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12/22 - 12/27 - Merry Christmas


12/22/13 - Sunday

We have decided to stay in Louisiana one more week, our new departure day is Sunday, January 5th.   There are things we still want to do and leaving a week later allows us to do a little more sightseeing.  We stopped at the camp office to confirm that we could stay - no problem, this is one laid-back park.

We had a pretty relaxing day, we went into Covington to see "American Hustle" which was a good movie, Marty said it reminded him of the Sting.  You definitely needed to pay attention - no dozing allowed.  

Apples to Apples
After the show we drove over to Becky's for dinner and to meet her father.   We enjoyed some pralines after dinner and I chipped a tooth/filling - Oh No!    Becky is going to try and get us an appointment with her dentist.  Marty had a crown come loose while we were in Kentucky and went to a dentist down there but it hasn't felt right so we will both go (hopefully) to the dentist here.  If we can't get in to a dentist here we have the name of a dentist in Mexico right by Mission, TX and we'll try that.

We always have fun at the Winchell's and this time was no different - we learned how to play Apples to Apples.   One person gets to be the judge and that's when the fun begins - the better you know the judges likes and dislikes the better chance you have of winning.    Some judges could be swayed (you know who you are) and some judges went by the book (Marty).

12/23/13 - Monday

About six years ago, the Winchell's came to Chicago to spend Christmas.   One of the games we played that year was "Mr. Left and Mrs. Right".  Mary Margaret remembered and wanted to play it again this year.   The game is that all the kids get one present and a story is read, every time left is said the presents go to the left and the same for right.    You have no idea what you'll end up with but at the end everyone has something to open.    I wasn't expecting to play it so Mary Margaret, Hope and I went shopping to pick up some gifts for the game.   First stop was the Goodwill store where we scored a Disney Monopoly game and a brand new Scattegories game for $2.99 each - what a deal!    We also
picked up a Christmassy felt basket that we could put some candy in.   That took care of 3 presents so on to TJ Maxx to see what treasures we could find.    One candle, tin of tea, doodle book, and pair of Christmas socks and we were done - YAY!     I never go shopping without stopping for lunch so we had lunch at Chili's and then did a few more errands before heading back to Mandeville.   We had lots of fun shopping and I enjoyed spending time with two of my nieces.   We stopped back at our rig and made some cookie dough that we would bake back at Becky's.  My cookie sheets are two pizza pans and it would take forever to bake them here.

Marty has been working on the roof at Becky's house and has determined that her water problems on the inside porch are coming through the chimney due to a corroded chimney cap.    He will take off the cap on Thursday and drop it off at a fabricator to be replaced.    While he was working up there, the girls and I raked up the yard - there were a lot of leaves!  The yard got neatened up a bit and we were going to use the chop saw to cut up some pallets so we could start a fire in the fire pit but it was getting too dark out so our bonfire will have to wait.

12/24/13 - Tuesday (Christmas Eve) and 12/25/13 - Wednesday (Christmas)

1970 Christmas Eve with the Merkes Family
We puttered around the rig in the morning getting presents wrapped and making some baked mostaccioli for the evening.   We headed over around 3:00 and got a few things ready while the family was at 4:00 mass.   Once they got back (around 5:30) we had dinner (gumbo and baked mostaccioli).

I called my family back in Chicago and had some facetime with them.   They called me back later so that I could see Santa arrive and the kids get their gifts.  The tradition of Santa coming to the Merkes house on Christmas Eve started back in 1969 when our youngest brother, Tom was a baby.   There have been babies every year since so the tradition is still going strong.    I never realized how long this process is, some of the 2nd generation "kids" are in their late 20's and still sitting on Santa's lap.  I thought the cut-off was 21 but I guess some parents (or kids) aren't ready to give it up.

Back to Louisiana, where we finally (according to Meredith and Ben, imagine a 12 and 6 year old with no patience on Christmas Eve) started the game.   Becky read the story and it was hilarious to watch the kids try to keep up with the lefts and rights.   They did an awesome job and somehow each of them ended up with the gift they started out with - which is ok since they had no clue what it was.   Amazingly, the gifts mostly went to the most appropriate person - it was really weird considering the age span was 6 to 25.   Six year old Ben got the doodle book which was purchased with him in mind.    These are really good kids so if someone had been unhappy someone else would have traded with them.

