Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bagging our first live tree

We have only used one Christmas tree our entire married life.  It was a 2-foot tall artificial tree that we would set up on the floor or on a table to make it seem taller.  The boys finally broke the tree beyond repair this year, so we decided to take our first trip to a real live Michigan Christmas tree farm.  This was a first for all of us.  So here's how it works at a real Christmas tree farm.  First you get yourself a wagon and a saw.  Then you load the kiddies onto the wagon and take a picture.  Next you pull your wagon out to where the trees are, and you find a tree with a price tag on it that you like.  This is the tree you cut down with your saw. Take more pictures.  Haul the tree back to the barn on the wagon.  Back at the barn, farm workers put your tree into a shaker that gets all of the dead pine needles and grass off of it.  Then they put it into the baler, which wraps it in twine so that it won't get damaged on the roof of your car as you drive home.  Don't forget to pay for your can't get it back from the baler without your receipt.  Now, if you want, you can take a scenic ride around the farm on the tractor-drawn wagon.  The end.  We got a beautiful Frazier Fir and it is just the right size--our best tree ever!  And, as a side note, if you received our Christmas picture in the mail, it was taken by Dan's sister, Bug, on the wagon ride at the Christmas tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

October Hightlights Final Installment: Halloween

What choice does a family blogger have than to report on Halloween? I only have a few days before Thanksgiving to get the month of October wrapped up, and then we move headlong into the Christmas season.

The nice thing about little babies and young toddlers is that you can usually dress them up however you want, or you can skip dressing them up altogether. Look at this cute Pocahontas costume I got to put Esther in last year:

And this year she was a little Michigan cheerleader:

But one day, all of the fun you had picking out the cutest, most creative showcase of your talents will evaporate when your child becomes old enough to choose his own costume. Gone are the days of tiny pea pods, knobbly-kneed giraffes, and hot dogs with a squiggle of mustard down the front. Now I must submit to the fact that my child wants to be a ninja every single year. Or a black phantom. Or, in Eli's case, a ninja for the school parade and a black phantom for the night of trick-or-treating. One thing I am grateful for is that Adam's recurring choice of costume, a devil, is at least a really cute homemade suit from Dan's mom, complete with horned cap and pointy tail. Eli, on the other hand, wears the nasty k-mart special black jump suit with artificial pectoral muscles made of rubber on the chest. Sigh.

We began our Halloween celebration this year with a party at the church on Tuesday night. Then on the big day, the boys packed their costumes in their backpacks and changed into them at school after lunch. In the past, the students at the elementary school have marched in a Halloween parade that requires them to weave in and out of every single classroom. This parade route is actually an object lesson in gridlock, particularly designed to make parents rue the day they ever tried to come and watch it.

This year, some genius person at the school decided to have the children parade through the neighborhood instead of through the halls. We were blessed with beautiful sunny weather, so all was well. Here is Adam (aka SATAN) lining up with his class to start the parade:

Here is Eli thinking he is much too cool and old to have his mother chasing him down the street with a camera:

And I'm sorry to say that I don't have any good pictures of the boys trick-or-treating because they were in too much of a hurry this year to waste time posing for pictures. Geeeeeeeze, mom!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

October Highlights, Part III: The Haircut

Part three of October Highlights is Eli's haircut. Here is Eli Before:

Here is Eli After:

Now, the story.

I've always thought boys with long hair were quite cute. I remember a little boy I met as a missionary in the Philippines. He was 5 years old and his mother had never cut his hair. It was so beautiful, long and wavy and thick. She was planning to cut it for the first time when he started school. I remember thinking that if I had boys, I'd like to do the same thing.

When Eli was a baby, I protected his hair from getting cut as long as possible. Finally, after his first birthday, Dan insisted that it was time, and lopped off all of Eli's little blond curls. I cried!

About a year ago, Eli had a regular short boy haircut. Then he decided he wanted to grow his hair out. I remember this as happening gradually; I hardly noticed it. He started getting lots of compliments on his cool long hair, and I started noticing that all the teenager boys had similar hairstyles. I was sort of proud of him for having long hair, although I did think it was gross the way he didn't like to wash it very often :) And it was always hanging in his eyes, which bothered me, and drove my mom absolutely crazy.

