Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas, the Third

Joseph's second Christmas (of 2008) was put on hold so that we could make it in time for Christmas number three in Highland, UT, where Joseph would meet his Great Grandparents for the first time.

We knew this trip would be a little out of the ordinary when before we even reached Las Vegas, we drove through torrential rains and then snow and ice.

Driving through the gorge between Nevada and St. George UT is usually my favorite part of the trip, but sheets of rain blowing sideways through the canyon made for some nervous moments.

Continuing our drive through southern Utah, we began to wonder how we would know if it was safe to keep driving. The answer to that question became clear when the Utah Department of Transportation completely shut down I-15 somewhere just beyond the town of Beaver (my favorite Utah speed trap).

Fortunately, family alerted us to the road closure and secured a motel room in Cedar City (aka Festival City, USA--all cities ought to have an alias), and just south of Cedar City we were soon greeted by snow flurries and very limited visibility.

Around midnight, we pulled into the motel parking lot, and Joseph woke up to check out the new surroundings. Although he usually goes back to sleep quickly in these kind of situations, something about Festival City, USA just got him all fired up:

This night quickly became one of my all-time-favorite memories of our life as a family. It turned out that the motel had already given out all of its porta-cribs to other stranded travelers (much like the gas station had also sold its last ice scraper as well, but that's another matter), so the three of us ended up sharing a bed.

If you remember, for the first year of Joseph's life, he wouldn't nap very well unless one of us held him. We hoped that he would remember these times and quietly go to sleep in our arms. Joseph, however, had other plans.

Joseph's plans involved alternating between rolling back and forth between his parents, tackling his parents, and saying "night night" repeatedly.

Joseph had the time of his life, and even though I was exhausted, I couldn't stop smiling either.

Erin eventually bear-hugged him until he fell asleep, but like his mother he has a habit of kicking others during the night.

We were back on the road by six the next morning, and although the roads were still covered in snow, we tailed a snow plow through the worst of it and made it safely to Grandma and Grandpa's by mid-morning.

Joseph quickly took to his Great Grandma and supplied her with plenty of hugs:

Much like his Great Grandpa, Joseph knows the joy of sitting down with a nice cold one:

Despite his less-than-desirable sleep patterns, Joseph managed to charm one and all and otherwise make himself the center of attention.

Joseph loved being with his Great Grandparents, Grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles. It was fun to see all the generations come together:

Besides meeting his Great Grandparents for the first time, the other big first for Joseph, was his first time playing in the snow.

During the last few weeks of December, Joseph picked up some new words; he had a little language explosion. Here's "snow":

He also liked throwing snow balls, but we didn't get any throws on camera:

And that concludes Three Christmases in one year. Next year we're going to cut back on Christmases, but we're celebrating three times the number of Toddster birthdays instead.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Part Deux

(Warning: This post contains video after video of Joseph opening presents. The alternative was a discussion of the large quantity of corn I made for Christmas Eve dinner. I think I chose the better part.)

Even though December 25th is technically the "real" Christmas, Joseph's second Christmas of 2008 was his shortest.

To start, on December 24th, we drove up to Los Angeles to spend Christmas Eve with the Toddster's entire family.

Joseph was fired up to see his cousins, and even got to stay up way past his bedtime.

(N.B. for posterity's sake. At this time, Nana and Grandpa are still renting a house. Although Nana frequently wears orange, her taste in curtains would never descend to the level of the drapes featured in the background of this photo).

We've mentioned in other posts that Joseph's favorite thing to say is "Tzat?" (translated, "What's that?") On Christmas Eve (Joseph's second, but the real one to everyone else) his Larson cousins got him a book designed for playing "tzat?"

Despite this video being filmed way past his bedtime, you'll notice that Joseph took to it right away, and only says one thing (repeatedly through the whole video):

Joseph's cousins spent Christmas morning at their own respective homes, and Christmas with Nana and Grandpa was much quieter than Christmas Eve.

This picture captures Joseph's Second Christmas pretty well. This is Joseph showing his little Elmo to his big Elmo while wearing his Elmo slippers:

During December, Joseph developed a severe case of Elmo-mania. We're not sure how he learned about Elmo, but whenever we see Elmo, he gets really excited. We showed him the big Elmo in the store a couple of times and his eyes lit up and he giggled with joy each time.

When his Nana heard about that, she did what any Nana would do and ordered an Elmo online.

Here's Joseph first discovering Elmo on Christmas morning (love at first sight):

Joseph dancing with elmo:

Joseph helping elmo (and getting distracted by a nearby box of Jo-Jo's)

Lest you think all he got for Christmas was Elmo, here's Joseph figuring out that he got cars and that he can't get the package open:

Speaking of cars, Christmas at Nana and Grandpa's was put on on hold because Joseph needed to hop into a car so that he could make Christmas #3. But that is a story for our next post.

(The next post involves unexpected twists and danger, so make sure to check back soon for that one.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

In Between Christmases

In between Joseph's First Christmas (of 2008) and his second, we stopped by a nearby house, where the owner (a retired mini-golf mogul) turns his yard and house into Santa's village. He opens up his home to the entire community, and thousands of people from all over show up on the nights leading up to Christmas. Each child that comes can take home a present from Santa, and they have refreshments for everyone. Erin first learned about the house from a co-worker, and then we happened to hear more about it at church, so we decided to check it out for ourselves.

