Tag Archives: Fourth of July

The Latest: June ’20 to May ’21

Wendy and I arrived at the lake last night. We’re getting things ready for our annual Memorial Day Weekend celebration with the JPs and VLs. Hello summer!

The last time I posted on “The Latest” was just about a year ago, and what a year it has been. 2020 was the year of COVID-19 and we weathered the storm like everyone else while managing to do so with our close family and friends.

Here are the highlights from the last year… the year of Covid.

June 2020 in Kansas City

Wendy and I enjoyed a really strange weekend in Kansas City amidst the pandemic. We went to see our longtime friends, Matt and Tara. Despite a narrow list of things we could do, we managed to get out for a wonderful evening with our friends and enjoy Covid-KC.

Grandma Vander Hart Turns 93

In July of 2020 the Vander Hart family gathered to celebrate Henrietta’s 93rd birthday. Since none of her children are in Pella anymore, Wendy has been helping her with her daily needs, shopping, doctor’s appointments, and etc. Wendy says with all the years Grandma watched her when she was a kid, she’s glad she has this opportunity to return the love.

Fourth of the July at the Lake

The JPs, VLs, and Schempers joined us at the lake for the Fourth of July this past year. Wendy and I actually spent less time at the lake last summer than ever. We got down just for the holiday weekends.

College Reunion

For the past few years my college roommate, Steve Elliott, and I have been talking about actually getting together. In July, we made it happen by meeting each other half-way in Galena, IL. Steve drove his wife’s Mustang convertible and we spent the afternoon exploring the backroads of the Mississippi River valley through northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin, making a stop when we stumbled upon a craft brewery.

Labor Day Weekend at the Lake

While Memorial Day and Fourth of July are typically family affairs, the Labor Day weekend has been a traditional adult weekend for the JPs, VLs, and V-Dubs. Always a nice way to celebrate the end of summer. Even summer of COVID.

Tay and Clay’s Highlands Wedding with a Stegosaurus

It was a beautiful wedding. We wish we could have been there. We wish anyone could have been there. Taylor and Clayton had hoped to have a private ceremony in Edinburgh with their close friends and then a quiet dinner. Then lockdowns nixed that. So, they opted for an even more private ceremony in the middle of the Scottish highlands with just the photographer and Milo. Milo requested to be a Stegosaurus for the special occasion, so, why not (at least for part of the time)?

Autumn Trip to Austin, Texas

Long before anyone had heard of the Coronavirus, we had scheduled a trip to Austin with our friends Kev and Beck. We had to do so to secure the lodging we wanted. We were determined to do enjoy what we could. As is always the case with the four of us, Beck had thoroughly investigated options and restrictions in order to structure an entire calendar of “fun” places where we could do what we love: enjoy good food, good drink, and good conversation.

Crowning a New Tulip Queen

A couple of years ago I was asked to be Master of Ceremonies for Pella’s annual Tulip Queen Announcement Party (TQAP), which is to say “it’s not a pageant!” Realizing that I’d had a blast doing it and would be doing it again, Wendy decided to sign-on for a six-year stint as a member of the TQAP Committee. So it was that we enjoyed working with the 13 young ladies (who were all amazing) to prepare for their presentations and I was honored to announce the new Tulip Queen and her Court for Pella’s 2021 Tulip Time.

Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving was a quiet family gathering at our house for a small gathering of Wendy’s family.

Christmas and Covid 2020

Wendy and I felt so blessed to have the whole fam at our house for Christmas, and an entire Christmas Day together. Tay, Clay, and Milo arrived in early December. They spent a few weeks with us, and a few weeks with other family. Madison and Garrett arrived in time for Christmas. Ya-Ya (Grandma Wendy) enjoyed Milo being her little helper with Christmas cookies, smoothies, and other cooking duties. We had a Christmas cookie decorating contest and the adults all participated in a Christmas cocktail contest. There were no losers.

To honest, Wendy’s birthday was overshadowed this year as she played hostess, baker, cook, and caretaker. Nevertheless, her heart was full of joy. We even took the rare opportunity of being together to have some family portraits taken.

