Tag Archives: Family

The Joy of Adventure

Today’s guest post comes from Crystalbay.

Finding adventures in the suburb was my third child’s greatest joy. It’s often said that kids these days have little desire to actually go outside and find something active to do. TV, video games, computers, and social media consume them.

The art and respect for actual conversations seems lost on this generation. I’ve told my teenaged grand kids that they’re welcome to the lake, but not if they bring their Iphones.

I haven’t seen them since.

Steve, now 44, was by far the most precocious kid I’ve even known. I think that rather than try to capture the activities he dreamt up as a story, I’ll just bullet point them:

  • built a zip line in a public preserve
  • made a straw into a dart gun that would send sewing pins through the air. (Unfortunately, his first dart ended up in the school bus driver’s cheek.)
  • went skateboarding in the city’s underground storm sewer system wearing a minor’s flashlight hat
  • took girls to the top of a water tower and swam in the tank
  • built a 3-story A frame from a large hole he dug
  • when confined to a downstairs bedroom as punishment for sneaking out of his upstairs bedroom, put hinges on the storm windows to make them into doors
  • made a large dummy called “Fleed”, complete with a wig and clothing, then would toss him onto the road just as a car neared. I guess that he just wanted to see the driver’s reaction thinking he’d run over a person
  • learned the months of the year by using a dozen Playboy Magazine covers he found in a dumpster
  • dug a hole in a very thick book into which these pictures fit so that he could show them to his school friends (he got caught for this one)
  • almost blew his thumb off seeing what would happen if he hit a nail gun bullet with a hammer
  • hid a couple of girls behind the knee wall which he outfitted with sleeping bags, strobe lights, and music
  • put his sister’s goldfish under her covers because he thought they were cold
  • created a giant Johnny Jump Up out of two garage door springs and a seat. Jumping from a tall tree branch, this thing went 20’ feet up and down (this one ended badly when a spring broke and gashed a kid’s scalp)
  • collected lunch money from other kids by selling a hidden stash of candy

This is just the partial list of Steve’s adventures. It’s amazing that he lived through his capers and that his parents were more amused than angry. He also went on to teach himself the 12-string acoustic guitar and learned all of Leo Kottke’s music.

His wife threw a “Man Shower” just before their baby was born. My contribution to this event was a booklet, complete with illustrations drawn by his nephew,  sharing Steve stories.

I entitled it; “Things Your Daddy May Not Want You to Know”.

What adventures did you create during childhood?

J.B.’s Expectations

Today’s guest post comes from Verily Sherrilee

Living with other people’s expectations stinks.

My dad was a terrible student. He was brilliant but never could buckle down to teachers’ expectations. He ended up flunking a few grades, but then skipping grades in between; he just barely made it through law school, graduating in the bottom quarter of his class. He was always disappointed that he hadn’t achieved higher grades or a better standing

And as often happens, his expectations for himself fell directly onto his children and manifested themselves in what my middle sister and I always called the “What Next Syndrome”. Every achievement was met with “That’s nice, what next?” What grade will you get next semester, what level class will you take next, what goal are you setting for yourself next? It made it seem as if no achievement was ever good enough in itself – only as a stepping stone to whatever was “next”. My sister got out from under this weight by blowing off school, blowing off grades and blowing off my dad whenever he got blustery. I went the other direction, excelling at school and working hard on all my next steps.

By the time I began to look at colleges, my dad’s expectations were starting to wear me down. He came home with a big fat reference book of all the colleges and universities that listed all their SAT and Achievement Test scores; he announced that I could only go to a place that had really high scores as their norm.   JBExpectationsVennAs a lover of Minnesota and Wisconsin, I promptly announced that I would only go to a school in one of those two states. If you love Venn diagrams, you can guess that the intersection of our two announcements wasn’t too large!

