December (12/31/2008)
As usual, December was a rollercoaster of ups and downs for the Hays family.

We started on a downward note: the dryer stopped functioning. As it was difficult to wash clothing for 4 people and then hang it to dry all over the house in cold and humid weather, Mommy quickly persuaded Daddy that the purchase of a new washer/dryer set was of utmost importance, and that it “might as well be a front loader”. After doing hours of research and picking out the newest, coolest, and best gizmo on the planet, Mommy discovered (thankfully before placing the order) that her dream machines were unfortunately half an inch too tall to fit under the cabinetry in her laundry room. Disgruntled and unwilling to begin an unplanned and ultimately unnecessary laundry room remodeling project, she was forced to do more research. Eventually, she ended up finding a slightly “lesser cousin” at Costco for half of what she was originally intending to spend which nevertheless seemed more than an adequate replacement.

On a positive note: Dante landed his first back handspring on the long trampoline during a Northwest Aerials Back Handspring Clinic on December 7th. Although his success rate is low and there is much to be perfected in terms of form, this was a big step for our little gymnast, giving him a great deal of newfound confidence and furthering his ambition.

The following week, Daddy caught some kind of flu and was more miserable than Mommy had seen him in years. She anxiously waited for the entire family to succumb to the virus. As is typical, Izabela seemed to get a touch of something, at which point she slept for a day or two and then was completely fine. Dante hovered on the verge of being sick but didn’t seem to surrender. And Mommy had her usual drawn out “not really sick but not really feeling all that well” episode.

It was also Nutcracker season. This year Mommy took Dante and Baba Yaga to the Pacific Northwest Ballet while Daddy and Izabela recovered. The following Saturday morning, Dante attended Nutcracker camp at Duvall Performing Arts. That same afternoon, Mommy took Dante to Cascade Elite Gymnastics to watch a boy’s gymnastics meet: the Cold Turkey Invitational. This was the first time Dante saw so many boys doing gymnastics at once. Although he missed the two lowest levels in the morning due to Nutcracker camp, he sat through over four hours of Level 6 – Level 10 competition and medal ceremonies. Mommy took the opportunity to talk with several of the Moms to get a better sense of what might be in store for Dante in the future (and not to mention for the rest of the family). Cascade Elite, although it is over 45 minutes away from home, is one of the closest gyms that actually have a boy’s team. So Dante was naturally interested in seeing what it was like there.

Immediately after the meet it began to snow. The next day, the Hays family awoke to about 8 inches of white fluff. Over the course of the next 10 days, a grand total of about 36 inches fell from the sky transforming our forest into a scene straight out of Narnia. It was unbelievably beautiful and great fun for the kids, though Izabela did not appreciate the snow being above her waist at times. She waded through the drifts rather unhappily, but did find solace in learning how to make snow angels and sledding down the driveway in what started out as a track but over the course of the week turned into a ice-walled tube almost good enough for a bobsled.

Sealed off from the rest of civilization by impassable roads, Daddy didn’t really become frustrated until the satellite internet inexplicably stopped working... and then his cell phone broke... and then the power went out... and finally the generator refused to start. Fortunately, in anticipation of a power outage, we had pre-filled the bathtub for flushing toilets (since our well doesn’t work without power). And we were surrounded by frozen water, so not only did we melt ice to drink, but managed to consume very large quantities of snow-cones on a daily basis.

The kids enjoyed their incarceration with Mommy, spending hours playing the piano, reading books and dancing. Daddy, meanwhile, began a forced-circumstance bonding session with his tractor which lasted almost three full 8-hour days, at the end of which the driveway was cleared down to the road. The path was lined with 6 foot tall piles of snow mixed with gravel and dirt, which would take weeks to melt completely. But we were no longer trapped...

