Our Days of Christmas

Early, it began. We scheduled our (almost) annual Christmas party for the first Saturday  in December, and because it was so close to Thanksgiving some of my children and grandchildren who were here for the November holiday helped with our decorations, especially the outside lights that need to drape over bushes that are difficult for either Jerry or me to reach.

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Thirty-eight persons showed for the party, the crew including family, ministers, neighbors, and other acquaintances from our beloved Crestline. Jerry smoked a 19 pound brisket, I cooked a huge pot of pinto beans, and several pans of Mexican corn bread. Of course we had a tray with great cheese, nuts and fruit. A fine array of tenderly baked sweetness and my “go-to” punch of eggnog and cranberry juice rounded out the food. The variety of guests who came and their jolly interaction with each other produced a joyful party that extended from the arrival of the first one to the departure of the last. Although sparkling lights, whiffs of cedar branches, and a beautiful presentation of delicious food certainly contribute to a great party, it really is the people who are the core of such a gathering. Jerry and I talked about that later, and noted again how blessed we are with exceptional family and friends.

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Andrew, Shauna, and three of their children came to our home the week before Christmas where he spent a couple of days doing repairs to our house. Water had leaked behind the siding and caused significant dry rot on the front of our house that faces the lake, so he and Gentry pulled off the siding, repaired the leak and replaced the ruined lumber and the siding. While all this was going on Ella and I made gingerbread men. Hmm…they turned out to be a sad lot, but we loved them anyway. (Isn’t that how it is with those we love? People I’m talking about now, not cookies.  Maybe they’re not quite perfectly shaped, or perhaps a crack or two shows up, a limped walk, a drooped head . . .yet they’re ours and they’re sweet and special, and we guard them and love them, and pray for them.)

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A couple of weeks before Christmas Day, my brother Nathan surprised me with a phone call telling me that he and his family wanted to visit for a day or two, so here they came on the 21st, and what a great time we had. What a delightful family; sweet, intelligent, accomplished, ambitious, and God-loving.  Only one negative thing about them. They make me look like a midget!

DSC_9010Came early Christmas morning when traditionally we exchange gifts and only one of our children was with us, Andrew and his family. Rebecca and Nate arrived around 10:00,  Michael was quite sick and could not come at all, and Steve will be visiting us later in the week.

DSC_9038Andrew’s gifts to us were exceptional. Two reasons: They were handcrafted by him, and they are beautiful. He presented me with a professionally framed and matted photograph of his dad, which he had taken in an earlier visit. A priceless gift. Andrew also made the knife Jerry is holding, a new skill Andrew is developing. He also made knives for each of his brothers.

When Rebecca arrived she handed around gifts for everyone. Always thoughtful and generous is my only daughter. She is a treasure to her dad and to me.

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In the middle of the afternoon, Jerry called us to gather in the living room where he spoke, encouraging all of us, especially the grandchildren, to be upright people, and to love and obey God. He called on Chloe to read Luke’s beautiful words depicting the Christmas story.

DSC_9062We cooked. We ate.

DSC_9051DSC_9067Cole’s gift to his family was a game named Baconopoly. I played with them a couple of times as did their dad. They loved that game and played it multiple hours

DSC_9076Once when we were playing yet another round, I looked about the room, gazed at the sparkling eyes, the grins, the occasional spat over a move,  and considered the quite firm draw that board games has on families. I reckoned again the inestimable value of families and friends who eat and play together. It’s really not the prime rib, or the bacon trivia, or the yeast rolls. It’s not even a carefully selected treasure of a gift. No, it is time and love and connection.

And so, these few days past Christmas, I, as did Mary, ponder these things in my heart, and know how very blessed I am.

And to my readers, I wish you every blessing of God. May 2018 be a year of joy and of peace. I would love to hear from you.

Days 15 and 16 of 16 Days with the Grands *Preparations for Leaving*

The last two days of this great visit I encouraged the youngsters to be sure they had all their things gathered, so that they would leave nothing behind. I believe I have mentioned before that these grandchildren like to discuss what we will be having for meals. I had told them sometime before that on the 16th day, which would be Tuesday, we would have fried chicken. And so we did . . .along with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans (which they spurned !) and a green salad.

dsc_4564As she had for every meal we ate in the dining room while the youngsters were here, Ella set the table. She always does a fine job, setting the silverware properly and choosing cloth napkins to blend with the dishes we have chosen to use.

