Monday, December 15, 2014

November from beginning to end

November provided Max and me with a touch of family in the beginning and a tsunami at the end.

We began with a trip to Chicago so we could baby sit for one night with Marshall.  Amber and Evan were scheduled for a surprise birthday party for Amber's BF Jen, and Marshall couldn't be left with just any baby sitter.  Since Evan's parents live in Las Vegas, we got the nod.

It was a tough job.  Marshall is about the best natured 6 month old we've ever been around.  That boy seems to have constant big smile unless he is hungry or sleepy.

We also did an annual photo shoot of the family at Lincoln Park.  It was a windy, cold, but bright sunny day in Chicago which made pictures a little difficult.  But we were lucky to have a cloud that blocked the sun for a few minutes and hurriedly took some pictures.

As you can see, Marshall continued his smiles even though it was a bit cold.  Max just shivered.

Our next big event was Thanksgiving, but before we get to the feast, some background needs to be added.  On one of out trips to Arlington, VA, we went to the American Indian Museum which is part of the Smithsonian and located on the Mall in D.C.  They have a great food court there with selections from foods that were eaten by the tribes from various parts of the country.  One dish we tied and really liked was roasted vegetables that include roasted Sun Chokes, also called Jerusalem Artichokes.  Max decided we needed to try to grow these sun chokes at our house and so ordered a package of them on the internet.  My job was to find a place to plant them in our yard.  There were 24 small thumb sized bulbs in the package, so I planted them in two rows of 12 each in late March.  They all sprouted and grew into a sunflower looking plant, each of which got about 12 feet tall.  Here are some pictures of the flowers.

We had a hard frost in early November and so I cut down the brown stalks leaving about 2 feet of stem above the ground so I could find and dig the chokes.

I then bought Max a Christmas present at the local hardware store and dug up the chokes.

That's a 5 gallon bucket full of sun chokes that look more like ginger roots than anything else.  Once cleaned up they looked very much like ginger.

The sun chokes were put away in the basement to await our Thanksgiving dinner.

As I said earlier, a tsunami of family came at the end of November.  Our usually empty house swelled to capacity with the addition of 8 more adults, 7 more children ages 6 months to nearly 9 years, and 3 more dogs, all around 11 years old.  This old house was made for big groups and it handled it quite well with Matthew and Sarah occupying the couch hide-a-bed in our sun room at night with Gigi, their dog, who would have had trouble with the stairs to the upper floors.  The rest of the crowd spread out on beds, couch hide-a-beds, inflatable beds and cribs on the upper two floors.

In anticipation of all  of the grandchildren, Max prepared the food that the grandchildren were mostly interested in, cookies.  Max made 5 varieties of cookies:  Chocolate Crinkles with powdered sugar, Pumpkin cinnamon , Chocolate chip, Toffee chip, and Ginger cookies with candied ginger chips that were then all put in jars in the dining room as well as our primary cookie jar in the kitchen.  The chocolate crinkles were the first to go followed by the chocolate chip.  The demand for cookies was pretty intense, so Max made a rule that each child could have one cookie every hour beginning at noon until an hour before dinner.  It's amazing how slowly a clock can take to go from one hour to the next and how many times the younger kids can ask if it's been an hour yet.

Weiler was the most interested, had just turned four years old the week before, and definitely suffered the most from the slow passing of minutes.  The crinkles were his favorite and the first to disappear.

Max also made some adult sweet snacks, mostly for me.  The pecan bars were wonderful.

But the occasion wasn't all eating.  Seven children need lots to do during the day and our toy/game closet was awaiting them.  Battleship was a big favorite.

And Uno games involving from two to four was almost always on going.

And there was lots of just getting together with family between cousins, uncles and aunts.  Uncle Matthew and Aunt Sarah got a warm welcome from a pile of kids who found tickling a great source of entertainment!

Marshall got his first opportunity to meet cousins.

Hayes with Marshall and Grandma Max

Aunt Amber and Mikayla

Uncle Clint with Elise

Poor Elise had a cold and her favorite place was in her Daddy's lap.
Marshall checking out the whole room

Marshall with Aunt Brandy and Mikayla

Elise with Reeder and Mikayla

Well, Hayes and Amelia obviously know their Mom, but this was such a good picture.