Recently, Dan and I had been wanting to cut it because it always looked so messy, but Eli would get hysterical whenever we brought it up. In May, we forced Leslie to give him a trim for our family picture, and after that he was nothing but evil, hateful looks.

During the first weekend of October we listened to a world-wide broadcast from the leaders of our church. One of the speakers mentioned a faithful mother in South America taking her little boy to church each week in his clean white shirt and missionary haircut. That was the first time that the thought came into my mind that there was a reason to cut Eli's hair other than personal preference.

Soon after that, another church leader visited Ann Arbor and gave a fireside. One of the teenagers in the audience asked what he could do to prepare to serve a mission. Elder Bednar explained that he can start now by becoming a missionary long before he serves a full-time mission. One of the things he mentioned in becoming a missionary is looking like a missionary--a second reference to having a missionary haircut.

Then I was listening to some talks given to the church in April and I heard a third reference to boys having a neat appearance and a missionary haircut. I talked to Dan, and we decided that it would not be a good idea to force Eli to get a haircut, but that we could encourage him to pray about it.

So we had a family lesson about grooming and hair cuts. Eli began praying about it. At first he told us he would get his hair cut when he turned 12 so that he could pass the sacrament at church. Then he said he would get a haircut when he turned 9. As we kept talking about it with him and he kept praying about it, he made more and more concessions. His plan became to get a trim on each major holiday, starting with Halloween, until he turned 9 and would then go to the full missionary haircut.

That is when we remembered that Aunt Leslie was coming. Leslie, besides being the family birthday cake-maker, is the family hair-cutter. We asked Eli if he would like to have Leslie cut his hair. He decided that would be a good way. So on Saturday, October 20, 2007, Eli took a seat of his own free will and choice, and submitted his hair to Leslie's scissors. He was very brave. The night before the haircut, I asked Eli if he was excited about it. He said no, he was not excited, but he felt peaceful. In the middle of the haircut, when he looked down and saw how much hair was on the ground, he started to cry. I asked him if he was still feeling peaceful. He gave me a thumbs down. Then Leslie told him that when he became a missionary some day, he would be asking people to sacrifice all kinds of things in order to join the church. This was the first big sacrifice he was making so that he could be obedient, and he could use this experience to understand better what sacrifice feels like.

Eli was pretty calm after the haircut, until he looked in the mirror. More tears! Then, calm again, until he saw his dad sweeping up all the hair. Even more tears! Finally, when he saw the Before and After pictures I had taken, he burst into tears again.

Eli, we know it was hard for you to lose your long hair. We think you look handsome both ways, and we're so proud of you for being willing to follow the counsel of our church leaders. You set a very good example for the whole family, especially for your little brother, Adam. Thank you, darling.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

(insert catchy title here)

I got home from getting my hair cut this afternoon, and Dan was online (he stayed home from work sick today). "Are you reading my blog?" I asked excitedly. "No, I'm just using it to look at other people's blogs. There is nothing new on your blog--you haven't posted in over a month." Ouch.

When you haven't posted for awhile, thinking of the perfect post to stage your comeback gets harder and harder. Well, having given up thinking of the perfect comeback post, I have decided to just get back on the horse.

Okay, to start with, here is my husband:

I know what you're thinking. "Why does Potato Girl get to have the handsome-est husband in the world? It's not fair." You're right. It's not fair. I'm just luckier than everyone else.

Now, for a brief re-cap of the month of October. We started out October with a visit from my parents:

I had told them to come the first or second week for the best fall colors, but this year we had a freakish hot spell. The weather was in the 80s during their visit, and all of the leaves were green, green, green, except for this one tree that we saw growing in the middle of a dam on the Huron River:

We went for ice cream several times...they might as well have been here in July for all the fall weather we got.

