Run-up to Christmas

As I wrote in one of my last posts, the girls were spending Christmas with their mother in Texas, so we were trying to get most of our Christmas in before they left. They were still going to open some presents when they returned, but with the girls likely already tired of the holidays and with school starting back up again, it was best to really celebrate our holiday beforehand. We had a lot to do and a relatively short time to do it, so we dove right in as soon as they returned from Thanksgiving.

Even the Elf on the Shelf is getting into baking sourdough…

When the girls got home, I already had the tree assembled and the ornaments ready for them. Aside from branches that were out of their reach, the girls placed the majority of the ornaments on the tree this year; I just unwrapped them and handed each off to the girls. And much to my surprise, we did not break a single ornament this year.

Fun Fact: We had more new Scooby Doo ornaments than Star Wars ornaments this year

We only added a few ornaments to the collection this year. I purchased an Imperial Walker for myself (because Star Wars), Elaina got a few Scooby Doo ornaments to remember her birthday theme, while Gabriella got Go Dog Go (our favorite book) and Pikachu ornaments (to remember their first soccer team, the Golden Pikachus).

Can you guess which one is her?

In lieu of the traditional Calkins Family Christmas Ornament, the girls got one that symbolized the year a little bit better (even though the ones with the whole family in masks were cute).

Chillin’ with my Sister, 2020

Two snowman sisters, all bundled up, drinking hot chocolate, and getting along, seemed to be what was missing this year. The girls are getting older and more independent, which leads to fighting a lot more with each other than normal. Christmas was a time for them to realize that, even though they fight, they love each other very much. In fact, that is the story behind one of our Christmas card pictures. Gabriella would not stop hugging and telling Elaina that she loved her, and Elaina just could not get out of her clutches, laughing the entire time. It was a perfect way to close out a miserable 2020, with the girls laughing about how much they really cared for one another.

They will not drink hot chocolate out of a normal mug, but put it in a snowman mug…

We drank a lot more hot chocolate than we probably should have this year, all while taking in the normal mix of holiday children’s movies (Home Alone 3… never again).

Trying to find creative ways to make learning fun

Reality hit us again the second week of December when the girls’ school was closed due to a few unrelated COVID cases (which is determined to be an outbreak). A few hours later, Fort Huachuca also closed their after-school center. Eventually, the school district came up with an alternative site to conduct online learning, but for at least 24 hours, I was freaking out at the possibility of having to manage the girls’ education for two weeks while simultaneously performing my duties as a military officer. To say it was a little overwhelming would be an understatement.

Coloring will certain help with making school at home enjoyable / bearable

After a full day off, the girls were back in school at the alternate location. They got out an hour earlier than usual and I had to teach them for the rest of the day. This experience reaffirmed the belief that I would make a terrible primary school teacher, but everyone told me that it is because we act differently when teaching our own kids. Anyways, I ended up working at home in the afternoons while doubling my duties as their afternoon teacher. It was rough, especially the first couple days, but we eventually managed to make it work.

Is is just me or does it look like they dressed themselves today?

We also did our part in supporting the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree this year. The girls chose four kids from the Christmas tree in our unit headquarters and then went shopping for what they wanted for Christmas. The girls had a great time shopping to make other children happy, even though Gabriella changed her mind a few times based on whatever the kid wanted (“Dad, I totally want one of these for Christmas!”). The holidays are always a good time to remind the girls how fortunate we are and that we should always do more to help others in need.

“No Death Star cookies this year? Well, I guess snowmen will work…”

One of Gabriella’s best friends needed to go into quarantine, so we made them cookies and left them at their doorstep. From others that had been forced into a two-week quarantine, we noticed that everyone tended to forget about them, so we wanted to let them know that we were available if they needed anything (so long as it did not involve close proximity).

“I’m a baker, like my father before me.”

While I started the first few cookie sheets, Elaina took over from there. From rolling out the dough to cutting the cookies and placing them on the sheet, Elaina did it all herself; I just stood back and gave her encouragement. Maybe I am a decent teacher, so long as it is teaching something that the girls and I all enjoy (“Sorry, Math!”).

This looked like an amazing time, until I found out they watched The Polar Express

On the day that they were going to leave for Texas, the girls had a pajama party at school where they ate snacks and watched a movie. Given how hectic the last two weeks were for for them, this activity was sorely needed. When I picked them up, we just tried to hang out, doing whatever they wanted to do, until it was time to take them to the airport. After hugging and kissing them goodbye, they walked towards the security gate with their mother and I walked back to my car. As per usual, I cried a few tears on the drive home.

That is a lot of pastel colors right there…

Although not as rough as Thanksgivings, every Christmas without the girls is a difficult time for me. I am extremely productive, tend to eat healthier, and get a lot more sleep when they are gone, but it all feels empty and without purpose. You don’t truly appreciate getting woken up by a five-year old jumping on your bed at 6am on a weekend until it is no longer happening. While I certainly wish that the girls are having a good Christmas with their mother, I wish that they were here even more.

The Calkins girls and their Christmas tree of memories

Thanks for checking in on us.


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