Valentine’s Cards

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day. We’ve always made it a family day. We’ve tried once or twice going out for dinner, but the restaurants are so crowded it took a long time and wasn’t enjoyable. A few years ago for Valentine’s Day I used the recipe for Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves but shaped the loaves into hearts, and that has become a tradition. (Note on the recipe: I use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, only about 1 1/2 Tbs of brown sugar instead of 1/4 cup, and I omit the mustard because it gave it more of a BBQ flavor).

It’s also become a tradition to make heart-shaped cupcakes…

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..and peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s heart candies on top.

img_0083I received flowers and candy from my dear husband and cards from him and Timothy.

img_0084Jason and Mittu and Timothy also gave us these cute magnets from Photo Barn.

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I’ve also been making my own cards the last few years, and I know some of you like to do the same, so I thought I’d show them to you. I collect card ideas on Pinterest – I have one board for cards and one for Valentine’s Day. So when I have occasion to make a card, I’ll scroll through those for ideas plus the Cricut Design Studio. My generous husband gave me a Cricut Explore a few years ago, which can be hooked up to my laptop. They have “make it and take it” designs, which will allow you to cut the needed elements piece by piece and tell you how to layer them (the computer sends the design straight to the Cricut). Or, if you have an idea of your own, you can search for particular things, like “mug,” and it will show you several designs to choose from and then you can cut them out with the Cricut. So I peruse a lot of these ideas beforehand and see which one seems to “fit” the ones I am making a card for. I seldom copy a design exactly. Some times, like last Christmas, I don’t use the Cricut at all; this time I used it for every card. Of course, many things, like a mug, can be cut out without a machine like this. I can wing it with some things, but not so much with others. πŸ™‚

So here’s what I came up with for this year:

For my husband:

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For my oldest son, who lives out of state:

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I had planned to put something like “Sending love your way…” on the front, maybe on one of the clouds. But I thought this looked balanced as is, so I put that on the inside.

For Jason, a coffee aficionado:

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For Mittu (it’s nice to be able to do one girly one. πŸ™‚ ):

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I was particularly excited about this one for Timothy. He likes anything on wheels right now, and I had seen one design with a dump truck with hearts in it that I was planning on using. But when I saw the design for an excavator, I had to use it. He’s very much into excavators right now (and it is so cute to hear him say it) thanks to this guy, and can even name all the parts.

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I was thankful to find stick-on letters (for sale half price!) for that one and the next one at Hobby Lobby.

This was Jesse’s. From the time he was very little, he’s always had a bright, happy spirit, so this seemed perfect for him.

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And this was for Jim’s mom. My machine had some trouble with the small cuttings – I think maybe I need a new blade, but I didn’t have time to run out for one. There were four hearts layered for this one.

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I enjoy making these as my gifts to my family.

All in all we had a great day. πŸ™‚

Ornaments for Timothy

I mentioned a few weeks that my son and daughter-in-law were going to put a mini Christmas tree in my little grandson’s room and asked if I would make some ornaments for it. I decided to go with felt because it’s obviously not breakable and hopefully will hold up to being handled by a little one. I wanted something he could be free to be “hands-on” with. That was part of the idea behind his own tree.

So I researched Pinterest (love that place) and got several ideas. One included free patterns; some I cut out freehand; for others I googled things like “gingerbread man template,” “candy cane template,” etc., and found basic designs.

I thought I could machine-stitch most of them, which would have made the construction go much faster. But it was a little hard to control, especially for the small ones.Β  So I looked up how to do a blanket stitch (if I had ever learned it before, I had forgotten it). By the last few I was pleased that my stitches were getting more uniform and even. I think the blanket stitch overall makes them look cuter though it did take a bit longer.

I’m learning in my (ahem) middle age that I have to have good lighting to see to stitch well. My craft room doesn’t have the best lighting except in the afternoons, so I’d go in there for a couple of hours a day and open the blinds, and that worked best. Sometimes I was motivated to do more, but my neatness fell off after a while, so it ended up being a good thing to work on it only a limited time each day. Sometimes my lack of dexterity in my left hand, leftover from transverse myelitis, was a bit of a problem. Even though I’m right-handed, holding the ornament in my left hand just right to be stitched was sometimes problematic, especially when trying to hold those tiny buttons in place. But overall I was pleased that even with “issues,” I could still do something like this.

