Monday, August 30, 2010

flying child

I do love this picture of t.c.

It captures something essential about the person he is.

That's his mother in the green sundress, observing.

Oh, my goodness, t.c., you flying boy.

love, Grandma

Sunday, August 29, 2010

b.g. is ONE

Here's the note I sent my friends the morning he was born:

"The baby was born at 2:32 am! Dan called at 3 am and said to come at 5, so we went to the store and bought flowers and balloons and cookies and were there by 5:10.

Alicia had a fast, straight forward labor and everything turned out just as they'd hoped. So we all sat there grinning, holding our new grandson as the sun came up.

His name is b.g. and he weighs 9 lbs 11 oz, 21.75" tall. His middle name is my dad's father's name. We're awfully giddy this morning. love, Val"

We spent this evening celebrating his birthday at a park near a lake not far from here.

It was beautiful, though windy and hot, good company, great food, lovely boy.

His rowdy cousins were there, all the relatives, very fun.

b. g. and his maternal grandma's mom--his great-grandma, sylvia

trying to light candles in the wind

still working on it

In other news, we dropped Little Jay off at his dorm at the university this morning. It's all good. James came along to help, which was really nice. The roommate seems the usual pleasant nerdy-normal type, and Jay seemed content. They were about to rearrange the room when we left. Sigh.

How all these hungry mosquitoes ended up in this room, I do not know, but it's time to turn on the lights and begin elimination. It also smells like fresh marijuana smoke in here. Good Lor-ed. I'm going to shut the windows and turn the a/c back on. We have a neighbor who does this in the evening, God bless him. her?

James just came in here asking, "What is that ratchety smell?" Okay, that' s an interesting adjective. I teased him, asked if he's smoking dope up in the room. "Me? What? No!"


Onward to bedtime. love, Val

Thursday, August 26, 2010

the first girl

heidi and newborn julia

The first baby girl was Heidi.

She was born a couple hours after everyone went home from Dan's fourth birthday party.

She was the smallest of all our babies, a little tiny jaundiced peanut.

But she grew.

I wrote this back when she finished high school--

"My oldest daughter, Heidi, and I have been touring colleges this summer, looking ahead to life beyond her last year of high school. I did this with her older brothers when they were her age, and here I am again, playing mentor, trying to do what's best for Heidi, and wrassling my maternal soul into submission tot he facts. These children grow up. That was the plan the whole time. Dang it anyway, I didn't expect good things to make me feel so sad. Bad things, that I would understand. But good things?

We drove for miles through the countryside, past hilly farm fields spread out in shades of green, to Gustavus Adolphus, the college a friend jokingly calls "Lutheran Princeton." It's not that way, but it's a school we admire, for the significance of the ethnic heritage of our family and for the fine education it could provide.

Here, just as at all the colleges we toured, we were led around by sweet, sincere young people, with intelligence and potential radiating from their faces and hearts. Through one empty building after another, some cool as cellars, others as stuffy and hot as tool sheds in the sun, we followed our guides, listening to the benefits of being a student at that particular school. We listened to fatherly middle-aged men talk about financial aid and student loans. We ate cookies and drank punch. I can't believe she's this grown up.

When Heidi, the smallest of all our babies, came slipping, soaking wet and crying, into her father's hands, I could not have imagined the woman she'd become or what raising her would mean to me. We were giddy delighted to have a daughter, but really, we were clueless. If I could, I would rewind time and go back tot he summer of 1984 when we were anticipating her birth, and live her childhood all over again.

Our tiny daughter grew to be tall, with gold curls and her father's broad shoulders. She has long, muscular legs, runs cross-country, throws discus, plays flute, polishes her toenails purple and has a fuzzy pink steering wheel cover in her car. Heidi is elegant and dignified, a combination of regal feminine beauty, silly girlhood, and sheer physical power that takes my breath away.

Everywhere she goes, things are smoothed. Dirty dishes disappear; towels go onto the racks, arguing stops: things get done. Little Jay muttered to my mother, while he was searching for something he'd lost, "Ooooh, Mother and Heidi can always find things." I know how he feels. I have been saying that when Heidi goes away to college, I don't know if I can live here anymore either! I'm joking, but not entirely.

Yesterday between colleges, Heidi and I stood in line at a lunch counter, and the clerk was grumbling to the customer ahead of us about how awful daughters are. "I have fours sons and one daughter, and I'm telling you, I would take four more sons before another girl. She has been just awful..."

I glanced up at Heidi, who seemed oblivious to them, and then kept my eyes fastened on my shoes, thinking, "Never, never, never never." I've noticed things about some ages the kids go through, like how twelve year olds are bigger than I am, but don't realize it and continue to do flips on the couch same as always, only suddenly feet are in the lamps and magazines flying from the coffee table.

