We all made our way out in the first of this year's winter storms to spend hours using up the mountains of baking supplies overflowing the kitchen.
My little ones in attendance were strategically placed in the cookie decorating section which was secured with a washable surface, easy to clean chairs and a large tarp over the floor.
My aunts have all done this whole toddler thing before.
The afternoon was warm with tradition and laughter and it was not lost on me that I am lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing women.
(the two down front with no self control in front of sugar belong to me)
Unfortunately, the sameness of tradition seems to be dragging me down this year. I am fighting off the nagging heartache of one child missing and the reality that life will continue on this way, one tradition after another, rich in bittersweet moments.
Santa sitting on their lap as they try to get on his good side one more time.
At one point in the afternoon the kids were arranging candy dishes their own fancy three year-old way and my eyes found the spot where their sister would have sat, as they always do.
Parker turned to me, beaming over their creation,
Look Mommy, there is a heart with a big hole in the middle.
I kissed him on his blonde little head and replied,
Yep Parker, there is.