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My grandmother always had a camera in her hand. As I spent her final years with her here in Florida one of her great joys was taking pictures and then anxiously waiting for them to be developed so she could show her friends or mail them to relatives. Even though I saw her every week she’d still have an envelope with my name on the outside and photos of our time together on the inside.

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“Lovely family time.” It’s what we say when we get annoyed with each other in the Rausin house.

Now that my children are young adults they see us much differently than they did when they were little. Ahh, to be able to go back to the time when Eric and I could do no wrong… Nope, they see all our flaws and what’s worse–we raised them so they share many of those same flaws or should I say interesting personality traits.

Here’s the story of this Thanksgiving. Or why Arielle’s at the grocery store Thanksgiving Eve at 8:17 pm.

For the past few months Eric’s been excited about cooking with Arielle for Thanksgiving. So, imagine my surprise this morning when Eric was leaving for work and he casually mentioned that he left the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner up to Arielle, our twenty-one year old who is home from college without a vehicle. What? Suddenly my nerves about running the Turkey Trot 5K in freezing 50 degree weather at 7:30 am. was trumped by my panic over having to maneuver through a crowd at the grocery store searching for cumin and sweet potatoes. I don’t even like sweet potatoes. Couldn’t I just crawl out of bed at the crack of nine and sip coffee in my cozy sweats then feast on cold pizza and potato chips around noon? That would be a great holiday for me.

How did this happen?

Eric and I are both procrastinators. Our children didn’t have a chance of getting that gene that makes you take care of things weeks in advance. Poor kids. However, where we differ is that my husband, like my daughter, are extremely easy-going. If plans change, if things don’t go the way they anticipate, they are pretty OK with whatever happens. This can cause them to make lots of plans like fancy Thanksgiving dinners, get excited about those plans and then if we get too busy and can’t shop until last-minute it really doesn’t matter… everything will work out. It’s a good way to be. They are happy 99.9% of the time. Except that they live with two planners who tend to get upset if things do not go the way we anticipated. We’re capable of saying things like, “What do you mean Arielle’s doing the shopping? She doesn’t have a car. Why didn’t you just ask me to go shopping?”

Enter the passionate side of the family. Son and I. We plan our days from morning to evening. It upsets us if those plans change. When it comes to his music or my novels we don’t discuss them much. It’s all in our head…constantly. To discuss it adds stress because there’s already so much internal pressure to get it done; talking about doing it creates more pressure. We like routine, don’t ever try to stop us when we’re writing, and even though we both procrastinate.. what we say we will do…we do. It upsets us too much to not follow through with plans. Therefore, we are very wary of new experiences, trying new foods, and agreeing to do anything that we feel may cause us stress, like running a Turkey Trot in freezing 50 degree weather at 7:30 am. Yep, I’m doing it because I said I would but totally freaking out about it.

Put us all together during the holidays and we end up with Arielle shopping with her friends at  Publix late at night for Thanksgiving dinner. Eric telling me that even if we order pizza for Thanksgiving it’s really going to be fine. Kai flat-out refusing to do the Turkey Trot because he’s not getting up that early–especially to run. And me trying to get the idea of the perfect family Thanksgiving out of my head. You know the one in the commercial with the decorated table and pilgrim salt and pepper shakers. We are not that family. Never were.

The thing is it’s not about the picture perfect table or meal. Whatever we end up having tomorrow for dinner doesn’t really matter. It’s the fact that we’re all together, laughing at our lack of preparedness and all our quirky ways that make us who we are. It’s about the four of us being together. For that I am very grateful and who knows, maybe I’ll even be grateful I ran the Turkey Trot. Maybe. Happy Thanksgiving!

