Babas, in the secret language of the menehune

We just got back into town from NJ and had such a wonderful holiday. Most of my family was together and we all were psyched for Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed the days surrounding. Today Husband had to endure a five hour car ride home with me: I alternately broke down into tears and snapped at him. Then I broke down into more tears because I'd snapped at him, and what kind of crappy wife does that to her husband for no reason? I just miss my family (already) so much that my heart hurts.

Thankfully we had Karen in the car with us to cut through the tension. She's our new GPS navigation system (Christmas gift). She speaks Australian English - it was a language option and we find it to be very amusing. Eventually we may switch to Emily, who speaks British English, or Madalena, who speaks Portuguese. But for now, Karen instructs us on where to turn and how far to go. The problem today is that we already knew how we wanted to go, me having driven the route from New England to NJ so many times before. But Karen had new ideas. Which we weren't about to follow. So, every time we took a turn (or didn't) that differed from her designated route, she'd say, "Recalculating." My stepfather has the same GPS system, and he swears that his voice (Jill, American English) gets snippier and snippier as he continues to mess up or disregard her navigation. I might have to agree with him now, after listening to Karen repeatedly "recalculating" today until finally she told us "There is a better route!" I didn't know she might say that so it shocked me a little bit and sort of made me feel bad. Like I was pissing her off. Which I may have been. Husband didn't hear the nuances in her voice, but like any overly sensitive person, I did. Can't get anything by me, Karen. I pick up what you're throwin' down.

Another great Christmas gift which I received from Husband was a SmartGlobe. I've had my eye on the SmartGlobe for about four years because, not that I have low self-esteem or anything, but I know I suck at geography. And this insecurity was proven as not distorted perception but fact once I got my hands on that globe. I do suck, but already I suck a little bit less! The SmartGlobe is awesome! You can play games, competing against up to three other people to see who can find and touch locations the fastest with the special magic pen. I did learn something new about Husband through all this - he is a geography wiz. Like freakishly fast with that magic pen. He is definitely smarter than a fifth grader. I am quite clearly stupider than one.

You can also learn about currency, population, leader, and interesting facts just by touching a location with the magic pen. If only I'd had this when I was eight! But not to worry, I'll make good use of it now. Look out work functions and cocktail parties - I'll dazzle with worldly knowledge in addition to my already witty repartee.

My stepfather Jack also received a very cool gift. It's a replica of the USS Constitution. (That's us looking impressed by such a great present as we struggle to unpack it.) My sis and TO gave it to him. I gave him a remote meat thermometer that tells you when your dinner's ready. I didn't know how stiff the competition was going to be.

There were many highlights of our time in NJ. I'll try to recap.

C, TO, Husband and I spent a day in NYC. (That's me and C pretending to be jack-in-the-boxes.) We ice skated in Rockefeller Center, ate at the Carnagie Deli (and ran into none other than Mr. Carnagie himself, who, as it turns out, is kind of a schmo). We swung by the Plaza and spent some time in FAO Schwartz, which is truly one amazing toy store. I wish I could get accidentally locked in there over night so I could sleep on top of their giant stuffed animal version of Iorek, the armored bear from the Philip Pullman books.

One tiny snag in the NYC trip was that we had to run to catch the train on the way there, and missed the train entirely on the way back (despite sprinting and dodging people on the crowded sidewalks all the way from 44th to 33rd Street). It was actually even more stressful than just missing the train: we got separated. Or rather, TO got separated because his ticket wouldn't work for the subway and the line to get a new one was too long given our time constraints, so he decided to run to Penn Station. The rest of us were supposed to take the subway. But then, after TO had left, we realized we were at a subway station that would take us in the wrong direction. So we had no choice but to leave the subway station and run too. But we weren't fast enough. TO, it turns out, was fast enough, and he made it to the train with time to spare (TO leads the pack when we go running in the park, so this was not entirely surprising). The rest of us did not make out so well. Which meant TO felt compelled to get back off the train, out of solidarity and in keeping with our NYC motto: leave no man behind.

At the end of the day, we caught the next train and all made it home. Husband and I even managed to get back in time to meet our friends C and D, who recently moved to NJ from Boston, for pizza. All's well that ends well.

