Monday, December 27, 2010

Roy is 90 today ...

Almost four years ago now, my mother (Nana) and Roy fell in love ... they married three months later. Roy is an exceptional person in just about every way. I cannot say enough kind words about him. He is a person who loves unconditionally ... what a precious gift! He also is a man of integrity, hard-working, honest, and one of the kindest folk you will ever meet!

Today is Roy's 90th birthday. I love this picture of my mom and her Roy. Roy's only son, David, planned a nice surprise birthday occasion for him two weeks ago; but I was so sick, I could not attend. I was hugely disappointed. I had wanted to deliver his birthday card and present today, but Nana slipped and fell on a patch of ice outside in their driveway almost two weeks ago and she is really in a lot of pain. Thankfully, nothing is broken ... but she has to rest and recover. She really isn't "up" for company ... so I'm going to phone Roy a bit later and sing "Happy Birthday" to him (I'm sure he'll be thrilled).

Friday, December 24, 2010

He comes to make His blessings flow ...

I love Christmas carols. I have always loved them. Even as a small child, my favorite part about Christmas was the church service the night before Christmas. We attended a fairly large church in Detroit and almost every year there was a choir cantata performed on Christmas Eve. Always beautiful. I looked forward to it so much.

But even more than the choir, I enjoyed the congregational singing of favorite Christmas carols. "Joy to the World" was never my favorite ... except for verse three: "No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found ..." As far as the curse is found? Wow. I used to mull that one over sitting in the pew ... and it gave me such hope and peace that some day all would be well.

As I've grown older in my faith, I have learned to appreciate all of the verses in this dear old carol ~ "Joy to the world, the LORD is come! Let earth receive her King!" Isn't that what it's all about? Jesus the King? He is King of the Universe, the Maker of heaven and earth and every living thing. I am glad Jesus is MY King. More than anything, He deserves my praise and worship ... He alone is worthy.

So I sing this song with JOY and say: "Let every heart prepare Him room ... and heaven and nature sing!" These photographs and lyrics were used as our Christmas card this year. We mailed out 90 of them!

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you. After being seriously ill the last two weeks, I am on the mend and so grateful for it. I hope your celebration of IMMANUEL, "God with us", is full of JOY.

"From the fullness of God's grace, we have all received one blessing after another." JOHN 1.16

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A few pictures from yesterday ...

In just a few hours, Sabrina's family will be here ... just wanted to give a quick update before that happens. Close to two weeks ago now as I was leaving El Paso, I came down with some kind of bacterial infection. Spending the night and getting a deep chill at O'Hare probably didn't help ... but I've essentially been sick since arriving home. And to make a long story (it's not very interesting) short, I've been under a physician's care and am in the middle of an antibiotic regimen that is kicking the infection out ... slowly.

Every year, the preparation for Christmas is quite the thing and I usually stay on top of things, organizing, baking, cleaning ... getting ready! And I was pretty much right where I expected to be before I left for Texas ... all my ducks were in a nice, neat row!

Seriously, I haven't been this sick in close to 40 years. I do remember the last time and it was between high school and college ... the summer I had mono and a deep throat infection that lasted six weeks. I'm so glad that I am beginning to feel better ~ and it's only been TWO weeks!

Having said that, none of the Christmas presents were wrapped as of yesterday ... so Dylan and Kelly came over and did it FOR me ...
They even liked the idea of making our own wrapping paper out of tissue and stamping Christmas images was ... F-U-N ... so this might even become a tradition! :)
They wrapped every single present ~ beautifully ~ and they are all under our tree!
Later in the afternoon, Emily and Jeremiah stopped by for a few hours ...
Couldn't resist showing you Little Mister since we did take a few snapshots of him. Adam will join everyone this weekend ~ he's flying in from Minneapolis ~ so, we'll have lots and lots of pictures to post ... later. I may actually have to post in retrospect, which I don't enjoy very much ... but being sick only allows a person so much energy and time ...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Birthday and Anniversary!

