September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
This year, however, marks a special milestone for the Tumberg family: the fifth anniversary of when they officially became just that - a family.
On Dec. 12, 2006, Scott and Jolene Tumberg of New York Mills, Minn., welcomed not one but five children into their home when they adopted a family of five siblings from San Antonio, Texas. Since then, they have cherished that early Christmas gift, building memories as a family on their 80-cow dairy farm.
"God set this up totally. The kids were just a perfect fit [for us]," Jolene said.
For the Tumbergs, adoption came after 14 years of dealing with infertility.
"We looked into adoption," Jolene said. "We started looking into international adoption, but that fell through, so we looked into U.S. adoption."
When it was suggested they check into the special needs adoption program, the Tumbergs were hesitant.
"We had never considered that," Scott said of the special needs program. "We thought it would be kids [with medical problems], but sibling groups are part of the special needs program."
Knowing they wanted a large family, Scott and Jolene decided to seek out sibling groups. Much of their searching was done through various adoption Web sites. When they found children they thought would be a good fit for them, they contacted their social worker to make an inquiry. From there, it was a game of wait and see. More than once, they were narrowed down to the top three families only to be told they were not the final choice.
"Adoption is an [emotional] roller coaster," Scott said of the experience.
It was in July 2006 that the Tumbergs came across a family of five siblings - Ruby, Santiago, Anna, Amanda and Amy - from San Antonio, Texas, on the AdoptUSKids Web site. Not only were the kids looking for a Christian home, but they were living with a foster family that had many animals - including beef, pigs and goats. It seemed like the perfect match for the Minnesota dairy couple.
"They just looked like kids who wanted to milk cows," Scott said, laughing.
On Aug. 24, 2006, Scott and Jolene got the call they had been waiting for - the call that told them they were the chosen adoptive family. Over the next nearly four months, the Tumbergs and the children got to know each other through many phone conversations and video exchanges, and on Dec. 12, 2006, Scott and Jolene met them in person for the first time and drove them home to Minnesota, arriving just after midnight.
While the younger siblings adjusted quickly to their new home, the older ones were more apprehensive.
"They called us 'Mom' and 'Dad' right away," Jolene said.
"But it did take a while to become 'Mom' and 'Dad' in their hearts," Scott said.
To help with the adjustment, the Tumbergs decided to start a few traditions right away, and with the Christmas season in full swing, their first tradition became cutting a Christmas tree together.
Looking back, the Tumbergs said those first few weeks were overwhelming - for them and the kids.
"[In] the Christmas picture that year we looked ragged," Scott said.
"But we didn't feel it," Jolene said.
That first Christmas together was bittersweet for them. While Scott and Jolene were overjoyed to finally share their lives with a family of their own, the children were grieving, Scott said, as they had hoped to be adopted by their last foster family.
Since then, however, they have adjusted well and have become a true dairy family, with the kids - Ruby (15), Santiago (14), Anna (12), Amanda (11) and Amy (9) - now active in everyday farm life. Ruby helps milk, beds the cows and raises a few pigs every summer - a hobby she brought with her from Texas. She is also the designated cookie-baker of the family. Santiago feeds the cows and heifers, cleans the barn, helps milk and drives the skid loader. Anna feeds the chickens, scrapes the barn, milks cows, brings the cows in for milking and helps feed cows. Amanda and Amy share the chores of feeding the calves, washing pails, picking eggs and doing the dishes.
"I can't remember what it was like before we had the kids," Scott said. "... Just getting to be parents and watching them grow [has brought us so much joy]."
They celebrate that joy every year on Dec. 12, sometimes going out to eat as a family or going to a water park. But they also celebrate - and share - that joy with others throughout the holiday season with traditions they have established as a family.
This year marked the sixth annual Christmas tree cutting event for the family. They also decorate the tree, their house and yard as a family, and they go Christmas caroling every year to a local nursing home. Baking Christmas cookies is another fun family event - but those treats tend to disappear before Christmas Day comes around, Jolene said, smiling. Christmas Eve has the family attending church together before coming home to open presents, and there's always somewhere to go on Christmas Day, Scott said.
While the Tumbergs celebrate this Christmas as a family, they hope to celebrate with more children in the future, as they look to adopt more kids.
"We are seeing if there are any more of our kids out there," Scott said, grinning.
Adoption is what brought the Tumbergs and the five siblings together to become a family - a Christmas gift that continues to grow with each passing year.