Just in time for Wigilia (Christmas Eve Dinner) at Baba Yaga’s house. Baba once again committed sacrilege and served up Polish pierogi with meat to appeal to Daddy’s tastes. She also made a huge number of dishes for the kids to try and which Mommy found delectable. Dante surprised Daddy with his performance of “Silent Night” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on the piano, and then Baba Yaga played while Mommy sang a bunch of Christmas Carols in both English and Polish. Even Dziadzi called and Dante played him his favorite “Indian Song” over the phone.

Everyone was allowed to open Baba Yaga presents on Christmas Eve. Daddy received the “piece de resistance” in the form of a beautiful silver dagger hilted with a rather majestic rendition of the Cracovian Dragon that Baba had purchased while in Cracow. No blood was shed.

Back at home, Christmas Morning was welcomed with the usual childish delights, dominated by the distribution and unwrapping of presents and stockings.

Apparently this year Santa Claus had finally gotten word of Daddy’s bouts of “being problematic” and Daddy was appropriately rewarded with a lump of coal in his stocking. Dante, Izabela and Mommy, however, chose to concentrate on the more positive aspects of Daddy’s personality and decided that what Daddy really needed was his very own trainable RoboRaptor.

Dante was thrilled that Santa had found him chapstick (ordinarily a girly thing) called Lizard Lips (not so girly anymore) for his parched lips. He also found a couple of other things under the Christmas tree: two anatomy books, a Star Wars clone trooper helmet, a Dinosaur-excavating kit, an under-covers-book-reading flashlight, a Tower of Hanoi puzzle (to teach Daddy how to solve), several audio books for trips to school, joke books/CDs, a Hot-Wheels set and a Star Wars Leapster game. Mommy and Daddy suspected that might manage to keep him occupied until his birthday.

It was wonderful to watch Izabela open her presents, as this time she was no longer shy and she was strong enough to rip the paper off on her own. While she enjoyed her bigger gifts, her innocent delight in the smallest of things was truly endearing. We were all amused at her excitement over a flashlight, a silly little wand, a Dora board book from Dante, and a batch of tiny stickers from Daddy, which he declared she could stick anywhere she wanted, even if it wasn’t paper (normally a house rule). Daddy was of course promptly rewarded with dozens of tiny stickers all over his face and all over the living room floor. Mommy left the cleanup to HIM.

Mommy was encouraged to continue her education; she discovered she would have to learn the craft of wand-making. And no holiday was complete without new earrings. But she was most thrilled to learn that she had earned a few moments of Mommy-alone-time in the bathtub with a dozen scented fizz-balls (which would later be complemented by a giant stash from Grandma and Grandpa).

After the (extremely early) morning hullabaloo, and despite the addition of another few inches of snow, we headed out to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. On the way there, we lost a snow chain. Daddy trudged all the way back home on foot, looking for it unsuccessfully, only to discover when he returned that it had been under the car the whole time, wrapped around the axle. While Daddy bore the brunt of the delay, Mommy and Izabela were subjected to hundreds of (bad) jokes from Dante’s new joke books and CDs. While celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa (cookie decorating, Christmas dinner and still more presents), it had apparently been snowing at home the whole time, so we managed to get stuck in the six inches of new snow on the way up our driveway. But Daddy’s “be prepared” instincts ensured the car was stocked with full winter gear and flashlights for everyone to get safely bundled up for the snowy hike up the hill. Daddy celebrated Boxing Day with his pal, The Tractor, by spending most of the day digging out and rescuing his car.

At 9 pm on December 31st, the year ended with a bang. We weren’t prepared for Izabela to be ready to enjoy fireworks quite yet, but for some reason she had really warmed up to them, much to Dante’s delight. This was the first year in which we could light the fireworks in our (snow-covered) lawn. The munchkins watched from patio chairs in the driveway while Mommy took pictures of the event. Izabela then went to bed while Dante was allowed to stay up until midnight for the first time. He watched the festivities and fireworks at the Space Needle on television, but was most excited by Robbie Knievel’s motor cycle jump over the volcano at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. But all in all, he didn’t see what all the fuss was about because, after all, “nothing changed” at midnight.

And thus 2008 became 2009.