Sunday, August 18, 2013

One picture from Saturday ...

Yesterday was a planned family reunion in the Detroit area for all of the Holtzhouse families. Since I was unsure which day we were going to celebrate Emma's birthday, either Friday or Saturday, I couldn't commit to traveling to Detroit. Afterall, it had been seven years since I was able to be with Emma on her birthday and nothing was going to prevent that this year!
Back row: Marti Swoveland,Donald Albright, Gary Albright,
Wayne Albright, John Albright
Second row (kind of squiggly): Lois Groat, Andrea Kendrick,
Sharon VanderWoude, Julie Hardy, Beth Winnowski, and ME
Front: Mary Lou Lockhart

Since we did Emma's birthday Friday, it worked out that I was able to take mom (Nana) with me and drive Saturday morning to Troy, Michigan, where we reunited with many family members for the day. This is the only picture I am posting since I really didn't take any pictures while I was there. I knew we only had a few hours to visit with cousins and aunts, so I decided to ... visit! 

I handed my camera off for someone to snap this picture. There are a dozen cousins pictured here, a dozen out of 21 potential cousins, offspring of Guy and Mary Holtzhouse. What a nice time we had together!

TOGETHER on Emma's birthday!

When Jesse and his family left for El Paso WAY back in May 2007, I never dreamed it would be SO LONG before they would return back to Michigan to live. The last birthday we were able to celebrate with Emma on the day of her birthday was her fourth! You can't imagine how happy I was this past Friday to be together with Emma on her ELEVENTH birthday!

Emma loves my reading chair!

Grandma and Grandpa Hand
Diana and Jesse, Uncle David
Dylan, Kelly, Brendan
 Emma got to choose the place for her birthday party. I wasn't at all surprised when she chose Townsend Park. We enjoyed pizza and chips and a beautiful birthday cake (that I failed to photograph).
Dylan and Kelly and baby Brendan joined the party. Kelly had met Jesse's family the night before ... but until then, she had never met any of them!  
Dylan and Little Fellow
Brendan kept wandering off from the picnic
and had to be retrieved ... he was on his
own mission, quite independent of the rest of us!

 Emma received so many beautiful gifts. She was very pleased. 
One of "the brothers" drew this for Emma,
but I can't remember if it was Chris or Matthew ...

 Emma is very "into" LEGO Friends, which was designed for girls. She received many new Friends' sets for her birthday. Back in December, the last time I was in El Paso, she had asked me to buy her a Bible, "one that had ALL of the words" included instead of just parts of the stories. So I bought Emma an Adventure Bible and got her a bright pink Bible case with zipper pockets and all kinds of compartments to keep pencils in, etc. She was pretty excited when she opened it up. I also got her an outfit that had a cute little cat on the shirt. I didn't get any pictures of Emma opening the gifts I bought for her because by the time she opened them, I was holding Kaity-girl who had gotten a little fussy.
You should see this baby on a slide!
He squeals when he gets to the top,
sits himself down like a pro and laughs all the way to the bottom!
I love him intensely.

 This was our 3rd time "hunting" critters in the creek, and so far, not one of us had been able to catch a cray fish. We were getting much better, though, at catching water bugs (!) and tiny fish ...

 This is Brendan "racing" with his mama. When she says, "Ready, set, go! Or ... On your mark, get set, go!", he will bend over and place his hand on the ground and then zoom off in a race with Kelly! He is such a cutie!
Happiness! Emma was the FIRST ONE to catch a crayfish! It was quite a big guy too! And then Christopher caught one, and Matthew got another that someone had let go in the open waters of the creek. A friend of mine had told me that crayfish like hotdogs (!), so we wrapped parts of hotdogs around string and then we trolled along the tree roots by the edge of the creek ... and out they came! Emma said this was the favorite part of her birthday. She was so thrilled to catch a crayfish! 
Brendan wasn't one bit hesitant about getting into the creek. He isn't afraid of anything ... which is kind of scary if you think about it!
Later in the evening, the three older grandchildren spent some time with me at the Beach House. I showed Emma my special peanut grinder and she ground up a whole bunch of peanuts to put on top of our ice cream sundaes. Good job, Emma!

I will remember this day, August 16, 2013 for a very long time -- full of wonderful memories of my Emma Joy's birthday.


Kaitlynn Jane and I do not know each other very well. Kaity is 13.5 months old. She and I had not seen each other since December, so she wasn't very excited about me! But I expected that very thing, so I wasn't sad about it. 

Emma holds her baby sister like a pro!
Kaity adores Emma.
Last Monday, August 12, I had the whole family over for dinner. We ate spaghetti, a big salad, some fruit, and garlic bread. I was so glad to have all of them at my beach house ... finally! 
The original plan was for Jesse's family to arrive in Grand Rapids by mid-June. Kaity's 1st birthday was at the end of June, so I didn't mail her present all the way to El Paso, thinking they would be home in time for us to celebrate her 1st birthday here with all of us together. But I was very wrong about that whole thing ...
This is Kaity opening up her Fisher-Price Noah's ark ... except I neglected to get any pictures of the opened present. It's really a cute little set and I think Kaity will really enjoy playing with the animals and little people. I love her expression in these pictures. She is a sweetie-pie! 
Happy belated birthday, Kaity-girl. You are my second granddaughter. I plan to get to know you very well in the next weeks and months. I can't wait to find out WHO you are! You are loved, sweet granddaughter.


