Kinky Kimmy & the Kandy Kakes

Thanks to some seriously amazing Hungarian genes, my grandmom Rose Wiggins was about to turn 100, so last Wednesday I bid adieu to the rest of the Rattypack.

 “I’m gonna miss you so much,” I said to the boys before I left for the airport.

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” they replied, barely glancing up from their keyboards.

Five hours later my plane touched down in Philadelphia. I was thrilled when my cousin, Tracy, picked me up at the airport. When we were little, Tracy and I sported matching pixie haircuts, and played school for hours on end in her basement.

That's us circa '68. Tracy's on the right.
Circa ’68. Tracy’s on the right.

We hadn’t seen each other for 15 years, so we had a lot of catching up. Plus I was dying for a cheesesteak. We beelined for Jim’s on South Street.

Tracy warned me that Jim’s counter jockeys were Cheesesteak Nazi’s, like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, so I better get my act together before I reached the head of the queue.  But there were so many add-ons, my head was spinning.

“I’ll take the provolone with sautéed green bell peppers, uh no, never mind,” I stammered when it was my turn. “How about ‘shrooms and onions? Oh shoot, wait a sec.” The guys couldn’t have been nicer. They even agreed to this photo op on the condition I send them In & Out burgers, animal-style, when I got back home.

I'm working on it, guys!
Working on it, guys!
Somehow my cousin Tracy hookwinked me into the Cheez Wiz. Never again! From now on, I'm a provolone purist.
Tracy hookwinked me into the Cheez Wiz. Never again! From now on, I’m a provolone purist.
My other cousin, Kristen, put ketchup on her cheesesteak. What is up with that?
My other cousin, Kristen, doused her cheesesteak with ketchup. What’s up with that?

By the time we finished our meal, the line was wrapped around the block. It was obvious why—the tender, thinly sliced ribeye was heaven in a roll!

Not so heavenly? The smell in my room back at the Holiday Inn. My hair and clothes reeked of grilled meat and onions as though I’d just finished an eight-hour shift at Jim’s, but I didn’t care. I was already fiending for my next carnivorous fix.

I could have devoured one, two, five of those babies for breakfast, but my Uncle Chuck had other ideas. He took us on a tour of the Italian Market. We passed by old school butcher shops filled with all kinds of delicacies…

IMG_2770

One live poultry market was bursting at the seams with furry animals and birds crammed into cages— imagine Death Row for bunnies.

To cleanse our eyeballs from that sad site, we toured historic Society Hill, where I fell in love with the charming 18th- and early 19th-century architecture and brick rowhouses.

Great curbside appeal~American flags, and urns spilling over with flowers.
Great curbside appeal~American flags, and urns spilling over with flowers.

I could have meandered down those cobblestone streets for hours, but it was time to PARTAY! First we had to pick up Grandmom Rosie’s birthday cake from Giants supermarket. Luckily there was a blue light special on TastyKake Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes which I loved as a kid. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups meets moist cakey goodness, these treats are melt-in-your-mouth delish.

mDbUNTeRT-QZzJkrz5TAuFA

Tastykakes are only sold on the East Coast, so I bought like 50 boxes. Kristen stocked up on butterscotch.
Tastykakes are only sold on the East Coast, so I bought like, 50 boxes of PB. Kristen stocked up on butterscotch.

Soon it was time to blow the roof off the Broomhall Presbyterian Nursing Home! Orange soda was flowing, a hoagie tray was brimming, and Uncle Dave was crankin’ out religious hymns on his keyboard.

Nestled in a crochet blanket, the birthday girl wore a slouchy beanie, and beamed at her many well wishers including my sweet cuz, Matt who flew in from Florida for the day.

IMG_2787

 

Hey Grandmom. Kayne called. He wants his gold cross pendant back.
Hey Grandmom. Kayne called. He wants his gold cross pendant back.
The gang's all here.
The gang’s all here.
Put the Orange Crush down, Dad! (aka Grandpa XXL Undies) You'll spoil your appetite!
Put the Orange Crush down, Dad! (aka Grandpa XXL Undies) You’ll spoil your appetite!

