Well, it wasn’t easy, but we did it. And we brought Tia and Cousin Olivia with us. After a night and morning scrambling to acquire snow gear and pack it, our caravan headed up to Shaver Lake to play in the snow.
We weren’t exactly sure where to go, but luckily Sarah remembered there was a snow park up the hill from the lake. Just when we thought we had gone too far, it appeared. The only catch was that we didn’t buy snow park permits when we were in town. We considered rolling the dice, but decided the $94.50 fine was too much to gamble with. (And yes, where the hell do you come up with a fine of that value? $94.50? Not $90 or $95. So. Silly.) So I ran back to town to get our $5 permits so we could play without worry.
In general, the kids had a blast. I think Aliya had a little sledding wipeout with Sarah that made her a little weary of the snow, but she was also tired. In fact, she fell asleep in Sarah’s arms and they hung out under a pine tree while we played. Keana and Maia handled a little hill on their own, helping each other up it and sailing down with Maia in front (see video below). When I got back from getting our permits, I took Maia and Keana on a bigger hill and had so much fun sledding with them. Now that they’re older we can do more daring things, which I love. And to be out in the crisp, fresh air, surrounded by beautiful, snowy scenery—it was really what this vacation needed.
One of the hardest parts of being a parent is acceptance. Before getting there, I’ve found myself trying and trying, over and over, to control or change the outcome of everything from the daily schedule to who eats what, when. And every time I try to control, I fail miserably. And it’s tough as a parent because on the one hand you sort of have to provide this safe infrastructure for your kids to thrive, but on the other hand, you have to just let go and let them be. Not my strong suit, but I’m learning.
This vacation has been another great example. There have been many days of the last two weeks we’ve had off when Sarah and I have looked at each other and said, “Is this really a vacation?” We found ourselves coming into it emotionally and physically exhausted from all that followed my uncle’s sudden death, and on top of all that, the kids have been on a rotating wheel of sickness. We think it’s been two different viruses: the first with a sore throat and runny nose, the second starting with a barking cough, followed by insane amounts of mucus. Lovely, yes? It has definitely made it difficult to go out and do fun things and has seriously limited some of the fun visits with friends we hoped to have had by this point.
Some of the things we’ve enjoyed though are more leisurely mornings, the magic and wonder of Christmas for the girls, lots of great food, some visits with family, and of course the endless moments of pure cuteness that are just part of the territory with youngsters. Aliya’s definitely changing from a toddler to a little kid, losing much of her baby fat and slimming down to a spritely little sparkplug. She continues to be a huge mischief maker, often denying verbally what she’s doing physically. “I’m not climbing on the table,” as she has a leg up to climb on the table. All the time inside with her sisters has allowed her to work out any remaining kinks in her “I am mad as hell and will eff you up” face. Seriously. For a two-year-old, she’s got a mean mug. She also throws a decent punch for the smallest member of Team Hokama, something her older sisters don’t really do much. Of course she’s mostly bubbles and cookies, but she will throw down if necessary. We’re especially going to miss those last vestiges of baby talk and behavior. For examples:
Saying with pure excitement, “It’s Chissmass!”
“My kitty! My kitty!” as she chases Fluffy around the house, trying to hug and lay on her.
After turning out the lights for bed time saying, “I can’t see my eyes…I can’t see my nose…”
As she hugs Sarah, “You’re my best friend.”
A new one I just noticed today, “Jus’ a minute,” as she continues to play when you’ve asked her to do something else.
Last but not least, a hold over from Halloween, every time she sees a pumpkin she calls it “my pumpkin patch!”
Maia is definitely changing too, maturing daily, and even gaining some muscle weight. On some levels, she’s getting more reasonable—with eating and sleeping for example—but she still struggles with both. Being sick has made sleep especially hard because her runny nose and coughing has been driving her nuts in the middle of the night, which we can’t really fault her for. Now that the sickness is tapering off though, we’re happy we set up those appointments to see an occupational therapist to work with her on some of her sensory issues. They seem to think 6 appointments, every other week, should dramatically help her deal with being hyper-sensitive to stimulus, like clothes that don’t fit a certain way, being distracted at meal time, etc. She and Aliya continue to have a blast playing together, often playing with each other while Keana’s off in her own fantasy world. I love hearing her shout, “C’mon Babe-in!” followed by an, “Okay Maia!” and two sets of footsteps sprinting off to the next play station. But Maia definitely still enjoys playing with Keana too, taking full advantage of having her sister home full time for the break. Their ability to play together also shows how fast Maia’s growing up, especially since Keana is getting older by the hour it seems.
And what a delight it is to have our Zooba home. She’s really been missing her social outlets, but still gets lost playing endlessly with her toys and paper dolls. This was the first Christmas she’s really enjoyed building Legos together and I can’t say that bothered me in the least. She doesn’t really need help, but likes to have someone there with her to chat with while she works. We finished the first Harry Potter book together at the beginning of the break and are halfway through The Chamber of Secrets. It’s my first time reading them too and I’m thoroughly enjoying being excited about a story with her. This second book though is about at the maturity threshold I’m comfortable with, so we’ll be taking a break from Potter soon. But Keana’s comprehension of more complex life stuff and her ability to communicate it, are really giving us a preview of what’s to come. More and more we can converse like equals and I have to explain less and less. A really fun side effect of Keana’s maturing is her deepening sense of humor. She understands a lot more humor and is really starting to get sarcasm as well.
We did take a somewhat spontaneous trip up to Bass Lake today and even found a little patch of leftover snow on the shore to play in. We didn’t stay long due to threatening clouds, but still, it was good to get out and do something different. We saw one rainbow while we were there and another on the way back. Maia had fallen asleep but once Aliya spotted it, she started yelling, “Maia! Maia! A rainbow! Look!” I responded, “Shhhh, Aliya. You’re going to wake her up.” To which a groggy Maia replied, “She already did.”
We have one more week of vacation left but I already feel the tightening grip of responsibilities and schedules. Even when there’s no school or work-work, there’s always keeping the house in order, appointments, laundry, and the seemingly endless chore of feeding these munchkins. It really is all about acceptance and maybe someday I’ll stop fighting it. Keana reminded me just last week (after I released what I guess was a really long sigh), “Well Papa, this is the life you chose. Are you going to make breakfast now?” And there you have it.
One of the benefits of living in Fresno is close proximity to the mountains, and for us, close proximity to family near the mountains with a house. With this cold winter storm, snow fell as low as 2000 ft., so we woke up this morning with a text message from Sarah’s dad that they had lots of snow up in North Fork and to come on up. So we did.
We all had a blast sledding and playing, then going inside to dry off and enjoy our gracious hosts’ hospitality. Nana Cin always provides a great meal and lots of treats for the kiddos. We had the added joy of Tia and Cousin Olivia’s company, so it was a great day of family and play. And there was so much snow! It blanketed everything and provided a magical landscape for us to enjoy. We even got to play as it was snowing, so the kids really got the full experience. The kids were also just overjoyed with being able to go up there on short notice and were in awe of how everything had been transformed overnight. Today we really felt very fortunate to be able to enjoy something like a full day in the snow so easily and comfortably.
Here’s a little snapshot of the day, thrown together on my iPhone: