Ever since the big girls were born, I have had a picture of each of them taken with Santa.
I have them all displayed in those little clear acrylic frames with the year marked in red paint pen. See how cute:
Since 1993, I had not missed a year.
In fact, I didn't quite realize the depth of my obsession until the year 2006.
The year the Bird joined our family.
Granted, it's not completely her fault. The big girls were 10 and 13 and they were pretty much over having their picture taken with Santa. They were only doing it for me. And for the bribes I was offering.
But Christmas 2006 rolled around and Lily was 4 months old and awaiting open heart surgery. I literally could not take her outside of the four walls of our home (per doctor's orders) for fear of her getting sick. She just didn't have the strength to fight off infections.
I'm not a total ogre. I could see the most important thing that year was not a Santa photo op but a healthy child ready for heart surgery.
So no 2006 picture with Santa Claus.
But I was a woman on a Photo With Santa mission and after doing this since 1993, you better believe I wasn't going to miss another year. I was a slave to my own tradition.
December 2007 rolled around and we attended the Christmas grand opening of the brand new Ronald McDonald House here in Austin. Santa was there, just waiting to have his picture taken so we went for it.
Here's what I got:
Can you tell which kid doesn't give a rip about my bribes?
December 2008 comes and goes with no Santa photo. Honestly, I procrastinated because I knew the Bird was going to be a challenge and by the time I decided to go for it, so did the rest of Austin. The line was so long that I actually stood there and told myself to just "let it go, Lana".
But I'd been doing this for so long that when December 2009 arrived, I was determined yet again to get a photo of Lily with Santa. By this time, the big girls were really giving me a hard time. No one's really looking forward to the now somewhat annual visit with Santa but because I am a control freak, I pressed on.
We made a plan.
And this was it -
Just. Be. Quick.
Get up there, set Lily on Santa's lap, squeeze in beside her, smile, snap, get her and be gone.
I'm sure you already know it didn't go down quite that way.
Lily did not want to sit still. She did not want her picture taken. She didn't appear to be afraid of Santa. She just wasn't all that impressed.
Because I refused to be deterred, Ryley wrestled Lily Bird up to Santa. Reagan jumped to Santa's left side, prepared to whisk Lily away as soon as the camera clicked.
Ryan quickly moved into place behind the camera man and started yelling for the Bird to look at him.
I got behind the person working the computer, ready to shout, "there it is!"as soon as the picture appeared on the screen so I could snatch it up, pay and get out of there.
Doesn't this sound like a fun tradition you'd like to create each year in your own family?? Just throwing that out there....
Well, we forgot to let Santa in on our little plan.
As soon as Ryley placed Lily on Santa's lap, she did that wet noodle, boneless kind of move she does when she doesn't want to be held. She started slipping through Santa's grasp just like she was hoping for.
Santa reached down to get a better grip on the Bird and hauled her up to his lap.
The camera clicked, and almost immediately after, before Reagan could grab her, Lily arched her back and treated Santa to a big ol' backwards head butt right in his chin.
Santa did not say Ho, Ho Ho.
He released Lily, grabbed his chin and said, "Oww!" and possibly some other choice words that got lost in his beard.
Reagan grabbed the Bird from her momentary freedom and she and Ryley hauled her away from Santa as fast as they could go.
Meanwhile, clueless me has missed the whole thing and I'm paying for the picture. All of a sudden, I hear all three girls almost running behind me, and Reagan saying under her breath, "Move, move, move. We need to GO! Don't make eye contact with Santa!"
I was totally bewildered but I was very confident that we had done something dreadful to Santa. I quickly finished paying and we not only left the festive Christmas area, but the entire mall itself.
I think the big girls were afraid that Paul Blart, Mall Cop was going to chase us down on his Segway and arrest us for assault on Santa Claus.
Here's the photo exactly one second before we left Christmas carnage in our wake:
And that, my friends, is the last photo I have of Santa and Lily Bird.
The year my lovely tradition died a painful death. (admittedly more painful for some of us than others....)
This year, the support group at our church is having a special photo time with Santa just for special needs kiddos. The Santa is a friend of ours so I won't have the option of fleeing and never seeing him again should Lily decide an injury is in order.
So here's my philosophy this time: Let Lily walk up there totally by herself, if she wants to. Let her check out Santa on her own terms. If we get a picture, great. If we don't, that's fine, too.
This is the new me - no longer on a Photo with Santa mission.
No longer a slave to my own tradition.
Just let it go, Lana.