Christmas Day began with opening stockings before Ya-Ya’s amazing Christmas breakfast complete with cinnamon rolls. Gifts were opened and we enjoyed an equally amazing charcuterie spread for lunch/dinner as we binged on The Crown. I got to use the nifty Lifegoo precision screwdriver set in my stocking to repair Lightning McQueen for Milo.

The Andersons headed back and the Vander-Boeyinks headed to Des Moines for a week of Christmas celebrations with family there. Wendy and I had originally scheduled a cruise to celebrate our 15th Anniversary (New Year’s Eve) but that had long-since been cancelled. I believe we spent a quiet evening at home and went to bed early.

The ‘Rona came to our house on January 3rd with Tay, Clay and Milo’s return. All five of us ended up getting it. Taylor, Wendy, and I had relatively minor, flu-like symptoms. For me it was a day-or-two with body aches followed by a few weeks with zero-energy. Clay and Milo were asymptomatic. Their return to Scotland got delayed due to our quarantine together, and we made the best of our unexpected, extended family time. They eventually flew back to the UK in February.

Getting Out of Dodge

In February, Kev and I were commiserating about feeling a mutual case of cabin fever due to COVID. Deciding we’d like to look at different walls for a few days, we scooted down to the lake for a week of guy-time and working remotely from a different location.

Lake Work Weekend

We returned to the lake in April for a work weekend with the JPs and VLs. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since we built the Playhouse and there was a fairly decent list of things that needed sprucing up, repaired, updated, and improved.

JP discovered that our dock had been torn from the gangway due to the low water level this winter. He, along with our neighbor, got it repaired. There was a lot of power-washing, labeling, clearing out, and organization.

It also happened to be Shay’s birthday that weekend, so we celebrated the senorita at our favorite local Mexican haunt at the lake.

Easter 2021

Easter was a quiet affair at our house. My folks and Wendy’s folks came to Pell and Grandma Vander Hart joined us for a light lunch and an afternoon of family time. It was so good to have my parents here. They spent so much of the year in lockdown in their senior community. To actually have them physically present was such a blessing.

Weekend in “COLA”

Wendy and I headed to South Carolina in April to spend a long weekend with Madison and G. It was our first time in SC since their wedding in October of 2019, and the first visit to the house they purchased last year. We also got to meet our grand dog, Bertha. Madison arranged for both Wendy and me to have facials at the salon where she works, Pout.

We enjoyed a quiet weekend and enjoyed some great restaurants in Columbia. G’s family were in town that weekend and we all got together for breakfast on Saturday morning. It was nice to spend time with them, as well. G demonstrated his grilling skills for us before we left on Sunday, and on the way to the airport we stopped to pick-up a new grand dog, a puppy named Hazel.

April Birthdays

I got to wear a sombrero like Shay, when my bud Matthew took me out for lunch to celebrate my birthday at the end of April. Actually, Kev, Beck and I all have birthdays within 13 days of one another, so it’s become a tradition to get together to celebrate each year. This year the celebration was in Pella. We enjoyed some time at the Peanut Pub and the rooftop of Butcher’s Brewhuis before retiring to Vander Well Manor with George’s Pizza.

Tulip Time and Mother’s Day2021

There was a modified Tulip Time this year, but at least it didn’t get completely cancelled like it did last year. Wendy and did our annual turn as Pella’s founding couple. We make a couple of pop-up appearances each day of the festival to give a little spiel about the history of Pella. There was a great turnout for the festival and, as usual, we got stopped many times each day to have our pictures taken with new friends from all over.

Not to be redundant, but the year of Covid-19 was a year of a lot of redundancy in so many ways. Mother’s Day (the Sunday of Tulip Time weekend) we hosted Wendy’s grandma, folks, and my folks. Wendy’s brother, Josh, was also back in Iowa for a visit. We had a light lunch and shared family stories around the table. It was good, once again, just to be together.

And, there you have it. The highlights of the past year. More memories to be made this weekend as Memorial Day kicks off another summer.

