Let me tell you a bit about the Newsoms. Rhonda and I met when we both worked at Winrock International more than 20 years ago. We recognized one another as kindred spirits immediately and enjoyed our time together at work. But those were busy days--Rhon had a preschooler (Matt) and a toddler (Elizabeth) at the time. And soon I had 5 kids almost overnight.
When I left Winrock, we stayed in touch. And when I started working for EDS, I pulled Rhonda on over, where we worked together for about 10 years. Eventually, her son Matt (now in his 20s) and her daughter-in-law Ashley joined us at EDS. I've watched baby Elizabeth grow up, go through college, and start her teaching career. I've watched Matt mature as a professional and have a family--his kids are Grace (9) and Hunter (4). Over the years, Rhonda has become my sister and her family has become my family.
Even though the Newsoms have moved on from EDS, a week never passes without our being in touch at least once. Rhonda's husband Rick sharpens my knives and maintains my lawn mower and treats me like a sister-in-law. I like to go along on their family camping trips, and I try to make it up to their farm in Springfield, Arkansas, (about an hour away) pretty regularly for gossip and crafting and lots of Rhon's home cooking.
Rhonda sent me an e-mail recently saying Rick and Matt were going hunting for the weekend. Usually, all the women go to camp, too, but this was a manly bonding weekend. So the women were free to run around and get into trouble. She was planning to come down and see me, and she was hoping to bring Elizabeth and Grace with her. I was so excited! And coincidentally, it was a YaYa weekend. I'd been trying to drag Rhon and Elizabeth into the YaYas ever since the beginning. This was my chance!
Whenever I go up to visit the Newsoms, I've learned to take some kind of little craft project with me because Gracie is a crafting princess. All of the Newsoms are extraordinarily creative, but Grace is literally tireless. She loves playing with the big girls, trying new things, and expressing herself in art. The few times I've showed up without a project for her, she's been so disappointed.
When it's time for a gift for Gracie, I always try to find something that will let her exercise her creativity. One time it was a giant bucket of perler beads. Another time, it was a kit from which she could make lots of necklaces and bracelets. Last Christmas, I got her a Klutz book that showed how to make little fairy figures and included supplies to make quite a few. Rhon told me a while back that their home had become a fairy factory. They were improvising new fairy techniques and cruising eBay for alternative fairy supplies. Grace, she told me, had become a fairy-making expert. I proposed that Gracie needed her own Etsy site to sell the fairies--bringing joy to others and beefing up her college fund. I asked to be included the next time they had a fairy-frenzy weekend.
Well, when the Newsoms arrived last weekend, they had two surprises for me. First, Hunter was with them! Yea! It made me so proud that he wanted to be included in a weekend at Aunt Neese's. And second, Grace had brought the fairy toolbox with her so she could teach me a craft for a change. What fun!
The whole crew went with me to YaYa day at Janna's. I was a little concerned beforehand that Hunter might get bored or that one of us would need to watch him rather than craft. I'm so thick sometimes. This was the ideal YaYa day for Hunter to attend. Janna's little boy Zach is just slightly older than Hunter, and her kids' playroom (an indoor basketball court--really--I mean it) is a wonderland. Hunter had plenty to do. And all of us women were well occupied with the Jennifer Project. Grace was put in charge of dying macaroni with an alcohol/food coloring mixture. I was a bit nervous that she might stain her outfit, which was brand-new. But, no. As you can see in this photo by YaYa Leigh, although Crafty Gracie managed to dye her hands like rainbows, she didn't get a dot on her new clothes. Wow.
After YaYa day, we stopped off for some Famous Dave's barbecue and then headed to my house to get to work on the fairies. Grace had brought along a few that she and the family had already finished so I could see examples. They were wonderful! Elizabeth has figured out how to make boy fairies and how to make the fairies sit. Charming! Rhon is a champion fairy hair stylist. And Grace...just wait till you see what Grace does.
This photo shows one of the finished fairies Grace brought along (left). I am so lucky! Gracie let me keep this one. On the right is my first completed fairy. (Hey, give me a break. I'm just getting started. Grace is an expert.)
We realized as we were working on new fairy designs that this project was an ideal addition to the Jennifer Project. We can create the little wire bodies in advance, so the hospitalized kids don't have to have a bunch of tools on hand such as wire cutters and pliers. We can then create little kits--a body, some flower petals, wings, yarn, beads--that the kids can put together into their own fairy creations. So Gracie's creativity will contribute in yet another way to supporting and loving the cystic fibrosis patients at Arkansas Children's Hospital. You go, girlfriend!