Grandmom Rosie’s long term memory is great. She regaled us with childhood stories. Apparently her grandmother (who helped raise Rosie) spiked her tea with whiskey every morning before school because the weather was so frigid.

Her short term memory, though, is shot.

“Hi Grandmom,” I chirped when I first approached her. “It’s your granddaughter, Kim, from California! Happy Birthday, you look beautiful! I’m glad I could be here to help you celebrate.”

“Kimmy? Kimmy!” she cooed. “I can’t believe you’re here. Oh Kimmy, I love you so much…”

Ten minutes later, I checked back in. “Grandmom, you enjoying your party?”

“Who is that speaking? I’m sorry I can’t see so well, I have macular degeneration. Who are you?”

“It’s Kim, visiting from California, Grandmom.”

“Kimmy! I can’t believe you’re here. Oh sweetie, Kimmy, I love you so much.” And on our conversation looped for the rest of the sweet celebration.

Grandmom Rosie starred in all of the Hungarian musicals in her hometown of Bethlehem, Pa. When she was about 17 or 18, the young starlet aspired to move to NYC with her best friend, cousin Mary, to give Broadway a shot. Fearful of the wild city life, however, her grandmother thwarted those plans. Hmm…whiskey before grade school, yes. Broadway, no. Not sure about that logic, but regardless Rosie’s love for the dramatic arts—from attending musicals to her beloved Liberace—never waned.  So it was in her honor I hopped a train to NYC the following day and saw Kinky Boots on Broadway.

Winner of the ’13 Tony Award for Best Musical, Kinky Boots is based on a 2005 British film about a British shoe factory on the brink of ruin that reinvents itself as a maker of eight inch stiletto “kinky boots” for drag queen performers. It’s a big ol’ love story about sons, the families we make and red patent leather. (Disclosure: Cribbed that last line from the NY Times.)

Yes, these are all dudes. Except Cindy Lauper.
Yes, these are all dudes. Except Cindy Lauper.

With music and lyrics by Cindi Lauper, Boots was more delicious than cheesesteaks and Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. The male actors who appeared in drag were insanely gorgeous. When I wasn’t contemplating turning to the excessive cougher behind me and shoving a lozenge down his throat, I cheered for 2 hours straight. And wondered how in the heck those dudes tucked everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—out of sight.

After the show, I stood on the sidewalk with strangers, our hearts still pounding, as we raved about the show. I couldn’t help but think Rosie would have adored Kinky Boots. She was there in spirit for sure.

Happy 100th Birthday to the greatest DIVA of all, Grandmom Rose.

Love,

Kimmy from California.

PS: I said, KIMMY FROM CALIFORNIA!

Tony-award winning actor Billy Porter, the second greatest diva of all time!
Tony-award winning actor Billy Porter, the second greatest diva of all time!

San Diego Heaven!

My friend, Dasha & I met during our San Diego college days when we worked as counselors at a YMCA surf camp on Kauai one summer.

dash & kim

Dash was the super on it, responsible counselor who once plucked a gaggle of Japanese campers from a riptide at Lumahai Beach. I was the derelict counselor who read Jaws to the kids by the campfire and looked away when they bought wine coolers at the ABC market. I don’t know why Dasha wanted to be friends with me, but thankfully she did, and after that summer we were attached at the velcro JimmyZ skirts we rocked back in the ’80s.

Every summer Dash and her family graciously allows the Rattypack to descend upon their Del Mar pad. Last year we punked Saxon royally.  We reinjected his Twinkies with Ranch dressing (see Tale of the Tainted Twinkie). I was really hoping to torture him again this year. And, although we alluded to lacing his Hersey’s Cookies & Cream mini-cereal box with laxitive—”How’s your tummy feeling, Sax?”—we sadly ran out of time.

