Monday, December 20, 2010

The Grape's Holiday Newsletter

I've always been somewhat suspicious of holiday newsletters. My knee jerk reaction to them is that they provide an excuse for people to trumpet their children's triumphs large and small. Often in a stunningly verbose manner. Which, when I think about it, isn't all that different from a blog. So, in the spirit of the season, and because I don't feel like trolling the net for gifts while the Grape naps, here's the Grape's holiday recap.

Dear Friends,

As 2010 winds down, I write to you from chilly Boston, where the Grape's sled sits waiting for the promised snow that stubbornly refuses to fall.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it: the beginning of our year basically sucked. The Grape felt lousy, and neither slept nor ate during January, February and much of March. What did the poor little guy do, you might ask? He screamed. All the time. For good reason: Although he had recuperated from his surgery, he was still in pain from the issues that had plagued him for the first months of his young life. I embraced the glamour of motherhood, meaning I put on make up, cashmere and jewelry to clean up vomit six to ten times a day.

R. and I nearly killed each other last winter, even though we were fortunate to have great help. I emerged from our season of discontent and insomnia in utter awe of single parents.

I honestly don't know how they hold it together, and I realized that next time I see an utterly exasperated parent start to unravel in public - or give up on correcting her unruly kid - I should probably cut her some slack. She may not have slept for more than one consecutive hour since becoming a parent.

Then, luckily, the Grape started to feel better and the sun came out and little Disney birds sang all around us. Things were on an upswing by April. R. started a new job, selected in large part because the company offers excellent health benefits. I realized something is really wrong with our society when I heard myself answering inquiries as to how R.'s new gig was going with the breathless exclamation, "He has Blue Cross!"

Because R. and I must be mentally limited, we decided to mix things up in May, when we accompanied the Grape on his first beach vacation to Bermuda. I say we accompanied him, because while the Grape enjoyed the sun, sea and sand, we ferried his gear, prepared his meals, slathered his sunscreen and prevented him from ingesting more than his weight in sand each day. Instead we fed him crab cakes and veggie burgers. He loved vacation. I, being a rookie, brought a book to read on the beach. I got through one chapter before the Grape tossed it into his inflatable pool.

Even though R. and I spent our one nice evening out on the town sitting inside the restaurant in shifts, the Bermuda "test flight" inspired us to take the Grape on a trip to Finland.

Because Finland can be either eighty and sunny or fifty and rainy during its short summer, we packed for every possible weather eventuality. We also decided that we needed two strollers - the small one for the airport and the serious one for long, idyllic walks on country roads - none of which lasted more than twenty minutes due to the steroid-freak type mosquitoes who were hellbent on sucking every drop of blood from the Grape's veins, even after we practically bathed the poor little bugger in Deet. Hopefully he won't grow a third arm or anything.

Because we brought as much luggage as an Emirate princess leaving a shopping holiday in Paris, we had to upgrade our rental car. This involved waiting in the alley next to the Avis office, which shared an entrance with a peep show and porn shop. Being Scandinavia, the wares were proudly displayed in the window. The Grape didn't notice, while R. and I learned that some buttoned down businessmen do pretty strange things on their lunch hours.

In a rerun of our fine dining experience in Bermuda, we sampled one of Helsinki's three Michelin starred eateries. Note: this was NOT our idea. My aunt insisted it would be fine; we could wheel the Grape inside without disturbing his stroller nap. In her defense, the Grape was snoring loudly when she said this.

It wasn't fine. The Grape comes equipped with special sensors that trigger his meltdown function when faced with any overly adult, refined environment. We left after paying thirty euros a piece for unfinished appetizers, because I couldn't stand the shame.

It kills me that we couldn't take the wine to go.

The Grape was a trouper about visiting museums and marketplaces. He schlepped through castles, splashed in the lake and sampled the local cuisine, especially the pear ice cream, like a seasoned traveler. R. and I flew home thinking we should travel more often, not realizing we'd (by dumb luck) hit the perfect pre-walking window.

Because once we returned to Boston, and I shoveled us out from under two weeks' worth of laundry, the Grape started to get really mobile. Which meant we had to get serious about baby-proofing. We spent a disgraceful sum on various gates because none of standard ones fit the non-standard stairways in our place.

In August, we celebrated the fact that we'd kept the Grape alive for a year with a family party, to which nobody brought a camera. The Mother of the Year people crossed me off their list.

As soon as we pronounced our apartment kid proof, we put it on the market. In addition to sending four car loads of crap to storage, the realtor insisted that we de-baby the place for all showings. The crib moved back into the bedroom. Nobody slept well. Everyone got bitchy. We cleared out for painters. We unscrewed and re-screwed the gates so many times that the screws got stripped. We folded baby jail away and stashed it on the roof. We removed all evidence of human habitation and turned the condo into a showplace, displaying only Nobel winning works of literature and fresh flowers. We sent Lucy the Kitten and Siren the Cat to camp at my mom's. It was a horrendous ordeal.

One that lasted five days. This wouldn't be a true holiday newsletter if I didn't brag a bit. Chandler Street, my home for almost a decade, went in five days, for significantly more than the realtor wanted for a listing price. Having already put our new home under contract, I let my head swell with the new sensation of being a real estate genius.

A genius who decided to move on a holiday weekend. R. and I spent Thanksgiving weekend packing and unpacking, sending sofas out the window and Grape proofing a new apartment - one that required entirely new baby gates because none of the five we already owned fit.

Besides the fact that we lived with the Death Stairs for a week while Fosters and Smith shipped the desired barriers, the move went freakishly smoothly. So smoothly that I felt a bit let down. Things were in fact so quiet that we did the only logical thing: we adopted Lila the Dog. Lila came from a rescue that pulls from high-kill shelters in the deep south, so she had a long journey.

I prepared for her arrival by buying dog food, a leash and a nice big bed and reading articles about introducing cats and dogs.

R. started tweeting so he could follow the dog on Twitter.

Lila is thrilled to have a home for the holidays and the Grape is in love. Like L-O-V-E love. He follows her around the apartment chanting, "Lila! Good girl!"

We all went out to buy a tree from the Berkeley Street tree lot. Some recent parolees obligingly schlepped it home for us. R. wrestled it into the stand and Lila and the Grape have been bonding by destroying ornaments while listening to Frank Sinatra sing Jingle Bells.

Aside from a minor ham calamity, and the fact that I've yet to purchase any gifts, we enter this holiday week with all right in the world.

Warm wishes for a festive holiday season and all the best for the new year,

Mari, R., the Grape, Siren, Lucy and Lila

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