We’d never traveled longer than an hour and a half from home with the kids, so this year’s Christmas visit to San Diego was a big first. We couldn’t do it until this year because in the past my mom was concerned that the twins were too young to have any self control, and the newly remodeled house was not baby proofed. Mark and I decided the best plan for our trip would be to drive an hour, eat dinner on the road, and then have James and Julia let the gentle rumble of the road take them to sleepyland.
Well that was the theory.
What actually happened was that our Subway dinner in Gilroy ended up taking 1 1/2 hours (how does it take so long with kids?), and then Mark got to give the coldest diaper changes ever in the back of the Prius. It was 45 degrees outside and windy! Then out of nowhere James vomited when we put him in his car seat. (It turned out to be a slight cold.)
Last stop for 430 miles!
The kids drifted off to sleep and then an hour later they woke up. After that every 20-30 minutes Julia would stir and then cry for 5 minutes, waking up James. It was a long drive.
Ever since last year’s traumatic Santa photo, James has been terrified of the jolly guy, so when James heard several months earlier that Santa was going to bring presents to San Diego for Christmas, he started telling us he didn’t want to go to San Diego or even have Christmas. A week before we left I told the twins that Santa had agreed to meet with me earlier in the day and gave me the presents, and I hid them in the attic.
Anyway, because of James’s San Diego fear we didn’t actually tell them where we were going until we were 10 minutes from San Diego. Luckily James was happy to hear the news, and when we rolled up to the house at 3:15 a.m., they were pretty excited to see Papa and Gaga who met them at the car and showed them all around the house.
|Gaga gives James a hug upon arriving.|
Then it was time to settle into our new sleeping accommodations. The four of us shared my old room, with the kids sleeping on thick blankets on the floor. It took quite awhile to get them settled because they were used to a dimmer and didn’t like how dark it was when I turned off the light. And then there was the night light. Julia insisted on seeing it while she slept while James insisted on not seeing it, so their bedding had to be moved around according. We finally all settled in at 4:30 a.m. and then Mark and I got to hear them sing to themselves while we tried to sleep.
More on the sleeping accommodations: The next night Julia moved into a kid’s travel tent and then I had to take it away by the end of the trip. That was because she would call me several times a night because she couldn’t find her pillow or Bunny because of the way she moved around the inside of the tent while sleeping. James and Julia weren’t used to sharing a room, and until Mark put foil over the windows the room had a lot more light than they were accustomed to so the first couple days they didn’t nap. (And I was so tired that one day I napped on the living room sofa, and I was awakened by my mom not seeing me and lifting up and moving the sofa. How often does someone move a sofa? And why does it happen to be the one time I’m lying in it? Next, Michael woke me to ask if the twins are asleep. He actually woke me to ask.)
Julia and James asleep on the floor of my old room. Julia likes to stick her foot out of the tent Wicked Witch of the East-style while sleeping.
After hearing one of the twins say, “Don’t break it,” Mark entered the room during naptime, and he laughed as Julia quickly dove into the tent upon seeing Daddy as though she knew she was supposed to be in there sleeping. As at home the kids got a small treat every day if they didn’t call us during naptime. Mark heard Julia tell James to call for me one day after they’d finished their naps as though she didn’t want to risk losing her precious candy corn. Another day I heard Julia wake up in the morning and ask repeatedly, “What’s that noise, James?” (Psst, kids... it’s Daddy snoring.)
In preparation for the big arrival of the grandkids, Gaga bought lots of toys, and Papa got new wood for my childhood picnic table and painted it blue. Julia and James hadn’t seen Uncle Michael since last Christmas. Upon seeing him, James wanted “up” from me, meaning he wanted me to pick him up to keep him safe. Julia tried to greet Michael with a fist bump, and then schooled him on how to hold his hand for it since he had it open.
|Julia and James play poker at the table Papa made for them.|
|Julia gives Uncle Michael a fist bump.|
The first morning the twins got to try out their new booster seats during a pancake breakfast courtesy of Papa. James was very intrigued by the chocolate syrup and we let him try just a little bit with his pancakes. (Verdict: Not surprisingly James’s face lit up upon trying it.) Afterwards they discovered the bowl of Rolos, but their interest in them was not to eat but to build. Thereafter following every meal, Julia (who was particularly interested in Rolo construction) lined them up and James stacked them like a fortress.
|First morning in San Diego means pancakes for breakfast!|
|James is excited to discover chocolate syrup.|
|Julia and her Rolo empire|
The twins were not at all used to being in a two story house, and were very good about waiting for us to go up and downstairs. Most mornings they enjoyed keeping vigil at the bottom of the stairs for Gaga to come and join them.
|Waiting for Gaga to come downstairs|
The twins also got to sightsee around San Diego. Our first stop was the Children’s Pool in La Jolla where the sea lions lounge on the beach. Julia and James were uninterested in the sea lions but liked climbing around on the rocks and running in the sand. Another day they ate a deli lunch at our beloved D.Z. Akin’s. They were excited to pick out rainbow sprinkle cookies from the bakery while Gaga selected her Christmas cookies.