Husband and I also got to catch up with an old high school friend of mine while we were in town. That was fun, especially because N hasn't changed a bit. Whenever I see people from high school, they always tell me that I haven't changed a bit, and now I see what they mean. Some people just always look the same. We also met her boyfriend, and he was nice. He threw back quite a few screwdrivers throughout the course of our dinner, but I'm willing to bet he'd have been nice even without the alcoholic sedation.

By far, though, most of our time in NJ was strictly family time. We ate meals together, stayed up late chatting, and Husband and I spent countless hours playing with my nieces. Who are, I have to brag here, ADORABLE. As you can see.

The oldest is four going on five in February. The youngest (who is me, exactly, when I was that age) is three. Together, they are SO MUCH FUN!!!!! And they just love Husband to pieces. He's wicked fun to play with. I've always thought this about him as well.

So, most our days were spent at the park like this:

Or the beach like this:

My nieces are very funny little girls. Husband and I call them the menehune, because when we were in Hawaii we learned about menehune. They're small dwarf-like people that live undetected in the valleys and forests of Hawaii and, as legend has it, build things in one night. I'm not sure what kind of things exactly, but I think entire cities and what not. If they can't finish a project in one night they leave it forever unfinished. That's just the way they roll.

We've also decided that when we have our own kids, we'll refer to them as mene Macs. I'm realizing you won't get this, most likely, because you don't know our last name. But it's cute, trust me.

Our relationship with the menehune is actually very serious. Husband and I are their appointed guardians should anything happen to my sis and TO. We don't take that lightly. We want them to know us, and to be excited to see us, so we try to be very interactive with them and engage them as often as possible while we're together.

One thing about the menes that cracks me up is that they have this secret word (and, who knows, maybe an entire secret language!) that they use for both good and evil. It's "babas." They say it instead of "cheese" if you're taking a picture of them, or say it randomly to be silly and giggle. They also say it to be mean sometimes. Once my youngest niece hit my oldest niece and was 'encouraged' by my sis to apologize. She wasn't in an apologizing mood, so she said, "Sorry, BABAS!" and apparently that negated the entire apology in their world, because my oldest niece started to cry and whimper, "She didn't mean it! She didn't mean it!" You never quite know about "babas," but they know. I guess that's all that's important since it's not meant for us anyway.

One sad part about our visit to NJ is that I had to leave my wedding dress behind. It's just too bulky to have laying around in our apartment for the next several months, so we loaded it into the trunk for delivery to mom's closet, the storage unit of all things never to be worn again. I tried it on one last time, and said my goodbyes. I also helped my nieces play dress up.

That pretty much sums up our Christmas holiday. Fun, quality time, bonding, playing. Oh, and good gifts. But that is clearly the least of all blessings.

Happy New Year!


Along came a...

Over the course of our honeymoon, I overcame a lot of my fears. I snorkeled in open ocean water (hello, sharks?), swam with giant sea turtles (which pop up out of nowhere and bump right into you - hello, ocean creatures bumping into me reminds me of sharks!), swam with dolphins (hello, slimy and grey - love them, but 'nough said!), showered at night in an empty camp ground bathroom shower stall (no shark reference, but hello horror movie waiting to happen!), and slept in a bare bones cabin with giant spiders on the ceiling (which is just plain gross).

Mostly, I think I came out braver. Now I'm no longer afraid of sharks in the pool AT ALL, and am only mildly irrational about swimming in any sort of water where I can't see my toes. Definite progress. I'm also less jumpy when I'm home alone, because clearly if I'm tough enough to handle the Psycho shower scene I'm tough enough to, um..., be tougher.

But sadly, a new phobia seems to have cropped up. I now have developed a fear of spiders.

Over the weekend, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was on TNT. Husband and I had a ton of work to do, and he was paged constantly, but we managed to watch all three movies anyway. Or at least, we managed to have all three movies on in the background. During the third movie when the giant spider almost eats Frodo, I nearly lost it as I came to the realization of just how disgusting a spider, and its hunting method, is. That's some seriously sadistic sh*t.

