Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It's truly been a year for the books and we couldn't be happier to close this final chapter and welcome in 2010!

A good friend compared our events to waves of the ocean. I'm happy to share we've learned to swim! We've endured health trouble and legal drama and found a family bond that will not break.

Not all of our efforts have ended positive with our family members but when one door closes another opens. We can testify that relationships are worth the work to stay in touch and spend time together. We cannot force something we desire if another's heart does not feel as we do. I think just realizing this has been a big step.

Thank you to our friends and family who have stood by our side. Thank you for the hugs, the phone calls, the texts and the emails, all to make sure we were doing well and feeling strong. God is good and we are grateful that no matter how low we felt we found the strength to maintain and move forward.

We are grateful for the opportunities to spend with family we've had this year - our Oregon/Idaho/Washington group return to Kalaloch, my parent's 50th anniversary in Wisconsin in June and Spring Break with our Texas family. We hope you are able to fill your Christmas with new memories.

We pray all are blessed through this holiday season and throughout the new year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


We all have much to be thankful for every day of the month... this will be my reminder for the rest of the year when I need it.
November 1st - I am thankful for the change in seasons. Though the plants and trees are 'going to sleep' around me - they do so with such dramatic flair. I love the Fall colors found in the leaves, the harvest and the mountains that surround our city.
November 2nd - I am thankful for the technology we have to help women find early stages of Breast Cancer.

November 3rd - I'm thankful for my day off work and the chance to sleep away the weariness I feel.
November 4th - I'm thankful for the smiles on our youngest grandson's face.
November 5th - I'm thankful to have a job... though I'd rather have the day off!
November 6th - I'm thankful for FRIDAY! Wahooooo!
November 7th-8th - I'm thankful for the weekend and the opportunity to work on some overdue projects around the house.
November 9th - It's Monday. I find myself struggling to be thankful and giving when patients come in late and want it to be my fault. I guess I'm thankful for patience and a filter to my thoughts.
November 10th - I'm thankful for hugs that 2-1/2 year old boys share. (Warm Fuzzies)
November 11th - I'm thankful for our active duty service members, law enforcement and Veterans - who, through their dedication and devotion to duty, provide the freedoms we all enjoy.
November 12th - I'm thankful for my sister Diana. Happy Birthday-Love you Sis! Wish I were able to spend the day with you.
November 13th - I'm thankful I'm not superstitious... I love Friday the 13th!
November 14th - I'm thankful for a quiet evening, slippers and the fireplace.
November 15th - I'm thankful for our older grands. Despite the fact Kalen cheers for a losing football team and Naidia worked a long day, they still text and IM their Gramma Deb.November 16th - I'm thankful to be able to plan a trip to San Diego in March to visit friends and watch UI lacrosse.
November 17th - I'm thankful for my husband who gets up with me in the morning (though he doesn't have to) despite the fact I'm not a morning person. I have a ten hour day and the coffee tastes divine!
November 18th - I'm thankful to be part of a team which provides mammograms in rural communities. The women we meet are all so appreciative. Me hace felicidad a formar parte de este grupo.
November 19th - I am thankful for sunshine, cartoons with Taten and the time at home to enjoy it all.
November 20th - I am thankful our youngest son is coming home today to spend Thanksgiving week in Boise. We will have all of our family together.

November 21st - I am thankful for doctors who work on Saturday and fast working antibiotics!
November 22nd - I am thankful for the opportunity to share Sunday night Mass with Mike and our youngest son Krieg.
November 23rd - I am thankful for a relaxing weekend, enjoying time spent with our sons - while Brit and I anxiously await the arrival of Erin to even the gender scale!
November 24th - I am thankful our daughter Erin and Chris arrived safe today. Let the festivities begin!
November 25th - I am thankful! Our home is full. Erin & Brit were prepping the side dishes today while I work - so we may all relax tonight!
November 26th - I am so thankful to be blessed with such a special family... Our children, Mike's children, our daughters-in-law, grands, my parents, siblings and family! It's been a rocky year - a few health issues, relationship struggles and tests of our strength and beliefs but with the love and support of our close family and friends we've endured. We really enjoyed our family date - watching "New Moon".
November 27th - I am thankful to have the opportunity to see Black Friday for myself - with Krieg and Brit. We are downsizing gift giving and had three things we hoped to find and afford. We were successful!
November 28th - I am thankful we've had such a special Thanksgiving weekend with Erin, Krieg and Chris. Our time together went entirely too fast. We are also very thankful for neighbors who still smile and wave while trying to back out of their driveways and manuever through our street corner, despite our small parking lot while everyone was home.
November 29th - I am thankful for a day of rest.
November 30th - I am thankful to have had the past 30 days to stop long enough to remind myself all I have to be thankful for - especially when I need the nudge.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tis the season - Trick or Treat

For many years, Halloween season began with a trip to the pumpkin patch. I do miss the trips to the farms in the Midwest where we were treated to horse driven hay rides, endless fields of pumpkins, hot apple cider and caramel apples to die for...

Fortunately we've adapted to our environment and located an Idaho version - complete with Corn Maze, tractor pulled wagons and pumpkins in a large field. Taten enjoyed a tent filled with farm animals to feed (and a camel?). We came home with a porch full of Fall color.

Finally the night comes to show Taten how to carve the pumpkins. Matt & Brit are creative souls with ideas (and an internet website with designs). By the time Grammy is going to put the knife to a pumpkin she's thinking past creative to clean-up, hot shower and bed. The kids made these delightfully adorable faces - I managed to come up with a large spider.

Halloween night arrived with cooler temperatures but that did not deter the trick or treaters. Taten wasn't a happy camper when he departed the house but I was confident once he figured out the whole candy routine he'd be up and running - and he was literally running from house to house with his parents and friends in tow.
Matt & Brit even took advantage of Halloween and attended a going away party in costume. They were quite a stunning pair. Of course Erin (and her roommates) and Krieg in Moscow were not to be outdone. Just Papa and Grammy home holding down the fort!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weekend in Heaven

Wahoooo! We are on our way...

Oh my - Forks, WA - maybe we'll see Edward!

Having chosen to forego our week-long camping trip at our favorite place on the Washington Coast this past summer, we opted to have a family weekend in same said same heavenly location. It was sooo worth the wait!

I managed to pick the one weekend in October that didn't have seventeen other things scheduled. No lacrosse tournaments, no midterm exams, no unexpected illnesses and best of all NO RAIN!

Mike picked me up after work Thursday evening and we drove as far as the Olympia area to spend the night with our daughter-in-law Debbie. Matt, Brit and Taten followed us over in their car too. It was a late arrival but so much nicer to be able to get up "almost there" and have a leisurely morning.

Our oldest granddaughter Andi arrived, helped with some last minute food prep and we loaded coolers into cars to head for the coast. Our crew in Moscow finished up their morning classes and were able to hit the road in the afternoon "island time". Even the Oregon family hit the road to join in on the weekend. We were 19 Shaws in total.

We had sporadic rain on the drive over - but it cleared after we had the cars unpacked. Just in time to hit the beach. The crew from Moscow had rain showers, and a delay from an accident which stopped traffic on the interstate for over an hour. They arrived in time for a bowl of chili to warm their tummies and low tide at 11:30pm. The young adults promptly took off to enjoy the beach after dark (while their more chronologically advanced cabin mates went to bed).

