Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cousin Reunion 2016

Twenty four hours after hosting Friendsgiving my parents arrived in Texas. More specifically on my doorstep. And we got to work planning and preparing for my extended family to arrive. Because this was my year to host my family's ANNUAL COUSIN REUNION!!! And even though I live at the end of the earth (I kid, I kid...) we had a good turn out. In addition to my parents I had three aunts, two uncles, and four cousins (plus spouses and kids) attend the reunion. There were 31 people and 1 dog.  These people came from all over. Mexico City, Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It was no easy feat for them to travel to my house so I wanted to make sure it was worth their effort. 

A little cousin reunion history. They started back in 2004. My eldest cousin (on my mom's side of the family) planned the first one. And it has been passed down cousin by cousin ever since. Each cousin that plans the reunion gets to choose the date and location. Traditionally they are in the summer. However summer here is borderline miserable so we opted for fall. And thankfully it felt nice and summer like! We took full advantage of the weather and spent most our time outside...

Thanksgiving day we ate a large breakfast, stuck the turkeys in the oven and then we headed to the beach. Where we played for nearly five hours!

Boogie Boarding on November 24th!
And then we headed back to my house to enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving meal. Thankfully we had had the foresight to prepare all the side dishes the night before so all we had to to do was stick them in the oven when we got back from the beach, shower off all the salt and sand and ENJOY!  (Minus one little *mishap where one of the turkeys tried to slip off the counter our plan worked wonderfully)

We ate almost all of our meals outdoors, including Thanksgiving dinner!

White Elephant gifts. Some people were happy with their gifts and some were NOT.

It was a FABULOUS week! I absolutely loved having family in town and I felt so honored that they would travel so far to see ME....well and the beach:) And I really couldn't have pulled off the reunion without them. (Especially because Joe was working nights and sleeping during the another resident's apartment.) Sure I planned the meals, bought the groceries and played tour guide. But they were the workers. I swear I never cooked a single meal all week. Every single time it was time for a meal I had multiple volunteers to cook. It was a real team effort! I couldn't ask for a better family. I mean we somehow managed to cram 14 children and 6 adults in my house with different nap and bedtime schedules and HAVE FUN! I'd call that a success.

*When that turkey tried to slip off the counter a bunch of the drippings splashed onto the kitchen floor. Instead of dealing with it immediately I took a rag towel and threw it over top of the spill. That towel remained on the floor for most of the evening. Hours later as we were cleaning up Joe asked about the towel (he was asleep at the time of the incident). When he lifted up the towel he discovered there was turkey parts under it...the neck and heart! And much to my shock, my aunt (who shall remain nameless) picked up the heart and ATE IT!!!! Best Thanksgiving moment ever. Boogie boarding was a close second.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Last year Joe and I took the plunge and hosted "Friendsgiving" for his residency program. I was SO nervous. What if no one came? What if it was so boring no one stayed? What if I don't really know how to cook a turkey and host a holiday meal?   Turns out people came. And stayed. And even had fun. So much fun we decided to host it AGAIN this year. Though admittedly I still don't really know how to cook a turkey. Last year I panicked and skinned it before throwing it in an oven bag with some butter and spices. And let me tell you it is no easy task to wrestle the skin off a 20+ pound bird! This year I left the skin it should be:) Both turkeys were delicious. That might be an exaggeration. They were edible. No one complained;)

Above: 2015
Below: 2016

No complainers in this bunch. Not a single one. Speaking of this bunch. They are amazing! They showed up with pots and pans full of delicious food. They really brought the party. Because there is no way without them that I would have been able to feed 75 people! (Only about half of the entire party crew made it into the group picture)

Truth be told there was one complainer. Me. But I only complained before the party started so that hardly counts, right? Right. That's just normal hostess stuff. Or so that's what I'm telling myself.  Here's how it went down. Joe was trying to be helpful by keeping the children out of my way while I set up for the party. He was doing crafts with them in the kitchen while I was attempting to find the optimal table and chair arrangement in the playroom. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Because what I really wanted was his help IN THE PLAYROOM. But he couldn't be in the kitchen doing crafts AND in the playroom helping me at the same time. And I lost it. Like I went a little crazy. There was yelling and complaining and empty threats (all from me). I sent the kids to their rooms so Joe could help me. But when that didn't help (calm me down) Joe took the kids to McDonalds. Which actually was the most helpful. Because then I called in back up. See the lovely couple below (inside the window)?  They swooped in and hugged me. And got to work setting up my house for a LARGE CROWD. And then all was right in my world and I could once again behave like a sane person. Which I did for most of the evening except for one minor incident.....

