It’s been nearly 25 years since Ted and I re-furbed/freshened our house and we’re getting tired of the same old look. It’s time for a change. We both lack decorating skills, so we hired an interior designer to help us make some decisions. I mentioned to the designer that we have very little display space. Her suggestion was to get rid of some of the books and use those shelves as display space. “Gasp!” thought I. “Blasphemy!”

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.

Henry Ward Beecher

I cannot get rid of my books, but if I add up all the empty space on my shelves, I might be able to clear two shelves in the family room for display and still have space to add new books. We’ll see. Or I can forget about displaying things and stick with the books. With that said, when Kari called to ask if I’d like to go to the library book fair with her and Teddy, I immediately said “yes.”

I cannot live without books.

Thomas Jefferson

The library has not had one of its three-day book fairs since 2019 (before COVID), and they had so many books, they had to move the event from the Convention Center to the Family Arena. Professional sporting events and medium-name concerts take place in the arena, so it’s huge. There are four different gates to accommodate four simultaneous indoor events and the library used only one venue space. The parking lot was nearly half-full and it looked like Elvis might be in the building. (Or maybe someone else–Elvis would have filled the entire building.)

I came prepared with my largest carry-all bag, but I saw immediately that I was an amateur. A number of folks brought wagons or rolling file boxes. I might do that next year.

But that was still only medium level prep for book purchasing. These two came with dollies and four large packing cartons each. I won’t do that next year.

The Book Fair opened at 9:00 a.m. for a limited group of library friends and members; after 12:00 p.m., entry was free and open to everyone. Kari, Teddy, and I met at the gate at 12:30 p.m. and were given maps to guide our browsing. Hardbacks were $2.00, over-sized paperbacks were $1.00, and paperbacks were $0.50. What a deal!

The floor space within the outlined area on the map below was large enough for an official indoor soccer, football, hockey, etc. game (audience seating is outside that area) and the entire floor was covered with tables that were, in turn, completely covered with books. Under all the tables were boxes containing just as many more books. Volunteers patrolled the tables, and when the books started to lean over because people had removed some for purchase, the volunteers reached into the boxes below and pulled out more books to fill the empty spaces. Other volunteers continued to bring in boxes of books from the dock area to replace the empty boxes beneath the tables.

We browsed for nearly an hour before Teddy noticed how long the check-out line was. I had another appointment and had to leave in about 40 minutes, and Kari and Teddy were finished browsing, so we got in line. Keep in mind that the oblong outline in the above map is the size of an indoor sports field. The end of the line was at the red arrow and, from that point forward, moved clockwise around the floor. The exit to the cashier was at the green arrow, so we needed to move nearly all the way around the floor. Yikes! The good news was that the line was never stationary. I tried to look through some of the children’s books (green tables) as we passed them because I didn’t get to those tables before we got in line, but when I paused to extract a book, Kari and Teddy moved forward 4-6 feet before I even had a chance to examine the book.

Checking out was fast: Several staff members were available to count books for customers. They did the simple math to calculate the cost, and wrote the total on a piece of paper. Customers then took the piece of paper to the next available cashier and handed her their money–cash only, no tax to calculate. We made it from the back of the line to outside the front door in about 30 minutes. Not bad at all!

For the price of one new book, I now have 15 new-to-me books. There goes some of that display space the designer thinks I have.

I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.

Margaret Atwood

I recently found a bunch of old photos that made me smile.

1965: The first one is the yearbook photo of the girls in my dorm in my sophomore year. I lived in a small scholarship dorm that was much less expensive than the regular dorms. In return for the deep housing discount, each resident was required to contribute about two hours of assigned weekly housekeeping work–assisting the cook (yes, singular) with meal prep, serving, or clean-up; cleaning a hallway or a common area; cleaning a communal bathroom; etc. Most of the chores were done by teams. It was a good deal for us, and this is where I met the friends I still get together with.

2003: Ted and I were scouting out places to take a family photo for the kids’ upcoming visit. Here’s Ted, posing with Lewis and Clark and their dog, Seaman.

2003: One of those fun-loving National Weather Service guys had time to photoshop Ted and Vince at a beach. They’re both wearing NWS shirts, so maybe it was supposed to be a working vacation.

Summer 2003: Ted and I went to Washington, D.C. The breadline memorial is one of the rooms in the FDR Memorial on the Mall. Ted decided to get in line.

Christmas 2004: I think Kathy gave Ted the Packers sweatshirt, cheesehead, and ball cap. I don’t know who gave Sky the baby-size sweatshirt. It looks like Grandpa is trying to mold a future Packers fan.

January 31, 2004: It’s New Year’s Eve, but the Weather Service staff is hard at work. Tom, Ted, and Vince took a midnight break for some New Year’s Eve champagne. Alcohol is not allowed in federal offices, so they made their toast in the middle of the dead-end street in front of the office, off the federal property.

2005: I have no idea what’s going on here or who took the picture, but it looks like Ted and I are having a great time in Florida on our spring break trip.

2007: Ted and I have entered one dance contest in our lifetimes: the twist contest at our niece, Cheryl’s, wedding. You probably think the first place winners are on the left, but you’re wrong; that man and woman are the third place winners. Ted and I won the first place trophies. As long as we never enter another dance contest, we’ll have a perfect winning streak.

2009: The bobcat in this photo was in our yard to dig our swimming pool. Ted’s dream car?

2012: My dream car in Little Rock, AR.

2014: Ted took this picture of me in Mt. Rainier NP on one of our visits with Thom.

According to the news reports, 2.5 million people experienced cancellations and/or delays on 7,800+ flights over the July 4th weekend. Ted and I were two of those people on four of those flights during the holiday week and it’s true: none of the flights left the airport at the originally scheduled time. Our nonstop morning flight from home to Seattle was completely cancelled by the airline, so they assigned us to an evening flight the previous day. The change of flight time gave us a longer layover for our slightly delayed commuter flight to Wenatchee. Coming home from Jeff’s house, we had a 20-minute departure delay on the first leg of our journey and a 2-hour delay on the last leg, bringing us home at 3:00 a.m. (Insert yawn here.) Between the flights, we had a great time.

It was wonderful to see our boys and their families again. Hadley was only two months old the last time we saw her. This time, we celebrated her first birthday with her. Sefton was getting ready to start pre-school last summer and now he’s looking forward to first grade. Here we are with Hadley.

Hadley isn’t quite ready to walk, but she has a unique–and rapid–style of crawling/scooting over the hardwood floors.

Sefton wore a fun NASA T-shirt. A space helmet visor reflects the American flag, which is made of sequins. When Sefton flips the sequins in the opposite direction, the flag becomes a blue sun visor on the space helmet. When Sefton stands in the sunlight, the sequins make him giggle at the sparking reflection on the sink front. Awesome!

Thom and Katie took us to a nearby park on the Columbia River during our visit. There was a salmon ladder, but the salmon weren’t spawning yet, so we didn’t see them jumping up the ladder. Even so, the views were pretty and the playground was fun. There was a slide that gave sliders a little boost on their way down so that they seemed to “shoot” out of the slide. Thom and Sefton had fun trying that. You can tell by Thom’s balancing act that he wasn’t expecting to exit the slide at that speed.

On another day, we took a “secret” hike in the Oglala Gorge. I say “secret” because the trailhead was on a secondary (maybe tertiary) road and the entrance was overgrown, camouflaging it. Katie knew exactly where it was, so we parked and took off with Sefton as our leader, carrying a big stick because–hey!–he’s a kid and he needs a stick.

When we reached the summit of the trail, it was time to rest and to enjoy the view of the Enchantment Range of the Cascades. You can see the stick beside Sefton. He needed it to guide us going up and again coming down the mountain.

Of course there was a birthday party for Hadley. Like most one-year-olds, the cupcake and the special candle meant nothing to her, but the frosting tasted good.

While the adults visited with each other, Sefton took care of Hadley’s car. First, he filled the gas tank; then he took her for a ride.

We enjoyed the beautiful weather by eating most of our meals outside. One evening, we had pizza cooked outdoors in Thom and Katie’s pizza oven. Later, we roasted marshmallows and on another evening, we enjoyed a pan of s’mores.

After spending several days at Thom and Katie’s house, Julian joined us and we all headed for Jeff and La’s house for more fun together. When we arrived, I noticed pretty wildflowers growing along the driveway.

Our first day together was the pick day of the week for water fun. Jeff and La contributed jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards and we all had a great time.

All that activity made us hungry, so we needed an ice cream snack after dinner. Sefton made a sign with a picture of an ice cream cone and the notice that “Ice cream shop is open.” Then we dug into the ice cream and toppings.

When we were finished eating, it was much later than Sefton’s bedtime, but you wouldn’t know it to look at his pj’s.

In spite of the message on his pj’s, Sefton went to bed and fell asleep. The rest of us settled in for a movie in Jeff and La’s home theater.

Ted and I stayed a few more days after Thom’s family left for home. Jeff took us for a ride around the area. The nearest town is Big Fork, MT so we went to town. Sure enough, there’s a big fork in town.

On another day we hiked a 5-mile trail along the west side of Holland Lake. The views of the lake were beautiful.

In the evening, we enjoyed a pizza dinner on the front porch, overlooking Flathead Lake.

It takes a long time (until after midnight) for the sky to get dark enough to see stars this far north in June, but we were so far from urban lights that the Milky Way was clearly visible. What a treat for city dwellers like Ted and me.

It was finally time for Ted and me to head for the airport to go home. On the way, we stopped at Rosa’s Pizza–Jeff’s favorite local restaurant and the place where he plays mahjong weekly. The pizza was delicious. It’s no wonder he eats it every week.

As we watched the sun set each evening, I understood why Jeff takes so many sunset pictures. It’s a beautiful view every night. My cell phone photos of the sunset aren’t as stunning as this one that Julian shared with me. He took it with a “real” camera. The peace it evokes is a perfect finish for the time we spent with our sons and their families.

I liked the puppy quilt I made for Ollie’s first birthday, so I decided to continue the fun by making a quilt for Hadley’s first birthday too. I searched “baby quilts” and “crib blankets” online, hoping to find an inspiration for “girlie” colors and themes. Eh! There were no “aha!” moments online. Hoping fabric choices would point me toward a design, I went fabric shopping and–unbelievably!–found nothing I liked in fabrics. I saw a lot of fabric, but inspiration continued to elude me, so I went home to mull things over. After a few weeks, I thought the fabric store might have some new fabrics. They did, and I settled on a butterfly print and a complementary fabric for the backing. I felt like my fabric choices were satisfactory, but not thrilling. I liked the puppy fabric and the puppy paw print appliqué idea for Ollie immediately. It wasn’t that way with my Hadley project, but the longer I worked on it, and the more finished it became, the more I liked it.

My next online search was for butterflies to go with my fabric choice. This was my online inspiration. It’s garish, but I liked the idea of butterflies fluttering over the entire surface of the quilt.

After buying fabric, my next step was to draw butterfly patterns. Four of the butterfly appliqués required two layers of fabric; the one in the upper left needed three layers.

I’ve got fabric and I’ve got patterns, but there are more decisions to be made: Which colors shall I use for the butterflies, and in which combinations shall I use them? What kind of lettering design shall I choose? Which colors of threads (matching or contrasting) and which stitching patterns shall I select to attach the butterfly pieces to each other and to the quilt? How will I get the antennas drawn and how can I stitch them? I made lots of samples to help me make these decisions.

I decided to purchase a third fabric (the dark purple) for the butterfly markings; lettering will be Comic Sans (one of my sewing machine choices); thread should match the fabric; zigzag will be best for assembling the butterflies and for attaching them to the top quilt fabric; I’ll use a disappearing marker to draw the antennas and I’ll stitch them with a triple stitch and embroidery thread. I tried sewing a double line to make the antennas bolder, but it was too difficult to keep the two lines of stitching exactly side-by-side, so I went with less visible (but more error-free) antennas. Whew! I’m glad that’s all decided!

