First Christmas Together in the US
Lifestyle USA

Mama’s First White Christmas And Our First Santa Express Ride Together

December 29, 2020
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My sister helped process my mother’s papers to clear the way for her to visit us here in the United States.

Mama’s First White Christmas With Us

She traveled with friends the second time she visited the USA and stayed until Christmas. It was great to spend that time with Mama. For her to be with my sister and me together with all her grandchildren in the United States was a blessing that others only dream about.

Jollibee Roadtrip

Jollibee Road Trip

We left our husbands to take care of the kids while Juhan, my sister, mother, and I made the two-hour drive each way to New Jersey to have mother-daughter bonding time in Jollibee. I drove my sister’s family vehicle as Juhan doesn’t know how to drive yet.

It was an easy drive, made less boring by Mama’s complaining about everything. I am glad my sister was there to entertain and talk to Mama while I concentrated on hearing the GPS’s instructions.

Mama's Jollibee Road Trip

When we arrived at the parking lot, a middle-aged man came to us and asking for water to drink. We invited him to line up with us and order from the menu. We paid for his order separately so it would be packed in a different bag. It was a great feeling to see him smile and his face light up when we paid for his meal.

Mama's White Christmas With Us

We ordered the things we craved. We each ate the burger steak with rice, spaghetti, pancit palabok, and halo-halo dessert. Of course, we also ordered the big bucket of chicken that included gravy and rice. And we couldn’t forget our favorite: mango pies and peach pies. If you visit Jollibee, the pies are a must.

Filipino Store

After we ate, we immediately went to the Filipino store near Jollibee and bought some Filipino groceries and other Filipino products that we enjoy using.

This time together felt new and fresh as we renewed bonds between my mother, sister, and me. It had been a long time since we had had that opportunity, but of course, it wasn’t complete as our brother wasn’t with us.

Then, the three of us headed back to my sister’s home, another two-hour journey.

Boarding the Santa Express Train Ride

Santa Train Ride

On our second day, we went to a Santa Paradise Express. Juhan has been following these activities. It’s an hour away from their home. We thought we were late and feared we wouldn’t be able to book a ticket, but thankfully there was an opening, and we were able to purchase a ticket.


We drove in two vehicles. It was a quick trip from my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Tobyhanna to Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

 The Rode family going to Santa Express Ride

There was lots of free parking in the area, so it was easy to find a parking spot. We proceeded to the main entrance and into the waiting area. The station provides hot cocoa and cookies for you while you wait. They have a mailbox, a pen and pencil, and paper for you to use if you want to write a letter to Santa. Of course, kids didn’t want to miss out on sending letters to Santa. Writing their wishes and stories to Santa Claus kept them busy while we waited.

Busy Writing Letters to Santa

Sending their letters to Santa


While on the train ride, Santa and Rudolph visited each table and brought presents to the kids. The kids got to sit in Santa’s lap, ask Santa some questions and talk about anything that concerned them. They also read the book titled “The Night Before Christmas” on the 1 1/2 hour train ride.

Santa boarding the Santa Express Train and having pictures with the kids and mama

The cousins with Rudolph



Our kids sat with their grandma, auntie, uncle, and cousins. Nate and I had a table all to ourselves a little ways away.

Nate and I

Riding Santa Express with the rest of the family

The cousins
It was a great time, and I’m glad our Mama had the chance to enjoy the Santa Train with us as we wound through the woods and overlooked a stream.

Guy Fieri's Mt. Pocono Kitchen

Dinner at a Guy Fieri’s Kitchen

It was around 5:00 pm when we headed home, so we decided to try some restaurants nearby my sister’s house in the Pocono Mountains. We decided on a barbecue restaurant owned by a famous American chef Fieri that is located inside the Casino.

The family dinner at Guy's Fieri's Kitchen

It took us a long time to order and get our food. It shouldn’t have taken so long because there weren’t that many people dining it. The long wait made our younger children cranky and impatient. Because this is a Casino, the kids were not free to roam around while they waited, which was challenging for them. The barbecue is good, and the other dishes we ordered were delicious.

Guy Fieri’s Mt. Pocono Kitchen is advertised as “kid-friendly.”I disagree. The restaurant is not kid-friendly, and neither is the menu because it offers no kids’ meals. We had to order adult food for them. In the end, our children didn’t eat much of their food.

This place is only good for adults or adults with teens, not for families with younger children.

Rode Family

Christmas Eve

We celebrated Christmas with Mama and my sister’s family in Pennsylvania. We prepared mostly Filipino food as Mama, Juhan, and her family are all Filipino. We made some American food that Nate and my kids would eat. It’s hard to feed my kids sometimes because they are picky eaters. I’m glad Juhan has learned to prepare bacon and chicken nuggets or breaded chicken when visiting them.

It’s a Catholic tradition to attend mass both on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. We missed going to church on Christmas Eve as we get busy preparing the food and taking care of our small children. We opened our presents earlier that evening before my brother-in-law left for work. We had a great time exchanging gifts before he left.

The cousins enjoy playing and controlling their cars.

The kids enjoyed their remote control cars from their parents. They all ended up having one, so they had a great time playing together.

My nephews enjoyed the keyboard we got for them, and we’re so happy to press every key. They sang and danced in front of the adults. It’s a joy to watch the cousins get along and having fun together.

