The December Spark

It's a flash of warmth, a brief flare at the end of the year, and even though it lasts a whole month the spark seems gone in a blink.  I should know that by now, but I still wasn't adequately prepared.  There weren't enough Christmas cards sent, not enough pictures taken, not enough cups of hot chocolate by the glow of the lighted tree.

And there certainly weren't enough blog posts.  So here's me trying to squish most of the Buckmaster holiday season into one tiny corner of the Internet.

The night after Camden's birthday party we went with Grammy and Papa to ride the Polar Express to the North Pole.  Quite the event to kick off the holidays!  We knew that pajamas were encouraged for the kids, but we weren't sure about the adults.  But umm, who is going to pass up pajamas?  (My hair and face were also aiming for the bedtime look, obvi!)

The station was just over an hour away by car.  There we met up with some of our great friends, which made it all the more exciting for all of us.  But especially for Camden, because Cal is one of his best little pals.  

Upon the discovery of my missing license, we almost didn't get our tickets.  You guys, I almost ruined Christmas!  Luckily the teller was in the Christmas spirit and accepted my Costco card as a valid form of photo ID.  Otherwise this post would be a bit less magical.

Do you spy the beginnings of a baby bump/lump?  Also, Camden is getting better and better at being fantastically photogenic.  Gets it from his mama.

Everything about the train was just phenomenal for Cam.  Typical boy, the Christmas theme could have been completely absent and he still would have been in Heaven.  For example, the conductor punching his ticket, I mean, look at his face.  Awestruck.  Then there was the clacking over the tracks, the way the seats could flip around to face each other, and watching dark silhouettes pass our window.

But it was an enchanted Christmas train, so it got even better.  We rumbled through a colorful "magic tunnel" that took us from Arizona straight up to the North Pole in a matter of seconds.  That left us a short thirty minute ride away from Santa's workshop.

Chefs in white hats came out serving hot chocolate and cookies while they played the "Hot hot hot, hot chocolate" song from the Polar Express movie over the speakers.  (Camden still sings it daily.)  And then there was the reading of The Polar Express book.  We followed along with our own copy, and the boys were mesmerized.  

Finally, there was the singing of Christmas carols as we neared the North Pole.  A group of tween girls sitting just ahead of us were the perfect little chorus of holiday cheer.  After a while kids were up and waltzing in the aisle; the cookies and hot chocolate induced some really interesting dance moves.

Then the music stopped.  The chefs exclaimed that we were nearing Santa's workshop, and the lights inside our car blinked out.  Every child in the train seemed to be holding their breath with their faces pressed up against the glass, searching.

The train windows were suddenly filled with lights, and we could see part of the elves' village.  And there was Santa in his gift-laden sleigh, waving at the slowly passing train.  Camden pointed and whispered in wonderment, "There's Santa Clause!"

The train rolled past the jolly elf, as we listened to the squeals of delight, but then suddenly stopped.  The conductor apologized and explained that there were caribou on the tracks, so we would need to go back the way we came.  But as we passed the sleigh again, Santa was GONE!

And in another moment, it was announced that Santa was on the train!  The excitement was palpable.  Camden was almost nervous, he wasn't sure what all of the commotion was about.  But once I explained what was happening he craned his neck all around looking for Mr. Clause.  As we picked up speed and raced away from Santa's workshop the lights came back on, the door opened, and Santa strolled in with special bells for everyone aboard.

It was a very noisy but jubilant thirty minutes back to the magic tunnel.

Our North Pole Express experience was all we talked about for about a week afterward.  When we got home Roy put up the lights outside while I decked the halls with holiday music blasting.  

Something I was most excited for was getting our first real tree!  We got rid of the old crummy (but free) artificial tree during our move, and I thought we might as well try the real tree thing.  Going to some random parking lot to pick out the perfect pine has been lovingly filed under "Favorite Christmas Memories" from my childhood archives.  We always wanted the fattest, tallest one!  Camden wanted the scrimpiest, shortest one.

We settled for medium-height and skinny, so it could fit in the corner of our living room.  When we brought it home Roy and Papa went to work sawing off the end of the trunk, and Camden immediately grabbed his toy saw to help.

I love and admire the Christmas trees that are stunning.  You know the type, all the ornaments coordinate, the lights are a gentle white, there's sparkly ribbon entwined in the branches, all to make this magnificent work of art.  

However, that's not the kind of tree I imagined for the kid-raising years.  Ours was messy with a hodgepodge of ornaments (mostly ones that are cheap and unbreakable) and candy canes and whatever else a toddler would want to shove on a branch.  And I absolutely loved it!

Here was Camden's new ornament for the year, so we can always remember his love with vehicles--specifically green ones.

The finishing touch was the train around the tree- a birthday gift for Roy last year.  I couldn't be sure which of my boys was more excited over it.  Most mornings I awoke to the sound of the soft "choo choo!" as they raced the train around and around with the remote.

Soon after the tree was up an elf appeared at our house.  I was very hesitant to let one of these scout elves into our home but we allowed him to come on a trial basis.  Camden named him Skeeter and enjoyed searching for him every morning, as the elf liked to hide in funny places.

Another first for us this year: snow!

Not a lot, but the perfect amount.  We got a thin blanket like this three times before Christmas.  Perfect for snowball fights, and for not scraping it off my windshield with a credit card.

Snow is also the perfect primer for hot chocolate.
(Oh but it was discovered that Cam does not like hot chocolate.  He would drink it in a house, he would not drink it with a mouse, he would not drink it here or there, he would not drink it anywhere!  So Sam I Am, I mean Mama, just had double servings all December long, which the baby liked.)

Last year Camden was all about Frosty the Snowman.  This year he was all about Santa and nutcrackers/toy soldiers.

A little too all about them.  Luckily this was the only decor casualty of the year.  Nothing a little wood glue couldn't fix.

And then we journeyed down south for the birth of Jaxon!
Camden was very excited to have a "biiiig GIANT baby" for a cousin.
Oh, chubby babies are the cutest.  Zac and Jess seem pretty smitten, as are we all.

Aunt Alexa came down for a surprise visit to see the new bundle of joy, and somehow this is the only picture I got of her.  Thanks for having my back, Camden.  (I'm sure he'll be starting up a portrait business soon, stay tuned.)

And then there was Grammy Camp with these crazy grammies.

The elf theme turned out adorable, as expected.  All refreshments were elf-sized and the kids had a blast playing elf games.  Camden especially enjoyed "making toys" like the elves do.

And hunting for candy canes.

And the Arizona-style "snowball fight".

It wouldn't be Christmastime without Grammy Camp!

Back up north we got to see the Christmas parade with our friends, and later the Valley of Lights - a huge lights display in a public park.

You better not shout, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you why...
Aunt Kirsten is coming to town!
(She was basically coming from the North Pole too, so it was a big deal.)

Aunt Kirsten and I took Camden to the mall to discover the Santa there was a fraud!  ($30, really?)  So we hunted down the real Clause in the town square.  And guys, I really think he was the real deal. He talked to Camden for a good seven or eight minutes, asking all about what books he likes to read and about his family.  Camden was so star-struck he could barely speak at first.  Soon they were pals.

Camden told Santa he would really like a choo choo train ("needs" one, actually), and Santa told him that he would come to his house on Christmas eve with one especially for him.

It was a magical season.  Brilliant, but gone like a spark.
And suddenly it was Christmas Eve!
(Stay tuned.)

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