After a wonderful Thanksgiving with Toby’s side of the family, we headed to my parent’s house on Saturday. My sister and her kiddos had come into town to celebrate the holiday weekend with my parents, so we traveled west to join the cousins at the Homestead for an early Christmas celebration.
Because my sister and her family call Northern Michigan home, they rarely travel after Thanksgiving, given the unpredictable weather of winter, so their annual trip south on Thanksgiving weekend is our last time to see the cousins until the Easter thaw.
Unfortunately Tom, my brother-in-law, had to work, but we did get to spend the day with the rest of the Kirk clan, my parents, and G.G. (my grandma.)
We arrived around lunch time. We headed for the big red barn where we were spending the day, and while my parents left to pick up lunch at a local pizza joint, we had the chance to catch-up with my Grandma while the cousins played.
It was Brandon’s first time meeting some of these family members. He was a bit reserved in the beginning but soon warmed up to our crazy crew.
When Mimi and Pop Pop got back with lunch, the food was spread out on the table and everyone dished up. We enjoyed a feast of pizza, wings, coleslaw and jojo potatoes. It was delicious and everyone ate until their stomach’s ached.
After lunch we enjoyed the first game of many…
Everyone sat down in anticipation of our traditional White Elephant gift exchange. This silly game, put together with a $20.00 visit to Dollar Tree, always proves to be one of the highlights of the day. There is always much laughter as everyone battles for unknown tacky gifts wrapped in deceptively decorative packaging.
After the drama of stealing and re-stealing the packages it is time for the big reveal when everyone finally gets to see what it was that they were fighting so hard for. With the reveal came many more laughs, and that $20.00 investment proved to be the best money we spent. We laughed until our bellies hurt.
The White Elephant gift exchange was followed by the real gift exchange between cousins.
We used to handle the Christmas exchange with cousins differently…
Kelly would buy for and send gifts to all my kids each Christmas, and I would do the same for hers, but a few years ago we came up with the idea of letting the cousins draw names and buy for each other. They love it and it allows each of them to thoughtfully consider the personality, likes/dislikes, and preferences of one of their cousins, and then buy a gift that reflects that thoughtfulness.
We messed up the system a bit this year by adding child #6 to the McCleery crew, making our numbers uneven to the “Kirk five.” Our solution was to have our four boys and Kelly’s four boys exchange names and then have my two girls work together to buy for Lydia and have Lydia shop for both my girls.
The kids took turns exchanging gifts one at a time, then watching their cousins open the gifts given. The thought that was put into each gift was touching, with each gift perfect for the receiver.
After the kids had opened their gifts, but before they all scattered, we gathered everyone for some group photos while all the cousins were together.
The remainder of our day at the Homestead was spent visiting and playing games while the kids climbed hay bales, played touch football, had sword fights, played with the farm animals and enjoyed the blessing of family.
On November 24th Christmas came a little early to Wooster, Ohio…
How blessed we are!