It was wonderful to have three of the kids and their families with us for the Christmas weekend. Jeff’s family arrived for lunch on Friday; Kathy and Annette arrived for lunch on Saturday; and Kari’s family lives only 12-15 minutes away (depending on the traffic lights) and is on call to arrive at any time there’s fun on the schedule.
Naturally, we began the group activities with our time-honored tradition of lunch at Steak ‘n’ Shake. SnS, based in Cape Girardeau, MO, used to be a small regional chain, and was quickly established as a favorite among our grandchildren. It was also a favorite stop for Thom and Jeff, who couldn’t get those steakburgers in Colorado or Washington. SnS has spread out over the years and is now available in a much wider area, but too late–it’s already a family tradition to start a group visit with lunch at SnS. We must have had a new waitress this time. La commented that the waitress went pale when we said there would be ten of us for lunch. I missed her lack of facial coloring, but saw that she froze for a few seconds while processing that number.
Here we are at Steak ‘n’ Shake, with our menus at the ready, pondering which flavor shake to order.
Teddy has what he wants: the double chocolate brownie shake.
Another tradition of our family get-togethers is board games. Some of us (Jeff and Kyra) are board-game-aholics; others of us, not so much. Jeff usually has a new game the rest of us haven’t heard of, and it’s always something we enjoy while we play it together. This year included a remarkable Michigan Rummy game. The king/queen of hearts combination struck three times for payoffs (twice for Kyra and once for Ted) and the even more rarely played 6-7-8 combo struck twice–Ted hit it early in the game, and I won it on the last round. By then, the container we use to hold all the chips on that spot was full to the top, making me the big winner with that single pot.
Jeff shows us his obligatory goofy photo face during a round of King of Tokyo, a new game for this visit.
After all these years of hosting family get-togethers with so many people eating with us every day for several days, I’ve become pretty good at finding recipes I can prepare ahead. Then I only have to put them in the oven or the crock pot when it’s mealtime, minimizing my cooking time and maximizing my visiting time with the family. Of course, I always have offers of help from everyone and they take turns helping with food prep, serving, and doing the dishes. This year, Jeff and La’s family completely took over a Christmas brunch (prep, cooking, and dishes), and Kathy and Annette did the same for the Monday lunch. Kari dedicated herself to helping me with all the evening dinners, and I felt like we had a well-oiled system, leaving all of us well-fed with plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company.
Of course, the highlight of Christmas weekend is the gift-opening. It takes a long time for everyone to open gifts one at a time and then to show them to the group. One or more of us sometimes gives the same gift to everyone, and we quickly begin to see a pattern after the first two people open an identical gift from the same family. This year we tried opening gifts by family and it worked very well. We all opened the things we got from Jeff’s family and showed them to everyone; then the gifts from another family; and so on.
The gifts are packed tightly under the tree and extend behind the tree on both sides.
Zack was excited about receiving gaming headphones and a gaming keyboard. He can now be a gaming superstar.
Aunt Kathy and Annette scored a hit with Star Wars caps for Dylan, Teddy, and Sky.
Teddy loves pigs and was thrilled with his two new pigs. Kari texted us a photo of him sleeping with the big pig after her family went home on Christmas Day. Notice that the pig likes Teddy’s Star Wars cap too.
Dylan won the figurative gift presentation award and a literal round of applause when he described the gifts he had received. I don’t remember which gifts he was describing, but it went like this: “I got a (this) and a (that) and a (something else),” he began. Then, holding up something in his hand, he finished with, “And I lost a tooth.”
Dylan with one less tooth than he had a few minutes ago.
We missed having Alex with us, but Christmas is one of the days he is able to call home. Jeff’s family generously allowed all of us to share in the Google Hangouts conversation with Alex for about an hour. It was fun to see him and to hear more details about his life than he is able to write in his weekly emails. After a year, he is fluent in Spanish (except for a few fine points, he said) and we all got a kick out of the fact that his English now frequently includes a Spanish speech rhythm as well as a few Spanish-accented English words.
Sharing Christmas with Alex on a Google Hangouts video call.
Now the Christmas family gathering is over. Kathy and Annette left Monday afternoon and Jeff’s family left this morning. Thom, Katie, and Julian were not able to join us, as Katie’s due date is January 2. We talked to them by phone and are looking forward to getting a call from them very soon, letting us know if we’ll be meeting our seventh grandson or our second granddaughter when we go to visit them the first weekend of February.
Our still-growing family. Picture Thom, Katie, Julian, and (?) with us.