Chris and Kelsey went to a marriage retreat, put on by their church, over the weekend, so Dan and I were honored with the "keeping of the kids."
On Saturday I took them to Spare Time, the bowling alley/laser tag/arcade facility near our house. Usually we do all sorts of "artsy-crafty" and outdoor activities when they are here, but I decided to try the arcade for a change of pace.
We also went to the library, so they could check out some books for reading while they were here. Robert checked out 14 books on his own; Clara brought home four.
I set out all of the art supplies, and they spent a lot of time drawing, painting, using markers and crayons, and being thoroughly creative in other ways.
Maybe one of the most fun things they did was sort through Grandma's hotel samples. When Clara saw my huge collection, all tossed higgledy-piggledy into a big plastic bag, her organizing skills surfaced, and she was on it in a heartbeat. She directed the process of sorting and labeling zip lock bags to hold my soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, face moisturizers, mouth wash, shower caps, make-up removers and other extraneous items. They each got a plastic bag of their own to fill with whatever they'd like to take home. Organizing is high on Clara's list of talents. On other visits she's undertaken the tasks of organizing my cookie cutters, my measuring spoons/cups, and my dishes (she loves to sort my multi-colored Fiestaware dishes into rainbow order).
A couple of Robert's comments deserve to be recorded, so we won't forget them. The first one happened one evening, when he followed me into our master bathroom. I didn't realize it, but I think it was the first time he had ever been in that bathroom. He looked amazed when he saw my BIG bathtub. That's when he said to me, "I love coming to your house. Every time I come I see something new; it's like I'm here for the very first time."
And, when we met up with Kelsey at the Subway in Somerville, so we could make the child-exchange, we had lunch there. Robert had been saying he wished he could stay at Grandma and Grandpa's longer. But when Clara mentioned playing with their RC cars when they got home, his eyes lit up. "See, " I said, "Getting back home is going to be great." To that he responded, "My RC car is only a piece of dust compared to YOU!" Way to flatter a Grandma!
What a fabulous weekend we had! On Friday afternoon we got a call from friends, Andy and Kay, asking if we could make it to the Oscar Store for dinner that evening with them and another couple. Of course we said "YES!" The Oscar Store is a unique and wonderful restaurant on Little Elm Creek and Farm Road 3117, six miles east of Temple - in the middle of nowhere! The "town" of Oscar was founded by Czechs in the late 19th century and had a post office from 1892 to 1904. In 1896 Oscar had a population of 115, and had a cotton gin, a hotel, a general store, a blacksmith and a barber. Now all that is left is the Oscar Store.
The original Oscar Store was built in 1934, but in 2005 it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. It has since been rebuilt - but still looks OLD - and reopened in 2009. They serve steaks, burgers, catfish, and other wonderful dinners. Sometimes they have live music. We really enjoyed ourselves out there, with Andy, Kay, Kelly and Trish.
Then, on Saturday morning, about 8:00, Andy and Kay showed up at our door, as scheduled, to drive us up to Granbury, a quaint little town, with an old, restored Opera House on the town square, where we had tickets to see "The Day the Music Died," a live performance by some talented impersonators of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. We had time, before the 2:00 matinee, to shop in some of the terrific little shops on the square and have lunch at The Fillin' Station, a restaurant with lots of atmosphere, good service, and great food. Then it was on to the Opera House, where we were taken back in time with some of the best and most memorable songs from our younger years . . . Chantilly Lace, That's What I'm Talkin' About, La Bamba, Donna, Peggy Sue and That'll Be the Day, to name just a few.
From the balcony, looking down into the lobby of the Old Opera House. It's a beautiful venue.
That's "Buddy Holly" at center mike.
Driving back home, we stopped in Glen Rose, at the Pie Peddlers, where we each, quite appropriately, consumed a slice of . . . American Pie!
On New Year's Eve we gathered with friends from church for a party, which started at 7:00 p.m. and would last until midnight, when we would ring in the new year with the church bell and prayer. But most of us didn't stick around that long. We, ourselves, left around 10:30, after a great time with lots of good finger-food, games and laughs.
Dan and I played UNO for most of the evening, but when the table next to us started playing Pie Face, we all threw in our cards and gathered round to watch people get hit in the face with whipped cream. Everyone was a good sport - kids and adults alike took their turns.
Here's our preacher, Joe, after his turn. The one laughing hysterically behind him is his mother-in-law, by the way.
Unlike the adults, who hoped to escape the hand full of whipped cream after turning the handle, the kids hoped for a splat in the face on their turn.
Chris, Kelsey and the kids had a very different Christmas this year. For 12 days, they camped at various state parks, on their way to and from Kelsey's folks' home in Pecos, TX. They spent Christmas Eve and Christmas there, in Pecos, and then headed back east, camping at Inks Lake State Park - west of Austin - as their final camping spot.
On Tuesday, December 27, Dan and I packed up our car with a hot meal - pot roast with vegetables and gravy, pasta salad, green bean casserole and apple crisp for dessert - and with our gifts, and headed out to the camp ground. We got there around noon, and the dinner was still hot, thanks to a new casserole caddy that I bought just for this purpose. We ate first thing and then opened all of our gifts.
Dan got a new windbreaker, from our kids/grands, that he'd been needing, and I was happy to open a wind chime that is tuned to the sounds of Pachelbel's Canon in D. I love it!
Sadly, Chris was suffering terribly with juniper/cedar allergies when we arrived. He hadn't been able to sleep the night before. Not long after we got there the same pollens attacked me, as well. I thought I'd be fine when we got back home, but apparently the juniper is doing its thing all over Central TX, because I've been fighting it ever since. Chris got so bad that they had to cut their camping vacation short and head back home on Wednesday.
I was so busy having fun that day that I didn't take many pictures. Thanks to Kelsey, who was better at playing "photographer," I was able to swipe a few photos from her blog to post here.
Kelsey shared an idea with me, a couple months ago, for a gift she thought the kids would like. They have been watching the old Gilligan's Island TV show, and have fallen in love with it (Robert even dressed as Gilligan for Halloween). She thought they would like to have some little peg dolls, painted as the Gilligan's Island gang, since they've been building "sets" with Legos and playing some of the scenes from their favorite episodes. And so, I took on that project. It was great fun, and I think the kids like them.
Left to right: The Captain, the Professor, Mary Ann, Gilligan, Ginger, Mr. Howell and Mrs. Howell.
We added to Robert's Modarri car collection, and he was thrilled to get them. We also got him a storage case for all of them.
We gave to Clara - our girl who is all into owls - a yard flag holder and a set of owl flags for all the seasons. This is the winter one.
It was a Christmas like none other for us. It seems it doesn't matter where we are for the holidays, as long as we're with our loved ones, it's GOOD.
Speaking of loved ones, Tim wasn't able to come for Christmas this year, and we missed him! But he's looking forward to a spring visit with us, and we'll make sure he gets over to the Houston area to see his brother's family.
And now we can start the countdown again. According to christmascountdown.org, there are only 356 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 39 seconds left until Christmas Day 2017! Better start shopping.