The next step was to make the appliqués. First, fuse the Wonder Under (I like it better than HeatnBond) to the fabric; second, mark the patterns on the backing of the fused Wonder Under; . . .

. . . third, cut the pieces along the pattern lines; . . .

. . . fourth, fuse the butterfly pieces together, then zigzag the decorative pieces to the base butterfly; . . .

. . . fifth, attach the butterflies to the top fabric with zigzag stitches; sixth, draw the antennas; . . .

. . . seventh, eighth, and ninth, stitch the antennas, add the embroidery (“Hadley”), and draw the quilting lines; . . .

Those butterfly appliqués were a lot of work! They were fun, so I’m not complaining, but I kept track of my time and they took half the time of the entire project. I sewed Hadley’s name on one butterfly, my initials on another, and the year on a third butterfly.

After the appliqués were finished, it was time to attach the batting to the top fabric and then to attach the backing.

With everything put together into a single piece/quilt, the next step was to sew the quilting lines. I didn’t want to sew lines over the butterflies, but some of the butterflies covered more space than I wanted to leave unquilted. After several days of thought, my solution was to stitch in the ditch around the outlines of the butterfly wings and bodies. On the two largest butterflies, I also stitched around some of the butterfly markings. That stitching made the butterfly outlines visible on the back side of the quilt, which I think adds visual interest.

After the quilting lines were sewn, I finished the quilt by folding over the self-binding and attaching it with a decorative blanket stitch. Then I closed the mitered corners with a featherstitch.

Voilà! A first birthday gift for Hadley.

Here’s Hadley with her new quilt and her new doll. Happy first birthday, sweetheart!

June 4 was high school graduation day for Sky, our fifth grandchild. It was a beautiful day, but we weren’t sorry that the ceremony was held in the air-conditioned gym instead of outdoors in the blazing sun. Compared to the graduating classes of our first four grandchildren, this was a small group: 143 graduates. While we were waiting for the graduates to enter the gym and get things going, Dean noticed that Bernie Sanders was in attendance.

There was an empty chair and a wreath in a front corner of the gym in memory of a classmate who died.

The graduates entered the gym right on time. Notice that Sky’s long-legged stride requires the entire width of the hem on his gown.

With only 143 graduates, you’d think the ceremony would be shorter than an event for 500-600 graduates, but that wasn’t the case. There is apparently a requirement that graduation audience members spend a minimum of two hours sitting on backless bleachers waiting for the 15 seconds in which they can watch the one person each of them cares about. To make this happen, there were several musical selections and six speakers, all of whom told the graduates that they are part of an amazing class and that they should aim high because the world is theirs for the taking. Unlike most graduation speeches, I actually remember one of them, but that’s probably because the speaker used props and three of the graduates to help him make his point. (In other words, it was interesting and unique.) His story is too long to tell here, but his final point was that sometimes, when you fail to reach your goal, you discover something even better than what you were striving for.

Finally, after nearly 90 minutes of speeches and musical numbers, it was time to recognize the achievements of the graduates. Sky graduated Magna Cum Laude, which required a GPS of at least 4.0 plus at least four college-level classes. The Magna Cum Laude grads wore gold stoles.

After a variety of honors were recognized, it was finally time for “our” graduate’s 15 seconds of fame. Sky had his official graduation picture taken with the principal. Check out the shortest lady on the platform (second from the right). She’s the president of the Board of Education. Naturally, she stood next to the tallest person on the platform.

Sky received his actual diploma–no need to pick it up at the school office next week or to watch for it in the mail.

After all 143 grads had a diploma, they moved their tassels from right to left. Dean explained that the tassel moves from the passenger side (right) to the driver’s seat (left). Thanks, Dean. I’ll finally be able to remember which way it goes. The last step of the ceremony was the traditional mortarboard toss. The maroon mortarboards don’t show very well against the crowd in my photo, but if you look closely, you’ll see them.

When we got back to the house, it was time for family photos. I think we covered every combination of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, girlfriend, etc. with everyone’s cameras. Here are three: Sky with Mom and Dad; Sky with Grandma and Grandpa (minus his gown); and Sky with the entire group (picture taken by Sky’s girlfriend).

When Sky took off his cap and gown, Teddy decided to practice for his future graduation.

Next step: opening graduation gifts.

To top off the day, Kari and Dean hosted a graduation dinner at Maggiano’s restaurant. Sky chose the restaurant because he likes Italian food and because he liked Maggiano’s when Ted and I chose it for our 50th wedding anniversary. The food was delicious, and we all had a good time.

But wait! The party’s not over! Ted and I hosted lunch for the graduation gang the following day. With shipping costs so high, we took advantage of Kathy and Annette being in town to celebrate several other events after lunch. There were birthday gifts for those who have birthdays in May, an anniversary gift for Ted’s and my anniversary in June, and Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts.

Then there was time to visit with each other and to enjoy the pool and the beautiful weather.

Finally, it was time for Kathy and Annette to head home and for all of us to kick back, relax, and enjoy the memories of a happy weekend together. Congratulations, Sky–#5.

Ted and I met Kathy and Annette in Columbia to celebrate Kathy’s birthday. We had a wonderful time together, beginning with a long brunch at Bob Evans, and then heading downtown. We walked around for a little while and browsed in some stores. It was sunny and near 70 degrees, but there was a strong, cold wind, gusting to at least 30 mph, so we soon headed for The Candy Factory–our last downtown stop.

After we were all well-supplied with chocolate, we went to the food court at the Columbia Mall and snagged a table. We bought some refreshing beverages and settled in for a birthday party with presents, cookies, candy, and Mahjong.

The time flew by and, at one point, so did Annette. “Oh, gosh!” she exclaimed as she bolted from her chair and ran out the door. We all thought she’d seen someone who was hurt and we turned to look for the problem. When Annette returned, she was holding a $1 bill that she had seen blowing past the window. That was good for a laugh from the rest of us and it was just enough to cover our parking cost in the downtown garage.

When the food court vendors turned off their lights at 7:00 p.m., we realized we were all hungry for dinner. We unanimously agreed we’d rather have pizza than anything else, so we headed for Kathy’s and my favorite pizza place in Columbia: Shakespeare’s. It was Saturday night and we didn’t want to wait in line to join the noisy college crowd at the downtown restaurant. We decided to live on the edge and try one of Shakespeare’s other locations. Everything was the same, except that the crowd was smaller and less noisy, allowing us to have a dinner conversation without shouting. We noticed that the clocks indicate the time in a variety of Missouri cities, apparently without logic.

Too soon, it was time to go our separate ways and make the 90-minute drives to our homes. We had a wonderful time together and we’re looking forward to our next visit with each other. Happy birthday, Kathy!

Kathy–7 months old

I celebrated my birthday. Again. This is getting old (pun intended), but it’s still fun. My annual birthday season continued with Kari’s family and with Kathy and Annette. We did the usual stuff, but the best part was being together. My gifts were everything I’d asked for, including the games we recently played with Jeff’s family–the classic version of Catch Phrase (trust Kathy to find an old version in excellent condition), Skull King, and Mahjong. Kari applied her newly-acquired sewing skills and made a re-usable gift bag to conceal Skull King and a pair of socks with books on them in recognition of my love of reading. Sky’s girlfriend thoughtfully gave me a plant she’d recently propagated.

Ted buys me a pot of spring bulbs every year in late winter so that I can get an early start enjoying my favorite season. He gave me some daffodils in February and then, for my birthday, he gave me a pot of tulips. This is the first time I’ve had two sets of spring flowers to enjoy before they start blooming outdoors. Thank you, Ted.

My birthday dinner was simple: a buffet of carry-out pizza. It was a perfect meal with no cooking and minimal clean-up.

There was time to relax in the hot tub, time to play some of my new games, and time for my traditional Vienna Torte birthday cake.

It was so much fun to celebrate my birthday with friends in early March, with Jeff’s family in mid-March, and with our daughters in late March, that I’ve decided to have lots more birthdays.

April 1 was the 45th anniversary of the day my oldest brother died in the crash of a B-52 in Upper Michigan. Denny was stationed at Sawyer AFB, Marquette, MI and was a substitute crew member on a routine training flight because the assigned navigator had an ear infection and was not cleared to fly. My family experienced two weeks of shock and stress while we waited for the bodies to be released so that we and the other families could schedule funerals. I remember my mother saying that she always thought funerals were rushed too much and that, if you were only given a little more time, that final step would be easier to bear. We all learned that was not true.

Denny’s remaining family included his wife and two children, ages 3 and 5. This is a picture of Denny with his son, Eric. Before Eric was old enough to sit (and barely able to hold his head up), Denny and he could perform this balancing act. It’s a good memory to hold in my heart.

Today is a day to celebrate our families. I usually post a single photo of my siblings and me to mark the day, but this year, I’ve decided to pay tribute to six generations of siblings in my family.

I only have one photo of a grandparent with siblings. My Grandma S. is on the right, standing beside her brother, Phil and her sister, Gladys. The seated lady is Grandma’s mother, my Great-grandma D.

Ted’s and my parents and their siblings are the next generation. It’s unfortunate that the only picture I have of Ted’s dad with his siblings was taken on a day that Paul was enjoying a home visit from the hospital. I always think of him in that chair, but never in a reclining position. His siblings are Cella, Bob, and John. The picture of Ted’s mother with her older sisters, Verna and Leona, was taken before her younger brother was born.

My dad is the blonde standing in the center back. His youngest brother, Ken, wasn’t born yet. The other siblings are Gerry, Arch, Lynn, and Bob. My mom is on the left of her siblings, Gibby, Shirley, and Ruth. Two of her brothers had already died when this photo was taken.

In generational order, Ted and I are next. The only picture I have of him with all of his siblings is the one below: Gary, Ted, Mutzie, and Dan. I’m eleven in the photo with my siblings. Left to right, it’s Russ, Tom, Steve, Denny, and me.

After Ted and me, our children are the next generation. We took this picture at the zoo in 1979.

Our kids have grown up, so now we have sibling grandchildren as well. On the left is a 2021 photo of Thom and Katie’s family: Julian, Sefton, and Hadley. The top right is Jeff and La’s family in 2010: Alex, Kyra, and Zack. Dean and Kari’s family is in the lower right in 2017: Sky, Dylan, and Teddy.

And the beat goes on. Our first great-grandchild, Alex and Kaitlyn’s son, just celebrated his first birthday. So far, he doesn’t have any siblings, but I’m including him here as the first member of his future sibling group. Here’s Ollie.

When Alex and Kaitlyn told me they were expecting a baby–Ted’s and my first great-grandchild–in “mid-March,” I hoped the baby would be born on my birthday. Of course, we all know that babies come when they come, and Ollie was born two days before my birthday. That’s fine. It means we can share a birthday month instead of only one day. To celebrate Ollie’s first birthday, Ted and I decided to go to Provo to be with the family for the Big Day. What a great decision!

Kaitlyn’s family took full responsibility for the party preparations. Three of their children (including Alex and Kaitlyn) are attending BYU and live in Provo, but the rest of the family lives elsewhere, so Jeff and La offered their Provo home as a venue for the birthday gala. I’m telling you, those women had their ducks in a row. Their entire family–including the supportive men–marched into the house carrying food, folding tables and chairs, gifts, and everything else needed for a party. They took over the kitchen and went right to work. That’s Kaitlyn’s mom and dad working behind the kitchen island. At one point, I counted five of their family members working simultaneously back there.

Kaitlyn’s job was cake decorating. The photos below show Ollie’s smash cake with a little Mickey Mouse in the center; the flat cake in the background is a similar, larger “cake in progress” for the rest of us.

