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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex sent me a happy text last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guess what Dylan and Teddy always choose to play with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received a happy text message from Alex today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s fall, so once again, I’m enjoying some little traditions in the neighborhood.

Our sugar maple tree becomes a colorful lawn ornament.
Our neighbor’s maple tree does its three-stage process. First the top turns color. When the upper leaves begin to fall (they’re doing it now), the middle band turns color. When they fall, the lower third turns color (it’s still greenish at the bottom). When the bottom leaves fall, the tree is ready for winter.
Every fall, Kari and Ted wax her car together. They just finished, and the van’s paint is protected for the winter.

I shared a two-story, three-bedroom house with five other girls during my senior year in college. We had so much fun together back then that we’ve started having occasional reunions. We meet in Madison because it’s central for all of us–especially for Leila, who lives there. Last year, we decided we’re still having so much fun together, we need to meet every year. This year’s date was October 5.

As long as we were going to be in Madison, Ted and I decided to include visits to my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Ken; to Ted’s sister, Mutzie, and his niece and nephew-in-law, Lisa and Doug; and to Kathy and Annette. The most remarkable thing we experienced on this trip was a huge weather shift. Due to a strong cold front, the temperature dropped over 40 degrees between the time we left home and when we arrived at our motel in Beloit, WI seven hours later. I think summer is over.

Most of the trees “up north” were still green, but some were changing to their fall colors. I love all the white paper birch in Wisconsin.

Our first night’s dinner restaurant was the Stone Eagle in Rockford, IL. It was unusual, to say the least. We were attracted to it by the large number of cars in the parking lot and by the sign that declared “This is not a chain restaurant.” Indoors, it looked like someone bought out every flea market in town for a year and found a place for each item in the restaurant. Our server told us they have a guidebook that lists each item with information about it. I felt like we were looking for the hidden pictures, such as “Can you find the money jammed into the ceiling planks?” The food was delicious and we’ll stop in again if we’re in Rockford at mealtime.

The stained glass window sits on the fireplace mantel. The cougar beside it is wearing a safari hat. Don’t overlook the model train that circles the ceiling.
Where do you get a zebra pelt? Does someone here hunt big game? There’s a Harley-Davidson motorcycle hanging on the right wall . . .
. . . and an Indian motorcycle on the opposite wall. Check the monkey’s backside. Gross!

Our first family stop was in Holmen, WI (near LaCrosse) to visit with Ruth and Ken. They just moved into this new house two months ago. The subdivision is so new, the internet cables are not yet laid on Ruth and Ken’s side of the street. Ruth is a big fan of forwarding goofy emails she finds on the internet, so she’s in a bit of withdrawal and has to use her granddaughter’s internet.

Our next destination was Madison for my roommate reunion. Only four of the six of us were able to come. Barb didn’t want to leave her husband alone after his recent surgery and Carol had to be in Illinois this weekend. We had lots of fun–again!–and have already set our date for next year: August 29.

Next stop: Grand Island, NE. Mutzie continues to improve since her fall and serious injuries last April. Physically, she is fine, and her cognitive skills keep improving noticeably as her brain continues to heal. She is better at recognizing faces than remembering names, and she easily participates in conversations.

Mutzie and her little brother, as she calls Ted. (He’s five years younger than she is.)

We took Mutzie out for a full day, including lunch, dinner, and some walking exercise outdoors and in the mall. When we asked if she’d like to go back to her rooms (she has a suite), she said, “Oh, no–let’s sit at your hotel. I see my room all the time.” So we did. I forgot to take a picture the night before when Doug joined us for dinner, so there’s only Ted, me, Lisa, and Mutzie in this photo.

From Grand Island, we headed for Kirksville, MO where we planned to meet Kathy and Annette for dinner before driving home to St. Peters. When we drove home from Grand Island in June, Iowa and Nebraska had standing water everywhere from the over-abundant spring rains. It didn’t look much different this time, except that I-29 was open instead of under the extended Missouri River. These “inland lakes” still cover the farmland along I-29 in northwest Missouri.

The strip of land and trees in the background is a county road–the only area above water as far as we could see.
There were hundreds of white pelicans migrating. They are the only pelicans that migrate through the Midwest, and they nest and raise their young in the upper Midwest and Canada.
The water is deep enough here for whitecaps to form in the wind.

