Friday, December 29, 2017

Colorado Christmas, part Eve

Christmas in Colorado! We went, we returned, we put away all the Christmas decorations yesterday and now it's hard to believe any of it happened at all. Though Cora swanning out of her room in her new Ariel dress while Landon builds a K'nex roller coaster and Claire longs for a class to teach school brings it back.

Full Clan on Keystone Mountain

Our drive to the mountains was smooth and uneventful for the first 12 or so hours. The kids were perfect, the roads were pretty empty, and we flew along the highway, loaded down to the gills with ski clothes, Christmas gifts, hidden Santa presents, Christmas food, regular clothes, and all the stuff you need for a family of five to relocate for several days. I was very proud we fit it all in the car, even if I swear it rode a little lower to the ground.

My mom called midway through our journey to let us know the highway leading to Dillon from Denver was a mess due to a snow storm (and the pass ended up being closed down later). We rerouted, avoiding Denver and coming up to Dillon from the south. We continued cruising, making fantastic time, until 30 miles out when traffic just stopped. Snow was dumping from the sky, the wind was kicking it up to white-out the windshield, the road was invisible, and cars everywhere were going off the road. We have 4WD, so we were gripping the road just fine, but oh my gosh, it was a MESS. Our last 30 miles took more than THREE HOURS. We would be stopped for 10-15 minutes, then crawl forward a few yards, stop for 10-15 minutes, crawl forward a few yards; there were times we weren't sure we'd ever be allowed to move again. The hairpin turns between Alma and Breckenridge were insane- cars sliding out all over the place. There's nowhere to stop or pullover on that road, so you're just stuck on your path, at the mercy of the cars in front of and behind you. And so we pressed on.

our view for 3 hours

On the upside, we had never been more prepared to sleep in our car- full tank of gas, tons of food, all the kids happened to be getting new blankets from us for Christmas, but man, it was a stressful and long end to an already long drive. And the kids are so good- no complaints, just a quiet, resigned waiting. James is so calm and was equally resigned. I was the only one whining, but I tried to do it through family text messages rather than letting my kids know complaining was a valid option. We got to our friend's house in Dillon around 10 p.m. (original ETA 7:05 p.m.) to my very relieved family, dinner prepared by my sister, and a very large glass of wine for me.

The morning dawned snow-covered and gorgeous. Our drive was over and now we were here for a magical white Christmas.

The kids were very excited to see their cousin Sky and my sister had ornaments for them to put together. They always love a craft project!

I luxuriated in wearing all the fleece while looking at snow from the cozy inside, while the kids got dressed to go out and explore the snow we'd brought with us on the car ride the night before. Given Cora's feelings about snow, I was heartened to see her venture forth with her siblings, then chagrined when she immediately fell face first into a snow drift.

I assumed it was over, but her brother came to her rescue and they ended up exploring the backyard as well, staying out far longer than Claire.

Do you wanna build a snowman?

After lunch in the house we headed out to Keystone to go tubing at Adventure Point on top of the mountain. We were optimistic that Cora would participate this year- she was a year older, she'd proven to be quite hardy and brave at Disney World, my whole family was there to tube with her- so we paid for her tubing ticket instead of just getting a free under-5 gondola pass. Spoiler alert: this was a wasted $34.

She was cheerful on the gondola ride, smiling with her sibs instead of scowling like she did in January.

We got a great family picture on top of the mountain thanks to a guy taking just long enough to put his gloves on that I had time to accost him with my request. I love it.

We walked over to the snow fort (my new Sorel snow boots were AMAZING and I love them more than I've ever loved a pair of shoes) and... she remembered that she hates snow.

We all love it,

but she haaaates it. It saps her soul and kills her joy. It is the worst.

The rest of my family met us on the top of the mountain to head to the tubing hill. Cora, after some screaming after she fell on a slide in the snow fort and the snow touched her, refused to tube, to even TOUCH a tube, to consider lowering herself to finding fun in a snow covered hill, so she sat at the top and pouted and/or cried next to her equally unimpressed baby cousin while we took turns flying down a hill.

I got to sled with many combinations of people, from my husband and daughter, to siblings, to my parents. Cora judged us all.

We got home to dinner, my turkey chili I'd made the weekend before, a sharp turn in our usual Christmas Eve fancy dinner tradition. We went to a local church that had a charming service and then back to the house for pj's and presents and Raffi's Christmas Album on the little bluetooth speaker I'd brought from home.

reading before church

Our tradition is to open all non-Santa presents on Christmas Eve.

I love it because it spreads out the gifts and makes the night so very magical as a kid (and still now as an adult). Staying up late, eating snacks, listening to music, taking turns opening and exclaiming over gifts while the lights twinkle and everything is cozy.

It's my favorite few hours of the whole Christmas season.

Everyone got something they'd really wanted. Claire got a giant Pua and her "furreal kitty" that eats and poops and while it sounds terrible to me, you gotta love the face of a kid who just opened something they wanted SO MUCH for SO LONG.

Cora got an Ariel dress she was delighted by and wore while opening everything else, including her "so beautiful" holiday Barbie from my sister.

By far my favorite moment was when she opened and immediately donned her new Jasmine dress. She was flabberghasted by the two-piece situation. "This is my Jasmine dress??" she asked, shocked. "She doesn't wear ANYTHING on her tummy?!" Gesturing wildly toward her middle, "There is NOTHING here in the middle?!!"

Later, she showed me the picture of Jasmine in her Disney photo book I'd made her to prove that the costume was all wrong. Get it together Disney Store, Cora's got her eye on you.

Landon got a hand-controlled drone he'd wanted for MONTHS and was also on-hand to help explain anyone else's gift to them. Landon loves a gift. It does not need to be his.

I got a beautiful jewelry set from James and I got him a artist rendering of the US with all the national parks noted so we can check off our trips. I can't wait to get it foam-mounted and framed. Our next national road trip kicks off next March to Hot Springs, Mammoth Cave, Great Smokey Mountains, and Congaree! Speaking of camping, we got my niece a Little People camper (my sister and brother-in-law have a camper and go on big camping adventures of their own) and my kids loved it as much as she did.

We finished around 10 p.m. or so, just in time for Santa to come after the kids were tucked in bed. I think we had dreams of staying up and playing games, but the adults were all in bed pretty quickly once Santa and his elves were done setting things up for the morning. It was a long and wonderful day, in the usual action-packed Rice-family style, with snow and baby cousins to make it even more fun.

And then it got even better on Christmas Day! More to come.


  1. I've been trying lately to say thank you even to people I don't know for creating work that I enjoy, and I realize I've never thanked you for this blog, so... Thank you! I have a couple of things in common with you: Three kids about the same ages as yours (ours are all boys though), and I also went to college in Austin. I've been reading your blog nearly since it began. I don't even remember how I came across it. But your words have kept me company during so many of those wee hours spent rocking a tiny human, and it's been nice to read about another woman and how she navigates life with a job and a husband and three children. Thank you for sharing, and Happy New Year to you and yours. I hope 2018 brings you more wonderfulness than you ever thought possible.

    1. Thank you so much Steph! What a spark of joy this was to read. When you publish words into a void, it's always so lovely when the void writes back. Happy New Year to you and yours as well!!