These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Christmas With Kids

So it's back to work tomorrow after a few weeks off.

Again, funny what a year does to a family. Last year, it was just me and dawn hanging out. I can't even remember what we did, except stay in Holland. It was low key, that's for sure.

This year the holiday was still low key. But the kids made the difference. It was rowdy all throughout the two weeks. Thought for sure that it was going to be as crazy as it was during Thanksgiving, when AJ and Kyle had issues. No. Not like that at all. Just the typical brotherly arguments.

Kayla bounced back, too. The weeks leading up to the big day, her behavior got better. She was horrid in early December and we thought that that was it. Nope, she was quite nice...and still is.

The big day was quiet. Evie, Laura, Todd and Nicholas joined us here. But it was pretty calm, compared to previous years at Evie's or Mary Ann's. I think this whole cancer situation with Oliver has impacted everyone. (Couldn't have anyone over this year because his white cell count was low.)

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all. And that was Saturday.

WE spent Sunday preparing for the trip to Texas, which was a two-day affair of traveling from Monday t0 Tuesday. Boy , was ai scared. Three kids added to the mix? We rented a van because we knew our Saturn wasn't gonna do it for the five of us. We'd kill each other in the close proximity. We joked that Kayla would go first. Her brothers would do her in.

I was surprised. We had no mishaps. The behavior was that what we get at home. Minor bickering but no biggie. The kids had never been out of Michigan adn certainly not ona huge road trip like that. So awesome.

A few minor issues occurred when AJ acted snotty and i had to get out of hte van to settle things. This was outside of Dallas somewhere in a rural area on a busy highway. I had my cell phone on the seat. When I slid off the seat, it fell onto the ground. Dawn drove off on the shoulder and i realixed it was gone. I yelled for her to stop. It was gone. I walked in the drizzle, jioned by Kyle. Nothing. AJ joined us, too. I was furious. It was his fault. If he'd been nicer to his brother and sister, it would have bene all right. I headed to the van. They stayed back and kept going down the shoulder in the mist. Dawn drove off, turned around and went back to the exit before. The boys walked nearly a mile. We approached and AJ held up his hand. He found the phone. My anger subsided. I told him it would be a bad trip if I'd lost it.

Then around the Waco area, we had another mishap. Kyle and Kayla were in the back seat. Suddenly Dawn hears Kyle say, "KAYLA!" I heard "Blurp!!" she'd hrled. All over a library book and beyond. It was mostly orange juice. She'd overeaten. Dawn pulled over and we had to change her into pajamas. Dawn was brave. She cleaned up everything. I was a wimp. I hate puke. After the 30-minute unscheduled stop, we were off. Luckily, it was later in the day and we only needed another four or so hours to arrive at the ranch. Whew!

The ranch was excellent for the kids. And for us. It was the most stress-free visit we've ever had, considering we had the 3 kids. So much fun was had by them. They ran around. I think they like dopen spaces. Kyle and Ricky played games. They formed quite the bond. Kayla and Emma played a lot but all had a healthy respect for each others' boundaries.

for me it was nice seeing my family. I hadn't been home since Aug. 2009 for Tia Mine's funeral. That wasn't much of a visit. I went alone; Dawn stayed behind. So it was good to see mom, Linda, Noel, Arnold, Meri and the kids. It always feels good to smell the wind there. It's so different than up here. It's earthy. The field, I guess.

we only stayed four days and they went quick. Still, it was good. We had a good New Year's Eve. The kids popped fireworks. We played cards at mom's house with the kids. Nice bonding stuff that I carried on to now and started to do it here.

The trip back was less eventful (no puking or lost cellphones). It was mostly sunny all the way. We did get lost after leaving Little Rock and took some back roads to reach I-55. We saw A LOT of rural Arkansas. It turned out OK in the end.

How fitting that as we entered Holland's city limits, snow began to fall. We went from temperatures as high as 83 to snow in Michigan a few days later.

It was great to be home, saw my kitty again. She was happy to see us. Took her a few days to settle down.

The kids have been in school a week and they are back on schedule. Now, it's my turn.

I know, I need to get back to this some more. Thanks for the push, Mark. I promise to try to keep this up more regularly.