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I can’t believe it’s Christmas.

Already.

The four weeks between Thanksgiving and now have flown by, especially since the last two weeks have been filled with allergy meds and Kleenex, with Vince and I have both down with sinus infections after the latest cold snap.

I thought I would get lucky and avoid the illness, managing to nurse Vince through the worst of his without even a sniffle, but Friday found me laid out and muttering “bah humbug” toward whatever mildew or particle sent me over the edge.

I found a slight measure of solace when Vince decided to go shop for Christmas dinner, taking that off my “to do” list.

I was grateful, but after the homemade soup and convalescing care he received over the last couple weeks, figured it was a good start.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t much help me with the last minute gifts I put off getting,  as our usual weekend before Christmas shopping trip had to wait. Needless to say, it was the right year for Sam to be a teenager with a shortened Christmas wish list.

Even better, most of my to-do items can be crossed off without traveling outside a 20-mile radius.

And while I am wistful for Christmas of years past, like memories of Samuel stealing crinkle cookies off the table as they cooled before he could even see over the table and Nerf gun wars after Santa delivered a choice piece of weaponry, there is something to be said for this new phase of growing up that Sam has entered.

I still see glimpses of the little boy, even if I have to glance up a little to look into his face now, and the voice that greets me after school is a few octaves lower than it was just one year ago.

While there where no Nerf guns or Hot Wheels on this year’s list... I’m sure that either of those things finding their way into Samuel’s stocking would be welcome.

Besides, his TiTi already got him the Nerf gun for his birthday....some things never change.

I’m going to enjoy this in-between time, where there is still appreciation for the magic and traditions... and little of the sarcasm and angst of the coming teen years that I know will be in our future.

And maybe for old time’s sake... we can have a Nerf war after dessert and coffee.

While I won’t hear the patter of little feet on the stairs Christmas morning, I’m sure our puppy Sarek will provide plenty of chaos and exuberance over the next few days.

Going on nine months, Sarek is a hopping, prancing holy terror who loves nothing more than cuddling on my bed and antagonizing Bones. And while much of his bad behavior has centered on chewing the baseboards next to his bed under the stairs, one new interest has left me less than festive this holiday season.

See Sarek, our DoberDane, likes birds. Well, chasing and catching birds actually.

I had already picked up enough birds that misjudged my windows prior to this latest turn of events, but sadly Sarek has realized the all day bird diner on my patio is a great place to watch for migratory patterns between the trees and bushes that surround the yard. He spends his afternoons and early evenings chasing anything that crosses his path.

I remind myself of Grammie’s talks about the circle of life, and animals all having their place in nature, but that doesn’t make disposal any easier. Since I am the only one home all day... the chore usually falls to me.

Imagine my horror when Sarek came in the other night with feathers sticking out of his mouth... tail wagging and a proud, “I did it!” look in his eyes.

Training has gone well enough that Sarek knows when I yell “Outside!” I mean business, and he hightailed it right back in the direction he came from.

Of course that is not enough to stop me from feeding the birds. I just need to make sure that timing of Sarek’s potty breaks don’t coincide with the birds’ breakfast rush.

And as long as Sarek isn’t catching any of the Cardinals that are quickly becoming my favorite winter sight, we can both continue with our pursuits.

That puppy exuberance can be contagious.

I’m just not sure the birds agree.

Maybe I will have to tell Santa to bring a little something extra for the birds... or maybe an extra large bone for the hounds to keep them occupied.

Everyone deserves a break for Christmas. Even my pestered feathered friends.

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, and blessed holiday. Season’s Greetings from Tennessee!

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.