The jig is up everybody. Evie knows. I mean she knows. She’s now a part of the Grand Conspiracy, if you catch my drift. Ah, that wonderful, magical moment as a child where you find out that everything your parents ever told you is a lie.
Being that Evie is a rather bright girl, I always thought she’d catch on a little sooner. But Evie’s kind of funny like that. She seems to want to hold on to her childhood with both hands, and goes out of her way to stay naive about things (I endorse this attitude wholeheartedly!). So I think she’s maybe had an inkling for a long time, but intentionally didn’t think about it. I mean, this is Evie here: this wasn’t exactly beyond her reasoning skills.
Now, this is kind of a strange time of year for this sort of revelation to come about. However, you’ll recall that Evie recently participated in a summer rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I think it’s somewhat impossible to get a bunch of first grade-age kids together and have them contemplate Santa without *someone* spilling the beans. From what Evie said, it sounds like one of the student teachers even confirmed it for them. EVEN STILL she held on to the magic for a couple more weeks, just as long as she could.
She has also been losing teeth like it’s going out of style, and we could tell she was testing us. We’d say something like, “Well, if your tooth falls out while you are at Grandma’s, the Tooth Fairy might not be able to find you,” and she’d give us this piercing, calculating look (all the better, we thought, when that dollar we slipped Grandma shows up under her pillow!).
Finally she broke down and asked us, and I have to say, it broke my heart to tell her. She’s just such an imaginative girl, and *so sure* that magic and fairies and Santa are a real thing that can really happen. How badly I want her to stay that way forever! I was just worried that this news would break her, and it’d be all cigarettes, haunted eyes, and jaded ennui from here on out.
She took the whole thing pretty well. For days, you could just see her little mind churning on the subject, walking through the implications. As each new aspect struck her, she kept coming back to us and asking for further clarifications. (“So you wrap all the presents?”,”So you eat the cookies and milk?”,”What about the Easter bunny?”, “That’s why you want us to go to sleep!”) She seemed to have a burning need to let everybody know that she was in on the secret.
She especially felt the burning need to let her little brother know the secret. We tried to explain to her about the Grand Conspiracy, and how most everyone in the country helps keep this secret from little kids (which is actually really weird when you think about it). We told her that she’s part of the Grand Conspiracy now, and it’s her duty to make sure that Ollie believes. It was touch and go for a bit (there was a lot of exaggerated, “I’m going to try to stay up to see the Tooth Fairy tonight, amiright Oliver???”), but she seems to have settled into it a little bit now.
She also seemed to think that, having been so initiated, she would immediately get to participate. (“Do I get to stay up and put the presents under the tree?”, “So, should I just give you the tooth and you give me the money?”, “Do I get to hide the eggs this year?”,”Do I get to eat the cookie this year?”) To each question we would reply, “Nothing changes. Everything stays the same.” That only seemed to sink in until the next question.
At least she has a good four months to come to grips with everything. I have a feeling she’ll eventually break and spill the beans to Ollie — I doubt little brothers ever make it quite so long as older sisters — but for now she seems to be feeling quite grown up about the whole thing, and enjoying being in the “know”.
Evie: “I bet poor people who don’t have any houses try to be naughty all year so Santa will bring them coal for a fire.”
::watching a freight train go by::
Evie: “I bet all of this coal is on it’s way to Santa for all the naughty girls and boys.”
Me: “I’m wearing these pants because I’m saving my good jeans for court.” <– Something tells me I wasn’t the first person to speak these words
Me: “Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve. Do you know what happens on Christmas Eve?”
Ollie: “Hating the Whos?”
::Me, jumping out from under a bridge::
Me: “Who’s that clip-clopping on my bridge?”
Me: “Now I’m going to eat you all up!”
Ollie: “No way, José!”
Sara: “What do you want for Christmas? You can ask Santa for anything you want.”
Sara: “What was the best part about going to the restaurant?”
Sara: “What was the best part about eating?”
Ollie: “The mustard.”
Sara: “[Nala] is like, I am old, I don’t care anymore. I am going to bite the people I don’t like, and steal the milk from the children.”
::Man panhandling with a McDonald’s cup::
Evie: “I guess that man didn’t even have enough money to buy cardboard to make a sign!”
In which we try to answer the age old question: does Santa’s neck mach his suit?
After purchasing our land, we apparently weren’t quite ready to return to the Big City, so we decided to stop and see Santa. At the Bass Pro Shop.
