Travelogue, Christmas 2009

Dec 20

10:00 a.m.:

I traded in our dodge grand caravan after we’d signed the rental contract and everything because I saw a VW Routan in the parking lot and decided I’d rather drive it. This vacation is going to cost  a  house payment and that means I get to drive whatever car I want. Plus Routan sounds a little bit like Wu Tang, and this van has Connecticut plates and that’s better than FL plates in the eyes of Asheville residents. We have street cred now.

Noon: I’ve done my customary unpacking and repacking of the car. Michael has done his traditional walking away from my ritual. Kids are locked and loaded. Can I just ask one question about these dual screen portable DVD players? What’s the point, if they’re going to make the seats of the minivan so close and within kicking distance to the screen? The portable dvd player makes it about halfway through the trip before we have to remove it from the strike zone of Jack’s feet of fury.

7:30 p.m.

As we pass through Spartanburg I mention to Michael that we might consider turning back, since there’s nothing between Spartanburg and Hendersonville which is over the hill we’ve decided not to attempt after dark, since there’s just been a huge snowstorm and the gorge is full of ice. I’m trying to show him this on the map, and the discussion takes a few minutes and he says cavalierly. “Well how much further till we get to the part you were warning me that we can’t drive through?” and I looked up and around and said “Well, we’re in it now.” And so we made it through the gorge and into Hendersonville where the most frightening part was the parking lot of the hotel, and the kids wanting to play in the snow RIGHT THAT SECOND when all we wanted to do was breathe for five minutes and accept the lord jesus into our hearts and thank Him for getting us over that mountain alive.

Dec 21:

WE GET TO SEE ONA TODAY! —-Finally a trip to NC where we aren’t rushing in or out and we are able to stop by and let the kids play. We make it Ona’s where coffee is ready, cats are friendly, snow is mushy, hills are steep and kids are aplenty. The Averys pose reluctantly for one photo on their way to bundle up before sledding face first down the hill outside. The weather is beautiful-sunny and not too cold. Snow is still a novelty at this point to the kids and it’s not icy and hard yet. Jack is drawn as usual to the Tonka trucks and sets to moving the pile with the front loader. When we hear that weather conditions mean we have to leave our rental van somewhere and get shuttled up to the cabin in many, many loads in the Subaru AWD, we have to cut the visit short and load up our screaming kids and hit it. Little do I know that as soon as I round the bend at Burnsville I lose all cell service, so I don’t get a chance to send up the photos from our visit to Ona’s place. Sorry, Ona!

We meet Mike and Sherry at Ingles in Burnsville with sleeping kids in the car, coordinate the dropoff of the rental car, and get up the mountain with kids, leaving the van with M and M to handle. Avery immediately wants to play in the snow, which is not my department, of course. I do cold from INSIDE, sweetie.

Oh god, we’ve lost Jack’s blue blanket at the Days Inn in Hendersonville. The end of an Era. He’s gone to sleep without it, but I’m sad.

Dec 22:

HOLY CRAP HANNAH IS 16 YEARS OLD TODAY! Poor kid, spending her 16th birthday in a cabin on a mountain with no phone or internet or TV. I’m not sure I could think of a worse torture for the child. She’s taking it in incredibly graceful stride, pretending she’s not bothered at all; only I can tell. I’m advocating for her as best I can with the landlord, trying to get dial up or whatever-phone card, something. Poor kid. Poor me, crap. It’s my vacation too! I’ll cop to it! Where’s my facebook! Ya’ll have wine; why can’t I have an evening cup of Facebook, for crap’s sake?

These children and the sledding, I swear to God with the wet clothes. We had to pack light, is the thing. We don’t have room to pack a thousand outfits, and yet they have to change clothes 32 times a day because they get wet OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN! OH MY GOD ARE WE EVEN RELATED because how is this fun at all for you with the cold and the wet and the snow? I mean the sledding part I get. But that’s why I like that Alpine Slide thing at Gatlinburg that you ride in the summer. No snow. No cold.

Hannah’s birthday=rousing success! Red velvet cake from Early Girl, new Ipod loaded with music and movies, Coraline graphic novel she’s already mostly through, skinny jeans (who doesn’t need skinny jeans) and T shirts, gift cards, photo album…custom dinner prepared by Michael. We might have been short about 14 teenagers and a keg for it to be a real party, but we made do.

Mike and Sherry have Beatles Rock Band for the Wii and they played last night, so freaking loud. I went to bed early and I kept waking up to tap tap tap BANG and laughing. Just laughing. Well, and some singing. Sort of singing.  More like sing-shouting. I considered a trip to the basement to go down and yell at them  but I knew they’d hand me a mike. I’m retired, due to an inability to stop flinging my neck. I can’t risk another Rock Band neck injury.

Dec 23:

Still no internet or phone. I’m beginning to wither.

