Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Christmas!

This year Christmas has been really fun.  Zane remembers enough about Christmas to be really anticipating the day.  We kicked off our Christmas festivities with a visit to Santa!  On our way to the mall to visit Santa Zane commented that we sure are lucky to leave near the mall where Santa is!  Two years ago Zane would only walk by and look at Santa.  Last year he sat on Santa's lap and asked for a mobile crane.  This year he sat on Santa's lap to ask for a volcano science kit and he let us photograph him!  Now we have a sparkly snow globe with Zane and Santa inside for all time.

On December 1st we started the Advent calendar.  This year, thanks to a tip from a friend, we got a Lego Advent calendar!  Every morning Zane would pop out of bed wondering what could be behind the next little door.  Each day was a small figure or thingy to build.  By Christmas Eve we had a who scene with a party in a house with a decorated tree and food on the table, fireplace, fire fighter, police man, crook, spaceman, dog, grill with sausages, toy planes, boats, and a digger, and finally Santa and his sleigh. 

For the last weekend that Grandma was visiting, all four of us went to our very first roller derby!  Very Christmassy, I know.  Most of the events have been too far away or too late at night, but a new practice rink opened up relatively nearby, and they were having a charity event.  We ate Dante's Inferno Dogs and rooted for our randomly chosen teams.  The first bout was confusing as we really had no idea what we were watching, but by then end we had kind of figured it out (rules here).  For the second bout we picked teams, and that made it enormously fun.  Zane was yelling and cheering and pumping his arms!  We definitely need to do this again.

The next afternoon Grandma and I and Zane went to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker.  This one was designed by Maurice Sendak (of Where the Wild Things Are fame).  It was really spectacular.  My Mom and I dressed up, and Zane wore his vampire cape.  Zane was pretty excited to be there, and the Act I with the Christmas party, growing tree, and fighting soldiers and mice was very exciting.  Act 2 was a bit much for Zane to sit through, and he was pretty unhappy.  It was tiring to keep him in his seat, but I sure enjoyed the performance itself.  We won't do that again unless Zane asks to, however.

The next day was Grandma's last day with us, so we used the day to bring home wreaths and a tree and do our decorating.  Zane immediately picked out a tree, and although we looked at others, we did end up coming back to that tree and getting it.  We had previously brought out the boxes of Christmas decorations so that we could find our Christmas CDs, so we we were set for decorating!  I had promised Zane he could do some lights, and I figured I would need to surreptitiously have to fix them later.  Grandma even tried to step in to "fix" them, but I let Zane do it.  He ended up doing a really good job!  A bit clumpy, but I didn't end up changing them at all.  I filled in the empty spots with the plain lights.

Every year Zane has loved the tree decorations.  Michael was never much into decorating for Christmas, so it is a lot of fun for me that Zane likes it.  And with my Mom there, too, plus Christmas music, it was extra fun this year!  Zane created a special area near the bottom of the tree with little bells and soft ornaments for JoJo to bop.  We finished the tree of with a special Golden Bird that Michael and Zane got a few weeks before.

I did a little bit less baking this year than in the past.  No gingerbread cookies and no saffron buns.  We had done the gingerbread train kit after Thanksgiving, but I wouldn't let Zane touch it until Christmas Eve.  The local Community Center was having a gingerbread house making evening, so we went to that for an auxiliary gingerbread structure to eat.  It turned out just to be done with graham crackers, but Zane still loved it, and I let him start eating that one right away.  It was a pretty funny little house I called his Gingerbread Shanty.

Then we did Christmas sugar cookies.  This year Zane didn't want to bother with making the dough, he only wanted to do decorating.  We made a special trip to a decorating store to stock up on sparkly sprinkles and candy googly eyes.  I made tinted egg yolk with the idea that we could brush it on.  Zane did, and then started to artistically splatter the color.  He said he got the idea from watching a a show on cement many months before, where the workers shake water on a sidewalk as they smooth out the drying cement.  It looked pretty cool, and I was impressed that he could carry the splattering idea over to decorating cookies.  Unfortunately some of the animals and people looked as if they had been murdered.  We took some of the cookies to the folks at the local train store, since we spend so much time there without buying anything.  We're eating the rest!

One day as Zane was gazing at the tree, he said, "Mama, I think the tree is not quite so beautiful."  Why?  "It doesn't have any presents under it."  Good point, my boy.  I thought it would be a nice quick evening project to wrap a few presents for Michael to put under the tree.  Bzzzt!  Wrong!  Once again Zane surprised me by really getting into a decorative project.  He decided that we would confuse Daddy by wrapping his presents in small strips and patches of wrapping paper of all different styles and patterns.  He was meticulous in his choices of paper pieces and often corrected their shapes with quick snips of the scissors.  It took us 45 minutes to wrap two gifts.  I was kind of annoyed by how long it took, but pretty damn pleased by his artistic ideas.  It looks pretty cool, too!  A week or so later he decided that he could control himself if presents for him appeared under the tree, so I wrapped more for him.  Zane was now satisfied that the tree was beautiful.

