On Saturday morning, I took my five-year-old niece with me to a holiday party that my community service organization was throwing at a nursing home. She did a lovely job passing out cards, gifts, cake and drinks to the residents. She wasn't as on board with singing Christmas carols, but that was a minor quibble.
After we were finished with the party, we went to lunch and then went shopping. My sister had given me some money with which my niece could shop for her parents and baby brother. I made no attempt to influence my niece's gift selections in any way (while keeping a running total in my head). She ended up choosing a nice baby gift, a silly gift for her dad and a present for her mom that I would venture to say is something a little more kid-oriented that mom-oriented, but still pretty good. I made sure to tuck the gift receipt into my sister's gift, but I doubt they'll end up returning anything.
My favorite thing about the whole operation: my niece's quick decisions. She and I have a great future of hit-and-run shopping trips ahead of us.
I'd planned all along to make a gingerbread house that we could decorate, but I hadn't actually made the gingerbread pieces yet. Luckily, my niece spotted a gingerbread house kit at Target, and I was happy to pay $9.99 for already made construction-grade cookies, frosting mix and almost all the candy we'd need. It went together pretty quickly and I could tell my niece had a great time deciding where all the candy decorations would go.
We spent the rest of the evening watching "The Incredibles" and "Shrek" in between making homemade pizza and a cake. My niece didn't stay up too far past her bedtime, and I finished the evening by reciting "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" from memory, with corrections supplied by my niece where appropriate.
We had a lovely time and I got some good Christmas gift hints from her (she saw "A Little Princess" at school and loved it, so I'm going to buy her that DVD and also a DVD of "The Secret Garden"). It was just what I needed to get in the proper frame of mind for the upcoming holidays.