Mikayla's best buddy, Reeder

Sometimes, one lap just wasn't enough

Uncle Matthew decided Marshall needed to experience the world from a different vantage point.  Marshall kept smiling.
Aunt Brandy with Elise and Marshall (still smiling)
Hayes, always in the middle of everyone's attention, found new ways to amuse us with his Lady Gaga outfit.

The family room Battle Ship, crafts, Legos,books, and toys

Hayes holding court with the computer and the "young" ones
Marianne arrived with a wonderful surprise.  She got supplies and her crew made name places for our Thanksgiving dinner.

Amelia showing us all of their handy work.

For Max and Me

Uncle Matthew's preferred name now he has graduated.
And then Marianne organized the kid troop to set up the table for dinner.  We made it a real family setting using my Mom's good china and Max's mother's and my mom's silver.  My mom used the dishes and the silver only on the most important occasions, which were very few  as far as I can remember, and Max doesn't believe her mother's silver was ever used.  We even used my mother's cloth napkins.  Marianne told the kids to set it all up how ever they wished and they did a great job.

Finding all the correct silver for each place

It was a group effort

The finished project, done beautifully with flowers and candles.
And we did have a turkey.  It was a 30 pounder and seems to have passed the taste test by several of the attendees.

And we did roast the sun chokes along with other root vegetables.  They were rather good and tasted a bit like artichokes, which may explain their name.

Elise wasn't the only one picking at that spot where the skin had been cut a little.

And if Thanksgiving were not enough to celebrate, We also added in two birthdays boys who had just turned 4 and 37 respectively.

They blew out their respective candles on Max's chocolate cake- (well actually Grandma Lucas' Chocolate Cake) and then we all had the Thanksgiving dessert of our choice.  Max also made the traditional pumpkin pie, a cherry pie, a chocolate pudding pie (a specialty for Will) and of course, cookies were also available.

Weiler's birthday gift from us was a "Backyard Explorer outfit with a hat, jacket, binoculars, and an insect observation jar that had a magnifying glass lid.  I believe he wore this outfit the rest of the time he was here.

Clint accepted significant responsibility for eggs for breakfast, especially for his two youngest.

But there were still more achievements to be made.  Amelia was in the process of perfecting potty training.  To encourage her, she got 2 jelly beans for each time she peed in the potty and 3 jelly beans for each time she pooped.  That girl likes jelly beans and found that she could meter her peeing to about a table spoon per try and extend the process to get multiple jelly bean rations about every five minutes.  We all appreciated her effort and gave her ample rewards.  The best laugh was when she came out of the bathroom crying because her pants were wet.  She had done everything right, except she forgot to pull her pants down.  Mistakes do happen.

Elise was interested in what her cousin Amelia was doing and why she was getting all of those jelly beans.  I'm certain Brandy would have loved her to really understand.

Another favorite of the children was Max's Latte maker.  Amelia preferred a steamer, just milk heated up and frothy so she got a milkstash which she loved to display.

Max and I did have to get one picture with our 7 house guest grandchildren.  We got most of them smiling, but that is a challenge.

But Thanksgiving day was dinner with our 15 house guests.  Other local family members had Thanksgiving with local relatives and then joined us on Friday for another big dinner.  This time we had 27 for dinner that included our best long time friends Fouad and Mary Ezra.  Fouad came in spectacular fashion this year wearing a beard that looked as old as Moses, but bringing a holiday cheer.

Sarah, Anthony and Deseree came and had a rousing game  of Battle Ship during the after dinner conversation.

The five non-Toddlers had a great time eating at their own table

Matthew and Sarah and Sarah

the Broadbents and Dushmans

Michael can't believe Matthew is still trying to convince him that he is all knowing.
Marshall once again giving us his big grin.
And finally, if you are as tired of reading this as I am of writing it, you can appreciate Anthony with Mathew's faithful companion Gigi toward the end of the last evening this crowd was together.