I’d say it’s refreshing, but it’s not. This might be the last vacation we ever get (ok maybe not EVER but for a while so it has to count!), and the thing I do to unwind is unavailable to me. I’m going out of my mind. Although I was in town yesterday briefly and was so overwhelmed with the emails I loaded that I didn’t read them. So I don’t know. Unless I had a lot of time to sit down and browse I guess I wouldn’t bother.

On another note, my family seems to be having a lovely time. That means I am too, because I am a mother and we exist through our families.

The snow is incredible and wonderful. To look at. Not to touch. Touching snow SUCKS. Unless you’re wearing one of my handy snow overall suits that I brought from my yard sale score. Everyone teases me when I put one on, but they’re very warm and waterproof. When I wear one sledding, I don’t have to put MY clothes in the dryer afterward. The sleds are more like discs- wait, they ARE discs. They’re super fun because you cannot control where you go and you just spin all over the place as you’re going down the hill. Avery hates being on one with me because I don’t put my feet out to slow us down. Whenever she rides with me she screams “my tummy!” all the way down and then “I WANT MY DADDY!” all the way back up the hill.

I wish the towels were not white, because my hair color is staining them.

The landlord! He’s come through with a network key for his wifi, and starting tomorrow when he’s not there, we can tap into his network as long as we’re willing to sit on his porch with the computer. Uh, brrrr. I don’t see much of that in my future. Plus even without him there it feels a little stalkerish.

Dec 24th:

Today is my day to cook breakfast and my recipe is on the internet. CURSES! I wing it. I don’t actually eat any. Everyone says it is delicious but that’s because they don’t have to cook or clean up. I sneak a taste after the fact. NASTY. I leave the kitchen mentally flogging myself for not planning ANYTHING as well as my mother in law does.

Avery and Jack run out to play in the snow but it’s about 15 degrees colder today. Avery’s personally offended by the weather and runs back in, angry. “this SUCKS!” Ah, I love how they mimic me.

Hannah decides to brave the walk up the hill to use the computer, but forgets the power cord and comes back. Poor Hannah. When she comes back a second time because she can’t get the computer to see the network, I get M to drive me up there in the van and I set up the connection for her. It’s so cold I don’t even want to bother; I’m considering a life without the internet now. I hate the internet! Then M pulls up the AWD Subaru and says he and Wayne are going into town, do I need anything. Are you kidding? I need a freakin ride into town, thank you very much. He is so lucky. If he’d gone down that hill without me, I’m not sure we’d be married right now.

I come back having sent some text messages and procured a phone that will work on this mountain. Now my child can talk to her boyfriend, I can call my dad, and Wayne can call his west coast people tomorrow. I’ve saved Christmas! Happy Birthday TeenHer!

Christmas Eve Dinner: Family together, always nice and very low key. This family is friendly and good. We’re small and easy, and usually no one is exceedingly drunk or disorderly. This year there is a new baby in the house and there are always kids to deflect attention from awkward moments. I usually have about an hour of awkward moments in a row at any family gathering but they mostly occur inside my head so for the most part no one has to bear witness. Tonight I burst into tears about 10 minutes before we sat down to dinner after my FIL announced across the house to me that he’d just told my husband something that I was trying to keep secret. Hi, thanks for that! But it was so short lived (thanks, new medications!) that by the time I was through making my badASS holiday playlist I was recovered and clear eyed and ready to eat. Go pharmaceuticals. I couldn’t do holidays without ’em.

Huge Risk: I put myself in charge of party playlist. Could be very bad or OK. Turns out of was OK and actually got a compliment from my mother in law. Phew, because the Christmas music playlist from earlier in the day went over like a lead balloon.

Kids are in bed. We do the Santa thing, and I remove things from their piles until I’m satisfied. This feels so weird and backwards. When we were kids, the entire room would be full of Santa stuff. It was a day of presents. This year, Santa put out 4 barbies, 4 movies, one puzzle, a TAG, 4 monster trucks and 2 books (their stockings contained some of that stuff and a few things from their grandparents)

The piles were separated by kid but by the end of the day they were talking about the toys as if Santa brought the toys to them collectively, and we didn’t correct them.

I act as spectator while they play Beatles RB for a while until I’m coerced into singing. What I learn: it’s  possible to get a 100% score on Beatles RB vocals without being able to correctly hit one note or carry a tune. I can’t even read music. I have a blast anyway. I sing for a long time, and work very very hard to protect my neck muscles.

Dec 25:

It’s CHRISTMAS! We wake up and the Christmas tree isn’t lit. Oh hell. We turn on the gas fireplace and let the kids get into the Santa stuff while we wrap rolls in foil and set them on top of the fireplace shelf to warm. We’re really sad about the lack of coffee. Other people care about breakfast.  For a second I’m excited about my car power inverter until my dad reminds me that the coffee maker probably won’t run off it. He’s right; the inverter is 100 watts to the coffeemaker’s 1100.

Shelby saves the day with a thermal pot of coffee and he takes the breakfast casseroles home to cook! YAY!  They come back with baby Della, more coffee, hot food and presents.

