I wake to the sound of Sophie’s door creaking open.

7:15. Not bad.

Quiet little feet pad across the hall. She crawls into bed with us, but despite my best efforts, there will be no more closing of eyes. After a few minutes of forced snuggling, I cave and agree that she can go wake her sister.

The girls bolt down the stairs, Marc and I on their heels, and dive head-first into their stockings.

Then this. Lily discovering that Santa brought her #1 gift.

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And Sophie, hugging her new book (they get one special picture book every year at Christmas and on their birthdays. I hope to send them each off to college with a treasured collection).

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And Marc, front and center, battling through cardboard and plastic and countless zip ties, wearing the necklace Lily made him.

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And then, poof, it’s over.

We crowd under the tree for a family photo. “Mommy’s Christmas wish” I tell the girls. They oblige, clutching favorite toys to their chests.

After assembling and charging and playing with new toys, and devouring french toast casserole, and more playing, we head down the street to Nonna and Papa’s house, where homemade tomato sauce simmers on the stove and Perry Como’s voice drifts from the living room.

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This is one of my favorite shots — Sophie’s face when she discovers cash in her stocking.

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Sweet cousins.

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I get out from behind the camera for a moment (and I’m so happy I did).

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So much love. And laughter and comfort. And full bellies. And happy, happy kids.

Another Christmas Day, gone in a blink. I’ll confess: I’m always a little depressed on December 26th. But the traditions and the memories — and the gift of slowing down for time together — fortify us for the new year ahead.

That’s the good stuff. I’m holding on tight.

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