When the food was ready and the tables and chairs were set up, all twenty members of the party crowd headed for the buffet and filled their plates with delicious food. I took the picture below after I finished eating, in case you’re wondering about the absence of great quantities of food on the tables.

To give our delicious dinner some time to settle, we trooped downstairs to take a family picture. Two of Kaitlyn’s sisters had already left for another engagement. Fortunately, her other sister brought a friend to the party. The friend graciously offered to take pictures on everyone’s cameras so we could all be in the photo. This is an unusual photo in my experience. Ollie is celebrating his first birthday with three sets of great-grandparents, as well as two sets of grandparents.

After the photo op, it was time to watch Ollie open his gifts. The ball pit was fun. Ollie was pretty happy to be surrounded by balls, and only crawled through the tunnel into the castle once.

In spite of all the new toys he received, Ollie proved himself to be a typical kid. He picked up a box and carried it around with him, occasionally putting a smaller toy into the box. Jeff and La give him an elaborate labyrinthine tower with tracks for cars to run downhill. That’s Jeff on the right reading the assembly instructions.

The quilt I made for Ollie was less captivating to him than the ball pit and the cardboard box, but he looked at it carefully, pointed, and said one of the three words in his vocabulary–“dog.” Way to go, Ollie!

After all the gifts were opened and examined by Ollie (and everyone else), it was time for Ollie to attack his smash cake. What fun! Notice that he even shared some of the cake with his mom. When Ollie felt sufficiently stuffed with cake, the rest of us enjoyed some birthday cake in a less messy manner.

Here’s Ollie in his Mickey Mouse birthday outfit–before he ate his cake. He wasn’t the slightest bit interested in having the headband with the mouse ears on his head. I think I can speak for everyone present and say that Ollie’s first birthday party was a big success.

While I was working on my second quilt for Ollie’s birthday gift, I said to Ted that, given shipping costs, we could probably deliver the quilt in person for what it cost to make two quilts. I was kidding, but after a second or two, we looked at each other and said, “We should do that.” We texted Jeff and La right away to ask if it would work for them to have us visit for Ollie’s first birthday. They said, “Absolutely,” so we immediately bought plane tickets. (Much cheaper than shipping, right?)

The weather on the first day of our visit was perfect for a walk to check out the neighborhood. Ollie loves to go outside, so he was excited. Alex tried to make him look cool with a pair of sunglasses, but either Ollie’s not the cool type, or he just doesn’t like glasses, because he took them off immediately.

Provo is in the Utah Valley and is surrounded by mountains. From anywhere in the city, it looks like you can walk in any direction and run into a towering mountain. The mountain in this view from Jeff and La’s townhouse complex looks farther away than the one that stood behind the Airbnb where we stayed for our Christmas visit.

Our walk took us to the pool area. Safety is obviously important, as indicated by the warning beside the baby pool.

From there, we went to the clubhouse exercise room. Ollie was fascinated by the treadmill. Alex set it at the slowest speed–0.5 mph–and put Ollie on it. The little guy crawled like crazy to reach the other end, but every time he stopped crawling to reach for the frame, the belt took him back again. Then he tried walking. That worked better, but he still couldn’t get to his goal. He finally noticed that the side rails didn’t move, so he planted his right knee and hand on a rail. Unfortunately, his left hand and knee still kept going backward, forcing him to “half” crawl. Alex took pity on him and put him fully back on the treadmill. By the time we decided Ollie had enough exercise, he’d done a 20-minute workout.

After all that exercise, it was time to rest a bit. We went into the playroom where Alex and Ollie got comfortable on a toddler-size sofa.

Then it was time to eat. Just like his Grandma La, Ollie loves mashed potatoes. Not every bite made it into his mouth.

It only took a little while for Ollie to feel comfortable with Gigi and Grandpa Ted.

Of course, we played games. This time it was Mahjong, sheephead, Catch Phrase, and Skull King.

The big attraction was Jeff’s new VR headset and his new game, Beat Saber. Jeff and Kyra excelled at the game; the rest of us had a great time with lower scores. Jeff cast the game to the TV screen so we could all see what the player was doing. In the photo below, Kyra is leaning to the side to avoid being hit by the white rectangle coming at her. If it hits you, a message bluntly tells you that you failed. You don’t get loving support or encouragement from a video game.

I found Zack, Kyra, and Alex sitting together on the sofa and got a nice picture of them–except for the lights reflecting on Zack’s glasses.

All good things come to an end, and so did our visit. We can’t wait to see the family again, so until next time, lots of love to all of you.

Ted’s sister, Mutzie, (aka the Quilting Queen) gave Kari a small quilt when Kari was a toddler, and she also gave Kari a baby quilt for each of Kari’s three boys. Kari loves those quilts (she wore hers down to rags) and thought making a quilt for a baby gift would be a good idea for our next sewing project. Since Ollie’s birthday was coming up and since I’d be working with Kari on her quilt project, it seemed like a good idea for me to make a gift quilt for Ollie.

The last time I worked with a sewing partner was during the years my mom taught me how to sew. Now that Kari has decided it’s time for her to learn to sew, I have a sewing partner again and I’m really enjoying it. We start our mutual sewing projects by shopping for fabric and supplies together, a subset of sewing that’s also more fun to do with a partner. Kari chose fabrics in blues and yellows. She wanted to make a simple quilt for her first effort, so she planned to sew the edges together (wrong sides out) and turn the quilt through, then topstitch a “binding” edge and quilt it. She bought calico for the top fabric and fleece for the bottom because some of the quilts Mutzie made for the boys have a fleece backing and Kari loves the softness of it.

My choice of fabrics was calico in light and dark blues. Kaitlyn told me that Ollie looks good in blue and he loves his Mickey Mouse toy, so I decided to put some Mickey Mouse appliqués on his quilt. I planned to use a bias-cut binding around the edges. Kari’s quilt gift will stay in Missouri; mine is going to Utah. We chose a medium-weight batting for hers because more than that would be too much with the fleece backing; I went with a heavy-weight batting for Utah’s cold winters.

Things were looking good. We worked together on Kari’s quilt when she had time to come over for an afternoon and I worked on mine between our mother-daughter sessions. I’m not an artist, but I found a clipart Mickey Mouse-like outline online, zoomed the PC screen to my appliqué size, and traced a pattern.

I cut out the appliqués, fused them to the quilt top with HeatnBond, stitched around the edges, and admired my work. It looked good.

If this quilt ever becomes valuable (hah!), “Antiques Road Show” will raise its value with the provenance of a signature, so I decided to put my signature in a corner of the quilt. I estimated where the signature would fit without being covered by the binding and I stitched it. So far, so good.

Then I pinned the top fabric, the batting, and the bottom fabric together, basted them, and marked my quilting lines. I was pondering how to draw long straight lines when I remembered that we have a spare 7-foot piece of finished oak baseboard in the basement. I checked to make sure it wasn’t warped, then washed it off and used it as a long straightedge. It worked great for marking the quilting lines.

As I was marking the lines, I discovered a problem or, in Bob Ross terms, a happy accident. One of the lines went right through the signature. With my seam ripper in hand, I ripped out the signature and repositioned it. After that, it was exciting to start sewing quilting lines to make my project look more like a quilt than like two pieces of fabric with a filling. I laid the quilted quilt on the table, examined the lines for straightness, and saw some more happy accidents. There were so many crooked places in the lines that I wasn’t pleased at all. I got out my seam ripper (again) and sewed the lines (again), then checked how everything looked (again). There were still some areas that needed adjusting, so I ripped (again) and re-sewed (again). 😢 Bob R’s happy accident thing is wearing thin.

After the third round of stitching lines, the quilt looked ok–not great, but passable–so I moved on to the binding. I started pinning the binding near the signature and guess what . . . the binding covered the bottom edge of the signature. Dang it! How many happy accidents can one project have??? I ripped out the signature (again) and stitched it (again). Then I sewed the binding to the top of the quilt, mitered all the corners, folded it over and pinned it to the bottom, making sure I caught the bottom edge with my top pins. I was ready to “stitch in the ditch” to attach the back of the binding and finish the quilt.

But, . . . when I finished that job and turned the quilt over, almost half of my stitches in the ditches had failed to catch the edge of the binding, in spite of how carefully I’d pinned it. I’d been pretty patient about all the do-overs so far, but this was the last straw. I’d already clocked 43+ hours on this quilt because I’d ripped out so much of what I’d done and re-sewed it at least twice and sometimes three times. I’d had it! Good-bye, Bob Ross, and take your happy accidents with you!

I was tired of the way this quilt was behaving and I told Ted I sincerely believed it was cursed and the universe was giving me a message. I was not happy with how my (almost) finished quilt looked and I felt like I’d have to make excuses for all the things that were not up to my standards. I definitely didn’t want another seamstress to see it up close and I did not want to give work of this quality to Ollie. “Despondent” perfectly described my mindset at that moment. I think the heavy-weight batting was the problem. It was too thick for my sewing machine to do its best work and it definitely made the quilt heavy. Not warm and cozy heavy, but “take this thing off of me” heavy. I decided (with Ted’s full support) to start over, and this is what I did with the Mickey Mouse quilt.

I bought some lighter batting, chose a blue fabric with a puppy print (remember, Ollie looks good in blue), and a brown fabric for the backing. The print I chose won’t remind Ollie of his Mickey Mouse toy, but what little kid doesn’t like puppies? I decided to stay with my original basic idea–appliqués and a binding–but instead of messing with a bias binding, I chose to do a self-binding.

To complement the puppy-patterned fabric, I chose puppy paw prints for my appliqués. The Mickey Mouse appliqués were a single piece of fabric; the paw prints had five pattern pieces each. I printed copies of my pattern and cut the pattern pieces out of one of the sheets to create a template. It was so easy to place the template on the quilt fabric, fit the adhesive-bonded pieces into it, and iron them in place.

Never let it be said that I don’t learn from my mistakes. This time, I drew my quilting lines before sewing the signature in the corner. I knew exactly where to place it and it was in the right place the first time.

I put the three layers together, basted them, and sewed the quilting lines. Every single line was straight the first time! The heavy batting was definitely the problem. Folding over the edge for the self-binding was easy. I attached it with a decorative stitch, and that turned out very nicely. A feather stitch closed the open miters at the corners.

Voilà! In less than half the time I spent on the Mickey Mouse quilt, I had a quilt that I think is even cuter and that I was excited to give to Ollie. Anyone who wants to examine it–seamstress or not–is welcome to do so, because I’m proud of this work, not embarrassed by it. The trash can was the right place for the Mickey Mouse quilt and this one is for you, Ollie.

The trials and tribulations I experienced with the Mickey Mouse quilt were happy accidents after all. The puppy quilt turned out beautifully and, when Ollie saw it, he pointed at the puppies and said one of the three words in his current vocabulary–“dog.” Happy first birthday, Ollie.

About 15 years ago (I don’t remember exactly), I got tired of having our multitude of family portraits in boxes where no one could see them. To get them out of the boxes, I decided to make our upstairs hallway a portrait gallery because: (1) there was nothing hanging on any of those walls; and (2) I didn’t have room for this many portraits anywhere else. I went through the boxes, selected the best pictures, measured and counted them, and bought hundreds of dollars worth of frames ($400+ I think). I framed them and printed identifying labels to attach to the backs of the frames–names, dates, etc. Then I needed a plan to arrange the portraits on the walls.

When Kathy came for a weekend visit, she and I stayed up very late one night, sorting and arranging the framed portraits. We could have quit earlier and gone to bed, but we were really into the project. We measured the hallway walls and laid everything out to scale on the bedroom floors in a variety of ways to construct a pleasing presentation.

