In the grand tradition of ornaments on the Wonderland Christmas Tree, we are again adding another installment to the girls' ornament collection this year. If this is new to you, you can read about it in my archives, but that sounds like a lotta work. I can explain the rules just as easily:

Each year I purchase one ornament that will be "hers." Eventually, she'll take all those ornaments with her when she starts a home of her own. The ornament can really be any thing at all, but it has to fit certain self-imposed criteria: it must be uber-cute, it must be unusual, it should be as indestructible as a Christmas ornament can be so it won't break after twenty or thirty years, bonus if it's made of non-traditional materials because I just think that's cool, and most importantly it must represent in some way who that girl was that year.

This year, The Dormouse is in first grade. She's developed a special relationship with her teacher, which is awesome, by the way. I am so pleasantly surprised with the quality of the school where we live -- we had actually planned on moving before she reached school age so she wouldn't have to attend public school in our area and for a number of annoying reasons, we weren't able to accomplish that. (Thanks, for the hand up Wall Street, could you get your boot out of my neck now?) But as it turns out, the school in our neighborhood is awesome and one of the better schools in the county. So far, we've had a really good experience there.

Anyway, her classroom, like many first grade classrooms I imagine, has class pets. These particular pets are a couple of hermit crabs. Early in the year, one of the hermit crabs died and the children of the first grade had to face the sad news and deal with grief and loss. See? It's an education. The teacher floated the idea among the children that if "someone" wanted to purchase a new hermit crab, the gesture wouldn't go unappreciated and The Dormouse begged us to be that "someone." We acquiesced. Then while we were trying to figure out what hermit crabs eat so it wouldn't die over the weekend before we got it to school the next Monday, we found this video and sent it to the teacher to show the kids how the hermit crabs got in their shells.

Man-made shells cast a new light on the lives of hermit crabs

The kids were thrilled and we got twenty some-odd hand drawn thank you cards, which are hilarious because have you ever seen a first grader draw a hermit crab? We, and by extension, The Dormouse, became the heroes of the first grade for awhile.

Anyway, somehow (can't imagine how... la la la), The Dormouse has buddied up to the teacher enough that on long weekends and holidays, we get to take the hermit crabs home to care for them. I made it clear to The Dormouse - and to the teacher - that if there were other kids who wanted the experience the joy of taking home the hermit crabs and possibly killing them and disappointing the entire first grade class, that they should have their turn. Lucky us; no one else wants that rite of passage. I was telling my mother about this one day and she reminded me that I managed to bring home the class bunny over Christmas break when I was in first grade, so I shouldn't be too unhappy about a couple of hermit crabs.

So obsessed with the class hermit crabs is she, in fact, that that seemed an excellent subject for her Christmas ornament this year. Not unsurprisingly, however, it was a pretty tall order to find a hermit crab Christmas ornament (and it's amazing the things you come up with when you Google hermit crab ornaments, by the way). But finally I found probably the one hermit crab ornament in the known universe and pounced on it.

Ta da:

I'm really quite happy with it; it turned out to be much better made than it appeared the interweb. Plus, there are little rhinestones glued all over Harriet the Hermit Crab's shell, so it's actually pretty cool looking and fits The Dormouse's rhinestone-loving personality perfectly.

An ornament for The Caterpillar proved to be much easier to take on this year. This is the first Christmas she's been aware of Santa Claus - though she still has no idea what he does - and loves pointing out Santas wherever we go.

"Momma! Dat's Sinterklaas!"

"Sinterklaas say 'ho, ho, ho.'"

"Sinterklaas. Gave me. A. Tiny candeecaaaaane!"

She says it just like that, "Sinterklaas." Sometimes I wonder if this child is Dutch.

A Santa Claus themed ornament seemed the way to go here... and much easier than finding a hermit crab Christmas ornament anyway. There were too many, in fact, to choose from, but I finally settled on this dude,

from the wonderful seller, McBride House on my latest addiction: etsy. Not only is she a really nice person with more talent in her little finger than I'll ever have in my whole body, but I'm a big fan of James Christensen's artwork and after we corresponded a couple of times, she let me know that she'd been inspired by his paintings so this turned out to be a perfect choice on a couple of different levels.

The downside, however, is that I waited way too long to start the ornament searching process this year, so this chubby Santa may not arrive to hang on the tree before Christmas. I'm still hoping to see it today or tomorrow, but it's coming via international mail so I'm not gonna hold my breath. I am, however, going to keep the tree up so I can photograph her with it and tell her when she's older that she got her ornament well before Christmas because her mother never ever would let anything like not getting your Christmas ornament before Christmas happen - she's too good a mother to ever let that happen. Gotta take advantage of these children while you can, right?