Growing up with a big family has been one of the craziest yet most incredible experiences of my life. My mom has 13 siblings, which has given me a ridiculous number of aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins. I have near 40 cousins just on her side, and there are about 70 of us at any given holiday. My family has taught me so much and I still have so much to learn from each and every member. As my family continues to grow, I will be able to make so many new memories in addition to all of the crazy memories I already have. Here are 11 reasons why I love having a big family.

1. There is always something to celebrate

Whether it is a wedding, a birth, a baptism, graduation, or even just a birthday, there is always something to celebrate in the Gieske family. And you bet every single one of us will show up for that celebration.

2. I have automatic best friends

I am lucky enough to have about nine cousins around my age and we have all been so close since day one. We have had countless sleepovers, spent the best days at amusement parks, fought with each other, and been the best friends there ever were. I am so grateful for the best cousins, best friends, and the best future bridesmaids I could ever ask for.

3. Holidays are CRAZY, but awesome

Holidays with my family and any big family are INSANE. The house is always packed with too many people to count and enough food to feed an army. Christmas is so big, my cousins and I have started a gift exchange to ensure we don't completely drain our bank accounts on presents. We have a stocking for every person in the family, and pretty soon we might have to build a longer shelf!

4. So. Many. Babies.

When someone asks how old my youngest cousin is, I don't even know how to answer. There are so many babies in my family and at least one of my aunts or cousins is pregnant. At any holiday, you are guaranteed to be handed a baby at some point. It can get hectic, but I'll always have the babysitting experience that rivals a pro-nanny.

5. Free clothes

Growing up, I had tons of hand-me-downs from my older relatives. I accepted anything from t-shirts from my older male cousins to my aunt's entire college wardrobe from the '90s. As a toddler, most of my clothes were just a little too big (like the pink jacket above). Needless to say, I had some pretty creative outfits.

6. Cousins are like siblings, second cousins are like cousins

Look at this picture. This has my siblings, my cousins, and my second cousins in it. Even I can barely tell who is who anymore. All I know is that we're all related.

7. "Are you related to [insert any possible relative]?"

Yes, yes I am. I have had just about every teacher in my high school, middle school, and both of my elementary schools ask if I was related to countless relatives. I have never met someone with my last name that I was not related to, so I can say yes before the question is even finished.

8. Family vacations are truly an experience

This picture doesn't even do justice to the number of people on our family vacations. Imagine 30 people strolling up to the same mini-golf and go-cart establishment that every good beach has. It is absolute madness - fun madness.

9. Bringing your S.O. home for the holidays is terrifying...for them

There are too many names to memorize, too many babies being put in your arms, and too many uncles trying to intimidate you. My aunt once told us a story of how she wanted to dump her boyfriend but didn't know how so she brought him home and he broke up with her the next day. It can be a scary experience, but if they can handle the Gieske family, they're a keeper.

10.  They made me super competitive

Growing up with tons of cousins and siblings can definitely foster some healthy competition. I remember countless games of capture the flag, kick the can, tag, and every board game you can imagine turning into full-on wars for victory. Even standing on a paddleboard became a game of trying to push each other off. Although we are all overly competitive now, we gained a strong sense of determination and motivation for everything we do.

11.  They are my biggest support system

My family may be overwhelming at times, but I know they will always be there to (literally) pick me up when I'm down, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.