Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Week 52: Christmas Traditions

How to summarize a very full week of extended Christmas celebrations?
Perhaps by listing the traditions we hold dear.

We decorate our homes. Ornaments bring back meaningful memories that lead to special reflections. I found one sent to us years ago from Pakistan just as we were hearing about the horrendous murder of school children.
Monday at Stephan's meal, our young friend from China came bearing gifts, among them new ornaments to add to our collection.

We send and receive greetings. 
I wrote the year-end letter earlier than usual, by Thanksgiving, and then enjoyed receiving and reciprocating the many letters and cards throughout the entire season. Facebook has greatly increased the flow of holiday greetings from all over the world.

We have special food traditions.
Some bake cookies. I do not. So I had to borrow these great photos to show off the grandsons helping mom, and wearing the aprons Kayla and I made for them some years back.

I did, however, for the first time, give my neighbors a little something I baked myself.

Christmas Eve Stephan and Karen invite everyone for a festive brunch--biscuits and gravy, crepes, quiche, and usually Monte Cristo sandwiches and scotch eggs. The food is great and the fellowship even better.
That same evening we have an artichoke and shrimp meal at our place for those who can make it.

We introduced the game of Hand and Foot and played one round. Jimmy liked it so we hope to have many more fun competitive moments.

Look who babysat while we played.

Christmas Day brunch here has traditionally been Sausage Souffle (from a recipe Sam copied and brought home in second grade), and Baked Oatmeal.
Not everybody can be here anymore. Stephan usually has more than one ice sculpture to deliver, and Sam's family have their own celebration with their four growing boys. Matt had to work, but Kayla and Rebecca made our day!

And Nanna Leah's as well!

Looks like the pretty Christmas dress was too warm.

Sunday we had our ALL family gathering. The house really warmed up. Look at Rebecca now.

Of course, she must still accessorize!

We read the story of Jesus birth.
This year we asked the older boys to read while the little ones acted out the story with little Nativity figures.

We give gifts to one another.
Some plan and prepare all year, others shop at the last minute, but we always end up with an abundance of thoughtful, practical gifts, and many of them homemade.
One of the biggest conversation pieces was the Doulos cartoon we had printed and framed for each of our kids whose early years were spent living on that ship.

Finally, because we have a new baby in the family this year we decided to get a grandchildren-Nativity photo.

Two years ago, we had a real couple (Matt and Kayla) and not their baby.
This year, Kayla's own baby, but Matt had to work, so Skye played the role of Joseph.
The experiment always has its hilarious moments.

I am writing this as 2014 comes to a close. Here's wishing you all a rich and full life in 2015.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 Week 51: Christmas Countdown

As Christmas approaches there is a crescendo of activities and programs.
Slowly, a little bit each day, our home decor grows: the cross that lights up the house and can be seen from the road; the Christmas tree; several nativities; and some gifts have appeared under the tree.

Christmas programs and performances abound. In fact, Kristie needed help Tuesday as two of the boys' school programs were scheduled at the very same time. She took Elijah (4th grade) to his and I went with Zion to his preschool.

Elijah had a speaking part, as the Clock, and also sang and played the recorder.
(Great job, Kristie, with the costume!)

Zion did very well: waiting patiently for his class performance, and singing a couple songs, and quoting John 3:16.

The ladies Bible study group I attend had a Christmas brunch on Wednesday. Four women offered to host: decorate a table and provide a little gift. We picked our favor before entering the room and then found the corresponding table. I chose a pair of pearl earrings. Now do you know where I sat?
I am grateful for these friends.

Leah was on a roll decorating her house and wanted me to stop by, so in the afternoon, following tap class I had the double delight of seeing daughter's beautiful decor and holding Rebecca, who entertains Nanna while Kayla is teaching dance.

Leah's decor brings back many memories. She has lovingly preserved, even refurbished old ornaments from childhood and from our world travels and then adds her own special touch. Notice the Peruvian llamas all decked out for Christmas!

Bouncy girl                                      Ready to go home

Thursday and Friday for me were mostly taken up with finishing up the semester: grading the last chapter test; a speaking final; and calculating and submitting grades as required by Ivy Tech.

It would have been fun to go to Stephan's annual demo at the Indiana Museum of Art Friday evening.
I think I'll put it on my calendar for next year! [Thanks, Stephan, for the photo on Facebook!]
How many penguins do you see sliding down the ice?

