It is still January so, while late on some details of our holiday adventures, it is still early enough in the year to jot down some of the highlights.
Of course, spending so much time with tons of family is always the best part of any trip. It warmed my heart to see so many family members that upon arrival always greet us as if we've never left. Jackson slipped in with his cousins as if they'd been pals for years.
There were however a few moments that were really special, thoughtful, hilarious, memorable, etc. that I never want to forget.
Car Rental: This was encouraged by my father who does it on a regular basis when it comes to lengthy traveling. And I must say it was a great idea. We saved a lot of wear and tear on our vehicles and the SUV we rented was bigger and more comfortable for all the passengers we picked up along the way. It also had all-wheel-drive which came in handy several times. I highly recommend it because there was no better feeling then handing over the keys of a somewhat trashed out vehicle (by a two-year-old and dog!) to someone else at the end of a long trip.
Becoming Kate Gosselin: Yes. I will admit it. I transformed into crazy Kate and was a packing fiend. But it all came in handy so many times. I tried to think of every possible scenario and was proud of myself when all of the toys, ideas, distraction techniques, snacks, etc, came in handy. I even saved a Christmas present from Omi as an emergency back up plan. Unwrapping the gift was fun for all: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246045479/
Jackson: While I did need several pre-planned packed moments for distraction, I was blown away at how perfect Jackson was. He only had one melt down the entire time. I really enjoyed watching him take in all of the excitement of a small family vacation. He loved riding in the car, stopping to see sights, getting to know friends and family he had never met before, running the halls of the hotel, eating his fair share of sneaky sweets handed to him from some relative, dancing the night away, climbing elephants and of course worshipping his older cousins.
The Duel: Watching Aunt Emmy and Auntie Fave compete over Jackson's sleepy hugs was highly entertaining. (see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246834734/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246057779/ for examples).
Conveniently Delicious: One of the THE things to do on this trip is to devour a burger at the Monterey ConvenienceMart. We all piled into the tiny gas station for one of the most delicious burgers ever. The best part about enjoying your burger among the aisles of candy bars and sodas, is getting to know the locals as they pop in to say hello. Everyone treated us like family and many knew of my father-in-law long before I did. One gentlemen took a liking to Jackson and helped him and cousin Davis begin a healthy gambling problem at the quarter machine. Uncle Gary was also helpful in ensuring the boys go deep into debt: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246788602/. Other 'healthy" firsts included Jackson's first Krystal burger. I was sad my father was not there to witness the event, but Jackson certainly enjoyed his first tiny, burger of awesomeness. And I did get a pic. You know, for his Jackson's fast-food scrapbook: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246013617/
The Entertainer: From busting his best moves on the dance floor to strumming up silly tunes for family members, watching Jackson's One Man Band was hysterical.
Home for the Holidays: Being at home for our Christmases was wonderful. Weather it was Lil Christmas or Christmas, some of the best moments are just sitting with family enjoying the wreckage that is post-present-opening. I always love seeing the decorations I grew up with and watching Jackson enjoy them, too. From clothing to a keyboard to a train set, Jackson was equally thrilled with each gift. Something that made me so proud of him. Mom's Christmas dinner was beautiful and getting to relax and visit was the best gift of all.
Finally Family: We arrived in Chattanooga with a ton of laundry, and a lack of sleep. Sylvie got us back on track with snacks, soap and sherry! We finally got to introduce Jackson to family he's never met before. We got to recharge with catching up, more gifts and traditional black eyed peas for News Year's Day. Jackson's highlight may have been getting to see the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, something he's talked about ever since seeing a photo of my parents when they visited Sylvie months ago. Even though it was icy cold, he soaked in every moment of that train "ride."
Catching Izzy trying to "help" with dinner.
Playing trains all morning, afternoon and evening.
Jackson singing in the church choir during the Christmas Service with my parents.
Taking walks to gawk at a neighbor's outrageous holiday display.
Listening to Uncle T-Bone's iPhone call out for various species.
Spotting deer along the way.
Watching Margo laugh while Jackson winks and explains that he got his blue eyes "from my mama."
Shopping for bath toys and tennis shoes with the girls.
Jackson beating me at Operation in Aunt Gloria's warm and cozy living room.
Faking the lyrics to Fleetwood Mac with my sisters-in-law.
Seeing the photo of Jackson tucked in the corner of Aunt Brenda's dressing room mirror.
Listening to my cousin-in-laws give me helpful parenting advice.
Uncle Ronnie's moonshine-soaked cherries.
Slowly crawling through thick fog high up on the mountain.
Seeing Paw-Paw surrounded by his siblings.
Finding my son at the bar ... devouring a corn-dog.
Watching T-Bone navigate The Stairs and later try to navigate the dance floor.
Uncle Ronnie sneaking Jackson away to show him the tractor outback. Several times!
Sharing a cutie or two alone with Jackson and Davis to ring in 2010.
Rifling through Sylvie's Christmas cards while Jackson makes up stories for each one.
Hearing the giggles when Jackson gets brave enough to start up the jacuzzi tub.
Taking pictures of Eric's childhood home.
Talking with my best friend about anything and everything during a 12 hour car ride home.