One confusing thing about being a kid in the Pacific Northwest is the weather.  All of the Christmas stories have snow, lots of snow, in them.  I often wonder what kids in Florida and California think.  I imagine Australia has its own publishing culture that deals with the problem a little better.  Two years ago we had a pretty big snow in the winter, but I'm not sure he really remembers it.  Last year we had exactly zero snow.  This year we got a really lovely few inches that were slated to melt in time for me to get to work.  School (and thus work) ended up being delayed by about an hour, but otherwise it was a fun snow.  I let Zane out onto the front porch where I could watch him while I made up his lunch box, and he had a blast.  He stomped in it, scooped it, made snowballs, and shoveled.  It's a good thing he enjoyed it early on, because it turned into yucky slush pretty quickly.  It sure helped set the Christmas feeling!

I love to look at a Christmas tree sparkling in the dark, and Zane and I often turned off all of the lights to stare at ours.  Another mood setter for me when I was growing up was our Swedish Angel Chimes.  For some reason I had remembered that they weren't working last year, but this year when we fired them up, they went merrily ting-ting-ting!  I was charmed to see that Zane loved them as much as I do.  I also re-introduced Zane to eggnog (seriously cut with milk), and he had that warmed up just about every night.

The night before Christmas Zane helped Michael wrap a few present for me the new-fangled Zane way.  Wrapping was so much on his mind, that when he went to bed he told us that Michael would invent a roboticized wrapping paper with sliding plates and sideways pistons to automatically wrap packages along with a ribbon extruder.  His mind gets so funny at night; he usually has his craziest ideas then.  We seemed to be in a bit of a Christmas sweet-spot where he was excited about the next day, but had no trouble at all falling asleep.

Christmas day was great!  Santa brought a volcano science kit (as requested), but also a MegaZord!  The MegaZord is a robot-like thing that is assembled out of five smaller robot-like things.  Zane's face lit up when he saw it.  Just what a parent wants!  He also got a very big pile of fun+education stuff (e.g., numbers that transform into robots, science kit to make glow in the dark goo), as well as plain old toys and books.  I'd say Santa was very good to Zane this year!

After Michael went back to bed, Zane and I did two science experiments, made a volcano out of papier mache, and played with MegaZord.  I made strawberry-rhubarb-apple pancakes for lunch, and then we did two more science experiments with the glow-in-the-dark goo kit.  I got a brain-break for a couple of hours while Zane played a sonic game on the Kindle in Michael's office.  I also let Zane eat almost as much chocolate as he wanted.  What th' heck.  One day of hours of screen time and tons of junk food won't ruin the kid.

By then end of the day, we had a pretty satisfied boy.  Here he is lying on his new GlowPet (which he has been asking for for two years), and watching Ice Age Christmas for the 10th time.  Another week and a half of holiday, and it's back to the grindstone for all of us!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Days with Grandma

We're on our way to the big holidays!  The best thing in November is that Grandma came to visit for three whole weeks!  Zane was very excited and Grandma shared his room at night.  Zane got lots of quality time with Grandma, and Michael and I went on two dates.  Pretty awesome.

While Grandma was here we got to do some fun baking.  She and Zane made popovers with a special pan.  We made pies for Thanksgiving, and Zane even got to make his own mini two-crust apple pie.  At one point he got out one of his toy steam rollers to flatten the crust.  After Thanksgiving we put together a gingerbread train from a kit, which was a lot of fun!

For Thanksgiving we took our pies to Michael's sister's house.  All the cousins and Grandpa were there.  Zane hardly ate a thing, but (after some initial shyness) he had a blast with his cousins.  He got to watch video games and a whole bunch of TV, so he was pretty pleased with the holiday!

This also seems to be the season for birthday parties.  We've had 4 in the last 6 weeks.  Fall and Winter birthdays need to be indoors, so most families rent space somewhere where the kids can burn off energy.  Three times now we've been to a yoga studio that gets out tons of bean bags, trampolines, hula hoops, tunnels, a balance beam, suspended rings, indoor swings, drums, and face paint.  That place is awesome.  The two swings are a bit of a hazard, though, especially since Zane doesn't seem to understand that what goes up, must come down.  He finally learned the lesson, I think.  He walked behind a swing at just the right moment to get smacked hard enough to have his feet lifted off the floor.  He ended up with his very first bloody nose.  Poor guy!  He generally bounces back pretty quickly, but we snuggled with some ice for about 10 minutes before he was ready to rejoin the party.

Zane has continued to be a fun guy to share random facts with.  One night at dinner we had salad, and on the back of the Newman's Own Caesar dressing was a drawing of a man on a couch with a dagger in him.  "Mama, what is that picture?"  Michael and I had fun telling him a brief history of the Roman Empire, culminating in the Republicans stabbing Caesar in the Senate.  As soon as we were done, Zane asked us to tell it again!  He asked for the story several times again.  I can't wait until he's old enough to watch I, Claudius.

We often have Archaeology magazine or National Geographic or Natural History magazine open on our table, so he'll ask us about the pictures he sees.  That's pretty fun.  In the last few weeks we've ended up talking about facial reconstruction, Civil War battleships, Amazon Basin natives, Komodo dragons and the like.  Sometimes it is educationally stimulating to have a messy table!