I used Wonder Under on some of them (like the fox and deer ornaments) to fuse a design on, both to make it more sturdy and to use less stitching. πŸ™‚ I also used it to fuse a basic woven fabric to the back of some of the designs that had a lot of buttons, because the newer felt is kind of thin, and I didn’t want the buttons to be pulled off due to the weakness of the felt.

There is an old-fashioned kind of felt that is thicker but also pliable (I am thinking it might be made of wool, but I’m not sure). Then there is a newer synthetic version that’s very thin and worked well for fusing on top. There is an even newer synthetic version that is very thick and not very pliable. I tried to cut the gingerbread people out in a double layer and nearly gave up because it was hard to get more than a blob: the finer details, cutting around the neck, etc., were hard to do. I came back the next day and cut the layers separately, and that worked much better. I was glad I persevered because they turned out to be some of my favorites.

This first one I did not make: I bought it. I saw it on Pinterest, clicked through, and found it was from an Etsy shop, and, unfortunately, got a notice that the item was sold out. I messaged the seller and told her my little grandson loved Batman, and would there be any possibility she would be making any more. She said she happened to have one left, and she sold it to me. Yay! I had given some thought to trying to make it on my own – but she did such a great job, I was glad she had one left to sell.

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Here are the ones I made:

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Free patterns for the deer and fox ornaments are here.

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They’re Starbucks aficionados, thus the Starbucks-type coffee cup. πŸ™‚ They always ask for a small empty cup for Timothy so he can have “coffee” with them.

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I think the gingerbread family are my favorites. πŸ™‚ They’re supposed to roughly correspond to my son’s family, thus the blue eyes for the Daddy. etc.

I stuffed some of them, others I left flat, just depending on what I thought looked best for each one. The first one I completed was the little house, and got it kind of over-stuffed, but that taught me that they just needed a little. I had thought about using one type of hanger for them all so they’d look more like a set, but it seemed better to vary them with what I thought would look good for each one.

I found a sturdy gift box from W-Mart which had a lid that just lifted off, so Timothy would have a box to keep them in and also so it would be easier for him to open rather than unwrapping something.

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We took the box over to him on Saturday. He enjoyed checking out the ornaments and putting them on his tree.

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Sorry that’s a little blurry – it looked clear on my camera. πŸ˜€

I hope they hold up well – I hope he can use them over and over again for years to come. It’s been a long while since I’ve crafted anything besides an occasional card, and I enjoyed doing something creative, especially something to contribute to Timothy’s Christmas. πŸ™‚

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The Introvert in Assisted Living

img_1894One of the things that stood out to me in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain was just how much society is set up for the extrovert, from schools to businesses. I don’t know if she mentioned assisted living facilities or nursing homes, but I found that they, too, were developed primarily with extroverts in mind.

Most activities at the facilities my mother-in-law has been in involvedΒ  trying to get everyone together in the common room for some event or performer. We’d get a calendar of events every month, filled with exercise classes, bingo, craft times, magicians, movie nights, and various groups coming to sing. I’m sure many of the residents loved a lot of those opportunities.

My mother-in-law was always content with a small circle of friends. She never drove. Her husband got groceries and ran most errands. She enjoyed going to church and helping with Awanas there until she couldn’t hear well enough to continue. A big portion of her dislike of getting together in large groups had to do with her hearing. She has worn hearing aids in all the nearly 40 years I have known her, and she told me once that in crowds, the aids magnified everything, so it was not only hard to pick out the voice of the person you were talking to, but it was unnerving that everything was so loud (they may have improved on that aspect now – I’m not sure). But even besides the hearing issues, she preferred home to just about anywhere else. They loved to go visit family or a handful of close friends, or go and get wood in the hills for their wood stove. She didn’t have many hobbies besides reading, her favorite activity when her work was done. She and her husband loved to watch the Atlanta Braves baseball games together and tinker in their garden or around the house.

