Ted and I were amazed at the generosity of our children when they came to our house to celebrate Ted’s birthday. Due to the pandemic, we had to cancel our scheduled 2020 cruise to South America and we have not yet re-scheduled that trip. Imagine our surprise when Ted opened one of his birthday gifts and saw these vouchers for upgraded accommodations and for two of the excursions we were planning to take in South America. The photo was on one side of each voucher, and the text was on the reverse side.

There was a voucher for upgraded accommodations, . . .

. . . one for a national park in Patagonia, . . .

. . . and one for Machu Picchu.

Also included in the gift box was a personal letter from Pam, our travel agent.

Ted and I were nearly speechless. I remember saying something like “I guess we’re finally going to South America.” I think Ted said something brilliant like “Wow!” We couldn’t believe the generosity of our children. I mean, really! This is an over-the-top, high-end birthday gift! After a few minutes of our astonishment, Jeff said, “Ok, I think this has gone on long enough” and informed us that this was a gag gift. He had created the vouchers on his computer and printed them on very authentic-looking semi-rigid cardstock.

If Ted and/or I had read the very fine print at the bottom of each voucher, we would have known this was a gag. The three vouchers had a total of 99 different disclaimers! They were worth reading because they were so creative, but who reads the fine print when they’re so overwhelmed by the large print and the photo? Here are some of the disclaimers.

Penthouse Veranda: Warranty does not cover . . . typographical errors . . . nearby supernova . . . falling rocks . . . sonic boom vibrations . . . leaky roof . . . forest fire . . . missing or altered serial numbers . . . dropping the item . . .

Gateway to Patagonia: No animals were harmed during the production of this product . . . actual mileage may vary . . . one size fits all . . . at participating locations only . . . beware of dogs . . . some assembly required . . . no serviceable parts inside . . .

Best of Peru: Rent at your own risk . . . keep away from sunlight . . . may contain nuts . . . batteries not included . . . parental guidance advised . . . hand wash only . . . refrigerate after opening . . . do not puncture or incinerate . . .

The letter was written by Kaitlyn, our granddaughter-in-law. Jeff (and possibly others) taught her how to write in cursive so the letter would look authentic and so we wouldn’t recognize our kids’ handwriting. We’ve been making travel plans with Pam since 2015 and, after each trip, she sends us a personal, handwritten “welcome home” note. If Ted and I had not been so distracted by the extravagance of the “vouchers,” we would have immediately recognized that this was not Pam’s handwriting.

We recently had a meeting with Pam, so we took our “vouchers” to her and said we wanted to use them for a make-up trip to South America next year. She, too, was amazed at Viking’s generosity. Then we told her the birthday gift story and showed her the letter “she” wrote. In an astonished voice, she asked us, “Couldn’t you tell it wasn’t my handwriting?!” Again, the pictures and the large print overshadowed the details.

Pam asked if we were disappointed when we found out this was a joke and we said that no, we were actually relieved because it made us uncomfortable that our kids had spent that much money on us. After the “reality reveal” on Ted’s birthday, we had a good family laugh and looked forward to using the “vouchers” to fool Pam.

Well, played, kids. Well played. 🙂

While we were visiting Jeff and La’s family, we all wanted to take some family photos. Kyra and I were not feeling our best, and we both needed an afternoon to rest and re-charge before having more group fun. We sent everyone else on their way to scout out photo shoot sites, and they did a great job selecting a nice park not too far away. We took pictures of just about every possible combination of our group members. Here are some of my favorites.

First, the entire family, . . .

. . . then, Jeff’s family (where’s Ollie?), . . .

. . . and then, Alex’s family (ahh, Ollie’s back).

Here’s a picture of Ted and me with three of our grandchildren and Kaitlyn, our granddaughter-in-law, as well as our great-grandson, Ollie.

Here are the grandkids. I love this picture!

