This is the post that I have been meaning to write for about a month now. I haven’t written anything else because I knew that this was the next post that I needed to write. But I haven’t written it sooner because, well, saying goodbye is hard, and I wanted to do it right…

Y’all. I wish you could have known my grandmother Frances. You would have liked her. Don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t like her. She had a quiet personality, seemingly unruffled by circumstances around her. And patient. She was very patient, just like my mother, who is the fourth of Frances’ five daughters. I so admired her patience with my grandfather when his mental health was failing in his last years. It’s the kind of deep inner calm that I doubt I’ll ever have, but it made me admire it in her all the more.

Three Generations

Her inner calm often translated to an outer reserve. She was never one to heap on praise or cover her grandchildren with hugs and kisses, but just the same, I always knew she loved us deeply, because she always showed up. At least once a summer while I was growing up, she and my grandfather would make the trek north to Minnesota to watch myself, my brother and my sister all “play ball”. Grandpa would enthusiastically record our games with his gigantic camcorder sitting up on his shoulder (you know the kind that actually held an entire VHS tape on the inside). Grandma, on the other hand, would sit in the stands and just take it all in.

Music was one of the things that Grandma and I had in common. Being an organ and piano player herself, she found little ways to encourage me in my musical pursuits. Like buying me a Little Mermaid music book for Christmas and always listening to me play when I was at her house. She didn’t usually say much after my little recitals, but one time she went over to a cabinet and pulled out a much worn piece of music, carefully preserved in plastic sheet protectors. “This was my favorite piece of music to play when I was younger,” she told me. “You’re probably not ready for it yet, but you keep practicing and someday you will be.” Then she actually let me take that precious piece of music home with me. It was called “The Storm King” and the cover page is now hanging framed in my piano studio.

Four Generations

Quilting is something that anyone who knew Grandma will remember her for. She made quilts for every occasion. Every family wedding, every high school graduation, every grandchild and great grandchild arriving in the world, each celebration called for a quilt. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind work of art. She even gave me one for Christmas one year to match my new bedroom wallpaper. It was the 80s folks, your bedspread was SUPPOSED to match your wallpaper. I was probably only eight or nine years old and even I knew that! Although, it must be confessed that I was slightly disappointed that the quilt was not a Malibu Barbie, I was still incredibly pleased to be the proud owner of a bedroom where everything MATCHED!

Baby Alethea with Great Grandma Frances

Family was incredibly important to Grandma. My grandfather was Danish, so she bought me an aebleskiver pan and made sure I knew how to use it. She also spent countless hours researching our family’s genealogy, tracing our roots back hundreds of years and across the Atlantic Ocean. She formed family traditions, like the fact that at Christmas everyone in the family had the exact same homemade red cotton stocking with their name on it in white cursive script.

That’s why when Lydia was born I knew we had to go visit her. Even though she was living with my aunt in Seattle. Even though her mind was not as clear as it used to be and I wasn’t sure if she would even know who we were. We packed up the two girls and flew across the country to see Great Grandma Frances.

Alethea and Lydia with Great Grandma Frances

It must be acknowledged that the trip was a disaster in nearly every respect. I won’t go into the details, but stomach flu and unseasonably cold weather played a major role. However, I will never regret going, since it is the only time Lydia ever met her Great Grandmother and it was the last time I saw her alive.

On July 26, 2013, my grandmother Frances went home to be with Jesus. For me at least, I’m not sure that it’s fully sunk in yet. How odd it will be not to have her at family gatherings quietly sitting back and taking it all in. She was deeply loved and will be missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to be part of her family.

Bye Grandma. I love you so much and I’ll miss you!

Now Blooming

Okay, so I know I’ve been slacking here on the blogfront the past few weeks. Sorry about that. My excuse is that I’ve been fatigued, nauseous, light-headed, and in a fog. Before I start any rumors, no, this is not a pregnancy announcement. I think something is going around. I had one piano student out this week with similar complaints, a neighbor just told me she’s been having the same symptoms and Lydia threw-up a few mornings back, which wasn’t funny except that the way she put it was, “I had a bad sneeze.”

Bright lights have been bothering me, loud noises and whiny kids too. I hate not feeling good when they don’t feel good. I have such a low tolerance for whining to start with and being sick brings out the worst in all of us.

So anyway, this hasn’t been our best last couple of weeks. But fortunately my garden has been putting on a show. It’s amazing how soothing flowers can be. So come pull up a green metal garden chair and I’ll show you around my little oasis of calm…

Here’s one of the last irises of the year, just blooming its heart out…

The columbine are almost done too…

The pots of annuals are still going strong…

The lamium is a ground cover, so the flowers aren’t big or showy, but still cheerful…

A neighbor gave me some ferns from her yard, and they are looking good, despite the recent transplant. I know they aren’t blooming, but I just love the soft feathery look of ferns. I think ferns are my favorite non-flowering plant…

The very first of the gaillardia just showed up this week…

And last, but certainly never least, the peony (aka my favorite flower in the whole world) put on the biggest, fluffiest show it has ever managed…

There now, I feel so much better. Flowers, food for the soul. Wouldn’t you agree?

