Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Winter Break

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. This is the start of our fifth year!

This month, we are talking about what we did over winter break. 

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them. 

Sara Steven:

Both my sons were out of school for the holidays. The eighteen year old, who attends Arizona State University, was on break from classes and not due to return until January. The thirteen-year-old was on his two week winter break from middle school. Usually during the break, we try to make a concrete plan which might include a short trip to Sedona or Flagstaff, but given the older boy’s work schedule and the time he spends with his girlfriend, and the younger boy’s playdates and sleepovers, on top of the fact that I had work and my husband did, too, we had to make some alternate plans. 

We always have family and friends gather at our house for Christmas. Preparing for that took up a chunk of the winter break, but it felt a lot less stressful, considering many of the side dishes or meals I usually prepare on top of the turkey and other fixings had been delegated to other people. That has never happened before! It was a very relaxing day for me. I actually had time to sit outside in the Arizona sunshine with my friends and have meaningful conversations, instead of getting stuck cooking (and cleaning) in the kitchen.

A few days later, the eighteen year old suggested we see Godzilla Minus One in theaters. He’d already seen it, and when he really enjoys a movie, he’s prone to see it multiple times. (I think I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s seen Oppenheimer.) I wasn’t really feeling it, but given how rare it is for all of us to have availability at the same time, I jumped at the chance to spend a family day with him and our younger son, and my husband. Before the movie, we had dinner at IHOP. It was the one place we could all agree on. The thirteen year old thought it would be funny to take photos of us, then use one of his apps on his phone that converts the photos into hilarious images and videos. The eighteen year old cracked jokes and made sure to pick on me a little bit, which is a major way he shows affection. The food wasn’t super great, but the company was pretty amazing. And you know what? I enjoyed the movie. 

My favorite time over the winter break, though, was New Year’s Eve. I was shocked to discover that my sons had decided to make plans that involved staying in and spending time as a family! I feel like quality time together, just the four of us, has become so rare. I made a charcuterie board, per the older son’s request. (He’s so fancy like that.) 

We played Jackbox games together, up until about ten minutes before the ball was set to drop at midnight on tv. When that happened, I kissed my husband, then gave my sons humongous hugs to ring in 2024. We ran outside to catch glimpses of various fireworks that were going off in the night sky, but we were all pretty loopy by then, considering how late it was. Even so, once we headed back into the house, the kids decided to pull up Youtube and watch something called Skibidi Toilet, a super annoying animated web series that continuously played on repeat until I couldn’t stand it anymore and dragged myself off to bed at around one in the morning. The boys promised to go to bed shortly after, but I doubt that happened. 

Our usual plans of travel didn’t pan out, but I appreciate how relaxing and calm our winter break had been. Plus, what I have grown accustomed to in the past, with always traveling as a foursome, has parlayed into snippets of time where we can gather together and get what time we can, before life and its responsibilities and commitments get in the way. It’s made me even more appreciative of that precious time together. It was a nice way for us to spend the break.

Melissa Amster:

Winter break started the weekend leading up to Christmas. So we decided to take the kids on a road trip to the Chicago suburbs to visit my family and a couple of friends. We were only there for a couple of days, so we didn't tell a lot of people about our visit and made plans with people we hadn't spent time with in a while. The main focus was my family though, especially my sixteen-month-old nephew. 

We left right after Shabbat and stayed overnight in Cleveland. We arrived to the hotel pretty late, so we mainly just crashed there for the night before the next part of our trip, which was going the rest of the way to the Chicago suburbs. When we finally made it there, we spent the evening at my sister's house and had dinner there. It was a relaxing evening overall and we enjoyed catching up with everyone. My nephew is walking all over the place and says very few words right now, but his favorite one is "cracker." And it's so cute to hear him say it! He also makes duck faces and has the best laugh.

Super cute!!!

Monday, we met up with Tracey (my best friend, who also used to blog for CLC) and her husband and their adorable baby boy (whom I also consider a nephew, as she and I are that close). We had brunch with them and then hung out at my sister's house so the babies could play together. (It's mostly parallel play since they're about seven months apart.) Later, we met up with my family for dinner. Although it was Christmas, there were a few places open. We went to my parents' house afterward and got to see some of my cousins, one who just turned 23 the day before. (I feel so old!)

Tuesday, we met up with my husband's cousins for brunch, as he hadn't had a chance to see them in a while. It was nice catching up with them. My parents were there too, as they're friends with his cousins. Then we went to my parents' house again to spend more time with them, and my sister and nephew, before heading to dinner to meet a friend we hadn't seen since 2017. This is someone I'm also really close with and we have a lot of common interests. She also supports my kids' theater interests and she's genuinely kind and down-to-earth. We spent over two hours talking at the restaurant. 

Wednesday, we headed back to Cleveland and stayed at the same hotel we stayed at on Saturday night. Honestly, if I had known what the hotel was going to be like, I would have picked a different one, but it was too late to cancel without incurring a fee. Having said that, the toilet paper was in this weird spot at the bottom of the bathroom cabinet. We went to our favorite Kosher dairy restaurant in Cleveland for dinner, which was nice, and had way too many cheese fries. Unfortunately, our favorite frozen custard place was closed for the winter. 

We had to do some sort of gymnastics to reach this.

On Thursday, we drove to Pittsburgh and met up with another close friend of mine (we go back over 30 years) who moved there in 2022. We try to see him whenever we're out that way or passing through. Then we headed back home. The rest of the week was uneventful and then on Saturday I discovered that I had Covid. This was my first time with it and it really just felt like a cold. I only realized it may be something more when I couldn't smell or taste my normally strong cinnamon tea. So I spent New Year's Eve and the next few days in my room binge watching High School Musical: the Musical: the Series. If you're a musical theater geek like me, you'll love this show. That was coupled with the novel Cut Loose by Ali Stroker, which I really enjoyed. And in more bookish news, I finally saw One True Loves, which is based on the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You can see my review at the link.

And that was my winter break.

What did you do over the winter holidays?

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