We definitely needed a photo of great-grandma and great-grandpa with Ollie. Jeff said he took over 100 family photos during this photo shoot, and this is the only one for which Ollie smiled. He’s sitting on my lap, so I’m sure it’s Gigi magic.

A four-generation photo was another requirement.

The adult men wanted a photo of themselves.

Not to be outdone, so did the women. You can easily see that the women are more fun than the men. 🙂

Last, but not least, here’s a picture of Ted and me. Even after 54 years, he’s still The One.

In late April, Ted and I went to Utah to visit with Jeff and La’s family. This was our last opportunity to be with the entire family at one location now that Alex, Kaitlyn, and Kyra have all graduated from college. Alex and Kyra had already accepted full-time jobs in their chosen fields and were getting ready to move closer to their work places. This was a good opportunity to have a belated recognition of Ollie’s second birthday (March) and to congratulate the college graduates.

We started with some family time at Alex and Kaitlyn’s home. They were packing and preparing to move a week after our visit. You can see packing boxes in the picture below. They are very excited about moving from a small “married students” campus apartment to a real house, with lots of room. It’s a little weird for me to look at my first baby and realize that he is now Grandpa Jeff, holding his grandson, Ollie. Look at the puppy Ollie is holding. We bought one just like it for Hadley last Christmas and she liked it so much, we thought Ollie would enjoy having one as well. He did. Maybe he and Hadley can share puppy stories the next time they’re together.

The graduation card we bought for Alex played “Pomp and Circumstance” (the graduation march) and had wiggling cutouts inside. Grandpa Ted found it easy to entertain Ollie with the card.

A long time ago, I met a great-grandma in a restaurant. While chatting with her, she mentioned that her great-grandkids call her Gigi, as in G-G for Great-Grandma. I decided right then that, when the time came, I wanted Gigi for my great-grandma name too. Last summer, I bought this T-shirt in honor of Ollie, and I finally had a chance to wear it while I was with him.

Here’s a close-up so you can see what the shirt says. It’s so true! (We baby boomers will always be cool.)

During our visit, we all had time to visit with each other, to get outside in the beautiful weather, to play some games, and to have some good downtime together. Here’s one of the downtime moments. Like father, like son?

For dinner one evening, we made individual pizzas. What an easy and delicious way to customize what you want to eat!

One afternoon, we went to a nearby park to take family pictures. While we were there, we took some time to enjoy the park and the springtime weather. Here’s Ollie in a swing.

And here’s Zack, getting out of a swing.

Kyra actually graduated in December, but we recognized the event during our visit. She was our first grandchild to graduate from college. How can we be old enough for that?

Alex and Kaitlyn graduated in early May–a husband/wife achievement. That makes three college graduates and six high school graduates among our grandchildren at this point.

As always, it was wonderful to be together with our family–our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchild. Ted and I are definitely living the good life.

Our family has much to celebrate in a three-week period beginning in late April. We say “happy birthday” to Kathy, Thom, Dean, Theo, and Kari, and “happy Mother’s Day” to the moms. Kathy and Annette joined Ted and me and Kari’s family to share a day of happiness to honor these events. Thom lives too far away to join us, so we filled his place with Dylan’s high school graduation. It was a fun-filled day, and we ended it with dinner at Steak ‘n’ Shake.

Steak ‘n’ Shake has only recently opened for dining in. SnS used to advertise that other fast-food restaurants were “work”-aurants where the customers did all the work except cooking. SnS, on the other hand, offered a true “rest”-aurant experience and served its customers with real dishes at the table. That’s no longer true. We ordered at the kiosk, picked up our food when our party name was called, and cleared our table of the paper food wrappings. Even though SnS has become the work-aurant it used to belittle, the food and shakes were still good. One of the staff members took our picture to save the moment for us.

Scrolling through photos on Ted’s phone, we found these good memories.

It was fun to celebrate Hadley’s first birthday with her in 2022. It was even more fun to spend time with her and her big brother.

