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.

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.

A few weeks ago, Jeff and La were able to visit Alex and Kaitlyn to see their first grandchild. It’s still hard for me to believe that Ted and I have a child old enough to be a grandparent and that we are great-grandparents, but we’re excited about it and are looking forward to meeting Ollie later this year. Jeff posted some very nice photos of Ollie with his grandpa and grandma, and I’m shamelessly lifting them for my blog because I like them so much.

First, we have Jeff with Ollie.

Next, we have La and Ollie. Does she look old enough to be a Grandma?

And finally, my favorite. Jeff described this picture as Grandpa and his talented grandson singing a cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

Note: All photo and copyright (if any) credit goes to Jeff. Thanks, Grandpa Jeff.

For several years, Kari has has been telling me she wants to learn to sew. A few years ago, I gave her a Christmas gift coupon for free sewing lessons, and she finally cashed it in. She decided to make draperies for Teddy’s bedroom. Her theory for choosing that project was that draperies would be pretty easy because they’re all straight seams.

Kari and I shopped together for fabric. We talked about different styles of draperies she could make and then we did some browsing. She took pictures of fabrics she thought Teddy would like, then went back to the store a few days later to purchase her final selections.

We decided to work at my house because I have a project room where we could simply leave things in progress. Kari measured Teddy’s window, then brought her fabric and her sewing box to my house. Before we went to work, we took some time to compare our sewing boxes. We have matching boxes because my mother bought one for herself and one for me when I was in college, and Kari has my mother’s box, including its contents. We shared memories of my mom / Kari’s grandma while we looked through the sewing boxes. Some of the items in our boxes match because my mom provided me with the same items she had.

The first day of a sewing project is kind of dull because it’s all prep work: figuring, measuring, squaring the fabric, marking, cutting, etc. At the end of the session, you have nothing to show for those hours except a pile of cut fabric. We started by measuring and cutting the fabric. I had some leftover lining that I convinced Kari to use for Teddy’s drapes, so we measured and cut the lining too.

Because Kari decided to hang the panels from grommets, I suggested a heavyweight interfacing at the top to keep the fabric in the header from becoming floppy. Kari got a lesson on how to use a pressing cloth to apply iron-on interfacing.

The spool pin on Kari’s sewing machine is broken and the replacement she ordered hasn’t arrived, so we used my sewing machine. Here’s a picture of Kari attaching the lining to the fabric. After sewing the fabric and the lining together, Kari told me I was right about the lining. (I knew she’d like it.)

Neither of us had ever used grommets, but we discovered that they’re pretty easy to install: mark, cut, and snap together. Kari did a perfect job of grommet installation.

Then it was time to hem the first panel. Using Kari’s window measurements, we pinned the hem in place and she took the panel home and hung it from her new rod to check the length. All that time we spent measuring paid off: it was perfect. When she brought the panel back to my house, we marked and sewed the lining and the drapery hems.

It took four sewing sessions to finish both panels. After the first session, Kari said she would enjoy using my “heritage” sewing machine. (That would be my now-58-year-old sewing machine, which I haven’t had the heart to get rid of. I bought it in college and it has sentimental value to me.) I set up my vintage machine for Kari and she used it for the remaining sewing sessions. In the photo below, she’s finishing the topstitching on the side hems of the second panel.

Kari said she wanted a picture of both of us with her finished draperies, so we called Ted to play cameraman. Here we are showing off Kari’s successful first sewing project.

And voilá! Teddy has new draperies in his bedroom. Don’t they look nice?

Kari told me this project has inspired her. Now she wants to make a cover for her sewing machine, draperies for other windows in her house, and Christmas gift bags. She was disappointed when I told her we’ll have to wait for late summer or early fall for the Christmas fabrics to be available in the stores. I’m looking forward to sewing together again. It reminds me of my mom teaching me to sew. Pass it on, right?

