Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Latest Painting - Fall on the Farm

I should have been painting up a storm in December, since our art class took the month off, leaving me lots of free time. But I haven't. Christmas and family took the priority, which is as it should be :-)  But, today, I got out my most recent acrylic, and did a few touch-ups on it, and am going to call it finished, until my teacher sees it and tells me all sorts of things I need to fix.

Between now and our first class in January, I want to do some watercolor work. Between Dan, who got me a specialty set of watercolor brushes that I've been drooling over, and Chris and Kelsey, who gave me a gift certificate from Michael's, I have totally freshened-up my watercolor brush set and am ready to try my hand at it again. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 28, 2015

One More Picture

Kelsey just sent me this photo, taken the day after Christmas, of our whole little family.

Back row, left to right: Tim, Kelsey, Chris
Front row, left to right: Robert, Linda, Dan, Clara

Sunday, December 27, 2015

It Was a Holly-Jolly Christmas of the Best Kind!

It couldn't have been better! Dan, Tim and I drove to Chris and Kelsey's house on Wednesday - Christmas Eve Eve - and got there around 1:30 p.m. Kelsey had taco soup in the crock pot, and Chris had baked some bread. The wonderful aromas teased us all afternoon, until we ate together that evening.

Although we were listening to "White Christmas" on the radio, it was the farthest thing from a white Christmas in Houston. It was in the mid- to high-80s, and the kids spent a good while playing outdoors. Finally, we were all too hot, and had to come inside.

Before dinner we had time to bake some Christmas sugar cookies. The kids really got into it this year, and stayed with it until every last cookie was baked, iced and decorated. Yum!

We ate a late dinner of steaming bowls of Kelsey's taco soup and slices of freshly-baked bread. It was really good!

The next day was Christmas Eve, and the excitement level was growing in leaps and bounds. After breakfast (prepared by Chris) the kids built and decorated their little gingerbread houses. They turned out really cute, and provided a good hour of fun for the kids.

The temperatures continued to be hot and humid -- I'm pretty sure it hit 90 degrees during the afternoon. The kids played outside again, which helped release some of the pent-up energy and excitement.

Even Max, our Welsh Corgi granddog, seemed to perk up for the holidays. Max is 15 years old, and every time we visit, we wonder if it will be the last time we see him. His senses of hearing, sight and smell are pretty impaired in his old age, and his hips and hind legs are weak and wobbly. But he's still a sweet-natured, special part of the family. it was good to see him enjoying all of the Christmas festivities. 

We all enjoyed our non-traditional, but delicious, main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. Kelsey did almost all of the work, and it came together perfectly -- home-cooked pulled pork, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, and pumpkin pie.

Christmas Eve night we all gathered around the television and watched 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (the mouse family version). After the movie, the kids posed for a few pictures in front of the tree, said their good-nights and went to bed. Robert was sleeping in Clara's room, so that Uncle Tim could have his bedroom, so we wondered if it would be hard for them to fall asleep. But, amazingly, they were out like a light, just five minutes after going to bed!

Christmas began early, but the kids heeded their daddy's instruction of the night before - not to come downstairs until 7:00. At LAST, it was time! Santa had come, bringing Robert some Lego sets, as he had asked for, and surprising Clara with a marvelous snap-together electronics circuit set. Other favorite gifts included new bathrobes for both, roller skates for both, a Nerf ammo vest for Robert, and some new fashion scarves for Clara.

Robert coming down the stairs on Christmas morning.

There was an awesome Nerf gun war on Christmas afternoon!
The rest of Christmas Day was relaxed and enjoyable. Since our main meal had been on Christmas Eve, we were able to enjoy the leftovers all Christmas Day. It was really a wonderful Christmas, all centered around family.

Kelsey and Chris with Clara and Robert

Linda and Dan with the kids

Tim with the kids
The morning after Christmas, we all ate a farewell breakfast at a local restaurant, and then Dan, Tim and I headed back to Temple. The sunny weather had ended and storms were threatening, however the heavy rains held off until we made it home. When we first got into the car, we noticed this little hitchhiker on our roof!

There was a lot more traffic going home than there had been on our trip to Houston on Wednesday, but we made it just fine. Dan and I didn't last very long that evening. We were tired and both headed to bed by 8:30-ish, thanking the Lord for the great gift of FAMILY.

Monday, December 14, 2015

School Winter Wonderland Program

Our three-day visit with Chris, Kelsey and the kids ended with a bang-up school program on Thursday night, in which Robert performed with the kindergarteners, and Clara performed three times -- with the pep squad, the school choir, and with the 4th and 5th grade classes. In between each of their performances, we had to leave the gym, where the program was going on, and make room for other parents/grandparents to watch their children perform. It was . . . "chaotic" doesn't quite describe it . . . is "uber-chaotic" a word? But all of the awkward logistics were worth it, just to see our precious grandkids perform with their friends.

