Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa Claus Has Come to Town

The sirens were now down-right annoying. I hadn't noticed the high-pitched wails until their unrelenting third full minute. There was nothing I could do except to make sure the windows were closed and turn up the music in our apartment. Air Boss was away in Boston on a business trip and it was just the kids and me at home.

Five-year old 'Shroom and three-year old Lolli were playing upstairs when we heard the doorbell ring. The two kids froze and stared wide-eyed at each other. "Who's that?" Lolli asked (one could tell from their reaction that we still have yet to make friends who would make use of our doorbell).

It was our next door neighbor.

"Do you hear the police sirens?" she asked in what I assume was a rhetorical question. "That means that Santa is here. Come outside and see!"

By the time the kids had put on their shoes and made it out the door, Santa was already swarmed by kids on our block. The Redondo Beach Police Department had used two of their cruisers to cordon off our block. In the middle of the street was a weird looking boat-like contraption on wheels. It was Santa in his red "sleigh" with an RBPD cruiser filling in for his absent reindeer team.

"Hurry!" a femal officer waved at us to come over. "If the kids want to sit on Santa's lap, you have to hurry. He's going to be leaving soon!"

'Shroom and Lolli were confused by the commotion, the crowd, the strange main the red suit, and the fact that they had to line up. As we waited for their turn, I had to give them a crash course on Santa. "Just sit on Santa's lap and tell him what things you like." Bam. Done. It was now their turn.

The two gingerly sat on Santa's lap as if he were a public restroom toilet seat. They were so shy that Santa had to ask them to speak up. As the man leaned closer, I heard 'Shroom yell, "Dinosaurs!" When Santa - now deaf in one ear - asked if that was what he wanted for Christmas, my son sported one confused look on his face. It was an awkward moment. Nonetheless, the kids each received a lollipop and got off the sleigh.

They were the last two kids on our block to see Santa. And as the kids and their parents lined the street to see Santa escorted by flashing lights and police sirens, Lolli turned to me and said very loudly and very well within earshot of the entire block, "Santa is not a real person. He's just pretend!"

I was mortified. Not so much at Lolli's albeit-very-true comment but at the fact that my preschooler may have ruined the "magic" of Santa for dozens of kids in our neighborhood.

"Shhh! For some people, Christmas is about Santa." I tried to impart some damage control in a loud whisper.

As I struggled to hurry the kids back home with what felt like unfriendly stares at our back, Lolli exclaimed, "That's not right. Christmas is about Baby Jesus' birthday!"

And thus, with the Christmas lights on palm trees and the 65 degree weather, was the start of our first Christmas experience in California.

[WBE update: since the writing of this account, 'Shroom and Lolli are full-fledged fans of the man in the red suit thanks to public school education and the ubiquitous commercialization of Christmas. Fortunately they know that all the gifts are really from Jesus!]

"You're a Grand 'Old Flag" (sung by 'Shroom)

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Joy to the World" (sung by Lolli)

Christmas Light Craziness

This past weekend my family along with some friends went to visit a local neighborhood in Torrance bedecked in lights. A whole lot of 'em. Supposedly every year, the dozens and dozens of homes (seemingly try to out-do each other) attract people from all over. The local (and not so local) gawkers drive through the 'hood at the break-necking speed of about 7 mph - almost rivaling the speed of traffic on the 405.

We were lucky to be going with friends who lived within walking distance of this neighborhood. Although we didn't have to crawl --er, drive-- through the neighborhood in our cars, we did have to manuever the crowded sidewalks filled with other curious folks like us (and the sidewalks were not wide enough for two-way foot-traffic or strollers). Occassionally we would hear the toot of an antique car, loud Christmas tunes coming from random golf carts (yes, people would rent these vehicles just for this spectacle of lights), and the rumbling of pick-up trucks with bed-loaded teens. There was even a black stretch limo among the parade of cars.

If observing the lights and spectators got boring after awhile, one could find amusement in surveying the homeowners. Granted it was a Friday night, these people were hanging around outside (do they do this every night until Christmas?) and several homes were even selling hot chocolate, popcorn and other snacks. The temperature was probably in the mid- to upper-50's but the heat lamps and fire pits were out. Patio furniture had been temporarily relocated to the middle of driveways for crowd-watching comfort. One home had even moved their home theater to their driveway so that they could watch the crowds AND their movies on their 120" screen.

