Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas, 2011

Christmas Eve day was the time we all congregated at Heidi and Chris' home in Davison to exchange gifts, eat our hearts out with a humungous amount of special treats and family traditional dishes, including: Kristin's famous deviled eggs; Heidi's cheese pies; brussel bombs; ham, and sweet potato casserole.

I was eager to see if the outfit I bought for Owen last December in Sana'a, Yemen would fit him and fit him it did. This will be his Halloween outfit this next fall.

Gifts were opened by one and all, and mostly in an organized fashion. Alex looked mighty dapper in his red shirt and Santa hat.

We had five of our six grandkids with us at Heidi's house, including McKenzie who isn't in this photo; her brother, Chase who has his grey shirt on and his back to us and then, the three McNamara kids who were wearing their "things" shirts from Amy, Kristin's bestest friend. They were: thing 1,thing 2 and thing 3. Kristin said she needed a shirt that says, "Mother of all things" to wear when the kids wear their special shirts.

Here are Kenz, with the long hair, Alex and Addison. Pat, Kristin's husband is kinda cut off. We had an hors d'oeuvres buffet prior to the official dinner later in the afternoon. We did not go hungry. Everyone brought a dish or two to pass, making it easier on the host and hostess whose house I am sure we trashed.

Here are the "McNamara things" in front of the fireplace at Heidi and Chris' house.

Chris' mom, Zee, came over to spend some time with us and share dinner. She is mending from her recent hip replacement and I didn't realize I didn't have her in any of my family photos.

Touching moments,Christmas 2011

Several years ago, I found some glitzy special Christmas boxes and began a family tradition of sending something special and significant from the giver to another family member, along with a note of just why this particular gift is so special and important. This year, Owen, Kristin and Pat's six year old, had the box and gave his Uncle Alex his special home made pillow that he has had for several years. He gave it to Alex to take back to Alaska with him to remember him by and to snuggle with. Note the silver box on Alex's lap. Next year, Alex will be tasked with sending a piece of his heart or soul to another family member in this box along with a special keepsake note.

The other box was gifted by Kristin, to her sister, Heidi. Kristin's note left not a dry eye in the room. Her gift to her sister, besides a note of many special times and places shared as we moved around the country was paired with her old...and I mean OLD Mickey Mouse comforter which is now about 35 years old and which has travelled with Kristin from home to home, in both good and bad times. It kept her warm when she lived in her car and has travelled the country with her, keeping her warm and reminding her of better times. This past year, Kristin had the comforter repaired and patched by her mother in law, who did a miraculous job with fabric so old.

As many of you know, Heidi has been experiencing tough times with seizures and coming to grips with what she now calls her, "new normal." Kristin gave her a snuggle blanket to keep her warm, while protecting and comforting her as she weathers these hard times.

Heidi will give someone a treasure of hers this next Christmas. These notes will last into history and the specialness of giving of self has been so wonderful amidst the commercial gluttony that has become Christmas. We stop and give thanks and sharing ourselves is so memorable and so cherished. Love traditions.

Jerky Making

One of our new friends, made here while in Caseville, is Dennis Sturtz, husband of my friend, Kat and an area chef and caterer. He and Richard got together the other day to make some duck and goose jerky, using an old recipe that a former employee, Barry Pratt, gave to Richard about 20 years ago. Dennis and Richard made the marinade and then, Dennis came back to our home the next day to get the meat strips into the smoker...and then, back he came for the final reveal and taste testing.

Richard checking the duck and goose strips to see if properly leatherized and toughened up for jerky eating. They weren't back they went into the smoker til the next morning.

And here we are with many, many strips of duck and goose jerky which family and friends are now enjoying.

Tough to see, but on th counter to th left of the meat is a tall, footed, canning jar which was a gift from some friends from Tegucigalpa days who remembered that I drink my wine out of jelly or canning jars. This is a Kerr canning jar, atop a pedestal and which came with canning lid and seal and a tag indicating that this is a "redneck wine glass." Love it. Another friend and neighbor up here, Kathy Harris gave me another is a footed candlestick holder which was delivered for my birthday with the same note on it. Now, this canning jar, unlike the candlestick holder...holds SOME wine!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The standing still!

I haven't been wandering much and feeling a bit anchored to my home here in Michigan. The good news is...I am meeting new people and encountering new experiences almost every day. And I am defying what I know and you all know about me in so many ways.

For example: after my workout and during lunch with Richard, I received a call regarding a need for a substitute at the Learning Center. This is a place for special needs kids and they needed someone fast for this 30 minutes from the time of the call which I could not do because I needed a shower, to dress and drive 30 minutes. NO sweat...they called back and asked me to come even if I would be a tad late which I did. The class...pre-school special needs kids. Only 8 in the classroom but all with special needs and issues. The good news...there were never less than 3 adults in the room with these kids and being a mom and grandma sure helped although I just don't know the rules which the kids were happy to share with me.

