The Big Wrapup of Thanksgiving

It is November 30, and I feel that I need to wrap some things up.  I have had oodles of things I've wanted to write about, but not so much the time to get it all done.  I'm anticipating this will be a long post as we traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday and I haven't written about it at all yet. 
Packing for nine is no easy feat.  It is something that I don't look foward to, and probably something that I now tend to let cause me anxiety well before I even start.  I often wish we could just jump in the Suburan, drive through the most convenient fast food establishment and arrive at our destination.  We could make a quick trip to the store for the clothing, diapers, shoes, etc that we would need during our stay, and when we were ready to return home, we'd simply do the same.  Alas, our income is not disposable, so pack clothing for an array of activity and weather, coats, shoes and boots, swim suits, entertainment for the 6+ hours and of course, snacks and dinner I must do.  We decided to take the dog with us this time too.  We usually kennel him, but in an effort to pinch our pennies, he made the trip with us.  Result?  Three suitcases, two Rubbermaid totes, two soft-side coolers, portable DVD players**, books and colored pencils, 5 backpacks (because we left from school), camera and computer, gifts, seven children, two adults and one 75 pound chocolate labrador. 
**I must include a sidenote about the DVD players.  Wish I had a picture, but I didn't get one taken.  We usually have issues figuring out how everyone can see the two little tiny screens when they're spread among three rows of seating.  The phrase, "You might be a redneck..." totally went through my head as I strung two portable DVD players on a rope and suspended them across the ceiling of the Suburban in the front row of seats.  It worked quite well actually, as everyone could see.  We connected the radio to the DVDs so everyone could hear through the car speakers.  A stop to pick up two Redbox movies and we were good to go!

I also MUST acknowledge Tim for his help.  Usually it is 100% my job to get everything packed and loaded, and then he jumps in the driver's seat and we take off.  This time, he took the day of our departure off work and stayed at home to help me.  I know this sounds absurd, but packing, loading and leaving the house really is a monumental task, so I thanked him probably 38 times before we even got out of the city limits!

Going back "home" is always one of my favorite places to go. We were ultra-efficient in getting there this time, and rolled in the driveway before my parents were asleep, giving us time to visit immediately instead of waiting until the next morning. This stay is a vacation for us as we're usually able to slow down our pace and take the time to do things that we've been looking forward to. Jakob got to go hunting for the first time. He has been eager to get out there since finishing his hunter safety course.

It was bitterly cold and extremely windy, so their first outing was short and sweet, but still extremely exciting. No pheasants were killed (or injured, or even threatened really) during these excursions. Maybe next time. :)

The possiblity of boredom without TV was nipped in the bud as the board games came out.  There is a level of competitiveness is our family that doesn't allow a game to be finished based on time, but rather the game is played to the very end! 

 Husker monopoly was played a time or ten over the week...Monopoly of any kind is just long! Way more fun when you own Memorial Stadium though! And how much fun is it when you can sneak spelling, math and business into it??

 An extended stay also meant that we had the time to go out with my brother and his bride-to-be.  We grilled them asked fun questions like, "Stay at home parent or working parent?  Individual checking accounts or joint?" And of course the important ones like, "What side of the bed will you sleep on?  How do the towels get folded?  Will you divide household chores or share them?  Open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?   Eat in the living room or dining room?"
 We had fabulous conversations.  They totally took Tim and I back 16 years to all the prep and planning and figuring out how to combine two households...two families...two lives.  It was exciting and challenging and sometimes painful.  Oh the things we've learned--and are learning still!!
Cheers Annie and wishes on the remainder of your marriage preparations and many blessings for a long and happy life together. much more than just a one-day holiday.  I have soooo much to be thankful for...including such an amazing family to celebrate this holiday with.  Our entire family was almost all together this year.  We were missing my sister, but she was definitely with us in thought and prayers.  It is not often that our whole extended family is able to celebrate things together.  We're not spread too far apart, but the 800 miles that do separate us make our time together a little more challenging. 

It seems the preparations for Thanksgiving celebration start early.  Baking pies, peeling potatoes, dressing the turkey, cleaning and laying out the tableware.  I love all of it.  In fact, I had to make a quick trip to the store and to my surprise, I got caught up even in the excitement of planning our Christmas gathering when I saw all of the ornaments and decorations and dishes displayed.  I enjoy hosting and co-hosting.

