Sunday, February 22, 2015

ice castles

Though we couldn't feel our fingers after about ten minutes, this was totally worth it.

The Ice Castles in Eden Prairie, MN, was as close to magical as we can get in sub-zero weather. If Elsa had a real ice-palace - this would be it. One of us didn't want to leave (spoiler alert - it was the one who dressed herself and actually put on two pair of pants like I asked her to, layered her shirts, and hummed Let It Go the entire time.) The tunnels, ice thrones, ice slides and moving waterfall were actually enough to make us fall in love with winter.

I don't think it was the cold that eventually pulled us away, I'm pretty sure it was Punk's avalanche of horrifying puns:
"Wow, I love chilin' out with you guys."
"Ice to see you here!"
"This place is soooo cool."
"Wow, what an icehole!"

Thankfully, they weren't talking about each other.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

on point (also en pointe)

After an hour-long fitting session, we celebrated Kooka earning her first pair of pointe shoes. Smashburger and girly makeovers at were the logical choices.

Pointe shoes scare me. I secretly hope she becomes infatuated with contemporary and West Coast pop. Both are safer for her feet and cheaper for her parents.

But still, I am proud of the hard work, maturity and discipline she put in to get these babies.   I am less proud of my parenting skills and the fact that I not only allowed, but actively participated in covering my preschoolers face with roughly $50 worth of Urban Decay "Mildew" and "Loaded" eye makeup.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

what we take

You never know what you're taking away from an experience. Seriously, you don't know.

I thought my two years working as a Bible camp counselor were leading me to my future husband. No - most of my friends there (and even boyfriends) were gay. 

But by God, if I didn't learn and retain enough Swahili to homeschool three kids on basic manners in Ethiopa. 

Asante' Sana Luther Park.

Monday, February 16, 2015


olden times

I made this. Not the kid, the outfit . . . well, if we're getting technical, both, but I digress.

It's not that I think the dress is terribly stunning - it's not. Yoda picked out the parts herself and I went with it.

It's more that she asked me to make it and I said yes. 
I said yes, because I could.
I could because I took home-ec in 7th and 8th grade. 
I took home-ec in 7th and 8th grade because I had to. 
I had to because in order for me to be considered a productive member of society, my school district thought I should be able to fry an egg, know the difference between a flathead and phillips screwdriver (shop class was also required), be able to sew on a button, hem a pair of pants, know when the milk was rotten, wash a few dishes by hand, know how to turn the oven on and off, clean up after myself and cook a relatively balanced meal. 

This was not an elective - it was required. Allllllllll 12  year-olds had to do this. Furthermore, we had to pass it with an acceptable grade. Not that we all have to run around making glittery butterfly dresses, but my God, maybe we could wash an occasional dish, or sew a button on instead of throwing away the whole shirt. I think I am officially old, because I miss the good-old-days, when we actually had to heat up the oven to cook our pizza rolls or take responsibility for returning the VHS tape to Blockbuster.

Friday, February 13, 2015


One of us complains a lot about living in the frozen tundra.  But three of us had a pretty good time today. There was trampolining, super nachos, Yoda's first time ice-skating (which she has wanted to do her WHOLE life), hot chocolate, whipped cream on our noses, turnovers, bedtime stories, and lots of love. Not too shabby for a MN winter.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


She's only 4 - and she'd be one of the absolute youngest in the class.  The issue is this:

It's not that she's not ready NOW - it's will she be ready to move out to college at 17?

The short answer is NO.

The long answer is that we won't know until she's 15, which is just a little late for starting kindergarten.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I really wish they would've let me put her hair in pigtails - but oh well:
Nika's first modeling gig
And proof that Punk was indeed a pro b-baller - right here folks. working for the same company about a decade ago.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Gramma's 80th birthday

The year is 1996 - the quality is 1996 too - but the spirit is all Gramma. The good part starts at 4:20.

what I said for her

I thought for a bit about what my grandma would want me say, what her words would be. And it didn’t take me but two minutes figure that if I asked her what she wanted me to say, her response would likely have been something like - , “Nothing. I have had 98 years to tell these people whatever I needed to and if I didn’t get it said by now, it probably didn’t need saying.”

