Monday, November 29, 2010

Seven is a pretty big deal ...

It seems like two seconds ago that this was what Chris looked like ... in a Thomas-the-Train hat riding the Coopersville/Marne train in the spring of 2007 ~ he was 3-1/2. Isn't his little face precious?
But TODAY, Christopher is SEVEN ... and SEVEN is a pretty big deal in my book. This picture of Chris in the baseball hat was taken over on his school playground two months ago when we visited his family down in El Paso.
Christopher is a very physically active young fellow ... and he's good at climbing, sliding, monkeying around on monkey bars, and just about anything else he can find! He is 100% boy, and I think he is beautiful.
One of his favorite things to do is to mess up a picture I try to take of him ... so he makes gruesome faces. This one, he just bugged out his eyes at me and then cracked up!
Chris is fearless in the water ... and he enjoys every single minute of playing in it.
I love this picture that Grandpa Jones took of Chris. He is standing at the end of the driveway at his house looking over the chalk drawings he and Matthew and Emma had been working on. He looks so grown up in this picture, I can hardly stand it. I'm going to see Christopher and celebrate a late-birthday, early-Christmas with him this Saturday! I'm counting the days!

"I created you, Christopher, and I have cared for you before you were born! I will be your God for your whole life ... I MADE YOU and I will care for you." ISAIAH 46.3

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A few more pictures of Little Mister ...

Grandpa finally uploaded his pictures to my computer from the last few days. Since a picture is worth 1000 words, then NINE should guarantee absolutely NO narrative is necessary! Isn't Jeremiah such a cutie? And doesn't Grandpa take beautiful pictures of him?!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our growing family ...

O u r F a m i l y T r e e
I love tradition ~ more specifically, I love FAMILY traditions ~ and our family Christmas tree is a special favorite of mine. I started putting a tiny tree JUST for family in our dining room way back in 2005 (I think) when we had six grandchildren. Special picture ornaments and name ornaments are really all that is on this little tree honoring each member of our family.

And our family GREW by two members this year: one by birth and the other by marriage! We now have 24.3 members in our family! I'll explain the .3 a little later!
Liam Calvin officially entered our family in March 2010 ... he was in the hopper last Christmas, but since I didn't have an ultrasound picture of him, I didn't put him on the tree! Look at his rich and beautiful RED hair! Since I couldn't find a name ornament for him, I was able to add it to this little snowman/bell ornament (it's hard to see his name in this photograph).

Kelly-O joined our family when she married our Dylan this July. Since Kelly is a more common name, I've been able to find TWO ornaments already with her name on it! I love the matching snowguys with their names and have positioned them on the tree nice and close ... like newlyweds ought to be!
Here are our three beautiful grandchildren from Austin: Karis, Olivia, and Jackson.
And these are Liam's darling siblings in Bandera: Nathan, Nia and Lottie!
And these are the precious grandchildren in El Paso: Christopher, Emma, and Matthew!
Little Jeremiah was the newcomer to our tree last year ... but I couldn't find a name ornament for him anywhere at all! Thankfully, a little shop was selling all kinds of cute ornaments and they offered to put his name on this train for me.
The .3 person in our family is due to join Jeremiah next spring sometime. We don't know if this will be a granddaughter or a grandson ... but I am ALL ready. I think if it is a boy, I'll put his picture in the snowman frame; but if it is a girl, she will definitely have the angel for her picture ornament.
We have names of all of the adults in our family too ... but I didn't take pictures of all 13 names ...

I even have one for G-E-O-R-G-E, which is what I call Mr. Jones when he is annoying.
But I do have matching snowguys for us too! I LOVE this little tree. It is now a 4' tree and I've had to put it in the opposite corner of our dining room on the lower table because it would NOT fit where I had the smaller one last year. That's OK. I love that our family keeps growing ...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So much to be thankful for ...

First of all, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We had a very nice day here with family. I was given instructions on how to properly cook a turkey from my daughter-in-law, Diana ~ I followed them carefully and ... voila! A beautiful and tasty turkey! However, the picture above is NOT my turkey. After going to all the trouble of injecting it with herbs, spices, butter, etc., I carved it all up (rather haphazardly) and completely forgot to take its picture! I'm very glad to have this recipe and will hopefully learn to fine-tune it through the years.

I received a call around the middle of the morning from Jesse ~ how nice to hear his voice! They were having quite a group of folk over to their house later in the day, so he was calling to talk when he had the chance! Thanks for calling, Jesse.

