Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Polar Express

The Polar Express is one of my absolute favorite Christmas stories.

When we were kids, my mom read it to us over and over again during the month of December, and I was absolutely thrilled when the movie came out in 2004 and completely exceeded my expectations.

Needless to say, I was super excited when I learned that the Mt. Rainier Railroad now brings the magic of The Polar Express to life! I immediately contacted my sister to see if she was interested in taking the kids. We booked tickets for the weekend after Christmas, and I promptly pulled out my copy of Chris Van Allsburg's classic tale to start reading to Ryder. 

By the last page, I was literally in tears.
Thanks, pregnancy hormones... 

"At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe." 

All month long we looked forward to heading down to Elbe, Washington to meet up with my parents and my sister's family for what we hoped would be a truly magical Christmas journey to the North Pole.

You guys... It was amazing!


First of all, the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum is super cute. Ryder absolutely LOVES trains, so he was in heaven running around the platform and checking out the vintage steam engine and all the train cars while we waited for our turn to climb on board. 

Once the journey began, we were entertained by cheerful chefs who walked around reading a large-scale copy of the book to the kiddos, followed by dancing, singing, and of course serving us delicious hot chocolate and cookies, just like in the story. After a beautiful ride through the snowy wonderland of Mt. Rainier, we arrived at the North Pole, where Santa boarded the train to give each child the first gift of Christmas (a silver bell). 











Then, on the journey back, the servers led a Christmas caroling sing-along that included the kids dancing up and down the aisles of the train.

Sophia, Aubrey, and Ryder were absolutely enchanted by the entire experience. Ryder's delight as he looked out the window of the train and exclaimed at everything he saw was pretty much the best Christmas present ever. And frankly, I was pretty impressed, myself. I thought the entire production was extremely well-done, and definitely worth the extra money we paid for our first class tickets (which also included beautiful souvenir Christmas mugs for each of us). 

I think we may need to make The Polar Express an annual tradition for the whole family!

Afterward, we headed back to my parents' house to exchange gifts (yes, at this point we were on at least our third Christmas celebration!)

Ryder's like, "Seriously Mom, MORE pictures?!"

My favorite part of the whole experience was seeing Ryder play and interact with his cousins. He was so thrilled to have other kiddos to spend time with; it was just adorable. 

Perhaps he needs a sibling?

As the year and the holiday season draws to a close, I sure hope that your experiences were as magical and memorable as ours.


Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!

I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating with all your nearest and dearest.

Merry Christmas from the Getchman Family!
Sometimes it's just impossible to get a 2-year-old to cooperate for the annual family Christmas photo. This is the best we got...

We typically celebrate Christmas in my home town at my parents' house, and this year we arrived a couple days early for some extra quality time and relaxation. 

Almost as soon as we arrived, my brother and his beautiful wife revealed some super exciting news!

YAY! Ryder is getting another cousin this August!

After a day of lounging around doing nothing except eating, napping, and watching Christmas movies, Stew and I left Ryder with my parents for the day while we headed up to Seattle for the Christmas Eve Seahawks game versus the Cardinals.

Bundled up and the icy cold tailgate. I forgot how much colder tailgating is when you're sober...

It was an awesome day out with Stew and our friends, but unfortunately the Christmas miracle we prayed for at the end of the game just didn't end up panning out... 


However, Ryder had a fantastic Christmas Eve at home, baking cookies with Uncle AJ and Aunt Morgan, and making a gingerbread house with Nana. 



After the game, we went home to enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve meal of Chinese take out before we all settled down for our long winter's nap. Of course that was after Stewart stayed up until almost midnight putting together Ryder's Christmas present. 

Christmas morning was quite a blur, at least for the littlest Alway.

Ryder got a three story wooden fire station, complete with all the accessories. He was thrilled and literally hasn't stopped playing with it since.
Sometimes you just really gotta get in there...

And not to worry... Santa brought him his blue dump truck.
Later that morning, we had our traditional Christmas brunch with my dad's side of the family.

Heck yeah, we rock those Christmas jammies ALL. DAY. LONG.


My lovely, adorable grandparents.


Cousins!




Christmas Night family snuggles. Check out that amazing Paw Patrol quilt that Aunt Morgan made for Ryder!

On the day after Christmas, we always go over to Grandma Sally's house. 

My mom has 14 brothers and sisters, and I have almost 30 first cousins, so we typically like to avoid the chaos that ensues over there on Christmas Day. Instead, we head over on the day after for a nice, quiet visit with Grandma. 

Ryder gets an epic fail for his cooperation in family photos this year. This is the best I could get...

Once again I was blown away by the generosity and thoughtfulness of our friends and family this year. 

And a HUGE shout out has to go out to everyone for all their lovely holiday cards! We almost ran out of room on the fridge!


From our family to yours, we hope that you had yourself a merry little Christmas and that from now on your troubles will be miles away.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays 2016

From our (growing) family to yours... 
Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a happy New Year!


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Monday, December 19, 2016

An Alway Family Christmas

When celebrating holidays with multiple family loyalties, the key is to be flexible about dates. 

The holiday season technically lasts for a couple of months, so as long as everyone is fairly easy-going about the whole situation, it's pretty simple to make time to celebrate with everyone you love. 

This year we had Christmas with the Alway Family the weekend before the "official" holiday, and it was so much fun... like a bonus preview Christmas!

Photography by Mark Alway.

Patty and I spent the morning baking dozens of Christmas cookies, and thanks to her master chef talents, I think they turned out really well! 
Not that I need to be eating any, although Baby Sister probably would have appreciated the holiday sugar rush. 31 weeks and counting...

Finally it was time to open presents!




It was such a generous and thoughtful display of gift-giving this year! Ryder was especially thrilled with his Thomas the Train and Paw Patrol gear.


Although I like presents as much as the next girl, my favorite part of Christmas is just sitting around with family... hanging out, chatting, watching movies, cooking, etc. 




I'm so thankful for the Alway Family and their willingness to be flexible about our holiday traditions. We had a wonderful Christmas celebration with them, and I look forward to making many more memories in the years to come.

Have a holly, jolly Christmas, everyone!

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Book Club: Flowertown

Meh.

I think I impulse purchased this one (or it may have been free, I can't remember) and then randomly started reading it one night after I finished World Without End

In Flowertown, by S.G. Redling, an experimental pesticide spill kills scores of people in rural Iowa. Those who survived the contamination were herded into a medically maintained quarantine and cut off from the outside world. They are dosed with powerful drugs to combat the poison, causing their bodies to give off a sickly sweet smell, hence the containment zone's nickname: Flowertown. 

Seven years later, Flowertown's infrastructure is crumbling, supplies are dwindling, nobody is recovering. After a series of deadly events, the protagonist, Ellie Cauley, and her paranoid best friend suspect that something dangerous and possibly deadly is going on. She and other residents set out to expose a twisted plan of greed and abuse as time is running out.

This book is supposed to be a "high-intensity conspiracy thriller." Personally, I didn't find it to be particularly riveting. 

I typically enjoy most dystopian, post-apocalyptic novels, and this one seemed like it had a unique plot twist. But I had a hard time identifying with the characters, and overall I found the story to be confusing and depressing. Although it was a quick, easy, fast-paced read, I found the suspense and conspiracy theories either unrealistic or hard to follow, which left me with an overall feeling of, "Meh. Why did I even read this?" 

I wanted to like Flowertown, but the shallow characters, predictable plot twists, and the author's unimpressive writing style made it an overall disappointment.

Although I was vaguely entertained, considering all the other great literature out there, I wouldn't waste my time on this one if I were you... 

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