02 December 2008

Sick for Santa and Charlie Brown trees

Savannah has been sick the past few days with a high fever, sore throat, and runny nose. Her cousins have been true to their nickname (the germ factory) every year we've spent time with them. One night she was in and out with fever dreams, crying out and mumbling those dream words that sink into the pillow without registering any meaning, so I slept beside her and talked her through the night. When I was little and had fever dreams, I always had the same one through which I was paralyzed to help myself and that ended with my death. But when Savannah woke up in the morning she said she dreamed all about dancing with the Nutcracker and sugar plum fairies and meeting Santa...some fever dream. No wonder why she's not afraid of anything.

Today she was mostly fine with the kind of runny nose that you get when crossing Rudolf with a dripping faucet, and red, watery eyes. We couldn't be without tissues for anymore than 3 minutes. I told the little darling that she had to get well soon so she didn't sneeze in the batter for Santa's cookies and make him sick too.

This morning we had school again. For December we do a special calendar that Savannah looks forward to everyday. Once a day after her reading lesson and homework, she opens one door and discovers a new activity to help us prepare for the holidays each day. Some days there are also special little treats behind the doors, but she's not allowed to peek ahead. It's all about anticipation, patience and surprise.

Here's her calendar with the little doors she opens to reveal a new activity to prepare for Christmas. Somewhere in there we have to make hot pepper jelly, candied almonds, toffee and flavored popcorn.

Yesterday we did our house cleaning to prepare for the holidays and today was her day to pick out and decorate the tree. Picking out the Christmas tree is Savannah's job and she's very good at it. Every year we have a different tree and every year it's wonderful. This year we learned some important lessons while selecting a tree. We decided that since we want to plant some evergreens in our yard in a loose zig-zag to give our lovely neighbors a bit more privacy at the top of our driveway and because we want to do things as green as possible, we would purchase a whole tree with the root ball attached. The tree would sit in a lovely green bucket that I picked up at the local Agway in our greenhouse, which remains 20 degrees colder than the rest of the house on most days, perfect for a live evergreen. Perfect that is until we picked up the tree and it weighed 200 pounds. So, on to plan B, this tree is going right into the ground with mulch and protection around its leaves for the winter this week. Savannah was crushed about not having this tree as her Christmas tree but I told her we could get dressed up in our hunter orange clothes and hike through the woods until we found our own tree. She found lots of trees that she liked - mostly 40 feet tall - but we finally stumbled on a little Charlie Brown tree that needed to be removed since it was dwarfed in a dense grove of much taller evergreens that had crowded it out. And Savannah loved it. She told the tree that she would be nice to it and give it water to drink and sunlight and pretty things to wear if it came home with her. I cut it down and we gently dragged it home to decorate.

Yes, it is a slightly bent, sparse little Charlie Brown tree, but it needed to come down anyway, and it's really ours, we cut it down ourselves on our own land, and Savannah loves it. What more could you want in a Christmas tree?

Just in case it wasn't clear - we love nutcrackers. Here are some of the two-foot tall ones that find their way into our living room every Christmas. When I was little my stocking always had a nutcracker soldier on it. Now Savannah loves them. It's a compliment to Daddy when she asks him to be her Nutcracker and dance to Tchaikovsky with her.

Savannah's leather armchair with a little Christmas cushion she helped to make last year.

For decorating the tree we have ornaments from all over the world that represent some of our favorite memories. Most of the rest of the ornaments were handmade by me. Today we found an ornament from our trip to Hawaii, one from Kevin's race in Osaka, a bell from Chinatown where Kev and Savannah ate their first dim sum, the golden aspen leaf from Colorado, the soldier bell I found in Camden, the wreath Savannah made at the library's holiday festival... Each ornament brings back memories of times spent together. I find it nearly impossible to buy over-the-counter, generic ornaments now no matter how shiny they are because it's so wonderful to unpack these little memories and re-live them for a few minutes every year as we find their perfect spot on the tree.

At our local Agway, they always have interesting farm-related toys for kids. We picked up a grasshopper Grow-A-Head for Savannah on our last trip and it has become her science project for the next week. She's learning a handful of new words and concepts: seeds, roots, germination, chlorophyll, condensation and absorption with this project. It's pretty good timing because we can model the same concepts with the Christmas tree. She has a science activity sheet for the week (in addition to the daily reading and writing lessons plus homework).

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