Ted and I are great-grandparents! Our first great-grandchild was born last week. His name is Oliver Quentin and he is the oldest son3–the oldest son of the oldest son (Alex) of our oldest son (Jeff). We’re definitely going to add Ted to the group and take a four-generation photo of the men when we meet Oliver. Ted and I are excited about the new addition to our family and we are looking forward to visiting Alex, Kaitlyn, and Oliver later this year. I’ve decided to be GG (Great Grandma) to our great-grandchildren; Ted wants to be GP (Great grandPa).

Meanwhile, I need a mental great-grandma image adjustment. Here’s my great-grandma (seated) with her three children. The lady on the right is my grandma. I was three years old when this picture was taken. To be fair, my great-grandma is eleven years older in this picture than I am now.

Here’s a four-generation picture of baby Jeff with his mom (me), his grandma (my mom) and his great-grandma (my grandma). Jeff was Grandma’s first great-grandchild and she is the same age in this picture as I am now.

Here’s Oliver’s great-grandma. I think there’s a bit of a contrast between those other two great-grandmas and me.

Great-grandmas aren’t what they used to be, but great-grandbabies are still just as cute as ever.

A few days ago, I received an invitation to attend a Zoom baby shower for Kaitlyn, the mother-to-be of Ted’s and my first great-grandchild–a boy.

Today was the big day. People who lived nearby attended the shower in person; those of us living farther away logged into Zoom. Eventually, we had five Zoom participants and ten people at the house. We started with Kaitlyn opening gifts.

After that, there were snacks. You can see members of the house group (upper left of the Zoom screen, below) leaning over the table to grab some food and a beverage. The woman with the long blonde hair in the house group is Kyra. Kaitlyn is on the far left, facing the camera. One of Kaitlyn’s grandmas, her mother, and her sister were present at the house. The lady on the right in the lower right of the Zoom screen below is Kaitlyn’s other grandma. While the house crowd filled plates and cups, the Zoom crowd imagined snacks. La called me later for an after-shower chat and we agreed the food was delicious.

Then it was time to play the obligatory shower game. It was a version of “The Price Is Right.” We guessed the prices of a variety of baby items purchased at Wal-Mart. The item was presented in a close-up view at the camera and each of us gave our best guess. La and Shelley had the most right answers. During our after-shower chat, La admitted that she wasn’t exactly guessing; she had pulled up on her computer screen and was looking up the items as they were presented. Checking Shelley’s line of vision (lower left of the Zoom screen above), she might have done the same. I admit that I thought of doing that, but I didn’t feel like going to the trouble.

As we were leaving the Zoom meeting, one of the house attendees told Kaitlyn to stand up so we could see her baby bump (below). Her baby boy is due just three days before my birthday. I will be thrilled if he is born on my birthday. If that doesn’t happen, I will be thrilled that I share my birthday month with my first great-grandchild.

I like seeing my family on Zoom better than just talking on the phone because it seems more like we’re really visiting each other. It was nice to be included in the baby shower, but it will be even nicer when this pandemic is history and we can get together in person again. I’m hoping that will be possible later this summer, so Ted and I can meet our first great-grandchild and our ninth grandchild before they’re all grown up.

Lots of things are different in 2020 and Christmas is one of those things. We celebrated with Kari’s family on Christmas Day, but it seemed incomplete because we were missing Kathy and Annette, who usually join us. They chose not to travel this year because of the pandemic.

Last year, Ted and I were in Brisbane, Australia on Christmas, so we didn’t decorate indoors, bake cookies, or make special Christmas candies. This year, we did it all. Here’s our decorated family room.

Ever since Thom was old enough to buy gifts for the family, he and I have exchanged a Lego Christmas set. Most of my Christmas Lego from Thom is on the display shelf above the TV; the overflow is in front of the TV. This year, my Christmas Lego set from Thom was a pretty Christmas tree that spins on its stand.

