Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What a GIFT this little fellow is ...

Monday afternoon, I got to babysit Brendan at HIS house. His folks were attending the Christmas party /dinner over at Acton Institute, so I got to come over and play with baby B. And what is this sad face, little sweetheart (above, bottom right picture)?

 Brendan was very aware that his parents were NOT home and he kept looking everywhere for them! So, at one point, I turned on my handy computer and got onto PhotoBooth so that Brendan could see himself. He was very amused that he could see another cute baby ... but WHY was grandma on that screen?!
 Kelly had instructed me to feed Brendan her homemade (and very yummy) graham crackers if he seemed a bit fussy or hungry ... so after about an hour of playing and him searching everywhere for mommy and daddy, I put him in his high chair and delivered the crackers. I was tickling his chunky little legs underneath his tray in this picture, which is why he is giggling uncontrollably.
I broke a cracker in half and ate one along with him ... which he thought was quite delightful and he is telling me exactly that! 
 And this picture? Well, this one just completely cracks me up (above) ... I haven't the slightest idea what his face is saying ... but doesn't Brendan have the most expressive little face ever?!
 And here he is today, wearing the little hat his mama made for him last weekend ... he looks so absolutely adorable in it ... doesn't he?
What an incredible gift this little child (and his mama) have been to me this year. I can't begin to give enough thanks for them. To have a grandbaby nearby, instead of 1600 miles away, has been such a mercy to me. LOVE you guys!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Home once again ...

The southern tip of Lake Michigan,
somewhere near Gary, Indiana and Chicago

The Chicago skyline from the air ...
isn't that the Sear's Tower in the center?

Lake Michigan ... but I am not sure where I am!
I think somewhere a bit north of St. Joseph ...
 With all of the hassle associated with flying nowadays, you would think I would be sick to death of it ~ but I'm not! I still cannot get over the thrill of being 5 miles up in the sky, looking out across God's vast creation. When I book a flight, I almost always choose a window seat. The one-hour and fifteen minute flight from El Paso to Dallas/Ft. Worth zooms on by with my face glued to the window! And the little-over two-hour flight from Dallas to Grand Rapids never seems very long either. Today, I was lucky enough to fly over Lake Michigan without cloud cover! I love seeing my lake from the air. 
 Kelly and baby Brendan were kind enough to pick me up at the airport this afternoon. We drove home and then spent some time together ... I have missed my chunky little grandson!

I think Brendan was happy to see me too! He had so many smiles and giggles today. Kelly and I and Brendan played for more than an hour.
Since I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. El Paso time and actually woke up 20 minutes ahead of time, got up and showered and finished packing ... I am a bit more than tired this evening. I'm going to work on doing my laundry and then retire early so that I am ready for my day tomorrow. My heart is sad to leave El Paso ... but it is always always good to be home again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday, last day in El Paso

 My last day in El Paso was full of Plan B's. Let me explain. You know how when you make plans (Plan A) and you think certain things are going to happen in a certain way ... but then circumstances change? Well, today was one of THOSE days.

I have been meeting the children every day during their three lunch and recess periods, sitting with them and their friends while they eat, and then going outside with them until their bell rings for class. The last few days, my stomach has been a little upset and I've been hoping that I wasn't coming down with a stomach flu. Today, due to my stomach, I only made it through two of three lunches and recesses before I just had to excuse myself and go back home!

And then in the early afternoon, the people came to the house to fix the kitchen sink and proceeded to drill through the brick wall of the house the rest of the afternoon and all the way into the evening. When I walked up to school to pick the kids up, I told them about all of the noise happening at their house. Instead of playing inside (Plan A), we decided to drop off backpacks and ... go on an outdoor adventure (Plan B). 
Emma, showing me her "stuff" on one of the many
playgrounds we discovered today!

Christopher, giving me a nice smile
up on top!

A very HAPPY Matthew at the playground
 On our adventure, we found TWO playgrounds where we'd never played before, as well as playing at one we were familiar with. It was great to be outside! We've had a lot of wind and very chilly temperatures, but thankfully it was a nice mild afternoon and we were not too cold. 
We had to be careful not to get too far from home because the sun sets behind the mountain at about ten minutes to five ~ and when the sun goes behind the mountain, it gets dark so fast! We enjoyed our adventure and were back home by about 4:45. The workers had finished all of their loud drilling and had fixed the kitchen sink!

We enjoyed some pizza for dinner tonight, as well as another ice cream sundae for dessert. I ate nothing whatsoever, hoping that my stomach will settle down before my very early flight tomorrow morning. We spent some time playing together with my computer photo program, had storytime, and now it is after 10:00 and everyone is soundly sleeping. It was a very nice last day in El Paso, and I'm thankful that even though circumstances change, our love for each other remains constant! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday in El Paso

This morning it was four degrees colder in El Paso than it was in Grand Rapids! BRRRR! After we ate our breakfast, we walked down to the school library ~ instead of waiting outside 20 minutes in the cold wind (!) for the bell to ring. We looked at some books together, happy to be INSIDE where it was warm!
Emma is in the second row, all the way to the left
"Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells!"
Tonight was the Christmas program at Logan Elementary. At the very last minute, they switched the location of where the children were performing ... it kind of made for a bit of a dilemma at our house because ... Emma and Chris were going to be performing in the school cafeteria at 6:00 while Matthew was going to be performing in the multi-purpose building at the very same time. The multi-purpose building is no where near the cafeteria. Yikes. What to do?

