Thursday, September 30, 2010

a pretty nice grandma

Yesterday in line at the second hand shop, Kari came running at the last minute with a little dalmatian puppy figurine, and as she rounded the corner it slipped out of her hands and hit the tile. She looked horrified.

Two legs broke off, not quite shattered, but in a number of pieces.

She gathered it up and people who work there rushed to take it away, but as she dumped the pieces in my hand I saw her hands were shaking.

I told them never mind. We still want it, and we can glue it at home.

So a little later we took the bits out of my pocket and Renee and I sat there trying to figure out how these splinters went together. We squinted and laughed and finally had to turn on more lights. Eventually we did figure out part of it, and glued that. It's dry now, so more bits can be glued on today.

Kari was glad to see one leg restored.

Anyway, my mom heard this story and in a few minutes came from the closet with this to give Kari.

Awww. It's way better than the figurine she dropped.

And on a sort of lonely, back to reality day after Renee left, it's been good to have this character here. He's been extra cuddly today, pretty nice.

He doesn't usually follow me wanting to be held, but today he has, and we've had a couple lovely episodes of Couch Potato Grandma. Happy Thursday. love, Val

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

five fast days

The week was kind of like this--a little giddy, a little silly.

We had a really good time. Yesterday she and Kari made lasagna and the big kids came for supper, and also the little guys.

t.c. was pretty impressed by the bowl with the green hand.

Tonight at bedtime, she kissed all the kids good-bye because she'll be gone by the time they wake up--her flight leaves before dawn. How could a week go by so fast? love, Val

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

a lazy monday

A chain saw sculpture of Sponge Bob:

And a very short boat ride. See those clouds?

love, Val

Saturday, September 25, 2010

rain and drab that does not end

But at least we're not flooded like the southern part of the state is.

The highlight of the day was a trip to......TARGET. Oh my gosh, the thrills continue...

It's all good though, plenty of laughing, lots of easy going quiet. We watched a cheesy movie that's been in the cabinet for years called Two Weeks Notice. Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock? They're both charming, but I can't recommend the movie.

Eventually Jay came home from helping Dan refurbish his porch, and a roast was done cooking. I made gravy while he made a salad. Earlier they ate all the candy in the bowl with the green hand that menacingly says, "Want some candy?" as it flops forward. Creepy bowl. I bought it on clearance last year. Yeah. Glad it wasn't full price.

Anyway, all in all, a very lovely Saturday. Wishing everybody the same. love, Val

Friday, September 24, 2010


This woman is arriving on a plane!

We met on a mom's email list a long time ago, and the first time she brought her babies and came to visit us, people were worried. "You met 'er on the Inner net? That's dangerous."

Because we're both very dangerous.

A couple years later, we drove out there for a vacation, and her family's been back a couple times. The most dangerous thing that ever happened was when her baby fell off the swing and hurt her nose. (This happened while we were at Target and the MEN were in charge. Yes, we rubbed that in.)

She says not to clean the house, and she does NOT want to see any tourist crap--just eat, drink a little wine, goof around, hit the second-hand stores. I can handle it.

(When we went to her house, we did want to see Niagara Falls. Tourist crap, I know, but I loved it.)

that's one of her kids in the green rain coat

Anyway, it should be a great week. love, Val

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a child as sweet as candy

This is the one.

Believe it or not, this is the first time we've ever spent time alone together. For two days, he got to come to Grandma's all by himself. He's a bit tiny and quiet with a smile that shows both the bottom and top teeth, and gorgeous curly eyelashes.

In the space of long hours together, he was chatty and he's funny. He has a wry little sense of humor and excellent comic timing. The gestures, the pause, the point where he makes eye contact--he's a natural.

He also let me rock him to sleep for his naps, and I held him a long time, enjoying the warm weight of him on my chest, breathing in the scent of his hair, oh my goodness.

Today at lunch everyone else was done and he still had most of his pizza left, so I brought him from the kitchen to the dining room so he could be near us and still take his time. Shortly he brought his whole plate to the living room couch, and then switched it to the coffee table, then carried it around some more. The dogs were perplexed and highly interested.

Don't even think about it, you idiots. That's l.c.'s lunch. He turned to Sidney and hollered, "Go 'way!" You tell them.

