Thursday, December 31, 2009

Friends Come and Go

Rai, you love meeting new people and you're most happy when surrounded by people and part of the action. So, the quiet life at the cabin often leads to the, as your Grandpa calls it, 'Please Hold Me Syndrome' in you. There are moments when nothing but being held and talked to comforts you.
Knowing this, your Grandparents brought along a new friend for you when they came to the cabin. He's your height and he doesn't mind when you curiously poke and pull at him. Those are two traits you really like in a friend. Remember when you first really interacted with your future wife? It was really hard on you when you pulled Lalima's hair and she started to cry. I'm not going to say that that ruined your marriage or anything, but you're really going to have to put on the charm to make up for it.
Back to your new friend, though. First of all, he has no hair for you to pull. Big plus. Second, even when you did pull his arm so hard that it actually came right off, there was no word of complaint from him. In fact, there are not too many words coming out of his mouth at all. Sure he's quiet, but he just never stops smiling. Pull off his arm? He smiles. Push him so hard that he falls? Still smiling. Now this is a friend you could spend some time with!
In the end, though, despite his perpetual smile he never seemed to warm up to you quite enough (in his defense, I'll note, however, that getting warm may be fatal). Other than that grin, you just never got any sign that he even knew you existed. You tried and tried. You even put on that crazy Christmas tree hat but still, nothing but the cold shoulder.
Rai, this will happen in life. Don't go out of your way to please or attract people that are playing hard to get. Move on. Your new friend, Marklee the Snowman did just that. As soon as a snowman of the fairer sex arrived, he was in snowman heaven and your short courtship was soon forgotten.

What's Christmas Without the Tree?

The excitement at the cabin continued when your Grandparents arrived. We relaxed for their first evening with us but, the next morning, it was back to work when we collectively realized, "It's two days before Christmas and we have no tree!"
There was a small pine tree nearby in the forest that had died earlier that Fall so we didn't have to go far, and didn't have to cut any trees, in order to get our Christmas tree. We set it up on the deck and began decorating. Even with the few decorations we had, it worked out well -- Lights and tinsel go a long way!
In the end, it had a bit of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree feel but, out there on the deck, in the kind of pitch black of night that we can only get at the cabin, the lit up tree, the lights along the deck railing, it all looked magical.
Santa must have seen those magical lights as, on Christmas Eve, we heard footsteps on the roof and on Christmas morning, we awoke to tapping by our door. Santa had obviously given up on going down the gas fireplace vent and had decided to knock instead.
It turns out the 'footsteps on the roof' were just huge pine cones falling from the canopy of tall, tall trees all around us and that the 'tapping by the door' was just a red-headed woodpecker (just like Woody!) trying to build a nest in the cabin wall. Presents? No presents. Santa had missed our lights. He had passed us by.
To avoid ending on this sad note, let's remind ourselves that every day is like Christmas in our home. You, Rai, get some new book or toy pretty much daily and we get the gift of joy that comes from you being in our lives every moment of every day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Decorating the Cabin

Sure, the snow outside helped, but it still didn't feel quite like Christmas inside the cabin. So, the first thing we had to do, Rai, was to get the place decorated for the holidays before your Grandparents arrived.
Decorating was as easy as stepping outside to forage for pine cones and needles. Once your Mom had filled a sled full of materials, she got down to making a half-dozen beautiful arrangements. Add to that a few Christmasy decorations and we had a subtly festive mood going.
You're not into subtle, so you quickly had your hands in the tinsel. You managed to decorate yourself and not much else. Let's save that tinsel for the tree.

Christmas in Markleeville

2:06 p.m, December 20th, 2009. I sat with Rai in my arms on a bench in Placerville probably the largest of all gateway towns to the central Sierra Nevada. Excited, I sat playing with you, Rai.
I was excited not only by the prospect of more than a week at the cabin but also knowing that from here on, the final hour and a half leg of the drive would be brilliant.
After Placerville, Highway 50 winds its way through ever-thickening forests of pine before making a final pass along granite cliffs to the Lake Tahoe basin. With plenty of snow in the mountains, this drive was even more breath-taking than usual. Two hours of this kind of commuting is heaven compared to two hours through the Central Valley. The best part of our journey to the cabin is that when the alpine forests just begin to thin out and give way to the homes and development of South Lake Tahoe, we turn off on Highway 89, heading for the incredibly beautiful Hope Valley.
On this day, as we made Luther Pass, we had the distinct feeling that this wasn't just another drive through the Sierra, to the cabin, but that we were embarking on a real journey, a real trip. The snow-capped peaks, the deep green of the giant pines against the white of the snow made us feel like we had traveled much further from home than we actually had.
A half hour later, when we pulled into Markleeville, this feeling was amplified. The tiny village, blanketed in snow, with holiday wreaths and bows on every tree and signpost made us feel as though we were arriving in some town in the Alps. The entire scene was like that perfect fairy tale village that is captured in many a winter snowglobe. We couldn't feel further from home.
Three miles beyond town, up the Hotsprings Road, we reached the Shay Creek, the historic tract of summer cottages in which our cabin sits. Spotting those rustic cabins hidden in the trees, we knew we had truly arrived in another world. And so, our first Christmas in Markleeville, at the new cabin, began...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Rai, an important 'first' is coming soon.
In just 5 days, you will celebrate your first wigilia (the traditional, Polish Christmas Eve celebration) and then, the next day, your first Christmas! Of all the holidays, this one is the one that most strongly brings on thoughts of family, reflection on what has been, and anticipation of what is to come.
So, as we prepare for your first Christmas, we can't stop thinking about what this past year has brought us (you!) and how that has changed our lives so completely, so perfectly. It is now impossible to imagine our lives without you probably because, even at almost eight months of age, you continue to remind us that you're part of our lives two or three times every single night.
Jokes aside, you're the perfect addition to our family. So, to keep things simple, we decided to spend Christmas at the cabin, to get away from the city, the lights, the shopping and to get out to the mountains and snow where there are no distractions, where we can focus on just our family during this, your first Christmas. It will be hard to be away from all your family in Winnipeg, but we wanted this to be your first Christmas experience.

