Monday, December 29, 2008

Best Christmas Ever

So much to be thankful for this year. Mostly for the reduction of expectations before Christmas. With the economy in shambles, it made our family glad to have a home, a job and each other. The kids reduced their "gimme" lists to one important item, so when I was able to expand their gifts a little, it felt like a LOT instead of a letdown. We spent the day quietly, just the four of us. I cooked a turkey, the kids helped with the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. We pigged out at lunch, then played with toys or crashed with a book for a quick nap.
The leadup to Christmas was less stressful. We were able to do Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes and the kids' school participated in a Police Department Santa Connection for needy kids in the area. We had a ball shopping at the Dollar store and Walmart for the kids assigned to each of their classes. Allen kept piping up from the backseat: "Christmas is really about giving instead of getting, right Mom?!" We also helped serve lunch at the soup kitchen where I volunteer. The kids were blown away by the numbers of people in need this Christmas. (It was the usual end of the month packed house, lots of moms and kids as well.) I managed to push aside all activities for a Saturday to bake cookies and Emily and I ran a plate to the Police station and volunteer fire station in Waxhaw to thank them for being on duty over the holidays.
The kids' classes also went to see the Nutcracker ballet and I got to go along as chaperone. It really helped put me in the Christmas spirit. Temperatures have been so mild, it just doesn't seem time yet.
On Christmas Eve, we were invited to go ice skating at an open-air rink downtown with some close friends from Emily's class. We skated around until I got exhausted, then met Brian for a quiet dinner at a restaurant.
Brian was able to take the weekend off, so we headed off to fulfill Allen's only Christmas activity wish: "I REALLY want to go skiing!" There is a small slope about two hours away, so we got a house-sitter and hotel reservations and off we went. It was not the nicest snow we've ever skiied on, but we all improved tremendously. The temperatures have been too mild for them to make any fresh snow, so it really got a bit icy/slushy on the second day. Emily took lessons and went from barely able to stay up to traversing a challenging slope independently, leading her Mom in graceful S turns. "Look, Mom, this is how you stop if you get going too fast!" She and Julie are officially the same skill skiier now, so in future will take lessons together. Allen just took off and never looked back. He was on the challenging slope to start and progressed up through two levels of difficulty by the end of the two days. Brian had his work cut out for him as he followed Allen down the slopes. Allen was extremely patient, waiting at the bottom for whoever he was with to get down the mountain. There was just no way for me to keep up with him.
The second day we got a strong lesson in not letting a situation get you down. We awoke to a steady rain in our hotel room and fog so thick you couldn't see the adjacent road. We had paid for the day's lift tickets in advance and had our rental equipment stowed in a locker at the lodge. But it looked doomed. At the parking lot of the slope, you could barely see the other row of cars through the fog. But at least up there it wasn't raining. Brian went in to see if we could at least get a raincheck and if they were running the lifts. Allen listened carefully to the plan, then plaintively said,"I don't care if I can't see, I just want to ski the radical slope again!" So in we trudged to let Dad know how Allen felt. Brian was skeptical but kind enough to indulge his son's wish and it turned out to be an awesome day. True, the slopes were icy and slushy. But the rain down in town kept the lines at the lifts short and the fog lifted by noon so you could actually see where you were going. Never got sunshine, but had a great time. We all skiied to the limits of our physical endurance. There was such a lesson on not giving up and not letting a situation ruin your day.
Got back to find the goose had pulled a huge chunk of hair out of Chloe's back. Oh well. None of the animals died, so all in all a successful family vacation.