First Christmas Day With Us

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, we woke up early to have time to feed the kids breakfast before heading to church. We had to search for a church celebrating mass at the time we can attend. This time we drove a little distance from Juhan’s home. The cousins were good. I’m glad they were well-behaved and listened to the priest.

The younger of my nephews wanted me to carry him all the time. Keira enjoys holding him, too, so we took turns taking care of him.

This was a small church. The priests and everyone in the church were happy to see us occupying the seats. We arrived in a big group and took up two rows of the church benches.

We went back to my sister’s house after the mass to eat our abundance of leftovers.



It’s not an easy process to apply for a visa to visit the USA. Mama’s first visa application was denied. I’m glad she got approved the second time and was given a ten year USA visa. I’m happy my mother had the opportunity to visit us here as I know many others are waiting and dreaming of traveling to the United States.

We’re grateful to have spent Christmas with Mama here and show her where we lived and how it is living here in the United States.

The younger grandchildren were happy to have their grandma around, and my sister and I were happy to have our mother here for Christmas.

I hope someday we can all go home to the Philippines and spend time with our brother and his family so all the cousins can be together.


  1. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    I’m so glad that Mama got her visa approved and you all were able to experience that together! It looks like you had a lot of great experiences together! ❤️

    • Reply


      January 11, 2021

      Thank you and yes we do have a lot of experienced together.

  2. Reply

    lisa manderino

    January 11, 2021

    That is great your mom was able to get a visa and you had such a wonderful Christmas!

  3. Reply

    Holly B

    January 11, 2021

    What a wonderful adventure! So happy that the entire family was able to spend the holidays together! This will be a memory you all will have forever!

  4. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    This looks like such a sweet and precious time together. I’m so happy you mother was able to make it for Christmas!

  5. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    That is so heartwarming that you were able to spend time with most members of your family for the holidays!!

  6. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    Sounds like a very Merry Christmas. Glad you had some wonderful experiences.

  7. Reply

    Sabrina DeWalt

    January 11, 2021

    Reuniting with family is always a treat, even more so when holidays are involved. So happy you had a wonderful Christmas!

  8. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    Oh! I am so glad your mom was able to get a green card! I immigrated to US from Kazakhstan and I know what the application process looks like. My mom btw got a green card too!

    Thank you for sharing. It’s great to know that I am not alone in the process.

    Check my blog. Lots of great travel ideas with kids!

  9. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    Here’s to hoping my Mama makes up her mind and uses her visa to come visit me and my family before it expires. It is hard flying for hours upend with young children, but my Mama is afraid of flying! It is so frustrating

    • Reply


      January 13, 2021

      I hope your mama will brave the long hours of flying. My sister has to make sure she is assisted as we were surely worried for her if she makes it walking by herself.

  10. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    Looks like lots of great memories made!

  11. Reply

    Tricia Snow

    January 11, 2021

    There is nothing that compares to that first snow! Glad you got to see your mom!

  12. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    Showing kindness and making memories! Win win!

  13. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    What a beautiful family you have. So happy your mom was able to get her Visa. I had a girlfriend struggle with the very same process but from Mexico to Canada. It’s hard being in different countries. But now you have such amazing memories of Mama’s 1st White Christmas. <3

  14. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    So wonderful Mama got her visa and could visit you all! I bet that meant so much to you all to be together!

  15. Reply


    January 11, 2021

    Family time together is a treasure!

  16. Reply

    Suz |

    January 12, 2021

    So glad it worked out for your mother to visit. I couldn’t figure out until the end where she was visiting from.
    So great to be around family, especially during the holidays.

  17. Reply

    Sydney Delong-Eat Simply Sweet

    January 12, 2021

    How wonderful for your mom to be able to visit at such a special time of year! It looks like you had a lot of fun with your family!

  18. Reply

    Lisa S

    January 12, 2021

    That is so great that Mama’s Visa was approved! Enjoy making lots of memories!

  19. Reply

    Amy Irvin

    January 12, 2021

    Great pictures! You had a nice Christmas 🙂 God bless you and the fam

  20. Reply

    Sandi Barrett

    January 12, 2021

    It must have been a great Christmas to have your mom visit.

  21. Reply

    Melissa | It's a Joyous Journey

    January 12, 2021

    Oh, what a treat to have your mama visit you in the US for Christmas! I’m glad you all got to spend that time together!

  22. Reply


    January 12, 2021

    What a lovely post! Christmas must have been really special for everyone with your Mom there!

  23. Reply

    Melissa Jones

    January 13, 2021

    This looks like such a fun time!!

  24. Reply

    Danielle Ardizzone

    January 16, 2021

    Aw, the Rudolph pic is my favorite. Looks like everyone had a great time!

  25. Reply


    January 16, 2021

    Lovely holiday experiences! My kids are older, but they better be ready for all the Santa things next year! I will want to do it all after this pandemic!

  26. Reply

    Cindy Moore

    January 17, 2021

    What special memories you all created! So happy for you it all worked out, to get your mother here.

    • Reply


      February 23, 2021



April Key Rode
New York, USA

April Key Rode is a Bachelor graduate of Hospitality and Tourism Management. One of the researchers in Tabuelan "As An Eco-Tourism Destination." She loves to do research, writing, cross-stitching and dancing. Her favorite sports are badminton, biking, soccer, basketball, and bowling. She is a mother of two, and she loves traveling with her own family and friends.

Rodes On The Road