The 2009 Christmas Letter, Part 1

>> Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wow. I just finished writing my part of the yearly Christmas letter -- and it was six pages long! That tells me I need to write more frequently, so I'll try to be more vigilant in 2010.

Thus, here's the first excerpt from this multi-part series, The 2009 Christmas Letter.

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Yosemite

Few things are more satisfying than showing our girls something magnificent for the first time in their lives. We had that chance last year (sort of) when we took them to visit Yosemite. Actually, Lizzy had been there once before when she was a year old, but she was too young to remember it. And Sammy had been there too -- in utero. But this year, they’ll remember it, so it feels like the first time. Here are some highlights:

• Swimming in the icy Merced River
• Riding our bicycles in Yosemite Valley
• Hiking to Nevada Falls
• Sharing our lunches with the Squirrels
• Lizzy getting a ride in an inflatable raft in a lake below snow-capped mountains
• Samantha accidentally stepping into a watery marsh (and not liking it)
• Mike and Lizzy going for an early morning bike ride and watching hang-gliders land in a nearby field; then coming face-to-face with a deer

It was a really wonderful trip.

Disneyland

We spent many a dollar at D-Land this year, and will likely continue to do so in the year ahead. Michael and the girls love Disneyland and I...well, I like the idea of Disneyland. In theory, D-Land is a wonderful place to spend time with your family, screaming down Splash Mountain, hugging on The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and losing bets during the Toy Story Shooting Gallery ride (don’t ask). It’s just that every time we went this year, the Happiest Place on Earth was virtually chock full of other families like ours, testing the limits of my crowd phobia to the extreme. (It’s hard for me to be cheery when I’ve stood an hour in line for a ride that lasts 2 minutes, or trying to squeeze my way past Tarzan’s Tree House only to be stopped by a blockade of double-wide strollers.)

But this Christmas, my Mom scored the Best Present Award with her gift to Michael. When you visit Disneyland, there’s a wide plaza between two theme parks -- California Adventure on one side and Disneyland on the other. In between, the plaza is tiled with octagonal brick pavers with the names of various families. Yes, you guessed it -- beginning May 2010 right near the Entrance/Exit gates, there will be a paver that reads: “The Michael K. __ Family”. I suggest that if you ever find it, pry it up and leave money under it (perhaps a valium or two). I’m sure we’ll be there soon to retrieve it.

First Grade

Lizzy passed from kindergarten to first grade this year, and I think we’re finally getting a handle on elementary school. She’s reading at a 2nd-3rd grade reading level (thanks to Michael’s reading to her each and every night), and she is doing very well – although, she still likes to do things her own way and in her own time. Her teacher, Mrs. Paznokas calls it “Lizzy Land”. She’ll be teaching her students on the carpet and notice that Lizzy isn’t there. Instead, Lizzy has snuck off to read a book at the back of the class. Lizzy also likes to visit the nurse’s office on a regular basis, I think mostly because it’s a welcome change from the routine of school. However, her grandmother recently taught Lizzy an important concept -- the concept of sucking it up. If you’re too full from lunch, suck it up. If you have a slight headache, suck it up. Lizzy's body is going through many changes, and every one of them doesn’t require a trip to the nurse’s office. She’s working on it.

We attended a fair amount of assemblies and singing performances this year, the highlights being the Halloween and Christmas events. We’ll never forget the classic “Oktober, Rocktober” sung by a collection of first-graders accompanied by electric guitar. And I’ll be damned if Michael and I didn’t get a little verclempt when the school custodian Joe(?) belted out a fan-freaking-tastic rendition of the Christmas Song (chestnuts roasting on an open fire) during the December Holiday sing-a-long -- then afterwards went immediately back to monitoring the overheads and lights. Classic.

And this year, Samantha will join her sister in the Big School. We can’t wait!

The Girl is Funny

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Samantha is the same person she was as a baby -- the same girl who would not smile at me for the first 6 months of her life. Perhaps all those months of me desperately trying to make her smile made an impression on her -- at least she knows what’s not funny.

But it’s not exactly accurate to say that Samantha came out of her shell this past year. She wasn’t so much encased in a shell those early years, but often spent her time observing the quirks and idiosyncrasies of other people, which she has now processed into hilarious impressions of who we are and what we fear such as:

Pretending to be grandma by hunching over, holding her back and saying with a mock southern accent, “Oh, I’m so old...my back hurrrrts! Oh!”...

Imitating Michael in the shower by clearing her throat like a grizzled truck driver and saying, “I’m Daddy in the shower!”...

When Lizzy is angry at her, getting on her good side by calling her on a pretend phone and saying, “Hello? Lizzy? Lizzy on your island, are you there?” until Lizzy sees the ridiculousness of their dispute and giggles...

With me, Samantha sticks to what works best for both of us -- butt jokes and potty humor. If she’s not spanking my butt, she’s referring to it, and she often replaces words in her favorite songs with “butt”, “booty”, or “vagina” -- kind of like perverted Mad Libs. But there’s nothing quite like hearing Samantha sing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new butt!” Gets me every time.

Lizzy’s humor, on the other hand, is a little more bizarre. You have to appreciate the zen-like quality of her jokes. The humor lies in the expectation of hearing a joke, but instead hearing something that neither makes sense, nor is very funny. You’re not sure if the joke is on you, on her, or perhaps on the joke itself. Then you laugh a little nervously for reasons only you and your therapist would understand. She reminds me a little of early Steve Martin or Andy Kaufman. You’re not really sure if you’re supposed to laugh or not -- and that is what’s funny.

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That's all for now -- more to come!

2 comments:

Michele January 18, 2010 at 9:19 AM  

I was so excited to see a post from you and get an update on the fam! Thanks for sharing your news.

Melissa January 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM  

Thanks, Michele! Good to be back! :)

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