Signs of Spring

Can’t believe how long it’s taking for the snow in our yard to melt.  Three full months into the New Year and it still sorta feels like Narnia around here (you know, always winter, but never Christmas). I think though that Aslan must finally be on the move…

There isn’t much green in my flower garden yet, but the Lamium is waking up! Yeah!

On the down-side, the melting snow has revealed one flower pot that has massively and completely self destructed over the winter. Last time I buy a pot from Home Goods.  Boo!

Another sure sign of spring…

The Boys of Summer are back and Peter and I went to our first Twins game of the season and had the most amazing seats ever… right behind the dugout!

It was a bit cold, but totally worth it!  I even got a ball.  I wish I could say that Justin or Joe had tossed it to me, when actually it was an infield practice ball that rolled into the camera pit.  It’s pretty beat up (Peter declared it a batting practice reject) but I don’t care.  I got a ball and TWINS WIN, so pretty much best game ever in my book.

And lastly…

The rocking chairs are back out on the front porch.  Alethea and Clifford both seem pleased at their reappearance.

There is snow in the forecast for later this week, but spring IS coming… I think… maybe…

Snowed Under

I’m sitting on my living room couch writing this post, with a fire in the fireplace, lights twinkling on the tree, and snow falling softly outside the window.  Ahhh…  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Our whole family got outside this afternoon to enjoy a romp in the snow (a.k.a. Peter cleared the snow off the driveway with the snowblower while we girls watched).  The girls thought it was pretty fun at first:

Lydia enjoyed right up until she tried to walk through it.

Sorry, I don’t have a video, but you can look at the above picture and imagine her distressed little voice saying: “I’m stuck!  I’m stuck!”

So basically our afternoon felt a little like a metaphor for my life lately.  A little bit overwhelmed by the cold, beautiful snow…  What’s been coming down on me lately?

Tons of Christmas crafting/decorating (I’m loving my mantle this year, pics soon), a family tree hunt, directing the Christmas choir at church, a 1:00am trip to the ER with Lydia (she had croup and wasn’t breathing well), Christmas present shopping and card ordering, dentist appointments (Alethea’s first and she was a trooper!), piano lessons and our neighborhood Secret Santa.  I feel like I’m jumping from one thing to the next with barely a split second to catch my breath.  Whew!

So I’m taking this one snowy afternoon to relax, write a blog post and revel in the wonder of the season, just for a moment… before the madness begins again.

Breathe… just breathe….

Vacation Destination: Arizona

Alright, so I know I promised some photos from our vacation to Arizona a couple weeks ago.  I’m here to deliver the goods, but fair warning that since it was a family reunion, I didn’t take a ton of pictures.  A lot of our time was spent just hangin’ around, which was very enjoyable, but not always photo worthy.

Arizona is about as different from Minnesota as you can get, so there were lots of things that were totally new to the girls.  As our flight was descending into Phoenix, Peter pointed out the window and said to Alethea, “Look at the mountains!”  Apparently her only context for the word “mountain” is a children’s song, because she responded, “Are those what the bear went over?”

Another totally new thing was all the cacti.  They had a chance to get up close and personal with one.  Naturally Clifford and Baa-baa had to check out the cactus too.  Also predictably, Alethea proceeded with extreme caution, and Lydia just had to find out what Mommy and Daddy meant when they said it was sharp.  Turns out, it was in fact, sharp.  Lesson learned.

Peter’s mom was nice enough to watch the girls for an afternoon so we could go out with some of the rest of the family and go on a little horseback trail ride adventure.  We were quite happy to find a place with a relaxed attitude that let us do some trotting, ride side by side and periodically mix up the order.

I’m pretty proud of this shot given that it was taken one handed, over my shoulder on a moving horse.

Mostly I have to wonder about people who live in the southwest.  I don’t think I could do it.  I like trees.  I need trees.  But there really is something about the sky there.  It’s really big and really blue.  Breathtakingly so.

We visited a nature center one morning.  The girls had fun on the puppet stage with their second cousins and “Uncle ‘Teve”.

Peter went for an afternoon hike one day with his dad and brother and got this cool shot of the moon coming up over the butte.

Every vacation we try to get an ornament for our Christmas tree, so we had to hit up the Christmas store.  This year we let the girls each pick one out as well.  Peter and I got a blown glass cowboy boot, Alethea selected a pink glass ice cream cone and Lydia went for an adorable buri owl.