We arrived in Kirksville about an hour earlier than we’d planned, so Kathy and Annette were still at work. After driving so many hours, Ted and I were ready for some exercise and decided to take a walk. We’ve never walked to the A. T. Still University campus where Kathy works, so we headed that way. We had no idea which building Kathy works in, but just when we reached the point at which we’d decided to turn back, Kathy emerged from the building in front of us, ready to walk home. Instead, she gave us a tour of her workplace and introduced us to several co-workers who were still present. Now we can picture her setting when she talks about work and some of the people who work with her. Every one of the people we met raved to us about how much they like Kathy and what a great job she does with the Student Patient (SP) program. That’s just what proud parents love to hear.

Here’s a typical room in which one of Kathy’s SPs presents a health care issue (pre-assigned by Kathy) to an aspiring student doctor. The student doctor is then evaluated on his work (demeanor, examination, diagnosis, and prescribed treatment) with the “patient.”
Here’s Kathy’s workstation. The monitors on the right are used by observers who watch the SP/doctor interactions for evaluation.
We could only look through the window in the door of Kathy’s office because the offices were already locked. I recognize her sweater hanging over the chair.

After dinner with Kathy and Annette, Ted and I drove home. We had a week of good times with friends and family members.

The next day, I hung a decorative quilt on our bedroom wall. It was a gift from Mutzie, the Quilting Queen, through her daughter Lisa during our visit to Grand Island.

Over the years, Ted and I have had family pictures taken by Olan Mills, Sears, the church (for the directory), and me (for Christmas letters). After the kids grew up, moved away from home, and had families of their own, it was hard for all of us to be together at the same time. Neither Ted nor I can remember the last time all of our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren were together with us–if ever.

As we planned our 50th anniversary celebration, Ted and I decided that the only gift we wanted was to have our entire family together at least once in our lifetimes. We gave the kids three years’ notice and asked them to plan accordingly. They did, and it happened. To record the event, we scheduled a professional photo shoot. The finished portraits were delivered and hung yesterday.

Thom and Katie agreed to take photos of Ted and me with our children and with our grandchildren. Here are the prints from Thom–also visible on the piano in the picture above.

This weekend, Ted and I flew to Utah for the wedding of our first grandchild. We were honored when Alex told us he was engaged and asked what our availability was to come to his wedding because he wanted us to be there. We’re happy we could attend the event and meet Kaitlyn. The reception had a Medieval theme, and guests were invited to attend in period clothing.

The decorations set a romantic mood.
The head table had gold chargers and gold-rimmed stemware. I think Kaitlyn designed the family crest above the table for their wedding.
The food was delicious, and there was a lot of it. There were also pans of warm food beyond the desserts, but stainless steel pan covers didn’t make a pretty picture.
My favorite dessert was the éclairs. When they begged people to take leftover food home, Ted and I each took an éclair to eat in our hotel room in the evening.
This family was glad to have a chance to wear their Medieval Hallowe’en party clothes to the wedding.
This man actually made the chain mail vest he’s wearing. He bought the wire, formed the links, and followed the instructions he saw on YouTube. He said it weighed about 30 pounds.
Each link connects four other links. The man said he found it relaxing to work on this project.
Before the reception began, the photographer took family pictures. Here’s the bridegroom with his father . . .
. . . and with his mother . . .
. . . and with his siblings . . .
. . . and with his grandparents. (I hope we had our eyes open on the photographer’s picture.)
And here’s the entire family with the newest member, Kaitlyn.
Jeff was the announcer and periodically took the microphone to let us know what was coming next.
During the formal part of the program, Alex and Kaitlyn exchanged gifts and described the special meaning of each gift they exchanged. The decorated inlay box and the black bag were two of their gifts.
After a brief talk from the officiant, Alex and Kaitlyn exchanged rings.
They had their first kiss as husband and wife.
Here are the bride and groom dancing together for the first time as husband and wife.
This little girl enjoyed herself while twirling to the music.
They cut the wedding cake with a sword. The cake topper is a model of a Temple.
After eating, Zaque told the story of Alex and Kaitlyn’s courtship, adding his own humor to enhance it.
During the afternoon, guests were invited to submit questions for Alex and Kaitlyn to answer. Alex flubbed his answer to “Who says ‘I’m sorry’ first?” but Kaitlyn let him off the hook.
The bride and groom left the reception in a flurry of bubbles.
They left the Temple in a (possibly) bubble-decorated car. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn’s mom.

Best wishes for your future together, Alex and Kaitlyn.

Dylan will be 14 on July 13. Because Ted and I are leaving for our European trip that day, we celebrated early with Dylan. I can’t believe how quickly our grandchildren are growing up, but I love watching them do it.

