Friday, December 26, 2008

Let the vacation begin...

In case you were wondering, we did, finally, make it to Phoenix. Our third departure attempt over 5 days left on-time from Seatac on Wednesday evening / Christmas Eve. Thanks, Steve, for booking that on Southwest.

We were able to meet up with Tory, Dawn & the cousins in the Seatac terminal before our departure. The kids were able to play a bit before we headed to our separate gates.
Thanks, Weigels, for taking the dog with you. Really.

Christmas morning arrived too early (considering we weren't in bed until after 3:00am local time), but the kids somehow endured the situation without too many complaints. They were excited to get a Wii from Santa!

Oh yeah, Alexia lost a tooth while on the plane, so we also had a visit from the Tooth Fairy. Here she is sporting her new look while opening presents:

And a photo of a happy Mikayla opening presents:

And a photo of a happy Josie and Maggie:

And a photo of a happy Tory, willing to test out the Wii while the kids braved the winter Arizona weather to go swimming:

Bette and Ron were not quite as impressed with the Wii as everyone else:

Sue orchestrated a fantastic Christmas Day dinner that left everyone well satisfied. Unfortunately we were all to busy eating to take any photos. We ate dinner under the covered patio while the cool weather was abated by Steve's awesome outdoor propane heaters:

The evening news on Christmas in Phoenix had reporters interviewing Phoenix residents about the rainfall that arrived on Christmas. Contrary to my expectations, these people were honestly thrilled and excited to be rained upon for Christmas. Honestly. Thrilled! And excited!

One resident who had taken up playing his viola in the rain at a local shopping center claimed that he was glad for the rain on Christmas because now it really does feel like winter. I tried to find an online video of that... but couldn't. Reportedly this is the first Rainy Christmas they've had in 14 years.

Friday (today), things started out pleasant enough. Kids wanted to swim and play... then we would go out for lunch, see a movie and then visit the Zoo Lights in town this evening.

Steve took me for a pleasant ride in their new Saturn Sky:

The sun was out, but so was the wind... and apparently so was the flu bug.

Just before we left for lunch, Alexia began complaining of stomach pains... and a short while later left her cookies on the sidewalk outside a TGIF, if you know what I mean. Now she's down for the count and doesn't want me to post any pictures about it.

Tanya and I stayed at the house with her while Mikayla went with the rest of the group to lunch and to see the Bedtime Stories movie.

For now we're just crossing our fingers with hopes that things go smoothly tomorrow and everyone is feeling better.

I'm scheduled to fly home Sunday morning, but the girls have extended their vacation out until Thursday, 1/1/09.

Merry Christmas everyone... hopefully your Christmas has been just as memorable as ours has.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We're a little ahead of schedule on the holiday calendar... so MERRY CHRISTMAS! to all of you.

Due to the planned trip to Arizona and the luggage restrictions, we opted to open our presents on Dec 19th, just before we were scheduled to depart for AZ.

Well... that was about 5 days ago.

On Christmas Eve day we'll be heading back to Seatac for our third attempt to reach Phoenix. Attempts #1 & #2 are summarized here, if you missed it.

You won't believe this, but the weather forecast is predicting another 4 or 5 inches of snow between now and when our plane is scheduled to depart on Wednesday afternoon.

The kids are highly pessimistic and if they could change their Christmas list it would now say they just want to go to Arizona.

Deep breath...
Please pray for us.

In other news, I convinced Tanya to try out snowshoeing in the backyard today.

After her brief, injury-free, excursion she indicated that snowshoes will not be added to her Christmas list for this year. Or any year.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!


Monday, December 22, 2008

The 12 {%#&#@$! of Holiday Travel

We had a fantastic plan for a memorable Christmas break vacation this year. It was so simple and easy: Fly to Arizona on the 20th... live the good life... come back home on the 28th.

The adventures since we first left home are worthy of a TV miniseries. Possibly on The Travel Channel... but The Weather Channel, Discovery Health, CNN or TRU TV channels might be more appropriate.

Now it's almost Dec. 22nd and we are at home. Again.

Tanya summed up our adventures pretty well using the 12 Days of Christmas methodology:

12 or more hours at the airport
11 hives on Alexia
10 dollars for a personal pizza
9 trips up four flights of stairs
8 dollars of water in the garbage
7 pieces of luggage
6 more inches of snow
5 hours to retrieve our luggage
4 upset family members
3 hours standing in line to book a new flight
2 canceled flights
1 puppy needing a pee break

Let me elaborate just a bit on some of the details for you. I have to be selective because otherwise this will just go on and on.