Ever since our Kauai days, Dash and I have been soul sisters of the sea, so we literally spent every second of our visit in the water. We stand up paddle boarded in La Jolla, as grey bellied seals, leopard sharks and brilliant orange garabaldi flitted through the aqua water beneath us. We boogie boarded mondo  surf in Del Mar, careening down waves at eyeball level in a rush of sound and foam. And then, we pruned ourselves to the max sipping apres beach martinis in her jacuzzi.

But even mermaids need to eat, so we headed to Herringbone in La Jolla. If you visit San Diego, this restaurant is a must! Located in a former warehouse, the decor is fabulous…

olive tree:bar

100-year olive trees grow between the tables.

Loved this wall of dried pufferfish!
Loved this wall of dried pufferfish!

There were fireplaces blazing, an array of coral and barnacles, and inside the belly of an amazing light fixture hanging over the bar, this cool whale skeleton…

whale bones

The food was massively delicious! If you go, be sure to order the whole fish ceviche…

Unknown

…the crab pasta in brown tarragon butter, and for desert, the Herringbone Sundae—chocolate ice cream, sea salt blondies, marshmallow cream, caramelized nibs drizzled espresso caramel.

Dasha and I were also busy trying to get our teenagers to interact. As you can see, the kids have hung out since they were little…

so little…but for some reason this trip they acted as if they’d never met. Luckily, Dash and I tapped into our inner camp counselors and made them play a raucous game of TABOO together on the beach. Here’s a snippet of the game:

Dash: Okay!!! This is something that happens on the 4th of July or Christmas WHERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WALK DOWN THE STREET!!!!”

Lauren: Mom! You’re being really loud. Is it fireworks?

Dash: NO!!!! THEY WILL OFTEN WEAR COSTUMES!!!

Makena: Mom, please the whole beach is staring. Will you lower your voice? Is it Halloween?

Dash: NOOOOO, it’s NOT HALLOWEEN!!!! SOMETIMES THERE WILL BE MARCHING BANDS!!!!!

Makena: Shhhhhh!!! Oh I know, it’s a parade!

Kim: GOOD JOB, MAKENA!!!!!

Tanner & Sax: Pipe it, Mom. You’re such a grenade!

Needless to say, the teens FINALLY bonded over their loud, dorky moms.

Glad we could help, kids!
Glad we could help, kids!

Dash and I also love to shop. She was busy preparing for an upcoming camping trip, so  I headed up the PCH to Laguna Beach where I discovered Tuvalu, a darling beach chic home furnishings boutique where I could have done serious damage…

Drooling over this double oyster shell chandelier~only $4,500!
Drooling over this double oyster shell chandelier~only $4,500!

 Oh, and this bottle rack chandelier was killer, too. Price upon request so you know it was BANK!

billion dollar bottle rack chandy

Really loved this aqua anchor tricked out with lights, too.
Really loved this aqua anchor tricked out with lights, too.

bottle with sea glass beads

Lucky for Jimmy, my only purchase was this vintage bottle bedecked with a strands of seaglass. I love the colors. They remind me of the hues of the ocean in beautiful San Diego.

While the sparkly boutique finds were gorgeous, our trip reminded me that long lasting, friendships where you can grab your boogie board and pick up right where you left off, are life’s best treasures.

four of us at Herrybone

Can’t wait to come back & visit next year!010

Cheeks ‘n’ Chodes

sax with bunz

After rafting the gridlocked Truckee River and battling the masses for shady piece of real estate at Angora Lake on a recent trip to Tahoe, the Ratty Pack was craving some solitude. I had read about Secret Cove Beach located a few miles up Highway 28 from Sand Harbor not far from Incline Village. You have to park along the highway and hike down a 1/4-mile trail. When we arrived at 11 a.m., there were only a dozen or so cars which was a good sign. Halfway down the path, pine needles crunching under our feet, we caught a glimpse of gorgeous aquamarine water. Another good sign!

view from trail

The closer we got to the beautiful beach, the more excited I became.
The closer we got to the beautiful beach, the more excited I became.

At the end of the trail, we rounded a corner and easily found a spot on the beach. The good news was the crescent of white sand fringed by water in all hues of peacock feather blue! Dotting the beach were only 40 people or so. The bad news? 36 of those beach goers were naked. Yes, we had stumbled upon a clothing optional beach.

