Christmas as a Grown-up

23 12 2006

I have technically been an adult for several years now, but only now do I feel the true weight of adulthood. That’s probably because parenthood has made me look at old things in new ways.  Take Christmas shopping for instance…

Today, we had to run a few errands, but eventually found our way to Target to do a little last minute shopping.  I guess this was everyone else’s idea as well because I’ve never seen the Target near our house full of so many people.  In the days leading up to today, and into the next couple of hours until Christmas morning, I have been prepping Eliana with as much Christmas cheer as I know how.  I have taken her to see Santa Claus numerous times, and we have seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (and will see it again on DVD tomorrow night).  I have coached her to tell Santa what she wants for Christmas (a Kitty Kat, and a Princess Bike). She will say Merry Christmas to everyone if you remind her.  She is such a happy girl, and this is the time of year that can bring out the best joy.  But, as I realized a long time ago, with the holidays, also comes a lot of stress.  It is my belief that too many people depend on Christmas time and the expensive holiday gifts to make up for lost time, or for something else missing in people’s lives.

When I ventured into Target, I had only a few toys at the ready for Eliana and nothing for Annabelle (she’s not even a year old yet).  We browsed for a single gift for Uncle Joe, and we noticed some neat items.  One was a stand-alone Dance-dance Revolution game that played directly to your TV.  My wife and I thought this would be a great thing for the kids to have as it would let them exercise and be entertained.  But, we quickly realized this was for slightly older kids.  But, I realized that we quickly had gotten ourselves sucked up in the materialized free-for-all that Christmas time can become.  And, I have to admit, I gave in a little. I realized that even though there was no one to watch our kids at home so we can shop for them with a little more ease, I let Eliana’s mother take her to the grocery side of the store, while I hand carried her younger sister with me to make some last minute pickups. I grabbed: a Helly Kitty watch, a Hello Kitty puzzle, a small Etch-a-schetch, and a Dora book for her Leap Pad. I don’t think I went overboard, but I got Eliana a few things that we inexpensive, while exactly what she wanted.  (When she said Kitty Kat to Santa, she meant a Hello Kitty doll, which she will also receive).

While I tried to give my children enough presents to open on Christmas, I realized that the time we are able to spend together now is the most important gift of all.  I look back on my childhood Christmas’ with much fondness, but the Christmas I remember most was the one where we stayed at my Grandmother’s house in Eloy, AZ. It was me, my mom, and two brothers. My dad was in California taking care of things so that we could move back to Arizona and all be together again.  The tree was small, hardly 4 feet.  It resembled the tree on the Charlie Brown Christmas. I must have been 9 or 10. I remember that we each received three gifts each. We all got the one toy we wanted, and two more. Back then, that was all my mother could afford for us.  I’m sure my grandmother helped also because even that many toys for three boys was a lot of money then. But, that ws the most memorable Christmas because it was special. Our family had gone through a lot up to that point, and that day was the one day we were allowed to relax.

Nowadays, I make enough income to afford anything Eliana and Annabelle want. In time, we may probably be able to even buy her a car.  We have come far from those simple days, but those are the days and memories I want to pass on to my children. The memories and moments won’t be wrapped with the Hello Kitty puzzle, or  roll in on the Princess Bike.  They will come from us being together for each other. And it won’t be just for the Holidays, because we will be there for every day they are in our lives. Sometimes the daily burden of rearing a child weighs heavily on us because of all the other things we Grown-ups have to deal with. But, this time of year will always remind me that there is more to life, our families and our existence than the gifts we give on Christmas Morning.

I’m still looking forward to the smiles that will be on both our children’s faces in a couple days.  But I’m also looking forward to the experiences that will make us a family.

Merry Christmas!

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Hot, Too Hot!

19 12 2006

Last Saturday was Eliana’s final swimming lesson for the year. As a year ending finale, we decided to have lunch at Baja Fresh. Eliana was asking for a burrito, and we hadn’t been there in quite a while.  Baja Fresh is no where near authentic, however, it is still a good healthy place for a burrito from which you can be sure was made in a sanitarty environment.

As part of any burrito I get, I headed for the salsa bar. At Baja Fresh, there are only five flavors: mild, medium, hot, vedre and medium smoked.   If it’s not hot or mild, then it’s medium. Either way, I always enjoy my burritos with the hottest hot salsa available. Needless to say, the hot salsa at baja fresh is still medium at a good place, but that’s not the story here.  I loaded up with two little plastic containers of: mild, medium, verde, and hot.  When our burritos came, I took a bite, kind of like biting the top off a fine cigar. This was so that I could pour a big scoop of hot salsa on my burrito.  (This is the best way to get salsa with every bite, by the way.)  After a yummie first bite (I’m hungry now, aren’t you?) I looked at Eliana, who said “Salsa” as she pointed to her slice of tortilla.  She has grow accustomed to dipping her chips or tortilla in salsa.  And usually, she wants to dip it in the same salsa we do.

