Thursday, December 27, 2012


Merry Christmas!  Hope each of you had a wonderful holiday.  The boys definitely made our lots of fun, just like they do for everything!  Our Christmas lasted for four days.  We decided not to rush things so we didn't open our gifts until the 26th.  It was really nice to do it that way because the Blizzard of '12 hit about 4am so we had a white Christmas!!!

When I sent our Christmas cards this year I included business cards we had printed for free with VistaPrint.  The business cards were advertising this blog in an effort to increase our reader base.  The ultimate goal is to spread awareness about CHD using whatever means we can utilize.  If you're reading this because of one of those cards, thank you.  Please keep coming back and, more importantly, help us spread awareness about Congenital Heart Defects and its prevalence.  I'm not going to go into any statistics or facts right now because this post is about our wonderful Christmas, but I promise I will be posting more in the future about the need for more awareness and research.  Thank you for visiting and please become a follower so you can receive notifications when we publish a new post.

***FYI:  Someone recently told me they receive an email notification of each new blog post, but can only view the text, not the pictures.  As far as I can tell, if you want to view the photos you have to actually be on our blog, not reading through your email.  Open a new tab and type in and you should be able to view any post you want with the pictures included in that post.  Thanks again!

Here's a whole lotta pictures from our Christmas festivities.  The pictures and their captions tell our story.  Enjoy!

Wednesday 12/19/12, Zachary's Preschool Program:

The four of us at Zachary's preschool program.  The kids did a wonderful job entertaining us.  Zachary's favorite parts were playing air guitar while they sang "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and eating the yummy cookies after the program. 

Zachary waving when he found us in the crowd (and let me tell you, it was a large crowd!)

Zachary with his teachers, Ms Carrie and Ms Angie. 

My Aunt Shirley was there to watch her great granddaughters who are also in Zachary's class.  She borrowed Zachary's Rudolph antlers and even let me get this picture.  Everyone was feeling festive!

I took a turn with the Rudolph antlers, but Eli didn't know what to think!

Sunday 12/23/12, Christmas with Jessica's family:

We started our Christmas celebrations on Sunday the 23rd.  The four of us, my mom, my sister, her boyfriend and his son came to our house for pizza and our gift exchange.  Here my mom is opening a gift from Josh who had her name.  He claims he knitted the sweater inside the box. 

Eli and Zachary were thrilled that Aaron was at their house.  They don't get to see each other very often and Aaron was a good sport about looking at everything they each had to show him.  Eli said Aaron's name about 7 times/ minute.  Eli was fighting a cold which made his drooling even more pronounced as evidenced in this picture.

Ashley had Bryan's name and got him a Tyler Zeller Cavaliers shirt.

I had my sister's name and got her a new crock pot.  She's exaggerating her excitement a little in this photo.

Aaron is a huge San Antonio Spurs fan and his room in Ashley & Josh's new house is a Spurs theme.  Bryan had Aaron's name and we made him a body pillow for his bed.  We've never attempted a craft like that before and were very pleased with the results.  We're pretty sure Aaron liked it too.

The letter to Santa Zachary wrote at school said he wanted "some paints, paint brushes and stencils."  We didn't know what he meant by stencils.  Ashley found out Santa had other things for Zachary so she got the paint supplies for him.  Josh kindly put the easel together for us (with a lot of help from the boys).  When Z unwrapped the box containing the easel he yelled "My stencil!!!"  Mystery solved!

Zachary and Aaron hanging out.

Zachary preparing for Santa's visit.  He came to our house on the 24th because I had to work Christmas Eve night.  I wasn't scheduled to be off until 7:30am Christmas Day, but as a nurse you're never guaranteed to be out on time so we decided to ask Santa to come a day early.  He's such a sweet guy and immediately agreed to help us out. The sack Zachary is holding was made by Bryan's Aunt Donna.  She made two for us, at Santa's request.  Our boys are very lucky and have a lot of toys.  Santa started a new tradition this year by asking them to put some of their toys they don't play with anymore into these sacks and leave them with his milk and cookies.  Santa emptied out the sacks and took those toys to children who didn't have enough to play with, leaving the sacks for next Christmas.  It worked well and Zachary has already found more to put in his sack for next year!

