christmas vacation

Some people spend their holidays in a snowy cabin in the Alps.

Some people spend Christmas on a warm beach in the Caribbean.

But us? We decided to spend our Christmas in small-town Iowa.

You're balling your fists up in a rage of jealousy, aren't you?

But really, Iowa is a great place to spend Christmas. After an 8 hour drive with a whiny (but not puking!!!!!!!) toddler, Iowa was a very welcome sight. Gracie didn't throw up, but in an epic plot twist, James suddenly pulled the car over 10 minutes into the drive and threw up on the side of the outer belt. He's completely fine, but I was convinced it would be a sign of things to come.

By the power of Christmas spirit, it was not.

We didn't have any mishaps a la Griswold Christmas Vacation (though I kept waiting for us to wind up under one of the many semis), but I did wear my Christmas Vacation sweater. With leggings. A class act. 

Cousin Eddie would've been proud.

Back to Iowa. As we crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River and drove into Iowa, it started snowing. The little town we drove through, where Antique Archeology is located, is Iowa's version of Stars Hollow. Even James was enchanted. There were wreaths and lights covering the old Victorian homes and shops and restaurants, snow, riverboats docked on the side of the river, and signs that said "a Le Claire Christmas!" It was all very Currier and Ives and dreamy.  

We drove up the river to my parents' house and pulled in just as the snow was getting a little too intense to drive in.  We spent the next morning, on Christmas Eve, visiting their new house that they'll move into next month. It's stunning. It's tucked away in a large wooded lot with hills, a little creek, and two fireplaces inside. I know it's frowned upon due to my age and life situation, but I'm tempted to move back in with them. 

Just part of their side yard, nbd.

Gracie gave us an early Christmas present and started walking all over their new house. I was floored. She's been walking here and there for months, but she's never excited about it and never takes more than a few steps at a time. I've been convinced she would either push her walker or crawl down the aisle of her wedding one day. But something came over her, and she walked and squealed. It was the perfect way to christen the new house.

We went to the coffeeshop (THE coffeeshop) afterwards for eggnog lattes. It was so good I nearly wept, and I'm weeping that I couldn't finish it because I got carsick. Just as long as it wasn't Gracie getting carsick. 3 months later and I still haven't recovered. Later that evening, we went to a local park to drive through the Christmas lights. They put up a huge display, and it was gorgeous and so much fun. Gracie loved it. I loved it. We all loved it. The best part, other than Gracie's slap happy screams and giggles, was that I could be in my pajamas the whole time. I thought it was hilarious that there were several riverboat displays. You're cute, Iowa. It was the perfect way to spend a Christmas Eve.

We tried over and over to get a family picture on Christmas Eve, but it never worked. After shunning her naps two days in a row, she was a disaster. This is literally the best picture we could get, and I'm still laughing about it. It perfectly sums up life with a sleep-deprived toddler.

I started to fully understand that quote from Christmas Vacation: "What can I say? It's Christmas and we're all in misery."

That's a woman who's had a toddler or two in her life.

I kid...pun intended.

I got almost zero sleep that night due to a horribly timed bout of insomnia, and I woke up illegally cranky on Christmas morning. I got over it very quickly once I downed a mug of coffee and we started helping Gracie open her presents. Every little gift in her stocking was like the best gift she's ever received. It was so precious. She got a bit overwhelmed after awhile, and we started opening her presents for her while she sat on the floor playing with her alphabet magnets.

We all got the deepest desires of our heart. I found a magazine from 1948 for my mom that is perfect for her to frame in their new house. She sent me a picture of it months ago, and I managed to find it on eBay. James got the onesie he was hankering for (I want one too!), my dad got his new joke calendar, and I got pajama pants with cats and llamas on them (also a letterfolk board and I'm ridiculously pumped).

Joe the cat got a bag to sit in. It was his way of making sure we never forget what a gift he is.

Cats these days.

My dad's friend came over that afternoon and stayed for awhile while Gracie played with her new dollhouse and I hid in the kitchen eating cookies. Gracie decided to start walking again after Christmas dinner, and she was zooming up and down the kitchen giggling with delight. It was possibly my favorite moment of the whole year and how I'll always remember this Christmas. 

We drove home Monday. It was the longest drive of my life, and I'm convinced it took a week instead of a full day. Gracie was OVER it and cried until we broke our rules and let her watch Daniel Tiger on James' phone. I wasn't one to talk about rules, seeing as how I wore my pajama pants into Cracker Barrel for lunch (desperate times). Even though G took her nausea medicine, I was terrified watching a show would make her sick. Just talking about watching tv in the car is enough to send me running for the toilet. But on the contrary! Gracie was as happy as could be. We'll do anything to survive those miserable drives. I'm afraid I can never go without James again. Having the luxury of entertaining Gracie or curling up in a ball in the passenger seat with a blanket and a snack is more than I could have ever dreamed of.
Plus, now he knows what a superhero I am for doing those drives by myself with a puking, crying baby.

He had most of yesterday off, and he spent his entire time at home assembling Gracie's red, 1950s style play kitchen. I thought it would be easy to assemble, but when he opened the box, there were more screws and tools than in a Lowes. It's not 100% finished yet, but it's the most incredible thing in the world. Gracie and I had the time of our lives playing with it this evening, until she discovered the cap on the toy water bottle doesn't come off.

You would've thought I told her she has to live in a world without Pooh Bear. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go pretend to make dinner on Gracie's kitchen. She's in bed...I just really want to play with it some more. 

Don't tell her I'm playing without her. We don't need another water bottle moment.


  1. What a beautiful, beautiful Christmas, my friend! Could not be any happier for you! <3 I also loved the IG story of Gracie cooking in her new kitchen 💕💕💕

  2. That failed family photo up there is what MY dreams are made of. That's real life!!!

    I love that you had such a wonderful Christmas- you've had a tough year and you deserve to close it out on a barf-free note. (I mean, other than James, but at least he can clean up his own barf)

  3. That sounds like an amazing, magical Christmas. I'm so glad there were no big puking episodes (sorry, James). I can't wait to see what you do with your letterfolk board.

    Her kitchen is the most beautiful thing ever. Parker loves his, too, and spends most of his time playing in the sink. Obviously I must spend enough time doing dishes that he thinks that's where the real action happens.

    Have you ever thought about buying a back of the seat DVD player for her? I keep thinking it would be a worthwhile road trip investment.

  4. I can't believe James puked at the beginning of the trip. That almost funny but also so weird! Haha! Also... James getting the onesie he wanted... HAHAHA!
    Sounds like it was a perfect Christmas! I'm so glad! You guys deserve it! Ha!

  5. Minus the insomnia and toddler nap-strike, your Christmas sounds beautiful! And hooray for barely any puking episodes!

    Gracie's kitchen is everything I wish my kitchen actually looked like.

  6. What a great Christmas! A house in the woods with two fireplaces? You need to start packing your bags for the move...!


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