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.