All Aboard the Polar Express Train!

We kicked off the holidays (and celebrated Colton’s 4th birthday) in Williams, Arizona. We drove 2.5 hours north to embark on The Polar Express train ride that takes you to the North Pole and back. It was truly THE MOST magical experience for Ryan and I and incredibly memorable for the kids. Beside that, we saw snow! The minute we spotted snow on the ground, Colton excitedly asked, “Mom is that really snow?” At that moment I realized he hasn’t seen snow since he was one years old so of course this was a huge deal for him. Nolan on the other hand was more interested in the rocks on the ground than the snow, but he’s still figuring things out.

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polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

We arrived on Saturday afternoon at The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel where we booked their hotel package that includes free breakfast, dinner and train tickets. It was the cutest little hotel in the heart of a really charming town. We got checked in and immediately let the kids loose to run around and throw snowballs at each other.

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polar express Arizona

We then grabbed appetizers at the hotel Pub (and took a few glasses of  wine back to our room) so we could snack and gear up for the evening. We dressed kids in matching holiday pajamas from Hannah Andersson (our favorite!) and watched as they ran around the hotel room giddy in anticipation for what’s to come.

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

polar-express-Arizona-mom-blogger

It was 28 degrees so we had to bundle up which unfortunately hid their cute jammies under big jackets but that’s the price you pay to avoid freezing your face off. Nearly every family was dressed in either matching outfits or pajamas (my kind of event!). It was really darling to see so many loved ones grouped together.

One family had grouped a few tables together at the hotel’s restaurant and had a game of Monopoly going. I thought to myself, that’s a huge commitment as no-one can finish that game in under two hours, but nevertheless they had the right idea. Grab some hot chocolate, snuggle up by the fire and indulge in game night with your family. Moments like this one where happening everywhere you looked.

As for us, we left our hotel room at 5:10 to get into the train line by 5:15 (it was that close of a walk). The kids had their train tickets in hand as we approached the station. “Don’t lose your ticket, Colton”  Kelsey would remind him. “That’s what happened to the kid in the movie and we don’t want that.” She was right. We were in train car J so we made our way through a crowd of excited families to find a conductor waiting to welcome us aboard.

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polar-express-arizona-mom-blog

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many hats of a mom blogger

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You get reserved seats when you buy tickets (just indicate if you’re doing two separate reservations that you’d like to sit together). We were so excited to find that our two rows were located in the back of the train car, making the ride feel a bit private and cozy. The train cars flip around (thank you to the kind lady who pointed this out) so we were able to face each other during the train ride and better contain our wiggly and always-in-motion toddler.

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As the train took off from the station I caught a glimpse of Colton starring out the window. He was stiff as a board and perfectly poised during the initial moments of the train. You could tell he was a little nervous and excited for what was to come. The team did a REMARKABLE job of bringing the Polar Express movie to life through the talent and decor aboard the train. I was incredibly impressed.

Less than five minutes into the train ride they started handing out hot chocolate and huge chocolate chip cookies. The hot chocolate was served at the perfect temperature for our kids little taste buds and must have been made with chocolate heaven because Ryan and I “got ours to share” but I really devoured most of it.

They played Christmas tunes as we entered a “magic tunnel” – the tunnel helped us jump into time so we could get to the North Pole much faster. They read the Polar Express book so bring your own if you want to follow along. As we approached the North Pole, Colton and Kelsey ran to the other side of the train and glued their faces to the window to get a peek at Santa and his reindeer.

We saw little itty bitty elf houses and some other scenic buildings from Santa’s hometown. As we slowed down and started going back to Arizona, we were told Santa boarded the train! This was super exhilarating for the kids. As we waited our turn for Santa to join our train car, they gave us song books and we sang Christmas carols. I’m telling you … does it get better than this?

It does because Nolan started getting sleepy and curled up into my lap as Santa arrived and greeted the kids, giving them ‘jingle bells’ just like in the movie. Colton got an extra special birthday bell and off Santa went. Ryan and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with our family.