Robert sang his little heart out in "I Want to Be an Elf." Here he is practicing it home, earlier in the day.

And here he is, on the risers, performing with his classmates. He didn't miss a beat! Just look at how happy they all are. That's what really counts in something like this!

In between our kids' performances, we had time to go to the library, where Santa was waiting to talk with Robert.

Clara's first performance was with the pep squad. I loved their cheer:  "Merry merry Christmas, y'all!

My favorite part of the program was when the school choir sang. Clara was one of a quartet who sang a segment of "Just One Candle" by themselves. They did an awesome job! I was so proud of Clara. She is such a natural in front of people - no stage fright at all. She must get that from her great-grandma (my mom), who started singing at a young age, as well.

This little video clip isn't very good. A result of the uber-chaos, mentioned above, was that the audience was quite noisy. I wanted to get up and shake a few of them - LOL. Anyway, here it is --

And, finally, the 4th and 5th graders combined to end the program with lots of holiday cheer. Besides singing, they showed off their skill at playing the recorders.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reunion with Long-Ago Friends

When we lived in Salem, Oregon, and the boys were in grade school, Chris had a best friend who lived in our neighborhood. His name was Chad, and the two of them spent countless hours playing together. His mom, Lora, and I also became good friends. We both were committed volunteers at the kids' school. Occasionally our two families got together, so we got to know Chad's younger sister and his dad, Bill, as well. They were very gracious people, who had lived a rather interesting and adventurous life.

Chris on left, Chad on right, and his little sis in the middle. This was taken at a piano recital where all three of them performed -- which is why Tim, who wasn't taking piano at that time, is missing from the picture.

We moved from Salem to Newberg when Chris had completed the fifth grade. It was difficult for Chris to leave behind such a good friend, whom he had known for five years. Lora and I got the boys together a few times after that, but eventually they also moved from Salem, and we only kept up with each other through our annual Christmas letters. 

Happily, Lora and Bill are now living near Chris and Kelsey, so while we were in Houston last week, we arranged a meet-up with them at a restaurant. It was really wonderful visiting with them once again, and catching up on their more recent experiences. It had been over thirty years since we'd seen them. It was especially nice for Chris to get to know them again, now as an adult. I hope we can do this again, sometime, maybe even when Chad and his family are in Texas, visiting. That would be a SUPER reunion.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Happy Birthday Clara - The Double Digits!

I'm having a hard time thinking of Clara as a ten-year-old, but this week she did come into the double-digits. Of course, Dan and I couldn't miss out on that important occasion, so we headed to Houston on Tuesday to join the festivities.

Before we all went out for a birthday dinner, Clara opened her presents at home. She is totally into OWLS these days. So she got a new "Owl Always Love You" shirt, an adorable owl onesie with feet, and, from Grandpa and I, a huge Beanie Boo owl named Lucy. She couldn't have been happier.

Clara's restaurant of choice this year was the Rainforest Cafe -- same as last year. It is located in the Katy Mall, which has a new attraction . . . motorized animals that you can ride all around the mall. They will hold up to 500 lbs., so even adults or couples can ride them. 

I think that Chris should win the Father of the Year award! He was a such a good sport, mounting his gallant steed and joining the kids in their mall-journey, despite a few curious stares from on-lookers.

After the animal rides, we went to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner. Clara could hardly wait for everyone to finish their meal so that her volcano would arrive. The volcano is delivered by the wait staff, and is announced with a very loud yell: "VOLLLL CAAAA NOOOO!" And then they sing a birthday song. It is a pretty terrific birthday treat - vanilla ice cream with rich chocolate brownie slabs forming the side of the volcano, a dollop of whipped cream on top, and rich hot fudge "lava" running down the sides. Yum! And, to add to the excitement, it's topped off with a sparkler.

 Clara was all smiles. Her birthday was all she hoped for and more. She is becoming such a delightful young lady, and I'm proud to be her grandma.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Great Start to the Christmas Season

Last night Dan and I kicked off the 2015 Christmas season by attending the Temple Symphony Orchestra's "Home for the Holidays" Concert. What a wonderful, uplifting evening it was! Although Temple is not a large city, our professional orchestra is outstanding. Featured in this year's concert were two excellent soloists, as well, Baritone David Small and Soprano Priscilla Santana.

Warming up

The sing-along
 Each year, toward the end of the concert, the conductor, Thomas Fairlie, leads the orchestra and the audience in a Christmas medley sing-along. It's not often that we "ordinary" folk get to sing, accompanied by a full symphony orchestra. Great fun!

