Tag Archives: 2017

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.

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.

Another Season Ends

It was a gorgeous autumn weekend in the Ozarks this past weekend. For a decade we have kicked off our annual lake season each spring with friends Kevin and Becky. It’s always such an enjoyable weekend together that a few years ago we decided to add a weekend in October to end each lake season as well.

The weather is unpredictable during Ozark autumns, but more often than not the sun is every bit as warm as it is during the summer during the day. The mornings and evenings, however, are cool enough to require a sweatshirt or jacket. Plus, the autumn colors are starting to come out, adding a whole new layer of beauty to the landscape.

It was a much needed weekend of “R&R” for the four of us. Plenty of laughter, conversation, and camaraderie accompanied with good food and drink. We watched the Cyclone football team win (yay!) and the Cubs lose (boo!). We took a boat ride, grilled some great food, and spent hours on the deck.

Wendy and I will likely be making another trip south to shut things down for the long winter months. The season of sun and fun at the Playhouse is over for 2017. It was a good season of family and friends. This past weekend was the perfect way to bring it to a conclusion.

 

Labor Day Weekend at the Lake 2017

Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer at the lake. For the second straight year it was a long adult weekend with the JPs and VLs. They left the kids at home and joined us on Thursday night. We had an absolutely gorgeous weekend to spend together enjoying lots of sun and fun together.

Mornings were quiet and lazy. Everyone generally took their time getting up, having the first cup or two of coffee/tea, and easing into the day. Eventually the six of us ended up chatting around the table over a bite of breakfast. Time typically flew and it was suddenly mid-day.

Friday we took the JPs’ boat to the Red Head and spent the afternoon in the pool there. Lake traffic gets pretty hairy on holiday weekends and makes for unpleasant boat rides. We chose to make the long jaunt to the Red Head on Friday figuring it would be a little less crowded, and we were correct.

On Saturday morning Shay and the ladies coerced the men to join them on the dock for yoga. Shay did a great job leading us rookies. I will say that doing yoga for the first time on a floating dock made balance even more of a challenge. Despite the occasional attack of horse flies, we managed to make it through. I think more yoga may be in the future for Wendy and me.

 

That afternoon we took the much shorter boat ride to our other favorite hang out on the lake, Bear Bottom. We didn’t arrive quite as early as we’d hoped, but were still able to get prime seating at the swim-up bar. We enjoyed a couple of hours of fun and conversation before heading back. We took the boat back to Bear Bottom that evening for their fireworks.

Sunday was a lazy day on the dock. I enjoyed scoring the Cubs game on the deck (despite their loss) while everyone else hung out on the chill raft. I eventually joined them. JP’s sister and family swung by on their boat and hung out in the water with us for a while.

Each evening together was spent enjoying a meal along with good conversation and Wendy’s cheesecake. There was also reading, playing cards, and watching DVDs.

On Monday morning we headed to Chances R for breakfast together before the crew packed up and headed home mid-day. Wendy and I are working remotely this week and welcome some more friends tomorrow.

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.

The Latest 08-07-2017

They typically call August in Iowa the “dog days of summer,” but it definitely as not felt that way this year. We had the 100 degree August heat in July, and now nightly temps in the 50s have us thinking of football weather. And the Iowa State Fair hasn’t even begun.

It’s been terribly dry here in our little neck of the woods. Our lawn is dead. We’ve been watering to keep the landscaping alive, but that’s about the extent of it. It’s a little depressing to see nothing but weed in a sea of brown grass.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wendy and me. July was full of business travel for me. I returned home to assist Wendy with running the box office for Union Street Players production of The Wizard of Oz and to helm meetings in preparation for our community theatre’s upcoming Board elections and Awards Night. Wendy and I are stepping down from leadership this year. It’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we’re ready for other things.

We also spent some time at the lake together. It was a working getaway. Having home offices, it affords us the opportunity to work from the Ozarks. While it’s hard sometimes to sit inside and work while the lake and sun are just out there waiting of us, it is nice to wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee on the dock. It’s nice get done with work and enjoy dinner on the deck or go for a boat ride. We managed a few dates out in the boat, which is always a ton of fun.

Wendy’s key lime cheesecake.

Wendy has been busy making cheesecakes (and cupcakes) this summer. Not only has she made them for Grandma Vander Hart’s 90th birthday bash and her upcoming Cabi party, but she also has been getting fairly regular orders from people wanting cheesecake for this or that celebration. She loves baking, and I’m glad that she gets the opportunity to do it so regularly for others. If she satiated her desire to bake exclusively for the two of us I’d weigh 400 pounds.

I’ve also been busy on Sunday mornings. Three weeks straight I’ve been in the pulpit at our church here in Pella. That’s been really enjoyable despite the demands of preparation and delivery.

Taylor officially announced her pregnancy a few weeks ago and it’s been fun celebrating the good news with people. I can’t wait to be grandpa. It’s a fun new stage of the journey for us. Taylor is still in Des Moines and works for a digital marketing firm. Clayton is in Africa working on research for his doctorate degree. He’ll return in November and be with Taylor for the duration with baby’s arrival due mid January.

Wendy and I are pumped to make a fall road trip to see Madison. She’s been in South Carolina for so long and we’ve yet gotten down to see her in her community there. She’s still working for Laura Geller New York and is really enjoying her ever expanding community of friends there. She’s also enjoying being just a couple of hours from the Atlantic coast and the beach.

In a couple of weeks both Taylor and Madison are going to join Wendy and me for a trip to the lake together. It will be the last time that just the four of us will have family vacation time together. January begins a whole new chapter in life. We’re looking forward to marking the time together.