Aug 4, 2009

Uncle John's Surprise

God has richly blessed our family by including in it a wonderful man whom Ben met years ago while working as a police officer in Florida. 

More than 30 years ago, John had moved his mom from Chicago to Florida. He hoped to extend her life, as he had watched the hard winters of the Windy City take their toll on her after his father's death. John left a solid job working in the signature confirmation department of a bank and took odd jobs in FL to support his mom. After his mom passed away, he faced a number of challenges, including the collapse of his roof after a bad storm. Ben organized a group of fellow officers to repair John's house and roof. From that time on, Ben and John have been friends.

When the series of hurricanes swept across the west coast of FL about 5 years ago, Ben took some equipment down to another friend whose home had been badly damaged. Ben swung by to see John. The storms had left him shaken. Ben wondered if perhaps we should ask John to come live near us. When he proposed the idea, John immediately agreed.

Ever since, we have had the joy of John participating in our family celebrations. And of course, we seek to make his birthday special.

This year, John hit 65 - "the Big One" as he called it. We couldn't let the opportunity pass. Could we pull off a surprise party? We knew John would be expecting dinner with our family on the actual day of his birthday - we always do that. So instead, we asked if he could come for dinner on the Sunday before. 

We invited a group of friends from his church for a cookout. We decorated with streamers and banners and balloons. And just before John arrived, I handed out kazoos. We all gathered by the front door.

John was truly surprised. He kept saying, "I've never had a party like this before. I can't believe it!"

We had a huge watermelon... one of John's favorite things... along with steaks, sausages and chicken on the grill, roasted sweet potatoes, a huge salad and chips & dips. The children enjoyed the food as much as the adults!

Ben's mom made John's cake. She asked about his favorite flavors and he mentioned carmel. She has a carmel icing recipe to die for!

Everyone brought presents. 

And the big finale... My parents, who couldn't be at the party, sent a certificate, promising John (a huge train fanatic), a trip, by train, to Chicago. 

It took a minute... and then it sank in. "I'm going to Chicago!"

Happy Birthday, John! We are so glad God brought you into our family. We're excited for the memories you & Ben will make on your train trip and visit in Chicago. May God continue to bless you with health in the years ahead.

Aug 3, 2009

June 2009

I have very few pictures of all the fun things we did in June. I just haven't been good about taking the camera. But if you bear with me, you'll find some cute pictures at the end.

When May turned into June, James' Aunt Lizzie came for a visit. Grammy & Aunt Lizzie had planned a trip for the moms & cousins to a small amusement park about 2 hours from us. But the day dawned not just cloudy, but pouring-down-rainy. So they opted instead for the Aquarium. Fabulous idea. 

As soon as we arrived, we went to the dolphin show. James was fascinated. Then we began to make our way through the exhibits. James loved it all. He's not as into fish and animals and bugs as his cousins, so it was good for their excitement about such things to rub off on him.

But it didn't seem to rub off too much. Aunt Lizzie treated each of the children to a gift from the gift shop (thank you, Liz!). James picked a helicopter. I tried to encourage him toward something more like the turtles, dolphins or other water creatures that his cousins had selected. But he was not to be deterred. The boy likes his machines!

Expecting that next summer might look quite different from this one due to having an infant, I created a Summer of Fun plan for James & me. I invited a group of moms and their children to join us on a different outing each week this summer. We have visited area playgrounds, a splash park (James hated it as much this time as he did last year!), and the park at the end of a large airport runway. We had two moms join us for our picnic at the airport... James talked about that trip for quite awhile. That day, he watched jetliners landing right over his head. He saw a freight train and subway trains on the bridge. Boats sped along the river, and a couple of helicopters flew by, too!

My mom came twice in June. One day she dropped Dad off at the airport for his trip out to the high school graduation of one of his grandsons. And the following week, she came before she picked Dad up. James was thrilled! And she stayed home with the napping boy while I had an OB appointment one week. (Thank you, Mom!)

