Our Christmas was fun and fast and before we knew it had come and gone. We spent the weekend before Christmas in Ohio with my family. My parents have been rearranging Christmas for many years, making it some weekend other than when Christmas really is. I love this for many reasons. The two best are that whenever they have Christmas, ALL of my brothers (2 of them) and my sister (just 1) are there with their spouses and children, and that my kids get to wake up Christmas morning in their own house and Brendan and I get to experience Christmas morning with just our family. I can't tell you how much it means to me to get to see all of my nieces and nephews (8 of them on my side) and always my sibs and sister-in-laws and brother-in-law. I only get home about three times a year, but each time I usually get to see everyone because my parents are so gracious about making sure it is a date that everyone can make it.
On Saturday we drove down to Minster, Ohio and had Christmas with my Mom's family at a hall there. My mom's family is huge, and we have been having Christmas in the same rented hall for as far back as I can remember. I know in one of my photo albums in the basement is a picture of me dressed up in a majorette costume, a gift from my Aunt Rosie, in that rented hall. If you are not from a big blue collar family, you cannot fully appreciate the chaos that is Christmas with the Barhorsts. Most of my 15 aunts and uncles were there (my mom is one of fifteen), many of my cousins, and lots of my cousins' kids. We always start with a prayer and a big noon meal of food everyone contributes like chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, baked beans and green beans with bacon and a whole table filled with homemade desserts. The hall and main entree food are paid for by several 50/50 raffles. After the meal, several people (usually the men, but occasionally a few women as well) settle into a poker game at some round tables in either corner of the hall. The little children go up to a "fish pond" by the kitchen of the hall where several of my aunts hook toys onto the end of the lines for the kids to receive. Most of the kids get 5-10 things at the fish pond and need plastic chopping bags to hold their loot in. Several others join in a few rounds of "Robbers Bingo". This is where every number of a card is called and every person can bingo five (5) times. For example, if your first bingo is vertically, you shout bingo and go get a prize off the front table (also items that people have all brought). You then clear that row, and you can now bingo four more times, for the other vertical rows. When you bingo, you can get a prize off the table or steal someone else's prize, as long as they did not get it on that bingo turn. There are always a few items that it seems everyone wants, and so they get stolen a lot. Your best bet is to get the last number, therefore the last bingo, and hope the prize you want is near you. It's a lot of fun, but pretty crazy as well.
I was fortunate enough to get to go to my Aunt Louise and Uncle Dave's house afterward. They are my aunt and uncle from my Dad's side of the family, but only live about a half hour away from Minster. My Aunt was diagnosed last Christmas with breast cancer and I have been doing all I can to keep her spirits up. When she was first going through chemo and other treatments I tried to send her a card weekly. She and my uncle are two of those people who were always great to me as a kid. As her prognosis has improved, I haven't sent as many cards. But I knew I wanted to visit and we had a great time. I gave her some of my homemade chocolate peppermint bread and two ABC recipe card sets for cookies and muffins. They gave Brendan and I some of their home canned beef and a huge ziploc bag of Orville Redenbacher popcorn (their son-in-law is a popcorn farmer for Orville Redenbacher). I was glad to see them both doing well.
We celebrated Christmas on Sunday with my family and then came home on Monday. My kids always have a great time with their cousins. This year they made their own Christmas play about the true meaning of Christmas. Zoe, being the youngest cousin, got to be the baby Jesus. The adults always have fun playing some party game. This year it was Mad Gab. Once we got the hang of it, we had to find ways to make it more challenging, like doing as many cards in the time frame without any passing. My mom finally found a party game she was pretty good at!
We spent Christmas Eve at 3:00 PM mass and then headed over to my father-in-law's house for a delicious meal of leg of lamb and risotto. I brought a new butternut squash recipe (sooooo good) and baked beans made with bacon. We opened our gifts and returned home at about 11:00PM, when we had just enough time to put out some cookies for Santa and sprinkle some reindeer food on the front yard for Rudolph and his pals.
The kids were all up at 6:00 AM (our rule, no one gets up before 6:00!!!!) and had there stockings emptied by 6:03. Emma bounded in and asked us to get up, so we obliged. The presents were all opened by 6:17 (that may be generous) and Brendan and I settled in to undoing those damn twisty ties and plastic zip chord used to make toys stay nice in their boxes. We ate Kringle, played our new Wii games, and sat around in our pajamas most of the morning.
Christmas night was spent with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law at our house. I had to make the hors d'oeuvres, side dishes, and desserts while my MIL brought the main course. I was so psyched I didn't have to make one main course this entire Christmas. Only side dishes and one dessert. It was nice.
Oh, and I have to mention the best gift I received this Christmas? All the good news I received on December 23rd. My cousin's surgery on her neck went well. My aunt's scan on her eye because they thought they saw a new lesion was found to be clear. And my new nephew Declan was born. Brendan went to see him on Christmas day, I went on the 26th. Elizabeth and Patrick are very proud parents to one of the most adorable little guys around.
Hope your holiday were a lot of fun, too!