P.S. Unlike Kathy and me, Dylan blew out all 14 candles on his first try.

Ted’s and my wish came true: for our 50th anniversary celebration the last weekend of June, our entire family–children, spouses, and grandchildren–was together at the same time! It was an enjoyable, event-filled weekend.

This memory candle was a wedding gift from our florist and used to be much taller. We have burned it every year on our anniversary, as directed in the florist’s message (below). I’ve moved the flowers downward several times over the years.
Just as the card says, the candle was present at our silver and golden anniversary parties. No great-grandchildren were present, but might be on the way in the foreseeable future. While we were together, Alex, our first grandchild, officially told the family of his engagement. He and Kaitlyn will be married in August.
We started the celebration Thursday evening with a family dinner at Maggiano’s. Here we are, ready to start the party.
Clockwise around the table, beginning front center: Zaque, Julian, Alex, Ted, me, Katie, Sefton, Thom, Kathy, Jeff.
Clockwise around the table, beginning left center: Kyra, La, Kari, Dean, Sky, Teddy, Dylan, Annette.
This is how modern two-year-olds amuse themselves when they’re finished eating.

Friday morning, we had an appointment at a photography studio for a family portrait and for a portrait of Ted and me. We’ve selected the ones we like, and the photographer is in the process of putting the digital files into the final portrait form.

After the professional photos, we had lunch and then went to a nearby park for more group pictures. Here we are with our four children. Left > right: Jeff, Kathy, me, Ted, Kari, Thom. Thom and Katie also took pictures with a “real” (not cell phone) camera, and are going to make some nice enlargements for Ted and me.
And here we are with our grandchildren. Left > right: Zaque, Alex, Kyra, Ted, me, Sky, Teddy, Dylan, Julian, Sefton. Sefton apparently thought he was finished after the morning photo shoot.
After the park photos, we headed to Innsbrook, a nearby resort, where Ted and I rented two houses for the weekend. This is the “big” house (sleeps 14).
This is the “little” house, called a “treehouse” by the owners. It sleeps 6.
It’s obvious we’ve all been trained to remove our shoes at the door. I counted 17 pairs in this pile.
Unfortunately, Julian’s weekend activities were somewhat limited by his broken collarbone. Check out his sling. He was riding his bike in the bike lane when a car made a right turn without checking the bike lane and hit him.
The big house offered lots of open space on the main floor, as well as a large game / media room on the lower level. It had two decks (one above the other), a screened porch accessible from the living room and from the master bedroom, and a dock on a small lake. This house was our gathering area. I opted for all meals to be catered. They were delivered warm, and all we had to do was come to this area for lunch and dinner.
The small A-frame house was charming with its wooded setting and its cozy living space. It was a nice place to have some quiet time away from the crowd.
Friday night turned out to be exciting when a severe thunderstorm passed through the area. Katie was delighted to hear loud thunder (the Seattle area doesn’t get much of that) and filmed the heavy rain and lightning. (That’s her at the sliding doorway.) One especially loud clap of thunder startled all of us into shouts, and Katie was thrilled that the shouts were on her recording. Conditions became more exciting when the power went out a little while after I took this picture. We scrambled for candles and cell phone flashlights.
Saturday morning was sunny and warm. No more rain! Kari and I took a canoe out on the lake at the big house.
Alex and Zaque chose the paddleboat. By this time, Kari and I were in the upper right of the picture with our canoe.
Next in line for the paddleboat were Kyra, La, Katie, and Sefton. Thom and Jeff steadied the boat while they climbed onboard.
The little house had two kayaks on another lake. Ted and I made use of them later in the day.
In the afternoon, we decided to head for the resort pool, which included a lazy river for young children (i.e., Sefton). Members of our group are tossing a ball around in the center of the pool.
Here are Katie and Sefton after a trip to the lazy river.
The little house had a golf cart that we found handy for going between our two houses (0.5 miles apart) and for getting around the resort. The golf cart was the hit of the weekend and everyone wanted to drive and / or ride in it. Here are Teddy and Dylan taking a turn in the back seat of the cart on our way home from the resort pool.
The dock was quiet on Sunday morning and I had a chance to do some reading in the sunshine.
The lake was Sunday-morning-calm and a restful place to relax.
We checked out of the resort on Sunday and went back to our own house. I put our wedding photo album and our wedding scrapbook album on the coffee table for everyone to look at.
Of course there was pool time in the afternoon.
Ted and I unpacked our Apple IIe for old times’ sake. The boys couldn’t get all the games to work, but managed to play a few rounds of Dig Dug.
On a less intellectual level, La threw popcorn kernels and Kyra tried to catch them in her mouth. The arrow points to the popcorn kernel and it looks like Kyra’s going to catch this one.
After everyone left, I went around the house to strip the beds and couldn’t help noticing that Julian’s camping skills were evident. All of his bedding, including the queen-size air mattress, was neatly arranged in small bundles almost suitable for a hiker’s backpack.
Ted and I went out in the evening after the kids left. When we returned to our car, a brief shower had just ended and we saw a full-arch rainbow. It was the perfect closure for our celebration weekend.

