I am writing this on December 26, and Christmas has officially thrown up all over my house.

I am writing this on December 26, and Christmas has officially thrown up all over my house.

Wrapping paper shards, boxes, and plastic containers that were ripped into are scattered throughout the room like leftovers from a wild feeding ritual. Now, the good stuff has been grabbed up, and the less desirables – like their yearly socks, underwear, electric toothbrushes, and an educational book about computer coding I thought Connor would like – are just left to rot where they lay.

And here I am just standing in the middle of it, overwhelmed and wondering where in the world to begin.

This Christmas never really felt festive. That joyful anticipation was dulled by the loss of our Papa.

There was no fudge he loved making and then spreading around to friends and family or his sweet way of telling the Christmas story that came from the heart of a man who truly – with his whole heart – believed it.

We championed through the season, anyway, because that’s what you do when the world keeps spinning despite your desire to slow it down. You keep pace with it for the sake of those around you. You make sure that those who look to you to assure them everything is going to be okay, know that it is, in fact, going to be okay.

And it is.

But this, my fortieth Christmas, well it wasn’t the best one.

On Christmas Eve, we piled into the car with a perfectly seasoned prime rib, corn pudding, and loaded mashed potatoes, and headed over to my mom’s house.

“Merry Christmas!”

We busted through her front door with all the Yultide cheer we could muster. She smiled and returned the sentiment. No one had to say it – his absence was felt in each moment. It wasn’t the elephant in the room, but just a truth that we now must accept and live with.

And I thought we were doing well.

Although they are big shoes to fill – Shawn gracefully slid into the spot of the household Christmas Dad. And by gracefully, I mean his cutting the cheese jokes were totally on-pointe as I put out the meat platter.

Logan opened his new hover board and decided he would never walk again – just hover. He finally got kicked out of the house when he almost ran over my toes. That’s the weird thing about hover boards – they have wheels and roll around on the floor.

Then I noticed Connor sitting on the couch, looking rather pale.

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

He shook his head, and with a desperate look jumped up with his hand over his mouth.

Minutes later, I disinfected Mom’s house and spent Christmas eve night changing bed sheets and helping him into the tub while Shawn wrapped gifts and carried them up from the basement.

Falling into bed around three o’clock in the morning, I barely closed my eyes before the room lit up at 5:59 a.m.

“Christmas is here!”

Turns out Logan, a morning person even on all the other 364 days, was not sick and Connor seemed to be a lot better. Despite my sleepiness, I was excited.

But as we rounded the corner in Christmas joy, we heard a familiar sound.

Shawn barely made it down the stairs before he lost Santa’s cookies. Twenty minutes later, Connor was back at it in the other bathroom. Standing in the middle of the staircase, all I could do was think about the 39 Christmases before this one, and wonder where the magic went.

Apparently into the toilet, as it flushed from the next room with a few anguished groans.

Moments later, they emerged, and we made it down the stairs.

And that’s where I found the magic I was looking for.

It wasn’t the new bicycle sitting beside the tree with a bow on it – it was our ability to enjoy the moment even though it wasn’t perfect.

I am grateful that the world doesn’t stop, even when I want it to. I am grateful that the days keep moving forward, and that the seasons keep changing. Because as the days pass, the hurt will lessen – and thankfully the stomach flu will too.

So yes. Christmas has officially thrown up all over my living room. Everyone else (except Logan who is holding strong) has officially thrown up everywhere else.

Merry Christmas, friends!