Camping Out

We had our annual family camp-out last week-end.

Some things were just as they always have been.

Same place. Same cabins.

Same crazy cousins.

11062036_641766872624360_7683822361446482283_nLots of food. Lots of laughter. Lots of bugs.

Silly skits. Long hikes. Creek wading.


11707864_641766742624373_6856625634784276110_nAnd of course – building the traditional dam.

But this year we added some things.

11707639_394625494063330_1521336144992824817_nLike a jumbo-sized Bananagrams on the lawn.

Works both your body and your brain. Super fun!

11705155_10204472132420898_1068057685658755025_nAnd we celebrated a niece’s upcoming wedding with a British high tea, complete with hats and gifts.

But the most exciting new addition –

11167975_10204472128100790_536776461216792350_nWe had not one, not two – but three new babies to play with!

Yes, three!

The third generation to join the fun.

Savoring the moments and making sweet memories.


Graduation Times Three

Eighteen years ago my oldest sister had a baby girl.

A few months later my youngest sister had a baby girl.

Then a few months later I had Pedro.

three cousinsThree cousins in 6 months.

They grew up together. Playing. Laughing. Pretending. Sharing toys and adventures.

Somebody joked that it would be a crazy spring when they all graduated!

It was.

Three different graduations.

Three different parties.

Three different towns.

Three different weekends.

cousinsThree close cousins who suddenly grew up.

Three unique and amazing kids who share so many zany memories.

Three very good reasons to celebrate!

Now go forth and conquer cousins!

We’re so proud of you!

Good-bye to a Landmark

The row of white pines that lined our driveway could be seen from a distance.  There were massive trees that had stood guard for years.

If there was any breeze on a hot summer afternoon – it could be found under the branches of those trees. As could cicadas, tree fogs, any number and variety of birds, and the occasional opossum.

One of the first things Jan did when we moved in was to hang a swing from one of the branches creating the most amazing playground ever invented.

Thousands of hours were spent in the shade of those trees.
IMG_0001 - Copy

A sandbox was added.

Then a second swing.

The play set was set up next to the swing so the very daring could climb up and swing off.

And a Windy Ridge landmark was established.

It was the first place kids ran to when they visited. It was the last place parents carried them off when it was time to leave.

Elaborate “swing shows” where performed and amazing swing tricks where created.

As the kids grew older, the swing would sit idle for months, used as a quiet place to sit and think about life, then would see a flurry of activity when we hosted VBS or a home school get together.

I enjoyed sweet day dreams of someday playing with my grand babies under the big shady boughs and pushing them in the swing.

But an infestation of pine beetles destroyed that dream when they killed the entire row of pines last summer, and on Saturday, a couple of passes of the chain saw took them down.

It was a sad day at Windy Ridge.

We all understood it was needed. Instead of a welcoming landmark – they had become an ugly reminder of what used to be.

I cried.

But now that “what was” is gone – we’re able to think about “what can be”.

And just as soon as the ground thaws – we’ll be planting several new trees.

After all – those future grandchildren will need a shady place to play.

And swing.

And make memories.

In Which I Turn Another Year Older

birthday chocolateI had a birthday on Saturday.

For the record – I really don’t feel any older. I’m not sure I act it either! 😉

And for those of you who are wondering what I did on my birthday weekend – I enjoyed it!

I ate chocolate at every meal.

Took a snowy walk with my honey in the sunshine.

Spent time laughing with my kids.

Felt loved and cherished by their gifts.

Sat on the couch and quilted while watching the Olympics.

Ate chocolate ganache right off the spoon.

Had delicious birthday cheesecake from my very own cheesecake fairy. (I love you Dorothy!)

And counted my blessings, not my years.

And that, dear friends, is how it should be.


One Last Good-Bye, Grandpa

We said our last goodbye to my Grandpa a little over a week ago.

Grandpa had Alzheimer’s for several years now – so in many ways it’s been a long, slow goodbye.

But, as one friend put it so beautifully, “even with slow good-byes, there is fresh pain at the end.”

And there was.

We shed many tears as we shared memories.

Good memories. Sweet memories.

Memories that brought back the Grandpa before Alzheimer’s, the strong, gentle man with the big smile and even bigger heart.

I have snapshots of Grandpa in my mind.