That trip to the Christmas store along with some delicious meals, hanging out with family, soaking in the hot tub, a couple games of Settlers of Catan, one trip to the ice cream parlor and getting caught in a traffic jam on the way back to the airport rounds out the “what we did on our vacation” list.

So, mostly good, not too much bad and no one puked, which means we are officially calling this vacation a success!  Whew!

Fall Family Fun

Peter was on a business trip in San Diego Tuesday through Friday this week.  The girls and I stayed busy with activities every morning and evening.  A playdate, the children’s museum and a giant batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were all great distractions.  We also kept in touch with Daddy through phone calls, texts and even a video call (gotta love technology), but we are all thrilled that Peter is home again.  Whew!

My favorite text conversation from the week:

Now that Peter is home, today was a day for some family fun.  No, we did not go adopt a puppy.  We went to a farm for all things autumnal!

The girls loved the corn box where they could scoop and dig and hunt for the buried plastic animals:

Look what Alethea found buried in the corn… (We took this picture just for you, Aunt Genna!)They had lots of great things for the kids to do including pedal cars, a mini hay bale maze and some photo opp cutout thingies (yes, that is the technical term).

We all climbed up on the hay bale pile and snagged a passing stranger to take a family photo…

… and then we hopped aboard the “hay ride” to ride on out to the pumpkin patch.  (Does it annoy anyone else when they call something a ‘hay ride’ but there isn’t any hay on the wagon?)

Alethea and I selected a pumpkin from the field that had some real character, but then Peter said it was the “Charlie Brown Christmas tree of pumpkins”, so when we got back to the farm store, we let the girls each pick out a mini pumpkin instead, which was cheaper and the girls were happier with each having their own anyway.

After depositing the pumpkins in the car, we made a quick trip around the farm yard to visit the animals, and then ended our adventure taking our annual Pile of Pumpkins Pictures.  This is always one of my favorite pictures of the year.  (You can check out Alethea’s 2010 pic HERE, and last year’s shots of both girls HERE.)  Unfortunately this year the girls were tired, hungry and a little wet from the heavy mist, so I tried bribing them with the promise of hot chocolate when we got home.

It worked on Alethea:

Not so much with Lydia:

Oh well.  Like I said to Peter on our way out, “It wouldn’t be a true family outing if someone wasn’t leaving in tears.”

The girls are doing better now that they’ve had some food and a little down time, so we’re planning on rounding out our family fun day with a bonfire and some s’mores.  Come on over and join us!

(Into and) Out of the Mouths of Babes

Kids say and do the funniest things.  Mine are no exception.  I started thinking a couple months back that it was really sad that I haven’t been recording more of the moments that crack me up.  Nearly every day one of my children does or says something worth remembering, but as you all know, I don’t always get them posted here.

I am sure that if I don’t write it down somewhere, in a few months I’ll have totally forgotten that this summer Lydia excitedly pointed to a couple of butterflies fluttering through our garden and shouted out, “Butts!  Butts!”  Or the fact that for the longest time Alethea was calling bubblegum “BungleBum”.

Feeling that those precious moments were slipping away from me, but knowing how inconsistent I have been in the past at all my attempts in daily journal keeping, I searched for a line-a-day journal.  Just one line each day.  That I might possibly be able to do.

I ended up buying this journal which I loved not just for the gorgeous color of the cover (I’m such a sucker for robin’s egg blue), but also because it was a five-year book.  Here’s what it looks like inside:

I love the idea that not only will I be able to keep track of the cute things happening each day, I’ll also be able to easily look back and see what my kids were doing one or two (or three or four) years before.

That way I will get to laugh all over again at the day when I was so proud of Lydia, on her hands and knees, closely examining an ant hill on the driveway.  Just as the thought, “Wow, she’s really watching them so intently.  Maybe she’ll be a scientist someday!” floated through my head, Lydia suddenly bent her head down and licked that ant hill right off the driveway.  Yup, she is suspicious of cotton candy from the hand of her mother, but ants on the driveway she eats without hesitation… that’s my girl.

Speaking of things going into mouths, I chuckle each time I think about the day Alethea was in the bathroom washing her hands by herself.  I had recently changed the handsoap to a new citrus scent and from the kitchen I heard the following.  “Mommy got new soap.”  Pause… “I like it, it smells good.”  Longer pause… “But it doesn’t taste good!”  Who’d want to forget a moment like that?!

So far I’ve been pretty good at getting something written down every day.  Sometimes I have to play a little catch-up, and some days are less amusing than others.  But even the small details of my children’s lives are something I know I will treasure in the years to come.

I’m really glad I’m doing this.

