As my post yesterday said, we have closed out the family portion of our Christmas break. Here’s what we were up to over the last week.

Like every year, Christmas Eve was a day of manic getting ready. There was prepping as much food as possible for the brunch we were hosting the next day. That included detailed evaluations of what foods/beverages could spend a night in a cooler and what items needed to stay in the steady cool of the fridge. This is a low-key super stressful act, as one wrong decision could wreck your meal or, worse, turn a delightful holiday gathering into one remembered for when Uncle D gave everyone a stomach bug.

We attended 4:00 Mass, which meant we had to depart our house at about 3:00 to make sure we got seats and weren’t banished to standing in the entryway. Which meant the girls started getting ready shortly after lunch. We actually got terrific seats but my complaint was that we sat with our backs to the entryway. I like being able to see people come in, nod to friends, maybe stroll over and share a Christmas greeting with some of them.

From there it was on to our first big family gathering, the annual Christmas Eve dinner at my sister-in-law’s house in our old neighborhood. If I’m counting correctly there were 26 people in attendance. Always great food and company. But, man, these things wear me out. Back in the day we would get home, put the kids to bed, and I’d crack open another beer or three while doing those final toy assemblies for under the tree as I watched A Christmas Story and chatted with whoever was staying at our home that year. These days, though, I’m so stuffed I just sit on the couch without a drink, waiting for the bloating to go down so I can sleep comfortably.

Christmas morning! We actually had to wake two girls up this year; L was the only one who was wide awake at the appointed hour. They hustled downstairs and quickly dispatched their gifts. M got an essential oil misting thing, some LED lights for her room, and her ears re-pierced. C got Air Force 1’s, a new sweatshirt, and the second piercings in her ears.[1] L got two Xbox games, some art supplies, and Cookie Monster pajama pants. We still don’t understand why she asked for those but, whatever, they made her happy. The girls had a hard time coming up with lists so this was a year I was thankful we have always stuck to the three gifts rule.

We will be adding some concrete to our driveway soon, which will create more parking space for teenagers. After that is poured, we will put in a basketball hoop, which is mostly for L but her sisters and their friends will mess around with, too.

After gifts it was time to get the oven stuffed for brunch. I made four casseroles, we had ham, and other assorted Christmas fare. This meal was attended by 19 (I think).

Christmas evening our Denver relatives arrived. They dropped by for a quick dinner and hangout session.

Thursday was another big family gathering. Everyone met at our house, jumped on a chartered bus, and headed out to Speedway. The backroom of a restaurant was reserved for a dinner that celebrated both the 10th birthday of our nephew from Denver (that day) and the upcoming 80th birthday of my father-in-law. We had 30-ish people at this event. Part of the proceedings were to take a full-family picture as well as one of 12 of the 14 grandkids who were able to attend.[2] Following that, we hopped back on the bus and went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to drive through their Christmas light display, which was pretty spectacular. The Denver cousins spent the night with our girls after.

Friday was a laid-back day. C had volleyball practice. M went to a movie with a friend. C, L, and I played Settlers of Catan for the first time.

Saturday was our annual Christmas dessert gathering at our house. Usually this is Christmas afternoon but we moved it so everyone could attend. We were again pushing 30 people. Fortunately while it was dreary, the temperature was pushing 60 and we were able to sit on the back porch without needing the fireplace going. The Denver family departed from the party to the airport. Our Boston family spent the night with us before hitting the road back to home early Sunday morning. And the in-laws flew back to Florida Sunday afternoon.

Whew! It was such a whirlwind. But it was great to have everyone home and together for a few days. It was hard to catch up with everyone – you would angle to talk to someone, get interrupted, and then never get another chance. That is the downside of these large gatherings.

It is certainly stressful to host. I was always more relaxed on the nights when I wasn’t in charge of the proceedings. And there was really only one event when I kind of checked out, and that was more because I was feeling a little under the weather than because of the stress or company. Our girls were mostly well behaved. There were a couple teenage moments. But S and I were far more relaxed than her siblings who are chasing little ones around. We do not miss that!

And now I’m here on the evening of December 29. As with every year, those days from Dec 18 or 19 to when all your visitors depart just fly by.

  1. They got their ears pierced earlier in the week so they had them for the gatherings.  ↩
  2. Ages: 20, 18, 15, 13, 11, 10, 8, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 9 months, 2 weeks. I think…  ↩