Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas w/o the family

I've mentioned how much I miss my family who are scattered up and down the west coast with me being the only one in Los Angeles. And at Christmas, this used to be a major travel time for us with trips to visit my sister in Oakland, DG's family also in the Bay Area, and my mom and brother in Seattle.  In recent years, however, we've decided that we want our kids to have their own Christmas traditions and we now stay home.  The kids wake up in their own beds, go out to their own living room, and greet the wonder that Santa has left them.

But the best part of all?  We don't entertain anyone on Christmas day.  No one comes over for dinner, we don't have to go anywhere to be with relatives, we don't even need to have a fancy dinner in the dining room with the china.  We can stay in our pajamas all day and enjoy not having to do anything.  That's what we did this year.  We ate Chinese food at the counter for lunch.  I made Prime Rib for just the 4 of us (it only had one bone!).  We sat on the couch and watched A Christmas Story and drank hot chocolate in front of the tree.

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE spending time with family and friends.  We had an amazing time with friends on Christmas Eve with a wonderful dinner and singing Christmas carols around their living room piano.

I have a tripped planned to visit my sister in mid-January, and the whole family will trek to Seattle for my mom's 78th birthday in April.

But this Christmas--gloriously alone, and I don't regret it.

So the Holiday wrap up goes like this:

T1 and T2 standing next to each other in the school program. Miracle!

A super rainy night at Disneyland. The rain looks like snow in the camera.

Listening to amazing carolers at the Tam 'O Shanter's holiday dinner

Christmas morning. I was the only one up FOREVER. Kids didn't get up until after 8!

Reading the response letter from Santa. He asked them to be good to each other in the new year and to listen to their parents. hahahaha

T2's special trip to the American Girl Store with friends for a fabulous lunch.

Overall, our holiday break has been wonderful.  Now on to New Year's resolutions.  I am definitely going to do things differently in 2011.  How about you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Memories

Remember when you were little, and there's that one thing from Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whatever winter holiday you celebrate that really stands out in your mind as the most funny, or heartbreaking, or heartwarming?  I think everybody has a memory like that.  I've got several.  Like the year my dad left and my 10-year-old brother put up all the Christmas lights by himself.  My mother was so touched--at least I thought she was touched, but it was probably more a mixture of pride in her resourceful son, guilt in her divorce decision leaving us without a "Christmas light hanger," and sadness at her first Christmas as a single parent.  Or the year my brother, sister and I stayed up all night--I mean literally all night--waiting for Christmas morning.  We piled into my room with blankets and stories; we were all teenagers at the time.  We still talk about it.  Every holiday season, I call my sister and say, "Hey, remember this song from that album that we listened to every Christmas?  Remember the one with the red cover?"

As my own kids are now the age when Christmas memories are being formed, I wonder what they'll remember when they get older.  Will in be this year, when Los Angeles was deluged with rain storms of epic proportions that have kept us inside for days?  They've moved from watching Pokemon on TV, to playing Pokemon on the DS, to playing Pokemon cards in T1's room.  (Seriously, is Pokemon really that compelling?)  Honestly, I think they're completely loving this unstructured time just to be kids without all the school, homework, activities, and playdates.  Or will it be decorating the tree and uncovering the beauty of ornaments that slip their minds as the months between Christmases pass? 

This was the first year that I think they'll remember decorating the tree.  I decided to let T1 put on the tree topper.  He is told so much that he needs to be careful, keep his hands to himself, play nicely and gently.  I thought I'd give him a special task that would usually be bestowed upon a family member with excellent dexterity and calm, two things T1 doesn't really have mastery over yet.  My thinking was, let him have something that calls upon his burgeoning maturity and bridges him from little kid to big kid.  Maybe I thought too soon.

Yes, the tree topper broke, and then all hell broke loose.  I got upset with DG, who was upset because he had a feeling that T1 couldn't do it, and then T1 went crying out of the room and hid because I yelled.  Definitely a Christmas memory I'm not proud of, but here it is, for all of you--familly foibles and all.  Off to Stat's we went to get another tree topper.  And, Christmas memory restored.

Maybe it would have been better if we waited a year for this.  Maybe he would have been just that much bigger and could reach the tree top better.  Maybe we would pick a tree without a knot sticking out that would allow the topper to slip right over the top.  Maybe, who knows.  But this is the memory we have.  This is the one I'll remember and I'm sure he'll remember and we'll laugh, "Remember that year we broke the tree topper? Hahahahaha"

It reminds me of that scene at the end of A Christmas Story.  Ralphie's family Christmas dinner is ruined by an unfortunate incident with some neighborhood dogs and the Christmas ham.  They go to a Chinese restaurant and while the waiters are singing Christmas carols, food is brought to their table.  The camera zooms in and they're smiling, laughing, and enjoying themselves.  The voice over describes the memory and you can see that this is the Christmas memory that they'll remember, not the missed ham.  I think of our tree topper the same way.  Every year, when I unwrap it, I'll remember the successful adornment and think about how T1 grew up a little that year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  May the memories you make this year be joyous ones, and if they're not, I hope there's at least some humor.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Come Fly With Me

I've written here many times about how much I love traveling alone on a business trip and how wonderful and quiet it is in a hotel room. It's nice to read and rest and have that time to myself, but what I absolutely loathe about traveling alone is the flying.

There's an irrational fear that takes over me just before the plane takes off. My heart starts to race and I shut my eyes tightly, like a frustrated baby in that moment before a desperate shriek. But I can't scream. I have no outlet for the anxiety that grips me in that moment. Then with an unnatural, awkward lift, the plane is in the air, we're on our way, and I'm fine.

I'm not sure exactly why I have this crazy fear of take-off, but I do have a general idea. It's probably a mix of statistics and knowledge of what's at stake. Most plane travel is extremely safe. It's probably safer than driving, but if a plane is going to crash, it's usually soon after take-off. And what's at stake in that event, when I'm traveling alone, is the thought, just the thought, of my family without me. That's what's at stake in my mind on the plane.

So that's why I have a little ritual that I do that makes me feel better, however hokey it is. In that tight-eyed moment as the engines are roaring, I visualize every member of my family. I'm embracing DG. I'm swinging T1 around me. I'm watching T2 dance as I smile. I picture my parents and my brother, my sister, nieces and nephews. It's calming. The tightness lessens; My hands don't grip quite as hard. I'm okay and then it's over.

I am grateful to have this little thing that I do. I can fly and know that I'll be home to love up my little family soon enough.