First Annual Polar Express...

We're splitting Christmas this year - most of December here, then heading up to Idaho a few days before actual Christmas day. When we started making plans for how to celebrate together this year, our daughter-in-law asked if we could do a homemade Polar Express. Daniel and JaeBeth are 3 1/2 and almost 5, so we skipped the version that involves paying to ride a train, long lines, etc. That might be a possibility later down the road, when they can give us more notice that they need to go potty. For the next few years, homemade and simple seemed a good choice.

First step for me was to buy some new Christmasy pajamas, versus the ratty leggings and t-shirt I usually sleep in. Thank you Ross.

We started the evening with our new traditional meal, frito pie. I made the chili too spicy so the kids ended up eating more fritos than chili, but whatever. Then I donned my elf hat, and we headed out in our 'reindeer sleigh', to drive across town and change into pajamas.

The kids loved riding in a car with antlers (picked them up at Party City for $14.99). 

When we got to the kids' house, and they were inside changing into pjs, Papa donned a blue jacket, a polar express conductor hat (antique store and cricut machine) and a mustache (Party City), and started hollering 'all aboard' at their front door. At 3 1/2 and almost 5, they didn't even recognize him at first! He started punching their tickets (Pinterest) with a hole punch, and warning them they had to hang onto the ticket since it was a round trip. 

Once they recognized him, and Daniel started hollering 'It's Papa!' they were much more willing to give him their ticket and proceed. 

We rode through town, listening to Christmas music, eating Krispy Kreme Donuts, drinking cocoa in sippy cups and checking out the lights of several townspeople who are known for going overboard. It was such fun to see Christmas displays through the eyes of a child - they definitely think more is better. 

Afterwards we rode home, opened Christmas gifts with them and ate brownies and ice cream in front of a fire. Papa got huge points for the Barbie he'd chosen for Jae Beth, and Daniel was crazy about his Dinomeal game. 

So about three hours after we started, they loaded up into their car to head home to bed, a little zingy, a little sugared up, but happy. And that was the point. 

It's not going to be too many years til they're telling their friends they have to spend the evening with their ancient grandparents, and all they'll be hoping for is money to take to the mall. But for right now, while they're little, it's sooooooooooo fun, such a gift, to just let them be little and share in the magic with them. I grew up in a family that had very little tradition, and Cub Sweetheart's wasn't big on celebration of any sort, so it fills a hole for me to make sweet family traditions, and celebrate life every chance we get. I'm blessed that our daughter-in-law feels the same way. 

And I highly recommend the reindeer kit for the car - with all that crazy traffic and grouchy, stressed people out there, a little reason to make others smile is a good thing. 

So maybe there's something you can start as a tradition for your family? Going to the nursing home to visit the elderly? Donating food to the food bank? Volunteering somewhere together? A ride around town to see the lights, then coming back home to cocoa and cookies? An entire day spent in pajamas watching old Christmas movies? Inviting a neighbor you don't know over for coffee, tea or wine? How about lunch with girlfriends and no exchanging gifts allowed? How about a get-together for all the tired mamas to get their presents wrapped? A day spent phoning old friends to catch up with each other? The possibilities are endless, many don't cost much or anything, and can be done with little fuss. 



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