Now, you might be thinking that the Bass Pro Shop is a strange place to go see Santa. However, there were a few major advantages:
- Conveniently located off the highway (important when we usually have to go pretty far out of our way, a.k.a. the suburbs, to see him)
- Much smaller lines than we have experienced at various malls
- They give you a free picture (because they’re trying to draw you into their shop, making money on you in other ways than directly on Santa)
- Commercial Santas are WAY better than crazy-Frank dressing up in his homemade Santa suit (in other words, a big upgrade from what we saw last year)
- They had some awesome decorations
The combination of #4 and #5 really improves the quality of the pictures. Santa was very authentic. And even though you can’t see the animatronic elves in the picture, I never had an actual reindeer in the background before (you really can’t tell it is stuffed in the picture!).
The downside was that there were no less than three different types of shooting games for the kids to play while they were waiting for Santa. If you’re a hunter, I’m sure you’re bristling at me indicating that this is a problem. Let me remind you that shooting guns means something a little different in our neighborhood, and I’m not really ready to have that conversation with my 4 year old.
I definitely felt like we stood out like a family of sore thumbs there.
Sara: “Are these people in costume?”
Sara: “Do you think they wear this stuff every day, or did they put it on to come here?”
Methinks it was time for the City Mice to go back where they came from.
I would definitely go back there next year. Quick, hassle free, and the whole place is sort of amazing, even when you take Santa out of it. There’s a two story waterfall! Mounted wolves attacking a mounted moose! Camouflage pick-up trucks fake ramping off of fake rocks! Several tanks of live, large fish swimming around! I’m not sure that the kids found Santa to be more interesting than the rest of the place. I certainly didn’t.
We had a very, very busy weekend, but it was a really good weekend. Well worth it!
On Friday, Oliver and I went to a Chanukah party at Evie’s school. The party afterwards was fun, but for me the best part was going to temple. I had never been inside the temple (any Jewish temple), and I was very curious. It was so much fun! My favorite part of the day was seeing all the kids spinning like dreydles while singing the dreydle song. We definitely never had that much fun at church when we went for school!
At the party they got wooden dreydles and some chocolate gelt, so Evie and I played dreydle at home. It was a lot of fun, and simple enough that Evie could understand, even though she couldn’t spin the dreydle very well. Unfortunately, we eventually will run out of gelt, since she keeps eating it (we didn’t let her eat it all at once).
In an interesting dichotomy, Saturday morning we went to see Santa. Well actually, first off, Evie and I made oatmeal and danced our butts off to Christmas music. There are actually two radio stations in Chicago that play only Christmas music, so we had our choice. The funny thing about listening to Christmas music on the radio is that you’re constantly saying, “Didn’t they just play this song?” They all sort of run together after a while. But it certainly put us in the Christmas mood.
So anyway, they tried to have some sort of holiday celebration in the neighborhood with all day crafts, lights, etc. The only part we were interested in was seeing Santa, since we usually have to drive way out to the suburbs or something, fighting big crowds, crying kids, and barely escaping with our life. So we showed up to the restaurant listed, camera in hand.
Now, I’ve been to that restaurant before, and I wasn’t really sure where they were going to put Santa, or how it was going to work. It was as sort of claustrophobic and disorganized as I feared. Also, they tried to push their “Christmas brunch” on us, and when we said we were only there to see Santa, they charged us $5. Oh well. Between that and the parking, it was still well worth it to see Santa in the neighborhood with a very limited wait.
Evie was a little nervous about Santa. It took us two tries to get her up there. I had to agree to stand with her, but when she got up there she went on his lap without me. She was too shy to talk to him (and anyway, she couldn’t think of anything she wanted, which I take to mean that we are the best parents ever!). We assumed that Oliver would sob his eyes out, since he’s been going through a mommy-only (and-very-occasionally-daddy) phase lately. However, he just stared at Santa with huge round eyes the whole time, and never cried once. I think he was just like, “What is this crazy talking beard thing??”
Overall, everything went about as well as possible. As far as Santa goes, he was ho-ho-hoing like there was no tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him jollier. By the end of the day, his throat must have been raw.
The ironic thing was, we ended up spending the rest of the day shopping in the suburbs anyway. I don’t know how the rest of the neighborhood festivities turned out. It was cold and snowy, and outdoor crafts seemed a little much. Maybe we’ll give it a try next year if they do it again.
Evie and I also found time to play in the snow for awhile, and we made a nice (read small) snowman in the front yard. Afterwards, Sara made us some hot cocoa (and Sara’s homemade hot cocoa is to die for!)
On Sunday we put up our Christmas tree. We have an artificial tree, so we left the bottom row of branches off, so Oliver can’t reach up and topple the whole thing. It actually looks pretty good without the bottom row (and more room for presents!). We also hung up the stockings and replaced Evie’s butterfly lights with Christmas lights. Evie was really excited about all of this, but eventually lost interest and I decorated the tree alone. She gets pretty excited about the Christmas tree though, and she’s upset that we don’t keep it lit 24/7.
