The 2009 Christmas Letter, Part 2

>> Monday, January 18, 2010

The letter continues...

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No Dogs Allowed...Yet

Long story short -- Lizzy still wants a dog. As she says, “I’ve wished and I’ve prayed...and I still don’t have a dog!” It’s getting to the point where we either have to restore a little girl’s faith in the mystical and spiritual...or allow her to learn an important life lesson, i.e. that life isn’t fair. She knew the odds were stacked against her, so she made her case in a letter addressed to “Melissa, Mikol, and Samantha.” It read:

Dear, Family

I have been so nice to you and I Deserv to Be treted nice to. you have Been kind But have not proved that you are a nice family. so I asc for Just one thing a Dog. I want to Be a loveing chield. I also want to Be Loved. and al this week Iv got [smiley] fases [at school]. Did you like gowing to the party at BalBowa park on lina’s BirthDay. _______

I am vary vary funny and vary vary nice to. I will show you my Birth mark. it is on my leg.

Love, Lizzy

Wow. “Mikol” had to use actual restraints to keep me from running to the nearest shelter to buy her a dog. I spent the next two weeks on PetFinder, and I almost died when we saw Petz Rule at Sea World -- a fantastic show featuring dogs and cats who have been rescued from animal shelters and given a new lease on life. (I cry a little every time I see it.)

But alas, to Lizzy’s dismay, we remain dogless. Despite our desire for a dog, we are not home enough nor do we have enough time to devote to a canine. Michael and I both work full time jobs away from home and we can’t afford a dog walker or doggie daycare on furloughed paychecks. Indeed, a dog would be quite lonely at our house for most of the day. And so, I’ve asked Lizzy not to pray or wish for a dog -- because that would not be in the dog’s best interest. Instead, a better prayer might be for me to work from home (and get paid lots of money to do so.)

Then, maybe all of our dreams could come true.

Camp Krusty

Lizzy spent the summer at Knock Around camp learning how to swim, make things out of milk cartons, and sing songs. In fact, whenever she suddenly recites a strange new rhyme, I know to blame summer camp. The other day we heard her singing in the living room.

We will, we will, rock you (dun dun) rock you...

“Where’d you hear that, Lizzy?” Mike asked.

“Don’t you know it?” she asked.

“Well, sure. But how do you know it?”

“Summer camp! They used to play it at snack time.”

Naturally. Because what goes better with Ritz crackers than 70’s arena rock?

Aside from the songs, camp completely turned Lizzy around, physically. In May, we hiked at Torrey Pines and all the while she complained, I’m tired...carry me...I don’t want to hike at all! This was fairly typical for Lizzy. It wasn’t unusual for her to be bypassed on the trails by Samantha, who seems to be a natural hiker. But at summer camp, Lizzy partook of non-stop activity. Most days she swam twice, once with her camp, and then later when I took her to swim lessons. There were obstacle courses, races, and games. When I picked her up, she demanded FOOD (I’m so hungry!) so I always had a banana or strawberry Pop Tart waiting for her. (Yes, I know...a POP TART.)

It was all worth it. Near the end of summer we hiked Torrey Pines again, but this time there was no complaining. Instead, she and Sammy jumped off rocks and steps, sang and explored. They ran nonstop up and down the beach, gathering shells and splashing in the ocean. My heart soared. I still remember Lizzy when she popped out of the Mommy-oven -- all tiny and wrinkly and in need of nourishment. And here she is today...strong. (Sigh)

Cowles Mountain

In addition to Torrey Pines, this is the year the girls conquered Cowles Mountain. It was a long haul, but each of them succeeded with the promise of a box of chocolate chip cookies if they made it to the top without being carried. (No need to point out the irony -- I’m well aware.) It was touch and go there a couple of times for Samantha, but we counted all the dogs we passed to distract ourselves from the task at hand. Then, nearly 30 dogs later, we all made it to the top, sweaty, tired, and in need of cookies. We’re very proud of Lizzy and Sammy, but more importantly, they’re very proud of themselves. Good job, girls!