It all started out with the snow. The snow that we NEVER get. You may recall that it never snows here.

We left the house 3 hours earlier that we normally would have. We did this because we already have a lot of snow at our house and a blizzard was forecasted to becoming in. Yes, they said that on the news: blizzard. It was scheduled to hit Seattle an hour or two before our departure time. That 80 mile drive sucks in snow and ice.

We go through security and buy $8 of water bottles... and dinner: chowder and two pricey personal pizzas.

We board on time... about 6:30pm or so.

We off load 90 minutes later back to the Seatac terminal. Can't take off because runways are icy and crosswinds exceed the capabilities of the aircraft.

Tanya gets into the customer (dis)service line while also calling her father to rebook the flight.

I take the girls, and the dog, for a 3 mile walk to the baggage claim, with all the carry on luggage, in our Arizona attire, so the dog can make yellow snow in a blizzard with 60 mph blowing snow. Let the fun begin. The baggage claim area is the only spot for animals to take a pee break.

Expecting the flight to be cancelled, we wait for Tanya near the baggage claim area. With all the stranded passengers there weren't any seats, so we found some real estate on the floor, next to a wall, with a territorial view of a unicyclist.

We waited. We bought two muffins and a cinnamon roll and a coffee. We waited some more. The girls played. The girls fought. Daddy almost cried. The dog had to pee, again.

Tanya called and claimed "They might be loading the plane! Come back over here! Quick!".

We pack up and rush to security. I got busted for trying to bring over our $8 of water (now in the garbage).

We pause momentarily to witness numerous police / TSA people approach an individual and when they talked to him he got up and tried to escape. Weapons were drawn, the suspect has three laser points on his head/body. He still wasn't willing to cooperate and we then heard a loud POP... and the guy dropped to the ground: Tasers!

Can't stick around... gotta go board the plane... we find Tanya still in the same line, in the same location... and no one is boarding any planes. False alarm.

We make ourselves as comfortable as possible, waiting for the final word on whether we will fly or get cancelled. Meanwhile, the blizzard continues.

Alexia starts itching.
Alexia breaks out in hives... from head to toe.
Tanya calls the doctor (yes, speed dial).
Doctor suspects she's having a reaction to her antibiotic and informs us that we can't get on the plane in case she begins having breathing difficulties... so we just need our luggage so we can go home. Can't get luggage until flight is officially canceled.

Tanya asks a stranger for some Benadryl for Alexia (and was successful on the first inquiry)!

While waiting the girls watched a movie and read books, but finally just conked out.

Flight is officially cancelled at 2:05am (now early Sunday morning). Next flight will be Monday.

Head to baggage claim to wait for the luggage... with 5,000 other stranded passengers and their 10,000 pieces of luggage.

Finally... at 3:15a.m. we are in the car and ready to drive home through a blizzard. All the hotels were full with stranded passengers.

Arrive home at 6:05am. Unload car, go to bed.

2:00pm Sunday: Make the snowy/ice 80 mile drive to Seatac again. Lucky to get a reservation at La Quinta. Starts to snow again.

Hotel room has chocolate covered raisins on the floor. Chocolate and Raisins are poison to dogs. Mikayla is in hysterics. Dog survives. Mikayla survives. Watch in-room movie and go to bed. Snow continues.

3:45am Monday: Wake up call so we can return to airport for a 7:20am flight. Find out flight has already been canceled due to the fact that Alaska Airlines has run out of de-icer. Our internal clocks are all screwed up and no one can go back to sleep.

Breakfast in the lobby and a lady had her purse stolen, right next to us.

Repacked the car and left to make the snowy/icy 80 mile drive back home.

17 inches of snow at home... too high for even the Pathfinder... more snow coming Tuesday night... and we're scheduled back at the airport for attempt #3 Wednesday night.

It's too bad I don't have the stamina right now to give you the full details because it really is quite a tale.

"One day we'll all look back on this and laugh!". I hope so.

In the meantime, thanks to Tanya, the kids and of course, Sue & Steve, for their determination, persistence and dedication in making this trip work one way or the other.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Day!

The snow just keeps coming!

It seems that we go for a few years with minimal snow... just long enough for everyone to complain that we NEVER get any snow at our house. Then... we have a year like this where the snow just keeps falling.

