The holidays are over and despite it being my favorite time of year, I’m excited to send you and your brother back to school. I need routine like nobody’s business and when you’re both here at the house, asking what the plans are for the day, I stress. Not to mention you and Miles have a question for me every other minute so being even remotely productive is impossible. I’m amazed I was able to get pants on back in the day when you both stayed home full time. It’s amazing the things we forget.
December was great and once again I had the O’Donnell Advent Calendar in full effect. In years past, I struggled to find activities to fill the days but for some reason, whether it be the myriad of other activities with school or the fact that you and Miles are both older and I can subject you to more, the month flew by and in fact, I had to scrap several ideas that I had in mind for the month.
I enjoy the tradition of taking you both to see a musical or play of sorts. I’m a huge supporter of the arts and given how there is so much focus in school on math and now coding, I find it even more crucial that you and your brother get exposed to these things. I don’t have a problem with math and science and coding but I’m a big believer in being well-rounded. There’s more to education than STEM.
The Berkeley Playhouse has been my go-to for child appropriate plays and musicals for some time. The tickets are affordable, the theater is small enough that every performance feels incredibly intimate (nothing like trying to capture the interest of a child when you’re sitting 300 rows back from the stage) and the plays they present are stories that you and Miles are fairly knowledgeable about. This year we saw Beauty & the Beast and you two were smitten. I planned earlier than usual this year and managed to score seats 3 rows from the stage so when Gaston bared his chest, you really saw his chest hair! I only mention that because Miles was completely enamored by it and discussed it frequently for weeks following. During the performance, I often looked over at you and Miles to see if you were enjoying the performance and every time I looked at you, you had a smile. Being so close, you were also able to take quick looks into the pit where you witnessed all the amazing instruments and musicians in action. Watching your face and seeing your excitement throughout the evening confirmed why we do these things. And of course, to expose Miles to manly men like Gaston.
Keeping with the theme of exposing you and Miles to the arts, I always like to introduce one or two new things for the Advent Calendar that we’ve never done. I discovered that the SF Symphony now offers child friendly performances where they perform the score of a movie while showing the film on a giant screen. I saw that they were showing The Snowman and being that it’s your favorite Christmas movie, I knew I wanted to partake in the holiday fun. There was a hot chocolate bar before the show which was a double-edged sword. How could I say no to such an offering? I also knew you two have the bladder capacity of a squirrel and wouldn’t be able to hold yourselves for too long. 90% of parenting is gambling so we rolled the dice and in this instance, it all worked out gravy.
The movie itself is only 20 minutes long so they filled the first 45 minutes of the performance with holiday classics. You and Miles were not sold on this portion of the performance and spent most of this time sliding further and further in your seats while grumbling. It didn’t help matters that a family right behind us was chowing down in a bag of potato chips the entire time so between you two losing your cool and the potato chip mongers, the first half of the performance could be considered a dud. Thankfully, the second half with the feature film did not disappoint and once again, you two were back in it.
We followed the performance with a trip to Ghirardelli Square where we devoured giant ice cream sundaes because your mother has a massive sweet tooth that cannot be tamed. I swear, I just might roll over and die if I ever get type 2 diabetes. How would I survive without my pantry snack attack?!
Earlier in the month, you had your annual piano recital which gives me reason to buy you a really beautiful holiday dress that you will wear only once and then proceed to shove into the corner of your closet. You performed beautifully which having heard you practice the same song over and over and over for 6 weeks, I knew you would. You’re my anxious child and I knew you were stressed about the performance when you awoke one morning a few days before the recital with a full flare-up of eczema. Personally, I’ve never seen eczema so bad. It was everywhere and I knew immediately you were panicking about the performance. After applying every eczema lotion, oatmeal bath and a couple healthy doses of Benadryl, you were good as new and ready to play. I’m proud of you. Are you ready for me to join you with my tambourine?!
All I’ve heard from you for the entire month is your wish to see snow. Damn child, why can’t your wish be to feel the warm sun on your face with a fruity drink in your hand?! I would have jumped at an opportunity to head south. Just the say the word and we’ll go. Please?! No, your wish is to go to death. White cold death. I don’t care for snow. It’s fine, I’ll play in it for a bit but then I’m over it. 3 hours max is all I need to get my fill of snow. With the phenomenal winter we’re having, everyone is heading up to Tahoe. I’m not one to choose to miss out on fun so I threw the idea into the realm of suggestions to your Dad. If you think I dislike snow, your Dad really really dislikes snow. He has good reason having lived in it when he was younger and he’s definitely over it. He wasn’t thrilled at the idea and I could barely muster enough energy to really care all that much.