We did it! “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss  Yeah…I’m smiling because it’s over too. 🙂 Check out Arielle’s Thanksgiving post: Racing RausinTurkey Trot 5K 2014

And last year’s 10th anniversary of the accident post can be found here: Remembering The Accident That Changed Our Lives

 

“The present moment is all you ever have. There is never a time when your life is not “this moment.” Eckhart Tolle

Eric and I strolled the aisles of Target searching for the perfect gifts for Arielle and Kai. Both kids had told us one or two things they wanted for Christmas but were pretty nonchalant about the whole gift receiving tradition. We were clueless, asking each other if we thought Kai or Arielle would enjoy the gadget or goodie we spotted on the shelf. Both of us knowing gift cards were really the way to go but how exciting is opening up a gift card? You can’t play with it Christmas morning.

When our kids were little Eric and I would spend an evening at Toys-R-Us filling up our cart giddy with the anticipation of Christmas morning. Kai would be the first up, his stocking already empty by the time the rest of us climbed out of bed. The wonder on the kids faces upon seeing crumbs from cookies left for Santa and all the presents under the tree–it was always a magical morning.

We came home and found Arielle and Kai in the living room watching TV together. Big sister had driven little brother to his favorite restaurant for take-out and a huge Carrabbas bag sat on our counter. That’s when I realized that this was our new magic of Christmas. Before it was about the excitement of Santa and presents. Now, it’s about all of us being together, relaxing and cherishing moments.

Eric began cooking homemade macaroni and cheese and we turned on Sleepless in Seattle. Arielle and I curled up on the couch with our blankets and snacks. The kitchen smelled of melted butter and garlic. The movie made us laugh and Eric cry. In between the clinking of pots and pans there was sniffling and mumbles of, “stupid movie!”

Later we laughed through our delicious dinner then curled back up on the couch for yet another movie. Half way through Arielle had to turn up the volume because Eric and Nahla were snoring in stereo.

When the kids look back on their Christmases the memory of all their presents will have faded. What will remain will be the feelings created from all of us being together, laughing, eating Eric’s cooking, listening to sniffles and snores, and watching love stories while snuggled under blankets on the couch, that’s the magic of Christmas.

It looks like January 5th will be the big day! MYSTIC’s book birthday! The Kindle version will be out the end of January. I’ll keep you posted. I feel as though I’ve climbed a mountain and I’m about to take my final steps to the peak. It’s been an amazing journey.

Our family is all together!!

Standing in the airport waiting for Arielle to arrive was a heartwarming experience. There were many of us waiting for loved ones. I watched as people laughed and hugged one another. I think the airport rivaled Disney World as being the happiest place on earth.

We all climbed into the car and headed for the mall. We had three hours before our concert.

Since Kai’s birthday was the next day Arielle decided to help him pick out a new wardrobe. I have no idea how my kids came to care about fashion. Eric and I are still wearing clothes from the 90’s.

I tried to convince them to have their picture taken with Santa but they pooh-poohed that idea along with my brilliant suggestion that we all dress in footie pajamas for our holiday card. They said we’d end up in the next AWKWARD FAMILY PHOTOS book.

After a delicious dinner at the Cheesecake Factory we headed to our concert. I found out earlier that day that it wasn’t really an orchestra we were going to see. The conversation between Eric and I went something like this…

Me: Do I need to dress up for the concert?

Eric: No! Jeans are fine.

Me: (Relieved but unsure) Really? We’re going to see an orchestra?

Eric: (Laughing because he bought the tickets two months ago.) Have you heard any songs from Trans-Siberian Orchestra?

Me: Umm…well…I think you played one of their songs for me…once…

Eric: We’re going to a rock concert, baby! A rock concert with a story.

Me: Huh?

What a marvelous, beautiful, spectacular, holiday rock concert it was! Wow! I had never seen anything like it. The lights and fire together with the music and the violinist jamming high above the audience… I was amazed! Eric was right, there was a beautiful story narrated in between songs. A story that left me wondering who the author was because it touched my heart and got me thinking about how I could make a difference for children who have special wings. I loved that line mystery author…whomever you are.