Andrew and Shawnna’s plane arrives in the late evening, so arrangements had been made that they would not come to our place until Wednesday morning, which was actually the 17th day.

On Wednesday morning, I did final laundry for them, spruced up the house, urged them to get their bags packed, and helped them remake the beds after I washed the sheets. Jerry had decided to smoke ribs for the big afternoon meal, and Rebecca and Nathaniel would join all of us. The day was warm; we set up tables on the back deck.

. . .and then they were here.

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I became distracted and got few photographs after that.

We spent several hours together before they had to leave, hearing a few of their adventures and seeing pictures of magnificent Hawaii on their computer. Andrew and Shawnna both have quite an artistic flair, and each of them produces beautiful photography. She uses a cell phone. Andrew has a Nikon. The youngsters told of their adventures, and Cole even snookered his dad into a game of checkers.

On the north shore of Oahu, actually within the sea, Andrew had the good fortune of finding a large piece of coral. He and Shawnna gifted his dad and me with this magnificent piece. . .and with this very touching card.

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And then they were gone.

It is quiet now. Too quiet.

 

Days 13 and 14 of 16 with the Grands *The Last Weekend*

Since he was a small boy, Cole has been quite a checker-player, and when he brought the thick board down from the game room to challenge me a couple of days ago, he said he had not played checkers for a long time. Throughout Saturday and Sunday he and I played many games. Sometimes he beat me, and from time to time I “laid it on him.” He also played with Brady, and kind, big brother that he is, he even took time with Ella and instructed her a bit.

One day Ella helped me peel apples and I made a couple of pies. Rebecca had invited the crew to spend the night with her, but Nathaniel was not going to be home, so only Ella accepted the invitation. One of the pies was for Nathaniel and Rebecca, so we drove down to San Bernardino where to Aunt Becky’s place we delivered an apple pie and sweet Ella.

On Sunday we went to church at the Garretts in Yucaipa; afterward we ate together at Farmer Boys, a chain here in California (elsewhere?)  that serves great hamburgers, and a few other things. Had a great visit with Holly who had just spent a week in New York and had lots of pictures to show me. Cole and Brady sat with Zac and Ian, and seemed to have a good time with them.

I continue to be plagued with a cold, and now Brady has joined me in this little fight against pesky cold germs.

These grandchildren of mine are wonderful human beings; responsible, kind, and loving. They’re missing their parents somewhat I believe, but do not seem to be terribly homesick. Every day–sometimes more than once–they FaceTime their parents.

Day 12 of 16 with the Grands *Afternoon at Lake Arrowhead*

After Gentry finished his schoolwork, and after we had eaten lunch, I loaded the three youngsters in the car and we drove to Lake Arrowhead Village. We walked the entire mall, in and out of stores, spent some time down by the water, played around in a small park there, and ended our spree with a stop at McDonald’s for drinks.

dsc_4530dsc_4541“Take my picture here,” Cole said.

dsc_4543Little sweet rascal.

dsc_4539Others visitors were there.

dsc_4550The day was magnificent.

dsc_4551Lake Arrowhead, spectacular as always.dsc_4554End of the outing: McFlurries

Day 11 of 16 with the Grands *The Savages are Restless*

A touch of tension in the ranks today. Youngsters appear to be growing bored and are pushing the limits Pappy has set for using the computers and the iPads. “Two hours a day is your limit,” he growled a little bit.

“Go upstairs to the game room and get out a game or two. Find something we can all play, and I’ll play with you,” I told them.

So, for much of the afternoon, we four played Phase 10. I love games, so it was not a sacrifice for me . . .except that finally I was a bit bored.

Yesterday I developed a sore throat and an ear ache; today I finally admitted to have caught a cold. Quite a surprise, for it has been years since I’ve had either a cold or the flu. Not bad, though, I’m still functioning.