One of our reasons (not the main one) for having her in assisted living rather than in our home was so that her world wouldn’t be reduced to just us. But when any of the aides asked if she’d like to come for whatever was going on down in the common room, she’d politely say no, she’d like to just stay in her room and read her book. Occasionally they could get her to if they didn’t ask, “Would you like to…” but rather just said, “It’s time for…” If they started helping her out the door for something that she seemed to be expected to do, she wouldn’t protest, though she didn’t like it (you do have to be careful of that kind of thing, though, so that you’re not running roughshod over their wishes). But once when I walked in and she was out with the others listening to a church group, she couldn’t understand what they said when they were talking, but she could get enough of the melody of old familiar hymns that she could sing along.

Once when I was trying to encourage her to participate more and telling her it would be good to get out of her room sometimes, she said, ” I DO get out of my room three times a day for meals!” Residents had to go to the common room for meals and sit at a table with two or three others (unless they were sick, and then a tray was taken to their room). And I thought, that’s true, and that’s quite a lot of social interaction compared to her life before assisted living. So I didn’t urge her that way any more.

She enjoyed coming with us to my son’s basketball games and to our home and church. We would take her out to eat with us sometimes, and I could tell she was tense and not entirely comfortable, but as long as we ordered for her (so she wouldn’t have to) and stayed close, she was fine.

Now, of course, with her decline over the years, her lack of mobility and speaking, about the only place she goes is outside occasionally in her wheelchair.

I know it was more cost effective and needed fewer workers to do things as a group rather than have one-on-one activities. There were just a few individual activities they did that worked well. A couple of the places would bring in therapy dogs and take them to individual rooms for residents to pet and interact with for a short time. She always had pets until assisted living, so I think she enjoyed that. One activity director would come to her room and paint her fingernails. I don’t think she ever painted her fingernails in her life before that, so I never knew quite what she thought about that one. But at least it was one-on-one.

My husband and I often thought that someone could make a business out of being a personal trainer in those kinds of facilities. My mother-in-law was under a physical therapist’s care at different times, but eventually their time with a patient comes to an end, and they leave them with a list of exercises. My mother-in-law never did the exercises on her own and didn’t want to go down to the group exercise classes, but she would work with the physical therapist (as she declined, she needed my husband to be there for the first few sessions so they could learn to communicate with each other. He was from Croatia, and she couldn’t understand him, so he thought she was just being uncooperative, and she didn’t really care if he came back or not. :-/ But after just a few visits with my husband there to interpret for her and urge her on, and showing the therapist how to communicate with her, they got along quite well.) We didn’t want our own visits with her to be all about exercising, so it would have been nice if there was someone on staff, or even someone who worked with different facilities, to come in and help people with their exercises.

One lady who used to visit my mother-in-law used to read and discuss with her parts of the Reader’s Digest, her favorite magazine. Nowadays, visitors often read a part of the Bible to her, valuable since she can’t read for herself any more (it’s important to remember if you are reading to someone with hearing problems that you stand or sit where they can see you clearly and speak loudly). Other one-on-one activities that we’ve done and others could do are taking her outside (one facility had a lovely screened in porch) for a change of venue, looking through pictures or photo albums with her (people love to talk about their families), or show her things on the computer. Sometimes when we had her over for a meal, my husband would show her some of the family members’ Facebook pages, or use Google Earth to see some of the places where they used to live. We talked some about her life before I knew her (I discovered she had been the editor of her high school newspaper!), but I wish I had done that more and then written it down. I also wish I had come up with some bit of interesting news or information to share with her. Often our conversations would start out with, “Well, what’s new?” And I’d reply, “Well, not much.” When you visit someone almost every day there is really not much new every visit. I did share family and church news and sometimes current events, but I wish on those days when I didn’t have anything new to share that I had taken the time to look up or come up with something she’d find interesting. I also wish I had put some of her old photos in a scrapbook with her, not just for the activity, but to hear more about the people in them.