On to Painting

Our front porch isn’t done yet.  It probably would have been, but then Peter bought me 32 ounces of Elmer’s wood filler, “Just to fill in the holes along the top of the railings on the stairs.”

I meant to just fill in those holes and then do all the painting, but then I found another hole here and a crack there and before I even knew it, hours had gone by and I’d actually managed to use up the whole container.

Our front porch looks diseased…

However, I’m probably the one with the sickness, if compulsively filling 32 oz worth of holes qualifies as a mental illness.

There are still a few more places I’d like to touch up, but my wood filler is gone now and I doubt Peter would be so unwise as to buy me 32 more ounces, so the painting can resume and by Monday this baby should be done. (Knock on pressure treated lumber.)

A Four-Day Vacation

We took a little four day vacation together as a family this past Saturday-Tuesday.  It was actually two mini vacations rolled into one slightly larger one.  We spent two days at a lake with friends and two days camping on the North Shore (Lake Superior) with my family.  Here are my favorite pictures from the trip:

As you can tell, the girls were a little out of their element, and from time to time it showed, but we really did have a good trip.  They were troopers and apart from Lydia’s bedtime melt-down on our first camping night and some serious whining from the back seat during the car ride home, we all stayed happy and well-occupied.  Alethea was more daring in trying new thing than I expected her to be and both girls were surprisingly careful about keeping a safe distance from the fire, which I was happy about.  Alethea says her favorite part was roasting marshmallows and I’d say both girls also enjoyed the wild raspberry picking/eating along the trail we hiked.

I’ll admit that I am extremely glad to be home to my own bed, hot water and indoor plumbing, but it was totally worth the sore back and showerless days to see Alethea and Lydia having fun exploring the great outdoors.  In fact, we’re already planning for next years trip.  Can’t wait!

A DIY Mirror Project (and a Porch Sneak Peek)

No, the front porch isn’t done yet.  We hit it hard this past weekend and I am happy to report that all of the masonry and major construction is done.  We are sensing light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but still have some painting, staining and other finish work to do.  Soon.  It will be done soon.  But in the mean time…

I am ashamed to say that I have been hoarding an embarrassment of picture frame riches in my garage for the past 12 months.  Can you believe that I have had half-a-dozen large and beautiful empty picture frames for a year now and haven’t managed to do a single project with them yet?  *Hangs head in shame*

But this past weekend that all changed.  I finally got one of them transformed and up on my wall.  Here’s how it went down…

Last year we got a stack of great frames from Peter’s parents who were cleaning out his great-aunt’s house.  I loved this one in particular:

I thought it would make a great frame for a mirror, but I wasn’t sure where one might get a custom sized chunk of mirror.  I thought I might have to call one of those glass specialist trucks, but since that seemed likely to be pricey, I made a quick call to Lowes first.  I found out that yes, Lowes does cut custom sized mirrors (up to a certain size), but the guy on the phone was a little fuzzy on the details.

I had a bunch of other stuff to pick up for the front porch project anyway, so the girls and I made a trip one morning to grab what we needed and check out the mirror cutting situation.  Turns out that you buy a large piece of mirror (I think it was 30″x36″) for $17 and then they cut off the piece that you need.  I wish I had known that ahead of time, because I only wanted a 15″x20″ chunk, but after the guy cut it, he asked me if I wanted the rest of the mirror.  And what was I going to say, “No, I paid for it, and it’s perfectly good mirror, but please throw it in the trash”?  Nope, couldn’t do it, so I ended up with not one, but two 15″x20″ pieces as well as two smaller 15″x16″ sections.  (Anyone else sense more mirror projects in my future?)

Back at home, I headed outside to freshen up the picture frame with several coats of gloss white spray paint.  While the paint was drying, I attempted to photograph my recent Lowes acquisition.

Is it a mirror or a portal to another dimension?

So photographing a mirror ended up being a little tricky, but I tell you, if I had known how simple the actual project was going to be, I would have done it ages ago.  One trip to Lowes, a few coats of spray paint, put in some staples with a staple gun, bend staples away from frame, insert mirror, bend staples back and ‘voila!’ it’s done!  One gorgeous framed mirror for around $20, with paint and extra mirror pieces to spare.  Love it!

Lydia thought it was pretty great too.

We had a good time playing with the mirror together.

So that was my adventure in DIY mirror framing.  Right now the finished product is hanging in my dining room, but I’m not sure if that is its permanent home.  We’ll see where it ends up.  I feel like it could look good in just about any room of our house.

It might even look good outside.  But with our super slick new front porch, the mirror probably wouldn’t get the attention it deserves.  I’d say it takes something pretty adorable to distract from something so fabulous as a nearly finished front porch.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Update: To view the completed front porch project, click here.