Nicolas celebrates the big 3-0 birthday today and we wish him the very happiest of days. It's also he and Rachel's sixth wedding anniversary ~ which hardly seems possible ~ but then look at all of these beautiful kiddos ... four children in rapid succession!

We hope today is really special for both of you. We love you and wish you great celebrations. We are thinking of you with much LOVE.

Monday, December 13, 2010

El Paso trip: December 4

I've been home from El Paso for four days now. I can't believe it has taken me this long to post these pictures and chronicle the time I spent with Jesse's family last week ... but I've had a nasty cold and sore throat that kind of put me off! I'm determined to write our little story tonight because I have so much yet to do to prepare for Christmas ... so it's now or never.
My flights to El Paso were totally without incident. When we took off from Grand Rapids, the skies were cloudy and remained that way as we flew across the country until just about ... to the mountains! I was so glad the clouds cleared away so that I could finally see ground and mountains!
I landed on time at the El Paso airport, very excited to greet Jesse and the little kids ...
This is a not-very-good picture of them standing by the beautiful tree inside the airport. It was about 60 degrees outside at 5:00 p.m. El Paso time ... I was dressed in layers of sweaters and jackets, etc. ... but it felt weird to see this beautiful Christmas tree in such mild weather. We enjoyed many hugs at the airport and then had to hightail it out of there ~ some guy was absolutely begging us to get in line and have our picture taken with Santa Clause right there at the airport. The line was about a mile long. The picture was supposed to be free ... but we had other things to do!
I shipped Christmas packages ahead of me to El Paso, but also birthday presents for Chris. We decided to open Chris's birthday presents Saturday night but wait until Sunday to celebrate our early Christmas together. I had a few special things for all of the children in my suitcase, just to ease the pain of waiting.
So Chris opened up his LEGO Toy Story 3 Army jeep and Army guys ...
... along with a LEGO Buzz Lightyear and Woody with a pullback race car.
Since we had a LEGO expert right on hand, we let Jesse put the models together for us.
Aren't they cute? I've always loved LEGOs and think they are one of the best toys ever made.
I also brought a Snakes and Ladders game that was really a 48-piece puzzle that you had to assemble before you could play the game. We had a great time doing both!
Christopher was really pleased with his LEGOs. We had a nice time Saturday night just catching up on news, playing games, reading stories, etc. I was keenly aware that Sunday was going to be the only day of my trip where I actually had the entire day to spend with the kids ... they would have to return to school on Monday!

El Paso trip: December 5

Jesse has to be to church very early on Sunday mornings. He works the sound system there and has to help the praise and worship team do their sound checks, etc.
So we arrived THREE hours before the actual worship service began. Three hours is a long time to entertain three active children before church. I packed my backpack with as much quiet stuff as I could fit, and we found a classroom where we could lay it all out and decide what to do first!
We colored lots and lots of pictures together ~ thankfully, all three children really love to sit and do any kind of artwork available. But after about 45 minutes, they'd had enough!
We wandered the hallways and checked the building out from every possible angle. You know how curious kids are! I tried to get all three of them to smile nicely beneath the Christmas tree in the foyer, but I never did get a good snapshot of the three of them together. While we were walking around the building (inside and out), the kiddos spied a playground across the parking lot from the church. We inquired about it and one of the fellows said it belonged to the school that used the church building during the week. It was all padlocked so that no one could enter. But we were offered the key! So we took it ...
and played for at least another hour outside ...
in the beautiful sunshine ...
Matthew and Emma served me a delicious "stone and rock" breakfast ...
Christopher ran around like a wild Indian ...
Matthew played like there was NO tomorrow ...
And I enjoyed myself hugely watching them have so much fun.