Monday 12/24/12, Santa's Visit:

We left our stockings on the table with the sacks and milk and cookies.  Zachary insists we leave chocolate milk for Santa every year.  Santa left a letter thanking them for the snack and especially for helping him out by giving him some of their gently used toys. 

Our tree with Santa's gifts.  From left to right:  a bean bag chair (for Eli), an Imaginext Dinosaur and a metal detector (both for Zachary) and a wall of cardboard bricks (for Eli).  I specified which boy each gift was meant for, but in reality they both play with everything!

In our garage checking out the final gift from Santa.....a 7 1/2 foot air hockey table!!!!  Santa said it was too big & heavy for him to bring in and we don't have a good spot cleared out for it yet.  Guess what I'll be doing in the next couple weeks?!?!?  We can't wait to get it put together :)

Eating cinnamon rolls the morning Santa came.  He was making silly faces with the icing smeared on his lips.

Stopping to say "Cheeeeeessssseeeeee!" while playing with his new goodies!
Zachary was so excited to use his stencil (easel) and paint a jungle picture.  He's a pretty good artist.  I don't have a picture yet of the finished painting but it has a lion and a cheetah in it.  He says he wants to add a gorilla.

Tuesday 12/25/12, Christmas with Bryan's family:

Zachary pointed out that our nativity scene was missing a star for the Wise men to follow.  I told him I didn't have one and he immediately set out to fix that!  I like our new addition to the scene.

Christmas Day!  This is a photo of Bryan's sisters & cousins.  Front row:  Ashley (sister), Alexa (cousin) holding Zachary, Tammy (cousin), and Kendra (sister).  Back row:  Bryan holding Eli, Amy (cousin & Alexa's mom) and Cara (sister) holding her daughter Alyssa (niece).  Yes, Bryan is the only male grandchild, not only on the Rayman side, but also the Veale side.  I am the only female "outsider" to come into this family in 40 years!  The next will be when Zachary or Eli marries (another 40 years!)

Alyssa was given a rocking chair but there was a bit of a struggle over it at times!

Some of the people & presents at Bryan's parents' house.  It was a crazy mess of paper, gifts and laughter!
A Dinosaur Train blanket made for Zachary by cousin Amy.  Eli received a Mickey Mouse one. 

Eli decided to skip out of the party for a few minutes.  When I found him he was in Alyssa's carrier playing with her stuffed animals. 

The boys were given a copy of Madagascar 3, complete with crazy wig.
Just a super cute picture of my first born!

This is Granny, Bryan's grandma.  It was surprising she even put the wig on, but downright amazing that she let us photograph her....and with a smile!

Sweet little Alyssa was one of the best gifts for our family in 2012.

Wednesday 12/26/12, Our Christmas:
Opening a shared gift.  It's so cute how well they work together

Zachary took this picture of us.  We're holding the package he made for us at preschool.  The package was decorated with a beaded candy cane and had a card with his school photo and a sweet message.  The gift was a book about Christmas.  "What Christmas sounds like, what Christmas smells like, what Christmas tastes like, what Christmas looks like, and what Christmas is really about."  Very sweet gift.  Thank you to his preschool teachers for organizing such great surprises for the kids to give their parents.

Gift opening time out to read one of his new books.

Another Imaginext dinosaur!!!!  He discovered them before Christmas last year and received 5 or 6 then.  New ones came out this year and he got 3 more.  He plays with them multiple times a week and takes pretty good care of them because they're so special to him.

Reading to Eli from his personalized book about his adventures with Sesame Street characters.

Zachary was very excited to open the walkie-talkies he'd seen in the Toys R Us magazine.  He & Bryan had a lot of fun with those in the evening.

Albert is the biggest kid when it comes to presents.  He loves to open his and it's quite funny to watch.  I'll have to find a video and post it sometime.  You just have to see it to believe it.

My three guys, part of our Christmas mess, and some awesome smiles.

Eli loves to "daw!" so we got him a doodle pad. 

Eli's very own backpack!  Or "baa-paa" as he says.  He loves Zachary's backpack so when we saw this Elmo one that was just his size we knew we had to get it for him.  It has different snaps, ties, zippers, buttons, etc to help him learn how to do those things.  For now he just likes putting things in it and wearing it around the living room.