But, she did ask me to speak, sort of putting me between a rock and a hard place, so my next thought was to thank all of you for coming here to celebrate my grandma’s life - but if there is one thing I’ve learned, these last couple of weeks, it’s that she isn’t mine. She didn’t belong to me. I’ve learned that her life, and her love was so far reaching that I can’t even begin to get my arms around who she was to all of you, to her community. The more I talk about her, the more I realize how many more stories you all have to tell about how she cared for you, loved you, supported you, made you laugh, cried with you. I’m sure we could all stand here and tell her thank-you for a thousand things - I know I could.

Thank you for showing me how to get nacho cheese out of a prom dress, for teaching me the meaning of “enough” (which in case you’re wondering is exactly ⅓ of a fun-sized snickers), for being my maid of honor seven minutes after having heart surgery, for making burritos with love, for holding me accountable, for being the only grandmother my third child ever knew, and being really good at it, for keeping the cookie jar full, for letting me snuggle in her bed and steal the electric blanket, for never missing a choir concert, a basketball game, a dance recital, for trading the very best years of her life for the very worst years of mine.  I could say thank you for all of those things - yet I’m sure that for every Leora story I know - there are fifty I don’t.

So instead of thanking my grandma for every single thing, I wanted to take this time to thank her for the ONE thing that has made my life better, richer, more peaceful. It’s something we talked about a lot during the last few years of her life. It’s a notion that she really hoped we all could embrace

You see, my grandma knew life wasn’t always gonna hand you what you wanted or expected or even what you thought you could handle. She learned that right from start. Born with a congenital vision defect so severe that she was wearing glasses and receiving monthly treatments before she could crawl - things didn’t start out smoothly. Her father was a farmer who also dabbled in the manly sport of boxing, you can bet that neither one of them planned on having his terminally nearsighted second daughter working as his right hand farm-man, but that’s how it was. Leora didn’t plan on having to cut high school twice a week to help care for two ailing parents and a baby sister. She never expected to work right next to a Nazi double agent in a hazardous weapons factory during WW2  - but it happened. She didn’t plan on moving to California, or living in Wisconsin, raising two generations of teenagers, losing her husband, losing her child, or dealing with cancer, at 96. She didn’t plan on any of it - but she rolled with it.

In addition to her ocular disability, she suffered strokes before the age of 40, which further compromised her visual acuity. In light of this, it makes perfect sense that no one would have issued this woman a driver’s license. But this is Leora we’re talking about, so of course she got a license - several times.

I know this, because I forced her to show it to me when I was 10 years old.  We were spending the summer in Northgate, ND near the US/Canadian Border, and Grandma had decided we were in desperate need of honey that only Saskatchewan could provide - she told me to get into the car with her. Now, I was 10 - but not stupid, I’d never seen this woman steer so much as a lawn mover and furthermore, I’d heard nothing but horror stories from people who had. I wasn’t getting into that car without some validation - which she DID manage to provide. Somehow, she produced a completely valid North Dakota license from her wallet  - which still had 15 years left on it, so I had no recourse, but to slide in next to her, and buckle up.  

We were the only vehicle on a two lane road and we were about 3 miles into our 10 minute journey, when a single car approached from the opposite lane. Grandma very calmly pulled over to the shoulder, waited for the car to pass, and pulled back onto the asphalt.

“Why did you do that?” I asked.

“It’s the law,” she said. “If you see another car coming you have to pull over until they pass.”

Now, I didn’t have a license yet, but I knew a few things, “That’s not the LAW!”

“Well, it is in Canada.”

I pondered this for a second, but logically, something didn’t add up. “Grandma, wait - why didn’t he pull over then? Why just us?.”

She was patient when she answered me, “Of course he didn’t pull over, then we’d be at an impasse and nobody would get to go. It’s only if you’re in the northbound lane.”

Hmmm - seemed  like a weird rule, but when in Rome . . . .

So, twenty minutes later, we’ve loaded up our honey and are headed back down to the border  - and soon enough, a lone, northbound vehicle appears in the opposing lane. Gramma once again, pulled over to the shoulder, waited for the car to pass, before veering back onto the road.

“Wait a minute!” I said to her, “That’s not right, we’re heading SOUTH..”

She just shook her head calmly,  tapped the dashboard clock and said, “Yeah, but now it’s after 3.”

And that was the beauty of Leora - when there WAS no rhyme or reason - she found some, or created some. Whatever life handed her she made it work. Because what she knew is that the good lord deals us all a hand - maybe not a winning hand, maybe not even a good hand, some people might even say they didn’t get a fair hand.