|Mommy and James at the beach next to the Children’s Pool.|
|Julia likes her perch.|
|Julia visits “The Deez” for the first time.|
|Nora meets us and promptly flashes Julia.|
|James at the Reuben H. Fleet|
|James is in heaven during his 8 minutes in Kid City.|
The twins had a lot of visitors. Pam and Keith came to see Julia and James because as Pam put it, “This is the closest I’ll ever get to having grandkids.” John Bregante stopped by with his son Austin and brought the twins candy canes which they tried for the first time. Because it involved sugar, James was particularly enamored. Other visitors included Beth and Danny and their sons Max (3 months older than the twins) and Cole (8 months). We went to high school together and Beth and I had been chatting a lot online since having kids of similar age. We meet up at Princess Del Cerro Park, where I used to play softball and had my birthday party back in 1983.
|Gaga, Julia, Pam, Mommy, and James|
|James holds his first candy cane. John reclines in the background.|
|Beth with Cole at the Princess Del Cerro Park playground|
|With my friends in front of the playground at my birthday in 1983. I’m in the front right.|
Luke, Michael’s friend since grade school, stopped by one day with his sons Judah (3 ½) and Asher (2). While seeing my mom and Julia put ornaments on the tree, Luke offhandedly mentioned how Asher was prone to breaking things and that he has taken their ornaments off the tree and thrown them. While Asher played elsewhere in the house, Luke continued chatting while the rest of us wondered where exactly energetic Asher was and what he was getting into. Upon their leaving Julia pointed to Judah and announced, “I like this one.”
|Julia selects bristle blocks for the tree instead of ornaments.|
|Luke with Asher|
The twins get involved with the pre-Christmas festivities, and we went on several walks around the neighborhood to see Christmas lights. Julia sang nonsense words to the tune of the chorus in Jingle Bells, and then finished each line with a word like “lamp” or “blueberries.” Each time James laughed. Once he didn’t and Julia commanded, “Laugh, James.”
Papa’s birthday was the 23rd, and James was particularly excited about it between opening presents, eating fried fish (he went nuts and kept demanding more), and scarfing down pie. Our gift to Papa was a hat that will match James’s and replace the one he lost.
|James is excited about pie and so is flying Julia.|
|Papa's favorite present|
Papa received kid car seats for his SUV just like he wanted. The only problem was the twins were afraid to get in them. James finally did a ride along when Mark and I accompany him, but Julia was still unwilling until a month after Christmas. (Now they are thrilled to ride in them.)
Mark and I took the twins to the Hotel Del Coronado in the rain to see the giant Christmas tree. The real attraction for Julia and James ended up being the old-fashioned elevator. They were too scared to ride but were fascinated by it, and ended up climbing three flights of stairs to keep watching it go up and down.
|I walk in the rain through the hotel courtyard with the twins.|
|Julia and James in front of the Hotel Del tree|
|James and Daddy play with Imaginets.|
On Christmas morning, Santa left the kids presents for the first time (ones you may recall Santa gave to Mommy before we left for San Diego), and James and Julia came downstairs in their pajamas to look under the tree to see what Santa got them. I thought they’d go nuts seeing lots of unwrapped presents at once, but Julia didn’t even want to come over at first. They were pretty calm and just wanted to play with each toy one at a time, and we ended up having to lead them each time to the next toy. They also got presents in their stockings for the first time.
|Asleep in the wee hours of Christmas morn|
|Playing with a gift from Santa|
|Julia peruses her stocking.|
|Julia finds a Slinky in her stocking.|
|Papa the elephant|
|Kathy wears Julia's tiara.|
|Mark the court jester|
|Julia and her new finger lights|
After the What-did-Santa-leave-under-the-tree-pleasantries, we started opening gifts for realsies.
|Julia and James open their new craft kit.|
|James and Julia take care of opening our gifts, too.|
|Julia during a rare moment of only carrying ONE present at a time.|
|After carrying it over she helps open it too.|
|Julia wears her new glasses upside down.|
|Thanks, Mom. Now I'm going to have nightmares.|
|James and his Tickle-Me-Elmo|
|Michael likes his annual "Nerd Shirt" gift from Kathy.|
|Mark pretends to nap under all the wrapping paper.|
My dad has been decorating his room with pictures of the kids since they were born. My mom calls it “The Shrine” with good reason - the pictures cover the walls, going all the way up to the ceiling. I finally saw it Christmas night. It was sweet but a little creepy and felt like I’d stumbled into a serial killer’s lair.
|Dad, it's sweet but a little stalker-y.|
We had to drive home the day after Christmas, and the morning began with another breakfast of pancakes. James and Julia then played 1-2-3 Hug, running between Papa and Michael (whom they’d warmed up to) while Mark and I packed. We left later than planned at nearly 12:30 p.m. which was unfortunate because the twins got frustrated playing with toys once it got dark. And since we had a ridiculously long 1 ¾ hour stop for lunch at Chick-Fil-A (Kids make everything take longer. Much much longer.) we didn’t have that much time on the road before it got dark. Julia fussed every 30 minutes once she fell asleep, and unlike the drive to San Diego nothing was able to soothe her. We finally pulled up to our house at 12:40 a.m. swearing off long drives... until next year of course. And Julia and James keep asking now when we can return to San Diego.
|Uncle Michael plays 1-2-3 Hug with James.|
|And with Julia|
|During a pit stop during the drive back, the twins were very excited to see this display at Target and shouted, "Bras! Bras!" James then looked at me and loudly asked, "Mommy, are you wearing a bra?"|