This is me & Albert by our pine trees in our backyard.  Albert played in the snow for a while but being a short-haired indoor dog he doesn't last a long time in the snow.

A picture of one of our snow covered pine trees.  There's a whole line of them in our backyard that's visible from our back door.  I absolutely LOVE looking at them every time it snows.  Our little bit of country in the city.

We hope you all had as wonderful a Christmas as we did.  Please check back soon for an update about Eli's health and upcoming appointments.  Thanks again for reading and remember to cherish Every Little Beat...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Can't Sleep and it's My Own Fault

You would think I'd know better by now. 

After a busy day (physically & mentally) I had some time to myself this evening.  I've been DVRing some Christmas shows.  Some for the boys and some for me.  Tonight I recorded Blake Shelton's Not So Family Christmas special that aired on NBC.  Zachary loves The Voice so I considered letting him watch Blake's show tonight.  Instead I watched it by myself after all the men in the house were asleep.  I'm so glad Zachary didn't watch it!  It was a hilarious show.  I laughed so hard and it felt really good.  However, it was DEFINITELY not appropriate for my five year old!

Then came my bad decision.  I watched one of the movies I had recorded on Hallmark.  It's called "The Christmas Heart."  The description said something along the lines of "a neighborhood bands together to support a young boy who desperately needs a heart transplant."  When I saw the description on our guide, I had to record it.  I didn't know if I would watch it, but I needed it on my DVR just in case I felt the need to watch it. 

I don't know if I thought my euphoric feeling from the Christmas special would float me through a movie that hit so close to home or if I was just on a power trip because I had total dominance of the remote control for the tv with DVR, but I watched it.  The whole thing.  My Blake Shelton Christmas Special happy bubble officially burst. 

The movie itself was okay.  Too many parts were Hollywood-ified, but the point was made:  You just have to believe.
*Spoiler Alert*  In the movie, a 15 year old basketball player collapses during practice.  After being rushed to the hospital it is discovered that he has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening cardiac muscles resulting in a weakened, enlarged heart).  It's determined he needs a transplant within a week or he won't live.  The teen's younger brother is struggling with his belief in Santa.  He says he'll believe if Santa brings his only wish...a new heart for his big brother.  Miraculously a perfect match became available within five days.  The dilemma is that there's a major snowstorm in the area & all the medical transport helicopters are stuck at outlying locations.  Luckily a pilot dressed as Santa has his own plane and he & his copilot fly the doctor who is in charge of transporting the heart in an Igloo cooler through the storm.  Unfortunately  they can't land since the airport has shut down.  The insistent pilot says "this isn't the Hindenburg I'm flying, all I need is 500 feet and some light to get this thing down!"  Suddenly they spot a makeshift runway on the street below them which is actually the street the dying boy lives on.  It's a neighborhood tradition to light thousands of luminaries along their street at midnight Christmas Eve and this year it was the welcome beacon for the pilot.  He lands the plane and a neighbor drives them to the hospital in his truck.  The whole crew (including the pilot dressed as Santa Claus carrying the heart in an Igloo cooler) rushes into the waiting room where the parents and doctor are anxiously waiting.  When the doctor comes out after the surgery his first words are "he's going to make it."  Then the whole family, doctors, nurses, neighbors, and pilot all hug
 and sing.

I could make a list a mile long of inaccuracies, but I still watched the entire movie and cried.  It was strangely therapeutic.  However I'm still awake now, hours later, because I'm afraid of what my "dreams" will bring.  Dreams is in quotes because a dream implies something good or positive and that's not what will fill my nocturnal thoughts if I were to sleep.  The Hollywood version of what is quite possibly our family's medical reality is still too fresh, too real.  I started to watch Blake Shelton's program again, but it wasn't the therapy I needed.  This is.  I needed to get it out again. 

The point of the movie was to believe and keep the faith.  It made its point.  Faith is something we all struggle with, but I think especially so when we're struggling to come to terms with stressful situations.  There are days I'm mad, days where I'm indifferent, and days where I feel alone.  Those days don't happen often, but they do happen.  That's okay.  Every relationship has its ups and downs, faith is no different.  I always know we're part of His plan even if there are moments when I feel like the plan sucks. 

