Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Traditions and Handy Mandy

We spent this past weekend with my family for our annual Christmas get together. On Saturday evening, we opened presents at my parents' house. It was a lot of fun, and the biggest surprise of all was for my parents. My siblings and I gave them handmade gift certificates that they can turn back into us to receive tickets to a Chicago Cubs game as well as a hotel for a weekend stay in Chicago. We decided not to book anything yet, so my dad can pick out the game he wants to see and the weekend they want to go. We put the gift certificates in a basket along with a Chicago Cubs T-shirt for my mom (B and I gave the exact same shirt to my dad, so they'll match), a couple of gift cards they can use on Cubs merchandise, a restaurant gift card, a gift card to a movie theater, and an American Express gift card they can use for spending money while in Chicago next year. It was a wonderful surprise for them both, and I can't wait to help them book their weekend and the game in the coming months. Sunday evening was my dad's family's big Christmas dinner. Everyone brings in food for the pitch-in, and we bring presents for the kids to open. We used to do a gift exchange among all the adults and kids in the family, but my dad had ten brothers and sisters growing up, eight of whom are still living, and all of whom are married with their own kids, so you can imagine how big the pitch-in gets every year. I think I have over thirty first cousins on that side of the family alone! One of my more technologically minded cousins put together a big surprise for everyone. As we were finishing up the meal, he turned on an overhead projector and played a slide show of old pictures from the family with music to accompany them. It was very emotional, especially for my aunts and uncles. Many of the pictures were of my grandparents, both of whom passed away several years ago. There were also lots of old, funny pictures of my dad and his siblings as well as all of the kids from my generation and younger. I had to turn my head when my senior picture came on screen, poodle haircut and all! It was moving and funny and just a thoughtful way to celebrate our family. Presents were passed out to the kids and some of the adults after that, and then it was time for the main event: The Christmas Pinata. Don't ask me how this tradition got started. There's been a pinata at my family's Christmas dinner as far back as I can remember. We don't have any Hispanic heritage (as far as I know), but someone must have thought at some point that it might be fun to have the kids try their hands at smacking a pinata open for candy and quarters every year. When I was growing up and even until last year, one of the uncles or older male cousins would hold the pinata at the end of a broom handle and pray to God the kids hitting it wouldn't smack him in very sensitive places by mistake. This year, there was a new twist. One of my male cousins-in-law got the great idea of making a pinata holder. He called it his "Pinata Holder 3000" or something (after Widget on "Wow, Wow! Wubbzy"; he has a toddler, too!). It looked like a giant PVC candy cane stuck to a piece of plywood and held down by a couple of bags of sand. There was a metal hook attached to it, so the pinata could hang freely as the kids smacked away. We always have them line up from youngest to oldest, so the first few little ones get lots of help from parents or aunts and uncles. V did pretty well hitting it on his own a few times, but one of my nephews managed to bring it down all on his own. Then, there was much scrambling for candy. There was a second pinata after that, so the older kids could get a chance at it. It really didn't take long for it to come down, either. It was a lot of fun watching the kids grab for the candy and quarters, and I was really glad to see V right there in the mix. We came home from the entire weekend with lots of presents and LOTS of candy. A wonderful time was had by all! Here are a few pictures of the pinata experience for you to enjoy:

This morning, V saw the big box containing the new tricycle his grandparents gave him for Christmas. I was going to wait until my husband could put it together, but V really wanted to ride it. So, I grabbed a hammer and screwdriver, pulled out all of the pieces and set to work. In about fifteen or twenty minutes time, my son had a new trike to ride, and I was pleased that I was able to put it together all by myself! It wasn't difficult, but at least I know that in a pinch, I can be Santa's elf and assemble the toys for him. ;)

Best to you all!

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