Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The rest of the story ...

I've been home from El Paso an entire week now ~ it hardly seems possible that time can pass by as it does.
A week ago early Sunday morning, the children, Jesse and I drove out to Sunshine Community Church to worship together. I love worshiping with family! Jesse has to arrive more than two hours before the service begins to run sound checks and do other technical stuff with the sound equipment for their praise and worship team. So I packed my backpack full of good things to do with the children while we waited. We colored a bunch more of our Color By Dot pictures, played a rousing game of TROUBLE, walked around the church inspecting all of the interesting rooms, and then it was time to worship! After the opening worship songs, the boys went to their classrooms. Emma decided to stay in church with me, so I got her a bulletin and we followed along with the pastor's sermon notes. Emma took a pencil and copied all of my notes, sat quietly, and seemed to follow right along. She snuggled up close to me and listened carefully as the pastor taught from Luke 6. This time with Emma in church is one of my most cherished memories from the entire week!
After church, we went back to the house and spent the rest of the day doing what we had been doing the prior four days ... having fun together!
We took another walk down to the playground ...
... we climbed on all of the equipment and got all hot and sweaty ...

Isn't this a cute picture of the boys? Emma and I had been sitting exactly like this about five minutes prior and told the boys it felt like a comfortable bed ... so they had to check it out for themselves. Before we knew it, it actually WAS time for bed ... because Monday was just around the corner and Monday meant ...

Back to School:
It was so much fun to go back to school with the children Monday morning. They have to get up at 7:00 in the morning and be dressed and ready to leave by about 7:30 in order to eat breakfast at school. So that's exactly what we did! Christopher is always the first one awake of the three ... well ... usually, that is. Emma asked that I wake her up at 7:00 and then we all worked on waking Matthew up together. He decidedly does NOT like mornings ...

But look at Matthew's happy face when he was showing me his classroom! His kindergarten class is divided into two groups, but not the same two groups all of the time ~ it depends on what activities are going on as to which children are with each other and what teacher they are with as well. So at any given time, there are no more than about 8-9 children in the classroom together.

After breakfast, the children are allowed to play outside on the playground until the bell rings for them to line up and wait for their teachers to escort them into the building. I got to visit each classroom and snap just a few pictures. After hanging up their jackets and getting their desks organized, the P.A. loudly announces (via the principal) that it is time to sing the National Anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the pledge to the Texas flag (yes! The Texas Flag has its own pledge!) followed by a one minute silence. I was in Matthew's class two mornings during the singing of the anthem and the pledges. Everyone did a good job, knew all of the words, and almost everybody was even quiet for about 30 seconds of the one-minute silence!
I was able to meet the kids for lunch as well. There are three different shifts for these kiddos, so I arrived at 10:40 for Matthew's lunch, followed at 11:10 for Christopher, and then 11:30 for Emma. We had enough time to eat lunch and then go out to the playground for a short time of play.

I did learn some interesting information during lunch one day. I was sitting next to Christopher and one of his friends, Caleb. On the other side of Caleb was a little girl who leaned over to Chris and Caleb and announced with a grin that they were "girl locked." I had never heard this term before and had it explained to me. Christopher was on my right, and to my left was another little boy. Christopher told me that since I was surrounded by boys, I was presently "boy locked" just like he was "girl locked." He told me a person can also be "double locked" if, for example, there are TWO girls on the right side of you and then TWO girls on the left side of you ... DOUBLE locked ~ and Christopher informed me that you certainly DO NOT want to be double locked!
In the hallway outside Emma's room, her teacher had hung a few examples of the children's class work. I was so pleased to find Emma's hanging there!
In the afternoon, after the children are picked up school, the time really goes by quickly. There is homework to do, dinner to prepare and eat and clean up, and then ... it's practically bed time. We did manage to squeeze in another game of TROUBLE one of those nights. And of course, there was always time for a few bedtime stories!

I had told the children that when I got back to Michigan, I was going to make them a special book about our week together ~ kind of like I had done for each of them at Christmas ~ only I was only going to make ONE combined book of all of the stuff we had done. We decided we would need some blooper pictures (just for fun) as well, so for awhile on Monday night we made funny faces and took pictures of each other. But then I asked if we couldn't get each of the children to pose with me for a nice picture of us together. I asked Emma to take a few pictures. Christopher, however, didn't hear the part about these being SERIOUS pictures and made a goofy face ... oh well. YOW. Don't I look exhausted in these pictures?!!