We had a wonderful Christmas Day with Kari’s family. They arrived in the early afternoon. Before we started opening our gifts, we took a family photo. I took one, then Dean took one, so one of us appears in each picture. Sky’s girlfriend, June, joined us.

After some settling-in time, we opened our gifts. This year, several of us chose to give a variety of smaller gifts to others instead of a single large item, so there were a lot of gifts to open.

There was only one minor glitch. Dylan included the book Red Mars on his wish list, and it was one of the things Ted and I bought for him. Or so we thought. When he opened it up, Kari asked if that was the book he wanted. His tactful response was, “It’s close.” It was Red Moon, by the same author. Yikes! I told him I’d get it exchanged, and Ted and I puzzled over how we got the wrong book. We double-checked our online order which clearly stated Red Mars and included a picture of the book. I ordered it online for curbside pickup and I think the employee who brought it to the car grabbed the wrong book. Neither Ted nor I noticed the error while we were wrapping it. I took Red Moon back to the store the next day. The clerk verified my order and the error, gave me the correct book, and thanked me for bringing Red Moon back–maybe because it cost nearly twice as much as Red Mars and I’d only paid the price of Red Mars. Here’s the book Dylan wanted. It looks like a good story. I might have to ask him to lend it to me when he’s finished reading it.

Opening all those gifts was exhausting, so when we finished, the activity level dropped while I and my helpers prepared dinner.

I made the main course and Kari brought the salad and the dessert. Everything was delicious and I made the tables look Christmas-y. Check out my Christmas tree-folded napkins.

After dinner, we were too full for dessert, so it was hot tub time. With an outdoor temperature of 19 degrees, we had to hustle in our swimsuits from the kitchen door to the warm water. After that, the cold air wasn’t a problem and we were warm enough to move more slowly on our way back into the house. The water we dribbled on the patio from our wet feet turned almost instantly to ice on the chilled concrete.

After we were all dressed again, it was time to eat the cheesecake Kari brought and to visit with each other a little bit more before Kari’s family left to go home. Dean played Uber driver and took June home–with Sky’s help, of course.

Our Christmas celebration continued virtually. We visited with Kathy and Annette via Zoom on December 26.

Jeff and La spent a few days with Kyra in Provo, UT for Christmas, so we visited with them via Google Meet on December 28.

Thom and Katie visited her family after Christmas, so we celebrated with them today, giving us a week-long holiday celebration with our family.

It was a different kind of holiday for us, but it was good. It took a week, and it gave us the opportunity to celebrate Christmas four times–once with each of our children’s families. Happy new year to all!

Not too long ago, Thom sent me a picture of a magazine with Thom and Katie in the cover picture. The photo was taken in the North Cascades by a man who used to work with Thom.

On that same trip, Thom took a picture of the other guy and Katie. Thom’s picture was the cover photo on a book Thom gave us for Christmas a few years ago.

Here’s a close-up of Thom’s friend and Katie in the picture. I’m sure they thoroughly enjoyed that trip, but I’m not a camper and, while the view is an experience in itself, that doesn’t look like a comfortable place to pitch a tent and sleep. Where’s the nearest hotel?

This year, I am thankful for many, many things and one of them is Zoom. Only Kari’s family joined us for Thanksgiving dinner, but through the magic of the internet and the Zoom app, we were joined by all of our children’s families for a nice chat before dinner. It’s not the same as being together in person, but it’s the next best thing.

Some people (Laralee) say it’s not Thanksgiving without turkey. Most people have a traditional turkey with stuffing as the entreé; we were non-traditional and had turkey as an after-dinner snack. Ted and I saw this at a local chocolatier’s shop and decided to support local business. It’s a three-pound chocolate turkey. Teddy’s eyes (figuratively) popped out of his head when he saw it and realized it was made of his favorite food group.

Before Kari’s family arrived, Ted and I had the tables set. For some social distance, we put the adults at one table and those under 18 at another. The adult table got the turkey centerpiece.