There really isn't any way that I can put into words how happy I am to have my El Paso family FINALLY HOME in Grand Rapids after more than six+ years (that's over two thousand days!). They arrived in the early morning hours of Thursday, August 8. They drove straight through from El Paso and were exhausted. I didn't get together with them until the following day ~ and then we just decided to make a sleepover out of our reunion. We had so much fun. The children had never seen my beach house ~ I was so excited to share it with them. We took a quick tour (and because it's SO tiny, it took about 2 minutes!) and then got right into playing ...
LEGOS! I've had this bin of LEGOS for years and years ... much of what is in the bin is leftover from Dylan and his brothers (!), and these kids really built very cool spaceships out of all the parts they could find. 

This is Chris's finished spaceship

These kids are amazing builders. It was wonderful to sit and visit with them while they were building. But after awhile, I wandered into the main room of my little house and sat down at the piano and played a little tune. The kids had been so excited to see the toys in the spare room, they never noticed my piano until ... I started playing it. 
But then everyone wanted a turn playing the piano. They loved all the sounds that this instrument can make with just the push of a button! Emma especially was thrilled with the music she could make. I loved watching her enjoy herself at the keyboard. And doesn't she have perfect fingers and hands for playing? 
And look at Matthew's happy smile! He loved playing as well. I had to remind the boys that pianos are played with fingerTIPS not their entire bodies! But they listened and did very well.
Christopher especially enjoyed the headphones and recording his musical creation so that we could listen to it later.  
Since it was Friday, the children were able to stay the night. We rolled out the sleeping bags (no pictures were taken at this point, I'm not sure why!) and started the bedtime routine at about 9:30 pm. I was thinking that I had sufficiently worn them out so that by perhaps 11:00 they would be sleeping. But I was entirely wrong! These guys never fell asleep until 1:30 in the morning.  Yikes.

The next day, I took them over to Townsend Park to explore the creek. I told them stories about when their dad was a little kid how we used to go "hunting" for frogs and crayfish in this very same place.
All three of the children LOVED this place -- I KNEW they would! It's such a beautiful and peaceful place to play and enjoy God's wonderful creation.  
 We've been to Townsend Park several times together now. I purchased some nets so that we could catch some critters. We've met lots of other children in the process, who have helped us with their expertise in catching crayfish.
 Matthew caught our very first fish ... a tiny little scavenger fish. We put him in our bucket and watched him for quite awhile. Chris and Emma caught a bunch of water bugs, but we didn't have any luck whatsoever catching any crayfish the first few times we visited the creek. 
 But that doesn't mean we didn't have a good time trying ...
Look how happy the children are! I am so thankful to have them close to me. I love being their grandma so much.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

WHERE did July go?

Baby Brendan at The Beach House
Brendan does NOT do well in the heat ...
his little body just sweats like crazy and he feels miserable.
Thankfully, I have some ceiling fans that move the air
around. Brendan LOVES ceiling fans.
Two-thirds of the summer has quickly passed and we are into the first week of August ... and I find that I am terribly sad about that! It's not that summer is my favorite season of the year; actually, spring is! But spring is my favorite because I know what follows! SUMMER! Warmth, humidity, heat! Yes!
This crazy little "outfit" is because
Brendan sweated right through the only
other decent clothing that was available
that day ... but isn't he just the
 We have had a strange weather year, all year long actually. But this summer has been the chilliest that I can remember for a very long time. We finally did get those "dog-days of summer" early in July. It was even hot enough for ME!
Brendan and his beautiful mama at the little
playground not far from my Beach House

There were a few days when it was so hot
that clothing just became optional!

 We got to go to our very first Whitecaps game because the car dealership where I work was having a picnic there with free tickets to the game.
 I don't think I saw one single play of the game. I was much more interested in spending time with my Little Fellow and his folks. We had such a nice time together.
Dylan has taught Brendan how to play
the harmonica, and he enjoys it very much.

 Dylan and Kelly were blessed to purchase their very first home which FINALLY closed after many long weeks of waiting. The above picture was taken in the very large basement bathroom. This picture doesn't begin to show how large it actually is. It includes a corner fireplace and a jacuzzi tub that is big enough for a ... party! 
Dylan and Brendan in their new home

 Kelly was able to get this little car for Brendan absolutely free. He was very pleased to drive it around the playroom of his new house. Brendan is rather obsessed with things that spin and turn, so the steering wheel was the very thing for him.
 This is Brendan examining one of the fans at my Beach House. Since the blades go around, he was just fascinated with turning it on and off and watching the process. He's a very cause-and-effect sort of baby. I love to watch him try to figure everything out, very scientific-like. He does not get this characteristic from me whatsoever.
Brendan relaxing in my "reading chair" in my
bedroom, watching my ceiling fan spin round and round.

 Last week, while his folks were moving from the apartment to the house, Brendan and I took our very first trip to the Mall. This is Brendan picking out a cookie for us to enjoy along the way.
 There is a school playground just a little walk away from where Brendan is now living. He really liked spinning the merry-go-round and then looking underneath to see what was making it go.
 Brendan played for a very long time in this little car at the playground too. We had a real nice conversation here about all kinds of things, mostly baby babblings, but it was very nice!

Once again, this post is mainly pictures of Brendan. I love this little fellow intensely. He has been such a gift from God to me. Hopefully, in the next few days even, the rest of my family will arrive from Texas. They have been delayed quite a few times already. When they arrive and get settled, I hope to post lots of our adventures together. I have missed them terribly and it will be a huge relief to have them home. Until then ...