When Wendy and I married, December suddenly became much more than just a Christmas holiday. Wendy’s birthday is December 21, and we married on New Year’s Eve. That means that I have, arguably, the three most important gift-giving days of the year in an 11 day stretch. After 12 years (a number rife with Biblical significance) trying to find balance in this celestial conjunction of celebrations, our first grandchild unexpectedly, like the star of Bethlehem, appeared on the horizon last year and plotted his arrival on December 11th. An already crazy month just got crazier.
Milo and his parents (I state it this way because, let’s be honest, it’s all about the one-year-old) arrived home from the UK in early December. I picked up them up and drove them home from MSP. The kids made our house command central out of which “Operation Celebrations” would be conducted. Milo has four sets of grandparents, a full contingency of living great-grandparents, and at least one great-great-grandparent. Long story short: There’s a lot of people needing a Milo fix.
Our celebration of Milo’s first birthday happened the night of the 12th. We had a small cadre of family over for a relatively small affair. Ya-Ya Wendy made Milo both a chocolate cupcake and a white, funfetti cupcake. He seemed to prefer the funfetti cupcake, proving that his taste bud genes are inherited from his paternal DNA coding.
The rounds of family visitation continued on the 19th when Taylor, Milo, and I stopped by my folks retirement community to have lunch with the folks. Milo was, of course, a huge hit. Milo also had a fascination with all of the various walkers with wheels. As he is in training to get the whole “walking” thing down (we’re up to about six consecutive steps without falling at this point), it was a huge discovery for him that there are devices designed and manufactured to assist in this basic human motor skill (special “thanks” to Mary for letting Milo run free with her walker).
Wendy and I began celebration of her birthday on the 15th when we headed to the Twin Cities. On the 16th we went to our first Vikings game at their new “mother ship” stadium. An annual trip to see the Vikings had become a bit of a tradition for us until it was announced that the new stadium would be built. Wendy and cold get along like Hamilton and Burr, so we skipped the seasons they were playing at the U of M’s outdoor stadium. We finally decided to all the trigger on our old tradition. It was a lot of fun. We’ll be back.
Wendy’s birthday was otherwise fairly quiet except for the doorbell ringing incessantly. She got a trifecta of flower bouquets on her big day. The florist here in Pella was grateful for the business, though they somehow couldn’t get the deliveries consolidated. On the following weekend our friends Kevin and Becky came to Pella to celebrate Wendy. A pint at the Cellar and a pizza from George’s was in order with the rest of the evening relaxing at Vander Well Pub.
Maddy Kate flew in from her home in South Carolina on Christmas Eve day. We visited Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne before I drove her back to Pella. She joined Wendy and me at Christmas Eve services at church while Milo and his entourage were making an all day tour stop at Na-Na Brenda’s.
Christmas day, I’m happy to say, was an all-out, love-and-laughter, food-and fun, lazy lounge-fest with just the six of us. Wendy made her traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, along with an awesome breakfast. I threw French Dip into the crock pot for the evening meal. Lunch was a charcuterie menagerie for all. We opened gifts together after breakfast, then moved a mattress into the family room next to the sectional for a blissful day of binge watching (This is Us took up the entire afternoon), eating, and napping together.
“Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, had a very tired mom!”
A mountain of gifts.
Not just one, but TWO cupcakes from which to choose!
Gotta love the Nutcracker apron!
Milo and Ya-Ya Wendy.
“The stockings were hung by the stairway with care…”
“Skol! Vikings! Let’s win the game!”
Chocolate or Funfetti cupcake. Which will he choose?
Wendy and I have greatly missed our friends, Kevin and Linda, who packed up their possessions in Pella and moved out to Palm Springs, California a few months ago. So, when Wendy happened to see that our airline had some super-saver deals we jumped at the chance to fly out to spend a few days with the snowbirds this past week. And, as the weather has been unseasonably cold, windy, and snowy in Iowa, it came at a great time.
We were supposed to arrive mid-day on Tuesday, but travel delays meant we got rerouted and spent much more time in airports than planned. Nevertheless, we arrived at 7:45 pm and enjoyed dinner with Kevin and Linda. We enjoyed playing with Linda’s dog, Ginsberg, and talking way too late into the evening, or wee hours of the morning as was the reality for our midwest bodies.
It was a gorgeous day on Wednesday. So much fun to sit in on the deck and look out at the sun on the mountains as I got a little work done. Once everyone was up and going we walked the mile from their condo to the main strip in Palm Springs, taking time to browse through some shops. The chorizo queso at Maracas has become a favorite of ours, so we had lunch there. Kevin and I picked up cigars to enjoy after dinner that evening. We walked back and napped in the afternoon. Dinner was on the patio at another Palm Springs favorite, Tropicale. We enjoyed cigars around the pool in the evening and even dipped our feet in the hot tub.