Although my mother-in-law would not have had the dexterity or interest in these, some might enjoy games or puzzles (although she did enjoy Scrabble sometimes at our home. We had to take it very slowly and she’d argue with us about words like “qi” and “xi.” πŸ™‚ ). Some might even enjoy some of the group activities if they have a companion they know to go with them, at least the first few times.

The biggest help, though, both in any facility or in our home now, is just visiting with her personally. At different times over the years different individuals from our church would take it upon themselves to just go see her. Sometimes different groups within the church or community would make something for residents and bring it to their rooms, and that was nice, but really, the main help was just a short time of personal conversation and interaction.

When I was in college, one of the ministry groups I participated in for a couple of years was a “foster grandparent” program. There were other groups from college who would do Sunday morning and week night services at a nursing home, but our group would ask for names of residents who didn’t get as many visitors, and we would each choose two and then spend Friday nights visiting those two, just to talk and get to know them. I still have fond memories of “my ladies.”

Of course, staff members do not have time to do all of these things, and some are best done by family. But for those like the activities director who only painted fingernails, ministry groups, and individual visitors, these are a few ideas of things to do with one older person rather than a group activity.

Social interaction is important to every person, but introverts prize it on a smaller and more infrequent scale, with one or two people and quieter activities. That may be a little more time- and labor-intensive than group activities, but it can be highly valuable for both sides.

For more in the Adventure in Eldercare series, click the graphic below.

Eldercare

(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays)

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Pumpkin Decorating 2016

We haven’t always carved/decorated pumpkins. When my kids were little I was overly concerned about the evil origins of everything. But when Mittu and Jason wanted to try it a few years ago, I decided that decorated pumpkins were far removed from any evil origins, and it has been an annual activity ever since. We got together to do so last Saturday.

Jim bought the pumpkins ahead of time and then arranged them in a little pumpkin patch at the back of the yard for Timothy to “find” and gather.

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After Mittu made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, we got to work.

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Timothy, of course, can’t carve yet, so he painted his. Mittu joined him so he wouldn’t feel like the odd one out.

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I used a heart design, but it fell apart right at the end because I had gotten a couple of places a little too thin. But Jim mended my broken heart. With toothpicks. πŸ˜€

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Jim usually does a political design. Can you guess who this is?

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Most of us used designs we found online, but Jason created his own.

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Mittu’s painted Batman pumpkin.

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Jesse went a little more spooky that we usually do. One of the lights I picked up changed colors, making this seem even more ghoulish.

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Timothy checking out the finished products. He was quite intrigued.

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But of course the best thing to do with pumpkins is to eat them in a pie. πŸ™‚

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Mittu had made a pumpkin pie with chocolate chips and I made gluten-free sugar cookies in leaf shapes and pumpkin spice cookies (both from mixes from Wal-mart) – forgot to take a picture, and they’re all gone now. We each didn’t know the other was making dessert, so we had kind of a sugar overload for a few days, but it was good!

It was a fun night!

What’s been going on around here lately

I have some thoughts for a couple of posts I haven’t had time to develop yet, and a couple of books just about ready for review. I thought about making some headway on one of those posts, but then decided to just have a chat. πŸ™‚

One focus of our life right now is a row of trees in our back yard. 52 trees, to be exact, that caught something called “blight” and are in the process of dying. You can see them when they were healthy in a couple of photos I shared when we had spiffed up our patio a few years ago.

This is looking to the left from the patio.

This was the view from the right:

These photos were from a Memorial Day picnic, and Jim was defending us from bugs with his electric flyswatter. πŸ™‚ As you can tell, we don’t have much of a back yard, which bothered me a bit when we first looked at the house. But, we decided in our stage of life that we didn’t really need a big back yard, and there was less to mow that way.

These are the trees now:

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A few years ago we noted a few brown patches in the trees, wondered if it might be a problem, decided it was just a part of the trees shedding their old foliage. But we were wrong.

Now, of course, the problem is how to get them cut down. We’ve had guys coming by dropping off business cards offering to do it for months now. Jim called one of them, but in three weeks he has only cut down 15 trees – keeps asking us for money and then disappearing for days after we give him some. (Grrr!) So we’re trying to deal with that situation.

