The Nation of Flo

I always make a point of sitting next to Flo so we can help each other in the holiday hubbub. She can't hear well, I can't see--we make a great team.

I always make a point of sitting next to Flo so we can help each other in the holiday hubbub. She can’t hear well, I can’t see–we make a great team.

All six of my brothers and sisters are grandparents. My oldest sister, Bobbie, has three great-grandchildren. As my husband Mike likes to say, “It’s not a family, it’s a nation!” Buying Christmas presents for the entire Nation of Flo is out of the question. So we pick names, and you have to make a gift for the person you choose.

New babies press handprints into clay wall hangings, cousins stuff homemade pillows for gifts, pinecones collected in backyards magically transform into Christmas ornaments -and back-scratchers! Every gift is a treasure, and this year’s were so thoughtful I thought I’d share some highlights:

  • My sister Bev and her husband Lon live right next to a forest preserve in Michigan . Lon made a shepherd’s crook from a long stick he found in the woods and gave it to our nephew Mark, who is a Hobbit fan
  • Five-year-old Bryce spends a lot of time in that forest preserve too. He made colorful rubbings of leaves he’d found in the woods and framed the rubbings for Schminke (his name for his Great-grandma, Flo
  • Our Minnesota niece Caren picked Mike’s name. She’s treating him to two tickets to a White Sox game at Target Field this year, and she made him something he’d need for the game: a long, woolen black-and-white scarf to keep him warm.
  • My Florida brother-in-law Rick made a poster for our 9-year-old great-niece Audrey, who absolutely loves going to the Art Institute when visiting Chicago. He had a poster made with super heroes depicted the way Gauguin, Picasso and Van Gogh might have painted them. Audrey was on the poster, too: She was Wonder Woman

 

The kids seemed especially tickled with the gifts they made for each other this year. One of my favorites was the one 11-year-old Lydia made for her 4-year-old cousin Jack. She started with a “Guess Who?” game
— one where kids examine animals on cards and figure out the differences and similarities between them — and replaced the animal pictures with photos of family members. Jack happened to be right behind me when he opened his gift, and Lydia ran right over to explain what it was. “That’s Addie, she’s one, she lives in Florida,” I heard her carefully explaining to her little cousin. “I don’t think you met her yet, but that’s her, in the picture.”

With three more great-grandchildren on the way in 2014, the Nation of Flo is growing. So the “Guess Who” game will only get more difficult.

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18 Responses to “The Nation of Flo”


  1. 1 Pudge December 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Would love to know what the total count is. Love to your mom.

    • 2 bethfinke December 29, 2013 at 12:33 am

      Well, let’s see. Seven children, 16 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. Three great-grandchildren on the way in 2014, so if my math is right (questionable) it’ll be 51 descendants come July, 2014. Yikes!

  2. 3 Audrey Mitchell December 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Love the idea of making gifts. Can you imagine in 20 plus years at a gathering when the now kids are adults, someone bringing out a gift they made way back when. Outstanding!

    • 4 bethfinke December 29, 2013 at 12:35 am

      Oh, Audrey, that’s been done. I won’t name the family members, but more than one person has tried to “regift” a homemade present and claim they made it them selves — we are a shrewd bunch! (

  3. 5 Hava December 28, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Who got your name and what did you get?

    • 6 bethfinke December 29, 2013 at 12:40 am

      Hmmm. Not sure how far we were into the evening when Mike took the photo he chose for this blog post, but maybe, if you enlarge it, you’ll see a series of bee-you-tee-full rings on my ears? My great-niece Floey got my name this year, and she made me wine charms. Those are things you attach to your wine glass at a party to remember which one is yours? When I felt them, I thought they were earrings, and so, I attached them to the earrings I was already wearing — a pair that another niece, Jen, had made me years ago!

  4. 7 judy ciambotti December 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for being you. Loved this blog being kept up to date on Flo’s nation. Happy Holidays to you and Mike. See you in tht new year. Lots of love, miss you both.

  5. 9 Janet December 29, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Another successful homemade Christmas! Thanks for starting this way back when!!

    • 10 bethfinke December 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Thank *you*, Janet, for participating with such enthusiasm all these years. I can’t take full credit for starting this – your *mom* actually did this one year with her friends when I was a little kid. I watched them all open their homemade presents that Christmas, and years later, while a (relatively) poor college student, I thought hey, this homemade thing might work for our ever-expanding family, too. I sent flyers to everyone via U.S. Mail (no computers or email back then) and everyone agreed to give it a try. And here we are, 30+ years later. I love the tradition, glad you do, too. PS: I have been sporting my earrings, I mean, wine charms, this week, too, and am looking forward to having Gus try on his skull cap from Justin the next time we’re in Wisconsin…

  6. 11 Nancy B December 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    So cool….and no one got trampled to death on Black Friday for these gifts! love hearing about your holiday. Greetings to Flo!

  7. 13 Laura Gale December 30, 2013 at 8:28 am

    So nice to hear about your family. You all hold a special place in my heart, and I hope everybody has a wonderful 2014.

  8. 15 Maria December 30, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    I loved reading about your family’s homemade gifts from the heart. I am not surprised you come from such a lovely family, Beth…or should I say nation.

  9. 17 glivingstonGretchen December 31, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I look forward to hearing about the gifts given every year when I read this post. What a lovely family! All the best to you and Mike in the new year!

    • 18 bethfinke January 1, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      You know, I hadn’t intended on posting anything about the homemade gifts this year, I’ve written about homemade Christmas before and thought my readers might be bored with it all. But you and some others actually (*requested* a 2013 update, and I thank you for that: the post was fun to write. Happy new year!


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