Four of our five local grandkids celebrate birthdays in February (stretched two days into March). To simplify birthday giving last year, Mauri and I gifted each one with this:
Can you see through the plastic? It’s a ceramic plate with a face on it. Stay tuned for ways the kids played with their food.
Along with the plate came an invitation to bring the plate to Gus and Gum’s house (those are our “grandparent” names) for a special birthday dinner.
Yes, we’ve already had almost a full round of birthdays since then, but I needed to wait for the November birthday to have a full set of pictures to share. That dinner was set for December, but the birthday boy got sick, delaying the it until February.
I picked a few favorite pictures from all five dinners with Gus, Gum, and the face plate. Here goes:
They got to choose dessert at Dairy Queen or Jem 100.
Hosting each one individually was a joy because each one is a gem.
To simplify birthday gift giving even more, this year I shopped at the bank!
And this shows you what Chris had to do to his workshop for our project!
Here’s how he described it on his Instagram: “Atmosphere control for refinishing—temperature, humidity, dust—hard to do in my barn woodshop, but possible. Now to clean, carefully sand/degloss, dry, and three coats of lacquer. Then on to the same for the cases.”
This one illustrates the name of his business—work of his hands.
There they are, our cabinet doors, in his workshop!
Chris preps to work on “the cases.”
Mauri and I hung out in other parts of the house while Chris quietly went about his work. I just happened in at just the right time to snap this.
And before we knew it, our kitchen looked like this! Chris added knobs on the doors and handles on the drawers, and we expect this addition will give us way more than 25 years of use out of these updated cabinets!
While Mauri wraps up his four weeks at Sabbath by the Sea—with weekend jaunts to Newberg for a few hours with his wife (that would be me)—I’m wrapping up my four weeks of solo life. No, it was only three “alone” weeks, because I was in Virginia for the first and clearly not alone! While he was leading worship in the small-group gatherings and enjoying time at the Oregon Coast, I was working intently on a several projects, not the least of which involved the dog.
Did I ever think our dog would wear my clothes? Well, actually that thought never entered my mind until I grew desperate for a way to prevent her from opening up the incision on her back leg—AGAIN!
Outsmarting the smart dog who outsmarted the $28 cone from Wilco called for some serious innovation. [I credit my new virtual friend Rachel Jankovic for sharing the brilliant idea on her podcast What Have You, Episode 87. If I’d remembered it earlier we could have saved ourselves $28 and a lot of grief.]
So today, instead of watching Sage play basketball and Oscar sing in his honors choir performance, I’m on 24-hour dog watch to make sure she doesn’t need a third trip to the vet hospital.
I’m a little concerned about the area in which she is stretching my sweater. But at least she’s leaving her incision alone.
My lifelong friend Vic Graham died yesterday, and my first thought on waking this morning was of Vic in heaven, safely home. Less than a week ago he was bounding up the stairs of his son’s home, heading for three-generation Bible study and prayer for another son facing quadruple bypass surgery. But he fell and broke his neck and was paralyzed shoulders down, unable to breathe on his own. Just like that!
It’s so sad. Being aware we all live on the edge, that anything can happen at any time, doesn’t insulate us from the shock from news like this. Flashbacks to once frequent, now rare, connections to Vic and Romelle came flooding in.
I love this shot of Vic sitting in the back of Wheaton Bible Church. His daughter, Becky, was flower girl in my 1966 wedding with Paul; Romelle was my wedding overseer. So Vic had little else to do but wait and observe from this vantage.
As a loose “matchup,” I have this pic of Vic taken in 2010 during a short visit to his home in Wheaton. A more pleasant man you will never meet!
Mauri and I both have “Vic” stories that range throughout the 1960s. We hold them ever more precious now. Rest in peace and joy, dear friend. You will be sorely missed around here.
On Christmas morning I left on a jet plane for some adventures with my Anderson and Carlson “kids.” The Arizona family’s celebration was already in full motion, but they held off the fun gift exchange followed by a plentiful traditional Christmas dinner for my arrival.
