Monday, August 18, 2014

More Magical Moments of Summer

Following the visit with Jill and Elle, there were 5 days at home for projects and visits with friends, and then Kevin and I headed to VA for a nephew's wedding. The pre-wedding days built into the trip afforded time to visit with my Dad and siblings. Love, love these events that gather us together, from FL., from Delaware, and the Virginians, which include my brother Paul, father of the groom, and his family, and my Dad and step-mom.

My sister and I made sure we satisfied our resale-shopping-together-tradition at the mission sponsored store Dad volunteers time to. Since she and I have birthdays a day apart and since the dates were only a couple of weeks away, we weren't going to miss the chance to celebrate together. There might have been a time in childhood when sharing birthdays wasn't cool, but we were way past that juvenile nonsense.  Roy, her husband, bought us a cake and Dad planned a night for the occasion, to treat us all to dinner out. Our gifts to one another were brought out from the car trunks, and we enjoyed the exchanges.
Happy Birthday, Sis!

The family lingered over breakfast in the mornings. A few of us even managed to slip in a couple of games of Scrabble. We enjoyed being treated to the rehearsal luncheon and attending the informal gathering of other extended family, outside of our clan, which had come to join in the wedding festivities.

Weddings force our attention away from any worries and cares of our own as we watch the featured couple exchange vows and smile endlessly for the photographers-for the guests-for their joyful anticipation of a new life together. We the family are treated to wonderful food and free entertainment as the dancing begins. Every wedding is unique, and we eagerly anticipate what surprises this one might hold.

After the wedding party couples hip-hopped into the reception, the first dances were performed as we all watched, and then they sat down at tables with the guests, the bride and groom seated at table with their parents. I liked the no head table idea. Also, thumbs up to the options of activities offered to the guests---dancing and a help-yourself-dessert bar. And the funny, lol moments at the old-fashioned photo booth.  Remember the phone booth sized boxes that used to sit in a hallway in the mall?  Where you and your boyfriend snook inside, closed the black curtain behind you, slipped some coins in the slot, and stole some kisses while the hidden camera captured your furtive flirtation?  Or snapshots of your 'gang' who crowed into the little space for a silly group selfie? The camera flashed for three different poses and voila! you could pull the bookmark size, black and white results from another slot for on-the-spot keepsakes! Now, many photo technology methods later, these old-time marvels are obsolete. Some local company has resurrected them, and transports photo booths to events. The photo shoot experience is now updated and enhanced with props-feather boas, oversized eyeglasses, hats, signs, wigs, costume jewelery-sure to suit any fancy and personality.

Our family decorated each other, amid laughter and iPhone camera clicks. Each couple or single took their turn in the cubicle and left with a tri-photo of themselves, in color, a memoir to keep of the wedding. A copy of each session was saved for the bride and groom who would have a grand picture collage of the guests who had participated. Dad and Lena were reluctant to frolic in the silliness with us, but they succumbed to group pressure and joined in the fun.

The weekend ended with hugs and happy memories and Kevin and I headed east to see Amanda and her family. There we enjoyed a week of more grand kid time.  Auron is 6 years old, Elika almost 4.  Grandpa and I honed our puzzle assembly skills, read stories, built Lego vehicles and structures, baked cinnamon rolls, and played Candy Land and Sorry. We visited their schools and jumped the waves at Virginia Beach. Movie night featured the Legos movie. Another night the adults competed at Euchre.
Elika Bakes!

At the end of the week, and time to leave for Indiana, there were only good byes to Daddy, because Amanda and the kids followed us back. After they spent a week in the area with other family, they moved in with us for the remainder of their stay. This time we read Grandma's story books, and played with Grandma's dress up clothes and cars. Puzzle marathon day had every kid's puzzle in the house put together for display on the living room floor. Auron learned to ride a two-wheeler, sans training wheels, on the thrift store bike I had purchased.
Birthdays were celebrated early; we would be far apart come actual birthdays this Fall.

Chalk Art!

Auron tries Pop Rock candy for the first time:)
Puzzle Mania!
Auron and Elika were an absolute delight! So glad you all could come!

Goodbyes could no longer be averted and Amanda and family left our home on a Sunday morning.  Daddy had flown in mid-week and would drive with them for the long trip back.