The result of Kathy’s and my planning is that Wall #1, at the head of the stairs, is dedicated to our immediate family–Ted, me, and our four children. These are portraits of all six of us as babies, in first grade, and at high school graduation, as well as a few miscellaneous related portraits of our family and Ted’s and my “entire elementary school” pictures. We went to small rural schools, so there was room for everyone in a single picture.

Wall #2, the shortest wall, has just enough room for the two oversized frames in my collection. One is from my Grandma S. and includes the senior pictures of her 1911 high school graduating class of 12 students with three teachers. The other is from Ted’s mom and has the high school graduation pictures of her four children, and the six grandchildren she had at the time she assembled the collage.

Wall #3, the longest, is the wedding and history wall. I have wedding portraits of Ted’s and my parents, our grandparents, ourselves, and our married children. I also have a number of portraits and historically interesting pictures of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and a few other relatives.

Wall #4, the last remaining space in the hallway, is the grandchildren wall. We already had a few grandchildren at the time Kathy and I designed the gallery and I thought there would be plenty of room for all the grandchildren’s pictures on that wall. That wasn’t true. With nine grandchildren, and multiple pictures of some at different ages, I was doing ok until 2021, when Hadley (grandchild) and Ollie (great-grandchild) were born. We already have one grandchild who is married and had a baby, and several others are at a marriageable age and are likely to present us with more great-grandchildren. To make room for Hadley, Ollie, and future additions to the family, Ted and I spent the afternoon today re-arranging the grandchildren wall. We think we left enough space for at least six additional babies before we have to worry about a future adjustment.

Walls #1, 2, and 3 don’t change much over time because they’re all past history. Wall #4 was good for a long time and has now been compressed to make more space. As our grandchildren began graduating from high school, however, Ted and I realized we needed more gallery space. We decided to start Wall #5 along the stairway. We began with some portraits of ourselves that we didn’t have room for on Wall #3 and then transitioned to graduation pictures. When Alex got married in 2019, we had to find space for the wedding portraits of our grandchildren too, so we decided that, because the stairway wall is pretty long, we can call it the “growing up” family wall. This wall has lots of room for expansion and it gives us something to look at as we go up and down the stairs.

Kathy and Annette weren’t able to join Ted and me and Kari’s family for Christmas between the holidays in December, so we scheduled another Christmas celebration for the MLK weekend. Unfortunately, one of their cats was very ill and had to be hospitalized. The cat was scheduled to be released to return home, but Kathy and Annette weren’t going to be at home. The compromise was that Kathy came to our house for the “Christmas” weekend and Annette stayed home to pick up the cat to avoid the $100/day fees if they’d left him at the vet all weekend. When families get together, you can always feel the absence of those who aren’t present, so it seemed odd to have Kathy with us, but not Annette.

After being with Jeff’s family in Utah for Christmas, then celebrating with Kari’s family, our time with Kathy was Ted’s and my third Christmas get-together. It’s been a true holiday season for us. Kari’s family joined us on Saturday for our Christmas gift exchange. Here’s most of the group, and more gifts to open–some in hand-sewn gift bags made by Kari and me.

The first gift I unwrapped was a lost memory that I was thrilled to recall. In the evenings, I like to shower and then put on something comfortable (more loungewear than pj style) and I have several sets (top and bottom) of fleece Cuddl Duds (not a misspelling) that are nice and cozy in winter. When the weather turned cold, I put away my lighter weight loungewear and headed for the Cuddl Duds, but I couldn’t find the pants for my favorite set. I looked everywhere. Several times. When I removed the gift wrap, there they were! I had totally forgotten that when Kathy and Annette visited us in May 2021, the weather turned unseasonably cold and Annette had only brought shorts with her. I lent her the Cuddl Duds pants to keep her warm on her trip home. I was so glad to see them again! When I couldn’t find them, I considered throwing the top away. It’s a good thing I didn’t.

Ted had a surprise gag gift from Kari. I gave him this shirt for his 40th birthday. At that time, every profession seemed to have a meme about where or how its practitioners “do it.” I came up with this meme for Ted. The shirt was originally sky blue (get it?) and the “rain or shine” letters were in rainbow tones (get it?). I’m not sure how the shirt got to Kari, but she’s been wearing it for yard work, etc. and it’s pretty thin and faded now. She admitted that, for years, she thought “do it” meant “prepare a forecast.” (Note: She was 12 when I gave Ted the shirt.)

I had a gag gift from Kari’s family too. When Sefton was just beginning to talk, he couldn’t say “Grandma.” (I’m pretty sure there are no babies who can clearly pronounce “Grandma.”) Thom thought Sefton’s version of the word sounded like “Meemaw” and he suggested to me that maybe I could be designated as Sefton’s “Meemaw.” I said absolutely not! I know there are women who are happy to be called Meemaw, but I’m not one of them. To me, the word conjures up an image of a frumpy, stooped-over, out-of-shape woman who dropped out of high school, has bad teeth, bad hair, and can barely utter a grammatically correct sentence. I was willing to wait for Sefton’s speech skills to improve to the “Grandma” level. The rest of the family knows this story, so when she saw this shirt online, Kari said she couldn’t resist ordering it for me.

Our weekend together wasn’t exciting, but it was fun. Teddy brought some new games with him and we had a good time playing them together. We also had some hot tub time and, with temperatures in the 30s, that felt really good. As usual, the time passed too quickly and all too soon, Kathy was loading her car to go home. She’s planning a return trip–with Annette–in March.

I think Ted and I are now finished celebrating Christmas 2021. Good times!

Today we took down our holiday decorations. It’s a good thing we “minimized” decorating this year because of our Christmas trip to Utah. It still took almost three hours to put everything away.

Because we spent Christmas in Utah with Jeff’s family, we had a delayed Christmas / Ted’s birthday celebration at home with Kari’s family. Ted’s choice for his family birthday dinner was pizza and ice cream sundaes. The cooking was easy: pick up the pizzas and put out a make-your-own sundae bar. Kari’s sundae looked the most Christmas-like with mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I think Ted showed the most zest in his application of Reddi-Wip. (That thing over Ted’s head is a holiday ornament hanging from the ceiling light.)

After Ted lit a fire in the fireplace, we took some family pictures.

We minimized our holiday decorations because we’d be in Utah over Christmas. We set some things out and strung a few outdoor lights, but skipped the Christmas tree. I admit that I missed having the tree lights twinkling in the evenings. In the absence of a Christmas tree, we put our Christmas gifts to each other on the coffee table instead of under the tree. Note that some of the gift bags were sewn by Kari and me.

Of course, Thom and I continued our exchange of Christmas Lego. This year, Sky joined in by giving Ted and me Lego Christmas ornaments. He said we can add them to my “infinite collection of Christmas Legos.” That collection keeps growing, and I love it!

After opening our gifts, it was time to relax in the hot tub. The outdoor temperature was in the 30s, so the hot tub felt really good. We closed the evening with a good game of Michigan Rummy. No one ran out of chips, so everyone was a winner. Having the family of one of our children living nearby is the best gift of this Christmas celebration. It means we have lots of good times together throughout the year.

It wasn’t a Holiday Inn, like the Christmas movie, but Jeff and La rented an Airbnb house in Provo, UT for a Christmas get-together. All three of their children (our grandchildren) live in Provo, as does their grandson (our great-grandson), so it was a good place for the family to gather.

Ted and I had an uneventful flight to Utah, but a long travel day–up at 4:00 a.m. CST and arriving in Salt Lake City around 2:00 p.m. MST with barely time to gulp down a sandwich on our layover in Phoenix. It was exciting to see snow on the ground when we arrived. The cold weather was less thrilling. Zack offered to pick us up at the airport to take us to Provo and was at the curb right after we exited the terminal. Ted and I were very hungry, so our first stop was at an IHOP. It was a great opportunity for some one-on-one time with Zack before joining the rest of the family.

When we arrived in Provo, we went to Alex and Kaitlyn’s house and had a nice visit with them. It’s been nine months since our first great-grandchild was born, and we hadn’t seen him in person yet. Photo op, first thing. He looks like Alex did as a baby.

Ted and I wanted to see our grandchildren’s homes so we could picture them when we talk with the kids and hear about what they’re doing, so we also stopped at Zack’s apartment. Zack rooms with five other young men. He claims that cereal is a staple in his menu plan. What can I say? It’s a bachelor pad, right? Kyra spent the past week in Montana, so she arrived at dinner time with Jeff and La and Papa Murphy’s pizzas for dinner. With the entire group present, we let the good times roll!

Alex and Kaitlyn brought over a small Christmas tree to create some Christmas spirit.

Jeff and La planned the entire visit and brought lots of food, games, gifts, etc. from home. We needed some additional items though, so the four women–La, Kyra, Kaitlyn, and I–went grocery shopping in the morning. The planning committee did a great job. We ate well and had fun every day. Christmas dinner was baked ham with mashed potatoes and gravy. Ollie loves mashed potatoes (he got that Idaho gene from his Grandma La), so Grandpa Jeff helped Ollie meet his potato needs. I love the tie on Ollie’s bib! He looks like a junior executive at the head of the table.

On Christmas morning, La made a traditional family treat–cinnamon rolls. The smell and the taste were irresistible! And then there were presents for everyone. (Thanks for the photo, Jeff. Your view of the gift display was better than mine.)

We arranged ourselves on the large sectional sofa prior to distributing and opening gifts. The array of holiday socks called for a picture. Alex had “Spocks.”

Jeff got creative with his gift tags.

He also got creative with his gifts. Ted and I requested gifts that would fit in our luggage on our homeward flight, so Jeff found ways to make gift cards more interesting. One of ours was packed with Idaho potatoes; another was accompanied by an assortment of rocks from Flathead Lake.

This is Ollie’s first Christmas, so he’s still learning the ropes, but he caught on quickly and seemed to enjoy all of his gifts.

After our evening meal, we went downtown to see the holiday lights in Pioneer Park and Temple Square.

When we got back home, Jeff read How Murray Saved Christmas to all of us, and then we watched “Klaus” on Netflix. It was a perfect Christmas Day.

When I looked out the window the next morning, there was fresh snow on the ground. Again, the snow was exciting; the cold temperatures in the 20s, not so much. We bundled up, though, and walked about a mile to Kyra’s house so we could see where she lives with two other young women. On another day, we walked to the BYU campus where Alex and Kyra pointed out their classroom buildings and where Alex works in the IT department.

With all of Jeff’s family present, group photos were a must. I think we have pictures of every possible combination of our group members. Here are the photos of the entire group and of four generations of the family men: Ted, Jeff, Alex, and Ollie.

We had dinner at Outback one evening. Kaitlyn, La, and I left early to shop at Barnes & Noble before dinner. Both venues were in the same shopping center and B&N was selling all hardcover books for 50 percent off. Who can resist that?! Not Kaitlyn, who left the store with two full bags of books. I struggled to select only two books to carry home in my luggage, but I took pictures of 18 others that I would have liked to buy. I’ll use my B&N Christmas gift cards for some and I’ll get some from the library. After book browsing, it was time to meet the rest of the group for dinner.

Naturally, there was time to play with Ollie during our visit. He did really well with a house full of people for several days. He got overtired because he didn’t want to miss any of the fun, but he was never crabby. I’m sure he enjoyed all the attention–part of being the first child for Alex and Kaitlyn, the first grandchild for Jeff and La, and the first great-grandchild for Ted and me. Get used to lots of attention, Ollie.

This was a visit with Jeff’s family, so it’s a given that there were lots of games to play–Sheephead, Skull King, “Zahjong,” and Catch Phrase. They were all fun. “Zahjong” is Mahjong with adaptations and scoring developed by Zack. I was hesitant to try it at first, but after watching a few rounds, I bit the bullet and joined in. Surprise! I even won three times!