Thursday was unseasonably cold and rainy for Palm Springs, but we didn’t let it dampen our day. Our friends gave us a tour of mid-century modern architecture around Palm Springs and we grabbed a burger at a local grill. The afternoon was spent visiting, napping, and reading. We took in the Palm Spring Art Museum in the evening for dining at Kaiser Grill.
The trip was all too quick. It felt like we blinked and it was over. We enjoyed brunch together at Pinocchio’s along with Kevin and Linda’s friend, Michael, who had flown in for a visit late the previous evening. Then, it was back to reality. We met snow in our layover in Denver. Ugh.
Blessed to have gotten a few days of r&r with our friends, however. Can’t wait for the next time.
Palm Springs Art Museum.
Kevin & Linda at Tropicale.
A room tiled with chocolate at Palm Springs Art Museum.
This is NOT an example of mid-century modern architecture.
It has been a while since I’ve posted anything but my chapter-a-day. Forgive me. I’m feeling good just to get that done most days. Nevertheless, I’m well overdue to, at the very least, post a brief synopsis of all the events of autumn.
Summer ended and our fall began with what has become an annual adult weekend at the lake with the VLs and JPs. It’s so much fun with this crew and there is never a dull moment when the six of us get together, which we did again a few weeks later with dinner in Ankeny for JP’s birthday.
A quick update on the girls. Madison continues living and working in Columbia, South Carolina as an area sales and training coordinator for Laura Geller cosmetics. She loves it there and we don’t foresee getting her back to the midwest without an act of God. She’ll also be home for a week at the holidays, which we’re ecstatic about. She and her boyfriend, Garrett, made quite a turn as “The Incredibles” for Halloween this year.
Taylor, Clayton and Milo moved to Edinburgh, Scotland early this fall. Clayton is finishing up his Doctorate from the University there. Taylor was hired part-time by Storii, a fabulous company helping senior care centers tell, and utilize, the stories of their residents who are struggling with dementia. They’ve had a busy few months with travels to Sweden, Denmark, London and the Scottish highlands. Thankfully they will be home for a few weeks in December for the holidays, and we can’t wait to have them here.
Sadly, the kids weren’t the only ones we had to say good-bye to this fall. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, left for Mazatlan, Mexico where she is attending Discipleship Training School with YWAM (Youth With a Mission).
We also bid farewell to our dear friends Kevin and Linda as they moved to Palm Springs, California. While the snowbirds promise to come back and spend summer in Iowa, it was hard to watch them pack up all their belongings and head west (though we are headed there to visit them soon!). I was also glad I was able to enjoy Kevin’s turn as host of the Pella Opera House’s first-ever Scotch and Cigar night. Almost 50 men attended, and Kevin did a fabulous job.
Farewell lunch with Suzanna. We’re so much fun, our server wanted to get in on the photo!
Scotch & Cigar night at Pella Opera House. Greeted by a piper.
Kevin hosting Scotch tasting.
I have been kept busy in leadership of my company including a major rebranding from C Wenger Group to Intelligentics. There will be more responsibility transferred my way with the start of 2019. I’m excited to see where it all leads.
Wendy and I stepped down completely from leadership in our community theatre after nearly a decade and a half. We’re taking an indefinite hiatus from community theatre with all the other things going on in life. That said, Wendy was honored by Union Street Players for her years of service by being inducted to their Walk of Fame during the group’s annual Awards Night on October 6th. Here’s a little clip I put together of some of my fave photos of Wendy over the years at USP. I’ve also, for posterity sake, posted a video of my introduction and her acceptance speech.
We were scheduled to be part of an independent production of Freud’s Last Session in October at Central College with our friends Kevin and Linda. We were forced to pull the plug on the production at the last-minute because of unforeseen and ultimately insurmountable scheduling obstacles placed in our way. It’s a long story both sad and frustrating. Not only for us, but also for the Central theatre students and professors who were looking forward to being involved in the show and with whom we were excited to work on the production. We are discussing an attempt to resurrect the project next year.
Autumn at the lake with Kev n Beck.
Me and the ladies, out for Chad’s birthday.
Or Pella. It’s a regional thing.
Chocolate always makes her smile. Celebrating Chad’s birthday at Malo.
Pella Opera House Gala
You know what fall means? Vikings football!! SKOL!
