Thursday, September 27, 2012

Brendan on the move ...

I've been home from El Paso for four days now. I knew I would feel kind of "down" on my return. It's much more fun to anticipate a trip, all of the activities, and being reunited with much-missed grandchildren ~ but then I have to come home, and sometimes the sadness goes pretty deep.

So when it was arranged for Kelly, Dylan, Brendan and Shane to come over for dinner tonight, I was very happy!

How can my heart be sad when my little fellow is over to play?

Brendan is almost 8 months now and he is quite mobile. He can crawl, but not terribly fast and not perfectly ... but he can certainly get where he would like to go! Plus, he can go from a crawling position, turn his little body about and sit right back up nice and straight. I think he is quite pleased about this! 

Two weeks ago when he came over to play, I had forgotten about some of the toys back in the playroom that I had gotten for him. But tonight, I had them out and ready for him! He liked all of them very much. He has the sweetest smile and he enjoys my camera so much. There will come a day when he most likely will NOT want his picture taken ... so I am taking every advantage while I have it!

We enjoyed a yummy dinner together, played for a little bit, and then everyone went home. I've been editing pictures tonight, looking back on my trip to El Paso with a heavy heart ... but a little lighter after tonight's visit.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Home Again

It was kind a long travel day, but still ... isn't it amazing that I could wake up in El Paso, go to church with Jesse's family, be taken to the airport at 12:45 in the afternoon and actually walk back in my own little house, 1600 miles away on the same day?!

I packed my camera away this morning before church and didn't take one single picture today. I was just out of energy to photograph anything at all.

The kids and I made pancakes for breakfast this morning. We played some card games and read some stories and then went to church together. Jesse had to be there early this morning, so the children and I went later with Diana and Kaitlynn.

All of the grade-school children are dismissed after the worship singing and go to various classes. I decided that since I was being driven directly to the airport after church, I would just have my own private little class with Emma, Chris and Matthew on the picnic tables outside in front of the church. Emma brought her "Jesus Storybook Bible" along and I had each one of the kids pick out a favorite that we could read and talk about. Emma picked out the story of Jesus choosing his 12 disciples. We talked about how lots of these friends were just poor fishermen who left everything to follow Jesus. We also talked about what happened to them after Jesus died, rose again, and went to heaven. How they went everywhere telling the wonderful story of forgiveness and redemption and how many of them actually died for their faith.

Christopher wanted to hear the story of Jonah, so we read it and talked about it for awhile. We got talking about how difficult it is to love people who are mean to us. Something in our discussion provoked Chris and he abruptly announced he needed to go and pray! So he left our picnic table, went behind a tree, knelt down and prayed for a little bit. He never did tell me what it was about and I didn't want to pry into his personal business!

Matthew wanted to hear the story of how David became king, so we read how Samuel went to the house of Jesse and met all of the sons, but none of them was the right one until the youngest was sent for ... and he was anointed king. Matthew likes that story because for a long time, HE was the youngest. But we talked about how God looks at our hearts, not at how strong or handsome or smart we are.

After church, we drove to the airport and I got dropped off after much kissing and hugging. No one cried, for which I was thankful! I think we were all too tired to cry today! And our colds have made our noses so nasty that crying would only make that misery 10x worse.

It was a nice time, a really wonderful visit. Jesse is looking to be out of the Army in early June 2013 and Diana will be finished with her nursing program by then too. The plan is for them to move back to Grand Rapids at that time. So ... perhaps only two more Texas visits for me and then no more! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

El Paso on September 22

This is kind of a silly picture of Emma, but let me explain ... 

Today was my last full day with the children in El Paso, and it was Saturday; so I saved a little fun project for today and when I presented it to the kids, I got various responses. It wasn't that it was such a big deal or anything--we were just going to use fabric markers to decorate plain white T-shirts and see how fancy we could make them. The picture I took of Emma is of her trying to think just WHAT she was going to put on her T-shirt.
And these two mopey looking pictures of Christopher are because he had decided what he wanted to put on his T-shirt, but I asked him to try to think of something else. He had wanted to put some kind of battle that sounded kind of ... violent and sad ... so he was a little bit upset with me for telling him to think of something else.

We finally googled "Star Wars drawings" and Christopher found quite a few characters from those movies that he decided to draw and he totally changed his sad face into a happy one and got right to work on his project.
And Matthew knew right away what he wanted to draw. He had seen some cats in my drawing books that he was going to turn into Star Wars Cats--I wasn't sure exactly what he meant by that, but he said, "Don't worry, I will show you Grandma." 

