How was your Christmas?!

Ours has been really good.

On Sunday the 23rd the kids put on a nativity play at the church I grew up in.  They did so great!  Later that day my parents hosted the ranch Christmas party.  Famous Dave’s catered — what a treat!

On Christmas Eve the kids and I went along with Beau to feed cows in the morning.  Later we attempted to make it to 5 o’clock church; we showed up way too late to go inside (and that’s saying something, because I am pretty darned calloused about walking in late) so instead drove straight to my grandmother’s house.  Eventually the entire extended family showed up at Grandma’s, we all ate tacos like we do every year, the kids (from 11 months to 20 years) opened up their new pajamas and we took a picture of them like we do every year, my 92-year-old Grandma opened a present from each of us like she does every year, and we Blakes got home very late with very tired kids.  Just like every year.

Christmas morning was a race for me and Beau to get out of bed and get all the presents laid out before the kids were awake.  As I promised in Guest column! (+ a few addendums) I didn’t wrap the kids’ presents this year and it was a big help to me.  The kids all got sleds and a cute little start-up sewing machine which I have no idea how to operate.  Emi got a (new to us) school desk and hair chalk and magnetic earrings.  Asher got coyote traps and a saddle rack and fabric to make himself the poncho he’s been dreaming of (I don’t know where he comes up with his ideas, but he’s got lots of ’em).  Marsi got nesting dolls and an indoor pod swing.  Muggins got a little four-wheeler/scooter of which he is very proud.  With great pleasure Asher gave me an orange bottle which he purchased at the Dollar Store.  Beau and I gave each other new socks — right near the top of my Simple Pleasures list!

Our house was afloat in bits of tissue and the baby sat on the floor tangled up in ribbon spools while unrolling rolls of tape that hadn’t been put away.  Dirty dishes were piled to the ceiling in the kitchen, there was a laundry heap in every room… and so I was very glad to go to someone else’s house for Christmas Day.

Next came the hustle of organizing and loading gifts for my sister’s family and my parents and getting all of us Blakes to my parents’ house for another round of gift-giving and a yummy Christmas dinner.  Our kids gave their 15-year-old cousin Nate a yard-long box of Twix bars.  I gave 13-year-old Taylor a brand new tractor inner tube — to be inflated and used to float the ditch next summer!  Taylor and I surprised my mom with our very non-pro DIY project:  the refurbished version of an old cupboard which Mom rescued from the house she grew up in (before the house was torn down).

My sister gave me cash to start up my new-camera fund.  Beau gave our brother-in-law Crown Royal and coffee beans.  I gave my dad a canvas of a picture I had had restored for him by the Costco Photo Center:

refinished photo

The original photo had an ugly streak through it, as though it had been developed incorrectly, and in recent years Dad had shown me the picture several times, which is perhaps his way of asking for help.  I have had good luck working with Costco for all things photo-related and am very pleased with the restored version of this photo.  That’s Dad wrestling the back end of the calf and Ron Gunn on the head.  Dad believes this photo was taken at George and Howard Larson’s branding trap on Buffalo District — maybe 1967?  For once I have given Dad a gift that he seems mildly pleased with, so I’m chalking it all up as a big W!

Ah, it’s been a blessed Christmas in many ways.

– Our Alabama family sent a ham, a pecan pie, and an instant pot.  God bless the UPS man.  Two funny things about the instant pot:  Beau is a sucker for gadgets and infomercials and so has been yearning for an instant pot for several months.  It was so funny when, completely surprised, we discovered his grandmother had had one shipped to us.  “Did you really tell her you wanted one?!” I laughed.  He swears he didn’t.  And then… the second funny thing:  My mom got us an instant pot too!  It must be the gift of the year!  Looks like I have lots of instant pot experiments ahead of me this year…

– We woke up on the 26th to four inches of fresh snow.  Nice for Christmas; hopefully not a sign of the winter ahead of us.

– We have a pot of boiled peanuts on the stove.  Boiled peanuts are a treat from the Deep South which you can buy right out of the crockpot at any gas station in Alabama but which most people here in Montana have never heard of.  Beau’s mouth waters for them but we rarely make them, so he has been enjoying the heck out of this holiday batch.  I believe he’s eaten about four pounds of peanuts so far.  *Tip:  you start with green peanuts in the shell, which we order off of Amazon and which I store in the deep freeze with good luck.*

– Speaking of Beau, he’s been humoring me and watching cheesy Christmas movies with me every night after the kids’ bedtime (I think he secretly enjoys them too).  A really good one we’d recommend is The Man Who Invented Christmas, about Charles Dickens and his process in writing A Christmas Carol.  The man was a tiny bit crazy… but then, I’m convinced most good writers are!

– On the 27th Beau had to run to Billings for parts, on slick roads, and so got home late.  I used that time to my advantage:  Working on the sly, assuming (as is a bad habit of mine) that I would ask permission from my husband after the work was done, I directed 15-year-old Nate and the kids as we rearranged the house.  We switched the dining room with my office — I mean, completely moved the table to another room — and… I LOVE IT!  (I wish I’d taken a “before” picture but for some reason I never do.)  Beau is wearing a poker face but I think he secretly likes the change too.  Big picture, my hope is that the switch will improve our daily flow in this house.  Small picture, I always rearranged my bedroom over Christmas break when I was a little kid, and I guess I’m still in the habit.  It’s just a fun way to make room for all your new Christmas loot and get a fresh start on a new year.

– Speaking of the new year, we wish you a happy one.  True to Alabama tradition, we Blakes plan to start 2019 off right by eating collard greens for wealth, ham for health, and black-eyed peas for luck in the new year.  We’re going to be celebrating New Year’s Eve with some close friends and all our combined little kids… which is a lot of little kids.  All in all, 2018 has been pretty good to us.  We have so much to be thankful for.

Thank you for reading about our adventures.  From our messy house to yours, Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!

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© Tami Blake

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