Merry Christmas, 2015

A few days ago we celebrated our first Christmas as a complete family. I remember Ava’s first Christmas when she was just turning one month old; we were still living in our little beach shack in San Diego in a relatively empty house with only one visitor. Things are a bit different for us now. We spent Christmas morning opening presents and Skyping with family, then around noon Kristy, Madi, Edgar, Uncle Jim and Aunt Brenda came over to spend the day with us. There was plenty of good food to eat, basketball and movies to watch, and lots of new toys for the kiddos to enjoy. It was exactly the kind of day you look forward to all season long.

For a couple days leading up to Christmas I would hear a little pitter-patter of footsteps in the morning, accompanied by what started out as whispers between the girls, but would soon turn into excited shouts as they ran downstairs to open their presents, only to find out that it wasn’t yet Christmas morning and they needed to contain themselves for at least another day. There’s no question that Christmas is most special when there are children around to enjoy it, so seeing the girls get so into it this year was really fun.

Today baby Enzo turns 11 months old, and he is as active and vocal as ever. He got some fun toys for his first Christmas, but of course spent most of the morning playing with boxes and torn up wrapping paper. One toy that he especially loves is his new remote control, which will hopefully distract him from his endless obsession over grabbing the actual universal remote that controls everything downstairs. He can frequently be found walking all around the downstairs carrying his remote and shouting out the beginnings of what sound like words (for those that don’t know, he is a very loud child). He says the word “yeah” a lot now, but we’re still waiting for something a little more tangible like “Mommy” or “Daddy”. Thanks to his big sisters he has been advanced on everything up to this point so I’m sure speaking is just around the corner.

Elise had a great day on Christmas and looked as cute as ever. Jessica tied her hair up in a bun and dressed both girls in their new Christmas dresses from Grandma. She received all kinds of new toys and dolls, plus a new pair of tennis shoes, a new pair of boots, some new books, and some new clothes. She had been talking all week about getting to play with Madi so it was great to see them all having so much fun together. She got worn down after a while and took a nap on the couch, but then bounced right back and picked up where she left off, enjoying all the fun new stuff at her disposal.

Ava, who was celebrating her 5th Christmas, had an absolute blast. There were no meltdowns on Christmas morning (which is more than we can say for last year), and she did a good job sharing many of her new toys with Elise and Enzo. She also received lots of new toys and dolls, plus new books, clothes, and shoes. One of the highlights for Ava was a new set of remote controlled cars from Grandma and Grandpa. Elise got one as well but wasn’t quite ready for it, so Jessica and I ended up playing with hers while Ava “raced” our car around the house. These cars have all four wheels on the bottom, plus one wheel on top where the rear window should be. This allows them to do all kinds of cool spins and stunts that normal RC cars can’t do. They were a big hit all day.

Jessica had a very nice Christmas that included some awesome gifts, but also some much needed time off. She has been working a ton throughout the month of December, so getting a week off around Christmas was perfect. Some of the highlights for her this year included a FitBit from me (so now we both wear them constantly), a very special family photo with Santa (more on that below), and for the second Christmas in a row, a Louis Vuitton purse from Grandma. Very nice indeed.

I also had an amazing Christmas this year, although I must admit I’m feeling a bit spoiled. Jessica got me a pair of Uggs slippers that I’ve been wanting, and honestly just that would have been more than enough, but she went above and beyond this year by getting me probably the coolest present I’ve ever received – three laps around a track in either a Ferrari F360 Modena, or a Lamborghini Gallardo, OR BOTH! I was absolutely stunned. Luckily she filmed me opening this present so my reaction can forever be saved. You have to realize that I’m the guy who waited until September of this year to buy the special Forza edition of Xbox One. If you’re not familiar, Forza is the racing game created by Microsoft specifically for Xbox, and it’s the only game I play. It’s so realistic that I’ll sit there late at night racing for hours. I just can’t believe that I’m going to get behind the wheel of these amazing supercars, plus she paid extra to have the whole thing filmed! Obviously I’ll be sharing the video once I have it, but first I need to get everything scheduled. It’s going to be a few months before my big day, but I’m already over the moon about the whole thing.