We both got our way. I ended up at Carleton; it was in his book and it was in Minnesota. Of course, as these things usually go, it wasn’t a fairy-tale ending. I didn’t like it all that much and ended up dropping out, not getting my degree until I was 39! I’ve always wondered if I had gone to a different school (read “with more social life than just studying”), I would have been happier and stuck with it. I guess I’ll never know. I do know that I’ve worked really hard over the years to not settle MY expectations about school and grades onto my child. And it’s been hard.

When have expectations tripped you up?

The Family Vegetable

Today’s guest post comes from Jacque.  

Some families have distinguished, ancient crests with lots of regal history; other families have members who have accomplished great things which allows their relatives to bask in the glory of all that star-dust; and some families, like mine, have a very real and symbolic vegetable. It is a vegetable worthy of a family crest.

My maternal grandparents, bearing the last name of Hess, lived on a farm near Pipestone, MN where they raised eight children during the Great Depression. Grandma and Grandpa grew most of their own food to feed their large family. The vegetable garden was immense, even after the children left to start their own families and gardens. Each spring they planted a row of carrots and a row of kohlrabi for each of the eight children. The child was to seed the row, thin the seedlings, weed it, then harvest it, meaning he or she could eat the carrots and kohlrabi any time he or she wanted.

These eight children produced 39 grandchildren (I am number 20), Grandma and Grandpa continued the tradition of planting many rows of carrots and kohlrabi for the grandchildren. The grandchildren trained each other to love this veggie. During a summer visit to the farm when I was about 8 years old, my cousin Jean Marie,*** who was age 7 and who lived right there on the home farm, taught me about the joys of kohlrabi. She led me to the kitchen to swipe one of Grandma’s many salt shakers, then we sneaked out to the garden.

“Don’t let Grandma see us,” Jean Marie instructed as she yanked 2 kohlrabi out of the dirt, stripped the leaves from it and broke off the root. “Grandma will be mad if we leave the salt shaker out here. And we are NOT supposed to eat these!”

I took this seriously.  I did not want to be in trouble with Grandma.

Then Jean Marie headed for the row of peonies which were large enough to hide both of us. There she demonstrated how to peel the thing with her teeth, salt it, and eat it like an apple. It was a delicious secret treat, crisp, delicate and salty. I wanted another. I crawled behind the peonies to the nearest kohlrabi row where I imitated Jean Marie’s techniques of pulling, leaf-stripping and peeling.

Years later I told Grandma about this. She knew. Of course she knew. She knew all of us did this. That was why she planted them—to get us to eat vegetables. She knew they were sweeter if we thought they were stolen.Family Crest 1

When family reunions roll around, a cousin or two arrive with a bowl of home grown kohlrabi harvested the morning of the reunion, a half dozen paring knives for peeling, and salt shakers.   We snack on sliced, salted kohlrabi all day.

If I was to create a family crest it would include the family slogan, “One Mell of a Hess” and include a regal kohlrabi. Like so.

***Names have been changed to protect the family members who have not agreed to have their names included!

What would you include on your family crest?

Krakatoa 2

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

You’ve all heard me say I don’t want more dogs after my current dogs are gone. So when Young Adult called me from the Humane Society, I fought valiantly but after an hour of arguing on the phone, I just couldn’t envision any win/win. Although she did cave to my request that she wait 24 hours, when the time was up she came home with Guinevere, otherwise known as Krakatoa 2. Or The Little Terrorist. Or Troublemaker. Or – well, you get the gist. So now, despite my protests, there are three dogs and two cats in the household.


Zorro, my elder cat has somehow managed to maintain his “alpha dog” status, although I’m not sure how. He’s the smallest and with no front claws, the most vulnerable in the household. I have seen the puppy put her mouth on Zorro, but then stop. Maybe Zorro has a special muscle twitch that makes K2 back off.

The baby kitty Nimue (although she’s not really a baby anymore at 3) gets a good deal of tumbling. She refuses to get out of the way, so is a natural target for the galumphing puppy. She bats out, makes a great deal of hissing noises, but apparently isn’t using her claws or her teeth in defense. I can only guess that she is either A) absolutely convinced that she can’t cede her space one inch, even if being tortured by a puppy or B) she kinda likes it!

Rhiannon ignores the puppy most of the time, however if K2 gets in her face (or near her food), there is a great deal of snarling and growling and barking on both sides. As with the baby kitty, it doesn’t appear that anybody is using teeth in these pitched battles. No scrapes, no crying, no blood.

Thorin is my hero. He loves K2 and they play and play and play. K2 is really rough, but all that white fur of Thorin’s seems to protect him well enough. Eventually Thorin wears out and he’s had a few nights on which it’s clear that he’s a little stiff and sore, but it never stops him from chasing after the puppy the next morning.

Of course, I am the main one who still wishes we didn’t have a puppy. When she’s quiet and calm, she’s pretty cute and I don’t mind her, but she’s not quiet and calm very much. I did make Young Adult sign a puppy contract with a lot of points but the one I’m already looking forward to is the “You can’t move out unless you move to a place that takes dogs”!

How does everybody get along at your house?

life can be easy

In the header photo: oldest son on left youngest daughter on right all the ones in the middle are in the middle except the old ones in the middle that are not in the middle.

Today’s guest post comes from tim

the art of guest blogging is a mission worthy of pursuit.

when i was a younger man ( i guess i have alway been a younger man havnt i?) i used ot ask people for topics to write songs on. like improv acting. i would take an idea and work it sometimes to my and other delight sometimes to death and with the like i do with potatoes. familiar and i like it but others either do or they dont without much variation. if you liked the least one youve got a shot if you didnt youre likely in for a repeat.

life is a little like that. if you did good you are likely to repeat if you didnt you are likely to repeat. its not like tyou are doomed to goundhog day but it kind of is exactly like you are doomed to groundhog day. unless you are able to swap brains midway through the process the ability to reinvent the essence of you is suspect.

the problem is that if you didnt find great enjoymet in the last version of the sojourn it is unlikely that you will adjust this time unless…… unless you figure it out.

my kids are all coming of age. 28 year old is ready to go make a life, 26 year old is working on hers., 22 year old is fresh out of college and the 16 year old is singing acting and deciding on a course that will allow her to appreciate those things rather than be jailed and a starving artist y looking to find career paths in paying professions that will challenge hr sense of daily heroics and allow her to go for it on a continuing basis.

youngest daughter just got her invite to drivers training and you should have seen the smile. priceless. lord knows what she will end up doing but the 26 year old guesses that emma will likely turn out to be a corporate ceo. just that kind of make up. focused and personable with a take no crap kind of personna.

my job today is to teach them that you never give up.

my wife is form a family where the 9-5 routine is the way it worked. nice folks but a different cup of tea from the roll with the punches life i came from. when we met i was a high rolling young pup on my way to fame and fortune and she bit. we had a kid then two then three and decided to get married and all was grand with a city mouse country mouse kind of theme. then the fan entered the picture and holy moly. it is different when you need to adlib plan

it is a stroke of luck that i can always find a worthy pursuit ti keep me occupied and i have a couple now. the 22 year old told me yesterday when i was talking to him about options i am pursuing right now that he thought i ought to focus on one thing and stay with it. and i told him i have heard that one before and while it sage advice it is not for me. i cant do it. while i am in the midst of one pursuit i a plotting another for tomorrow. multitasking is part of the dna
i hope to show them that if you find a vision and pursue it life will be ok.it works good for me.

i used to work with a guy who wanted me to take a title with his company and i couldnt do it. i told him im a good worker but a poor employee. truer words have never been spoken.

i hope my kids can learn how to find their way in this cold cruel world bt taking care of the things that are important to them as the make therir way throgh the maze and try to find the key ot lifes mysteres. one foot in front of the other a stitch in time saves nine. do sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me and dont let anyone give you a wooden nickle. when someone asks if there are any questions? i always ask for the secret to lifes true meaning. . the response is always worthwhile. every now and again i get a predetermined answer or one off the cuff that the person is comfortable or pleased with and tha tis a good time to pause a moment and reflect.

