I intended on getting posts up this weekend, but an enormous amount of activities kept me away from the computer for pretty much the entire weekend.
Saturday we took the kids to see Santa. It’s something that we do every year. The kids really enjoy it, and while I always stress out the morning of the event I really enjoy it as well. We don’t take them to the mall or any of the other “retail” settings that the big man appears in. We did once when Brendan was just about a year old. We stood in line for ever and a half, and then got up to a very fake scene that happened to have a guy dressed in a Santa suit, plopped the kid down on his lap for 37.8 seconds, got a crappy photo snapped and paid $10 for the priveledge.
One other year, my parents had one of their friends come to the house dressed as Santa to greet the kids. That was a nice experience because we were able to buy personalized gifts for Santa to give out to the kids. Brendan was in pre-school. All he’d been talking about for months and months was that he wanted Santa to bring him a bell and sand timer. As crazy a present as that sounds, it was what he wanted more than anything else that year. His teacher used a bell and sand timer in school to identify when it was time to switch stations, and his favorite job was to be the bell ringer at school. We thought it would be the perfect thing for Santa to bring, and it was. His face absolutely glowed when he opened the gift that Santa handed him and inside was the thing he’d been wishing for. Unfortunately, bringing Santa into the house was not very practical and that was the only year we ever did that. More unfortunately Brendan was 4 going on 5 and Cameron was 6 months old, neither of them remember meeting Santa that night, though Brendan did play with his bell and sand timer for years afterward.
We normally go and see Santa at the local Shriners temple. It’s a tradition that we do every year with Matt’s family since his dad is a member. The kids love to go to the Shrine Santa because prior to going down and seeing the big man, they have a carnival set up. The kids get to spend as much time as they want playing carnival games, winning little trinkets, and interacting with all the clowns. Matt and I were very excited this year as well. In the past 5 years we’ve either had a car seat carrier or a large diaper bag full of a million baby things to drag around with us as we take the kids through the carnival and then Santa. This year was the first year in a very long time that all of our kids could walk, and Kaylee needed just one small backpack with some wipes and a couple of diapers stored inside. Due to the warm December weather we also decided to leave our winter coats at home so we’d only have to deal with carrying the kids jackets further lightening our load.
We got to the event and met up with the family. Brendan was very excited to see everyone and was his happy chattering self. Cameron was also being himself, grumpy and surly to anyone who tried to talk with him. I keep hoping that one of these days he’ll grow out of this toddler-like phase and act appropriately, but no such luck yet. Kaylee was okay at first, a little shy and clingy but not as bad as her brother was being…then the first clown came over. You’d have thought the world was coming to an end. She screamed as if someone were trying to kill her and started clawing her way up my arm. That’s when I knew we were in for an interesting experience. Matt took over responsibility for the boys, while I corraled Kaylee and tried to snap a few photos of the fun. Taking pictures was not very easy when at every other turn a clown turned in our general direction and set Kaylee off again (even if they were clear across the room from us!) After a while I gave up and concentrated on just shielding her from any and all clowns.
After a while the kids tired of playing the carnival games and were ready to go down and visit with Santa. The Shriners set up a little “living room” scene with a couple of easy chairs for Santa and Mrs. Claus to sit in, and a Christmas tree in the background which creates a nice homey scene for your photos. They don’t rush you through the experience either (I’m guessing if your kid took all day, they might eventually ask you to move along, but it always takes us a few minutes to get all of our kids settled, and they never say a word). Brendan got the opportunity to sit with both Santa and Mrs. Claus and chat animatedly with them both.
As a side note, I am now quite certain this is the last year that Brendan will believe in Santa. While we were waiting for the carnival games to open, he asked me if we were at the North Pole because he didn’t understand how Santa, being as busy as he is this time of year, could possibly have time to come to town and meet with us. I prudently explained that Brendan was right, Santa didn’t have time and this was a helper that he sent to do the work for him so he could concentrate on what needed to be done to get ready for Christmas. I thought this would be sufficient, and he seemed to accept my explination. However, as we got downstairs and were in line waiting for our turn with Santa he seemed to realize that there were more holes in the explination to be explored. He began asking how this “helper” got up to the North Pole and told Santa about what he wanted. Unable to think on my feet very well I settled for the simplest answer, I don’t know. Again, he seemed to accept the fact that I didn’t know the intricate travel plans of Santa’s helper, but that gives me the impression that next year he’ll poke more and more holes into the Santa theory until he pops it all together.
But, back to Saturday. Cameron, who’d been a bit better during the carnival games was again being his normal stubborn self. He didn’t want anything to do with Santa, and refused to go within 50 feet of him. Kaylee meanwhile was also scared to go and see Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Matt’s mom was eventually able to convince her to sit on Santa’s lap for a split second, but it wasn’t long before she was lunging for Matt and trying to get down. I stood back with the camera and tried desperately to capture this moment for posterity. The pictures that I got show a grinning Brendan happily perched on Mrs. Claus’ lap, Cameron barely in frame being “pushed” into position by Matt (also in frame) and fighting it every single step of the way, and Kaylee leaning as far as possible off Santa’s lap trying desperately to claw at Matt’s arm as it flitted in and out of her reach.
All in all, this years visit to Santa was a very trying experience and one that I’m glad won’t come again until next year. But the best part of the visit didn’t come until Sunday when Cameron (who I’d have been willing to bet had a miserable time) asked his daddy how soon we could go to the kids party again and visit with Santa. Naughty as he was, he ended up having a really nice time.