Right as the guests were arriving Joe was carving the turkeys and I was making the gravy. Pretty much our only responsibilities for the party. I asked our friend (pictured above inside the window) if I should make more gravy. He said yes. So as the first batch of gravy was simmering I started making the roux for the second batch. I gave Joe strict instructions to save all the turkey drippings in the turkey bag for my gravy. All was going well at this point. Or so I assumed. By now our friend had moved to outside the house and was leaning in the window (much like the guy pictured above), Joe was working to the left of the sink (where the ice cream is in the above picture) and I was next to him at the stovetop. Suddenly Joe frantically tapped my shoulder and told me to get the pan to him NOW. I swung the pan over the sink (burning Joe's hand in the process) to discover that Joe had spilled all the drippings into the sink accidentally. He quickly started scooping the drippings from the sink directly into my pan. The three of us (Joe, accomplice friend and I) just keep looking at each other asking the question with our eyes only "CAN WE REALLY DO THIS?!?!" No one uttered a word. We just keep scooping and using our bodies to block anyone else from seeing what we were doing. Because by the end we were literally scooping drippings from the sink drain. (Yuck) Sink gravy. We made sink gravy.

The rest of the night went off without a hitch. People ate and talked. Children ran around and did NOT eat despite their parents' desperate attempts to get them to eat. All in all it was a lovely evening.

Our friends are so amazing that THIS is how many rolls we had LEFTOVER after feeding 75 people. And I know the kids each took at least 2 rolls because that's the only thing they would eat of the entire delicious Thanksgiving meal! And it wasn't just the rolls that we had leftover. We have so much food leftover that we are going to be eating up our Friendsgiving meal for days just so we can get ready to cook up Thanksgiving in a few days. (I'm hosting about 30 people for Thanksgiving this year. Its a cousin reunion on my mom's side of the family. I'm super excited to have family come to town...I hope they are hungry!!)

Oh and no worries on the gravy mishap. We didn't even need that second batch of gravy! One guest had brought mushroom soup...soup that many guests assumed was gravy. So we had way more gravy than we needed too. No one at the sink gravy! Thank goodness:)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Breakfast & toilets.

Joe took the girls on a field trip earlier this week. At breakfast the next morning Charlotte was telling me ALL about it. She ended her field trip tales with this...

"Mom you know the food we ate there? I could eat that for breakfast EVERY day for the rest of my life and be happy." 

It was nachos. They ate nachos. And I know the feeling Char. I too could happily eat those for breakfast every day. And admittedly a lot of days I do (in secret). 

The other night while the girls were in the bath tub I was scrubbing the toilet (multi-tasking!!). The girls announced to me that it was an "Eewwwie job". I agreed. Hannah then went on to inform me that she will NOT be cleaning toilets when she is a grown up. I told her she will have to clean her toilet. Either that or make enough money to pay someone else to clean her toilets. Again she told me she will NOT be cleaning toilets. Her reasoning? She won't have a toilet of her own to clean. She's just going "go on adventures as a grown up". 

Just adventuring. No house. And no toilets to clean. And I can totally see her growing up to do just that. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Santa Claus is dead.

Charlotte has been asking a lot of questions about Santa Claus recently. Questions about the logistics of Santa mostly. How does he make it around the whole world in only one night? Does he really give toys to EVERY child in the world? How do reindeer fly? Etcetera etcetera etcetera. I knew I needed to address this subject. As in I needed to tell her the truth. (Isaiah already figured it out years ago) Because while I enjoy watching my children delight in the gift(s) they receive from Santa, it is not the real reason we celebrate Christmas. I believe Jesus' birth is the true reason to celebrate. And I want my children to understand that (and honestly I think they do because that's what we emphasize). Anyways. I'm not sure why but I just never answered her questions directly. So she went to a better source. 

Her big brother. 

Her all knowing (fake phone) selfie taking brother. Basically the one she adores the most. Every word from his mouth is truth to her. 

They had this discussion while playing Legos (i.e. upstairs and out of my ear shot) along with Hannah. I learned of the conversation later in the day when the girls very matter of a factly informed me that "Santa Claus is dead". If I hadn't been sitting down already I would have fallen over. It was just a little shocking to hear. So harsh. And factual. A lot like their big brother:) Apparently Isaiah went into great detail about how the character Santa Claus isn't real but instead he is based on a man that lived long ago - named Saint Nicholas. And Saint Nicholas brought toys to all the children in his town (city? Country?). And now parents like to carry on the tradition with their children for fun. Bottom line though: Saint Nicholas is dead. Which my girls interpreted to mean (the fictional) Santa Claus is also dead. 

Well that was that. And mostly I'm ok with it. I like my children to know the facts and truth (just ask any of them where babies come from and about child birth). But it's a little sad for me too. It's just one more thing that marks the end of my crazy life with little kids. They are growing up! I suppose there is still a chance Levi will believe but I'm not holding my breath. His older siblings are wise and knowledgeable and they feel it is their responsibility to share that knowledge. The girls have taken this news surprisingly well. Though Charlotte says now that she knows she's only going to ask for a few, simple things - since it's not as exciting. Hannah agreed with her sister and then rattled of her requests: "an iPad, a gun and a pony. A real pony. And a car."  Ha! Simple? Haha. She's quite the dreamer. 