By the end of this post you’ll understand the significance of this gift to me.
Any time I can feast my eyes on my Bentley is a highlight. He wasn’t exactly thrilled to receive Facebook notes from his Michigan friends reporting on higher temps than we had in Arizona, but he took it well.
I was invited to take a drive in Dusty’s new car. How would you open the door?
Sarah was brave enough to give the Tesla’s hands-free driving option (at 50 MPH) a try. I was not! I don’t even use cruise control!
Neil and Randee, Dusty’s parents, offered their guest quarters for my stay. You can see it was a pleasing environment, but way above that was their friendly hospitality and the time we aren’t usually afforded to actually get to know each other. Yes, we have our “kids” and grandkids in common, but it turns out we have a wide range of mutual interests.
Shame on me for not asking to pose a picture in their home, but here they are in another familiar setting on the Juarez job site last November. Good, good folks!
Even with all the holiday hubbub, life slows down enough to enjoy time together.
Always a highlight is getting to attend Redemption Gateway Church, but this Sunday stands out—not only because it was “Ask Anything” (four of the pastors answer questions on the spot) but because to my left sat Neil, Randee, and Ben; in front of me Dusty, Quinn, Bailey, Sarah, Marissa, Sean (her boyfriend), and Cassidy. I tell ya’—my heart was full!
Oh, did I mention I sent out a Christmas letter carelessly omitting two granddaughters? Forgiving myself has been a challenge, but here’s the amended letter with the two bridesmaid sisters added. I hope to never make such a horrific mistake again!
OK, moving on. Here’s an impromptu Anderson family shot. On January 2, Marissa celebrated turning 21!
The newlywed Andersons posed too. Sarah is freshly licensed as an occupational therapist and started a new job HERE yesterday!
Another highlight was a short (2+ miles) Sunday hike with Quinn at her favorite San Tan Mountain. I wore my new walking shoes from the Nike employee store, purchased for my daily walks to prep for an adventure Quinn and I are planning for the month of May.
Lord willing, we will walk the final 90 miles of the Camino de Santiago (from Sarria to Santiago). I have several friends who have walked the entire 500 miles. Brenda, a committed pilgrim, has walked it twice, and she is now my encourager and local foot traveler.
So now you know why Quinn wanted me to have the backpack she thoroughly researched for this purpose! Walking “The Way” will consume a week of our two-week adventure to Spain and Italy. When she and the family visited Bailey (in Spain) and Marissa (in Italy two years later) during their semesters abroad, she noted certain places she wanted me to see and experience. She’s doing all the planning and reserving, so my part is simply to prepare and anticipate!
My final evening with the Andersons looked like this. Neil and Randee, Seahawks fans, hosted Game Night. Randee’s interest was divided between football and her “Frenchie Bulldog Rescue” phone app. She had discovered a darling 9-month-old pup named Ivy in New Mexico and made contact with hopes of becoming Ivy’s new family.
A week later Neil and Randee drove one state over to claim Ivy as their own. Nobody cares that her bloodline includes at least two breeds—not with those eyes!
One final picture before Ben drove me to the airport for a redeye flight to DC. What was I thinking?
My dear ones followed me out to bless me on my way with a traditional white-hanky farewell. My imagination hears Sean asking Marissa, “We’re doing what?”
I survived the redeye and Taylor met my early arrival. They live a handy drive from the airport in a three-story townhouse, and in no time at all I was climbing into a comfy bed for a short snooze. I might still have a silly grin on my face from the enthusiastic greeting I received from these three as I emerged from the lower level. What more could a Gus want?
Before a visit I remind Taylor and Beth that I don’t need to be entertained, that I prefer just playing with the kids.
I packed WAY more winter clothes than needed for such mild weather.
Timing provided this exciting surprise! I wonder what it is?
Any guesses what Uncle Bentley got these lucky kids for Christmas?