Yesterday the schools were two hours late. Today all the local school districts were closed.

By 3:00 today we had 9 inches of snow on the ground. Woo Hoo!!

The girls spent all day playing in the snow: sledding, making snow angels and snow men. The dog jumped into snow that was almost as deep as she is tall... and came out with a coat of snow stuck to her fur.

Dad braved the drive to work, but opted to come home a little early to beat the traffic and darkness... and decided it would be wise to put the old studded tires on the car. I was holding off because they need to be replaced and, well, we NEVER get any snow at our house.

All the local districts, except for our district, have already announced closures for tomorrow. Despite all the fun they had today, the girls are hoping that school is NOT cancelled because it is supposed to be Pajama Day at school which they've been looking forward to all year long.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow!! Makes it feel like Christmas.

First snowfall of the season... finally.

Good timing, too, as we've been doing all-things Christmas today: Shopping, Sunday School Christmas Pageant practice, mail a package at the Post Office and a 4-H Holiday Party which involved ice skating and pizza.

It's still snowing (and it's 12:45am).

Here are two pictures taken about 5:00pm today on a freeway off ramp. You can see the snow flakes as blurs around the streetlight. The two pics are a result of using two different camera settings, but I forgot which two they were. They might have been "blueberry" and "orange" settings.

Here is a third picture, a third camera setting ("blackberry"?) taken a couple blocks down the road.

Here is one from our back door. This one was taken at about 9:40pm.

I went to photograph the front of the house, but the family didn't want me to disturb the beauty of the snow. It's only slightly interesting that no one raises a fuss when the dog wants to pee in the undisturbed snow. Actually, I'm pretty sure someone even called it 'so cute'. So... here is a picture of the front from November 2006.

You may think that it's not a relevant photo because it's missing the Christmas lights. Actually, it looks about the same as the photo because we haven't put up the lights yet this year. It's my strategy to not put up lights this year and then maybe we'll WOW the neighbors next year.

Here's the competition: the three houses across the street:

We look forward to seeing Grandma & Grandpa Rolfs when they come up for our early Christmas on Sunday, in conjunction with the annual Sunday School kids Christmas Pageant at our church. Hopefully they'll drive safely, if they opt to brave the cold conditions.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Not-Shocking News

Doesn't surprise me a bit.

I am glad, however, that we found the Shelton crew smoking in the Geo. Otherwise I'd have to assume they were in the tub, I mean sink.

If you don't know what I'm talking about then you must not have read my Finger Lickin' Good post from just a couple weeks ago.

Since they use the sink for bathing I wonder how they wash the dishes?

(**insert flushing sound here**)


Monday, December 8, 2008

Old and New Traditions

We used to visit a tree farm every year to select a Christmas tree. Then we moved into town... and went fake.

This year we decided to keep the artificial tree in its box and make a repeat appearance at the tree farm. The girls were excited.

We originally planned to visit the Hovde Tree farm on the day after Thanksgiving, but the weather was cruddy and we were all comfortably warm at home, decorating for Christmas. We agreed to wait until Sunday, after Thanksgiving at Grandma & Grandpa Rolfs' house.

It was a good choice as the weather on Sunday was much more suitable.

The Tree farm was rather muddy... so we put on our boots and wandered up into the woods to argue about which tree we should select. Everyone has a different opinion as to which tree we should select.

This processes was highlighted by the same conversation that I'm sure all families have at the tree farm. In fact, I think I saw a brochure with the conversation printed inside of it for those making their first-time visit to the tree farm. Let me recreate it here for those of you artificial-tree-huggers:

Girl 1: I like this tree!
Girl 2: Oh! Look at this one! It's perfect!
Grown up 1: We just got here. Let's keep looking to make sure we get the right tree.
Girl 1: Whoa! This one over here is just right!
Girl 2: Hey! Look at this one!
Girl 1: I want a baby tree for my room!
Girl 2: How about this one? It's huge!
Grown up 2: That one is already sold.
Girl 1: Let's get this one!
Grown up 1: That one isn't for sale.
***Repeat conversation for 15 minutes or until someone falls in the mud***
Girl 1: Let's just go home and use the fake tree.
Girl 2: Yeah! We just want to go home and use the fake tree.
Grownup 1: Great! Let's go!
Grownup 2: Fine. The first tree we saw was the best. Let's go get it. Where was it at?