Sefton decorated his waffle. Creativity abounds!

For his graduation dinner, Maggiano’s presented Sky with a complimentary dessert sampler. It’s pretty obvious that Sky enjoyed the treat.

Our grandchildren are growing up so fast! Dylan, our sixth grandchild, graduated from high school in June. During his junior and senior years, Dylan spent part of each school day at the Lewis & Clark Career Center preparing to become an electrician after graduation. The photo below shows the 2023 graduating electricians-to-be. Dylan is standing on the right (green shirt).

Typical of Dylan, he chose a low-key celebration. For years, he made it clear that he didn’t want a big party–he only wanted the family to go to Dairy Queen to celebrate with a large dip cone. So that’s what we did, and here we are, waiting for our DQ treats.

After his graduation, Dylan was hired by a local electrical contractor as an apprentice and has started working in his chosen field. Of course, he needed a car to go to work. He used his savings to buy this new-to-him Honda Civic. Wow! He’s a graduate, he has wheels, and he has a career-path full-time job! Yes, our grandchildren are growing up.

Congratulations, Dylan. Grandpa and I are very proud of you.

All four of our children and their minor children were with us to celebrate Ted’s birthday, so the event was not ignored, but with all the things we had going on from August-December 2022, Ted and I didn’t have time for our me-and-you birthday celebration for him.

Ted’s and my birthday gift to each other every year is a special dinner at a special restaurant. This year, Ted chose Annie Gunn’s–a restaurant that’s near our home, has been in business for 150 years, and where, for the 50+ years we’ve lived here, we have repeatedly said “We should go there sometime.” Wow! The food was so well-prepared and so delicious that the restaurant was immediately added to our “Top 5 Restaurants list.” (We couldn’t decide which of the five we should delete, so we decided to work toward a “Top 10 Restaurants” list.) We’ll be back at Annie Gunn’s sooner than 50 years from now!

The meal started with a complimentary glass of champagne . . .

. . . and ended with a complimentary piece of warm apple pie topped with a scoop of cinnamon-flavored ice cream beside a birthday candle. Between the pie and the champagne, there was an outstanding steak dinner with the most tender steaks we’ve ever had. If we had chosen the Kobe beef option, I can’t imagine how the meat could have been more tender.

Although Ted’s and my birthdays are three months apart, we celebrated my birthday shortly after his Annie Gunn’s evening. Ted’s family birthday party took place a week early to accommodate the kids’ availability, and mine took place a week late for the same reason. Our daughters and their families were with us for my birthday and we had a great time.

Because of the shipping costs and work schedules, we celebrated Kathy’s April birthday as well, with gifts for both of us.

And, of course, we had my traditional Vienne Torte for dessert.

For my me-and-you birthday dinner with Ted, I’ve selected Bentley’s at the Lake of the Ozarks–another of our “Top now-10 Restaurants,” but we have to wait a few weeks to go there. It’s a beautiful spring drive when the pink redbuds and the white dogwoods are blooming, but both trees are still only at the budding stage. It’s all good, though. It just means that Ted and I both have a nice, extended birthday season. Happiness abounds.

Ted knows how much I love spring. I love it so much, that I count December 22 as the first day of spring. It’s the day after the winter solstice when the days begin getting longer.

Ted loves me so much that, to help me celebrate spring, he buys me a pot of spring bulbs as soon as they are available. He’s picky in his selection–he looks for the pot with the most closed buds so that my joy in watching them open will last as long as possible. This year, he brought me pink tulips.


Self-improvement. Can it become too much of a good thing?

Right now, I’m practicing on my (untouched for years) piano; learning Spanish; and working my way back into great physical shape after two months of minimal physical activity following foot surgery late last fall. I became involved in these three activities simultaneously in a variety of ways.

