Pictures with Santa

Bryce, Santa, McKinley, and Jasper 2012
Bryce, Santa, McKinley, and Jasper 2012

I love the pictures we have taken with Santa throughout the years! Most of the time we can get the kids to all smile at the same time. Sometimes not. Sometimes there is one kid that is just grimacing enough to show that he is participating but not willingly. Most of the time we have gotten a really cute shot of the kids with Santa that we can share with the grandparents.

Planning a visit to Santa can be a strategic endeavor. Most of the time over the years, we have gone to dinner at California pizza kitchen (or some other mall restaurant) and then taken a picture with Santa on an early weekday evening. This strategy usually works really well. Everyone has eaten. No one is too tired because it’s an hour or two before bedtime still. This strategy has resulted in some really cute pictures through the years.

When the kids were smaller, I could dress them in matching (or close to matching) outfits, which only added to the cuteness. The last few years, I’m lucky to get them to even take the picture with Santa. These days with teens, I hear tons of complaining when I let them know it’s time to take a picture with Santa. So, I let them wear what they want and they have come up with some deusies!

The picture we took with Santa this past year has to take the cake. We went on a Sunday morning, first thing, so that we could get in and out of there before people got out of church. We were wrong. Everyone else had the same idea! The line snaked through all the fences and around the huge tree decorating the center of Hillsdale Mall. Seeing this and heading off a mutiny of epic proportions, I sent the kids off to the Apple Store, Brookstone, Hot Topic, and the LEGO store with strict instructions to come back when I texted them.

I waited in line, patiently, and was sandwiched between three girls in 49er clothes and a mom with a stroller, and behind her a mom with two daughters in matching winter white satin holiday dresses behind me. I used to covet those little dresses and outfits when my boys were young. The boy clothes just aren’t the same and they aren’t nearly as cute. But as I watched the youngest daughter, who was probably 4, climb all over everything and her mom berate her for messing up her dress before they even took the picture with Santa, I was thanking my lucky stars I hadn’t had girls! That mom couldn’t just let her kids be. She constantly was trying to get them to stop whatever they were doing (bumping in to me and others in line, touching everything, generally being kids) and stand quietly next to her. I was so glad I sent my kids off to window shop.

Part way through, after I’d been waiting for 30 minutes and we’d only rounded one corner, I really had to go to the bathroom. The woman behind me said she would hold my spot. So, I climbed over the fence and headed upstairs to the nearest bathroom. Boy, the mall sure was crazy that morning. I guess everyone else who had procrastinated through the month of December was there the weekend before Christmas. I finished at the bathroom and on the way back to the long, snaky Santa line, I went past See’s Candy and couldn’t resist stopping. I was so sure that a little marzipan would help me stand in line with more patience until it was our turn.

I come around the corner to get back in line and I see a gulf in the line, plus security guards standing around. Uh oh, now what? I head to the fence closest to the lady who was holding my spot and I see that some kid has barfed all over and that gulf was a breath’s width away from the barf. Ugh! Now what? What else could happen? The little girls behind could come up and step in it? Oops no, the mom saved her and then yelled at her daughter some more…where was her patience and Christmas spirit? I just played on Facebook and texted friends while I waited, and kept an eye out for the boys (I could see into the whole Brookstone store from where I was waiting.)

Meanwhile, Santa’s helper came around and told us that Santa would be taking a lunch break at 12:30. Really? We were all frantically doing the “Santa line” calculus. If every crying kid takes 7 minutes, and every happy kid takes 5 minutes and there were 50 families in front of us in line, would we make it before Santa took a lunch break?!?

Finally a sanitation worker came to clean up the barf, which still smelled to high heaven. The woman who came to clean it up didn’t even come over the fence to clean it up. She put a bunch of paper towels on the end of her mop and proceeded to move the barf around (and around). She slowly cleaned it up using this method from the other side of the fence. Then she was preparing to walk away. As you could hear the sound of angry parents and disbelieving moms tittering behind me that she wasn’t actually going to clean or sanitize the spot, I stepped forward to ask her to sanitize it and actually clean the floor. Her response, “No hablo English.” It was a plain and simple response. No facial expressions, no empathy, no smile. I tried again. With two more moms stepping closer. And again. With more moms talking louder about the need to actually clean the floor. Finally the woman mopped the floor, with the gray water that was in the mop bucket.

No one near us could believe what had just happened, and none of us would step anywhere near that barf spot. So the wide gulf remained in line. But that would dissipate once Santa took lunch and people inched closer thinking they were going to get a picture with Santa anytime soon, with their patience in tact. Those of us in the front part of the line were still doing the “Santa line” calculus and hoping against hope that we would make it before Santa’s lunch break.

Bryce, McKinley, Santa, and Jasper 2011
Bryce, McKinley, Santa, and Jasper 2011

The boys joined me in line after observing the barf cleanup, and ate all of my chocolate. Even eating marzipan didn’t quell the remaining stench. Finally, we inched our way towards Santa and took our traditional picture with him. Some of the boys smiled and some didn’t. I might have to use photo shop to get one picture where they are all smiling with Santa. The boys protested that they had to take, but in the end they did it because it was important to me. I think (or is it just hope) they will thank me later when they are trying to wrangle their own kids onto Santa’s lap for a holiday photo. In any event, we will not be waiting until the weekend before Christmas to take our picture with Santa!

We generally just have the kids take a picture on Santa’s lap but one year we did take a picture all together. Maybe that was a strategy to keep all of the kids happy enough to smile for the picture, I don’t remember. The girls in front of us in line were sisters along with a family friend. They had been taking pictures with Santa for year and they continued that tradition, without their own spouses or kids in the picture (although everyone waited in line with them). This year they took their picture all dressed up in 49er gear. It was a cute picture with all of them smiling, happily.

This Santa at Hillsdale Mall is fabulous. It is usually the same guy, who has a real beard and is very patient and very kind! They usually give the kids a little book or toy at this mall and this year was no exception. When we were done with our Santa picture, Santa handed us a book, T’was the Night Before Christmas.

Leave me a comment and let me know what your family traditions are with Santa pictures.

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