Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Today was a brief interlude of calm/preparation before Christmas: Part II kicks in tomorrow, when we head to my parents' for a few days. Our living room and dining room are full of piles -- suitcases, the car seat with fun and exciting toys already attached, the bag full of presents. The cooler has been dusted off, the sandwiches are made, the coffeemaker just needs to be turned on. We're really hoping that Ess travels better than she did when we last made this trip in mid-October. But we're prepared, I guess, if she doesn't.

And, really, we couldn't blame her if she's not up to seven hours in the carseat (with breaks, of course). She's just been a dream for the last few days -- happy, social and engaged. The picture above gives you an idea of her temperament these last several days (also please note the giant bottle of beer and excellent Italian cookbook among my presents -- does my husband know me well or what?). It doesn't show off her very fashionable little velvet and satin pantsuit, courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law, but you get the idea... In this shot, she's happily gnawing on the ribbon that her fancy helicopter was wrapped with; presumably someday the helicopter itself will be of interest to her.

So it's really just been a whirlwind of cooking and wrapping and talking and eating these last several days. I got into a classic Christmas funk on Friday, feeling sad that few friends were around and that my family was far away. But D and Ess snapped me out of it -- as did, bizarrely, a late afternoon trip to the insanely crowded grocery store -- and I really enjoyed the next several days. Saturday night D's parents came over; we ate stuffed shells and watched "Meet Me in St. Louis," which was fun if a little slow. (The night before, D and I had watched "The Family Stone" -- totally predictable and formulaic yet still enjoyable, particularly if you like Luke Wilson like I like Luke Wilson.)

On Christmas Eve we must've done something in the morning... probably wrapping and organizing. Oh, yes, D was sick -- he'd come down with a bad head cold that moved into his chest. He had a horrible cough that made me concerned about bronchitis or worse, so I talked him into going to the quick care clinic to see if he needed antibiotics. He did not, and was cleared to attend a gathering that afternoon at his aunt's house. D's extended family doesn't get together very often -- I'd only met this aunt, her children and their kids once, at a funeral five years ago -- but it turned out to be a very nice event, calm and low-key. D's cousin's six-year-old son made it his mission to entertain Ess, which he did in fine fashion, fake-slapping himself in the face and falling down dramatically on the living room rug, over and over again. She was totally entranced. And I had an entertaining conversation with him and his eight-year-old brother about Santa logistics (best question: what if you are good all year long, but then on Christmas Eve you are really, really bad?).

We came home to trundle our sleepy girl off to bed, then recommence wrapping and cooking (I had to marinate the beef for our Christmas dinner beef bourginoine, which I'm sure is spelled wrong). Finally, at about 9:45, we collapsed on the couch, me with a glass of the pinot noir the meat was marinating in, D with a dose of Nyquil he poured into a shot glass to be more festive. We sat together in the light of the Christmas tree, reconnecting, talking, going over the day's events. It was quick but very cozy, one of the very best kind of moments we've shared lately.

And then on Christmas we opened stockings, made breakfast (omelets with fancy goat cheese and amazing bacon and roasted red peppers) and opened presents. D and I managed to both buy something the other had really wanted (a wine book for him, a T-shirt from our local kick-ass bakery for me) despite the time and money crunch, which was very cool. His parents came over for appetizers, dinner and more presents; they bought a handful of things for Ess and a contribution to her college fund, as well as a couple things for us and a very nice check. Though I've had my issues with my in-laws in the past, and likely will again in the future, we spent a really relaxing three days with them. Ess clearly loves spending time with them, and they with her. And I really appreciate the lack of excess gift-giving on their part.

So now it is time to do this all over again, complete with a Christmas-morning re-creation at my parents' and visits to NJ friends and a lot more eating. (Not to mention a lot more excess; my parents are not known for restraint in the gift department.) It's unlikely that I'll post while we're down there, but we'll be back Saturday night. Hope you all have plenty of days off, a chance to get some fresh air and, if your diet is anything like mine has been recently, a green vegetable or two amidst all the chocolate.