We woke Saturday to SUNSHINE! It was a stunning day. I don't think we could have requested anything nicer. As our family walked on the beach, enjoying the warm sunshine, looking for agates, we reminisced about visits to Kalaloch over the years. The two littlest guys found walking sticks like the big boys, and tossed large rocks into the surf. The little girls followed them around, cooing and being attentive. The air was warm - sweatshirts were sufficient to keep comfortable.

The evening passed with delicious bowls of chicken n'dumplings (a Kalaloch tradition), glasses of wine & beer, laughter, conversations among family members, card games, board games, way too much candy, chips & cookies. I'll be detoxing the month of November just to survive the holidays.
(L) Portland Shaws 

(R) Idaho Shaws

Sunday morning came before any of us were ready to leave. Our weekend together passed quickly and the time spent together was precious. After breakfast, we packed up our cars and headed for home. Our family made one last visit to Beach 2 - where Mike's parents cremains were scattered.

Kalaloch 2009

We'll pray God will find us, together, back on the beaches in July.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sneaking Sundaes

Taten disappeared the other night, into the kitchen. We listened carefully - on alert for impending disaster. We heard a kitchen drawer open and silverware being handled. Next noise was the sound of the refrigerator door opening and closing.

He arrived in the living room and settled in with his ice cream and spoon.

After a couple of bites he stopped to see that we were watching. Being the strict disciplinarian that I am, I was hiding behind the pillow to keep Tate from seeing me giggling at his actions.

Our presence didn't seem to deter his desire for dessert.

And for the record, Papa isn't much better at keeping Taten in line... He asked how the ice cream tasted and got a big "thumbs up"!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Erin Corinne!

Today Erin turns 26 years old. I want to be cliche and say "how did she get to be this age" but a glance in my mirror reminds me of the path.

Erin is our first born and only daughter. She's not the only daughter as she has two older half sisters. She's not the oldest child as she has four older half siblings. In our household, Erin was raised knowing her older siblings are just that - older siblings.

Erin was born at Lemoore Naval Air Station in Lemoore, California. She was born on Friday September 16th at 8:50am, my smallest baby weighing in at 9 lbs. 8-1/2 oz. The day of my 9 month prenatal checkup, the doctor informed us he was leaving town for the upcoming weekend and wanted to let us know who would be covering for him. I recall being asked to sit and not being comfortable as I was sure I had lost bladder control - I was leaking. Instead we discovered my water had broken and her arrival was destined.

Dad was the Commanding Officer of VA-146. We were loyal fans of the squadron football team. The night I was admitted to the hospital there was a game scheduled. Though I tried to convince the hospital staff I'd behave, I remained confined while my husband wandered across the street to the field!

The Flight Surgeon assigned to Dad's squadron routinely offered to be available to deliver Erin when the time came. In the morning hours, we approached the final stages and in walks Mike, ready to pinch hit. At that time I wasn't too concern about the social ramifications of having Mike so near Erin's destination and then nonchalantly chat over a glass of wine at the next squadron party! Fortunately our real doctor was present.

Nanny (my mother-in-law) was already staying with us. She was our first visitor. Denie (my mom) and Great-Great (my grandma) flew in when Erin was a week old. Imagine my grandmother experiencing her first airplane flight at the age of 81 just to come see us. It made my heart soar to have them visit. Erin is my mom's first grandchild and shares my grandmother's name for her middle name.

Erin was an easy baby, thankfully since Mike went to sea for six weeks when she was 2 weeks old. She loved laying on her belly to stretch her arms and legs out and rock.

When we moved to San Diego, her long awaited hair became white blond and very curly. She loved playing outdoors. We spent hours visiting the zoo and Sea World. Our special neighbors looking out for Erin and I while Mike came and went.

When we were scheduled to move again, I sold our home and we moved in with Denie & Granpas in Wisconsin. Dad caught up with us and we moved to Virginia. We learned our way around the D.C. area with the help of Uncle Knobs, Auntie-Mommy and Stephen. Matthew was born in Virginia.

Erin was afraid of the seasonal thunderstorms, lightening in particular. I remember one bedtime Dad telling her stories and showing her how the lightening was like static by rubbing a blanket into his hair and showing her the static sparks in the dark room.

Erin started a Montessori preschool in Venezuela. She had a wonderful International mix of students and teachers. Two years later she started Kindergarten at a British school where classes were taught in English and the playground was Spanglish. I recall her first day when the bus came to pick her up for school. She headed out our gate, waving good-bye in her little uniform. I was so fearful for the uncertainty of her arrival at the new school I insisted Mike follow the bus to school before he went to work. I wanted to know for sure someone was there to meet her and she wouldn't be scared. Of course that's exactly how the school staff greeted the new students.

When our youngest son Krieg was due to arrive the kids and I returned to Wisconsin. Erin and I attended a Sibling Class. She learned about the birth process and was allowed to bring home a very anatomically correct pregnant "mommy" rag doll. I will never forget the shocked expression on Denie's face when Erin showed her how Mommy would have contractions and eat ice chips and then (reaching under the dress) pulled out a stuffed newborn baby from the rag doll womb connected to an umbilical cord and placenta.

Our tour in Venezuela was cut short during another stateside visit. Rioting and a coup attempt occurred while we were visiting Mike's family in Washington. The kids and I weren't allowed to return to the country so Mike went back alone. Erin finished Kindergarten at the same school I once attended.

Our family has a favorite spot on the Washington coast - Kalaloch. The kids and I traveled to coast with Dad's parents before our move to Puerto Rico. They were very excited to look for egg-lets (agates) with Papo on the beach. However, Erin was concerned about our plans to hike in the woods. She was afraid the indidums (indians) would be a problem. It was a great visit.

In Puerto Rico, our arrival was followed by Hurricane Hugo. Mike was second in command for all the Caribbean bases and required to be at work during the storm. For 18 hours we listened to the roar of the wind and watched water seep through windows. The kids read books, played quietly and were very brave. Inside MY heart was racing!

Erin had a "thoughtful spot" near our home - a bench which overlooked the cliff out into the Caribbean. It was common to see her sitting out there, just watching the waves or boats, and enjoying the sea breeze across her face.

I remember a spelling bee in which Erin participated. She had no trouble spelling words and we knew she would do well. She worked her way through several levels and suddenly spelled a word incorrect. I couldn't believe - she knew that word! She happily took her consolation prize (a Tootsie pop sucker) and sat with her classmates. It wasn't until years later I learned from her she deliberately misspelled the word wrong because she saw the others getting a treat and she wanted one too!

We returned to the states when Dad retired. Erin once again returned to my former elementary school. It's difficult in a small town to be someone other than "the new person", even when it was my home town. Erin had lots of friends through Girl Scouts and 4-H. We lived close to Denie & Granpas. Eventually Dad took a job up near Green Bay and we followed. Erin thrived in her new, bigger, Middle School. High School years were spent going from one activity to another - swimming, life guarding, teaching swim lessons, church activities, CCD, Brigade... I loved working at the high school and being near Erin and her friends. So much life - so much fun.

