Christmas 2021 Recap

Another Christmas has come and gone. I hope that you had a Christmas full of wonderful memories! This Christmas was full of a lot of joy for us, but there were some things that left me sad. I will attempt to recap and keep it as happy as possible. Many of my Facebook friends have already seen these pictures, but that’s ok.

Thursday, December 23

After working the night before, I slept for a couple hours and went and picked up my son. His brother was working that night and was coming up after work so we could celebrate Christmas Eve Morning together.

My dad and Rose came over that afternoon. Neither had met AJ yet, so it was extra special to have them here. When then walked in, Ella ran to them SO excited. She was so happy to see them. She loves them both so much!!

There is something that is so amazing to me to see my dad hold his grandchildren. There is a special light in his eyes. There are almost tears. It is so special. He always kisses them gently on the head and talks to them.

Dad and AJ

Ella was all about Grandma Rose that night! Grandma made her a Mickey and Minnie blanket, which she just loves. One of my favorite pictures from that day is the two of them snuggled up on the chair with her blanket.

Ella and Grandma Rose

My Dad, being the silly guy that he is, heard Ella saying some of the alphabet. He immediately thought of “Violent is the Word for Curly,” the Three Stooges short which features the “Swingin’ the Alphabet” song.

B A Bay, B E Bee, B I Bicky By …

So Dad had to sing it to her …

Dad’s chart was a bit off….

I was glad to get the chance to visit with them, and I am glad that three of his four grandchildren were there for him to see. Papa and Rose were very good to all my kids!

Dad and me – wish the lighting had been a bit better

Dad and Rose left around 7, and Dante’ called about 8 to say he’d gotten off work and was on his way. I was exhausted and was actually on my way to bed when he called. He asked me to stay awake, so I did. He came in and gave he the biggest hug. We had some leftover pizza, so I told him to dig in and not stay up too late!

As I crawled in bed, my heart was full.

Christmas Eve

I’m sure the day is coming when the kids will be up at like 4am to open presents! We were blessed that they didn’t wake up until after 8am! I had to laugh, though, because ever since we put the tree up, there has been a gate around it. It served two purposes. First, it kept that cat out of the tree and second, it kept Ella from pulling on the ornaments and the lights.

When she woke up and came out the the living room, she walked over the the tree and saw all the presents under the tree – and no gate. She literally just stood there – not really sure what to make of things.

Ella – perplexed

After a few minutes, Sam said it was time to go in and wake up the boys. They were already going to be leaving earlier than I thought (so Dante’ didn’t have to drive in the dark), so we wanted to get things going. We told Ella to go in and wake them up.

She ran into their room yelling, “Wake up, Bruh! Wake up, Bruh!” It was quite funny to watch my older boys stir in bed … all they wanted to do was stay asleep. Dante’ asked to sleep for another 30 minutes. I told him, “You’re sister isn’t going to wait 30 minutes and wants to open presents!” Against their wishes, they crawled out of bed and joined us in the living room.

Last year, we had to help Ella open her gifts. She wasn’t quite where she understood how to do it yet. This year, however, she was able to jump right in and rip open her gifts!

Ella – wearing the very cute PJ’s that Sam’s dad got for her

It’s neat to see how the various kids react to Christmas now. Dante is 19, so he’s very laid back. Dimitri is 14 and it depends on what he’s opening as to how excited or how much emotion he shows. Ella, she’s excited for everything. Andrew has no clue as to what is happening.

The boys

The boys are SO hard to buy for. They never seem to have any real ideas for me. Dante’ is kind of at the “gift card/money” stage. He’s happy with those. Dimitri really liked this golf game I had for the Xbox, so I made sure to get it for him to play at home.

Par for the course …

Ella, being the helpful big sister, helped open up AJ’s presents.

AJ watching sissy open gifts for him

Of course, I had to put together Ella’s basketball hoop, so she could slam dunk a few before dinner.

Two points!

After a hearty breakfast, the boys went into their room and played games for a while. Knowing that they were going to be leaving early, I made sure that dinner was done early. Keeping with my family tradition, I made ravioli with my homemade sauce. I made sure to send a jar home with the boys, as Dante’ loves it.

Personal note: I used a bit too much wine this time. I felt that it was sweeter than normal.