As mentioned above, another highlight of our holiday season this year was our visit with Santa Claus. Jessica and the kids picked me up from work a couple Fridays ago and we all headed down to Bellevue Square mall to get our picture with Santa, as well as attend “Snowflake Lane”, which is an outdoor winter show they do every night in December. We went straight to Santa as soon as we arrived, only to find out that it would be an hour waiting in line. Even though everyone was dressed for the photo, we knew there was no way we could keep them all occupied in line for an hour, so we decided to skip it. Jessica figured she could take the kids to the mall on a weekday and not have to wait forever in line. So we ended up going to Nordstrom to get Jessica her FitBit, but as we got off the elevator on the top floor, we were greeted by some employees asking if we wanted to get our picture taken with Santa. There was only a 5 minute wait, the prices were the same as in the mall, and we were already dressed for it, so of course we went for it. I must say that our photographer was an absolute pro and did a great job of getting the kids to look and smile. He was juggling stuffed animals and making funny faces. The kids loved him. As it turned out, not only is it our best family Christmas photo, it’s our best family photo ever! Jessica said while waiting in line that all she wanted for Christmas was a family photo with Santa where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling. Glad we were able to check that one off the list!

Although Christmas is now behind us, we’ve still got plenty of fun stuff to look forward to in the very short-term. First we’ve got New Year’s Eve later this week, which the kids will be spending at Madi and Kristy’s house. As mentioned in a previous post, the kids will be having a sleepover with them while Jessica and I will be bartending the burlesque show at the Pampas Room at El Gaucho. It’s going to be a double showing that night, meaning it will be a long and busy night, but it will be so fun bartending together, and of course the kids will have a blast at Kristy’s house. Then a week later we’re heading out to Iowa for Jessica’s grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. There’s going to be a huge party with a bunch of family members that we haven’t seen in years (some of whom I’ve never even met), plus some of Jessica’s friends will be driving down from Minnesota to visit us. Grandpa and Grandma Rudd have put in so much hard work to convert their basement into a mother-in-law for us to stay in. Based on the pictures I’ve seen it looks beautiful, so we’re really looking forward to getting there. They’ve also secured car seats and a double stroller for us to use while we’re there, which is a HUGE help because that means we don’t have to carry all that stuff through the airport. They’ve really gone out of their way to accommodate us on this trip and we appreciate it so very much. Looks like the weather is going to be on our side as well, so this is shaping up to be a really fun trip.

Thank you to all our loved ones for making this such a special and memorable holiday season. Although it’s not quite over for us yet, it has already been one of the greats. Can’t wait to write about our upcoming trip to Iowa. Happy New Year to all our friends and family! Here’s a few recent pics from our holiday season.

11 months old today

My sweet little Elise

Posing in front of the tree before seeing Santa

Ready for the neighborhood Christmas party!

Wearing my Dad’s old Christmas sweatshirt. Enzo seems to approve.

Ava’s first reaction on Christmas morning

Madi reading to the girls

Sibling love

Santa’s little helper was very tired, and serious, by the end of the day.

I’m just glad that Pippo made it into this photo


Sometimes you have the absolute best of intentions for doing something, but no matter how hard you try to get it going, it’s just not meant to be. That’s basically the kind of day we had on Saturday. The goal was to spend the day with Dana, Brad, and Anna for Anna’s 15th birthday. Our original plan was to go meet up in Leavenworth, which is a small Bavarian-style village 100 miles from our house in the Cascade Mountains. There were some Christmas festivities going on there, so we thought it would be the perfect place for a family holiday adventure.

The plan ended up changing several times throughout the week, mainly due to the weather we’ve been experiencing over the past week. I’ll take a quick detour and say that last week was the craziest weather I’ve ever seen in Washington state. It was insane. We were averaging over an inch of rain per day, towns were flooding, rivers were overflowing, there was a tornado down south in Battleground, and there was a mudslide on Highway 2 near Leavenworth, which blocked off all traffic for 3 days.

We went back and forth bouncing ideas around. We talked about bowling, roller skating, making gingerbread houses, dinner, etc. The problem is that we’re trying to find an activity that would be suitable for our small children, as well as for a teenager. Not an easy task. Jessica wanted to do something that had a holiday feel, mainly for the kids, so we ended up coming back around to the idea of spending a day in Leavenworth. I was concerned about driving over the pass in our minivan, but Jessica had already spoke to Dana about it and they were in, so I figured it would be fine and went along with it.

I had a funny moment with Ava in the morning as we prepared to head out. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when Ava comes in, finds a tampon, and says “What’s this Daddy?” I can’t even speak clearly because I have a mouth full of toothpaste, not that I knew what to say anyway, so I’m like “Um, I don’t know honey, I think that’s Mommy’s.” She paused and thought about it for a minute, then says “Do you think there’s any candy in there?” I tried to keep a straight face and replied “I don’t think so honey, but we’d have to ask Mommy to be sure. Let’s not worry about it for now because we have to get going.” Then she says “Okay Daddy, don’t worry we’ll deal with this later when we get home.” Truth be told I’ve seen the inside of one of those wrappers just as many times as Ava, which is none, so for all I know there might actually be candy in there. Kudos to Ava for thinking outside the box.

