Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snowmageddon

We left Denver On Saturday, January 4th, knowing that a big snow storm was about to hit the east coast and the midwest. As we prepared to leave the night before and checked the weather forecast, we saw that snow was expected to hit Denver starting at 6am, with the storm heading east along our planned travel path. So we left at 5:30am as snow was starting to come down. It took about 30 minutes of driving before we got completely ahead of the snow and onto dry roads. The rest of our 12 hour drive was dry, but anytime we stopped for gas breaks, we could see snowflakes starting to fall as we finished each break. It reminded me of the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" where the big "freeze" is following right behind them. We had to keep breaks short and keep driving to stay ahead of the storm behind us. We got to Grace's house in St. Louis about an hour before the snow hit.

Sunday was a very relaxed day. We had no intentions to attempt driving home in the snow storm, so we stayed with Grace another day. In anticipation of the weather, Church had been cancelled for much of the St. Louis area. We stayed inside all day and watched the snow fall. That day happened to be my birthday, so we celebrated.

Grace made me a cake and helped all the kids make Birthday cards for me.
I felt very loved.

We played games and snacked on food all day long.

By Monday morning, the sky was clear and we figured the roads would have been plowed and salted enough that we could slowly and carefully drive the (normally) 4.5 hours back home to Indiana.
This is the view out Grace's front window. Her husband, David, braved the negative temperature outside to shovel a path to our car and clear the mountain of snow off of it. They loaded us up with snacks, water and an emergency candle just in case something happened. I thought for sure that everyone was overreacting about the severity of the storm and that we'd be home by that afternoon.

How very wrong I was.

Leaving St. Louis, the roads weren't too bad. They were mostly clear, with patches here and there, but we could drive about 40-50mph safely on them so we were feeling pretty good.

It's hard to see in this picture, but this is the Mississippi River, frozen over......

In all the years and winters that I've spent in St. Louis, I've never seen the mighty Mississippi completely frozen. It was ridiculously cold!!

 We kept going on I-70 through Illinois. The road conditions were getting a little worse, but still drive-able.

We passed several cars and Semis that had slid off the road. Rarely was there a person inside the car (Thank goodness they had already been taken to safety), but there was no way to tow a car out of a ditch in all this mess. Many of the semi trucks had flipped onto the side. It was starting to dawn on us how severe this storm was and we said several prayers during the drive of gratitude for our continued safety.

Just before Effingham, IL, we reached a traffic standstill. (The trucks and our car in the picture below are stopped on the highway. We would never be following that closely behind if we were moving.)
You can see how bad the roads were at this point. You could not see a single patch of road; it was entirely covered in packed snow and ice.

This is what we were driving on. Scary.

After not moving for quite some time, we turned on the radio and discovered that there had been an accident further up the highway and we had to wait for the road to be cleared. We waited in that exact spot for almost 3 hours. Cars as far as we could see in front of us, cars as far as we could see behind us.

 Luckily, the boys slept through most of the down time.

We finally got past the traffic. By this point, it was 4pm. It took us 7 hours to travel what normally takes 1.5 hours. And we were still very far from home. Knowing we wouldn't make it home before dark, and knowing how dangerous the roads were even when it was light out, we stopped in Effingham to get a hotel.

So did thousands of other people.

All the truckers and all the travelers were occupying every single hotel. We called and/or drove to over 15  hotels and not one of them had a room for us. I called my Dad who looked up some hotels in the next town down the road. We called several places and finally found a Day's Inn who would book a room for us. Now we just had to drive 30 miles to reach Mattoon, IL. At a speed of 15-20 mph, it took us a while, but we made it.  In the 130 miles from St. Louis to Mattoon, we passed 31 semis and 61 cars that had slid off the road. And I'm sure I missed counting several cars when I was on the phone trying to find us a hotel. Yes, we counted. It became a game of sorts to count and find all the cars buried under snow drifts.

We grabbed some Taco Bell for dinner (Thank you for being open!) and parked at the Days Inn. Finally! The day is over right?..... right?....

