Category Archives: Tom’s Photos

Christmas 2017

This year might well have been named “Christmas de Milo.” Our grandson (our first grandchild), Milo, was born on the 11th of December. He was five weeks early and spent much of the first two weeks of his fledgling journey in the NICU. He was allowed to go home just two days before Christmas. As a result, our holiday plans were largely in flux as we waited to see how things were going to play out.

Wendy with her mom and grandma.

On Saturday (Dec 23) Wendy and I played host to the Vander Hart Christmas gathering. The family spent the afternoon celebrating together. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, spent the night with us and we received our first measurable snow overnight. We woke on Christmas Eve day to a white blanket of new fallen snow. I got the driveway cleared and headed to Des Moines to pick up our daughter, Madison, who flew in from SC.

Madison holds her nephew, Milo, for the first time.

Madison was anxious to meet her new nephew, so we stopped to see Milo who had just spent his first rocky night at home. After our visit, we left Taylor, Clayton and Milo to rest and recuperate. Madison and I headed back to VW Manor where Wendy’s family had reconvened to spend some time together and visit with Madison. They left late in the afternoon. Wendy, Madison and I snuggled into the sectional to watch Star Wars The Force Awakens in anticipation of seeing The Last Jedi in a few days.

It was a blessedly quiet Christmas Day, just the three of us. We told Taylor and Clayton to continue to rest up at home. Wendy made our traditional Christmas breakfast, which was wonderful. We opened gifts and then cleaned up and headed into town to be greeters at our church’s annual community Christmas meal. After returning home we once again snuggled into the sectional and embarked on a marathon binge of The Crown.

On the 26th we headed to Des Moines to celebrate Christmas with the Vander Well clan. The snow that fell on Christmas Eve Day gave way to bone-chilling cold through the rest of the holiday. The family all met in the community room at Grandpa and Grandma’s apartment. All of my siblings were home, which is always a rare treat. After spending the afternoon with the V-Dubs Wendy, Madison and I took in Star Wars The Last Jedi at Copper Creek.

Madison with Grandma Jeanne.

Wednesday, December 27th was another Christmas celebration as we welcomed Milo to our home for the first time. Taylor and Clayton arrived just before 10. Taylor and Clayton were both tired from the lack of sleep and the infant routine. We opened gifts and let them rest as Wendy and I made homemade pizza and breadsticks for lunch. Milo, of course, was the center of everyone’s attention. We ate, and chatted and enjoyed one another’s company.

Methinks Grandma Wendy is in love.

Taylor and Clayton took Madison back to Des Moines with them in the afternoon. After five straight days of family and celebrations Wendy and I began the transition back into some semblance of normal. More family gatherings to come as Wendy’s sister and family arrive from Denver on Friday night. And, Wendy and I celebrate our 12th anniversary on New Year’s Eve.

Thanksgiving 2017

In all my years celebrating Thanksgiving in Iowa, I am slow to recall any that were simply abysmal because of the weather. Though there’s the occasional winter storm in December, typically Iowa reserves the worst of winter for January and February. I can, however, bring to mind some Thanksgiving Day memories of unseasonably sunny, warm weather. This year ranks among the best.

It was a different year for us this year. Taylor went into the hospital the Monday before Thanksgiving. Due to a condition of vasa previa she is being monitored and her baby is scheduled to arrive (early) on December 11 via c-section. Given there were some unknowns with her situation, Wendy and I did not make overtly solid plans for Thanksgiving.

What did happen began on Thanksgiving Day. My brother Tim called on Wednesday evening to let me know that he and Kumi happened to making a stop in Pella on their way to Des Moines. They stopped in for morning coffee and we enjoyed some conversation before getting our act together and heading to Des Moines to enjoy the traditional feast with the Vander Well clan at the folks’ retirement community. Once again, the family reserved the community room in their building. Jody did an amazing job making the feast including Grandma V’s cinnamon rolls. Wendy added a cheesecake and Uncle Tim contributed his traditional Figure Eight cookies. We were glad to have Sam and Lydia home, and they brought a friend, Nathan, from Chicago. We even had cousin Don with us.

Wendy and I loaded up some leftovers for Taylor and Clayton and headed down to the hospital. It was nice to visit with them for a few hours before heading back to Pella.

Wendy and I both worked on Friday, but Friday evening was the traditional Roozeboom gathering at New Hope church. We stopped by the Cellar Pub beforehand and ran into Taylor’s friend, Gabe. The last time we saw Gabe was in Edinburgh, Scotland. He just happened to be there while we were visiting Taylor. It was a blast to see him again.

The Roozeboom gathering seems to get a bit smaller each year, but it was great to see Mom and Dad Hall along with Suzanna. There is a crop of young ones which it is always good to see. As always there was food, and cards, and plenty of conversation. Brad and Barb were down from Dubuque for the weekend and came to hear me give the message at Third Church on Sunday.

First Words to My Grandson

My dear grandson,

These are my first official words to you. The first of what I hope will be long and enjoyable correspondence between the two of us as you journey through this life.