The day mom and dad left it started feeling like fall again, so we had a fun trip to Wasem Fruit Farm for more apples. Here is Esther, enjoying her harvest:

While I was busy selecting our donuts, the Adam and Eli, with friends Theo and Jake, were debating the various merits of an assortment of gourds. In the end, they convinced me that each of them needed two gourds. They are now rotting (the gourds, not the boys), ever so slowly, in a bowl on my kitchen counter:

Stay tuned for more on the exciting month of October.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pictures from Oregon: The Places

The Octopus Tree (a sitka spruce) at Cape Meares:

The lighthouse at Cape Meares:

The beach at Oceanside:

Munson Falls:

The Tillamook Cheese Factory:

The view of Manzanita Beach from the top of Neahkahnie:

The Nehalem River:

Short Sands Beach:

Indian Beach:

Hug Point:

The Oregon Coast

My family has been vacationing on the Oregon Coast every summer since I was 11 years old. The first year, we rented a house in Gerhart, near Seaside. For many years after that, we stayed in a small blue house on Beeswax Lane in Manzanita. One freak year we tried Bandon, but returned to Manzanita faithfully thereafter. The house on Beeswax Lane is what the five of us kids still think of as the "real" Oregon Coast experience. That house was just a block from the beach. It was rotting from the inside out, had only one bathroom, and all five of us shared one tiny bedroom. There was no television, no radio, not even a tape or CD player. Sometimes our cousins would join us there, or other family friends with children our ages. Back in those days we played a lot of Canasta, and I loved to drink herbal tea in the assortment of beautiful mugs lining the cupboard shelves. The lawn was full of stickers, the tiny gravel covering the road to the beach hurt our feet, and for some reason I do not remember us having flip flops. We spent our days reading on the beach or in the house, and playing games.

I do not remember what year my parents decided to invest in a house on the Coast. Because real estate was much more expensive near the beach in Manzanita, they ended up going in with my uncle and aunts to buy a house in Nehalem, the next town over. The Nehalem house has many bathrooms and bedrooms, and is new and clean. We can't walk to the beach now, but it is just a short drive down the highway to Manzanita. We have a television with a VCR and DVD player. That has changed things considerably, sometimes for the better, but not always. As an adult, I appreciate the laundry room, remembering how my mom used to spend many an hour at the laundromat when we stayed on Beeswax Lane.

We just returned last night from another wonderful Oregon Coast vacation. My whole family was there this year: Mom & Dad, me, Dan, Eli, Adam, & Esther, Nathan, James (with girlfriend Victoria), Mark & Kamis, and Karen & Ben. We also had a special guest appearance by Kamis' dad, Brad, with her siblings Marissa, Logan, & Torrey, and cat Marmalade.

Over the years we have developed a number of traditional activities that must take place each year that we go to the Coast. We must spend a day at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park. We must go to Indian Beach in Ecola State Park. We must make multiple walks to the jetty. We must hike to the top of Neahkahnie. We must visit the Tillamook Cheeese Factory, watch the workers making cheese down on the factory floor, sample the cheeses, and buy squeaky cheese and ice cream cones. We must go shopping in Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, and Wheeler. We must visit the Manzanita Library. We must have all-you-can-eat fish and chips at Fisherman's Korner in Garibaldi. We must play many, many, many games. We must eat an obscene amount of ice cream. We must pick blackberries. We must send postcards to our friends.

This year, we did most of the requisite activities, and threw in a few more for good measure. We took the canoe out on the Nehalem River. We visited the lighthouse and Octopus Tree at Cape Meares. We paid a short visit to a rainbow trout fish hatchery. We hiked to Munson Falls. We played on the beach in Oceanside. We walked around Hug Point not once, but twice. This year I did not go shopping in Cannon Beach, Nehalem, or Wheeler. I did not eat an obscene amount of ice cream (and, subsequently, did not gain the usual 5-10 pounds). I did not hike to the top of Neahkahnie, but Eli did, for the very first time, with Dan. I did not play as many games as usual, but I think I got a little more sleep.