As the house returns to it's uncluttered floors and quieter demeanor, I reflect on the month gone by. We withdrew our days from a bank of plans and expectations, spent them freely with happiness and joy and now treasure our new possession of memories.

Thank you, Father, for family. What a wonderful plan to have two hearts share love, create new life together, and be genetically connected for life. A connection that is meant to bring security, safety, and emotional belonging.  A picture of the greater family connection we have with you.  We love, because you first loved us. Surround this family I belong to with continued peace, joy and hope. May our love grow for one another and for you. Teach us every day more about your ways.  Keep us connected when apart, intentionally available to each other when together, and sure of our love for each other when conflict happens or misunderstandings try to tear us apart or weaken our bonds. Then send us to share that kind of family love with those who need to know they are loved and have a place in your family.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Invasion

Summer, time off from work, family visits, grand children hugs and snuggles...these are a few of my favorite things...

July afforded me all of these pleasures and I simply remember...

The planning began. We would meet the parents in St. Louis with the two lovely grand girls and whisk them away with us to Indiana for nine days of fun, action and just being together. After all Tulsa, where they live, isn't just a day trip away and our visits together are far too infrequent.

Jill and Elle were handed off to us that June Sat. at  the Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis, known for their ice cream and huge BLT sandwiches, with tons of bacon.  Josh, their dad, challenged his cholesterol tolerance, and mouth width, by consuming the pork specialty.  Several of us snatched up any stray pieces of the crispy strips that escaped from the sandwich and his mouth. So technically he didn’t eat every bite, but he came close.

The Heart Stopping 'Wich
With the girls cozied in the back seat of our Prius, we pulled away for the 5 hour drive to Lexinton, IN. Arriving there in the evening, Aunt Naomi put us up for the night, and we enjoyed a brief visit with the girl’s great-grandparents Sunday morning. From there, our passengers occupied themselves with their cell phones as we made the trek to our Goshen homestead later that day. Nana got caught up on the pop music culture and viewed silly selfies all the way home, while Papa kept his eyes on the road.

Nana Learns How to Edit Pics!

Monday was planning and shopping day. We invited cousin Aubrey over to help us hatch our plan for a family mystery meal. Food would be prepared and served by the lovely, youthful trio, and our guests would be Aubrey’s family and Great Grandma and Grandpa. We decided on the cuisine, made up our code names and Jill typed the menu we would hand out to our diners.

As the supper hour approached, my kitchen was astir with brewing, buttering, and waiting for watched pots to boil. The table was set, the aprons donned and the welcome sign hung out on the front door. We were ready!

Our guests entered, were presented with the menu, handed a pencil and told to choose which menu items they wanted and in what order. As the menus were completed and handed in to the waitresses, the victims of our mystery were seated at the table.
Of course our guests did not have the real names of the items; they had to guess!
Great Grandpa Making His Choices

What a whirl of elbows vying for room as the kitchen crew began dishing up the first course. Back and forth from viewing each menu at the counter to grabbing a plate to filling it at the stove with the designated food choice. We tittered with glee at the plate that received spaghetti sauce without the noodles, or vise versa. Or the one who ordered banana pudding first with noodles and a salad. I think everyone had deciphered the code for utensils so no one had to eat the first course with their fingers. Of course, depending on what else they had ordered they may not have needed them—no need for a fork to eat water, a napkin or garlic bread. We graciously allowed the guests to keep their silverware as we cleared off the first round of service and prepared for the next four items requested on the menus. Eventually, all courses were served and the mystery was history.

The cooks all say the event was a huge success; I think two of the kitchen gang accidentally read the same menu and filled two plates for the same guest, and an item may have been missed now and then, but we sure had fun making it all happen.  The waitresses were handsomely rewarded with a nice tip by Grandpa when the meal was over.

Of course, no visit with preteen girls (who am I kidding, with Nana, too!!) is complete without a shopping spree or two. So Wed. morning we headed for the flea market. I enjoyed seeing what the girls were attracted to. 

The next day was craft time at my friend Brenda’s place. Her grand daughter, the same age as Jill, was over to join in the fun of jewelry making. We all crafted some new fashion piece to suit our personal tastes. Brenda had a great assortment of beads, tools and idea pamphlets and served us a scrumptious lunch to top it all off.