We didn’t eat much breakfast on that morning because we wanted to save ourselves for a nice lunch in Leavenworth. We packed everybody up in the old front wheel drive sleigh, turned on the Christmas CD I had just burned, and headed out towards the mountains. Jessica and I were singing Christmas songs as the kids drifted off to sleep in boredom. It was such a Griswold moment.

The scenery changed pretty drastically once we started getting into the mountains. There was snow everywhere, including frozen waterfalls. It was beautiful. This was actually my favorite part of the day. The kids woke up shortly thereafter and were instantly in love with their snowy surroundings. We saw several cars having trouble, most of which were little rear wheel drive sporty cars, but we just took it nice and slow and enjoyed the ride.

As we neared Leavenworth the cars started piling up, and we soon found ourselves stuck in a mile-long traffic backup. We eventually got tired of it and pulled off onto a residential side street to park the van and walk into town. We were hoping to meet Dana and family for lunch, but they decided to stop in Cle Elum for lunch, so we were on our own for food.

As we walked into town it quickly became obvious that this was one of their busiest days of the year. The first restaurant we went to had a 90 minute wait for a table, so we put our names on the list and went out to look elsewhere. Back we go out into the wet misery. It was so slushy, and the snow was so wet that we were all instantly drenched. I had brought my nice new hat from Austin but decided not to wear it due to all the wet snow coming down. This meant that all I had to cover my head was the hood on my jacket, but it quickly became so drenched that it just hung down over my eyes, preventing me from seeing where I was going.

We went to another restaurant, only to find that they had a 2 hour wait for a table! At this point Jessica and I were getting quite grumpy. We were starving, soaking wet, and had nowhere to go. I went into a little shop to buy a beanie, and it was so crowded that it took me 20 minutes to get in and out. I had spoke to Dana around this time and she was concerned about the amount of time it was going to take to get from Cle Elum to Leavenworth. It should have been 50 minutes but due to all the traffic it was going to be more like 2 hours.

So we continued to walk aimlessly through the streets of Leavenworth, getting more and more frustrated. Our feet were soaked, and Ava kept insisting on making snowballs, but every time she would bend down to make one she would slip and fall, meaning she was soaked head to toe. There were literally thousands of people walking around this small village, so to say that it was over capacity would be an understatement. Jessica wanted to buy an ornament at the Christmas store, but there was a long line just to enter the store, meaning you had to wait out in the cold wet misery just to eventually have the privilege to go in and spend your f’ing money! Our patience was wearing thin, and we were literally shaking from hunger, so we waited in another line to buy a big bag of kettle corn, then went back to one of the restaurants to wait for a table.

Of course we pick the place that has no ramp leading up to it’s doors, so I’ve got to get the stroller (with Elise and Enzo in it) up the stairs and inside. Then we get in there and it’s packed, with nowhere to put our huge stroller. We finally found a place for our stroller under a staircase, then we struck our only instance of luck throughout the entire day: someone else named Jessica had a reservation for a large table and they accidentally gave it to us.

So we strip off all the wet clothing, pour a bunch of kettle corn on the table, and finally sit down. At this point I pulled out my phone and got the text from Dana an hour earlier saying that they were very sorry, but that they aren’t coming. I understood their reasoning, and I had told them about all the traffic coming into town, but I still couldn’t help feeling frustrated. We had just driven 2.5 hours to get here, then fought the elements for another 90 minutes, and the people we’re here to see aren’t coming. So we sat there, ate our lunch, then put our wet clothing back on and headed for the van.

We knew we were going to miss the tree lighting ceremony but we didn’t care at this point. I just wanted to get home. It was getting dark as we walked out of town, and of course we got completely drenched once again. The girls refused to keep their gloves on, so by the time we got to the van they were both crying because their hands were freezing. Luckily Jessica thought ahead and brought fresh pajamas for the kids to wear on the way home. Unfortunately this meant she and I had to stand in a deep puddle (because of course I parked in one) and change each kid out of their wet clothing into some nice warm, dry, pajamas. All three of them were screaming, so the whole situation was chaotic.

