Sunday, January 16, 2011

Christmas 2010...

Now that all the dust (and snow) has settled from my hectic Christmas trip, it's time to blog all about it.

The worst part about living in Guam is how inconvenient it is to visit anywhere but the Philippines, Japan or Chuuk. This trip to Arizona would take 24 hours from our house to my parents'. We've never traveled with a baby before, so we were unsure of how the trip would fare.

Maia was remarkably well behaved the whole time. I'd be spoiled if I complained about her during this trip. I've seen people with kids on planes before. Heads spinning, crawling on the celling, opening the windows, riding on the wings... This was much better than I'd expected. I even discovered that the tray tables on the seat in front of you make great makeshift beds. But I recommend you remove the baby before you are served the culinary experiment they call an "in-flight service."

We were only at my parents' house for a couple days before we headed north to visit my Grandma on my mom's side. It will likely be Maia's only chance to meet her. Then, back to Mesa. We visited the Mesa Temple to see the lights.

Then we met up and head north to a cabin. By "we" I mean the whole family. My parents, all my siblings, all their children, casual acquaintances, well-wishers, and we may have even picked up some transients along the way. My mom's excitement was at the boiling point as this was the first time we had all of us together at once in over a decade. We had to take a census just to make sure everyone made it to the cabin.

This cabin was reserved online, so none of us knew what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised. With about 10 bedrooms and plenty of living space, we all fit in much better than anticipated. Having a large kitchen was a necessity due to the amount of food my mom brought. We had enough food to nourish an entire battleship crew at sea for a month.

What I was most looking forward to on this trip was finally feeling cold. Living in Hawaii for several years and now in Guam for 5 years, I miss having my winters. There was some snow, but nothing to blog about...excepting that I'm currently blogging about it...

Me, Maia, Anna, Kris (brother), Sarah (his baby) and Jam (his wife) out for a walk in the snow.

A short drive away there was enough snow to do some sledding. We spent plenty of time there. I bet you expect great footage of this from me. Well, not so much. But I got one cool pic.

At night the kids mostly wanted to run around like wild savages or watch TV...while acting like wild savages. One night we were able to formalize an activity by playing "Minute to Win It." The "Stack Attack" game was popular. This is a game where you start with a stack of cups and need to arrange them into a pyramid. Then, you must collapse the cups back into a single stack in 60 seconds. My nephew Parker thought of a great way to win.

Why bother with the pyramid in the middle? It's so simple, why didn't I think of that?

I participated in "Face the cookie." This is where you place a cookie on your forehead and have to get it into your mouth with use of gravity and your facial muscles. Unfortunately, you also have to use up any ounce of pride you may have left as well. Naturally, I was able to complete the task.

The night before we planed on leaving, we heard there was a storm coming. So, we did the smart thing and preloaded up our cars with the food that we would need on hand should we get snowed in. As it started to snow, we had a snowball fight.

We went to bed to this:

And woke up to this:

The roads were all closed and our cars were buried. We had no choice but to stay. The landscape changed a lot in a short time. Take a look at these two pics. If Al Gore were with us, I'd throw a ball of global warming in his face.


I figured we might as well make the most of it, so we played.
Anna Knee Deep

Meanwhile, my teenage nieces moaned that they had to be stuck in a multi-million dollar cabin with all the luxuries of home and then some. We all felt for them.

We did have a bit of a scare. Mom decided to start rationing the food. She was rightly concerned we might not have enough to survive the blizzard. Some people a few cabins over came to us food shopping as they had run completely out. After we gave them cereal, a dozen eggs, a couple pounds of russet potatoes, a honey glazed ham, and half slab of beef, our supply of food had depleted to the point that we could see parts of the kitchen counter.

The next morning we were advised of a break in the storm that we could use to make our escape. The cars were about half dug out when a few drove carefully to civilization to purchase snow chains for our vehicles. I completed the digging process.

Car Before

Car After

It was ironic that all I wanted for Christmas break was to be cold. At this point, I was knee deep in snow shoveling my Christmas miracle. And due to the exercise, I wasn't cold at all.

When all the vehicles were chained up, free of snow and loaded to the brim with our meager five year food supply, we took our last group shots.

Group Outside

The ride back was pretty treacherous. At some points all we could see was a white haze ahead of us. We attempted to get out before the storm came back with a vengeance. Due to snow chains eating the surrounding wheel well of my sister's Suburban, we couldn't go more than 20 mph. Even then, with every revolution of the wheel, I could see my sister cringe at the thought of the damage being caused. I don't know what the big deal is. Once the snow thaws in the spring, someone will easily identify her bumper and, thanks to the licence plate, track her down to return it.

One of the vehicles may or may not have been lost in the caravan back, but my wife, child and I made it back to Mesa safely, so no regrets. Well, my mom did have one. Due to being snowed in, we missed our appointment with the photographer. I'm sure we'll get another chance to take pictures with the entire family next decade when we get together. Anna decided to have an impromptu photo shoot of our own in lieu.

New Year's Eve was surprisingly uneventful. But we did learn that if you keep Martinelli's on the shelf long enough, that sparking apple cider starts to blur the line between Mormon-safe and a phone call to your Bishop. It may have been 2011, but we were partying like we were drinking bottles from 1999...because apparently, we were.

The rest of the time I spent visiting friends and browsing in stores that are larger than the entire island of Guam. Another favorite pastime was taking walks. Arizona has so many citrus trees open for the plucking. Anna made sure to get more than her fair share. On one outing my mother was concerned that Maia would have cold hands, so she donated some gloves.

Maia's Gloves

Something about this picture just does not look right.

All other free time was spent being my family's personal technical support. I reinstalled Windows on 3 computers, repaired 2 machines and built 1 from scratch. I wonder if surgeons have to perform free appendectomies and hysterectomies when they visit their families.

Anna and I had just enough time for her to get a patriarchal blessing and we were able to visit the Mesa Temple the day before we left. From Heaven on Earth it was off to Dante's seventh layer of Hell, known as "TSA airport screening" to laymen.

So now we are back. It was a great holiday season. Now comes the price of the trip. My lawn has grown over so much while I was away I found an entire tribe of indigenous people living there when I attempted to mow it today. Work piled up so high I had to get a second desk and declare my first one a loss. As much as I enjoyed the vacation, I'm glad to be home. Now, off to Vietnam to do it all over again for Tet, but this time, in a foreign language...