Prepping for Holiday Visitors

Christmas 2019 is upon us. And this will not be a low-key Christmas for our family. This is the biennial Graul Family Christmas! This is my mom’s side of the family, and we converge on either California or Kansas for a few days of raucous fun – we eat, we drink, we toast those who aren’t with us, and we are merry! In my 46 years of life, I have never missed one of these celebrations. They are incredibly important to me. Gifts and food aside, I love seeing my aunts, uncles and cousins.

This year, everyone is coming to Kansas and I will be hosting E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E at our house on Christmas Eve. That’s 18 adults and 6 kids, ages 3-10. I. Can’t. Wait! It will be noisy. It will be crowded. Think Griswold Christmas, minus the burnt Christmas tree and a visit from the cops (fingers crossed!).

And while there is some controversy over skipping Thanksgiving and focusing on Christmas the minute the Halloween candy is gone, this year I started prepping early for Christmas Eve and our guests. Since I work full-time, I need to plan ahead so I have plenty of time to get organized. Not that my family is expecting a five-course meal, but I do like to have my ducks in a row so I can enjoy catching up with everyone, and not worry about running to the store for the forgotten marshmallows to top the sweet potatoes.

Now, while the entire clan will probably only convene at my house on one evening, I am part of the Kansas “host team,” along with my parents, my mom’s brother, and his wife. So not only am I prepping for the Christmas Eve extravaganza, I’m also prepping things to do when we aren’t opening presents or eating all the food. Here is how I’m getting ready for visitors this holiday season:

  • Have a list of possible things to do around Kansas City. We like to have ideas of things to do around KC, should weather permit, and we’re looking to get out of the house. Good thing KCMC has out its annual guide to all things holiday in Kansas City! Check it out for festive things to see and do while guests are in town.
  • Stock up on indoor activities. Our family loves to play games, so I like to have some new board games, long with old classics that we’ve been playing for years (euchre, anyone?). We also like to have games where people can drift in and out, instead of having to commit to five hours of Monopoly. We love team games, like Outburst, Catchphrase, 5 Second Rule or even Trivial Pursuit. My dad and uncle are notorious for playing a bit, leaving to chat with someone else, then drifting back in. Our family also loves puzzles! We always have a 1000-piece puzzle ready to go in the living room. Again … people can work on it however long they like.
  • Don’t forget about the kids! Disney+ has arrived in our lives just in time, but I do like to have other things for the kids to do besides just veg in front of the TV. I stock up on all sorts of art supplies, or even a craft all the kids can do together. My children are more into chapter books these days, but I still have many of their picture books, so I get them out for everyone to enjoy. I also like to get out all the photo albums. Not only do we adults enjoy this trip down memory lane, but the kids love seeing their parents in their younger years.
  • Stock the pantry and stock the bar. While there will be actual meals planned and served, I like to have plenty of snacks and drinks on hand, so again, we can just hunker down and enjoy time together. Sandwich fixings, meats, cheeses, crackers, nuts and pretzels are perfect for random snacking. Beer, wine, soda, coffee, juice … you name it, we buy it. And there is never a shortage of sweets, since usually everyone brings a tin of their homemade goodies (I’m talking to you, Auntie Rita…I hope you’re bringing buckeyes!). I remember my Aunt Julie used to always store the copious amounts of sweets on her piano in the living room for endless grazing. Genius!
  • Have a plan for the “big man.” Yes, I’m talking about Santa. When my kids were the only great-grandchildren, I briefed everyone ahead of time on where we were with Santa. See my earlier post about it here.  It is SO important that all adults know exactly what each little one believes about Santa – will he bring gifts to you if you aren’t at your house, does he leave them for you to open when you return, do we need to leave out cookies for him here, etc. It’s important that all adults understand the plan, so they can help keep the magic alive. This year, we will have six great-grandchildren under one roof for Christmas Eve. So, if you are a Graul, please refer to your Santa talking points that will be emailed out ASAP.
Graul Christmas circa 2005

For many years, we all just gathered at my grandparents’ tiny house in Illinois, filling every square inch of space with loud conversations and crazy laughter. The grandkids paged through yearly editions of the Guinness Book of World Records or the World Book encyclopedia. We learned how to play triopoly and euchre. We just hung out. And while I may feel there is a need for being prepared for any downtime, we’ve managed just fine for many years, simply being with each other. This list of ideas isn’t revolutionary. But if you’re in the throes of holiday craziness and are starting to sweat the thought of entertaining guests, hopefully this list will help. ‘Tis the season for togetherness.

Jen was born and raised in Overland Park. After going to Indiana University for college, then living in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, she grew exhausted of circling for a parking spot and headed back home to be near family. She and her husband Matt are parents to a 10 year-old boy and a 8 year-old girl. Jen teaches kindergarten and her husband teaches high school, so they wonder how they’ll relate to their kids during the middle school years. She spends her free time cheering on the Chiefs, Royals, and Hoosiers, hanging out with family, laughing with her teacher friends, and fostering a love/hate relationship with boxing. She also loves traveling, Target, coffee, wine, sunflowers and all things pop culture.