Since her fall on April 25, Mutzie’s condition has improved noticeably each day, and she is now in a rehabilitation center. The blood clot has dissolved and her face is healing very well. She walks on her own, but still has difficulty swallowing because her facial bones are not completely healed. She speaks clearly and seems to remember everything, although the memories are sometimes jumbled as a result of her concussion. She recognizes friends and family, but doesn’t always remember their names. It is expected that Mutzie will remain in the rehabilitation center for 90 days, after which she will be evaluated for future care. At this point, it seems very likely that she will be able to move to an assisted living facility at that time, rather than to a nursing home.

Yesterday, on our way home from Colorado, Ted and I stopped in Grand Island, NE to visit with Mutzie and to see her miracle aura in person. We joined a group of her visitors and enjoyed our time with her. She didn’t call Ted by name, but told the nurse all day that her “little brother” would be coming. (Ted is five years younger than Mutzie.) When Mutzie became tired, we left and enjoyed dinner with Lisa and her husband, Doug. This morning, we stopped in again for a short visit with Mutzie before leaving for home, and we had another nice conversation with her.

Her miracle aura is still working.

Visiting in Mutzie’s room after dinner. Mutzie and Ted are facing the camera; Lisa, Doug, Glenn, and Anita (a church friend) are facing Mutzie.
Mutzie, aka Miracle Woman, and her little brother, Ted.

As always, Ted and I enjoyed our time with Jeff’s family in Longmont, CO. Friday night, we joined Zaque at his pre-graduation party; Saturday morning, we attended Zaque’s graduation; and Saturday evening, Ted and I took the family out to eat to celebrate Zaque’s graduation and Jeff’s retirement.

Although he has a few more details to wrap up at the office, within a few days, Jeff will leave the U.S. work force and will qualify for the “not seeking employment” checkbox on the Department of Labor forms. He and La have bought a house in Flathead Lake, MT and plan to move there in September. They are looking forward to the move, but will be very busy in the next few months preparing their current house for sale, traveling with their family, and taking care of other details before heading to Montana.

Meanwhile, still in Longmont, we went to church together on Sunday morning and had the privilege of hearing some of the graduates, including Zaque, speak to the congregation. The students’ talks were very interesting, and addressed topics related to going forward in their lives now that they have finished high school.

At the house, we had good food and good times with our family. We looked at pictures of Jeff and La’s new house, played sheephead and some other games, and spent quality time together. The bad weather forecasts continued, however. Longmont was under a tornado watch Sunday evening but, luckily, all we had was rain.

Modern social interaction: three of four people in this group are focused on their electronic devices.
Some cozy family time on the sofa.
Yum! Delicious homemade pizza for Sunday dinner!

I think Ted and I will have one more visit to Longmont. We will bid farewell to Zaque in September when he leaves to serve his church for two years in Oklahoma City. After that, we’ll be visiting Jeff and La in Montana. The fun never ends!

Today, our fourth grandchild graduated from high school. The weather was perfect for the outdoor ceremony.

Zaque is the tall guy under the orange arrow. He must be at least 6’1″–maybe more.
It’s official: he’s got the diploma. Or at least the folder for it. He had to pick up the paper diploma inside the school after the ceremony.
Even though the class was smaller than Alex’s and Kyra’s, there was still only one student we were interested in seeing. This girl’s mortarboard expressed her feelings and those of the audience as the last few kids were recognized.
The fun part: throwing the graduate caps into the air.

And then, the obligatory family pictures.

Like Jeff, Zaque has a large head, so his hat was too small to be comfortable.
Zaque with Mom and Dad. (Funny photo faces are required in Jeff’s family.)
Zaque and Kyra.
And of course, Zaque with Grandma and Grandpa.

Congratulations, Number Four. We’re proud of you.

