On Sunday, December 20th we loaded up the whole family, along with the Mullane family, and headed off to Williams in northern AZ (3 1/2 hr. away) for an overnight stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Lodge and a ride to the north pole on the Polar Express train. The kids were excited and knew that we would all be seeing Santa that evening.
Frank and I had made these reservations almost a whole year ago as it sells out in the first 6 weeks of the year. The trip up was beautiful with several inches of new snow along the way.
After checking into the lodge we hit the indoor pool for some swim time. This was a treat for the kids since it is too cold to heat our pool in the winter.
Time to start the fun!!!
Cole was having so much fun he just had to dance on the bed!!!Then it was time to put on the PJ's and head over to the restaurant for the big Polar Express dinner buffet. But first, a quick stop to play in the snow on the way. Brrrrr....
Oh, and of course we had to stop at the gift shop! Never know what you might find there!!
Even though there was ham, turkey, dressing, gravy, corn, etc. the chicken nuggests and macaroni and cheese were the kids number one choice for dinner.
After dinner it was time to head to the train with 2,000 other passengers!
After boarding the train the elves and chef brought everyone hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. That was a big hit with all of us.
As the train sped towards the north pole we all followed along in our books (which had been signed by Mrs. Claus and one of her Elves earlier in the evening when the kids were playing in Santa's Village) as the story of the Polar Express was read to everyone.
Here we are making lasting memories.
Suddenly the train started to slow down, faces were pressed again the train windows as eyes were drawn towards a brightly lit north pole town. Right there in front of us stood Santa in his enormous sleigh, waving to all the passengers on the train. His bag was absolutely jam packed with gifts and was large that it almost couldn't fit in his sleigh. One of his elves was standing next to Santa's bag with a long, long list of all the children's names, checking them off one by one. Santa's reindeers were harnessed up and ready to fly. How will they ever get that heavy laden sleigh off the ground???
A few minutes later the door to our train opened up and who should appear but Santa himself!
Santa stopped at each person's seat and gave all the children a big silver bell.As he was leaving our train we all sang Jingle Bells as the kids rang their bells. It was all so much fun and very exciting when Santa came to each one of us to wish us a Merry Christmas!
Here are some pictures of one of the evenings when we drove to Mesa to walk through a street that is filled with lights, music, decorations and a Bethleham walk.
Jami was a real trooper....over 8 months pregnant and still participating in all of the activities.
The cousins were so happy to be together again. They made a beeline for Hanna's toy-filled playroom.
We all met Bre, Kyle and the boys at the airport the afternoon of Dec. 18th. Luckily, they were able to get out on time just hours before the second snow storm hit the Seattle/Tacoma area. They drove in snow flurries to get to the airport at 5:30 in the morning.
Finally, together again!!
We are now gearing up for a big Christmas Eve tomorrow. It will start at noon when we go to church and then let the kids play at the church's Christmas playground. They will be able to sled down the snow hill, eat treats, jump in the bounce houses and pet the animals in the zoo. Our family will enjoy not only ham and asparagus but Mike and his mom will prepare a Swedish meal too. Christmas morning will be spent at Jami and Mike's home. It is a special time for us and we so enjoy having our family together. My mom will be joining us this year too. The grandkids are at a great age for really understanding the whole reason for the season and will celebrate Jesus' birthday with a small cake first thing Christmas morning. Hanna, our 4 yr. old granddaughter, told me that Christmas morning will go like this: first sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and eat cake, open our stocking, eat some breakfast, "watch a little Noggin" and then open our Christmas presents!!! We'll see if she remembers to watch Noggin!!! I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope that you will be able to celebrate it with your family and loved ones. We are extremely thankful for all the wonderful blessings that we have enjoyed this past year as I'm sure all of you are. We are anxiously awaiting our fourth and final grandchild (Sofia) any day now. Jami is experiencing contractions, but nothing real regular yet. We will let you know as soon as she makes her appearance. Meanwhile, CHEERS to everyone!
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