The fall included some annual events such as a fall weekend at the lake with our friends, Kev and Beck. Fall means you’ll find Wendy and me in purple and gold every Sunday afternoon cheering on the Vikings. We also enjoyed the annual fundraising gala for the Pella Opera House. And then there was an evening out with the VLs and JPs to celebrate Chad’s birthday. A wonderful dinner at Malo and nightcap in Des Moines.
Our support of Pella Historical Society included a couple of new experiences this fall. Wendy and I once again found ourselves portraying our town’s founding couple, H.P. and Maria Scholte, in a cemetery walk. There were a number of costumed actors stationed around the local cemetery portraying historic individuals from our town’s past. As visitors approached we delivered a short monologue. It was a cold, blustery fall day, but at least the sun was shining to provide a little warmth.
Just this past weekend I had the honor of being Master of Ceremonies for the annual Tulip Queen Announcement Party. Twelve young ladies were finalists in the annual festivities that select a Tulip Queen and four members of the Tulip Court who will preside at Pella’s annual Tulip Time festival in May. As M.C. I spent Friday evening and Saturday morning in rehearsals, then got to join the candidates at a special luncheon on Saturday. At the Saturday evening event I introduced and interviewed all of the candidates before a packed audience in the high school auditorium. Each candidate did a three-minute presentation and were interviewed by a panel of over 30 judges representing a diverse cross-section of our community. It was a tough decision as all twelve of the young ladies were exceptional and would have been great representatives of the best our community has to offer. Then I got to make the big announcement at the end of the evening. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve already been asked to M.C. next year’s event, so I guess I did okay.
Wendy and I have also been focusing on getting some projects done around the house this fall. We finally completed a DIY project that’s been in the works for a couple of years. We made a console table out of old dock wood from the lake to sit behind the couch downstairs in the Pub. We also designed a sign for the pub and actually had one made by the local sign company.
A house full of Vander Harts.
With the world progressing at breakneck speed, it’s nice to know some things never change 😉
No one starves at a Vander Hart gathering.
The Vander Hart name lives on!
Wendy and I also enjoyed playing host to her mom’s family this past weekend. The Vander Hart clan descended on us Sunday afternoon. There were 20+ of them for a potluck lunch and hanging out. Wendy’s cousin, Ethan, and his wife, Kim, recently gave birth to the only Vander Hart male to carry the family name into the next generation, so it was fun to meet him and celebrate.
Of course, then there’s the regular activities of both physical and spiritual exercise. I’m more involved than ever as a teaching leader. Wendy and I were asked to present at a fall retreat on our experience with the enneagram, which prompted another opportunity coming up in December. Wendy has been faithfully doing yoga and I continue to show up at CrossFit.
Wow. Writing this post reminds me just how busy we’ve been. But, life is good and we are blessed. Next week the holidays begin, and Wendy and I both have hearts full of gratitude ready to give Thanks.
Ten years ago Wendy and I made what was a rather momentous decision for the two of us. We decided to buy my parents’ lakeside property and the 70′ single-wide on Lake of the Ozarks. It was their retirement home that became an annual family destination for family, love, and fun. Both Taylor and Madison had grown up spending summers at the “Playhouse” with Grandpa and Grandma. Wendy and I dreamed that it might be place with which we could bless others and someday share with our own grandchildren.
That in mind, just a couple of weeks ago was another rather momentous milestone. Our family gathered at the lake for a week of fun together, and it was our grandson Milo’s first trip to grandpa and grandma’s “Playhouse” at the lake.
The kids actually all arrived before Wendy and I did on Sunday. Madison flew into St. Louis with her boyfriend, Garrett. They rented a car and drove to the lake. Taylor, Clayton, and Milo drove from Des Moines, stopping in KC for a lunch and road break. It was late afternoon when Wendy and I arrived.
The week fell into a rather pleasant groove. It’s interesting to note that every adult had some kind of work they could, or needed to, do remotely so there were hours of each day in which everyone was engaged in doing his or her own thing.
Wendy had done a masterful job of arranging the evening meal plans and the girls pitched in helping with sides. It was fun enjoying an evening meal together each night along, having conversation around the table, and of course there were the requisite slices of Wendy’s cheesecake for dessert.
We enjoyed watching movies together at night and spending mornings and afternoons in the sun (and ducking the unexpected rain) on the dock. Milo got his first swim in the lake (he wasn’t exactly sure about the whole thing). We had wave runner rides and an unexpected wave runner breakdown resulting in pulling it out and taking it to the shop. There was an enjoyable afternoon in the pool at Bear Bottom.