Dylan brought some board games to play, so the gang headed to the basement for that. The kitchen table Ted and I bought with wedding gift money 51+ years ago lives on.

After dinner and pie (Kari’s signature pumpkin pie made with homemade pumpkin filling and my signature apple pie made with locally-grown apples), it was time for some turkey. Dylan broke off the first piece, and then we all took turns. There was a lot of turkey to break so everyone had at least two turns at destruction.

At this point, the kids suggested we “stuff” this turkey with m&ms. We didn’t have that many m&ms handy, so we kept breaking it instead.

Kari wondered if it was possible to break off the head like a chocolate Easter bunny.

The answer is “yes.” The head was solid, not hollow like the rest of the turkey.

After everyone tried a piece of chocolate to verify that it was edible, it was time to put on swimsuits and head for the hot tub. I divided the chocolate into two bags–one for Kari’s family and one for Ted and me–and then Dean and I did the dishes while the others sat in the hot tub. I was busy with the dishes and enjoying some one-on-one time with Dean, so I didn’t think of taking a picture of the hot tub crowd. Imagine six people sitting here in swirling 102-degree water.

2020 has presented all of us with many challenges, but it has also provided us with many blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Alex sent me a happy text last week.

We have eight grandchildren–seven boys and one girl. Alex is the oldest grandchild and it looks like he and Kaitlyn will carry on our tradition of boys. I hope this COVID thing ends so Ted and I can travel to see our first great-grandchild before his high school graduation. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but you know what I mean.

Yesterday was Sky’s birthday. He invited us to join him and the family for dinner and the evening. What do you buy a 17-year-old boy? Sky sent us a list of things he likes and–surprise!–that’s what we bought for him.

We had a delicious dinner followed by birthday cake made and frosted by Sky and June. Kari cut a piece of cake to hold the candles so that when Sky blew them out and possibly spread germs and spit on the cake, the rest of us would be COVID-safe. She couldn’t get all the candles on one piece, so she had to cut another.

The closely-spaced candles created quite a blaze of light. The spacing also made it easy to blow them all out on the first try. When Sky took the candles out to eat the cake, it looked like it was perforated to break into small pieces.

The evening included a tour of Sky’s room and his presentation of the new computer he received for his birthday. He says a full PC set-up will make his online school work easier to do than a Chromebook or a laptop. There’s a definite theme to his room. Check out the background picture on the PC monitor and items on the shelves. Sky explained that the bed is messy because the table on which he keeps all those items was pressed into service for dinner.

We finished the evening with two rounds of “Between Two Castles,” a board game of Dylan’s in which players help design castles for Mad King Ludwig. It was fun and easy to learn.

Here’s our almost-all-grown-up grandson. Happy birthday, Sky.

Ted and I finally went more than 20 miles from home! Yippie! We drove to Kirksville to spend a day with Kathy and Annette. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we had a nice drive and a wonderful day together.

We had lunch at the house and then headed for Santa Fe Lake and spent the afternoon there. There were a few other people at the lake, but they were all watching their children play in the sandy beach area and on the raft which has a great slide. Splash!

Later in the afternoon, a group came to celebrate a birthday in the pavilion. We saw them cutting and passing the cake around, but they didn’t offer any to us.

Annette and Ted took the first turn paddling the kayak around the lake. It was about a 45-minute circuit, but the timing depends on the paddlers’ moods. Shall we just stop and admire this view for awhile? Shall we follow the shoreline all the way or cut across this little cove?

Luckily, there was a lookout posted to spot Kathy and me when we returned to the pier.

Annette pulled us up on the shore to stabilize the kayak before we climbed out.

The girls packed an ice chest full of snacks. We all agreed that for some unknown reason, being on the water always makes us hungry. There was plenty of food, so no one had to go hungry. Whew!

We had a pizza dinner at the house and some more visiting time, before Ted and I headed home. After being home for six months, it was wonderful to escape for a day!