We are fed, my kids are played out. We have coffee. My husband broke all the rules and got me way too much stuff AND a homemade gift. I love every single thing he got me, unbelievably. Even with no power, this day could not get better unless this rain turned to snow.

Just as Michael and I are gathering candles and hurricane lamps (we’re power outage veterans now, thanks FL hurricane seasons) the Christmas tree lights up. Had we known that’s all we had to do to get the power back on we’d have started getting supplies together at 8 a.m.

I’ve emptied all the photos onto the computer now and been sorting through the SLR vs. new point and shoot. I think I hate the point and shoot and will send it back. For the most part the photos just suck.

Oh man, and another Christmas has come and gone; this makes three-without one single photograph of me and my kids. Husband you have dropped the ball and I mean but good and that’s even after I’ve begged. I foresee much groveling and perhaps a hired photographer in our future, because a simple “sorry honey” won’t replace these memories and I’m a grudge holder. I don’t know what more to do past “please, please, it’s so very important to me that I have pictures of me and my kids on these important days would you please pick up a camera and take some?” that I can say to make this happen. I go to bed very sad on Christmas night, I wake up feeling petty and kind of like a bitch, but when I look there are still no pictures.

Dec 26:

It’s Hannah’s breakfast day and she rocks it. Last week she was 15 and she needed all kinds of my help and couldn’t do anything by herself and this week she is 16 and thank you very much she will be just fine on her own if I will just plug in the docking station and make her a playlist. She might have needed a small bit of guidance from me here and there but she was amazing and everyone was thrilled with her quiche.

It’s my dinner night too and I’m tripping all over my daughter trying to set up my chili in the crock pot while she cooks breakfast. I’m missing some things, like my spices and my recipe. crap. My stomach is getting fluttery and I want to cry all day because I’m a bad planner and I have to bite my lip all day long to keep from yelling at my husband for messing up my packing system which threw me off my game and caused me to leave the recipe and spices sitting beside the spot where my bin was sitting on the kitchen counter when he moved it to his pre-launch pad. (his hobby room) WTF, man! I had a system! Whatever, it’s too late now. I begin to really freak out when I realize the bread we brought had a sell by date of Dec 23 and I have no fresh cilantro. Double fudge! AND I brought no salad dressing for the salad.  Great.

When my brother in law gets there, I ask him to taste the chili. He suggests that I add- you guessed it- the one spice I do not have. Of course. We distract the crowd with Rock Band while I frantically throw things into the crock pot at dinner time while making agave/stone mustard & red wine/vinaigrette dressings and softening up our stale bread. My husband’s family is too gracious and hungry to complain about my chili, and I get through my dinner night unscathed.

We plan a marathon Rock Band session but end up having a long philosophical discussion around the fire instead, and stay up way too late. I briefly consider joining in when Wayne tells war stories about wrecking cars and raising hell as a teenager in Hollywood, but decide against it in the interest of maintaining my pristine rep with Michael’s parents.

Dec 27th

Last full day here.  Hannah decides to spend most of it in bed, which sucks. The kids and Mike and Sherry get many many miles out of the bean town while we putter in the kitchen. I have my second to last cup of Fresh Market Christmas Blend for the year.

It’s super warm today, maybe in the 40’s, so everyone walks up to the owner’s cabin which is convenient for me since it means I don’t have to look like I’m making a special trip to sneak onto the internet with my phone. The kids make snow angels, and I jump on his wifi to let facebook know I still exist. Wayne and I need to rest before making that long 200 yard trek down the hill so we sit a spell on the porch and talk family for a bit.

A few people get roped into playing Nightmare Before Christmas Yahtzee – the kids bail after just a few rolls, and I fall asleep in the middle of the game because it’s incredibly boring. Wayne sort of wins, I think but then Hannah looks up the rules and finds that Michael shorted her some points and in the ends she wins on a technicality. Wow, the last day of vacation you’re kind of scraping the bottom.

At some point I go up and start packing.

Dec 28:

Even though we swear we’re not going to rush out of the house, we do.

Even though we swear we’re not going to push through and try to get home in a hurry, we push through. We do not get home in a hurry. We screw up and don’t get off the highway when we need to, and we end up stuck in traffic with miserable kids. We’re on the road almost 11 hours. On the way through Hendersonville we stop at the hotel to try to retrieve the infamous Blue Blanket. I found out during the trip that it was the first blanket Michael ever bought for Avery. The hotel doesn’t have it. Now I’m especially sad. I remind myself several times on the ride home that life is not about things and that we have plenty of mementos from Avery’s birth. I’m still sad about losing that blanket, which has traveled with us up and down the east coast several times.  Jack asks me for it one more time when I put him to bed at home and then accepts a substitute. Farewell, Blue Blanket.

And now we are home. Overall: the trip was lovely. We really need to hit the grocery store, and now I’m so glad we packed that Rubbermaid bin full of food from the cabin freezer, otherwise we’d have nothing to feed the kids for breakfast.

Photo essay to follow very soon along with a link to the full slideshow, after I’ve processed the pictures.


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