The kids and I along with Grammy headed out to the country a little earlier than Poppy and my Prince. We left on the Friday before Christmas in order be in the country for the family Christmas party on Saturday. Grammy and I make a great team, because she loves to drive, and I don't. So she drove most of the way. I did drive a little while in order to let her catch a quick nap. And speaking of naps, have you ever snored so loudly that you woke yourself up? I'm not saying that anyone in our car did that or anything. I'm just asking.
We arrived to a house full of nieces and nephews, and the sweetest great nephew EVER. Oh, and three dogs to boot! It was exciting (like three ring circus exciting). Then some cousins dropped in and brought their precious new baby to show off. There was a whole lot of snuggling and oohing and aahing going on. It was very exciting (like five ring circus exciting). My nephew and his fiance were the last ones to arrive, so we all waited up to welcome them in...at midnight. Oh, except for the baby. He went to sleep of course, and we all watched him sleep on the video monitor. It's a little creepy, with that night vision and all. It kind of felt like we were preparing to sneak in and ambush him or something. Anyway, once the last nephew and his fiance made it safely, we welcomed them in, and then everyone crashed.
The next morning, the nieces and nephews were busily making breakfast, while my brother was "supervising" the whole operation. I still had a few things to wrap and get ready, so I told him I needed his help. We went to the closet of course. Where else? It just wouldn't be a family get together without closet memories. So he left the young'uns to their own devices to get breakfast made, and "helped" me wrap a few last minute things. Miraculously, breakfast was wonderful, even without his supervision, and some of the nieces and nephews privately thanked me later.
Several months earlier, my niece had brought a picture that she had seen on Pintrest to my attention. We thought it would be a great idea for the annual cousin picture. So I gathered everyone around and told them that I needed them picture ready by a certain time so that we could take our picture before the party and while the sun was still out. They were all troopers and humored me by playing along. The results were great, don't you think?
No, this was just one of the silly ones...we really did get some good ones. Until #7 pinched #8 and made her cry...and that was the end of the picture taking session.
People were arriving for the party by the time we finished taking pictures. There was food, fun, and great door prizes. Last year, if you remember, the youngest princess won a set of three retractable box cutters. This year, the young prince won a decorative snowman. That really worked out to his advantage though, because I got a lovely set of wrenches. which my new favorite cousin Jason graciously took from me, allowing me to pick a new present. It turned out to be a really cool slingshot. And since I have SO many occasions in which to use a sling shot, I bit the bullet and made a deal with the young prince. My sling shot for his snowman. Okay...that's probably about as safe as the youngest princess with box cutters, I guess time will tell.
We, in the Prince's honor, played pass the ball of wrapping paper. He made us promise we would. We started to the left, and got about 7 people down the line before someone (who will remain nameless for his own protection) threw it away. So, we started the next wrapping paper wad in the other direction and made it...almost...all. the. way. around .until...it got back to the same young man who threw it away the first time, and yes, he threw it away again! Brandy, if you are reading this, you did MUCH better this year. Maybe you should now explain how the game works to Tyson, and maybe next year, we will FINALLY make it all the way around the circle. Hopefully the Prince will be there to see it when it does.
The next day, we had a church service at home due to the vast number of us, and the impossibility of us all being ready in time for church unless we started getting ready in shifts at around oh, midnight or so the night before. The speaker and the song director did a great job. The highlight of the service for me, was listening to R (who is in his 50's and has Downs Syndrome) sing Amazing Grace. I bet even the angels paused to listen. It was precious. Someone learned that if you are tardy to family church, you get to sit up front and center. Which is probably a good thing, since she couldn't go to sleep and wake herself up by snoring.
