All Aboard!

While we were still in Iowa, we surprised the kids with a fun little day trip to a small town for their famous "Santa Train Ride."  Like every little boy I know, Carter is NUTS about trains and when my Mom called to see if we'd be interested in this, we quickly said yes.  We knew Ava would love it too but we were especially excited to surprise Carter!  
 When we left for the drive we told the kids what we were doing and they were excited but my favorite line from Carter was when we drove up to the train station and he said, "I wish we could go here and I could get on that train" (as if it was totally out of the question) and we were able to say, we ARE going here and you CAN get on that train!!  He followed it with a "What in da world???" (one of his classic lines) and then broke out into a huge grin.  SO fun!!!
 Yep, holding back his joy while waiting! 
 Ava was also thrilled and really intrigued about Santa and Mrs. Claus being on here too.  
 Thankfully for us we got a gorgeous day for a train ride, it was sunny and more importantly, warm~
 We had taken their advice to get their early as the seating was just first come, first served.  And we were also well prepared (ie, overpacked) because we knew that some of the trains had no heat and people said it could get chilly.  That meant my Mom and I brought every thing our arms could carry in the event that we encountered a variety of situations.  We might tie for the "overpackers anonymous" award.  We don't like to take chances!  
Lucky for us, we picked a train (actually we let Carty choose the train) and ours had heat.  In fact it had so much heat that within minutes I was already shedding layers and sending Travis on a hunt for a cold bottle of water.  Being a fun Mom was on my agenda but this pesky nausea problem threatened to get in my way so I had snacks and drinks to get me through!  It took Carter all of 2 seconds to declare he was "SO esscited!" 
We got some great seats but I begged Trav to take the backwards seat for me as I knew that might send this pregnant lady right into a spiral I couldn't recover from.
My Mom is always equally plagued with motion problems but thankfully we both did great!
 Sweet girl!
 Best day of Carty's life for awhile! 
 He was on train whistle alert, waiting for us to start moving any second!
 Fun to share this with my parents too!  
 I love this picture of them and the kids.  Only a few more months before these two gain a cousin and sibling, doubling the grandkid count!
 Our tickets were punched and ready!
 Santa express, here we come!
 The conductor came by to welcome us...
 ...and we listened to a cute story while we traveled to the North Pole. 
 Carter basically assumed this position the whole time, glued to the window and taking it all in, although he did have a smile on his face more often than not!   
 There was a lot to take in!  I can only imagine how gorgeous this valley would be full of snow, but it was nice to have a warm day even if it meant staring at some brown scenery.
 We crossed the valley on a very high bridge that had my Mom sweating...
...and then before we knew, Santa embarked on our train car and things got real! Ha!
 Ava was very excited to see him and Mrs. Claus too, but the minute Santa got  near us, Carter decided he couldn't bear to look!  ha!!  This cracked me up but he would NOT look at Santa until he walked by us!  
 Ava was mostly trying to figure this whole thing out...We are not parents who play up Santa.  We aren't anti-Santa, meaning we don't ruin other people's traditions and convictions or hide the kids from him, but we don't celebrate him or tell them stories that aren't true about him either.  We have always told the kids he's just "pretend" or for fun, kind of a like a game people play at Christmas time, but he does not bring their presents, we do.  Before you think we're totally lame, we wanted her to enjoy this so we got excited with her but when she asked us if Santa would bring her the toys she told him about, we were honest and took the burden off of Santa!  We did tell her she could ask US for those toys because we are the ones who love to shop for her and surprise her!  I'm thinking I need to brush up on my St. Nicholas history and we will likely embrace that more than we could get behind Santa but the bottom line is that we want Christmas to be all about JESUS and in our favorite family traditions, HE is always our main focus.  No judgement from us about what you choose to do, but that's just where we feel comfortable at this stage in the game.  
 In addition to greeting each child, Santa and Mrs. Claus brought everyone a little bell, which was a hit!
 Gotta love an old-fashioned, smiling Santa and his wife!
 The minute they walked past us, Carter decided he was safe look again and play with his new bell. He is the biggest chicken sometimes, makes us laugh though!  
 We enjoyed some hot chocolate and sugar cookies until Santa was finished greeting everybody.  
 And then we were told to look out the window for another fun surprise.  Oh, the suspense!  Ha! 
They did their best and waited patiently...
 ...and got to wave good-bye to the stars of the North Pole!  Gotta love a small town operation!  Not a lot of bells and whistles just simple fun.  And that's ok with us! The kids thought the whole thing was great.  I've got to think if this were in the Twin Cities the price would be doubled, the "show" would be slick and technology based, and the trains updated.  But I'm grateful for simple and sweet.  We don't have enough of that stuff these days unless we are intentional about it.  
 Ava made us laugh when she jumped up to participate in a fashion show with some other kids who had pjs or holiday wear on!  
 She said her name in the mic when the gal asked her to and that she was wearing "a lady walking her dog in the snow" shirt!  ha ha aha hahahaha!!!  Cracked us right up!  Fun to see her be brave and step out of her shell as she grows up.  Carter wasn't quite ready to branch out yet but he was definitely watching his big sister :) 
 We had a great time on the Santa Express made some fun memories together!  So glad we went!
It was fun to be on an old train and to see some of the other trains they had.  
Carter and Ava had a blast and that's the best part!  
So glad we were able to do this, thanks Mom and Dad!!  
PS., we are still listening to the bells on a daily basis to remind us of our train ride with Santa  :) 

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