Friday, December 11, 2009

Road Trip

I love a road trip. Always have. But road trips for me have been nonexistent since I no longer own a car. That is, right up until I discovered a local car rental agency that would deliver a car right to my doorstep. I had promised Emily that I would go up north to see her after Edan was born. There was no way I was going to break that promise. Emily, Edan and her husband, Eric, would be going back to Hawaii shortly after Edan's birth, and this would be my only opportunity to see that beautiful baby in person. So I ordered the car and planned to leave last Friday morning.

Thursday evening my phone rang. It was David. He wondered if I should be driving that far by myself. I found myself laughing at him, and I reminded him that I was a big girl now, fully capable of taking care of myself. I promised to call him and let him know that I had made the trip to Bemidji just fine, and that if the weather turned bad, I would pull over and not try to drive through a snowstorm. Even though I laughed at him, it warmed my heart to know that this son of mine loves me enough to worry about me.

I left for the Great White North on Friday morning. As I dislike freeway driving, I took some less traveled roads out of the city, enjoying looking at the scenery rather than miles of tail lights. I won't tell David that at one point I missed a turn and wound up backtracking about 20 miles. There were a few snow flurries on the way, but the roads were dry and it was a good trip.

I arrived in Bemidji in the afternoon, and Jackie welcomed me with a hug. Kelly wasn't home as he was out of town taking some classes for his job. Jackie and I drank coffee and talked until it was time to start supper. She fixed BBQ ribs that were to die for, and soon family began arriving. Emily, Eric and Edan were there; Randi, Rick and their two little girls Tabitha and Nicole; Ashley, Jason and their son, Griffon; Dustin, Trish and their daughter Dezi; and Jackie's son Cody. There is not much that is better than a house full of family. There was lots of talk, even more laughter, and kids everywhere. Nicole and Tabitha were calling me "Grandma" and insisted on sitting next to me at supper. Dezi entertained us with "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," followed by a sweeping bow from the waist to the applause of her audience. She must have learned that bow at her daycare, as her parents were surprised to see it. Baby Edan is a love. I got to do some serious baby snuggling. Although he weighed over 8 pounds at birth, he seemed so very tiny. He is such a good baby and slept through all the commotion. I hope his mother will keep me supplied with pictures as he grows, because it will be a long time before I get to see him and his parents again. I had not seen Griffon in person before - only in pictures, so I got a double dose of baby snuggling. This "Great-Auntie" thing is wonderful. He was so good, and is into a fun stage of smiling and giggling at anyone who talks to him. He is such a sweetheart.

After everyone took their tired children and headed to their homes, Jackie and I sat and talked for a while until I could keep my eyes open no longer. Jackie has the ability to make me feel so welcome and so very much at home. I wonder if she knows how much I love having her as my sister. She went out of her way to give me a truly wonderful evening with family, and I am grateful.

Saturday morning I feasted on homemade cinnamon rolls, and after a few cups of coffee to get me going, Jackie and I decided to go do a little Christmas shopping. I found one gift I had been looking for, and she bought a few grandkid presents. We had a nice lunch at a local restaurant and then headed back home. Dusty, Dezi, Ashley, Jason and Griffon came by to see me and it was fun to talk with them. Kelly came home in the afternoon, and Dezi was jumping up and down yelling, "Grandpa, Grandpa!" Kelly said that you can't get a better homecoming greeting than that. Later over coffee we had some good brother-sister talk. We don't get to do that often because of the distance that separates our homes, so I cherish the times we do have together.

After a great home cooked breakfast Sunday morning there was more good family conversation. Jackie's son Brent stopped by and I was happy to be able to meet all of her family on this trip. He has just moved back to the Bemidji area and was telling us about his new job, which sounds exciting. It involves catering trucks and has all the potential for being a huge success. Dusty and Dezi came by later in the morning and I was glad to see them again before heading back home early in the afternoon.

I had been joking that I was praying for a blizzard so that I wouldn't have to leave quite so soon. I think that was partly joke and partly wishful thinking. I love living close to my family here in the Cities, but I so love the north country and my family there. I wonder if Jackie and her children realize how much it means to me to be so fully accepted as a member of their family. I guess that, upon reflection, I have the best of both worlds. I can see my children and grandchildren fairly often here, and I can go to a place I love and see more family. I think I will have to do this road trip thing more often.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I Am Thankful

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our blessings and those things we are thankful for. My blessings were all together at David and Staci's home on Thanksgiving Day. How I love these times when my family is all gathered in one place to spend time with each other.

