Gathering of the Clan

Labor Day Weekend means one thing for my family – The Kamp-Out at Nana and Papa’s.

This gathering of the clan is a highly anticipated last hurrah of the summer.

Three generations.

Massive amounts of food.

Very little sleep.

The coffee flowed as fast as the conversations.

Laughter rang out as stories were told and memories made.

We took our hammocks to new heights.

And welcomed new friends from bonny Scotland.

Who arrived as strangers and left as family.

Dear people who laughed with us and found such joy in learning our traditions.

And fell in love with our sweet corn.

And us.

And we with them.

We played games.

Went wading in the river.

Took endless rides on the Ranger.

And just sat in the sunshine, watching the littles.

Remembering the days when it was our babies who were enjoying Papa and Nana’s house.

And cherishing the fact that another generation gets the same opportunity.

We took our annual trek to ”the Rock”.

And posed for the annual picture.

And learned that a vuvuzela will attract all the cows in the neighborhood.

It was a sweet time.

A weekend full of precious moments with people we hold dear.

A true gathering of the Clan!

 

 

Mom’s Birthday

“What do you want for your birthday?,” they asked.

“That’s easy,” I responded.

“I want all my children home at the same time.

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I want to play games – lots of games  – and snack all afternoon.

I want an easy supper – like smoked turkey sandwiches.

And a beautiful big salad with berries and pecans and feta cheese.

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And queso dip with chips.

And ice cream – with chocolate – lots of chocolate.

And I want to eat on paper plates so we don’t have dirty dishes.

Yes, that’s what I want.”

 

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And they came – all of them.

And we played games and laughed.

We ate turkey sandwiches and lots of queso on paper plates.

We snacked on puppy chow and popcorn.

We stayed up late and savored every minute.

It was perfect.

Absolutely perfect.

Yes. That’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday.

Happy Birthday, Poppa

It’s hard to believe that Jan’s dad will turn 87 next week.

16142784_1232329153523504_8453402464626224770_nWe decided to celebrate a week early – since they have plans to drive Florida and will be gone on the actual day.

Yes – he is driving to Florida at age 87.

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All of our kids were there to feast on Poppa’s favorite oyster soup (and a cheesy potato soup for those poor souls who don’t yet appreciate the warm milk and fishiness of oyster soup.)

Then we played games –

15977573_1232332460189840_3939402318156689418_nA mild game of Ticket to Ride that included lipstick and selfies and lots of belly laughter.

Steven and Laura won – again.

Yes – they beat Poppa on his birthday.

But he and Matt took second place.

And then – after German chocolate cake and ice cream and presents – we had a wild round of Pie In the Face.

16003168_1232333073523112_1770078695099218374_nA crazy game of Russian roulette that involves a giant hand covered with whipped cream and lots of laughter!

Anything to entertain Poppa on his birthday.

16114599_1232333066856446_5722873145077238127_nAnd boy was he entertained!

That was a birthday party to remember!

Here’s to many, many more!

Happy birthday, Poppa!

Lessons from Christmas

Christmas is over. The tree is down. The lights are packed away and we’ve finally found a normal schedule again. I think.

But as I reflect on the craziness of the last few weeks I’ve decided that this Christmas season has taught me a few lessons.

1. When you give your brother-in-law an elf hat for Christmas and he puts it on with his new safety glasses and then he grabs a tape measure and pretends to be one of Santa’s elves making toys – you immediately take a picture and put it on your blog.

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Because you can.

And it’s hilarious and he will never see it anyway.

I hope.

2.  Changing all the light bulbs in the house on Christmas Eve day to LED might make sense economically – but will create bad lighting for selfies and other photo ops and drive your camera loving daughter crazy.

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And certainly don’t help my photography skills. Or lack thereof.

But aren’t those kids cute! (just missing a son-in-law who was on duty Christmas Eve!)

3. After 26 years of attempting a beautiful ice cream log for Christmas – I have finally accepted the fact that it will never look good and will quite possibly always look like something less than attractive.

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And well – less than appetizing.

