The days leading up to Christmas were some of my favorites of the holiday season. With all of the boys out of school, we filled them with cozy time at home, “jammie days” where the boys wore their Christmas pajamas 24/7, play dates with friends and an evening adventure to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens to look at Christmas lights.
The gardens were transformed into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights and the whole event was outside making it ideal for kids who like to run around and explore. We booked the early timeslot for tickets with some of our best friends and had a wonderful time.
(We called Ryder “Captain Christmas” because he wore his goofy Santa glasses and Santa hat all night long. Christmas with kids is the best ever ever.)
Christmas Eve began with church and Rhett wanted me to take his picture to send to Pop because he was sporting a button-down shirt and “looked like Dad.”
We spent most of Christmas Eve outside exploring local trails and in the kitchen baking cookies for Santa.
We may or may not have inhaled the first batch of cookies we made for Santa the day before and had to make a fresh batch. I’m pretty sure one million cookies were consumed by the Fagan fam over the holidays.
Once we had all the boys in bed, Ryan and I spent a few hours wrapping and assembling gifts. Ryan poured a solid hour into assembling the Hot Wheels Ultimate City Garage for the boys and we had to laugh when he told me to come check it out and the first thing he tried to show me didn’t work. After a little more tweaking, it was ready and thank goodness it worked out because it was undoubtedly the hit of Christmas morning for the boys. (Thank you to Ryan’s mom for generously sending it their way!)
I don’t know what it is about Christmas (and even the days leading up to Christmas) but I often feel a myriad of things simultaneously, as I am sure many people also experience around the holidays. The overwhelming feeling I have every single year is gratitude because I feel so immensely blessed to have the family I do, three of the best kids who call me “Mom” and our health, safety and security. We are lucky and I feel this deeply every single day and even more so on Christmas.
This was also our first Christmas without Ryan’s dad and it was impossible not to feel a gaping hole. A lot of feelings bubbled up and lead to some deeper conversations between me and Ryan throughout the holiday season. Losing a parent is devastating and walking through Christmas without Greg was hard. We wish so badly he was still here with us.
As I learned years ago, grief and joy can co-exist and there’s no better source of joy in our lives than God and our boys. Christmas morning had both on full display in the very best way.
Our boys were awake before dawn and my favorite moment of the morning was hearing their footsteps run from their rooms to the balcony overlooking our living room where their excited high-pitched voices began calling out the gifts they spotted from upstairs. I have such vivid memories of looking over the balcony of my childhood home in Palatine with my sister and doing the exact same thing. It was pure magic. I hope our boys carry the excitement they feel on their childhood Christmas mornings with them always.
The ages of our kids this year were also prime for Christmas magic. At 8, 5 and 3 all of our boys believe in Santa and get so into every aspect of the holiday. Hearing Rhett excitedly yell out every gift he opened — his enthusiasm was just as high for a pack of Play-Doh as it was for a new Paw Patrol vehicle — will be seared into my heart forever.
Considering the fact that the boys were all done unwrapping their presents before 8 a.m., Ryan and I began thinking it might be possible to make it to my parents’ place in Florida before dinner without feeling rushed. We planned to leave on Christmas if it worked naturally and the boys wanted to make the drive but told my family we might be arriving the day after Christmas if that worked better for our crew. We asked the boys their thoughts around 11 a.m. and they were all for driving to Mae and Pop’s house so we loaded up the car around lunchtime and arrived in Jacksonville Beach right after sunset.
My sister and her family joined all of us for dinner and it was wonderful to be able to exchange some gifts and dive into the delicious homecooked meal my mom made for all of us to enjoy together.
We spent the next few days in Florida with family and filled our time with trips to Sunshine Park, a visit to the Jacksonville Zoo, bundled-up beach walks and downtime at my parents’ place as the boys played with their cousins and their Christmas gifts.
(My dad does the boys’ hair and dabs a little cologne on their necks and wrists during our visits and when I tell you they absolutely beam when they come out of the bathroom after Pop’s special treatment, I mean it. 10/10 adorable.)
(The above swing at Sunshine Park is called a “connection swing” and is the coolest! It’s made for an adult to sit on one side and a child on the other so you can swing together. We loved it!)
It was a low-key, restorative week and we arrived back in North Carolina before the new year ready to get organized and fall back into a routine as the boys return to school today and tomorrow.
Now it’s time for me to load up backpacks and get Ryder and Rhett off to preschool before enjoying one last day of winter break with Chase before he is back in school tomorrow. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and I’m sending the best wishes your way for a fantastic 2024! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making my blog part of your life again this year. You guys are forever one of my biggest blessings.
Happy New Year!