At the Hovde Tree farm there are a couple of tall stumps that look like little houses. Great for family pictures. Plus, you can do this every year and see how much the kids grow. Unless you start using a fake tree for 5 years in which case it kind of screws that tradition up.

While we may have messed up that tradition, there is a new tradition afoot: taking a picture of daddy's growing bald spot and receding hairline while he cuts down the tree.

The kids enjoyed "free" hot chocolate and cookies while daddy paid for the tree and we then headed home for the annual Christmas Tree Decorating Event. It's always fun, at least for a while.


Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Finger Lickin' Good Stories

I'm not sure what the training program is for Kentucky Fried Chicken employees but they surely have room for improvement because their service here in NW Washington just plain sucks.

Or maybe they just don't like my family.

KFC Story #1:
My first indication of the problems at KFC came from my first visit to one of their restaurants here in Mt. Vernon. It was obviously an old building, in the traditional KFC style... it was dirty and gross. I'm pretty sure chickens wouldn't even eat there - that's how bad it was.

Luckilly, they demolished that building and built a new one down the street. Now KFC shares a restaurant with A&W (also owned by Yum! Brands).

We went back.
I spent some time browsing the KFC / A&W menu for something appetizing. Interesting... their 'combo meals' are assigned a code consisting of a letter and a number. Such as A1, A2, K1, K2... you get the point.
Hmmmmm... what to order.... hmmm... Oh, hey, that combo meal looks appetizing.

Employee: "Hi. Welcome to KFCAandW. CanItakeyourorderplease?"
Me: "Hi. Yes, I'll have the... uh (looks up at menu board to locate meal code)... oh, I'll have the K9 meal."
Me: (to myself, silently) Really... K9? Surely it doesn't mean anything. They couldn't at least skip K9 and go with K10? This may be a bad idea.

Anyway, the service continues to suck. Not just suck, but sucks bad. Really bad. Continuously. Consistently. On the bright side, it's not quite as bad as the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut combo down the street which never actually has any pizza for sale. Coincidently, those brands are also owned by Yum! Brands. Do you see the trend here?

So, back on topic here:
KFC Story #2
This past Saturday we traveled down to Grandpa Dave & Margie's house, which is quite a long drive. We decided to stop for lunch along the way. We stopped at, you guessed it, a KFC restaurant.

Like the old KFC in Mt. Vernon, this one is in another of those 'original' buildings and it shows its age. I'm going to pretend it passes the health code inspections because it's still open.

Today, we were Customer Number 1. The first in the door for the day. Hmmm... Red Flag.
The cashier was pleasant and took our order.
Our food came. It was close to being correct.
We ended up with five or six cups. There are only four of us.
Mikayla's mashed potatoes without gravy came with gravy.
Being Customer #1 apparantly has no relationship to being "The customer is #1" or even being "the #1 Customer".

We sat and ate.

After a while, one of the kids makes an interesting observation.
"Hey! We're the only one's here!".

Well, of course. We're Customer #1.

A moment later we realize that she is saying that the workers aren't even here. It's unusually quiet for a restaurant. Weird... but not weird for KFC, in my opinion.


A few minutes later a female employee comes out from the kitchen and starts cleaning the wall with some heavilly scented industrial cleaner. The scent (or fumes is more like it) drifts over to us and all three start complaining. Time to pack up and go.

We load up into the car and Tanya notices a Geo Metro parked behind the restaurant with the driver's window part way down.

Tanya: "Hey, I found all the rest of the workers!"
Eric: "Where are they?"
Tanya points in the direction of the Geo where all the workers are stuffed inside the vehicle.

It may not sound funny, but it was.

I guess you had to be there.

Of course, after the discovery I had to roll down the window to get a blog photo, just to share with everyone. Unfortunately you can't really see the people in there.

KFC Story #3
This isn't really about KFC or their service, but I just need to remind everyone that one day Tanya mistakenly thought the drive through exit was the main road, drove down it the wrong direction and then had to exit the whole thing in reverse. It's true... and we like to talk about it often.

I don't have any pictures of that event, but I'm sure that one day it will surface on or some 'craziest driver video' show on TLC after the survelliance videos are released.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Gingerbread Houses

Every year our family decorates Gingerbread houses. Tanya says it's a tradition.

Well... the kids decorate Gingerbread houses.

Well... the kids decorate a small part of a Gingerbread house... and then eat a lot of candy.

More Thanksgiving Weekend stories to come...

Stay tuned.