One of the Sunday School teachers asked us to have Seth tell us the Christmas story in his own words. She writes the Epiphany pageant every year, and was hoping for some kid wisdom. Though some of S’s favorite activities are talking and collecting facts, it can sometimes be quite hard to drag a story out of him:

Betsy: What was the first Christmas about?
Seth: Baby Jesus was born!
B: How did it happen?
S: by God! …just like everything happens by God…
B: But what’s the story?
S: I can’t remember that part, actually. There were angels, I know. And shepherds, I think. That’s enough.
B: Tell me about the star.
S: It pointed to Bethlehem.

And then he wandered off.

Who would have thought that it would take longer to blog about Christmas than to celebrate it? Here’s the condensed version of what’s left to be told. Let me know if you want more details behind any of this!

Christmas morning, our house
Stockings and presents for Todd and Betsy (Seth got his the day before)
Ricotta doughnuts! So good!
Rushing around like crazy, trying to pack for two days out of the house

Christmas day, Betsy’s parents house
Brunch with the family
Opening presents – Seth loved helping!
Nap time for baby, reading and family time for parents
Delicious pot roast feast

Good helper
Good helper
Seth with Aunt Sarah
Looking at toys with Aunt Sarah
Seth on Grandma's lap
Spending time with Grandma
Pot roast, carrots, potatoes and baby
Pot roast, carrots, potatoes and baby

Christmas night/day after Christmas, Todd’s parents house
Seth fell asleep in the car, and was successfully moved to the crib without waking!
Great time in the evening just talking and playing games
Cinnamon rolls in the morning
Aunt, Uncle and cousins arrive
Open presents
Eating cioppino (Italian seafood stew) for lunch
Waffles for dinner, and then back home.

Face full of breakfast
Face full of breakfast
Trying on his cousin's clothes
Trying on his cousin Annika’s new clothes
New truck!
New truck! (He LOVES this truck.)
Three generations of Voelker men, cooking together
Three generations of Voelker men, cooking together

The weekend before Christmas, we drove over to Wenatchee to kick off the Christmas season with my extended family.

Wenatchee is about 150 miles from Seattle and separated from the west coast by the Cascade mountains. On a typical day, this is about a 3 hour drive, sometimes a bit less, depending on traffic. I’ve done this trip at least 2-3 times a year for the past 30 years of my life, so the route is very familiar to me.

That doesn’t mean that it’s always uneventful, though – on Seth’s first trip across the mountains back in May, for example, he got so upset about being in the car that he started crying, a light whine that quickly escalated into a screech so loud that my eyes were blurring when looking at the road, and we had to pull off to the shoulder and just let him be out of his car seat for a few minutes.

In another story, prior to Seth joining the family, I forgot to fill up with gas before going over the pass, and the “low fuel” light came on right as we were starting the push up the mountains – about a half-hour either direction from a gas station. Even though it was 95 degrees outside, we had the windows rolled up and the AC off for maximum fuel efficiency, and I was white-knuckling the steering wheel until we reached a station about 30 minutes later. I vowed to never let that happen again, and was thankful that I learned my lesson before we had a baby in the backseat. (This is what literary types refer to as “foreshadowing”.)

For our trip on Saturday, everything went as smoothly as could be expected. We left the house a few minutes later than we hoped, and our stop at the grocery store in Leavenworth took a little longer as well, and we rolled into town closer to 12:30 than our 12:00 goal, but Seth was in good spirits, the passes had beautiful snow on the mountainsides but none on the road, and everything went well.

When we arrived in Wenatchee, we met up with Amy and Lara, who were unable to make the main Christmas party, and Lara gave Seth his first (’09) Christmas present:

The party was held at the Elliott’s house. Denaye & Gabe’s kids were there as well, including little Isaac who is a few months younger than Seth. There was a big spread of good food, lots of presents, and playing around. Since so many people were taking pictures, I left my camera in it’s case for much of the day, so the following are from my mom’s blog:

Seth hadn’t slept very long in the car ride over, and definitely couldn’t sleep when there was a party going on, so we left a little early to let him calm down and catch some winks at my grandparents house. His nap was short in the afternoon, too, so by the time the Christmas party had ended, and my parents joined us, it was just about time for us to go to sleep.

We had originally debated going over for the party, as Seth had a little cold and Betsy’s throat was feeling scratchy too, but on Saturday morning, we all felt well enough to make the trip. By Sunday morning, though, we all felt like we had been hit by trucks the day before – Seth was pretty wheezy, my nose was running non-stop, and Betsy sounded like Louis Armstrong every time she tried to talk. We skipped out of town a little early so that we could get home to rest.

I suppose I don’t need to tell you what gauge I forgot to check on the way out of town, nor what light helpfully came on while ascending the steep east side of the mountains, nor what color my knuckles were on the steering wheel while imagining myself hitchhiking on the side of the road while the frozen rain poured down in buckets around me. It is worth noting, however, that once you make it up to the top of Steven’s Pass, one can coast in neutral nearly the entire way to the Chevron station in Skykomish, and that’s actually pretty fun to do.

Overall, though, it was a great trip, and spending time with family was a fantastic way to start the season.