As a Christmas Eve surprise, we took the children to Build-a-Bear. At the time, they had never seen this store, so they had no idea what to expect. Their faces were priceless when they realized they were going to get to choose and then make their very own bear (excuse me- bear/bunny/moose. That's right...moose.)! Martin immediately said, "This is going to be my best friend FOREVER!" The store was pretty crowded, so while we stood inside to get our animals stuffed, I told the children to think of names for their new friends. They took this very seriously, and debated on names for at least twenty minutes before finally deciding on the perfect names (i.e. Murray, James-for Jay of course, Taylor, and Taylor-Prava to name a few).
If you've never been to this store, it is a real experience. It is a seven-step process before the completion of the bear! When it was our turn, each child would stand at this stuffing machine and watch their animal come to life. Then the Build-a Bear helper would say to kiss a little red satin heart, make a wish, and then put the heart in the bear. As you can imagine, my kids ate this up. They would hold that heart tight to their chest, close their little eyes, and pray for a good twenty seconds before giving up that heart. Everyone was so deliberate about making sure they did it right (except Isaac, who looked at the woman like she had just lost all her marbles).
After the bears were all sewn up and ready to go, the kids get to go "clean" them under a shower station where they can wash them off underneath a stream of cold air. Let me tell you, our bears are the cleanest ones around. The kids "washed" them everywhere and then brushed them down. After they were thoroughly cleaned, we moved on to the final touch...choosing the perfect outfit! The girls, of course, gravitated toward anything pink and sequined, while the boys chose military men and soccer players. Like typical girls, they thought they needed their bears to try on every outfit to see what was the most flattering (which I don't think we were supposed to do...oops!). I thought we were going to be in there for days. When their animals were primped, Jay helped the kids print out the birth certificates (after another thorough washing of course...the clothes needed to be clean too!) to make it official.
I have never seen anything like it. They were so enthralled with the whole process, and are still completely in love with their animals even weeks afterward. As I type this, there is a bear in a sailor suit buckled into one of the front seats of the bus (safety first!). If we have to leave the animals in the bus, the kids say goodnight to them and put them down for a nap. I will never forget that trip to the mall. It was the best money we've ever spent!
Isaac getting his bear stuffed: