Tag Archives: Kansas City

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.

Warm Places in Winter

Wendy and I experienced an unprecedented amount of travel between November 2019 and February 2020. Ironically, one of the first trips on the calendar was a Florida and Caribbean cruise getaway with our friends Kevin and Becky. It was after this trip was booked that we decided to spend the holidays in the UK with our daughter, Taylor, along with son-in-law Clayton and grandson, Milo. Then, our daughter Madison’s wedding and Wendy’s sister, Suzanna’s wedding got added to the calendar. Add business travel to these family events and I spent 57 of 105 days living out of a suitcase between mid-November and late February.

Fortunately, the first trip we booked ended up at the end of the travel gauntlet. We were ready to escape the Midwest winter, the stress of travel, and decompress with friends.

We flew to Florida in late January and worked remotely from a lovely suite in Pompano Beach, FL, just across the street from the beach. Kev and Beck joined us mid-week. We then departed from the Port of Miami on Saturday, Feb 1 for a seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise on Carnival’s Conquest. Super Bowl LII was in Miami that weekend, so it was a little crazy!

Our ports of call were Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. This was our first cruise on Carnival. Cruising will always be my favorite type of vacation. Being at sea fills something deep within me that this land-locked Midwestern boy can’t explain.

We loved our time with friends.

As for our ports of call, Grand Turk was okay. We shopped at the port and enjoyed drinks at Margaritaville. San Juan was, once again, a highlight for us. The old city is a favorite stop. We enjoyed lunch at the Choco Bar Cortes and Kev and I enjoyed a bevy and stogie at the Cigar House while the ladies shopped. St. Thomas was also an enjoyable port, and we really enjoyed a bevy at Taphus while shopping in the central business district. We chose not to get off the boat at Amber Cove, and enjoyed being on the mostly deserted ship.

The very best part of the cruise was, of course, our time with friends. We enjoyed the sun, fun, good food, good drink, laughter, love, and the making of so many memories. They are Kansas City Chief’s fans and it was a lot of fun getting to watch KC’s come-from-behind victory after dinner on Super Bowl Sunday.

We also enjoyed making new friends at the ship’s Alchemy Bar. The mixologists, Aleks, Brian, and Sonja became dear friends during the week. We learned from them and came to sincerely appreciate each one of them.

Below is a gallery of photos from our time in Florida and on the cruise. Enjoy.

A Family Weekend Starts the Holidays

2012 12 19 VW Gathering1 2012 12 15 Hot Moms Weekend 2 2012 12 15 Hot Moms Weekend 1The holidays are full of extra special celebrations for our family. Wendy celebrates her birthday today (Happy Birthday, baby!), followed by Christmas, followed by our 7th wedding anniversary on New Year’s Eve, and then the New Year. This year is extra, extra special because Wendy hits a mile-stone.

Let the celebrations begin! And begin they did, in a big way, last weekend.

Last last summer Madison informed me that she and Taylor would like to surprise Wendy and whisk her away for a girls weekend. So the scheming commenced and plans were laid for the girls to take Wendy to Kansas City for some female fun. On Thanksgiving Day, the girls were together in Colorado so celebrate Madison’s milestone birthday (21) and during our holiday Face Time session the girls told Wendy about the “Hot Moms Turn 40” weekend they had planned for her. Tay and Wendy left Friday afternoon and picked Madison up at the KC airport. They went out to eat, went shopping on the plaza, went to the play Inspecting Carol, and returned to Des Moines on Sunday.

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Clayton and I met the ladies at Americana for brunch. The girls and I then went to see War Horse at the Des Moines Civic Center. It’s a play Wendy and I had wanted to see ever since our trip to London a few years ago. It was a great show. We met up with Clayton again and spent a little time with Grandpa and Grandma VW before going to the 6:00 showing of The Hobbit.

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IMG_2147We’re at that stage of life when family spreads out and getting together is a rare occurrence. It was so much fun for Wendy and the girls to get three days together and for all five of us to share an entire day. It was certainly a nice kick off to our two weeks of celebrations.

On Wednesday night all of the VWs and Keithleys gathered back and Grandpa and Grandma’s so that the family could see Madison before she flew back to Colorado where she’s scheduled to work over the holidays. Wendy and I brought in some Felix & Oscar’s pizza, Wendy made peanut butter, dark chocolate espresso cupcakes for Madison. Grandma made chocolate cake with fudge frosting for Wendy’s birthday. We ate and laughed and enjoyed the time together before rushing home to avoid the blizzard which was hitting town.

Tonight the festivities continue as we celebrate Wendy’s big day. We’re excited to meet up with our friends Dave and Maria who are in town from Michigan. Then it’s off to one of Wendy’s favorite restaurants with the VLs for a nice dinner.

“Show Me” a Week of Vacation!

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Wendy and I did just return from a vacation week in the “Show Me” state of Missouri. We headed south late on Friday afternoon and arrived at the Playhouse in the evening. My parents had been there the previous week and had discovered that a break-in had occurred. Burglars not only hit our house, but our neighbors as well. So the early part of our vacation was spent documenting what was missing and dealing with both the local authorities and the insurance company.

There is both good news and bad news in what we found. The good news is that we don’t keep a ton of expensive stuff at the lake. The tv, dvd player and clock radio can be easily replaced. Why the burglar(s) chose to take almost all of my clothes, including socks and underwear, feels a bit creepy and I don’t want to dwell too much on that. Again, the clothes I kept at the lake were mostly old stuff that can be replaced. The bad news is that we had a hand-made, custom acoustic guitar my brother had made which was also stolen. Yes, it is worth a lot of money but the reality is that it’s priceless because of the sentimental value. We’re praying that it shows up.

On Thursday we headed to Kansas City. Wendy and I had been in Kansas City a few years ago when I spoke at a conference there. We liked what we experienced the one night we were there and vowed that we would return to explore the city further. Wendy found us a gorgeous Carriage House rental in the Hyde Park district which proved to be perfectly and centrally located to what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go.

We hit several museums including the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jass Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Art museum. On Friday night we went to the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts and enjoyed the KC Symphony, Chorus and Ballet doing Carmina Burana. We also, of course, enjoyed some great food. On Saturday night we met up with our friends Matt and Tara. Matt was in my youth group when I was a youth pastor many moons ago, and I had the privilege of officiating their wedding several years back. We had not seen them in a long time and we thoroughly enjoyed the four hours we spent sharing a delicious meal which included wild boar and bison meatballs and chocolate cake garnished with bacon. More importantly, it included life-giving conversation which filled us far more than the incredible food.

We found Kansas City to be a wonderful town. Wendy and I did not check everything off the list, so we definitely need to return!