1) We actually left home on time and arrived early at the Railway, thus eliminating the drama with arriving late and getting yelled at. Ironically the same angry dude that repeatedly told us we were late last year and then apologized when we returned at the station was the same person we had to talk to about getting Will's wheelchair onto the train. He got flustered and upset when we told him that we had 13 people in our party and we all wanted to sit together. Thankfully all we got was a sigh and a head shake before he sucked it up and figured out how to get us on the train without any bad words. Everyone else we encountered was very accomodating.
2) The weather last year was cold (35 degrees) and snowy. This year we had sunny weather and the high was about 54. This made a huge difference. Last year we sat in the caboose, which is enclosed. This year we sat in an open air train car, because Will's new wheelchair is too wide to fit through the doors of the caboose. We will have to keep this in mind in future years. The open air was good because the weather was mild, but in the case of cruddy weather in future years, we don't have the option of the caboose anymore.
3) We took friends this year! We met up with two sets of friends who each have 2 boys. There were a lot of boys who love trains. And Santa. Can't beat it.
4) Santa was actually in a good mood! Last year, we were the last people he saw before the day was out. He wasn't very jolly. Thankfully no one cared. I think Luke's heart would have been broken if Santa hadn't been enthusiastic this year. He was SO excited to pull a Clark Kent and show Santa his 'Nice List' shirt under his coat. Santa was appropriately excited about the shirt, and really talkative and inquisitive with all the kids in our party. Will wasn't really in a mood to see Santa, and when I attempted to put Matt on Santa's lap, he proved his age and angrily wiggled away. So only a picture of Luke with Santa this year.
5) I turned down the coal when the elf tried to give it to me. I also warned everyone around me to beware that the coal was real, and would leave coal dust everywhere! Perhaps I wasn't supposed to let the cat out of the bag. Perhaps its a big elfish joke to give the unsuspecting kind-hearted, city-living, 21st century mother a lump of coal, and laugh when she puts it in her pocket and smudges her unknowingly coal-covered hands all over her face. Not that that's what happened to me last year... I'd never touched coal before, I didn't know what would happen after I touched it, and none of the mothers around me on this train did either! I considered the warning my civic duty.