Think of it: first, it paralyzes its victims. THEN, it wraps them up in its nasty sticky web, and THEN it sucks the blood out of them WHILE THEY'RE STILL ALIVE!

I mean, that is just so repulsive I can hardly stand it. The only thing that keeps me from stepping on every spider I come across just for fun is the fact that I can still hear my mother's voice in my head, delivering her typical response whenever my sister or I shrieked about a spider in the house: "That's Charlotte! Do you really want me to kill Charlotte?"

Thanks for that, mom. Now, what should be simple is complicated.



Last night Husband and I went Christmas shopping. We essentially finished all the shopping we needed to do, which was lovely. Now we just have to wrap everything. That'll be tonight's project. Wrapping I don't mind so much, even though I'm terrible at it. At least it's something I can do in my pajamas on the floor with my feet nestled into my puppy dog slippers. I love this holiday season, but I'm so tired of being busy every night. It's reminiscent of our wedding planning days, when we longed to just stay home and do nothing and instead were forced to go out and do... well, whatever it is we did.

I think the stressful part of all this is that I don't see our lives slowing down much in the future. After the holidays I'm taking an intensive class at a college (which is two hours away once you factor in traffic). I'm taking the course for a certification exam, and after I finish the intensive winter session course I start a prep course for the spring semester and then sit for the exam in April. In the end of January I have my biggest work event (the five day one).

During this time Husband and I need to figure out where we're going to be next (Boston, Minneapolis, or Austin), where we're going to be living in said chosen area, and what we're going to be doing for work. Which doesn't seem to completely flatten Husband in the same way it seems to completely flatten me - I HATE moving, I HATE change, and I HATE starting over. So anything other than Boston is going to result in a very long and painful adjustment period for me. Even something different in Boston is going to result in a painful adjustment period for me.

I could just choose to adapt gracefully, but at some point in your life it's easier to accept that if you haven't managed to change how you react to things yet, you may never do it. As I said to Husband when we were talking about my being a neat freak, I organized my toy box for Christ's sake. It's sewn into the seams of my personality by now, like those annoying labels that are so tightly stitched into the side of your sweater. If you attempt to cut them out, you're left with a giant hole in your sweater and nothing else to think besides "I should have left well enough alone."


Short order

Last night Husband and I manned the omelet station for EC's Late Night Breakfast event, where staff don aprons and chef's hats and cook for our students, presumably to fuel them through finals. We've been at the omelet station before, but this year was intense. First of all, for some reason I was way worse at making omelets this year than last. Second, the students seemed a little more like food critics this year than last. Maybe those two are connected...

We climbed into bed after midnight with cooking spray grease on our faces and egg product in our hair, glad to be off our feet and away from the fire.


Cranked up a notch

The pressure. That's what.

It's hard to find Christmas gifts for my family period, but to find them with two weeks to go after returning from your Hawaiian vacation is incredibly stressful. We did a lot of present hunting today, but now I'm panicked that nothing will be delivered on time. Thankfully, I finally did the last of the honeymoon laundry this morning, so that feels like measurable progress.


Pay off for the snow dance

Snow day! Early closing! Off work at 2pm! Snow day!



Deck the dining room server

We shelled out money on a photographer for our wedding. Now we've just shelled out more money ordering prints for folks in time for Christmas, since the dvd with all the photos (strategically) won't be delivered to us for another few weeks (because if we had it, we could print our own Christmas presents). (Notice how I didn't say "we could print our own *goddamn* Christmas presents" like I normally would have? I told you I'm ridiculously mellow lately.)

The task of choosing photos to frame for our loved ones was daunting. There are so many beautiful pictures, but there are just as many that are goofy and weird. Not surprisingly, the goofy and weird ones seem more true to life than the beautiful ones. There are a lot of goofy and weird pictures of me alone, and of me with Husband. Once we get the dvd I'll post the weird ones of me for your amusement; Husband would prefer not to appear on the internet. Fair enough.


All the Whos in Whoville. And then there's me, too.

I'm so excited for Christmas! This year we're spending the holiday in New Jersey with my parents, my sister, her husband, and my nieces. It's perfect - I'll have most of my family there, and this will be the first Christmas I'll spend with Husband. For the past couple of years Christmas was always bittersweet - home with my pampering parents but missing my boyfriend like crazy. (Hard to imagine that we weren't even engaged last Christmas...)