Since the girls both have birthdays in July, we planned a celebration night. After eating Chinese, we took in a play at a local theater.  Great fun!.  I am thankful for each of these precious young lives and the joy they bring to us. What a cause for celebrating!
Watching the show!

Between these planned outings, we managed to watch some Netflix, play Euchre with Grandpa, make ties into a cell phone holder, take a bike ride to the Chief for yummy ice cream, stop at the local hot pretzel shop, do a quick errand trip that included a stop at Rue 21 where Jill and I made good on a buy one, get one- for -$1- deal on some pants, and knotted two blankets together to send to Voice of the Martyrs, who will send them on to the refugees who need them. 

The day Aubrey was with us, we packed a picnic and met Papa for lunch at Fidler’s Pond Park. 

Elle, Aubrey, Jill with Papa
Friday was July 4th and our planned outing with Uncle Austin and Aunt Ashley.  The day dawned with a chill in the air, and Austin decided we’d wait to go to Lake Michigan until things warmed up a bit. They took us to the Family Fun Center when we arrived. The G-parents relaxed while the rest did some paint-balling, and then we all enjoyed a round of go karts.  It was cut throat competition between some of us.
Later we eagerly got our cars in line to enter the drive into Lake Michigan Beach.  The line was long and after a fair amount of waiting without moving forward, we turned off towards another approach to the lake.  We drove a few miles along shore side without finding a parking spot and sadly concluded it was too crowded to do our fun in the sun that day. Not wanting to waste our picnic plans we pulled into a parking lot far from the sandy shores we had hoped for, and ate the packed sandwiches and fruit, sprawled out on top of coolers, curbing and concrete.  Not ideal, but we were together.

Jill and Elle had quarters for the night in Austin and Ashley’s small apartment while Kevin and I had booked a room in the next town west of Valpo.  We decided to check in to our hotel, let the girls do a bit of swimming there and then head to Hobart for the evening fireworks.  It’s always interesting to watch home crowds gather for annual events, especially if you are an out-of-towner. We pitched our blankets in a tiny space of grass, one of a few patches left and waited for the dark to fall and the show to begin. I was skeptical as to what good fireworks can come from Hobart, IN., but we were all pleasantly surprised with a spectacular display of sky bursts, sizzles and booms. The next morning we gathered to eat at a breakfast cafĂ© and then headed back home...  of course, stopping at the mall along the way.

Our time together was drawing to an end. Tuesday morning we boarded the train for Chicago for the first leg of our journey to take the girls home. We had planned some time to enjoy the big city before our flight left from there early evening.  With all our luggage on our backs or toted behind, we walked Michigan Ave. stopping for Garret’s popcorn, the Water Tower and PF Chang’s for lunch. Grandpa developed a migraine so we cut our adventures short and took the subway to the airport where we had a 3 hour wait until our departure. Poor Kevin, enduring the crowded, jerky subway ride! Once at our gate he was able to sleep amid the busy throngs of people, while the girls and I played games on our phones and read. We finally reunited the girls with their dad later that evening.  Kevin and I enjoyed a few days with Josh and Kira and the girls in their home before we flew back to IN.         
                                                                                                   PF Changs

My granddaughters are the best! Their summer visit burst into our lives with beauty and energy. No matter what we did or where we went they were willing and open to participate and make the best of it.

Thanks, Dad, for loaning them to us for a fabulous 9 days and thanks Jill and Elle for coming and letting us enjoy you! 

Train Ride to Chicago
Our Tie Cases
Thank you, heavenly Father for planning for their entrance and life into this world and the good plans you have for them still to come. Please watch over the memories we share of our time together.  May the times we had to talk about You and your work in our lives, and the moments we experienced that reminded us of your presence, or challenged us to consider your kingdom and its call for us to follow, stick in our minds and hearts and produce fruit that will last.  Keep Jill and Elle safe and strong and closely tied to family who will watch out for them and love them wisely and provide the Godly home they need to thrive in.  No matter what storms may come, may their parents have your wisdom and always know what to do to care for them.  And may we know how to support them and share our love with them, in spite of distance that keeps us from hugs and time together.

Thank you for making us family!