Slide 439

He was a farmer.

His wardrobe consisted of overalls or blue jeans with a blue cotton work  shirt.

And a smile. He always had a smile.

I can see him coming in the farmhouse for dinner (at noon), going into the washroom off the porch and changing from his dirty outside overalls into a clean pair and “washing up”. He’d come to the table with damp hair, his overall buttons open showing his BVD’s and a big grin.

I can see him sitting there at the head of the table, in one hand a big slice of bread (which was on the table at every meal) slathered in butter, in the other hand his fork.

Slide 419

I can see him standing him in the doorway greeting us as we drove in the yard to visit.  Then, since I was terrified of Smoke the dog (who was the biggest, gentlest, oldest dog ever) he would go and tie up him up so I would get out of the car.  He did it every time and never once told me it was silly to be afraid of dogs.

We were important to Grandpa.

Later in the afternoon, I can see him sitting beside us at the table for “lunch”  (this is the meal served mid-afternoon after dinner but before supper). He would distract us and then take our bowl of Schwan’s ice cream and hide it under the table.
I can still see his twinkling eyes as he told us not to drink that root beer because it would put hair on our chests.
He loved to tease.

Slide 418

That’s the picture I see most often in my mind – Grandpa’s great big grin and his twinkling eyes.

Grandpa loved us. I don’t ever remember hearing him say it. But we knew it. He showed us in so many ways.
He loved Grandma, too.

Most of my memories of Grandpa, like my memories of Grandma, are intertwined. They were such a team.  He was a bit of a character and Grandma balanced him perfectly. He would start something and Grandma would watch with a smile.

Even after 71 years of marriage as they were sitting in their wheel chairs at the nursing home…

Even after Grandma’s heart was weak and her breath shallow and Grandpa’s mind was gone…

Even then they held hands.

Even then they would look at each other with love in their eyes.

Even then.

And that is my favorite snapshot of all.

So this is one last goodbye, Grandpa.

Thank you for bringing us laughter and love.

For showing us what a strong and committed marriage looks like.

For being strong and gentle, tough and tender,  and fun.

I love you.

We were so blessed to have you in our lives.

4th of July Memories

This may go down as the our most memorable 4th of July weekend in recent history.

It was by far the most emotional.

We started the day with my nephew’s wedding.



It was a precious celebration of answered prayers and God’s faithfulness. And yes, I cried – but they were happy tears!

While the newlyweds took off on their honeymoon, the rest of us shed our wedding attire and moved on to my sister’s for a family cook-out.  You know the kind – an All-American baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet kind of day.

Except that instead of baseball – we had contests on the trampoline to see who could catch a leaf with their teeth while jumping.DSC_0014
And instead of a Chevrolet we had go-cart races.

But we did have hot dogs and pie and lots of laughter.

And cotton candy.

And a strange dog that looked remarkably like Lassie.


And while the rest of the country lit sparklers and fire works – we fired a Civil War cannon.  Bet that made the neighbors jump! (And no – we did not use Jan’s cannon ball!)

It was a little bittersweet as we said our goodbyes that evening. We knew that we would all be together the next night at my Grandpa’s visitation and again on Saturday for Grandpa’s funeral.

From wedding to funeral.

Tears of joy and tears of sorrow.

Making new memories and remembering old ones.

An emotional roller coaster.

But it was all good.

And God is faithful through it all. The joy and the pain. The happy and the sad.

The circle of life.


Saturday Date Night

It was a Facebook post Saturday morning that started the adventure.

Some friends are building a home in northern Missouri and had discovered a little country church nearby. They were having a Sweetheart Dinner that night – would we like to come?

Lured by the thoughts of prime rib with all the fixings, followed by an evening of gospel music – it was an easy sell.

Jan and I drove the winding country roads of southern Iowa into the alphabetical maze of back roads the makes up northern Missouri as the sun was setting over beautiful snow covered fields.

It was so peaceful.

We found the church nestled in the hills surrounded by rolling pastures, just as it had been for the last 150 years.

This faithful congregation had been serving up a free prime rib meal and gospel music to the community every February for more than a decade.

They greeted us warmly – wayfaring strangers that we were. The conversation was lively. The company fun.

