party time

Brother Howard turns 70 today. His family (us included) thought that marker celebration worthy.

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Brynn gives the food a thumbs up.

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“What’ch’a got there?” the family labradoodle wonders.

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The party invitation encouraged gag gifts and cards only. And that’s what he got!

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What on earth is that?

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It just might be something that showed up in Mauri’s church office four years ago, a gift by some (un)known brother.

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What goes around comes around.

Happy birthday, Howard!

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family treasure

At our December family dinner I shared a favorite creche for my show ‘n’ tell.

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One by one I put out the pieces as I told the story, the short version, since we have but one minute each.

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But I had that one extra piece, a second Mary that came with the set. “Oh, yes,” I pretend-remembered aloud. “This is the Mormon nativity.”

Heretical and offensive, but you must admit it’s a little funny. Then I added that in the downsizing of our Christmas decorations I’d eliminated all of the snowmen and santa-related stuff in favor of a small collection of creches.

With the exception of one ceramic St. Nicholas, which was perfectly hand painted by sister Margi and therefore still a family treasure.

“What St. Nicholas?” asked Margi. I don’t remember painting a St. Nicholas, and you are welcome to give it to Goodwill.

Well.

Later that day I scrambled to find an item from our home to wrap for our office Christmas white elephant exchange. Aha!

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. My gift was the first to be chosen, and Nolan was “thrilled” to discover a ceramic St. Nicholas.

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But it was quickly stolen by Eric!

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Short lived, because Arnie stole it from Eric. The third steal is officially frozen and in the forever possession of Arnie, who knew his wife, Barb, would love it.

After the final exchange we could divulge who brought what, and I could tell the story of the ceramic St. Nicholas. Arnie looked at the bottom of his new treasure to see the inscription by his daughter’s mother-in-law, Margi.

Full circle. Our family treasure remains a family treasure but now lives at Feller House Bed and Breakfast with another family treasure.

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star gazing

The agenda for team meeting that Tuesday morning included the news that Wendy Goodwin wasn’t offering her Acoustic Christmas concert as we’d enjoyed in the past. Sad faces all around. But she’s touring this Christmas as part of a small group of musicians that features Phil Keaggy. Are you kidding me? I’ve been a fan of Phil Keaggy since forever. His song “The Day Before Tomorrow” wakes me up every workday morning. We’d have to sell tickets to cover the considerable cost, but do we want to host their concert?

Now take into account that I’m the oldest person at the table these days and some had never heard or even heard of Phil Keaggy. (Huh?) I was fairly sure with Phil’s notoriety and Wendy’s familiarity (along with Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning) we’d fill the house. That was the two cents I added to the discussion (our team never skips an opportunity to consider every angle of an idea), and after weeks of promotion, ticket sales, and preparations they came!

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The ticket taker (me) needed a reserved seat—front and center, of course. Phil Keaggy at Newberg Friends Church! I could hardly believe it.

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I wasn’t the only star gazer in the audience. And from my view of their faces, no one went home disappointed.

We were instructed to not video any part of the concert, but here’s a YouTube of Phil playing “Salvation Army Band,” which he played for us too.

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I could tell he was ready to call it a night when I had my turn to say a word, but he patiently posed for a picture. I told him that one of his songs wakes us up every morning. “Which one?” “The Day Before Tomorrow.” [blank look] “The Day Before Tomorrow”? “Yes, ‘It’s the day before tomorrow, and tomorrow may not come; so I’ll make the most of all that’s in today'” [blank look] “What album was it on?” “Tapestry.” [blank look, because I imagine he expected it to be one of his albums, which obviously it was not] By this time I suspected he thought I was either loco or have confused him with someone else. No worries. I’m his fan; he isn’t mine. But I did send him the tune because he should learn it (again) and sing it (again).

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annual gig

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Last year NFC Brass and a trombone quartet (seen above through the window) played several sets of Christmas music at Chapters Books. This year the same group played as Newberg Brass. Their different name and the location of their rehearsals are the only changes to this group brought about by Mauri’s retirement. They still rehearse every Tuesday evening—in fact I can hear them playing in our living room as I write this because they needed to use the piano. Normally they cram themselves into the recording studio. I’m enjoying the “intrusion” tonight because I can’t normally hear them. They’re prepping to participate in two worship services in a church down in Salem on Sunday morning.

