Somehow we managed to get to 20 years of gingerbread without really realizing it. Having started as a small get-together with a few friends back in high school and progressing to an all time high of sixty something people last year there has been a lot of change over the years and I'm not just talking about the quantities of candy consumed. This year the final tally was a quiet 41. Some of the original group still make it out (looking at you John) and people still make houses (sometimes). The big shift now is that we are starting to watch our kids make stuff instead of making stuff for them. Elizabeth surprised us by quite competently and calmly working away on a house of her own (using pieces she coopted from others...) creation for a couple of hours with very little input or assistance from her parents. Shout out to various encouraging adults definitely due here (looking especially at Heather, Renée, Simon and Hayley here!) Most of the younger kids have been sticking to making flat cookies and then covering them in copious quantities of candy. While fun this doesn't make for epic creations that rival those of the early years. With several of the kids moving into three dimensional realm we are hopeful that this will swing back the other way. This year we also had a number of regulars who for various reasons couldn't make it and a whole pile of neighbours (some new and many of whom we are only just starting to really get to know) who could make it. It was really nice that a lot of the people knew each other, other than by virtue of seeing each other every year at gingerbread.
It was also the first year that Elizabeth had friends that came without any supervising adults. Adi, Elizabeth and Mila all decorated elephants, designed courtesy of Aunt Heather. There was a moment of wildness when I wondered what we had done but the kids settled down and after that they played more or less nicely. The house was still standing in the end; always a mark of success. Besides, it turns out that even 41 people including four infants and hordes of children six and under still don't make as much of a mess as 6 teenagers did when making gingerbread unsupervised for the very first time. The real mystery is why my mother let us use her kitchen again the following year!
Matthew enjoyed himself very much. He apparently literally climbed on the table, and then used the time honoured toddler decorating technique as follows: Choose candy after taste testing to be sure it is good. Glue candy to a cookie. Remove candy from cookie and pop into mouth. Repeat.
I was surprised there weren't more cookies with a Star Wars theme, but John's tie fighter was awfully cute. Just needed a wookie... Maybe a few baby ewoks... But then I think Wookies and Ewoks would make a positive addition to any movie (don't tell me about the new Star Wars though; haven't seen it yet!) My favourite creation this year was probably Auntie Janice's chocolate covered owl. Tinfoil core, marmalade ears, chocolate paint... What's not to love? A close second was Catherine's Rubik's cube. Her son's obsession with that piece of plastic is directly responsible for Elizabeth's newfound interest! I was also amused when Noemie's creation didn't work so she rescued it by adding much candy and calling it modern art.
Oh and thing we are holding is my chocolate covered gingerbread baby. And yes the baby is doing what you think she is doing... After nearly seven months of cleaning spit up we decided that this needed to be properly immortalized.
Half our old LED lights strings failed to light last year, so we decided that we could get new lights.
I sent Brendan to the store to get something good and he didn't disappoint. The new "icicles" are extremely tacky and I love them. They are even better in person. I may have aspirations to be "that house" on our block (but we'll need more lights next year, Brendan...)
Elizabeth had a slightly smaller list of people she "had" to give gifts to this year, and we were slightly more organized getting it done as a result. I might have been much more organized, except that I didn't really want her to make fudge or toffee while recovering from stomach flu...
She did the cards herself, mostly even without spelling assistance!
I should probably reiterate here how pleased we are with Elizabeth's teacher this year. She communicates!!! Elizabeth is learning stuff! Did I mention she communicates??!! So important.
I got a chance to go along with her class to the NAC on their first field trip of the year. They walked, which was cool and unexpected. Even better, they looked at a map and used the process of getting there as a "learning about maps" and the local neighbourhood. The performance was pretty awesome too. It started as they were walking in (one way to keep the kids quiet!). Called "L\u2019après-midi d\u2019un foehn - version 1" I'd highly recommend it if you have a chance to see it.
The website described it as follows: "Surrounding the ring, an array of inward-facing fans. In the middle, a rather odd-looking puppeteer who is using the breeze from the fans to breathe life into some unconventional characters: dozens of multicoloured plastic bags. Caught on the rising drafts, the little bags perform an astonishing airborne dance, and our imagination soars right along with them! A delicate and poetic juggling act that explores the magic in everyday things."
I found it completely mesmerizing. At first I was suspicious that the bags were controlled by something other than the fans but no. Elizabeth's favourite part was when the performer made the first bag in front of us. Her friend thought it was when the man made all the bags jump into an umbrella (that was quite something). The umbrella sequence was quite lovely, but I think my favourite part was when he tipped them out all over and it was like the bags were suddenly attacking him. The ending was perfect, but I won't spoil it in case you can go see it for yourself. I hope I get a chance to see it again sometime.
Elizabeth had her annual Christmas concert today and we duly headed over to the school to watch. Our video of this auspicious event has a much better view of Elizabeth than we did - apparently we should have arrived MUCH earlier! Unlike kindergarten the kids weren't on stage so it was really hard to see. Luckily Daddy was able to stick the camera way up high in the air with the zoom on...
They sang a few Christmas songs, including one "Petits oiseaux" that Elizabeth insists is partly in "another language". I guess some of the words are sung quickly eg it's usually sung "tee oiseaux" instead of "PEtit". Some of the songs they sang with words, and some they repeated with the note names instead of words eg sol, la, si, la, sol, la, si, sol, la. I was amused to find out that many of the kids were clearly more comfortable singing the notes as the volume increased appreciably (Elizabeth certainly is, I guess they sang the notes more often in class).
There was a xylophone piece. Not being able to see, I thought they were playing bells - it was only later when the grade twos came on that I realized it was the xylophones. Seeing the later grades was instructive; the kids really DID improve...
Then the highly anticipated recorder piece. Let's just say I nearly died laughing. Imagine eighty grade ones playing the recorder at the same time, most of which have no music background. They were NOT good, but OH so proud. The music teacher ran up and down the line hollering out "1", "2", "3" for fingering while small children puffed away with (too much) vim and vigour. It was hilariously awful and I'm just sad we can't share the video widely. As I told Janice, that music teacher deserves danger pay.