Freedom and Sacrifice

“But even if he does not [save us from the fire], we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:18 (NIV)

Tomorrow is Independence Day here in the States. Wendy and I will be celebrating from the lake. Fireworks are legal here in the state of Missouri and it is always a night of loud and bright celebration as people light fireworks off of the end of their docks and over the cove. It’s a lot of fun right up to the time you’re ready to sleep.

I’ve lived my entire life in a nation where freedoms of speech and religion are protected and where life and liberty are held sacred. Despite this fact, I’ve observed along my life journey that there are subtle forms of social, political, religious, and cultural pressure to conform. I find it fascinating that I came of age at a time when religious conservatives wanted to dictate their particular morals and standards on the nation. Now, I find that it’s the other side who appear to want to demand wholesale adherence to a host of social, cultural, and political beliefs they hold sacred.

These examples notwithstanding, I have always found it a bit hard to fully understand or appreciate the predicament that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego find themselves in today’s chapter. They are exiles in a foreign land. They are minorities holding a very different set of beliefs than their captors. They have likely had to learn to live among society and culture that was very foreign to them while trying to maintain a  sense of their identity and faith.

King Nebuchadnezzar’s demand that all bow down to the statue he had erected was somewhat of a common practice in that ancient culture. It was a litmus test of obedience. Interestingly, as I read some commentary on today’s chapter, I found that scholars are split on whether the Hebrew trio would have been breaking the Law of Moses if they had chosen to bow down. This makes it an even more fascinating episode for me. If it wasn’t a black and white matter of religious law, but a gray area of their personal conscience before God, then their refusal to bow become even more meaningful.

In the quiet this morning I find myself thinking about my own personal beliefs. Where’s the line(s) that my conscience and my faith would not allow me to cross? I even find myself silently asking “For what am I willing to sacrifice my life?” On one hand, this feels like an overly dramatic and exaggerated question given the fact that I live in a land of freedom and I don’t anticipate ever having to face such a trial. On the other hand, I am fully aware that around the world people are facing this very real question on a daily basis. There continue to be dictators, tyrants, and regimes perfectly willing to execute those unwilling to bow to their political, cultural, social, and/or religious demands.

For what am I willing to sacrifice my life?

Today, I find myself whispering a prayer of gratitude for those men and women from every culture, ethnicity, religion, and political persuasion who sacrificed their lives across the centuries that I might walk my entire life journey on this earth without seriously having to answer that question.

Happy Independence Day!

2015 07 03 Fireworks Over the Lake1315 (1)Last night Wendy and I enjoyed standing together on our dock watching the fireworks over the bay. I captured this shot and thought it a worthy celebratory photo for this holiday. We are so grateful for this land, the freedom we enjoy, and the precious blood of heroes and heroines who sacrificially provided it to us over the years.

God, bless America.

Lamp Light

Lamp on the Rail

I took this photo over Fourth of July weekend. We were sitting out on the deck at the lake watching the fireworks. This tiki lamp was sitting on the deck railing and I loved watching its flame dance in the slight breeze which was blowing. In fact, for a while I found it’s quiet illumination more enjoyable than all of the fantastical explosions happening above and around us. There’s something I find fascinating about the fact that the electric lights we take for granted are still a fairly new concept in the course of time. For ten thousand years, up until the last century, the quiet light of a small lamp was the only thing people had to pierce the darkness of night.

Fourth of July 2014

Wendy and I have enjoyed a gorgeous Fourth of July weekend at the lake. We’d been working from the lake last week, but took Friday off to enjoy getting out in the sun. There were a bunch of boats tied up in the cove with lots of people swimming, floating and sunning themselves. We blew up a couple of mats, threw on some music and floated in the sun for a few hours. Wendy forgot to put on sunscreen and got fried, but we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon nonetheless.

Wendy’s sister, Becky, and her husband Court, arrived around 7:00 p.m. They live in Denver and are headed to a visit back in Iowa, but stopped to spend the weekend with us. Becky is pregnant with their first, a girl, whom they’ve named Lydia. It was a lot of fun to see her pregnant and we’re excited to meet Lydia later this fall.