Once more, Dad took a job and we were moving, this time to Boise, ID. Erin was looking for colleges, debating over Wisconsin schools and a Colorado veterinary tech school. I opened up the options by completing a couple of applications for her. Imagine her surprise when she learned she'd been accepted to University of Idaho but didn't recall applying. I told her there was no way the umbilical cord would stretch so would she please move with us.

University of Idaho is six hours away. Far enough for Erin to become independent but close enough to come home for the weekend. She started with a veterinary science major. Her first Spring Break, we girls took off to Oregon and Washington on a road trip. We visited the Portland Zoo - in the rain, shopped in Seattle with Debbie & Andi - and even got our first tattoos!

After a difficult semester her sophomore year (after 9-11 and Dad losing his job) Erin took a break from school to work for a year and a half. She was ready to return - and chose to go back to U of I. She changed her major to Wildlife Resource Management.

So many years being away from her brothers, Erin was excited to learn Krieg was moving north to go to school at U of I. She has become the loudest UI Lacrosse fan and can finally prove she's not lying when she tells people at 5'10" she's still the runt of the family. She stays close in contact with Matthew & Britnee - frequently catching up on the phone inbetween visits together.
Her school life was complicated by a demanding boyfriend who tore away at her self esteem. Eventually she found the strength to walk away from a debilitating relationship, move out on her own and started anew. We are so proud of Erin's willingness to seek the advice of counselors and family. We are happy to see her self esteem return along with the friends who were chased away. Erin is a strong minded, independent young woman and knows what she wants to do. The negative lifestyle of a person she's left behind is not forgotten. Signs of his existence appear but she's determined to no longer give him the power to control her life. For this we are ever grateful.

It's been a rough road. After changing majors, the school curriculum changed, adding to her required courses. At the suggestion of her advisor she requested to have her record cleared of the bad grades. The Board listened to her story and agreed to clear an entire year of poor academics. It isn't every day you get a chance at a 'do over'. Erin is determined to make the most of this opportunity. Of course it means a 'do over' on the good grades from that year too. If all continues to go well Erin will be able graduate in December 2011 - graduating with two majors - one in Wildlife Resource Management and a second in Ichthyology (fish).

We know you will continue to do great Erin. You are an amazing young woman. You've overcome obstacles and learned much about your self during some tough soul searching. We are proud of you Boo.

We love you!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fair Time

I was active in 4H as a kid. Our own gang took their turn at 4H too when we lived in Wisconsin. I love the Fair - not so much the Midway rides and carnival games - I love the barns.

Fortunately my husband enjoys going through the livestock exhibits too. The first time we went to a Fair together we were in California. We were actually going to see Kenny Rogers but wandered through a horse barn. We found ourselves admiring a gorgeous horse along side Patrick Duffy aka Bobby Ewing of Dallas, an 80's era TV show.

We've been to the Western Idaho Fair a few different years. This year we've had a lot on our plates but wanted the distraction in a visit to the Fiar. We convinced Britnee and taten to come along. There is nothing better than a fresh look at the world through a two year old's eyes.

The temperatures were warm. We wandered the livestock barns - dairy, beef, sheep, poultry, rabbits and goats. We got a glimpse of a costume parade... I can honestly say it's the first time I've ever seen a rooster dressed as a fireman. The draft horse barn was not occupied but there was a display from an equipment company out of Mt. Pleasant, TX with 8-10 very large, very beautiful black draft horses. I was in awe. The tallest was over 19 hands high. I have no idea what that equates to in inches - I just know it's backside was definitely over my head. Taten loved this display too - not the horses - no he liked the horse power - the huge, shiney, chrome plated semi truck parked behind the horse exhibit. He is his daddy's son.

My favorite Fair event - the FOOD! Such a struggle to pick something. I wanted it all but settled for a yummy chicken wrap. I watched every overflowing plate of curly fries and onion rings, corn on the cob, corn dogs, and ice cream "baked potatoes" (hey it's Idaho) that passed us as we ate our dinner and relaxed in a grassy field.

We wandered through a "farm" petting area. Taten fed the goats, or more accurately the goats tried to help themselves to the feed in Taten's cup. He loved holding out his hand while they pushed and gobbled up the feed. Taten didn't care for Brahma bull, but he was a bit intimidating. When the bull butted my elbow as I walked by I obliged him with some ear scratching.

No Fair would be complete without a short walk on the Midway. The sun was setting into the western sky and we were treated to a kalidescope of color. Taten's "WOW" made it worth every moment. The cotton candy wasn't bad either!

We had a great time at the Fair with Brit and Tate - and though Matthew couldn't be with us he called as we were leaving and got to hear all about our night.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Forward thinking

I know we shouldn't wish our life away... but who doesn't daydream once in awhile?

Lately I find myself wistful for the ocean - and our family time together at Kalaloch. Perhaps it's the fact we've missed two summers without our week in paradise which has led me to day dreaming.

It is bound to happen. We work through a lot of schedules. As our family dynamics change new events will take priority. We were able to meet five years in a row. We set aside the last week of July and those that can come - do - and we toast the others with s'mores or hot pies.

Last year we were blessed to attend our oldest Grandson's wedding the weekend we would normally head home from camp. This year it just didn't seem right to go without Krieg, who was in Alaska fishing again, or Matt & Brit who had a Hallmark family reunion.

We have our weekend planned for October. The regulars will be in attendance.

I'm already pondering walks on the beach in jeans and a sweatshirt. I look forward to feeling the damp, sea air on my face, knowing my hair will respond in ridiculous ways. We will warm our souls with a fire in the fireplace.

I find myself hopeful for a storm to roll through for a couple of hours, giving us a chance to wrap ourselves in blankets and watch the turmoil outside from the comfort of the cabin.

I am looking forward to the traditional chicken and dumpling meal. We will challenge one another to a loud game of Cranium and introduce everyone to our new found silliness, Quelf.

I know our two nights will pass quickly and we'll be back in our routine, finding ourselves prepping for the holidays. But we'll have had the spa-like serenity of Kalaloch to rejuvinate ourselves. And we'll have the knowledge that our return for a week in July is that much closer!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Modern Conveniences

In this time of modern conveniences, I have no problem with a step up. I love microwaves, coffeemakers with timers, digital photography, GPS, 'Google' and WiFi on my laptop. Though I was slow jumping on the iPod train, I wouldn't trade mine now.

I have mixed emotions about cell phones. I remember how secure it felt to be able to drive off on errands and leave a child at home, knowing I could be accessible if the need arose. Especially when afternoons and evenings were spent shuttling children to and from various activities.

I very quickly remember the frustration of same cell phone and same children, when the calls became requests for snacks, or updates on what someone else was doing at the time. Yet it was still a convenience.

Now we have no land line and cell phones are the only way to call. I've threatened to make the land line return if my husband continues to walk out of a room leaving his cell behind.

And there is texting... GUILTY! I love being able to send a quick note - without having to actually place a call. It's become more of a necessary factor as my brain cells fail me and I can no longer remember what it was I entered the room to pick up - or what I was planning to add to my 'to do' list.