Day 10 of 16 with the Grands *Restocking Day*

I had intended that Ella and I spend a chunk of this day down the hill shopping to restock the cupboards and the refrigerator, for both areas were now showing empty spaces . . .and the little mouths, the medium-sized mouths, and the big mouths were still chomping away. But she was tired from the late Disneyland trip, and still sleeping, when it was time for me to go. Brady was up and ready.

“May I go with you, Granny?”

“How about your school work?”

“I only have two more chapters to read, then I will be totally finished. Not just for today, but completely.”

So, he took his book, jumped in the car, and he and I jaunted off to San Bernardino. First stop was the 99 cent store where I stocked up on wonderful sourdough bread, grapes, tomatoes, and a few other things. Second stop was Aldi. Third stop was a remarkable thrift store in Loma Linda, a tiny place, that from time to time places hand-lettered signs on the door that announces spectacular specials. Today a sign read, ALL FURNITURE $5.00. “Five dollars?” I asked the clerk

“Yes.” She smiled broadly. As I say, the place is tiny. Couches were stacked atop each other, fine wing-back chairs were crammed about, and a most magnificent headboard in which I had interest was pressed against the back wall. But I passed it by, for it just was not a good day to be trying to buy a headboard, stick it in the back of the Jeep etc……..

Fourth stop was Wal-Mart, and because my list had nicely dwindled, I canceled stop number five which was to have been Costco. The only problem was I had planned to buy a rotisserie chicken there for dinner. But we had things in the freezer I could pull out.

Home, then. Everyone helped unload all the goodies, and later I baked peanut butter cookies to make up for the less than stellar meal.

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Day 9 of 16 with the Grands *Disneyland!*

It was around 8:00 on Tuesday morning when hubby drove Ella and me down to connect with Rebecca and the boys. The Disneyland day had arrived; their gates opened at 10:00 and we didn’t want to miss one minute. It surprises me a bit, but Disneyland allows food to be taken onto their grounds, so we each had frozen bottles of water, and sandwiches, trail mix, granola bars and such were in the backpacks that were the order of the day.

img_0461The women.

img_0467-2The men.

The day was as perfect as any could be. Warm weather, but not too hot. Slightly humid.img_0516-2

img_0495The mouse ears. Love them and the little girl who wore them all day.

img_0496At the entrance Rebecca and I told the boys they could split off from us if they wanted, and as we spoke we decided on a place to meet later in the afternoon for a meal together. However, it worked out that in the early part of the day we were in the same places, in particular we entered the Haunted House together. Ella was terrified. Nathaniel was so sweet with her all day long. He hugged her up when she was so frightened, and often they walked hand in hand. Ella dearly loves her big cousin, Nathaniel.

img_0541I can ride these tea cups, whirl as fast as they go, and never feel a touch of dizziness. We had met up with a family from Rebecca’s church. London shared a cup with us.

Once when Cole and Brady were with us women and we talked of getting some food, the boys entered a food place where we were sitting outside. Somehow they thought they had to spend their own money for this meal and when I followed them in a few minutes later, Cole said, “I don’t think I want to eat here, Granny.” One slice of pizza was $8.00! We wandered around a bit, found a hamburger joint and ordered our food there; Cole’s hamburger and fries was $12.00!

“What do you want to drink?” I quizzed all of them. The drinks were nearly $4.00 each.

“We’ll get water out of the fountain and put in our bottles,” Cole said. I know I have mentioned it before but these grandchildren of mine are really exceptional; thoughtful and not greedy at all.

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It’s a bit strange, I suppose, but Pirates of the Caribbean has always been my favorite attraction at Disneyland. Ella loved it too, and we wound up going there twice. I think all together we covered most of the rides. I did not like Space Mountain. Too dark and loud. All the kids loved it.

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We closed the place down, and even the boys were  complaining with leg and foot pain before we got to the parking lot around 10:00. I chose to wear these not too beautiful tennis shoes, and at the day’s conclusion had only a little pain over one of my toes.

“Granny, those rainbow laces,” Cole had giggled when he saw my shoes early that morning.

It was a glorious day!

