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!