We enjoyed giving gifts to each other and delighted in the thoughtfulness of each gift. Matthew LOVED his first K'nex set, and spent several happy hours building neat contraptions with Nathan. What a cozy way to spend Christmas Day!
He was so excited to show me each new creation.
Here is Sarah with the beensy needle book I made for her. This girl loves to sew and embroider cute creations, so this was such a fitting gift.
That afternoon, we packed the van and left for a grueling 24-hour drive to reach my parents' house in Idaho. We don't usually travel over mountain ranges in the winter, but my sister, Rachael, was coming home from her 18-month mission in Fort Worth, so the extended family was gathering for a reunion. It is such a rare treat to have all of us gathered together, especially when one considers that we are spread to the four corners of the county: Washington, Texas, North Carolina, and North Dakota are the places we call home. Family gatherings are such a big deal!
The winter weather treated us to scary road conditions several times as we crossed the Rockies. It sure was adventurous and my adrenaline was pretty high as we crept along icy roads dusted with powdery snow- the perfect recipe for sliding out of control. We like to cut our way in a mostly-direct path acoss the country, instead of staying on major interstates. In northern New Mexico, we cut through the Navajo reservation. The roads were pretty scary there- the whirling snow reduced visibility by quite a bit. Then we reached our turn-off onto a beensy dirt path that cut through the wilderness for several miles before rejoining a paved road. I remember questioning whether we'd regret taking this path, but the icy roads were so bad we thought it might be safer to be on the empty dirt road as the lone car sliding around, rather than being surrounded by the other cars sliding out of control on the main road. Of course there were no houses in sight and no cell phone reception during this stretch of the journey, making it a memorable experience with super-slippery road, no traction, and white knuckles on the steering wheel. The steep mountain passes were rather scary, but we were blessed with a safe drive and were so relieved to arrive on the Muir farm without any serious mishaps. (But we did unanimously agree we're never doing winter travel like this again!)
The little cousins loved playing together for days and became such good friends.
|Pictured here are (left to right): Spencer, Cody, Matthew, and Gabe.|
|Pictured here (left to right) are Crystal, Grace, Sarah, and Abigail.|
It was such a joyous occassion to reunite with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandma at a cousin's wedding reception the first night we were in Idaho. It was so delightful to see each other again and share the stories of our goings-on. Family is such a treasure indeed, and we spent hours chatting with relatives while outside a blizzard buried our cars in the sub-zero Rexburg winters that I don't miss one bit.
|Me with my Grandma Nelson|
Sarah is in heaven. This little Texas Penguin has been absolutely in ecstacy to play in so much snow. The first day we were here, she exclaimed to me, "Grandma Muir let me do the most fun thing ever! She let me take a big plastic shovel and remove the snow from the patio and the sidewalk! I even cleared a path to the barn! It's SO much fun! I love it!" How delightful! I'm sure Grandma was very happy to let Sarah do all the shoveling chores, and Sarah is content to believe it's all a grand game. She has been playing in the snow without mittens, hat, scarf, or boots. She'll happily play for hours in just thin leggings and a thin top while everyone else is bundled in several layers.
Yesterday I happened to see her outside the kitchen window, frolicing in the snow. She was laughing in pure joy, running and leaping through the snow drifts and kicking the powdery snow high into the air with her bare feet. I've never seen her quite so joyful. She was completely by herself, just reveling in the fresh snow. Her legs were coated with snow, and white powder topped her bare head as she ran circles over and over around the backyard. She reminded me very much of an energetic puppy or frisky filly the way she pranced around. What a magical moment it was!
Sarah is the older girl cousin, so the younger girls adore her and try to be like her. Crystal just idolizes Sarah and tries so hard to copy her. Sarah stays outside as much as possible to enjoy the frigid temperatures (Even taking her food outside during dinner to eat in the cold air!) so Crystal has been trying to do the same. It's so funny- Crystal is a bit more hesitant to remain so long in the cold but she really really wants to be like Sarah, so she good-naturedly forces herself to do it. Here Sarah was reading stories to the cousins on Grandma Muir's porch. This was the warmest day of our visit, pegging out in the high 20s. Many days stayed stubbornly below zero all day, which bothered Sarah not a bit.
Grandpa Austin attached a sled to the back of his four-wheeler, then took grandchildren for rides around their large pasture. The boys LOVED riding through thte snow! Matthew begged him to go faster than anyone else, and he flew through the powder on his sled. His face caught the snow that was flying in the air, filling his nose and mouth completely. Even though he couldn't breathe anymore, he loved every bit of it and was reluctant to stop and clear his face.
We were blessed with the unique opportunity to go skiing for free one day at Kelly Canyon Ski Resort, so I was able to cross off another item on my bucket list. Here we are, riding in the same Suburban of my childhood summer vacations, headed to the ski resort. (The sunglasses were stuck in my hair, which is why I'm holding them that slightly-awkward way.)
|Pictured (left to right): Robert, Rachael, Nathan, and me|
I had never skiied before and was always rather afraid of such an idea. I am terrified of going downhill at high speeds. (Indeed, my kids tease me constantly any time we do a family bike ride. We have a very gradual but very long slope on our neighborhood bike route, and I ride my bike brakes the entire way down, inching my way super-slowly down the road while everyone else flies by to the bottom in a quick dash.)
It felt so surprisingly foreign to have the unwieldy skis strapped to my feet. I was rather dismayed how difficult they were to manuever. Becky and Robert were such patient teachers, helping me learn the basic techniques on the beginner's bunny hill. I felt so uncoordinated and awkward, but was able to graduate to the Skiier's Lane (although in hindsight I think they convinced me to try the Skiier's Lane long before I was really capable of handling it- I still struggled with very basic movement). Oh heavens, I have always been terrified at the thought of riding a ski lift- it's my two worst irrational fears combined- heights and the possibility of falling.
Skiing on a mountain was a whole different ball game, and I couldn't control myself at all! I was so afraid the entire ride down the mountain! I did more falling than anything as we worked our way down the slope and I'm sure it took me about an hour to eventually read the bottom. If I didn't have Becky and Robert there coaching me and helping me get up each time I was trapped on the ground, I definitely would have taken off my boots and hiked down while carrying my skiis. I was so scared (remember my crazy fear of downhill speed?) I was so tempted to cry several times. But the tears would have just frozen on my cheeks and wouldn't have changed anything, so there was no point in crying. It was the hardest thing to force myself to keep trying and not give up, since I was so scared each time I lost control and couldn't slow down. Nathan was so patient and encouraging, staying by my side the entire day, no matter how slowly I went anywhere.
After successfully reaching the bottom of the mountain, I was content to stick to the bunny hill. It was so much easier to maneuver in comparison to the steep slopes of the mountain, and I had such a fun time! My confidence and ability really grew. I didn't mind at all that I was having such thrills from the beginner slope, and spent the rest of our time there. Nathan was such fun company and stuck with me through all my 'cheap thrills'. Any time I encouraged him to leave and play on the more exciting slopes, he'd laugh and remind me that he only came along to spend time with me and he didn't care where we went as long as we were together.
Overall, it was a positive experience- I learned new things and was able to spend the day with my sweetheart doing something I saw as adventurous and difficult.