But a hand - you get a hand.

And YOU get to decide how to play those cards. You can complain, and moan and whine about losing, or about how the deck was stacked against you, or you can have fun playing.  You can grumble each time you lose or celebrate the joy of the game. You can make the experience great or you can make it absolutely miserable, but make no mistake about it - it is YOU who will make this game.

My grandma was all about playing the game - deal me in, teach me to dance the macarena, just one more cup of coffee, let’s have some cookies,, stay just a little longer, YES I’ll play chinese checkers with you, let’s play another hand of whist - win or lose, gramma enjoyed being surrounded by love and laughter and family and friends. She knew she wasn’t always going to win - but she always wanted to play.

When I grow up - when all of us grow up, I hope we’re just like her.

my brother's tribute

I want to thank everyone that was a part of grandmas life and everyone that was there today. You didn't have to be in attendance to be there trust me you were all there. A special thanks to my sister for being nothing short of an angel and to Ken, Loretta, Auntie Trish, Dan and Jim for somehow finding a way to make the ending the best I could have possibly imagined....
I Love you Gramma!
*If I were to tell you all to “pinch your nose” what would you think?????? YEP! Me too. When I was 7 I used to hear Ken tell the girls as they left for the day to “pinch their nose”….. I once asked Pam what it meant and she said “that is our secret way to say I love you”. Even at 7, much like the rest of you, I always considered this to be more of a WARNING and certainly nothing associated with endearment!!! But I couldn’t have been more wrong…. In a moment you will all learn the significance of this story but before I proceed…. And I think I speak for everyone here when I say…Seriously Ken? Pinch your nose? THAT was the best you could come up with?*
We are all here to celebrate the life of your mother, your sister, your aunt, your friend, our gramma and a truly GREAT gramma in every sense of the word… Every new day we all pick up new things, sometimes minute, other times much larger, but those things, those experiences are the very building blocks that make each and everyone of us who we are…… We are all here because at least in some capacity gramma has given you some of those blocks.
I am not here to eulogize gramma, I cede that to much more capable hands than mine. I’m here because she is NOT DONE. I am here to give you all a few more blocks from her I know she would want me to share.
When I was around 8 gramma started to realize I wasn’t big on hugs. So one day, before school, she looked at me and said… “Devin, I know you are not a fan of hugs, and I know why, because I’m not either, so when I pat you on the back that is OUR HUG, that is our secret”. After that every morning before school she would pat me on the back and say “I love you kid”!
The greatest things in life; the things that truly inspire; the things that we hold most dear have nothing to do with words or actions… but are a result of intentions. To all of you that witnessed our “HUG” it was a simple pat on the back, but to gramma and I it was so much more.
With that I give you all grammas first block! So if you could all look at the person next to you and pat them on the back that is grammas FINAL hug to all of you.
I am going to fast forward 10 years to my 18th birthday. As a child growing up you look forward to that birthday as a bit of a milestone… Well this particular birthday happened to be on a weekday and there wasn’t much going on, it was an average day; I went to school and when I got home gramma asked what my plans were, I told her I really didn’t have any. She said “How about I make you a jello cake and we play cribbage?” “Sure Gramma that would be fun!”…. After countless cribbage games, nearly all of the cake and stories of old… I got up to go to bed. But I paused, turned around, smiled, and said “gramma, that was the greatest birthday I’ve ever had”. She gave me a smile, a now very familiar pat on the back and another “I love you kid” and went off to bed……. She loved that story! That an 18 year old kid full of energy, with typically endless things to do could have the greatest birthday ever hanging out with gramma. Well I did, even to this day it is; and that, my friends is grammas second block. Never underestimate the size of the wave that can be created by the smallest of pebbles. It might surprise you.
We all knew her well and all have our own experiences with her, no one more important than the other. However, gramma always wanted to leave a legacy and she never realized that what she left was absolutely priceless; she left behind so many blocks. 
So now I am going to ask you all to close your eyes and think of the blocks she left you and your unique relationship with her that no one else had while I give you grammas final blocks.
- Gramma taught us all to LIVE life to its fullest and that odds mean nothing.
- Gramma taught us to LAUGH even on cloudy days
- Gramma taught us to LOVE unconditionally
And finally, Gramma taught us that no matter how good, how bad, how old or how young a person is…. At the card table you KICK THEIR BUTT!
“Goodbye Gramma, I Love you Kid, I'll see you after school”