crocodile from Papa who she named Alligator.  I guess we will call him Al for short.  The most special part of the night was Victoria's gift to Gabe and me.  She brought it home wrapped from Kindergarten and was so anxious for us to open it.  It was a beautiful pillow.  On the front she used her hands to make a wreath and on the back she used her foot to create an angel.  It is my favorite gift. I loved seeing her excitement in having something special to give to me.  It reminds you of what the season is really about.  

                

It was time to leave PA and head to Connecticut.  This trip was a lot scarier than our trip out to PA.  The kids were still excellent in the car and such troopers given no dvd players and the trip lasting 9 hours instead of 6 1/2.  There was a bad ice storm the night before we left so we were headed up the mountains in PA very, very slowly.  Gabe was slipping all over the road and we saw semi trucks that couldn't even make it up the mountain.  It rained the whole way which is better than icing but the roads were horrible the whole way.  We are so thankful that we made it safely to Connecticut even if it did take longer.  We had an awesome stay in Connecticut.  We hadn't been out there in 2 years so it was great to see Gabe's family and for them to meet Rhys.  Gabe's sister Amy lives in Connecticut and Sarah drove up from DC.  Even with all the issues that develop in being with family in tight quarters, it is so worth to spend the holidays with loved ones.  Victoria left cookies and milk for Santa.  She worked very hard on her note.  Santa even left her a note thanking her for the yummy cookies.  Now we know why he is such a big, jolly guy.  Santa brought Victoria a barbie with wings and ellie got the handy manny tool kit....just what they both asked for.  After opening all the presents which took forever we went to church. It was a beautiful service.  it is so nice to be able to go to church on Christmas and celebrate the real reason for Christmas.  It is so easy to forget about Jesus' birth when you are surrounded by way too many presents.  One of the best gifts we got for Christmas were tickets to ride an old train to the North Pole.  We all (and I do mean all of us) dressed in our pj's and santa hats to ride the train.  What a fun time.  Santa and Mrs. Claus both came on the train to say hello.  Victoria looked right up at Santa and said "thank you for my barbie with wings".  It was the cutest.  Gabe and I took the kids to Mystic, CT to meet up with my roommate from college, Mary Beth and her husband Brad.  I am so glad we had the opportunity to see them even if it was only for a few hours.  Gabe and I also got to take advantage of having grandma babysit.  We went out with Amy and her fiancee, Shawn for New Year's Eve.  It was so much fun dancing into 2009.  Unfortunately, our camera battery died so we don't have many pictures from the train ride or our activities after that.  That is okay since this is definitely the longest blog I have ever written.  It was a long trip, though.  On New Year's Day we started our journey back to WI via PA.  The drive went well and we arrived home safely ready to get back to all of our many activities.  

          

When we got home we still had the gifts from mom and dad to open.  These girls are going to think that Christmas lasts 3 weeks and they just get lots of gifts.  We will be changing that for next year.