Do you ever just have a perfect day? I think I have maybe two a year, and I spend the rest of the year looking back to those days on every other day when I think I can't handle all the chaos anymore, to remind myself that I can.
Adam was off today, and Elaine has one day off from the insanity of her Nutcracker dress rehearsals (one every day this week, leading up to opening night on Friday!) so we decided to take the opportunity to go see Santa Claus at Bass Pro Shop, it's our tradition to see him there, since they give you a free photo with Santa, and don't charge you just to see him.
We did science work this morning in homeschool and the kids were loving it, they really seem to enjoy science and didn't want to stop at just one lesson so we did three lessons. It was a great start to the day as we were all in good moods.
We had a planned visit from a county social worker today. We have regular monthly visits from a social worker during the foster adoption process, but this was a substitute worker as our regular worker is on vacation. It's hard not knowing what to expect as some are more judgmental and harsh than others. Our regular worker, Nora, is somewhat hard to read, she keeps a very bland look on her face every visit and it's hard to tell if it's because she doesn't like us, or because (as is more likely) she just looks like that all the time. The substitute social worker arrived on time, a nice change considering they're usually late, and when she came in she was greeted by all the children which can effect every person who experiences it differently. Some can't handle the boisterous noises of so many little children, but Robin, the substitute worker, loved it. She smiled and said "You must do daycare, you can't possibly have this many that are so young?"
Of course as smiled and said as I always to do similar statements "Nope, they're all mine."
Catcher was in a particularly pleasant mood and echoed my statement in his sweet voice, "ALL MINE!"
We all laughed and she walked into the living room. Noticing the pictures on the wall of all six beautiful children she remarked at how wonderful such a display was. The rest of the brief visit was just as cordial. The children regaled her with stories and Christmas lists, and Robin smiled the whole time. When she got up to leave she mentioned how amazing it was to be in a house with so many children who all seemed so happy, and I had noticed too how all morning there really hadn't been any fights or arguments among any of the children, and although the house was loud, it was filled with the sound of children's laughter.
After she left we packed up the children and headed out. Bass Pro Shop is in Manteca, about 30 minutes away, and the ride was pleasant, which in and of itself is nearly a miracle, there was no fighting and lots of giggling. Maybe it was the fact that we were going to see Santa, but all of the children seemed to be on their best behavior. We weren't far from the house when I realized I'd forgotten my cell phone. Adam had too. I'm never without my phone anymore, and it made me a little nervous to continue on without it, but I reminded myself how pleasant it would be to not have any distractions on such a fun day, so I didn't even ask my husband (who was driving) to go back to retrieve it.
We arrived at the store around 11:30am, we walked up to Santa's Workshop area and there was NO line! I must say this really gives me one more reason to love homeschooling (as if I needed one more!) the fact that we can do something like this in the middle of the day while other kids are at school was a real bonus! As we walked toward Santa I had that sinking feeling, who's gonna cry...or worse yet, SCREAM?! Two kids that are two year olds.....it was inevitable. Darla is quite outgoing and pretty fearless, so I thought for sure Catcher was going to be uncomfortable with the stranger in red.
The bigger girls went running up to Santa, and I asked Catcher, "Who is that?" He watched with excitement as his sisters greeted the red robed stranger with delight.
"Santa!" he said as he cautiously walked forward.....with a smile. Could it be? Was he going to be ok with the bearded elf?
Adam had been carrying Darla on his shoulders and he placed her near Santa, waiting for her reaction. To our surprise she ran up and asked to be picked up! We helped her onto his lap and placed Mira on his other knee. I still wasn't sure if Catcher would agree to stand close to him or not, but Santa invited him to stand right in front of him next to Darla, and he simply replied "Ok." and did!
I stepped back in complete surprise as the elf clothed helper snapped this picture:
Now ok, Mira doesn't look very excited, that's because we had to redirect her from playing with his beard, she loved it. And Darla seems unimpressed, but right after the picture she turned to Santa and gave him a huge grin, and all in all, I'm quite impressed with so many young ones handling this Santa thing so well! I know a lot of it was having older siblings seem so excited to see Santa that helped Catcher and Darla not be afraid. But it was great no matter why it happened.
After the picture there was still no line of children waiting, so St. Nick took his time asking the name of each child, how old they were, what they wanted for Christmas and what their favorite cookie was. We lingered around with Santa and his elves for several minutes, it was quite pleasant.
Bass Pro Shop has several activities set up near Santa's Wonderland and being that there was only one other family in the area, we gave all the kids free reign to wander through the activities.
Here's where I regretted not having my phone. I take soooo many pictures on my phone these days, that without it I felt terrible that I couldn't record how much fun the kids were having with pictures. I'll do my best to explain, but nothing does justice to the first thing I wish I'd taken a picture of.
There was target shooting with little rifles, it was all electronic, you're not shooting real bullets or anything, and it was completely free. Each kid took a turn taking aim, while Daddy gave each one a little lesson in holding the gun and hitting targets. When Catcher wanted a turn he was so small he couldn't hold the gun, so he stood holding it while Daddy's strong arms wrapped around him holding the gun as well. Adam was bent down, on his knees with Catcher sitting on one of Adam's knees and they both stared down the barrel trying to hit the lit up targets. Now there's a moment I wish I had a picture of. In that moment I remembered how important it is to fill my mind with these memories, not just my phone, and I impressed an image in my mind I'll surely never forget. Daddy's smile was as big as Catcher's. All the kids took turns driving around the little electric truck. Catcher later found the display of radio controlled trucks on sale and proudly pronounced "I like that!!" (I don't allow the children to use the phrase "I want that" or "buy me that" instead I encourage them to say, "I like that," or "that's pretty....fun...neat....etc") I loved hearing my little boy tell me something he liked.
