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!

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