David is a wonderful cook, and a brave one. He tried out several new recipes for our Thanksgiving dinner, and all turned out well. I had never tasted turkey roasted on the grill. He said that he marinated it in an apple juice brine overnight before grilling. It was soooo good. Jon won the debate as to whether the accompanying side dish was "dressing" or "stuffing." It seems that it is only "stuffing" when it has been stuffed into the bird before roasting. Makes sense to me. As is our custom, each brought something to share for our meal, and we feasted like kings on the traditional Thanksgiving fare.

It was such fun for me to watch my grown children working together in the kitchen preparing our meal. There was much talk and more laughter with good natured teasing thrown in for good measure. I was reprimanded for snitching a piece of turkey, but I thought I should make sure it was fit for everyone to eat. The grandchildren hovered, waiting for it all to be ready to eat, and Jacob came carrying his bib. He was more than ready.

Charlie circled the kitchen, making sure that if a crumb dropped on the floor, he was on it. It was his job to keep the floor clean, and he did it well, right up until the time he was banished from the kitchen.

I brought Jessie with me as I wanted to start getting her used to being with people. She did well, did not leave any puddles on the floor, got along well with Charlie, and the grandkids had fun playing with her.

After pie and coffee later in the afternoon, it was time to head on home. When I got home I downloaded the pictures I had taken from my camera onto my computer. Looking through them, I thought about how very much I have to be thankful for. And most of what I am thankful for was gathered together for a truly nice Thanksgiving Day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meet Jessie Jane

A couple of weeks ago I learned that the lady Starla and I know who breeds Yorkies was retiring one of her females and wanted a good home for her. What happened next should not surprise anyone who knows me well. Starla drove out to the farm and picked her up for me. She is 7 years old, but has the energy of a much younger dog. I wasn't thrilled with her name (Tiffany), and she isn't a princess kind of dog to go with that name, so we named her Jessie. Starla started calling her Jessie James, but when I pointed out that she is a girl and not a boy, the name was changed to Jessie Jane!

I hadn't planned on taking her to work with me, but Starla said I might as well bring her so she could get used to being around other dogs and people. With a breeder dog who isn't around people other than her owner, socializing is important. So I took her to work one day last week. Apparently she loved being there, as the next morning, while I was putting my shoes on, getting ready to leave for work, she came to me dragging her harness and leash. Yep. Cute will win every time.

So we now have a shop dog who lives with me. Starla calls her our "Wal-Mart Greeter" as she will come out of her kennel to greet anyone who comes in the door with a dog. She doesn't know what doggie treats are for, which is probably just as well, and she didn't know what toys were for either, until I gave her the one she has in the photos. Wherever she goes, the toy goes. Jessie gets along with the cats just fine unless one of them tries to play with her toy. Then watch out!

I know of several people who have successfully litter box trained their Yorkies, and as I am not overly fond of early morning walks in the snow, we are working on that. First I put newspaper in the litter box, but she just shredded it. Hand a grand time. Little bits of newspaper from one end of the apartment to the other. So then I tried cat litter. She got the idea and was using the box until the cats found it. That was the end of that. So now I will try litter especially made for dogs. Should work just fine, and I won't have to trudge through the snow every morning and evening over the winter. Works for me.

I find that I am really enjoying having Jessie live with me. She is pretty good company, doesn't bark unless a cat steals her toy and she makes me smile. That is worth it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Flying Lessons

I have grandchildren doing all sorts of fun things, but this is a new one. Zachary had his first flying lesson!

His Mom tells me that she had seen on the Flying Cloud Airport website that they offered flying lessons for kids. She said she mentioned it to Zach and he said he would like to do it. So a week or so ago, he took his first lesson. I wondered if he had flown with his Dad, who is a pilot, but Jill said he went with an instructor. The plane he was in was a Cessna 172, and he learned how to ascend and turn. He also logged his first half-hour in his pilot log.

Jill tells me that he loved it, he wasn't at all scared, and he wants to get his pilot's license. So he will be taking more lessons next summer.