Even though we had called ahead to book a room, we still had to wait in a line of several other people who also had a room booked. Our kids ran around the lobby making friends with everyone.  After 2 hours in line we finally got to the desk, checked in and got a key card. We walked to our room, unlocked the door... and there was already a family in our room. What?! Mckay went back to the desk to sort the mix-up out while I tried to keep the kids in line again. I was so grumpy, tired and fed up by this point. About 15 minutes later, Mckay led us to our new room: an exterior (meaning a drafty door with all the wind and -20 degree temperature) smoking room (we booked a non-smoking) that had not been cleaned from the previous occupant and had "used" sheets. And yet, despite the sub par conditions, I was so glad to be "safe." After cranking up the heat, we said a prayer as a family, thankful that we had a safe, warm place to sleep and that our car was fine and working.

We spent all day Tuesday in Mattoon. We checked road conditions online throughout the day and everything indicated that Indiana highways were not quite safe for travel yet. We got groceries, watched a lot of TV in the hotel, and prepared to hopefully leave Wednesday morning. On Wednesday, the temperature was in the 30s (a heat wave compared to the days before!), Indiana highways were looking clearer, and we needed some clean clothes to wear, so we drove home!
After all the time we'd spent in the car those past few days, the boys did really great for the last leg of our journey. Though Connor got grumpy if you denied him snacks.
Over the next 150 miles of road, we saw 28 more semis and 80 more cars off the road. We made it home in the early afternoon and we were so excited to finally eat lunch in our own home again.

After we got home, there were some minor things to deal with, like shoveling the 18 inch snow drifts off our driveway so we could get in, and thawing the frozen (but not broken, thank goodness!) pipes so we could use water. And there was the flat tire on our car that mysteriously showed up only after we made it all the way home.

That's the epic tale of our journey home. But we did finally make it home, and that's the most important thing. 
And it keeps snowing, so we haven't left our house much ever since.

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Years and Hockey

We went over to Mckay's sister's house for New Years Eve. She made a super cute "photo booth" with props for taking fun pictures.

Judd and Dallin


I love this one of Connor.
And this next one of Dallin:

The hosts: Annie (Mckay's sister) and Tommy

 We played a tournament of games (among the games: air hockey, arcade basketball, Jenga, Farkle). Mckay was assigned to tally up our individual scores from each game and normalize them to determine the winner.

And while Mckay did that, I got comfy on the couch and waited for the ball to drop.
I'm not sure what my face is doing here, but I used this picture because I wanted to show Trixie, the little dog that also got a lot tormenting attention from Connor.

Drinking sparkling apple cider and cheering to the New Year.
I'm pretty sure that clock is wrong. It was most definitely midnight.



One of the activities we planned before our visit was for all the adults to attend an Avalanche Hockey Game. On Jan. 2, we found babysitters for all the kids (no small feat) and went to the Pepsi Center for my first NHL game. I've watched more than I can count on TV (being married to a hockey fan will do that to you) but I'd never seen a game in person before.

The boys all sat together.
Mckay was too into the game to look away for a picture.

Here's all the girls... and Dad Easton.
I've decided that sporting events are a lot more fun watching them in person. I've always enjoyed going to baseball games and this hockey game was really fun too. It will definitely not be my last.
Oh, and the Avs won.

There was a..... 
...well you all know what this kind of things is, but I don't know a word for it. We'll just say there was a fill-in-your-own-face-photo-op-statue.

Garrett, Mckay, Evan. The brothers.

Notice that awesome "Easton" hockey stick? We were meant to be hockey fans.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Adventures in Denver

The day after Christmas, we got really sick. I hardly moved from the couch for 4 days. Some other Eastons had been sick earlier in the week and it made it's way through our family too. Mckay was sick for 3 days at the same time I was. Mom and Dad Easton started their sickness a few days before we did, so they were sort of on the mend as we got sicker. We all just laid around the house resting for 4 days. Dallin and Connor somehow escaped getting sick for any longer than half a day, so the 4 adults in the house took turns taking care of and entertaining the boys. One person would feed them breakfast while everyone else rested. Then someone else would get them lunch. Then someone else would play legos with them. We let the boys watch waaaay too many movies during the sick days, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get better. Even if that involves watching "Star Wars: A New Hope" several times each day. I thought about taking pictures to document our sick days for the blog, but that would have required enough energy to leave the couch and find the camera.

