The pups would be ready for their new homes on Dec. 23, which initially seemed perfect. Colin had thought he'd be returning to work on the morning of Dec. 24, giving me a fail-safe excuse to insist everyone be home for family dinner the 23rd. Easy, right? Well, like almost everything around here, things changed rapidly and repeatedly. Colin found out he didn't need to return until Dec. 26, Katie was taking shifts at her part time job. It wasn't going to be easy to convince them they all needed to show up at a certain time on a certain day. 

So, I invoked the grandparents clause: "Be here Dec. 23 by 4:30 because we are going to take family photos to give to grandparents for Christmas." They may grumble a lot about family photos, but will always comply if the grandparents are involved. 

So, the stage was set. And it could have been that simple. Be here at 4:30. Instead, I upped the game. I contacted my friend Darcy Evans (of Darcy Evans Photography) and asked if he'd care to be involved, and be the photographer taking the family photos for grandparents. 

I spent more hours than I should have searching for matching Christmas pajamas for the gang. I was foiled because I couldn't find a set that had the sizes I needed for everyone. But, I got the kids all a new pair of pjs anyway, and asked them to wear them for the photo. 'fake Christmas morning' photos. That, in itself, induced much predicted (and hoped for) grumbling. 

There was much that could go wrong with executing this plan - getting the kids here and ready before the dog arrived was the primary concern. But, it almost all fell apart in the week leading up to the big day. Alex became rather persistent in looking at puppy ads and insistent that we start going to look at the litters. It became a daily game: Mom, what about this one? And through it all I had to play dumb, keep a straight face, and at times tell blatant lies ("no, that mix won't have a long life." "no, I don't want a black dog") in order to keep my little secret from him. He even showed me the ad for the same litter that Ghost is from.

Despite an emergency trip to the dentist, Darcy made it here in plenty of time. The boys only needed a bit of cajoling to get into the pjs. Katie was late getting back from work, and so Daryl had to drive a few neighborhood laps with a crying puppy. 

We got the kids in front of the tree and started taking a few shots. Then I excused myself to get a prop, and helped Daryl box the puppy up into the beautifully wrapped box I'd made - which turned out to be just a little bit too small! 

First sight:

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"You got us a dog?"

Now, getting a puppy for your kids for Christmas is not something that should be done on a whim, or taken lightly. Puppies grow into dogs, and if you're lucky, best friends that last 10 or  more years. But, in our case, this just might be the best, most gratifying Christmas surprise ever. EVER.

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Our original name for him was Bowie, after David in the Ziggy Stardust days. But that very quickly, almost instantly, was rejected. He is Ghost, after Jon Snow's Direwolf, and it fits him well.

He may be one of the most photographed and shared pups too. Not only do all 5 of us take photos of him, but friends do too. 

And now, and forever, we'll all be able to say "remember that Christmas that you got us a dog?"

And, this (yes, I creeped my kids Instagram) pretty much sums it all up:

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