Michael Phelps can't wait to dive into the holiday season with his three boys.
The 23-time gold medalist, who lives in Arizona with wife Nicole and their sons, Boomer, 4, Beckett, 2, and Maverick, 15 months, tells PEOPLE that it's been "really cool" to see his sons get excited for Christmas as the holiday approaches.
"Being in Arizona, we have sunshine and palm trees and some of our palm trees have Christmas lights on them. That's the first time that we've ever done that and it's really cool to see the excitement on [my sons'] faces," he shares. "I mean, every single one is different."
"Boomer's obviously older, he's experienced a little bit more, but every time Beckett sees Christmas lights, his face lights up so much, and it's the most precious smile in the world," Phelps says. "Maverick walks by and just gasps every time he sees a Christmas tree."
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"Those little things for me are awesome," the 35-year-old adds.
While Phelps says that his family's holiday plans will be "relaxing and quiet," he notes that being at home with his sons amid the coronavirus pandemic has been quite the opposite.
"They play outside, they ride their bikes, we have a little dirt track we built in the front of the house that they go out and ride on that," he says. "They love it. They absolutely love it."
It's like "they've been on a summer vacation for the last nine months," he adds.
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The athlete is loving it too — he says being able to spend time at home with his family has been "so fun."
"Definitely a lot of ups and downs, emotional roller coasters, but I think in the big picture it's been absolutely incredible," he shares. "I'm always on the go, I'm always traveling, so being able to take a step back and take a few deep breaths, and to stay put for a few months has been amazing for me."
While Phelps says staying at home has been "challenging" at times, watching his sons in action has made it all worthwhile.
"My boys have pressed my buttons a little bit and challenged me in their own ways, but that's been enjoyable," he says. "It's honestly been so fun watching them all grow up, and watching them interact with one another."
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