This past Sunday our house was filled with women who had gathered to celebrate your mother and your impending arrival in three weeks time. I spent the day before helping Grandma Wendy cooking, cleaning, decorating, and running errands to make sure that the stage was set for the occasion. As the women began to arrive I sequestered myself in the basement to be at Grandma’s beck-and-call should she need help with anything.

I was originally going to entitle this blog post Estrogen Overload as I experienced the humor of being the only male in the house with 20 females. I even used that term as I joked with some of the ladies late in the afternoon. It’s something I’m familiar with having raised two daughters and no sons. I’m quite used to being alone in the company of women.

Suddenly, it struck me that I wasn’t the only male in the room for once. There you were comfortably nestled inside your mother’s womb. Nevertheless, you were very much present. You were the very reason for the celebration. You and me with all the ladies. I smiled to myself at the very thought of it.

So, here are my first words to you, my grandson. Take a good look at these women surrounding you (I only wish we’d gotten more photos of all the ladies who were there and a photo of the entire group). Look at your adorable mother. Grandma Wendy and Grandma Brenda were there. There were three great-grandmothers and a great-great-grandmother present to celebrate you. There’s your cousin Emma, your great-aunt Jody, and your great-aunts Suzanna and Brooke who, amazingly, are younger than your Aunt Madison (I’m going to have so much fun helping you sort out all of this loving, mixed-up mess of a wonderful family). Then there are all the wonderful friends that were there along with family. These are amazing women. They have stories to tell and lessons to teach.

Much of human history has not been kind to our female counterparts. They have been treated like objects, servants, property, and second-class citizens because males have dictated it, encouraged it, and allowed it to be so. It is one of many sad realities of life that you’ll see and experience as you make your own way on your own path. But you will have the opportunity to make a difference simply in your thoughts, your choices, your words, and your actions.

Listen to grandpa. Hear me. Honor these women and all they represent. As a male you will find that much about females will seem mysterious to the point of frustration. There will be moments you’ll  be tempted to be dismissive, patronizing, and demeaning. Along your life journey you will be tempted to place women into two separate buckets in your mind: women to love and honor and women to diminish and objectify. You can’t have it both ways. When you embrace the latter you negate the former. I pray you will have the wisdom to resist these temptations. Someday, I’ve got a few things to share with you about the tragic foolishness of not doing so.

Respect women, all women, in the fullness of their being: body, mind and spirit. Respect the girls you grow up with, the woman you meet in a bar, the woman you work with, the woman you date, and the woman who is a stranger.  Respect them just as you respect the women in these photos. Respect women for all the ways they are different from us guys. Respect their strength. Respect their knowledge. Respect their spirit, ability, courage, and their passion. Learn their stories.  Embrace their wisdom. Love them well.

These women will make you a better man. This, I know from experience.

Thanks for being with me on Sunday. I’m sure it’s the first of many afternoons that you and I will share surrounded and outnumbered in the company of amazing women. I’ll teach you how to groan about it in manly fashion (and then secretly enjoy the heck out of it). I’m overjoyed to have your company.

Love you, little man.

Grandpa Tom

South Carolina

Speaking of embarkation, Wendy and I embarked on a long discussed trip to South Carolina this past weekend to visit our daughter, Madison. Maddy Kate has been living in Columbia for well over a year now and works as a sales and training coordinator for a cosmetics company with SC and portions of NC as her territory.

We flew to Columbia on Thursday evening. Madison picked us up from the airport and took us to Publico, one of her favorite haunts the serves craft beer and Mexican. We could tell that she’s a regular there as the bartender was quite familiar and friendly. After a bite and a quick catching up she took us to our hotel.

Columbia Art Museum, Columbia SC

On Friday Wendy and I worked in our hotel room most of the day as Madison likewise had to work. We had originally planned on flying in  on Friday but he airfare was so much cheaper on Thursday evening that it paid for the hotel room and then some. Wendy and I knocked off mid-afternoon and walked to the Columbia Art Museum which had a couple of really interesting exhibitions. We then walked down Gervais Street and stopped at the Casual Pint where we enjoyed a….wait for it….casual pint.

Madison met us at Gervais and Vine for dinner with her friends, including Max, a Pella peep, who is in law school at the University. We enjoyed a leisurely evening with Abby, Sara, Max and Madison. The wine and tapas were top-notch, and it was fun getting to know Madison’s Columbia crew.

On Saturday Madison took us to the Soda City Farmer’s Market, which was a lot of fun. We also got to stop and check out her apartment and share a long-time-coming house-warming gift with her. We then jumped in the car and headed towards Charleston.

We spent a few hours at Magnolia Plantation. The grounds and gardens were unbelievably gorgeous and it was fun to walk and wander. We finished our time there touring a group of slave cabins built in 1850 and still standing. It was sobering to learn that a family of 15 was living in one of the tiny cabins as late as 1969.

We journeyed on to Charleston and we were all very hungry. It was late afternoon and we hadn’t had lunch. We found Mac’s Place, a Chicago themed Irish Pub complete with a Cubbie bear painted on the front window. After a bite and a rest we walked a few blocks to McCrady’s Tavern. I first visited McCrady’s Tavern when I visited our friends Dave and Maria about twenty years ago while they were teaching at the College of Charleston. The tavern dates back to 1778 and served George Washington back in the day. I really wanted to visit again and share it with Wendy and Madison. We sat at the bar and enjoyed some excellent beverages concocted by the talented bartenders.

