Saturday, December 28, 2019

CHRISTMAS 2019 (with a Little Thanksgiving Thrown in for Good Measure)

It has been over a month since I showed up here at my blog.   A month!  (If Instagram is any indication, most of the bloggers I used to follow aren't really showing up at theirs very often either, so I guess I'm on trend for a change.)

I never even managed to get anything written up about Thanksgiving chez Pearl, and it really was quite blog post-worthy.  It was a two-day celebration, actually, with all but son #2 and his wife and three little ones here for turkey and trimmings on Thursday, and then the whole gang (five boys, five wives, 16 grandkids) here for a more casual brunch on Friday--and I never got around to blogging about it.  Of course, this is no biggie to the Internet world, most of which doesn't know my humble little String of Pearls exists.  But I like the idea of having our family memories archived here, as a kind of online scrapbook, before I'm robbed of the ability to remember life events clearly.  (I hope that never happens; but you never know.)

Before I continue, here are just a few snapshots of our Thanksgiving celebration.

Anyway, moving on--

I thought I'd dust off this poor neglected old site (I'm practically choking here--I'm allergic to dust mites, you know) and jot down some memories from our Christmas festivities this year.  It is, after all, still Christmas, and will be until the Baptism of Our Lord on January 12, the first Sunday after the Epiphany (why do some people think Catholics have no fun?  We have the MOST fun!).  So I have lots of time to talk about the most wonderful time of the year, my favorite holiday of them all.

If you come here often, you know that in March of 2017, we made a big life change and sold our longtime home in NH and relocated to VA, in order to be closer to our grown sons and their families.  When we moved here, there were three sons who lived between 35 and 50 minutes from our new house.  Then shortly after we settled here, our oldest son made a career switch that by some miracle had him working out of DC, at least temporarily, so he joined the party and moved 17 minutes from us.  That meant that all of our boys who were married at that time were now nearby, and all of our grandchildren as well.  (Our youngest was still single and stationed in Germany; he got married this past Sept. and currently lives in OK with his bride.)  When we moved here, we had seven grandchildren; in the almost three years that we've been Virginians, nine more have been added (five of them came along in 2017 alone!).  And we get to see them all often.

While we were living up North, we had two Christmases that involved our kids driving long distances to be with us and also included the joy of having grandchildren with whom to celebrate.  In 2014, we had four little people opening their Santa gifts at our NH home; in 2016, we had six of them.  Things had not gotten too crazy yet--and we also had so much more space in our beloved Colonial than we do now.

Fast-forward to 2019--with a smaller house and ten more grandchildren, from eight years old down to less than two months--and you can imagine the chaos!  It's glorious, and joyful, and really so much fun.  But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say it gets a little crazy!

The first two Christmases we were in this new house, we cooked filet mignon for all the adults (which had become our traditional Christmas dinner main course when our boys got old enough to appreciate it), after feeding the younger crowd.  But having that kind of a special sit-down meal while simultaneously wrangling all the children and babies was just getting too logistically hard to smoothly pull off, with the way our numbers have been exploding.  And I wanted my husband to relax, instead of manning the grill and worrying about making sure the steaks had the right amount of pink inside for everyone.  So this year, I made ahead trays of pulled pork, lasagna, and homemade mac and cheese, and I warned that it would be a more casual type of meal, with the food kept warm in chafing dishes and people eating whenever they wanted to.  But there were so many munchies out as well, and most of us filled up on those beforehand and then the casseroles got a little overheated and dried-out by the time people were ready to eat.  Hmmm...there is obviously more tweaking that needs to be done.  But when your family grows as big as quickly as ours has (a great problem to have, by the way), having holiday meals that go off without a hitch gets kind of tricky.

In my quest to come up with the PERFECT way to handle feeding my gang (is there a perfect way, though?), I think next year we're going to split our festivities up into two events: one intended only for the kids and the other for just the adults.  And I'm not going to waste my time on homemade mac and cheese when a vat of Kraft from the box would have made all my little peeps so much happier!  I think we're going to have a birthday party for Baby Jesus with all the kids' favorite foods and cake and ice cream for dessert, and we'll save the fancier menu for the adults-only affair.  Papa and I will give the grandkids their presents at the little kids' party, but we'll save gift exchanging with our grown kids until we can do it without the surrounding chaos.  (Stay tuned for a post on the subject of the adults-only party idea very soon--because we actually had one of those this year and it was fantastic!)

In spite of the fact that I was worried about the food and whether it was good/hot/moist enough by the time it got eaten, I think a good time was had by all.  Everyone came over in the early afternoon on Christmas day, after going to Mass and opening stockings and Santa gifts at their own houses.  Our youngest son and his bride were not with us (they were out in MI with her folks this year), and actually son #3's wife stayed home with their new baby girl, who had just recently been hospitalized for almost two weeks with RSV.  But everyone else was able to make it (including our daughter-in-law Braveheart's parents, who are local as well), and I can't tell you how thrilled I am that they were actually able to spend part of the day with us on the 25th!  When your kids get married and move away from you, you never know how many of them you're going to be able to have with you for the holidays.  I am abundantly blessed, to be sure--and don't I know it!

Without further ado, here is a Christmas photo dump.

Hugging cousins.

 I love my girls.

And I love my boys.
They all got those silly shirts from us for Christmas. :)

By the end of the night, there was dancing--and performing--on tables.  (So it must have been a good party.)

If you're still here, congratulations!  And if you haven't had enough of us Pearls yet, tomorrow I'll be back to tell you about our awesome adults-only party!