Christmas 2010

This year we spent Christmas in New Mexico. If we’d had some way to know in advance about the extreme weather, closed airports, and chronic delays, we certainly wouldn’t have made this trip. But it’s a good thing we didn’t know because our plans were only slightly modified by the chaos. We were very lucky. On the way over we saw many cancelled flights on the departure boards, but our flights were largely on time.

Flying out from Copenhagen De-icing before take-off Flying out from Copenhagen

We worried about Ellen before the trip, but it turned out to be fine. She slept during most of the flights, and was easy to entertain when she was awake. Plus we’ve learned to take longer lay-overs so we had ample time to run her around and wear her out before each flight.

Ben, Ellen, and Lisbeth in Albuquerque Ben and Heather Ben tries to demonstrate to Ellen how much fun snow can be (she was not impressed)

We spent the first full day in Albuquerque, resting up and visiting with my brother Ben and his wife Heather. As usual we’d postponed quite a bit of shopping knowing that we’d be in the US, so we did a lot of shopping. (We became iPad owners, and almost immediately found our laptop to be unbearably heavy and cumbersome.)

Mom (or Carly and Celina participate in a church skit Celina, trying to act serious about church Ellen and her uncle Diego Ellen works to unwrap another gift Ellen and Bon-bon DSC_2986.JPG Ellen on her Christmas gift from Bon-bon and Pampah Ellen on her Christmas gift from Bon-bon and Pampah

Then we traveled up to Las Vegas (New Mexico), where it turned out that we’d missed an impressive storm. Apparently the wind had gotten up to 74mph (119kph). Luckily by the time we got there the roads were clear and the sun was out. So we hung out my mom and dad, and my brother Diego and his wife Connie (who live next door to my parents.)

Diego, driving his monster truck (which, of course, has a monster mirror) When your daughter is regularly identified as a boy, it cause parents to overcompensate... Connie's brother Max had a birthday and invited our whole family Mom, Ellen, and Lisbeth supervise Diego's progress on a roof repair Ellen is, evidently, a hat person Diego and Arthur, working on mom and dad's roof A few days before we arrived, Vegas had winds that damaged mom's windmill. The winds reportedly reached 74mph (119kph). Celina and Mom take Ellen for a stroll My nephew Arthur, on a hike with me and Lisbeth

I’ve been guilty of thinking that my home town never changes. This is probably because I didn’t notice any changes when I was growing up (or was just very disappointed at the rate of change.) But Vegas has changed. This is most evident on the Old Town Plaza, where galleries, tattoo parlors, and coffee shops attract tourists from all over the country, if not the world.

On the plaza, in Las Vegas On the plaza El Rialto is probably the most popular restaurant in town. In the gallery at Plaza Hotel A fancy wine stopper in the gallery at Plaza Hotel Fancy wine stoppers in the gallery at Plaza Hotel A display at Plaza Hotel At Estella's on Bridge Street A serious guy doing some serious thinking at Estella's on Bridge Street

Probably the single best thing about being home is watching Ellen spend time with her New Mexico relatives. She had fun last time, but this time she had a blast. It’s a shame she won’t remember any of it, but I certainly don’t get the impression that my family will forget these visits.

Ellen, enjoying mom and dad's new deck An odd trio: Ellen, Vince (a family friend that often joins us for Christmas) and mom. Ellen's first carousel ride A gift from mom that, in addition to being practical, keeps people from assuming that Ellen is a boy Dad, apparently reacting to an embarrassing joke that Ellen told Mom, at Estella's on Bridge Street

But it’s great for me to see my family as well, and there’s no better time to see your family than at Christmas. This year we got to see my cousin Rachel and her husband Karrie, which doesn’t happen often because they can’t often make the trip at Christmas. We also saw my cousin Sarah and her husband Troy, whose daughter Cora is almost exactly Ellen’s age.

Arthur, Carly, and Celina try out our new iPad Dad, having lunch on the plaza Rachel, Karrie, Diego, Arthur, and Joe have a laugh about Diego's homemade beef jerky frisbee Cora with her mother, Sarah Donna with Claire (my cousin Rachel's daughter) Ellen salivates in anticipation of her next gift Carly and Celina open gifts Ellen insisted in modeling each bit of clothing she received. Four year old Claire (my cousin Rachel and her husband Karrie's daughter) Cora tries to steal a box of cookies from grandpa. (And _nobody_ steals cookies from Grandpa.) Lisbeth and Ellen at the ranch A little web-surfing before bed...

But it’s not all fun and games. Life is particularly hard on my maternal grandparents and their four daughters. My grandparents are still living in their home, but only because their daughters take turns staying with them and hire help to stay when they can’t be there. That’s bad enough, but dementia is setting in for both of them, so in addition to being ill and depressed, they’re also confused. I’m not sure I can think of a scarier way to spend your final years.

On the Coppock ranch at dusk Grandpa's barn at nightfall

And then… it was time to go. We’d planned to return before New Years and have the weekend to relax and try to shake the jet-lag. So we drove back to Albuquerque for a day of shopping and another chance to see Ben and Heather.

Ellen as Thumper Ellen and I take a break from Christmas shopping The Uptown shopping center in Albuquerque Ben gets the bikes ready for a ride Albuquerque, as seen from the foothills Albuquerque, as seen from the foothills Ben, on a ride in the foothills near his house Ben scans his dominion Ellen and Lisbeth and Ben and Heather's house Didn't know that Snoopy is part of Christmas? Well now you do. Heather and Ellen, bonding over toys and beer at Sushi King Ellen prepares for another tickling from Uncle Ben at Sushi King

But at our point of departure, our luck with the weather gave out. Our flight to Chicago was delayed and there was no way we’d make our connection. So we had to stay an extra day, but since we knew this in advance, we were able to spend that day in Albuquerque instead of spending the night in Chicago.

Watching the snow come down at the Albuquerque airport Heather and Ben play with Ellen at Albuquerque International (after learning that our departure has been delayed for a day) Ellen, waiting in Washington for a flight to Frankfurt. (One flight down, two to go.)

So as it turned out, we spend New Years in the air above the Atlantic instead of shipping champaign and watching fireworks from our apartment as we’d planned. That was disappointing, but compared to the thousands of travelers that got stranded in foreign airports for days — or had their trips cancelled altogether — our trip was problem-free.

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