Home is where the heart is…

Christmas morning dawned bright and early in Portland. Olivia came over to our bed at around 5am, wondering if they were allowed to go downstairs yet. I told her that they needed to wait until 6am. She came back ten minutes later, and then ten minutes later again. Finally we all got up and ready to head downstairs. It turned out Santa had found them in Portland! Because this is a no-gifts Christmas their Santa gifts were the only ones they would be opening. We tried to Skype my parents, but Skype was overloaded at the time. Instead, we videotaped it and sent them the link. Oh, technology…

Santa ate the cookies, took the plate with the carrots, drank the milk, and left a note. It also appeared that he helped himself to a local beer. We figure one of the elves was helping to drive the sleigh...

Santa ate the cookies, took the plate with the carrots, drank the milk, and left a note. It also appeared that he helped himself to a local beer. We figure one of the elves was helping to drive the sleigh…

Santa found them in Portland! Opening their stockings Christmas morning.

Santa found them in Portland! Opening their stockings Christmas morning.

Santa brought the usual stocking fillers: toothbrushes and toothpaste, hair clips, shampoo, candy, magazines, etc. The boys received new orange curling shirts with a note from Santa that new brooms would be waiting for them when they get home. The girls each received a Disney princess dress; Olivia’s is Ariel, and Sarah’s is Rapunzel. Phil & Susan gave each of the kids an Oregon t-shirt, an apron for me, and a ball cap for D’Arcy.

After the stockings were opened, we Skyped with Ginna & Beanah then Face-timed with Martha & Chloe. My Auntie Laurel and Uncle Russ called from San Antonio, and Phil & Susan also had calls from their daughter Lori and her family, and some of Susan’s family from North Carolina. We had some breakfast and then Susan & I started prepping Christmas Dinner while everyone else made Christmas crackers. We made dressing, mashed potatoes, and started the 20LB! turkey to cook in the over. Sarah & Olivia delivered a Christmas cracker to Griffin, the 2-year-old next door whom they had met on our first night here before helping me set the table for dinner.

While Susan & I got Christmas dinner prepped, everyone else made Christmas crackers.

While Susan & I got Christmas dinner prepped, everyone else made Christmas crackers.

We spent the early afternoon hiking up Mount Tabor, a once-active volcano, that has been dormant for 300,000 years. It’s a fairly easy hike, which begins about a mile-and-a-half from Phil & Susan’s house, and then has a vertical rise of about 700 feet. I was amazed to see bushes of rosemary in people’s yards that looked more like small trees! Some of the paths in the park reminded me of being in Victoria Park in Truro, but the views of the mountains were stunning. Unfortunately, Olivia had a tumble from her “balance-beam” curb, and didn’t want to go any further. A shoulder ride from her cousin made things better.

Nearing the top, Olivia was done, so we left the group while they hiked to the summit. We met them at a rest area which had a playground and bathrooms. It was amazing how quickly she turned around with a visit from those two places. When the rest of the group met up with us, the clouds parted and we could see Mount Saint Helen’s in the distance. The last time I was on the west coast of the US, was in 1980 shortly after it had erupted, and I remember the ash and police cars with oxygen tanks on the side. Susan went ahead of us to check on the turkey while the kids burnt off some energy playing on the playground before we walked and cartwheeled back home.

Curb "balance beam" accident. No blood; good to go.

Curb “balance beam” accident. No blood; good to go.

Up we go to the top of Mount Tabor.

Up we go to the top of Mount Tabor.

The views were breathtaking.

The views were breathtaking.

A wonderful way to spend Christmas afternoon.

A wonderful way to spend Christmas afternoon.

We walked past a resevoir.

We walked past a reservoir.

Sunbeams bursting through the trees.

Sunbeams bursting through the trees.

Monkey bars!

Monkey bars!

Checking to see where we had been.

Checking to see where we had been.

Standing in front of a sequoia tree.

Standing in front of a sequoia tree.

D'Arcy & Phil

D’Arcy & Phil

The turkey took longer to cook than we had anticipated, so we sat around chatting and the kids amused themselves. Olivia’s Ariel dress was a little bit too big, so D’Arcy sewed a tuck into it so it would fit her better and not be as revealing. US Netflix is different from Canadian, so the kids started watching movies and playing games. D’Arcy had a short nap. Finally, the feast was ready and we all sat down at the table together for a wonderful meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and salad. For dessert, we had a chocolate and a three-berry pie with lots of whipped cream.

After dinner, we helped cleanup and played Scategories before heading to bed shortly after 8pm! Olivia didn’t make it that long, falling asleep on the floor of the front hall… The time change is brutal!

Getting ready for dinner.

Getting ready for dinner.

Christmas Dinner in Portland, Oregon

Christmas Dinner in Portland, Oregon

Sarah, queen of the crowns.

Sarah, queen of the crowns.

A tuckered out Olivia.

A tuckered out Olivia.

Although we missed our family at home, and Alex insisted it didn’t really feel like Christmas most of the day, I found it one of the most relaxing we’ve ever had. I was happy to be away from the trappings of gifts and expectations, and although there were some yearly traditions we missed, we found that what really and truly matters at Christmas is that we were together. From East Coast to West Coast, home is where the heart is…

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