As promised awhile ago, here is a chronicle of the journey the kids and I took to the Polar Express! We left on a Monday morning. Ted wasn't able to go with us because of work obligations, but we made it to Williams, AZ, despite extra delays that I hadn't planned on. We met Ted's cousin and her family, who are stationed in Arizona, at the hotel, and it was so good to see them. The kids were delighted to meet their cousins--it had been over 3 years since we had last gotten together, so they didn't remember Abigail and Samuel at all.
We checked into the hotel and then went to enjoy our dinner buffet. I was especially grateful that I wasn't alone with the kids in the restaurant, as among the 3 of us adults, we were able to fill and bring plates for the kids and then ourselves. A miniature train ran around the restaurant, producing shouts and squeals of delight every time it made its appearance. Good thing it was a family restaurant. :-)
Then it was back to our hotel room to change into pajamas and slippers for the big train ride! By this time it was quite cold outside, as the sun had gone down, and though we did have our coats, I somehow felt unprepared for it to be that cold in Arizona! We had left Las Vegas under beautifully warm weather conditions! We scurried over to the train and boarded. Our seats were all together, and we were able to flip the seat backs so that they faced each other. We had seats on both sides of the aisle, and the kids all ended up sitting on one side together.
Soon after the train took off, we were served hot chocolate and cookies. Then they began a recording of the book, which DeLinda had smartly thought to check out from the library and bring along so the kids could see the pictures. It took approximately a half hour, and then we arrived at the "North Pole." The train slowed down, and I pushed open our window--it was WARM on the train, and the window was starting to fog up. The kids scrambled to the other side of the aisle so they could see all the lights and Santa sitting on his sleigh, waving to us. We drove by the "town," and then the train slowly began going in reverse. When we got back to Santa's sleigh, he was no longer in there! Then came the announcement: Santa had boarded the train! We began chugging back towards the hotel and waited not-so-patiently for him to come to our train car. To keep us entertained (or to keep the children from mutiny), a merry but incredibly tone deaf elf led us in a Christmas sing-along (books were provided). It was during this time, by the way, that Tobin apparently decided "Jingle Bells" is one of his favorite songs, and I have sung it over and over this holiday season! Finally Santa came to our car. This picture of him handing Tobin his gift is really the only good shot I got from this part of our experience, but at least it's a good picture. The gifts are large jingle bells. That goes along with the story of the Polar Express, in case you aren't familiar with it. There was much ringing and jingling during the rest of the train ride!
We spent a long night in the hotel...the kids finally settled down and went to sleep while I read my book in a chair, and after the last one began snoring, I tried sleeping myself. Tobin was battling a cold and snored loud enough to make his daddy proud. Not only did he snore, but I discovered that he is a sleep talker! He's just as loud in his sleep as he is during the day, too, so it was quite startling the first time he had an outburst, something about "I want my candy cane NOW!" (Amazing how he sounded just as whiny as he had when he had been awake! This kid made the Polar Express trip rather more stressful than it needed to be, but now we have fond memories of the experience, and I choose to overlook the fact that I felt like throttling him on numerous occasions during our short trip!)
So, after a very non-restful night for me, I woke early and showered, and by the time I was ready to go the boys were also. We woke Charis, who could sleep through a hurricane, and headed down for the breakfast buffet. We were happy to meet the cousins again, who had told us they needed to leave by 9 a.m. because of other obligations. So we enjoyed breakfast together after all and then said our farewells.
The trip home went much more smoothly than the trip out, and I took a little bit of time for the kids to get out and see the Hoover Dam since we had been pressed for time the first time we crossed. One major source of stress for me was discovering that Arizona was indeed one hour ahead of Nevada time, which meant I was over an hour later than I wanted to be! But on the way home we had no time table, and as it was a nice day, it was fun to get out and explore a little bit. Unfortunately, due to full parking lots, we didn't get out as much as we may have liked, but we hope to go back sometime when Ted is with us anyway.
So, all in all, it was a fun and memorable trip, despite the stress. :-) While our family doesn't really do Santa Claus, the kids enjoyed seeing "Santa" and somehow didn't have a problem with fantasy vs. reality! The decorations at the hotel were beautiful and festive, and it was a fun family activity to get us in the Christmas spirit!