There are so many pictures I want to share from our trip this year, and last, that I think I'll do that in a separate post. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Making a Worthy Difference

Many weeks ago, Dan asked me to get him a book at the library. I requested it, but it was so popular that we had to wait a long time before we could take it home. The book was Better: A Sugeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande. After he finished reading it, Dan read a part of it to me that he wanted to use in a church talk on gratitude. Today, I had to take the book back to the library, so in liu of reading it myself, I hurried to find the part Dan had shared with me. It was in the appendix, one of five suggestions that Gawande makes to his readers on "how one might make a worthy difference." As I read through his thoughts, I was struck, in particular, by two. First is the piece that Dan read to me. This comes under the suggestion Don't Complain:

"Wherever doctors gather...the natural pull of conversational gravity is toward the litany of woes all around us. But resist it. It's boring, it doesn't solve anything, and it will get you down. You don't have to be sunny about everything. Just be prepared with something else to discuss: an idea you read about, an interesting problem you came across--even the weather if that's all you've got. See if you can keep the conversation going" (253-254).

This seems like a worthy goal to make the effort to lead conversations in a positive, helpful direction. I do think there is a place for listening to a friend unload...that is sometimes the very best gift we can give to another person. But so often when conversations turn negative, they are not therapeutic at all, but actually make things worse.

The second thing I want to remember is under his suggestion Write Something:

"Write something...Just write. What you write need not achieve perfection. It need only add some small observation about your world. You should not underestimate the effect of your contribution, however modest. As Lewis Thomas once pointed out, quoting the physicist John Ziman, 'The invention of a mechanism for the systematic publication of "fragments" of scientific work may well have been the key event in the history of modern science.' By soliciting modest contributions from the many, we have produced a store of collective know-how with far greater power than any individual could have achieved" (255-256).

I like several ideas in this piece. First is the reminder that perfection is not the aim. Perfectionism is one of my biggest weaknesses. It gets in the way of living our lives, it prevents us from acting, it keeps us from learning through trial and error. If we wait to do anything until we think we can do it perfectly, we will never do it at all.

I also love the idea that the modest contributions of many can be more powerful than anything one individual could produce on her own. If you are a Harry Potter reader, you may be reminded of Voldemort's haughty refusal to trust or love anyone but himself. Although he was brilliant, his single intellect could not ultimately defeat the combined efforts of Harry and his many friends. We need to share our lives with each other. I think what this really boils down to is that everyone should have a blog :)

Latest Batch of Favorite Library Finds

Our latest library favorites:

First is Loud Emily by Alexis O'Neill, pictures by Nancy Carpenter. This little girl doesn't fit in until she leaves home and finds a group of people in need of her special talents. In the right environment, her extraordinarily loud voice becomes a blessing instead of a curse. The boys loved to hear me shout when I read Emily's lines.

The Most Magnificent Mosque by Ann Jungman, pictures by Shelley Fowles, was a great read. Not only was it a fun story about three naughty boys who grew up to be important men, but it introduced us to a real treasure of architecture, which we now want to visit someday. The three friends represent each of the major religions in Cordoba, Spain, in the 11th century: Islam, Judeaism, and Christianity. We enjoyed comparing the illustrations in the book to real photographs of the mosque that we found online.

I was surprised that Adam sat through Music for Alice by Allen Say, since it is an account of the Japanese internment camps set up in the United states during World War II. I thought it might be a bit heavy for him, but he was very interested in understanding what happened to the Japanese Americans in our country at that time. I myself didn't learn until after I graduated from high school that one of those camps was located just an hour west of Boise in Ontario, Oregon, which is where the characters in this book were sent. The book is based on the true story of Alice & Mark Sumida, who became world-famous gladiola farmers after the war.

I really enjoyed reading Silly Chicken by Rukhsana Khan, pictures by Yunmee Kyong. It is the story, set in Pakistan, of a young girl and her mother and their chicken. At first, the girl is jealous of the love her mother has for this chicken. Then after the chicken dies, the girl becomes similarly attached to the silly chicken's baby chick. The boys enjoyed it as well.

