Friday, December 30, 2011

Post-Christmas Gifts

I had mentioned in my last post that I would share more later about the contents of the little "treasure boxes" the kids are opening in this photo.

Inside each of these boxes there was a smaller box of the same design; inside that box there was a small gift bag; inside that gift bag was a note to each of them saying that the actual gift was a shopping trip with Grandpa and me to buy a new bicycle. Their bikes had all been stolen, along with others on their street, one night a couple of months ago.

Little did we know when we came up with the shopping trip idea, that this would turn out to be one of the greatest gifts WE could ever get.

Monday morning we picked up Shelby for the first of the three shopping trips. There were three really cute/cool girls' bikes at the first WalMart we went to...what luck as it turned out. She tried out all three and deliberated for a very short time because one was perfect in her opinion. With such quick shopping, we even had time to take her to lunch. She was so excited to show everyone that she came up with a plan to ride the bike home from the park after Grandpa went on home and got everyone outside to see her...too cute!

Monday afternoon and into evening it was Dylan's turn. We already knew there was nothing at that first WalMart for him, we took off in the opposite direction to one in a town we had never been to. There was a bike there that he really liked but it was a BMX bike with hand brakes and trick pegs, so he wanted to check out some more which was more than fine with us. We went to two other stores, almost settling for a bike at the next one but we weren't sure he was actually thrilled with it. After seeing bikes at the third store, he knew that the one he really wanted was the one he saw at the first store. We raced back to that store, stopping only for snacks and drinks at a convenience store, hoping that "his" bike had not been was still there and he was thrilled to see it again. Even though it was dark by then, he rode it home from down the block for all his family to see.

Tuesday we picked up Jackson, who was ready for his turn because he really liked Dylan's bike and was excited about finding his own. We went straight to the store where Dylan found his because there was one there the evening before that all three of us thought he might was gone. At the second store they had one that he liked pretty well but he still wanted to look at some more. We decided to buy that one, just in case, but to keep on looking. We took care of a couple of errands on the way to the next store and decided along the way to stop for lunch. Jackson commented that he only wished that the bike we already bought had more blue on it than the two small strips it did have. I said that so far we hadn't seen any that were that great shade of blue. Following the Garmin to a dead end in search of a pizza place we wanted to try, as Rich turned around in a parking lot, I saw a WalMart across the street that we had not even seen on the Garmin and commented how weird it would be if they had the perfect bike. They Did! The right size BMX bike with the same new features as Dylan's BMX but trimmed in the electric blue that he loves.

We were all ecstatic because not only did all three kids find the bike of their dreams but we had a story about each one. The grands and I love our "stories" and retell them often!

Last evening I spent quite a lot of time making the collage below. It has the notes that each of the kids got in their "treasure boxes" along with photos of each at the store when they selected their bikes and a few shots of the three of them with their beautiful new bikes.

The greatest part of this story is that we got to spend that precious time with each of them alone. Usually we have such limited time together that we spend it on activities for all us. Now that we have the luxury of these months with them, we could enjoy the company of each one alone for a few hours...what an amazing gift for us! I highly recommend it!

Lovin' Life ~~ And the Luxury of Time!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Christmas Day

....began at 4:45 a.m. when we were awakened by a sick dog, but our grands got up less than an hour later anyway. Their stockings were hung on their doors and they all climbed into Jackson's top bunk to check them out while their folks got the coffee started and the tree lights on.

Dylan had awakened during the night and saw the stockings swinging on the door; he told me that he knew he barely missed seeing Santa. Thankfully, Santa did leave lots of presents even though it was such a close call.

Santa had tucked some way behind the tree so it was important to check it out again to see if they had missed any.

All three of them are opening treasure boxes from Grandpa and me. There will be more posted about what was inside these later.

After the kids opened all of their fabulous gifts, we took a break to bake our favorite Monkey Bread and enjoy eating our traditional Christmas morning breakfast casserole.

Later, there were gifts for Sandee and Shawn and Grandpa and ME too!

Dora had gotten sick again after the kids opened gifts and we had breakfast...scary Rich took her to a vet. We were all greatly relieved to learn that she had a bacteria imbalance in the bowel that would heal quickly with a bland prescription diet and antibiotics. And she did; her symptoms did not reoccur. For the rest of the day though, she just wanted to snuggle on the couch. Bella of course had to snuggle right there too...giggle.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Christmas Eve

As do most families, we have traditions that are important parts of our holidays, especially on Christmas Eve. As a special treat before dinner this year, Rich and the kids had practiced ahead of time with the guys performing Jingle Bells on the keyboard, recorder, and saxophone while Shelby sang along. I loved that they did this...Grandpa had such a great idea and made it happen!

After sharing opÅ‚atki, accompanied by a special blessing for each person, our dinner includes several Polish dishes. No, the glass of wine was not Jackson's, it was Grandpa's.

After dinner, gifts from family back home are opened; the first gifts opened though are the kids' new Christmas pajamas which they stop and put on immediately. Sandee and Dexter enjoyed watching all the excitement!

The last order of business at their house on Christmas Eve is for Shawn and the kids to make sugar cookies for Santa. The design varies and this year they made Santa's initials.

Lovin' Life ~~ Family Traditions

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our Tree on Christmas Eve

We have other Christmas decorations all through our cozy abode and perhaps I will share some of them next week. Today though, I'm taking just a minute to show you our Christmas tree and point out three very special ornaments. The perfect angel on top was selected by Dylan from their own tree yesterday, after noticing that we didn't have anything on the top of ours. And the two snowpeople near the top wearing the green and red scarves were very special, early gifts that say "I {heart} Grandma" and "I {heart} Grandpa."

