Thursday, January 15, 2015

Christmas in Virginia

We had a great visit back in the States!  In my previous post I shared a little about my anxiety about returning to my own culture after being away, but being back just felt normal.  Except for the syrup selection at the grocery store. Yes, I think there were a few more options than in Sweden.  And I purposefully avoided using the word "home" to refer to Sweden or Virginia in my post, because I really feel like I have two homes.  Two sets of friends I genuinely love, two churches, two towns.

What I should have been concerned about before we left Sweden is packing extra sets of clothes in my carry-on, because there were high winds at our connection in Amsterdam that caused flight delays. After running through the airport only to narrowly miss our plane to Washington Dulles, then waiting for hours in line to rebook and get a hotel, we found ourselves staying overnight in Amsterdam without our checked bags.  KLM did a terrific job of keeping us comfortable despite the circumstances.  They put us up in adjoining hotel rooms (!), including dinner (steak, mashed potatoes, and pears poached in mulled wine which tasted like Christmas), and an incredible breakfast buffet (including sprinkles on toast).  The kids got an activity pack, including wooden yo-yos (pictured). They were sad to miss the airplane to Virginia but thrilled to stay in a hotel. Considering the windy weather, lack of research, and short daylight we opted not to explore the city this time. I fully intend to go back and see Amsterdam for real when I know more about coffeeshops vs. coffeehouses and how to avoid the red light district. This time we had plenty to keep us entertained right at Schiphol airport.

There was a vocal group performing live, Santa and his elf were handing out hats, and parts of a DC-9 were available to see up close.

When we were finally on our way to Dulles the kids did a great job on the plane.  We had plenty of entertainment and they feed you every couple of hours, but an 8-hour flight is loooong. The international arrivals hall is an exciting place to be, especially at Christmas, and we were thrilled to see this familiar face there to greet us.

Dulles selfie with my dad
The next day was Christmas Eve, and the kids woke up at 2am ready to play.  Would not go back to sleep.  Apparently their internal clocks are stronger than their need for sufficient sleep, and considering 2am in Virginia is 8am in Sweden they technically slept in.  Steve let me sleep while he and the kids watched movies and played with my parents' stash of toys in the basement.

Spot the Bowen in this picture

And when my mom got up she let the kids decorate the Christmas tree.

Later on Steve and Dad and I went to the grocery store, and during my happy dance in front of the corn tortillas my friend Ruth spotted us.  I almost cried.  Winchester isn't such a small town, and running into someone always warms my heart!  That night was the Christmas Eve service at church, and the kids were so quiet and well-behaved while we chatted with friends afterward.

The next morning (Christmas) the kids woke up at 2:30am, and we let Steve sleep while we watched a Pippi Longstocking movie (whom, ironically, Olivia had never really heard of in Sweden) and An American Tale (the irony!).

Dress-up + movies + Grandma
Sugar cereal: a Christmas tradition
Finally we let the kids wake up the remaining sleepers with sleigh bells before they discovered that Santa had filled their stockings.

And after second breakfast Olivia was our little elf and handed out gifts from under the tree.  My dad taught Bowen to gather the torn wrapping paper into a pile, and after we were finished they took turns being buried.

Spot the Bowen in this picture
I spent the day after Christmas at my friend Debora's house, catching up and doing a little chalk painting.  That's probably another post for another day, but I'm just going to say I was thrilled to touch pieces that she had painted, and experience first-hand what it was like to paint and wax with Annie Sloan products.

The next day I drove up to Pennsylvania to see two dear friends, Molly and Jessica.

I had a chance to see several friends I dearly miss, but I wasn't very good about taking pictures! I am so thankful for several people taking the time to come and see us, or have us over to visit.  Steve's parents came down to visit for a couple of days, and the kids were thrilled to see both sets of grandparents.

Tea party birthday for Olivia at The Tea Cart
Maybe you don't want quite so much detail about our trip.  Here are some photos to highlight the rest of our visit.

Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
Running trains with Papa
Getting a sweet visit from Miss Reid (and trying on her boots!)
Wagon sledding with Grandma
Winchester Model Railroad Club on New Year's Eve
Seeing friends like Ruth and her son Isaiah, who hosted a get-together
Having things we can't get in Sweden, like egg nog in my coffee and a bowl of grits.
Visiting our storage unit, like shopping for free
Waffles for my birthday
Sledding with Papa before heading back to Dulles
The jet lag subsided slowly the first week, and after flying back to Sweden we had a couple of late nights with some sleeping in before things were back to normal.  It was so sweet to be able to spend time with family and friends.  I'm thankful for my parents letting us invade their space for a couple of weeks, cooking for us, lending their cars, playing with the kids, and storing all our things that didn't fit in our suitcases.  We genuinely do enjoy our life in Sweden and were happy to come home after going home be back after spending the holidays in Virginia.  Two more years!

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