Which is why we shall always eat by candlelight on Christmas Eve.

3. The stomach flu is always nasty – but it’s extremely unwelcome when it attacks on Christmas Day.

No pictures. You’re welcome.

4. Having a house full of family can wipe out a stocked refrigerator quickly. I took three grocery runs the week between Christmas and New Years – mostly for coffee and vegetables.

The coffee I expected but the veggies were a new and surprising development.

5. Speaking of surprising developments – I have lots of Christmas goodies now hidden in the freezer. While my children pigged out over Christmas weekend, by New Year’s they had decided to eat healthy.

Go figure.

At their current rate of consumption, Jan and Buddy should have them gone by Easter. I hope.

6. I love playing games with the family at Christmas. Really, really love it.

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Especially new games like this one – Ticket to Ride.  Which is my new obsession.

I even won a few times – at least until my new son-in-law arrived. Hmmm…somebody should tell that guy it’s not good manners to beat your Mother-in-law at her favorite new game, at her house on Christmas. Good thing I like the guy.

7. Actually – I love them all – the whole crazy bunch! And carving out time together with crazy schedules to be together is the best Christmas memory of all!

Hope your holidays were special!

 

Girl Trip

It was the perfect Saturday for an adventure!

The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and the skies were blue as we headed to Omaha to rendezvous with the girls.

Three generations of girls –

14980805_10207400981720300_6413745664116412665_nGrandma, aunts, sisters, cousins.

Family.

We explored secret gardens and hidden attic rooms.

Shared wild rides filled with laughter and silliness.

14907125_10154197793628315_6029653704083883656_nAte real Irish food at the Brazen Head which inspired a medley of Irish Rover songs from our childhood.

“There were green alligators and long necked geese,

Humpty back camels and chimpanzees,

The cats, the rats, the elephants but sure as you’re born,

The loveliest of all was the unicorn…” 

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We visited antique stores and thrift stores.

Enjoyed apple cider and hot coffee.

Ate chocolate and pumpkin cookies.

And ice cream.

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I think there’s an rule about the necessity of ice cream on an epic adventure.

We hiked, climbed trees, explored, got stuck on cliffs and accidentally photobombed several families at the park trying to get pictures for Christmas cards.

And we talked and shared and remembered.

Three generations of ladies.

One amazing day.

Heirloom Project

Laura had a couple of small projects she wanted done for her wedding.

Both turned out very cute, but one ended up being something even more.

It started out as an idea from Pinterest – their initials on weathered barn boards.

She found the wooden initials and hoped that a search through our pole barn would yield some neat barn boards that could be used to create the background.
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But it didn’t.

So we talked to Papa Jim – hoping he had something in his stash.

He, however, had a better idea.

Remember my Grandpa’s barn that was going to be taken down? It was still standing and had a lot of barn boards.

A quick call to my Uncle Delbert and we had access to all the wood we needed!

But wait – there’s more.

As the guys were cutting away at the boards in the barn – Uncle Delbert told me to run to his Ranger and grab the saw in the back.  I carried the old rusty tool back, wondering why in the world they needed it since the nice new saw seemed to be working just fine.

But Uncle Delbert took it, handed it my dad and said, “This was my grandpa’s saw.”

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Then the reality of the situation hit me and I grabbed Jan’s phone to record it.

Laura’s grandpa was cutting wood from her great-grandpa’s barn using her great-great-grandpa’s saw to make an original piece to decorate for her wedding and later on her home.

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How cool is that.

She doesn’t just have a one-of-a-kind piece, she has a bit of history.

It’s a heritage piece that goes back three generations and is anchored deep in the farm soil of north central Iowa.

Now that’s a pretty neat story to share.

 

Heirlooms from Home

IMG_0125Laura was home this weekend.

Not only did we do some wedding planning – but she packed up more of her stuff to move into their new house.

The tool box I kept tripping on in the attic is gone.

The chin up in the basement that was collecting spider webs no longer lives here.

Her sewing machine that was covered with dust will now gather dust somewhere else.