We highly recommend it if you get the opportunity. Next year we plan on visiting the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, Arizona. Please let me know if you’ve been and if you have any tips!

Halloween Kid Parties!

It’s the weekend before Halloween which means our children have once again dominated our social calendar. It’s filled with school events and kid costume parties. We are so grateful for this though. It is truly what we live for these days. Tonight, our friends invited us over for wine in skeleton glasses (they so get us) and a pre-party before the kids school event. Every year I say this, and every year I mean this, there is nothing more adorable than kids in costume.

Here are a few photos from our first Halloween party of 2016!

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BTW, Colton has no clue (or doesn’t care) that this dog is about to lick his ear. Ha!

mom blog halloween costumes

They are the best of friends. They have been in the SAME class since they were one-years-old.

mom blog halloween costumes

mom blog halloween costumes

mom blog halloween costumes

mom blog halloween costumes

mom blog halloween costumes

mom blog halloween costumes

I bought Ryan this “Iron Man” shirt only to be told that it’s actually “Flash” – whoever that is. I’ve got to work on my Superhero knowledge. Disney Princesses are more my thing.

mom blog halloween costumes

What a great start to the weekend!

Our Gingerbread House

gingerbread house many hats mom blog
One of my favorite things to try to do is build a gingerbread house. I always see them at the store and think … I can do that! The problem is, I have zero patience and skills for this. So Ryan does it instead.

This morning, the kids (and the patient parent) built a cool, edible house. It even had a chimney! Pretty good if you ask me. I watched Nolan and kept overhearing “That’s enough icing. Hurry and spread it before the icing hardens. Don’t eat that. That’s enough. If you keep eating that, then we won’t have enough decorations for the windows.” Oh, Ryan.

Anyone else on a sugar detox after the holidays? Us too. After we devour the house, of course.

gingerbread house many hats mom blogger

gingerbread house many hats mom blogger

gingerbread house many hats mom blogger

gingerbread house many hats mom blogger

gingerbread house many hats mom blogger

Holiday Cocktail: Peppermint White Russian

christmas cocktail - peppermint white russian recipe

holiday cocktail - white peppermint russian

It took me a long time to figure out what welcome cocktail to make at our family Christmas party. I ended up with this Peppermint White Russian. It’s a festive spin on a classic White Russian and it was a huge hit at the party. It’s not super minty – which is nice. And it definitely hit the ‘holiday theme’ over the head. The first sip is a little strong (it’s kind of like drinking a martini through a straw) but after that … it’s smooth sailing.

Recipe is below 

holiday cocktail - white peppermint russian

holiday cocktail - white peppermint russian

holiday cocktail - white peppermint russian

Here’s how we made it (makes 1):

Garnish the rim of the glass with agave honey & crushed peppermint*
Fill the glass with ice
3/4 ounce Vodka
3/4 ounce Peppermint Schnapps
1 ounce Kahlua
Fill the rest of the glass with half & half
Stir & serve!

*To crush the peppermint, we put candy canes in a Ziploc bag and took a hammer to crush them into itty bitty pieces. Enjoy!

Holiday Cards + $150 Artifact Uprising Giveaway (***Giveaway is closed. Winner announced below)

artifact uprising holiday photo cards - mom blogger in phoenix
Happy Holidays! We’re preparing to send out holiday photo cards over here. Are you? Have you decided which company you’re going to go with to create your cards? I have a trusted company I always use but this year I’m mixing it up and trying someone new!

mom blogger phoenix holiday cards

I’ve printed memorable items with Artifact Uprising in the past; 25 square photo cards that I hung in our Starwood marketing office and this personal travel album. I’ve been so happy with the quality of their prints that when I saw they had a holiday photo card collection, I knew I had to try it.

My favorite are the 3-in-1 photo holiday cards. It’s a pretty cool concept. You get to send a greeting card that your recipient can tear into three’s – creating a square photo, a message strip from you and a gift tag. I love the gift tag! The 3-in-1 design also allows you to add a personalized message to the back. See … (candy canes not included, but kind of necessary when addressing 50+ cards).