Let’s be honest, the RP aren’t exactly the most modest peeps. I got voted “Most Local” in high school (code for “Chick Most Likely to Cut Class & Sunbathe Topless at Cowells). And, one would be hard pressed to find a photo on Facebook of Jimmy actually wearing a shirt.

But we are parents of two teenagers now. We have standards to uphold. Oh, who am I kidding? I would’ve sold my soul for a dip in that pristine aqua water.

No sooner had we unfurled our towels than Tanner whipped out his phone and updated his Facebook status. “The moment when you think you’re headed to a chill beach, and it turns out to be a nudist beach with no inhabitants under the age of 60. Scarred for life.”

He wasn’t the only one who was scarred. We saw a guy floating spread eagled on a raft, baking his buns of cottage cheese to golden perfection. And a pot bellied octogenarian with Brillo pad pubes cruising the beach for geriatric talent.

And a woman with a droopy rack who was a dead ringer for Magda…

You remember her, don't you? The leathery old lady from "There's Something About Mary."
You remember her, don’t you? The leathery old lady from “There’s Something About Mary.”

Let’s just say no one looked like Channing Tatum

…or Kate Upton.

kate-upton-sports-illustrated-cover-2012

It was a peaceful scene though as people waded through the cove’s clear aqua water and sunned themselves on big boulders, and truthfully, as more people came, the crowd was half clothed, half not.

The boys pissed and moaned for a while—”Ah, gross,” said Sax. “It’s a parade of cheeks and chodes.” But after a while they chilled out and stopped complaining. Tanner memorized his lines for the Los Gatos Youth Theatre’s summer musical, 13, which—gratuitous plug!—everyone should come see!

The nude dude in the background has no idea Tanner is going to be famous someday.
The nude dude in the background has no idea Tanner is going to be famous someday.

Sax, Jimmy and I hiked around the corner to a deserted spot where giant grey boulders rose from the lake like sleeping elephants. We leapt off the rocks and luxuriated in that clear aqua water. It was heaven.

After we swam back in, we discovered that we had a new nudie neighbor to our left. His privates were mercifully hidden by a granite rock, although we did catch occasional glimpses of his tatted up tush. “If you want to use the floaty, it’s for everybody,” he graciously offered, pointing to a plastic raft tucked into a granite niche. I smiled and politely thanked him. “Boys, any takers?” I said.

“No thanks, we’ll Pasadena on the communal air mattress,” they said.

After an hour or so, we packed up. We had a good giggle on the hike back to the car, but all agreed we would take the serenity of Secret Cove over kooked-out Lake Angora any day. And as a parent, I was proud of my boys for being fairly tolerant. Why is our society so freaked out by nudity? As long as people aren’t lurkers (and I didn’t get a creepy vibe from anyone at Secret Cove whatsoever), Jimmy and I wanted our boys to know it’s cool by us. Live and let live.

Even if I wished it had been Channing Tatum down there sunning his buns.

Ironman and the Yoga Queen

“Hi,” I said to the ranger inside the booth at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. “We’re doing the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.”

“You know it’s already past 3 p.m.?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes, we know.”

I’d masterminded the ultimate adventure—a “strenuous” hike followed by dinner at Laili, a Mediterranean-Afghan restaurant in Santa Cruz—and no ‘noid ranger was gonna stop me.

Who did this guy think he was dealing with anyway? Jimmy is an Ironman and they don’t call me the chaduranga queen in yoga for nothing.

“We can hike 12 miles in 2 & 1/2 hours easy,” I bragged.

“Thirteen. It’s actually 13 miles,” said Mr. By-the-Book, who insisted we leave a note on our dash for his night relief.

“Dearest Ranger,” I wrote,We pre-parked a car at the finish near Waddell Beach. Please don’t worry if we don’t return for our Prius until after 9 p.m. See you soon!

Then, map in hand, Jimmy and I were off. “What’s his problem?” I scoffed. “There’s plenty of light.”