So anyway, I recommend Blake Shelton's Christmas special for some good music and a good laugh (if you're a grown up!).  And I might even go to sleep for a couple hours now that I've watched SportsCenter twice and done this post. 

Specific prayer requests:
1)  For the real life family we know whose little fighter is waiting in the hospital until his new heart becomes available.  Indianapolis isn't Hollywood and their struggles last longer than the two hour movie.
2)  For all the heart babies (of all ages!) and their families who are struggling to come to terms with their situation and uncertain futures.
3)  For everyone to realize what a big problem Congenital Heart Defects are and how often they happen. 
4)  For more people to become organ donors, for more funding for research to prevent and treat CHDs, and for more people to donate blood whenever possible. 

Thank you all for your support and prayers. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Does it Mean to be a Mother?

I don't remember exactly where I found this, but I'm sure it was on another heart baby's blog during a late night internet session.  Being a mother of a "normal" baby and then a heart baby, this rings so true to me.  I also think instead of mother it could be "parent" because I know Bryan hurts & hopes as much as I do. 

What does it mean to be a mother?
It's that very first moment
He's placed in your arms.
A wrinkled red face,
Filled with so many charms.
You can't help but cry,
(As a new mother knows)
You've been waiting so long,
Just to count all his toes.
Then visitors come,
Bearing gifts that are blue.
They laugh and snap pictures,
Saying, "He looks like you."
And in just a few days,
(Ahh... the joy and the fun)
You'll be on your way home,
With your beautiful son.

What is it like to be a heart mother?
Again, it's that moment,
You hold your child close,
And cry secret tears,
That a heart mother knows.
In just a few days,
Maybe less, maybe more,
You'll be letting him go,
Asking, what lies in store?
And as your child lays,
In a small isolette,
You think to yourself,
I must not get upset.
And as family arrives,
You try hard to stay strong,
But your tired eyes say,
That this all seems so wrong.
You know what is coming,
Though you're still not prepared.
He will leave your safe arms,
To have his heart repaired.

What does it mean to be a mother?
It is nights with no sleep,
It is feedings and spit up,
It is watching him roll,
And then finally sit up.
It is knowing this child,
Depends on you most,
It's those everyday milestones,
in which, you can boast.
And yes... there is crying,
(At times it's quite loud)
But when he says, "Mama"
He makes you so proud.

A heart mother...
Ahh...yes, little rest,
As the monitors beep,
And you begin to question,
Is there such thing as sleep?
You can't go home yet,
And your kids ask each day,
"Will we see you soon, Mommy?
Can you come home and play?"
"Real soon..." you promise,
"Yes...I miss you too",
And then people ask,
"How do you do what you do?"
And you stroke his forehead,
And his fist is unfurled,
And you know for this child,
You would give all the world.

A mother...
Time passes quickly,
Soon he's off to school,
And before you know it,
Hugs just aren't "cool",
He's a teenager now,
With dreams of his own,
And one day it hits you,
My child, has grown.
And though you are proud,
For all he's achieved,
Life passed more quickly,
Than you could have believed.

A heart mother...
You've always strived to live each day,
As if it were the last,
As the mother of a heart child,
You know things can change fast.
You've seen so many familes,
Endure things you can't understand,
And while you trust that God is good,
Sometimes you just don't understand.
But you go on, because you must,
God chose you for him, and no other,
You're stronger that you could imagine,
You have become a heart mother.

Every mother...
And every mother's journey,
Begins on that day when,
She knows with everything she is,
A mother, she has always been.
Crayon marks cover all the walls,
Muddy prints scatter the floor,
Toys and messes everywhere,
And yes... laundry galore.
I must have the best job that there is,
(Despite all the clutter and mess)
My children... they remind me,
Life shouldn't be such a stress.
Each and every day we have,
(To laugh, to hug, to play)
Is a memory I'll always have,
And nothing can take that away.
I wouldn't trade a moment,
Or all that they've taught me to see,
I'm blessed to be a mother,
It's more than I dreamed it could be.