So, for us, the holidays have officially begun! Wishing you all a joyous Christmas season.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dan's Third Great-Grandfather - John Short

Dan's maternal grandmother was born Pearl Princess Short. She married Charles Monroe Baker in 1907. This photo shows proud grandma, Pearl, holding Dan when he was an infant.

The Short family has given me more to research than any other line of either of our families. They played their parts in the history of our country and the history of Texas. Some were heroes, others were scoundrels. In this post I will tell about one of the heroes, John Short, who was born in Georgia in 1790. (A blog about the scoundrels yet to come!)

John married Dicy (sometimes spelled Dicey) Stinson on March 15, 1813, in Alabama. John was 23 years old, and Dicy was only 14. The Shorts were farmers and ranchers, and John was a "natural genius in wood, iron and farming," according to a family Bible account, recorded by John's nephew, John Sansom. The Short farm on Basset's Creek was near Fort Sinquefield, which was used by the locals as a shelter during frequent attacks by hostile Indians. On September 2, 1813 Fort Sinquefield was attacked by the Creek Indians. The Short family was at the fort at this time and they were involved in the ensuing battle. The company bravely defended the fort and went on to engage the Creeks in many of the famous battles of the Creek War of 1813 and 1814. John Short was involved in these battles and was soon promoted to corporal and, eventually, sergeant under Captain Dale.

Simultaneous with the Creek War, the United States was taking on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain, in the War of 1812. The reasons for the war included British attempts to restrict US trade, the British Navy's impressment of American seamen, and America's desire to expand its territory. It was a costly war, which included the capture and burning of the nation's capital, in August 1814.

On the heels of his involvement with the Creeks, John enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 26, 1814 to fight in the War of 1812. In December of that same year, Great Britain and the US had actually signed the treaty that was to end the war, but news was slow to cross the Atlantic, and the conflict continued, ending in one of the biggest and most decisive battles of the war - the Battle of New Orleans. John Short secured his spot in history by fighting in that battle, under Major General Andrew Jackson. John short was said to have been a "warm personal friend" of Jackson, and Jackson was known to have stayed at the Short residence on occasions.

In the years following the War of 1812, John Short's life was focused on family. All nine of John and Dicy's children were born in Alabama in the 22 years between his involvement in that war and the year 1836, when John and his younger brother, Michael, left their families in Alabama and joined up with the Texians in their war for independence from Mexico.

The Short brothers arrived in Texas on February 12, 1836, just days before the Battle of the Alamo. After that great defeat, a panic, known as "The Runaway Scrape," ensued. John and Michael were caught up in this mass exodus by Texas residents, fleeing eastward, ahead of the Mexican forces.  During this time of terror and confusion, Sam Houston began training soldiers to create a provisional army that could go up against Santa Ana's larger forces. New militia began arriving to join up with Houston, and among those volunteers were John and Michael Short.

Houston's army reached the Brazos River on March 29 and camped there until mid April. At the Brazos River, many of his men became sick with measles, one of them being John Short. He and the other sick men were left at the river, in the care of a doctor, but his brother, Michael, proceeded on under Major Leander Smith and was in Captain Wiley's company when the army met and defeated Santa Ana and the Mexican Army at the famous Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836.

Shortly thereafter John Short, wishing to bring his family from Alabama to the new independent Republic of Texas, was issued a hand-written "passport" which allowed him to travel from the Texas republic to the U.S. and back. It is said that this may be the only such document from this period which exists today. [It reads:  Where as John Short a citizen of Texas, removed into this country on the 12th February last & being made a citizen by the constitution & as from very bad health is unable to perform military duty & being desirous to proceed, if able, to the United States to bring his family to Texas. Now this instrument authorizes the said John Short to leave this republic for the term of six months for the above reasons.  Given under my hand  seal Harrisburg Texas, State Department April 3rd 1836, Bailey Hardiman, Actg. Secy. of State]

John and Michael traveled to Alabama and brought their families to Texas in 1838, and settled in Fayette County, near La Grange. In 1842 John bought 400 acres on the east bank of the Colorado River, 4 miles below La Grange, and built the family home. John and Dicy are buried on these 400 acres, although the exact location has not been identified. Dicy died in 1846, at the young age of 47, and John on February 17, 1847, at 57 years old.

John Short, Dan's third great-grandfatherr - a veteran of the Creek War, the Battle of New Orleans, and the Mexican War; his son, Michael; and grandson, John Henry, all direct ancestors having lived in Texas while it was an independent republic (between 1836 and 1846), qualify Dan to be a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas. I am working at collecting and submitting the required documentation.

[This brief bio of John Short was compiled through multiple sources, but a major source of information was The Short Family by Jack Short, written in 1988.]