This little tree, purchased at the bookstore my first Christmas there, sat near my desk in my office for all the years that I worked at the college. The Mrs. and Santa Claus are two favorites from my collection of Possible Dreams Santas. They remind me of the year that Santa brought us our cocker spaniel, Taffy, when my kids were young.

We are leaving shortly to spend the rest of the day, this magical night, and the excitement of tomorrow with the kids!

Rich and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas with many, many blessings of your own!

Lovin' Life ~~ And All of You

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tis the Season...

...for nonstop busyness! It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a week already since I last posted here. Rich had a bad cold/sinus thingie Sunday through Tuesday but has gotten better and better since then. Here are just a few highlights of the things we've done in the past week, along with the typical shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning stuff.

Sandee baked last Sunday...

I had promised to do some today but checked out early, leaving her with lots of baking supplies on the island in her kitchen. Oh well, maybe the kids and I will get to that during the week.

The kids and I did make eleven snow globes using canning jars, distilled water with a splash of glycerin, glitter, and a variety of cute little tchotchkes glued in for their teachers and others. Here are three of them...

Tuesday afternoon, Rich and I took a load of gifts over to their house. They had been peeking in the back window before I got out there to unlock the car.

Wednesdays are turning out to be chores day for us. We didn't see the kids at all but Rich got the propane filled in the motorhome. It's pretty cold here at night, often in the 40s, so we use the furnace nearly every night. After laundry and cleaning we took a short drive north on Ironwood to the end of that street. This area is so beautiful and there is so much more to explore.

Looking to the northeast we saw this.

Looking to the west we saw this.

Thursday was the beginning of the kids' winter break so we took them to see ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo last evening. They display 3.5 million lights throughout the zoo. Most of the animals are inside for the night but we did see a huge komodo dragon, zebras, flamingos, and Jengo, the talking giraffe!

Mine is not a great nighttime camera so sometimes I get these fabulously funky shots.

This was taken shortly after the kids had all zoomed down the 160 foot Polar Slide on snow tubes...what a blast!

There were light displays like these throughout the zoo.

But Jengo was the star of the show. He stands seventeen feet high and talks to the kids, answering their many questions on the spot, telling stories and jokes. Rich nor I ever did figure out how that was done and where the person was who was talking. The kids loved him and would have stood there until the zoo closed at ten o'clock if we hadn't eventually said "brrrrr, let's go home and make some hot chocolate." Here's Jengo and the kids.

Last night was the second time that the kids have slept over. We all conked out not long after getting home from the zoo last night but lounged around this morning making breakfast and talking. At their house this afternoon, I made pierogi for tomorrow evening's dinner. Rich's mom would be so proud...not only do I remember how she taught me to make them, but all three of the kids watched and learned and made some too!

There's more, so much more but this gives you an idea of how our winter in Arizona is going during this holiday season. I couldn't be happier. It is such an amazing gift, just being with the kids and doing all kinds of things big and small without an imminent date of return clouding our days.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Arizona Holidays

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Lights & Movie Night

We've been so busy since getting here that I only met our next door neighbors today when the kids and we went to the little playground here at our RV park.

Yesterday I decided that their parents would probably appreciate having some holiday prep time. We were at their house when the kids got home from school. After they did their Friday chores we went to dinner then drove to the Mesa Arizona Temple to see the Christmas lights display in the gardens there. From the moment I saw this at a distance through the trees, it moved me...the star that is.

I wish all of you could see this in person, especially this star. The rest of the gardens were decorated with a multitude of colored lights. The Three Kings leading their camels toward the star, the reflection of the lights and the Temple in the pool, the lighted walkways,  the decorated front of the Visitors Center...oh how I wish I could make you feel like you were there!

After strolling through the gardens and soaking in the holiday atmosphere at the Temple, we came home for another holiday tradition...watching the movie Elf! Talk about contrasting holiday experiences! Everyone had their favorite movie candy and the beds were made and we laughed about as much this time as the first time we all saw it!

Lucky us! Their folks didn't pick them up until late this afternoon!

Lovin' Life ~~ And Holiday Traditions

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Snow on the Mazatzal Mountains

Today was chores day; we didn't see the kids at all. We did laundry, cleaned house, paid get the drift. All of those things have to be done no matter where we are staying; it's just life.

Driving west on the way to the laundromat this morning we saw a rainbow; it faded before I could shoot.

Driving east on our way back from the laundromat and lunch early this afternoon, this is what we saw...

Just after I took that shot, Rich said "look to the north" and we saw this...

We've never seen snow on the mountains here so we dropped off the laundry at home, loaded the girls in the car, and drove up around the Superstition Mtns to better see the snow on the distant Mazatzal Mtns.

Were we in for a surprise! We've driven up to Canyon Lake on that road before but never when there was so much green on the massive rock formations. Here are a few shots.



No, I haven't forgotten that we went up there to see the snow. How about these views of it?

If you've been paying attention to the detail in these photos...giggle, may have noticed the gnarly clouds. Even though it didn't rain today, these clouds were with us throughout, with occasional breaks enabling the sun to highlight this magnificent land. We'll take the rain though if it continues to gift us with rainbows and mountain snows!

You will see much more of this area because we are living at the base of the Superstition Mtns., we're talking mere minutes away! I love these mountains for their craggy spires and, they happen to be at the "gateway" to the southwest end of the Tonto National Forest.

Oh yeah, who else do you know who can turn a drive home from the laundromat into such an adventure?

Lovin' Life ~~ Endless Adventures