Piano. As Ted and were moving furniture from room to room for our interior house update and getting rid of things we no longer wanted to keep, I looked at my piano and made a decision: I would either get back to playing it regularly within the next six months, or I would get rid of it. There’s no point in keeping it just to have something to dust.

Spanish. I’ve always thought it would be great to speak a second language. I took German for three years in high school and in college, but there are few (if any) opportunities to use it in the middle of the U.S. When our older son decided to learn Spanish online, he invited family members to join him and to support each other as a group. Quite a few of us, including me, accepted his invitation. Maybe when Ted and I are in Barcelona later this year, I’ll have an opportunity to speak with someone and to say, “¡Hola! Mucho gusto. Yo hablos español.”

Exercise. Daily physical activity and exercise have always been a part of my life. After being off my feet for two months following my foot surgery, it was discouraging that I didn’t feel strong, and that my range of motion and flexibility were greatly reduced. Use it or lose it, right?

When I started these activities six weeks ago, my goals were 30 minutes of piano, 15 minutes of Spanish lessons, and 30 minutes of exercise daily. In reality, I’m spending about an hour each day on each of the three activities because I’m enjoying every one of them. That’s three hours of my day 6-7 days each week for self-improvement activities. Is that a good lifestyle or too much of a good thing? Either way, I’m having fun with all of them.

To keep your brain healthy, research says we need to keep trying new challenges. Our brains need exercise just as much as our muscles do. My exercise routine will take care of my muscles, and the Spanish and piano work will help my brain. To prove it, La sent me this.

Wow! Who (except La) knew that piano playing involved all of this?! If I add my Spanish lessons and my exercise routine, my brain and body are getting a total workout every day. Good for me!

. . . and all through the house, things looked pretty clean and festive. All four of our kids (and their families) were coming home on December 13 so that we could celebrate Ted’s birthday and Christmas together. The early celebrations turned out to be a good thing, given the horrible weather across the country and the Southwest Airlines meltdown the following week. Ted and I were really busy for about 10 days ahead of time, putting things in order and cleaning up after the contractors left our house, (more on that another time). We managed to get all the beds made up for the eight kids and grandkids who were staying with us; we arranged catered meals for our crowd of fifteen people so that we’d have time for fun instead doing the cooking and cleanup; we decorated the house and the yard; we bought and wrapped gifts; and we made Christmas candy and cookies. Here’s Ted helping with the cookie-making.

One day, our family activity was a visit to the Science Center to have some fun. Everyone always likes to build the arches. They don’t stand alone until a tall-enough person puts the keystone block into place.

Hadley was fascinated by the planets and solar system features that appeared when she stepped in the right places on this mat.

I enjoyed the history of games exhibit. I’m old enough to remember all those boxed games in the photo below–in those boxes.

We selected another day to celebrate Ted’s birthday, starting with a visit to Historic Main Street in St. Charles. All the stores (and most of the shopkeepers) were decorated and dressed in holiday fashion and, just like us, there were lots of people enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Grandma’s Cookies is a favorite stop for warm cookies, hot chocolate, and coffee. You can see the line of people across the street, all waiting for a warm cookie. The line was actually three times longer than what you see in the photo below, but the cookies are worth the wait.

There were so many people downtown that we had to park quite far away. That gave our group a chance to walk back to our cars along the Missouri Riverfront and past the Katy train station.

On the way to our cars, we saw the Grinch biking on the Katy Trail, which runs along the Missouri River. It looks like he’s bringing Christmas, not stealing it. Check out the reindeer pulling his bike/sleigh.

Ted chose Fratelli’s Italian Restaurant for his birthday dinner–a gift from the kids, who included my meal as well. (We have great kids!) We were all so busy having a good time together that we didn’t think about taking birthday pictures, so here’s a picture of Ted on his 40th birthday. Except for the hair color and the huge 80s glasses, he doesn’t look much different all these years later. ♥♥

Another day was designated as our early Christmas Day together. We opened gifts, enjoyed Christmas cookies and candy, did a lot of talking, and played some games.

