Leavin' on a jet plane

"All my bags are (almost) packed, I'm (almost) ready to go."

John Denver's song has been running through my mind this morning as I prepare and pack up for the Christmas visit to Bubby, Megan and Preston. Jim and I will stay the night with Andie tonight, then take off from DIA bright and early tomorrow morning. We're headed to the desert, where the temperatures are above freezing -- unlike this sub-zero crazy climate in which we've been barely surviving the past week -- and where my Bubby is waiting.

Years ago when I imagined what Christmases would be like as a grandma, this is so not what I had in mind. I envisioned happy holidays with the crowd of kids, grand and otherwise, gathered around as we sang carols and strung popcorn and oohed and aahed over all the bright and shiny gifts opened on Christmas morning, all of us in our jammies and sipping hot chocolate.

Okay, scratch the stringing of popcorn. Been there, done that, and it's really not all that fun, especially with little kids who keep poking themselves with the needle. But the rest of it always seemed so warm and cozy in my mind and so much what I wanted each Christmas.

But Megan and Preston blew my fantasy life moved to the desert. Which is okay, I gotta concede, since they're happy and making it financially (and not freezing their butts off, like we are in the mountains). And they've decided their Christmases would always be spent at their home, which is admirable and smart and the right thing to do for their family -- to establish firm family traditions from the get-go.

So our last few Christmases have involved a trip to the desert just before the big day, so that Jim and I can open a few gifts and get a few hugs from Megan and her tiny clan.

It's not what I originally envisioned, but what in life really is? And I'm oh-so thankful such a trip is possible. Especially this year, as Bubby needs not only gifts from Grandma and Grandpa, but he needs hugs. NEEDS them, I say.

And here's proof of that need:

Look at my feverish little sweetie, working on recuperating (with a little help from Roxie) from the "secondary infection" he contracted after beating H1N1.

This kid needs to 'rockie' with Grandma. Even if he is doing better. Even if he's now running around the house, dancing to Elmo songs, and chasing Roxie back and forth across the living room.

He still needs a hug from Grandma. Or more likely, it's Grandma who needs a hug from him.

So we'll soon be on our way, once I figure out how to pack all the gifts into our luggage. (Luggage I have to manage on my own, may I remind you, because we're still dealing with THIS!)

And it's the fact that the gifts must fit in the luggage that has given me a bit of a brain ache the last few weeks.

Bubby was only six months old last Christmas, so any gift I gave him would do. No big deal. But this year, he has preferences, likes, dislikes, and I want to give him the very best gift ever so he loves me more than anyone in the world smiles and grins and dives into playing with whatever gift he opens from Grandma.

But I've had a little trouble.

First of all, I found online a really great "Best of Elmo" dance mix CD. Bubby loves Elmo and he loves to dance. And I figured he'd love the CD. So I ordered it. But it's sold out, no longer available. Shucks. Strike one.

I also planned to give him one of those cool Hallmark recordable "Night Before Christmas" books that I've seen again and again on television commercials. I planned to even ring one of my many bells while recording, to signal to Bubby when it's time to turn the page. But I initially hesitated because of the $30 price tag and held off buying it. Until I found a $10 off coupon in my Better Homes & Gardens magazine. So I headed to Hallmark with a happy, happy stride, only to be told, literally, "Good luck wth THAT!" when I asked the bitchy sales girl where I could find them. "They're gone, no longer available. They're selling for $70 on e-Bay, so you can try your luck there." Strike two. Bubby will not be getting THAT this year (or ever, it seems).

Strike three involved a car playset I'd seen again and again in Toys R Us ads. I don't usually go to Toys R Us but figured I could pick up the playset anywhere -- only to find it nowhere ... online or IRL. After searching for a couple weeks, I broke down and went to Toys R Us. They had the playset. But it sucked looked like it would break soon after the first car rolled off the track. Bubby wouldn't be getting that gift either.

But I found another playset, a Fisher Price playset that I think he'll like. I even asked a young dad at Toys R Us, who was unlucky enough to be in the same aisle with me, but lucky enough (for both of us) to have a little boy Bubby's age sitting in his cart. So I asked Dad what he thought. And he asked his son, Brady, what he thought. He liked it, he really liked it. So I think Bubby will like it, too. I hope.

And I hope he likes all the other luggage-friendly gifts I've purchased, too. Here's the small haul I've gathered (minus the cool family gift Jim and I are giving but I can't include here because I want Megan and Preston to be surprised, since they'll be sharing it with Bubby):

I know it's crazy that I'm feeling so unsure of my gift-giving abilities, especially for a little boy who, years from now, will never remember what Grandma gave him for Christmas the year he was 18 months old.

But I will remember. I'll remember if he smiles, or squeals, or throws the toy to the side never to pick it up again after offering it to Roxie as a lovely new chew toy. So I really hope he likes them. We'll be opening gifts Saturday night, so luckily I don't have to wait long before finding out.

One thing I do know already, though: Next year, I'm having the gifts SHIPPED to him directly from any place I order them. No more luggage-size goodies for my Bubby. He'll be 30 months old next Christmas ... and ready for something bigger than what I can fit in my suitcase!

On to other things ...

First of all, there's still time to enter a haiku for the week! Here's where and how you do it.

And, last but not least ...

Today's question from "The Christmas Conversation Piece":

What is your favorite Christmas scent?

My answer: This is an easy one for me. I absolutely LOVE the Jack Frost (pepperminty) candles from Yankee Candle Company and usually buy a couple of the big jars when it's available during the holidays so I have some to burn now and then throughout the year!