Speaking of dead...

Tuesday after Zumba class I drove over to Walmart to pick up my groceries. I was rolling in on E so I turned the van off, snapped this picture... share with my Zumba ladies (because I had just been up on my soap box telling them how wonderful Walmart grocery pick up is) and waited for my groceries. The Walmart employee explained they had to substitute one item (a baby doll) loaded my groceries and we were OFF to do lunch and nap and school!

Except we weren't. My van was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. 

I called Joe (at work). He didn't answer. Of course. So I called my sister. Why I don't know?!? She didn't answer either. Though even if she had answered there's very little she could do from 1400 miles away. 

The kids were getting hungry and restless. Levi had a dirty diaper and my phone battery was down to 10%. I had just a few problems to solve. First I gave the girls bananas and grapes (from our groceries! Yay.) Changed Levi's diaper (with my last clean diaper). Then I dug around for my empty gas can and jumper cables. In the process I discovered there was NO baby doll in my grocery bags. There was also no gas can. So there I stood sweaty hot in a parking lot in a drizzling rain with 3 children that wanted to be anywhere but there and a dead van and a nearly dead phone. So I called another resident wife. And she came. Without hesitation or judgement or a second thought. Dropped everything and came. She grabbed her child and can of gas and came to my rescue.  Unfortunately it wasn't just an empty gas tank. It was a dead battery (or so we were guessing). Momentarily we considered jumping it ourselves. We even popped our vehicles' hoods and pulled out the manuals (to learn HOW to jump a vehicle). And then we wimped out and called in the professionals. 

While that is not at all how I envisioned my Tuesday unfolding and I'd rather not repeat that day again, a few good moments came out of that day. 1. It confirmed to me that these residency people are my people. I'm invested in them and they are invested in me. And for that I'm so grateful. This life isn't always the easiest but having people that get it by my side make it just a little easier. 2. When Walmart couldn't find the missing baby doll I had ordered they gave me FOUR substitute baby dolls. I was absolutely blown away by their generosity. And the best part was that doll was ordered for an Operation Christmas Child box. So now instead of one little girl being blessed with a new doll for Christmas this year there will be FOUR girls. And if my van had not died right when it did in that parking lot there would have been NO baby dolls (without looking for the jumper cables I wouldn't have noticed the missing doll and honestly if I had noticed at home I would have just called and asked for a refund vs driving back to the store). I have a feeling there are four girls out in this world somewhere praying for a doll for Christmas this year. Oh and lastly my girls were pretty happy to have an unplanned non-school day:) 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

This is Us.

Tuesdays have become "This is Us" watching girls' night this fall (thanks to a desperate plea I posted on our residency FB page asking for someone to allow me to sit on their couch and watch the show because I don't have TV channels). So this past Tuesday as soon as Joe walked in the door I grabbed his car keys and I walked out so I (A) wouldn't miss the show with my residency girls and (B) could drop Isaiah off at Cub Scouts on the way. My last remarks to Joe were "We had leftover Sloppy Joes for dinner. There is a little bit left for you on the table" and I was out the door! I quick dropped Isaiah off, coordinated with one of Joe's co-residents for him to bring Isaiah home after Scouts, and called Joe to inform him of the change of plans (i.e. Isaiah didn't need to be picked up). It was during this phone call that Joe asked me to clarify what I had served for dinner. Sloppy Joes. Well technically left-over Sloppy Joes. Joe then asked me if the kids liked their dinner. A little offended I informed him that they ALL had eaten well and seemed to like it. Joe then informed me with a chuckle that I had served leftover enchilada meat as Sloppy Joes. And apparently the kids and I did NOT notice. Ha! Looks like they are finally grasping the you-eat-what-you-are-served-without-complaint concept! Either that or I created an amazing new dinner: Sloppy Jos├ęs. 

(I can't take credit for that very creative name of our accidental dinner. That was one of the interns. She's much wittier than me.) 

Looks like we didn't stick to our menu. Crazy meal day came a little early this week;-)

Ok. Back to girls' night. Our lovely hostess kept apologizing for her house being a mess. And I honestly could NOT understand why she was apologizing. There were a few dishes in the sink and a bag of groceries on the counter. Otherwise everything was neat and tidy. Seriously it was pristine. In fact I'm always a little envious of her cutely decorated and clean home. My house was such a mess at that moment that I couldn't even turn on my living light and fan because earlier that morning Levi had wandered off with the remote control and it hadn't been seen since then. So the next morning when I woke up to this mess I just knew I had to snapchat her...