Sunday night, Evie and I had a sleepover. After supper we both got ready for bed and then put our sleeping bags out in the family room. We watched a movie and, in a bizarre twist, Evie wanted to watch an Elmo potty video. So, not only was there not a plot per say, but she’s already seen it, and the whole thing is set up to convince you to use the potty, which she has been for a long, long time. She didn’t care though, she loved it. She said to me, “If there is a scary part, I can hide in my sleeping bag.” Not a lot of scary parts in Elmo potty videos!
Afterwards, when we turned out the lights and we were whispering and giggling, she said to me, “Daddy, you’re my best friend.”
Unfortunately, the night went downhill fast. Evie was really sick and she was having trouble breathing through her nose. She was waking up every 30 minutes or so. Finally, around 11:30 or so, she woke up with a really tight chest and a croupy cough.
I gave her some medicine and broke out the humidifier. We moved into her room so she could sleep in her bed, and the humidifier would be more effective. I slept on her floor for the rest of the night, and it seemed to go a little better after that. However, it was a disappointing end to our special night. It’s always hard to see your kids sick.
However, the sleepover was still the highlight of a very nice, very busy weekend. I didn’t even mention the part where Oliver managed to cut his finger on something and crawled around in the kitchen for like 20 minutes afterwards, spreading blood on about every surface he could manage, including his, my and Sara’s clothes! He didn’t seem to mind though.
So, except for that, it was about all you could ask from a December weekend!
We took Evie to see Santa last night at the zoo, and I have to say, everything went better than I could have expected.
The big question of course, was what she would do when it came time to see Santa. She had been excited in theory, but when we got to the line, she seemed a little quiet. I was worried that would translate into not wanting to talk to Santa, but I was way off on that one. She had no issues whatsoever, and after I told her to speak up so Santa could hear her, she shouted the rest of her answers to him. In fact, if anything, Santa was more afraid of her than she was of him. She expected to climb right up on his lap, but he was talking to her a little bit first, probably feeling her out to see if she was going to cry or something, and she was a little miffed that she didn’t get to sit right away.
She seemed a little dazed by the whole experience, but happy to chomp away at the green candy cane Santa gave her. All and all it was a pretty pleasant experience, with a really small line and no professional photographers. We much prefer to to take our own pictures, and sometimes they don’t let you do that if they want you to pay for a picture (see last year).
After that we wandered around the zoo for awhile to look at the Christmas lights. They have a couple of displays set to music, and Evie really dug that. Especially since she got to hear her two favorites, Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. We’ve been listening to the Christmas radio station in the car, but they never, ever play Jingle Bells. So Evie usually spends the whole time demanding I play Jingle Bells on the radio. Therefore, I was extremely relieved to hear it (4 times) at the zoo. We also got to see a few animals (really just a jaguar and some monkies) and drank some hot cider in the member’s lounge, because that’s how we roll (zoo membership paying off!)
As a side note, remember how you used to see groups of smokers huddled around an ashtray in the cold? Texters are the new smokers. I don’t know what kind of herd instinct makes them huddle together to text (maybe for warmth?) but at every exhibit there were a little group of people off to the side silently texting. It was really kind of creepy.
This morning when Evie woke up she was in a super mood, jumping up and down and making up Christmas songs in her crib. I felt really bad when she revealed this was because she thought that Santa had brought her presents last night. I could see how that would be a little confusing, so I felt really bad for her. She took it in stride though, and didn’t get too upset when we told her she had a few more days to wait.
One last story. We were looking at the monkeys and some random lady started talking to Evie, but in a really condescending way, as if Evie were like 6 months old. “Do you see the monKEY? The baby monKEY? Oh, she’s just loving this!” Evie responded with something like, “Actually my dear woman, I daresay you are mistaken! Note the concentric rings of color on its tail, which denote that this is in fact an adolescent of the species, not a baby at all. Not to mention that this is not technically a monkey as denoted by the genus…” Well, I don’t remember the quote exactly, but something to that effect. Somehow the lady fixated on one word, ignoring all the rest and started gushing, “Baby! Yes! It’s a BABY monkey!” At this point Evie pretty much just ignored her. I was pretty annoyed, but then I heard the lady turn to her maybe 10 year old and say, “The monkey is drinking his wa-wa!” and I realized that talking down to kids just must be her thing. Lady, if your kid doesn’t say “water” instead of “wa-wa” by the time he’s 10, god help him.