Looking back, the pictures don't do it justice. It's remarkable. I love how it allows families to spend a fun evening out together without spending any money.

It was a lot of fun to see how much the kids (and everyone) enjoyed being there.

Also, after going through these pictures, I discovered that--much like Brad Pitt's character in Ocean's 11--in pretty much every scene from this evening, it appears that Joseph has found something to eat (bet you didn't know that little bit of BP trivia, did you?)

I don't think there are many people with the resources to turn their homes into a mini-amusement park, but I know I walked away inspired to find ways to reach out more to my neighbors, and we had fun bonding as a family.

Also, this is probably my favorite picture of Joseph at Christmas. It reminds me of what Christmas felt like as little child:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Funny Face

Sunday morning I taught Joseph a new trick. It is called "FUNNY FACE" and it involves raising our eyebrows and opening our mouths. It is truly spectacular.

It was difficult to catch on film but here are some glimpses.

We love that our little guy loves to make us laugh.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Joseph takes really good care of his lion. He likes to put it in his high chair and bring it bowls of food, feed it water, and give it his paci. He also gives the lion lots of kisses, which makes Mom jealous.

Usually after mealtime, Joseph puts the lion to sleep, either in a laundry basket or his crib, covers him in a blanket, and says, "nigh nigh!"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Joseph's first Christmas (of 2008).

Because of our holiday travel schedule, this particular family is celebrating Christmas not once, not twice, but three times this year.

This is going to be the greatest Christmas season EVER.

Here's the reasoning for Three Christmases in one year:

We're going to be spending the 24th and the 25th (aka "real" Christmas) with my (the Toddster's) family.

As soon as the festivities end in L.A., we're heading off to Erin's parents' home in Utah where we we will spend a couple of days with Joseph's Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa (whom Joseph has never met, but plans to charm instantly).

Those who have been counting as they read will recognize that we've only accounted for two Christmases (and they would be right).

Christmas #3
Because we didn't want to haul our Christmas presents from San Diego to L.A. and then to Utah and then back (and we heard that we were getting some really huge presents and we didn't want to rent a trailer), we figured we'd have our own family Christmas celebration/gift-exchange before we left town.

On a more personal note, with Three Christmases on the calendar, I figured that I could get over at least 3/8 of the Hanukkah-envy I've felt since childhood.

With that as an introduction, we now present: Joseph's First Christmas of 2008 (sub-titled "Raiders of the Lost Christmas" or "Episode I: The Phantom Christmas").

Christmas at our House

To set the stage, here's what our place looks like decorated for Christmas:

Some of you may be wondering why we only have ornaments on the top third of our tree.

We still have ornaments on the top third of our tree, but only because it wasn't until recently that Joseph discovered he could stand on the presents to reach the top third of the tree (yet another good reason to open presents sooner rather than later).

First Christmas Eve

Anyway, on our first Christmas Eve we pulled out Erin's guitar and sang Christmas carols as a family. Joseph likes the guitar and had fun patting the strings to make music. We don't have any pictures of that, but here are some pictures of Joseph in his moose shirt and moose pants:

After we sang songs, Joseph opened up his Christmas Eve pajamas that Erin had picked out for him. In Erin's family they have an annual tradition of opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve.

Here's a video where Joseph demonstrates how men feel about receiving clothing as a gift:

After we explained to Joseph that the clothes were the actual present, he was happy to put them on.

Here's a picture of Joseph and Mommy in the Christmas pajamas that Mommy bought for both of them.

You may be wondering where you can find the picture of the Toddster in his new Christmas Eve pajamas. Unfortunately it seems that in our family the tradition of Christmas Eve pajamas only extends to Erin's blood relatives, and since I'm only related to Erin through Christmas Eve pajamas for the Toddster.

First Christmas Morning

On First Christmas morning, Joseph learned that presents can mean more than just pajamas. Mommy picked out a set of cars for Joseph that he absolutely loved. He lined them all up and giggled for joy.

He's still laughing a little in this video:

Joseph spent the entire day playing with his cars. He had a grand time driving them all over the place.

One of the highlights of the morning came as we opened up one of Erin's presents and found that during the wrapping process Joseph had thrown his toy donkey and a prescription bottle of allergy medicine into the box without the Toddster noticing.

Daddy also picked out a wooden hammer and peg set for Joseph.

This is a picture of Joseph playing with his hammer and peg set right before he whacked mommy in the ankle.

We don't have anymore pictures of Joseph playing with the hammer and peg set.

Christmas Eating

Erin made a really great breakfast with manly baked omelets, and not-so-manly fruit soup. She also made orange julius, which is something my mom always made on Christmas morning at my house, so it was fun to draw on our respective family traditions in making our own.

After Joseph's nap we got together with our cousins and went out for a late lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Eating at the Spaghetti Factory in Salt Lake has been part of Erin's family's Christmas traditions for a long time, so we were excited to extend the tradition to southern California.

Here's some shots of Joseph enjoying his bowl of noodles (in the dimly-lit restaurant where I struggled with my camera's manual settings):

This is my favorite picture from the outing:

Joseph's First Christmas of 2008 was a smashing success by all accounts (except for Mommy's right ankle).

Stay tuned for future posts on the sequels to Joseph's first Christmas of 2008: Christmas II ("Christmas Strikes Back") and Christmas III ("Return of the Christmas" or "Christmas with a Vengeance").