About 3, the boys had to leave to go home to their mom. Ella was napping when they left. When she woke up, I picked her up out of her crib and as we passed the boy’s room, she said “Bruh”? “Bruh”? It ripped my heart out. All she wanted to do was see her brothers! Sadly, I don’t think they really know how much she loves them and how important they are to her. This was the saddest moment of the entire weekend for me.

A Christmas Eve tradition for Sam and I has always been to do the Drive Through Holiday Lights display at Crossroads Village. For $10 a car, you get to drive through and see the many Christmas lights that they have on display. When the kids are older, we plan on going and doing the Christmas train ride, which is truly amazing, but for now, we just drove through.

When we arrived, we got Ella out of her car seat and let her sit on Sam’s lap as we drove through. She was so excited. As we got close to the lights, she’s yell, “Here we go, Mommy! Here we go, Daddy!” It was so cute. Sam made the comment that she loves seeing things through Ella’s eyes. This is so true! We’ve been through there every year, but this year was so much more exciting because of Ella!

Sleigh ride!

We thought about driving downtown Flint, which has some great lights, too. We decided against it, as it was getting late and the kids were tired. We went through out bedtime routine and got the kids to bed just in time for me to play Santa. I had a few things to put together so that they were ready for they kids when they woke up Christmas morning.

Christmas Day 2021

Sam wanted to be in the living room so she could record Ella seeing her presents, so I got her out of bed and asked Sam if she was ready. She said she was, so I sent Ella running into the living room. The video is priceless. The smile on her face is something I will never forget. We got her one of those Little People Jungle Rainforest things. It came with animals and makes noises and everything. It is HUGE and takes up a good part of the living room.

Here’s the monkey!

AJ’s Santa gift was a very cool floor chair. It allows him to sit up while on the floor and it’s a lot better than those Bumpo seats.

Sitting pretty

I love that both kids had “Santa” jammies for Christmas morning. Sam and I actually got matching PJ bottoms to wear that morning, too. AJ was wide awake and just taking in all the sights. I love this picture of him and Sam. What I love about it is that just above Sam’s right shoulder is a picture of Ella on her lap and in this picture AJ is on her lap.

One of Ella’s favorite gifts was a Leap Frog Tea Party set. The pot talks and it came with cups and cake.

Must be good tea!

I joked many times about having tea parties with my daughter. I am excited to say that we’ve had our first already and I am looking forward to the next one!

Yummy!!

It was daddy’s turn to help AJ open gifts. So I grabbed his stuff and we opened them up. I was as surprised as he was! LOL. Sam got him a very cool “Floor time” pillow with lights, sounds, and more.

Wow!! What’s this, daddy?

It made him like floor time a lot more….

Mesmerized

Before we all showered and got dressed to visit Sam’s folks, we attempted to take a family selfie. We have a camera that I could have set up with a timer and all, but with my cell phone, I could snap 5-6 pictures in the time it would take to get one on the camera. Good thing we went with the cell phone – because it only took us about 57 tries before we finally got this one.

Merry Christmas!

Since it was AJ’s first Christmas, we had to be sure to get a picture with him in his “First Christmas” outfit. Sam came up with the silly saying on the board and it made me chuckle!

Got him smiling and everything!

After the kids napped, we went to Sam’s folks for Christmas dinner. Sam’s mom put out an amazing spread with turkey, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and so much more. I’m not sure why we didn’t get any pictures while we were there, and I am sad that we didn’t. We are so grateful for them and enjoyed family time together.

After we got home and got the kids in bed, Sam and I crawled into bed. Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought back over the many memories that were made and thanked God for the many blessings that He has given me. I am truly a lucky man.

December 26

Having the Christmas tree up was driving Sam crazy. Not because it was up, but because we literally had to move Ella’s toys out of that corner of the room. All of her toys were moved in front of the fireplace and it just seemed like we were always tripping over them. Long before Christmas, it was clear that on the 26th, the tree was coming down!

I spent the morning taking down ornaments, unstringing Christmas lights, folding up stockings, and putting them all downstairs until next year. Before I finished, there was one picture we had meant to get of Ella that we hadn’t gotten. So I hurried out to the garage and got the props ready before Ella and I walked the neighborhood. Here is the picture we had hoped to get earlier in the season ….