Another fascination these days is numbers and how they work.  He will often ask us things like, "What's 1+6+10+10+10+1000+1?"  He loves to try to trip us up. Then he asks, "What's 3 + a banana + a cement truck?"  Giggle giggle.  One night I was listening to Zane and Michael talk over the monitor at bedtime, and as Zane was asking about numbers and counting, Michael told him there were negative numbers.  "For real?" says Zane.  Then Michael tells him there is a number called Pi (pie). "Ask Mama! I think you're wrong, Daddy!"  I found a great series of math books in the library about Pi and other concepts for kids, and we've been reading those.  We don't expect Zane to really get these concepts, but he'll have heard of them when it comes time to really learn them.

Coming up: Christmas and more awesome adventures with Grandma!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fall Starts and Halloween

After an awesome summer, we have continued into a lovely fall.  The weather has continued to be really nice for the Northwest.

This year the Seattle Children's Theater hasn't had many offerings that would suit Zane, but in early October we went to see Pippi!  I loved  Pippi stories as a girl.  I was way more excited to go than Zane was, but he loves a live performance so it was a lot of fun.  The SCT really does an awesome job with everything.

The next day we headed out to Remlinger Farm for some harvesty fun.  We met up with Zane's friend Evelyn and her family for most of it, and also Anneke and her family a bit at the end.  The day turned out to be sunny and downright hot, so I bought Zane a t-shirt in the gift store to make the temperature bearable.  Last year we were alone and the weather was drizzly, so this year was extra fun!  Zane rode a huge ear of corn, a small train, and ran around in the hay maze with Evelyn.  Together we rode a mini-roller coaster, spun in a pumpkin, drove an antique car, and took a ride on the little steam train that circles the farm.  We met farm animals, Zane rode a pony named Peaches, ate ice cream with the gang, and picked a pumpkin after crawling over all of them ten times.  All-in-all a fabulous time.

With pumpkins in hand it was time to get ready for Halloween!  It was fun to get out the first set of decorations for the end of the year, and Zane was way more into it than last year.  We strung pumpkin lights and spider garland along the entryway to our house.  A trip to the store and we were back with spider webs and many spiders, including a battery operated one with flashing red eyes that jumped down at you on a string. The cherry tree in our front yard became a Spiders' Den of Doom.  One weekend when I was at work Zane and Michael went to a neighborhood fall festival and made a scarecrow from old clothes and hay.  We put that up by the front of the house.

Fall brought us some really lovely vegetables this year.  Zane got on a squash kick and we roasted many butternut and acorn squashes and ate them up, yum!  Pickled beets have been a big hit, too.  With kale chips thrown into the mix, I feel pretty good about our nutrition these days!

A week or so before Halloween we finally carved our pumpkin with a standard big toothy mouth, and Zane had the idea to add two little white ones inside that looked like they were being eaten.  On Halloween night I lucked out and was able to come home early to help get Zane and the house ready.  We added a horror mask to the scarecrow, turned on the spiders, and filled a big bowl with candy.

Earlier in the month Zane had decided to be a vampire.  Then we saw some pretty cool pirate accessories, so we agreed a Vampirate would be just the thing to be on Halloween.  He wore his costume to school sans teeth and weapons, but on Halloween evening we suited the whole deal up!  And for extra fun, I spiked his hair and sprayed it red.  For some reason he only wanted the top half done, and it looked pretty cool that way.  The teeth only stayed in for the picture, and by the time we were done trick or treating, the sword and hook were off, too.

Two years ago Zane went just on our neighborhood block and just about passed out from exhaustion when we got home.  Last year the one block was just right.  This year I told him he could do two blocks.  I did the first block with him and Michael did the second.  Zane had a blast going door to door and seeing all of his neighbors and friends in costume.  He was careful to assure people that his hook was fake and he really had a hand inside.  He got a great haul and still has candy 6 weeks later, mostly because his mom won't let him eat more than a piece a day.  What a Halloween scrooge I am!

 We left the decorations up for about a week, but then it was back to regular fall business.  Like raking leaves!  This year Zane was an actual help, and he really got into jumping in the leaf pile.  I thought we didn't have space for a good jumping pile, but Zane figured out a good spot and dove in!

In non-seasonal news, Zane is behaving like a regular four year old.  He is aggressive and attacks people that he loves.  He is regular budding lawyer when it comes to challenging rules.  He can't sit still at the table.  He has a mysterious chip out of his front tooth that we all have no idea how it got there.  He has ceased to nap.  That's a big one for me.  I've finally come to terms with it and embraced it.  Days are easier to plan and night-time sleeping is longer.

Zane of course also has many delightful four year old qualities.  He has gotten into telling jokes, only he really doesn't know how to do it.  He helps me out with his jokes by saying, "Mama, when I say something crazy, you laugh."  Zane has started to be able to play by himself for awhile, especially with his Legos. He's really into robots, too, which we make out of Legos.  I try to make sure he has "girly" things to choose, too, but he just used his jewelry as chains to subdue the bad T-rexes  Zane is an articulate, polite, and almost always happy boy.

We sure are lucky!