This is all good.

But we also went through my kitchen cupboards and pulled out everything that was hers.

This was not so good.

She had quite a collection of kitchen tools and accessories that I freely used.

I’ll miss the nutmeg grater, micro-planer and cookbooks.

The sil-pat and custard cups.

The grill pan.

Sigh.

But in the search for her things, we were able to find and pass on to her some extras that I had.

Serving bowls.

A Christmas tray.

And that set of pot de creme cups with the divet in the bottom that makes it impossible to get out the last bite of chocolate.

It makes me smile to think of the two of them sticking their tongues in the divet to lick out the good stuff – just like she did growing up.

So amidst all the new and wonderful things in their first home,  there will be some old and familiar ones.

Some heirlooms from home.

And that makes my heart happy.

 

 

 

The North Shore Reunion

We made some sweet family memories last weekend.

All of Jan’s family (except for our Matt) gathered at his brother’s cabins in northern Minnesota.

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Grandpa, Grandma, uncles, aunts, and lots and lots of cousins.

Traveling from four different states for a few days of fun in the north woods.

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Cousins that seldom see each other wasted no time in having epic adventures.

Climbing waterfalls.

Swimming.

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Hiking.

Rock Climbing.

 

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Wild blue berry picking.

And wild blue berry eating.

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And a one-of-a-kind Purple Lupine Olympics that included a Grand Prix, pine cone toss, target shooting, and a fire starting contest.

The camp fire was always burning.

There were s’mores every night.

Singing.

Laughter.

Conversations.

Too many marshmallows.

And sweet, sweet fellowship.

Perfect.

Independence Day in Small Town America

We joined the crowd of people in the little Missouri town of Allendale today.

Every July 4th since 1964, this little town with a population of 53 (more or less) have been serving up an Independence Day breakfast for upwards of a thousand people.

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That’s a 52 year old tradition.

Neighbors greeting neighbors.

Entire families sitting around picnic tables.

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Three generations of men manning row after row of grills frying sausages and eggs.

Making toast.

Pouring coffee and juice.

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Flipping piles of pancakes on a rotating grill.

Pounds of butter.

Gallons of syrup.

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There were flags flying.

A band stand decorated and filled with patriotic songs.

Kids playing.

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And veterans honored.

Made me proud to be an American.

Made me thankful for all those who sacrificed so much for my freedom.

Made me remember that it’s people like this – all over our nation – that make America great.

Thank you, Allendale, Missouri!

And God bless the USA!

Improv Night and Birthday Oscars

My family got together last weekend for our yearly extended family camping trip.

One of our traditions is an Improv Night – when we entertain each other with skits we pull together at the last minute.

Each family brings an unmarked bag of 10 random items that we distribute one evening. Each family is then given about 15 minutes to pull together a skit using those items.

The results are hilarious!

This year – however – was different. But I didn’t learn that fact right away.

You see – my siblings used our annual Improv Night to surprise me for my 50th birthday. (I should have expected this – since I have a history of surprising my siblings on their 50th birthdays!)

I was very active in speech and drama in high school and have always been a bit disappointed that I was never given a lead role in any of the high school plays.

So this year – my family gave me the lead role in each of their skits.

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They just didn’t tell me.

After the kids and I did our skit – which was a true improv – using the special bag full of random geriatric items they gathered for us – I was called on to act in every other skit.

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Skits that were written in advance, with appropriate props and – not surprisingly – were full of family memories and embarrassing moments for yours truly.

There were certain “This is Your Life” kind of moments.

 

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And some wild “I can’t believe they are making me do this” kind of moments.

Each skit was different – I was handed a prop or a costume or both and given a few instructions.

16 06 18-M500- 32-6 (1)And I winged it.

Acting my heart out to tremendous applause and wild laughter!

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And when the final skit was over – they had me walk the red carpet and handed me a plastic imitation Oscar for my performances – before spraying me with silly string.

Because they love me.

I guess.

Hollywood here I come!

Or not.

After a career like mine, it might be time for retirement.