When we were finally feeling better, we had to get out of the house and do fun things. Our first stop was the Butterfly Pavilion with the cousins.
This butterfly landed on Graham and he was pretty excited about it.

Besides a walk-through butterfly garden, they had lots of caged insects and animals to see.
I know the glare makes it hard, but can you spot the tarantula in this cage?



There it is!

There was a tarantula that they let people hold. We all took a turn.
The kids were pretty fearless.

 Dallin and Connor had a fun time playing with their cousins.

Charlotte and Dallin
 ***

We went bowling one day.
I played the best game I've ever played and scored about 150 (if I remember correctly)! Yes, we had bumpers up for the kids, but I only benefited from them once. Those strikes were all mine.
***

 We went to the Denver Zoo. It was a warm but still cold day, so we enjoyed a lot of the indoor exhibits.

 Connor couldn't take his eyes off the Komodo dragons.
We have a book about Komodo dragons that he loves so I think he was really excited to see them in person.
 ***
We had to make sure that we spent a day at the Train Museum for Connor's sake.

He was in heaven. He loved the indoor miniature train display.


And we saw the real trains outside.



And there was an outdoor mini train display.


Connor could hardly take his eyes off the trains.

Being sick was no fun, but we made up for it by going to fun places.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Christmas

For Christmas this year, we went to Denver to be with our Easton family. In the past, we've flown on an airplane to visit family since everyone is so far away, but the cost of 4 planes tickets (since Connor is now 2 years old) was ridiculously expensive. So we drove to Denver instead.
Dallin found our snack stash very quickly and began asking for cheetos.

 We divided the 16 hour drive into two days. Day 1: four hours from Indiana to St. Louis. We stayed with Grace and David, my childhood best friend and her husband. Dallin and Connor loved playing with Hannah, their daughter.

We left early the next morning to drive the rest of the 12 hours to Denver. Dallin and Connor had a blast playing with cousins for two weeks.

Judd (seen below, center of the picture) just turned three so he is right between Dallin and Connor. These three had so much fun together and caused so much trouble.
They played xbox and ate all the chex mix.

They jumped on the trampoline on the warm days.

 They played the piano.

Connor loved Grandma and Grandpa's dog, Sammy.
He followed that poor dog everywhere and wore him out daily.

 On Christmas Eve, we played with all the cousins and watched some movies.

Before bed, the boys got to open a special present:
 pajamas that I made just for them!
I sewed some easy flannel pants. For the shirts, I used a freezer paper stencil and fabric paint on a plain t-shirt. Super easy, but the boys were so excited! And I let them choose the pants fabric themselves, hence the trains on Connor's pants.

 Now to explain the boxes of fruit snacks in the picture above (and below): we filled their stockings with some cookies, assorted fruits and a box of fruit snacks, which happened to be at the very top of the stocking. The boys woke up on Christmas morning and I showed them their stockings while we waited for everyone to get ready and gather by the tree. They reached into the stockings and pulled out the first thing: fruit snacks. They both got so excited and started jumping and cheering, "Yay!!! Fruits snacks!!!!!!" And then they marched around the house, still cheering and showing off their fruit snacks.
I think we could have taken back all their other presents and they would have been fine with getting only fruit snacks.

They eventually discovered the other goodies in the stockings. 

Then the present opening began.
This Lego wrapping paper (from my parents) was a big hit.

Connor got more train tracks.
He's saying, "Choo choo!"

 Dallin got Star Wars pancake molds.
He thought these were so cool and carried them around with him all day. We waited until we got home from Denver to make some pancakes with them, but the wait was worth it. The pancakes looked awesome!



 Dallin got a lot of Star Wars themed presents. And he loves all of them.
He got a Darth Vader t-shirt and a Darth Vader Lego alarm clock. He carries it everywhere with him, wants to sleep with it like a doll, and has no idea what the numbers on Darth Vader's belly mean.

Another favorite of Connor's presents was a dump truck.
video
He has a lot of love for this truck.

We all had a really fun Christmas and loved all the family time. Dallin and Connor were happy about the constant supply of cutie oranges at Grandma and Grandpa Easton's house.
I was happy that they learned how to peel the oranges by themselves and that Dallin's orange eating foray wasn't just a one-time thing.

More posts to come on our adventures in Denver and our epic journey home through Snowmageddon!