Madison and Garrett headed back to SC on Thursday. The rest of us enjoyed lunch at the Red Head on Friday and the kids headed for home on Saturday morning. Wendy and I had a lunch date, taking the wave runners to Popeyz for lunch on Saturday. Then it was and afternoon and evening of clean-up and preparation for our next guests.
The first half of 2018 has flown by. For Wendy and me it has continued to be a year of transitions. We’re transitioning into some new paradigms with work. We’ve transitioned out of our involvement in Community Theatre. Most importantly, we’ve transitioned into be grandparents. We went on a cruise. We took a quick trip to California (part business, part pleasure). We’ve been finishing some long overdue tasks around Vander Well Manor that have been on the honey-do list since we moved in over three years ago.
After our cruise, Wendy and I were talking about vacations and rest. We spend a lot of time at our place on the lake in the summer months, but because we both home office and can work from anywhere, we typically work while we are the lake. This is a tremendous blessing and it’s the reason we can be there as much as we are. However, we asked ourselves when was the last time we went to the lake and didn’t work. I couldn’t come up with it.
So, this summer we’re trying to make sure we unplug at least a couple of times while we’re at the lake. Last week was one of those weeks. It was a lot of fun. We managed to get quite a bit of sun. We sat on the dock and read. We watched fireworks. We took the Waverunner to Bear Bottom a couple of times to sit in the pool and sip cold drinks. We watched the entire second season of Jessica Jones on Netflix. I finished a book. I putzed at some projects.
There were also some things that Wendy and I needed to feel, and to talk about. We didn’t know it when the week began. Our rest gave opportunity for emotions to surface which gave opportunity to contemplate, and process, and grieve. That’s what happens at the lake when you allow yourself to rest. It’s a good thing.
I’m looking forward to more unplugging this summer. And some rides on the wave runner!
Wendy and I spent the past couple of weeks kicking-off summer at the lake. It’s been a particularly busy spring for us, so we haven’t had our usual opportunities to get down south for a few weekends to get things cleaned up. While we enjoyed three different sets of visitors, our time in-between was largely spent on clean-up and projects we normally would have accomplished by Memorial Day.
Projects took on a bit of an unexpected challenge, as well. The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend I was working on a project in our garage at home and sliced my finger open on a rolling tool cabinet I was putting together. I made a CSI-worthy blood trail into the house to tell Wendy we needed to the ER. I came home with five stitches and doctor’s orders not to get in the lake. Great.
We headed south on the Sunday of Memorial Day. Our friends the VLs had already arrived and had kick-off festivities in full swing. We arrived in time for a Sunday evening cookout. On Sunday I discovered that our boat was not running quite right. Bummer. No boat ride. But, we did get a nice day to play in the sun and swim off the dock.
Wendy and I spent a couple of days working on some projects. We had new decorations to hang and a couple of bathroom faucets to replace. A visit from the mechanic told us that our boat’s engine was irreparably broken (it is 30 years old). Big bummer. We did enjoy a movie date while shopping for supplies in town, and got to see Avengers: Infinity War.
Kev and Beck arrived late Thursday evening for their traditional early summer visit. We spent Friday afternoon in the pool at the RedHead and enjoyed dinner back at the house that evening. Wendy got sick on Saturday and remained sick for several days. That kind of put the kibosh on much activity the rest of the weekend, not that we needed much. We enjoyed a lot of food and conversation.
This past week continued the theme of things breaking down. A mower blade broke and I had to replace it. Then the trimmer head went flying. The battery on the wave runner (new last year) wouldn’t charge and had to be replaced. It seemed to just keep going. We did, however, get plenty accomplished with clean up and fix-it projects.
My folks and Jody arrived on Thursday afternoon. Dad and I picked up a new dock ladder for the swim deck and got that installed. The folks took us all to the RedHead for dinner. On Friday morning Wendy and I packed up and headed home.
This year’s annual Tulip Time festival was perhaps the nicest I can remember. The tulips were more gorgeous than any year I recall with almost all of the tulip beds peaking at just the right time and a few that were still starting to bloom. They were absolutely gorgeous!
For the fourth straight year Wendy and I got in costume to portray our little town’s founding couple, Dominie (that’s Dutch for “Pastor”) H.P. and Mareah Scholte. We spent each morning standing in front of the Scholte House museum welcoming visitors and then strolled the streets having our picture taken by countless visitors. We rode in the parades each afternoon. An intense Iowa thunderstorm, complete with Tornado warning, washed out the Thursday evening parade and festivities. Otherwise, the weather for the weekend was perfect.
We typically got out of costume once the afternoon parade was over. It was our chance to enjoy some grub from our favorite food stands, have a pint at the pub, and visit with friends.