today was one of the 10 perfect days you get a year in this part of the world and when i went outside at 3 and discovered it was perfect out i went into the office and told my colleague that unless he had something very very pressing he needed to get out and enjoy this perfect day and do whatever the next two hours were going to produce another time and another way.

life can be easy. life can be rewarding, dont think too hard. you know how to do it. just do it.

even nike knows that

Lost & Found

Today’s guest post comes from Steve Grooms.

After living 38 years in my Saint Paul bungalow, I decided to move closer to my family.

I spent half a year last winter and spring preparing my home for sale. The job would have been impossible without the help of several people who contribute to this blog site. They helped clean and paint my home. They loaded decades of junk in a pickup and took it to the dump. And they boxed up a few precious things so I could ship them to Portland.

We finally ran out of time. There was still work to be done when my friends said goodbye the last time and turned their attention toward their own homes, their own families and activities for Memorial Day.

That’s when things fell apart for me. The folks who would run the estate sale wanted me out of the home so they could organize the sale. I still needed to box up more stuff and ship most of it to Portland. And I needed to fill my station wagon with a few things I’d drive to my new home.

When my home hit the real estate market I had to keep leaving while groups of potential buyers toured it. Seven groups came through the first day the home was listed for sale. I sat in my station wagon from a discrete spot up the block, waiting for them to leave so I could go back to packing.

I expected it would take from four to six weeks to sell my home. But 30 hours after going on sale I had two parties offering to pay more than my asking price for the home.

That was wonderful, but it meant that instead of having many weeks to pack and leave I had two days! That would have been difficult for someone young and fit. For a senior citizen with health issues the overnight sale of my home created a crisis. On my last day I limped with boxes of stuff between home and my car in a thunderstorm. It was one of the worst days of my life.

Many things I meant to take to Oregon never got packed because I ran out of time. I didn’t realize how severe my losses were until I got to Portland and discovered how many useful or beloved things had failed to make the trip. The box of precious family photos ended up in a landfill in Minnesota. I forgot to bring my warm coat. My favorite Christmas memorabilia didn’t show up after the move.  Molly, my daughter, grieved the loss of the Christmas box, although she understood I had left Minnesota in near panic.

Last Thursday Molly and Liam came over to my new apartment. I mentioned that there was one last box I hadn’t opened after the move. Parked on a high shelf, it was too heavy for me to bring down. From its weight, I guessed the box held books.

Liam and I were in the living room when Molly called to me in a strangled voice. I rushed to the bedroom. The mystery box was on the bed, flaps open. Molly was holding a Lunds shopping bag that had been packed in May by one of my baboon friends, probably Linda or Barbara. That bag held our old family Christmas stockings. Tears streamed down Molly’s cheeks. She wasn’t able to talk.

The red stocking was made for me by my dad in 1956 when we lived in Iowa. A plump green fish swims near the top of the stocking and exhales a bright spray of sequin bubbles. My name is written below, the letter shaped from red and white pipe cleaners.

My erstwife’s childhood blue stocking was there too. Kathe’s mother sewed this stocking by hand when the family still lived in New York City. She decorated it with a reindeer fawn, a Christmas tree and a little girl dressed for Swedish folk dancing.  Stitched letters proclaim “Merry Christmas Kathe Ann.”

While my former wife was not artistic or crafty, she had a gift for making charming Christmas stockings. There in the Lunds bag was the stocking she made for Molly in 1983. The white stocking sparkles with sequins and carries several iconic Christmas objects: a teddy bear, a dancing girl and a goofy jack-in-the-box. At the bottom of the stocking a six-year-old girl sleeps lies in her bed, her arm thrown over an orange kitten. The little girl is, of course, Molly. We gave the kitten to Molly just before Christmas.