Now when Husband and I share Christmas stories from growing up it's so much more meaningful - I know our childhood experiences will influence how we choose to celebrate with our own family, and it's nice to imagine how we're going to do things now that it's our turn to determine holiday traditions.

We've decorated the apartment with white lights, Christmas candles, and the limited seasonal kitchenware that we own. It's cozy and festive. We spent Sunday night watching Love Actually and got reacquainted with our favorite holiday tunes while in Hawaii (our theory is that because the weather doesn't get Christmas-y on the islands they overdo the music, decorations, and early holiday greetings to set the mood).

I have cool presents for the girls, and can't wait to spend some quality time with them. I also have some great ideas for Christmas presents for the family, mostly revolving around wedding photos. Making it easy for me is the fact that my family was, as a whole, very expressive and silly at the wedding so we have loads of very funny shots.

Recently I received an email from an old high school friend I'd lost touch with, so we're planning to catch up over the holidays while we're both at our childhood homes. I'm looking forward to seeing N again after all this time - it sounds like she's doing well, and it's always fun to reminisce about the past and exchange "where are they now?" gossip about our old classmates.

We're also trying to plan a trip to NYC over the holidays to eat at the Carnegie Deli, skate at Rockerfeller Center (Husband's never been), and catch a show. A visit to NYC at Christmastime is always festive.

Oh, and we have our annual holiday party for work on Wednesday. We only get one drink ticket apiece, which limits the quality of the people-watching since you can't laugh at drunk co-workers, but it'll still be a nice evening. And some really sweet students made me a care package (which they created for finals time as a morale booster for their peers) that had lots of yummy snacks, and that was just very adorable of them.

Other than that, I'm not sure what's gotten into me - it's been years since I've been super excited about holly, mistletoe, and presents under the tree. But what can I say? I'm blissfully happy. And Christmas, by nature, is blissfully happy. So this year the holiday spirit just piggybacks off the spirit I already have. My cheer and goodwill is probably so annoying to most normal people.


From this day forward

Our wedding week included the early arrival of our parents, siblings, and friends, a Thanksgiving celebration, a rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, and the reception. Which is to say it started on Monday and didn't end until the last of our friends left our apartment on Sunday night. And the whole thing, from start to finish, was amazing. When I look back at the pictures, I feel like a kid at Christmas experiencing something that's just slightly magical.

It was great to be surrounded by so many people who care about us. And it was nice to get to hang out with our family and close friends for an entire week. We were stressed, and had errands, and were overtired, but we loved every minute of it. The wedding seemed to bring everyone together.

Our wedding ceremony was short but sweet, and a very sacred moment for us. We were married by candlelight at Old North Church at 6pm on November 24th, just one of the many couples throughout the church's 200+ year history to solemnly promise our lives to one another before God.

For most of my adult life, I worried I'd never be able to commit to a person enough to get married. I also figured I'd never accept religion into my life. So all in all, it was a series of leaps of faith that brought me to that altar. With Fiancé (whom hitherto I will call Husband in keeping with the tradition of my rather uncreative aliases for my man) it's always been clear that the leaps were never in vain. God, on the other hand... well, we have an evolving relationship, but it was a powerful moment when our union was blessed in the church.

Our reception was relaxed and (so we've been told!) lots of fun. We listened to some lovely (and amusing) toasts, ate (minimally in my case because my corset was too tight), made the rounds, and danced the night away. We had a blast, and based on the pictures and feedback we've received everyone else had a pretty good time too.

Sunday we met everyone in the hotel restaurant for brunch (I was starving because of the aforementioned corset-induced starvation), and then spent the afternoon opening presents and entertaining at our apartment. Then we packed... and on Monday morning it was off to sunny Hawaii! Which is a whole other post. We had a fabulous time, but the weather wasn't very welcoming.

So the short answer to the question "How'd it go?" is that it went very well, thank you for asking :) Pictures to follow.

Most importantly we're married, and it's everything I'd hoped it would be.