Come meet Ellen's side of the family, they're quite the bunch!
Ellen's parents or soon to be Papa & Gigi, are high school sweethearts. They've been married for 57 years and worked along side one another on the farm since day one. They're still active on the farm today but cherish the days they spend with grandkids and great grandkids. Papa & Gigi live about 30 minutes away, but we're with them on a daily basis as we farm with them and Uncle John.
Meet Ellen's oldest sibling Deb. Aunt Deb & Uncle Phil are also high school sweethearts and have been married for 38 years. They farm near Ellen's parents and together they had Katie, Brad & Anna. They each have married and started families of their own, which brings us four great nieces. All of their family lives within 10-30 minutes of us as well. So we see one another quite frequently. In fact, Uncle Phil & Justin like to talk cattle and go shopping for cattle together quite often.
Meet Ellen's oldest brother Mike. Uncle Mike & Aunt Rena have been married four years. Mike run's a logistics company and Rena is a Nurse in charge of a unit at the hospital where she works. They live in the suburbs of Chicago and Uncle Mike has one daughter, Theresa. She's currently finishing up her bachelors degree in sunny Arizona.
Meet Ellen's youngest brother John. Uncle John & Aunt Susan were high school sweethearts and have been married for 30 years. Aunt Susan is an elementary school teacher and Uncle John farms. Together they had 3 children, Mallory, Olivia & Lane. Mallory is getting married this year to Kirk. All of their family lives close, except for Lane who in enlisted in the Marines. We all enjoy the holidays and moments when he can get home.
Christmas Scavenger Hunt: Instead of exchanging gifts with one another, we enjoy a good old family competition. For years, we have been doing a Christmas Scavenger Hunt that will track across 3 counties. (Which is really about a 45 mile wide range.) We will have 3 hours, and are broken out into groups of 4 people, 1 vehicle, 1 cell phone and a rather long list of clues to try and find. We have to provide proof with a photo or video, in order to achieve points. The winners receive a cheesy type of gift and ultimate bragging rights. This has been something we all look forward to every year and it's become a bit popular in our community. We have friends throughout town that will call and ask to be a stop on our list. This Christmas, we did change things up a bit. Instead of a scavenger hunt, we played a couple minute to win it games and the newly wed game in honor of Mallory & Kirks upcoming wedding. At the end of the day, the youngest couple that is only dating (Lane & Lizzy) were the winners. Papa & Gigi took dead last in the newlywed game, which gave us all something to laugh about.
Family Calendars: Each year, everyone is to send in photo's for the family calendar. Ellen will compile them all together to fill up each month's page. There is also everyone's birthdays and anniversary's listed, so we never forget one another's special day.
Sweet Corn: We have a special 6 row planter, that is primarily just used for planting sweet corn. Each Spring, John & Justin will plant the sweet corn crop, but they will do it in stages to spread out the harvest for a couple weeks worth during the summer months. During mid August, our family will gather to harvest a bunch of sweet corn and then prepare it for freezing. Typically, the boys will go out and harvest about a truck bed worth or more of sweet corn and then bring it back to the garage. There we will take off all the husks and lay out the ears on trays. In the house, the ladies are all cutting the corn off the cob and then mixing it with a few items before it gets placed into quart size freezer bags. We used to cook all the corn before we cut it off the cob, but one year during the Derecho we lost power and had to improvise. Turns out the improvising made for a sweeter tasting corn in the winter time, so we've stuck with it!
Celebrations: We always enjoy a reason for celebrating, no matter the time, reason or season. An excuse for us all to get together is enough for us. We do gather to celebrate birthdays and of course the holidays. Papa & Gigi's house is also the gathering place, where friends, neighbors and family from afar will always go for a home cooked meal and of course pie. (Did I mention that Gigi is our local Pie Queen? She even has an apron and plaque to go with her title!)
Cinnamon rolls: Every year on Christmas Eve, our family attends our Church service. Before we head home for the night, Gigi gives us each a tray of her homemade cinnamon rolls for us to enjoy on Christmas morning. Gigi has been doing this tradition since before I was born and it's something that everyone in our family looks forward to each year. You know her cinnamon rolls are extra special, when she only makes them a couple times a year.