Monday, December 28, 2009


Once the rush of cookie baking and event hosting was finally over, Daddy and I managed to get most of the presents wrapped and Smunch's bike put together well before the big day itself. We carefully stowed the bike in the locked garden shed, only to find that I'd left it unlocked after planting 120 tulip and daffodil bulbs in the backyard one day. Naturally, that meant that Smunch walked in the house one day declaring "I found my bike!"...despite the fact that he had no earthly reason to go in the garden shed except that he'd bizarrely decided that a rake needed to be put away. Seriously, what kind of kid does that?

I'd also mail ordered a nice shirt for Daddy before Christmas and stashed it away somewhere safe, only to forget - absolutely and completely - where I put it. I still haven't found it. I figure it may take a couple of years.

All in all though, we were pretty well prepared for the big day to arrive. We wrapped most of the presents well before Christmas Eve, so I spent my morning trying to make sense of the kitchen while the kids delivered cookies and the afternoon putting together some cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Our fancy dinner consisted of Chinese takeout and chicken nuggets. Yummy.Gram and Grandpa came over shortly before the kids' bedtime. We usually open presents with them on Christmas Eve just so we can all focus on the kids in the morning. That was fun. I got a bunch of fancy new camera gear, including a killer new telephoto lens, that makes me look like I know what I'm doing even though I really have no clue. Some samples of my new photo capabilities in a later post. My parents showered us with little gifts from their recent trip to New Zealand, we had cider and cookies and they left around 9 o'clock, which is when all my best work began.
[Daddy's new Galileo Thermometer]
When my sister and I were little, my dad always enjoyed putting together little treasure hunts with rhyming clues that led you all over the house and outside before you found your big present. His most famous treasure hunt was the one which ended in a clue about how Santa couldn't fit my new bike down the chimney, so he'd had to leave it outside. And there I found it, strapped to the chimney. This story is legend in my family.

I don't know that I've quite got the stuff of legends in me, but I did a passable job. And since Smunch already knew he was getting a bike, I figured he ought to have to work for it. I spent a couple of hours composing 9 or 10 clues for each kid, mostly four line poems about this or that. I didn't know how they'd take to it, but I figured it gave my brain a little workout at least.

Christmas morning came and Smunch got up around 5 and was sent back to bed. Both kids were finally up at 7 and snuggled in bed with us for a little while before we called the grandparents and had them come over for the great present-opening extravaganza.The kids were thrilled to get little remote controlled helicopters. Smunch got a big new set of Snap Circuits and more bits for his Fischer-Technik erector set. Mam got a family of handsomely dressed squirrels. And have you ever seen a little girl more excited to get books?These were two books about Dorrie the witch. The one whose socks never match and whose hat is always on crooked. I've learned that many of my contemporaries don't remember these books, but they were a memorable part of my childhood and I was thrilled when Mam brought home a couple of them from the library at school. They're hard to find these days and she was truly excited to get two of her own.

Santa brought them the requested Nerf guns and "spy gear". They got a LOT of spy gear, actually, including his and hers binoculars from Gram.They went through their presents at such a whirlwind pace that I'm not sure they even know about everything they got (which is just as well in some cases). By the time they were done and the room was littered in paper, it was clear that Smunch had forgotten all about that bike he'd seen in the shed.

"How was your Christmas?" I asked. "Did you get everything you wanted?"
"Yes!" they both said. "It was good."

So a feigned that I'd forgotten their last presents and suddenly remembered. I handed Gavin a tiny little wrapped box and he started his journey with this clue.
"You thought you knew what present you'd get
When you went to the shed and saw it, I bet
So, go back there and see what's in store
If you want a cool present, you might have to look more."

Mam followed him everywhere he went, around the yard and through the house where he found this final clue in his soccer cleats:

"Well, here you are at clue number nine
And you thought you'd get to your present just fine
But we've sent you off on this silly goose chase
In hopes that your memories might be erased
'Cause we really wanted you to have a big day
Surprises are fun. At least that's what they say
You've been in the house and you know it's not there.
It's in the wrong house, the house in the air."

My clues weren't the least bit tricky for him. He found his bike in the tree house with no problem at all. Even though it wasn't a surprise, he had a blast on his little treasure hunt.
And then he got to do it all over again because Mam can't read, so he read all her clues to her too. And I had to restrain him from running off before he'd finished reading to her. I think his brain was working faster than his mouth. His speech was pretty bumpy Christmas morning, so that didn't help.Mam's clues were more limerick style. Somehow that worked out. Of course, Smunch doesn't know how to read a limerick, really, but that's beside the point. Mam started off with:

"Now that Smunch has looked, you must know
This can't be the end of the show
We knew you didn't not need a bike
So we thought, "What thing would she like?"
To the toy box we want her to go."

They were a little easier than Smunch's clues and with him helping her along, she sped through the clues at a pace that caused some concern. Because the plan was for Mam and Smunch to be outside while Daddy brought her gift down from upstairs and put it in her room. And although she had three clues in a row outside, Daddy almost didn't make it back in time to hear Gavin reading:

"We didn't know quite what you'd wish
But we thought you'd like critters that swish
So this hunt's going to bloom
Now head for your room
And find your bowl full of fish"

My little one is many things, but slow on the uptake is not one of them. "It's a fish tank!" she screamed as she ran out of the room. Phew! I thought. She'd never mentioned getting fish, it was just something I thought she'd like and Daddy was up for it, so we got in totally over our heads setting up an aquarium for her. Think she likes it? Her two little zebra danios are named Magic and Sparkle. We're hoping to add a couple of guppies in a few weeks.And then it was time for ridiculous amounts of delicious food for breakfast.And hours of cleaning up and playing with new toys. Mam spent hours painting her new cardboard playhouse. It was so much fun to see what she'd paint next!Smunch got to work with his Snap Circuits, of course.By mid-afternoon, I was back into cooking for dinner. I decided to make the kids sweet potatoes to go with our ham...the kind I remember fondly from my childhood, with toasted marshmallows on top. Only it turned into a sort of sweet potatoes flambé in the oven...which was more funny than scary, especially in retrospect when I remember myself opening the oven and saying "Oh no. Ohhhh NO. Ohnoohnoohno." It was easy to remedy by blowing the flames out, scraping the black marshmallows off and starting over again more carefully. Otherwise, it was an uneventful and relaxing evening to end our holiday.

As I put Mam to bed for the night, I asked her about her Christmas. "On a scale of 1 to 10," I said, "how was your Christmas this year? One would be a kinda rotten Christmas and 10 would be your best Christmas ever."

"What would 11 mean?" she replied.

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