This year, Christmas Eve started out in a very special way. For the last nine years, our church has hosted a program called Hope for the Holidays where teachers from area schools submit families that could use a little extra Hope over the holiday. Our church members then adopt these families (last year we adopted over 150 families!), shop for Christmas gifts for them, and then deliver those gifts along with lots and lots of food and health kits to the family on the morning of Christmas Eve.
For the last six years that Matt and I have been celebrating Christmas as a married couple, we have adopted a family to shop for. When scheduling allowed, we've included Anna and Wyatt in our shopping adventures and let them help pick out clothes and toys for our adopted children. We plan to do the same with Katie Wynn and Thomas as they grow up. However, since we both typically work on Christmas Eve, shopping for and wrapping our gifts was about as much participating as we could do. We have always dropped off our bags of goodies and left them for someone else from the church to deliver.
This year we both had the day off work and decided we wanted to really help spread the Hope this year. We dropped the babies off (they are still too little to accompany us, especially since we didn't know what kind of neighborhood we would be traveling to) and joined our church members at the church. After a quick meeting and prayer in the sanctuary, we pulled our loaded-down-with-gifts car in the drive-thru line to have the youth group fill it up with food. There was so much food, too! A huge laundry basket full as well as another box full. And a gallon of milk that had just been purchased that morning. And we got a 'health kit' bag for each of our children (we had three boys this year) that was full of wash rags, soap, shampoo, etc.
Our adopted family doesn't live too far from where we do. In fact, I drive past their house almost daily. They knew to expect us that morning and they were ready! The two middle-school aged boys were excited to see all the presents and the older, teen-aged boy helped us carry in the loads from the car. The whole family was incredibly grateful for the Hope we had given them, but really, we were the ones touched by the experience. It was amazing to see our congregation going out in fleets to spread holiday cheer to our community and we personally enjoyed getting to see the faces of the boys that we had shopped and prayed for. What a great way to begin our Christmas Eve! I look forward to carrying on this tradition with the kids as they get older.
After our first Santa Claus duties were complete, I hurried back to my parents' woodshop while the kids were still away. We planned to pick them up around noon but I needed to help Santa's elves finish a few gifts first. Talk about waiting til the last minute!
The kids made it home just in time for a nice long afternoon nap before all the excitement of the evening began. We wanted them to nap at home so they'd get some really good rest before going to my parents' house. Matt left during their naps to go get started on his contributions (the beef tenderloin!) for dinner.
My sweet pea woke up a little bit crabby from her nap but it wasn't anything that an oreo cookie and a present couldn't help cure. Mrs. Kim, Thomas's babysitter that used to also keep KW, dropped by gifts while they slept so I let her go ahead and open that one up.
We quickly got ready for church and called Matt to tell him to come pick us up. I love our church's Christmas Eve service. It's at 5 o'clock in the evening and the church is always so packed! I get to see lots of friends that I grew up with who come home to visit their families. Plus, I love singing all the Christmas carols and lighting the candles at the end.
You know what they don't have at the Christmas Eve service? Children's church. Not that I was eager to get rid of my child or anything, but 5 o'clock in the evening in a jam-packed church after we've talked all day about Santa Claus coming to visit did not really equate to her wanting to sit still and be quiet. I gave her a candy cane. Why did I do that? She's never had a candy cane before. Why did I think that wouldn't become a royal mess? I must've been desperate. Matt had already left to take Thomas (who was burning hot and all stopped up) to get some medicine and my dad had his hands full with my nephews, so I was on my own on entertaining the wild one! I had already lost a game of tug-of-war in THE AISLE when she tried to steal my lipstick bag, and she'd already emptied all the other contents of my purse into the pew. She also very LOUDLY greeted her Daddy and Thomas when they came back. The candy cane seemed like a good idea. Here she is with her sticky mouth. Yep, I resorted to church selfies to keep her quiet.
After approximately 12.5 hours in that pew, we made it to the end when we sing Silent Night and hold up our candles. So magical! Gives me the chills every single time.
"I do it! I hold it!"
We left church and went straight to Mom and Dad's for dinner. Mom and Matt, our resident cooks, still had a few things to do before we could sit down at the table. Thomas was the first to get to eat - a festive meal of sweet potatoes and apples probably - and Uncle Nick was his high chair.
If Katie Wynn is going to go to anyone in the family other than Mimi and Poppy while Matt and I are present, it's going to be Aunt Beth.
Here are the men/boys of the family. Across the back, from left to right, is my oldest brother Nick, my dad (Poppy), Thomas (6.5 months), my brother Ben, Matt, and Ramer (3). In the front are Jett (9) and Parker (6).
Our first attempt at a girls picture had a photo bomb...
We had to have a redo, obviously. It's a good thing Erin is adding a baby girl to the family soon because we are outnumbered! Here we have Erin (and baby girl), Beth, Katie Wynn (2), me, and Mom (Mimi). Up front is Bren (6). It's fun to think this time next year there will be another cute face in this picture!
I think this is the first time we've been able to all sit down to eat dinner at the same time since some of these kids have been born! We had to add a kids table but for a few minutes...maybe five?...it was actually quite peaceful while we all sat and ate together. (Then the "When can we open presents?!" started!)
I absolutely love this picture. Don't you know that hearing "We have to wait until everyone's done eating and the kitchen is cleaned up" is the hardest little thing for a toddler on Christmas Eve?! (That's when we open presents together.) I can remember feeling EXACTLY like Ramer when I was little. It's like it took for-ev-er for them to get the kitchen cleaned up, and the adults were the slowest eaters EVER!
I tried to get a few pics of the kids in front of the tree while the kitchen was being cleaned up.
The six-year-olds each wanted a turn holding Thomas, or "Baby Promise" as Ramer calls him. :)
We delayed the present opening even longer by having the kids sit down for a story. Uncle Ben volunteered to read it so they crowded around. We want the kids to know the real reason we celebrate Christmas and this year we used a children's book for help with that.
Things got a little crazy after this so I put the camera down. I've said it before, but when the gifts are passed out, it becomes a free for all. Paper gets ripped, bows start flying, there's shrieking and laughter and oohs and ahhs. It's nice and chaotic, just how we like it. I took a few pictures after all the gifts had been opened. (Poor Thomas, who still wasn't feeling well, was put to bed before we even read the story. He slept through his first Christmas Eve.)
I monogrammed this cute little red pair of Converse tennis shoes for Katie Wynn and she absolutely loved them! She put them on immediately with her smocked Santa dress. :)
I love this picture of Katie Wynn. She's inspecting a picture ornament that I made years and years ago. Usually if I show her a picture of myself at Mom's house and ask her who it is, she'll say it's "Kay-Wynn!"
The last pictures that were taken before going to bed were of Bren helping Katie Wynn with her new scooter.
We bid farewell to my brother Nick and his family and went upstairs to tuck the rest of the kiddos into bed. Any guesses on which one - Parker, Ramer, Katie Wynn, or Thomas - was the first to arise the next morning? I'll let you know in the next post. :)