Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sweet Sixteen

Our teenager, sleepy and active and happy, is now apparently sweet. Yes, hard as it is to believe, but she just celebrated her sweet sixteenth birthday! She remains her usual self; reading and swimming but now snap chatting as well. She still has stuffed animals on her bed but also has band posters and Polaroid pictures of her friends stuck all over the walls. I remember past incarnations of her bedroom fondly; the ballet bedroom, the princess bedroom and the long standing mountaineering  bedroom. The new bedroom design? Sort of zen. And she needs it. She is a busy teenager with less free time than ever before. She is fine. The rest of us just want to see her more!
As a birthday treat, we all traveled to Aruba for a long weekend get-away on Dad's hard earned miles. We don’t know the Caribbean at all and were surprised to learn Aruba was just fifteen miles from Venezuela. The kids asked if this could count as visiting South America. Based on how far out they swam in the ocean, I think the answer could be yes. As we flew in, seeing only blue sky and white beaches out of the window, the entire plane got giddy and it did feel like we had come a long long way from New Jersey.
The trip was incredibly easy. Our hotel had multiple pools and a fast water slide. We were a short walk from the beach, that was clean and calm. We had wondered if it would be a problem to watch NFL games there but no worries. The Packers game was on every TV. Thankfully as that was the great one, the last minute victory nobody wanted to miss. We found food we liked. The wifi worked. Really it was just easy, with beautiful beaches and the occasional funny square coin coming back to us as change. I suppose it didn't feel as foreign as most of our trips but with all the teenage milestones going on, when needed something safe and calm...or at least the parents did.
On Tori’s actual birthday, we tried to add some of our usual traditions despite not being at home. We had balloons tied on to her chair at the beach. We had cake in the airport and balloons decorating our house when we returned. Throughout most of the day, Tori handled the most consistent tradition herself; reading. She finished the last Harry Potter book on the plane ride home, having recently re-read the series. There is still a little girl in the big girl who now lives with us.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Christmas in the city

We had a nice quiet holiday season this year, celebrating at home, with family, friends and our dog. The kids were in school up until December 23 so many of our traditional crafts and activities didn’t make it on the schedule this year but it was all fine. With the kids bigger and busier, we only hit the major ones: paper chains counting down to Christmas, decorating the tree, a few rounds of sugar cookies and of course our Christmas Eve dinner. The kids still slept under the tree as they have for many years but rather than a merry buzzing chatter fest, the teenagers all just slept as soon as they were in sleeping bags.  And they continued to sleep even after the dog and I came through the front room in the morning!
Last year we tried to cut down our own tree as we have in the past but there were too many people milling about too few trees. We ended up buying from the first Christmas tree lot we came to. This year, Royce, with a friend, found a farther out place but a lovely place. It reminded us all a bit of European Christmas markets with stalls selling ornaments, decorations and hot chocolate. Oddly we did not buy a tree from the lot Adam was working at (because of the aforementioned love of the Christmas market feel). Through his Boy Scout troop, he volunteered at a lot in town. I was not sure what to expect when I dropped him off in the gloom and rain but when I picked him up seven hours later all was well. Why? Tips! Who knew you were supposed to tip the Boy Scout who carried your tree to your car? Adam is appalled that we have never done this. But then again, this year we tied tree onto our car ourselves and now we have Adam, experienced tree boy.
A high light of the season was getting into the city a few times. The girls and I went to the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center and were suitably awed by both the building and the performance. We watched little girls in tutus twirl in the hallways and lined up for autographs with the stars and remembered when. We ate hot dogs on the sidewalk and trundled past the tree at Rockefeller Center, along with millions of others. Due to the crowds, we opted to ice skate at a different rink, not the one in front of Rockefeller. We made our way to little Bryant Park, more manageable in terms of crowds and proximity to Penn Station. The girls took some turns around on the ice and soaked in the ambience of it all, the city, the window displays, the cold weather. It felt truly magical, in a way past Christmases have in other cities around the world. What a difference a year makes.