My favorite tradition every year just might be my family Christmas Eve celebration at the log cabin out at our ranch. This year was one of my favorites, as it was SO fun watching all the kids run around just like we used to. It brought back so many wonderful memories! The past few years I had a tiny baby with me, so it was really fun this year to have two "big" kids. Although Evie was feeling a little shy that day (she's gotten really clingy when there's a big crowd), Charlie was Mr. Independent. I hardly spoke to him the whole day, and just saw flashes of him when he ran past (or drove past) with the other kiddos. The kids played outside all day and were ridiculously dirty at the end. They did a lot of digging and playing in the dirt. Bryan took to referring to them generally as "Lord of the Flies" and it was so appropriate--they were wild, dirty, and hilarious. It is really funny to see the group change as they get older (Jackson, the oldest, is 7 this year). We suggested that they put together a play about the birth of the Christ child. They went out to work on it, and the next time I checked in with them, Lizzie was directed a "Rated R movie" called "Rise of the Death" starring Jackson and Samuel as zombies. Frightening, right? Especially frightening when I saw how thrilled Charlie was with the whole production. I think I saw him "killing zombies" several times when he ran past me in a sugar-induced fog.
Little Lord Fly.
Christmas Evie/Miss Priss.
Christmas Eve really was Charlie's dream day. We spent the entire day at the ranch, his favorite place in the world, with "all the kids" (his beloved cousins), driving Papa's Ranger, and then taking multiple hayrides in a trailer pulled by Robie's Ranger. Seriously? Does not get better than that in Charlie-world. [Not sure how Evie got away with driving here; she must have bribed Charlie with the cup of M&Ms in his hand...]
Some of the flies sitting down for lunch. Aside from lunch, I'm not sure if Charlie ate anything remotely healthy all day. Every time I saw him he had a handful of M&Ms or a cookie in his hand and chocolate or sugar smeared across his face (mixed with the dust, it made a lovely combination :). But he was SO happy!
Jackson and Samuel, the big boys. Charlie thinks these two are amazing.
Lizzie, the rated-R-movie director.
Jane Ann and Emma.
Abby has been doing a bit of modeling this year. I started to take some photos of her, and the girl immediately started posing. I was impressed with her skills! :)
The ubiquitous pink jeeps (there are three of them) were very popular again this year.
Evie loves getting driven around by her big brother.
Dede always comes up with the best activities for our family gatherings. She brought ornament crafts and the kids had so much fun doing them. And Dede, Addie, Amy, Kristin and I had so much fun finishing the ornaments for them! :)
Our fearless cooks (or cook--Bryan is the only one who really deserves credit here :).
My two little elves...
Evie and Katie.
Addie and Katie.
Amy and Charlotte.
We had the best hay this year (thanks again to Bryan!), and ended up taking three or four hayrides during the day because it was just so fun! Here we are gearing up for the "official" hayride of the evening.
Nice posing, Amy! :)
The two stooges.
Evie got a very wet kiss from sweet Charlotte...
...and some help with her hood. :)
What would Evie do without such a good babysitter??
Relaxing in the hay.
I don't think Charlie missed a hayride all day. He loved them!
Sweet Abby knows how to ride in style!
Rob and Nicky.
Katie, Dede, me, and Evie.
Me and my kiddos. I love Charlie's face here. :)
Emma, Julia, and Jane Ann.
Amy with Kristin and Stephen (who are getting married in April--so excited!!).
The "big kids" were so fun. They reminded me of us when we were little--especially when Jack and Julia jumped off the trailer and ran behind us. It was just like Andy and Will used to do!
Dede set up the cutest little tree in the cabin. We decorated it with our ornaments (unfortunately, my only photo was pre-decoration), and it looked so festive!
As usual, the cousin gift exchange was one of the high points of the evening. Charlie was pumped about his bulldozer...
...and Miss E loved her new purse!
After Uncle Elam read the Christmas story, we had a fun new tradition--Stephen played Christmas songs for us on the guitar. It was so fun, and made our not-so-musical family sounds SO much better! :)
This was our little music lover's favorite activity of the day. She was so excited about the Christmas songs! Evie had been really clingy with me all day, but when Stephen broke out the guitar, she finally relaxed, sat down with Daddy, and started laughing, clapping, and running around. I wish we'd tried this earlier! :)
All in all, this was a wonderful, special Christmas Eve and I will remember it forever. Charlie went at full speed all day and totally cratered on the drive home, but I loved seeing his happy little face running around all day. And I'll never get over how thrilled he was when we saw a glimpse of Santa's sleigh during our hayride. :) When we were getting ready to leave, I found Charlie, Jackson, and Katie digging in the dirt and eating marshmallows out of a jar (also filled with dirt). Their faces were a sticky, dirty mess, but they were in heaven. What a wonderful day!