With the convenience of internet, comes the social network site- let's call it "My Face" - which expanded it's availability to include those of us who are more chronologically endowed... and YES I have a "My Face" page. It started as a means to share lacrosse photos with our son's teammates. Much of our family also has 'pages'.

Family pages are a double edged sword. I've enjoyed following updates from our children. I refrain from commenting on their every movement and click past pictures of party going - they are adults. For our extended family it's been a recent source of frustration. How do you justify being too busy to keep in touch or respond to inquiries but it's clear you have time to spend leaving notes to others?

I'm guilty of using "My Face" to wish geographically distant friends a happy birthday or wish them well on their adventures. I'm saddened it's become a means for family to extend birthday greetings in lieu of a personal phone call. I cannot imagine feeling just a note to my parents, whether email, text or (argh) "My Face", is an appropriate way to recognize how I feel for them.

I'm not a big 'talk on the phone' person. I'm often elbow deep in a project and don't want to chat. Yet I have strong feelings about making the time to call and let someone know, in person, you are thinking of them.

I realize not all parent/child relationships are equal. For the topic of this 'venting' - there is a parent involved who cares deeply and deserves more respect.

Perhaps now we're using what is convenient as a means to avoid personal responsibility.

Just my opinion.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Camp Jamaica - Emails from camp

(In June 1999 I traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica with our daughter Erin, our daughter in law Debbie and granddaughter Andi. My husband Mike was unable to go because of his work schedule. We were going to help my stepdaughter Renee and her family wrap up the academic year at their mission school. Recently I found copies of the emails I sent home to update family of our activities and introduce them to the players.)

June 17, 1999

Dear Family,

Last night we arrived somewhat deepfried and incapable of thinking a rational thought so therefore, no email. Forgive me - Renee is keeping us busy - a reversale wicked stepmother role. Actually she woke us thi smorning when she left on the firs bus at 7:15am. We were suppose to be with them. Needless to say it didn't happen. We drug our weary bones from our beds, and prepared for the second bus coming at 8:15.

I got coffee, tried porridge for breakfat with fresh pineapple. Porridge is lie tapioca, sweet and lumpy. Not too bad. Last night for dinner we had stewed chicken, rice and callaloo (sort of a spicey spinach leafy green thing). It was actually very good. Of course my traveling companions were not sure of what they were being served and claimed to have eaten hugely on the plane. Didn't do much for breakfast either. By lunch time, Debbie was begging me to ask Renee if we could go "downtown". The driver, Glaston, took us with Hopeton. Because of an accident on th eroad, we detoured through a cemetery and several alleys. Driving is a unique experience. Left side of the road, 70 mph, horns wailing... Debbie is always holding on for dear life. No seat belts either. I feel like I have the advantage having lived five years outside of the U.S.

We changed money and stopped at KFC. It was good! We bought a bucket of 21 pieces to get Debbie through until we go to the Holiday Inn tomorrow afternoon. Tonight we had pepper steak (fried chicken) and rice. So... that's the food. Actualy, we have a bag of passion fruit for juice and there are mangoes hanging heavily on the tree in front. We had bread fruit boiled with green bananas and squash. I'm trying it all! No weight loss on this trip. Unless I sweat it off!

Auntie Merleen and Hopeton do most of the cooking. Mr. Berris is the houseman. He is in his 70's and has never left the island. They are training Nardia, the oldest girl, to do chores around the house and cook. She will not be going to class any longer after this year. She has a learning disability which cannot be diagnosed properly in Montego Bay. She doesn't speak much, but is a wonderful person.

It's hot and humid. Erin seems to have adapted very well. Sweat runs down my face, chest and back on a regular basis. I know I too will have adapted in a day or two. It's the rainy season. We get heavy, heavy humidity, the clouds roll in and the afternoon shower arrives complete with thunder and lightening. It cools off some and feels less humid. By bedtime there is a breeze, ever so slight, but a breeze. The frogs and crickets are loud. I remember those sounds and the storms from Venezuela and Puerto Rico. They are comforting sounds.

The children are very good. They have their normal squabbles but matters settle quickly. A snap of the fingers and a point to the hall and they are sent to their rooms. I've almost reached the point where I can call them by name without hesitating. They are much smaller than I originally thought, but they are happy and loving.

This morning we helped at the school. Andi and I opted for the fan cooled office doing computer work. Erin already knew the drill for helping in the classroom and Debbie was given the task of listening to children read - in the warm outdoors. The school rehearsed a small program they will be performing tomorrow at the "Infirmary". It's more like an old folks home - barracks style.

After a break this afternoon we took off with Jerry and Renee downtown once more. We stopped for paper for the yearbook print job and headed to a 'wholesale warehouse'. Not exactly Sam's or Price Club. You stand at a counter, check out the shelves in front of you stacked with goods and asked for what you want. We then went out to see Renee & Jerry's new house. It's actually a home they lived in nine years ago. The German landlord (a Natzi if you can believe it) is moving to Canada for good and wants to be rid of this huge home and it's furnishings. The best part is she is willing to finance some of it and will take several balloon payments. Renee & Jerry have been able to raise the down payment and closing costs through the generous supporters they have now. It's going to be a tremendous move. The house is well maintained, closer to town, very near the new school building and with the furnishings it's such a blessing!

They also took us up the road just a short mile to the new school building. On a hill. As it happened, there was a rainbow just over the rooftop. Very appropriate. The school is older but will be whipped into shape in no time.

Time out... need to get bug spray.

Despite our rocky start, we are having a wonderful time. The trip down was fine for me - Debbie and Andi another story. I ended up carrying the bos that contained my binding machine. Wish we would have thought to put a rope around it. I arrived in St. Louis on schedule and dashed down through two terminals completely, one end to the other. St. Louis has these wonderful moving walkways. Just wish they had been working! Finally broke down and rented a 3-wheel cart. My shoulders are bruised from my over-burdened carry-on bag and my arms black and blue from the box. But I was so excited. Andi and Debbie were to be waiting at the gate for the next leg of our trip. They started boarding almost immediately. I kept looking for them. Couldn't believe they hadn't showed. Looked around the food placed, watched restroom doors, but no family.

I waited my turn and asked about their flight from Portland. A very rude TWA ticket agent told me she needed the flight number and asked me to step aside. I dug through the carry-on for my daytimer and their flight information. I waited in line, once more, to asked the question once more. She informed me the flight was cancelled and said "next". I stepped square in front of her and said, excuse me but what do you mean cancelled?. She said 'maintenance' and reached around me for the next person. I again stepped in front and said "where are the people". She told me they were coming in at 12:30pm. I wondered outloud if I should wait for them but she said there were no more flights to Montego Bay that day. Reluctantly I boarded and sat in my first class seat all my myself. (We had this big plan, upgraded our seats to have some fun together.) The attendants were wonderful. I asked the questions of them. They took my box from me to check down in the plane belly and told me my family would be rerouted on another flight and may even be in Jamaica before me. The plane took off and I sulked. I wanted to cry. I was overtired, bruised and frustrated. Then I realized - hey lady, you are in a first class row by yourself, lots of leg and elbow room - and look - they serve alcoholic beverages FREE! :-) Well I didn't overindulge but I did treat myself to a bloody mary with breakfast. It was only 8:3oam! I felt like I had been through a small war by then.