Eventually we got everyone loaded up and headed out of Leavenworth, middle fingers standing tall. The sun set as we started climbing the pass, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of what I called “the trifecta of unsafe driving conditions”: it was pitch black, the roads were covered with snow, and it was extremely vertical. A little bit later we saw the sign saying chains were required for non-4wd vehicles. At this point I was really mad at myself. I knew driving through the pass would be an issue, and we didn’t have any chains for the van, but I still elected to go. There was nothing I could do but drive through it, so that’s what I did. I hated the fact that I was exposing the kids to danger, but I didn’t feel there was any other viable option.

Although I’m quite comfortable driving through difficult weather, I have to admit I was white-knuckling it a bit during this drive. It was definitely the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced, so I tried to keep the mood light by playing Christmas songs and keeping the conversation going. Of course there had to be a couple jerks riding my bumper the whole way up the mountain, but I didn’t care. I just took it nice and slow until the entire way.

Three hours later we were home safe and sound, ready to put this crazy day behind us. The funny part was Ava and Elise kept talking about how much fun they’d had. This really put things in perspective. Jessica and I quickly admitted that we were both overly grumpy, mostly due to our hunger and the weather, but ultimately the kids had fun, which made it all worth it. I just wish we would have been smarter about going over the pass. It was pretty hairy at times.

I talked to Dana that night after getting home and everything is totally fine. It was a bummer of a day, but not a big deal. It’s too bad because, again, we all had nothing but the best of intentions, and we wanted to see Anna for her birthday, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Can’t say I’ll ever be in a hurry to go back to Leavenworth though, particularly on a weekend in December.

Not surprisingly we stayed in all day on Sunday. I never even got out of my Christmas pajamas. We just stayed home watching the Seahawks destroy the Ravens, I played guitar for the kids, won a couple little play money poker tournaments on the iPad, and made a nice steak dinner. It was exactly what the doctor ordered after our previous day of chaos.

Although this probably won’t be one of our favorite holiday memories, there’s no question it’s a story we’ll never forget. The kids had fun and that’s the most important thing. I hope I don’t sound sour about the whole thing because I’m really not. If anything it was for the sake of telling a good story. Here’s a few pics from that day.

10 Months and Walking

Last weekend baby Enzo turned 10 months old. He was already walking a little bit by the time he turned 10 months, so I guess it’s fair to say that he started walking at 9 months. I was talking with Dana about him during Ava’s birthday party on Sunday and she said Enzo is the youngest person in our family to start walking! I knew he was the youngest of our three kids, but I didn’t realize that he’s the youngest of anyone in our family, myself included. Certainly his sisters deserve some of that credit, but I don’t want to short change the little guy; he’s a fighter.

Sunday we had a nice little family birthday party for Ava. Butch and Carol arrived first, then Dana, Brad, Kallan, and Anna showed up a bit later. It was game day for the Seahawks so everyone had their gear on. We ended up hanging out, eating, and pulling the Hawks in for a very exciting victory over the Steelers. Ava got some very nice gifts from her aunties, including a toy drum kit from Auntie Dana, and a ‘Sleepover Kit’ (which I believe is just a sleeping bag but there may be some other stuff in there as well) from Auntie Carol. It was a nice low key way to enjoy time with family and finish out my vacation.

Ava will get the chance to try out her new sleeping bag very soon, as the kids with be staying the night with Kristy and Madi on New Year’s Eve. Kristy reached out to me recently to see if the kids could do a sleepover that night so that Jess and I could go out for the night. Unfortunately getting that night off work isn’t possible because New Year’s Eve is the busiest night of the year at El Gaucho, but we’ll have the next-best thing, which is me working that night with her. They’re always in need of extra hands on nights like that, so I reached out to them and volunteered to work. The best part is that Jessica and I will be bartending together downstairs in the Pampas Room. In all the years we’ve worked together we’ve never been behind the bar together for a shift. It’s normally me bartending and her serving in the dining room, so this should be a lot of fun. Big thanks to Kristy and Madi for making this all happen. Plus we will actually be seeing them before then, along with Jim and Brenda, at our house on Christmas Day, so that should be fun as well.

This week was my first week back at work, and we received a nice surprise from management, which was the day off today. They had a big product launch on Monday and plenty of people had to work during Thanksgiving weekend to get things ready, so one of the higher up managers in our organization emailed everyone on Wednesday and told us to take Friday off. I got the best of both worlds because I didn’t even work on the product launch they’re referring to, in fact I was on vacation while they were finishing it off. It was pretty cool that they did that though; I can’t imagine what one day’s worth of salaries alone must cost for my entire organization.

