So through the years I have heard about other families going to Polar Express and I wanted to make it reality for my kiddos. I figured that if we went once, this would be the year for that onceness. I was also blessed to have some "extra" preschool and babysitting money and I knew just what I wanted to spend it on. When I bought the tickets I was excited to say the least.
We decided to keep it a secret from the girls. We booked the hotel, made the plans, watched the Polar Express movie for no particular reason and sent the girls off to school on that Thursday morning, December 6th like it was any other day. Then I showed up in the cafeteria to pick up the girls early from school and take them TO THE NORTH POLE!
Of course there was a little mix up in pick up which created a hick-up and some start of the trip anger and frustration between husband and wife and screaming three year olds, which resulted in a cafeteria chocolate milk carton being thrown from our vehicle - you know the normal stuff. But we got over it and moved on to a fantastic trip....
We started out with lunch at Taco Bell. Then we were off to Williams, Arizona where we would depart on the Polar Express. I brought a few coloring pages and Christmas stickers for the girls and disappointing "milk chocolate flavored" Santas for our driving entertainment.
Then we finally arrived and our girls were almost as thrilled just to be in a hotel. Have I mentioned before how much my girls love staying in hotels?!
After dressing in our matching pajamas from Grandma and Gramdpa Papa, and a fine dinner at KFC, we were off to our train ride. The excitement was great. Annie starting doing this funny dance with her arms when the music came on. Lucy and Elsa speculated on what they might see. Leta didn't want her picture taken. And they all loved the hot chocolate, the cookies, the ride, reading the book on the train, the North Pole, singing and finally getting a bell from Santa.
After the ride we took another picture with Mrs. Claus (where I had to hold Leta) and Santa (where we had to bribe Leta) and did a little artwork. I like to remind my children how creative they are. Elsa constructed her own elf out of paper that was meant to be ornaments.
They got to pick out rocks as a group souvenir - although Leta and her obsession with tiny objects has kind of been possessive of them.
When we arrived back at our car - but who should be in Annie's car seat - but our very own Elf on the Shelf! Apparently she saw us at the North Pole and wanted to come stay with us! Imagine that. The girls knew just what to do and quickly named her Tulip. Though I think a more appropriate spelling for our family would be Twolip.
(Side note - I didn't want to spend money on a proper Elf on the Shelf, so I found a 99 cent doll at Goodwill and reconstructed her into an elf. Then I wrote a letter and bam - Mommy made Magic. I wasn't sure the 2 hours of reconstructive elf surgery was worth it, but when the girls got all excited that they finally had an Elf on the Shelf like all their friends - totally worth it.)
After we got back to the hotel with Tulip and we bedded her down for the night, we headed off to the indoor swimming pool. We definitely earned major cool parent points on that one. Swimming during the winter is SO awesome in my girls' book.
Then we made it back to our room and had a few moments of "Stop that right now or Tulip is going to have to leave and tell Santa to put you on the naughty list!" And we finally all went to bed and Ryan and I vowed to try harder in the morning to be more patient. Of course it was easier after everyone got a good night's rest.
After getting ready, we figured that we wanted to make the most of our trip since we already spent the gas money to get up north, so we traveled a few minutes to Bearizona. The girls loved that too! Our favorites were driving through the wolves and bears and then finally getting to watch the raptor show. They had these birds fly only a few inches above our heads. Then the crows took our money (they are trained to put dollar bills in the collection box) and we got to see "Justin Beaver" and go to the petting zoo.
The trained crow - took a few of our dollars.
I think this might be one of my favorite pictures of all times.
I only put this one in because I think I look really good in it.
Of course we were hungry so the girls picked to eat at McDonald's. Of course we were on vacation so we just had to get Happy Meals.
Then I finally got smart and stopped by a grocery store to get some snacks and we headed to the Grand Canyon. I hadn't been there since 10 years ago when Ryan and I celebrated our first anniversary. At our first stop at the Canyon, I thought, "Oh, they made this a ton more safe to bring kids to." There were guard rails and I really wasn't scared. Then we rode the bus (another thing my girls thought was AWESOME) and we went to one of the spots I remember going to as a kid and suddenly I was a scared mom. Lucy and Elsa had strict orders to not run AT ALL and if they did, we were going back. I held onto Leta and Annie with my death grip and Ryan just laughed at my stress. Thankfully we all survived.
These pictures were at the safer location.
When I would go to the Grand Canyon as a kid, I remember some folks from China taking my picture because of my blond hair and blue eyes. Apparently that tradition has not died with the digital age. We had a nice lady ask to take our picture while we sat and ate our Clementines. One of Ryan's favorite things to do at the canyon was to stand a few feet behind us so he could hear everyone's comments about our two sets of twins. Also while there I met a lady who homeschools her kids and has been traveling the country with them to teach them history. I think that will be me one year.
We finished off our wonderful day with a meal at Sizzler in Flagstaff. I'm a sucker for all you can eat places, though it ended up pretty pricey for how much our tired girls actually ate. Then Ryan drove home as our four girls dozed and I thought again and again about how blessed I truly am. We may have had a few times of frustration, but it was a fantastic trip. Lucy and Elsa kept saying how they were going to tell everyone about Tulip and going to the North Pole and they sure felt special skipping out on school.
It really was exactly what I wanted for Christmas.