After a hot meal and calming drink I found the blanket Erin asked me to carry down to crash and burn! I woke 30 minutes out of Montego Bay as we started our descent, filled out the immigration card and watched the approaching island. It was beautiful! Memories of our time in the Caribbean flooded back. Best of all - we landed early! The airline employee who was going to meet me for Renee & Jerry was at lunch. I cleared immigration by myself and retrieved my bags. In Customs a gentleman asked me to step aside to xray my bags and the box. I had to open and explain the metal. I had trophies, medals, plaques as well as the binding machine. He asked how long I was staying, inquired about my vacation with trophies and wanted to know how to use the binding machine. I opened up a file folder with last year's yearbook and showed him how it worked. I can hardly wait to carry the machine home... NOT! The Customs agent took my form, gave me a big smile and sent me on my way. I'm sure they see it all but I had dozens of deodorants, razors, sweetnlow, coffee creamer, bathsoaps, Pam oil spray, graduation gowns for the kindergarten class, shampoos, hairsprays - oh sure, all for my personal use. It made me chuckle.

Where are Debbie and Andi? Their story begins in Portland. Thirty minutes prior to their departure they are informed the flight was cancelled. They dashed to the ticket agent for Plan Two and were rerouted on Northwest through Minneapolis, Tampa and Jamaica. Of course, Debbie was in Minneapolis before she realized she wasn't still going through St. Louis where we were meeting, didn't know of the stop over in Tampa, only she was going to end up in Montego Bay. They did get in at 2pm just an hour and half after my arrival. They still got to fly first class AND were met at the gate by the airport person. I'm glad. I was carrying the island address where we were staying. At least they had help getting through it all. At this point I knew I'd done it before.

I arrived, we waited for them, they arrived and we went home. Just as the skies opened. It was refreshing. Much cooler for awhile. I love watching Debbie's eyes when she sees things for the first time. She's never been east of Nevada!
June 20, 1999

Good Day All! Happy 17th Anniversary Mike. Happy Father's Day Dad, Mike and Rex. We've just returned from Fantasy Island. Back to the real world. We did however, leave Tatoo at the Resort. What a blast. I think Debbie might have enough pastries to make it through the week. We already have the a/c on in our bedroom (much to Jerry's dismay), two loads of laundry running and our first cockroach in the Tootsie Rolls.

We are anticipating a hard work week at school. The yearbook must be copied and put together. We've heard talk of award certificates, award programs, teacher evaluations, report cards... good thing we got as much rest and relaxation as we did. (Just kidding)

There is a Field Trip for Honour Roll students, another all-inclusive resort for the day. Ya mon - this is great. Mind you it's not all play. We are packing the school up and moving on the 26th. We'll work hard and leave for home the 30th.

The resort was awesome. All-inclusive. We did our best to get our monies worth. The main buffet never lacked nor should anyone go hungry between meals. The grill was always ready with hamburgers, hotdogs and endless grilled cheese sandwiches. I want you to know Andi and Erin LIVED at the grilled cheese line. The guy didn't even have to ask any more and he wasn't the only shift worker there. The other side of the grill hut was a beverage bar - with or without. We'll leave that part to your imagination.

The pool was incredible. The girls kept the appropriate 10 feet away from us. We didn't want them to cramp our style. Those old fuddy duddies. Debbie enjoyed the night life. I had to drag her kicking and screaming from the casino. She kept insisting she would break even next time! That wasn't the end - she found BINGO at the pool. Next stop the bright lights. She ended up on stage dancing to "Hot Hot Hot". Look out Mama. She can really shake her bootie. Of course, I being the respectable one of the group refrained from traumatizing my granddaughter any further and remained seated!

We stayed up late nights chatting, watching HBO, Jay Leno and SNL. Erin has her late night fix again. We're back at the house now in sweltering heat. Thinking we'd really be ready to go home if permitted. But we came to work and that is what we shall do. We are a tad toastier - more like crispy critters and that is WITH sunscreen. Debbie wasn't going to use sunscreen as she was afraid she'd go home with no tan.

Did we mention the fish for sale on the side of the road? The guy had a barracuda. Earlier in the week he had a shark. They hand the catch from a tree to sell to passerbys. It was enough of a deterent to keep us from swimming on the beach below Renee & Jerry's home, despite the fact Glaston assured us the caught the fish WAY out dar mon.

We are becoming accustomed to the Game Preserve with it's dozen or so cows. They have ropes securely attached to their necks to keep them from straying. It must work as they don't leave the grounds... howver, the ropes are not secured to anything on the other end. Go figure!

There are road hazards. Not the large trucks speeding 70 mph or the motorcycles zigging and zagging. We're talking goats, chickens, people walking where they please on the side of the road.

Friday before the resort we started at the bottom and worked our way to the top. We went along with the school on a field trip to the infirmary. It was an old folks home. Separate barracks for men and women. It wasn't quite as bad as we were led to believe, but it wasn't where I would want my family.

We were dropped off downtown at the City Centre so change more money and bargained our way through the Craft Market. Debbie just couldn't say no and they figured her out quickly. We all have new wraps to cover with at the pool. We lunched at McDonalds... no burgers just chicken and fish. They ran out until July sometime. It is imported. Erin had them stumped because she ordered a meatless Big Mac and they kept telling her 'no burgers just chicken and fish- and she kept saying she didn't want the burger. We met up with Renee and Jerry and headed for our weekend at the resort.

We miss ice. Debbie is having phone withdrawals. Erin is having Jay Leno withdrawals. Andi's having heat attacks and I'm typing as fast as I can.
June 21, 1999

Greetings! Today was a work day at school after spending last night creating, typing and printing out certificates for awards. I thoroughly enjoyed a brisk cold shower and went to bed to the harmonious tune of dogs fighting with God knows what jungle creature and again the sound of my crickets.

Up early to head out with Renee and Jerry on the first bus to the school. Particpated in morning devotions with the teachers and started putting out some more awards. The printer is slow and it takes forever.

We had Pizza Hut for lunch at the school. Debbie, Andi and Erin all headed for home to eat while I continued to slave away... poor me! :-)

When my tasks were done on the computer Glaston, the diver, had the van taken apart. The only vehicle available was his motorcycle. Yes I did ride home on the motorcycle with Glaston. Common sense lost out to the need to change from a skirt and blouse into shorts and tanktop. It's not bad enough the traffic is psychotic but I have to jump on the back of a two wheeled vehicle. You should have seen Debbie's face!

We are having a wonderful time. The children are so happy and so normal - ready for school to finish. Wednesday is the last day of class. Thursday is an Awards Celebration in the late afternoon. Then summer holiday begins. Tomorrow we are going to FDR, an all-inclusive resort with the Honour Roll students. Dran, we won't be able to work. Only 25 of the students are on the honour roll.

The sun goes down about 6:30pm. It's such a surprise after being use to the 8:30-9pm dusk. Even more difficult for Debbie who is bright-eyes until late as she's still running on West Coast time. With this knowledge, we now understand why she is so sleepy and groggy in the morning.