Last night was my work holiday party but Jessica had to work so we didn’t go. It was held at the Chihuly Gardens under the Space Needle, which I hear is a beautiful venue, so it’s too bad we couldn’t make it. I’m hoping to hear some debaucherous story on Monday but chances are there shall be none of the sort. This is the tech industry after all, not the restaurant industry.

Our house is now officially ready for Christmas. I did an especially pathetic job with the outdoor lights this year, but at least we have something. The inside of the house looks much better, thanks to Jessica and the girls. We went and cut our tree down at a Christmas Tree farm in Snohomish on Saturday. I knew I was going to get the short end of the stick on this one but still played along. When we pulled up the kid handed me a hand saw and said to only cut down a tree with a tag on it. Okay no problem. Ava had been saying the whole time that she wanted a “small Christmas tree”, which was perfect because we didn’t want something full-size that would sit on the ground. Baby Enzo would have been all over that and it would’ve gotten ugly in no time. We needed to put a tree up on a table that was out of his reach, so a small tree was a necessity.

We walk around the tree farm for a bit, and then from a distance, we saw it. Like the Griswolds out tree hunting in the wilderness, it was as if a light had shone down on it. And it had a tag. Or at least I thought it did. I had a little blue twist tie thing on top that not every tree had, so I thought it was fair game.

So I get down on the ground and start cutting. As mentioned, this is a small tree, but it’s still enough to get your heart pumping when you’re trying to cut it down with a hand saw. I’m working on this thing for a while, and I keep thinking I’m almost there, but I’m not. At a certain point I have to stand up and pant. Jessica is offering to get down there and help, but of course I tell her no, I’ve got this. Then I go down to start cutting again but I couldn’t see the saw, so I missed it and ended up cutting my finger on the blade. Next thing I know I’m working different angles on this son of a bitch, and eventually, with enough hand saw repetitions and strategic force, I take it down.

So then I return the hand saw to the lady and she instantly comments on my bleeding finger, which was a little embarrassing. Then I go to have the tree shaken and baled. Some kid grabs it from me, then looks at it and says that it doesn’t have a tag. I said “Isn’t that the tag?” pointing to the blue twist tie at the top of the tree. He’s like “Um, no.”

Next thing I know this older guy is coming over to me and he seems pissed. The first thing he says to me is “You weren’t supposed to cut that tree down! That was a baby!!” I was a little stunned, mostly because people rarely raise their voice at you in the Pacific Northwest. We’re generally much too passive aggressive for that, so his tone took me by surprise. As usual, I was extremely apologetic and polite with him, albeit a bit frantic as well. I said “But it’s got a tag!” pointing out the little blue twist tie. He’s like, “That’s not a tag! This is a tag!” pointing to another tree with a huge manilla tag on it. At this point he’s being an asshole with me, so I start giving it right back to him. I said “Well then NONE of the trees in this area had tags on them, hence the confusion. We were looking for a small tree.”

He then informed me that I would have to pay full price for what that tree would sell for when it was fully grown, and I’m like “Fine! Just get me the hell out of here!” At the end of the day I end up paying top dollar for a miniature tree. The girl ringing me up didn’t know what was going on, so after I pay she says “feel free to stay for cider and hot cocoa” and I’m thinking, “yeah, we should probably just get out of here.” I told Jessica the whole story in the car and the first thing she says is “Guess we’ll be getting our tree at Lowe’s next year.”

Anyway, the house is all decorated now and the kids love it. Last night, while Jessica was at work, I overhear Ava say to Elise near the Christmas tree, “here, hide these before Daddy finds them.” I walk over to see what’s going on and she instantly stuffs something into one of her boxes of toys. I ask her what’s she’s got there, and eventually she admits that she was collecting candy canes from the tree and hiding them for later. I’m thinking “What are you a squirrel? Who do you think those candy canes are for anyway? They’re obviously for you and Elise.” I pretended to be mad for a minute but inside I was dying. The best thing was when I looked over at the tree and saw the foot stool all setup right next to it, which was obviously how she reached the candy canes. Pretty smart for sure, and good on execution, just need to work on the getaway.

After last week’s post about Ava’s birthday and our trip to Austin, I promised myself to keep it relatively short this week, so that’s all for now. Wishing all our friends and family a great holiday season. Hopefully we’ll be seeing you all soon. Here’s a few recent pics.

Enzo at 10 months

We’re never all looking at the same time. That would be impossible.

The tree!
The tree!