They each took turns (without fighting!) driving the electric train, fast, slow, forward, reverse. The big girls wrote letters to Santa and Elaine and Maggie helped Katie write one too. I bought fudge and we sat in the coloring area nibbling sweet flavors and laughing over the different tastes and combinations. We walked around the store for a few more minutes, I took all the walking kids up the stairs next to the giant fish tank, while daddy pushed the stroller for the baby and took the elevator, or as we later dubbed it, the "elf-avator" :) Catcher and Darla loved seeing the fish, and marched proudly like big kids up the tall stair way. We greeted Daddy from the elevator and walked around looking at different things on sale.
At one point Maggie, Katie, Elaine and the two's and I were all standing near the balcony which peered down over the top of Santa's wonderland. When they saw Santa go into the little building with a sign that said "Santa's Workshop," Maggie and Katie pronounced that he must be going in there to check on the elves in the workshop, and that he MUST be the real Santa. As if the unison were intentional at that moment all three of the older girls shouted out upon his return "HI SANTA!!" The man in red looked up to them and waved, he smiled and winked. They giggled in delight and waved back. At seeing the reaction they'd garnered from St. Nick Darla (now sitting in a shopping cart) decided to wave and spoke in nearly a whisper barely audible to anyone standing near her "hi tanta." He immediately looked up from below and waved a little wave that matched hers. It was so sweet, and he gave out a "Ho, ho" of a laugh himself.
Maybe I've been watching too many Christmas movies, but in that moment, he felt as real to me as he did to my kids. As full of the spirit of kindness and joy that this season embodies.
We walked over to the larger 'pay per play' shooting gallery. It was full of animals that moved when you hit their target, and lots of fun things to see. We put some quarters in one slot and the machine wouldn't come on, but i put the same amount of quarters in another slot and it gave us ten games! The kids played round after round and Daddy must have taught them to aim well, because they hit target after target, squealing with glee at each shot!
We walked across the parking lot to eat lunch at Red Robin, it's our family's favorite restaurant, and we even ran into our friend who is a manager there. We know her from church and the kids all went running up to her when we walked in. Pretty much made her day I think :)
Now you must know that we do not take all of the kids out to eat to anyplace without a playland very often, it's just too much for the little kids to wait for their food sitting quietly. Let me tell you what, I had little angels at the table and Red Robin. They played together happily while waiting for their food, and despite the fact that it took the average 15-20 minute wait for food, when it arrived, all the children announced that it came very fast. Haha, it is true, time flies when you're having fun! Several games of tic tac toe were played, Darla and I played keep away with her package of crayons which she strangely didn't want opened, just wanted to play with it all nice and closed.
When the food came everyone ate without complaint, sharing french fries and smiles amidst crunching and slurping. Later our friend arranged for the kids to be served ice cream, which they loved and had the messy faces to prove it. We lingered in the restaurant while others around us ate and left, because we were all just enjoying the company of so many happy children.
We had to leave eventually and go to the only chore we had that day, buying a new lawn mower. Our old one bit the dust, as it were, and we bought a push one instead. The kids were all very good at the home improvement store despite the fact that it was now after 3pm and none of the little ones had had a nap! We wandered smelling flowers through the garden area and pushed the button of every noisy Christmas toy on display, dancing along to whatever silly song they played. The children galloped as Santa's reindeer to the register, giving themselves reindeer names and imagining up reindeer games, ensuring Rudolph would be included even if Santa didn't need his nose. ( they notice that in the song the other reindeer don't like Rudolph or let him play until he's useful)
We ended our day stopping by Del'Osso Farms in Lathrop. They have lots of activities you can pay to do, and we just wandered around for a few minutes. Last year they'd had live Reindeer on the farm and we were hoping to see them but there weren't any this time. So we enjoyed neighing at the pony's, one in particular that Darla fell in love with and didn't want to walk away from. I convinced her to blow him kisses and say goodbye, then she finally continued on with us. Last year we'd paid to do the snow tubing, and it was fun but we didn't come prepared for it today so we walked by as a bus load of kids pulled up to slide their snowy slopes. We walked out the rear entrance to the parking lot and as we walked one of the kids noticed a large pile of melting snow which had apparently been dumped in a parking spot.
Now you must understand that it does NOT snow here, nor does it get cold enough during the day to keep snow from melting, so this must have been recently placed, and a puddle was a few inches deep of mud around it.
I stepped into the mud and grabbed a handful of snow which felt vaguely similar to a ball of shaved ice (which is more likely what it was) and I lobbed it at the Husband Man, direct hit to the chest where it broke apart. We all continued to walk a few feet when Daddy went back to the pile, he grabbed a huge handful of icy snow, I put my hood up certain he was out for revenge, but instead he made several small snow balls and gave them to the kids. Hello, impromptu snow ball fight in the parking lot!! He went back for more a few times and the kids laughed at each hit and miss. What a great memory we made right there in the parking lot.
We came home and sipped hot chocolate, in warm fuzzy pajamas, watched another holiday classic "The Santa Clause 2" and sent all the kids off to bed with a smile at the end of the day.
Wow what a day, I may not have pictures to remember it all by, but my memories will never fade.