It took a long time, but I finally got around to our Christmas post. You have seen us put the ornaments on the tree, play in the snow, and take part in numerous holiday activities, but the short lead-up to Christmas Day deserves its own post. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Calkins Family Christmas!
So the original plan was that the girls and I were going to spend Christmas with my Mother and Stepfather at their home in Northern California. Unfortunately, all the members of my section (department) at work were taking leave, so I was going to take one for the team, staying back and working so that everyone else could have a good holiday. My parents were pretty bummed, but we arranged for them to spend a week with us in Arizona. A week before they were to arrive, I received two new Soldiers to my section, neither of which were taking leave. Even though I was free to go now, the airline tickets had already been purchased. Even though we were now tied to Christmas in Arizona, at least I got to take leave and spend the whole week with them instead of having to work during parts of it.
For Gabriella, the Christmas Day ramp-up began with her gift exchange at school. She chose an illustrated copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to exchange, receiving 5-Minute Nursery Rhymes in return. Searching for the right book to give really got her into the Christmas spirit.
While it took me a little longer than usual, I finally got a chance to bake some gingerbread men for the house and for my office. They came out pretty good this year, just as soft as usual (I am not particularly a big fan of crunchy gingerbread). I left a sizeable batch at the office and then came back a day later to pick up the remains; while no one knew who left them (even though I left a note), everyone was pretty happy with them. My Mom and I ate the rest of the ones at the house; good thing that I only make them once a year, because I simply could not stop eating them.
The Elf on the Shelf also really got the girls in the Christmas spirit. As noted in a previous post, Scapey really got into some situations this year. The girls and I were certainly surprised when she commandeered my Super Star Destroyer… I am sure the Emperor was most displeased. Either way, the girls knew that she had her eyes on them, which made them be extra good (at least that is what they told me).
We also put the finishing touches on our Christmas tree before adding the presents the night before. This included adding our 2019 family ornament (first picture above) and the “tree topper” that Elaina made in class.
Grandma and Papa arrived on Monday evening and the girls could not have been happier to see them. I had the coffee all ready for them when they arrived and they definitely needed it once the girls grabbed them for playtime.
Papa plays the guitar in his band, so the girls already had the ukulele ready for him. Gabriella did the singing while Elaina played her new recorder. For anyone that is thinking it though, they are not ready for that drum set just yet, so please do not buy them one.
For Grandma, the girls already had their crayons, markers, and coloring books laid out. Hope you like coloring princesses, Mom! Grandma also took over some of my storytime duties, which gave me short reprieve from Dr. Seuss and Fancy Nancy.
The last thing that was waiting for them was a ton of games. Board games, card games, and puzzles… the girls pretty much emptied the entire game closet for the grandparents. The girls were just really excited to spend so much time with Grandma and Papa.
While Gabriella introduced Papa to Connect 4, Sunday Split, and Hungry Hungry Hippos (seriously, Papa?), Elaina had been waiting weeks to play Color Brain Disney Edition with Grandma. For those that do not know, my Mom is quite the Disneyphile, meaning she loves everything Disney. In fact, Papa and her are at Disneyland while I write this, sending me pictures of Galaxy’s Edge (Star Wars Land… so jealous). So Elaina and I thought she would be pretty good at a game where you had have to guess the colors in Disney movies (ex. The Little Mermaid, The Color of Flounder’s Body, 2 Colors – Yellow and Blue)… Elaina crushed her. Either Calkins Family Movie Night is benefiting Elaina’s board game prowess (because she has a pretty darn good memory) or Grandma needs to re-watch some of her beloved classics… or both! Either way, they all had a great time playing their games.
And the girls always made time to color with Grandma, who I suspect enjoyed it a lot more than she would like to admit.
This was certainly a Frozen II Christmas. From meeting Elsa and Anna at the Night of Extraordinary Lights Holiday Village to making Olaf Cake Pops to opening their Frozen II gifts wrapped in Frozen II wrapping paper, this was a Frozen II Christmas through and through. In fact, two pictures above, I see three separate Frozen II items on the dinner table alone.
While I am not going to debate anyone on the subject, we open our presents on Christmas morning as opposed to Christmas Eve. But since one of the presents that they had been begging me for was perfect to wear for Christmas morning, they each got to open one gift (of my choice) before we watched The Grinch. The girls loved their nightgowns so much, I had to stop Gabriella from undressing right there in the living room in order to put it on quicker. Silly Niñas!
After that, we grabbed our popcorn and hot chocolate and proceeded to watch the newest Grinch movie. While it is one of my girls’ Christmas favorites, my parents enjoyed it as much as could have been expected. I mean, Benedict Cumberbatch is no Boris Karloff, but then again, who is? After the movie, the girls brushed their teeth and went quietly to bed, passing out after about 15 minutes.