We played several games on our last evening together, and ended with Catch Phrase. We had two teams of four sitting in a circle in the living room. It was the older people (Jeff and La, Ted and me) vs. the younger people (Alex, Kaitlyn, Kyra, Zack). We sat alternately in our circle–old, young, old, young–and the game got crazy. I can’t describe what happened because it was a “be there” moment, but it was so much fun that, even when we were tired and knew we had to go to bed so we could all get up early in the morning, we decided to play “one more game” before quitting. Unfortunately, that game tied the score, so we decided to play one more to break the tie. As a result, we all went to bed very late, but it was worth every minute of lost sleep. It was a joyous ending to our time together and spending this holiday with family we haven’t seen for over two years was the best Christmas gift of all.

In my humble opinion, I have the privilege of (temporarily) owning one of the world’s great rolling pins.

My great-grandpa took this piece of hard rock maple, shaped it on his lathe, and gave it to his daughter, my grandma, when she was newly married in 1921. When Grandma stopped making pies, she gave it to my mom, her oldest daughter. What a treat for my dad! He loved pie! If it had been awhile since Mom made a pie, Dad would casually say something like, “I remember pie. It’s round, . . . it has fruit inside, . . .” and that was Mom’s cue to get out the rolling pin.

Given my Dad’s penchant for pie, I was surprised when Mom said she was finished making pies and handed the rolling pin down to me. It’s a single piece of wood, so I can roll it smoothly and evenly with open palms. The handles have a wonderful fit under my hands. This rolling pin has been seasoned by use for 100 years by Grandma, Mom, and me, so dough never sticks to it.

I love this rolling pin and I think about Great-grandpa shaping it and Grandma and Mom using it every time I get it out. Today, I used it to make two apple pies: one for a neighbor who had minor surgery this morning and, as long as I was baking, one for Ted and me.

Many years ago, Kari asked me to pass this “heritage” rolling pin on to her. I’m still making pies, so she’s still waiting for it, but someday, Kari, you’ll be the fourth generation to use the rolling pin made by your great-great-grandpa. Which of your boys will you give it to when you’re finished making pies?

See a performance at the Fox Theatre. One of Julian’s reasons for coming to St. Louis at this time was to see a performance by comedian Bill Burr at the Fox Theatre. Julian is not accustomed to living in the suburbs, so his plan was to simply take public transportation from our house to the Fox. That would be great–if the @#$%&! voters in our county had not voted down public transportation many years ago. We lent Julian one of our cars to drive to the Fox. He wanted a Steak ‘n’ Shake fix while he was here and decided to stop at Steak ‘n’ Shake for a carry-out dinner (no dine-in available) to eat on his way to the program. He enjoyed the performance–and the dinner–and surprised us by being back at our house by 10:30–long before his curfew. (Just kidding.)

Take bicycle rides. Kari left her bike at our house for Julian to use at will. In return, he adjusted her derailleur for her. It was a good deal for both parties. In addition to our bike ride on the Dardenne Greenway, Julian and I biked through the surrounding neighborhoods and he biked some of the St. Peters bike trails with Kari, as well as going out on his own.

Swim. Julian has always enjoyed our backyard swimming pool. Unfortunately, he had some follow-up surgery on his trampoline-injured knee just a week before arriving at our house and wasn’t supposed to soak the wounds in water. He couldn’t resist the pool, however, so he decided to try waterproof bandages. He tested them and they seemed to work fine, making it possible for him to use the pool after all.

Have pizza/calzones; play games. Saturday’s dinner was pizza for Ted and me and a Calzone for Julian. In the evening, we decided to play a game. Julian selected Phase 10, a card game he’d never played. He won on his first try. Unfortunately for him, he tried to figure out my strategy as I took the lead in the next game (I followed him in the play order). In frustration, he mentioned that he just couldn’t see what strategy I was using. Maybe because I didn’t have a strategy. I pointed out that the game is designed for ages 8+ and really depends more on which cards you draw than on any strategy. Julian decided he prefers games that involve strategy. We’ll go for that on his next visit.

Roller skate. On Sunday, Kari’s entire family came over to visit and to have dinner with us. Before dinner, Kari and the four boys decided to go roller skating (free for all, because Kari’s a manager at the rink and gave each boy a family pass for entry). When they returned to the house, we had a chicken dinner. Chicken is a big hit with Kari’s family, and even though they ate a lot of it, the highlight of the meal was the ice cream sundae bar.

Dylan, the artist, had the prettiest sundae, . . .

. . . but Teddy’s sundae was the most colorful.

And then it was Monday, Julian’s departure date. Luckily for Ted and me, Julian’s departure time was changed to two hours later than expected, so in addition to the eight extra hours we had with him after his early arrival, we had two more extra hours with him before his departure. We hope Julian had as much fun with all of us as we did with him, and we all hope he’ll visit again soon. Love from all of us to Julian.

Today, Ted and I took Julian and Teddy to see the Cahokia Mounds. Cahokia Mounds is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally the site of a city of 10,000-20,000 people (larger than either London or Paris at that time), it was the site of the largest prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico. Monk’s Mound at Cahokia is the second-largest mound in the world. In fact, Monk’s Mound has a larger base than the Great Pyramid of Cheops (also a UNESCO WHS), although it is not as high as that pyramid. Eighty of the 120 original mounds at Cahokia have survived. The most direct route from our house to the park is I-70, so we crossed the Mississippi River via one of my favorite bridges: the Stan Musial Bridge at St. Louis.

The entrance to the park’s Interpretive Center is impressive.

These are called the “twin mounds.” Conical mounds like the one on the right are always burial mounds; flat mounds like the one on the left usually indicate a place where citizens lived. The higher one’s social rank, the higher one lived on the mound. Commoners’ homes surrounded the base of the mound.

We saw a herd of deer on our guided tour of the park. The tour guide said deer are everywhere in the park.

The park’s big attraction is Monk’s Mound, the largest one. This is also a flat mound, but it is so large that there are four levels of social importance on it. Because it is so large, it is likely that an important leader (a king-like official) lived at the top of Monk’s Mound. You can count three terraces below the top of the mound if you look at the outline of the mound on its left side.

Every visitor’s to-do list includes climbing to the top of Monk’s Mound, and our group was no different. The two young men nearest the bottom of the stairs are our boys. There are two flights of stairs on Monk’s Mound with a total of 154 steps. Julian climbed them twice.

Here are Julian and Teddy after they reached the top of Monk’s Mound.

Julian got creative on his way down. Teddy (at the top of the flight) simply used the stairs.

There’s a nice view of the park from the top of Monk’s Mound. You can see another, smaller flat-topped mound in the upper center of the photo below.

From the top of Monk’s Mound, it’s also possible to see the St. Louis skyline, including the Gateway Arch. (Due to the clouds, you have to look closely to see the Arch.)

Cahokia Mounds includes a structure called “Woodhenge.” It is the astronomical equivalent of England’s Stonehenge, with 48 poles set around its circumference and another pole in its center. At the spring and fall equinox, there are celebrations at Woodhenge. If you stand in alignment with two of the outer poles and the center pole at sunrise on the equinox, then look east, you can see the sun rise over Monk’s Mound in line with the center pole. The dark, flat surface behind the center pole in the lower center of the photo is Monk’s Mound.

Rain showers moved into the area on our way home and we saw a stunning rainbow. It was a pretty way to end an enjoyable afternoon with two of our grandsons.

Today, Ted and I, Kari and Teddy, and Julian were hoping to visit Cahokia Mounds. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t co-operate. Although it was only partly cloudy here, a band of rain swept through Cahokia, scratching our plans for a day outdoors at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Teddy came up with Plan B for an indoor activity: bowling.

The pros have nothing to fear from our group, but we had a lot of fun. The first game was pretty bad (let’s call it the warm-up), but the second was better, and by the third, we were well into the spirit of things. We all had a good time and then we enjoyed snacks at home before Kari and Teddy had to leave.

Julian practiced putting some spin on his ball.

Kari mastered sliding into her release.

Teddy bowled several spares and made his goal of getting a strike.

Ted the Jock showed us how you nonchalantly walk away when you bowl a strike–one of several for him, including two in a row in the tenth frame of one game.

Scores varied by game, but Ted was always the high scorer and the only one with a three-digit score. The display showed first initials for bowlers, so to keep Ted and Teddy apart, Ted became “G” for Grandpa. We might have to ban “G” from bowling like Sky, Dylan, and I have threatened to ban him from miniature golf because he outscores the rest of us every time.

Just kidding, G.

It’s so exciting and heartwarming when your adult grandchild calls to ask if you’d mind if he comes for a week-long visit. Not at all! We’d love it! Ted and I have been eagerly anticipating Julian’s arrival this week. Unfortunately, Julian forgot to tell us that his flight schedule had been changed, and that he’d be arriving eight hours earlier than we’d expected. Oops! When he called me to say he had arrived at the airport, I dropped what I was doing and made an Uber-style run to pick him up. Luckily for Ted and me, Julian’s early arrival gave us eight additional hours to spend with him; unluckily for Julian, he ended up being drafted to help with some of the things we had planned to finish in those eight additional hours before he arrived.

One of the jobs Julian helped with was replacing some cabinet door hinges. When the new hinges were installed, the doors overlapped each other in the center. I suggested cutting out a little piece of wood with a wood chisel to set the hinges a little bit deeper, and Julian did the chiseling. When he finished, the doors closed properly.

The following afternoon provided beautiful weather for a bike ride. Kari came over with her bike and brought Dylan’s bike for Julian to use. The four of us headed for the Dardenne Greenway, which provides about a ten-mile bike ride through parks and woods, around lakes, and along the Dardenne Creek. It was such a nice ride, I became totally focused on how much we enjoyed riding with Kari and Julian and I didn’t take any pictures. Imagine us biking through the woods in the sunshine with the trees just beginning to change to their autumn colors. Later, the other members of Kari’s family joined us for a nice visit outside on the patio, then dinner indoors.

Today, we decided to hike the 3.4-mile trail around Lincoln Lake at Cuivre River State Park. It was another pretty day and this time, I took some pretty pictures. Here we have our hikers–in two pictures so Kari and I could take turns with the cameras.

There are other trails and trail access points in the park, and some of them are uphill from the lake trail. This one is 118 steps to the top, according to the sign.

We saw a few butterflies, a turtle, two small snakes, and several varieties of wildflowers. On the way out of the park, we passed a flock of wild turkeys and a young deer. In my opinion, these were the prettiest wildflowers, although they lost some of their striking color when a cloud covered the sun.

We’ve had dry weather for the past few weeks, so all the creek beds we crossed were dry.

For a change, there were some afternoon thundershowers in the area. We didn’t get any of the rain, but we saw some beautiful building cumulus clouds. In the third picture below, there’s a fisherman in a bright blue shirt, fishing on the peacefully still waters of the lake.

We stopped frequently to drink water, to look at the views, and to chat a little bit.

Circling Lincoln Lake is a pretty hike–a favorite route for Kari, Ted, and me . . . and maybe now for Julian too.

Ted and I joined Sky’s family for his 18th birthday dinner. How do these little kids grow up so fast? Sky is at least 6’2″ tall and is beginning his law enforcement career classes during his senior year of high school. He’s so grown-up!

Sky’s girlfriend, Audriana, joined us, so we had a chance to meet her for the first time.

The highlight of the evening was probably the heritage gift Sky received from his dad. Dean passed on his original Star Wars collection of figures to his oldest son.

After a pizza dinner (yummy! who doesn’t like pizza?), there was the traditional birthday cake–chocolate cake with chocolate frosting–that Sky baked and frosted himself. He decided to put all the candles on a single large piece of cake. He said it was to reduce the spit factor (the more you spit on the cake when you blow, the less cake you have to share), but it might have been to make it easier to blow out all those candles. They made quite a glow.

Happy birthday to our fifth grandchild, who is now a legal adult, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Or whatever rights and privileges his parents allow him.