We arrived at Jeff’s house later than planned today due to some serious storms. The night before we left home, the storm sirens went off at 1:00 a.m. A radar-indicated tornado was barreling down I-70 straight toward us. We didn’t get the all-clear until about 2:45 a.m., when the storm cell suddenly weakened and took a left turn to the north. Due to the weather, we got to bed much later than planned, and since we anticipated driving 8-9 hours the next day, we slept later than planned the next morning.

Yesterday, when we got to Junction City, KS, we were treated to what Ted calls “active weather.” We drove through severe thunderstorms, beginning in the early evening. Lightning was flashing all around us and directly overhead; thunder was booming constantly; visibility was less than one-quarter mile; traffic on I-70 was going only 40-45 mph; and I was looking no further than the taillights ahead of me to stay on the road. Result: we stopped for the night at Hays, rather than going all the way to Colby as we’d planned. Fortunately, we called ahead to a hotel and had a room. Other people stopping at the hotel because of the storm were told there were no vacancies.

In spite of our later-than-usual arrival at Jeff’s house today, we were still in time for Zaque’s graduation party at the church. Each of the seniors in the church sets up a display and every family brings food to share. Zaque baked chocolate chip cookies for the event. (He let his hungry Grandma “sample” a warm cookie before taking them to the party. I gave them the Grandma Stamp of Approval.) We attended the same type of party for Alex and for Kyra when they graduated. Here are some pictures of Zaque, his display, and the party room.

Everything in the display represents a part of Zaque’s life or an interest of his. Check out the Lego box he made for gift cards.
Zaque’s class was smaller than Alex’s and Kyra’s, so the crowd was smaller as well.

We’re glad we could be here for Zaque’s pre-graduation party. After two consecutive nights of severe storms, we were also glad to sleep in peace.

Yesterday, Kathy and I met in Columbia for one of our highly anticipated mom-daughter days. We usually mention changing up our long-established routine, but we like how we spend the day, so we end up following the same pattern every time: begin with a 2-4 hour lunch; wander around downtown Columbia, with a stop to purchase a few pieces of chocolate at the chocolatier; sit for 2-4 hours in the mall food court eating the chocolate; then end with a 1-3 hour dinner. We talk, talk, talk during the entire day. Our day together isn’t about what we do or where we go–it’s about the talking. We usually spend 11-12 hours together and, when our time is up and we have to leave for our 1.5-hour drives home, we always mention how we aren’t nearly finished talking yet.

Yesterday, we were expecting a cool, cloudy day with a chance of showers, but the skies cleared, the sun came out, and I’m sure the temperatures were in the mid-70s. It was beautiful for our walk around the downtown area. After all the rain we’ve been having, sunshine made the day even more fun.

Thom and Katie gave Kathy a Shakespeare’s Pizza gift card for Christmas. The card’s expiration date is “When the revolution begins.” Since there was no revolution in sight, Kathy decided this was a good day to use the card. Shakespeare’s irreverent attitude continues on the gift card holder.

Shakespeare’s is near the UM campus, but the crowd includes people of all ages, from cradle to (still-this-side-of-the) grave. The restaurant atmosphere is funky and fun, like the gift cards, and includes this impudent sign in the parking lot.

The impertinence continues inside the restaurant. For example, if you want to find the restrooms, just “follow the yellow brick road.” There is an actual, continuous yellow brick inlaid path on the floor from every room in the restaurant to the restrooms.

You might think of Shakespeare as highbrow, but the restaurant owner doesn’t.

As always, the day ended before Kathy and I were finished talking. After an uneventful drive home, the first thing I saw when I opened the door to the kitchen was a bouquet of roses from Ted.

Ted missed me. The card said “For all the good news this week,” referring to my cancer-free diagnosis and his sister’s remarkable recovery from a severe accident. What a nice homecoming. The roses are gorgeous in the bay window.

Six days ago, Ted’s sister, Mutzie, fell as she was entering her house after attending a luncheon for the city library volunteers. Her neighbor saw her lying unconscious on the patio and called 911.

Mutzie broke all the facial bones on the right side of her head and had a blood clot on her brain. The doctors said the blood clot was in the speech area of her brain, and it was unlikely that Mutzie would ever speak or understand speech again. Surgery was too dangerous in her condition, and her face was not grotesquely mutilated by the broken bones, so the doctors decided to let her heal on her own. A breathing tube was inserted, and she was admitted to the ICU. She was given nothing more than Tylenol for her pain, because the doctors wanted her to wake up, and pain killers would sedate her.

