Considering the head of our home is on the other side of the world, we had a very wonderful, blessed Christmas! As hard as I tried to get up really early, I didn't actually wake until about 6:30. By the time I finished nursing Zaden, I was hearing footsteps on the stairs...and Tobin came marching down, ready to begin the festivities! (As an interesting side note, he was the last one awake the night before, having raced down the stairs to look at a clock to see what time it was! I sent him to bed at 11:30 pm, so who knows how long he was awake after that!)
While I had managed to get the stockings stuffed before Tobin arrived downstairs, I had done nothing else. So, as I have been doing a lot this year, I took a deep breath and released all my preconceived ideas of how the day should go. Really, who cares if Mom gets a shower before present-opening time anyway?! Tobin was more than happy to help me carry gifts from my bedroom to put under the tree, and then he was off again, storming into his siblings' rooms and waking them up before I even had a chance to put the tea kettle on so I could get some caffeine in my system.
I managed to hold everyone off until around 8:00, which was when Ted had thought he would be able to Skype. (He got the whole day off for Christmas! Woohoo!) I ended up letting the kids open their stockings after they were all cozy in their spots in the family room--complete with big, fluffy pillows (an early Christmas gift I got them), stuffed animals, blankets, miniature Christmas trees, and who knows what else, probably a partridge or calling birds or something.
One smart thing I did was to forget about planning and cooking a fancy breakfast. Instead, the kids got breakfast in their stocking, a variety of fun snacks from Trader Joe's, including kettle corn, fruit leathers, dried mango, and gingerbread cookies. Along with hot tea (which I finally did get to make), it made for a fun and easy breakfast. By the time we were finishing that, Daddy called! We set the computer up in the dining room and read the story that goes with our Advent calendar, allowing everyone the opportunity to place Baby Jesus in the manger at the end. Then Ted prayed, and then we settled back in the family room for gifts. I tried placing the computer in one corner of the room, and I think Ted was able to see fairly well.
And the next hour was just chaos! So much for opening presents one at a time, in order from youngest to oldest! Before we could blink, Lucan had ripped off the wrapping paper and opened Charis's present from Clint and Ski! I realized something was wrong when I saw a purple watch in the box! Our gifts included items that were delivered anonymously, but I suspect came from a support squadron on base or something, since the note was "to an airman's family" thanking us for our service and sacrifice. They had our names written on the gifts, and really, whoever did the shopping picked some great stuff! The kids really enjoyed what they received, and I guess they figured you can't go wrong with lotion and fuzzy socks for Mom. :-)
Since Lucan had no concept of waiting his turn for gift opening, things sort of fell apart from there, so I just did the best I could as far as keeping track of who got what from whom. By the time the frenzy was over, the house got really quiet as kids played with new items! Ted was able to be on Skype with us for about an hour and a half! I hope it wasn't too depressing for him to watch all the commotion from the other side of his screen; I know it certainly helped us feel like he was still a part of our special celebration.
We had a simple lunch of leftovers, and I finally got a shower while the older kids tried out their new Wii game from Joel and Sarah. We also did some activities from our church's "Hope-full" box that they had handed out to each family; there were some fun things in there to help us keep the day focused on Christ, including a "Born to Die" ornament, coloring pages, word searches, a DVD, conversation starters, and other activity suggestions.
After attempting to give Lucan a chance to nap (ha), we loaded everyone up and went to Shane and Denise's house for a big feast. Shane, or Toupe, as he is better known to his Air Force friends, was Ted's boss both at Nellis and our first year back here in Ohio. They are wonderful friends who adore having kids over (they don't have kids of their own yet), and our kids enjoy going to their home. When they invited us for Christmas dinner, we were all very happy to say yes! Denise and her mother-in-law had an amazing spread for us, and Shane and his brother fried two turkeys and also had a ham prepared. There were potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole with orange zest--yum!, green bean casserole, corn, cranberry-apple casserole, and probably other stuff, too. It was all so wonderful! And, as you can see, Flat Daddy made an appearance at the table with us! Also in the picture is a single guy, Sgt. Walters, whom Shane and Denise invited as well.
Patty, Shane's mom, had bought a bunch of activity kits to give to the kids. Now we know where Shane and Denise get their generous spirit! Charis was in craft heaven, and Kenna adored spending time with "Grandma Patty" working on a sticker book. Lucan spent most of the evening playing with a Fisher Price tractor with animals in a trailer, and I reveled in the time to visit and relax and watch the kids enjoy themselves. I brought our Advent Book along, since we just had not had enough time to read it at home, and we read through that with Denise and Patty.
We headed home around 8:00 that evening, loaded down with tons of leftovers--I haven't had to cook all week! From start to finish, it was a wonderful, wonderful day. Obviously the only thing that could have made it better would have been having Ted with us, but considering the circumstances, we really did have the best Christmas possible. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"
For more Christmas pictures, go here.