Friday, December 31, 2010

GTA's 80th

My dad celebrated his 80th birthday on Monday. Here he is with my Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob is actually my dad's first cousin (though we've always just called him "Uncle"). They were born only four days apart and spent much of their lives growing up and doing things together.

For my dad's birthday, Uncle Bob came up to celebrate with him. Some of Bob's kids and nearly all of my dad's kids (and their spouses) went to dinner together then went back to my parents' house to listen to Uncle Bob and my dad reminisce about their growing up years.

My Aunt Penny (my dad's only living sister) and her husband Brad even surprised him by flying in for the event.

Here my dad and mom are.

Me with my dad.

It was a very fun night, and, I think, was the very thing my dad most wanted for his 80th, but even more exciting than the birthday night itself was my dad's big birthday present. This book:

It was a big secret and completely overwhelmed my dad. My sister Shannon deserves nearly all of the credit for it. She conceived the idea of making a scrap book of sorts of his life and spent probably hundreds of hours gathering pictures, scanning them, asking my dad questions about his life, searching through papers to find incredible things to add -- such as snippets of letters from his family written years ago, etc. She had my Uncle Bob, my Aunt Penny, and several of my dad's closest pals from his growing up years send letters, and she included those along with pictures of them in the book. She then had each of his eleven kids do a few pages (though she ended up doing most of the work on them herself). It turned out so great. Most of us ended up purchasing copies for ourselves to have. It is such a great keepsake and, I think, will be a great way for my kids and grandkids to feel like they know their Grandpa Gordy well.

Here are a few of the pages:

I have to show a close up of this picture of my mom and dad. I had never seen it until it showed up in this book, and I'm not sure where Shannon came across it, but I absolutely LOVE it. I asked my mom about it, and she said it was actually taken after they had been married a year or two because she remembers having dropped baby Mark (my oldest brother) off to her mom while they went on an overnight hike with my Uncle Bob and his wife Carolee. Look how darling and in love they are. It reminds me of the story I've often heard about when they were first dating and had gone on a hike together. My dad had brought along a hunting knife that he was quite fond of and had been showing off a bit -- tossing and spinning it into trees and the like when somehow, they lost it. They searched and searched but were unable to find it. He was sorry to lose it, but eventually they had to leave. However, the next morning my mom got up early and went back up alone and searched until she found it. I can just picture my very outdoorsy dad thinking, "Now THAT is some girl!" when she surprised him with it later.

Here is one of the "kid" pages. Each of us had two or three pages in the book. This one is my brother John's. I helped Shannon put a few of them together. Most of them included pictures of us when we were young, a page of pictures that included our own spouse and children, and then random little bits of things -- memories of my dad, statements from our children about my dad, etc. They are all a little different and fun to look through.

There were so many things that touched me as I read through this book and got acquainted with the young Gordon who had not yet become my dad -- not yet dreamed that he would one day have ELEVEN children running about his house.

One thing that I really liked was reading the pages Shannon put together about my dad's parents. She had found and added small excerpts from letters they had written to him while he was away in the Forest Service. She had even found and added bits from the talks they gave at his mission farewell. The only grandparent I ever knew was my maternal grandmother, but just reading a few tiny snippets of the letters from my paternal grandmother (Pearl) reduced me to tears. They were simple and sweet and somehow, for all their shortness, made me feel like I knew her better -- and made me anxious to truly get to know her someday.
Here was the snippet from her talk at his farewell:
I, instead of thinking solemn things, have been thinking little homespun thoughts, like "I hope he'll get his vitamins, and I know he'll never remember to wear a hat, and I wish I had taught him to cook something besides hamburgers."

And, from a letter she sent him while he was in the Forest Service:

It will be wonderful to have you home, darling. We're all a little lost around here without you. The place is much too quiet, and the chocolate cake stays in the pan far too long! Rickie [their dog] goes about in a dispirited sort of way, even when we're lavish with affection . . . Be sure to keep letters coming to us, honey, 'cause they're all we have of you now -- and I do miss that bone crushing embrace! . . . All my love, Mother
Could she be any more charming? It's odd to think of my grandma -- writing a letter to her 18 year old son who was off on an adventure. Her 18 year old son who, 28 years later, would become my father.

My father is all I have truly known him as. That is another thing this book has made me think about. The man he was long before he was simply "dad" to me.
My dad, if you somehow failed to notice from those book pages, was (and still is) rather shockingly handsome. He was an outdoorsman, clever, smart and talented. His parents were well known and respected in their community. They all posessed a certain sophistication. When I see these young dashing pictures of him, I wonder if it was ever hard, later -- when he had a house that was constantly being pulled apart by eleven children, when he was forever having to give up his beloved copy of the evening paper to some family his sons had somehow missed on their paper route, when the sink was always full of dirty dishes, when he drove a station wagon and wore used clothing, and every extra cent always went to repairing something -- to reconcile himself to that life. To not think dreamily back on his carefree and adventurous days as a bachelor. But, to ask him about it, you would never think so. He constantly tells us what blessings we were and are. He claims he would have had a dozen more had the Lord been willing. If he had to live life a bit more humbly than he otherwise might have, if some, at times might have looked down on him for having such a house full, he's never given us any reason to believe that it wasn't in every way worth the cost -- that we weren't in every way worth the cost. I sure love that man and feel incredibly thankful to him for letting me come and grow up as his daughter.
Happy 80th, dad!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Merry Little Christmas

Christmas Eve brunch with my family.

