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Holidays and trains in February

2022 is already a strange year. January felt like a very long month, and February flew by. I’m certain this is an artifact of just how busy we’ve been, but it’s been a little surreal.

With our continued pandemic-related caution around childcare and MJ and I still not doing indoor dining, Valentine’s Day this year was largely a celebration with the kids. Adam and I put up some decorations and did a couple art projects, we wrote “Adam” on little Pete the Cat Valentine’s Day cards for his classmates at preschool, and got some balloons. MJ surprised me with chocolate-covered strawberries and flowers on Valentine’s Day itself, but we weren’t able to do a special dinner together or anything.

I mentioned previously that we’ve really been getting into holidays with the kids, and this year that also extended to the Super Bowl. We don’t watch football (we’re a baseball family!) but our au pair from Brazil enjoys football and never had a Super Bowl party experience, and pandemic restrictions mean that it still wasn’t feasible for her to go out to a bar or similar here. So we had a little “party” at home! Really, it was just putting the game on and eating junk food, which the kids were delighted by, and so was I. MJ picked up chicken wings and the adults had a couple beers. In all, a fun afternoon indoors together, which was good since it got a little chilly in mid-February!

I did take some time to get out of the house on my own in February. I’ve been spending one afternoon a week working from local parks, which has been healthy for my peace of mind. It’s also allowed me to scope out new parks that we can bring the boys to on weekends. One Saturday I also met up with a local mom group at a local brewery and beer garden for a succulent arranging class, where we planted succulents in beer cans! It was the first time in almost two years that I had gone out on my own with strangers, but I felt safe enough doing it, and it was nice to meet some new people and chat a bit. The beer I tried was tasty too.

I took a long weekend off from work over President’s Day as our au pair was traveling. We took the opportunity of a work-free weekday to go to the usually quite busy Oakland Zoo. We picked up Adam from preschool on Thursday morning and went straight to the zoo with a bag of lunch snacks. We only spent a couple hours there, which was probably too much, but it gave us time to go on the zoo train (which Adam loves and talks about often) and carousel, and then take the gondola up to the California Trail part of the zoo where Adam enjoyed running around.

Over the weekend we spent Sunday driving up to Redwood Valley Railroad. I discovered the railroad after the boys had enjoyed watching steam train videos on YouTube, and was hoping there was a vintage train nearby that we could take them to see. Imagine my delight when I discovered there was one they could ride within 20 minutes of home! It’s definitely not a secret though, we almost turned around and went for a short hike instead when we saw how many people were there. But the line moved briskly and we felt safe enough outdoors, in spite of the number of people. The boys loved the ride, and though things got a little stressful for them toward the end, I’m glad we went and hope we can do it again soon.

The pandemic still looms large over our lives, but like the train adventure, we’ve been easing back on some of our restrictions. We’ve started doing some outdoor dining with the boys on weekends at places where we know the owners and are familiar with their setup and precautions. It’s been a nice change of pace to sit outdoors with them, both getting them fresh air and giving them a change of scenery, since they have spent a lot of the past couple years in the house and our yard. As a food destination, we also knock out lunch at this time, without having to pack a bunch of snacks to-go like when we went to the zoo or the train.

Still, we’re not where we need to be. We had a dose of hope and disappointment when rumors floated about a vaccine for kids under five, but then didn’t come to fruition. As mask mandates start to be lifted, it feels like those of us with young kids are being left behind. I don’t blame the world for it, most people are safe now, and two years is a long time. But it’s hard, I want our kids to be safe, but I also long to bring them back into stores, to events, and see people again.