trukid-jennifer-big-family I married into a family of 13 kids. A solid, hard working farm family that smiles more than not, and is generous beyond belief.  My family of 8 traveled back to Iowa last week to celebrate a wedding. We LOVE weddings, mostly because of the wedding dance. My kids love to dance, but they also love to hang out with their cousins, aunts and uncles. To give you the big picture, we start with 13 siblings, who made 45 first cousins (grandchildren) and then 20 second cousins (great-grandkids); makes for a big, loud and fun party. What I always immediately notice when I am in Iowa, is the generosity, and friendliness of everyone. What is it about the Midwest that makes people so happy?  We stayed at Aunt Marilyn’s house (she was able to house 20 of us.) What? Who can do that?  She not only made food, had fresh coffee every morning and a hearty breakfast for us, but she also had snacks through-out the day to make sure we were always fed.  WOW! She made it all seem effortless, (at least from my perspective.) I could not have pulled that off, even if I tried.  She never seemed overtaxed or frustrated, that so many were underfoot, and she was always so happy. Tip #1: Make it look effortless – ok  . . .noted. We wanted to purchase some gift cards, so we went to the local church Rectory, as they receive a percentage back from the card issuer. We might as well do some good while we are buying gift cards anyway. We entered the rectory and even though I am with my sister-in-law Marcia, and she grew up in the town, the receptionist was probably the friendliest person I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  She greeted me like she had always known me and I felt so welcomed.  I bought the cards I needed and we left. We were in the car and we saw her running after us.  We bought the wrong amounts and she figured it out and wanted to make sure we got what we wanted. She was so dedicated to making sure I was taken care of. Tip #2:  Be warm and welcoming to strangers.  Friendliness never hurts.   Will work on it! The day of the wedding arrived and 3 of my kids were participating in the wedding, so we had to go earlier than the others. Since we were going early my sister in law Julia (mother-of-the-bride), asked my husband to bring their mother (grandmother) to the church for pictures.  We grab the kids and get there on time. I am sitting in the church watching the wedding photos being taken, etc., when I realize we forgot Grandma. Crap! I cannot find my husband because he moved the car and then chose to stay in the car and read and  . . .of course did not have his phone on. Really . . . no phone on?  Who does that?  Kenny, one of his brothers, figured it out and brought Esther (grandma) to the church. She had already missed the photos at this point. We are awesome relatives!!  Let’s just forget one of the most important family members.!!!  Julia never flinched and of course, she knew her mother was not there for photos. UG!  They did manage at some point to take a photo with the bride and her grandmother.  Julia just kept smiling and you would never know anything went amiss, she just never showed frustration.  God Bless her! Tip #3:  Keep calm and carry on!  (and keep your phone on!!!) At the end of our trip my daughter #2, Haley who is 16 and raises pigs with her siblings for 4-H, wanted to go in one of the hog confinements and look at the range of hogs and how they are raised, etc.  We arrive at Steve (another brother) and Judy’s house. We walked in as she was just taking out of the oven her special Orange Slice cookies! What?  How awesome is that?!!!  Judy knew that Haley really wanted to have some and made a special effort to have them warm out of the oven.  So tasty!!!  And so generous.  Thank you, Judy! Tip #4: Be spontaneously generous! . . . and when your 13 year old son comes up to you at the wedding dance and says,”You know, tequila does not taste so great,” try not to flinch! and pretend he did not just stay that!!!! And  . . . find his father to keep an eye on him!  HA! Tip # 5: It’s gonna be all right!   Warmest regards Jennifer