After three days of being unconscious, Mutzie’s liver began to fail, so the breathing tube was removed according to her wishes as expressed in her advanced medical directive. She was moved to the comfort care floor of the hospital for end-of-life care, the liquids that were nourishing her were discontinued, and she was given morphine to keep her comfortable. The family was told she would probably live only one or two more days.

Today, the sixth day after she fell and three days after being admitted to the comfort care floor, Mutzie woke up. Two of her church friends were in her room at the time. She greeted them, asked what time it was, looked at the clock, and said, “Oh, it’s 1:20.” When the family arrived at the hospital, she recognized all of them. She is cognizant and remembers falling, knows she is in the hospital, and is able to sit in the chair in her room. The medical staff reinstated IV liquids and is assessing her ability to swallow. If she can swallow, they will give her solid food. The new prognosis is that she will need some rehabilitation and will then be able to go home.

Miracles happen.

Ted and Mutzie, Oct. 2016

Kathy and Annette came for a Saturday-Sunday weekend to celebrate Kathy’s (April 26) and my (March 20) birthdays together. Of course, Kari’s family joined us. (That’s what’s so great about having at least one of our children living nearby.) Thanks to all the outdoor work Ted and I did last week, we thoroughly enjoyed the near-80-degree temperatures.

The weather was beautiful for sitting on the patio in the afternoons.
Teddy killed time between his turns to play by making T’s with his Settlers game pieces.
We had dinner at Red Robin, where Kari and I shared a margarita.
After dinner, we sat around the firebowl, enjoying the warm weather, the clean pool, the clean concrete, the freshly-washed yard lights, and the party lights. We enjoyed the fire too.
Then it was time for cake–one for each of us. Dylan, the candlemeister, got things ready. He gave us one candle per decade of our ages.
Two birthday girls. At this point, neither Kathy nor I knew what was going to happen next. Read on.
In spite of doing our best, after two tries, I only blew out four candles, and Kathy’s score was still zero.
After four tries, all seven of my candles are out, but none of Kathy’s is. Are these trick candles, or what?
Finally! It’s time to cut the cakes.
There were birthday gifts for Kathy . . . (Check out the cute photo-bomber in the background.)
. . . and birthday gifts for me too.
Kari and the boys spent the night at our house. The boys were assigned to the three convertible beds in the basement. I threw all the pillows from those beds onto the futon. Teddy thought it might be fun to sleep under the pillows instead of in his sleeping bag.
After more outdoor time Sunday afternoon and dinner Sunday evening, Ted and I were alone again. Our time with the girls’ families went by too fast! About an hour after Kathy and Annette left, we had a light sprinkle of rain and a beautiful rainbow to end our co-birthday weekend. Perfect!

My birthday party continues. On March 21, one of my friends took me out to lunch at the Walnut Grill. To help us digest our food, she treated us to a one-hour reflexology session. OMG! We felt so-o-o-o good afterward, that we kept telling each other how good we felt.

On Sunday, March 24, Kari’s family joined Ted and me for a family birthday dinner. Naturally, it featured my favorite birthday cake–Vienna Torte–for which I discovered the bakers’ secret last spring.

I gave Dylan a box of candles and told him to go crazy putting them on the cake. He went for seven candles at full height and one candle at 0.2 height. Result: 7.2 decades. Einstein has nothing on Dylan’s math!

You might be able to tell that the candle flames match the colors of the individual candles. (It was a little easier to see in person.) I didn’t get the candles blown out in a single try, but I made a really good wish, so I hope it comes true anyway.

Kari’s family gave me a bag of Easter pastel m&ms (my favorite m&ms), a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers, and a gift certificate for a mom-daughter lunch with Kari. (It’s behind the photo of tulips.) Awesome!

On Thursday, March 28, I went out with two of my former college staff members, Jeanette and Gail, and they treated me to lunch. We went to Lewis & Clark’s restaurant in Historic St. Charles and had a wonderful time together.

It’s only March 30 today, so the celebration isn’t over yet. Stay tuned for birthday season update(s).

Today, we all went to church to hear Kyra’s talk to the congregation about her mission experience. She did an excellent job. It was obvious that she is accustomed to talking to people (she admitted she wasn’t even nervous) and that she has matured a lot over the past 18 months.

Before getting involved in the rest of our day (lunch, games, conversation, a walk in the sunshine, etc.), I decided to take some family photos.

Ted and me.
Jeff’s family. L->R: La, Alex, Kyra, Zaque, and Jeff.
Thom and Julian.
Cousins. L->R: Julian, Alex, Kyra, and Zaque.

