ST. LOUIS Like most fathers of six kids, Scott Wells expects Christmas morning to be quite the show at his home. Wrapping paper will fly. There will be few hours of sleep. At some point during the blizzard of activity near the tree, he'll give thanks for three gifts.
"It will be chaos," said Wells, the St. Louis Rams' center, who in August adopted three Ugandan orphans Caroline (age 5), Elijah (3) and R.J. (2) with his wife, Julie. "It will be absolute chaos, as it is every Christmas with the kids. I will be lucky if they sleep, because I know how I was as a child. I was up at 5 a.m. trying to catch Santa. It will be pretty special. I'm really excited about it."
Wells has reason to be, because this Christmas is about firsts with his family's three new members. Carols have been sung (they enjoy "Jingle Bells"). Decorating dos and don'ts have been taught ("We're teaching them that you can't take the ornaments off," he said). Gift requests have been made (Caroline wants an iPad).
For Wells, each day as a father is a treasure. But the first Christmas with his adopted kids adds anticipation as fresh as a soft blanket of snow.
Why not? After all, it took many miles and more patience to reach this point. The Wells family went through a winding adoption process that included delayed court appearances in the war-torn East Africa country. There also was a 10-week stay for Julie in the nation to complete paperwork to gain legal custody and the visas required to bring them to the United States. At the time, Scott returned without her to begin training camp in St. Louis.
Almost four months later, the Wells family prepares to make a new memory. Three more faces. Three times the love.
"Christmas, to me, is all about the kids and the family and seeing the smiles on their faces," said Wells, who signed with the Rams in March after eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he earned a Pro Bowl appearance last season. "It's very important, and it's very humbling to see the three new ones really celebrate their first big Christmas."
With celebration comes wonder. Recently, the Wells family drove through a suburban St. Louis neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. Soon, the vehicle was filled with reactions such as, "Wow!" and "Look!" with fingers pointed at the displays. New lives. New discovery.
"The thing that sticks out to me is the first time that they saw Christmas lights," Wells said. "Just driving around, and they'll see houses that are decorated. I think that's completely foreign to them. I don't anticipate there are a lot of houses in Uganda that put up Christmas lights. It has been pretty fun to know that's really their first experience seeing those things things we take for granted."
Little of this is a surprise to those who know him. Wells can be a jokester, a cut-up clown, a light heart with a veteran's edge who lifts a locker room with his play and attitude. But greater than all those labels is this: He has a soul with the capacity to save.
"Scott goofs around, but he has a big heart," Rams guard Robert Turner said. "He's got a big heart. I haven't had the chance to meet the kids myself. But it's something we've talked about getting together in the offseason, and I'm looking forward to it. I enjoy him."
Yes, for Wells, each day as a father is a gift, especially with a Christmas to remember near. Three more faces. Three more reasons to give thanks.
"It makes me feel blessed," Wells said.
"It has definitely made me feel blessed to be able to share that with my kids. It's huge. Christmas is a special time of the year for us full of excitement and joy."
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.