In the afternoon, Julia, l.c., and I took ice cream sandwiches and drove over to where Jay was painting Kirsten's house. He came down from the ladder and we sat in the yard. l.c. sucked on his ice cream sandwich until he'd sucked most of the ice cream out, and then Jay helped him rinse his tiny hands in the hose.

Being grandparents with this man, seriously...the incredible tenderness...we were skinny, overly-long haired teenagers together, and all these years have passed, and who knew life held this for us? Nobody talks about this, the perfection of now, his white whiskers, impossibly beautiful shoulders, and his gentle, gentle heart.

We sat there a long time in the perfect, bright September sun, watching this most lovely grandson run around the yard with Julia.

When he ran to us to point at an airplane, it reminded me of his big brother and how he used to jump up and down and wave at every airplane whether John was traveling or not that day, "Hi, Dad! That's my dad up there! Hi Dad!"

some kids said this red couch was "the best thing that's happened to our family in a long time." yeah. it's excellent for naps, that's the truth.

Anyway, I was sad to see him go this afternoon and told John he should come and stay with me for a day all the time. Often. I want him. Time for bed. Sleep tight. love, Val

Monday, September 20, 2010

a september weekend

It was a pretty quiet weekend at the lake.

Thursday night at bedtime, the kids were begging for this guy.

His parents are high school friends of John and Dan, and they're good natured. Even though it was almost ten at night, I called, and they said sure he could come with us.

Now do you see these two in long sleeved shirts? They were going to play with the remote control boat and only get their feet wet.

Only the feet.

Notice also the life jackets. I know them.

Okay, and there's Tim. Saturday John decided to treat them all to rides at the Go-Cart Track in town. But then Tim had no shoes. None. We realized this when he came out to the yard and chastised me, "Why'd you pack me all these socks and no shoes?"

He said in that same tone of voice he's used when I forgotten to pack him pajamas, "I have to sleep in clothes now. I hope you're happy."


We all stared at him and asked what he'd worn on his feet when we left home?



He'd walked past his own shoes in the entryway, got in the car, and never looked back. And this was not a particularly warm weekend, especially in the morning. But he didn't complain, except for the Go-Cart situation. Our friend had an extra pair of shoes along that he could borrow. At least someone knows what they're doing.

And there was this conversation--We are babysitting this guy today.

Nobody wanted to mention this to t.c., but his FATHER forgot and opened his mouth. Of course t.c. wanted to skip school and come to Grandma's house too.

That's hard because I always want him too. I mean, he's the greatest guy.

But they said no, he has to go to school. You and I know he doesn't and it wouldn't matter, and John knows that too, but he said they don't want to have to debate whether or not he's going to school every morning.

I understand. It's not a position I'd defend, but I understand the importance of peaceful mornings too.

Our little friend heard all this and encouraged t.c., "School is very important. You have to go there to have fun, make friends, and learn things."

Dan was over on the couch eating lunch, and he snickered, "Buddy, you been drinkin' the Kool Aid."

Our friend squinted at Dan and patted t.c. on the shoulder.

Oh yeah.

And finally this:

t.c. saw Jay go by on his old green motorcycle and was desperate to get outside for a ride. He said, "I thought Grandpa was going to sell that! I don't want him to sell it!"

I said, "He was, but nobody wanted to buy it. Tell him you want him to keep it. He'll listen to you. He likes you."

The child answered, "Yeah. I like him too." Happy Monday. It could be a great week. love, Val

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

tuning in that signal

Okay, I'd not heard this story from Labor Day weekend. We spent the weekend with my parents at their place in Wisconsin, and had a great time.

My dad told this story to my sister, and she told it to me, and I laughed until I had to dry my eyes. I don't know why it struck me so funny.

I guess at the table, Julia was tapping a bracelet on a little box. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, maddening tapping.

He put his big paw of a hand over hers. She stopped for a few seconds.

Then tap, tap, tap, tap, tap... until he put his hand over hers again.

In a few seconds, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. He put his hand over hers a third time and said, "Julia. That's a signal."

Apparently, she startled back in her chair and hollered, "Whaddaya mean you're single?!"

I guess my dad shook his head, laughing, and Julia giggled, "I THOUGHT you were married to GRANDMA!"

Just please stop tapping, okay?

