Jenn Morgan
Jenn Morgan Danny Drake

Christmas has always been a holiday filled with joy and excitement. If nothing else, it has always been a day with a full agenda. With blended families and a child in tow, this year was no different.

Christmas in the Morgan household actually begins on December 24, with the feast of the seven fishes at Nana Readeau's house. Family, friends and neighbors gather at Nana's house where there is an abundance of holiday dishes, drinks and a visit from Santa. My daughter, Isabella, who is 17-months-old, and her cousin Sydney, who is 15 months old, were a bit frightened of the big guy in red. As Santa strutted down the hallway, my daughter pressed against me as close as she possibly could, not keeping her eyes off him for even a second. Seizing a great opportunity, for a holiday photo, we placed Isabella on Santa's lap and in less then 10 seconds, the crying began. Santa tried to win Isabella's affections with a present, but my daughter could not be swayed with material items. After Santa left to make his rounds for the night, my husband, daughter, father and I left to take a brief tour of the festive lights before heading home.

My husband and I turned in to bed at 3:30 am, and my daughter decided she was ready to get out of bed at 4:30 am. So with an hour of sleep and a rambunctious tot, our Christmas day began. The agenda for the day was a full roster that started with breakfast at my house in the morning, followed by brunch and a gift exchange at Nana's, a visit to my mother's monument, then dinner at my father's house, and ending with dinner at my father-in-law's house. Talk about watching the clock - our eyes were repeatedly stealing glances at the big hand and little hand to make sure we adhered to our tight schedule.

Isabella spent all morning trying to slyly catch a peek at her big present, which was a play kitchen that was assembled in our real kitchen. My husband had covered her play kitchen with a cloth to wait until Grammy, Pappy and Pop-pop arrived for the big reveal. Isabella kept trying to run around us to sneak in some play time, so we spent a good part of the morning on defense.

After a big, lavish breakfast prepared by yours truly, my daughter's schedule consisted of opening presents, one small square inch of wrapping paper at a time. Isabella would play for a few minutes with the newly opened gift, then move on to playing with the tissue paper and the gift bag or box. When the clock struck 10:30 a.m., we immediately packed our car up, threw our coats on, tossed the baby in the car seat (gently, of course), and headed to our next destination - Nana's.

With gifts stacked floor to ceiling, and babies on the loose, there was joyous mayhem. You would open a box, admire the gift inside, and a baby would walk up and swipe the item from you. With a slew of toys just waiting to be played with, both babies were interested in one thing - the sameĀ  $2 box of crayons. My daughter safeguarded her prized box of crayons, and when her cousin Sydney tried to grab one, Isabella would give her a little smack. After a referee intervention and confiscation of the crayons, peace was once again restored, until the next item of mutual interest was discovered - a xylaphone, rocking horse, etc.

The tug-of-war sessions tired my daughter out, as well as her sleep-deprived parents. We settled in for a brief nap, only to wake up with 10 minutes to spare until the next holiday event, dinner at my father's. We sprang out of bed, raced around to once again pack up the car, and arrived late, to find dinner had been eaten, served and in the process of being cleared. My daughter was cranky, fussy, and hungry. She denied anyone the chance for a holiday greeting and clung to my chest. After a few tears, a chocolate chip cookie and some milk later, she was once again a happy camper. After some play with her older cousin Jacob and his trains, we grabbed my dad and dashed off to the final dinner of the evening at my father-in-law's.

After dinner and round four of opening gifts, Isabella finally started to play with the toys, rather than the paper they were wrapped in. After a long night of racing around, my husband and I were looking forward to a long winter's nap. My daughter, however, was looking forward to some more play with her kitchen set. She was so excited, my tired husband and I had to oblige. We capped off the night with a dinner of plastic bread, plastic bananas, and a fake pot of coffee, served by our delighted daughter.

Christmas, while busy and full of obligations, is truly the most wonderful time of the year. After getting the full night of sleep that we had wished for, my husband and I were enjoying the morning after breakfast with our daughter (who insisted on eating her breakfast at the counter of her play kitchen), and I reflected on how lucky we are to have so many "obligations" to visit with family and friends. Yes, the day was hectic and a bit stressful. But it was filled with love, laughter and was one of the best Christmases we have ever experienced.

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