Sunday, December 27, 2009

christmas 2009

We spent our first day back from Sayulita quickly shifting gears. We layered our sun kissed bodies into long sleeves and jackets, legwarmers and vests, and found ourselves up the Blackfoot River searching for the perfect tree. We couldn't look for long because none of us were ready to be back out in the cold for too long, but Eliana spotted an appropriately Charlie Brownish tree and daddy quickly rigged it to the top of the car. We had such a lovely time taking out all of our ornaments and sharing our favorites with Eliana. We have a nice sampling from both of our childhood collections, so all of Jeffy's sailboats and my Peanuts gang guys have special significance. Eliana examined each one asking, "What is this? This one mom's or dad's?" and then ambling over to hang them on the lower branches of the tree (after insisting on being, "nakey noodle" because who decorates trees in clothes anyway?).

The next day we were lucky enough to be greeted by Auntie Hilary who spontaneously decided to join us for the holidays. Such a treat this was! Eliana goes gaga for Auntie and would paddle downstairs every morning to wake Hilary up down in the basement. She participated in her first cookie baking with Hilary (and I wonder what kind of mom I am that it's taken me two and half years to bake cookies with my kiddo). Perhaps it's because her mama is not exactly skilled in the baking department. Neither is her auntie for that matter. Nevertheless, the cookies were sweet. Flat and misshapen and shiny with Princess icing, just as they should be.

Santa was a kinda a quick cram lesson for Eliana. Her first encounter with Santa was in Mexico. He was this wacky blow up doll on the side of the road, just a bit larger than she. We began our fabled explanation there.

Then when Auntie was here, we found ourselves at the wine bar for dinner. Four mildly inebriated Santa's entered the building, carrying huge brass instruments. The Santa's bought themselves another round of drinks, shouted some robust, "Ho! Ho! Ho!'s", then busted a few holiday tunes on their tubas. Els then internalized that Santa says, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" but also of course assumed that Santa wields a loud brass instrument. So Eliana's impersonation of Santa involves a make-believe horn that she happily plays upon completion of her Ho's.

The following night we found ourselves at a Christmas eve dinner hosted by some friends. There were a dozen or so little kiddos there and the plan was that the papa host would dress up like Santa and unload a big bag of gifts, one for each kiddo. When the doorbell rang, the chickens raced upstairs shouting, "Santa! Santa!" Eliana was one of the younger ones in the bunch, but she quickly caught on and followed them, albeit a bit more slowly, up the stairs. When she spotted him, she anxiously looked for me. She clutched me tightly and whispered, "Where's the band?"

But once big S started unloading loot from his big bag, Els got into the groove. Of course, her little present was the last gift in the bag, so she got to watch all her buddies get excited and rip open their regalitos. Perhaps Santa's coolest gift were matching Wolverine costumes for her BFF's Solan and Jiah. I regretted the two wrapped books I put in the bag as I watched Soraya rip open a Cinderella Barbie and Cyrus get nuts with a remote control car. I guess I'm just getting into the groove of Santa myself.

Christmas morning proved to be was the peak of our holiday exploits. Eliana was psyched to see a stuffed stocking and even more so when she realized that it was bursting with the kind of treats that she never gets. Candy and gummies, chocolate and weird, cheap plastic toys that I found at the dollar store. At that point her favorite gift was "my orange candy". Maybe we should bust candy at 8 in the morning more often.

From stockings we moved into wrapped presents, most of which were for her thanks to generous grandparents and aunties. There were a couple big hits. Jalissa the Cabbage Patch kid whose kinky blonde curls mirror Els. Conversation at nap time on Christmas day, listened to by her parents on the other side of the door:

You have blonde hair. So do I!
It's really curly. Mine's curly too.
Your eyes are green. But mine are just blue.

Also big props to Auntie Kelli's wooden kitchen set and foods. Eliana was ready to head straight up to her Nana's to get busy in her kitchen. And, of course, Gran's super cozy pink robe and music box complete with twirling fairy. Ah where would we be without the generosity of our people!

We followed up gift fest with a trip to Pattee Canyon where Eliana tried out the skis that daddy bought her a few weeks back at a gear swap. This was another highlight of my day - the look on her little face as she zipped down the little slope for the first time. Equally beautiful was the smile on Jeff's face, his little girl excited about one of his greatest passions.

After a good ten minute run on her little skis, Els was ready to be carried. We made our way slowly up the trail, stopping to make a snowman out of salt-like snow. Nothing like two LA girls and a toddler to produce a really rocking snowman! Not so much to show, but great for giggles.

I can't really explain how moving it is to watch the people you love adore your child. Eliana is blessed with so many aunties and uncles, both biological and adopted. For most of my life, my sister has been the most important person in my world. Her rank has been met with my little girl. Watching them together brings me indescribable joy.

After necessary naps, hot tub trips and food preparation, we found ourselves with our dearest amigos for Christmas dinner. It was simple and quiet and felt just great. While I definitely had bouts of missing my California and New Jersey families throughout the day, being with our friends felt like being home. The kiddos were so sweet together, playing in their fort and eating together at the kids table. It all felt pretty cozy and together, just as Christmas should.

