There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

As I sit next to my parents' fireplace in Minnesota far away from the blizzard that hit the east coast, I can't help but think there really is no place like home for the holidays. The past four days have been filled with family traditions, good food, and enough Christmas cookies for a small army. Sadly, the small army has been replaced by a two-person army, me and my mom.
Once I arrived home early Christmas Eve morning, I locked myself in my little brothers' room to finish my mom's Christmas gift. After taking classes in New York and practicing on sample swatches, I set out to knit my first scarf as a surprise for my mom. I panicked each time the bedroom door opened, and made up lies when I went upstairs for lunch or a break. After about five hours of knitting, my pinkie finger was cramped and the scarf was finished. But it was all worth it. After my mom opened her gift, both her and my grandma were impressed and surprised that I had learned how to knit and managed to cast on and bind off all by myself. It felt really nice to be able to give my mom something that she could not buy in a store and that I worked really hard on. I am getting ahead of myself though, because in between my knitting and present opening, my family all came to my parents house and we ate.
Christmas Eve is one of my favorite meals of the year. My family cooks all of those appetizers that you really shouldn't eat, but that are so damn good. Dates wrapped in bacon, meatballs, artichoke dip, pigs in blankets, taco dip, and fruit dip quickly disappeared from my plate as I talked to my grandparents, siblings, and extended family. After going for seconds and piling dessert plates high with cookies, bars, and brownies, we continued to eat and sip coffee as the first round of presents was delivered. I laughed out loud as Chuck served me my cup of coffee in the "I'm smarter than Chuck Anderson" mug. So not true, but so funny. 
Nothing like being twins with your Grandpa. I love him!
I played Santa for the evening delivering presents around the living room as paper was tossed aside and new gifts were passed, tried on, and shared. I can't wait to use my new seltzer maker once I return to New York and read my Scott Kelby photography books. My most meaningful gift was an ornament from my grandma and grandpa. It is a simple pink, green, and silver ball with swirls of white glitter on it. But, it is from a box of ornaments my grandparents purchased for their first Christmas tree together 53 years ago. I know it will be my most special ornament that I hang on my own tree from now on, and am looking forward to unpacking it next year. It was fun to talk about my brothers' upcoming trips to China and Hawaii as they opened their hiking shoes, watches, and travel supplies. After all the gifts had been opened and the final desserts had been eaten, my family headed home and I crashed after running on empty all day long. 

I awoke Christmas morning still full from the hours of eating the day before. I stumbled out of the office the guest room in search of coffee, and found seven stockings stuffed and lined up in front of the fireplace on my way there. I unpacked new boot socks, nail polish, the DVD Quick Change, mints, chapstick, and the infamous chocolate coins that Santa has left for me since I was a little girl. He really knows what he is doing... 

Later that afternoon, we piled into the Pilot and drove over to my grandma and grandpa's house for Christmas dinner. My family and I look forward to this meal year round. The smell of cheesy potatoes and ham filled the air as we stepped into the entry way and took off our coats, hats, and boots. My grandma put the finishing touches on our meal as we chatted in the living room. I sat next to Emerita, the most hip 91-year old I have ever seen. We discussed her vintage Coach purse and Ferragamo flats, after I admired and commented on them, and then talked about my life in New York until my grandma rang her imaginary dinner bell. 
After the plates had been cleared and the coffee had been served, we snacked on apricot filled cookies, breads, and bars as my brothers watched a movie downstairs. 
After a few cookies and sips of decaf, I fell sound asleep sitting up in a room of adults loudly carrying on conversations. Apparently, getting two hours of sleep before flying to Minnesota on Christmas Eve really got to me by the end of Christmas night. They woke me up in time to hang out for a few more minutes before people packed up leftovers and headed home. I am so grateful for my family and their holiday traditions. The food, the presents, and the stockings are wonderful, but being with family is better than all of that. 
My family time continued once we got back to my parents' house. My step-sister and her fiance and my step-brother and his wife came over for our yearly Secret Santa exchange. After we watched them open their presents, we got down to business and eagerly awaited our turn to give our mystery gift. This year I bought for Lucas, and like the rest of our family, gave him a gift (travel alarm clock) for his trip to China. Connor drew my name and surprised me with an array of gifts that I loved from Anthropologie. My mom also helped him by picking out a couple more ornaments for my tree. It was Jamie's first year being a part of our exchange, and she did not disappoint with a Trojan t-shirt for my little brother Cody. Nice work Jamie, welcome to our family! 
After our gifts had been opened and pictures had been taken, my sister Katie said that she had one more gift to hand out as she passed me a little wrapped present. I looked around the room as she shared glances with Chad and Jamie, and I nervously opened up my gift. I was brought to tears as I read her note asking me to be a bridesmaid in her upcoming wedding. I was taken completely by surprise, and could not feel more honored to be a part of her and Corey's special day! It was a perfect way to end my Christmas. 
We laughed as we teamed up and played several rounds of Taboo before calling it a night.

I always feel fortunate to have such a big, blended family, especially around the holidays when we all come home to spend time together. I can only imagine how much fun it will be as we continue to grow older, expand our family, and celebrate many more Christmases together. 

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