A Wisconsin Christmas

Fact: December is all about Christmas.

Also fact: Christmas is awesome.

We got a couple weeks to do our own Christmas thing, and then we had a 2 1/2 week stay in Wisconsin. Basically, it was awesome. (Unlike my pictures, which are mostly crappy.)

We got together with some of my family to do our annual White Elephant gift trade and Nativity.

The kids had a lot of fun with the White Elephant… except that they kept picking the presents that we brought. So we ended up taking home several presents that we had meant for other people. Whatever. Malcolm didn’t really get the Nativity, but Ellie had fun. Also, we had baby Kaeli to be baby Jesus for us.

We had our own Christmas at home the day before we left for Wisconsin. Obviously we had to ask Santa if he could come early.

“Dear Santa, we are going to Nana’s house. Can you please come early, please. Love, Ellie”

Thankfully Santa is flexible. I didn’t get any pictures, but the kids were spoiled. Ellie got some Powerpuff Girl stuff, Malcolm got a Darth Vader that he has been begging for, and Clara’s favorite was a little stuffed owl that she still loves. Will got some stuff to get his computer linked to the TV in the basement, and I got some fun cooking stuff, including a pasta maker. It was a pretty good Christmas.

The next morning we left dark and early (like 4 a.m.) to catch our flight to Minnesota. We spent a little more than we usually would, since we got a seat for Clara. It was worth it. After not sleeping in the car and then being hauled across the airport, the only sleeping that happened on the plane was when Clara and I got a 15 minute nap. The rest of the time I was keeping Clara from pushing on the seat in front of her and she was telling everyone who looked at her that she was shy. Ellie and Malcolm did great, mostly because they each also got Kindles for Christmas (like I said, they are spoiled).

Luckily the St Paul airport has a fun little kid place next to the baggage claim. I watched the kiddos while Will got the car. I’m glad we got to wait inside because…

…it was freaking cold! It was -15 degrees when we got in, with a Real Feel of like -30. And we were trying to install car seats without losing our children or freezing to death. I don’t handle the cold well. I grew up in Africa! Even Will said it was cold, so that should tell you something.

After our 2 1/2 hour flight, we had a 3 hour drive to Nana’s house in Wisconsin. Thankfully we had a comfy car, with heat, and Clara fell asleep for a while. And we got to stop at Culver’s for lunch! I expected the kids to be grumpy when we got to Nana’s house, but they actually weren’t too bad. Clara even made friends with people quickly, and that’s not a usual thing for her.

It was still pretty cold, but not nearly as bad as when we first got in. Also, they had snow! I’m glad we got to go play in it, because this has been a lame winter for us in Virginia. We spent most of the time hanging out, playing in the snow, and making delicious treats.

I was proud of Clara for only trying to eat like 3 or 4 things off the tree the whole time we were there.

Chocolate covered pretzels- my personal favorite!

Clara didn’t like sledding.

Malcolm was throwing snowballs at himself.

Will got some zombie cookie cutters, so we had to use them!

My angry snowflake.

I made a Zombie Will cookie.

Malcolm got on especially well with Uncle Dave and Connor.

Malcolm was hiding under the blanket. I don’t think he left Connor and Dave alone the majority of the time they were visiting with us.

The snowman was super cute while he lasted. It only took a couple days for his hat to blow away and his face to melt.

This is a terrible picture, but Clara had fun “flying” with cousin Connor (who is like 6’6″)

Ellie has a Powerpuff Gingerbread Girl that she made (kind of like a Flat Stanley) and so we had to bring her with us.

We also spent one afternoon at an indoor waterpark, which was especially cool because it was snowing pretty hard outside. Even though it was warm inside, Malcolm and Clara kept getting cold and needing snuggles. They had a lot of fun, especially Ellie, who was tall enough to do every water slide.

Christmas Eve we went to Will’s aunt and uncle’s house (a family tradition) where we ate some delicious food and Malcolm got to sample someone’s grown-up “Christmas Cheer” when they weren’t looking (oops!).

Aunt Sharon’s house is filled with snowmen. This one was Clara’s favorite.

Christmas day was nice. Since we already had our Christmas, it was nice and quiet, and fairly stress-free. The kids got their stockings and a couple little fun toys. And church was nice (because it was short and filled with music, haha).

After Christmas, we had some more Zilches show up (thankfully without bringing the stomach flu with them).

They were kind enough to let us swim in the pool at their hotel (where Clara still got all shivery, for some reason). We hung out and talked, the kids played, and they even left us alone enough for the adults to play some fun games. Not to mention eating delicious food.