Along with Tulip Time activities, we also hosted a bunch of family who came to town. Wendy’s mom and Aunt Linda stayed with us Thursday night. Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb stayed with us Friday and Saturday nights. Suzanna also came down Saturday and ended ups spending the night. My parents and sister Jody came down for the fun on Saturday and then returned home (with an armful of goodies from the Jaarsma bakery). By late Saturday afternoon Wendy I were pretty worn out. We bowed out of the final parade on Saturday night. Our friends Kevin and Linda, along with Suzanna, joined us on the patio to celebrate another wonderful Tulip Time.
Our perch on the porch of the Scholte House Museum.
Dominie Scholte was a big supporter of Civil War vets. I took this shot with some guys portraying Civil War soldiers at the festival.
Our annual selfie with Harry who plays with the DMCS band in the parade.
Hangin’ in Sinterklaas in this historical village.
I had a great birthday celebration this year. But, I have to be honest. Since the arrival of our first grandchild last December all of our family gatherings are “all about Milo.” I’m totally cool with that. The greatest gift I received was having Madison, Taylor, Clayton and Milo with us on Sunday. The whole brood under one roof to share in a family meal. It happens so rarely any more, and for it to happen to coincide with my birthday was awesome.
Madison flew into Des Moines on Saturday morning, and we knew that number one on her list was spending some time with her nephew. So we dropped her off to get some cuddle time with both her nephew and her sister.
Meanwhile he headed to our friends’ house. Kev and Beck both have April birthdays as well and a few years ago we started a tradition of celebrating together. This year is was low-key affair as we ordered pizza and spent the afternoon on their deck enjoying the spring sunshine. Kevin and I enjoyed a couple of fine cigars that had been a gift to me from a team member.
We picked up Madison and headed back to Pella, then enjoyed the evening together. Madison joined us for worship on Sunday morning. We grabbed George’s pizza after church and got home in time to welcome the trio from Des Moines.
Wendy outdid herself making a fabulous chicken parmesan dinner that we enjoyed with an equally fabulous wine. Wendy gave me my pick of desserts and while I love her Cheesecake and Chocolate Lava cakes, I chose to go with one of my childhood favorites: Grandma & Grandpa V’s lemon cake.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated family and friends on the latest happenings with Wendy, me and the crew. Here’s the latest…
Our grandson, Milo, is doing really well. Arriving five weeks early and weighing in an ounce over five pounds, he’s now over eight pounds and growing. Taylor and Clayton are still adjusting to life on a three-hour sleep cycle and all of the regular challenges of a newborn. We, of course, don’t get nearly enough of him but an extended visit to grandpa and grandma’s house is coming up and we’re excited.
January 1, 2018 meant two transitions for me. First, I was named CEO of C Wenger Group (CWG) the company I’ve worked for since 1994. My transition into leadership has been long planned, but the exact timing has not. A few months ago my business partner and I agreed that the timing was right, so I’ve not had long to prepare. Functionally, things won’t change much in the near term other than taking on entirely new layer of administrative work and responsibilities while I set the course for our company’s future. Second, I have accepted a slightly larger role in the auditorium services at Third Church. This means preaching a little more often [FYI: you can find messages on the TRC channel on YouTube or through the TRC website] and consistently taking the leadership role in Sunday services.
Wendy and I officially stepped down from leadership in Union Street Players, our local community theatre, after 12/13 years of service on the Board of Directors. We didn’t exactly know the other transitions were coming, but felt that it was time and now we feel the synchronicity of it. We will still volunteer and support USP and be in shows when the timing is right.
Wendy continues to work for CWG and her administrative gifts have already become invaluable in helping me with my new realities. She’s been volunteering some of her time at the Pella Opera House in recent weeks.
We’re headed on a Caribbean cruise in a few weeks, and can’t wait for 7 days away from the Iowa winter.
Madison continues to work for Laura Geller New York from her home in South Carolina. She’s doing great and has settled into community there.
My folks are doing well in their retirement community and continue to reside in independent living. Dad continues oral chemo for his Multiple Myeloma and cares for mom with love and fidelity. Mom is her doctor’s oldest surviving Auto-Immune Hepatitis patient and continues to battle Alzheimer’s as best she can.
Taylor and Clayton are in Des Moines focused on little Milo. Clayton is doing a short research project for the UN in February which is a great feather in his cap. Taylor is on maternity leave for a few more weeks and then will return to her job at ThinkDigital.
Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, has started a successful career with a bonding company in Des Moines and is living in the Des Moines area.