As the sun starts to set bringing the last official day of Hanukkah 2008 to a close, I thought I'd share some of the things that make it special for us.
We have a tradition of giving gifts each night, even though they are small gifts sometimes. However, a few years ago we started a tradition of giving up gifts on one night. In exchange, the boys and I have typically gone to the mall, picked out a "Giving Tree" name or similar thing, and the boys are expected to help me pick out a gift for another little boy their age who does not have the same kind of holiday we have. This year, with all the snow and the travel and the upsets, we did not get to the mall in time. So instead, we're going to donate in the kids names to the Boys and Girls Club to buy a membership for some deserving child. The best part is the kids really understand how lucky they are and why its important to give up material things for that one night. It feels good when your kids learn and share your values.
A couple years ago, when I was explaining the concept to Son #1, his eyes lit up and he said, excitedly, "ooh, ooh, I know Mom! I know someone who is poor that we could give presents to." "Really?" I asked. "Yeah - Roberto! Roberto's family is poor. Let's give presents to him." Roberto is his best friend. Roberto's family is not poverty level, though they do struggle to make ends meet. However, I reminded him that we'd probably get a gift for Roberto anyway, as they were friends, and that it was probably more important to give to someone else who was more in need. But at least he was thinking.
We also have a tradition of having "clues" for one or more of the nights. Its a tradition we borrowed from DrChako's dad (may he rest in peace). The kids don't just get their presents; the have to solve riddles and puzzles and search for more clues and puzzles around the house. Its so popular that my littlest guy wanted to do it every night. And only for him. He was excited to help make a clue for Daddy, as the clues are typically a poem that rhymes, and right now in kindergarten, they are learning rhyming. The kids had a ball with their clues, even helping our au pair with her clues when she didn't understand English slang.
One of son #2's clues was hidden on the bottle of chocolate syrup in the refrigerator. The instructions said ". . . this clue can be found, on something that makes your milk turn brown." He came down into the kitchen, and went straight to the pantry. I was puzzled and I heard him say "hmmm . . . no clue". I asked him where he was looking and he brought out the box of Cocoa Puffs. "These turn my milk brown, Mom." Point taken.
The last night of Hanukkah is usually the night of big gifts. Little guy got a Spiderman digital camera (he's actually pretty good at taking pictures). Au pair got a gift certificate to help her decorate her new home (she gets married in 5 months). DrChako got a day of racing school with a Lotus Elise (you'll have to ask him what he thinks of it). And Son#1 got a cell phone.
I've never seen a kid so happy. He texts all the time. I found him watching TV this morning in just his boxers and the lanyard with the phone around his neck. Boxer and a phone - all you need to feel fully dressed, apparently. When he went down to breakfast this morning, he called me upstairs. Just to say he missed me. Because calls to the family are free. Last night, we went to our favorite Japanese steak house for Teppanyaki. I get a text in the middle of dinner. "Dad thinks our chef is a Ninja." I'm alternately amused and rolling my eyes, if this is just a preview of what is to come.
Best part is that after we light the candles and say the prayers (which Son #2 has finally memorized), its hugs and kisses for all. This year, unlike last year, we got to do it all together as a family, and for that, I am grateful.
Now excuse me, I need to finish a few things up before I can go to DSW and spend my new gift certificate on SHOES!!!!!
I know the guys in the room reading this are cringing, thinking of some past blind date where a buddy tried to set him up with some bulldog of a girl, claiming her personality would overcome the three chin rolls, hair growing out of the mole on the end of her nose, and the lazy eye.
But I think people don't realize how much personality makes up the whole package. Personality can't necessarily fix butt ugly, but it can make an otherwise ordinary person sparkle like a jewel. Such was the topic of conversations between myself and one of my BFFs.
I have always been attracted to strong, vibrant personalities. Not so much looks. Maybe its because I knew I'd never be a supermodel and I'd have to get by on . . . well, on "me". So I tend to seek out other people with really strong, interesting "me's", regardless of the packaging.