Finally, I loved Keeper of Soles by Teresa Bateman, pictures by Yayo. This is the clever and sweet tale of a kind shoe maker who puts off his own death by making many pairs of shoes for the formerly bare-footed Grim Reaper.
Well, happy reading!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Welcome to my world, boys

In February, my friend Alida gave a great presentation on finances at a women's retreat I attended. That very day, I vowed once again to make a BUDGET. Yes, I am a 32-year-old mother of three and have never had a budget. Creating and following a budget, like successfully using coupons, seems like rocket science to me. It just plain baffles the old kidneys. After tracking my expenses for several months, I have been slowly, carefully working out a system that I think I can follow. I plan to launch the new BUDGET on September 1. August is my month of following an unofficial, practice budget, to see how I do.

As part of the new BUDGET, I will be implementing a new system for teaching the boys about money. In the past, we told them that we would give them a dollar a week. We essentially never do this, and every once in a while the boys remember and say something that sounds a lot like Napoleon Dynamite complaining that we've ruined his life. Dan gets paid twice a month, on the 15th and the 31st (or 30th, or 29th, or 28th). So starting with yesterday's pay day, the boys will now receive $5 each per pay period. With their $5 they will be expected to put 10% into tithing (50 cents), 40% into savings (2 dollars), and they can spend the rest ($2.50) as their hearts desire. I started telling the boys about this new system yesterday, and that is all they talked about this morning. Adam especially kept asking me how much certain things that he wants cost, and how many pay periods it would take for him to get those things. The main thing he wanted this morning was to go see Ratatouille at Quality 16. I explained that if we went on a Tuesday, that movie would cost him $3, which he won't be able to afford until a second pay period has come. If we went on any other day of the week, the movie would cost $5.75, and he'd have to wait for two more pay periods before he would have enough money. Not to mention the popcorn and drink that he wants. On the other hand, if he waits for the movie to get to the dollar theater, he would already have enough to pay for it.

In the end, the boys decided to spend their very first dollar to see Open Season this morning for 1 dollar each. They really lucked out, because I had already purchased a popcorn bucket with free refills several weeks ago that is good for 6 months, so they got all the popcorn they could stand to eat. Then they double lucked out because we had enough holes in our punch card for two free drinks, so they got a never-ending supply of soda pop as well. Later in the day we went to the bank, where I withdrew $5 for each of them, and helped them open two little savings accounts, into which they each put 2 dollars. We went straight from there to Target, where Eli bought a rubber sea turtle that can expand to 600% its original size if you keep it in a large enough container of water, and Adam bought 12 capsules that, when soaked in hot water, dissolve into sea creature-shaped sponges. Each item cost $1.06, and they each participated in their very own transaction with a kind, smiling clerk who thought they were cute (thank goodness) and not obnoxious. Now their change (44 cents each) is safely stowed in a labeled ziploc bag in my underwear drawer, along with their tithing money, and they are already making plans for how to use their next installment of cash.

I, personally, am feeling like a very good mother. Suddenly, in one short day, I've gone from the mean person who always says no to their requests for candy, McDonald's, toys when it's not Christmas, to the sympathetic, helpful figure who knows what everything costs and how long it will take to save up for it.

Now I'm not the only person in the family counting the days until the next pay check.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Daily Duties

I grew up alongside my parents' science fiction and fantasy library. One of our favorite authors was Orson Scott Card, whose book Ender's Game joined the ranks of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings as required family reading. Finding others who had read that book was like meeting members of a secret club who spoke our own language.

As an adult, I have tried to steer myself more in the direction of nonfiction, telling myself that it is somehow loftier, more valuable, a better use of my time. But I've recently felt a craving for the good old science fiction and fantasy again, and so I went to my handy-dandy public library and brought home a bag-full. I just finished the first one tonight: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. The hero of this story, Cazaril, discovers that the gods have chosen him to perform an important task, but he doesn't know exactly what that task is or how to go about doing it. A man much older and wiser than he, who has been trying to serve the gods for many years, gives him some great advice in this exchange:

"That the goddess has set your feet on some journey on her abundantly plain..."
"But what am I supposed to be doing?"
"Speaking just from my own experience, I would surmise--your daily duties as they come to you."
"That's not very helpful."
"Yes, I know. So the gods humble the would-be wise, I think."