Avery seems to think she’s driving Uncle Dusty’s hand-free Tesla! Actually, neither of the girls knows how to steer, but they both are expert with the gas pedal! Thus the helmets…
New Year’s Eve calls for special eating.
And special celebration!
The kids don’t need to know it’s really only 8 o’clock and they’re about to watch last year’s ball drop. Wait—do they understand the calendar and a new year/decade? Oh, who cares?
Happy New Year!!!!!
A family pose before the little girls hit the sack.
Speaking of—this is a photoless highlight. Try to imagine how joyful it was for me every night at bedtime to hear Mauri and me (and Barry) sing lullabies to the grandchildren we didn’t yet have when we recorded Wee Sing for Baby so many years ago. Joyful! (Yes, I believe it plays even when I’m not visiting.)
It seems the only time I can get a decent picture of the three of them together and semi-still is when they’re focused on a show, in this case Mickey Mouse clubhouse.
A new day and another highlight—watching Taylor be a little-girl daddy at The Little Gym. Beth took Declan to CrossFit, so it was just the four of us.
Another new day and another highlight. We traded Avery, who was under the weather, for her cousin Regan, who was also “under the weather.” Uh huh.
All smiles and no broken bones!
I snapped photos through the partition. Emery might not be ready for ice skating just yet, but she sure looked cute in her skates.
Yet another highlight—a drive into DC for an authentic Italian dinner at Napoli Pasta Bar, owned by Beth’s college friend Miriam and her Italian husband, Antonio. Their son, Marco, is Declan’s very best friend.
Miriam and Marco joined us for dinner. We arrived early, before the evening rush, and had a totally relaxing dining experience—appetizers to desserts. (Beth’s intent and part of Quinn’s eagerness for our May adventure is taking me to restaurants like this to indulge in my favorite cuisine.)
These buddies entertained themselves through the whole meal.
That mural behind us is Naples, Italy, created by Miriam’s sister, Chloe (left), who used her creative gifts to decorate the entire restaurant! That’s Trish in the center, Beth’s mom. Tim was along too, but I’m trying to be economical with the pictures (while not having to admit I didn’t get many good enough to share).
Farewells and thanks go both ways.
A dark drive down Constitution Avenue offered little satisfying sightseeing, but I bet you can guess this particular Washington monument—you’re right! Washington Monument! Tim’s years of working in the city helped us identify other familiar sites.
Declan caught on to “Follow the Leader” this time and I think the girls did too.
Are we really eating again? This was a final yahoo before I headed home the next day. Beth’s parents are a stone’s throw away and her sister Tara and her family live not far away. They are close knit and I’ve had multiple opportunities to grow to love them all.
Regan and Riley (age 7) indulged my invitation to play Cootie. Tim and Trish have three sets of twins in their collection of soon-to-be 11 grandchildren. Two sets of fraternal girls and one set of identical boys, who live in Texas.
I went to church with Beth, Declan, and Emery, while Taylor played hooky stayed home with not-quite-well Avery. I finished packing up then filled up my eyes with this serene scene. I wasn’t ready to leave these dear ones, but I was ready to head home for a few precious hours with my dear man before he headed back to the coast for another week of Sabbath by the Sea.
Bless their hearts, even the little ones sent off their Gus with a white-hanky farewell. The highlights just keep on going.
My new friend Marianne texted me last month: “Do you want me to take you to do pottery some day?” She included pictures of a box and a soap dish and a fish plate to show what she’s presently working on. So we made a date to meet at Chehalem Cultural Center’s art studio.
It’s quite a place, as you can see. Marianne was my teacher and let me use her clay to get me started. Some people have creativity in their pores. My pores are clogged with everything but! Still, I’ve manipulated Playdoh with enough kids and grandkids to know how to roll out a snake.
And by the end of the hour I’d produced this lovely snake bowl (a gift for Quinn), conjoined hearts for Mauri, and a headrow (one “head” for each of my 12 grandchildren).
This cherished masterpiece is on display in my home office, the creation of Quinn from her high school art class. You can see why I so highly value it and the six or seven other masterpieces she gifted me that year. She thinks I keep them in the closet and put them out only when she comes for a visit. Not true!