Sister and sisters-in-law (only two missing):

Mom making pancakes:

Christmas morning at our house.

Why yes, as a matter of fact, those are sock monkey nesting dolls you just saw Jesse holding.

At Mike's parents' on Christmas day.

No, that weather doesn't look much like Christmas weather, does it? Well, never you mind. Yesterday winter got its revenge (on Christmas day having neglected it) by dropping several feet of snow and angrily dipping its temperatures down into the low 20's.

It was, by all accounts, a very happy and very lovely little Christmas. (And the presents weren't half bad either!)

Dear Little Girls,

I think you are very cute in your little red coats. Especially in the snow. Love, Mom.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This Morning

Already nearly 10:00 am. Pajamas still on and hair undone. Here is what everyone is doing:

Penny is concentrating deeply on drawing all of her monsters just so.

Jesse is snuggling with Abe on the couch . . .

and making Abe give him piggy back rides.

Daisy and Goldie are playing an intense game of Mastermind (I got in for a few rounds as well).

Not a bad way to kick off day one of Christmas vacation.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


These two little ones of mine get rushed around quite a bit -- taking kids to school, picking kids up from school, taking kids to lessons or friends' houses, running errands. And, when they aren't being rushed around, I have come to realize that I am still usually rushing around. Maybe bustling? I think I'm a bustling kind of person. Mike is always telling me to just come sit and relax. But, in truth, I do relax -- probably more than most of you are lucky enough to, but it is in its place . . . and it occurs because I spend the rest of my time BUSTLING. I try to keep constantly on top of every single thing -- make the most of every moment -- so that once kids are to bed (or even to naps), I can have a few moments of quiet and refocus time, and I generally do get those moments each day -- and with five small kids, I must tell you that I think it is a huge blessing. Keeping "my time" in it's place is a very positive thing usually -- I don't have to feel guilty about all the other things I should be doing, and I don't have to constantly be searching for those few moments. No wait, who am I kidding? There are always 8 million things that I know I should be doing, but, you know what I mean. Or maybe you don't, but what I was going to say was that sometimes it is a less positive system (functional though it may be) because I am realizing I am not always "still" enough for my kids.

It has struck me most lately because Jesse, who is such a wild little busy body himself, literally runs to climb up and "snuggle" me if I am ever suddenly just sitting on the couch or lounging on our bed for a minute. I love it even though his "snuggling" isn't as snuggly as one might wish -- a lot of it is rearranging himself and kicking me in the process and then getting interested in something and climbing over me to get it and then kicking me some more as he rearranges himself around me. The other day he was doing this when I got up for a second to throw something away. He immediately yelled, "MOM!" and then, somewhat demandingly and somewhat imploringly, "Snuggle! Snuggle!" So back I came to snuggle. I was laughing about it -- that this rough and tumble boy -- so contrary to his nature -- runs to be close to me whenever I am still for a minute, and Mike commented, "I think he just likes to know you aren't going to go anywhere." And by that he didn't mean "leave the house" -- Jesse does get to be with me all day long. He just meant that Jesse likes to take advantage of finding a moment where I am not washing dishes, or sweeping, or changing laundry, or getting the kids going, etc. He likes me just right there -- available -- with no other agenda than that of being his mom.

Yesterday I was driving somewhere with just the three youngest kids. All the same, it was fairly loud -- everyone clamoring for attention. Suddenly Jesse yelled, "Mom! Mom! HEAR ME!" Poor kid. As I snuggled him on one of our big Love Sacs today, I thought about these cute little things and realized I might have to learn to let some things go undone -- learn to let the lines between my "productive mode" and my "it's OK to relax now mode" blur a little more in order to be more present and less bustling-my-way-through the constantly changing lives of these tiny little people of mine. That is hard for me, but I am going to try to do better -- to find a better balance. I do sure love these kids of mine.

Monday, December 13, 2010


It is not, in fact, terribly surprising that Abe is now ten. I have actually been thinking of him as a ten year old for the past several months.
But, when I look at Jesse, or even Penny, I can't imagine them becoming ten year olds. I'm sure that when Abe was my little toddler (and he was such a good and darling little toddler) it must have been the same -- I'm sure I had no idea of what he would look like, act like, and be doing as a ten year old boy. It must have seemed impossible that he would get that old . . . and yet, he did get that old, and it has seemed the most normal process in the world.
What scares me about this, and what I keep thinking in a mind boggling sort of way, is that surely, if ten years have passed as I raised my first born, another ten years will also pass by. Which means that as soon as I've raised Abe once again for the same number of years that I have raised him so far, he will be a TWENTY YEAR OLD! This all seems too fast. Ten years taking him from a baby to an older kid is one thing, but ten years taking him from a kid to an adult is quite another! Surely nature has made some mistake in allowing them to leave childhood and take on adulthood in such a shockingly fast manner? The thing is, even when I couldn't see how my tiny newborn could possibly become a ten year old, the concept of being a mother to a ten year old wasn't so strange. I could be that. What I simply can't comprehend being is the mother of a twenty year old. How could I be that? Who even is that? Just as certainly as I don't know the twenty year old Abe, I have no idea about the Nancy who could be his mother! Goodness. (playing birthday games and opening presents)
Even still, Abe, I'm quite happy that I get to raise you during your upcoming ten years (the first ten have certainly been great), and I am awfully, incredibly glad that I get to be your mother for all of eternity beyond those next ten years as well. What a lucky lucky thing to have you sent to me for my first ever experience of being a mom.
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