So, knowing that this is still hot salsa for the uninitiated salsa conesour,  I let her load up.  I figured that Eliana would learn from the mistake she is about to make.  She will learn that even though I can eat hot salsa, she is probably better off eating salsa that I give her.  So, while I was trying to teach my daughter an important lesson, I still couldn’t help but chuckle at her reaction to the hot salsa.  Usually people will hold their mouth open or something, even a two year old.  Her reaction was a little slower.  First she acted like nothing happened, moving on to the next item of food.  Then, I noticed her chugging her glass of water.  It was at least a minute before I saw her face again.  Knowing the effects of hot salsa on one’s mouth, we offered her a piece of tortilla. She wanted a couple more pieces as it helped, and she just likes tortilla.

I hope Eliana learned an important lesson that day, if not, it was still humerous, even if it was at my two year old’s expence.

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

16 12 2006

I was talking with a coworker, and fellow parent the other day, when he mentioned to me a comment his wife had made recently:

“When it comes to being a parent, I don’t know what I’m doing”

This is probably what all parents feel, at least upon the arrival of their first child.  I know this is how I felt when Eliana was on her way, and honestly, I have to question may actions and decisions in regards to my children all the time. Truth be told, I am learning about this whole parenting thing as I go along.

But, my follow-up to this comment was that while we all don’t know what we’re doing, we do know how our parents did, and hopefully can still use them as a resource. My personal parenting method isn’t perfect, but I do know that I have goals for my kids, even though they are too young to have goals of their own. It is these goals, as well as my personal experiences and values that guide my judgement.  All my actions are based of off 3 factors: their safety, their character development, and their happiness.

In my 3 years as a parent, I have definately learned quite a bit about being a parent, and there are many more lessons to come, but while I still don’t know what I’m doing many times, I can be sure of myself and my decisions because they are based on my own personal life-guiding principals and values.

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Yellow Ledbetter

12 12 2006

Last night, was another milestone of sorts. Eliana had a little too much water before bedtime, and had an accident in her bed. (I know, she will probably be angry at me in the future for posting this kind of knowledge on the internet, but this is blog is all about her and her sister.) I was half asleep when it happened, and really, I didn’t even get up. I heard Eliana crying…for a while. Last night was also the first time I got the two girls to sleep in their own beds. I was afraid Eliana’s crying would wake up her sensitive sister. So, as any self respecting dad would do, I asked her mom to get her and calm her down. I didn’t know she wet her bed until they both came in the room.  So, I think she cleaned her up, wiped her down and changed her clothes. Next thing I knew Eliana was asleep in her makeshift bed next to mine, on the floor.

I was hoping Eliana wouldn’t become a bedwetter.  Painfully, I will admit my childhood problems of this nature as well. I think even at her young age, she was embarrassed for this to happen to her, if not a little freaked out because it was the first time. In order to save her from similar trauma in the future, I think we’re going to have to set a rule before bedtime: no water, or stay in bathroom until you empty your bladder. I’ll tell her in two year old terms…

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Ho, Ho, Ho

11 12 2006

Whenever I think of taking my kids to visit Santa Claus these days, I always picture the classic scene from the movie A Christmas Story where Ralphie visits Santa. Once Ralphie gets up to see Santa, Santa was not in a very good mood. The view from Raphie’s height was very fisheyed and distorted. He was instantly nervous the moment he had the opportunity to recite his wish list to the man in the big red suit.

This is almost what it seemed like yesterday when I took Eliana to see Santa one more time. Last weekend, we went to visit Santa at an Intel sponsored holiday event. The Santa there was great, but Eliana and Annabelle were not very cooperative. This time, I only took Eliana. The line was short, and I tried to prepare Eliana by letting her get a good look at him before walking up. But, her turn came up very quickly, and once everyone cleared the way, I could see her eyes get larger, and she froze. I recognized this reaction instantly, and grabbed her hand and calmly walked with her up to the sleigh. I told her to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas. I’m not sure if this Santa had the best response, but I was expecting something like “Well, you’ve been a good girl this year, and I’ll make sure my elves put what you need in my sleigh for you.” I’m not too sure what I heard, because I had stepped away to take the pictures at that point, but I think this Santa was pretty tired. It was the end of the day after all.

Anyway, Eliana was a little better to take her picture this time, and I was able to get few good shots. I think I forgot to give Eliana and Santa a photo countdown. Well, I’ll get a good Santa picture with the kids one of these years.

A Great Day to Visit the Zoo

10 12 2006

After another trip to the Zoo, we still have not gotten Eliana a good look at the almighty Lion.

