The Nutty Papa grew up in the country. I guess that's why pecan farming hasn't been so hard for him. Hard work is something he grew up with.
Christmas has always been his favorite time if the year. It's full of tradition for him. And when it's over, he has withdrawals. He loves being home. Being with his family. Doing what he's done every Christmas for as long as he can remember.
The best surprise of the season was his niece, Alicia. She's a Peace Corps worker and she came all the way back from Africa. She was trying to surprise everyone. But it's really hard to keep a secret in a family this big. But they kept it from us. When we walked in the door, there she was sitting at the table with Grandma and Grandpa. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on. At first, I thought, "Hey! Alicia beat us down here." And then I went, "Wait a minute... she's living in Africa! What's she doing here?!?" It was a GREAT surprise. I loved staying up and listening to her stories and philosophies. She's one smart cookie and an amazing human being. She has a blog too. You can read it here.
Anyway, here she is participating in the first of the family traditions: The Christmas Ball. Everyone has a ball with their name on it. When you arrive, you hang your name on the tree. She's making a ball for our Baby. It was his first Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa.
The Nutty Papa is proud of his Christmas ball. His is the pink one. He likes that it stands out. I think someone recently added another pink name ball, but that's OK with him. His was the first.
My favorite part of Grandma's tree is her angel. It's handmade. Her Mother made it for her. See the red? It's from the bridesmaids dresses from Grandma's wedding. Isn't that creative! People don't take time to make things like this anymore. I wish I still had some fabric from one of my bridesmaids dresses. I might try and make me one.
One of the newer traditions is the cousin party. There are older cousins and younger cousins. The Nutty Papa's oldest 5 siblings' kids celebrate together as the "older cousins" and the kids from the last 4 siblings celebrate together as the "younger" cousins. The younger cousins got together this year to make crafts. Here is Aunt Deborah helping little Bayley with a craft. Aunt Deborah is good that way.
Chojuk painted a snowman. It's one of those stained glass things that hangs in the window. I remember making those... but they didn't have paint. They had teeny tiny little pieces of pre-melted plastic that you had to very carefully put in just the right place. I loved making them... but I remember being very frustrated when I'd put a color in the wrong place. This way is much less frustrating.
When Aunt Nancy and I hit the outlet mall at midnight on Black Friday, we found this cute little cardboard house. She set it up in her living room for the kids to color. They had so much fun with it! We imagined the boys would do their best to tear it down while the girls played around them. We weren't too far off.
The Snugglebug, however, completely enjoyed coloring it. He might have sat there all day and worked on that door... if people would have quit coming in and out of it. He sat there very patiently for about 20 minutes. He'd color, and then let someone in. And color, and let someone out. In and out. Back and forth. Finally, I think he realized that it was more fun to go in and out than to color and he gave up.
The Doodlebug was one of the main culprits going in and out. She and her littlest cousin, Naomi, just kept going in and out. They each had a window to stick their heads out. They'd open the window and yell, "Hello!" And then hide back in the house. It was a loud party.
At around 5pm, we all gathered in the converted carport. It was converted for Christmas to accommodate all the family members. The family has just outgrown the house. It makes a nice gathering room though.
Here is our resident heart throb, cousin Mark. All the girl cousins enjoyed having him there. I'm not sure he ever had a moments peace the whole evening. He left early the next day. I wonder why?
We gather at 5pm to read the story of Christmas and say the rosary. The bigger cousins read the story and the littler ones lead the rosary. They did a great job. Grandpa asked who wanted to lead and Chojuk shot his hand up in the air like someone was giving away free Wiis. He enjoyed using the beads to say his prayer. We haven't said the rosary too often but I can see it appeals to him. We'll have to work that into our school time.
After the Christmas story, the rosary, and a BIG family picture (which Aunt Nancy has... I'll share that later), we eat! Grandma is a great meal planner. She really knows how to feed an army of people. And it was good food!
The favorite tradition on Christmas Eve is the fireworks. See when you live out in the country, apparently you are worried about Santa not seeing your house. So they traditionally popped fireworks so Santa could find them. Funny thing is, he brings the gifst while they are popping fireworks. He's a sneaky dude. He gets in the house without being hit or seen by a firework! He's not as quick coming out though. Someone usually hears his bells ringing and all the kids go stampeding into the house to see what he brought.
This is where the chaos begins. In my little family of 3-6, we take time to open presents one at a time. We enjoy seeing what everyone gets and Oh-ing and Ah-ing at everything. It's nice. It really stretches the process out. We have been known to take 3 or 4 hours opening presents.
But when you have 42 all wanting to open gifts, there is no waiting. Everyone starts tearing into their gifts and you hear, "Thanks Aunt Carole!", "Thanks Aunt Beaty!", "Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!", "Thanks Aunt Suzanne!" And before you can catch your breath, it's over. I barely get any pictures. If I did, I imagine it would be of paper flying!
And when it's over, everyone walks around to see what everyone else got. The Snugglebug got a great gift from his Mama: an organized notebook of Pokemon cards. He was in heaven!