Such beautiful little grandchildren! They really do have a good time together.
This contraption cracked me up ... they had a great time on it.
Jesse finally came and retrieved us from the playground just in time for church to start ...
This is Sunshine Community Church in El Paso. It's a very nice place of worship. The school-aged children participate in the singing and then are dismissed to their separate classes. I attended Emma's second grade class because when I went to drop her off, she was the only girl with six boys ~ so I stayed. The teacher, Mrs. Fernandez, taught the story of Jesus healing the 10 men who had leprosy. She did such a good job and was able to get the children to interact with the story really well.
Everyone was taking family pictures around the Christmas tree in the foyer of the church. The pastor's wife was directing the photography and taking many of the pictures herself. I just sneaked this one in on the side ...
We were quite excited to celebrate our early Christmas once we got home. I had made photo books for each of the little ones ... kind of a personal love story about memories made throughout the years with them. I tried to design each book around the meaning of their names. "Emma" means "strength" ~ and it always bugs Emma when I tell her that because she wishes her name meant "Princess." So in her book, I talked about the fact that she could be a STRONG and KIND princess and that she could do anything "with the strength that comes from the LORD." Matthew's name means: "Gift of the LORD." So I talked to him about the fact that he is a treasure, a special present, and that God loves him very much. Christopher means "Christ bearer" and so I told him that if he made Jesus the King of his life, Jesus would come and live with him forever. I made these little books through Snapfish ~ they were very fun to make and now that I've tried it, I would like to do more!
We got Di and Emma some little kitchen utencils that had little piggy faces on them ~ both Di and Emma love pigs ... they seemed to like these very much!
We got the boys a whole bunch of fun Hot Wheels stuff ... they are probably the best-priced gift in America ... so fun to play with, so easy to assemble ... endless fun.
We were able to have my niece, Shelley, autograph one of her Klinger books for Jesse's family. It's a beautiful book for military families ... and how special that our Shelley illustrated it!
Emma was most pleased with the little rubber shaped bracelets and rings we bought her! She was SO delighted with them! Look at her beautiful smile.
Matthew was just pleased to have some new cars to play with. He was especially delighted with the color-changer cars. If you sprayed really cold water on them, they would completely change color! If you sprayed HOT water on them, they would change back. Matthew sprayed everything in sight!
We had four Hot Wheel sets to assemble ... and again, we were SO thankful that assembling is Jesse's forte' ... so we got them all set up to go!
See? Matthew is holding the squirt bottle filled with water to "wash" the cars and change their colors. Matthew never got tired of spraying water ... EVERYWHERE!
I knew Jesse would get a bang out of these kits ... we had some very similar ones when he was young and all of us played with them endlessly!
In the dollar section at Michael's (I LOVE that store) I found some little wooden ornaments that could be colored with markers and decorated to hang on a tree ... so we did some of those together.
Emma picked out the nativity ornament and really enjoyed coloring it in.
We had gotten her a marker set with to go with a stencil kit for designing pretty clothes ... it's hard for me to describe, but I think Emma will enjoy all of the different styles of clothing she can put together with her kit.
Oh! There is a new member of the Pahman household ... NOT a new grandbaby ... but a new kitten by the name of Belle. She is really a beautiful little kitty and so much fun to play with. And we did a lot of that ... we played away our entire Sunday. Diana made us a nice chicken dinner and then the kiddos had to shower and get ready for school the next day ...

El Paso trip: December 6

When I planned this trip to El Paso I knew my time would be short. There was no way to book an entire weekend without having to pay almost twice what I had paid for my tickets. I wondered how to make the best use of the short time I had with the kids ...
When Di mentioned that the kids eat breakfast at school, I asked if it would be possible for me to eat with them. She didn't see any reason that it wouldn't be allowed! So, Monday morning I went to school with the kids! I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to be able to SEE where they spend their days! We ate a very nice breakfast together every single morning ... at school! I met so many beautiful children along the way. I wish I could tell you about each and every one of them.
After breakfast, the children are allowed to play on the playground until the bell rings ... I was standing near Emma's line when one of her classmates (Malachi) came up to her kind of got in her face!