So here we are, a few days post holiday, post vacation, just back at home enjoying a week of nesting and togetherness before we go back to the craziness of our working lives. Except now Eliana wants to open her stocking and bake cookies all day. Cookies we managed (and by the third batch they actually seemed to look and taste okay). I'm going to head downstairs now to begin a project in the basement involving massive tubs of girl's baby clothes that need to be sent to my dear amiga and sister-in-law. I guess I'll be all about brown and blue. And next year Christmas will have a whole new bundle of joy to get funky in the mix.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Journal Entry, 12-13-09

Today is the first day of what I already see will be an insanely splendid vacation. How badly I need to have some quiet time with my family. You don't realize how much you do in a day until you stop.

I love this little town. The potholes and palm trees. This balcony that looks beyond the the cobblestones to the sea, this hammock in our "new home" as Els says. Terracotta tiles and seashells and a few poinsettia shaped candles just to remind us that Christmas is, indeed, around the corner.

I get back in this mode and find it hard to believe I live in a place where, recently, the negative temperatures have made it feel almost impossible to even take the dog on a short spin. My skin was so dry, hair electrified by the current of cold. Our first day and already her curls are tighter than ever, my skin soft and smooth with sand and salt water, the itchy belly a thing of the past. How did this sunny So. Cal girl end up in frigid northern mountains again? How is it that someone who loves culture and the flavors of chili and cilantro end up in such a monochromatic state. I know I love the soft brown hills, the kind community, but when I get back here, that feels a lifetime away.

Which reminds me that we have to continue to travel, even as this family expands. It felt so indulgent a few weeks ago, thinking about this trip. All the money we'll spend, the time off work, choosing tropics and relaxation over cities and our larger family.

But now that we're here, it feels absolutely right. Watching Eliana haul buckets of sand, the way she bravely runs towards the sea then screeches to a halt the second her toes hit the water.

Feeling my big body finally buoyant, able to maneuver in ways that have become painful out of water. No, the pregnant body was made to inhabit water. Perhaps ages ago pregnant women floated for nine months, splashed, then cleaned their babies in that same sea. I'd love that. Nothing but splashing and laughing all day, rolling in the waves, resting our rounding ligaments and shifting centers of gravity.

Monday 12-14-09

The greatest gift of all is having so much time with Elie. She is so perfect. She discovered the true magic of the ocean today. Her body flew down the sandy bank and she ran as if to hurl herself in, but always cautious enough to stop when the water lapped her ankles. We played "catch ball" with wet sand, filled buckets, sang Daddy Jeff in the Deep Blue Sea while trying to pick daddy out on his surf board... Eliana snuggled up in my arms, then lounging in her own chair, slumped with the relaxation of a day in the sun.

She made friends with the posada housekeeper's four year old hija, Nicole. Tried to share her treats, tried to communicate, her English, Nicole's shy espanol.

Another gift of this trip is enjoying this pregnancy a bit. Showing off my belly in my bikini. Happily eating palettas and choco bananas. Napping when I'm sleepy. I'm so content just being here with my little brood. And Jeffy, bless him, is actually beginning to relax, sun rash, bee sting and all. He's under a lot of stress these days -- perhaps more than I realize. I love the way he's taken to surfing, the way he gets a few hours a day to tune in with the sea while Els and I stroll through the little shops, buy treats, play our little games, practice Spanish with our new friends.

Days filled with love and vibrancy. From the moment Eliana wakes up, her little pack and play at our feet, her early morning musings and songs. Then I get busy in our kitchen frying eggs and tortillas, using my new favorite tool the mortar and pestle to mash avocados and chilis, limes and ajo into a perfect paste that will get me through the day. Melting Oaxacan cheese and then pouring salsa verde on the whole mix. Mexican coffee. Licuados of guava and mango and coconut in the blender. All the while Eliana mixes her own special concoctions at my feet, busy in one of her wild, imaginary worlds. It's not even nine o'clock and I'm already in paradise.

After hours outside, Eliana takes a long, Mexican-made siesta while I read in the hammock or snooze beside her. When she wakes, we gather ourselves for another evening out on the town to eat deliciousness, chat with the locals, watch the sunset, laugh and indulge.

There are these moments when it all makes sense. I breathe this cool, salty air and smile because somehow I've managed to find some reason in it all -- to be here now and do what matters most. Be with my people, feel the sun on my face, my baby kick, hear the waves roll and revel in the precious moments of this now.

Journal Entry, 12-20-09

It's our last day here. We've found a perfect beach, vast and ours for a last day of revelry. San Pancho even outshines Sayulita -- I have moments where I feel like I'll never be able to return, like I could be here always. The gentle neighborhood and friendly locals. The dollar fish taco from the fellow down the road or the insane shrimp dinner I had last night, a table filled with different salsas, guacamoles, cebollas so that each bite can be perfect. The palacial home with gorgeous tiles and that tremendous pool, thick azure rimmed drinking glasses.

But beyond food and lodging, it's being with our people here that take this to a new level. As important and lovely as it was to just be the three of us, to be here in this home with our old friends fills each moment with a new sort of permanence. What a gift to have Eliana loved by so many people. She wakes now asking for Colleen, Amy, Matt, "her buddies" and races out of bed to let them read her stories, plays 'bedtime' with Amy and waxes the surfboards with Matt. She lets Meghan paint her toes purple and, much more importantly, give them a trim! This mama has been trying to cut her kids old man toes for months! She indulges in chiles rellenos and beans prepared by Pilar, thanks to John and Carol's generosity. They all play wacky games with her and laugh at her jokes and songs while Jeff and I exchange smiles, both of us so proud, so grateful of the appreciation and involvement.

It's truly been tremendous, absolutely perfect but I have to remember that there are other Christmases, new memories to build and anticipate. Even with our little guy on the way. We'll be loved still when we are four.