We cooked burgers on the grill Friday night and sat out on the deck to eat and chat. Captain Ron’s had their annual fireworks display planned for Saturday night but it seemed as if everyone in the cove had purchased their own at one of the 3,248,489 fireworks stands that dot Highway 5 every quarter mile or so. It was kind of fun to just sit on the deck and watch them going off all around us.

We got out for a boat ride on Saturday morning, though the traffic on the lake was already so heavy that the water seemed a bit more like being on the ocean. We slowly made our way around some of the nearby coves and let Becky and Court see the sights. In the afternoon we went down to the dock. Court and I got in the water while the ladies sat on the dock chatting.

Saturday evening was a wonderful dinner of grilled chicken and sweet corn on the cob. As it got dark was took the boat and anchored out in the cove to enjoy the fireworks. Becky and Court got up on Sunday and headed for Pella to spend some time with Suzanna. It was great to have them with us for a few days.

Rockets Red Glare

2014 07 04 Fireworks over the deck 035

Yesterday Wendy and I welcomed Wendy’s sister, Becky, husband, Courtney, and baby Lydia (waiting to make her official entrance in October) to the Playhouse. We see Becky and Court far too seldom and it is good to see them. They arrived in time to throw some burgers on the grill. It was a GORGEOUS Fourth of July evening and we ate on the deck, then sat and enjoyed the company and conversation. The official fireworks at Captain Ron’s isn’t scheduled until tonight, but since fireworks are legal in Missouri there were plenty of fireworks going off all around Buccaneer Bay. We enjoyed a non-stop display of fireworks late into the night.

I caught this shot of Court and Becky enjoying the view.

We plan to make a short visit to Bear Bottom today and then back to the Playhouse to enjoy this evening’s “official” fireworks. Beck and Court are on their way through to Iowa to visit family and we’re glad it worked out for them to spend a few days with us.

Fourth of July Family Weekend at the Lake

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As I mentioned in my earlier post this morning, it was a fantastic weekend at the lake with family. Wendy, her sister Suzanna, and I drove up on Wednesday morning and spent the afternoon getting the Playhouse ready for the onslaught. Clayton jumped in the van with my folks, they picked up Taylor (flying in from weekend with a friend in L.A.) and Madison (flying in from her home in Colorado Springs), at the Des Moines airport and headed south, arriving in time for a late dinner of pizza from Captain Ron’s. My sister Jody, her husband Scott and their kids Solomon and Emma left after Sol got off work and arrived in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

The Fourth of July was spent outside in the sun. Other than a brief, intense rain/hail storm that evening, the weekend was gorgeous with highs in the mid-80s and night time temps falling low enough to open the house. There was a lot of time in the “relaxation station” on the water on Thursday. Tom and Wendy served up a wonderful meal of smoked salmon for dinner that night as we celebrated Taylor’s 23rd birthday. It was a chilly evening and we headed out on the water to watch the fireworks at Captain Ron’s, only they didn’t shoot off fireworks that night (oops). Our neighbors, however, shot off a mess of them and we enjoyed the private show. Taylor brought sparklers and glow bracelets to enjoy.

Friday morning a bunch of the crew headed out on a neighbors boat so that Jody could (attempt to) water ski. The rest of us hung out. Mid-day we headed out on the boat to Bear Bottom resort for fun on the water slide and in the pool. We were going to eat lunch there but it was going to take forever to get served. We tried Captain Ron’s but there was a two-hour wait there, too. So we ate at the Playhouse. Jody and Scott made enchiladas for us that night. A tradition in our house is to answer questions from the “If” book after dinner and we spent a long while gathered around the table answering questions like “If you could read one person’s diary, whose would you read and why?” We learned a lot about one another and enjoyed a ton of laughs. As night descended we sat out on the lawn  by the lake to watch Captain Ron’s fireworks.

Saturday started with the requisite run to Sunrise Doughnuts. Between doughnuts, grandma’s cinnamon rolls, grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, Jody’s monster cookies, and Wendy’s cheesecake, and an anniversary cake for Scott and Jody we all got fat ‘n happy through the weekend. More sun and fun on the dock on Saturday. Scott took the kids into Osage to shop at the outlet mall. Wendy and I snuck off on the waverunner for a while. In the afternoon people kind of did their own things. People read, Maddy and I went out to Bulldog’s Beach House for a daddy/daughter date. People watched movies.