We finished our brief visit to Charleston with a stop at Carmella’s dessert bar where we grabbed coffee and a small fudge cake. We walked down to the sea front and sat on a swing. It was fun to eat our cake, drink our coffee, and watch the ships leaving the harbor as we swung together and felt the sea breeze on our faces.

Sunday morning Madison took us to her church. It reminded Wendy and me of our local auditorium gathering at Third here in Pella. Once again, we enjoyed getting to meet Madison’s community. Brunch is a big deal in the south, so we left church and went directly to 116 State where we enjoyed brunch together in the quaint little wine and espresso bar.

It is football season and we wanted to watch our beloved Vikings play. Madison took us to the Carolina Ale House where we got to enjoy watching the game together. Madison was on the nods in the second half and we told her to go home and take a nap. After all we’d had to eat those couple of days, Wendy and I were glad for the long walk back to our hotel to stretch our legs.

A few hours later a refreshed Maddy Kate picked us up and we went a couple of blocks over to 1801 Grill where we were met by her significant other, Doug, who had just returned from a friend’s wedding in another state. The restaurant was getting ready to close, so we had appetizers (Wendy liked the grit french fries) and a drink. We then drove to another local dive that Madison and Doug appreciated because they’re always open and always serving food. It was a lovely, quiet evening chatting and enjoying one another’s company.

On Monday Wendy and I packed up for home and checked out. Madison picked us up late in the morning and took us back to Publico, and we ended our Carolina trip where it began. Doug met us for “two dollar tacos” lunch. We bid him farewell and went to a local coffee shop where we got a little bit of work done before heading to the airport.

Wendy and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Columbia and Charleston. There’s so much more to see and experience there. Madison seems to have settled in, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find we have many more Carolina experiences ahead of us.

A Short Family Vaca (Including a Total Eclipse of the Sun)

We didn’t plan it this way. Earlier this year we planned to find a few days to spend together with our girls at the lake. It just so happened that the stars aligned in such a way that we would be driving to the lake during the sun’s total eclipse. The path of totality passed right across Columbia and Jefferson City, Missouri which are on our way to the lake.

So it was that we began our family vacation on Monday by pulling off the road just outside of Jefferson City to experience the eclipse. Taylor had scored some eclipse glasses for us. The process of the eclipse takes over an hour so we spent much of the early stages in our car staring through the sun roof. As totality neared we got out and experienced it together including watching the eery shadow bands on the ground and looking at the corona over the 2-3 minutes you can actually look at the eclipse without searing your eyeballs. It was a blast to experience the rare celestial event together.

Traffic was crazy after the eclipse as we made our way the rest of the way to the lake. It was a fun couple of days together as we haven’t had a family vacation like this for a long time. I kind of laughed as the four of us sat around the dining room in the mornings with our laptops working away. My, how times have changed.

Schools are already back in session, so the lake was blessedly quiet and the weather was picture perfect. We enjoyed grilling out, laying on the chill raft, hanging out at Bear Bottom (we were literally the only ones there), breakfast at Chances R, riding the wave runner, and (of course) watching movies together. You know we ate well. Wendy brought cheesecake!

Unfortunately, it was far too short. We headed back early Thursday and Madison is already on her way home to South Carolina. Nevertheless, we enjoyed making more memories together which will be added to all the special times we’ve been blessed to have at the lake together.

July Fun at the Lake

Wendy and I got to spend some time at the lake in late June and early July. We were joined by our friends Kev & Beck and their kids for the weekend before the 4th of July. We enjoyed all of the normal summer fun with trips to Bear Bottom and the Red Head. We also enjoyed visiting friends David and Lola who have a place on the lake, as well. Kev, Beck and the kids had to take off on the afternoon of the 4th, but we were able to enjoy fireworks from Captain Ron’s together on the evening of the 3rd. Always lots of fun with that crew.

Wendy and I worked remotely from the lake that week and then enjoyed a weekend visit from Matthew and Sarah. We packed our two days together with dinner at Captain Ron’s, laying out on the chill raft, steaks on the grill, a trip to Bear Bottom, lots of conversation, and a movie night watching The Shack.

 

Evening at the Dance Recital

This past weekend Wendy and I were invited to attend our friend, Kennedy’s, dance recital. I’ll admit that I give a good-hearted groan when facing and evening of three hours plus of little girls dancing. The truth is that I really enjoy watching dance done well and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Taylor, Megan, and Kennedy developing their twinkletoes. We had a fun night on Friday attending the recital and then going out for a late bite with her family.

We’ve attended Kennedy’s recitals for a few years now and it’s been so enjoyable watching her grow into a graceful and beautiful young lady. Her folks asked me to bring my camera and take some photos (like they really had to twist my arm!). For an amateur like me these kind of events always pose a fun photography challenge. I’m always praying that I’ll have a handful of photos worth something at the end of the evening. I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy.