When someone makes you something special

I had an awesome chicken salad in an avocado during one of my business trips. It was midnight when I got to my hotel and the only option for food was take out from a nearby deli. And I was very happily surprised by the chicken salad in an avocado dish. I’ve raved about that dish for a while now.

Today my awesome guy surprised me with this for lunch.

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And yes, I know I need a lot of practice before I become a professional food photographer. Frank says I also need to write down what’s in the foods I enjoy. He seems to think it’s important to know if there were apples or jalapenos in the salad.

Not only was the thought awesome – it made me feel cared for – but the dish was delicious.

One humongous snowman

The kids had a snow day so Frank stayed home to watch them.

Here’s what Dads and kids can do with 10 inches of spring snow!

Biggest snowman ever

My Grandpa: An Outstanding Record in Hauling Live Stock

GrandpaAwardNewspaper In 1945 my grandpa received a citation for an outstanding record in hauling live stock by truck to the Sioux Falls Market. (It's the emblem on his truck in the background of the picture.)

I was excited to find this 64 year old article and the letter that accompanied it not only for the glimpse into a part of my grandpa that I never knew, but also because my grandma had deemed it worthy of keeping. (And my grandma could have taught classes on clutter free living.)

By the time I was old enough to remember my grandpa, alcoholism and emphysema had taken their toll. He spent most of his time at home leaning on the banister at the top of the stairs. He usually had a moment for us kids – either to complain that we were running through the house or to stop us and tease us – and to tell us that the sandbox behind the house was his. (The sandbox wasn't his I discovered. Although I staunchly defended my grandpa's claim to the sandbox, it belonged to the neighbor kid. The neighbor kid and I settled the sandbox dispute with an agreement. I agreed to play toy soldiers – my first and last game ever – in exchange for a game of tag and we quickly became friends, running around the neighborhood playing made up games that enlisted all the kids we could find. Grandpa teased me about that as well.)

There's one memory of Grandpa that made an impact on my adult life. One of my older cousins brought her infant daughter by to visit. When my grandpa held the baby, his whole face lit up. The baby was soon snatched away from him but I promised myself that when I had a baby I'd bring him by for Grandpa to hold. Unfortunately Grandpa died 22 years before that could happen, but every time I visit a nursing home – with my dog before and now occasionally with my kids – and watch people's faces light up, I remember that promise.

Don’t go out quietly!

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This is my grandma. She requested that her funeral procession not go around town and not take back roads. She wanted her funeral procession to drive straight down Main Street honking! When the priest read her request at her funeral mass, he said it was one of the funniest requests he'd ever had.

Her family and friends were more than happy to make sure she didn't go out quietly! We drove straight down Main Street blaring our horns for Grandma! (And we made quite a racket. Grandma left behind 11 kids, 21 grandkids, 23 great-grandkids, their spouses, a sister, cousins, and lots of lifelong friends and neighbors. The kids especially enjoyed honking the horns – Grandma would have appreciated that. Tickled her pink is what she would have said.)

My grandma was an awesome woman. While everyone had their stories to share, I think three main qualities come to mind:

1. Learning. Grandma loved to learn. She did her first years in this one room school house. She then talked her father into letting her attend not just high school but college. For a women born in 1917, that's quite a feat. She never stopped learning. She read a lot and she asked lots of questions. She was always interested in other people and not afraid to ask about topics most people would shy away from. She asked me if I felt guilty for not going to church. (She wasn't trying to pressure me at all. She shared that she felt terribly guiltSchoolhousey if she missed mass, even if it was to help out preparing food for a family after a funeral mass.) She asked Frank about raising a kid as a single dad. (That was after she said she couldn't understand how people who had kids could get a divorce. Frank said "I think I should probably tell you then that I'm divorced and have a kid." Grandma just said "I sure stuck my foot in my mouth on that one." and then proceeded to ask him lots of questions.)

2. Enjoying life, playing games and fishing. My first memories of grandma are of sitting around her dining room table eating chocolate chip cookies and playing cards for days at a time. She always had time to play with the grandkids. Later, as her eye sight started to go too, we had to spend our time doing her other favorite things like going for drives and fishing. Or watching people fish. She was always disgusted that Frank would release the fish – he was throwing away a perfectly good dinner! (FishingAlthough she lived through the Great Depression, Dad said it didn't affect her or her family much. They were very frugal to start with. They grew everything they ate, saved everything, spent very little. Their main entertainment was always things like fishing and playing cards.)

3. I'm not sure what to call this one. Good negotiator, good at making friends, good caregiver? Although she appeared extremely indecisive, over the years, I realized that Grandma always got what she wanted and nobody ever got mad at her for long. She consulted with the whole world on every decision – a characteristic that often drove her kids nuts – but she usually had a strong opinion and went with it. Like driving down Main Street with your horns blaring! 

There is lots, lots more to say about Grandma but I think I'll sum it up by saying she will be missed very, very much.

Christmas Tree

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We got our Christmas tree last weekend.

 

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We all had a great time playing in the snow.

We let Frank do all the real work like pulling sleds, cutting trees and lifting kids out of snowbanks when they got stuck.

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And for those that are worried that we are cutting down a live tree. Agreed that cutting down a live tree is not the best thing in the world to do, but in this case it’s a highly regulated activity by the US Forest Service who says where you can cut, when and what size. When they don’t have a bunch of amateurs out there, they cut the trees down themselves to keep a healthy forest.

It makes the US Forest Service money, and for us it provides a great family tradition. This is our fifth year cutting a tree together as a family.

  • The first year I had to carry Jacob.
  • The second year he inexplicably got terrified that we were lost.
  • The third year I almost dumped Caleb on his head trying to get him in the baby bjorn. And then six year old Jacob very gallantly held my hand so I wouldn’t trip and squish his little brother.
  • Last year Jacob hit one year old Caleb in the face with a snowball. (He misunderstood my directions to *not* aim at his face.) 

This year we all had a great time! Even the dog!

 

1000 miles into the hike

My cousin Travis is now officially 1000 miles into his 2650 mile hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific North Crest Trail. He sounds pretty excited:

Let me tell you, the Sierras were absolutely some of the most amazing
hiking that I’ve ever done.  For those of you who don’t really know
what I’m talking about, the High Sierras are the mountain range in
California that contains Mt. Whitney (the highest mountain in the lower
48 states), and the John Muir Wilderness.  This is the area where Ansel
Adams took all of his pretty pictures.  Is everyone with me now?  It’s
just amazing, everywhere you turn there are mountains, lakes, streams,
flowers, it just has everything.  There were days when I was looking
around thinking, "wow, I can’t believe I’m here", "Wow, I can’t believe
how beautiful this is", "Wow, I can’t believe I get to hike through
this for 2 more weeks",

He had some nervous moments as well, trying to find the trail in a bunch of snow.

Then, I hit my first snowfield that actually covered the trail and so
began a little game that I liked to call… "Ummmmm…. soooooo….
where’s the trail?"  Because, as you can imagine, it becomes a bit
difficult to follow a hiking trail when it’s covered in snow,
especially when you’re above treeline and it’s just snow and boulders
everywhere you turn.  So the object of the game is simple – if you win,
you find the trail, and get to happily hike along for a few minutes
until you hit the next patch of snow.  If you lose?  Well, there are a
few options, you either have a nervous breakdown and collapse into a
puddle of worthlessness right there, or if you’re on some sort of steep
slope, you’ll likely fall and end your thru-hike in a dramatic blaze of
glory.  When I hit the snow, I frantically bounced around looking for
the trail, I’d find it, hike along, lose it again, and so on.  At this
point I had the brilliant idea to just read my map, find the pass, and
hike over it without actually following the trail.  This plan probably
would’ve worked if I could actually read a map, but I soon discovered
that my map reading skills are about on par with my dancing abilities,
in other words, they’re both hilariously bad.

Needless to say, he made it through and found a computer on the internet.

I’m pretty proud of him. He stayed with us the week before he started and he spent each day hiking around town with his backpack on. He said our neighbors thought he was crazy … but our dog loves him! Walks all day long, every day!

Family tree social networking

This family tree application looks really intriguing – you get to enter in your family tree and as your relatives sign up, they can add to it. Not only can you see all the relationships, you can contact them.

While I don’t usually worry too much about privacy on the web, this one actually seems a bit scary. All my relatives and their birth places on the web. And anyone can add the info. I could add it for my whole family without them even knowing. Note that you can keep the information private – it’s not necessarily published for the whole world.

WWI Blog

There’s a very cool diary of a World War I veteran created from his journal and pictures by his grandson.  If anybody would like to do something like this with any of my family members, I’d be happy to help out on the technical side!

On a similar note, my grandmother had a blog.  She wrote out all the stories long hand and mailed them to my mom who typed them in and posted them.  Then my aunt would print them out and take them over to my grandmother’s for her to see.  She was very proud of being an author – she loved sharing stories.

Being a step-parent

I’ve heard from at least three different people in the last week that being a step-parent is hard. 

I think being a parent is hard.  I think being a kid with four parents and two homes is hard.  I really don’t think being a stepmom is that much harder than being a mom.  (Once in a while it’s a bit frustrating when someone listens to dad when they wouldn’t listen to you but most of the time there’s no difference.)  The difference is it’s just a bit harder communicating among four parents and keeping consistent rules than it is between two, but I don’t think I have it any harder than any of the other three parents! 

Now if someone would just show me where that Magic Guidebook to Parenting is …