Christmas in the Cruiser

Who could’ve known
I wouldn’t have thought
That I’d be spending Christmas
In a Denny’s parking lot

– Excerpt from Kyle’s “Merry Cars-mas” — a joke song that turned out to be prophetic

(Foreshadowing, foreshadowing…)

Since moving back to SoCal in October, we’ve been a little bit—How do you say?—”homeless” as we figure out how-in-the-world to pay double what we’ve ever paid for rent in Los Angeles.

(We’re getting there.)

Enter our Land Cruiser, a.k.a. Car-V, our SUV-turned-makeshift-camper-van that’s sheltered us throughout our summer road trip. We’ve spent a handful of nights in the Cruiser in between nights spent in hotels and family members’ homes.

Once it became clear that we likely wouldn’t have a house of our own before Christmas, we started brainstorming: how could we make Christmas in the car fun for the kids?

Disneyland? Too expensive.

Sacramento with the grandparents? Too far.

What if we camped in the Cruiser on Christmas Eve and the kids awoke to SNOW in the mountains? We could make snow angels and go sledding. It would be our kids’ first white Christmas, just like the ones we used to know.

Of course, it would only work if there was *snow* on Christmas, and in the week leading up to Christmas, the forecast for Christmas Eve was 50 degrees and raining in Crestline, one of the closest mountain towns.

Then Hazel contracted norovirus. (You know, the virus that makes you throw up.) In the days leading up to Christmas, we went down like dominoes: Hazel got it, Kyle got it, I got it, Augie got it, and then Adelaide got it. But it was a 24-hour virus, and Adelaide recovered on the eve of Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, the forecast had turned, and what once was a raincloud was replaced by a big ol’ snowflake. We set our sights on Snow Valley, a ski resort on the way to Big Bear that has a snow play area with a big sledding hill, a chairlift, and manmade snow, just in case.

Kyle and I couldn’t wait.

Christmas Eve, Kyle led a candlelight service in Camarillo, while the kids and I attended our church’s service in Newbury Park.

After service, we enjoyed a festive holiday dinner with relatives before setting out for Highland, where we would spend the night before heading up the mountain on Christmas morning.

We found a decent place to park and got the car into sleep mode: we folded down the middle seats, pulled out the sleeping platform, unfolded the memory foam mattress, slid out another platform for the kids, until finally we were nestled all snug in our beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in our heads.


Three a.m. on Christmas morning, I awoke with a start.

Or more specifically, I awoke with vomit on my face.

Adelaide had round two of the flu, and unfortunately, we were sleeping just inches away. Even worse, she’d thrown up all over her pajamas and blankets.

We were in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night on Christmas.

Nothing was open.

Nothing, except…


Adelaide and I smiled politely at the host as we shuffled through the doors and headed for the women’s restroom, where I helped Adelaide change into new jammies and washed the vomit out of her hair. We emerged 15 minutes later, mostly clean, mostly dry, and smelling faintly of cherry vanilla hand soap.

We walked back to the Cruiser, where Kyle had cleaned up inside and bundled up the soiled blankets.

Once again, all was calm. And all was bright, thanks to the pink-orange parking lot lights overhead.

Now what?

If Adelaide was really sick again, we’d need access to a bathroom. But should we drive 90 minutes back to town with a nauseated kid? And to where, exactly? Or maybe we should find a hotel nearby. But it was already 4 a.m., and by the time we checked in, we’d only have a few hours before checkout.

And what about Christmas for Augie and Hazel?

We decided to stay put and sleep in the Denny’s parking lot.

And, miraculously, it all worked out.

Dad’s 60th Birthday

My dad celebrated his 60th birthday at The Happiest Place on Earth, and wouldn’t you know it — it was his twin brother’s birthday, too!

Our fam was super blessed to spend the day with my mom and dad, along with Uncle Perry, Aunt Barb, and cousin Eric and Melissa and her sister Caitlin.

I always feel like I’m taking too many pictures, and then I get home and find that I didn’t take NEARLY ENOUGH PICTURES. (Sigh.)

How do you get good pictures without sticking your camera in people’s faces all day long?

Answer: You don’t.

I was also trying out my new 50mm lens that Kyle got for my birthday(!), which has a smaller range than I’m used to. So fewer pictures turned out.

But here are a few that I liked:


Hazel in line for the carousel (I have a thing for the carousel…)




Stoic Augie




Kyle and Hazey




A picture of meeeee for once 🙂




Adelaide on the Storybook Land canal boats




Kyle in near tears on the Storybook Land canal boats (it’s so magical!)




The Sword in the Stone








Late lunch/early dinner birthday dessert with the twins




Birthday boys on Main Street USA with their new hats 🙂




Waiting for the Paint the Night parade. (The best parade ever so far in history…)




Then I made us all look at the window displays at the Emporium store. (The Aladdin one was especially good.)

Happy birthday, Dad! I hope this is your Happiest Year on Earth… so far 🙂

Saturday Afternoon in Little Tokyo

The Japanese American National Museum has a free family day every month, and since Adelaide just finished learning about Japan in history class, I decided to go with the kids this weekend.

The museum is across the street from a Metro stop, so we took the train from Pasadena to Little Tokyo.




The kids liked riding the train. Here’s Augie acting natural for a picture.




There was a truck outside the museum that people were supposed to paint on. We grabbed paint brushes and paint and added our designs.




When I returned the paint to the table, the guy there gave me a weird look. That’s when I realized I’d leaned in too close to the truck and Hazel’s ear and hair were covered in red paint. It looked like her ear was bleeding bright red blood.

So our first stop in the museum was the restroom.

After washing up, we walked out into the family activity area, only to find that we’d missed most of the festivities. There was an Asian-American Santa that we missed, and some sort of snowman craft. (Asian snowman?)

Not a big deal, though. I knew we would arrive late in the day, and mostly I wanted Adelaide to see some of the Japanese history stuff.

There were a few young people playing ukuleles onstage. They tried to make up a song on the spot, but they weren’t very good at improvising. The singer was making up lyrics by describing what he could see at that moment in the museum. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t want to dis the guy, so we stayed for the whole song.

Then we saw a cool mural.




We looked at a reconstructed barrack from the Japanese internment camps and some kimonos. Augie kept saying, “Let’s get out of this place!” Adelaide wanted to see a waterfall outside. So we spent a few minutes walking around, and then we went outside to look at the waterfall.




I decided that an hour at the Japanese American National Museum was long enough for a 7 and 4 year old, and we went back to the train stop.

We missed the train by a few seconds, but it was okay. The kids pretended to take a nap on the platform.




The next train rolled up a few minutes later.

I talked to a lady on the train with three kids (two teenage girls and a 9-year-old boy). I found out she was one year older than me, and her birthday is three days before mine. She lives just a few miles from me. She told me she has a gambling problem, and it’s her New Year’s resolution to fix it because she’s tired of being broke.

Talking to her, I felt like some hot shot, what with my husband, and my mild mannered kids, and my car parked at the train stop. But it wasn’t a good feeling. I wanted to be able to help her. I wasn’t prepared.

We went home and ate ice cream.