Thursday, December 6, 2012

holidays are for surprises

I don't know about you, but for me, surprises are one of the best parts of life.
Sometimes surprises can be bad. Like for my mom, surprises are very, very bad. She does not like them.
I think they just stress her right out.

And there's definitely a big difference between a surprise and a shock -- when surprising someone, you wanna try and avoid shocking them. "Surprise" should always have a positive note to it.

When you're walking down the street and a car comes careening around the corner and nearly runs you over, that is a shock. A very unpleasant, dangerous shock. Not a surprise.
Or (and this actually happened to us) if you're standing on the sidewalk saying goodbye at your parents-in-law's, and a car drives by and throws a full (and open) can of beer at you. That is a very rude shock. And still to this day quite inexplicable.

Surprises should always be pleasant. I think that's one of the reasons I love gifts so much - it's a surprise! And such a meaningful one. Something that someone hand-chose for you. It's sweet and exciting.
So it would follow natural logic to say that the winter holidays, the most popular time of the year for giving, is definitely meant for surprises.

Which is why we flew home for Thanksgiving and didn't tell anyone!

We bought the tickets months in advance. Our parents knew (Dusty's parents were the ones to call and say, "can we make this happen??"), but we kept the secret from all other family and friends.
Dusty's sister had just had a baby (November 12), and my brother and sister-in-law had had their second little girl a month before (October 3!).
We just couldn't stand to be away until Christmas!

We were so sneaky...we even posted a false trail of Instagram photos to throw our siblings off the scent!

The picture on the right was one we had taken a week or two before...
I posted it as we were boarding the plane to Arizona!

When we landed in Phoenix, we sent this little message to my best friend Becky:


We had such a wonderful time.
We drove straight from the airport in Phoenix to surprise Dusty's sister, who was still up late with her new baby boy!
She walked into the hallway and was completely surprised (her mother-in-law was staying the weekend and let us in the front door!)
She was holding little Wyatt and Dusty got to hold him for the first time.

After a long day of travelling, this made it totally worth it.

We went back to Paul and Rhonda's house, and actually pulled into the driveway right AFTER Dusty's brother and sister-in-law arrived!
Dusty and I ducked down in the backseat, flattening ourselves so as not to be seen as they waved to his parents as we drove into the garage!
It was pretty frantic. Dusty jumped out and I quickly followed, running and screaming like a banshee to greet Danny and Erin.
Their reaction was one of complete confusion. "What? How is...what! I'm so confused! Wait..."

But then we just hugged for a long time and were SO EXCITED we got to all be together!
It had been almost an entire year since we had seen Erin.

The next day, we headed down to my grandma's house for my family's Thanksgiving.
A couple hours before we were supposed to be there, I got a text from my cousin saying,
"Oh my gosh! You're coming!?!? I'm so excited!!!"

The news was LEAKED. Due to a very unfortunate miscommunication with my aunts.
We were so frantic to get down there, so we could still surprise my siblings! We didn't know who all knew, and we were desperate!
So naturally, there were 2 car accidents on our way down to Casa Grande. It took nearly an hour and a half to get there!
As we parked down the street from my grandma's house, we called my sister-in-law Amy on video chat to say "Happy Thanksgiving".
We held the phone really close to our faces so she couldn't see our surroundings, and walked steadily toward the house.
In her mind, we were walking up to our friend's house in Virginia, whom we were spending Thanksgiving with.
We kept chatting as we walked in the front door. It was the most exhilarating feeling.
Surprises are awesome.
As we got into the dining room, grandma spotted us and screamed "DUSTY AND CAITLIN!"
And Amy turned (she was showing the phone around, so we could say "hi" to everyone at the table) and had the best reaction we ever could have hoped for.
The jumping, the squealing, the crying. It was magical.

I wish we had a video of it.

The rest of the trip followed suit. It was sweet and fun and such a blessing to be there for everything.

Wyatt Matthew
The Schanakers:

Uncle Dusty!

The O'Neil's:

Meeting Annabella Caitlin

I love candid pictures.

On Friday, we had the morning down with my family and then we'd be heading up to Chandler to spend the rest of the day with Dusty's.
I love being surrounded by family. A lot has changed over the years, but it's still wonderful to all be gathered at grandma's house.
Especially with the new budding generation!

