Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Reflections

During our post-Christmas debriefing, Regina and I were discussing our favorite part of this holiday season.  For me, it was the build-up.  Watching Dylan's Christmas excite-o-meter bump up another notch with each new open door on her chocolate filled advent calendar was the coolest part.  It was like watching someone blow up a balloon much bigger than you thought imaginable.  For Regina, it was Christmas morning.  When Grady received a gift he appreciated, he settled in and started playing, uninterested in the gifts, the toys, the chaos around him.  Dylan, on the other hand, tore open each gift -- I LOVE IT!!! NEXT!!! -- and watching the yin and yang of those two was the joy for Regina.

Let me rewind.  After our trip to Cabo, we returned and immediately jumped into super-holiday mode.  The first item on the list was the tree-cutting.  Often, that involves lots of peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate, dogs and dads roaming the woods like lost hunters, and a truckload of freezing kids.  This year, we braved it alone.  We slid and spun our way over backroads to get to the perfect super-secret tree spot.  We arrived with a triumphant chest pounding and I turned around to see both kids sound asleep in their car seats.  I slogged through the snow alone, found two good trees, and returned to a truckload of well rested children.

After tree and house decorating, the spirit of Santa really hit.  We had Christmas tunes playing on Pandora radio 24-7 (Regina's favorite, R&B Christmas.  Mine, "Little Drummer Boy" on loop).  Dylan got into the spirit of things by making up her own versions of Christmas carols.  Frosty the Snowman, apparently, is an Old Mermaid, and "Jingle Bells" has just one verse, and it's sung on repeat for hours on end.  Grady loves any music but bangs his head especially hard, like he's at a Def Leppard concert, whenever Christmas tunes come on.  At the Christmas Eve service, Grady crawled up to the alter and sat underneath the piano and danced while we all sang "O Come All Ye Faithful."  At church that night, he got to sit on Santa's lap.  He alternated between crying, because a thin Santa was holding him and not his Dad, and smiling, because, damn, that's a cool beard.  Dylan climbed on his lap and sat, stone-faced, for about five minutes; I think she was disappointed in his thinness.

And all this, of course, brings us to Christmas morning.  Santa had eaten the cookie, decorated with gummy bears and peppermints stuck into inch thick frosting, that we left out for him (oh, my gut), and had filled our stockings.  We shuffled out to the living room and Dylan realized that full stockings = Santa.  When we reminded her that Christmas is also Jesus's birthday, she nearly blew a gasket.  "It's Baby Jee-jus birthday? Yiiiii!!!!"  Grady found his perfect toy, a dump truck, and Dylan spun in a gift wrapped whirling dervish until bed time (mercifully, without any meltdowns -- another Christmas miracle!).  And when it was all said and done, Regina and I sat down and talked about the day.  It's too easy to race through Christmas without much reflection, especially with young kids in the house, and I was thankful that we could reminisce about the past month and put some perspective on the season.  And you thought our "debriefing" meant something else.   Shame on you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cruisin' Cabo

Our trips to Mexico have become so routine that we've established a few Mexico-holiday traditions.  Not "Mexican-holiday" traditions: we don't spend a day making tamales with our family, or watching luchadores hit each other with folding-chairs.  But, our traditions do revolve around food and folding-chairs, so it practically makes us local.

We generally bounce between the pool and the beach, then go out in the afternoon for an early dinner.  If Cabo had early-bird dinner specials, we'd shame the senior citizens with our prompt arrivals.  Then it's a stroll through town and off to bed.  When that routine happens year after year, it becomes tradition.

Grady's been to Mexico before, but not Cabo, and so he was initiated into the fraternity of gringos this trip. For starters, our Cabo-Thanksgiving tradition is eating at El Pollo de Oro.   Except for the taco-stand by the bus stop and the churro vendor on the corner, it's our favorite restaurant least likely to seat a gringo.  Meaning, it's awesome.  We forfeit the traditional turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie for mole' enchiladas, fish veracruz, ribs, and micheladas.  It's a great trade.

The expansion of our family has slightly changed or evolved our traditions.  Regina and I used to get barraged with requests to buy drugs and check out local strippers.  Add one child, those solicitations get cut by three-quarters, add another and they drop to zero.  Now we just turn down requests to see timeshare presentations or beach vendors selling fake silver jewelry.

Our pool traditions, too, have morphed from how many Dirty Monkeys is it possible to order during Happy Hour, to watching Grady cruise the pool chairs and seeing how high I can toss Dylan in the air (while we're in the pool, of course).  And, instead of Cabo Wabo for dinner and music, the Giggling Marlin for upside down tequila shots, and El Squid Roe for ... I forget, now it's Ni How Kai Lan in Spanish and reading in bed.

This isn't by any means a compliant.  I love watching Grady do laps in his lounge-chair playpen and seeing Dylan's confidence in the water expand to the point I get nervous.  And I'd trade a good mole' sauce and a caramel churro for jello shots any day (But the bacon-wrapped hot dogs from the street- stand? Not as good as it sounds.  I'd opt for a jello shot over those again).  And who knows, once Grady is able to swim around on his own, he may just fold up a pool chair and crack it over my head, just like a real luchador.  Now that would be a Cabo tradition worth starting.