Ted and I still haven’t seen Ollie, our first great-grandchild, in person because of our aborted visit to Jeff and La’s house, but they sent pictures of the little guy. We love the pictures, but I couldn’t help looking at them and thinking, “It should have been me reading that book to him.” Next time, . . . .

Here’s Ollie, learning to play pool for his next visit to his Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

We left a book and a toy for Ollie, and were disappointed not to give our gifts to him in person, but his Grandma read the book to him for us. It’s called Never Touch a Dragon and he seems to be taking that advice seriously.

We’ve only met Kaitlyn on her wedding day and were looking forward to getting to know her better on this visit. That was disappointing, but it will happen another time, I’m sure.

Even though Ted and I were thrilled to spend lots of time with Hadley and Sefton on our visit to their house, there are always milestones that we miss because we live so far away from them. Shortly after our visit, Hadley reached the milestone of two months old and Sefton attended his first day of pre-school with his two favorite toys.

We can’t see our grandkids as often as we’d like to, but we love them all like crazy and are happy to share their lives in other ways–like these pictures.

Ted and I enjoyed our time with Thom and Katie’s family and we are grateful to have spent even a small amount of time with Jeff, La, and Kyra. After two years of not being together in person, our visits with both families were much too short, but we learned something for our next trip. The unplanned extra time we had with T & K’s family gave us the opportunity to feel that we were (temporarily) immersed in their lives. It was a treat to spend more time with Sefton and Hadley and to truly get to know them better–Sefton’s interests and personality and Hadley’s baby-ness and cuddling. Living so far from them, we never feel like we have enough in-person interaction to be a true part of their lives, and it was a good feeling to be with them a little longer than usual. When we plan our next trip, we’d like to spend more time with both families so that, when we leave, we feel like we’ve had a full meal, not only a snack.

Before driving to the airport, Ted and I each took another COVID test and were–again–definitely negative. The four days since our last test gave us some time to incubate the virus after our exposure to it, and we wanted to be sure that we tested negative before leaving T & K’s family–especially the two young unvaccinated children. Just before leaving for the airport, Thom (reflected in the window) wanted to take one more picture of Sefton and Hadley with Grandma and Grandpa.

After unloading our luggage at the airport curb, we had one more hug and one more kiss for everyone and then had to get in line to board our plane at Wenatchee’s single gate. The line wasn’t long. Ted and I felt sad about leaving, and we vowed to return ASAP. Let’s all work together to beat this COVID thing so we can travel freely again!

Once again, our 20-minute return flight from Wenatchee to Seattle on a propeller plane provided some nice lower altitude views. This photo of wildfire smoke in the Cascades looks like ocean swells.

We couldn’t see flames, but this is obviously the origin point of a wildfire.

A thunderstorm developed to the south of us. Hopefully, it rained on some of the wildfires.

Katie mentioned to me that the June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest melted the snowpack off Mt. Rainier. I later looked this up online and learned that Paradise, at 5,400 feet above sea level on Mt. Rainier, lost a record 110 inches of snow in 21 days in June. The snowpack insulated the glaciers so, without it, the glaciers are receding as well. When we’ve seen Mt. Rainier in the past, it’s always been snow-covered. The photo below shows large bare areas due to the absence of snow cover this summer. This is a view of the north side of Rainier; the south side has even less snow/glacier cover.

Ted and I had a three-hour layover in Seattle. We left the gate area to have dinner nearby about 90 minutes before our departure time, then returned to the gate and learned there had been a gate change while we were eating. We had to hustle to catch a train to a different terminal, then hurry to the new gate. We had an uneventful flight home, missing our boys’ families already and wondering how soon we can visit them again. The best of times are those you wish didn’t have to end. This was one of the those times for us.

Thom and Katie weren’t expecting us to spend this much time with them, so Ted and I said that we appreciated their hospitality, but didn’t expect them to disregard their regular activities to entertain us. They insisted, however, that they’d enjoy showing us a trail they like in the Leavenworth area. Before driving to the trailhead, we spent our usual relaxing morning together. This time, however, we had a bit of excitement. Katie put Hadley down on the floor and Hadley raised herself up on her arms. When we arrived a week ago, her head was still a little wobbly, but it was pretty steady today. It was exciting to me to have spent enough time with her to see a change in her development while I was still visiting. I think she was showing off for Grandma.

After lunch, we headed for the trail. After walking only a short distance from the car, we had a beautiful view of the Wenatchee River and the Cascades.

When we walked down to the river, Sefton wanted to play in the water, so Katie stayed with him.

Thom, Hadley (with Thom, in her Baby Bjorn), Ted, and I walked all the way to the orchard at the end of the trail. Hadley didn’t really walk–she came along for the ride and a nap.

It was a hot day that brought a lot of floaters to the river to cool off as they drifted downstream.

I saw an oddly formed tree. It looks like it experienced some stress in its early life.

This group found a sandbar and set up their lawn chairs.

When the four of us re-joined Katie and Sefton, Ted took a picture of us cooling our feet in the water.

For dinner, T & K suggested that we go to Fire, an Italian restaurant they like at Pybus Market. The food was delicious and so were the desserts. Ted ordered a banana split, and definitely got his money’s worth.

We enjoyed this extra day with T & K’s family. Sadly, we are scheduled to return to Missouri tomorrow.

First thing that went right: The closest drugstore to our hotel in Spokane was less than a half-mile away and had lots of COVID tests. Ted and I bought testing kits and returned to the hotel to do the procedure. Second thing that went right: The test results showed that we were both definitely negative. Hurray! We can go back to Thom and Katie’s house. Our morning activities–purchasing the tests, returning to the hotel, performing the tests, and then leaving the hotel (again)–put us close to lunch time, so we decided to eat in the Spokane area and then get back on I-90. It was Sunday morning, so the restaurants were filled with after-church crowds but it didn’t take too long to get a table. After lunch, we had a smooth ride back to Wenatchee.

When we arrived in Wenatchee, we drove up T & K’s driveway, entered the front door security code, and hauled our suitcases inside. Third thing that went right: None of the neighbors called the police when two strangers with luggage entered T & K’s house.

It was a little weird to be in someone else’s home when they weren’t there but, at the same time, we felt at home since we’d already spent several days at the house with T & K and family. For dinner, we chose to go to McGlinn’s, where T & K had their wedding dinner. Just like the wedding meal, the food was good. Afterward, we settled in at “home” and relaxed with a Netflix movie.

In the morning, Ted brewed some coffee (regular, not T & K’s fancy machine coffee) and I fixed a cup of hot chocolate from a Swiss Miss packet I picked up at the hotel. (It wasn’t as good as Thom’s fancy machine chocolate.) Then we sat on the front porch–one of my favorite places in the house–and relaxed, enjoying the beautiful weather.

After lunch, we took a little drive to refill Thom’s gas tank and Ted washed the car. We snacked on the dessert we ordered as take-out at McGlinn’s last night, and waited for the beach crowd to return. When they did, they brought Papa Murphy’s pizza with them and we had a nice dinner with little effort. It was good to see the family again, and to have a quiet, relaxing day.

After a good night’s sleep in our luxury guest house suite, Ted and I headed for the main house to say good morning to Jeff, La, and Kyra. Jeff wasn’t there when we arrived, but he soon returned from his errand. Third thing to go wrong: He had driven to Kalispell to purchase a COVID test. He took the test immediately and tested (in his words) “definitely positive.” What were we to do?? It’s not a good idea to continue our visit in the presence of an active COVID case, nor would it be fun for Jeff to quarantine and miss our time together. Do we have to leave only a few hours after our arrival when we’ve been (a) waiting two years to see Jeff’s family, including (b) spending time with Alex and Kyra, (c) getting to know Kaitlyn whom we’ve only met once–at the wedding–two years ago, and (d) meeting Ollie, our first great-grandchild? Where will we go? Shall we change our airline tickets and go home? Shall we spend our allotted time with Jeff’s family on a mini-vacation in the area before returning Thom and Katie’s car? Shall we go back to Thom and Katie’s house?

I called Thom to tell him about the situation. Did he want us to return his car and spend a night at his house with his two unvaccinated young children before we flew home from Wenatchee? Shall we park his car in the driveway and take a cab to a Wenatchee hotel? He immediately said it would be fine for Ted and me to go back to his house even though he and his family would not return from the beach for two more days. His only request was that we each take a COVID test to make sure we are negative before entering their house. No problem; we’ll certainly do that. It would be an eight-hour drive back to Wenatchee, so Ted and I decided to go only as far as Spokane today. Ted googled “hotels in Spokane near I-90” and called one. No vacancy. He called the next one and reserved a room. That’s done. Then we all ate lunch and Jeff went to his bedroom to lie down. He did not look his best, and he said he was very tired. Ted and I went back to the guest house to re-pack our luggage.

Because we were only going as far as Spokane today, La and Kyra invited us to stay a little longer and at least go to the shore of Flathead Lake while we were there. Ted and I really hated to leave, so we agreed to the idea and the four of us climbed into Jeff’s new Tesla, leaving Jeff to rest at the house. We drove to the beach where they launch their jet skis on the lake. Ted and I were hoping to take our first ride on jet skis during our visit here, but we settled for getting our feet into the water. It looks like we should take another step or two forward, but the waves were hitting us up to our knees in this spot.

Kyra went out on the dock. It’s a floating dock, so she bobbed up and down as the waves washed against and beneath the dock.

I test-drove the Tesla on the way back to the house and it was fun, fun, fun. The Tesla has two obvious differences from any other car I’ve driven. (1) If you take your foot off the accelerator, the brakes engage. La said you get to know when to lift your foot so that you never have to use the brake. She added that Tesla recommends you use the brakes at least once per month, just to keep them in working order. (2) If you press the accelerator a bit harder than gently, the car takes off with some kind of low-level G-force. That was so exciting, I tried it three times where the road was straight and no other cars were visible. After that, I reined in my thrill-seeking impulses. La said the rapid acceleration is a nice feature when you want to pass another car within a short distance.

After the trip to the lake, the only thing left to do was put our luggage back into the car and say good-bye less than twenty-four hours after we’d arrived. At least we saw part of the family briefly. We took a farewell picture and then, sadly, got into the car. It felt awful to drive away. The photo should be showing Flathead Lake on the right between the house and the tree, but the lake is obscured by the wildfire smoke.

Kalispell was out of our way back to Wenatchee, so Ted and I decided to stop in Coeur d’Alene to buy COVID tests. Wildfire smoke was again visible on our drive.

Fourth thing to go wrong: We tried four drugstores in Coeur d’Alene, but every one was sold out of COVID tests. It was getting late, so we went to Google Maps to get directions to our hotel.

Fifth thing to go wrong: The directions didn’t make sense, and didn’t give an I-90 exit number, so Ted called the hotel for clarification. The desk clerk told him the hotel was near the Oregon border. That’s not the kind of clarification we were expecting. Is that what you get when you search “Spokane near I-90”? I-90 isn’t even close to Oregon! The desk clerk cheerfully cancelled our reservation for tonight and gave Ted the name of a Best Western hotel in Spokane near I-90 that had a vacancy.

Sixth thing to go wrong: Ted called to make a reservation and asked about restaurants nearby. Our ETA at the hotel was about 8:30 p.m. and the desk clerk said there were a few restaurants nearby, but most would be closed by 9:00 p.m. We decided to eat in Coeur d’Alene. The fourth drug store we tried was at the last Coeur d’Alene exit on the western side of the town. We didn’t want to turn back to find a restaurant in the city, and the only restaurant at this exit was McDonalds. We turned off the highway, headed for Mickey D’s, and discovered they were serving drive-thru only. We ate this meal in the car. During our travels over the years, Ted and I have always said that we’ve never gone hungry. That was true again.