Note the matching pajama bottoms
One tradition the Winchell's have is the only present they can open on Christmas Eve is their new matching pajamas.  So after getting their new pajamas the younger two children were sent off to bed (around 9:00).   Once all the kids are upstairs for the night a ribbon is tied at the top of the stairs and no one can come down until Becky unties the ribbon.  If they get up too early, they have to wait while Becky has her coffee and yells out that she's going to clean up a bit, maybe do some vacuuming  and then they can come down.  Of course she really doesn't make them wait too long.

Santa Came!
Kids are still upstairs
Marty and I went back on Christmas morning around 8:45 and everyone was downstairs and the unwrapping had begun.   They take turns so only one present is open at a time and everyone can see what they got - way different than the mass confusion in the Merkes house when 45-50 people all open presents at the same time.

My "north shore" shirt

Christmas Morning Breakfast
After the presents were were all opened, we had breakfast and then 6 of us played Scattegories which was hilarious.    Everyone gets a sheet with 12 lines to be filled out with different categories.   A many sided die with letters on it is rolled and whatever letter shows up you have to fill in the line with a word for that category that starts with the specific letter.    My brain froze when we had to think of a book title that started with the letter "K" - I'm so embarrassed, with all the books I've read.    It was lots of fun especially when certain people tried to bluff their way with a word that no one ever heard of - Elephant Fly anyone?

Becky and Emily playing Sequence
Later, around 5:30, we had a wonderful dinner of grilled filet wrapped in bacon, mashed potatoes, green beans and asparagus and dinner rolls - Yum!   Meredith did an awesome job of assisting in the kitchen and making sure our plates were kept filled.     After dinner it was time for one more game - Sequence.   The Winchell's had never played this game before so after one practice round we got started.   The wonderful thing about this game is that it's quiet - it's hard to talk and concentrate on your next move at the same time.  We played with three teams of two and Mary Margaret and Becky won two out of three games, that's ok we're up for a rematch if they are.  

We had a wonderful Christmas with Becky and her kids and are very grateful that they shared their Christmas with us.   Christmas is always best when spent with family (especially when there are lots of kids!).
The next Elvis

 Thursday - 12/26/13

Becky got us into her family dentist at 12:30 so we headed over to see what could be done with our messed up teeth.   Dr. David smoothed out Marty's crown and it feels so much better.  As for my poor tooth, I will need a new crown.   It would take three weeks to get it here so Dr. David did what he could (covered the filling somehow) and hopefully that will hold until we settle somewhere long enough to take care of it.   No more pralines or caramels for me :(.     The best part of the whole experience was they didn't charge us!!!   Thank you Dr. David!!

After a few more errands we were back at the rig waiting to meet up with the Winchell's at 4:00 for their family picture.   We took a walk through the park and used a couple of different locations, the pictures turned out great.
What a beautiful family!

Becky had to go to work but the kids stayed and we made s'mores (using Santa Peeps).   This was
around 5:30 before dinner but, hey, we're the cool aunt and uncle - who needs dinner?  Then Becky called and let us know that she was leaving work early since no one was there and would bring over some hotdogs for the grill - oh no, I hope they're still hungry.   16 hot dogs later everybody (7 kids and 3 adults) was stuffed and we watched some old home videos of the three older kids when they visited Chicago in the late 80's and early 90's.   The younger four kept waiting to see themselves but unfortunately, as is often the case, there were no videos after the first three (I'm sure Becky has some, we just didn't - sorry kids).

Our biggest group ever - 10 people and
it really didn't feel too crowded!
Friday - 12/27/13

After three full days of family we took a break and hung out at the trailer.    Marty had lots of photo processing to work on and I had mail to go thru and bills to pay (and a blog to write).   The weather was in the low 60's so I did go for a short walk.   That's it for Friday (not every day is an adventure).