I have been hooked on flying since my Dad took me for a ride in Bemidji in one of those planes with the pontoons that take off from the lake. I was about Zach's age when we did that, and I don't know if those airplane rides are even there any more, but I loved it. Jill knows how much I love flying, so she and Joe gave me a plane ride for my birthday one summer. I was impressed at what a good pilot Joe is, and I was having so much fun that I forgot to take pictures!

So I'm thinking that when Zach gets his pilot's license, maybe - just maybe - there might be another plane ride in it for me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Season

The leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter and it is pumpkin carving season.

David and Staci went with their kids and Grandma and Poppa to the pumpkin patch to pick out their Halloween pumpkins. Looks like they had a fine time selecting just the right ones.

And Zach has his Jack-o-lanterns all ready for Halloween. His mom says that he designed the big scary one and the two smaller scared ones himself.

I remember that my Dad always devoted one corner of his garden on the farm for growing pumpkins. We would keep an eye on them over the summer to see if any of them would grow big enough for Jack-o-lanterns. As Halloween approached, Libby and I would stake our claims on the biggest pumpkins for carving. The smaller ones were brought in from the garden, cooked and canned for pumpkin pies, pumpkin bars, and all the other delicious things made from pumpkin. It always seemed to me that the home grown and home canned pumpkin produced pies that tasted better than when using store bought canned pumpkin.

When I had children of my own, I followed Dad's practice of growing a patch of pumpkins in my garden. Over the winter, I would go through the seed catalogs and order seeds that promised to produce huge pumpkins. They never quite lived up to the expectations, but we had some pretty respectable sized Jack-o-lanterns at Halloween time. I so enjoyed carving pumpkins with my kids, seeing the scary faces their imaginations came up with. When the Jack-o-lanterns all had candles in them, and their scary faces glowed in the night, it was time to roast the pumpkin seeds. A friend of mine had given me the recipe, which is nothing more than tossing the seeds in melted butter, placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, sprinkling them with salt, and roasting them in a slow oven for an hour. A couple of times we experimented with using seasoned salt or garlic salt, but we seemed to like the seeds with plain salt the best.

Some say that fall is a depressing time of year because it means that lazy days at the lake, family picnics, boat rides and all of the other summertime activities are over. I just don't see it that way. Although this year I could have used a little less rain and a little more sunshine. When my family lived in the northern part of the state, we would often in the fall of the year pile into the car to go for a ride and look at the beautiful fall colors. A favorite drive of mine was the Turtle River Lake road. Sections of that road wound through forests of bright orange and red trees, while other parts showed us yellow and gold leaves. I never seem to get enough of the beauty of nature.

Fall was also a time to rake the fallen leaves from the yard. Rather than bagging them up in huge plastic leaf bags, we raked them into piles on the driveway and burned them. I still miss the smell of leaf smoke in the air. Last year David's kids helped him rake leaves, and it was good to see that kids still enjoy jumping into a pile of leaves, as I did as a child.

I love this time of year.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

She's a Teenager !

A few weeks ago Jeri told me that Nicki was having a birthday party to celebrate her 13th birthday, at their house, with several 12 and 13 year old girls attending. The weather was still warm, and the plan was for the girls to sleep in a large tent in the back yard. I told Jeri that she was a brave woman, but it sounded like lots of fun for Nicki and her friends. By the looks of the pictures Jeri took, it seems that the party was a huge success.

During the evening a friend and neighbor of Jon and Jeri dropped by, and he offered to take the kids wake surfing the next morning. In spite of being up most of the night doing whatever it is that teenage girls do at a sleepover (From what I am told, sleep was not involved!) the girls were up and ready to go out on the lake bright and early. Chris joined the party, and they all went out to wake surf, with varying degrees of success. Looks to me like they really had fun.

Where has the time gone? When Chris and Nicki were born, Mike and I were living in Branson, Missouri. It tugged at my heartstrings to know that Chris was growing and I was not there to watch him do it. So when Nicki was born, I told Mike to start packing. We were going home. Best move I ever made. But it just doesn't seem like 13 years have passed since I held my first baby granddaughter in my arms. There have been four more grandchildren born since that time, and I am so very lucky to be able to be close to all of them.

Happy Birthday, Nicki ! ! !