Saturday night was Grandpa and Grandma’s turn to treat with barbecue ribs and chicken. We celebrated Jody and Scott’s anniversary with a cake. That night we played Quelf together and had an uproariously good time. The kids stayed up to watch movies while the adults pooped out early.

Sunday morning Wendy and I made one last, big meal to have together. The crew did a wonderful job of helping pick up and clean and then packed up and headed out a little after 10:00 a.m. leaving Wendy, Suzanna and me in an odd sort of quiet.

What Really Matters

Crazy Family LR

For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.
Philippians 1:10 (NLT)

This Fourth of July holiday weekend was spent with a good number of our family members at the lake. As children grow and spread out on their own path, it becomes more and more rare for many of us to gather together. Even during high holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas our gatherings become more and more limited. We share a meal. We have an hour or two together before various members begin to scatter to their own personal schedules and priorities. Such is life.

So, Wendy and I headed to the lake last Wednesday recognizing the rare opportunity for family members to have three full days and four nights cloistered together. My parents, my sister, her husband and two of her three kids, our two daughters, our son-in-law, along with Wendy’s youngest sister enjoyed eating, playing, talking, resting, and laughing together. We celebrated Taylor’s 23rd birthday on the Fourth. We celebrated Scott and Jody’s 25th wedding anniversary. We celebrated life together.

On Saturday night the entire crew gathered around the dining room table to play a game of Quelf. It’s a little known game with no real objective other than to inspire and motivate corporate silliness. I have a great photograph of Wendy with tears of laughter streaking down her face as she attempted to quell her laughter long enough to read one of the game cards. Someone at the table remarked that what we were experiencing together that night would become family legend. Twenty years from now when we gather together for a meal with children and grandchildren out will come the stories of the Fourth of July weekend at the lake when Taylor and Clayton made masks out of paper plates, when Grandpa acted like a woman, and when Grandma introduced us to Wendy the sock puppet. Long forgotten will be the work deadlines that stressed me out so much over the past few weeks.

The further I progress in my life journey, the more capably I believe that I am able to discern and refine my understanding of what really matters. So much of that with which we concern our daily time and energy does not really matter in any significant, eternal sense. We rather become entangled and distracted. We pour time, energy and resources into those things which drain our lives without providing any worthwhile return on the investment.

Today, I am thinking about what matters, and what does not. God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference between the two and the grace to concern myself with the former as I increasingly divest myself of the latter.

What I Did On Summer Vacation

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It’s July and Wendy and I are spending a little 4th of July vacation at the lake. We arrived late last Thursday night. The Mathias’ had spent their honeymoon here at the Playhouse, and then the Hops came in for a little family vacation. Thanks to both of them for taking such good care of the place. Wendy and I were so pleased to arrive and find everything so spic n’ span!

Wendy and I spent early Friday getting a little work done and preparing for an onslaught of fun. The JPs arrived late in the afternoon on Friday. We had a lot of fun in the sun with excursions to Bear Bottom and Bulldog’s. The Pella VLs arrived late on Monday night and we’ve had two days with the Playhouse rockin’ from the combined kinetic childhood energy. There’s been a lot of fun in the water from swimming, splashing, jumping, tubing, skiing, boating, and wave running. There’s been lots and lots and lots of intense sun with hot temperatures which has necessitated keeping cool drinks handy (I think we should just plant a lime tree).

It wouldn’t be the 4th of July without thinking of our personal firecracker, Taylor, who celebrates her birthday in Uganda today. She called early and we were able to Skype and catch up on all the festivities she and Clayton have planned for her big day of celebration in Africa.

Captain Ron’s will be shooting off fireworks tonight and we’ll anchor the boats in the cove off the dock to get a front row view. The JPs will head home tomorrow while the VLs will stick around for another day or two. It’s always fun when you get our three families together!