And yet no words to express it. Seriously, I thought I was going to type up a post about our holidays and accompany it with photos as I have with other events in the past, but I just don't have it all together. So many different thoughts swirling in my mind. This was the first Christmas with Micah and Emma home. It's also bitter sweet as I hung the stockings for "Aleksa and Dylan" (our names for them) who last year we thought would be joining our family... and now both are in mental institutions in Ukraine with no family still :( My heart just breaks for them and there have been so many reminders through things we did last year this time to prepare for our trip to get them.
A year ago today we got our travel date! What a blessing it was to know we would be going to Ukraine for an appointment with the State Department of Adoptions! And yet today I don't really even feel like it was the same trip- that excitement was all part of getting Sasha and Misha (their real names) and all of that excitement was cried out in that lonely hotel room in Korosten in late January. We allowed the excitement to build again during the week of a "breather" in Kiev while waiting for our second SDA appointment, but the anticipation of leaving... the exciting trip there, the joy of our first SDA appointment, my birthday- spent with friends at a pizza joint in Kiev... all of that just feels like part of the "failed" part of our trip. It's not an exciting thing to celebrate the anniversary for.
So though I've had a WONDERFUL Christmas, a GREAT time with family for the past 3 days, and I am SO BLESSED to have the family that God has given me... it's so hard to come to this blog and write out all those wonderful things while also remembering that this is the same place that I was writing the anticipation of our near travel just a year ago. Bittersweet.
It's also such a wonder that the Internet connects us so very well with all different people and reading on different blogs or message boards about families who had NO Christmas celebration due to the loss of jobs or other similar circumstances just breaks my heart. Doing the little bit that we can is just that... a little bit. And so many families are hurting right now.
Now you know why my heart is heavy... but the joy is still there in every moment of this past 3 days! Here's a little about our Christmas celebrations:
Christmas Eve we spent with Mike's parents and their friends at our home. We had a great dinner then a rushed through gift exchange along with quick-changes of clothes for the kids in order to head out to church. Then back to the house, put the kids down for the night, a nice slice of pie and a glass of wine with Mike's mom and we went to sleep to await Santa's arrival. The kids each liked their gifts from Grandma and Grandpa as did Mike and I and we especially loved that they were very practical gifts with one toy for each of the kids and other things like a huge box of diapers and popcorn. They gave Kristopher Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse which he absolutely LOVES, Brianna also got a piece from that set that is a band, Emma got a Nintendog that moves its head and wags its tail, and Micah got a little guitar with Elmo on one side and Cookie on the other that plays music. They each really like their gifts :)
After exchanging gifts with grandparents, we gave each of the kids their Christmas eve 'gift' which is always a new pair of pajamas to wear that night. We have sometimes done Christmas outfits but this year we decided there was no need for fancy clothes- they each had something they could wear and that was just fine with us.
On Christmas morning after the kids had 'warmed up' to opening gifts from the night before we had them each open their stocking in the family room (Santa doesn't wrap things in the stocking) before going in to the other room to unwrap their other gifts. Santa usually leaves pretty practical things in our stockings too- like new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and this year each of the kids got a toy cell phone with a different character on it. They all love those :).
Then on to see the Christmas tree and they each opened their one gift from Santa. Kristopher got "a knight in shining armor" which would be HIM... but he got the costume with a breastplate, shield, and a sword that lights and makes noises. He's yet to take anyone's head off with it and we're about 36 hours out so we're doing pretty good... Brianna got a toy with 12 'wheels' which each have 4 pieces of a story on them. You change them and press the button at the end and it will read them to you. Kind of hard to describe, but Emma loves it! :) Emma was brought a new tub toy which pumps water up to the top then helps two little characters slide down a slide. She loves bath time. Brianna loves the toy :) And Micah was brought a new swing for outside (or our indoor hooks) which he already loves and will also be shared quite a bit between the three little ones.