Hauling her Christmas tree

It’s back to work tonight for me, at least for a couple days. Looking back over this holiday weekend makes me smile. There are so many wonderful memories forever saved in snapshots that I will look back on often. Life is good. I am blessed.

A Positive Post

A friend of mine saw a recent post and sent me a private message to say that she hoped everything was ok. I figured it was time to share a positive post.

My Boys

I’m excited for this weekend. My youngest son will be with me Saturday and part of Sunday. He’s been going through some rough times and he has chosen to stay with his mom a lot recently. I am hoping that I get to spend some quality time with him and connect.

My oldest son calls me 2 to 3 times a week, usually while he is working and when I am driving into work. I look forward to those calls. He is 19 now and he delivers pizzas. He is often on a delivery when he calls. Sometimes we only get to chat for 5-10 minutes, while other times we talk for 30. Sometimes he talks about really deep stuff, while other times it is light hearted and goofy stuff.

The other day he called to tell me he was sad about Norm MacDonald passing away. We used to watch the Celebrity Jeopardy clips on YouTube and laugh a lot at him as Burt Reynolds. He also told me that he received his acceptance letter to the community college in town. I couldn’t be more happy for him and more proud! He has come a long way!!

Today he called and we talked about history and how everyone seems to want to erase it (deep stuff). We talked about Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman and other historical figures and why it was so important to know history so we could learn from it. It’s funny because I remember the first “deep” talk I had with my dad and how much more I connected with him. He obviously feels the same way because after he hung up I received a text that said:

“That was a great talk today. Having these discussions with you means a lot to me. No matter when we have a conversation and no matter what the topic is, I’m always happy about the outcome of it all. I love you and hope to see you tomorrow.” (He is hoping to be the one to drop his brother off to me.)

All I could respond with was the truth. I told him he had no idea how important those conversations are to me, too!

Getting In “Touch” With Me

One of the things I have been working on is trying to “connect” with myself. Lately, I have been kind of disconnected and in my own world. That world has been full of stress and worry (as noted in previous blogs). I not only feel disconnected from myself, but at times from everyone. This has not been fair to the people in my life. So in discussing things with my therapist and my doctor. I am trying to take moments throughout the day to reconnect.

I need to be aware that I am “present.” Walking barefoot on the grass and doing things that really connect with my senses is important. They say that these things will help me be more present and aware. At first, I thought they were suggesting me doing meditation. I would find it very difficult to find 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted time to do that.

My therapist said that it doesn’t have to be that long at all, and it doesn’t have to be anything more than just taking 2 minutes. So my “homework” has been to take 2 minutes and count 4-3-2-1. I need to notice 4 things I see, 3 things I hear, 2 things I smell, and 1 thing I feel. So far, when I have done it, it has been helpful. Let me share one of these instances:

Before work one day this week, I was going to grab subs for Sam and I. So I got in the car, rolled the window down and drove down the street. It was at that time I decided to do one of these “sessions.” The 4 things I saw: The new family in the neighborhood walking together on the sidewalk, the city policeman in his familiar place looking for speeders, a classic car driving presumably to the car show north of us, and an elderly couple sitting on a bench under the gazebo in town. The three things I heard: the loud bass from a teenager’s car blasting, the sirens from an ambulance, and a Jackie Wilson song on the radio. The two things I smelled: gasoline from the huge semi truck filling the tanks at the gas station, and the smell of burgers from Burger King as I passed it to get to the sub place. Finally, the one thing I felt: The breeze coming into the car while driving with the window down. Oh the feeling of the wind on my scalp! LOL

The last thing is the one that really got me. It seems that when I get in the car, I just tend to crank the AC or Heat and drive. I can’t tell you how long it has been since I had drove with the window down. I guess I really need to do it more often, because it really was quite an awesome feeling.

Here’s to hoping that these little exercises continue to help me “reconnect.”

“I’m sorry, baby”

There are things that you do as a parent that you hate, but you know you have to do them. With my boys, I was always the one who took them to get their shots. There is no worse feeling as a parent than having your child look at you as you hold them down so the nurse can administer the shot. You feel like you are betraying them. It is truly an awful feeling. You know that you are doing what you need to do, but it rips your heart out!

