As I was taking Milly to her mom’s on Christmas Eve, I mentioned to her that one benefit of divorce is all the Christmases she got to have. We weren’t totally sure about all of them that she would have, but here’s the list of the possible ones (with Christmas being defined as a time you open presents):

  • Christmas in Beulaville at GG and GP’s. Amanda’s grandparents usually have a Christmas Eve get-together where their daughters (that would be Amanda’s mom, Karen, and her aunt, Anna) and their families do Christmas.
  • Christmas at her mom’s.
  • Christmas in Richlands with Amanda’s side of the family.
  • Christmas with Amanda’s greatly extended family the day after Christmas (which they weren’t doing this year because they were going to be out of town).
  • Christmas in Pittsburgh with her mom’s boyfriend’s family.
  • Christmas in Rougemont with my side of the family.
  • Christmas at our house with me and Tristen.
  • Christmas with Tristen’s family.

As it turns out, they ended up spending Christmas Eve night at Amanda’s parents’ house, so two of those got rolled into one, so it ended up being six.

The schedule was a bit different this year. Normally, Milly spends Christmas Eve with one parent, opens presents there, then goes to the other parents’ house for a few hours to open presents there. Milly usually does Amanda’s extended family thing the day after, and then I have Milly all during the following week while she’s out of school. New Year’s Eve then goes to the parent who didn’t have her Christmas Eve, then she gets to see the other parent New Year’s Day.

Amanda had approached me about taking Milly up to see Jason’s family this year during the week I’d normally have had Milly. I’m all about Milly going places and seeing things, and she hadn’t met some of Jason’s family yet. Of course, I also wanted to make sure there was a time for me to take Milly to see my family. I traded Christmas Day and the week after Christmas for the entirety of the following weekend and New Year’s Eve. It was very tough giving up seeing Milly Christmas Day, which I told Tristen after we dropped Milly off at Amanda’s, but she reminded me I was doing it to make sure Milly could see all the rest of my family.

The Day Before Christmas Eve

On this December 23, my nephew, Jackson Sawyer, became a teenager. We tried Facetiming and calling him, but he was eating sushi with friends and later when we were texting he said he was feeling kind of sick. He was supposed to go to a friend’s house, but he wasn’t sure if he was going to do it or not.

Back in Wilmington, Tristen, Milly, and I went to Tristen’s parents’ house to decorate Christmas cookies. Torrie and Sebastian were already there working on some.

That night we watched Home Alone, which Milly had seen for the first time the previous Christmas season.

Christmas Eve

We went to church on Christmas Eve at Port City Community Church, where Tristen and I both used to go. Between me having Milly one week and Amanda letting us take Milly to the Aquarium the Sunday before, Milly hadn’t been since her baptism, so aside from figuring it would be nice to go to do something traditional, I would have felt bad about Milly not going.

Initially, Milly wanted to go to the 9:00 service so she could see her small group people, but I pointed out to her that they didn’t have Treasure Island, the kid program, and that everyone would be at big church, so she was cool with going to the 11:00.

Tristen got herself a tea before the service. Milly tried it and wanted some, so we went and got some, too. I forget which flavor she got, but she liked my orange tea.

I have to say, normally the church does a lot of really great, fun music. There was a fun trivia game and a fun Christmas card video, but, if I’m being honest, the music kind of underwhelmed me this year. No offense, if anyone there is reading this.

We did give Milly one early present, which was a bundle of sketch pads. We had decided to get her at least one because the child loves to draw. After Tristen had already ordered them, Milly had been pestering me about getting a sketch pad while we were in Target one time, so I knew she would definitely appreciate that. We also wanted to give them to her so she could take one on her trip to Pennsylvania to help pass the time in the car.

We dropped Milly off after the service then went home for a while before heading over to Tristen’s parents’ house for dinner.

Christmas Day

I think we got up around 8:30, which sucks for Tristen because there weren’t any kids to come wake us up to tell us that Santa had come, and she usually sleeps at least an hour later than that if left to her own devices. Anyway, we got up and unloaded our stockings. We had decided not to do anything big for each other. Things were a little tight between buying presents for other people and trying to get things ready for the boys’ arrival (including a number of medical bills), so we didn’t do a whole lot for each other. No Duke tickets or anything crazy like that this year. I did get her a nice Fantastic Beasts book though. It’s a hardcover illustrated book with each page featuring a different magical creature from the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Tristen mostly got me a bunch of little gifts. It may sound strange, but the one I actually appreciated most was a magnet for the dishwasher that says whether the dishes are clean or dirty. I had told her at some point about a magnet like that that my grandparents, Mum Mum and Pup Pup, had. It was just really thoughtful and it was pretty touching to me.

We stayed in our pajamas and went to her parents’ house to open more gifts there. My big gift was a ladder, which I’ve been in need of for a while. I was pretty excited about it, actually.

Sebastian was a lot of fun to watch, of course. He’s almost three and was pretty into Christmas. One of the things we got him was a Blippy outfit. Blippy is this guy who does a show for kids on YouTube that Sebastian is obsessed with. He wears orange suspenders and a bowtie. There’s a tentative plan for Blippy to visit Sebastian on his birthday. Guess who gets to fill that role…

I’d have to say the funniest thing that happened was when Sebastian had some sort of candy in his mouth, I can’t remember what it was right now, but he climbed on top of Laura, who was playing with him on the floor, and drooled a bunch of it out right into her eye.