This year everything could have been labeled "Kristopher" or "E, M and B" because they pretty much all traded toys as soon as they were unwrapped!
Mike and I began when Kristopher celebrated his first Christmas with a "3 from us" rule. The reasoning behind it is that Jesus got 3 gifts from the Magi, how many more do our children need to celebrate his birth? I couldn't even tell you who ended up with each gift, but they all like the gifts that everyone received and we've had a lot of time to work on Kristopher sharing and not taking things from the other kids this past 2 days. A perfect time for those lessons to be learned- when EVERYONE has new toys that are interesting to EVERYONE else...
Even with just 3 gifts from 'us' and one from Santa, it was still a 'big' Christmas between the 4 kids. Most were small items like a "jiggler" (vibrating animal on a stick- used for oral motor therapy), a bumble ball, a book called "I can, can you?" which features children with Ds in each of the illustrations, and a few other little things. Kristopher got a soccer goal for playing outside, and some Mickey figures.
After opening gifts here and getting dressed, we all headed over to my parents' house to meet up with 2 of my brothers and my sister and SIL. Our other brother and sister didn't make it this year. We exchanged gifts there then had a big lunch with everyone. My mom loves shopping for clothes for the kids and gave them each several really cute outfits that will fit them soon (a few for now too). Each of the kids also got one 'big' gift from my parents. Kristopher was given Leapster 2, Brianna got a Magic Touch which is a touch screen for the computer (she can do some of the games but can't work a mouse yet, this is AWESOME for kids with delayed fine motor skills!), Emma got a swing (yay, our outdoor swings both need to be replaced and now we can replace the two we have that are falling apart!), and Micah got a neat ride-on toy that has an adult height push handle and a 'cage' that makes it so he won't tip over off of it.
My sister (Elizabeth) made some really cute board books for Brianna. They are blank but are sold with stickers to print and make your own pages. She and I took photos earlier this week and she had the Family and the 'We eat' books finished. Brianna LOVES the Family one! She flips through it and names everyone off. It's very cute :) Of course she had something for each of the other kids too including a Leapster game for Kristopher, a magna doodle for Emma, and a book that sings nursery rhymes for Micah.
David and Erin (bro and SIL) gave the kids 3 containers of play food for their little kitchen! They will enjoy those, especially K and Bria right now but E and M will get the benefits of throwing the food that K and B put together and deliver to them :)
After coming home on Christmas day we put all the kids down for a late nap and woke them a half hour after we'd wanted to be at Mike's parents house. We just couldn't wake them earlier on Christmas especially since Brianna has a bit of a cold and needed to sleep. We headed over there a bit late (but they weren't waiting on us for anything) and visited with all of Mike's extended family including his two aunts and their families and the kids' Great Grandma. We stayed there until past bedtime then came home to eat dinner and go to bed.
Today we spent a majority of the day in PJ's playing with toys and hanging out as a family, then baths and off to naps for three of them. Kristopher watched a movie and played with his toys for a bit then he and Mike went for a walk out at the Enchanted Forest. They walked 1.8 miles then came home for a change of clothes. We were invited over to my parents' house for dinner with them and Elizabeth so we went over there at 4:59 (we were late getting there yesterday morning too and we said we'd be there at 5 tonight!). We had a nice time visiting, eating, and just hanging out. Mike brought Christmas photos to share on his computer. Before we knew it we were getting the kids into their pajamas and packed into the car to get home and head to bed again.
It's been a full 3 days with a lot of visiting and a lot of family. I love this time of year when we get to see everyone and spend time together. It was nice that most offices were closed today and Mike was able to be home even though he doesn't have any more vacation time to use since he took that 4 week trip to Ukraine earlier this year... He works Monday and Tuesday and then 1/2 day on Wednesday next week but gets next Friday off as an 'extra' holiday next week as well. What a blessing.
I hope you've had a wonderful and blessed Christmas filled with family, friends, and a reflection on the birth of that tiny baby who came to the earth so humbly...