When they come in perky, cute packages, its just a bonus.
The take away? Let your beautiful "me" shine through in 2009.
* * * * *
On a side note, in the course of conversation with my BFF, we were commenting (like the catty women we are) on women we knew who didn't have looks or a sparkling "me" and why men would date them.
My BFF sparkles. I commented that I would totally date her if I swung that way.
I don't. I'm just saying. She sparkles.
PS: If I've called you adorable in the past two weeks (see Vegas recap where I CLEARLY overused that word), that pretty much means you sparkle. And yes, Peaker, that means you. You too Drizz. Especially when you're holding me in your arms and I'm wearing fuzzy Viking pajama pants. They were very fuzzy, btw . . .
I'm playing the play money 45 person SNG again for practice. Like I've said before, usually after the first few donkey plays, the rest of the field actually trys to (play)money in the tourney.
So its good safe practice. Although lately I've been getting trounced. Leading out with bets and getting calling stations that suck out. Flopping the nut straight, only to have the board runner-runner a bigger straight for someone else. Yada, yada, yada . . .
Tonight, I was at a table where I was 4th in chips overall. The flop and turn were both checked, giving me a four card flush to my ace of hearts. The river? A fourth heart.
The guy two seats to my right min. bets $100. The guy immediately to my right raises to $600. I've got the nuts. I figure one of them has the K of hearts. But I've got two players to act behind me, plus the original bettor. I WANT to raise, but I'm scared of scaring off the original bettor, and scared that I can't draw anyone else in.
I just called the $600. I got another player to call. The original bettor dropped out. Could I have made more with a min. raise do you think? Or did I max that pot?
Life gets so busy. So its taken me a while to organize my pictures and my thoughts.
I still hold that I can only do Vegas for about three nights before it gets to be a lot. It's loud. Full of smoke. Expensive. Surreal. Fattening. Sleepless.
But when you do it with a bunch of poker bloggers, it's a lot better. (Read that line all by itself out of context - see if you can't help but giggle a little.)
I've been to several of these gatherings now. Sometimes as an observer, sometimes by myself, several times with the good Dr. in tow.
I can't decide if the best part is revisiting all the people and the things you've come to adore . . . or finding out how much you love discovering new things and new people to adore.
This could be a long post - skip to the pictures if you wish.
A FEW PEOPLE AND THINGS I MISSED . . .
Tragedy. Last year he chaperoned me in the Dr.'s absence, dedicated the tournament to DrChako, and got everyone to sign the guitar. Oh, and was a constant and safe sources of hugs for me whenever I wanted.
BamBam and Pebbles. Last year was the first time I met them. Now they feel like part of my family. I still missed getting the life squeezed out of me by BamBam, comparing cleavage distraction factors with Pebs, and the occasional lip-lock as BamBam gets further and further into the scotch.
Waffles. I could have used a good laugh followed by a good rant.
The Procedure and skillets (though I don't miss still having money in my pocket). A fru-fru spa. More poker. More kissing.
A FEW PEOPLE AND THINGS I WAS EXCITED TO EXPERIENCE AGAIN . . .
Betty. My favorite new friend this year. Girls so totally rock. She's the only one worth getting out of bed early (read, before 10 a.m. in Vegas) to share breakfast with.
Drizz. Questionable choice in teams, but lovable nonetheless. I'm convinced that if we lived closer, our families would be close. And he'd be in our home games. And I'd have to keep a little Captain in the house for him.
Falstaff. I don't know why, but I cannot help but want to hug this bear everytime I see him. And kiss him. It helps that he claims to have a crush on me. But he's thoroughly adorable. Unless he's taking your money at mixed games. Which is why I don't play them with him or my husband.
Joshua. I know he lives here in town with us, and I love having him at home games, but it was great to see him in Vegas. Plus he was willing to hang out and talk with me while I got some chow after the tourney. Funny how you kind of know people, but get to know them better when you sit down one on one and have a conversation. Although after talking to him, I don't want to date any women in Oklahoma.
