How is it December 10th already? Are we seriously just 2 weeks away from Christmas Day? Jeepers - please tell me I am not the only one who feels like it was just Halloween.
We have really been loving the Christmas season around our house this year. The advent calendar that I posted about a couple of weeks ago has been a big hit as far as getting us organized and having some Christmasy fun every day. I have even been listening to the Christmas station on the radio (not normal for me - I typically like it quiet while I drive or I will listen to an audiobook but background music just isn't my thing) and Clara has been LOVING it. She can sing Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Silent Night. Except she refuses to let me video her doing any of it. Seriously, I keep trying and she keeps stopping mid-song to say "no take a photo, mom" and I can't convince her that is not what I am doing. Or she gets really silly and starts singing nonsense words and doing jibber-jabber to thwart my efforts at documenting how adorable her version of Silent Night is. I will keep at it.
We were really happy with how our Christmas cards turned out this year. I thought I was getting a deal ordering them the week before Thanksgiving when they were 25% off plus free shipping but turns out a few days after Thanksgiving they went to 30% off, then a few days after that they went to 35% off. So I should hold out longer next year. I took our photo while we were in Yosemite using a tripod and the self-timer. I just arranged Paul and Clara on the quilt in a field in Yosemite valley, then I would run back and forth until we got something we liked. I posted some of the runner-ups back here, but honestly this was probably the 2nd or 3rd shot we took.
The day before Thanksgiving, we always take Clara to the mall to meet Santa Claus. It is so much less crowded than after Thanksgiving so we don't have to wait in line or anything. Clara has been DYING to wear her "pretty, sparkly gold Christmas dress" for weeks and weeks now and was so excited that she finally got to don her finery to go meet St. Nick.
I took a little video while we were off to the side waiting our turn. Clara loves bike rides and we have a few friends who have balance bikes for their kids to help them figure out coasting and balancing before introducing pedals, so we thought it would be a good idea for her for Christmas. When we casually mentioned that maybe she could get a bike for Christmas, she latched onto the idea and elaborated, explaining that Santa would bring her a purple bike. She has stuck true to that color for the most part (gold was thrown in the mix a couple of times), so Paul found a used Stryder balance bike on Craigslist for less than half the price of a new one and he sanded it down, primered it, and painted it purple just for Clara since there were no purple balance bikes that we could find. We are hoping she will be pleased.
Clara goes to meet Santa Claus from Amy Nash on Vimeo.
Clara did great meeting Santa Claus. She held my hand walking up to him, but then told him her name and how old she was when he asked. Then she willingly sat on his lap for a picture and cheesed it up for the camera. I was floored when I put her picture with Santa from this year next to her picture with Santa from last year. She has grown SO much. I mean, seriously, can you believe these two photos are just one year apart?! She went from a baby to a big girl overnight, I swear. Everybody always says how grown-up Clara looks, and it is totally true as much as I hate to believe it. She is barely 2 1/2 (as of November 19th) but in this picture she looks more like a 4 or 5 year old to me. I think it is her crazy long hair and the fact that she has always been a thin little thing without as much baby fat as other kids her age that make her appear so much more grown up.
This photo of Clara and Santa having a conversation is my favorite one. I was back behind the photographer looking at the shots he had already taken of her cheesing it up when we noticed Clara and Santa having a heart-to-heart (presumably about her behavior over the past year and her Christmas wish list) and I am so glad we caught a picture of it before the magical moment was over and he had to move on to the next child in line.
On Friday after Thanksgiving, we drove up into the mountains and picked out a tree to cut down, then on Sunday, we decorated it while listening to Christmas music. Clara was a BIG help. My mom and sister were there still too and they would hand Clara a red ball or a candy cane and she would load up a branch. Then we would redistribute.
This past Friday, I took Clara to see the Nutcracker. It was her first exposure to ballet and she is in love. I picked out a couple of Nutcracker books ahead of time and spent the week before the ballet reading them to her so she would be familiar with the story line and hopefully be more engaged. She loved that the main character shares the same name as her. I really love this version by Alison Jay, which has a good balance of text to pictures (plus, I am just a sucker for Alison Jay's art):
We went to a 10:30 a.m. matinee dress rehearsal performance that is put on each year for school-age children. It is a full production and they mentioned beforehand that there could be technical difficulties that they might have to stop for, but the only problems I noticed was that the Sugar Plum Fairy came out for the second act with black sweat pants under her tutu over her tights (presumably to keep her legs warm?) and she skipped a bunch of leaps and spins, which was disappointing for me because my favorite part of the whole production is the pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier in the second act and they mostly just walked through that number while spotting all the lifts rather than actually doing them. But the kids in the audience didn't notice or care.
Clara did AMAZING. She was tired when we got there because we had left the house early that morning to drive my mom out to the Oakland airport and had already been in the car for 2 1/2 hours, then we waited outside in the cold for about 40 minutes before the theater began seating people (we did duck inside a couple of times to warm up, use the restroom, and purchase an ornament of Clara holding her nutcracker). But our seats were very good - maybe 13th row, just left of center - and Clara was happy to be back in her pretty Christmas dress. The only things that were difficult for Clara were sitting in her own seat and staying quiet. She sat on my lap for basically the entire show and she literally narrated the whole thing. She was good about narrating quietly and it WAS a production for kids so its not like she was the only kid I heard during the show, but she kept up a nonstop commentary of what was happening. She pointed out when Clara was sad that her Nutcracker was broken and explained that her godfather had to get his tools to fix him. She went on and on about the Mouse King having a swordfight with the Nutcracker prince. Afterwards a grandmother in front of us turned around and said that Clara's play-by-play of the onstage action had really made the production special for her and that Clara had "brought her so much joy."
Every night since we put up the Christmas tree, we have been doing Clara's bedtime routine in the living room. We turn off all lights except for the ones on the tree, then we sing Christmas carols together before we say prayers and read stories, then tuck her into bed. I remember doing this with my mom growing up and it is special to me to see Clara so mesmorized by a brightly lit Christmas tree as well.
My sister mentioned that one tradition she has started with her girls is giving them a Christmas box at the start of December with little Christmas coloring books, advent calendars, Christmas pajamas, and other fun little things in it so they can enjoy them throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas. I loved the idea but didn't have a chance to put things together before December started. But I found this red polka dot nightgown at Pottery Barn Kids and knew it would be perfect for Clara since she is so into dresses these days. She adores it and I think that the tradition of new pajamas at the start of December in addition to new pajamas on Christmas Eve sounds like a pretty good one that we might keep.
I found this chalkboard decoration at a boutique store in Los Gatos with my mom. I wasn't going to buy it until Clara noticed the stick of chalk that was dangling from the ribbon attached to the chalkboard and started chomping down on it (it was in plastic and in her defense, did look like candy). The shop owner noticed the bad behavior and I felt guilty just putting it back with a noticeably broken piece of chalk (silly, I know, since chalk is so cheap, but you break it, you buy it, right?) so I bought it. Fortunately, I actually think it is cute idea and looks nice hanging from a knob on Clara's door or in the living room.
I have more photos of other Christmas things we have been doing (and will surely have more in the next week or two) but I didn't want to wait until after Christmas and end up with one massive post, so this is just the start of our holiday fun. We are feeling very much in the Christmas spirit around here though!