Life has taken me for a bit of a joy ride these past few weeks. I have been so busy with work, then with family, that I haven't really had the time to keep up here. For a quick run down... Our little shop was busy with repair work and sales of used cell phones for Christmas gifts. Joe and I were really running!
I did finally get into the Christmas spirit, mostly out of necessity. I had to get my house in order because I was having family coming in to visit. The tree went up (I opted for the fake one because I didn't think Krystle would remember to water it when I was gone for work), some holiday decor was scattered throughout the house, and I did some holiday baking.
Then, it REALLY got hectic! My brother, his wife, and their two kids (14 and 9) drove up from Denver; arriving on Monday evening. The roads and weather were bad so they pulled into mom's house about 7:30pm, while I arrived home to Helena from Great Falls at about 8:30pm. I went over to mom's and she had some chicken soup on, and homemade muffins, too. I visited everyone until about midnight, then walked back home. I had not seen my brother or his family for over 5 years so we had a bit of catching up to do. After driving in the snow for two days, they didn't get moving until late, then lounged around until about 2. My brother came to my house and made friends with my dog, then about three we all went into town for some last minute shopping. I made some enchiladas for supper and mom made some chili verde to go with them. I ended up staying over there until somewhere around 12:30 or 1:00 am!
Wednesday, Christmas Eve, I headed into town to pick up one last gift. I may live in "small town Montana", but the traffic was as if I was back living in Illinois! Gridlock at many of the lights, cars backed up for at least a mile. This is unheard of in Helena, Montana! My one errand should have taken me a total of 45 minutes to one hour, and that includes the travel time into town and back home. On this day, It took me TWO HOURS! I was ecstatic to finally get to the Interstate on-ramp and be heading back to the house.
Dinner was once again at mom's house, and I supplied the Spaghetti sauce from my freezer while mom had meat balls in hers. It was an easy dinner since we knew the next day would be filled with lots of cooking. Joe showed up after driving down from Great Falls and joined us for dinner after FINALLY meeting my brother. I have known Joe for 10 years, but it always worked out that my brother would come to Montana when Joe had to take a trip to his hometown in Pennsylvania. Joe was also "Back home" when I took the girls to Denver for Heathers 16th birthday. Joe was making jokes for years that My brother was really just a figment of my imagination and he really didn't exist! Well, now Joe has met my imaginary brother-- that makes him just as crazy as me! Brraaahhh Haaaaa Haaaaa!
Heather, her husband Mike, and kids (6 years old and 18 months old) showed up about 9:30pm. They drove down from Kalispell after Heather got off of work. After all the snow Montana has been hit with, Mike said the drive was surprisingly clear. Heather and her family were to stay at my house, taking over the living room during the night time hours. My tiny little living room barely had the room to fit the full size air-bed, but we did it! After visiting with all the family at mom's house, we all trooped through the snow for bed. It was "only" 11pm! For my family, that is early, especially on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day came early for Joe and I. We managed to get out of the house (large dog, too!) without waking Heather, Mike, or the two little ones. It was about 7am, and we had promised to visit our other early waking friends Vicki and Diana before the Christmas Insanity began. We exchanged simple gifts, chatted for about an hour, then headed back to my house.
Back home, everyone was up and just moving about... Including Krystle, that mistress of the night daughter that I almost never see anymore!
The next hour was a riot of ripping paper and joyous noises as we opened our gifts... mostly the ones to Lucas (18 months) and Talia (6 years). I was delighted to receive a new, larger crock pot and a toaster oven (which I haven't had in many years). Most of the adults gifts were saved to be opened at mom's house with the rest of the family.
At 10am, everyone (except me and Joe) headed over to mom's. Joe and I prepared the turkey and stuffing, popped it into the oven, and headed over ourselves. Actually, the half hour of silence was heavenly! Once at mom's, it was coffee, juice and sweet rolls... then more presents being opened. We decided to have the Santa Stockings there, too. In our tradition, the stockings are filled with interesting little candies from other countries, and John (my brother) had found some awesome items that he brought up from Denver.
After the packages were opened, and the kids off and playing with their new toys, it was time to head back into the kitchen. I put in a ham at mom's, prepared the sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, Au Gratin potatoes, gravy, and a corn bread stuffing (different from the stuffing I already had in the turkey); then got the cranberry sauce, pickles, and olives plated. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of help I received from the rest of my family members.
Joe, Krystle, and Heather's family were all hanging out at my house while I was preparing dinner and chatting with my brother and sister-in-law. Krystle called me to tell me to look outside at the power pole. I found a window with an unobstructed view and was treated to an awesome sight. There was a Bald Eagle perched on the top of the pole. Joe was out taking photos, but since I was inside (and without my 35mm with the awesome lenses) I didn't go out the door. I didn't want to frighten it away. Joe did get some great photos, and I plan to get one from him to post here.
Dinner was great... for the first time in 13 years the entire family was together. It was Mom and dad; John, Mariah, Sean (14), and Angie (9); Heather, Mike, Talia (6), and Lucas (18 months), Krystle and her boyfriend Dylan, Me and Joe. No fights, no arguments, no food disasters!
Since everyone was together, I wanted a family portrait taken. Joe is a professional photographer so I asked him to set it up. They came out awesome, and I will post one here when I download a digital version onto my laptop.
Christmas was finalized with servings of various pies (Pecan, Apple, Lemon Meringue, and coconut cream). It was off to bed early for Joe and I since we had an early start, and Joe was heading back to Great Falls to work. It was awesome of Joe to allow me to have Tuesday to Sunday off so I could visit with my family, while he worked the store alone. I felt a bit guilty... but only a little bit... LOL. (Thanks SO much, Joe!)
Friday, John and his family were off to visit the wife's side of the family in Butte. They packed up and headed out about 2 pm. Heather's family went into town to visit some friends so I was left home ALL ALONE! Whew! Brooke (my dog) and I relaxed in the quiet... I took a very long hot shower.... I read some of my newest book (T is For Trespass by Sue Grafton).... cleaned a little... did some laundry... relaxed a bit more in the quiet (sigh!). The kids decided to grab their dinner in town, so I headed over to mom and dad's for some leftovers. It was just the three of us, and I could tell they were glad to have order restored back into their home.
Saturday was spent hanging out with Heather and her family, with Joe arriving back in Helena about 5pm. We all went out to Chile's for dinner. Sunday Heather and her brood headed back north with a stop in Ronan to see Mike's family before heading to their home in Kalispell.
Now, here it is finally Monday! I am back to work, and life is pretty much normal again.
Sorry this was SO long, but I had to write it down for posterity before I forgot the details.