We trekked through stunning old-growth redwoods and fern-lined canyons, and in no time passed Mile Marker 1. “Only 12 more miles to go!” I exclaimed.

Forty-five minutes later we came upon Berry Creek Falls, the crown jewel of Big Basin. The 60-foot waterfall was so tropical it felt like Hawaii…

Berry Creek Falls

…except darkness was closing in and we still had 10 miles left, so back onto the trail we hustled.

Moments after leaving the Falls the trail suddenly dead ended. Through the dusk, I spied another path — on the opposite side. The only way across was atop a wobbly gutter MacGyvered across the deep, gushing creek.

One slip and down we’d plunge into the icy water.

We crossed unscathed, but a rained out, mucky Slip ‘N’ Slide of a path awaited.

Ironman took the lead, mud skating over the puddles, his neon orange Nikes beacons guiding us through the ever darkening forest.

Thirty minutes later we found ourselves enveloped in blackness.

dark & snowy night

We clicked on our iPhone flashlight apps, a sorry light source for the dark, creepy forest. Just then a mountain biker coming from the Falls zoomed past, his headlight momentarily illuminating the woods.

“Hello!” I cried. “How much longer to Waddell Beach?”

I expected him to say three, maybe four miles MAX.

“About eight miles,” he said.

“Nooooo!” I wailed.

Having depleted our almonds ages ago, all I could think of was the roasted pumpkin borani we planned to devour at Laili later–that was if a hungry mountain lion didn’t devour us first.

“I’m scared, Jimmy. What if we wind up like that couple in the ‘8os who got stranded in a blizzard for five days. They made a TV movie of the week starring Neil Patrick Harris, remember?”

snowbound-the-jim-and-jennifer-stolpa-story-4

“If they make a movie about us who would should play you—Rob Lowe?”

“No way,” sniffed Jimmy. “Rob has man boobs. I need someone like Marky Mark, only more yoked.”

Time passed–An hour? Five hours? Time drags when you’re so cold you’re dreading losing your toes to frostbite.  “How many days do you think Tanner and Saxon will keep playing Minecraft before they notice we’re missing?” I asked Jimmy.

“Dunno. At least a week.”

Just when I could not take one more step there it was: Mile Marker 13!

We hugged, then looked around.

Maybe my fuzzy vision was distorted from staring at the tiny pinhole of light for so long, but our car was nowhere to be found. All we saw was an unlit paved road leading into the dark unknown.

Little did we know the additional three miles out to coast where we’d parked ratcheted our hike to 16 miles.

Shivering, hungry, clutching our phones with swollen sausage fingers we soldiered on, until…

…finally, off in the distance…wait, could it be? Yes, high beams of cars whizzing down Highway 1 beckoned us like a lighthouse.

We dragged ourselves the remainder, then collapsed in the car.

Ironman and the Yoga Queen ate some serious humble pie that day.

Then, after thawing out, we hit Laili and feasted on pumpkin borani.

“We made it!” we said, clinking frosty mugs of Belgium pale ale.

“You didn’t have to amputate our toes in the middle of the forest!” I exclaimed.

“And Rob & his moobies didn’t have to star in my life story!” Jimmy added.

Rob & Jimmy

If you’re craving adventure, this is a great one. Just take our advice~park at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, hike the Berry Creek Falls loop (7 miles roundtrip), then head straight for Laili for roasted pumpkin borani. Cheers!

Oh, and Jennifer? If I don't make it out alive next time, are you available?
Oh, and Jennifer? If I don’t make it out alive next time, are you available?

 

Shopping Under the Influence

Proof that you should not go birthday shopping w/ your 14-year-old in downtown Santa Cruz after consuming two mai tais at Hula’s:

Not only will he will walk away with $50 donut print Sanuk bedroom slippers

I swear I didn't know they were called "Glazed and Confused."
I swear I didn’t know they were called “Glazed and Confused.”

…but he will also score a pair of WEED kneesocks.

IMG_2207

“Was that a good choice?” tsked Jimmy when we met up at the car.