I did have the kids do a test drawing on plain paper just because it's difficult to make corrections on fabric and I wanted them to be sure they were happy with their design. 
After much thought, Emma decided that since she would like to be a veterinarian when she grows up, she should put lots of animals on her shirt. 
Matthew finished his test drawings first, so he was the first one to begin on his T-shirt. He did a really nice job. 
We spent about two hours on this art project this morning. I had a nice children's praise album playing on I-Tunes and the kids and I sang and danced and sketched the morning away! It was so much fun. 
Can you see Chris's drawing of Yoda? 

This is the back of Matthew's shirt. I asked him what he wanted me to write and he said that since he turned one of his cats into Darth Vader, that's what he wanted me to write. Matthew drew R2/D2 without looking at any pictures at all! 
In between drawing and singing, we visited with Kaity-girl. She was in her little soft chair not far from us. She likes to be included, not left out of all of the fun. 

Matthew was so pleased with his shirt! We let it dry for awhile and then he wore his for the rest of the day. 
 Emma took a little break from her T-shirt (because she made a mistake and couldn't figure out HOW she was going to fix it) and she was working on a bracelet kit I had bought for her birthday.
Emma was also reading the tiny book I bought for Kaity as well as trying to take a picture of Kaity at the same time ... see her camera? Emma does a really nice job taking pictures. 
 This is the front and back of Christopher's shirt. We spent a lot of time on the internet looking these characters up for him and then he copied drawings that he liked. But he did an excellent job with every character if you consider the fact that he is sketching using permanent marker and couldn't erase any lines!

 Christopher got to help his mama out and feed Kaity a bottle this afternoon. Diana is still nursing the baby, but she also gets bottles in-between her other feedings.
Emma was really happy with how her T-shirt turned out. She worked really hard on it and had so much fun with it. 

We had another movie night tonight. We saw "Fly Away Home," which was based on a true story. The children really really enjoyed the story. We finished reading all of the books we had intended to read and had a nice storytime together tonight as well. 

So ... tomorrow after church, I fly back to Michigan. I have many happy memories of my visit here and am so thankful I got to come.

Friday, September 21, 2012

September 21 in El Paso

I got to spend some extra time with Kaitlynn today. She and I kind of hung out together off and on throughout the day. She knows the sound of my voice now, and she smiles when she hears it!  
Kaity is a real pleasant little baby. She definitely likes to see what is going on and be involved in everything. She is real social and friendly with people. 
I ate my last school breakfast and lunch today with the kids today and said good-bye to lots of little friends that I've made this week. Christopher and I played "WAR" out for lunch recess and he completely creamed me (with a very captive audience). 

It was nice to know we didn't have to work on homework tonight. The children came home from school ready to play, so we did. I got out some art stuff and the kids worked away at it! The picture of Emma (above) is of her working on another etching project of a cute little kitten.
Christopher just wanted to sketch for awhile, so he brought out one of his Matchbox cars and ... sketched it!

Matthew was sketching away at a comic book figure for awhile. Drawing is a good thing for Matthew to do because it helps him with his focusing and eye-hand coordination and other manual skills that he sometimes struggles with in school. When I watch him sketch, I see a very confident and relaxed little kid really enjoying what he is doing ~ and I'm so glad about that!
Emma is still working on her etching and will probably finish it up tomorrow. We also hope to take some plain white T-shirts and use special fabric markers to make our own decorated shirts tomorrow. I'll try to get some good pictures of those to show you!

We had movie night tonight and watched "Home Alone 2" and I thought the boys were going to completely crack up with laughter. I know there isn't much value in a goofy movie like this, but the joy of listening to their laughter was pretty wonderful. We all went to bed an hour late, but it's getting near the end of my stay here in El Paso, so an hour late was warranted. I'm hoping to convince Jesse to drive us all up to the mountains just for a little while tomorrow so that I can get some pictures of the children up there ... but we'll have to see about that.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

El Paso on September 20

 Well, we've made it through Thursday night and we've done a TON of homework this week. Tomorrow night, we will not have to worry about doing any school work whatsoever. We've planned a movie night to celebrate. Matthew has the most homework of the children. His second grade teacher is very organized and has a really good system (I think) to teach and make the children accountable for their homework. I'll be honest, though, Matthew really struggles and it takes a lot to keep him on task. But he did really well this week and I enjoyed spending the extra time with him.
 Emma helped tonight in the kitchen. While I was preparing dinner, she washed some pots and pans that had been soaking in the sink.
 She did a real nice job on the dishes.
 After dinner was over, little Kaity had gotten somewhat fussy; so we girls decided to take her for a walk. We asked the boys if they wanted to come, but they were playing in the yard with some friends. So it was just Emma and I and baby Kaity ...
Kaitlynn loves to be outside. She smiled and cooed and kicked those little legs in pure joy. 
 Emma does a real nice job with Kaity too. She talks real sweet to her and takes lots and lots of pictures of Kaity on the camera she got as a gift (from good friends) for her birthday.

