Our final Christmas celebration was this past weekend.  After spending Christmas Eve and Day in Oklahoma with our youngest son and his family, and our oldest son who flew in from Florida for the holidays, we returned home the day after Christmas for a couple of days accompanied by our oldest son.  The husband had to work Thursday and Friday, so I did laundry, repacked some clothes, and loaded up the last batch of Christmas gifts and food for the trip to St. Louis on the 28th.

That Friday evening we got together with my side of the family (my parents and two sisters, their families, nieces, nephews, and all the great-nieces).  Also joining us that evening were all of my cousins (who are like brothers and sisters to my sisters and I) and their spouses and families if they were able to make the trip.  Each year one or two cousins can’t make the trip, and we miss them so much.  As you can tell we have quite a large group Friday evening.

At first we just visit and eat, then visit and eat some more.


Some will play foosball while others…


…will play with the littler kids.


Later in the evening, those who want to participate, brought an ornament, and we play that “Stealing Santa” game as an ornament exchange.  Some ornaments never get “stolen” and some ornaments are very popular and get stolen with great regularity.  We always have a blast with all the different styles of ornaments!


Believe it or not, he is holding an ornament of an angel that is actually is quite pretty.  We all do some pretty silly things at our Christmas get-togethers!


Then my husband “stole” the angel!!

One of our family traditions is playing Bingo at our Friday night gathering.  The adults bring a variety of “White Elephant” gifts as prizes for those lucky enough to “BINGO!” (see previous post titled “I’m Dreaming of a White Elephant — Ummm CHRISTMAS!” if you don’t know what a white elephant gift is).  It’s always a lot of fun because our Bingo Caller “Pro” is SO funny!!  And all the kids (old and young) enjoy the fun.


Even the littlest ones take Bingo seriously.


We look pretty intense here, studying our Bingo cards, don’t we?


Now, I’m really not sure what Josh is doing…but it looks like he is praying over his Bingo card!


The twins, Abi and Emma, and Jade are taking a little break while everyone resets their Bingo cards and the caller prepares for the next game.


Saturday morning we have our traditional Christmas breakfast then exchange gifts with our parents and the smaller children.



That’s the photo calendar of all our birthdays and anniversarys that I made my parents on Shutterfly.  I also made them a photo album.


Oh, my!  That’s my dad and his crazy, dancing Santa hat!  Several people had to take turns wearing it.


Hmmm….I guess we had more than one Santa hat!



When the little ones start opening gifts, it becomes quite chaotic!


Years ago my sisters and I and our spouses decided we would stop exchanging gifts.  We all have been VERY blessed through the years.  Instead we take the money we would have spent on one another and put it together (and my parents also contribute).  My sisters and I all live in different towns/cities, so we take turns finding a needy family to buy gifts for or a worthy organization to donate the money to.  Over the years we have helped single parents, parents with extreme health problems, Operation Food Search, flood victims, the Joplin tornado victims, families with very sick children, and families just going through some financially tough times.  We have all agreed numerous times, that our Christmases have become more meaningful as a result.

As my parents got older and our family expanded, shopping for such a large group became quite a burden for them.  They decided to give us and their grandchildren and older great-grandchildren cash instead of gifts.  They REQUIRED ONE thing from us:  We HAD to go shopping that Saturday and spend the money!  After supper that night, we gathered together and would all bring our “gifts” so we could show my parents (and each other) what they got us for Christmas.  Since it is usually after Christmas when we get together, we always see who can get the most/best bargains for our money!  This year we started “The Showing of the Gifts” with the youngest going to the oldest.


Just a few more pictures of our Christmas Chaos:



OH!  The silly things Papas and daddys will do for their grandchildren/children!



Here we are with our two sons, daughter-in-love, and three grandchildren.  My! My!  God has truly blessed us!


We have had three wonderful, chaotic Christmases this year (as we do most years!).  As the years go by, I have learned to try to savor every single chaotic moment.  I certainly hope you have enjoyed this holiday season with your family and friends.  I also hope and pray that you celebrated the true reason for the season:  the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to earth to pay the debt for our sins so we could enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven!  May God bless you throughout the coming new year!

Christmas Chaos: Round #2 = Christmas FUN!

Every year we spend days and weeks preparing for Christmas Day.  Shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping, all while watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music.  Then there is laundry and packing clothes and loading all the gifts and setting out to travel 8+ road hours to visit family. The actual day finally gets here, and before we know it, it’s over.  If your family is like ours, you had lots of gifts, food, laughter, and gift wrap trash to collect.  Following all the chaos we played every new game the little kids received as well as the games the “big” kids received.  Then we ate some more and watched the new movies the kids received.

My husband and I feel so blessed that God has allowed us to have our “core” family (both our sons, daughter-in-love, and three grandchildren) all together with us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Extended family arrived later in the day for a couple of rounds of Hand and Foot Canasta which half of us had never played before.  Learning all the rules and nuances was a blast, and when one of us novices made a silly mistake…well, let’s just say it was hard to get back to the game for all the laughter.

Christmas Eve, before the grandkids went to bed, my son wanted to read Twas the Night Before Christmas to all the kids.  This was the first year that I knew of that he wanted to do that, and my first thought was, “What a great tradition to start with his kids!”  As you can see, this most definitely is a 21st century reading of this classic Christmas story (Hint for those who are Baby Boomers or older:  He is NOT reading from a “traditional” book; he’s reading on his iPad).


Here’s just a few pictures of the fun.









Throughout the years, my husband has usually helped me with the Christmas shopping as well as the wrapping (yeah, I know…I am one LUCKY BLESSED girl!).  However, this year, since I am now retired, I guess he figured I could do all the shopping and wrapping by myself.  I didn’t mind…well, maybe I minded a little.  The last night I was wrapping gifts, my husband was sitting there doing nothing relaxing, watching television.  I said to him, “Dear, I am REALLY sorry that you won’t have a good Christmas this year.  I have deprived you of all the ‘JOY’ of Christmas.”  He asked me what I meant by that.  I explained that since he didn’t get to help with the shopping or the wrapping I was just SURE he wouldn’t ENJOY Christmas as much this year!  You should have seen the look on his face!

Last Christmas, as well as the Christmas before, my husband and I had “AGREED” to NOT get each other gifts.  He didn’t abide by that agreement either year.  Both years he got me a really nice gift, and I had nothing for him!  This year I told him if he got me anything, I would be promptly returning it.  I HAD to makeup for not getting him anything for the last two years, so I surprised my husband with an iPad this year for Christmas.  I thoroughly enjoyed the look on his face!

But…wait!  It gets even better.  Unknown to him, I bought myself a gift.  I wrapped it, filled out the card to myself (all except the “From” part), and had my DIL to take it to him with an ink pen.  I told her to tell him to sign his name to the card and give the gift to me!  Needless to say, we all got a good laugh out of my little prank!


Oh, yeah…I almost forgot to tell you:  I got a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad that I got for Christmas last year (remember — when we weren’t supposed to get each other gifts!).


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