The visit with my husband's family for Christmas was okay. And I'm not even kidding!!! There were lots of toys, good food and conversation, cousins who never see each other getting to bond and play all day, getting to know our little nephew who is now 1 and exploring and celebrating together. All in all, in spite of the fact that Katri would not nap at all while company was here and was up a lot at night, I have to say it was the best visit I've ever had with my in-laws. I planned extremely simple meals and took short-cuts wherever I could (store-bought rolls, muffins, pies, veggie trays, shredded cheese, etc.) and my sis-in-law and mother-in-law helped out as much as they could. My mother-in-law almost always does dishes 5 times a day when she visits and she cleaned up after every meal this time so that was a blessing, as were the stacks of paper plates we went through!
After the typical visit with Josiah's family, I end up feeling extremely angry with my kids and like a failure of a parent. Part of it is the fact that the kiddoes get really excited with having or being company and the long drive to MN probably plays into it, but they have usually been on their worst possible behavior around Josiah's folks. Which stinks a lot because his folks were super strict with their kids and don't recall their kids ever acting that way. I think my kids sense my nervousness and act up even more around them.
But other than Ali thinking she was crowned the queen of all the cousins and ordering them around left and right (anyone have tips on making a kid less bossy?) they were pretty great and Jer has stopped whining so much (something I've noticed in the last few months and have been delighted about and was also pointed out by my father-in-law). They got to show more of their true colors this time. And it turns out our nephew who we thought was perfect and who has never misbehaved one iota in our presence does have a sin nature and throw tantrums and fits, and fights with his brother just like our kids! What a breath of fresh air it was to see that! I love him all the more now! And he has a really strong-willed little brother who is just like Ali at that age--delightfully cute and extremely smart but with a mind of his own! So the playing field has been considerably leveled for us at family functions. (Even as a baby our nephew barely cried.)
I actually came away from this visit thinking it would be fun to get together again with Josiah's family and also having an incredible appreciation for my kids. My kids are wonderful! My kids are flexible! My kids are servant-hearted! They were so anxious to see their cousins they were willing to do anything to be accommodating. They told everyone we saw in town, strangers or not, about their cousins coming and they talked about how they would share all their toys. Ali gave up her room and drew pictures for all of the guests to put on their pillows. Jer was eager to show his cousin who is his age all of his favorite things and he likes him so much that even when cousin was biting him, playfully but still painfully, he said, with a smile, "That's okay, he can do that!" (We'll work on boundaries later! I'm just so excited to see how open-hearted my kids are!) My kids sleep anywhere, whether in a car or hotel room or different room of our house, travel well, and don't have to live and die by the schedule. They have a routine but it can be flexed at any time for Christmas dinner or a special playdate, or having company, etc. We've lived so many places and had so many varied experiences in their young lives, including them each having 3 siblings, that they are really easy-going kids. And I love that about them!
I can't help but think that the worst is behind us. Every visit will get easier as kids get older and better at self-control and all the cousins are beyond napping stage. I will never have to host another visit while pregnant or in the newborn phase. I did the best I could and I know if I can survive that, I can survive anything!