School gets out about 2:20. It won't be long now before children arrive. Peace and quiet prevail for now. Erin and Andi are keeping up with the photocopying today so we may start binding yearbooks tomorrow. It's coming together nicely. Debbie found a lawn chair and a sunny spot overlooking the ocean. I think I'd better keep her company.

I'm interested in any yummy lizard/gecko recipes you have to share. My brother offered a cockroach with melted butter. Tempting. We had fried plantains and bread for breakfast. Erin brought peanut butter.
June 22, 1999

Happy 40th anniversary Mom and Dad. Sorry for the late email. I wrote earlier but we had trouble with the internet and coudln't get back on line. One of the hardships for 3rd World countries.

We are staying up a bit later trying to get another page or two of the yearbook printed. Only Erin and Andi are going to FDR tomorrow on the field trip. Debbie and I are going to stay here and work on the yearbook. The group is traveling with parents. Erin and Andi are asked to go to keep track of Kalen and Jourdan - the only two from the Winkler household on the Honour Roll who didn't have demerits or detention slips. That's our grands!

I'm always the worrier. When Renee was talking of the kids going without adults I worried. Of course, it's not like Andi or Erin can do alot but this way I know they have supervision around the pool, etc.

Debbie is apprehensive about Andi going. Partly the driving (it's an hour from here) and partly the responsibility of watching the kids. I know the girls will be fine with Glaston. I think part of my calmness comes from having been in Venezuela. It's bad here but I remember Caracas. This is a picnic!
Good Evening - we are down to five yearbook pages left to copy. We are making great progress. It's soooo hot. 96 today and nearly 100% humidity. I feel like a walking puddle - I even splash.

Debbie and I stuck around the house today and had a blast with the help! The landlady was coming so they 'cleaned for the queen'. We made them grilled cheese sandwiches and ice tea. While a thunderstorm brewed off coast, Debbie and I sat in the sun to melt away the poundage and then showered in cold water and sat in the a/c bedroom. We've got it so cold in there the kids walk by and complain of the cold draft coming from under the door. We call it the "Bat Cave". I don't think w even have it on the highest settings. It cools some at nights but not enough for us. It's the humidity. It's worse these past few days. Even the locals complain.

We are making progress. Debbie killed a lizard today. She wouldn't go into the kitchen before and now she's swatting the critters while cooking sandwiches. We coudln't find the body of one when it fell behind the freezer so it's possible there is a lizard around here tonight with one heck of a headache.

Tomorrow is a half day of school. One of the teacher's father passed on and they are closing to attend the funeral. We will finish collating the yearbook. We have 40 copies put together minus the last few pages which will be added in the morning.
June 23, 1999

Good Morning - greetings from Jamaica. Jourdan and I are sitting here waiting for everyone to get moving this morning. She will be leaving on the first bus with her folks. She's ansy to get the girls moving so they won't be late.

It's already warm. Not much breeze as before. We've had little rain since we arrived. No daily showers since last Thursday.

Erin and Andi are leaving today for the Honour Roll field trip where they will eat, swim and relax.

We've decided our arrival shall include a large dosage of ant and roach spray. Our plan is to stop in the garage with our bags, put them in big black trash bags and spray them down, tie them closed and let them sit for awhile. The cockroaches are abundant- mostly due to the rainy season. I don't think they exterminate like we did in Caracas.

The school starts moving next Monday. They close on the new house today and hope to start moving as well. Renee and Jerry have a great deal on their plate right now.
Good Evening. Waiting on Jerry to return with our midnight snack. He was out for a meeting and is stopping at McD's for goodies. Debbie is nearly salivating...

We finished the yearbook this morning - printed and bound - by 10am. I printed out the remaining certificates. Our reward was an afternoon at Doctor's Cave Beach. It was wonderful. We went about 11am and came home around 3pm. It's a 'pay to get in' public beach. We got an umbrella, laid our towels in the white sand and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. As one group departed they gave us their chairs. The water was so blue and sand so white. One of us had sense enough to sit more under the umbrella and read while others insisted on getting max sun-age. Needless to say, one of us is comfortable right now sitting at the computer while three others are gingerly moving about the house, fearful of contact or movement. The a/c will have to be set higher tonight due to the heat radiating from their bodies!

Tomorrow is the Awards Celebration at church. We'll decorate in the morning. The children will receive their trophies, plaques and certificates.

We had an awesome thunder and lightening storm tonight. We spent several hours on the veranda watching lightening. We taught Kalen to play "War" with cards. He's just a wee bit competitive!
June 26, 1999

Good Saturday to you! We are back from a second trip to Doctor's Cave Beach We thought we'd go early - 9am and come home by 1pm as it was so hot last trip. Of course, when 1pm rolled around we were still enjoying ourselves, not hot at all, wishing we had more time.

We spent last night in Renee and Jerry's new home. They finally had the last of the paper signed. It has been a week long Jamaican work in progress. I's to dot, T's to cross. Such fuss. But the house is a miracle. The owner is a woman they previously rented from, returning to the island to close her home. They happened to contact her out of the blue when they learned their current rent was going to increase. The German woman has left the house and belongings inside to Renee and Jerry. We spent a night without cockroaches! Andi, Erin and I all shared one half of a king size bed while Debbie slept very well in the other half. We reminded me of Willy Wonka's grandparents. Very comical.

The new house has dozens of keys. The rooms come off a center open courtyard. Very tropical and pretty. Errol, the gardener, who lives there, locked the door with the deadbolt and we couldn't get in. Imagine, the six of us, each with a huge string of keys trying paddlelocked gates, grates and doors.

Finally we were able to get a side gate open. Jerry found some cement blocks and climbed to the roof. We figured he could swing down over the wall at the courtyard, walk to the front door and undo the deadbolt. Well, SOMEONE has short legs and decided he couldn't swing his legs. In his defense, he messed up his hands on the broken glass that surrounds the edge of the wall and roof (there to discourage just such access to the house). So (don't read this part Mike) our daughter decised "mom I can climb up and swing my legs down easy enough - I'm taller and longer than Jerry". I'm fearful to even say anything so I don't look at her and pretended I didn't hear. I continue to try another key and then decided I could no longer just sit and wait, so had to watch. If she was going to slip and crash to the cement courtyard, I would break down the front door - somehow.

Erin managed the cement blocks, over the top and walked around the wall to swing her legs over and climbs down like a professional. Then we had to figure out how to get Jerry back down. Me tinks my doh-tar da tief has been here too long on dis island mon.

Erin undoes the deadbolt, we get Jerry down and in we go with our KFC dinner. The only injury incurred was when Erin pinched her finger on the deadbolt! The smaller side of the house, the cottage, was still locked and the real goodies were on that side. We explored some of the closets in the main house. Vintage 1970's home decor. It was a fun night.

Renee had a dentist appointment this morning. She cracked a tooth on some of the Skittles we brought down. Jerry dropped us off and we walked to the beach. We enjoyed ourselves. No sailors, no Coast Guard, no cruise ship employees for our daughters to meet this trip. Debbie tried snorkeling. She thougth if she could see the fish she wouldn't mind. She wasn't disappointed. There are some reefs out at the ede of the swim area and they found the typical color-filled salt water fish.

