Much to everyone not wanting me to drive to PA by myself with Olivia, I did it. Proud that I made it there and back without having a breakdown. I really wished Patrick could be on this trip with us. He loved going to PA and loved being with family. He was greatly missed on this trip, as he is every day.
Olivia and I left Fond du Lac on Saturday, December 21st in the morning and drove to Toledo, OH. We stopped in Lake Forrest, IL for lunch and another break in OH. We unfortunately had bad rain in IL, IN and until we stopped in OH. It was hard to see, especially when there are tons of semis on the main highway. Then it started getting dark out. By then I wanted to check into a hotel, but there really wasn't anything until Toledo that I'd feel safe in. We finally pulled off on the first exit or so and tried finding a hotel. Siri on my iPhone wasn't working as planned, so we got a little turned around and I was a little stressed. Mind you, I had a 3 year old in my back seat that didn't sleep a wink that day and was crabby, sassy, tired, bored and wanted to get out. It was awesome. We got into our hotel, ordered in and went to bed early.
We left Toledo the next morning and arrived at our hotel in Altoona, PA around 3. It was 65* outside!! We "quickly" unloaded our U-Haul (I'm kidding) and left around 3:45 so we could go pick up the Blessings at the airport. We were so excited to see them! After we picked them up, we went to Aunt Jude and Uncle Bill's house. This was my 4th time there visiting and Olivia's first. I was so excited for everyone to meet her. Grandma MC and Grandpa Larry were already there and we all watched the Packers/Steelers game together and caught up. I cried when I saw them, because it has been so long since we last saw each other. The last time we were all together was for Patrick's funeral.
Monday we got to go swimming and hang out in the hot tub. We headed back over to the house that afternoon and met Uncle Tim and Aunt Millie from Louisiana there. So happy to see them as well! The rest of the night was spent around the island in the kitchen telling stories and laughing. Tweeds got into town later that evening from WI. They drove straight through. Brave.
Tuesday was Christmas Eve and Uncle Bill's birthday with friends and family. Olivia went swimming with the Payton and Amanda and had so much fun with them! She loves playing with them and they are so good with her. Great babysitters and cousins:) We went there for dinner and we were lucky to have Aunt Jude cooking that day and the next. She is a wonderful cook and loves to experiment. That's where Patrick got that from:) We had beef tenderloin with a wine sauce, twice baked potatoes and salad. Of course we had carrot cake for Uncle Bill's birthday cake. It was a special night with family and friends.
Wednesday was Christmas with friends and family. We headed back over in the afternoon and awaiting for us was turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn bake, rolls, etc. So wonderful! Everyone opened gifts, stockings and such. So thoughtful of everyone to do that for each other. Even when traveling! We also had Revel read us a traditional story from Australia, Wombat Divine. Olivia loved it!! Towards the end of the night, Shawn and I lit a purple lantern and let it fly into the winter sky for Patrick. We all really missed him being there. He would have loved all the food, desserts, family, friends, PSU, togetherness. He always did a great job of keeping family and friends together and in touch.
Thursday morning, Tweeds headed back to WI in the morning. Around lunch, all of the Blessings headed back over for Aunt Millie's original cajun cooking. Crawfish Etoufee and Chicken Gumbo. So delicious! I was asked to bring the quart containers back of leftovers for Shawn. He'll have that for dinner some night:) We sat around and told some more stories and then Uncle Tim and Bill took the Blessings to the airport. I stayed back with Olivia and chatted with the ladies. Great conversations:) Then we said our tearful good-byes to everyone. I went outside to start the car, as it had gotten really cold out. Wonder what was playing on the radio? Prince:) Patrick was there with us the whole time. We headed back to the hotel and packed up our things so we could leave in the morning.
That morning, we met Uncle Tim and Aunt Millie for breakfast. We had a nice chat and then we were on our way back to WI. We made it as far as Indiana and called it a day. Checked in, ate dinner and went swimming. Saturday morning we left Indiana and got back home to Fondy around 1:30. Unpacked the car, started putting things away, opened up a few presents from Santa and we laid down for a nap. Olivia slept and I just relaxed. It was so nice to be in our own beds. We went to dinner at my parents house and hung out with them for a while. We missed being there during Christmas, but it was important for us to be with Patrick's family in PA for the holidays.
I cannot begin to explain how much I enjoyed my time there. We laughed, cried, told stories, ate, drank wine, relaxed, celebrated, hugged, smiled and loved. Thank you to everyone for such a wonderful time. I will never forget this trip. Except maybe the drive with a toddler that decided it wasn't important to nap in the car and just bother mom instead. Ha ha!
Thank you all to everyone for the best Christmas vacation.
Olivia and Christy
|Leaving the driveway. Headphones lasted until the highway.|
|Beautiful on our way through Milwaukee|
|Olivia took pictures of everyone holding the Bear.|
|Uncle Shawn and Olivia at Gardner's|
|Payton, Aunt Jude and I|
|Olivia helping Grandma decorate the tree|
|All ready for Christmas!|
|Where's the beef?|
|I was stationed at this buffet table quite a bit.|
|Uncle Shawn reading, T'was the night before Christmas|
|Happy birthday Uncle Bill!|
|Will be married 53 years tomorrow on New Year's Eve!|
|Sister and Brother|
|Revel reading the book to Olivia|
|Siblings. MC, Tim, Jude|
|Swimming with the girls!|
|Grandkids with Grandma|
|Olivia with her new PSU Purse! Thanks Tweeds!|
|Last good-bye with her buddy for the week, Uncle Tim.|