Malachi: "Hey, Emma, you owe me a transformer!"
Emma and I exchange glances, my eyebrows raised ...
Emma: "I don't have any transformers, Malachi!"
Me: "What's this about?"
Malachi: "I gave Emma one of my chocolate fudge poptarts the other day ~ she asked! ~ and she said she would bring me a transformer if I did!"
Me to Emma: "Do you have any transformers?"
Emma: "No."
Me: "Emma doesn't have any transformers, Malachi. But she does have quite a few dolls. Would you like her to bring one in for you?"
Emma smiles.
Malachi: "No!" (very indignant)
Me: "How about ... would you like me to bring you ONE piece of chocolate mint ice cream flavored gum tomorrow?"
Malachi: "Yes!"
So the chocolate mint ice cream flavored gum sealed the deal and rescued Emma from her plight. The bell had rung and the children were walking inside ... and I really meant to talk to Emma about promising something she couldn't deliver ... but I never did! Sigh.
When the children hear the bell, they line up outside according to class and then their teacher escorts them inside the building. I wasn't sure they would let me come in ... but they did! This is Emma's classroom and the table where she sits. I was told to be very careful only to take pictures of MY grandchildren ... so I tried to comply as much as possible.
Here is Matthew in front of his morning class. Matthew actually has a morning class and teacher and then switches to another class and teacher for the afternoon.
And this is Chris sitting at his desk! Of all the teachers I met, I liked Chris's teacher best. She was so warm and friendly and ... happy!

There are THREE boys named "Chris" in Chris's classroom: Chris H., Chris P., and Chris R. And that's how each are designated ... but I didn't realize this until one of the days we were eating our lunch (!! ... I got to eat LUNCH with the kids too!) one of the boys at our table said, "See you out on the playground, Crispy!" And Chris answered him. And right after that, another one of his friends called him, "Crispy." I looked at Chris rather stunned because I thought these kids were referring to him as C-R-I-S-P-Y as in a Crispy Critter! And then Chris explained the THREE Chris problem to me and how they solved it by adding the last name initial ... his is the only combination that comes out sounding like a real word! I asked him how he feels about being called, "Crispy" and he said he was "OK" with it and then smiled real big. I think he rather likes it.
I was able to roam the hallways and take some pictures of the hallway art ... I did go to the front office, though, and fill out the appropriate papers in triplicate, so that I could come and go in the building at designated times. I was so glad to be able to do this! And I was very impressed with the school.
This is their science lab!

After lunch on Monday, I walked home to find that Jesse had a "short" day at work. I asked him if it would be possible to drive up Transmountain for a little while ... so that's what we did!
There is something about the mountains ... don't get me wrong ... it's not the same as my love for Lake Michigan ... but the amazing beauty just stuns me every time. And the air is SO fresh and clean up there.
Transmountain highway cuts right between the Franklins, right through El Paso. Jesse drove all the way over, we stopped and took a bunch of pictures, and then we drove back!

So nice to spend some one-on-one time with Jesse ... a very rare occasion during the last ten years!

I love to see for miles and miles and miles ...

Diana and I picked the children after school and they worked on their homework first ... and THEN we played.
On Monday, Emma comes home with 15 spelling words. She takes an initial home test and any words she misses, she has to write out three times.
We had a bunch of fun stuff planned for Monday evening and we accomplished just about everything I hoped we would! We ate homemade wet burritos for dinner! We did a lot of art and games and just had fun.
We colored in some special Toy Story 3 pictures together ...

And we decorated some foam Christmas trees ...

We read "Turk and Runt" together at bedtime and laughed so hard! What a fun book for kids (thanks, Shelley!)! We also read "The Candymaker's Story" about the origin of the candy cane and the beautiful meaning of that candy!
This is Macy and Lacy, my roommates! The spare room is actually a study/office/playroom/futon room ... it's where I slept. These lizards sleep there too in a nice warm tank. We got along just fine ...