We drove the rest of the way to Spokane without incident. After checking in, I searched online for nearby drugstores and wrote down their addresses and phone numbers so we could start our search for a COVID test as soon as we got up in the morning. Then we showered and went to bed. This is not going to be remembered as the best day of our trip.

Today, it was time to leave Thom’s family and take an eight-hour drive to visit with Jeff and La. Ted’s and my original plan was to fly to Wenatchee, rent a car to drive from Wenatchee to Bigfork, spend several days with Jeff and La and their family, then fly home from Kalispell. Unfortunately, the effects of the COVID pandemic are not yet a thing of the past and we couldn’t get a rental car. Only four car rental agencies have offices in both Wenatchee and Kalispell. Three of them had no cars available; the fourth had cars, but would not provide a one-way rental. Thom generously offered us the use of one of their cars to drive back and forth from Jeff’s house, as well as an extra night with his family before flying home out of Wenatchee. Thank you, Thom and Katie. We accepted their offer. After hugs and kisses to all and one last photo of me with my second granddaughter (look at that grin!), Ted and I headed for I-90 east.

This has been a great trip and visit so far, but we had some glitches today. First thing to go wrong: Thom and Katie have visited Jeff and La several times over the past two years, and suggested that we stop at a Fred Meyer along I-90 in Spokane where we could fill the gas tank and eat at the deli. We found the Fred Meyer, but the COVID economy reared its head at the deli where there was nothing smaller than full loaves of bread and full-size cakes for sale. We asked about deli service and were told they no longer have enough workers to staff a deli, so the deli is closed indefinitely. Naturally, we turned to Google for a solution. Because the closest restaurant was a McDonald’s, we had a burger lunch and got back on the highway. Due to the many wildfires in this area, the air was pretty hazy with smoke, but it was still a beautiful drive through western Washington, the Idaho panhandle, and northwestern Montana.

Second thing(s) to go wrong: We had several delays for unexpected reasons (including finding an alternate place to have lunch) and, as a result, arrived at Jeff and La’s house later than we’d planned. We were texting back and forth and told them to go ahead and have dinner, but they insisted on waiting for us. They moved to this area almost two years ago, and Ted and I have been looking forward to seeing their new house. A zigzag driveway took us one-half mile up a mountainside to reach the house, and Jeff was waiting outside when we arrived at the end of the driveway. He escorted us to our quarters in the guest house to drop off our luggage, and then we joined La and Kyra in the main house. Kyra arranged a vacation from work to be home during our visit. It was so good to see all of them again. Two years is far too long between family visits. After chatting a bit, the pizza was ready to go into the oven. Yummy! Who doesn’t love pizza? It’s one of the things Ted and I have seen–spelled in English–in every one of the 25 foreign countries we’ve visited.

After dinner, there was a detailed tour of the main house and the guest house, and that took a long time because both houses are huge. The guest house has access to the main house via a courtyard and/or a covered passage. Our suite had a huge bedroom and bathroom with all the amenities: two large, lighted closets, a fireplace, and a huge bathroom with a gigantic bathtub set beside a large arched window with a view of the national forest just a few feet away. In addition, the guest house has a large party room with a pool table, a foosball table, and an alcove for watching movies on an 80-inch projection screen. But wait! I’m not finished. There is also another double bathroom (two of everything) and a full kitchen. It was like unpacking to stay at a high-end resort. Ted and I settled in very comfortably. The architecture throughout the two houses in stunning, including lots of bathrooms, forty-foot ceilings in some places, huge rooms, and lots of open space. Here’s a photo I took near the front entrance of the main house. The front door is on the left.

The guest house has a circular tower complete with a cone-shaped roof and (naturally) a circular stairway. Sefton wasn’t here to tell us to hold the pole when we go up and down, nor was there a pole, so we used the handrail.

After the house tour, we settled in for a visit and then we all headed for our bedrooms in various parts of the houses. Alex and Kaitlyn are expected to arrive tomorrow with Ollie, our first great-grandchild. We can’t wait!

Today, Thom and Katie took us to Ohme Gardens, an alpine-style state park in Wenatchee. Here’s how the website description of the park begins.

In 1929, Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Among that acreage was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River valley.

Herman and his new bride, Ruth, loved to stand on that bluff and dream of flourishing alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways where the hot, relentless summer sun allowed only sage and scrub desert growth. They set their minds on achieving that dream.

www.ohmegardens.org

The alpine garden was intended to be a family retreat, but the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the park to the public. It was later sold to Washington State Parks to be preserved for future generations. We had a pleasant afternoon, walking through the gardens and enjoying Ruth and Herman’s dream.

We walked up and down pretty hillsides and beside peaceful pools.

On one hillside, there was a watchtower that Sefton liked. It was open on all four sides. This side of the watchtower provides a view of Wenatchee, the mountains, and the Columbia River valley. We could see the rock outcropping that lies just above Thom and Katie’s house, but it’s too far to the right to be visible in this photo.

All of us except Hadley spent a few minutes looking at this pool. Hadley didn’t see much of the park because she was sleeping. Being adorable all the time tires a girl out.

Throughout the gardens, there were hidden gnomes and fairies. A map of the gardens indicated the areas in which gnomes and fairies could be found and if a visitor (Sefton, for example) could find all of them, that visitor could check them off on his map, turn the map in to the attendant at the gift shop, and get a sticker. Sefton found all the gnomes and fairies and earned his sticker.

After we returned to the house, it was Hadley’s and my turn to watch a GBC (Great Ball Contraption) Lego video with Sefton. Hadley was tired again from being adorable, so she didn’t see much of the show. You can tell she’s asleep because she has her nose buried against my chest. As long as I could hear her breathing, I knew everything was good.

After watching the YouTube GBC Lego videos, Sefton had to show me the GBC he built. His GBC didn’t have moving parts (he gets a break here–he’s only four), so he held one of his GBC balls in his hand and took it over the contraption’s course as he explained to me what was happening at each point along the route. Notice all the Lego he has in the drawer under his bed.

Meanwhile, pursuing a different kind of intellectual activity, Ted and Thom went out to the back yard and finished installing an RHC (Ring and Hook Contraption) that provides a way to pass the time as well as a challenge. The ring is attached to a cord connected to the post. You pull the ring back, let it go, and hope it catches on the hook. I tried it a few times and knew immediately that we’d be waiting a lo-o-ong time for me to get the ring on the hook, so I went back to holding Hadley.

For dinner, Thom cooked wood-fired pizza in their portable wood-fired pizza oven. Because it’s portable, the family can take it along when they travel in their Sprinter van. The oven reaches approximately 750 degrees and a pizza can be cooked in about two minutes. Unfortunately, Thom was reaching for something and bumped the back of his elbow on the oven chimney. The result was a pretty bad burn. You can see the bandage on his arm. Aside from that, you can’t go wrong with pizza for dinner–especially wood-fired pizza.

We’re having such a good time with our family, we’re already looking forward to our next visit.

We had another relaxing morning with Thom’s family. Hadley wanted to be with me while I read my book.

Sefton likes spending time with his baby sister, and it looks like the feeling is mutual.

For lunch, we prepared some picnic food and packed the food, a blanket, and the family into the car for the drive to Lincoln Rock State Park, just north of East Wenatchee. Julian opted to bike the 12 miles to the park. He beat us, and we found him and his bike waiting for us when we arrived at the park. Lincoln Park is named for a rock formation in the park and includes a lake created by the Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River. (Look for Lincoln in the rock.)

Thom, Katie, and the kids all went into the water, but Hadley was too little and too tired. Somebody had to skip the water fun to babysit her. so Ted and I volunteered for the (not) hardship duty. She’s really good at napping.

Our picnic site overlooked the lake, so Ted and I could watch Hadley on the blanket and the rest of the family in the water. Here are Thom and Julian having a ring race, paddling as fast as they can.

After swimming, it was time to let the swimsuits dry a little bit while playing bocce ball. I’m not very good at sports (except swimming), so Hadley offered to stay with me and watch the action.

Julian recently hurt his knee when he landed the wrong way on a trampoline. Ted and I were excited that he could be at Thom and Katie’s house during our visit, but he needs to go home tomorrow morning for a physical therapy appointment. After dinner, while Julian was still with us, we took some family pictures. Here are Thom and Katie’s family, and Ted and me with our grandchildren.

This is such a great visit!

What a relief! Thom and Katie are not morning people. There was time for me to do some reading in the sunlight, to drink the hot chocolate Thom always prepares for me in his professional-style beverage machine, and to join him, Katie, and Ted with their coffee on the patio. Of course, Sefton had many things to tell us, and Hadley wanted to be held by Grandma and Grandpa. (Well, ok, if we must.) Sefton found Julian’s skateboard and wanted a ride on it. His big brother made it happen.

There was some sibling time too, when the big brothers kept their little sister happy in her swing.

Sefton is very good about sharing–except for one thing. Katie told me that if they give Hadley the bird toy we bought as a baby gift for Sefton, he always takes it back. He was very generous sharing his “m&m&ms” with everyone, but not the bird.

In the afternoon, we all went to Pybus Market and checked out the shops. Julian was hungry, so he ordered food. Ted and I stopped at a cheese store to look at their cheese knives. We found one we liked and we’re hoping it will cut Ted’s daily serving of cheese to perfection. Sefton knew where the gelato store was and it seemed appropriate for all of us to have some gelato. What a great idea, Sefton!

After walking the length of the Market, we continued on to the adjoining Riverside Park, set along the Columbia River. The park has some unusual sculptures. The sphere is called “Pre-Mathematics” and the foot is called (duh!) “Ped.”

The park has a miniature train than runs all the way around it. There’s even a Wenatchee station house and an actual caboose parked at one end of the track. The train only runs on weekends and this was a weekday, so Sefton had fun running twice around the train track. He especially enjoyed running across the bridges. It’s no fun to run alone, so he needed Grandma to follow him all the way. (Surprise!–I didn’t run.)

It’s part of a big brother’s job to lift his little brother onto a high railing. Julian is still the one who can always make Sefton giggle.

After we returned to the house, Julian left to take a bike ride and Sefton invited Grandpa to watch GBC with him. Ted and I quickly learned about GBC–the Great Ball Contraption–and Ted settled in to watch a fascinating hour of GBC videos with Sefton.

Each “contraption” has an entry point for GBC balls followed by an intricate system of self-operated moving parts to move the balls through the contraption. In competition and conventions, individual contraptions are connected and the balls travel through all of them in a continuous circuit. Go to YouTube and search “GBC Lego” to find the videos. I bet you’ll be fascinated by them.

Meanwhile, I was busy bonding with Hadley. Ted and I have been waiting 23 years and seven grandsons for a second granddaughter, and I made the most of my time with her.

To end the day, Thom made a delicious dinner featuring biscuits and fried chicken. It was another good day with our family.

For the first time in 549 days (but who’s counting?), Ted and I took an overnight trip. We haven’t seen our sons’ families since our 50th wedding anniversary celebration 754 days ago. During that time, both boys moved to new houses in new locations, Sefton aged from two to four years old (a huge developmental change), and we gained a baby granddaughter and a great-grandson. Of course, we kept in touch with emails and texts, as well as phone and video calls, but it’s not the same as being together. With a lull in the COVID pandemic, we decided it’s time to venture a little farther into the world to visit our distant family members.

Our flight was early–8:00 a.m.–so we ordered a cab for 6:00 a.m. There’s nothing like an early start to the day. (Not!) We had a scheduled two-hour layover for our connecting flight to Wenatchee, but it turned out to be a 30-minute layover, so lunch became the crackers, cheese, and apples we had packed for a snack. While we were waiting to board our–wait for it!–propeller plane, we sat beside a man whose luggage tags indicated he was going to FAT. I asked him which airport that was and he said “Fresno.” Since Ted and I were tagged to arrive in EAT (Wenatchee), the man and I decided the two airports were a good pair: EAT FAT.