“No,” I replied sheepishly. What could I say other than the Appletons Gold Rum impaired my parental judgement?

Could have been worse. I’m pretty sure if I’d pounded two Scorpion Bowls, Saxon might have hoodwinked me into buying these…

titskneesocks_324_general

When did kneesocks become fashionable again anyway?

The Curse of the Cussing Skier

Every New Year Jimmy resolves to stop swearing. Alas after 21 years of marriage I’ve come to the conclusion that my husband is powerless to profanity.

Ski trips are an especially ugly trigger.

Over break we headed to Lake Tahoe for a few days. There we were changing in the frigid Sugar Bowl parking lot, only to discover that Sax was busting out of his old snow pants. They were two sizes too small, total floods. He couldn’t even zip them.

Already exhausted from packing, driving and unpacking our equipment, that snafu set off Jimmy’s cussfest. “Dammit Kim! I told you to have Saxon try on his pants before we left!”

Oops.

“Come on, dude!” he yelled, shoehorning the kid into his puffy polyester Daisy Dukes. “BUTTON that F***ER!”

“I can’t!” Saxon whined.

“Um, dad, where’s my ski jacket?” Tanner asked sheepishly from the back seat.

“What do you mean, where’s your ski jacket?” erupted Jimmy. “You F*CKIN’ forgot it? You’re 16! What the F**K, man?”

In calmer moments, Jimmy has admitted the reason behind his pyscho-ness. He says it’s because our teenagers have a case of pussitis. He has a point, I thought, as I watched Tanner wrestle his foot into his new-used ski boot along with two pairs of socks and the bottom six inches of his sweatpants. “Dad!!! This boot is too small! If I shove it in, my ankle’s literally gonna break.”

“Well, why are you wearing two pairs of effing socks?” Jimmy yelled, violently ripping a pair off Tanner’s feet, “and get those sweats the hell out of there!”

By now people in the parking lot were staring. I was mortified. When we finally got up the mountain, the weather was windy and freezing, but we toughed it out until the last lift closed. Then per tradition, we warmed up in our toasty car with apres ski brie and brews, sparkling Clementine Izzes for the dudes. “Ahh,” sighed Jimmy. “Maybe skiing is worth all the hassle.”

After crashing at our pricey one-star hotel, we got a late start the following morning, and SKI NAZI was raging. “This trip is costing me BANK! Why can’t you guys get your A$$ES out of bed earlier?”

I felt bad that we slept in, but I was wiped from the holidays. Plus I was dreading the single digit temps. Thankfully it turned out to be an epic day at Squaw Valley, sunny and gorgeous and…

…Uh-oh. There was Jimbo, lumbering across the frozen tundra like a rabid polar bear. “Guess how much 2-day passes for a family of four cost?” he bellowed. “Seven hundred and forty-eight F*CKING bucks!”

Oh shoot. It was 11 a.m. and we were just now hitting the slopes. Plus the mountain was packed. It was practically costing us $10 a run. Jimmy and Saxon left Tanner & me in the dust. Just as well.  I needed a reprieve from the cuss-a-thon.

That night we met friends for dinner at Village Pizzeria. We had a great time, that is after Jimmy made it back from Sports Exchange in downtown Truckee to buy some used ski poles for Saxon. Unfortunately, we neglected to take into account that when your kid sprouts five inches in one year, he’s probably going to need taller poles. Saxon’s were so short, they looked like he stole them off Verne Troyer.

jack-jill-la-premiere-2011-verne-troyer-64874

I googled the store’s address and offered to Map it on his iPhone, but Mario Andretti  peeled out of the parking lot before I had a chance. I shrugged and went in and added our name to the 45-minute wait list. Five minutes later, my phone rang. “WHERE is this place?” Jimmy screamed. “What’s the EFFIN’ address?”

The next morning we rallied and hit the slopes by 9:30 a.m. SKI NAZI actually sweetened up: he tightened our boots, reminded us (nicely) to bend our knees and treated us to warm chocolate cookies from Wildflower Bakery. The four of us skied together and had a blast.