We arrived home late that night. All of us exhausted and happy to be all together again. We still haven’t decided on a holiday photo. It looks like I’ll have to send Happy New Year cards.

MYSTIC Update: MYSTIC will be available either the very end of December or early January. As soon as I have a date I will post it. The cover is amazing! Timothy Banks did an incredible job. I can’t wait for you to see it!

They all stared at me. “Will you do it?”

My family is used to me saying, “no way!” They all have the adventure seeking gene. I have the gene that prefers to keep my two feet safely on the ground and my stomach from feeling as though it’s shooting out my mouth. I’m perfectly happy in the most peaceful situations like sitting on a beach with some sangria and a book.

This time I said, “sure.” I think their mouths hit the floor. It seemed a much better alternative to the jumping out of an airplane skydiving which Eric has done twice and Arielle and Kai are eager to try. I knew there was no way I was ever going to jump out of a plane. However, I was curious to see what it felt like to fly.

We were very happy and grateful when we called iFLY and they told us that as long as we could get Arielle up two flights of stairs they would be happy to have her indoor skydive. Thank you, iFLY!

We put on our gear and sat and watched the group before us. Up, up, up someone went with the instructor and then they both came spinning down. I decided I was going to tell my instructor to skip that part for me. I really didn’t need to go too high or spin. I just wanted the coward experience.

Arielle went first.

Kai was next.

Down!

 

Up! Notice his head in the two pictures. Pretty cool!

I’m still wondering how our instructor was able to stand still. Practice I guess. If you watch the video you’ll see what he can do. Amazing!

Then Eric gave it a try.

My husband – always smiling! Love that about him. He said it felt the same as skydiving once you’re out the airplane door. Not having to worry about a parachute opening… priceless!

Finally, it was the chicken’s turn.

I'm ready!

I got this!

 

Woo Hoo!! I can fly!

I’m ready to go back and do it again. Here’s the video if you want to see the instructor skydive on his head and me spinning way up… and way down! Yep, I forgot to tell the them I wanted the coward experience. Maybe because a teeny tiny bit of me actually wanted to see what it was like.

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One of the greatest sounds in the world is the laughter of my children – together. Last night I was upstairs working, Eric was playing his computer game and our two children were downstairs watching a movie and laughing hysterically. I felt the warm glow that mothers feel when their children are bonding and kind to one another. I finished writing and went down to join them.

Arielle was lounging on a chair and Kai was across from her on the couch. A small table sat in between. I plopped down next to Kai and we all watched, Waterboy.

A commercial came on and Kai muted the TV. Arielle began telling me about her various choices of dorms and meal plans to choose from at college. (She’s decided to go to the University of Illinois! Go Illini!) Meanwhile, my little drummer young adult starts tapping on the end table sitting between him and his sister.

In the middle of her sentence, Arielle glares at Kai and says “stop tapping!” Does Kai stop? Nope. He continues on because now he knows he’s completely annoying his sister and what could be better than that? Suddenly I realized how having siblings provides them really good practice for marriage. My husband on occasion has been known to utter the chorus of the Guns N Roses song, I Used to Love Her…

How many times have I glared at Eric in the same way and thought or said…

1. Take your dress shirt off my dining room chair!

2. Don’t follow that car so closely. What if he brakes?

3. Stop snoring… I can’t hear the TV.

Kai continued to tap despite his sister’s squinting eyes. Arielle said, “He’s tapping on purpose because I asked him to stop.” I nodded knowingly. Arielle leaned over as far as she could and pushed the table out of Kai’s reach.

Kai could have gotten up and moved the table back but instead he found another drum. The side of the couch. Deep thumps replaced the light taps. I enjoyed the whole scene a little too much. Luckily we were saved by Waterboy coming back on. Kai had to unmute the TV.

From belly laughs together to wanting to strangle each other. That’s the sibling relationship and that’s marriage. Thank goodness for holiday breaks. They provide countless opportunities for family bonding.