Do your daily duties as they come to you. I like that. By the way, that is what he does, and it all works out in the end. His path unfolds as time progresses. He never sees the big picture, he just does what needs to be done each day, and a miracle is worked through him in the process. This reminds me of the words to the hymn "Lead Kindly Light":

"I do not ask to see the distant scene--one step enough for me."

I am always wanting to see the distant scene...I want my life laid out before me, the whole plan, so that I can make decisions accordingly. I would rather figure out to occupy my time as an empty-nester (at least 17 years from now) than wash the breakfast dishes. But I believe this is misguided. I want to learn to do my daily duties as they come to me, instead of avoiding them as I dream about the future. I think I will find much more power to do good by focusing on one day at a time: today.

Friday, July 20, 2007

U-Pick, I-Pick, We-Pick

I love the u-pick farms in Michigan. In June we go to Rowe's in Belleville to pick strawberries and sugar snap peas. Here is Adam this past season with my friend Heather:

And this is why I do not recommend strawberry picking with a young baby, unless said baby likes being covered in dirt and strawberry juice and eating small rocks and pieces of straw (mine does):

In July and August we go to the Dexter Blueberry Farm and pick...blueberries. There are at least two things I love about blueberries. 1) The bushes are very tall, so you do not have to bend down to get the berries; 2) The bushes do not have any thorns. Here are some of my friends at the farm yesterday:

Now that Eli and Adam are old enough to help, we picked 10 pounds of berries in about one hour! The berries are huge this year. Here we are in the little shack where we pay for the berries. Eli is hefting our harvest, and Adam is showing off one of the buckets we tied around our waist. Esther is wondering why she is not at home taking her nap yet:

In August and September we go to Makielski's in Ypsilanti to pick fall raspberries. You'll have to stay tuned for pictures of that. The last time we went, we didn't even make it out of the parking lot before we had eaten every last delicious berry. So yummy!

We finish out the u-pick season in September and October at Wasem Fruit Farm in Milan, where we pick apples and pumpkins. Here is Adam helping Aunt Leslie pick her very favorite Golden Delicious apples last fall:

Yesterday we took a little detour on our way home from blueberry picking and came across Urquhart's Tree Farm in Chelsea. When I explained to the boys that we could go there to cut down our own Christmas Tree this year...I think we've just extended our u-pick season. Stay tuned for that as well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Saying Goodbye

We have called Ann Arbor home for the past 9 years. It has been a wonderful place to live. There is one teensy-tiny drawback to living in a college town, though, and that is saying goodbye. I don't think I can even count how many friends we have lost when they finished their time at the University and moved on. Even friends who were not here for school, friends we thought would never leave, are gone now. Today I am watching Maddy, Lauren and Lizzie as their mom and dad pack all their possessions into a moving truck, clean their condo, and get ready to drive to Nashville. Eli will miss being chased on the playground by Maddy, and Adam will miss being in the same kindergarten and primary classes with Lauren. Here are Maddy & Lauren with their mom at a recent barbeque in their honor:

Just a few weeks ago we lost Willa & Wyatt, who have gone to make a new home with their family in Kansas City. Willa helped Maddy chase Eli on the playground, and whenever she played at our house, she got the boys playing house, or school, or store instead of their usual Pokemon or Harry Potter games. Wyatt was our one friend who wanted to play as much as we did, so he was always ready to come over at a moment's notice. Here is Wyatt with Eli and Adam during his goodbye sleepover in the tent in our back yard:

Another wonderful friend that we are losing this summer is Brand. Brand, Adam, Wyatt and Jake were the four musketeers in preschool two years ago. He is moving with his family to Japan. Here he is with Adam and Jake at Jenny's Farm Stand in Dexter last fall:

This Friday we will be attending a goodbye party for Adam's friend Vinicius, who is moving back to Brazil with his family. Vinicius was in the same kindergarten class as Adam, Jake, and Lauren, and he played soccer with the boys as well. Here he is with Adam and Jake at Plymouth Orchard during a school field trip last fall:

The major loss that started out the summer was saying goodbye to our beloved Aunt Leslie, who finished graduate school, packed up her room in our basement, and moved back to her home in Utah. Here she is, wrapped up by Eli, on the day of her departure:

Our one solace is that sometimes we get to see our friends again. Eli's friend from kindergarten, Aidan, moved to Maine last year. Luckily, his grandparents still live in Michigan, so we got to see him in February when he came out for a visit. Here he is in our living room enjoying Pokemon cards with Eli and Adam:

Another way of seeing old friends is to visit them in their new homes. The friends we get to see most often are those that live near our parents. Last summer we got to see Dan & Christine and Pete & Nicole while we were in Utah. Here is a picture of Dan & Christine on the front step of their beautiful home in Draper:

We also got to see all four of the families from Ann Arbor that have settled in Boise, where my parents live. Here is a picture of our friends McCall and Olivia (and a random neighbor) at their home in Boise last August:

Later on the same day, we had an Ann Arbor reunion picnic at Municipal Park with the other families that live in Boise. Shown here are Brigette & Don with Sage and Micah, Gwen & Rich with Olivia and Lola, Potato Girl with Eli, Adam and Esther, and Rachel with Emily and David:

Because my hard drive crashed last year, I don't have pictures of many other friends who we've visited over the years. We've driven to Dallas to see Jordan & Andrea, to Cincinnati to see Matt & Suzanne, to Atlanta to see Jason & Carolyn. We've visited Tami & Dave and Erin & Mark in Utah, and Lybi & James in Arizona. If you look through the links to other blogs on the far right of this page, you will find many friends that used to live in Ann Arbor. If you are reading this, and you are our friend from Ann Arbor, please get yourself a blog and send me a link to it so I can keep track of you. Maybe some day we can have a big reunion here in Ann Arbor. Until then, we blog.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My Favorite Wedding Gift

When I married Dan, I got one of the greatest gifts you could ever hope to receive: a wonderful second family. I couldn't post a tribute to my family without also posting one to Dan's. Let me introduce you, first, to the girls. This picture was taken in my home in May, when our families convened in Michigan to attend Eli's baptism:

On the far left is Jody: chemist, cellist, former missionary to Poland, number 4 child and the middle daughter. Next to her is Dan's mom, Linda. Then comes Melinda, the oldest, who we call Bug. She loves singing with a choir, playing the organ, traveling the world, and speaking Russian. On the far right is Leslie, number 5 child, and the youngest of the girls. She is the one who lived with us the past two years while getting a masters degree in viola. We wish she'd never graduated, so that we could keep her forever.

Now for the boys:

On the far left is the tallest of the boys as well as the baby of the family, Andrew. He recently returned from a mission to Prague. Next is Linda, now dwarfed by her giant sons. On the other side of Dan's mom is Dan, my husband, number 2 child, the oldest boy, and formerly the tallest. And on the far right is Tim, number 3 child, middle boy, and husband of Andrea (not Potato Girl), shown here being crazy with Adam last summer:

And here is a more normal picture of her with Tim at my brother Mark's wedding:

One of the nice things about our two families is how well they know each other. Dan's entire family was waiting with my family at the airport the day I came home from my mission to The Philippines. A few years later they came to Boise again for Eli's baby blessing. My brothers and Dan's sisters attended the same ward in Provo for several years, during which time they regularly mooched meals off of them (I think they provided helpful services in return). Dan's sister Leslie played the viola for one of the tracks on my brother James' Brementown CD. Tim asked Andrea to marry him while on vacation with my family at the Oregon Coast. My mom was at Tim's wedding and Dan's mom and several siblings were at Mark's. In this picture, taken last July at Mark's wedding, you can see (left to right) my brother Nathan, Dan's brothers Tim and Andrew, and my brother James:

And here are our two mommies, posing with their three grandchildren last summer (Dan's mom on the left, mine on the right):

Well, that may have been more than you ever wanted to know about our families, but I enjoyed the experience of writing about them, so thank you for indulging me.