 

Day 8 of 16 with the Grands *The Dump, Pears, and Zinnias*

On Monday the phone rang. I answered.

“Granny, this is Nathaniel. What if I come up at 5:30 and bring Paisley to spend the night? And if its okay, the boys could go with me to play basketball at the church this evening. They can sleep over at our place, and we’ll meet up with you and Ella at our house in the morning.”

In that way the final plans were laid for the Disneyland trip. Rebecca and Nathaniel were joining the Buxton grands and me, as Jerry had decided the trip was a bit too strenuous for him. He would “baby-sit” Paisley and Winston.

First, though, the basement clean-out job must be finished, for the trip to the dump/thrift store had earlier been postponed in favor of something else. Ken lent his trailer, Cole and  Brady helped their Pappy connect it to our Jeep, then loaded it, and tied it down with a tarp. They were off, and in less than two hours were back.

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Sad. There go my green chairs with the beautiful carved legs. 😦

dsc_4519I haven’t engaged in a lot of creative photography since the youngsters have been here, and I’m disappointed that at Disneyland I will not have my camera with me. I have decided not to take it, but to use my phone instead. We’ll be taking bottles of water, lunches and snacks, and my camera and favorite lens are quite heavy.

But in the back yard, the pears are nearing harvest time and are stunningly beautiful.

dsc_4515. . .as are the zinnias, which are nearing the end of their days.

dsc_4521The boys and I sat down at the dining room table as I gave them money to spend at Disneyland and to tell them how proud I am of their behavior, their work-ethic, and their fine manners. They loaded up their backpacks, I fed them dinner, and by 6:00 Nate had come and they were gone down the hill. Disneyland tomorrow!

Days 5, 6, and 7 of 16 with the Grands *Sleepover, Picnic, and Church*

What a pleasure these grands continue to be. Dependable and cooperative, they follow the few house rules we’ve laid down, and are even quick to do their school work right after breakfast each morning. Ella has finished her entire packet, so she’s far ahead of schedule. They talk frequently with their parents in Hawaii by “FaceTime” and don’t seem to be homesick to any great degree.

In preparation for our attending a church musical concert in Rialto on Friday evening, I had them select the clothes they would be wearing. At this point, Cole discovered that somehow he hadn’t brought his dress clothes. Off to the thrift store we went, where he could find no pants to fit him, but he did find a shirt that he would match up with a nice pair of jeans he had. Nathaniel had called to see if they could spend the night and of course that was fine with me. At church after the concert, Ella approached me about her being a part of the sleepover with her cousin. Aunt Becky said it would be fine, that she had an extra toothbrush and such. So hubby and I made the trip up the mountain late Friday with no youngsters.

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Days ago we had planned a picnic down at Lake Gregory for Saturday, so it worked out fine for Rebecca to bring the children home and be a part of the festive day. I fried 15 drum sticks, whipped up some potato salad, and she brought chips and peanut butter and oatmeal cookies she had baked.

dsc_4480dsc_4482Of course we took the dogs. Although not from the same litter, Rebecca’s Shih Tzu, Paisley, is Winston’s sister. A ball of activity, she loves to play fetch.

dsc_4496Winston splashes about in the lake up to his belly, but he never takes off swimming. Brady took him for a couple of walks through the beautiful wooded areas lining Lake Gregory.

dsc_4484Handsome, talented Cole.

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11:20 am 9/22 Revision

Whoops! Forgot to add that on Sunday, the 7th day of the grand visit we dressed for church and drove down to Rialto to attend The Lighthouse Church where Rev. Tim Spell was the special speaker . . .and singer. Rebecca had been sweet enough to invite us to her home for lunch where she had prepared burritos made of buffalo sauce and chicken. Delicious. Mid afternoon we headed up the hill where in the evening we “attended church” by way of live-streaming. At the Anchor Church in San Diego Rev. Fred Childs preached a moving, vital, powerful message.

Serendipity

dsc_4488In the mix of the liveliness of my visiting grandchildren I grasp solitary, private moments. In the distance they played. Beside the lake I walked. Caught among high weeds, a feather of fine lines, splendid in its golden light, became a one-man art show.