We had deep discussions about things like whether or not the baby had, or had not had, his regular bowel movements. We were all relieved to know that he had a small one on the way home, and a good one after arriving at home. We learned that there are many life lessons that come from the book of I or II Opinions. One of us got scared out of our skin. In his defense, it is pretty scary (and very dark) way out there in the the country at night. Several of us tried to scare others, especially the night that we went out to listen for the coyotes. We found out that my nephew is a super dad, and his wife is a great little mommy too. My middle nephew is a hard worker and a super dog dad. Their youngest brother is working hard to finish college, and they all make me proud. My niece is as fabulous as ever, and has the sweetest most beautiful dog in the world. Said niece is wonderful with my children, and I love and appreciate her for that. She was boss at Sardines, until the youngest princess hid in the bathtub and stumped them all. My nephew and his fiance (who is really sweet, but don't let that fool you, she can hold her own) went to great lengths to come back the next weekend so she could meet my Prince, who will officiate their wedding. We are thankful that they did. The Prince was grateful for their efforts. They were able to have a mini marriage counseling session at the kitchen table while the rest of us sat in living room trying to make noise and act like we weren't listening, while at the same time trying to listen. Then we forgot about them and got carried away playing airplane...even my brother and I went for a ride, and the kids have videos to prove it. Isn't technology wonderful?
We all had a great Christmas and are blessed beyond measure. I worried, as always, about how in the world we were going to get all that loot home. It is like cramming into a clown car when we get ready to leave every year.
I got a very sweet birthday present from my brother. I was told he went and got it all by himself. I was worried at that point. But he did great, and I can't wait for the next sunny day to show off my very nice pair of new sunglasses. Not to mention that he also wrote a very long letter in my honor. I'm definitely not the only writer in our family. And he has inspired the young prince to write as well. One day I will have to share some of their writings with you all.
There were Christmas secrets that were almost exposed. And we found out Maggie (the dog) is good for at least one thing. Speaking of, air freshener is great thing to have nearby when she is around.
We went to the Silver Dollar Pawn shop where some of us got up close and personal with the stars of the show Cajun Pawn Stars. We stopped by the Duck Dynasty Warehouse/Store on our way home, and took pictures of the sign, and the truck, and the world's largest duck call. We really were just one Billy the Exterminator away from a full fledged reality TV show trip.
All in all, it was fun. We took a ton of pictures and got some really good family pictures. I was thankful that we were able to get some good ones with my mother and father-in-law as well.
We also got one picture of my children that I totally love, and I think says it all. Thanks L, for the idea. I truly will treasure this one forever! And yes, the young prince really is enjoying it a little too much!
Several of us received shooting instructions. We only shot at a plastic bottle as our target, I promise.
We played many games, and we all enjoyed them all. Okay, maybe that is stretching the truth a little. Or, maybe that is stretching the truth a whole...who am I kidding? That was an outright lie. We did play many games, but some of us played them kicking and screaming. Yet, looking at the memories we have now, I am sure that they are glad that they played, at least in retrospect. I mean they could have been sleeping on the couch by the fire and then they would have missed out on ALL the fun.
There was one thing I missed this year. There were no smoke alarm wake-up calls. This may or may not be the reason why. And, secretly, I'm glad it wasn't there, because I probably would have set it off myself when I cooked breakfast Christmas morning.
Oh, and if you have never heard the song, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas", you should look it up. It was learned and performed by the youngest princess with some help from L, and we all had it stuck in our heads the entire time. My sweet sister-in-law even gave me an ornament that plays the song, because we introduced her to it several years ago. I didn't even know there was an ornament that played it. She has been looking for the ornament since she first heard it, and finally found them again this year. I will forever remember the Christmas of 2012 when I hear that song. And every day all year, as it is stuck in my head, and I don't think I will ever get it out! "IIIIIIIIII Wannna Hippopotamus for Chriiiismasssss..."
I think we might have gotten away this time with all of our belongings. There was a little poetic justice in the fact that someone who complains about us always leaving something, actually left something of his in OUR car. We even remembered something we thought we left before we got to the corner. So, we backed up to get it. But we ended up finding it in the car...Which led to a great performance, and one of the biggest laughs of the whole trip. Let's just say my brother can act as well as he writes.
We had a wonderful time as always. I am thankful for our family, and the happy, silly, fun times we enjoy together. It's the stuff life is made of. It's who we are, and where we came from. It's what we will remember long after the gifts have worn out. Doing life and love together. It's what really matters.