OPTM PT December 2017

Monthly AN ELF, CHICKEN PARM, AND BRUNCH FOR 30

WHY I LOVE CHRISTMAS

L ike I mentioned last month, my family’s Christmas season kicks off precisely the day after Thanksgiving, when we make our way into the Santa Cruz Mountains to cut down our Christmas tree. After that, the hustle and bustle kicks into high gear. We go all-out decorating the tree with ornaments and lights and covering the house in as much holiday cheer as possible. Then, like clockwork, we bring out the Elf on the Shelf — we’ve named him Hermie, after the worker elf in “Rudolph” — on Dec. 1. This is the same day we present new sets of holiday-themed pajamas to Owen and Jake. Every night, while the children are sleeping, the elf moves to a new perch around the house for them to find. Maybe he’s relaxing behind the TV, or flying high on the ceiling fan. I tell them he’s reporting directly to the big man, Santa, no matter his location, so they’d better make sure they’re not being naughty! You’d be amazed how much extra parenting help Hermie gives us during the month, and they love going on the hunt for him each morning.

some delicious sugar cookies several days before Christmas Eve. This year, they’ll have an additional little helper in the cookie crew as Jake will be 2 very soon. I’m excited to see how he embraces the holidays as he becomes more aware of them. On Christmas Eve, we make our way to St. Catherine’s church for evening Mass, which should be a really cool opportunity to see a few of Owen’s teachers and classmates, in addition to just being a fun celebration. He started attending kindergarten

at the church’s attached school this year. After church, we make chicken Parmesan with garlic mashed potatoes from a recipe I learned from my mom years ago. It’s the kind of delicious meal that’s so easy to prep it can’t possibly add any holiday stress. Then, the kids put out a few cookies and a glass of milk for Kris Kringle, set out a carrot for Rudolph, and head to bed. Christmas Day is, of course, for opening presents. I have to say, the holidays are a lot more fun when you’ve got small kids who are still gleeful about even the smallest of gifts energized by holiday spirit and anticipation. Once the wrapping paper has been shucked off every last box, and Owen, Jake and I have given my wife our annual team present — which they help me pick out — it’s brunch time. We go to my in-law’s place in Campbell and gather with almost all of my wife’s eight aunts and uncles and 33 cousins for a tasty breakfast buffet. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with these important people in our lives outside of Facebook, for a change. All in all, Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, almost entirely because of the time spent with my family and friends. My wife and I look forward to it practically the whole year long — though not nearly as much as Owen and Jake. Dr. Fabrice Rockich

For a couple years now, we’ve kept to a tradition where Owen teams up with his mom to make and decorate

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