So to repay her generosity to me at such a young age, I decided I’d make her an equally beautiful piece to gift her for Christmas.
Once satisfied with the first step, I set the pieces to be fired.
Several weeks later we returned to glaze our work. Marianne had a red Sharpie, so I used it to write our “pet” names for each other on the hearts with a white glaze. For Quinn’s bowl, blue, and for the headrow…well, it apparently didn’t survive the kiln.
I’d be flying to Arizona on Christmas morning so Mauri and I had our breakfast and gift opening on Christmas Eve morning. I wasn’t ready with my camera to get a real picture of him with the hearts, but here you can at least see the final result (the names disappeared). I’m sure we’ll find a special place in our home decor to display them along with all of Quinn’s creations.
I did have my camera ready for her response to my thoughtful gift. She immediately recognized its reciprocal purpose.
Now that I’m experienced, I’ll be taking orders at email@example.com.
Thanks, Marianne! You’re a much better teacher than my results show and an even better friend for sharing this fun experience with me.
I was a little slow in catching on to what Leo was saying to the group of mothers and babies gathered at the Missions Ministries team center. Oh that I had studied harder in high school Spanish class! But here is part of the word they were saying to you (and all other donors to the work of Babies of Juarez).
It was overwhelming to actually witness (for the first time) the distribution process of the diapers and formula gathered or purchased from Babies of Juarez donations. So let me step back and illustrate what led up to it.
OK, so it might seem a little odd to start with an empty trailer, but there’s no way to show the many interior and garage spaces at the Anderson home that fill with donated and purchased diapers and formula between their trips across the Mexican border.
Here the faithful loading crew—plus Dusty, the presumed photographer—poses for my sake, since at this point Mauri and I were settled in our El Paso motel room.
Sage and Brynn are now old enough to ask why we add this “staging” step to the process of unloading the trailers. Quinn has answered the same question for the past 13 years: “We do it for the donors!”
Once the official photo is taken, we take everything back to the building dedicated to supplies.
Here the boxes are opened and shelved according to diaper size or formula type.
Every two weeks mothers and their babies line up at the entrance where Leonel checks his spreadsheet to see if any adjustments need to be made.
Supplies are pulled from storage.
Leonel’s spreadsheet recognizes names of all the mamas and babies and any specifics relating to their needs.
We mostly watched from the sidelines but stepped in where we saw a place to help.
Everything is laid out by diaper size. While this is accomplished, Pastor Martin shares the gospel with the waiting mothers.
Distribution was Susy’s “operation” until Leonel took over, but she remains fully interested and involved. (The soy formula pyramid was Sage’s design, eventually moved to the shelves.)
Once everything is in place, the moms line up according to diaper size. Here’s when they say gracias, knowing only that God through some generous Americans provided this help for them.
Leonel, himself a young daddy, lets his care show as he gives each mama her portion.
This chubby-cheeked boy is the image I hope you’ll keep in your heart as you receive our appreciation for your part in our matching-gift campaigns (Dorothy’s and Legacy). Please remember, our donations (and the volunteer efforts of many) are responsible for reducing the infant mortality rate in this area of Mexico from 25% to zero!
Speaking of chubby cheeks…
In 2016, Quinn named precious baby Amy the “poster child” for Babies of Juarez after learning she and all her siblings were raised on supplies provided through donations.
And just a few days ago, I got to meet this same girl who came to our food outreach with her mom and siblings.
Here she is, the bright-eyed and beautiful poster child — and so very healthy!
Cassidy was so happy to see everyone again!
On that happy note let me say a BIG thank you to those who participated in our “match madness” this year. All told, we gave $4,286, every penny of which went or will go toward the purchase of diapers and formula. Just in case you didn’t get around to donating, there’s still $3,221 waiting to be matched. Go to the “get involved” page on the Babies of Juarez website and be included in this good work. Be sure to designate your gift “Match Madness” so it can be doubled.