Your Thanksgiving didn't include 55 people, a power outage, a round-robin of crying babies, sleeping on a love seat, a gorilla costume and a teeny-tiny chihuahua?
I thought that was totally normal!
My mom's side of the family has always been big, but with my cousins getting married and having babies, the number just keeps growing!
This year, to accommodate the whole crew we rented an old army barrack on the Washington Peninsula. We met there on Thursday, each family bringing a dish for the holiday meal. We reserved the space through Sunday morning, so we all planned to spend several nights there.
My extended family is full of wonderful cooks and funny people. So we had good food, great conversation and a healthy share of competition in everything from card games to trivia to ping pong.
Several unexpected events did occur though. After everyone had served up their dessert the power inexplicably went out. One moment it was bright and cheery and warm, the next moment it was pitch, PITCH dark. All the exits had emergency lights, so we huddled in groups around the doors or around those clever individuals who thought to bring flashlights and head lamps.
The outage actually lent a festive, adventurous feel to the weekend, that is until about 11:00, when we all realized we hadn't brought enough blankets to keep us warm. It was FREEZING! I packed way too few coverings and Andy and I spent the first night tightly huddled on a very squeaky twin bed. (I actually was very happy about this because I LOVE cuddling to sleep, but Andy is of the variety that prefers to have his own space in bed.)
Well, we started the night in the same bed anyway. The other interesting dynamic of the late nights was the fact that there were... one, two, three four, (I'm listing names in my head)... 10 young kids at the fort. Seven of those were sleeping in one wing. And, oh yeah, there were no doors to our rooms. So every little peep echoed down the hall for each mother, father and child to hear.
That was hard for some of the babes... mostly mine.
Usually Jack will wake up a few times, and kind of talk or cry himself back to sleep. But when I knew that every other kid might wake up any second to Jack's babbles, I spent the whole night on edge. Once Jack was awake, he only would go back to sleep if I bounced him and would only stay asleep... in my arms. Ugh.
The first night Andy took him downstairs and they slept together on a couch. I made a bed on a love seat (it looked a lot longer in the dark) and later brought my nephew Dane to sleep with me as he was also having trouble sleeping in a new, noisy place.
Have you ever slept crunched up on a love seat with a baby? You don't really do much sleeping. Babies are wiggly. And sweaty. And they have a tendency to head-butt you in their sleep. That really hurts.
Several moms decided it wasn't worth it to stay another night, but the Aichele's stuck it out.
I spent another night on the couch with Jack.
Actually, I took the first shift and Andy took over at about 5:30 in the morning.
We left that afternoon.
Despite the hiccups and sleepless nights, it was a joyful holiday. My extended family is kind and gracious and ready to enjoy every event. They welcomed my mother-in-law (Andy's real mom who drove up from Texas with her chihuahua-service dog) warmly and eagerly accepted Jack when my arms were tired of holding him.
One of the most enjoyable activities for me was making a gingerbread house with Ellery. In the weeks leading up to our trip, every time I'd seen Ellery she asked me if we were going to make a gingerbread house that day. Each time she was been crushed when I said no.
I had resolved that we would not try that activity again this year since last year it was kind of a disaster. The short version is that Ellery kept saying, "This isn't working!" and I, after calling my mom to come rescue me, dissolved into a sort of hysterical combination of tears and laughter. Later that day when my mom asked Ellery how it went she said, "Emily laughed and laughed and cried and cried." It was true.
But my sweet sis was persistent (and apparently oblivious to the failure of last year) and I wanted to redeem myself. My mom packed a kit and on Friday afternoon we created a masterpiece. It was delightful. I have conquered the gingerbread house (although I think I need to review the story of Hansel and Gretel as I stumbled as I told it).
If you ever are doing a gingerbread house with a young child, I HIGHLY recommend that you hot-glue the structure together before the child is involved and then do the decorating with the little lady (or gentleman).
Here is our creation:
Our method was for Ellery to tell me where to put the frosting and then she would stick the candy on. After the first application of frosting I already had some on my hands. Ellery noticed it and said, "Can I lick your thumb? You have frosting on it."
Here are a few other photo gems from the Thanksgiving adventure:
I love my family! And my heart is full of gratitude. I hope you are able to say the same.