If we can step away from the loaded expectations and emotional baggage of the holiday season, we can take a moment to appreciate the glory that is Christmas Break.
I hate to brag about this, but basically I went to graduate school for seven years so that I can live my life on an academic schedule. Which means I have a glorious month between the end of classes in December and the start of classes in January. And it. is. nice.
I went into the office for a few days after classes ended, to finish grading (it was a slog) and to get myself organized for the spring semester. But now I've set my e-mail away message and I am On Break.
...Of course, I'm spending part of that break prepping for two classes I haven't taught before that I'm tackling this spring, but that's part of the fun. One is Shakespeare (!?!) which is not my field, but something I volunteered to teach because I enjoy it. The other is a course on Gothic fiction, which is totally in my wheelhouse, but I'm still reading up on stuff because it's fun. My job can be really exhausting and frustrating and even demoralizing when students disappoint me, but it can also be super great.
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David scheduled a massage for me on Thursday of last week, which was wonderful. I feel like it kicked my Christmas break into gear, setting just the right chill-the-eff-out tone. I got a little crazy and bought a package of incense in the gift shop, so now our living room smells like a hippie lounge every evening and I find it very soothing.
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The girls are fun in lots of ways. For one thing, dark and cold nights make early bedtimes easy, and we are loving that (we've actually had time to watch hour-long TV programs after they are asleep! This adult-time thing is marvelous!).
For another thing, they are so excited about Christmas. They've left the presents under the tree alone this year, which is an improvement over last year, when I had to keep all the presents put away until Christmas Eve (four-year-old Zuzu is a walk in the park compared to three-year-old Zuzu, and I thought that life was three-year-old Zuzu was easier than two-year-old Zuzu, so basically I hope things keep moving in this direction).
They are excited to find Elsa each morning, but completely undaunted by the idea of her spying on them and reporting her behavior to Santa. Since the spy-elf IS admittedly creepy, I don't really mind too much. Next year I think we're going to revise Elsa's visit a little bit. For one thing, we're going to have her show up later (maybe like 10 days before Christmas, as my friend Kaley suggested), and I think she'll bring a note with suggested acts of Christmas kindness that the girls can do.
Simple things that are not a pain in my ass. Like deliver Christmas cards to the neighbors. Help mom put away laundry. Donate some piggy bank money to the Salvation Army bell ringer.
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The unwrapping a book-a-day advent project is going well after getting off to a rough start (when Zuzu opened books 2-5 all on December 1 while David and I were still at the dinner table). I've hidden the books away, and I just pull out the one that the girls get to open. The idea was to alternate nights, but instead they sort of descend on the book together in a vulture-like frenzy of unwrapping. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done and no one has cried over it (yet).
They are super into the story of Baby Jesus, and over the weekend we started the Donkey in the Living Room book.
If you're not familiar with this book, it's a 9 day countdown to Christmas. The book comes with a little nativity set and the idea is to wrap or hide each of the figurines and then open one per day leading up to Christmas.
Our variation on this is that we're using the Little People Nativity set that Coco got from my friend Erin as a Christmas gift on Friday. I don't wrap the figurines, but I hide them (in plain sight, but tucked away on a windowsill or peeking out from the side of a pillow). The girls get to find them and then I hold the figurine while it tells its story (the stories are written in first person from the point of view of each person/animal). Then they get to place it in the stable. So far, the donkey, cow, and sheep are crowded into the stable with Mary forlornly looking in from outside, but I'm expecting the holy family will eventually oust the animals from their beds, just like in the real story!
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A couple of weeks ago, we recently checked out a book from the library: Fancy Nancy Stellar Stargazer. Zuzu selected Fancy Nancy (whom she calls Fancy Wancy, which makes me laugh) and I agreed because it's a library book, why not.
(Side note: I have a complicated relationship with Fancy Nancy because one time one of my Wash U students did an interesting analysis of her that started with the assumption that Nancy teaches girls to be independent and dress the way they want to, but ended up arguing that Fancy Nancy may actually demonstrate harmful expectations of beauty and femininity. As a result, I'm wary of Fancy Wancy Nancy.vBut I'm trying to limit the enforcement of my feminist agenda, Cinderella Ate My Daughter style).
I was pleased to discover that this book was less about being fancy and more about learning about the stars. It was actually educational, so we read it a couple of times. Zuzu was particularly taken with the glow-in-the-dark cover.
ANYWAY, the real story here is that last night I had gathered all the library books by the back door to return them today, which of course sparked renewed interest in reading the books they hadn't looked at in a week. David remarked on how cute the girls looked, flipping through the pages of the books on their own while we ate dinner. A few minutes later, he looked up to see Zuzu sitting at the desk in the living room and said, "Zuzu, are you being naughty?"
(If you have to ask, the answer is always yes.)
She had taken her "Fancy Wancy" book and written her name across one of the pages in black crayon.
Because she didn't want to take it back to the library. She wanted to keep it.
Now, you may be thinking, Where would she get the idea that writing her name in a library book would mean that she gets to keep it?
Well, believe me, I asked her this question. And she started talking about a book that her teacher read, and the little girl writes in the library book. And she gets in trouble.
Bells started ringing in my head... Had I read this story? I had.
She learned this lesson from a little girl named Ramona Quimby.
Ramona writes in one of Beezus's library books. Yes, she gets into trouble and they have to pay for the book, but in the end, because she buys the book from the library, she gets to keep it.
Today after school, we're going to the library so Zuzu can talk to the librarian about what she did and pay for the damage with her piggy bank money, but we are NOT keeping this book!
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Well, time to get back to my Christmas break regime of daytime yoga (courtesy of YouTube), and then Hallmark Christmas movie watching, reading about Gothic novels, and maybe working up the energy to venture out to the grocery store before I pick up the girls and go to the library to make Zuzu apologize to a librarian. Defacement of library property aside, break is the BEST, you guys.