On the road to "home"

Although Ottawa has become my home and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, I also still think of the US/Florida/Tallahassee as my home. Yesterday I ventured across the border for the first time in over 5 years. There’s a combination of reasons for this delay - the most embarrassing is that I let all my travel documents expire. (Don’t do that, okay?)

So, we left Ottawa yesterday morning - not nearly as early as I’d hoped, but such is life! Brandon fell asleep on our way to the border and was snoring softly as I waited in line to see the border guard. We passed through without any issues, though Brandon did wake up because the car had stopped moving. And, despite staying up very late the night before, that was the last he slept in the car all day.

A couple of hours later, we both got hungry and when I saw a Cracker Barrel sign, I couldn’t resist! 

Also, they had a violin, and Brandon has been asking for one for weeks! (Score!) Unfortunately, it requires batteries and the cover is screwed on. I didn’t pack batteries or a screwdriver for this trip. (Fail!)

After getting through the lovely rush-hour traffic in Harrisburg, PA, Brandon said his tummy was grumpy. Combine, windy roads, rain and dark and his first epic road trip and it’s understandable. We ended up stopped 3 hours shy of our goal.

That means we won’t get to Tallahassee until Sunday, but it’s all good. I’m enjoying the time with Brandon. He’s a good co-pilot.

A little side note: we’re also really enjoying driving in the Ford C-Max that Ford Ottawa gave me to use for this trip. It doesn’t look very large, but it’s nice and roomy. There isn’t as much cargo space as I would like and I had to ditch one of the suitcases I’d planned to bring along, but packing light isn’t a bad thing! 

I’m going to talk about it some more later, especially since I’m honestly considering it as a second vehicle now that I’ve driven it. (Of course, I’m not sure when we’ll finally get around to getting a second vehicle!) I’ve tried out the Ford Edge, the new Focus and now the C-Max and the C-Max is my favourite so far. 

Best part? Filling it up isn’t nearly as painful as when I fill up my other car. And we won’t get into the difference in what we’re paying in Canada compared to the US. It’s bad, you guys.

Anticipation and thanks

Source: USA Federal HolidaysToday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. 

I miss it.

The last time I truly celebrated Thanksgiving with my family was 12 years ago. It was the same week I left Florida to move to Canada. 

Thanksgiving was always a special time. My mom and I stayed up ridiculously late nearly every year mixing fillings and rolling out pie crusts. We always made about seven pies. Two to three pumpkin, one cherry (for me), one mincemeat, one-two pecan, sometimes apple. We packed them up in our two big Tupperware pie carriers and loaded them in the car for the trek to my great uncle and aunt’s house. They lived on a river and we drove three hours every Thanksgiving morning with the whole family in tow to bring our contribution to the annual family gathering.

We always stopped in the same diner in Perry, Florida. I always tried to avoid breathing in the putrid smell of the paper mill. Eventually I gave up and tried to get used to it. Both attempts were futile - it’s too pungent to block or get used to in a short one-hour visit.

By the time we got to my great uncle and aunt’s house, some family had already arrived and lunch preparations were well underway. Thankfully, there was time for a lengthy trip in the canoe or a lively croquet match amongst the trees in the front yard. Sometimes some of the family would even go fishing. The adults enjoyed time together visiting and catching up on the news of the year. My brothers and I, along with our cousins, scattered to the places we were most interested in on that particular day. 

I don’t think I went a single year without heading out in the canoe. Or the motorboat if my cousin was up to it. I even enjoyed playing croquet. We found ways to make a seemingly boring game fun. (Hint: It is incredibly satisfying to send your brother’s or father’s formerly-in-the-lead ball flying well off the course.)

This year I’m thankful that in a few short weeks I’m going to have the absolute pleasure of introducing my family to my most amazing little boy for the very first time. I’m going to meet my two youngest nieces that I have only known in pictures since their births. 

Every time I think about it, I want to whoop for joy and do cartwheels (except I never learned how). It’s way past time for a visit and I sincerely hope I never go this long without seeing my family ever again.