We’re planning on putting up a fence when all the trees are down. One unexpected bright side of removing the trees is that it’s creating much more room in the yard. We didn’t realize just how much space they took up. Plus when we get a fence up, it will still provide privacy, but it won’t be as tall as the trees, so we’ll get more sunlight and our plants back there should grow better.

So, though I’ll miss our lovely green bower back there, I think everything will work out well in the end. Once we can get someone to cut them down. πŸ™‚

Oh, and that swing in the first photo, that I had just gotten as a Mother’s Day present just before that photo four years ago….now it looks like this:

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I was SO disappointed that it didn’t hold up well in the weather. I had wanted to have it taken to the dump, but Jim said he thought he could refurbish it – make a wooden seat and back and treat for rust and paint it. I think that’s the best idea: I’ve looked at new ones, and just don’t like any as well as I liked this (except for high-end ones that were too many $$$).

You can see behind it a few of the trees that have been cut down. The guy is supposed to take care of the stumps, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

By the way, the rubber snake on the swing is to help keep birds from using the patio furniture for their restrooms. πŸ™‚ We keep a few on the patio chairs. It seems to work except when they’ve gotten used to them, so it helps to rearrange them or add a new one every now and then. They’re only $1 at Wal-Mart, so not a bad investment.

In other news…Great-Grandma has been a little sick lately. She had a cough and was having trouble eating because she couldn’t coordinate breathing with swallowing. You don’t think about needing muscles to cough, but with her losing muscular ability over the years, she coughs but can’t really bring anything up. Now she’s pretty much only coughing when she’s lying flat, when we change her, but it sounds worse. She’s had a low grade fever off and on. The hospice nurse was out yesterday and has called in some cough medicine and an antibiotic, so hopefully she’ll be on the mend soon.

And, finally…my husband peruses various “deal of the day” types sites, and recently came across a little battery-powered vehicle for Timothy. We thought about giving it to him before his birthday, then for his birthday, then decided to wait on it. We just gave it to him last week. He was so excited – he loves anything on wheels and figured out how to use it right away. He calls it his “mower” because it’s shaped like Granddad’s riding lawn mower. I was trying to get him to look up and smile when I was taking this picture, but he was distracted by a neighbor on his riding mower. πŸ™‚

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Such fun! I wish I could upload a little video Jason made of his driving it the first time and giggling, but my WordPress account only allows YouTube or Vimeo videos unless I want to pay extra. :-/

He keeps amazing us with words and activities we didn’t know he knew.

For his birthday, Jason asked Jesse to blow up some balloons and put them in the pack-and-play. He played in there for ages – and they’re still there, two weeks later, and he plays in them every time he comes over. I’m amazed they’re still holding air.

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Well, I guess I’d better get back at the responsibilities of the day. Nice visiting with you!

A winner, some cards, and assorted odds and ends

It seems like it has been ages since I’ve been here, though it has just been since Friday. It has been a busy few weeks, and though there are always things to be done, this is the first “free” week in a long time, with nothing on the calendar besides the everyday stuff. So it’s kind of a catch-up week for me.

First of all, yesterday I was supposed to draw a winner for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge Wrap-Up. I apologize for not getting that done until today: the winner is Melanie!

I thought I’d show you the most recent cards I have made, for my daughter-in-law and husband’s birthdays:

My son and daughter-in-law love coffee, so this design seemed fitting:

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The cup design was on the Cricut Explore One. I did the writing on the computer, and the little squigglies were from a hole punch. The borders were from a package I’d had for a long time.

Incidentally, last time I wrote about cards and joked about expenses, but I noticed the price tag on this package of the black borders was $3.99, and I probably bought it when scrapbooking supplies were on sale half price at Hobby Lobby, making it about $2. I have used them for multiple projects and still have some left. So between sales and coupons, it’s really not terribly expensive.

