I'm not sure there's anything Miles loves more in the world than those three things. I mean, besides me.
And while he gets regular doses of string cheese, graham crackers and episodes of "Thomas and Friends," Mark and I had a special outing for our little conductor. Complete with cheese and crackers.
By the glories of Google on Friday, I discovered that the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society invites families - as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus - for a ride on a vintage train, allowing them to "pay homage to a great Fort Wayne tradition and create brand new ones while visiting the home of the largest operating steam locomotive in the Midwest: Nickel Plate Road No. 765."
For $4 a person, families are treated to a 20-minute ride and a visit from Santa. There are also other activities - coloring, train sets and self-guided tours of the locomotives - on site though those weren't of much interest to an impatient 17-month-old.
Note: He did like the 25 cent train whistle, which I'm sure is a choking hazard but it kept him engaged as we waited in line. Go ahead, nominate me for mother of the year. While I was enamored with the overall experience, my only complaint was that you couldn't buy tickets for a particular ride. It was first-come, first-serve with rides about every 30 minutes. The setup works with older kids but makes it hard to manage younger toddlers.
I will say that we were lucky and managed to get on a train with an hour. It was a festive looking caboose, with wrapping paper on the walls and candy canes awaiting the child. Self-important as I am, I tried to sit in Santa's seat rather than the benches.
Miles thoroughly enjoyed riding on the choo-choo and looking out at the fields of rural Indiana as we went down the tracks. He (safely) stood on the bench, peering out the small window saying, "choo choo. CHOO CHOO!" When we reached the turnaround, the train stopped and the car readied for a special visitor.
Santa! (Or, as Miles says, "Hhahnta!")
The jolly old fellow made the rounds, shaking the hands of excited, eager children and Mrs. Claus passed out candy canes. He took a spot in my, I mean his, seat and began to entertain the wishes of the youngins. I should have paid attention to what kids these days want but I was trying to amp up Miles for his visit, whispering in his ear that he should ask for Nike Pro Hyperwarm print training tights in a size small. Matching half-zip, too.
When it was finally his turn, Miles let out one more "Hhantaa" before turning into a screaming mess.
I was slightly embarrassed and felt sort of bad for the kind gentleman underneath the beard but I happily snapped pictures. I might be a terrible person to say this but I love, love, love photos of kids crying on Santa's lap. Actually, I think photos of crying babies are, in general, quite cute.
I do fear that Miles' general disdain for Santa will not bode well for the Nike tights but his enthusiasm for the train and Santa (he seriously won't stop saying the word) means we might have ourselves an affordable Christmas tradition.
And next year, if he doesn't cry, I'm pinching his butt.