We include our card here as this will be the last story for a week or more as the cabin remains internet-free...

In Case There's a Lack of Love...

Rai, in case you're ever feeling a lack of love (is that even possible with us and your Grandparents doting on you 24/7?), we'd like to remind you that you have more family in the Bay Area. Not far away in Pleasanton live your great aunt and great uncle and two of your second cousins.
You may not remember it, but you met them once already, months ago when you were nothing more than a tiny, little baby that just lay on the floor. They couldn't believe how much you've changed. You're no longer that blob they knew. All afternoon, you were showered with love and affection and we can't even count the number of 'he's so cutes' that were tossed around. Again, if you ever need a little more love and attention, you know where to go.

A Galileo Christmas

Rai, you know our place of work quite well now. You've visited the school on more than just a few occasions now. You've come on special days like the first day of school and Hallowe'en and you've come on normal days. So, it was sad that you couldn't make it the last day of school before the winter holiday when the entire building was full of spirit and anticipation. Teachers and students alike were dressed for the holidays...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas is Approaching...

As Christmas Day nears, it is natural to reflect on the most important of things: family.
Rai, you have shown your Mom and I the meaning of family. This, your first Christmas, will be one we'll never forget. With only nine more days until Christmas, I'll keep thinking about the two people in my life that mean the most to me. Your Mom and you, little Rai. What would this holiday season be without the two loves of my life?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Finer Things in Life

Rai, you've already been introduced to some of the finer things in life yet, you remain grounded and humble. One of those finer things is a luxury item that you see every day when we go to your Grandparents' home.
I'll give you some hints: It's metallic red. It's aerodynamic. It has a gauge that reads zero to 280. It's fast. It's Italian made. It's name rhymes with 'berarri'. You guessed it? Ferrari. No, wait... not that. It's a Bugatti!
What's a Bugatti, you may be thinking. Is it a Ferrari rip-off, the poor man's Ferrari perhaps? Well, no, although it may look like a Ferrari, it isn't made for driving. It's an espresso machine, but not just any espresso machine. This one's as good as they get.
Still, you saw the metallic red, the gauge, the chrome top and you couldn't resist. You hopped on, and waited for the engine to rev but all that came out was a bunch of steam.
Until we get that Ferrari, Rai, this is all you've got. Make the best of it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monkeying Around

If there's anything cuter than babies, then it's babies with giant stuffed animals.
Rai, already you're lucky to have the beginnings of a fantastic stuffed animal collection. The cream of the crop is an old giant ape that used to be your Uncle Sterling's favorite stuffed animal when he was a little boy. Now, it's yours and sits on the top bunk of the bunk bed in your room at your Grandma's and Grandpa's place.
You love it up there in that top bunk. We came to pick you up the other day and found you hanging around in the bunk, sitting comfortably in the arms of the giant ape. You were right at home in the soft, enveloping fur. The good times were not limited to giant monkeys, though. Playing with you was your Grandma, skillfully puppeteering a stuffed dog so that it looked amazingly lifelike, it's tail wagging, it's mouth opening and closing.
Clearly there's no end to the good times when you're with Grandma and Grandpa. There will soon be a day when getting you to leave and come home won't be as easy as picking you up and walking out their front door...

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Third Day of Hanukkah

Last night, Rai, you celebrated the fourth day of Hanukkah by using the shamash to light three other candles in the menorah. Then, we played with a dreidel but had nothing to bet but chocolate coins. All this while listening to some yiddish music on the stereo.

No, our family has not converted to Judaism. You did all this and more at the latest Golden Gate Mothers Group event for our group of mothers, fathers and babies. One of the mom's in our group was hosting a Hanukkah party and, hearing that there would be an "all you can eat latka" type atmosphere, we couldn't resist joining this get together. The other bonus was that the home was high up on Mt.Sutro, on a dead-end street we've often walked, wondering about the sweeping views each home must have. Now, we could find out for ourselves and, if the latkas weren't that good, we could toss them off the balcony and watch them fall, fall, fall into the trees and onto the rooftops far below.
The latkas, however, were good and they and the other food reminded me so much of food your Babcia Flisak would prepare when I was growing up. In fact, it was identical making me realize just how connected Polish and Jewish tradition are.
The highlight of the party was the moment when we took all you babies and lined you up on the couch together. One baby proceeded to kiss another all over the face and neck. Others slapped each other and tugged on hair. Those at the receiving end of all this attention began to cry. You held the hand of the boy next to you.
Sure, the host mom did read to us the history of Hanukkah from a children's book and despite how political incorrect it may have been, you even grabbed the host baby's black and gold yarmulke and put it on your head. Still, somehow the evening didn't seem complete. Something was missing. I realized that the entire time, I was waiting for someone to whip out a guitar and play Adam Sandler's 'Hanukkah Song'. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
So, to make our Hanukkah complete, I've included a link to the song here:
Adam Sandler - Hanukkah Song
Everybody now... Put on your yamulke, it's time for Hanukkah!