~Stephanie Husted

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Plea

If you're Facebook friends with me you are probably somewhat aware of a fellow heart baby named Caleb.  We met in September 2011.  Eli was minutes out of his second heart surgery and Bryan & I were being escorted to the Family Room outside the PICU so we could talk to Dr. Abraham.  When we walked in there was a couple finishing their supper.  The mom (Katie) made a comment about us looking nervous.  I told her our son just had heart surgery and we were waiting for the surgeon.  She said they did the same thing two days before.  We had a brief conversation exchanging facts about our sons' hearts.  A few hours later she came down the hall and peeked in our room to see how we were all doing.  That's how heart families are, we aren't only concerned with the affected child, it's the whole family because we've "been there, done that." 

In the days that followed, we checked in on each other a few more times.  Caleb was recovering nicely from his Glenn procedure (for more info on the procedures & defects click here).  He was discharged from the hospital before we left the PICU, but Katie was nice enough to come back downstairs to tell us they were leaving and for us to exchange contact info.  She brought Caleb with her and I got to hold him for a minute while she wrote down her information.  Quickly we became Facebook friends and were messaging updates back and forth quite often. 

We had several things in common.  Caleb also has an older brother, Jonah who just turned four.  Caleb was born at PMCH the day Eli was discharged from his first surgery, making Caleb exactly 3 months younger than Eli.  Their heart defects are basically the same; they were each born without a functional right half of the heart.  They had each made it through their first two heart surgeries without huge problems and their paths were paved for their Fontans to be done sometime in 2013. 

As we've come to learn, the path for a heart family is never set in stone and it can change very quickly.  About three weeks ago, Katie & Daniel noticed Caleb's face was swollen.  A visit to the pediatrician led them to a pediatric nephrologist because it was thought something was wrong with his kidneys.  Fortunately, his kidneys were fine.  They took Caleb to see his cardiologist who performed an echocardiogram.  It showed that Caleb's heart was much weaker than expected and not functioning well.  He was scheduled for a heart cath on Nov 1.  That morning in the cath lab, Caleb went into cardiac arrest.  His heart stopped.  Thank God they were at the hospital with exactly the help he needed.  It could have happened at home or the night before while they were trick-or-treating, but in His plan, Caleb was exactly where he needed to be when it happened.  The doctors were able to revive him, but it became painfully clear that Caleb's heart was not going to last much longer.

He was transferred to Riley that night.  St. Vincent's hospital is a wonderful place and we are so privileged to be patients there.  Obviously we trust their staff with Eli's life and Katie & Daniel must have felt the same.  However, St. Vincent's doesn't do heart transplants and that was the only option left for Caleb.  So, off to Riley they go to start the process of getting on the transplant list and then the grueling wait for a heart for Caleb.  He was officially listed on November 9.  Since his cardiac arrest, he has done remarkably well.  Just tonight I saw some footage of him and his daddy doing a dance.  He's very cute and has lots of smiles, but he's not healthy enough to leave the hospital.  Katie & Daniel were told he would not leave until he has a new heart.  The family has moved into the nearby Ronald McDonald house. 

As a heart parent, these are fears that lurk in the back of our minds all the time.  Most of the time we're able to ignore them and live our lives, but then something like this happens.  So of course I'm worried about Caleb and his family, but I have to be honest here and confess that it worries me for Eli. Even if the third surgery "works" it is not a fix.  These hearts cannot be fixed, they can be made functional for a long time until the heart gives out and a transplant is required.  Caleb's heart isn't holding out for the third surgery, why should Eli's?  Caleb's situation brings those fears front and center again. 

In no way am I trying to say that my fears are anything compared to the emotional roller coaster Katie and Daniel have been on in the past couple weeks.  I am amazed by this couple.  From the outside looking in, I'd have to say they have an amazing support system of family and friends.  Almost immediately fundraisers were started to help them finance the stay at the Ronald McDonald house (it costs them $15/night FYI) and other expences encountered as they wait for the perfect heart. 

One of the main questions we got when Eli was diagnosed was "what can I do to help?" I assume they've been asked this a lot lately. If you're reading this and would like to help, I have a few suggestions. First of all, pray. Pray for Caleb's heart and body to hold out long enough to receive the perfect donor heart. Pray for the transplant to go well and for his body to not reject the new heart when it comes. Pray for his family to remain a tight, loving family with a sense of normalcy throughout this process. Pray for the donor family who will give the most selfless gift imaginable -- their dead child's heart so another child has another chance at life. And pray for Katie & Daniel and all other heart families like us who are conflicted with the thought of praying for someone to pass so that our child might live.

