Sunday, December 8, 2013

family gathering

Oops!  I accidently posted this before I even wrote a thing.  For some of you, that may have been a very happy mistake!  Too bad - I'm writing now!
Friday was our annual Neustaedter family gathering.  We haven't been able to part of this lovely event for a whole lot of years.  Now for some of you, you may be thinking that we were rather fortunate!  But with my family, you'd be wrong.  They are seriously wonderful people.  And fun.  And caring.... and all that other good stuff too.  I am so very blessed to be a part of this family.  The only thing bad about it was that so few people were there.  Back in the day when we used to be able to go, there were many more people around.  Now, however, too many people live far away.  Sniff sniff.  I think, by following our very good example, they should move back.
I'm sure this is the case for most family gatherings - there is always way too much food.  As per tradition, after our full ham dinner and dessert (including but not limited to the very popular, traditional cream of wheat pudding with strawberries and whipped cream made by Auntie Phyllis), a smorgasbord of candies and chocolates are put out.  The usual suspects: jelly slices, turtles, and ammonia cookies (yes, made with real ammonia and they are fantastic.... the white cookies with light pink icing.  Another Auntie Phyl specialty.  I hadn't had one in YEARS and it was sooooo good!).  I will say that grandma's fudge/chocolate, toasted coconut homemade marshmallows, raspberry drops and chocolate rosettes were noticeably missing.  Those all have a very distinct association with my Grandma,  I think for the next gathering I'm going to need to make them.  I hope I remember!
Mom, being a celiac type person had to make her own version of lemon meringue pie.  One very large one for everyone else, one little baby one for her.

Between dessert and treats we have a program and Christmas present games.  My uncle who was in charge of the gathering this year asked Eric to share the devotional.  It wasn't very Christmasy, but it was very good (Uncle Waldo asked him to share something that related to Christmas in Costa Rica or Ecuador).  He started talking about how people put "drops" into each others' buckets (encouragements) and how that makes them able to then put drops into others' buckets as well (the idea is taken from Cade and Lucy's school where they are encouraged to be bucket fillers and not dippers).  He used me as an example - how people poured into me and then eventually I could, especially after meeting him!, could pour into others.  That took us to Ecuador and he shared a specific situation about one of the Casa G boys, Miguel, and how he was able to put drops into the bucket of some stranger in the jungle and share the love of Christ.  It really was a beautifully told story and a great encouragement.  I was pretty darn proud of my man!
There was singing, complete with song sheets, thanks to Uncle Al.  I believe he is usually the song sheet guy, and cousin MJ in the pianist (and a pretty amazing one at that).
Then the performances!  Ah, the performances.  I remember them so very well.  My sister Jann, our cousin Mark and I singing Heirlooms by Amy Grant....  Or, of course, singing or saying whatever little bit we had to do at our school Christmas program.  Even if we only said "'S' is for the shining star that pointed the way to Jesus" or something of that nature, we still performed and were applauded.  Good times.  The boys, Jesse, Cade and Cole (known as the noodle-heads)* would have nothing to do with nonsense, but the girls (younger ones, of course - heavens!... no teenagers!) were enthusiastically involved.  Lucy already talked about her performance with Riley (Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber)*.  Shandy (also a noodle head) did a solo and Brooklyn, Timaya and Mia (I'm completely blanking on their names right now)* did a very whacky trio with Timaya using her creepy voice.
*all naming credit goes to my darling sister Kim.
(side note:  Is this weird trend in your area?  Kids wearing mis-matched socks?  It is all the rage here....)

The it was gift time.  The kids brought $5 gifts and play the unwrapping, steal-it-if-you-want-it game.

Timaya had #1 so she could steal any gift she wanted.  She stole Cade's tin of pirouette cookies.  Cade got stuck with the sidewalk chalk that we brought.  Here he was trying to love her enough for her to give the cookies back to him.  She didn't.  It all turned out okay though as Cade decide the chalk was great, as long as he had a chalk board to go with it.  Guess what I made this past weekend?  Yup, a chalkboard for Cade's room.
Then it was the adults turn - some game with upped antes - $10 gifts (we live wildly).  Eric stole a Sharper Image yo-yo from my cousin and I got a polar bear cookie jar (which the kids LOVE!) filled with my mom's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (the kids can have the jar - just stay away from my cookies!!).
After all of that eating, laughing and talking, it was shortly time for good-bye.  Since a great deal of my relatives spend time in the south over winter, it was goodbye for a while.
I'm not sure if they still do an annual Easter gathering, but I sure hope so!!

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