And the food! Oh my! The food was abundant, delicious, and homemade – a hunk of prime rib that covered half my plate, potatoes, salad, crescent rolls, green beans and bacon, and a table full of desserts.

Then the music began.

It was nothing professional – just some friends who played really well. A man on the banjo with his eighty something year old momma on the bass and his buddy on the guitar.

Joking. Laughing. Strumming. Singing.

It was comfortable – like being invited into someone’s living room for some music.

Gospel songs. Mountain melodies. Old Hymns.

The melodies rang out of the old church on the frosty February night.

And we were a part of it.

When the music ended – we reluctantly said our good-byes and started the 45 minute drive home, navigating those same winding roads under the light of  full moon.

The snow sparkled as we held hands, the music still ringing in our ears.

And my heart smiled.

Slide Show

Can you believe that my children had no idea what a slide show was?

They had no idea the excitement and anticipation that pulling out the movie screen evoked.
movie screen

In today’s digital world, where pictures are an everyday occurrence, they can snap a photo and have it on Facebook for all to see in three short clicks.

So different from my era when a photograph was something special and a family slide show was the highlight of the month, or year.

They had no idea what a slide projector was.

slide projector Or how it worked.

How it took us back in time giving us a glimpse of who were and where we had come from.

Bringing back memories.

Turning our regular living room into a place of wonder.

slide showThey had no idea the hoots of laughter that erupted when a slide was put in  upside down.

Or the way we would talk over each other as everyone rushed to share their memories – or defend them!

Nope. My children had no idea.

So we showed them.

And discovered that even in this high tech world, with all the hand held devices and social media, there’s still magic in the simplicity of a slideshow.

What a Weekend!

What a weekend!

There were special friends who traveled 418 miles to help in the celebrating.

Dagmar and Dollface There were cousins, aunts, uncles, grandpas, grandmas, lots and lots of friends, and even a pirate.

Pirate DorothyWe love you Dorothy!

And there was Seth.

SethThe crazy one who kept us laughing all weekend.

And there was food. Lots of food.

Graduation SpreadIn addition to the purple punch, all the sandwiches and massive amounts of cookies – we also had a coffee bar in honor of Dagmar’s current coffee obsession.

And there were 7 gallons of puppy chow – served in a pirate basket with a silver scoop.

Which produced many puppy chow smiles.

puppy chow smileThere was an incredible video about Dagmar produced by my talented sister and niece.

It made me cry.

And there was carpet ball, kite flying, a new kitty, cute babies and a random dog who showed up for the fun and trotted back down the road at the end of the party.

random puppy and cute babyThere were long conversations, lots of laughter, a balloon bouquet, and pretty flowers.

And photos, and hugs, and just plain silliness.

There was even an epic – very intense game of Ultimate Frisbee.

ultimate frisbeeBut most of all – there were memories, both old and new.

Many, many special memories of the little girl she used to be and the amazing young women she now is.

It was worth all the effort – every minute.

Graduation Thoughts

The preparations are finally done…

Grad 12and graduation is tomorrow.

It’s been a busy time and not just with the baking and cleaning and painting.

Just think of all the math page, flash cards, phonics books, science experiments, grammar lessons and field trips…

…the pages read, words written, pictures drawn and ideas shared…

…the 4H projects, Sunday school classes, American Girl books, and culinary creations.

So busy – and it went by so quickly!

It seemed like just yesterday that she was a precious newborn that her 19 month old brother called his “pretty little baby doll”.

hos-i-pi-tal GirlOr the curly headed toddler who asked for the book  Curious George Goes to the Hos-i-pit-al every night for weeks at a time until it finally drove that same brother to hide it so he wouldn’t have to hear it again.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was the pony-tailed, freckled face girl that spent hours playing in the sand box, climbing the the mulberry trees,  and making up crazy tricks on the swings?

Dagmar's graduationWhen did that bubbly little chatterbox grew into the beautiful young woman in the cap and gown?

The one who drinks coffee, wears heels and loves her jeans and flannel shirts?

The confident, smiling girl with the love of adventure?


How did we get from Dick and Jane to Advanced Biology so quickly?

As a new mom I remember hearing older and wiser women sagely telling me to cherish each minute because it goes by in the blink of an eye.

It didn’t seem possible at the time – but they were so right.

So blessedly right.

Congratulations sweet girl! You make your Momma proud.