Sam has scheduled most of Ella’s shots on days that she is off work and I work. I have told her that I would take her and she doesn’t need to always be the one to do that. She says she knows, but she feels that Ella “needs her mommy” for comfort after those pokes.

So Ella is having surgery this week to put tubes in her ears. She’s had one too many ear infections and the ENT said tubes will help. Here is the catch, before she can do the surgery, she had to have a Covid test done. It had to be done during a specific time frame, in this case Sunday or Monday. Sam works both days, so I was the one who took her to have it done.

It had to be done at either the hospital or one of the hospital affiliated Urgent Care facilities. The hospital is an hour and 15 minutes from home, where as the closest Urgent Care was about 55 minutes away. So we had to schedule a Virtual Visit with a doc on Sunday, in order to be able to get the actual Covid test done on Monday.

When I arrived they told me to bring her inside, because it would be difficult to do a curbside swab on someone her age. They brought us right back to the room, and Ella began to cry before anything even happened. She’s had enough shots to recognize an exam room and was probably thinking she was getting another one.

When the nurse entered with the swab, Ella began to cry even more. The nurse told me to cross her arms and hold them with one arm. I was then to hold her head against my chest so they could do the swab. Let me tell you, that girl of mine is strong! I had a hard time holding her. She fought big time. As soon as it was all over, I held her and she gave me the “Why did you let them do that, daddy?” look. I hate that look.

I kept telling her I was sorry. It breaks my heart to see her like that. Once we left the building, I held her in the parking lot and calmed her down before putting her in her car seat. I found a light up toy and that made her smile. I was so glad her mood changed quickly. Of course, I had to treat her to pancakes at McDonalds for being so brave.

Covid Christmas Memories

I think you would agree that Christmas was a lot different this year!  In a way, it was sad because it was Ella’s first Christmas and it should have been spent visiting grandparents and family.  Thank goodness for video chats!

My dad met me at my work the Monday before Christmas and brought all the gifts for the kids.  I loaded them up in the car and brought them home after work and placed them under the tree.

I was lucky to have both my sons over for Christmas Eve.  I picked up Dimitri on the 23rd and brought him to my house.  Dante’ had to work, so he drove up after work.  They spent the night, so Christmas Eve morning was our Christmas.

My brothers are still sleeping, so I’m here to inspect all the presents!

Naturally, Ella was up before anyone else.  Dante’ and Dimitri were up late.  Dimitri was up about 9, and he woke Dante’ up for presents.  Lol – he was exhausted.  At home, normally he isn’t up until after noon!  He literally opened presents and went back to sleep!

Dimitri nabbed a cool gaming chair and new bed, while Dante’ was loaded up with gift cards.  We video chatted with my dad as they opened their gifts from him, so we didn’t get any pictures of them opening his stuff.

The aftermath!

Ella made out pretty good!  My dad bought her this cute little princess tent! 

She absolutely loves playing in it!

It’s like her own club house!

She got to open one of our presents to her that day…it’s the cutest puppy that she can bounce and spin on.

Later that day, Sam’s mom dropped off the gifts for Ella and the boys.  The boys got some amazing Nike hoodie sweatshirts and Ella got a Minnie Mouse car that she can ride on or walk with.

It makes all kinds of noise!  Each button makes a different sound and the horn has like 4 or 5 different horns.  I’m sure in a month or two I will pull the batteries out!

The greatest thing about Christmas Eve was spending it with some of the greatest gifts God ever gave me: Sam and my kids!

The boys went home Christmas Eve evening so they could be with their mom Christmas morning. After Ella went to bed, I got to work putting Dimitri’s bed together and building Ella’s big gift from us.

With all the time we are spending indoors, we wanted to get her something we could play with inside and eventually outside.  We bought her this really cool swing and slide.

She loves to swing! She loves to go down the slide, too!  It’s funny that she’s already doing things her way!  She wants to climb up the wrong way!

One of my closest friends, Margaret, had asked if Ella had a toy box.  She ordered the perfect one and hand delivered it last weekend.  It’s also a fainting couch!  Lol.

Our little princess was right at home with it….

As different as the holiday was, it was still full of good memories!  I hope you and your family had a blessed holiday season.  Happy New Year!

Whoop! Deer it is!!