Love, Joleen: Christmas in the Lou

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas in the Lou

I mentioned it yesterday, but this year was the first time, in all my thirty years, that I spent Christmas away from my family in California. It has been a year of many firsts! This was actually my first Christmas spent with my husband, as well. Last year baby Benjamin and I were in California, while my [then soon-to-be] husband was back in Atlanta. Just as we were able to Skype last year, I was able to Skype this year with my family and best friend in Southern California, as well as with two of my sisters in Seattle (one lives there, one is visiting). I love technology, in it's ability to make the world smaller! I also instagrammed our trip (shock, right?) using the hashtag #petefamilychristmas2013, all of which [and then some!!] you can see here:

We were all counting down the days until our week vacation and were so excited when it finally arrived! My father-in-law, who we were going to be visiting, rented a car for our family as well as Ben's sister and her husband to drive up together in. It was a crowded fit but we made it work! We left in the afternoon on Saturday, December 21st. It was just about Benjamin's naptime and we were lucky that he took a pretty long nap off the bat. The drive wasn't bad except for some pretty hard rain a few hours in. We watched the temperatures drop from and uncharacteristically high 74 degrees in Atlanta to 19 in St. Louis. 

Unfortunately, though it was freezing during part of our trip, it never did snow! I was hoping that it would just a little bit so that we could have a white Christmas. Nevertheless, there was a bank of snow left in the parking lot outside of church and I took that opportunity to let Benjamin touch it! It was a very special day at church because Ben's cousin, Kianna was baptized! I was so happy we were able to be there to celebrate with her.
Ben's parents have a big house and a finished basement so we were all able to stay together comfortably (including his sister, who lives there, and the cousin I just mentioned). Monday we all decided to brave the mall to give Benjamin the opportunity to run around and play in the play area. Oh my goodness where there a LOT of people. There were kids bouncing off the walls and running into him where ever he turned. He still seemed to have a good time, though. On our way out we visited the Lego store. He and I have been in the one in Atlanta before, but never when he wasn't in his stroller. He was like a kid in a candy store! He actually picked this set out by himself and totally suckered his aunt and uncle into buying it for him. They kept asking if he liked it and he kept doing his new thing -- nodding emphatically while saying, "yeah". It was the cutest thing and I think anyone would have bought him anything he wanted after that!
That night we all piled into two cars and went through Winter Wonderland at Tilles County Park. I woke Benjamin up just as we were entering and brought him to the front seat to sit on my lap. Basically I immediately stuck a camera in his face, with the flash on, resulting in his awesome expression in the following photo. Ha!
Tuesday (Christmas Eve), we went to Downtown St. Charles (the city where Ben's dad lives), to walk around the shops some. We didn't stay an hour since they were closing early and it was only 22 degrees out! Brr!! Looking around, it is definitely some place I want to visit in our next trip. I saw a couple antique shops that were calling my name.
Christmas morning was everything I hoped it would be for Benjamin! We had agreed to get up at 8 am (the nice thing about Benjamin being the only child, so far, and no say in the matter) and start just after then. First, I wanted to get this photo of Benjamin in his Christmas pajamas, with the blanket I made him while I was pregnant. He was swaddled it for his newborn photos which dubbed as our Christmas card last year. It was hard getting him to sit still for long enough.
Maybe it was because he just had his birthday, so opening gifts is old hat, but he did it like a pro! I expected him to be more into the boxes and paper but he actually really loved his gifts!
The funniest thing was that his favorite out of it all was this sippy cup from his great grandma, Aileen! His main gift from Santa was this Hape Scoot Around. I (I mean... *wink*) was so excited to give it to him and thrilled that he fits it perfectly! He instinctively knew what to do and has very little problem getting on and off of it. Plus, it's so cute and I love the color!
For Christmas dinner (which was wonderful, especially the mac 'n cheese!!) we got dressed up a bit. One of the shirts Benjamin received that morning matched his polar bear sweater vest perfectly! You would have thought it was planned.
Early Thursday morning, Ben's sister and brother-in-law flew back to Atlanta. Upon arriving, his sister realized that she had accidentally taken the rental car keys with her! Oops! Hehe. Luckily the car had OnStar and they were able to unlock the door so that we could get the car seat out [while she overnighted the keys]. We were able to drive my father-in-law's car downtown with Ben's youngest sister and cousin to go to the arch. We didn't have much time but we made the most of what we had!
On Friday, our last full day in St. Louis, we packed our things, to get ready to leave early Saturday. Then, that evening, we went to visit my cousin, Jessica, and her husband, Brian. I was excited to see them and their new house. This is my third year in a row visiting my cousin in St. Louis, so now I'm going to give her a hard time until she comes to see us in Atlanta. *wink*
We got there a little before her husband was off of work and in that time we opened gifts. I got so many great books off of my Amazon Wishlist!! (I already read one of the novels on our drive home!) Once Brian got home, we went to this great local Mexican restaurant for fajitas and margaritas, before visiting more awesome drive thru lights, Santa's Magical Kingdom. Once we were back at the house we played a little Taboo, before heading out. We played a lot of Taboo during this trip and I had forgotten how fun that game is!! 

We left St. Louis around 10:30 am on Saturday, the 28th and arrived in Atlanta around 9:00 pm. The drive home was much crazier with Benjamin (oy!) but we made it! It was a truly wonderful trip and we have so many great memories of our first Christmas together as a family!

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