Christopher looks a little bit mopey in this picture because he came in FOURTH in Trouble and was dubbed the "losing loser" by someone in the clan ... can you tell who came in FIRST?!!

Tuesday at School:
Tuesday morning we went through the same routine at school. I met so many darling little children ... Isaiah, Kourtney, India, Alexis, Patrick, Greg, McKenzie ... and got reacquainted with Katierra, Malachi, Rochelle, Liberty ~ and too many others to name!

Each of the children have very nice teachers. I really loved visiting school every day I could!
I think Christopher's teacher is my favorite. She is so friendly and her smile is just beautiful.
Outside for recess, the children were climbing this rock and then jumping off to see how far they could go ... I was marking their spots in the sand and it became a huge contest. This is Emma and I standing on top of the rock together after everyone got tired of playing that game.Oh! And this is a close-up of Emma's caterpillar. Her class is studying the process of metamorphosis. Each child has their own container with their very own caterpillar.

A singular experience:
After lunch on Tuesday afternoon, I walked back to the house and then decided to take a short walk and snap a few mountain pictures along the way. Jes and Di live just a few blocks from this viaduct and expressway ... and the bridge was getting in the way of the mountain, so I walked under it and was able to see the mountain a little bit better.
It was only a 5-minute walk to snap these pictures and then walk back to the house, but as I turned the corner to their street, a police car did a U-turn and pulled up next to me! The officer opened his door and stared at me and then asked: "What do you think you are doing here?" I told him I was visiting my son and his family, my grandchildren, etc. But then he asked: "What are doing with that camera?" I replied that I was taking photos of the mountains. "Why?" he asked. I told him there are NO mountains in Michigan, where I live! He then proceeded to give me a lecture about this neighborhood being part of the United States Army and that someone had called the police about my "suspicious activity." Seriously?!! I told the officer that I never once left the sidewalk (although I came really really close once because there was an interesting tree right next to a house that I wanted a close-up of ... but I resisted because ... it was right next to someone's house!) and had only snapped SIX pictures total! He was very indignant that I had taken any pictures at all, asked to see my I.D., and warned me not to take any more pictures outside. Hmmm. I had been taking pictures outside for the prior seven days and no one had complained at all! Jesse came home an hour later and was pretty furious about this incident. He thinks the officer acted out of line. Me too!

Well ... that's the story of my eight days in El Paso. Eight wonderful days. The nicest visit I've ever had there. So I have lots of good memories. Making a book about it will be a lot of fun too. And speaking of books, I'll share with you a few of our favorite books that we read ... another day!

Drawings by Christopher

Thought I'd show you a few more pieces of art by Christopher. It's not that Matthew and Emma weren't also drawing ... but both of them tend to be a little perfectionistic with their works of art. So there is a lot of starting over and ripping up and ... general angst. Christopher is pretty care-free about his art! He is quick and fluid and he really enjoys himself hugely!
Children's art is so interesting, isn't it?

Notice the fishing hook dangling in front of the shark ... as well as the tiny eels in the right-hand corner ... and I love all of the little colorful fish ...
I liked the fat pelican up in the air in this drawing ... as well as the eels and the crab (lower left corner). Now remember ... he was looking at one of my Ed Emberley drawing books while doing these sketches ... but more just to give him ideas than doing exact copying.
This one completely cracked me up ~ Santa Clause, snowflakes, and a few reindeer ... and I loved how he grabbed black construction paper and knew that crayons would still show up!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A bit more from the visit to El Paso ...

