Los Angeles, California: DT and I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year! May 2013 be a great one, filled with love, laughter, great food and relaxing RV vacations.

And grandchildren, if it can be arranged.

We are in Los Angeles, on day 6 of babysitting Leo while his parents are in Africa on a two-week safari. (Lenny’s parents/siblings watched Leo for the week prior.) Leo has been a joy. Leo has been a terror. Leo has made me laugh 100 times a day. He impresses me with his sense of humor, his cleverness, his daredevilness (not a word) and his sweetness. Leo is a charmer. No doubt. His mood fluctuations keep us on our toes. One moment he will have a fit about something that is obviously shattering to him and then – 1.2 seconds later – will look up at you and smile.

That smile! Leo has Lisa’s mouth. His smile melts me every time.

Leo was all-charm last evening when my Dad & Mary came over to celebrate the New Year. They are in Los Angeles for a few days on an organized tour for the Rose Parade. They also visited several museums, saw the floats being prepared and enjoyed all-sorts of meals and generally had a very good time. They were on a “city tour” yesterday when DT drove to the last tour stop and kidnapped them for dinner. We had a grand time. Dinner was delicious – our traditional Fettuccine Alfredo – and Leo was on his best behavior. It is surely strange entertaining in your daughter’s home when she is away, but since it was family, no one cared that I could not locate placemats.

Since Leo isn’t yet 21 (heck, he isn’t even 21 months!), he could not partake in the champagne celebration. Leo lined-up his beverage selections on his high chair: water, sparkling water and apple juice.

I can’t read his mind, but by his stance I’d say he is trying to decide which beverage would go best with Fettuccine Alfredo. In the end, Leo chose the sparkling water. (Is it okay to give sparkling water to babies? I have no idea. Leo really liked the bubbles.)

If we could read Leo’s mind, it would be much easier to decipher this situation.

As I type this late Tuesday evening, Lisa and Lenny are nearly home after traveling about 32 hours from Kilimanjaro International Airport. Though we watched the Rose Bowl and watched over Leo (he went on a half-mile walk), we spent a bit of time today re-organizing the house and cleaning in anticipation of their return.

We plan to meet them at the front door with our bags packed.

Just kidding.

I cooked three things today: Rose Bowl Chili for dinner tonight (in this family, black eyed peas are required on January 1st), Chicken Cacciatore for Lisa and Lenny to eat tomorrow, and I baked a batch of Leo’s favorite shortbread cookies. I am really going to try to post this cookie recipe soon – it is from my Great Grandmother. DT went to the market to fill Lisa & Lenny’s fridge with fresh fruits and veggies, etc. Linens are changed, towels are washed, Leo’s laundry is up-to-date.

We filled three antique blue mason jars (used for centerpieces during their wedding dinner) with pretty white hydrangeas.

So pretty on the dining table.

Our blonde daughter Leo’s Godmother, Angela, spent the afternoon with us. Though Angela is from Greece, she attended Tulane University in New Orleans, so understands the tradition of black eyed peas and good luck on January 1st. Angela also knew TerryT would be serving black eyed peas today.

Good luck in one savory bowl.

I couldn’t find time to chop the green onions for garnish. I haven’t had a lot of time for anything except tending to Baby Leo. Our housesitter overnighted our mail to Lisa & Lenny’s house last week. I was so excited to receive the latest cooking magazines. This week, I have opened one magazine and have made it to page 12. That’s it. I have not worn mascara or lipstick in four days. I can now shower in two minutes. Or less. We have completed several loads of laundry every day. I have prepared every meal all week. No take out. No delivery. No taking a 16-month-old to a restaurant.

Honestly, we knew this was going to be a tough gig, but it really has been a lot of fun. The last time we had a toddler, we were in our 20’s. We are no longer in our 20’s. But, Leo is such a blessing. Even when it took me ten minutes to wrangle the wiggler into his car seat. Even when his diaper leaked and he peed on my leg. Even when he would not eat even one teeny bite of the grilled cheese sandwich I made for him. It has been one of the best weeks ever.

DT and I will remain in Los Angeles as long as it takes for Lisa and Lenny to adjust to an 11-hour time change or until they kick us out. There is a football game in Phoenix Thursday night we would like to attend, but nothing is more important than our family.

Except Duck football.

Just kidding.

I think.

Until my next update, I remain, your 2013 correspondent.

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