Since Jesse was still not 100% recovered from his head cold, he stayed home with baby Kaity. Diana attended Matthew's performance in the multi-purpose building, and I attended Emma and Chris's performance in the school cafeteria. There was a ton of people at both locations, parking was really a trick, but we managed to get through it! 

Christopher is on the top row, 2nd from the right
"Frosty the Snowman!"

Santa was in the lobby greeting all of the children, so our three munchkins agreed to pose for a picture. Pretty cute, you guys! 

I am too tired tonight to tell you any more about our day! I am just exhausted through and through. But it was another good day, one I am very thankful for.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday in El Paso

Do you remember me telling you that there is NO playground equipment at Logan Elementary? Well, I should have clarified and said that there were no swings or monkey bars or other climbing apparatus; because there is blacktop and a few basketball hoops, and if you are quick and lucky enough, you might even find a basketball that has air in it (!) and be able to shoot a few hoops during recess. Christopher really enjoys sports: football especially, soccer, and also basketball. During lunch recess today, Chris and I shot some baskets and he won, 6 to 4!
 When I came to see the children back in September, I had them design their own T-shirts. We used fabric markers and had so much fun doing art on shirts! So ... I found more sale T-shirts and markers a few weeks ago and brought them along this time too. After homework was completed, the kiddos got to work on their T-shirt project.

 We had tacos for dinner tonight and for dessert, we enjoyed huge ice cream sundaes ... to the delight of each and every child in the house ... well, not Kaity!
Above, the kids are showing me how their shirts turned out. They all plan to wear them to school tomorrow! I think, however, they might have to layer them. We woke up this morning, after a howling wind storm last night, to really COLD temperatures that never warmed up all day. 

Tomorrow evening is the school Christmas program ...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday in El Paso

Emma showing me her completed LEGO
set of: "Olivia's Treehouse"
We had such a nice Sunday together here in El Paso! Since Jesse and Diana are both sick with head colds, none of us could attend church this morning, so the children and I had our own church. I reminded the kiddos that the Bible says that when people gather to worship the Lord, even if there are only 2 or 3 of them, He is right there with them. So we took almost an hour this morning and learned about the prophet Elijah. We had a wonderful time studying I Kings 17-19. I was able to get some coloring pages from the internet and we were able to color pictures that told most of the story. 
After "church" the children returned to finishing up their LEGO models. With a LOT of tenacity, each one of them completed their models with absolutely no help from me or any grown-up whatsoever. They were really pleased with their accomplishment too! Christopher is always especially dramatic when it comes to posing for a picture ... hence the expressions on his face! 
But again, Matthew was the child who surprised me most. His LEGO set was extremely difficult. I honestly do not think I could have put it together myself! But Matthew very patiently went step by step and completed his models. He was SO pleased that he could do this all by himself. There were several times when he was obviously frustrated during the process and I offered to be of assistance; but each time, he very politely said that he wanted to do it all by himself ... and he did!
Baby Kaity and I got better acquainted today. She is a sweetie. Look at her darling little face! She is teething presently and I think she feels quite miserable about it ... poor little one. But she was still smiling and cooing and giggling throughout her day. Emma and I brought her into Emma's room for some "girl time" this afternoon. We showed her how to build with her Christmas presents, a very simple block set, and then we showed her some of Emma's dolls. She especially liked Emma's baby dolls. 
In all of these pictures, Kaity-girl's hair looks red! But until I edited these pictures tonight, I never noticed any red in her hair whatsoever. So now I'm wondering ... will she be a redhead? As I look back on when Emma was a baby, I remember wondering now and then if her hair would be red ... but Emma is definitely NOT a redhead. 
I love these pictures of Kaity. I didn't have very many nice ones of her until today. I'm so glad I was able to get them! 

The weekend flew right by. Tomorrow, we return to school. We are in the middle of quite a wind storm down here tonight. I'm hoping that by morning, the wind has died down!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday ... we celebrate an early Christmas in El Paso!

Since it was Saturday, and there was NO school today, we suggested that everyone SLEEP IN, get some extra "winks", catch up on some much-needed sleep, etc. ~ so, did anyone take us up on our suggestion? Well, actually only Emma slept in past 7:00. But the boys were up with the sun and were rearing to go. Good thing we had our day all planned out in advance!

After breakfast, we opened up my new Klutz book: "Twisted Critters," all about how to make cute animals and stuff out of pipe cleaners. We opened up a brand new bag of colorful pipe cleaners and followed directions to make our very first project, a bumblebee. It was very easy to make, so we also made the caterpillar together and then the kids just kind of made up critters of their own. Of the three children, Matthew was the biggest surprise for me ... he really really took to bending, folding, and creating all kinds of cool stuff out of pipe cleaners. He filled up a plastic bag full of them and enjoyed himself hugely.  
Emma followed the directions on how to make this penguin and she didn't need any help from me at all. I think it turned out really cute.