Thom helped Hadley get started with her pile of gifts.

She got a soft puppy from Grandma and Grandpa and immediately said “puppy” with a big smile. She has quite a large vocabulary for an 18-month-old.

We gave Sefton The Book With No Pictures. He could read the story himself and giggled at the nonsense words. While Sefton giggled, Hadley found a local newspaper in the magazine rack and decided to check out what’s happening in our area.

Ted and Annette have a reputation among family members for becoming a little ant-sy if the after-meal chatter continues too long and the dishes haven’t been started. At the first indication that it won’t be impolite to get up from the table to start loading the dishwasher, they are hard at work. In recognition of their efforts, Kathy and I designed and made buttons for them that read “#1 DISHES TEAM.” Here they are, wearing their buttons and doing what they do well.

You can tell by Annette’s and Hadley’s smiles in the photo above that, once again, we were having so much fun together, no one remembered to take a group photo to prove we were all together at the same time. Here’s a “half of the group” photo that Kari took at Ted’s birthday dinner at Fratelli’s. Like everyone else, she was having so much fun, she forgot to take a picture of the other half of the group at our second table.

And here’s a substitute Christmas family photo from 1994–an earlier Christmas when all the kids were home.

Katie found Thom and Hadley like this after all the celebrating.

And, just like that, it was over. The kids and grandkids headed back to their own homes. It was great to have them all here, and yes, it was a rush to be ready fifteen days before Christmas, but it left us with nothing to be done for the entire week preceding December 25. We had lots of time to relax and to remember and talk about how nice it was for all of us to be together.

On Christmas Day, Kari’s family came over so that our families could be together on the real holiday. She and I decided to serve finger foods only–minimal prep and minimal clean-up–before we all watched the new Elvis movie. It was another good day with our family.

With a little bit of furniture re-arrangement, we could all see Elvis on the TV screen around the Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas, happy new year, and peace on earth, goodwill to all.

For the first time in a number of years, we spent Thanksgiving with Kathy and Annette at their home. Countless other people were also using Travel Wednesday to reach their destinations. With all those other travelers and two minor traffic accidents as well, our drive took us an hour longer than usual. When we arrived, the table was set, the burning candles were scenting the air, and dinner was ready–good, warm baked potato soup with freshly-baked coffee cake. Perfect after a long drive. After dinner, we baked an apple and a pumpkin pie. They smelled so good, we thought it would be best to taste them while they were still at their peak: warm from baking. Awesome!

On Thanksgiving Day, we were treated to a delicious brunch in Kathy and Annette’s newly refinished dining room. The stripped, stained, and varnished hardwood floor, the newly painted walls, and the crown molding turned out beautifully.

After lunch, it was time for a walk for everyone except me–I’m still limited in the amount of time I can spend on my repaired right foot. I was content with some quiet time and the others were refreshed by a walk in the beautiful weather.

Thanksgiving dinner was easy. Literally. We had Easy Chicken. I’ve never been fond of turkey, and I heard that turkey is quite expensive this year. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but I know a lot of people who shared non-traditional Thanksgiving dinners this year–including one that featured all Italian food. If that’s a new trend, Ted and I were way ahead of the times with our family. I’ve never made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but for as long as we’ve been married, I’ve cooked what we call a “thankful” meal that gives everyone an opportunity to choose a food for which they are thankful. Some foods were the same every year, and some changed.

Before leaving home, Ted and I were shopping and I saw this sign.

In the photo of our Thanksgiving dinner, you can see that, in addition to Easy Chicken, we had lots of side dishes–including freshly-baked rolls. At the square dining table, everyone had a seat “next to the rolls.”

On Friday, we drove downtown and did a little shopping (only short stretches in each of three businesses in deference to my healing foot). Our last stop was a small gallery featuring local artists.

This sculpture caught my eye.