 It's a group effort...these three little people peeled 10 pounds of potatoes by themselves.
 Thankful for FAMILY...


 Cousins making memories...
 ...and crafty things...
 ...pretend (or it what you want!)
 ...and more games--or organizing while everyone else is playing in Joe's world.  :)  If there is something to be sorted, Joe will find it and do it! matter the age, gender, or ability, the game goes on!  My kids have looked forward to this particular part of our family gathering since the last time we were all together!  For years, my cousins were referred to as 'Uncle' Christian and Bobby.  I didn't feel the urgent need to correct them.  It is amazing how that quality play time sticks with them! 
 Even in the cold, the game gets played, although the time-outs are longer and involve adding more layers.  This is the "tough-football player-pose". 
 After food and games and football playing, swimming at the hotel was in order.  Joe didn't quite understand how the climate may affect him as we traveled to the pool!

 And finally as the day came to an end, the Black Friday ads came out and we girls sat down to scour them, make our lists and plan our strategies.  It is ridiculous, but also fun.  I don't think any of us are hard-core enough to go camp out to be first in line.
 My mom and I got up at 4 am...
 ...and left the house armed with a cup of hot Joe.  We bypassed our initial intended stop because the cars were parked on the highway 1/4 mile away from the store entrance.  I don't have a lot of tolerance or patience when it comes to shopping.  I was out just for the time with my mom.  Time uninterrupted by little voices asking, "Can I go??" or big voices asking "How long will you be gone??".  We were out and back before much was happening for the day. 
Our outing produced a few gifts, some jeans for growing boys and a set of bowls that for $8.97 couldn't be passed up.  People are nuts...but I guess we were there too. 

The Friday after Thanksgiving Day is an important Husker Day, and this year proved to be a good day to be a Husker as they rolled over CU rather handily.

 Important as Husker football watching was, there were more important things to be celebrated that day:

My Grandma turned 83 on November 26th.  What a wonderful opportunity to celebrate her life while we were all together. 
 My Grandparents are amazing, inspiring people.  They've certainly created an incredible family.  They've established rich traditions and kept us all close.

 I'm thankful for my Grandma and that my children get to know both her and my Grandpa. 

And as if all of the above wasn't enough, we continued with even more on Saturday. My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary on the 28th, so we planned a little surpise gathering for them on Saturday morning. Surprising my mom is no easy task either. I've inherited her planning...which means that when someone else plans something, it is difficult to change gears and just allow it. We wanted to take them out for breakfast in the morning, but my mom planned to go out after church on Sunday, so convincing her that it would be ok to do both took some doing. After a little resistance though, we got them both to the quaint little coffee shop, arranged a couple of tables to accomodate us. Shortly after we sat down, a couple of their friends showed up and they thought we just invited two more to join us...until a couple more came. It was perfect, because these two couples were there for about 15 minutes before several more friends started to trickle the time there were about 10 people there, they figured out that this was not just breakfast, but an actual celebration in their honor. They were surprised and enjoyed the morning.

 Thanks for everything your 40 years have provided and produced.  We love you and are proud of you.  I am thankful for my parents, their love for each other and for us, and for all they have taught us.
The day continued with a welcome change back to fall-type weather that provided a pleasant climate to brand my dad's calves.  They were a little bigger than usual, but that only added to the fun.  The kids have branded a few times before, so they knew what they were looking forward to.  We have seven wanna-be cowboys and their Grandpa is tickled about that.  :)
 Bringing in the herd...a little more unconventional than the way we used to do it on horseback, but it worked just as well.
 Once they were all in the corral, the babies were separated from their mamas...don't they just look like concerned mamas?
 There have been lots and lots of cattle that have worn this mark over the last 40 years.

 Everyone was eager to help and they all found their niche...
 The little boys are always adimant that their cowboy boots are a priority when we're packing to go to Cowboy Grandpa's house.  You can't be a cowboy without them...poor Joe is in between boots right now...he wasn't very happy about that!
 Team effort all the way around...
 Now, this is steer-wrestling!
 The take-down didn't happen right away.

 There is always a lesson...

They look like they belong here don't they?

 This little guy was the last one...he looked like he wasn't thrilled about it.

It was a full week.  All of us who were still there joined my parents for church on Sunday morning and for dinner following.  It was a perfect ending for a wonderful week full of thanksgiving.  We really do have much to be thankful for.