Except for tour flights over the Grand Canyon and Denali, I don’t think I’ve ever flown on a propeller plane. It was another new travel adventure for me. Here’s our plane as we saw it while waiting for our baggage. The plane was so small that carry-on suitcases didn’t fit in the overhead bins. We dropped them off on a cart beside the stairs to the cabin and picked them up at the airport door after our 20-minute–yes, 20-minute–flight. You can see the bags coming down the ramp at the rear of the plane.

Little planes fly lower than big ones, and that made the mountains much prettier to look at. We had good views of the North Cascades and of the wildfire smoke.

In the photo below, you can see a strip of blue sky between the smoke (below) and the clouds (above).

As we neared Wenatchee, we could see harvested fields and irrigated apple orchards. Wenatchee promotes itself as “The Apple Capital of the World” and there are a lot of orchards in the area.

I noticed a weird phenomenon while I was taking pictures through the airplane window. This is how the fast-moving propeller looks in a photo. Julian told me later that this effect is due to the direction in which a cell phone camera scans the scene in the 1/24,000 of a second it takes the photo. It’s kind of cool, isn’t it?

Although there’s a sign at the Wenatchee airport indicating the direction to “All Gates,” there is only one gate, so it was easy to find our way out to the curb where Thom picked us up and informed us that, thanks to the burning wildfires, “You’ve arrived at the worst air quality in the country.” The best part of the day came when we arrived at Thom and Katie’s house: seeing Sefton and Julian again and meeting Hadley for the first time. When we brought Jeff to meet our parents, Ted’s sister reached for him, but his mother charged ahead of her and said, “Oh, no–Grandmas first!” and took Jeff from me. I think that’s a good rule, so Grandma got to hold the baby first. Grandpa greeted Sefton and we both greeted Julian, who is spending a few days with the family while we’re here. It’s so nice to see the entire family in person again!

If Hadley falls asleep in your arms (is there anything sweeter than holding a sleeping baby?), she likes to turn her face into your chest. I could hear her breathing, so I knew she wasn’t suffocating, but still, . . .

Meanwhile, Sefton, who is very interested in clocks, showed Grandpa the clock he made.

And then it was time to play “hide Grandpa.” Sefton had lots of things to tell us–two years’ worth–and every sentence seemed to begin with “Grandpa and Grandpa, look at this.” I tried to teach him that I’m Grandma and the other person is Grandpa, but most of the time, we were Grandpa and Grandpa. He’s four. It’s fine.

After greeting everyone and holding Hadley, the next item on the agenda was a tour of the new house. There’s a circular staircase to the basement, and Sefton made sure to tell us that “You have to hold the pole when you go up and down,” so we did.

After a dinner of Katie’s Special Recipe mac and cheese, we took a family walk along a canal near the house. It felt good to stretch our legs after sitting on planes and in airports most of the day. Spending time with the family in person after more than two years apart made this a great first day of our trip.

Kari gave us this year’s school photos of the boys. When I saw Dylan’s, I said to Ted, “That’s Kari!” What do you think? Kari is a little bit older than Dylan in her picture. It was senior awards day at school, and she’s wearing her award medallion on the black ribbon; Dylan is beginning his junior year of high school. Hint: cover Kari’s earrings, then look at the faces.

It seems fair for Dylan to look like Kari, since Sky is a double for Dean.

Last year, our neighbors, Will and Karen, treated our neighborhood to an amazing display of fireworks on the Fourth of July. I spoke with Will the next day and complimented him on the show. “Oh, it’s going to be better next year,” he told me. “I took notes for improvements.”

Ted and I invited Kari’s family to join us for this year’s Will and Karen Fireworks Extravaganza. Kari and the boys arrived early to allow time for swimming and for a chance to relax in the hot tub. We’ve heard fireworks every day and night for about a week, but around 7:30 tonight, the noise became more frequent as people got things ready for the Big Show.

We were all visiting with each other in the back yard when we noticed that Teddy was missing. Teddy loves fireworks, so I checked our driveway seating area, and there he was–enjoying the pre-show all by himself as Will ran some test fireworks to assure the proper placement of everything.

When the “real” show began around 8:00 (sunset at 8:30), we all settled in and enjoyed our first-row seating, our table of snacks and beverages, and some good conversation–when we could hear each other above the noise. Other neighbors also set out lawn chairs in their driveways because they, too, remembered how good Will and Karen’s show was last year. See that blue canister sitting on the driveway? That’s a silent, odorless bug repellent we received from Thom and Katie last Christmas. It worked well–no bugs bothered us.

The city shows–with the crowds, the limited parking, etc.–usually last about 20-30 minutes. The neighborhood shows lasted about two-and-a-half hours, with occasional pops continuing until about midnight. Will and Karen bought all the good stuff and lots of it. These weren’t bottle rockets and little fizzlers; the entire show was the big stuff.

There was even a grand finale that lasted 10-15 minutes with shot after shot after shot all exploding just across the street from us.

Like last year, we could see fireworks shows all around us. I counted 11 neighborhood shows in my 180-degree sight range in front of our garage. They were all pretty good, but Will and Karen get the first place prize, and Will is a man of his word: it was better than last year. Afterward: no need to navigate large crowds or heavy traffic when the show ended. Family fun for sure!

Today we learned that we have a second granddaughter. Thom and Katie presented us with Hadley Rose, who is 20½ inches long and weighs 9 lb. 6 oz. She looks just like her dad did when he was born (lower photo).

Welcome, Hadley. We can’t wait to see you and hold you.

Ted and I celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary quietly. We remarked that it’s a good thing we were married in 1969 instead of 1970 because we had a great weekend with our entire family to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2019. If we’d been married just one year later, the COVID quarantines and restrictions would have meant canceling our celebration.

This time, we started our anniversary party a day early, when Kari, Dylan, and Teddy came over to our house to swim. It was a perfect day for swimming–the temperature was in the upper 80s and the humidity was low. The water temperature was 86 degrees, thanks to the warm weather we’ve had all week.

It was fun to swim, then get into the hot tub (we’ve lowered that water temperature for the summer), and then get back into the cooler pool.

After about two hours in the water, it was time for a game of sheephead. Dylan came prepared with a deck of cards and Kari brought The Chips (inherited from Grandma Sch). Teddy won the first hand and already has three additional chips on his pile. Ted was playing too, but stepped back to take the pictures.

The following day, on our real anniversary, we didn’t do any jobs around the house or yard. It was fun to have a “play day” when we only did what we felt like doing. Since the CDC says it’s now safe for fully vaccinated people to eat indoors at a restaurant, we went out for dinner–something we haven’t done for 15 months. Still being COVID cautious since new cases in our area are rising right now (post-Memorial Day weekend), we went after the peak dinner time. The “experience” of eating indoors at a restaurant was fun. We each ordered a glass of wine and toasted each other to the next 52 years together.

When we got back home, we lit our anniversary candle, enjoyed a piece of the Bissinger’s ohh-la-la chocolate that we bought as a gift to ourselves, and watched a Netflix movie.

As I was looking at the pictures of Jeff and La with Ollie, their first grandchild, I couldn’t help remembering when Ted and I had Jeff and my parents became grandparents for the first time. It logically followed to remember when Jeff and La had Alex, making Ted and me grandparents for the first time. Expanding on this theme, Jeff was the first great-grandchild of my maternal grandparents and Ollie is Ted’s and my first great-grandchild. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Ted and I, and Jeff and La were all approximately the same age when we had our first child and when we became grandparents for the first time. And yet, . . .

. . . I can’t get over how young I feel compared to how old my parents and grandparents seemed to be when Jeff was born. Maybe that’s the perspective of youth looking at age. Is it wishful thinking on my part, or do we look (and act) younger than previous generations did at the same age? Look at the pictures below as you consider that question.

This four-generation picture was taken when Jeff was ten months old. Ted and I are in the center with Jeff, and I’m five months pregnant with Kathy. My grandparents are on the left and my parents are on the right. Remember, Jeff is my parents’ first grandchild and my grandparents’ first great-grandchild.

Let’s jump ahead a generation. Here are Jeff and La with their first grandchild, Ollie, and Ted and I with our first grandchild, Alex.

Here are Ollie’s great-grandparents. We haven’t met Ollie yet, so we don’t have a picture of the three of us.

What’s your verdict on the aging thing? Ted and I choose to think we look younger than our parents and grandparents did at our age. Whether or not that’s true, it makes us happy to think so.

Ted and I had a semi-spontaneous family weekend with our daughters and their families. “Semi-spontaneous” means the idea came up only a few days before the event. Isn’t it odd how, when you try to plan something for the more distant future, it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s calendar, but in the short term everyone says “Sure, we can be there”? It was fun!

This is the family birthday season when we have five birthdays plus Mother’s Day over a period of just a few weeks. Of course, I always celebrate a birthday “season” for myself and family members have teased me about it in the past. This year, because of COVID restrictions, several other family members admitted that their birthday celebrations have been extended to more than one experience as well. They’re learning how much fun a birthday season can be.

For many years, Kathy has made cloth gift bags for her gifts. We all enjoy her bags and, while we were sewing Teddy’s draperies, Kari mentioned that she’d like to learn to sew Christmas gift bags as a future project with me. I decided to start practicing and trying different ideas, so I made seven gift bags for this birthday bash. I tried lots of things: one and two-color bags with matched and offset fabrics; center and side fabric joinings; zigzag seams and French seams; buttonhole and seamed openings for cording; threaded ties with and without a ruffle above the cord; fabric, braided, and ribbon handles; envelope and rectangular bottoms; decorative stitching, etc. It was fun and I now know what’s easy, what’s time-consuming, and some of what does and doesn’t work real well. All the bags turned out nicely, and I’m ready to get started on Kari’s and my Christmas bag project.

Dean’s birthday was the earliest, so he opened his gifts first.

Next on the calendar was Teddy, who is now a teenager. They grow up so fast!

Kari’s birthday fell last, so she was third to open her gifts. That box in front of Kari is filled with bag-making Christmas fabric and notions. It was part of Kathy’s and Annette’s birthday gift to help Kari get started sewing her Christmas gift bags.

About a month ago, Kari told me that if Ted and I need a birthday gift idea for her, she’d like a bicycle helmet. She has one, but she hates wearing it because it’s uncomfortable. One time when she was at our house, she borrowed my helmet and said she liked it so much that if we didn’t give her a nice helmet for her birthday, she was going to buy one herself. In my opinion, that gave Ted and me a clear direction for what to give her for her birthday.

Because shipping sometimes equals or exceeds the cost of the gift, Kathy and Annette included Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts for Ted and me too, so we expanded the birthday celebration parameters.

While we were spending time visiting, Kathy and Annette brought up how difficult it sometimes is to take a photo with a cell phone when your finger or thumb can’t reach the shutter button. I showed Kathy how I use a floating shutter button and then we looked through her settings until we found one that will allow her and Annette to touch any point on the screen to take a picture. We tried it out with a selfie without considering the background or anything else–we just wanted to try clicking the screen to make sure this worked like it should. The picture turned out pretty decent–not counting the overhead light whiting out my left side.

Teddy had the honor of selecting the birthday cake. He made it himself and got creative with a family favorite–ice cream cake. I might have these flavors wrong, but I think the three parts of the cake were: (1) chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce and mint Oreo crumbs for the topping; (2) vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce and chopped butterscotch chips in the topping; and (3) traditional vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce and regular Oreo crumbs for topping. So many choices!

The family time was great but, as always, ended too soon. We all hope to have another get-together soon and (hopefully) with better weather. We were all looking forward to some pool and hot tub time, but the weather was cool and rainy all day. Pool and hot tub next time, right? Right.