We had a really nice walk tonight, just as the sun was setting. It had been a scorching hot day today, but this evening, the temperatures were mild and very comfortable ~ just perfect for Kaity.

We're looking forward to the weekend ahead ... NO school ... NO homework ... we'll just play and play!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

El Paso on September 19

 This is Emma at breakfast this morning. It turns out that since the fourth grade classes were overcrowded, a new classroom was formed. Emma was pulled from her original homeroom and now has a brand new teacher. She still has her original teacher for writing skills, and her math teacher remains the same. The only thing that has changed is she has a new homeroom teacher who will be in charge of teaching reading and language. I met her this morning and liked her right away. She said I can join the class for the first hour tomorrow and sit with Emma. 

It warmed up quite a bit today and I enjoyed the heat. I do understand, however, why people down here get tired of it. It doesn't just get warm. It gets HOT. And there is no shade. No wind. No green. No beautiful lakes. Just dust. And dirt. And heat. And relentless sun. It was very cool here last week, but the last few days, the temperature has been in the normal range for September. Very HOT. It was so very hot this afternoon, I was quite glad the school was only four blocks away and not a half mile! Walking to and from the school during the heat of the day can sometimes be difficult.

At breakfast recess, one of the little boys (Haidan) had found a wounded butterfly. He was being really gentle with it, and all of the children were fascinated by its beautiful colors. It had a damaged wing. I was walking around with a whole group of children and didn't find out until lunch time that Haidan and Christopher had actually brought the butterfly inside the school and delivered it to the school nurse for her to make better!

Just before returning to school for lunch, I opened the front door of the house to find this praying mantis on the outside door. I captured him in a little container and put it on the kitchen counter so I could show it to the kids when they got home from school. We had just been talking about praying mantises and walking sticks the other day!
When school was over, we brought the praying mantis outside and watched him for awhile before he flew away. He's quite a fascinating creature. We didn't try to handle him in any way and we were very careful to not harm him. 

Diana and I made huge chef salads for dinner tonight. Diana constructed weaved bacon bowls (!) to put the salad inside. The children ate an entire plate full of fresh vegetables, cheese and fruit tonight; so we felt good about that.

We are all still feeling the effects of having colds and are more tired than usual; but for the most part, we are taking it in stride and having a good time anyway.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

El Paso on September 18

We were hoping to wake up feeling better this morning ... but we did not! However, life goes on ... and it did! So the children got ready for school and we did our usual breakfast together. I had asked Christopher's teacher if I could sit in on her class this morning for just a little while ~ I could tell Mrs. Morales was reluctant about the idea right from the beginning ~ and as it turned out today, my throat was too sore and I was afraid of spreading my germs, so I told her that I would just quickly look at Chris's classroom and then leave. She seemed relieved that I would not be staying. I don't blame her really. She has quite an active bunch of kids to deal with and mentioned that she was worried I would distract the class. I completely understand her feelings about this and I told her so. I'm glad we could be honest with each other and not be offended or anything. 

I returned to school for lunch and recesses but made sure I rested when I was not up at school. We finished everyone's homework in record time, ate a nice dinner that Diana had prepared, and then we took Kaity out for a walk around the neighborhood.
 The kids decided to walk me down to a few quiet streets that I was not familiar with. We enjoyed our walk very much. Emma was in charge of the stroller, and I was the photographer. Everyone was in a goofy mood, and no one was really trying very hard to give me any chance whatsoever at a good picture of all four of them together! That's OK, though, because we were just having fun anyway.

Emma looks so grown up in these pictures! She really enjoys being with Kaitlynn and the baby smiles really BIG when she sees Emma ... very nice.
 Isn't this a great picture of Matthew? I love his smile.
 We stumbled across a small playground and enjoyed that for a little while ...

It was a beautiful evening for our walk. The temperature was perfect. The sky was completely clear with a soft breeze blowing. 

I'm hoping and praying we begin feeling better soon. Diana is still under the weather, and even Kaity is not quite herself because she is congested. I'll post more tomorrow ...