LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Some people celebrate Christmas in December, others in July. The Manzke family finished February with a Christmas outing.

Instead of buying everyone gifts that would clutter up houses, Rachel and Dave came up with the idea of a weekend getaway. Everyone else thought it such a great plan that they all set aside the time and then counted days until our second Christmas.

With so many children in the family, it was decided to go to the Kalahari in the Dells. The water park suited families with toddlers to teenagers. Bob and I were place holders. While the others played, we watched all the activity around us and kept an eye on family gear — too bad three family members weren't with us. Flu and other medical issues kept them home; they were definitely missed.

The water park may have been the highlight for the young people, but our time together in the condo was my favorite part. There were only Manzke family members there to bump into or trip over.

Our whittled down group had 16 members and enough food to feed twice that and more.

The game room pool table attracted all. I even tried my hand at it — and I was terrible. When the 7-and-under group took their turns, everyone had to be wary of cue sticks poking every which way. The children tried hard but couldn't master the game until this grandma took the weapons — cue sticks — away and let them roll the balls on the table. Success! And no one was wounded.

The children's game Chutes and Ladders went on another table. I joined this less rambunctious group. The children playing found this game great fun, especially when their pawn was climbing up a ladder. Their attitude changed quickly when a chute had them sliding backward, but they loved it when that happened to Grandma.

I brought out the game Left, Right, Center. All ages gathered at the table. There wasn't a limit for players. Each started with three pennies. Dice were rolled, and our pennies went left or right or into the center pot. The last person with any cents left won.

I was sitting between two grandchildren. The 7-year-old didn't need my help much, but the 2-year-old did. Little Wyatt was more interested in holding on to his pennies than he was in the game, and when he rolled the dice, well, look out, because he sent those little cubes flying. The crazy thing was that he almost won.

Eventually the young ones went off to bed around 7:30. There was no fussing because they were tired from their fun day. Bob and I were tired, too, but we managed to stay up past 10, way past our bedtime.

Russ taught us how to play Blackjack, but I didn't do so well. My brain felt like mush, and counting to 21 was a most difficult feat at this point in the evening.

Soon another tactical card game came out. I actually was beginning to understand it, after three hands. Lucky for me my partner was the owner of the game, so we did pretty well.

A good night's sleep followed. Before I knew, it morning arrived with the pitter patter of little feet. The children were well rested and ready for more waterpark fun. Lucky for us, we had a few more hours together before the park opened.

Often, Bob and I just watched our grandchildren playing or held a toddler while Daddy cooked breakfast.

Teenagers, Ethan and Seth, were so great with their short cousins they made us proud.

A family gathering is the best kind of gift, even if you give it to yourself. I highly recommend it. Merry Christmas!

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;Sunnybook@aol.com;www.SusanManzke.net

Read or Share this story: http://www.wisfarmer.com/story/opinion/columnists/2016/03/01/together-again-well-mostly/87309382/