Sunday, December 24, 2006

family never lets you down...

I have the best family.

People often get tired of their families coming around too often, or bugging them about life's choices or prying into their business. But one thing is certain: blood truly is thicker than water.

I am one of 17 grandchildren and I have 16 second cousins. I claim nine 'cousins-in-law'. I have four aunts and four uncles, another second cousin and her soulmate, a sister and an almost brother-in-law, a dad, and grandparents worth far more than their weight in gold. (And I'm just talking about one side of my family--the other is a whole new story!)

I'm so blessed.

That's 56 people in my circle of influence. And all of them will be toasty around grandpa's fire Christmas morning sharing breakfasts of hot sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes and red eye gravy, fried wild and tame turkey, homemade jelly from last season's harvest, and all the hot cocoa you can drink. (Not to mention fresh tomato juice--again from last season's harvest, and fresh squeezed orange juice--although growing up at grandma's my cousin's and I always preferred Tang over anything else!) :)

I was fortunate enough to spend last Friday night with two of my cousins Tonya and Whitney. They are hard core working moms with mini vans and over-the-shoulder totes that support the logo, name, and colors of their children's ball teams. Text-book mothers who have it all--and who are too blessed to be stressed about anything.

They started--literally STARTED--shopping at 9:00 a.m. Friday, Dec. 22. (This date is significant as each are shopping for a total of five kids, two husbands, two sisters, two brothers-in-law, parents, grandparents, babysitters and one dirty Santa gift, a tradition worth starting at your family get-together.) So, at noon they were lounging at Mexican Villa going over lists of places still needed to go and things still needed to get. I joined them a little after 6:00 p.m. at the mall. Accompanied by another friend, the three of them never stopped yakking and stopped only for few seconds at a time to mark off lists, calculate costs, and total number of presents per child. And although they often said, "I have enough for this NOT let me buy anything else!," they would invariably be caught red-handed finding a bargain and plead..."but it's only $11! How can I resist!?"

I dubbed myself official "assistant" shopper. I searched aisles for toy laptops, racks for pink snowsuits, shelves for flat screen TVs. I ran errands at Best Buy, back to the mall, on to Target, back to the mall, into Penney's. . . and yes, back out to the mall.

At 12:30 a.m., the ladies finally decided it was time to eat. They were going strong with 65 shopping bags each (all amazingly crammed into about six huge bags). I was dog-tired. When I joined them six and a half hours earlier, I had hoped to join them for a little shopping and a nice casual dinner at sit-down restaurant. As you can tell, not the case.

After much deliberation and a not so excited group to realize IHOP was the only place open, someone suggested Steak and Shake and the response was unanimous. Steak and Shake it would be for burgers and fries and shakes, a hearty, energizing meal before the next three hours spent clearing out the aisles at Wal-Mart.

I think they pulled into their driveways around 4:45 a.m. A few hours later, they celebrated a birthday complete with presents, cake and ice cream for one of their children, so I'm not sure anyone has had any quality sleep.

But they will all be at grandma's Christmas, and no one will ever know the difference.

And that's one reason why my family is so great.

(Now, one day soon I'll post the not-so-great things about my family, but hey, it's Christmas, can't we all just get along?)