Michael has been steadily working on his bronze, a very elegant dancer, but hasn't come up with a title. Any suggestions?

He has a short break from robotics before the intense build-season begins in January.
There was some excitement during their last team meeting--one of the boys, that he takes from Upland, fainted and hit his head hard and they had to take him to the ER. Never did find out why, but it sure made for quite an interruption.

Sam was contracted to remodel Burger King restaurants, and has a crew working for him. The last two or three weeks he's had two jobs back to back with only one day home. Last night the three younger boys came over so that Sam and Kristie could have some time alone. I must have been busy enjoying them so much that I did not even take time out for one photo. Sweet memories remain, however, like cozy moments sitting together reading Christmas books. While they ate breakfast this morning, I read another book. When I started the next one, Zion said, "That's a couchy book." He preferred to cozy up for that one. 

So, one and all: ¡Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo!

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Week 50: Varied forms of art

A whole week without seeing this cutie! Had to borrow a pic from Facebook again--"Tummy time."

"I'm 4 months old today!"
 I'll try to fill you in on Michael. He gets in some form of exercise almost daily, preferably cycling: indoors, on rollers; or outdoors, a bit more challenging. Little by little (poco a poco) he sees improvement--can go a little further before feeling pain and even then it is not intense like before.

He works very diligently on the bronze piece now in the polishing stage. His 'other woman' is very beautiful!

One afternoon a week, Wednesdays, he spends time making 'art' with the youth at the Red Barn. After our tap dance class, Kayla and I both had the same idea, we stopped by to see how it was going.

Stephan was away for a few days making ice art at a competition in Ithaca, New York.
His piece was very difficult to photograph. Can you see the face, two hands and the bass?

All About That Bass

Thursday was my last class so I took a quick snapshot, only one. Then I enhanced it using I am delighted with the result and amazed at how it represents the different personalities and the fun we had together. Their final exam is on Thursday. We still do not know about next semester's enrollment.

Saturday was an errand and shopping day for me. I went to a craft fair to purchase a couple gifts from the Heavy Metal lady. She takes antique silverware and makes a great variety of jewelry from parts and pieces.

Diane and I had lunch there--wonderful homemade soups and sandwiches.

Again this week, I focused each morning on the Verse of the Day, preparing my heart for Christmas.

Day 8: John 14:6--JESUS: the only Way to the Father; the Truth; the Life.

Day 9: John 15:5,8--the Vine, we are the branches, if we stay connected, we naturally bear fruit.
But if we don't, we can't do anything. So, much fruit proves that we are His followers.

Day 10: Deuteronomy 18:15--the Prophet, the one we must listen to.

Day 11: Isaiah 7:14--Immanuel (God with us) the promised son to be born of a virgin.

Day 12: Galatians 4:4-5--the promised sign was fulfilled in due time, he was born under the Law in order to redeem us from the requirements of the Law, so that we could be adopted as children of God!

Day 13: Matthew 2:4-6--King Herod heard about the prophecies from the Magi and wanted to learn more. His motives were evil. He inquired where the child was to be born so he could eliminate the threat of being replaced as ruler.

I heard an astounding fact this week. A math expert had his students do a study of the probability of all the prophecies concerning the Christ being fulfilled. The result was one in a hundred billion, Only Jesus matched up perfectly!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 Week 49: Visitors and holiday music

Monday, December 1st, I intentionally began to prepare my heart for the Christmas season by reflecting on the Verse of the Day (a Bible Gateway app on my cell phone).
Day 1: John 1:1-2, 14--the Eternal One became human. He chose to live among us!

We choose to live in community with whoever shows up at our Monday night group to enjoy the friends and food. Stephan prepared a delicious curry, and always freshly baked bread.
David and Mike played a long game of chess and ran out of time. I took a picture so they can start up where they left off and finish it next time. Any advice for Mike (white)?

Day 2: Hebrews 1:1-2--the Creator Himself came to reveal God to us!
Reflecting on the Creator and the creativity within each of us made in the image of God, I came upon this photo of Stephan posted recently on facebook, taken when he taught at an ice-sculpting boot camp in Ohio a couple weeks ago.