Maybe I’ll take my camera.

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grandma’s cookies

I didn’t turn out to be the cool grandma I envisioned. (Well, there was that one time Cassidy picked some gravensteins from our backyard tree and asked if we could bake a pie with them. That was a grandmotherly thing to do, I suppose.) So when I learned I’d be in Arizona on one of Cassidy’s school’s Grandma’s Cookies days (did you notice that row of possessives?), I signed up! My job was to bake five dozen cookies and show up at her school at the predetermined time along with all the other grandmas who baked.

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We were to spread out the appropriate number of napkins on the tables then space out our offerings to give the kids a good selection. My cookies were not exceptional in any way except they were pink. I was surprised to see kids choosing a pink cookie over some that were carefully decorated for the holidays. I happened to snap this picture as two of the last three pink cookies were chosen. Note to self: Don’t waste your time rolling, shaping, decorating cookies; just add food coloring for the win!

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Once each student (K through 5) has chosen and carried a home-baked cookie into the assembly, a prayer is offered and kids are released to eat and enjoy.

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The providing grandmothers are given seats of honor at one end of the gym. I chose a suitable spot in the back row. As the kids nibbled on their goodies, the grandmas’ grandkids stood while all of us grandmas were recognized and thanked for our contribution.

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I’m sure there were lots of other beautiful children in the gym that day, but I had my eye on one in particular. When her name was called, she went to the front to accept the “Leader in Literature” award and to be recognized for moving to a higher level in scripture memorization.

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I notice she’s slacking in art, history, and reading.

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I had to include this picture because it looks like the mama is an apparition, a phantom homework cheerleader — “You can do it!” Cass’s grades make me think she is self-motivated. But we all need cheerleaders now and then, don’t we?

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But Quinn was just doing double duty as homework supervisor and family cook.

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Bonus pic just because it’s so cute.

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I love how our blended family comes together in Arizona. Erin and Sage came to Grandma’s Cookies too (but this is Brynn in the picture)!

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a fifth home for the holidays

WARNING: This post contains absolutely nothing inappropriate, just excessive photos of diapers and baby formula—all for a good purpose.

I haven’t been able to wipe the silly grin off my face since donations started rolling in as the result of “Dorothy’s Match” for Babies of Juarez. Every single dollar given was matched—not just the first thousand—and when all was said and done, we had $4,500 to spend!

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This was the first sight to behold as we walked in the Andersons’ house down in Gilbert, AZ.

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And around the corner, this!

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Surplus boxes in another room. $2,250 worth of diapers. All ordered and delivered (free) through Amazon Prime!

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$2,250 worth of formula was a more manageable size, so off to Costco we went with the Andersons’ biggest vehicle. We got some stares and comments, as you might imagine.

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If we count moving the formula from Costco shelf to cart as one and from cart to car as two, this is the third “handling” of the supplies as all hands on deck* move it from car to garage. (*Note a casted foot does not exempt one from entering in, not that he’d have chosen to sideline.)

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The following evening, the formula is first in the trailer, and the fourth handling so far. Veteran loader Dusty understands the importance of weight distribution.

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The diapers require the bucket brigade method.

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Father/son team up (Neil’s identity hidden).

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After the seven-hour drive to El Paso, we meet up with the rest of the team (39 in all!) and move everything from the U-Haul to the mission trailer. Diaper boxes are broken down so the smaller packs can more easily fit around other donations and gifts for the family we’ll build for.

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Still counting—this is handling #5.

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Later in the day and across on the Mexico side, the trailer is unloaded. (Handling #6)

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All of the donations make a stopover at the photo staging area, carefully sorted, labels facing forward.

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A sight to behold.

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A final “handling” — #7! — hauled by team members the final 1oo yards to the specially built storage room.