In the middle of the month, I had the privilege of taking a meal to a friend with a 2 1/2 week old baby boy. My friend and I chatted in her kitchen while I put the food in her fridge. Then I went to find James, whom I expected to be playing with my friend's 21-month-old son. Ummm... well... James was more interested in the baby. I found him in the pack-n-play with his hand resting gently on the baby's belly. Gulping, I took him out and firmly instructed him that he may NOT climb into the pack-n-play. Then I went to tell my friend.

She was so gracious. She even offered to let James hold the baby. Delight! James held onto Stephen so carefully, and for longer than I would have expected. And later he asked to hold him again. Stephen was a sport and allowed James the joy a second time.

I felt such happiness at seeing our boy responding to a little one with such care and attention. I trust our baby will receive the same sweet love from his or her big brother.

Another darling moment came while I babysat James' good friend, Dorothy. At lunchtime, James had cleaned his plate, and of his own initiative he began to feed her. Such sweetness!

On Father's Day, we took our friend, John, and picnicked with Ben's family at an historic battleground. Ben and I have agreed not to do gifts on Mother's & Father's Days. But we do give each other cards. On the way home, we stopped at a local farm where Ben ordered homemade ice cream (and shared some with James). Other than the ice cream, though, James' highlight was playing with his cousins.

At the end of the month, we had the joy of staying with our friends, Sam & Ben, at their house, while their parents served at a meeting in England. James had so much fun! Shortly before we went for the week, James begged me to stop in on our way home one afternoon. That day, James received a wonderful gift. Sam had an old guitar with only two strings on it which James had picked up and started strumming. Sam's mom offered that James could have it. Really?!?

The next night, we took James and his guitar to the music store where it was outfitted with new strings. What fun! Our boy loves this instrument. We are so excited for the day when he can learn to play for real!

Sadly, I don't think I have any pictures of our time with Sam & Ben. We had a great time hanging out with them. James did so well eating, sleeping and playing that week. We did some fun stuff like visiting the Splash Playground (which Sam & Ben loved, but James not so much!). We hosted a surprise birthday party for our friend John (that will be a post all on its own). And James managed to fall and end up with five stitches the day before we left. What can I say? He's an active boy!

I'll post pictures of the stitches - and the details of the events -  in my July post, since the actual injury occurred July 1st (thus placing the pictures in the July folder, and not accessible to me at the moment!)

May 2009

I know it is long past, but there are so many fun things we've done since the beginning of May, and I don't want to forget them. 

On May 9, we took James to National Train Day. Maybe it's a marketing attempt by Amtrak to get people excited about train travel again. But it seems to be working! At least on us. We toured an Acela train, a sleeper train and an area commuter train. 

James loved it. And his mommy & daddy are serious about taking a few train trips as our children get older. We hope that at least one will involve a sleeper car! We'd like to take a trip as a family before the baby comes in November. And although James' favorites remain freight trains, he's okay with the idea of riding a passenger train.

On May 15 -17, Ben went with a few of his buddies to a NASCAR race. I had the joy of hosting my dear friend April. In no time at all, James "bonded" with her Lane & Ava. They played so well together. He still talks about them. That Saturday, we went to the Zoo. 

And that evening, April and I enjoyed two hours to talk - no interruptions, no distractions. Our children slept. We caught up. What a gift of grace from our kind heavenly Father. 

The following weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day with my sister's family. There's nothing quite like small town America for remembering those who have given their lives to purchase our liberty. We met my dad (a Veteran) at the parade. James couldn't get enough of farm tractors, fire trucks and the high school band. Being there with his cousins was icing on the cake! He was just remembering it to me the other day.

The very last weekend of May, my folks came for a visit. Mom came Friday. Dad arrived by train from a visit with his sister on Sunday evening. Oh the thrill for our sweet boy. The third subway ride in a month. And meeting Papa at the train station. Wow!

One very cool moment happened that weekend. I had never discussed "same" and "different" with James. But after Mom and I had manicures and pedicures on Saturday, James was inspecting, and all at once, arms spread out, pointing at both my feet and Mom's, he loudly proclaimed, "Same!"

To mark the end of our preschool year with James' four friends, Dorothy, Dalton, Faith & Anna, we visited an area park that features a carousel and train ride. We were sad that Anna & her mommy couldn't come. God gave us a glorious spring day. The children (and their mommies and younger sisters) seemed to have a wonderful time.