Day 3: John 6:35--the Bread of Life promises we will not hunger if we come to Him!
I think of how often this little one has to be fed in order to be satisfied and grow. Even so we can go to Jesus continually and be filled.
I did get to see and hold this muñequita (baby doll) Wednesday but didn't have my camera or cell so no photos. I borrowed these from Fb, however, she was also wearing a dress and leggings that day, so cute!

Sleeping Beauty     Bright Eyes & Conversing with Nanna
The occasion was that Kayla restarted our tap dance class and was showing off three month-old Rebecca to the group before Nanna Leah came to take her away.

Day 4: John 8:12--He came into the world as the Light. If we follow Him we need not walk in darkness.

I am so grateful that our grandchildren have the opportunity to learn about Jesus, the Light of the World. 

More borrowed photos of the young uns and their delightful expressions
Day 5: John 10:7, 9-10--He came to give us life more abundant!

Our friends from Arkansas came Thursday and we spent three wonderful days together sharing so many stories of God's faithfulness.
Selfie: Rita & Sara
Friday morning we walked in and around the Taylor University campus and met friends at just the right times and places. Thus we got to see some beautiful hand-built ceramic pieces in one professor's office and later the biology teacher stopped to talk to us about 'her birds' as we admired the aviary.

It was like that the entire time. The Lord, our Good Shepherd led in every detail of our visit together.
Day 6: John 10:14-15--our good shepherd knows us and came to lay down His life for us!
In the evening we attended the annual Candles and Carols concert at Anderson University. The main purpose of our friends' trip was to see their son perform.

We enjoyed the beautiful music and dancing.

Jared and proud parents--Sara and Steve
Saturday was a very relaxed day: games, movies, food.

Multi-tasking our way: Hand & Foot and  Ivanhoe's food
The grand finale was the annual favorite musical program at Taylor University--Sing Noel: Christmas Around the World.

As if that was not enough, this morning's service at church was the Christmas cantata, yet another very moving presentation of the story of Jesus' birth.

Day 7: John 11:25. He came that we may have life eternal!

Truly the most beautiful story every told.

Monday, December 1, 2014

2014 Week 48: Festivities

Christmas decor began to appear this weekend. So far only the "anorexic" tree was trimmed. All other ornaments and seasonal items lay strewn all around me.  I will attempt to ignore the mess and finish this blog post.

 We enjoyed authentic Chinese food at the Monday Night Meal. Nanxin brought a great variety of bags of imported items and cooked everything in a "hot pot." She kept scooping out and passing around all kinds of interesting and very tasty items: beef that looked like bacon; bamboo shoots like white carrots; clear plastic-looking sweet potato noodles; a variety of greens; tofu cubes; dough balls (actually called 'Big Gluten Balls' on the bag!); and oh, so many more. We were well satisfied after that enjoyable culinary experience. Thank you, Nanxin!

This week Mike finally finished the last pour in the long road to repair his sculpture that he has been working on for over a year.

I didn't have to teach all week. Even so time was taken up with people and festivities. . . and a small necessary surgical procedure--a BCC lesion was removed under my right eye Tuesday morning. In the evening at Malachi's 16th birthday celebration, the drooping bandaid was quite obvious.

I had fun taking pictures and talking to family and friends.

Matt & Kayla                                                                         "What's Daddy doing?"

"Nanna loves me."
Baby peers meet. Rebecca Rose is fascinated by the boy her age!

Sam and nephew Ollie                                                                                  Rebecca Rose
Wandering Wheels, a wonderful place for a birthday party and sleepover. Something for everybody: swimming pool; ping-pong, pool tables; fuss ball; even a piano the little cousins can play.

Looks like the babies and little ones took center stage, but really the celebration was about this big guy! Love you, Malachi. We are so proud of you. Hope you had lots of fun with all your friends!

Diane spent three days with us, and on Thanksgiving Day the three of us drove north to Warsaw and had a lovely dinner with Mother and brother Alan's family at my nephew's new place. Thank you, Daniel!

Friday evening we bundled up and drove south to Noblesville where we walked around the Court House square admiring all 20 of Stpehan's ice creations set up by his six-man crew.
Here are only a few of my photos. I like the little girl admiring the train.

And a favorite "Frozen" character (I haven't seen the movie yet) from ones Stephan posted on FB.

Then we watched The Ice Man himself work on a four-block Santa going down the chimney.

We didn't stay till the end so here's Stephan's photo of the final sculpture.

A fun time for all!

Diane's poses