It's so fun to see my brother and my sister-in-law raise their two beautiful girls.
It's also an absolute thrill to see my wonderful parents as grandparents! It's hard to believe.

Abby really had no idea what to think of Dusty and I.
She slooooowly warmed up to us over the course of the week!
"Um, grandma. Why are you holding another baby?"
Great-grandma, hard at work playing :)

 Abby has a tendency to love Kevin more than everyone else.

Although I'd like to think that the Starbucks drink-stopper in her mouth is somehow my influence.

Dusty did his best to win Abby over.
It was a slow process but they definitely bonded. Dirt and bricks work every time!

Although with daddy around...
You'd be a daddy's girl too, if he made you FLY.

This is a really picture-heavy blog post.
But I can't help it!
So much to do, so little time, so many people we love.

I love my cousins!

The brother and I!
When looking through all these Thanksgiving photos, I realized pretty quickly that I make really weird faces when I'm holding children.

Cue montage:

But to be fair, I'm only mimicking the things I see.
I mean, babies can make pretty weird faces, too.
It's just way cuter on them than on me.

Although maybe her and I make such similar faces because her middle name is "Caitlin", too.
Plus I'm her absolute favorite aunt.

On Friday evening, we headed back up to Chandler.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to go to the 80th birthday party of Dusty's grandpa ("Pa") that night!

It was a grandly planned event, full of skits, music, gifts and blessings.

We got to take a big family picture, all surrounding Pa while he held the first great-grandchild.
The oldest and the youngest of the family!

So sweet!

The first thing on the agenda was a skit!
Aunt June wrote it. It was called "This is Your Life Barney Barnum!" and it was for all of us to perform for Momo and Pa during the evening.

It was brilliant.
It was filled with each stage of Momo and Pa's lives, from meeting, to marrying, to having kids and grandkids. Special memories were scattered throughout, with inside jokes and sweet humor.
It was really fun to be a part of! We each played the real-life characters at different stages.


We even had our long-distance cousins on video chat, so they could see the whole thing!

It was so beautiful.
By the end, we were all crying. Going over emotional moments, and going through their many years together, it was something we'll always remember.
At the end, Pa stood and thanked us all...and then said that he could have never done it without Marjorie, his beautiful wife, who has always been at his side.

If you guys don't know, my husband is a crier. He cries at everything. If it's something really emotional like Toy Story 3, we'll both be bawling like children.

At the end, he turned to me and said (with lips quivering) "I hope when we're 80 we'll be lucky enough to have all this, too."
I just had to say "STOP IT right now!"

I love Dusty's family. Our family! It's pretty exciting to be apart of two loving, God-fearing, good-looking, giving and silly families.
It's also really exciting to be surrounded by sisters, at long last :)

Later on that night, we had a talent show for Momo and Pa:


How many women does it take to light an 80-year-old's cake?

And finally, the toasts.
Each child/grandchild got up to the microphone, and stated a specific memory of Pa that meant the most to them, or simply told Pa why he meant the world to them.

It was another really sweet, emotional time. His legacy of love, laughter, hard work and dedication to his family was wonderful to behold. Each child and grandchild has been so powerfully influenced by this couple.

The whole evening was such a wonderful testimony to their love and hard work.
I can't imagine having missed it, being too far away in Virginia. This was one of the moments I was most thankful to have come home.

The rest of the trip consisted of long-missed food:

Baby time with Wyatt:

And Annabella:

And Abby's love of iPhones:

We flew back to Virginia late on Monday night, and we spent most the day playing games and hanging out with my family since Dusty's parents went back to work that day.
It was fun but sad, counting down the hours until we had to head up to the airport!
We had some really fun moments, and it made it all the better that we knew we'd be coming back for Christmas in less than a month!

We played board games while the babies dozed:

And went to the park as it got dark!

She's a pro.

I love these next two pictures.
She was a little scared of the plane flying overhead, so my mom pointed to it and let her know that it wasn't scary!
And Kevin held her while she sat mesmerized by the moon.

Bottom line is, I love the desert. Because it's home.
And all the people we love the most are there, nestled in the beautiful landscapes.

Thanks to our families for making it possible for us to come home :)

Can't wait to see you all again for Christmas!

In love,


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