Baby Kaity was (naturally) too tiny to make any pipe cleaner critters, but she enjoyed watching us have fun. She also enjoyed listening to our children's Christmas album that was playing on my computer while we were doing our art. Kaity is a very happy baby. 
Even though it was Saturday, Diana had to go to school most of the day. We told her we would wait until she returned home before we opened up Christmas presents. So while we waited, we played games together and even learned two new dice games. By mid-afternoon, Diana was home and we opened the gifts I had sent. Look how happy Matthew is to receive his very own copy of the Jesus Storybook Bible. He requested this from me back in September. We have had a copy of this Bible here in El Paso for a very long time, but we keep it in Emma's room and it has kind of become the personal property of Emma. So, Matthew wanted his own copy so that he could look through it any time he wanted.
This is Christopher when he ripped off the paper and found a very nice Star Wars LEGO set ... he is a really good builder, very patient, and this is a difficult model to put together. 
Emma received some LEGO Friends sets. She started collecting them a few months ago. I don't have a picture of it, but Matthew also received a super heroes LEGO set. We helped Kaity open her gifts and then we spent several hours working on all of the LEGO models, but we STILL are not finished! 
So thankful for this day here with the children. This narrative is pathetic, but I'm really worn out!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday in El Paso

 Another day has come and gone in El Paso! It was such a good day! We started out as usual, eating breakfast together at school. After eating, we had about 20 minutes before the school bell rang, so we went outside to the playground. There is NO playground equipment at Logan Elementary, and there hasn't been any for many months. Some of the school workers told me that the school is going to be demolished and then rebuilt; but the decision was made to take out all of the playground equipment to make room for the construction that is soon to come. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but it is what it is! But it does leave hundreds of little children with nothing to do outside for recess. This morning, many of the children spent their time digging in the dirt ... of which there is an abundance! And actually, we kind of made a game out of it because the wind had blown a ton of sand across one of the sidewalks, so several children decided to dig the sidewalk out! It would have been helpful if there had been shovels, but the kids made good use of their hands instead. I thought they looked like young archeologists digging through layers of dirt in search of the missing sidewalk.
After school this afternoon, the boys and I completely cleaned their room. I had made a "deal" with them and said that if they were good helpers, we could celebrate a late birthday tonight for Chris. I had his birthday presents shipped here a few weeks ago. It was fun to watch him open them tonight. 
LEGOS is a real favorite with all of the children ~ and Christopher especially loves Star Wars LEGOS. So ... that is what he received! 
Chris did a really nice job building his set of LEGOS tonight. He was able to do the entire project by himself, with no help whatsoever. 

See the finished product? A very cool spaceship from the third Star Wars movie, complete with a min-Luke Skywalker figure. Chris was very pleased. 
And here are two shots of little Kaity-girl. She is a real cutie. I didn't get to see much of her today because she was at daycare most of the day, coming home just in time for dinner, a little play time, and then ... sleep! 

We read some fun books tonight during story time. Last night, we had read the book: "Those Darn Squirrels," by Adam Rubin ~ and tonight we read: "Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door." Both books are hilarious little stories, wonderfully illustrated. My niece, Shelley, recommended them over on her Book Diary blog. We've also read two funny pirate books. I have many more good books to share with the children, and lots and fun little art projects to work on over the weekend. I'll try to post some pictures of those activities ... soon!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday in El Paso

I arrived safely in El Paso early last evening to these happy faces! We had just a short time together to visit with each other, read a few stories, and then get tucked in for the night. 

Today, we woke up refreshed and ready for ... Thursday! The children had asked me how long I was staying this time. So I told them I was staying one of each day of the week ~ one Thursday, one Friday, one Saturday, one Sunday, one Monday, one Tuesday, and one Wednesday ... but then I would have to fly back to Grand Rapids very very early next Thursday morning. 

I ate breakfast with the kiddos this morning up at school and then returned home to work on a few projects before rejoining them for their lunch and recess periods. I got reacquainted with lots of little friends I have met along the way at Logan Elementary School, as well as being able to say "hi" to the kids' teachers too.  
I snapped a few quick pictures of little Kaity this evening. She decidedly does NOT like the lights on my camera. I can get a very nice smile from her, and even a giggle now and then ~ but when I grab my camera and turn the flash on ... the smile quickly turns to a little frown. But the above picture kind of cracks me up, because it looks like Kaity is intentionally sticking her tongue out at me ... I'm sure she didn't mean to!
This is sweet of our sleeping Kaity-girl. She was all tuckered out after the Christmas party we attended tonight over where Jesse works. There were lots and lots of people and a ton of food. We feel kind of over-stuffed and exhausted right now!

The children and I read part of the Christmas story out of one of Emma's children's Bibles, both last night and tonight actually. I have also prepared to read and teach them a few stories from the life of Elijah that I think they will really enjoy ~ but I'm waiting for the weekend for that. We also have lots of little art projects we are going to do together this weekend. Tonight, we only had time for homework and then the party; but it was a good day, and I am thankful for it!