I knew we were headed to Gilroy Gardens for their holiday event and they usually have California’s finest display of dish soap snow which quite frankly, I prefer over real snow because not only does it smell lovely, it’s self cleaning! You enjoyed it – you frolicked in it and threw handfuls of bubbles at your brother which in turn made him run off crying (yes, he still does that) but it no longer fulfilled that need like it has in the past. You’re not 3 years old and clearly know the difference between dish soap bubbles and genuine snow. I knew we were destined for a trip to the cold darkness.
Circling back to Gilroy Gardens real quick. I love this place and yes, you’re outgrowing it and can only ride half the rides now but I truly love this park. We’ve been going there every holiday season for as long as I can remember because they put on a holiday buffet dinner that reminds me of home (all the bad-for-you dishes that you no longer make but you really want to). Stove-Top stuffing ring a bell? This year they changed it up a bit and instead of having the rides open, they introduced a Chinese inspired light show where they had various light displays throughout the park. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it definitely surpassed my expectations. The park also introduced ice skating this year with a small rink that you and I basically had to ourselves. I love this park for the sole reason that it’s never busy and you always have the park to yourself. I have no idea how they stay in operation but I love it for that reason.
You begged and pleaded to see the snow and given how we haven’t had any in California in years, your Dad and I figured we could shelve our disdain for a day and make a trek north. With the storms and the sheer volume of people heading to Tahoe, we decided to go in another direction. Instead we headed to Bear Valley which is just above the cabin that I frequently visit with Auntie Erma. It’s easier to get to and takes a shorter amount of time so a day trip is definitely doable. Our first stop was at a small Sno-Park which was nothing more than a parking lot with a bathroom. After a couple little runs on your sled down a hill which was really nothing more than a mound of snow that was pushed away from the bathroom and a few more runs down tracks that were made from the tires of a snowmobile, we decided to head up the road a bit further to go to Bear Valley which has a lot more winter activities. You were ecstatic and goofy and drunk with admiration for your wintry surroundings and I felt a little delight in seeing your reaction. Miles is still indifferent towards snow and threw a fit every time you threw a snowball at him so not much has changed since our last trek to the snow three years ago.
Bear Valley is great – it’s a mini Tahoe ski resort without the Tahoe price. We did a little snow-tubing down real manicured slopes which makes a huge difference when you’re not trying to avoid a bathroom or a parking light pole on your ride down. Whether it be the rush of excitement or the unpreparedness for the exhaustion that comes with snow but you basically were done in 2.5 hours which is what I expect from my offspring. You kept saying how mean the snow is and how hard it is despite looking so fluffy. Yeah, we know. That’s why we’ve been avoiding it. I bet you’re second guessing the dish soap snow now, huh? See, it’s a good alternative and your boots never looked cleaner! It was a quick trip to the snow, just as I prefer but you’re already talking about returning next month. I suppose we will because I had to buy you and Miles snow pants and damnit, I’m going to get my money’s worth out of those things!
It was a busy but wonderful holiday as it usually is. It’s always chaotic with everything going on but it truly is my favorite time of the year. I’m going to be cheesy for a moment but it really is special sharing the holiday with you and Miles and seeing the magic of the season in your tiny little faces. This was the first year that you began questioning everything and I see you wanting to hold on so dearly while your friends and peers tell you differently at school. You asked a lot of questions this year: Is Santa real? Does our elf really move around by herself at night or do we move her? Are mermaids real? You did ask that last question and yes, I realize mermaids are not related to the holidays but you asked a lot of questions and I treaded very lightly. I know parents who’ve taken the approach of just outright telling the truth and in turn watching the disappointment of all those years fall flat in their faces as their kids learn it was all smoke and mirrors. I couldn’t do that. You weren’t asking to know the truth. Your questions almost sounded like you knew what you believed in and were just looking for confirmation. You would present these questions to me and I in turn would turn the tables on your question because what better way to avoid answering a question than to respond with a question. Adults do this all the time and it really works.
You would ask me if Santa Claus is real and I would ask you what you thought the answer was. I never came out and stated the truth but I tried to position it in a way where I didn’t have to. By shifting the focus to the magic of the season and what this time of year means instead of focusing so much on Santa Claus, it seemed to do the trick and it curbed your questions for the time being. You’re a smart girl and you’ll figure it out. I remember realizing the truth around your age but I remembered how much it meant to my mother and I knew admitting my knowledge would break her heart or at least take a little bit of magic out of the holiday and I didn’t want to do that. It didn’t matter what I knew or didn’t and I imagine you doing the same. What next year will bring, I do not know but I look forward to sharing it once again with you and Miles.