Thursday, April 28, 2011

Video Kids Ride Again!

It has been many, many moons since I was able to load a video onto this blog.  I hope I don't overdo it now that I have a computer that's up to the task.  But I am at least going to share two recent videos, one featuring Claire, the other featuring Brianna.  I hope you enjoy them.

In this video we were at Jennifer and Matt's house the night before Easter.  Jennifer and Claire had been going around in circles getting dizzy.  If all had gone according to the script, my video would have captured Claire doing her "drunk" walk.  It was not to be, but I kept the camera rolling.  She proceeded to walk up the slide (the preferred method of arriving at the top).  She then gave me a somewhat pained expression, as if to say, "Do I really have to do this, Grandpa?"  Then the obligatory and signature foot stomping which precede the actual slide.  It's vintage Claire.

This video was taken on Easter Sunday at Granny and Granddaddy's (Thelma and Jack's).  After lunch everyone had gathered in the living room and Brianna, Judy, Emma, and Jessie were playing a game of toss-the-ball.  Over and over, Bri would count very deliberately, one...two...THREE, then throw the ball to someone.  Until I turned on the video camera, that is.  Bri seems to have a sixth sense that lets her know when I'm trying to capture one of her special moments.  But when the camera came on she just wanted to throw the ball to Papa-- me! So I didn't get the one...two...THREE, but what follows shows what I did get.  And I was quite pleased with all the cuteness and lovability Bri shared with me.
That's all for this blog.  Be on the alert for more videos soon.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Brianna is TWO!

Brianna's second birthday was on April 18th, but we celebrated it several days earlier at Cannon Park and Camelot in Pinehurst while her Georgia family could be here.  It was a really special afternoon.

Hunter says: "Since it's not really her birthday, there's no reason I can't open the first gift!"  And he did.

Under Oma's (Grandma Leila) watchful eye, Brianna checks out the wavy slide.

"WHOA!! Why didn't somebody tell me this thing was loaded?"

"Whaddya think, Aunt Lauren?  Is this thing another boobytrap?"

"Hmm.  This one seems to be a dead end."

Her first time down this tube slide, Bri somehow got turned around.  No problem.  The next time she arrived in the conventional manner.

"Okay, Daddy.  I trust you.  So far."

By special permission of the Parks Authority, birthday girls get to drive prior to their sixteenth birthday.

Same thing goes for cousins of birthday girls.  It's Cousin Claire!  YAY!

Two happy cousins move on to the swings.  Grandma tries the ultra challenging synchronized swinging.  With great success.

No baby seats required for these big girls.  Not today.

Brianna appears to be reflecting back over her very eventful first two years.

Woo-hoo!  Dinner is served.  The race across the ballfield to the picnic area is on.  We must all arrive together.

Yup.  This must be the place.  Birthday balloon, Happy Birthday banner, lots of presents, and familiar looking people. 

Aunt Jennifer has very special birthday wishes for Bri.  I bet they'll come true.

Granddaddy, Granny, and Aunt Gail patiently wait for Bri to kick off the party.  That means "EAT."

It's present time.  "But Mommy, I'm not sure my arm is long enough."

"WOW!  A giant kitty cat.  And he looks just like. . . Kitty Cat!"

Bri is ready to tear into these oversize blocks from me and Judy.  But there are more presents to open.

Claire says: "An extra pair of hands can only help this go faster."

Most children don't remember their very first birthday,  but I won't be surprised if Bri remembers her second one.  Whooosh!  And they're out!

And if memories are fuzzy, we'll have all these photos, plus the embellished anecdotes of Grandmas and Grandpas to recall them many years from now.
Happy Birthday one more time,  lovely Brianna!
We love you!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Morrow Mountain for Judy's Birthday

Judy's birthday was last weekend and her great wish was to have a picnic lunch at Morrow Mountain.  Surprised?  Then you don't know Judy.
Her mom and dad, Jack and Thelma, brother Tim, his wife Renee, and their daughters (our nieces) Emma and Jessie joined us to complete the entourage.  As a special birthday gift to Judy, I'm including only one photo with her in it.  She despises publicity.  So most of the PR in this blog goes to Emma and Jessie.

After a fine picnic lunch from KFC, the girls found a shady spot at the mountaintop to relax in the shade.

Jessie noticed this cousin of our famous "Jack, Will, and Tom" before we even got away from the parking lot.

Emma gets equal time, of course.

The girls and Thelma joined me and Judy on a loop trail around the mountaintop.  This footbridge crosses one of the gullies cut by torrential rainwaters over the years.

This odd tree reminds us of the Slingshot Tree on the Farm Life Nature Trail.  It was just right for the girls to pose in the "V."  Maybe we should call it the Victory Tree.  Or Jessie might prefer "The Peace Sign Tree."  What do you think?

You'll have to look very closely to spot the skink (lizard) positioned vertically and well-camouflaged on this rotting tree trunk.  We saw other lizards and wildlife all about, as well.

Though there was ample shade all over the mountain's crest, leaves are still emerging, so there are patches of sunshine everywhere.  New leaves in the bright sunlight are a special shade of green.

The unusual bend of this tree trunk made a suitable bench seat for Emma.

"Me too, me too," enthuses Jessie, as she poses with her hefty pet rock. 

I know this patch of wildflowers looks planted, but honestly, they were everywhere.  This is their natural habitat and they just seem to do particularly well in this spot.

