~ The Santa Claus Session ~

“The stories my kids will tell one day depends on me. I am writing their book” 
 - Kellee Hampton

This is the best day of my LIFE! - Luci shouted from the backseat on the way home, she was right.  This was the best day ever.  But let me back up a bit.  Let me back up about 2 weeks.

2 weeks ago: 
We counted down the days, we practiced our manners, the kids were pumped.  We were going to see SANTA!  They could hardly contain their squeals on our way to the mall. They fidgeted in line, peeked around corners, prying for a glance of him, and waiting patiently for their moment with the big man.  
It was their turn.  As they timidly approached Santa, I could see both of them try to simmer their enthusiasm...waiting patiently for him to make the first move.  But he didn’t.  Santa really didn't do much of anything.  
He didn’t "Ho Ho Ho."
His belly didn’t shake like a bowl full of jelly.
And the worst part?  He didn’t even ask my kids what they wanted for Christmas. 
Santa politely smiled and nodded at them, then pointed at his knees for them to climb on and then pointed at the Camera.  Some lady jingled a loud bell shouting "look here kids!"  One click of the lens later it was over.  Santa handed them a Candy Cane, barely making eye contact and politely wished them a “Merry Christmas.”  Rocky looked like he wanted to say something, but just then Santa turned his body and waved the next kid in line over. 

I was left with a really crappy photo and 2 children who had just had the spirit of Christmas sucked out of them.  It was uncomfortable, it was awkward, and it was sad. 
Sure, we knew Libby Lu was going to lose her marbles on his lap, she’s 1.  But Rocky and Luci are not.  They are 4 and 7 and perfectly aware of the magic and beauty this time of year brings. 
Dare I say Santa was almost crabby?   And look, I don't completely blame the guy.  That suit has to be awful- hot and itchy.  And he’s probably been kicked in the crotch more than he’d like to count.  But we still left the mall feeling like crap.  We were deflated, someone let the air out of our Christmas spirit and I read it all across the faces of my kids.
My husband and I second guessed everything on the ride home.  “We shouldn’t have gone so late, he’s probably been there all day...Maybe he wasn’t feeling well.”
I just couldn’t settle with this, I felt so yucky about the whole thing.  I tossed and turned.  I felt like I had let my kids down.  I had hyped up this Santa visit for days and it was a big flop.

And it's not that I'm trying to shelter my kids from all of life's disappointments.  When Luci gets a boy toy instead of a girl toy in her happy meal we don't turn around and go back, and when Rocky waited in line for an hour to meet his favorite Hockey player and the line was cut off before him, I think it was an important lesson.  Life is full of disappointments, but not now- not Christmas, and not Santa. 
So, I did what any other completely insane totally normal mother would do.
I rented my own damn Santa.  
And you know what else?  If you flip through the yellow pages long enough and call a few petting zoos you can find a Reindeer too.  Turns out ol' Prancer had the afternoon free. 

And then, last Monday, I woke them up in a hurry and exclaimed:

 “Paw Paw was driving his bus at work and he thinks he saw Santa walking one of his Reindeer in the park.  Hurry, hurry put on your clothes let’s go, let’s go!”
Pulling up to the park, they craned their necks and pressed their noses to the car window, straining for a glimpse. They spilled out of the car nearly on top of each other and hauled it across that grass, and just behind a tree their little feet came to a screeching halt.  Heads dropped, mouths open. Paw Paw was right, because there stood Santa and his Reindeer.  
Santa was waving wildly at them- “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he shouted.  "Hello Rocky and Luci!  Merry Christmas!"  He bent down, arms wide open -  Come give Santa a hug!  I want you to meet my Reindeer, Prancer.
Not only did Santa know their names, he also knew exactly what they wanted for Christmas and he knew if they’d been naughty or nice.  Rocky’s eyes grew wider and wider with each detail Santa knew.
They had their own playdate with Santa. They talked about the North Pole and how many elves he had.  They talked about what cookies he likes, they took Prancer for a walk, and Santa awnsered all 783 questions Rocky had about exactly how Reindeer can fly without wings.  Luci showed Santa her best dance routine, he tossed around a football with Rocky, and they talked about baseball (Santa is a Cubs fan! Booooo!)
Be still my Christmas be-dazzled heart, this is amazing.  I think I had red and green glitter pumping through my veins.  It was more magical and beautiful than I even imagined.

They say necessity is the mother of invention.  And I needed my kids to have this experience. 
I’m never going to stop pushing the bar, thinking outside the box, and wanting more for my children- taking great measures to expose them to as much happiness into their little lives as I can.  Not through gifts or material things, but through life experiences.  Stretching their hearts as far as I can.  It’s the littlest things that can make the biggest impact. 
I ended my day in a heap of tears.  Thankful for my kids, warped from exhaustion, and just overall ecstatic for the real and true Christmas Spirit I saw in the faces of my kids. 
“The stories my kids will tell one day depends on me, I am writing their book.”
...and one day when Rocky and Luci are older, I hope they will laugh at many stories of their childhood including the time their crazy mother hired her own Santa and Reindeer. 
This experience was so amazing to us and our family that I will be offering it to you and yours next year.   If you would like your child to have their own personal playdate and photo session with Santa in 2012 just buzz me a quick email  (KellyManno@yahoo.com) and I will put you on my contact list.  I’ll start making arrangements in fall of next year and you will hear from me then.  Until then have a beautiful Christmas with your family. 
P.S.  For those of you who have noticed, I am missing a child in these photos.  Libby Lu still isn't quite ready to hang out with Santa.  I didn't expect her to.  We gave it a shot, but sister was not having it.  So we let her spend the rest of the day with Paw Paw.  There is always next year. 
P.P.S.  My husband is a Saint and everyone should know this.   I know he starts to cringe every time a phone call begins with me saying "Oh my gosh, I have this awesome idea!"  Pulling this off was an insane team effort which included getting up at some God-awful hour and hauling a heavy couch halfway through a park, tying snowflakes to trees, getting city permission for the shoot,  and he was just as much a part of this as I was.  I am so lucky to have a partner in my life who wants the same things for our kids that I do. I love you honey, I know I go overboard sometimes, but it's all for them.  Thank you for loving me in good times and crazy times.

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