Dylan and Kelly are out of town visiting Kelly's aunt and uncle and grandpa, but I was able to talk to Dylan this morning too. And later on today, I received calls from Sabrina (Austin, TX) and my brother David (Florida). I'm thankful today for the love of my family. I'm thankful for each person the Lord has put into it.

We didn't have a big group today around our table ~ so many of our dear family live very far away ~ but we did have Shane, Adam, Emily, Jeremiah, Nana and Roy! Even with only seven around the table it was ... crowded! There just never is enough room in our tiny dining room to make everything fit. But that's OK. We at least HAVE a dining room. We had a lovely meal and enjoyed our time together.
This is the very-fun-to-make four-layer pumpkin cake I made yesterday ... it was both delicious and pretty!
One out of eleven grandchildren ... Jeremiah! We are thankful we got to spend some time with you today, Little Mister! Adam, Emily and Jeremiah flew in late last night from Minneapolis and are here until Sunday. How nice to see them two months in a row!

This last week in our children's ministry at church, we studied the story of the 10 lepers who came to Jesus to be healed ~ and how only one of those sick fellows returned to say thanks for what Jesus had done for him. I'm afraid I'm a lot like those other nine guys who ... glad that Jesus intervenes in time of need, but very forgetful to kneel at His feet and give Him thanks. I'm trying to turn that around in my life. Our former pastor (who has ALS) says that he makes a point to give thanks to the LORD for every little good thing in his life. Sometimes he will open up his dresser drawers one by one and just thank the LORD for every item in each drawer. I was really touched when I read about him doing that. Anyway, I want to be more intentionally THANKFUL this year!

"Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done! The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, there would be too many to declare." PSALM 40:5

We truly do have an Awesome God!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A prominent place ...

Anyone who has been to my house will recognize that this picture was taken in our front room. It's my cedar chest with children's books piled on top and on the window sill. I save this place for my favorite books to read to my grandchildren. These are not books for them to PLAY with, but are books to LISTEN to ...
The newest addition to this prominent place of literature is "KLINGER: A Story of Honor and Hope," written by Betsy Beard and illustrated by Shelley Johannes. I ordered a few copies of this beautiful book several weeks ago and was so delighted to receive them. I'm giving one away as a gift and now I wish I had ordered several more!
The illustrator is actually my beautiful niece, Shelley. KLINGER is her tenth children's book! I'm so proud of her. The book was published by TAP (the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) and is a wonderful story that really belongs in every American home! The author wrote from her own experience following the death of her only son who was killed while fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. Shelley's illustrations are marvelous throughout the book. I just thought I'd brag on her awhile ... I hope she doesn't mind ...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Today at the Post Office ...

Editor's Note: It seems there is an error in this post as noted by "You Know Who Said" (See Comments) ... and it seems he is right (as usual). So wherever you read "Fed-Ex" in this short post, it should actually be "Priority Mail." I stand corrected!

I've been working all week putting the boxes together to ship to El Paso for the early Christmas I'm going to celebrate with Jesse, Diana, and the grandchildren two weeks from now. My goal was to get everything ready for shipping by this Saturday. Last year as I was shopping for gifts I really didn't keep in mind what it would cost to SEND them all the way to Texas, and it ended up costing a lot more than I had ever dreamed. So this year, I decided to be more careful and plan ahead as much as possible.

The Post Office has had Federal Express pre-paid boxes available for a long time, but only a few limited sizes are available. I think it's a good way to go if you have SMALL but HEAVY items to send to someone ... because you can cram as much stuff into these boxes as possible and it's all the same price ... no matter how much it weighs. But the problem is ... the SIZES of these boxes are pretty limited. Anyway, I ended up using just one of these Fed Ex boxes and then for the items that wouldn't fit, I bought a large white box from the Post Office (20 x 15 x 10) and shipped it Parcel Post ~ a huge savings this year ... less than HALF of what I spent last year! I'm so pleased. PLUS, I beat my deadline and mailed everything today ~ a day early!
Also, to help keep the weight of the boxes nice and low, I made my own wrapping paper. Actually, this was not a NEW idea. Last year when Rachel and Nicolas decided to do an Old Fashioned Christmas at their house, they requested the gifts be wrapped either in plain brown paper or some kind of decorated tissue paper ~ it was fun to do this last year for them and I decided to try it with these gifts to El Paso. I just used plain white tissue paper and got out my Christmas themed stamps and ink and went at it! Sabrina has been "stamping" for years. She makes beautiful cards and books for folk ... PLUS she has very fancy stamps. So this is nothing new. I had a lot of fun decorating each gift for each grandchild from these stamps, using markers to color and write personal messages. In this age of trying to be "green" as far as the amount of waste we consume, this is perhaps LESS wasteful than a whole bunch of brightly colored wrapping paper.