Thirteen year olds get so moody. Sixteen year olds tend to be secretive. But these are all phases the kids go through, stages of development, not the kids themselves! I wonder why the clerk talked like this about her girl?

I know most of you have daughters, daughters as beautiful as my Heidi. I love the pictures you've sent. I also see other mothers' daughters waiting on me at the store, guarding swimmers at the pool, singing in the school choir, competing in the track meets... Maybe we can resolve to remember to appreciate them--our own and other women's daughters too--just in case we have been forgetting to as they grew. These young women and our lives together are absolutely a gift."

Last fall she was married, and the latest chapter is this:

She and Joe are having their own baby next spring.

Happy Golden Birthday, Baby Girl. The whole family is better because of you. love, Mom and Dad

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


at two

at eighteen

Yes. Thirty today.


He's Dan, the second child.

John's the first child, and his birthday was back in June, ended up all wrapped into the graduation party, which often happens--that, or a wedding, or something.

john and dad

But in August, life gets a little slower.

When Dan was born, John was too little to even be jealous, just accepted him without concern, loved him entirely.

Even now when they fight, this is the argument--same one every time: John complains, "Dan's such a crab-ass." Dan grumbles, "John's trying to run my life."

We're so predictable, you know?

Anyway here's something I wrote about them in a magazine article a few years ago:

"The first was the one who baffled me and worried me, and then delighted me most of all with his sense of humor. (He did choose us for parents. He'd have had to be both brave and a good sport.) I had no idea babies love a joke!

As he's grown, we have argued and scrapped like siblings. He and I and his dad and brother have grown up together. I don't know why those two spirits were brave enough to come to a couple of goofs like we were, but I am only glad they did.

The first one had a glorious crown of satiny, springy gold curls, and a bother that followed on his heels by only a year, and that second one--oh my goodness. He was little and lovely and thoughtful, with skinny arms and creamy skin, but best of all he was coated with fur. I didn't know there was a name for it. I'd never heard of lanugo, but it curled along his cheeks and shoulders and down his back. It was delicious and wonderful. I nibbled it after his baths, and when I rocked him to sleep, I'd slip a hand under his undershirt and stroke his fur."

Anyway, enough of that. They're all grown up now, married men with sons of their own.

Tonight we went to John and Dan's softball game for fun, and these characters were there.

When they steal your heart, it's forever. When these little squirrels are thirty, I'll still feel just as fierce about them as I do now.

Yup, it's true.

Happy Birthday, Honey. Thank you for being our kid. None of us would be who we are without YOU. love, Mom and Dad

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a strangely popular toy

This is some Barbie contraption we've had for years. It's this flip thing and swatches of fabric. See how she's putting it the fabric across there?

Then flip the top down and voila.

Other swatches make other outfits.

This toy is not just used by the girls. The boys, even big teenage boys create outfits and goof around with it. I gave one of these to a friend's daughter years ago and her kids played with it by the hour too.


It's like how kids will play with a cardboard box until it falls apart. Who knew this little trinket would be so entertaining? We haven't even seen one of these at the store in ages. Maybe one would turn up in a second hand shop? Buy it if it does. You won't be sorry. love, Val

Monday, August 23, 2010

if you had a unibrow?

Okay, this is an actual question Kari asked me last night:

"Would you love me if I had a purple unibrow?"


"Well, considering I loved when you when you had no teeth and pooped your pants? I'd say yes."

There was some laughing, and she said, "I'm working on growing a beard!"

James: "Good luck with that."

Then she showed up with Julia, both with purple unibrows, little mustaches, and beards--spiral beards.

They ran to the office to show Dad. I guess his response was, "Niiice."

Definitely time to put some kids to bed. love, Val

Sunday, August 22, 2010

an easy weekend

The kids brought friends to the lake, and also our niece. The weather was beautiful. It was a very good time. Others will be at the lake in the weeks to come, but we won't be back for a month or more, so glad we made it there one more time in August.

swimming--that basketball thing was a birthday gift for Tim, pretty fun

cooking in the fire

playing cards and eating shrimp

the highly technical chart created for the pickle ball tournament

they took turns being line judges

then a soccer match

And of course, what's life without caterpillars? Is this one albino? Or it's supposed to be white like this? They played with it a while and wanted to keep it, but I convinced them to let it go in the woods. They had a hard time finding a spot where they felt sure no birds would eat it, and no tree would fall on it.

And this: We need a new roof, and yet we were laughing at this lovely roof garden we didn't even know we had. Yeah, ugh. That's real cute.

And finally--Happy Birthday to the most generous, patient sister in the world. The kids all say this: "She'd do anything for us," because it's true. The times she's come through for us are too many to count, and we are smart enough to know how darn lucky we are.

Happy Birthday Sweetheart, and best wishes for a wonderful year. love, Val