We woke up Christmas Eve morning to powdered doughnuts, candy cane-shaped fruit assortments and chocolate milk in our hot cocoa mugs. During my parents' move over the summer, I had discovered some old Christmas books of mine that we ended up reading throughout December, but there was one that we hadn't gotten to yet. So as the boys covered their lips in powdery sugar, I read to them from that book - a book that still has its vintage bright green price sticker on the cover. It just won't come off!
After breakfast, we made time for our new card game from Sally and Bob before packing up the van with a few gifts and heading to Aplington for lunch with Grandma Grayce and the Ubben clan.
The boys each got to open their present from Great Grandma, and I do believe their genuinely happy reactions meant so much to her.
I love these pictures.
We made it home from Aplington just in time to change into our church clothes and head right back out the door. We didn't have time to get the tripod out for family pictures, but I did ask Cody to take just a few pictures before we piled back into the van.
And thus began what is my favorite hour and a half of Christmas every year. It's kind of nice how that progresses as we get older. Instead of present unwrapping on Christmas morning, Christmas Eve church service is always the moment I look forward to the most now.
And this year was the best one yet because both our boys were so well behaved and so very patient throughout the service and the wait beforehand.
As we waited for the worship team to begin, Papa Bob pulled out his phone and started tracking Santa. At this moment, he was over in Europe near James, Cassi, Ella and Ivy. :)
Aside from the powerful message and the incredible music and choir, my favorite moments included watching Brandon quietly draw a picture of the manger scene during Pastor Dave's teaching, how sweetly and tightly he held my hand during every worship song, and how carefully and proudly he held that candle during Silent Night and Joy to the World. This was the first year that Brandon successfully held his own candle throughout the entire singing portion, and I loved looking at his little face all aglow. With our family around us, the beautiful twinkly lights above us, the warm coziness of our church community surrounding us, and the sight of all those candles, I could have spent our entire Christmas holiday right there in that seat. I loved it.
Afterwards, we headed to Mom and Dad's for soup and Jesus' birthday cake with Papa Tim and Nana Deanne.
We watched the Cardinals on TV, opened a bottle of sparkling grape juice for the boys (which has become a huge hit over Christmas and New Year's), sang Happy birthday as a group to Jesus, ate cake... and tracked Santa a bit more.
He's made it to South America now. Getting closer! I love the look on Brandon's face. :)
We returned home for final preparations and readings. The boys put on their Christmas pj's, cuddled Lucy by the tree while I prepared the cake, cookies, letters and milk for Santa, and then we read the story of Jesus' birth right from the pages of the Bible before our traditional reading of The Night Before Christmas.
We did make one addition this year. Another book found in my parents' move was The Night Before Christmas that I had memorized all by myself as a very, very young girl. There is a cassette tape out there of me reading it to my dolls when I was just three years old - word for word - and it's been a tradition of my aunt and uncle's to listen to that recording every Christmas since.
This year, the torch was handed off to Brandon, and after I read to him from our own book, he read to us from Mommy's.
When all the stories had been told, and everything was ready for Santa, we tucked the boys in tight, and Cody and I worked on final details - placing the packages just so, making sure the stockings were ready, getting the food in the crock pot prepped for overnight simmering and our Christmas morning breakfast.
Christmas Eve - always one of those nights you wish would last a little bit longer...