While I was at the Post Office writing out the mailing labels to El Paso, the customer at the next window was mailing a book to a publishing company. I couldn't help but overhear his conversation with the Postmaster. It turns out this fellow is a writer.When questioned about his book, he responded that it was some drama vignettes he had written from the Bible, specifically the life of Abraham. He said that one of the area churches was going to perform these at a dinner theatre they were hosting this spring. And the church? MY church!
So I reached over to shake his hand and he introduced himself as Steve Trott ~ what?!! This is the same fellow who has written the play our church is doing for Festival of Lights this year: "Christmas at Mac's Diner." So ... how random was that? I just happened to be in the Post Office at the very same moment as this fellow. He does not attend our church, but I got to meet and greet him anyway. I thought that was very fun!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ah ... Let the baking begin!

I'm about a week later than usual ... but I finally hauled out my favorite Christmas cookie recipes this afternoon and ... got started!
I've told you before how my Grandma Mary baked the most scrumptious and beautiful cookies every single Christmas. All of us looked forward to going to her house Christmas Eve to see the cousins who had come to town and were staying there with grandma. My grandmother decorated her house just like ... a fairy land almost ... sparkling and so ... beautiful! I wonder if she knew how much it meant to us that she went to all of that trouble.
This is my grandma's version of a Russian Tea Cake recipe. It is the best I have ever tasted and it was always .. ALWAYS ... my favorite every single year (a "half" recipe calls for TWO cups of BUTTER ... what's not to like?). Except my grandma rolled each cookie into little logs, perfectly shaped and uniform in size! I've tried rolling mine into logs, but I never seem to keep the size consistent ... some turn out fat, some skinny, some longer than others, etc. So I gave up! Now I just roll them into little balls and flatten them a bit. They taste just the same no matter what shape you make them. One Christmas, I got sick eating so many cookies at my grandma's house!
And these are the butter spritz cookies ~ my grandma's recipe, of course ~ except she had a cookie press that was NOT automated, and her little Christmas trees were delicately beautiful ~ every one! I always miss my Grandma Mary this time of the year. We were not especially close (I was just ONE of 22 grandchildren), but I admired and loved her very much.

Tomorrow, I hope to make fudge and some holiday M & M cookies. And then I can pick out some of each batch to arrange into a pretty holiday tin and enclose it in the gift box(es) I'm sending out to El Paso this Saturday. I'm flying there in just about two weeks to celebrate an early Christmas with Jesse, Di and the grandchildren.

So ... have you started your holiday baking yet?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beautiful little faces ...

These are some of the children who come to our"3's" class each Tuesday morning. It's the morning of Women's Bible study over at Calvary Church and these are the children of the women who either teach a small group or attend on every Tuesday morning. I get to be one of three adult helpers/teachers in this room. We three ladies have divided up the tasks evenly between us and each get a turn to teach the story, do the arts and crafts, lead in worship songs, etc. I've grown to really love Tuesday mornings.
Some of these same children are in my preschool class on Sunday mornings, so I'm getting to know them rather well.
My favorite thing, naturally, is to sit at the art table and draw, color, use stencils, or watercolor paints. Three-year-olds are amazing artists.
Look at their precious little faces!
We've been talking for weeks and weeks about creation and how God is the Creator of everything we see! I just love teaching about that. But the last two weeks, we've been talking about thanking God for the good things He has given us. Today, the children picked out some pictures of things they were thankful for and glued them to our poster board that said, "Thank you, God!" Three-year-olds understand what it means to be happy they have food and toys and moms and dads ... and I love to sit down and just enjoy a good conversation with them. Sometimes they say the sweetest things.
This little girl is very quiet. It's pretty difficult to get her to enter into activities or conversations ... but hand her a paint brush and she just goes to town! She is very careful with the paint and covers every INCH of the paper in the most beautiful color combinations!

Even the little roughhouse boys get into painting ... they are mostly intrigued at what color the water turns when they rinse their brushes in the water cup, but that's OK!

Just thought I'd share these little faces with you today ... I'm so thankful to be able to share a little bit of time and fun with them. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Contentment ...

Thank you, LORD, for hazy pink sunrises
warm autumn breezes
the rustling of leaves (golden and brown)
and the graceful gliding of pure white swans ...