Spaceman. He and and his adorable little wife Rachel (and next to me, she is LITTLE) are really two of the sweetest people. He's a great poker player and unfortunately, I couldn't lure him into contributing any more chips to my pile. A few more and I might have been able to last a little longer. But he's so genuine and always has a smile and a hug.
Kat. She's a sweetheart and always has a huge and a smile too. And she's a good kisser. I think I like her most because she's real. I wish we lived closer. I think we'd have a great time just getting together and sharing a drink. If I could ever get her and DrChako off the bike. I fully expect that some point I'll lose him to this vixen and the road, if only for a short time.
CK and FTrain. Speaker. Al. Rooster. CA April. StB. I know I'll forget somebody important. Drinks at the IP. Games at the MGM (though I'm staying away from the mixed games). The tourney (though I should have done the "last longer" bet with the Seattle crew - I totally would have rocked that bet). The Wynn buffet. Sunday games at the IP. The opulence of the big casinos. The people-watching.
A FEW NEW PEOPLE AND THINGS I GOT TO EXPERIENCE . . .
Dr Jeff. Otis' brother. He joined us for the Steel Panthers excursion. I'd not had the chance to meet him before, but apparently the Otis genes are strong in this one. He had an absolutely adorable personality, and is completely huggable. Which is an important criterion in my book. Please tell me you will attend more events in the future. You can take credit for your brother's blog . . .
PokerPeaker. My newest favorite person. Newest blogger crush. (Careful Otis - he's gaining ground). Without this odd collection of poker players, geography would probably dictate that Peaker and I would not have met. I had met him before. Read his blog before. Favorite blog was one about poop that still makes me laugh. But the Steel Panther event and subsequent weekend activities was the first time we spent any serious time together. After sharing conversations about parenting, surgical birth control, appropriate cleavage levels, 80's rock, poker, and various other topics . . . I'm sold. He's so much fun. Loves Steel Panthers and hair bands. And he's so adorable. Oh, and when you hug him? No body fat. I guess that is what you get when you climb a bazillion mountains. Adorable. Just adorable. Look at this picture. Is he not adorable? *sigh*
Oh Captain and Oh Countess. Again, another one of those adorable, real couples that I wished lived closer. Found out that in addition to loving poker, we are sharing very similar parenting timelines and share a love of photography and writing. And they are just a hell of a nice couple. Although I am not sure they'll ever let their adorable daughters get close to our adorable sons. Even though age-wise, they are so nicely aligned. Hint, hint.
Steel Panthers. Followed by poker at the Green River Ranch casino where feisty Montana boys make comments on my rack and get escorted out of the casino (not for making comments on my rack - for threatening to slit another players throat). Breakfast with Betty. Watching the Dealertainers. Dinner with new friends (thanks again, Princess Maigrey, Gracie, Pablo, StB, and CA April).
And now, for the weekend in pictures:
View from our room at the Palazzo . . .
I swear Dr. Chako can smell Ferrari . . .
A Randy Couture sighting at the MGM . . .
Oh Captain rakes some chips at the final table . . .
Poker Peaker takes a stab at Maigrey's stack . . .
The Princess debates how much to suck out of her opponents this time . . .
Her winning chips and her collected bounty . . .
She poses with The Hammer . . .
Speaker performs inappropriate acts with her new prize . . .
Drizz, the Bracelet (sans facial hair), and DrChako
Dinner with the winner . . . DrChako gets the seafood tower.
The newlyweds . . . congratulations you two!
Stb and CA April . . . rock on!
I'm sure I've forgotten someone or something important . . . take no offense . . . I'll catch you next time in Vegas . . . .
After losing the November game bet, I paid my dues on Sunday at the Imperial Palace.
It was a day of humiliation. Not only did I have to wear purple. I had to wear purple flannel pajama pants with Viking logos. I had to buy drinks. Serve them. Massage him. Watch the Packers lose another game. And suffer the comments of passersby . . .
Passerby: Nice pants.