Since the children were on spring break when I arrived in El Paso last week, we had all day long to play and hang out together. I brought a set of rocket balloons that came with its very own pump so that we didn't have to use our own hot air to try to inflate them!
We took the rocket balloons and pump over to the playground across from the kids' school and we shot them off for a little while, never forgetting to use the official countdown: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-ZERO ... ignition ... blast-off! It was really fun to watch the balloons go zooming through the air, twirling and screeching the whole way!
This is a really nice playground that is conveniently covered with a blue canvas to provide some shade. Living in Michigan, it doesn't seem as though anyone would NEED shade in the middle of March ... but El Paso? Definitely! Every afternoon I was there was in the 80's and the sunshine is SO bright (and wonderful) ... but it does get almost too hot rather quickly ... so the shade comes in handy!
Diana also had lots of games in their game closet, so when we got tired of playing outside, we'd try a game or two. We especially enjoyed playing "Kerplunk" and "Trouble" together, although someone always has to lose, which is ... a good way to teach about being a good loser!
We also folded many many paper airplanes ... because I LOVE folding paper airplanes. Emma got out our thumbprint book and decorated her airplanes with thumbprint people ...
Matthew thought that was cool too, so he just drew windows on the side of his plane with people looking out. These particular models are NOT the ones that I folded. The children were showing me that they knew how to fold an airplane without my instructions (!). We took them outside and tried to make them stay in the air, but these ones didn't fly very well. So THEN, they asked me to fold MY kind of airplane and we flew those all over the place. The kind that I fold are difficult for little hands and there are too many tricky tucks and folds for them to remember, so it gets frustrating for them. So I just end up doing all of the folding and then the children decorate each plane so that it can be distinguished as theirs.
When I was in St. Petersburg a few weeks back, my sister-in-law (Carol) had the coolest bubble wands for her grandchildren and ... I wanted them! Amazingly, while Jesse and I were shopping at Walmart, I found the exact set of bubbles and wands! We got them out and were immediately inundated with neighbor children wanting to try everything out, and so we did bubbles with about eight children who were having a real difficult time sharing ... we finally brought everything back up into the house. The next time I visit, I'll try to figure out a better way to share the wands and bubbles so that everyone isn't so crowded and frustrated. Most of the children in this picture are next-door neighbors and are really nice little kids.
We did a lot of chalk drawing again ... because it's so much fun! This is Christopher just talking my leg off while sitting under the car port ...
We also did our usual watercolor paintings because the kids love to paint and they do such a great job! Look how pleased Matthew is with his little bear painting!
Christopher wasn't quite finished with these pictures, but held them up for my camera anyway ...
Emma likes to do a real careful job with her pictures ~ she's at that age now. So Emma and I only got one painting each accomplished, while the boys did three (I think)!
With my rocket balloon kit, there was also a supply of those skinny kind of balloons that talented people are able to put together and make cute animals with, etc. We used our pump to inflate them, but there were NO instructions as to how to make them into cool animals and no matter how hard we tried ... we couldn't get it to happen!
There were also a couple of punch balloons that we played with and enjoyed a lot ...
I'm always amazed at how much children enjoy playing with balloons. They aren't very expensive and there are lots of fun things you can do with them. Sometimes, we have taken markers out and drawn faces on them and made them into little people even!
I forget which day it was (maybe Saturday?) that Jesse brought home a new pool for the kids. It fit nicely under the carport so that they didn't have to worry about being overly exposed to the sun. But it was such a windy day! So even though the temperature was 80, the pool felt a bit cold. Emma didn't want to be in the pool with her brothers splashing and was rather mopey about the whole ordeal. I didn't include the pouty pictures of her for you to see!
Emma kept busy making chalk pictures while her brothers splashed away in the pool.
Since Matthew's sixth birthday is coming up in early April and I can't be in El Paso at that time, I shipped his birthday presents ahead and we opened them early!
I bought more Hotwheels stuff because it's so much fun, it doesn't cost very much, and even Jesse enjoys it! I didn't take a close-up picture of it, but Hotwheels even makes a cool Sirocco vehicle and I purchased one for Jesse ~ he's looking at it in that top picture (above)!
We made a "crash track" and crashed cars for awhile ...
There was an airplane launcher too that had to be connected with rubber bands. Christopher is showing Matthew the mechanics of it.
Matthew was quite pleased with his gifts. He also got a bat and some whiffle balls and we hit those around the back yard for awhile later in the evening. It surprised me that Emma still knows how to really slug a ball ... she attributes it to her Uncle Adam and all of the time he spent teaching her how to hold a bat and hit a ball when she lived here in Michigan four years ago now!
A really nice coloring book for children in this age group is "Color by Dots" by Melissa and Doug. For $4.99 you get 40 nice-sized (8 x 8) pictures that are color-coded. We used markers the first night we colored with this book, but the next day we actually found that crayons and colored pencils gave us a better result. By the time my eight-day visit had ended, all but four of the 40 pictures had been nicely colored! I think I'm going to re-purchase this book because it was so much fun to use!

I have more to show and tell you about our time together in El Paso, but this is enough for now! I still have to tell you about all of the great stories we read together too ... but that will have to be in another entry.