We have an outdoor storage cabinet that holds a variety of pool toys and floats.

The white basket holds balls, snorkels, kickboards, etc.

Guess what Dylan and Teddy always choose to play with.

The bucket used to be bright red and unbroken, but heavy use in the pool took its toll.

The red bucket is the equivalent of the cardboard box on Christmas morning, and the kids have worn it out. In an act of generosity and mercy, Ted went to Home Depot and spent $3.00 on a new bucket. The boys were taking turns with it, so Ted went back and invested in another one. It’s amazing what can be done with a bucket in a pool. The boys have a variety of activities they do underwater with the buckets inverted over their heads, including talking with each other and trying to set underwater endurance records.

The most recent game required two people and two buckets. While Teddy was underwater with an inverted bucket over his head, Dylan (above the surface) prepared the second bucket by inverting it and pushing it underwater to Teddy. When Teddy ran out of air in bucket #1, he held his breath a few seconds and switched to bucket #2, remaining underwater. Then the process was repeated for this endurance test.

Teddy was underwater so long, Kari and I were a bit worried. Kari kept asking Dylan if Teddy was still ok and she eventually suggested it was time for Teddy to re-surface. Teddy’s first words were, “I could’ve stayed under longer.” He was underwater for 13 buckets of air. I have a hunch they’re going to try to break that record next time.

Getting ready to go underwater.
Dylan thought if he stretched the neckline of his shirt around the bucket, it might make a better seal, allowing him to stay underwater longer. It didn’t.
Relaxing before going back to bucket activity. Even with two new buckets, the red one was hauled out for more action.

How do my grandchildren age so much faster than I do? We celebrated Dylan’s 15th birthday with him and enjoyed his traditional summer ice cream birthday cake. Dylan opted out of us singing “Happy Birthday” with the excuse that “You never know what to do while everyone is singing to you.”

I received a happy text message from Alex today.

Even better, I might share my birthday with my first great-grandchild.

To celebrate Independence Day, Zaque’s group of missionaries decided to re-create photos of family members who had served in the U.S. armed forces. Here’s Zaque, re-creating a picture of his Great-Grandpa Pete. He’s not really a look-alike for my dad, but I think the family genes are visible. (Raised left eyebrow, jaw line.)

If I’d known what Zaque was planning to do when he requested a military photo, I’d have sent this one.

On Mother’s Day, we had video calls with all the kids (it didn’t work for Thom, but we tried). That was fun, and we enjoyed spending at least visual time with them. Today, for the first time in 8+ weeks, we were physically together with Kari’s family. We celebrated Teddy’s and Kari’s birthdays on their new covered porch that Dean built. We sat socially distant from each other–Ted and I on one end of the porch and Kari’s family on the other end–but it was so good to see them in person after such a long time.

Teddy’s birthday came before Kari’s, so he opened his gifts from us first. He started with the small one–two cloth pig-patterned face masks made of leftover fabric from the quilt I made for him. It’s a sign of the times that a gift of face masks wasn’t a disappointment.

The more exciting gift came next–a badminton set that was on his wish list. Teddy kept his face mask on until it was time to eat birthday cake. There was also some chocolate for our choco-holic grandson.

Then it was Kari’s turn. I made face masks for her, knitted some dishcloths (on her lap), and added a few other things, including some chocolate. Dylan is giving his full attention to the note I wrote to Kari.

This was a birthday party, so there was cake. Teddy decorated a chocolate cake to look like a pig. He even molded chocolate pigs and applied them to the frosting. The frosting was very pink, the cake was very chocolate, and it tasted very good. You can see the cake near the top of the first picture in this post.

We had a nice long visit and Dean joined us when he came home from work. The only sad part was when Ted and I were leaving. Teddy came running out of the house to give us good-bye hugs and we had to step back. He stopped and said, “Oh, yeah.” We still can’t do hugs, and that was sad, but it was wonderful to see each other in person again. Happy birthday Dean (it was too soon to meet in person on his birthday), Kari, and Teddy.

