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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Elf Camera

The first time I saw the movie "The Polar Express" I didn't get what all the hype was about. The first time I saw the movie, I fell asleep. Although I purchased it, I never pulled it out to rewatch it. I remembered it as being boring.

Until I watched it again this year.

It was being played on the Family Channel and almost more out of a sense of duty than anything else, I turned it on to watch it rather than have Short Person watch any of the other stuff that was on during the evening. 45 minutes later, I became a believer and chalked the movie up as one of my all-time favorite holiday movies.

So did Short Person.

We watched it, and rewatched it, and rewatched it, loving almost everything about the movie-- the music, the scenery, the story.

Most of you know that LJS and I have been having a really hard time getting Short Person interested in sleeping in her own bed, in her own room. The man in her room and the monsters under her bed have kept her from enjoying her personal space, and as much as I've had night terrors in my life and have been in situations where the presence of an unseen man is not unheard of, I am not one to force an issue that scares a 4-year-old.

But for reasons that I'm sure you can all understand, having a 4-year-old in your bed for the better part of her life doesn't bode well for a marital relationship and the desire to banish her fears has been a constant perplexing issue.

So we try. Over and over and over.

We'd been using the argument that Santa checks on little boys and girls when they are sleeping to see if they'd been naughty or nice. "He sees you when you are sleeping", we told her. "How is he going to see you when you are sleeping, if you are not in your own bed?" we'd ask. Always confronted in return with the face of her fear.

And then finally, it would seem that Santa answered even our wish in a most unexpected way.

There is a scene in the movie "The Polar Express" that takes place after the train car breaks away from the pack and crashes the children into the depths of the elves village. They wander away and into the main headquarters, where the elf general is watching and checking the last minute naughty or nice children.

In the middle of the room there is a large pyramid stacked with television screens, all showing the face of a sleeping child.

And an idea struck.

Short Person and I were set to drive up to the airport so that I could pick up a couple things I had seen on an earlier trip. They were funny file folders printed with text like "Papers I will shuffle endlessly to make it look like I'm busy" and "Papers I will never get around to reading", etc. I thought they'd make a funny gag gift for my boss.

A few days earlier, I had ventured to Walgreens to find a fiber-optic light to put in Short Person's room. A colorful nightlight that might scare away the shadows. Instead, I found an LED Snowman, one with a light that changes from red to green to blue to pink over and over, and an idea hit.

An elf camera.

I showed the light to LJS and explained what I wanted him to do with it while we were gone shopping.

Short Person and I arrived home from the airport and LJS greeted her in the living room.

"I think Santa was here earlier! I heard a loud noise on the roof, and then... there was something in your room." He told her, mirroring a voice of moderated excitement mixed with subdued curiosity.

"What was it, Dad?" She asked.

"I don't know. Let's go look and see if we can find anything new."

LJS took her hand and together they walked into the bedroom. Short Person gasped and exclaimed, "He WAS here! Look what he left me!... What is it?"

I looked it over. "Hmm... Well, maybe it's an elf camera. I mean, we were wondering how he was going to see you, right?"

"What does it do?" She asked.

"Well, I think at night it turns on so Santa can see you." I replied.

"Great! Can I go to bed now?"

I looked at the clock. Honey, it's only five o'clock. It's way to early to go to bed. Besides, you haven't even had dinner yet!

She mumbled a little and went about doing things she wanted to do, until finally bedtime arrived.

And she's slept in her bed since.

Although I've dated this for the day that we set up the "camera", it is now the end of the year. We've had one or two bobbles along the way. Days where she has slept in our room instead of hers, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In addition to the elf camera, we've also increased her marble incentive by making the jar smaller and giving her larger (and more) marbles for sleeping in her bed. She gets 1 giant marble if she sleeps part of the way in it, and 2 giant marbles if she sleeps all night there. Once the jar is full, she will earn a new game for her Leapster.

The other night, she couldn't sleep. She got scared and went into our room to lay down. After about five minutes she said, "You know, I'm really scared, but I need to sleep in my own room." She got up, went in to her room, and slept the rest of the night.

We gave her 3 giant marbles. Two for all night and one for facing her fears.

And now I get to say, Merry Christmas to us, and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Thank you, Santa :)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Santa said, "We'll see...", she replied.

It was a day for pictures. First for basketball and then for Santa.

Basketball took some coaxing, almost as much from having to wake up at 6am for pictures at 7:30am as from Short Person's resistance at playing. Even though she was gung-ho from the get-go to play, the realization that she can't simply pick up a basketball and play like any number of people three times her age frustrates her.

Someday I'll find a way to explain that it takes practice to learn something, it just wasn't going to be today. Today it took the promise of McDonald's cinnamon rolls to even get her to agree to a picture.

Finally, after an hour of warming up, and the persistant persuasion of a mommy that's willing to look like a dork in front of 50 other parents running up and down the basketball court, she started playing. She even scored two baskets (yea!).

Once we finished with basketball, we were once again running. First, to McD's to uphold my ealier promise, then to home, then to the Fire Department for pictures with Santa.

