Sparksals, we actually haven't spent one holiday with my side of the family since DH and I engaged and DH never has. And my parents live on the other coast and they know we aren't comfortable traveling at holiday times. Even in getting in a phone call to my parents can be tough with the holiday schedules that we are expected to follow lol.
My family is different in that the holidays aren't that big of a deal, come if you can make it, call if you can't -- but have a good day no matter what you do. They aren't upset about not seeing us at holidays however they do notice the kids attitudes towards gifts lately.
To be honest, the more this goes on the more it feels like a competition.
Maybe it's time your family "won" that competition.
If only because it gives you an unassailable tool to counter this.
Also, regarding this:
O Not so cool with us and now the kids are starting to show signs of 'gimme me, gimme me' tendencies. Last year DD tore through gifts and some of them got a passing glance, no thank you, no nothing. Dh's family thinks its funny, my family is appalled.
If your MIL complains -- remember the bolded. You have a responsibility to your kids to do what's best for them, and that outweighs any of her guilt trips. Stay strong! Only you can prevent the gimmes! (And forest fires -- for those who remember Smokey the Bear...)
It is still your responsibility to make your children behave properly. You are there, you are stuck, what else do you have to do, except coach her on how to behave, and insist she do it.
I don't have it *quite* as bad as you, but I have some of the same problems w/ how Xmas goes at my in-laws. And so I don't open my presents right away, and I supervise my children's gift-opening behavior quite closely.
And I have started talking w/ my children about the meaning of gifts, and how to act, and why gifts are important.
I feel confident, from their spontaneous conversations and comments, that they've gotten *my* take on how gifts ought to work. You *can* insist that your child follow your standards for gracious behavior.
(It's also OK if your kid is a little less grateful than you might like, when the gifts are so plentiful. It's actually appropriate to the scale. It took me a LONG time to be OK with that. As long as they're not UNgrateful, it's OK if my kids are mildly pleased and express their thanks a tad perfunctorily. And as long as I see them truly appreciate the truly generous or truly thoughtful presents.)