Oh, wow. I'm laughing and laughing all over again. I guess my dad thought it was a darn good joke. love, Val

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

malaprop man

Yep. It's him.

I guess people who do this just DO this, and nobody knows why. But he's one of them.

The first time he did it and made me laugh was back before we were even married. He was talking about someone with a special accomplishment and said it was a "plum in his cap."


No, no. It's a plum in the pudding or a feather in his cap. No feathers in the pudding, no plums in the caps.

His snickering response: "What are you talking about?"


Then sometime later he was telling his uncle about getting our marriage license. He said we'd had to go downtown to the courthouse and they'd put us through the rigor mortis.

Okay, no. It was a rigamarole. Rigor mortis, they did not put us through.

His uncle's eyes twinkled and he hooted with laughter, "Laid ya right out a slab there, did they now?"

Jay just scoffed, "You know what I mean."

This goes on, and he's happy to amuse, so he doesn't get offended when we laugh.

Which brings us to tonight when he was talking about a guy and said the man was "drunk off his skunk." We laughed. Yes, we knew exactly what he meant, but it's all just so kooky and so classic Jay. Plus there's the mental image that creates, hmmm, drunk off his skunk. What is that? Oh well.

Happy Tuesday, Honey. I love you so, V

yes, we wonder

Okay, so this is a plastic container that once held cheese puffs. Heidi and Kirsten had it for their party last weekend, and didn't want the rest of them, so they left this half full container of cheese puffs for the kids here.

They've been eating them and the container was in the family room empty earlier.

Then tonight I find this. Do you see what that is in there?


Tim's socks, specifically his clean ones.

I asked him WHY?

"Oh, my socks are just going to be stored in there from now on."

Wow. Okay. Glad I asked. love, Val

Monday, September 13, 2010

an awesome little marshmallow launcher

Here's Tim demonstrating the latest little building kit. love, Val

Saturday, September 11, 2010

oh, a surprise of a mixed sort

an almost ruined picture of Lydia from a few years back

Little Jay is at the university now, and so today I decided to wash his sheets and clean up a little so when he comes home again it'll be good.

Well, when I was making the bed, I noticed a couple pop cans and a sock underneath, and as I gathered up a wad of Gray Layer (gum wrappers, dust bunnies, etc) I noticed a plastic tote and pulled it forward to glance inside--wonder what this is?

I peeked inside--photos, old books, a bible, a case for CDs, and then I noticed MOLD on the photo envelopes. Oh no!

Dragged from under the bed and fully opened--the whole thing was moldy and mushy and the deeper into the box, the slimier it got. At the bottom was about two inches of moldy water. Look at all these packs of photos! All the literature from his precious Wii, drenched and slimy. Terrible.

The air conditioner in the window had been leaking into the room earlier this summer--we'd had water in the kids' room below, but nobody knew about this tote also having water run into it.

I called to Big Jay to bring a trash bag and come help me. We spread the photos on towels all over Jay and James' beds, the floor, the shelves, the dresser, so they could dry. Most of the negatives appear to be okay, but some photos and negatives were entirely ruined.

I didn't remember he'd taken so many pictures. Some were with a special Pokemon camera, one that put a decorative Pokemon frame on every photo. That was pretty sweet.

Anyway, on the way to the party tonight--for Dan's 30th birthday--very wonderful evening, we phoned Little Jay to tell him this. He was bummed, but mostly took it in stride, was glad we attempted to salvage as many pictures as we could.

Apparently Tim was a favorite photo subject because there were plenty of pictures of him as a bald, juicy baby.

Tim with a red satin purse on his head--a gift from my friend Becka.

Tim at 5 months

And this almost ruined pic of James and Maria hugging in a room that no longer exists. This is the den we used to call the schoolroom. It was off the dining room, about 11 x 11 and had shelves on all 4 walls, pillows on the floor. The sewing machine was in there, and also the TV, a word processor, and the deep freeze. We spent more time in this little room than any other in the house. When Tim was a baby, we tore it down and built the family room. It'd be a shame to lose this one.

Anyway, happy Saturday, and may all our disasters be as minor as this one. love, Val

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Well, that's actually pink yogurt.

There's the Say Cheese smile, both of them. That blurry spot is from my fingers, apparently from the cheese string I unwrapped right before this.