When Molly first saw the exuberant kitten, she said, “Wow, that’s one froshus cat!”  And that is how Froshus got his name.

When she finally could speak through her tears, Molly said, “Nothing else matters. The other stuff you lost doesn’t matter. I didn’t want you to know that it broke my heart to think we’d lost these. And here they are.” The old stockings now hang on Molly’s hearth, waiting to be filled by Santa.

Merry Christmas, baboons.

What precious object would you dread to lose?

The Boomgaarden Orchestra

Today’s guest post comes from Renee Boomgaarden, aka Renee in North Dakota.

Sometime in 1925, the residents in and around Ellsworth, MN were abuzz with the news that Okke Boomgaarden had bought a $3000 accordion for his daughter, Amanda.

Okke was my great uncle, the fifth oldest of the sixteen children in my grandfather’s family. Okke was, officially, a farmer, sort of like how Don Corleone was, officially, an olive oil importer. Okke made his money bootlegging, and his barn was used for dances, not livestock. Okke had regular dances in the barn. He provided refreshments, at a cost, and members of the family provided the music.

Screenshot 2014-09-02 at 8.15.09 PM

Family historians talk about my grandfather and many of his siblings having a natural aptitude for music. All were self taught.

  • Great Uncle George learned to play the fiddle when he was 16.
  • Great Uncle Albert also played the fiddle.
  • Great Uncle Herman was a noted left handed banjo player.
  • My grandfather played the cello.
  • Great Aunt Amelia played the piano.
  • Other family members played the accordion.

In the years before the First World War they were know as The Boomgaarden Orchestra and played for dances, weddings, and harvest festivals in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.

After the war, they changed their name to Mandy’s Jazz Kings, and played in Okke’s barn, joined by Okke’s children Georgie on fiddle, Jake on saxophone, and Amanda and Mabel on the accordion.

My father remembers going to some of those dances when he was a little boy, driving to Ellsworth with his parents in their Graham-Paige automobile. I wish I know more about the music the Jazz Kings and the Boomgaarden Orchestra performed.

I wish I knew what happened to my grandfather’s cello. Until I researched for this post, I never even knew he played a string instrument.

Okke died of a heart attack in 1928, and the dances stopped soon afterwards. The older members of the Jazz Kings had their own farms and families to care for and couldn’t play with the band anymore. Okke’s sons Georgie and Jake kept playing, changing the name to The Georgie Boomgaarden Orchestra. Georgie and his band played in the towns around Ellsworth until the 1970’s.

Screenshot 2014-09-02 at 8.14.53 PM

The Depression hit everybody hard. At one point, Jake’s saxophone needed $12.00 worth of repairs, but he didn’t have the money to fix it. The local doctor intervened and paid for the repairs. He had just built a night club in Ellsworth and needed musicians to play for the dances.

My grandfather felt it was important for my dad and his brother to have some kind of music training despite the tight finances. Grandpa drove Dad and Uncle Alvin to Luverne once a week to practice with a drum and bugle corps. This group was comprised of sons of World War I veterans, and you can see them in the photo at the top of this page. Dad played both drum and the bugle – he is the third boy on the right in the back row. He can still play his bugle, and has two of them in his bedroom.

Renee played bass clarinet for Concordia.
Renee played bass clarinet for Concordia.

My children and I are the current Boomgaarden music amateurs along with my husband. Husband plays the cello, guitar, harmonica, and piano. He also sings. You can see me playing my bass clarinet in the Concordia College Band in 1978. Daughter plays the violin, French horn, and piano. She sings in college. Son played the trombone and sang in college. He currently sings in the church choir. I drafted husband to join the handbell choir. He drafted me to sometimes play the bass guitar in a very amateur gospel/rock and roll group.

Why do we do these thing? I have no idea. Maybe Okke will explain it to me someday in the Hereafter.

Who has the talent in your family?