Boot Camp

This is the year I learned I was getting older. I’d had a hunch that might be happening, but I wasn’t really sure until I decided to take Boot Camp with a coworker/friend of mine. I knew my energy levels were low and it wasn’t healthy for me to sit for nearly 8 hours straight everyday without any exercise. Motivated by my friend’s personal fitness goals and successes, we took a couple of classes together to keep us mutually motivated and accountable. When we discovered a weekly boot camp class that met during our lunch break, we signed up.

Oy! While our instructor never yelled at us, and anyone who has actually taken boot camp would laugh at the comparison, each week was a humble slap to the face for me. Prior to boot camp, I could certainly do a pull-up, handstand, or jump along a trampoline without peeing my pants a little (yes, that’s right folks). But with every class, my body insisted, No, no you can’t.

“Really?” I asked my body. “Are you sure? Because, I distinctly remember doing pull-ups in grade school. I even won an award!”

“That was 25 years ago!” my body hollered back.

So, yes, I’m getting older. What I could once do naturally and without thinking, I must now do actively or risk losing whatever fitness level I have altogether. I’m happy to say that we made it through boot camp and signed up again this semester. Our only wish is that we won’t be the absolute worst students in class this time, that perhaps we’ll have moved up one tiny rung on the fitness ladder so that we can give encouragement to the latest fitless person to walk through the door. But if not, we’ll forge ahead, bearing our reality-slaps like genuine troopers, lest we get any worse!

Sammy Shakes Her Tail Feather

Sammy’s appreciation for music continues to grow. Each day as we ride home from work, she often wears headphones and listens to music on her iPod. She loves it and knows to click the back button when she wants to hear a song over again. Some of her current favorites are: Move it, Move it (From Madagascar), Put a Ring on It (Beyonce), Big Green Tractor (Jason Aldean), If You Want to Leave (Local H), and You Belong with Me (Taylor Swift).

Earlier this year, she and I decided it would be fun to enroll her in dance class. I found a little studio nearby with a very nice instructor, so one Saturday morning she adorned her tutu and tap shoes and attended class. She was shy at first, but I thought it went well.

However, on the drive home she stated very clearly that she never wanted to go to dance class again. After questioning her, I learned she was uncomfortable participating with the others. I had signed her up for two months and probably could have received a refund if I’d asked for one, but I made a deal with her: we would keep going to dance class and she could either participate or watch the others -- it was up to her. She was OK with that, so each week we went, and each week she sat in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirror and watched the others.

For weeks, Samantha carefully observed the class and during the week that followed, she happily performed all she learned while watching. Eventually, she asked Michael if he would come and watch. “Watch what? Watch you sit on the side? Nuh-uh. When you actually dance with the class, I promise I’ll come and watch the week after.”

It worked. The following Saturday, Samantha announced, “I’m going to dance today!” At the studio, she joined the other girls and their instructor, Ms. Abby. I watched hopefully with the other parents as we peered through the front window. “Is that Samantha?” one of the mothers asked. Then another parent looked from me to the classroom to me again. I didn’t realize that everyone had noticed her lack of participation and were all rooting for her. Then, after warming up with the other students, Ms. Abby played a song and all the girls -- including Samantha -- danced and danced. “Look!” said another mom, “It’s Samantha. She’s dancing!” Yes! We actually applauded.

The following week, Michael happily accompanied her to dance class, and a couple of months later, Samantha performed on stage (with hundreds of people watching!) in her very first dance recital. Wearing a red tutu with a black and white leopard print bodice, scarlet opera gloves, and feathers in her hair, she and her dance-mates danced and shook their booties to “Stop, in the name of love” by the Supremes. Perfect. OK, so they looked like tiny French cancan dancers, circa the late 1800s -- but she did it! (And she was the best one there, too!)

Wrapping It Up

But wait – I’m not done!

Ugh. The length of this year’s Christmas letter tells me that I should be writing more throughout the year. There’s still so much I could write about (spiders, boys, shingles – oh my!), so many small struggles and victories to commemorate, so many embarrassing moments. I’ll try to be more vigilant in 2010.

However, I’ll bring this letter to a close by saying that, while 2009 had moments of sadness and joy, I am truly grateful for my wonderful, loving family and good friends. I learn so much from you everyday -- you are a gift to me that never stops giving.

Here’s to a happy 2010!

Love,

Melissa/Mommy

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