Today’s is La’s 50th birthday, which deserves something special, so Ted and I gave her a bouquet of flowers this morning.

The men of the family pampered the ladies for lunch. First, they cooked grilled cheese extraordinaire sandwiches for us. Thom, the family grilled cheese expert, was in charge of the griddle.

After dinner, the younger generation of men did the dishes.

Kurt and Megan, friends of Jeff and La, hosted a party at their house to celebrate La’s birthday and Kyra’s homecoming. Jeff, La, and Kyra left early for the party. The rest of us walked over a little later. I was escorted by this group of handsome men.

As the guests of honor, La and Kyra were presented with bouquets.

On our way home from the party, we saw some daffodils sprouting. It’s nearly spring!

Ted and I took the family out to dinner this evening to celebrate the four events of this week: Kyra’s homecoming and Julian’s, Jeff’s, and La’s birthdays. The Persons of Honor selected Outback as our destination. Here’s our family table.

Zaque has the ability to amuse himself in innumerable creative ways. While we waited for our food, one of the things he did was practice balancing his forks on his knife on his finger.

After dinner, Ted and I took some pictures. Here I am with my only granddaughter. It’s so nice to see her after her 18-month mission.

My grandsons are getting so tall! Sky isn’t here, but he’s taller than I am too! I’m starting to feel like a little shrimp with all these tall guys.

Finally, a picture of La’s and Kyra’s flowers with Thom and Julian at the piano (left).

Ted and I had a wonderful day with our family. I wish we all lived closer together so we could see each other more often, but maybe we are more appreciative of our time together this way. More good times are on the way tomorrow.

Yesterday was Sefton’s second birthday. Thom and Katie had some activities planned for the day and they didn’t think Sefton would mind waiting until today to celebrate with us. We shared a video call tonight and were able to watch Sefton open his birthday gifts from us. We also heard him say “Grandma” and “Grandpa,” practice his alphabet, identify colors, and read the numbers on the toy cell phone we gave him. Obviously, he’s one of the world’s eight smartest grandchildren. (Do I need to mention that Ted and I have eight grandchildren?)

After celebrating with Sefton, Thom and Katie took us on a video tour of their new house, and it was fun to see where they’re living and what everything looks like. Ted and I are eager to see it in person, but this was the next best thing.

While we were video chatting, I discovered that I could take screen shots, so here are some pictures I took of Sefton while we were talking with him.

This picture is blurred, but you can tell he’s having fun with his birthday balloons.
Happy second birthday, Sefton.

During one of Kari’s holiday shifts at Great Skate, there was a private party. Kari said it was an unusual group because all the adults skated. Most of the time, she said, the kids skate and the adults watch.

As a surprise for their dad, the family asked if the DJ could play some Elvis songs in memory of their mom, an Elvis fan, preferably near the end of the party so the family wouldn’t feel too sad during the rest of the evening. They had an Elvis costume and asked the DJ to wear it and to skate with the family in memory of their mom.

The costume was too small for the DJ, and the two teenagers on shift with Kari didn’t know any Elvis songs. Kari, however, grew up listening to the Elvis records I played on the stereo (what can I say?–he’ll always be The King). As the only viable Elvis impersonator in the house, she put on the costume and skated around the rink with the family following her. As part of her act, she lip-synced “Hound Dog,” playing air guitar during the instrumental portions. What a ham!

Kari’s impersonation was such a hit that the family videographed her performance and took group pictures with her. The only picture Kari herself has is below.

Here’s Elvis (Kari) backstage in the Great Skate kitchen. Uh, thankyou, thankyouverymuch.

Kari’s family opened their gifts at home this morning and then came to our house in the early afternoon to join Kathy, Annette, Ted, and me to open more gifts.

Dylan created two new games to give as his gifts to us and to Kathy / Annette.
Dylan was excited about his new pocket watch. It’s gorgeous, but challenging. There is no battery–you have to wind it; it’s analog, not digital; and the hours are shown in Roman numerals. Dylan is confident he can handle these challenges.
Teddy found happiness in two new pigs and a pig nose.

Ted and I saw some prank gift boxes while we were Christmas shopping. We immediately knew two people who “needed” them. Annette was the recipient of a Roto Wipe (box).

Note that this device is Number 1 in #1 and #2’s.
It’s ranked with 5 stars, beating out the car wash sprayer (3 stars) and the elm/maple leaf (1 star).
The mini version is even portable!

The other lucky (?) recipient of a prank box was Laralee, who enjoys jigsaw puzzles.