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While all of those other steps are fun, this is by far the funnest! Participating in the camaraderie of filling these shelves might be responsible for a permanent grin on my face.

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The joy of this task was never lost on six-year-old Owen.

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And just look what all* of you donors accomplished! (*not only Dorothy’s Match) From here, supplies will be distributed on a monthly basis as mothers come on a specified date to receive based on need.

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Thank you! Thank you!

YES . . . we also built a house. Here are some of the highlights of our fifth Thanksgiving build.

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The beginning. Meet the family, then form a prayer circle on the already-poured foundation. We always love the shadows.

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Two compulsory photos that will form a series one of these years.

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Alfonso, Jr, meets our Brynn. A little too young for friendship.

John Macy set his phone to take this fast action of raising the walls.

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The roof is next.

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Sage and Brynn work on their hammering skills.

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Brynn and I take a walk, looking for the beach (one of her favorite words). I didn’t try very hard to convince her we probably weren’t going to find one any time soon.

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Finishing up the first morning’s work, Neil and Randee (Dusty’s parents) survey the progress.

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The afternoon serendipity—showing up at Jasmine’s job. We built a house three years ago for her and her two sons.

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After a short visit we drove on to her house to see the boys.

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Fidencio clearly remembered us, especially his buddy Dusty. Cerebral palsy still inhibits his ability to walk, but at least he can see better now.

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Alvieri, so bright-eyed and handsome and affectionate.

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Jasmine’s sister looks after Jasmine’s new daughter and the boys while she works from 2 to 10 p.m. six days a week.

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At the end of the food outreach we offer activities to the kids and any grown-ups who want to join in. I was happy to grab my camera in time to capture this boy’s delight at the spinner he just made. (Thank you, Pinterest, for the idea!)

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Another future series…Dusty and a babe.

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All the extra activity has this little one outside in the crisp air.

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Marissa gets started the next morning!

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I won’t confess how many pictures I took of these two painting a house in Juarez, Mexico. Such a joyful thing to watch these littles join in.

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Cassidy figures she’s done this around 30 times already.

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These cousins have been photographed together for 40+ years.

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More cousins painting together.

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Three gens!

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The baño paint crew.

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One final paint pic—Yisel (new home owner) steadies the platform while Randee reaches the high spots.

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Meanwhile, inside, the drywall, mudding, caulking, and window trim.

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Three gens — the Anderson men.

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Family selfie.

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The older set.

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The dedication—always a highlight. We get to offer blessings and the family can speak to us. It’s an emotional time; in this shot Verenice had just said thank you for their house and after translation added, “God bless you.”

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John caught this moment as we gathered around the family (minus the dad, who had to work) to pray.

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THEN the joyful moment when the family goes inside to discover all the extras they weren’t expecting. We always try to raise funds above the cost of the house to provide furnishings and clothes and household items.

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Yisel sees her new bed with lovely bedding and bedspread. It was a lot to take in.

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At the evening church service she recognizes God’s provision for her family (and Alfonso could join in the gratitude).

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One final serendipity—getting to visit with Sandra and a couple of her children. We built for Sandra’s family two years ago. She was expecting her 8th child and has since added a 9th to the family. Krista makes good use of her Spanish to communicate with them. I record the event, which requires no language.

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Along with all of the first team from five years ago, members of the Spanish Club from Gilbert Christian High School and their teachers joined the team this year, as did several Spanish Club parents and two sets of family friends. It’s always surprising how quickly we learn each other’s names and begin to feel like family, unified by this one significant goal. It’s a blessing I will never take for granted.

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g-r-r-r-r-reat!

Eating Frosted Flakes took on new meaning when I saw the pictures Taylor shared of his and Beth’s adventures in Thailand.

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I guess living in Iraq wasn’t dangerous or exciting enough.

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T’s face tells me he’s trying to work up the nerve to reach in to touch.

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Beth appears fearless. Or crazy. One or the other.

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Wrong.

What’s really wrong are the snake pictures I won’t be sharing.

I guess this was on someone’s bucket list, so I won’t comment further. Except to say I think it’s time for them to come home.

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