After the kiddos took their afternoon naps on Christmas Eve, we got all fancied up for church.
So pretty! It was 80 degrees out, but Ellie insisted on wearing her pretty red jacket. What a fashionista.
We went to the early evening service at Lutheran Church of the Cross, where my family used to attend when I was still living at home. The service was excellent! They had children running the whole thing - choirs, readings, etc. They also had "halos" (garland rings) and other costumes for the kids to wear during the service, and handed out glow sticks for the kids to use while the adults used candles.
My kids modeling the Christmas Eve church goodies: Ellie is wearing her halo, and E.J. is gnawing on a glow stick.
Also, instead of a full sermon, they had an extended children's sermon that was really cool. This was Ellie's first time going up front for the children's sermon. I went with her, thinking this would be a piece of cake, because it's just like storytime, and we've been known to hit as many as three storytimes each week, so she should be a pro. Well. I forgot that church was being held at exactly her "crazy time" of night - that magic hour (if you will) during which all she wants to do is run around like a lunatic. So, all the other children sat quietly for "storytime" while I spent much of my time sheepishly watching Ellie run literally in circles, touching all the poinsettias, and laying flat on the floor. Plus, this was an extended children's sermon that involved a simulated "journey to Bethlehem," by way of walking to different stations around the church. So it went on FOREVER. It was cool, but that was a lot of maintaining the toddler crazy. We ended back at the front of the church where "Mary" and "Joseph" had a real "baby Jesus," which Ellie loved. Weeks later she was still saying, "We go to church and you have to be quiet! We saw the baby Jesus at church!" So, a good impression was made!
Up front with Ellie
With the kids at church
I should mention that I had a sort of "moment" during Silent Night at this church service. It was pretty special to me. I think I will make a post about it on its own, so be ready for some introspective sappiness in my next post.
After church we got the kids to bed, then had our traditional shrimp, cheese and crackers with my dad. I also joined my dad at the 11:00 Christmas Eve service at First Presbyterian downtown, which was very nice.
On Christmas morning, we kicked off the day by opening gifts at my dad's house. We did not bring any of our own gifts with us, but instead opted to postpone our own family Christmas until we returned to Jacksonville. So, Santa hadn't come, but Ellie and E.J. (and the rest of us!) had plenty of gifts from family to open on Christmas morning. And that's just what we did.
Ellie is ready!
E.J. has no idea what is about to happen.
Ellie helping Papa open a gift
Ellie and Eric playing with some of Ellie's new Play-Doh
Fun new toy from Papa
Rocking his kimono from Aunt Heather!
After gifts and breakfast, we got ourselves dressed in our Christmas finery and went over to Eric's grandmother's house for Christmas with the W. family.
Baby in a bowtie. It never gets old.
Eric's aunt and uncle were in town from Tennessee, and his cousin Tara and her family joined the rest of the clan for the celebration. We visited, opened gifts, and ate delicious lasagna. It was a great time, and was so nice to have everyone together!
E.J. was pumped for dinner at Gramz's house.
That's a lot of lap-sitting!
E.J. taking great offense to something Aunt Kelley said
Ellie and cousin Charlie
Bow tie twinsies!
Gifts for Toni!
E.J. checking out one of his gifts
Eric leading us in storytime
Ellie and Aunt Kelley checking out one of E.J.'s new toys
Top: Eric's brother Ronnie, Stephanie and Charlie; and Eric's sister Kelley and Cathy
Bottom Eric's Uncle Steve, Aunt Patty, cousin Tara, Patrick and little Colton; Tara, Pat and Colton
The whole gang!
We had to excuse ourselves from all the fun before we could have dessert, as the day was wearing on and the kids were tiring out. Time to head home for naptime!
After naps, we had dinner with my dad: ham, potato casserole, the works. Delicious!
Nothing says "formal holiday dinner" quite like two naked children at the table.
(Well, actually, E.J. is wearing a festive diaper, Santa bib and one sock. Soooo. Super classy.)
We spent a little more time playing with new toys and hanging out, then it was off to bed for the kiddos while I packed and prepared for our trip to Cleveland the next day.
And that was our Christmas in St. Petersburg! It was a whirlwind of a day, that's for sure - but wonderful!