Whether you’re in the U.S. today or not - be thankful for the people who make up your family. Whether you’ve chosen them, they’ve chosen you or you were thrown together by forces of nature. And if you’re close enough, give them a hug.

A different kind of Christmas with my family

Brandon is enthralled by the Christmas tree this year. He spent 10 minutes walking around signing and saying “tree” one night.It’s been a long time since I got really excited for Christmas. Usually I get excited about the things I get to do that I really enjoy - like decorating the tree/house. It should be noted that this year I got pretty sentimental about this part of the process. With each ornament that I took out of storage, I was reminded of pivotal milestones that we have experienced in our time together over the last ten years. That was special and it was also the first moment that I started to immerse myself in the spirit of the season. 

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the process of thinking about gifts to get that will mean something to the person I’m buying them for. I love watching someone open a gift and see the joy on their face when it’s something they can really use and enjoy. The giving is a fun part of Christmas. Getting becomes less important with every passing year. Don’t get me wrong - I can’t wait to get my Christmas present this year. But if I didn’t get it, I’d cry live. Okay, actually, I’m pretty excited about the getting this year, too. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually wanted something enough to get really excited about opening my own presents on Christmas day. 

2000 - Our first Christmas together.This year, because of some changes to extended family plans, we’re spending Christmas day at home for the first time ever. Just the three of us. At first, I wondered what we’d do. We’ve never had to spend a holiday alone before so it’s a real adjustment, this not spending the day with extended family. Then I decided that this is the perfect time for us to establish some new traditions of our own. To create memories that will build anticipation for future Christmas celebrations.

I’ve really missed some of the traditions I grew up with - like stockings. Matt and I have never done stockings because he didn’t do them in his family. With just the two of us, it didn’t seem to matter that we didn’t do them. But Brandon’s getting to an age that I want to start introducing him to the things that I enjoyed and in my family, we loved the Christmas stocking. Filled to the brim with candy and special little (mostly) inexpensive items, we always looked forward to dumping them out and foraging for hidden treasure amongst the pile of chocolate and mints as we munched on our Christmas candy treats.

2008 - Our first Christmas with Brandon.In our house, the stockings didn’t match. There were no names on them and we didn’t always get the same stocking every year. We also had more stockings than we had family members, so if we had a guest, there was always a spare for them. The only way you knew which stocking was yours was because they were hung in the same order Dad, Mom, Brother 1, Karen, Brother 2. Oldest to youngest.

Every Christmas Eve night, just before bed, we begged to be allowed to open one gift each. Eventually, it became part of our family tradition - one that I don’t think my parents were ever too thrilled about. But it was fun for us kids and I think it may have even netted the house a half an hour of extra sleep since we’d already whetted our appetite for gifts. I don’t think I’m going to institute this tradition just now. Perhaps in a few years if Brandon decides to ask. 

2010 - Ten terrific years. :)On Christmas morning, we mixed it up. Sometimes we could convince our parents to let us unwrap presents before breakfast, but never before we read the Christmas story. As soon as we read the Christmas story (and sometimes after breakfast), we would unwrap presents. Another tradition in our family was that Mom, my brothers and I would stay up very, very late Christmas Eve wrapping presents. My mom and  I in particular would get quite creative and fancy with the wrapping, making them as pretty as possible. We loved creating beautiful packages to put under the tree. As the wrappings came off, we saved every bow to be re-used for years to come (very “green” of us).

Once all the presents were unwrapped, we did any number of things from playing games to playing with our presents, to helping prepare the Christmas dinner. It was never terribly structured - we went with the flow of what everyone felt like doing and enjoyed spending time with family.

This year, I have a two year old to keep entertained, so I’m going to prepare some craft projects to do with him and maybe find a game or two to play with him if and when he gets bored with his gifts. Knowing his reaction to the things he’s getting, we may not be able to drag him away from them for the entire weekend, much less long enough to do a craft project.

As I prepare for this Christmas and the changes it’s bringing, most of all I’m looking forward to spending concentrated time with Matt and Brandon - separately and together. There is truly no better gift than that.

What are your favorite traditions at Christmastime?