As soon as Ella got off the bus Friday we headed off to watch Mike's high school's basketball team play in a tournament that continued on all day Saturday (they went on to win the whole thing, beating #2 and #6 in the state...after the tourney they are now ranked 6th...and we're hoping for a trip to state again). The kids did pretty well. After awhile Preston just wanted to run around and he's seriously fast enough that I have to run myself to catch him. Ella cracked us up because we got to the game after it had already started, and the games aren't that long to begin with, but when we got back in the car she said, "That was the longest game ever!" We'll make a basketball fan out of her yet :-)!
We stopped and got some dinner and then headed over to a local church (where Ella went to preschool a couple years ago) to check out their live nativity. It was only running that weekend and I had heard great things about it. It was AMAZING! We are definitely adding it to our list of Christmas traditions!
We checked in and were given our "papers" telling us which family we were a part of with strict instructions not to lose them because they were very important. We then waited in a little reception area, eating popcorn and cookies and drinking hot chocolate until we were led into the chapel area.
We were welcomed by one of the preachers and they showed a little cartoon movie that told the story leading up to the birth of Jesus a little bit and it kept the kids' attention. We were then led by someone dressed to look like they were from that time period outside where we were told a little history of the times. We walked down a lighted path to a small market area. People were yelling out what was for sale and working on crafts. The kids were able to pet animals, pretend to make some bread, string necklaces, work with old tools, etc. A couple ladies were walking around handing out "provisions" for the journey to the children (little linen sacks full of goldfish crackers).
We hung out here until our family name was called and then we were led along the path. Roman soldiers rode up on horse back demanding to see our papers, other soldiers passed us sometimes and were mean to us and we stopped a couple times at little tent houses. The journey was actually quite a walk.
We stopped at an Inn to look for a place to stay and were basically laughed at for making such a ridiculous request, angles popped up in the fields with lights on them giving us encouragement and singing (that part was a little creepy :-), and eventually we made it to the place where we were to be counted and pay our taxes.
After we paid the taxes our guide's "wife" asked him if he had any money left and he said he thought he had enough for the children to each have a coin. They then passed each child a gold coin (this was the girls' favorite part of course) and we soon entered another market. Vendors were yelling out what was for sale and there was a table set up where each child could buy 1 of 3 little wooden trinkets (Ella picked a necklace and Addie a little wood cup). They also got to pet more animals (Addie actually gave the chicken kisses) and eat little cheese and bread chunks.
We then made it to the stable where we saw Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. The whole thing was really neat and I think it really helped Ella understand the story of Jesus' birth. We'll definitely be back again next year :-)!