We went back home after a bit and watched A Christmas Story loop a couple of times. I took a longer-than-expected nap, then we went back to Laura and Craig’s again for dinner.

I missed seeing Milly, but we did talk on the phone. She had done Christmas at her Nana and Paw Paw’s house and was in the car on the way to Pittsburgh. We were doing presents at Laura and Craig’s at the time, so everybody got to shout “Merry Christmas!” to her.

Christmas in the Rouge

The weather got really stinking cold towards the end of the week, so we didn’t mind not being in town for the weekend, although it wasn’t much better in Rougemont, where my parents live. They’re less stingy with their heat than we are, though (a result of us having oil heat and not enjoying refilling it).

When Amanda and I were working out the schedule she initially said she’d have Milly in the Durham area Saturday afternoon or evening. We were doing Christmas Saturday morning, however, because not everyone would be around the whole New Year’s weekend. I expected her, Milly, and Jason to just leave really early Saturday morning, but they left on Friday instead.

The timing worked out pretty well, actually. We decided to meet up at The Streets at Southpoint in Durham. Tristen and I got there a few minutes before they did and walked around Barnes & Noble for maybe ten minutes. I texted Amanda and told her where we were and asked if she wanted me to just come out to the car when they arrived or if she’d want to bring Milly in. She opted to bring Milly in, which worked well because we were in line getting a couple things to nibble and sip on. Amanda had tipped me off that Milly had been asking for a frap, in case I wanted, in her words, “some extra dad points.” I thought it was really nice to her to mention that.

When we got to my parents’ house the big thing going on was a puzzle that Andra and Josh had gotten. That went on until Saturday with a rotating cast of people working on it. I think just about everybody got in on it at some point and made contributions.

Jackson got a PlayStation VR for Christmas, and my parents had been down there and played with it. They enjoyed it enough that my parents decided to buy a PlayStation 4, the Skyrim VR bundle, and several games to go along with it. I’ve been wanting a PSVR since I got my PS4, and it’s a big reason I got that instead of an Xbox One. Needless to say, it was played a good bit. I played a Star Trek game that I’m pretty sure was extremely boring to anyone who watched it projected on the TV, but was pretty fun. I played Skyrim a bit more than that though. Shooting fireballs and lightning in whatever direction my hands pointed was ridiculous fun.

We did our Christmas thing the next morning. Anyone who had presents specifically for them (mostly the kids) opened their stuff. Adam got the girls a ukulele and was showing them how to play The Lion Sleeps Tonight, which he had learned specifically for that. Funny enough, Milly’s music teacher had been teaching them the same song, also on ukuleles.

The grownups did the white Christmas thing, or Dirty Santa, or Chinese Christmas, whatever you want to call it. My contribution was an Echo Dot, which was promptly stolen a few times and taken out of the rotation. Andra and Josh ended up with it. They actually have an Echo already, but the Dot supplemented that.

We watched Duke play Florida State a little later. Duke won 100-93. They really need to work on the defense.

Milly and Addy made Rice Krispie treats. They were all red and green, and they added some googly eyes to them.

We got a game of Settlers of Catan going that evening. It was Tristen, me, Mom, Erin, Andra, and Josh. I could tell pretty early on that I wasn’t going to win, although no one believed me when I said that. Everyone always just kind of figures I’m going to win, although that’s really only true with Ticket to Ride. Actually, that didn’t even hold this weekend, as we played it the next night and Jackson won. (I was in second and would have won if I’d only gotten the longest track!) I think Josh ended up winning Catan.


New Year’s Eve

When I got up Sunday morning, Mom told me Milly had gone to church with my dad, which i thought was pretty cool. She’s asked me about other religions before, and while I wouldn’t say Catholicism is a whole other religion from a non-denominational Christian church, it is a bit different. She and I had a discussion about the Catholic church that night as she was falling asleep.

I spent a good bit of time over at my friend Jason’s house. (Not the Jason Amanda is dating. That would just be too funny in so many ways.) We talk pretty often about all kinds of things, and this was hardly any different. Tristen was originally going to come, but she didn’t sleep well the night before and had only just gotten up when I was about to leave.

The evening was pretty lowkey. We played the aforementioned game of Ticket to Ride. Jackson and I played on the PlayStation.

Milly and Addy powered through to ring in 2018, although they were saying they were going to take a nap around 11:30. They still made it though. We were flipping around on the TV to try to find a decent New Year’s Eve broadcast and midnight kind of snuck up on us.

Josh and I were scrambling to open and pour champagne for everybody (well, sparkling grape juice for the ones who couldn’t drink alcohol). In the fray, Josh put a champagne bottle on a nightstand that was more like a crate with some deep grooves in it. What I’m trying to say is that it was a bit unstable for a champagne bottle. It fell and the fizz of the champagne made it blow up more than a normal spill would. We scrambled to clean it up, but we had maybe 15 seconds to go, so I just stopped what I was doing, counted down, kissed my wife and drank some champagne before helping finish that up. It was all very frantic.

The Final Christmases

Milly, Tristen, and I drove home the next day. Once we got everything settled and whatnot, Milly got to open her presents from here. She got clothes, a bunch of books, a pink microscope, and a new (uncracked) iPad.

Shortly after that we went back to Laura and Craig’s one more time. We had dinner and Milly opened her presents from them.