Here is the promised picture that includes Judy.  It was taken at the prime picnic area we were fortunate enough to claim.  Here's the line-up:
Front row, L to R: Thelma, Emma, Jessie, Jack
Back row, L to R: Tim, Renee, Judy, Ken

Before we departed, we did a driving tour of the campgrounds, where Judy's family did a lot of camping during her and Tim's childhood.  There, we were treated to a closeup visit with some of the park's full-time residents.

This photo was shot from our picnic site-- you see why it's "prime."  It couldn't have been a more beautiful day for celebrating Judy's birthday.  And because it's the closest place we can get a taste of the mountains, you can bet we'll be there again before long.  Any old excuse will do.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Musician's Prayer: A Special Gift from My Friend Steve

A couple of weeks ago my good friend Steve gave me a special gift.  Our pastor often proclaims that Steve's spirit of love and kindness embodies the heart and soul of our church. 

The gift was a card with "A Musician's Prayer."  It has been most meaningful to me because since I retired the Lord has impressed on me more and more that my music is a gift to be shared  outside the church as well as within.  That's not a new idea to me, having shared music at school and in various settings over the years.  But it seems like new opportunities are opening up all the time, and the blessings have been bountiful.

My photo of the card is a little fuzzy, but below I'll print the verses from the front and back.


When music is a prayer,
A sacred melody,
It's like a special love song,
A perfect harmony.
A heart that's filled with music
Whose love for God is strong,
Is the heart
That's full of worship
And whose life becomes a song.

As I've done more and more music with both the very young and the elderly, the universal nature of music has become clearer than ever to me.  I've been sharing with my listeners in all kinds of settings that music is a special language given to us by God.  With it we can express every human emotion, but more importantly, we can worship God, who gives us the gift.

Maybe you don't think you sing very well.  Maybe you don't play an instrument.  It doesn't matter.  Maybe you don't have rhythm.  Who cares?  I bet you still love music in some format, even if it's only as a listener.

But as the poem says, what's more important is
 that our LIFE becomes a song,
showing God's love and His perfect harmony
to all those we encounter in our daily walk.

Thanks again, Steve.
And thank you, God!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring at the Loyd Place: Fields and Woodlands

If you're noticing that it's longer and longer between my blog posts, it's partly because circumstances force me to compose them in stages.  For example, two sessions to load pictures, another to write copy.  And with the pleasantly busy schedule I'm having with babysitting, getting in next year's wood supply, and an assortment of volunteer activities, blogging sometimes has to be squeezed in.  Or squeezed out, as the case may be.

Anyway, today I'd like to share some photos of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees that I've observed while cutting firewood on the back of our property.  Some of these are plants Judy and I have observed in the past; others are new and surprising.

While we love irises that we planted ourselves, these wild irises growing in the dry woodlands are a special delight.

We first noticed these last year, but the patches have grown and multiplied.

If you're familiar with conventional nursery-bought irises, you'll recognize that the wild variety is basically a miniature version.

I don't know the name of this shrub, but you can't miss its white flower clusters in the woods.  When its leaves emerge, I may be able to identify it.

In this medium-sized wild cherry tree is a familiar sight-- a web full of American tent caterpillars.  Oh, we can't wait to introduce the grandbabies to these.

If Bri and Claire take after Amanda, this "hanger-on" will soon have a name.  How about Mortimer or Prissy?

Another unknown specimen.  These beautiful flowers would fool you into thinking it's nursery bred.  Again, I'll wait to see the leaves and investigate further.

Okay, it's a little embarrassing to admit that I don't know what this one is, either.  I'm supposed to know something about wildflowers.  But I lean heavily on my resource books when I come to something unfamiliar.  And sometimes that fails me, too.

Very near a patch of wild irises I noticed a similar-looking purple flower, but with very different leaves.  In one of my wildflower guides I discovered it is Birdfoot Violet.

As the guidebook explained, "Violets have five petals, with the lowest reminiscent of a landing platform complete with lines that guide a bee into a nectar-filled inner spur.  The spur, formed by the two side petals, points upward, and the bee must turn upside down to reach the nectar.  In the process any pollen carried by the bee is dusted onto the seed-producing pistil; the bee then receives a fresh coat of pollen from the stamens.  God has truly thought of everything!

One plant Judy and I couldn't get a close look at, but is most easily observed in this bare tree, is mistletoe.  We're still working on how to get some down.  Some way that doesn't involve climbing or a shotgun.  Stay tuned.

I'll close this little botanical session with one of my favorite plants, Wild Ginger.  It is fairly prevalent on our nature trail at school, but this was the first time I could recall finding any on our property.  Again, according to my guide book, its acrid taste protects it from most plant-eating creatures.  It has a wonderful exotic smell, though, and I can pluck a single leaf, tearing off a tiny portion for each member of an entire class to smell (and keep, if they wish).

One of the other interesting things about Wild Ginger is its unique flowers.  Sometimes called pignuts (we have nicknamed them "little piggies"), they are ground-hugging and have an odor like rotting meat that attracts pollinating flies (I've never even noticed that odor, but then, I'm not a fly).  After the seeds form, ants carry them away but eat only the seed coats, thus spreading the plant.  I simply must repeat, doesn't God think of EVERYTHING!?
I haven't even gotten around to the ferns (ebony spleenwort, cinnamon fern, lady fern, and bracken fern, for starters) or the highbush and lowbush huckleberries.  But my main point is, it's a thrill each year to be out among God's creation, being reminded anew that He is indeed the Master Designer.