And a little video for fun. Julia's eating a bowl of leftover hamburger helper heated up in the microwave. When I asked her how it tasted, she said, "It's delicious-- a little noodle-y and very chicken-ish." Okay, there is no chicken in that. I asked no further questions.

This morning he was tired, so I tucked him in for an episode of Couch Potato Grandma. That's is how I get him to sleep--get on the couch with a lot of pillows, the remote, a beverage of choice for each of us, and a blanket. He kicks back in the crook of my arm, usually with his right leg purposely dangling. And then he gets sooo sleepy watching Arthur or Ellen Degeneres or whatever, that he can't stay conscious.

So there we were this gloomy, cool morning, sacked out there dozing, and I thought of his OTHER grandma. She does not indulge in any episodes of Couch Potato Grandma. She bundles him up the stroller and walks several blocks for coffee, walks him back again, points out sights, talks to him.

(I might walk as far as the kitchen for a cup of cocoa, but whoa, no further.)

She's a slim as a teenager and she gets her grandchild out into the invigorating fresh air.

And then there's me. I felt guilty, and like the true bed-hair slug I am. The good part is that b.g. does seem to happily love us both. Awww. Happy Thursday. love, Val

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

back when we were us

I came across this picture tonight while I was cleaning the dining room. It's someone jumping in the air at Green Lake, but it made me cry and I don't know why.

Back to your regularly scheduled lives. love, Val

Monday, September 6, 2010

okay, this is the story

of Dannell.

We left John off at the university, and a few weeks later when he was home for the weeekend doing his laundry, he told me this:

"All the cute girls are in the elementary ed program."

Okay, then. Good to know.

Next time he came home, he had her with him. (And she was cute, it's true. Not gonna lie.)

After Christmas that year he asked if she could stay with us. She lived with her grandparents who had gone south for the winter, and it was just her alone in the house over there--a little scary, a little lonely... did we mind?

No, of course not. She could bunk with Maria and that'd be fine.

I honestly thought, given the loud and somewhat obnoxious family that we are, that she'd probably run screaming from the place within 24 hours.

She never left.

She continued to bunk with Maria for weekends and school breaks, summer vacations, all the way until she, John, and Dan got an apartment in the weeks before their wedding.

Every night about 4 am, James used to come and get his dad to warm his bed back up. After half an hour or so, I'd hear the dad snoring and go to fetch him back to his own bed. There he'd be crowded into the (full sized) bottom bunk with Maria and James, stuffed animal shoved under his head, snoring. Dannell would be asleep (maybe faking) in the top bunk.

More than once I thought, if this isn't the definition of the family bed, I don't know what is.

Dannell is kind and conscientious, determined, diplomatic, and completely devoted to John and this whole family. She takes beautiful care of our grandsons--even makes sure they are polite. She's been nothing but nice to Jay and me for over a decade now. Who could ever ask for more?

I'm dying to bake her a birthday cake this week, if we could only figure out a time to sing and eat. (The first week of school is a little hectic for preschool teachers.)

Happy Birthday, Honey. We do love you so. love, Val and Jay

labor day

joe and heidi cutting flower in the garden

We had a great weekend with my parents, got to see my grandma, and Saturday the big kids came. Very nice.

Some pics for fun:

the driving range behind the barn


playing dress up in the log cabin--the dark haired child is dannell's sister's daughter m.c.

t.c. at the door

on the swingset

john and great-grandma

a tractor ride

a little love

sunday morning, julia woke up crabby. even her feet look cranky from here

see what i mean?


Tim however, was not cranky at all. He was scouring the property for bear tracks and told us this half chewed zucchini was evidence bears had been there. We didn't argue. Neighbors do see bears, though I don't know that they eat zucchini.

And you know how we snicker about the way he talks? Well, this is a perfect example. He wanted to pick beans, and this is what he said to my mother while she looked for a bucket to put them in--keep in mind the deep voice and extra round vowels:

"Yes, I would like to do it, but first you must guide me to the bean aisle."

(oh yeah, much snickering--she did it, showed him where the beans were.)

And here are a few people I love. It's my mom with Kari beside her, then my grandma, Maria, and Julia perched on the rail. Onward to September then. Much love, Val