What else besides prayer? Sign up to be an organ donor. It's easy. To register, click here. I did it a few nights ago. I've had the red heart on my driver's license since I was 16 indicating I want to be an organ donor, but I registered anyway. After you register, let your family and friends know your wishes. And, if the unthinkable happens to your child, please donate their organs. Eli is under 25lbs, he wouldn't be able to receive the heart of a full grown man, but he could if it were a child.

There are a lot of myths and untruths associated with organ donation. This link and this link help dispel false information and provide correct answers to many questions. I learned a lot from browsing these sites.

Also, spread the word about congential heart defects.  I know I recently posted about this, but we need more people to be aware.  CHDs are more common than most people realize.  One of every 100 babies born has some sort of a congenital heart defect.  Many are correctable, but many such as Eli and Caleb (and many more I've met along the way) have no fix available.

Eli & Caleb have already beaten some odds just to be here now, however there was a time for each of them when we didn't think they would be alive for their first birthday. Thankfully they are here, but many are not. 

If after keeping them in your prayers and signing up to be an organ donor, you want to do more, please contact me.  My email is  Other ways to help could be buying from the fundraisers organized for them:  "Pray for Caleb" bracelets are $2 and tshirts are $10.  There's a website you could visit to sign up to bring them a meal.  Mostly, the family is asking for prayers.  If you want to follow Caleb's story yourself, you can find their blog listed on the left side of this page. It's titled "Caleb's Heart".

Thank you for reading, thank you for your support, and thank you for your prayers.  You know we cherish them all With Every Little Beat...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Christmas in November!

(If you read all of this, you will see one of the funniest pictures ever at the end.  Could you just skip all the text and other pictures and simply go to the end to see the funniest picture?  Sure, but that's not a proper Christmas in November attitude now is it?  Enjoy!)

So. Much. Fun. 

Tonight (well, Friday night because, as usual, it's after midnight by the time I get time to do this!) we took the boys to the French Lick Scenic Railway and rode The Polar Express!  It was fantastic.  Bryan & I have seen the movie a couple times.  Zachary has seen it once but doesn't really remember much about it.  None of us had read the book until the copy I ordered specifically for tonight arrived earlier this week.  We just knew it would be fun.  Both boys like trains.  The story & movie are good.  And who can pass up an opportunity to start "that Christmas feeling" on November 9th? 

Okay, I confess, I've been playing Christmas music for a week now.  At first I told myself it was to help get in the spirit for this event, but in reality I just like Christmas music :)

Through Facebook, I came across the page for the French Lick Scenic Railway a couple weeks ago.  I had heard that all their Polar Express times were sold out, but lucky me!  They had added some that day.  Who cares they were for November 9th?  We still have a rotting jack-o-lantern on our porch, but by golly we bought those tickets and looked forward to it!

Our train was set for departure at 5:30.  Luckily we arrived in plenty of time to get our tickets at will-call, take a few photos, and find our way around without being too early to allow the boys to get bored.  More importantly we had time to use the bathrooms which I must say, in all seriousness, were the nicest port-a-potties I've ever used.  They even had toilet paper in them!  For anyone taking a younger child, be forewarned there are no changing tables!  The 8-10 potties are lined up under a white tent with heaters in it.  There are two hand sanitizer stations before you exit the tent. 

Once my amazement at not being grossed out by the bathrooms ceased, we lined up for the train.  I'll just start the photos here and tell the story through captions.

At least they're both smiling, even if neither is looking at the camera!  And, yes, they're wearing pajamas.  Zachary is wearing slippers but Eli refused to take off his shoes even for his adorable Elmo slippers.  Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas just like the kids in the story.  I kinda wish I had worn mine!

A kind woman offered to take my picture with the boys after I had taken theirs.  Bryan was using the port-o-pot so I gladly accepted her offer.  One shot & she got us all looking at the camera!  I think I'll hire her to follow us around on outings and take photos so I can just enjoy the event.  But then I'd need to hire a hair/make up artist & a stylist and I don't see that fitting into the budget.

The engine of our train.  We were in Car 2.

Bryan and boys just before we boarded.  Eli was enjoying himself but not really sure what was going on. 