Only 12,000 pieces. The shiny box made a reflection in my camera lens. The entire sky is really a single shade of blue.
The 12,000 pieces are micro size (1/4″, according to the box) and require a tweezer (included) to place them in the puzzle.
If you like this puzzle, here are four more to enjoy. Again, each puzzle was a single color, without shading. (I need a better camera.) My personal favorite is “Summer Night Sky” with the two stars shining in the blackness.

Of course, the boxes did not represent the real gifts inside, although we included a small jigsaw puzzle to make Laralee’s box sound more authentic. After all the gifts were opened, it was time for a snack.

Well, if we must . . . .

Merry Christmas to all!

Last night, Ted and I went to Teddy’s first orchestra concert.  To anyone without a loved one in the orchestra, it wasn’t much different from Sky’s and Dylan’s concerts in previous years.  For us, though, there was a grandchild change and an instrument change.  Sky and Dylan both played cello, but Teddy is learning to play the viola.

Ted and I arrived 10-15 minutes before the concert began, knowing that Kari was saving us seats with her family.  We would have arrived earlier, but the orchestra must have a bumper crop of musicians compared to previous years.  Traffic was backed up about a half-mile to enter the school property.  When we finally reached the parking lots, we joined many other attendees trolling the lots in search of empty parking spaces.

Even the auditorium was packed, with the bleachers filled to capacity and staff members scrambling to set up folding chairs around the margins of the gym.  Kari had seats saved for us, but another lady pushed Kari’s coats aside and sat down.  When Kari mentioned she was holding two places, the lady said, “Well, we only need one more,” and then that person sat down, leaving no room for Ted and me.  We joined the rest of the overflow crowd on folding chairs (which were probably more comfortable than the bleachers).  The photo below shows our view of the concert.  About a dozen people were even farther back than we were.  The sixth grade orchestra is partially visible.  Teddy is seated with the fifth grade orchestra on the other end of the gym.

 

Ted walked to the other end of the room and managed to get a photo that showed Teddy playing his viola.  Follow the red arrow to Teddy’s adorable curly hair.  If you could follow the other red arrow far enough, you could see me sitting on a folding chair, waiting for Ted to return.  Notice the other people on folding chairs along both walls.

 

Kari’s family joined us after the concert and we exchanged greetings and hugs with all the family and took a better picture of Teddy with his viola.

 

Ted and I love these concerts and we’re already looking forward to the spring performance.  We plan to be there earlier to avoid the unexpected parking and seating issues.

Since Ted has our yard cleaned up for the winter, he and Kari decided to spend this warm afternoon (mid-60s) cleaning up the leaves from her yard.  Ted loaded his chipper into the car and headed to the work site–Kari’s house.  Dylan was the official on-site photographer.

Kari takes a turn, . . .

. . . Ted takes a turn, . . .

. . . and the job is a team effort.

Dylan noticed that even the cat was on-site to snoopervise the work.  Since he’s a cat, he did no actual work, but he most likely needed a nap when the job was finished.

Kari invited Ted and me to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner.  She prepared our family’s traditional Thanksgiving ham dinner and, of course, everything was delicious.  I’m thankful every day for all the blessings I have in my life, but Thanksgiving Day is a special time to acknowledge them.

Ready to eat the delicious dinner.

Later, we had pumpkin and/or apple pie with whipped cream.  When Kari said “pie,” the boys came running to help serve it.  They were ready for dessert.

 

After dinner, Sky and Dean disappeared for awhile and Kari, Ted, and I continued visiting in the living room.  Soon, the front door opened and a surprise guest (Sky) joined us with his escort (Dean).

Dean bought molds and made this costume out of fiberglass for Sky.  Sky wore it for Hallowe’en and was the hit of the neighborhood.  Groupies along the trick or treat route asked for selfies with him.

It’s just as authentic-looking in the back.  This is definitely the. best. Hallowe’en. costume. ever.

Like the groupies, I needed a picture of myself with my grandson / stormtrooper ready to protect me.  He’s getting so tall!

 

Spending Thanksgiving with our family is one of my best blessings.

Ted regularly waxes his car and mine, and helps Kari wax her car.  They found a mutually agreeable day for the job this week and spent some quality father-daughter time together.

When I was scanning old photos, I found one of Thom, showing how he always chewed his food with his fingers in his mouth.  This week, Katie sent me a photo of Sefton, side-by-side with that picture of Thom.  She captioned it “The apple doesn’t fall far . . . .”