After another delicious dinner (pizza!), we played Mahjong and, too soon, it was time for Ted and me to go home. Our visits with our family are always too short, but we have several contractors coming to our house next week to make more progress on our interior update, and we need to begin our Christmas preparations. All of our children will be with us in mid-December to celebrate Ted’s birthday. While we’re together, we’ll also celebrate Christmas, but that means we all have to be ready for Christmas earlier than usual.

When we left for home, the weather was clear and cold. There was no wind at all, flags were hanging limply on their poles, and the moon had already set. It was a perfect night for star-gazing. On our way home, Ted and I pulled off the highway, parked on a country road, and looked upward. Wow! The Milky Way was huge and bright and seemed to fill most of the sky. Orion was low in the southern sky. (It was odd to see Orion in the northern sky when we were in Australia in December 2019.) The view was so breathtaking, we hated to get back into the car, but it was cold, and we had miles to go before we slept. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful visit. We’ll see you again in a few weeks, Kathy and Annette.

I was shopping in Office Depot and saw this display.

When our kids were little, they each had a cardboard house similar to this one (maybe a bit larger), and they set up a little village in the basement. They furnished their “homes” with toys, dolls (“children”), and a few furnishings–maybe a blanket or a throw rug–and made their houses uniquely their own. They parked their Big Wheels beside their houses and rode them across the room to visit each other. Our kids’ houses were nicer–they came already colored–but this plain house brought back happy memories. Until today, I hadn’t seen a cardboard house like this since our kids had them in the early 1980s.

This has been a great year for seeing Jeff and La, and it helps make up for lost time during the pandemic shutdowns when we saw them only on Zoom calls. We spent Christmas 2021 with them in Provo, UT, then went back to celebrate our great-grandson’s first birthday in March 2022. In Summer 2022, we went to Flathead Lake in MT to see them. This time, they came to Missouri to see us, and they will be back in December to celebrate Ted’s birthday and Christmas with us and all of our children. That’s five visits with each other in twelve months, and might be a record since Jeff left home in 1990.

We returned from our Canadian cruise four days before Jeff and La arrived. We are in the midst of updating the interior of our house, so the drywall repairman was here each of the four days between our homecoming from the cruise and Jeff and La’s arrival. He needed to repair the damage the electricians left behind so the walls would be ready for painting after Jeff and La leave. The drywall guy left by mid-morning, and Jeff and La were here for lunch. Ted and I needed to keep things simple because of our tight schedule, so we went to First Watch (one of La’s favorite restaurants) for lunch, then took advantage of the beautiful weather to walk down Historic Main Street in St. Charles and through Riverside Park along the Missouri River before heading to Dewey’s for a pizza dinner.

Jeff and La said they had spent a lot of time on their road trip sitting in the car and in friends’ homes. They told us they wanted to bike and hike while they were here, so that’s what we did. We borrowed Kari’s and Dylan’s bikes and took Jeff and La on one of our favorite trails: the Dardenne Greenway. It’s a beautiful 10-mile trail. Here we are, ready to get on the bikes and pedal.

After the bike ride, Ted and I asked Jeff and La for a big favor. As part of our interior update, we purchased a new (much smaller) media center, and we needed help taking the old one apart. We have great kids, so they said “yes” without hesitation.

Here’s what we started with:

The media center is made up of five pieces, not including the glass shelves on the left and the four posts that hold the display shelf to the top piece. Ted and I had the display cases and the drawers emptied. Jeff and Ted moved the TV without any problem. After that, the job was much harder. Every piece is heavy and it was a good thing there were four of us so that two (sometimes three) could hold the weight while another held two pieces together and another removed the screws. I had to take this photo quickly, so I could get back in place before La’s and Ted’s arms got too tired. It would have been much harder for three people and impossible for two people to do this. I think three guys came to deliver and assemble it when we bought it many years ago.