Today, Eliana and the rest of the family were invited to celebrate Dominic Tucillo’s third birthday at the Phoenix Zoo. It was a good day to spend outside in the desert. On this trip to the zoo, we decided to take our bikes and the bike trailer for the kids. I thought roaming the zoo on bikes would help keep us from getting tired after visiting the animals. Over all, it ended up being a good idea, but the amount of setup and preparation was a bit on the higher end. We were able to visit every part of the zoo, even though we didn’t see every animal in detail. We passed by the Elephants, the Giraffes, the Squirrel Monkeys and several other large zoo animals. But first thing was first, we headed over to the Bush house to meed our party. We arrive a little late because the trail to the Bush house wasn’t as obvious on a bike. It also required us to dismount and walk along a dirt trail. The first few minutes were great because some zoo volunteers provided a hands on introduction to three small zoo animals. I think they weren’t used to talking to 3 year olds because a lot the kids seemed more interested in touching the animals than learning about them. I was listening, so their effort wasn’t totally for not.

Afterwards, we moved to a ramada next to a lake and sang Happy Birthday to Dominic. We had cake and ice cream and watched the ducks. There were also crafts and coloring activities for the kids, it was a good thing to do for young kids with short attention spans. As part of the package, we Eliana and I got a free ride on the central carousel. She got to sit on the Lion. She loved it. We saw her friends when we were done. I wanted to make sure Dominic and his mom knew we appreciated their gift to us on his birthday, so I asked Eliana to tell Dominic thank you, and to give him a hug. I wasn’t looking when i heard a little smacking sound. And I’m not talking about a punch, but lip smacking. Apparently, Dominic gave Eliana a little kiss. I think Eliana liked it because she smiled and ran away very excited and happy. It was great to see her like that, but I can only dread the times to come with her and future boyfriends. I guess I should enjoy her while she’s young.

So, we toured the zoo after the party, and saw several animals. After seeing the monkeys first hand (getting in the cage with them) she started to get a little tired. We made it to another few exhibits when she decided that she didn’t want to get out of the trailer any more. Although, she did peak out of the trailer to see the elephants, she stayed inside for the rest of the visit. It was only a few more minutes, when we stopped at another exhibit we thought she would like that we realized that she was alseep. Of course, it happened that the animals we came to when she was sleep were the Lions. And the Lions were out and present for everyone to see. A big male and female lion were sitting proud, as if they liked to show off. I was kind of sad that Eliana didn’t get to see them. At least we got a picture so that we can tell her we saw the lion.

We left the zoo after seeing the Lions because both kids were alseep, and it was time for lunch. We decided that even though we didn’t see the whole zoo today, we would make more of an effort to go see the zoo more often, and bring our bikes as well. This was one of the best family days we’ve had together in a long time. Thanks Dominic for having a birthday party, and inviting Eliana!

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Boat Parade

9 12 2006

Tonight, I wanted to get Eliana and everyone in the spirit of Christmas by taking them to a local holiday event, the Festival of Lights at the Tempe Beach park at Tempe Town Lake.

We had a late start and didn’t make it to Downtown Tempe until the early evening. It was dinner time, and we were hungry. We ventured down Mill Avenue looking at a place that would be ok with two kids. We finally agreed to some deep dish pizza at Uno. I had seen one of these in Boulder while we lived there, but never had the opportunity to grab a bite. If we had known the pizza was that good, we would have eaten there more often. Needless to say, we’ve found a new place for pizza.

After dinner, we headed for the main event. I didn’t know there were other things going on down there. There were many activites for the kids. There were snow makers making snow for the kids. I’m sure many of the kids there had never seen snow living in the desert. There was also a concert featuring local high school bands. But, the main attraction was the boat parade.

Being the main attraction, the crowd was rather large. We found a spot toward the end of the line, and waited. We got there around 6:15 or so, and tried to make the best of the wait. There were some kids rolling down a nearby hill. Eliana was hesitant to join them, but I was trying to encourage her. She is a shy person, she takes after me.

After that got old, we waited, and waited, and waited some more. I thought the parade of boats was supposed to start at 6:30 pm. At about 15 minutes until the parade, the railroad bridge lights went on, making some neat patterns. They were little consolation to many eager 2 and 3 year olds, including mine. Eliana was quite antsy, and was having a hard time waiting for the boats to arrive. Once they finally sailed by, she quickly lost interest. I had to wade through many people just to get into the clear, and find her mom and sister, who were waiting far behind the crowd. I was a little upset that Eliana didn’t enjoy the main attraction as there was uite a bit of effort involved in getting everyone over to the right place to be able to enjoy the festivities.

We left a little early, and headed for the car. It seemed like everyone else had the same idea, because we became trapped in the garage parking space because the traffic wasn’t moving properly. I guess that happens when every single car in the garage tries to leave at the same time. We figured that our time would be better spend waiting in a cafe or restaurant rather in in a parked car. So off to Mill avenue we ventured, again. This time, we went to a coffee shop that was serving some italian ice cream. We had a good time as a family sharing one cup of ice cream. I think it was the best part of the evening, and did make up a little for missing the boat parade.

Things don’t always go your way, but it’s up to you to make the best of a situation you didn’t plan for…

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