At 4:30 p.m., we trekked to the car, pounded a post-sesh Modelo, packed up, and headed home. Or at least we tried to. It took 35 minutes just to inch out of the parking lot.

“This traffic is SUCH a Cluster F**K!” yelled Jimmy. “The equipment, schlepping, packing, whining, crowds, everything!!! I F*cking HATE skiing!!!”

Look on the bright side, Jimmy, all those coins in your New Year’s swear jar will buy us another trip to Squaw Valley.

IMG_2129

"Seriously, Granite Chief Ski Shop, two hundred bucks for these Electric Blue Boogaloo powder pants? That's an EFF you to me!"
“Seriously, Granite Chief Ski Shop, two hundred bucks for these Electric Blue Boogaloo powder pants? That’s an EFF you to me!”

Hot to Trot

On Thanksgiving morning we rousted early and headed to downtown San Jose for the 5K Silicon Valley Turkey Trot. The race benefits the Second Harvest Food Bank. Racers bring canned goods to donate and some people even show up in costumes–seriously, how can you not love Mayflower pilgrims and Butterball turkeys cranking out six-minute miles?

We’ve participated ever since our boys were little. For as long as I can remember the guys have rolled out of bed protesting. “Why can’t we sleep in on our vacation?” “Nobody else’s parents make them get up and run on holidays!”

Saxon, in particular, detests running. Here’s our M.O. in years past—Jimmy Jam deserts us within the first few blocks. Tanner, Sax and I trudge along at a tortoise pace for maybe all of a block, then Saxon grimaces, clutches his side and stops.

I break my stride and walk beside him, pumping him up, “You can do this, buddy!” “Pace yourself!”

Meanwhile his little red face fills with vitriolic rage while he screams, “I haaaaate running! This SUCKS!“

Suddenly, he rockets ahead, legs a Wile E. Coyote blur for oh, 60 seconds, before he cramps up again.

SPRINT. STOP. RAGE. REPEAT.

This lovely pattern persists for the next 2 & 3/4 miles. Every freakin’ year.

I never, ever get a workout.

Call us masochists but for some reason, Jimmy and I keep dragging the boys back to the Trot.

This year, the 8th (give or take a year or two when we slammed too many martinis the night before), something strange happened. We woke the teens up and they complied with nary a protest. They were even cheery.

We actually made it into line before the race started—a first.

As we muscled our way into the crowd, I nicknamed Jimmy and Saxon “TEAM CREAM” because they were sporting matching Creamsicle orange Nikes.

It was nice because we actually had time to goof around for a few minutes before the race. Mostly we did Tom Cruise imitations. Have you ever noticed how Tom runs in every movie he’s ever made? And when he runs, he karate chops the air.

Soon the announcer began the countdown and we were off! Saxon and Jimmy started together. The course is flat, fast and flows through neighborhoods and business areas.

Before long I noticed Saxon starting to run in that strained telltale fashion. Uh-oh.
But for once he didn’t stop and melt down. He kept going.
Tanner lagged behind and I ran alone. The air was crisp. I felt alive and appreciative to start a holiday centered around gratefulness in such a healthy way. Downtown shined up like a new penny in the bright morning sun, albeit a faintly urine-scented new penny. The restaurant windows glittered, Japantown sat tidily with with its tofu factory and markets, sushi bars and noodle houses.

Saxon and Jimmy fell into an easy, rhythmic pace, their Day-Glo kicks shining brightly, scorching the corneas of nearby runners like a total eclipse of the sun.

Feet pounding in time to the Taiko drums lining the course, I followed Team Cream until they dusted me around mile 2. When we all reunited near the finish line, Jimmy told me on that Thanksgiving morn, a miracle had occurred. Not on the scale of the birth of baby Jesus, but a miracle nonetheless. Saxon made it to the end without stopping once. And he even finished with a smile.

Ears to you, Saxon.

As we walked to the car I realized maybe it’s good to make our kids do stuff they hate once in a while.

They may not come around for years—or ever—but how will they ever know if they like something unless we encourage them to try?

From our pack to yours, happy holidays!