Many Hats of a Mom Blog | Holiday Photo Cards

artifact uprising holiday photo cards mom blogger

Here’s the best part:

Artifact Uprising is giving one lucky reader a $150 credit to their online shop! The online credit doesn’t have to be used for holiday cards – you can use it on any of their amazing prints, albums, thank you cards, etc. If you haven’t printed with them before, I suggest you try it.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

  • Provide your email address (that’s how we’ll contact you if you win)
  • Comment on this post and tell us your favorite holiday tradition
  • That’s it! Winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter.com and announced on 11/23/15

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to Artifact Uprising for sponsoring this post and for being such an awesome & innovative company. Giveaway ends at 12am EST on 11/22/15 and one winner will be contacted via email by 11/23/15. Good luck!

***Madison L. won!! Congratulations and thank you so much for playing along. I will email you your prize today. 

Happy Halloween from the Cross Family!

happy halloween - many hats of a mom blog

I just wanted to say Happy Halloween from our family to yours. I know y’all are having a blast because my Facebook and Instagram news feeds are blowing up with photos of kids in costumes – nothing better than that! We went to Kelsey’s school last night for a “Pumpkin Walk” and before we left, we snapped a few photos of our first Halloween as a party of five!

happy halloween mom blog

I put Nolan in a bat hat and a ‘peek a boo’ shirt. The coolest part? I had no idea this was a glow-in-the-dark onesie until the sun set and he started the glow.

many hats of a mom blog

“Everyone make a silly face!” Well, except you, Nolan, because you’re a baby. And you too, Colton, because you’re stuck inside of a mask. PS – Do you see me pushing the remote on my camera? I was too focused on holding Nolan and supporting Kelsey that I totally didn’t hide that well at all. Oopsy.

maleficent disney kids costume

When Kelsey came home and said she wanted to be Maleficent for Halloween, I was shocked. I thought for sure she would want to be Elsa or something super girlie. Nope. She even said, “Mom, can you make a bird and put it on my shoulder?” She had this in her head and I’m so happy we were able to find a Maleficent kids costume to make it work. Aaaaand she’s never allowed to put on makeup again because she looks like she’s 16. I’m not ready for that.

Happy Halloween, friends!

 

Party in the USA!

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fourh of july pinetop

fourh of july pinetop

fourh of july pinetop

fourh of july pinetop

Where do I even start? We had the best Fourth of July in Pinetop surrounded by family & friends. My in-laws hosted a party in the pines with live music, barbecue, too-much dessert, fire pits and all the drinks you could want. My parents and best friends were in town as well, so together, we gathered around and enjoyed this remarkable holiday as one big family.

pinetop fourth of july

pinetop fourth of july

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Pinetop collage

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fourth of july party

It was all fun and games until Colton woke up from nap and realized everyone was at his cabin. It took him about 45 minutes to be okay with the notion that these people were here to stay. Once he warmed up, and let go of my leg, we were all happy campers again.

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I can’t put my finger on it, but I love this photo so much. Thank you, Teri, for snapping it! My husband is pushing two kids on a swing and entertaining two others. And if you look reeeeally closely on the tree (front and center) you’ll see a squirrel wearing a helmet.

Thank you to my father-in-law for hosting such a memorable weekend and 4th of July party at the cabin. A lot of work goes into these things (especially when it rains and you have to move everything into the garage last-minute) and I am truly grateful!

We hope you had a wonderful time celebrating America’s birthday too!

 

Happy Fourth of July

fourth of july kids clothes

fourth of july kids toys

fourth of july kids toys

Happy Independence Day (a few days early) from the Cross family. I hope your weekend is long, restful, and filled with tons of birthday wishes for America. Since you can’t have fireworks in Arizona, we’ll party with pinwheels! The kids haven’t noticed yet that the pinwheels are filled with sugary candy. Let’s see how long we can keep that secret.

PS – It feels like it was just 2013 when my kids looked like this? Boy, time sure flies!