Clara especially enjoyed Nana’s banana cream pie.

It really was like a vacation. I got to read. A lot. I actually read 7 1/2 books over the couple weeks we were there. It was fantastic. The only annoying part was the inevitable “where’s Clara?” that popped up several times throughout the day. That child is like a ninja. So many times we caught her in someone’s room, stealing their stuff, or drawing on things she wasn’t supposed to, or in the bathroom making a mess. Denise and I totally watched her figure out (in about 2 seconds) how to unlock and open the door into the garage. Little stink. Not to mention the many times I caught her squeezing sticks of butter.

One of my favorite stories about Clara was when I walked past the bathroom and heard Malcolm yell “Oh no!” I ran in and found him sitting on the toilet, but he was at the wrong angle and he was peeing between the toilet seat and the bowl and the pee was spraying everywhere and he just kept peeing and yelling “oh no!” So I ran in to help him, trying not to get covered in pee, and a split second later I hear a noise behind me and turn to see that Clara has climbed into the bath tub (fully clothed) and had turned the water on. Needless to say I had to call for help. And clean up the bathroom afterwards.

Then there’s the time she was supposed to be asleep when I heard her yelling and found her with Malcolm’s huge box of Nerds, which she had chewed up and dumped everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

It was right around this time that I started to feel baby move, which was cool. And one night, we were laying in bed and I felt the baby wiggle and I just KNEW it was a boy. It was a pretty cool moment. I had pretty strong feelings about the genders of my other babies, but I don’t think there was one specific time that it just came to me. Anyway, it was cool.

New year’s was fun too. I did not stay up until midnight, and I don’t think we did anything specifically, but we celebrated (a little late) with all the kids. Denise bought these awesome party crackers that had crowns and jokes and magic tricks and things inside them.

Malcolm was amazed by the cheap little magic tricks!

A couple days before we left, we got to see Connor give his farewell talk before he left to be a missionary in Arizona. It was really sweet. Denise and Luci sang a beautiful song (and the guy that accompanied them on the piano was an Elder from our area of Virginia, which was weird). It was really cool that we got to be there.

Will had all his siblings there except his sister Carri, who was in Minnesota with her family (including the four/five kids they are fostering to adopt!) They couldn’t leave the state with the foster kids, so they weren’t able to make it. But I know they were there in spirit! This picture is all the cousins, except for Carri’s three, plus the soon-to-be-adopted cousins.

We’ll see you in 2 years Connor!

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic vacation. Not only did we get to relax and hang out with family, but we got to go watch Rogue One, and then the girls went and watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which was awesome except that I had to pee so bad the last 45 minutes!) I actually felt pretty good the majority of the time too (thanks to some morning sickness meds). I mostly felt sick at night, which happened to interfere one night when we went to Texas Roadhouse (one of my faves) and I couldn’t even look at my food, I felt so sick. It was sad. We also got to eat at Milwaukee Burger, which was excellent. Except for feeling sick most evenings, Will’s allergies, and Clara not sleeping well a couple nights, there really wasn’t a whole lot to complain about. And that’s saying something, because I’m a complainer.

It finally came time to leave, which was sad. I was not looking forward to the trip home. We did the same thing, but backwards, where we drove for 3 hours and then got ready for our flight. Except our flight was delayed 2 whole hours, which was frustrating.

We ended up having a McDonalds picnic on the airport floor (notice that Clara is restrained, haha) in pajamas. After finally getting on the plane, we ended up sitting on the runway for another hour while the temperature fluctuated between too hot and too cold. After we finally took off, Clara was a stink and kept yelling and kicking the seat in front of her.

The last bit of the flight was terrible. We had turbulence, which is nothing new, but for some reason it freaked me out into a full-blown panic attack. I haven’t had one of those in a loooong time, but this one was pretty bad. I was shaking and crying and thought I was gonna puke, and every once in a while I had to look over at Clara and try to smile and tell her it would be ok because I was freaking her out. She thought the turbulence was awesome, until she saw me getting upset. I’m pretty sure I also freaked out the teenage kid sitting across the aisle from me. Anyway, I managed to get it under control, but it was super not cool. Stupid anxiety. Did I mention I’m terrified of heights and I hate flying?

By the time we landed it was rush hour, which kept us in traffic for several more hours. Pretty much we got home 6 hours later than we thought we would. Which was not cool. It was also not cool getting back to normal life after a long vacation.

But it’s a brand new year, and that was a fantastic way to start it!