It was a fun experience to see a neighborhood come together and proudly display their Christmas lights, ferris wheels, mechanical dolls twisting and bending, nativity scenes, and large billboard-like signs. The people - residents and spectators alike - were super friendly and in great holiday cheer. Perhaps this will be a new Christmas tradition for us. Maybe next year, we'll even put on our full-fledge winter gear to get into the mood!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Nativity Scene

Even though we won't be setting up a Christmas tree this year (I've jokingly told people that our tiny apartment is so small that if we got a Christmas tree, one of us would have to move out), I've tried to bring some holiday cheer into our dark small abode.

Air Boss had pulled out the red and green Rubbermaid tote that contained the Christmas holiday stuff that survived "The Purge" in Boston. Out came the kids' velvet Christmas stockings, vinyl cling snowflakes which now adorn our living room window, strands of lights, and our Fisher Price nativity set (see photo).

'Shroom and Lolli were excited to see "the cute baby Jesus" again and in no time, the nicely set up scene (per the picture on the FP website and my anal retentiveness) was reconfigured. Several times. In one day.

I've found one of the wise men in the dirty laundry basket. Mary and Joseph have been ousted from the stable and replaced with the cow and the donkey. The sheep and camel have been "purchased" by Lolli and are now random items in her shopping bag.

I forgot to mention . . . there is a mean T-Rex staring at the baby Jesus. I wonder what his part is in all of this . . . ?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Our First Date

I can't believe Air Boss and I had our first date since arriving in California almost five months ago. Our date was about five years overdue (coincidentally, about the same age as 'Shroom).

We dropped 'Shroom and Lolli off with L.A. Grandpa and Grandma along with their bedtime buddies (a monkey and a duck), change of clothes and their sleeping bags. We hugged, said our good-byes to the kids and burned rubber as we peeled out of the driveway (kidding, but I don't recall looking back).

What did we do with our weekend "getaway-without-really-getting-away"? Air Boss took me to Griffith Park which had this huge observatory. I didn't know that the famous "Hollywood" sign was perched on Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park. Of course we went without a camera. All we had were our cell phone cams and the photo of me standing in front of the white letters resemebled a big dust speck in the pix. Oh well. You'll just have to take my word on it that we were there.

We had lunch at a little Taiwanese cafe. It was so awesome to be able to have a conversation with my husband and look him in the eye for more than a split second. It was amazing to be able to chat with him about small and big things and not be interrupted. If our date had ended after this simple meal, I could and would have been happy.

Air Boss indulged me and took me to Rodeo Drive. In all my trips to LA, I had never been to this part of Beverly Hills. Not that I wanted to shop (or could afford to buy anything) but I just wanted to see what it was like. Yes - lots of expensive stores. We didn't even step inside most of the stores. It was like walking along Newbury St. in Boston but with palm trees, more than your usual expensive 6-digit foreign cars, and chandelier street lights (encased in glass boxes). I watched a bit nervously as Air Boss had to parallel park behind a Bentley (or was it a Rolls Royce?).

On our way to dinner, we drove through the hills of 90210 and although the sun had already set, we saw gorgeous homes. Gorgeous. And not one of them the same. I'm sure these were the cheaper homes simply for the fact that we could see them from the road.

"Look, their driveways are so long and circular that they don't need to park on the streets," was my astute observation. Spoken like a true Southern Cal resident where cars outnumber people and thus available parking spaces (driveway, street, and illegal).

Dinner was Japanese cuisine eaten in a quaint garden terrace in Studio City. The air was very brisk (downright cold for the Southern Californians) but with the heat lamps which making year-round outdoor dining possible, it was comfortable enough. I think I ate the best sushi in my life that night. Yum. The caterpiller roll was still warm from the tasty crisp unagi and the avacado wrap was firm and delicious. The cucumber-wrapped rolls were crunchy with a tang of lemon. Yum. Yum again. The thought of finding a "kid-friendly" dish never even crossed my mind. I think I surprised myself at how quickly I pulled off my mommy-hat (and perhaps even more surprised that I remembered where I put it so I could it back on).

Even though I am 3,000 miles away from my family, I am so thankful that I have Air Boss's family nearby and that they have been so gracious in taking the kids in for a night. My sister-in-law bathed four kids (ages 3, 4, 5, and 6) all by herself with her eyes closed and one hand behind her back (just kidding). But she DID bath them all and took them to church the next day. Amazing. So grateful for her generosity and availability to help out even with her own two kids.

Well, I'm hoping that it won't take another five years for Air Boss and me to go on our next date. It was nice to hold someone's hand for a reason other than to cross the street.