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I woke up feeling really good today. Like, unreasonably good for December 22nd. The shopping is done, my work as “class mom” for preschool is over until the New Year, the kids have just started their holiday break… THE WORLD IS OUR OYSTER! We have the most valuable commodity to me right now, time! We are so busy in our normal day-to-day we never have any time to do anything that isn’t scheduled. And now we have no schedule for 19 days?! Bring on the fun. Bring on the lunacy. Bring on the crazy festivities.

“Let’s go have our picture taken with Santa!”

Is wasn’t until I had all three of my children, dressed in red polo shirts and khakis (holy shit, they look like Jake from State Farm), in the car before I thought, “Shit, this might be a very stupid idea.” Hindsight people, hindsight.

It was a very stupid idea.

We ventured off to the Bass Pro Shops who advertise a “Santa’s Wonderland”. The hubby and I took the kids to this last year. I was 30 weeks pregnant with my youngest son, and we had a really nice time. There was barely anyone there. We walked right up to Jolly Old Saint Nick and got a picture (for free). The kids played with the carnival-like set up that had a “Paul Bunyan” theme. We aren’t really the outdoorsy-types (read: we don’t like to kill our own food) so most of those things were lost on the children. But it was effortless last year. So I ventured the trek to Bass, 30 minutes away from home.

As we parked the car I discovered things were very¬†different this year. The place was PACKED. We approached Santa’s Wonderland with more fear than wonder and ventured to the line to meet Mr. Kringle. This is Heavy B’s first Christmas… we needed to get this picture. That is when a store employee handed me a card that said, “Come back at 12:30”. It was only 10 a.m. Apparently, the rest of Florida had caught wind of free Santa pictures and he was in high demand. WTF are we going to do for 2 1/2 hours at the Bass Pro Shops? We attempted to go play some of their “holiday wilderness games” but my kids, apparently, aren’t the biggest assholes running around town. Watching my 4-year-old patiently wait on a line for 20 minutes just to have his turn absconded from him by a 40-year-old with a neck tattoo is not my idea of festive family fun.

Sidenote: I have NO PROBLEM with anyone with tattoos. This bitch just happened to be an asshole, and have one, on her neck. Glad we cleared that up.

So, in the spirit of the holidays and the fact that I thought it might be a mistake to go Red Ross on some chick in front of all 3 of my kids, my practicality kicked in, “Well, I guess the Santa picture just isn’t meant to be. Let’s go home.” Unfortunately, I had already placed the thought in their little kid heads and the 4-year-old looked at me with the big puppy-dog eyes, “Please Mommy, we have to see Santa. My brother needs his first Santa picture, and I want to smell him.”

He wanted to SMELL Santa?! How adorable… and disgusting. Fingers crossed he didn’t smell of beef and cheese.

“Okay! Santa it is. We’ll go to the closest mall.”

Just like that, I piled my children back into the family truckster and ventured to the local (but 40 minutes away from our town) mall.

While driving, the little voice in my head (the one I barely listen to anymore) said, “But you don’t go to the mall. And you’d never go to the mall 3 days before Christmas.” I should listen to that voice more often.

The mall was the exact scene you would except from a suburban mall 3 days before Christmas. It was a hot-fucking-mess. Crowded, everyone trying to go, go, go. A nightmare. My kids looked really small there, among all those strangers. The older boys held hands, navigating behind me while I pushed the stroller. We asked a mall employee where we could find the big man and navigated to his Christmas village. I think the 4-year-old started to run. He was very excited.

That’s when we saw the sign: Santa will return to the North Pole at 12:45.

Are you fucking kidding me? It was 11:30.

We discussed leaving. We discussed putting a flame-thrower to this awful plan and going home. We tried. We failed. No picture with Santa. That’s when the 9-year-old chimed in, “Well, now we just have to do it. We’ve gone too far to go back.” I knew exactly what he meant.

We went to the food court in the mall. The kids ate sandwiches from Subway while talking about Santa. The baby slept. We walked the long trek back to the North Pole and arrived just as it opened, 12:45, to find 25 families ahead of us.

The boys had more patience than Mommy. Of course, the baby’s diaper was about to burst so I changed him while on-line in his stroller. I’d rather the whole mall see my baby’s junk then have him piss all over a mall Santa.

It was finally our turn. Santa asked the boys if they were good and what they wanted for Christmas. Then he told them where to sit and made some cute jokes. I never really saw the monkey attempt to smell him, but he didn’t report any bad smells afterwards either, so that’s good. Right?

We left the house at 9:30 and arrived home at 3 p.m.

Next year, I’ll let my Mother-in-law take the kids to have their picture with Santa.

I need a drink.

P.S. The picture is fucking adorable.

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As a mom, I’m not one for empty threats. I’m not overly fond of threatening my kids at all, but in my world, when all else fails, threats work. After 4.8 billion times of making the same request to an audience that’s chosen to ignore you, eventually you’ll start chucking anything out there. “If you don’t pick up your toys I’ll throw them all away.” The problem with that threat is, it’s usually an empty one, which you realize when you’re astute and stubborn child says, “Fine, I was tired of these toys anyway.” That’s when it dawns on you how much time, energy and money it will cost to follow through on that threat and you change your tune. Now your spawn has you by the balls, and they know it. I learned this early on, when I only had one child. Now I only make threats I’m damn sure to follow through on.

At least I thought I did.

While getting ready for school this morning the 3-year-old was being his normal,willful, 3-year-old self.

“Okay, let’s get dressed,” I repeated once, then twice, then many, many more times, over and over again before he finally muttered, “I not listening to you.” That was plainly obvious. That’s when I whipped out the big guns. SANTA threats. “You know who really doesn’t like when little boys don’t listen?” I answered in a very serious tone… “Santa.” His name hung in air as I spoke it in a type of whisper, almost like Harry Potter speaking the name of Albus Dumbledore… with reverence. The monkey’s eyes grew very wide. That little shit was listening now. Gotcha. “Yeah, Santa is watching everything you do,” I continued, “and if you aren’t being good, and listening to Mommy and Daddy… {here it comes, the kicker} he’ll give you a lump of coal!” The 3-year-old looked relieved? {Really? What?} “Yeah, Cole doesn’t like to listen either.”

Oh shit.

HE THINKS I’M TALKING ABOUT HIS FRIEND FROM SCHOOL.

“No, not Cole your friend, a lump of coal,” I tried to clarify, failing miserably. “What’s a lump of coal?” he said curiously.

And there you have it, the emptiest threat of all! A threat he doesn’t understand.

As I started to think about how to explain coal to a 3-year-old I found myself laughing. Sure, coal is mined and widely used here in the United States but we live in Florida. You don’t have coal miners here. Sure, we have charcoal, but that’s not coal. Have I ever even seen an actual lump of coal myself? I just accidentally broke the cardinal rule of dealing with a toddler, “It doesn’t exist if I can’t see it.” This is Mom 101 here and I’m failing like an out-of-state Freshman. I had to come up with something quick to cover my ass. Something he’d understand. Something that would make sense to him as the equivalent of coal, as the anti-gift from the jolly Saint Nick that would leave him spinning in place all day, thinking about how he needs to start listening so he doesn’t get screwed on Christmas morning. It had to be real. It had to be tangible, and it had to be something that wasn’t an empty threat.

“Coal is a brand new iPad without a charger, and no one else’s charger will work either.”

The monkey got really quiet.

“I’m gonna listen from now on, okay Mommy?”

Mission accomplished.

I’m sure this will come back and bite me in the ass when he eventually learns about fossil fuels.