Short Person knew exactly what she wanted to wear. It was a homemade dress in two parts, the dress and the pinnafore. She rushed to eat, actually finishing her roll in the car, and hurried through the motions of brushing her teeth, changing into her dress, putting on jewelry and makeup, and then reluctantly brushing her hair while her mom sucked down coffee like it was going out of style. Then, at 10am, we left for Santa pictures.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I thought about the previous years of excitement that led right up to the front doors, through the line while we looked at the Christmas trees and commented on all the little babies also getting pictures, and right up to the moment that they called her to bounce up on the engine for the picture. At that moment, excitement turned to tears and fear and the picture usually reflected it.

Not this time. This time, she hopped up there, told Santa what she wanted, smiled for the camera- theirs and mine- and hopped down to wait for the photograph. I was amazed, as were the volunteers who remember previous years if for no other reason than she's my daughter.

We grabbed our photograph and went to tour the fire trucks and I asked her what she told Santa she wanted.

"I told him I wanted a baby pink pony", she stated with an oddly hesitant voice.

My eyebrows raised slighly. A baby pink pony? Did she mean a real one? Dear Lord, what was I going to do with that information? I had no idea what in blazes she was thinking of when she asked for that. My little pony, maybe?

I collected myself and cheerfully said, "Well, that's great that you got to ask him for exactly what you wanted! What did Santa say?" I wondered.

She scrunched up her mouth and looked a little perplexed, "Santa said, 'We'll see...'", she replied.

We'll see? I thought. Holy cow! Warring emotions played in my head. On one hand I understood because it had only been seconds before that I was wondering what in the heck she meant, but... this is Santa. Giver of the impossible! Keeper of the magic and expectancy that we've come to know as Christmas. We'll see?!

I tried to think of a response to explain away his answer. "Well honey, maybe he thought you wanted a real one and wanted to check with his elves, or with us, before he got you a real live pony."

"But mo-om..." she sighed, "I don't want a real one!"

"Well, honey, don't worry. He's Santa! He has lists everywhere and I'm sure he'll look into it when he's not so busy. It will be okay. You'll see."

We wandered back into the lobby to say goodbye to a friend of ours and while Short Person was busy saying farewell to the little girl I talked to her mom about the pony. I found out that her daughter had a giant stuffed pony and we agreed that maybe Shortie was hoping for the same thing. I asked for a location of purchase if she was able to get the information and then Short Person and I left for home.


LJS had been helping his parents with their house earlier in the day, but when he came home he needed to work on a desk that I had purchased as another Santa gift for Short Person. I had found the desk in a Craigslist posting for $40, but it needed some work. One of the drawers was missing a guide and was sitting crooked, the handles were tarnished and scratched, and the wood itself was a dark mess of scratches and wear.

I had told Short Person that Santa had called us to let us know he'd be bringing something big as a segeway into getting rid of her play kitchen and market. Two things she had outgrown, but was unwilling to part with, that we needed to remove to fit a desk in. So, since it was to be a gift from Santa, she couldn't see it. A challenge as the work was going to be done in the garage to strip, restain, and varnish it.

Since LJS was going to need every weekend in order to get the refinish work completed, it meant that I'd need to have Shortie out of the house during the major work, like sanding, which was to happen that night. So, we went shopping for Christmas gifts at Target.

We spent hours at the store gathering gifts for people, drinking hot cocoa from Starbucks, and looking at various things. I purposely saved the toy aisles for last wanting to save myself the headache of having to explain and re-explain that we weren't there to buy things for ourselves.

Up and down the aisles we went commenting on various items and who they'd be good presents for, until finally we got to the My Little Pony section. There, on the shelf, was a little baby pink pony.

I watched as she picked the box up, looking whistfully at it. "This is what I asked Santa for...." She let her voice drift off, slowly put the box back on the shelf and went to look at other things on the aisle.

It was on sale for $8 off.

And the sale ended that night.

There was NO way I could NOT get it. I simply refused to spend $8 more for something.

I picked up the box, pretending to look at it, all the while watching her from the corner of my eye. She knelt down to look at something on the floor and I scrambled. Things were being knocked all over the cart as I moved things around to bury this large box at the bottom, holding back laughter at how funny I'm sure I looked.

Finally hidden, I urged Short Person on and we continued our search for Christmas gifts.

I never considered that I'd have to distract her over and over again because she'd want to review the items we'd placed in the cart! But somehow, I made it to the checkstand without her seeing it.

At the checkout, she started helping put things on the belt-- as I was attempting to find some way to pull it out and give it to the cashier for quick ring up and bagging.

"Honey, look at all that stuff down there on the rack. There's a slinky... and look... PEZ!" (My daughter is a freak for PEZ, if you didn't know that.)

"But Mom, I want to help." She toned.

Near panic and desperation, I looked at her and blurted out, "Look at the toys or you're not getting anything for Christmas!"

Short Person whirled around and knelt down to consider the things hanging on the bottom rack. Guiltily, I looked at the older couple standing behind us, who had a look of shock on their faces at this scene, and then rushed to pull the pony from the cart while Meg was still distracted. I pulled it out from underneath about twenty things, watching as some of them fell to the floor, and gave it to the clerk. I asked her to double-bag that item and then told Short Person she was now able to help.

Forty minutes later, we were home, heavy one baby pink pony and one very chagrined mother.