Zachary was very excited and kept jumping up & down in his seat.  He said over & over, "Oh boy!  My first train ride!  My very first train ride!!!"

While we waited in line, and old time newspaper boy was roaming around passing out newspapers.  He was very good and had down the whole "Extra! Extra!" thing.  The whole paper was about French Lick, but the front page was news devoted to The Polar Express.  We got Zachary to sit still for about 7.3 seconds by giving him the newspaper. 

He was done with the paper and getting bouncy again.  I loved his excitement though!  Eli picked up on it and it just made the experience more enjoyable.

Just as we were getting ready to pull away, I got them to sit still enough to get this picture.

Then we preoccupied Zachary by letting him use the camera to take our picture.  He's a pretty good photographer!

We're on the move!

In pure awe of the scene rolling past him. 

Eli was dancing to the music that was piped in and enjoyed watching the crowd around us.

The music stopped and you could almost hear a voice reading the story.  When we bought the tickets we were encouraged to bring a copy of the story so we could read along.  The boys love the beautiful artwork in it. 

At one point in the story, chefs come dancing through the train and pass out hot chocolate and cookies to the children riding.  That's exactly what happened on our train.  The hot chocolate was wonderful and the cookies were nice and soft. 

More dancing after the story.  Eli's saying "CHEEEEESSSEEEEE!" for the camera.

Now Z is looking at the camera as Eli is dancing.  I love how his hands disappear in the glow of Christmas lights in this one.

Eli watching the elves (former chefs in a previous picture) dance in the aisle.  They encouraged everyone to dance with them.  We all did, but Zachary wouldn't get into the aisle with them.

Looking out the opposite windows at the North Pole.  The train made a brief stop there to allow a "Special Passenger" to board.

Santa came through our car and stopped to talk to every boy and girl.  If he thought they were good, they received a bell.  In the story, the bell is significant because only those who believe in the magic of Christmas can hear the bell ring.  Our car was full of ringing bells!!!

Zachary was having a blast making his bell ring.  He kept asking questions about if he's been good or not.  Of course we assured him he's been good (it's the truth!) and it just made him ring his bell more!

Eli preferred someone else to ring the bell and he'd try to grab it.

At one point Eli ventured down the aisle to dance.  An elf picked him up and brought him back to us.  He enjoyed the attention (go figure!).

More dancing and singing!
Awesome smiles before our ride was over.

After we left the train, we had more time to explore.  There was another tent with activites.  Inside there were three toy train tables, two tables with coloring pages, crayons and paper to write your letter to Santa (his mailbox was just outside the tent), and one whole wall was a dry erase board where people left messages for Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves.

Zachary working on his drawing.

Eli was just as serious as Zachary was.  I guess he's a leftie today!

Zachary's finished masterpiece.

Some very serious train play. 

Bryan and the boys as we were leaving.

And now, the grand finale of pictures.  Believe me, this was worth the wait......

Are you ready for it......

You're almost there.....

the Best Santa Photo EVER!!!
We've all seen crying kids on Santa's lap, but I've never seen one where Santa looks like this!
Love the smile on Zachary's face :)

I shake with laughter each time I look at this!  Seriously, he was a good Santa.  Eli liked him at first.  He didn't object when I started to hand him to Santa.  The sad face started right when the photographer raised his camera for the picture.  We had no idea about Santa's face until we went to the viewing area after we exited the train.  Yes, we paid for this picture.  We got the 8x10.  How could we pass it up?  Zachary looks great, I'm so proud of him.  He's been working on overcoming some of his shyness and he did really well.  He didn't hide from Santa, he talked to him, told him two things on his Christmas Wish List and said thank you for the bell, then he didn't object at all to the photo.  Eli on the other hand......Oh well, it's a great story.

The evening was wonderful.  Zachary is ready to go again.  I'm pretty sure Eli would too, at least for the train, the elves and the cookies!  I hate to tell him they're sold out this year.  We're looking forward to watching the movie together.  If you get the chance to do this with your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc, I highly recommend it. 

"Seeing is believing, but sometimes
the most real things in the world
are the things we can't see."

MERRY (Halloween's-barely-over-Thanksgiving's-less-than-two-weeks-away-and-I'm-playing-Christmas-music) CHRISTMAS!!!!   Thanks for reading!