Two couples from Lacrosse, WI arrived with morning. They are here to help with the school move. The new school lease isn't finalized as the owner is a reggae singer who is off island right now. They will get the lights, fans and desks ready to move.

Glaston is driving us to Ocho Rios tomorrow, to see the Falls. Monday we'll be working at the school and Tuesday we'll prepare to head home. We have thoroughly enjoyed our visit, feel like we've been productive and helpful and still been able to relax. But you can bet we won't be missing our plane!
June 28, 1999 (Final letter from camp)

Good Morning Mon! We are starting another glorious Caribbean day here in Jamaica. The children have been up for awhile therefore so is Gramma Deb. Auntie Merleen is packing up books for the move to the new house. We treated her to dinner last night - we made tuna and grilled cheese sandwiches - whoo-hoo. The girls stayed up last night to watch movies with Renee and Jerry. Being the old lady of the quartet I went to bed early.

The trip to Ocho Rios was beautiful. The water was cool and very refreshing. We climbs the Falls. Hopeton blazed the trail for us and we gingerly stepped up the sometimes slippery rocks and rushing water. As we climbed I looked up and there stands Glaston above us already. I've decided that Jamaicans are secretly born with suction cups on their hands and feet - therefore given an advantage. Some of the rocks were even slippery in our water socks. There would be pools of water to stop and swim a bit. Some tours were climbing with guides, holding hands, stepping together in a long line. I think that would have been more dangerous. Debbie and I stopped about 100 yds from the top where it got very steep. I noticed even Hopeton and Glaston were struggling. Erin, Andi and Jody continued on with them. They forged their own trail to the other side and Hopie and Glaston decided that looked like a good idea and joined them. It was beautiful. I took lots of pictures.

Today we will be heading to the current school. The two Lacrosse couples arrived to dismantle desks and pack up rooms. They will fill holes and we will start painting. We are going to take down lights and fans too.

We head home soon - it's been a wonderful two weeks - bugs and all. It certainly has been a growing experience and very eye-opening. I hope the girls go home and thank God for all they have at home. I know I will.
June 29, 1999

This is our final, final from Camp Jamaica. We've set aside our "get out of jail free" money for our airport tax. Nothing will stand in our way. It's been a great experience to live outside of tourist resorts - a taste of the 3rd world country. We've seen it all - well most of us - Debbie wouldn't always look!)

Since our arrival we've heard the tale of 'the 40 legs'. It didn't thrill me any to know this infamous creature was once discovered in Jody's bed... the bed I'm sleeping in!

Now I've felt comfortable here for the most part. I can deal with cockroaches on MY terms. I travel the house with an extra show for swatting. I turn lights on in the dark rooms I enter. I have bug spray for mosquitoes atnight. The spiders and moths are no threat. I've survived a snake in the house in Venezuela, rats in the toilet in Puerto Rico, but '40 legs' almost did me in!

Last night the Winklers headed to the new house with some of the children. I helped Mandela and Ricardo in the kitchen (it's safe with the lights on). Erin, Debbie and Andi dealt with Nickel. Trust me - it's a fair trade.

Debbie taught Ricardo how to play poker and 21. Probably the the best choice of games for that one - he's already quite a wheeler and dealer. He caught on quickly and soon wanted to place bets. Fortunately they were betting glasses of water with ice!

During one of our wild Crazy 8 games, the family arrived and the kids began to bathe. Ours we were left with were already bathed. The first little girl, Nickicia, started for the tub and returned wrapped in a towel. There was a '40 legs' in the tub. Ok... Auntie Merleen calmly heads down the hall with a shoe and Alex follows, the little girls close behind. Curiouslity got the best of me so I had to go look too!

OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WAS HUGE!

This is no regular centipede. I'm thinking - hey it's only 40 legs not 100! But this mutant was over 6" long and about 1" around, BRIGHT RED, with pincers and a stinger. They tell us if you are stung you need to be 'carried' (not literally just the term here for taking someone) to the hospital for antihistamine shots. Merleen had it in two pieces and at first I thought it was two bugs. It didn't help my goosebumps to learn that is was all one bug. Like our friend the cockroach, '40 legs' travels in the plumbing. What IS IT about me and creatures in the plumbing?

Soon after we wrapped up our card games with Gramma Deb finally beating Alex, and headed to bed. We stuffed towels under the bathroom door and a washcloth in the sink drain. Debbie and I wrapped up extra tight in our sheets and prayed to fall asleep. Every twitch and itch on my skin sent me into near hysteria.

As we finally doze off, Erin starts up with one of her frequent nightmares. She's sitting in the bottom bunk, facing the wall, pounding to get out! We get her awake - sort of She is dreaming she's locked in a box. Then as things quiet down she speaks again "a bug is crawling on my foot"... Needless to say Debbie and I are VERY tired this morning. I've had enough! UNCLE!

It's a beautiful island. The weather is suberb. The people are wonderful. We are having a wonderful time - wish YOU were here.

28 more hours and we'll be on our way THERE!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do the math... it just doesn't compute.

We got a text from our youngest son Krieg this weekend. He does well to keep us up to date with the 'happenings' in Alaska where he is part of a five man commercial fishing crew out of Sitka.

This particular text tells us the Wind Walker's crew caught 70,000 lbs. of salmon. Whoa! Mike and I both stood still with our phones in our hands reading our individual, duplicate texts, side by side one another.

Then as quick as we are amazed and astonished, we do the math.

In June Krieg shared the particulars of the new boat purchased by Captain Dave this year. 51' long. Metal hull. Skiff with 250 fathoms of seining net. Two holding tanks - one 51,000 lbs and the other 9,000 lbs. I mentally do the math, scrunch my eyebrows together thinking I'm really bad at math and look up at Mike. I see a mirror of my own confusion - and he has a master's degree.

Mike proceeds to text Krieg and ask for clarification. Krieg's response was to check the latest pictures he uploaded to Facebook. Into the house we go, open up my laptop and wait patiently for our explaination.

Fishing was going well - and the set was still open so our favorite fishing energizer bunnies "just kept on going'... This is what 70,000 lbs of fish looks like in a 60,000 lbs capacity boat. The fish nearly up the sides of the boat.

Krieg is thrilled to be in Alaska for the summer. The opportunities, the experiences, the stories!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I looked at my blog last night - Day 3 of Mike's trip... something is definitely amiss... I shall try to redeem myself by getting up to date. It's been quite a roller coaster ride.

Mike continued his trek across the middle of the continental United States. He stopped in North Platte, NE to visit his cousins. He always enjoys his time on their farm. His weekend visit wasn't nearly long enough.

The next night he stopped in Edina, MO to overnight with a retired Navy cohort. Dudley came into our life via our good friend/best man/former roomie/Navy coworker "Knobs". The two of them use to visit in Neenah, WI, where they would mooch a place to stay and eat our food while attending the EAA Air Show in Oshkosh. All that we got out of it was a week of delightful entertainment, war stories (which improved with each night and/or every sip of Scotch), and an endearing friendship. I promised on their very first visit - they were welcome to stay but be advised - for breakfast I set up the coffee pot - mas nada. We were a Bed-No Breakfast. They've never let us live down leaving them without a place to stay for free... and it was only fair that Mike mooch a meal and a bed of his own on this trek.

