This is really the first Christmas that Everett and Alice understand what's going to happen and what is happening – the idea of Santa Claus and presents and giving gifts. It's so fun to watch them participate in full-force and take it all in. 

Alice really freaked out over a set of teeny-tiny animals and furniture – another special gift from Uncle Mark and Aunt Ai from Japan. A miniature rabbit playing the piano? Yes, please! But the little mouse and her set of bunk beds really set her over the edge! Perhaps the best part was watching Uncle Mark help Alice assemble the whole thing.

The paper and boxes and ribbons are a big part of the fun, too.

The walkie-talkie set that Olga got them was a big hit, too. They each grabbed one and ran circles through the house yelling out into the air with the box by their ears. Nevermind that they weren't pressing the button or waiting for a response. 

The doctor and nurse set was also a big, big hit. Everyone got a full check-up, starting with Papou. After Olga's exam, Everett announced that she had something in her ear – a dragon. Then he marched over to daddy to listen to his breathing, after which he made a startling diagnosis: "we have some conversation" (congestion).

I love Everett's serious expression and Alice insisted on wearing the glasses to make sure she got a good look!

We spent a lot of time sans presents, in the backyard, running from tree to tree, collecting pine cones, climbing Crepe Myrtles, and cleaning the pool – or, rather, teetering on the edge of the deep end, threatening to fall in at any moment, dipping the net in and lurching it out, whacking anyone standing nearby, dripping water everywhere, and making everyone really, really nervous. Otherwise, mommy did cartwheels and Everett planted a garden, pretending the pinecones were flowers and standing them upright along the flower bed.