Note: The following day, Kari sent me a text with a picture of the badminton set in action.

Kathy and Annette came for an overnight visit to celebrate my birthday. Luckily, I was going to count their visit day as my “official” birthday, because on my real birthday, everything went wrong. Nothing I did all day turned out right–it either took much longer than it should have because of interruptions and challenges, or it totally flopped. After Kathy and Annette arrived, however, everything was good. Even my traditional birthday Vienna Torte was a success. Kathy and Annette brought good vibes to my birthday weekend.

Before Kathy and Annette arrived, my birthday gift from Ted was delivered by FedEx. It came from Hana, Maui.

Kathy is far more artistic than I am, so I asked her to arrange the flowers in a vase for me. She looked at them and said, “Of course. That’s easy.” Meanwhile, my thought was, “Whew! I didn’t know where to begin.”

After a few minutes, Kathy’s efforts produced a beautiful tropical flower arrangement.

Afternoon temperatures were only in the 50s, but the wind was calm and the sun was warm, so we went e-bike riding. After showing Kathy and Annette how e-bikes work (not much different from regular bikes), Kathy and I went out first. We biked about 8 miles and then Kathy and Annette biked for another 6 miles while Ted and I put dinner (and Vienna Torte) on the table.

I always enjoy my birthday–even if it’s not on my actual birth date, and especially with good company and Vienna Torte.

Jeff and La flew to St. Louis last weekend. They were supposed to arrive by 6:00 p.m. and our plans were to go out to dinner. Unfortunately, there were weather (snow) delays in Denver, and they didn’t arrive until about 1:00 a.m. At 9:00 p.m., Ted and I heated some soup for dinner and Jeff and La had airport hamburgers.

Kathy arrived Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, Annette had a bad cold and couldn’t join us. We spent time at our house and at Kari’s house. It’s always good to catch up with each other in person. Sunday afternoon was unexpectedly warm (upper 50s), so it was a good day to take a walk outside.

Indoors, there was time for a variety of board games and some sheephead at Kari’s house.

The young girl with dark hair and glasses is Sky’s girlfriend, June. She’s a brave lady to spend a day with Sky’s extended family, meeting Sky’s grandparents and an aunt and uncle.

There was time to relax, playing online games and sharing pictures of our recent trip to Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.

I wasn’t up to full strength yet after developing bronchitis from the brush fire smoke on our trip, so Ted and I decided to have the evening dinners catered. So easy!

And all too soon, the visit was over. Kathy went back to Kirksville; the kids went back to school; Kari and Dean went back to work; and Jeff and La flew back to Montana. Ted and I talked about what a nice weekend it had been. We wish you could have joined us, Thom and Katie.

It’s November, and that means the winter concert season has arrived. Ted and I attended Teddy’s concert tonight and, as always, enjoyed it. As usual, it was a full house. The bleachers were filled, and people were sitting on folding chairs and on the floor along the other three walls of the gym. Or in the case of one man in the photos below, standing in the doorway.

The middle school concert includes the fifth grade (on the right) and the sixth grade (on the left) orchestras.
Our shining star is Teddy, indicated by the green arrow. He plays the viola in the sixth grade orchestra.

At the end of the concert, the director invited us to the spring concert and told us the students will be playing the same selections, so we will be able to tell how much they’ve improved. It’s true: each year, there is a very noticeable improvement after six more months of practice. On the other hand, Ted and I have been attending these concerts since Sky joined the orchestra when he was in the fifth grade, and the songs have always been the same. As a grandparent, I don’t really mind, since I only hear the music twice annually, but aren’t the music teachers bored to death, teaching the same songs every day, all year, every year?

Whatever. Ted and I plan to attend the spring concert and will enjoy hearing how much the performers have improved.