From Missouri, Mike headed north and arrived at my folks' home in Janesville, WI. I'm sure the quiet neighborhood heard him coming up the road. He was definitely glad to be out of the rain! My brother was already there from Virginia.

The following day Krieg flew out at 7am for Milwaukee via Phoenix. Erin and I flew out at 11am via Chicago for Milwaukee. Matt, Brit and Taten arrived the next day by way of Denver. My sister drove up from Chicago and her family followed. It was so neat to have everyone together at my folks - my mother wouldn't stop grinning!

My parent's 50th wedding anniversary party went very well. We had approximately 100 guests - family & friends. I saw cousins from both sides of the family - some I haven't seen since we left Wisconsin in 2001.

We packed up the next day and headed for Chicago where we attended my nephew's Eagle Scout Honor Ceremony. More "party food & cake". Erin use to participate in Girl Scouts, and Krieg did Cub Scouts for awhile so I appreciate the effort and commitment it takes to carry through an Eagle Scout project. I have a great deal of respect to see a young man plan, prepare, carry out his project. Too often in our area when we are asked to help with an Eagle Scout project it is being led by a women's church group instead of the Scout.
Joe, Lauren, Kevin, Mackenzie & Nicole

My nieces are involved in 4H. They volunteer at a local "farm" working with youth in summer camps, etc. They were hatching duck eggs for a 4H project. This particular weekend the eggs hatched, producing 3 ducklings - Peking, Daphne and Afleck (who wouldn't hush). They were cute. I'm grateful we raised domestic cats and dogs in our household. As you might imagine, ducklings need to eat - and my sister knows how to show me a good time - we drove for chicken mash - finding a feed store, not in a rural suburb where you might expect, but much closer to downtown in a very low rent urban area. Who buys ducklings, chicks and baby bunnies and what are they doing with them? So many different types of feed - right smack in this neighborhood.

Taten meets Peking Duck

Our youngest was only in Wisconsin for the weekend. We took advantage of the trip to Milwaukee for a family tour through the Harley Davidson Museum. What a treat. One of Erin's Neenah High School classmates works for HD and gave us a personal tour. Thank you Eric! Her high school best friend Sarah drove to Milwaukee with her husband to meet us. It was a special reunion for Erin, who hasn't seen any of her classmates since graduation in 2001.

Krieg flew back to Boise, arriving about 11:30pm, repacking and the next morning flew to Sitka, AK for his summer job salmon fishing.

Harley Davidson Museum

Our time in Wisconsin/Illinois included my niece's 8th grade graduation, celebrated by mass and a graduation party to honor Nicole and my nephew Kevin's high school graduation (and two of his cousins). My sister's in-laws are a large group, but when you throw in adult friends, 8th grade friends, high school friends and family you have a crowd!

With grads Kevin & Nicole
Taten slides with "Lola" Lauren

Matthew & Britnee celebrated their 3rd wedding anniversary by staying in my sister & brother-in-law's condo downtown Chicago. It's conveniently located just two blocks from Navy Pier, very close to Lake Shore Drive. The day we took them down, we toured Shedd Aquarium and had lunch at Navy Pier. Matt & Brit took advantage of the location and walked to museums, Navy Pier and Millenium Park and even checked out some art exhibits on the street. At one point on the "EL" train, they found themselves just a bit outside of their comfort level and decided to get off. Matt overhead another passenger saying "that white boy is crazy"... it was then Matt decided they would walk 'til they saw Lake Michigan or another white person' and only then would they stop and check their map. He's not prejudice - just cautious. It was an adventure.

Lunch on Navy Pier

Shedd Aquarium

View from the Condo

Not to be outdone by Matt & Brit's "country mouse in the city" tales, I successfully managed to find the alternate route on nearly every trip we took in the car. We traveled 'off the beaten path' more often then I care to think about. Thank goodness for unlimited mileage. Map shmap... we had GPS on Erin's phone... which we learned needed an upgrade to give accurate directions. On the other hand I may have discovered a neighborhood that actually bought those baby chicks to accomodate the general populus who gathered at the multitude of fried chicken eateries.

This was Taten's first airplane trip and he was a trooper. He loved the airplane - I wish I could show you his arms in the air making an imaginary airplane fly across the sky and make a whooshing noise. He endured hundreds of miles in the back of our rental van and kept his complaints to a minimum. Tate did great meeting all of his new family and won over everyone's hearts.

Taten with Denie & Granpas (the Greats)

Sadly our time with my family came to an end after our second weekend. We left my sister's family behind in Chicago and spent one more night in Wisconsin with my folks. Matthew was blessed with the opportunity to learn a few woodworking skills from Granpas - and Taten now has a new wooden plane made especially for him by his daddy's own hands (and Granpas watchful eyes).

Matt gets woodworking lesson

Mike's time in Wisconsin/Illinois wound down earlier in the week. He rode on to Barnesville, OH where he stayed two nights with my former Navy Yeoman Senior Chief Flip Turner. Flip lost his wife a couple of years ago. They did some local bike trips to see the countryside.

Enroute to Pennsylvania Mike gave in to the 'off' feelings he was experiencing and stopped at an hospital ER in Somerset, PA to be checked out. Needless to say he was admitted and spent five days with the hospital staff on the cardiac ward. He again was having the a-fib with his heart. For those who don't want to 'google' a-fib and don't know what it is, the two upper sections of the heart have to work harder to clear the blood - putting him at risk for a stroke. He is once more on cumadin and his heart meds were increased.

Mike insisted it wasn't necessary for us to come to Pennsylvania and didn't tell us the doctor wanted him to fly home until AFTER he was discharged and on his bike again. At that point we just had to know the good Lord was looking out after him.

Mike continued on to Carlisle where he spent two days in the home of our friend Ed, a Navy veteran who had a stroke in November. Ed's not doing well and in a care facility, soon to be transferred five hours from home to a VA hospital. It was important for Mike to stop and spend some time with him.

Unfortunately the time in the hospital put Mike behind his desired schedule. The doctor's wishes for Mike to get home soonest rerouted Mike home instead of Texas through Tennessee and Georgia as he had hoped. I'm sure he'll find a way to get to Tennessee to visit with some of his mom's kin (and do some genealogy research) as well as visit TJ in Georgia. TJ is the gentleman who took Mike to medical care after Mike was in an airplane crash years ago. We still keep in touch.

Mike's return trip was much more direct. He overnighted back in Orland Park, IL with my sister's family and then again in Hershey, NE with his cousins. Last night he arrived on our doorstep about 9:30pm after riding approximately 966 miles in a day. I suggested he make a loop around the county for the extra 44 miles so he could go in the "Iron Butt" record book as having ridden 1000 miles in a 24 hour period but alas, he opted to remain out of the record book this go around.
It's hard to believe all of our planning and our big family trip has come and gone. It was so much fun to spend time with my sister and her family. I see even less of my little brother so I appreciated his time with us too. My parents are healthy and I know there will be more visits but I wish we there were not so many miles between us all.

I'm sad to think how long it may be before we have the opportunity to vacation together again with our own family. It definitely becomes more of a challenge when we all have our own routines.

I will just have to start planning the next big adventure!