We played Candyland but I changed the rules because we wanted to practice taking turns, counting and our colors. It went well but one young man allowed as how the real Candyland game is much more fun than MY version. He is four!

I am not a patient woman. I have been in several classrooms where I have had to draw upon a reservoir of unused and untapped patience and I am enjoying these classes tremendously. One leaves feeling one has taught something necessary and needed. Today, I had a little guy who wanted to snuggle and hold my hand through the afternoon...he doesn't get many hugs where he lives, I was told.

On the way back home, I was thinking back to my public school teaching years in Virginia and remembered that, in those days, I taught basic, average and gifted middle school students. High school courses were organized like they are today. After my first semester with average kids, I demanded to ONLY teach basic (read that remedial) or gifted classes. Average was so...average. I loved working with those who had learning issues....they felt so successful and so did I when something was accepted and learned.

Now, I don't want to be smarmy. I could NOT do this on a daily basis and these teachers are way underpaid and under-appreciated. What they do, day in and out, is heroic. Yes, some are better than others but I haven't met anyone yet who isn't trying...against many obstacles.

I laughed and smiled a lot today and yes, I did wander the room. I worked at Candyland; at the play-doh table makin pretend cookies; at the vehicle box, counting the number of blue and red planes and then, helping to sort and count the big and small planes. Oh, and I helped my snuggler eat a baby carrot all by himself...he doesn't like crunching!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving was lots of of the best was our littlest grandaughter, Layne, who will be two this coming week. Layne kept resting, playing and trying to fit herself and her babies into our dog bed which our neighbor just gave us this summer. Layne had the doggie blanket, which is Alex's baby blanket and then, she would pull her babies and her own pink blankie into the tiny bed and curl up.

We always have an adult table and a kids' table because we don't have a table big enough for everyone. This year, we didn't even have a card table for the kids, so we just used a nasty plastic yard table. Poor Kenz...16 and still at the kids' table. Poor Alex...he will be there at 22 this Christmas. Can't wait.

We do the holidays casually, as you can see. Pat is standing and Chris is the man in orange. Heidi is reaching for something Chris is passing and it looks like Kristin is playing with her boob. NOT sure. Richard is the bald man with grey hair.

Because the girls try to have holidays with their in-laws, and so we can get together, we celebrate when convenient. Richard and I don't care when, we care about who is with us. So, we decided to have the family get together the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Richard and I had a small pork roast with some roasted butternut squash...yummy. And then, Friday, Heidi and Chris and their kids arrived, followed by Kristin and Pat and their three kids' arrival on Saturday. Heidi brought the traditional cheese pies, but one had gone air borne, flying out of her fridge. Not to be deterred, she picked it up and brought it and that broken pie was dessert for our Friday night rib dinner. Pat brought his famous meatballs...pounds of them and I am still eating them. I was selfish and kept the leftovers for us!

Richard took the kids fishing on Saturday and they all caught some fish which they were pretty proud of...they weren't "keepers" but who cares? A fun time was had by all. And Kenz took the boys and Addison to a movie on Saturday evening, so we all had some quiet time. That girl is worth her weight in gold.

Oh, speaking of weight...I wore my skinny jeans that Kenz helped me pick out used at the Salvation Army. I was feeling mighty fine...skinny jeans, nice shell and sweater. Lookin good. Kristin leaned over and grabbed what I guess was a bunch o fabric that was hanging from my skinny jeans and suggested I get some that fit. I cried. Silly, but I was feeling good and they didn't notice. I was pretty embarrassed at my reaction but as the girls pointed out...I am still the overweight woman I was in my mind. I see fat. I feel fat. And when she grabbed me, I remembered my mother doing that to me when I was a pudgy kid. Instant flashback and it wasn't pretty.

All in all...we had a super time. Heidi has a new camera and took some great photos...not sure where they are but will add some as I can. My grandkids are a joy and they will all soon be too big to cuddle.

Oh, Logan, our oldest grandson called to let us know that he has been offered a great financial aid incentive package at Kettering, here in Flint. Am excited for him and hoping we will see him when Alex gets home from Alaska. Love this time of year. Big decision....where DO we take the grandkids for their grandma trips this year? The jury is out!

Now, the cheese pie dessert was the highlight of our Friday dinner. We decided to pass the pie plate around the table, with each person scooping up a spoonful of the pie as the plate passed. Yes, each had his/her own spoon and we decided to make the pie look like an hourglass shape and we thought we'd show Kristin and tell her that this is what happened when it came outta the fridge.