Fast forward to Christmas morning. I woke up first and immediately realized the difference between Christmas morning for kids and adults; kids think of presents, adults think of coffee. By the time my cup was ready, the girls were running out of their rooms causing a scene (Elaina: “Gabby, it’s Christmas!; Gabriella: *rubs eyes* “Merlissa, Aurora, it’s Christmas!”). The first thing they noticed was that the milk that we had set out the night before was gone and Santa had eaten most of the cookies. I just love how excited they get when they see these things. Magic right before your eyes.
They then noticed the unwrapped gifts that Santa had left for them (our rule is that we will not unwrap any gifts until after breakfast, but unwrapped gifts and stockings are fair game). The girls both got a princess doll with matching pajamas, Cinderella for Elaina and Rapunzel for Gabriella. They also proceeded to dump out their stockings, containing both chocolate AND toothbrushes (Thanks, Santa!). And of course the cats were happy, as they now had plenty of boxes and wrapping paper to play with.
It took my parents about 20 minutes to leave their room after the girls got up, but I am willing to bet that they had been awake ever since Elaina first started shouting. We had my Mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and no disrespect to your opinion, Mom, but they were amazing. For the girls, presents are certainly a motivator; they both ate their entire breakfast with minimal complaints, knowing that I was not going to budge on this rule.
After breakfast, we began unwrapping gifts, with the girls leading the charge.
There is only a few gifts that I wanted to highlight. First, Grandma was extremely pleased with her year’s subscription to Disney+ that the girls got her. While Elaina kept jabbing her that now she will be able to learn all the colors for the game, Gabriella just kept laughing about how we wrapped her gift. It was a Mickey trophy wrapped in Frozen II paper, in a larger box wrapped in Disney Princess paper, in a larger box wrapped in Mickey paper. Disney, plus Disney, plus Disney… get it? It was like a Dad Joke in gift form! Anyways, she really enjoyed the gift and the girls really enjoyed her unwrapping a box to just find another box.
They also got several copies of the girls’ new school pictures, because that is what all grandparents want.
After the presents were complete, the girls went off to play with their new toys, Grandma started setting up her Disney+ account, and Papa began dreaming of how he was going to lose his new box of golf balls; I went to work getting the house looking spotless again.
But now I had new socks which to do it in (Thanks, Mom!). Again, it is funny the difference in Christmas as a kid versus an adult (Kid Christmas: “Socks? Seriously?; Adult Christmas: “Yes, socks! Thank you! I was actually planning on buying these exact ones!”).
My Stepmom also got me something called a Man Crate, that literally took a mini-crowbar to open. It was pretty fun to open and it contained their Whiskey Appreciation Set, including a monogrammed decanter and glasses. Really nice gift, but I felt bad when I had to tell her that I had not had a drop of liquor (a personal choice on my part) since I found out the girls’ mom wanted a divorce. I am sure I will get use out of it someday.
The girls made great use out of their favorite gift, a Frozen II karaoke machine. It took me a while to set it up with all the songs we sing in the car, but once I did, the girls took it from there.
“Into the Unknown,” “Show Yourself,” “Some Things Never Change,” and “Lost in the Woods” were all there of course, with the latter being so that they could make Dad sing. The also wanted some songs from Tangled, Frozen, and My Little Pony: The Movie, just to name a few.
But, as could have been predicted, they eventually started fighting over it. “Elaina got two songs” or “Gabby’s song was longer” were some of the regular complaints heard, which led to the karaoke machine being put in timeout for a while. Got to love sibling rivalry, right?
We eventually settled back down into our routine, playing games and coloring. Gabriella spent the rest of the day wearing her Princess Aurora dress, her present from Elaina; Gabriella got her an Elena of Avalor dress, but it had not arrived yet.
Part of the activities also included climbing on Papa, much to the detriment of his back. I am sure it will have no effect on his golf handicap whatsoever…
The second to last event of the trip was visiting the Post Christmas tree on Fort Huachuca. While nothing compared to the always amazing Eureka Inn Christmas tree in my parents’ hometown, it was a nice sight at the end of a quiet walk down the streets of Fort Huachuca. And they got to see plenty of deer and javelinas roaming around on post, which they though was pretty cool.
The last bit of magic was when Grandma got her Christmas wish. She had not had a White Christmas since the Carter Administration, so all she wanted was to see some snow. Well, that morning, it started coming down, blanketing post in serene white snow. While I already detailed the experience in my Snow Day post, it was a perfect end to a great Christmas holiday.
The girls and I had a great Christmas holiday and were very happy that Grandma and Papa could make it. In the haze of buying presents, making sure the house is presentable, and worrying about getting Christmas dinner right, it is important to remember that the holidays are mostly about spending time with your family. Regardless of everything else, we were together and that is what matters. I hope you and your families had a great holiday season as well!
Thanks for checking in on us.