MrsChako: I lost a bet.
Passerby: You should have shaved your head.
Photographic evidence of my humilitation:
The winner . . . and the "not" winner.
My first drink wench duties - Cap'n and Coke, sir?
Apparently you get to pick up the drink wench.
I still love you, Drizz. At least the shirt had a flattering shape.
I've had a few bah-humbug posts . . . between the travel, and the job, and the delays, and the snow . . .
But today, I'm not working. The driveway I shoveled is still clear. I wasn't able to finish my Hanukkah shopping, but our kids have everything they need. Best part is we're all together.
And in the oven right now, is a 17 pound stuffed turkey, making the house smell wonderful.
Life is pretty good . . .
So whether you're lighting another candle on the menorah tonight, or cleaning up scraps of wrapping paper from under the Christmas tree . . . or sifting through memories of your Winter Solstice party . . .
I've seen a few stars in my life. Rode first class with VigoMortenson.
Funny thing is, I'm probably missing hundreds of them. Good thing I've got my resident star-spotter.
When we think about stars, we forget all about the ones under the age of 18 . . . the ones from Nickelodeon, Disney, and all the other channels that are top in Neilson ratings with audiences below the age of 16.
So, thanks to the eagle eyes of Son #1, I got a pretty decent picture of Jason Dolley (guy on the left), star of "Minutemen" and "Cory in the House" on the Disney channel . . . I guess if you are a Disney star, you get to line hop on California Screamin' while the rest of us wait in the line like peons.
I'm sure 12 year old girls would probably die over this picture . . .
I know. The name is very deceptive. But I swear to god . . . no belt buckles. No cowboy hats. No boots.
Well, that's not true. The Ferragamo and the Jimmy Choo store both sold boots. Just nothing like Betty would have found in Montana.
We had an extra couple of days in LA with Dr. Chako, due to the fine Seattle weather and Alaska Airline's reluctance to fly in it. But Monday started out a little too rainy to make Disney a good option. So we decided to take the rental car and head north to the bright lights of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
After driving through the Hollywood hills (admit it . . . you can hear Seeger in the background, can't you?) and getting a few pictures of the Hollywood sign, we headed back down into the valley, letting Santa Monica drop us off at the start of Rodeo drive.
Rodeo drive is unlike any other shopping area I've seen. A few places in Europe come close; if there is one that exceeds it, I haven't been to it yet. Even their holiday decorations are beyond . . . well, beyond.
Of course, the Chako clan shows up dressed for a day at Disney. Which entails multiple layers of ridiculous sweatshirts and jeans (including DrChako in his finest "Dead Men Tell No Tales" Pirates of the Carribean sweatshirt and me in some random poker sweatshirt that was swag from some random tourney). My children look like ragamuffins, but this is nothing new. Boys of this age tend to be attracted to ratty t-shirts and jeans.
However, when Dr. Chako started dropping some brands in the fru-fru watch store, the sales associate's eyes lit up and soon he had us back looking at $60,000 watches. The saleswoman in the Jimmy Choo store fussed over my feet. Jason, in the Cole Hahn store, tried his darndest to find a new leather jacket in Dr Chako's size. The watch store even gave us the best swag I've ever seen in a store . . . leather-bound editions of the latest watch catalogues. The binding alone had to be worth a good $30.
Alas, we did not buy. Amidst the Gucci, Fendi, D&G, Chanel, IWCSchaffhausen, and other brands whose names shouldn't even be uttered if you don't have a five figure bank account, we only window shopped.
Well, that's not true. We spent $32 on chocolates from Teuscher, where gourmet Swiss chocolates sell for $75 per pound. They ship, if you're interested.
It was a pretty two hours in fantasyland. The valet parking was free. The pictures were priceless. And a semi-toothless woman walking down the street swore she saw Governor Schwartzenegger shopping just 30 minutes before . . . Maria must be getting something good for the holidays!
Amidst all the diamonds and furs and titanium . . . I did keep my eyes open for any random cowboys . . .