Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Magic

I think most people have a memory from their childhood that is magical. For me, it was my first major league baseball game. When I was very small, I loved the Baltimore Orioles. One day my parents put my brother and me in the car and told us that they were taking us to a surprise. They tried to see if we could guess where we were going, but we had no idea. I think we guessed a toy store and then we thought we might be going to see my aunt and uncle who lived in Baltimore. I don't think we ever managed to guess. At any rate they took us to see an O's game at Memorial Park. I don't remember much about the game itself, just that it was an amazing and fun surprise for us.

Having a fun memory like that for Doug is important to me. Last week we decided rather spontaneously to take Doug up to Strasburg to see Santa on the train. We'd done it the year before and Doug loved it. I was a little apprehensive about the 6+ hours in the car for us, there and back. I was exploring our options when I recalled the Red Caboose Motel which can be seen from the train. I checked it out and it was pretty reasonable. Moreover, sleeping in a caboose was going to blow Doug's little mind. We decided not to tell Doug where we were going, to make it a surprise.

Doug wasn't really able to guess what we were up to. He had decided that we were seeing Santa. I'd told him earlier in the week that we'd see Santa at my high school. Because of the trip, we ended up not going. In addition to Santa, Doug was also convinced that we were going to see some animals. I have no idea where he got this idea. Luckily for us, The Red Caboose Motel has a petting farm.

Doug was very excited when we pulled up to the motel. Jeff went in to check in and Doug was begging me to stay in a red caboose. I told him that I had no power to make that happen, but we lucked out and got a red one, thank goodness.

When we woke up Saturday we had breakfast in the Motel's dining rail car. The hostess wisely seated us next to the window so we could have a view of the tracks and the Strasburg station. Doug was quite pleased because he got to see the railroad crossing signal go down three times while they coupled the engine to the passenger cars.  He also got to see quite a few Amish buggies go up and down the road. FYI, according to Jeff, an open buggy is an "Amish convertible".

We decided we'd buy tickets for the train ride when we got to the station. The first train ended up being sold out, but we were able to get on the second one. We attempted to go and do some shopping in the railroad themed shops, but Doug would have none of that. He insisted on being outside to watch the train. It meant he wasn't begging us to buy things, so I couldn't really complain. He really has a one track mind.

Doug was absolutely delighted by the train ride. An interesting aside, Strasburg runs two Santa trains at the same time, half an hour apart. So at one point, the trains meet and stop so one can pass the other. When this happened, Santa had just walked into our car, and then he was gone! He had evidently ducked into the bathroom. We noticed that Santa couldn't be seen on the other train either. Evidently to protect the Santa story, the Santas hide, so that the children won't see two Santas at the same time or Santa on the other train.  I thought that was well done!

Doug got to meet Santa and had a wonderful time. Even though we'd told him many times we were going home, he was still disappointed when he realized we were almost home and wouldn't be sleeping in a caboose again. I fear that no other hotel shall live up to the caboose. I hope we were able to create a memory for him to cherish.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

And That's Why We Have Turkey at Christmas

This is Doug's Nativity set. My mother gave it to him last year to keep him from playing with my nice set and much to my delight, it's kept him from trying to get to mine and he loves to play with it. It's become a nice learning tool for Christmas.

However, it has become a bit unconventional. Most of the things that came with the set are further back in the manger. Doug has been adding other toy animals to this set, as you can see. I'll admit that I placed them more strategically for this photo, Doug usually just lumps them all in there.

Doug's assortment of creatures helps answer some questions while bringing up other important issues. For starters, you can clearly see that in Jesus' time people were concerned about the environment. Case in point, the wise man opted for a compact camel. You will also undoubtedly notice the dinosaur present. Many people are very confused about evolution, Jesus, and dinosaurs. You can clearly see that there was a dinosaur present at his birth. The writers of the gospels left them out, probably because dinosaurs were so prevalent in those times that they were easily forgettable. Another item of note is the ginormous squirrel. Either there was some serious exposure to radioactivity in those times or evolution has made squirrels smaller. I'm afraid that one poses more questions than answers. You have probably also noticed the dolphin. The birth of Jesus was evidently so momentous that sea creatures were drawn out of the oceans and into the desert. I don't imagine the dolphin lasted long once he got there. And lastly, this scene finally answers the age old question, "Why do we have turkey at Christmas when we just had it at Thanksgiving?". The answer is simple: because there was a turkey present at the first Christmas. As you may be able to see, the turkey is standing very close to the cook fire. It may have been intentional to make turkey for dinner that night or perhaps the turkey was accidentally pushed into the fire. We may never know for sure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Man

Meet Charlie, our elf. He came to us from the North Pole (Target) to keep an eye on Doug for Santa (Mommy & Daddy).

I had seen these elves in the stores for a while now and I was hesitant about getting one. Other people's children either loved them or feared them. But after three time-outs on Friday night, I decided it was worth a try.

Doug was interested from the beginning. Saturday night he came out of his bath to find Charlie perched on top of the entertainment center. We read the story that came with him and reiterated several times that Charlie will see if you're being naughty or nice and tell Santa Claus, who will in turn bring you more or less presents. You can't tell Doug that Santa will bring him coal. He loves coal. He has a collection of coal he has found while watching trains with Grandpa. So rather than a threat, he'd be over the moon to get some more .

There have been several times when Doug's not doing what we told him (cleaning up, sitting down to dinner, etc) and we've said to him, "Charlie is watching you!". At which point he usually jumps up and goes and does whatever it is we've asked him to do. The other night we were having dinner at my mom's house and Doug was having no part of sitting down to dinner. Desperately, I showed him a large snowman salt shaker and told Doug that the snowman knew Charlie and would report back. Doug was not impressed. I've also told him that Charlie has friends in stores who can report back to him. This keeps him from running around the store like a maniac and heads off the issue of running into a whole display of elves (Charlie's friends. They're watching you!). I also make a point to tell Charlie how well Doug did something, so that Charlie doesn't become 'The Man' (Elf) and Doug won't resent him.

I have to say, so far I'm pleased with this new tradition. Doug's begun to clean up hos toys without much fuss from me. I think we may modify St. Nicholas Day to say that St. Nick sent the gifts via Charlie, who's seen Doug being good (hopefully) to help reinforce the message that Charlie reports back to the bog boss. Hopefully this will continue to work right up until Christmas.