This was my husband’s birthday card:

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(Sorry about the shadow!) All of this was done with designs from the Cricut Explore except the blue border around the words, which I did with decorative scissors. I was tickled to find the argyle design since he wears that fairly often. At first I was thinking I’d have to glue all those little diamond shapes and dashes, then realized that after the machine cut them out, all I had to do was put the blue paper behind the cut-out design (duh!) Much easier! This is probably one of my favorites, along with Timothy’s monkey card from Valentine’s Day.

In other news….

  • It’s been a long time since I saw this at the pump. Gas was $1.49 a gallon and I had 50 cents per gallon off with my grocery store card. My husband tells me it’s not a good thing for the economy that gas prices are so low, but since I can’t do anything about that, I am just going to enjoy it while it lasts.

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  • Is anyone else getting sick of primary and election news and talk? I watched the first few Republican debates and I think part of one of the Democratic ones, but I can hardly stand to listen to them any more. If they talked intelligently about issues without sniping at or interrupting or talking over each other, I’d watch them. I’ll be glad when it’s over in November.
  • A number of older people from our church have passed away recently, two of them just last Friday. It’s caused me to think about the need to pick up their baton and carry God’s truth faithfully in this generation.
  • Not much new in the great-grandma department. She still sleeps most of the time, eats ok most of the time, rarely speaks except to occasionally say “thank you” or “I love you,” but doesn’t act like she is in any pain though she’s arthritic and contracted, and has a pleasant expression most of the time. I think sometimes people get a little perturbed when they ask me how she is and I say she’s about the same, but I’m not trying to be evasive – that’s really about all I can say about how she’s doing. Not much change day by day.
  • It seems like I’ve mainly only talked about books here lately, besides the weekly Friday Fave Faves and occasionally sharing interesting links. I always feel a little bad about that, though I shouldn’t, because books are one of my favorite subjects, plus I want to record my thoughts and observations about them for my own future reference as well as for anyone else who might be interested. When it is really busy, I can write a book review when I can’t get my thoughts together for a different kind of post. I guess maybe because then I have the subject material to write about, and I just have to get it out and organized. With other subjects, it takes me a while to work out my thoughts. But I do have some of those kinds of posts percolating on the back burner, so hopefully I can get to them soon.

And in the cute grandson department:

  • Timothy is imitating anything he sees someone else do and trying to say what anyone else says. That’s handy, because it makes it easy to teach some things. But it’s scary at other times, like when he saw Granddad standing on a chair to reach something, and he climbed up on another chair. In this photo he was down from the chair, but trying to imitate what Granddad was doing.

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  • He watches Star Trek with his parents, and now when he sees a selfie stick folded up, he uses it as a phaser and says “Pew, pew!” when he shoots it.
  • One day I was ordering Asian food for dinner online at the desktop computer when he came up to my desk. My laptop was on the corner, so he opened it by himself and turned it on by himself. I hadn’t known he could do either, but I figured he couldn’t hurt anything in the few minutes it would take me to finish. When I looked back at him, somehow he had changed the whole orientation of the screen sideways. I didn’t know that could be done! Thankfully one of my sons figured out how to fix it. Now I keep the laptop out of reach. πŸ™‚
  • One day when my husband said, “Jump, Timothy!” Timothy crouched down and put his nose on the floor. We looked at each other in wonder, tried again, and he did the same thing. When Jason came in, my husband repeated the process. Jason said, “Timothy, that’s not jumping: this is jumping” and then jumped up and down several times. So the next time someone said, “Timothy, jump!” he had the arm action going but wasn’t getting off the ground. It was so cute to watch. Someday he’ll get it. We don’t know how in the world he associated jumping with putting his nose on the floor, but it was so funny.
  • I love when he reaches up and takes my hand and then starts walking, wanting me to walk with him.
  • He likes to climb into and out of things.
  • He’s our main entertainment. πŸ™‚

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I think that about catches us up on the happenings here. πŸ™‚ Have a good week!

Our 36th Anniversary!

Happy 36th anniversary to my dear, kind, thoughtful, industrious, and loving husband.

 

On our 30th anniversary I posted 30 things I love about my husband. All of those are still true. πŸ™‚

A few years ago he made this video for our anniversary and I think I have posted it every year since. The song is β€œVoyage” by John McDermott of the Irish Tenors.

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