After we got the whole thing taken apart, we moved it to the garage. Habitat for Humanity will pick it up and sell it to a new owner. I included a photo so the new owner will know how the pieces fit together.

Our temporary media center is the coffee table; the new (much smaller) one will be here next week.

As a reward for their hard work, Ted and I took Jeff and La to Maggiano’s for dinner–a favorite restaurant for all of us. I kept the meals at home simple, but there was plenty of food for everyone at lunch the next day. (You can see sample paint swatches on the wall to the right.)

After fueling up, we headed to the Katy Trail for another bike ride. Jeff and La said they were good to go 20 miles, so we biked from the MO Research Park to a little bit past Defiance–and then back, of course. As always, the views were beautiful.

Kari joined us for lunch the next day before heading for work, and Kathy and Annette arrived in the evening. Ted and I had taken Jeff and La walking for 2+ miles after they arrived and biking for 43 miles the next two days, so it was time to hike again. We all headed for Cuivre River State Park and hiked about 4 miles on the Lakeside Trail.

Here we are, ready to go. There were eleven of us. We have some camera-shy family members. Annette avoided being in the picture by acting as the photographer, and Dean shadowed Kari.

Like the Katy, the park views were beautiful and so was the weather.

When we got home, we had Pizza Hut pizza for dinner with an ice cream sundae bar. It was easy on the cook again. I’m not sure why Theo is giving me the evil eye–I made sure to have his favorite sundae toppings: hot fudge, Reddi Wip, and m&ms.

We relaxed our biking and hiking muscles in the pool and the hot tub and played some board games. All too soon, it was time for Kathy and Annette to go home and for Jeff and La to head westward again.

I once read a book in which the main character was a professional pianist. After a concert, he played an encore, but the audience kept clapping and wanted more. He refused and told his assistant that “you always leave your audience wanting more.” That’s how I feel whenever we have time with our family–I always want more–but the pianist was right: it makes the next visit sweeter. So long kids, we’ll see you all again in December–and Thom’s family too.

Today was a perfect day to be outdoors. The temperature was around 90 degrees, but the humidity was low, the sun was bright, and the clouds were pretty. Ted and I picked up Dylan and Theo (Teddy is growing up) and headed for the Boat House in Forest Park. A lot of other people had the same idea, judging by the number of parked cars and the number of people we saw. The Boat House rents paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks. We opted for kayaks and paddled from the dock into Post-Dispatch Lake. Here’s the path we took for our one-hour adventure.

I took a picture of Dylan and Theo as we approached a pedestrian bridge and an oncoming paddle boat. Notice how synchronized their paddles are. What a team!

Here are the boys at the Lagoon Drive end of the Grand Basin.

Facing the opposite direction in the Grand Basin, Dylan took a picture of Ted and me heading back toward Art Hill and the Art Museum. The fountains all around the Grand Basin were really pretty.

This is another of Dylan’s pictures, also facing Art Hill. Theo’s smile shows how much fun we were having.

On our way back to the Boat House, we passed a family of ducks.

At the next bend in the canal, we spotted two herons. The one on the right is harder to see–look at the center right in the water beside the dying weeping willow tree.

This bridge made a pretty reflection in the water.

After an hour of kayaking in the sun, we were all in the mood for ice cream. The Boat House café told us the closest thing they have to ice cream is a vodka smoothie, but we had two underage people in our group, although Theo joked that he might be able to handle a vodka smoothie. We all voted for Dairy Queen instead, and we splurged and ordered medium-sized cones. The dip cone is Dylan’s and my DQ favorite. Theo went for a dip cone too (no vodka) and Ted, the individualist in our group, chose a twist cone. Yummy!

We all had a good time. None of us had kayaked in Forest Park before, but we’d all enjoy doing it again. According to the boys, our next get-together should include swimming in our pool and playing sheephead. That works for Ted and me. Our grandchildren are the greatest. They share their photos, their smiles, and their time with us. ♥♥

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.