Tag Archives: Taylor

The December Celebration Gauntlet

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.

Walking is a lot easier with one of these things!

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).

Skol! Vikings!

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.

Family Week at the Lake 2018

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.

My Birthday 2018

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.

 

Another year down.

Our Week With Milo (Oh, and Taylor Too)

Last week was a special one for Wendy and me. Our daughter, Taylor, and new grandson, Milo, came for a week while Clayton was in Africa working on a research project. It was awesome to get tons of cuddle time and to be able to help Taylor out as she continues the three-hour feed n’ sleep regimen. Thankfully the Winter Olympics were on pretty much 24/7 so we got to enjoy that. Even Milo got in on the act thanks to his mommy’s amazing graphic art skills. Milo even came with us on Sunday morning and listened to Papa give the message.

I’ll admit that Papa Tom got a wee bit “misty” from time to time as I rocked, walked, cuddled, and sang a few rusty lullabies from 25 years ago.

I’ve had a lot of grandparents give me a steady stream of cliches about being a grandparent:

  • “It’s the greatest thing ever!”
  • “It’s so much fun!”
  • “Being a grandparent is more fun than being a parent!”
  • “You get to spoil them and then send them home!”

Last week proved that it’s definitely all true.

Stages of the Journey

“Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages….”
Numbers 33:1-2 (NIV)

Yesterday our daughter Taylor was featured in a blog post by Ivory House photography. It was an artistic and poignant photo essay of our very pregnant daughter, and a tribute to all of the incredible qualities that emanate from her empowerment as a woman. Last night I read the essay and took time to appreciate how Whitney captured the beauty of Taylor and her pregnancy. I was struck at the new stage of life into which Taylor is ushering us as she gives birth to this little man we are so anxious to meet.

I woke up in the wee hours this morning. My heart was stirring. My brain wouldn’t shut down. I got up and started journaling. What came out was a stream of thoughts, fears, and hopes as I sense Wendy and me on the precipice of a new stage of our life journey. Unexpectedly becoming grandparents at the end of this year is a significant piece of it, but just one piece. This has been a year in which certain callings and responsibilities have been relinquished. There are new things coming for us at work that were unforeseen a year ago. We feel God pressing us forward in other areas of life. Again, things we didn’t see coming a short time ago.

This New Years Eve will be our 12th Anniversary. Twelve years. In my unending journey through God’s Message I’ve come to learn that twelve is a significant number. It’s a number of completion.

One stage coming to completion.
Another stage about to begin.

Old things pass away. New things come.”

Some days I’m amazed at God’s synchronicity. Finishing up my journaling, I opened up today’s chapter and what do I read?

Journey, stages, and God’s command to Moses record the stages.

Every life journey has its stages. In my experience, some stages are harder than others. Some stages feel like an endless trek through Death Valley, while others are an oasis. Some stages are an uphill grind, while others are a coast. Some are obstacle courses, and some stages are mountain top experiences so full of goodness and life that I don’t want to let them go or move on from them.

Moving from one stage to another may be a relief, or a sudden terrifying drop off the cliff, or an anxious unknowing. No matter the shift, I always find the transition comes with questions, trepidation, fear, and anxiety. Even transitioning from a difficult stage to an easier stage is still a step of faith. I rarely know what a new stage truly is until I’m well into it.

Moses and the Israelite tribes had stages of their journey from slavery in Egypt to Promised Land: Victories. Trials. Blessing. Conflict. Miracles. Struggle. And, God wanted them to record it.

Pay attention,” God says. “Record. Remember so you can look back and see in context….”

Where have we been?
Where are we right now?
Where are we going?

This morning I’m thinking back to the stages I’ve been through. Through all the ups and downs I can see God’s provision, God’s faithfulness, God’s goodness, God’s presence and leading. That’s helpful as I turn my gaze ahead and contemplate the next step.

I stand at the precipice  of a new stage of life like the Israelites standing at the River Jordan. What will this new stage be?

Only one way to find out.

“Leap, and the net will appear.”

Catching Good News at the Ballpark

I have been going to baseball games since Grandpa Spec threw me in the passenger seat of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle (sans seat belt) and hauled me to Sec Taylor stadium to watch the Iowa Oaks. It’s been a lifetime of going to games as a kid, of taking my kids to baseball games, of attending games of the Iowa Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, San Antonio Missions, and Laredo Lemurs. Somewhere along the way I gave up on the notion that winning the ballpark lottery is in the cards for me.

I’m never the one lucky enough to catch a foul ball or a home run shot. Wendy and I have never been on the “Kiss Cam” even when we’re one of ten couples at Principal Park on an April afternoon. I’ve never caught a hot dog out of the golf cart cannon. The t-shirt cannon never shoots the t-shirt my way. I’ve never won Ballpark Bingo. My row or seat has never been chosen to win the free car wash. Yes, there was that one time that they announced my birthday on the board, but that was because Wendy paid for a suite for a birthday party for me with our friends. It’s not so special when you pay for it. (Anyone who heard my message last Sunday is laughing at the sheer pessimism of this paragraph)

So it was that on this past Tuesday night Wendy and I arrived at Principal Park to watch our Iowa Cubs take on the Sacramento River Cats. It was a gorgeous night for baseball. We had been invited to be guests of our daughter Taylor who had some “Cubbie Dollars” given to her for her birthday in July. She also invited a few of her friends. It was “dollar hot dog” night and also “bring your dog to the ballpark” night so we were eating our hot dogs, drinking our beer, and enjoying all of our canine friends running around the place.

At the bottom of the second inning I suddenly heard Wendy on my left scream at the top of her lungs and I saw her jump up out of her seat in my peripheral vision. I turned to see her hugging Taylor, who was on her left, and screaming with joy and laughter.

What?!”

Didn’t you see it?!”

What!?”

Didn’t you hear her say, ‘Look!‘?”

No. You’re on my left. That’s my really deaf ear.

It was then amid the laughter and celebration that Taylor’s friend Kim showed me the video she was taking with her phone. It showed the big video board at the ball park with the message “Grandma and Grandpa Vander Well IT’S A BOY!”

My turn to scream and shout and laugh and hug our daughter, even if it was a little bit late.

Just my luck. I missed it. I didn’t hear her say, “Look!” I didn’t see it in the moment. But you know what? That’s okay. I am so blessed. I may never catch a foul ball, or a t-shirt, or a stale hot dog shot from a cannon. I don’t care.

My grandson is on the way (and I caught the good news at the ball game).

featured photo courtesy keith allison via Flickr

New Years 2016

New Years is always a whirlwind and a time of celebration for Wendy and me. This year was no different, and the holidays were stretched out more than normal for us.

New Year’s Eve was our 11th wedding anniversary. Wendy and I gathered here at VW Manor with a small group of friends. Last year was a bit of a blowout as we celebrated our 10th. This year was a low-key affair. We told everyone to wear sweats or pajamas if they wanted to do so. We snacked, we chatted, we played a few rounds of Head’s Up, and we laughed. It was a laid-back way to say good-bye to a very strange 2016 and welcome 2017 with all its possibilities.

Madison could not get home from South Carolina until late last week. So New Year’s Day was the first we got to see her since she joined us at the lake this past summer.  Wendy and I drove to Ankeny for a New Year’s Day gathering of the Hall clan. Taylor and Madison drove up from Des Moines to join us. It was a chance to see Becky, Court, and Lydia one more time before they flew back to Colorado and a chance for the girls to hang out with the family.

We returned to Pella in the afternoon and had our Christmas celebration with the four of us. It was fun to sit together in front of the fireplace ad enjoy opening gifts between the four of us. We then settled in for a relaxing evening together on the family room couch. Supper was a hodgepodge of leftovers on the counter to snack on. We watched the recorded Vikings/Bears game and then watched Cinderella together. It was really a lot of fun.

Yesterday was the only full day we had with Maddy Kate. Wendy made a fabulous breakfast for us. The entire morning was spent eating, drinking coffee, and great conversation around the dining room table. The afternoon was an equally laid-back affair. We opted for a Sherlock binge. We watched. Taylor knitted. Madison and I worked on editing a video for a little project she wanted to do together. Wendy scoured Pinterest and we discussed house ideas. And, in true family fashion, we baptized the living room rug with two spills that necessitated moving of the couch and cleaning up.

Wendy made a wonderful evening meal of tilapia, sweet potato wedges, and rice. We then capped our evening by planning our wardrobe for family pictures we’re taking this morning, and watching the newest episode of Sherlock which premiered on New Year’s Day.

It feels like a bit of a stretched out holiday this year. With Christmas and New Year’s on Sundays, it feels like we’ve stretched two two-day holidays into two four-day holidays. Today we take family pictures, say good-bye to Madison, and then settle back into routine.