Driving back and forth between families is not usually looked upon as the best part of the holidays, but we had a lot of fun these past two days.

Christmas Eve

After going to our church’s afternoon Christmas Eve service, Jessica, Namine, and I went over to my mom’s house. We opened our stockings as we were waiting for everyone to arrive for dinner.

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I love these big dinners. They’re never as big a deal as with Jessica’s family gatherings — our family isn’t nearly as large — but everyone has a good time. Our schedules differ so much, and especially with my sister away at college, we’re afforded so little time to spend together. But all that’s forgotten when we’re all sitting around the table together, laughing and trading stories.

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My mom had these glasses, kind of like 3D glasses, only they seemed to change the lights when you looked.

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This is my mom’s Christmas tree:

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And this is her tree when you looked through the glasses:

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After dinner — or supper, as Namine prefers to call it — it came time to open presents.

We had drawn names, two each, so that no one was left out. But of course everyone bought a present for Namine, just because. Mostly Paw Patrol and My Little Pony stuff, much to her satisfaction.

After everyone had opened their presents, but before parting ways for the night, we took one group photo in front of the tree.

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Christmas Day

When Jessica and I got up this morning, we made cinnamon rolls. More accurately, we finished making cinnamon rolls — we had made the dough last night, so we rolled it out this morning. And we didn’t make cinnamon rolls — we made almond paste instead of cinnamon paste for the insides, so I suppose you’d call them almond rolls instead. Namine helped to cut the rolled-up dough into slices.

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To continue with the almond theme, we made some cream cheese frosting with a little vanilla and almond extract. The resulting almond rolls with almond frosting were just short of heaven.

Before Namine opened her presents from us, we lit the last candle on our Advent wreath: the Christ candle.

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I was extremely happy to find a Crystal Empire Princess Luna for Namine. Luna is by far Namine’s favorite character in My Little Pony — for reasons I can only speculate, but I think I have a pretty good idea — and this toy, we found, was pretty awesome up close.

The pony is translucent, but unlike the other Crystal Empire ponies Namine has, is not solid plastic. Instead, it’s hollow, and filled with water and sparkling stars and moons, like a snow globe.

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When Namine was a baby, Jessica’s mom had made her (Namine, I mean) a blanket. This blanket is too small for Namine now, but that doesn’t keep her from using it — she loves it that much.

Some time ago, Jessica’s mom had asked Namine what she would like for Christmas. Namine’s answer was immediate: “I’d like you to make me a new blanket. The blanket you made me is too small now.”

So this morning, Namine opened her present from Grandma Tarver, and it was none other than a brand new blanket, more than large enough to keep Namine warm in the cold Wisconsin winter.

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Early in the afternoon, we headed down to Jessica’s sister’s house for her side of the family’s Christmas gathering.

Of course, the first thing Namine did was disappear into her cousin Olivia’s room. The two of them are like peas in a pod.

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If I thought it was chaos at my mom’s house, then it was complete anarchy at Ann’s. It was loud, as it always is when everyone is talking and laughing at once — but that’s a good thing, in its own way. We had a lot of fun, and it’s good that Namine has someone near her own age to play with.

Husband. Daddy. Programmer. Artist. I'm not an expert, I just play one in real life.