Category Archives: holidays


Today is Shrove Tuesday, when all our sins are forgiven, and when we need to eat pancakes and all the cream  before Lent. Husband and I celebrated early and had Norwegian waffles on Saturday.  Shrove  is the past tense of shrive, which means to confess one’s sins, repent, and be forgiven and absolved. Pancakes are powerful. Germans eat pastries called Fastnachts for the same effect.

We visited Montreal several summers and stayed in the Old Port. There we purchased carnival masks made in Venice in a lovely book store near the Notre Dame  cathedral.  We tried to find Renaissance Commedia dell’arte masks instead of the  fantastical masks you can find in more commercial venues.  We managed to get a zanni mask. A zanni is a servant who sometimes has a long  nose. The longer his nose, the more ignorant he is. The mask reminds me of a plague mask. His name is the derivation of our English word “zany”.

A couple of Harlequin (Arlechinno) masks. He is another zanni, but with a shorter nose. He is a somewhat clever servant character:


And two Columbine (Columbina) masks.  She is Harlequin’s love interest and a very perky, very clever servant.


Our local Catholic School district has  a major fund raiser they call Mardi Gras every year in February. It involves games, entertainment, and lots of good food. It is open to the community and region.  People are most unhappy since the new bishop in Bismarck decided a couple of years ago that all the money raised had to be sent to the diocese, and he would decide how much of the money should get sent back to the local Catholic schools and how much would be used for diocesan expenses.  Sounds like a perfect Commedia plot.  I am sure the clever servants would get all the money back, further any thwarted love interests, and show the bishop to be a fool.

What does the word carnival mean to you?  What is the appeal wearing a mask? What kind of mask would you like to wear?

Fond Memories

The Child I wrote about in “Child-Proofing” in December has come and gone (almost two weeks ago by now). Our schedule pretty much revolved around hers for 4 ½ days. We read stories, ate together, watched short videos my sister (her grandma) had brought, and she played with misc. items when sitting in the booster seat at the table, which was one of her favorite places – it was like her “office”. We got out the rhythm instruments and found she loved dancing to a good beat.

We tried to get things done while her daddy put her down for naps. She pretty much respected the boundaries I’d created (cloth hiding shelves, etc.), and we showed her which cupboards had the pans she could play with, and where “her” corner was, complete with a doll napping in a crate-bed – modeling behavior we hoped to see! She spent quite a lot of time at the kitchen sink “washing” dishes.

Unfortunately it was quite cold the entire time, so we didn’t do much outdoors. We bundled up for outings to visit Great-grandma Hope every day, and went out to eat once.

Although I am mostly relieved to have my life and my house back, I kind of miss the little tyke. But am glad we have some photos to show my mom, to jog her memory about who was here and why.

What’s your fondest memory of someone who has visited you?

Pajama Enforcement

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

Like VS’s friend from last week, when my children were little, I’d search for matching pjs every Christmas. I wanted to photograph them together looking really cute, then use the pictures for holiday cards. Back then, matching pjs of different sizes were hard to come by because clothing sizes only came in age groupings: infants to toddler, toddler to elementary school, junior to adult.  This forced me to go to three different departments in hopes that each one just might have the same pj in the next size up. Now, whole family sets are available, from infants to grown men.

After scoring (when I could), the next challenge was to get my three kids to put them on just for a photo shoot. They wanted nothing to do with fulfilling my desire for matching children.  I cajoled them, bribed them with treats, got angry at them, and sometimes even said that I’d pay them. The age at which they became uncooperative was around six.  I’ll never know whether their obstinacy was due to not wanting to look alike, or due to them knowing how badly I wanted to show them off.

Moving this tradition up another generation, my daughter skipped matching pjs when her five kids were little and started buy them when they were teenagers. For five years running, she’s spent a fortune buying each matching pjs, including a pair for herself. Each Christmas, they not only don them, they spend the whole day in them! This year, they even wore them all day at my son’s house. We always gather there because he has the largest home of all of us.

Maybe her success is because they identify with being a big brood. The older they get, the closer they’ve become to one another and to their mom. In my child-rearing days, my kids were closer to me when they were not yet teenagers. I can no more picture my kids spending all of Christmas day in matching pjs than I can imagine walking a mile in sub-zero weather!

What tradition will you be “enforcing” in 2018?

Dieter Substitution

I didn’t have the television switched on too much today but I think I saw Marie Osmond at least three times. It occurs to me that I haven’t seen her hawking her diet system since before Halloween. Interesting that the diet ads start up right away on January 1.

Weight loss is the number one resolution in America these days (and has been for decades). And I read something recently that says most folks have blown through all their resolutions after six weeks.  I’m guessing that means we’ll have plenty of Marie Osmond until Groundhog’s Day.

I also saw recently that PETA wants to replace Puxatawny Phil with an animatronic groundhog. This seems absurd to me; would we really be able to program it to recognize its own shadow and forecast the end of winter? Of course, we could always program it to monitor diet ads; once spring and summer arrives, the ads drop off. This made me wonder if we replaced Marie Osmond with an animatronic dieter, maybe SHE could tell us when winter is ending and save PETA the trouble of replacing Puxatawny Phil!

What robot would be useful in your life?



Helmer and Leroy

November 11 was a red letter day in Luverne this year. Helmer and Leroy, the two remaining members of the Last Man Club opened the bottle of Bourbon, took a swig, and named  and honored their deceased friends in a last ceremony.

Helmer Haakenson is 98,  and Leroy Luitjens was 93, I believe. Helmer is the thinner man. Leroy died a couple of weeks later in November.  The club was started in 2010, comprised of Second World War veterans who met every day at the grocery store for coffee and mutual support.  My dad was a member. Every guy had a coffee cup with his name on it. Glen, the grocery store owner, provided free doughnuts. When you died, they turned your cup upside down and placed it in the cup rack on the wall.  The rack also contained a huge bottle of expensive bourbon. The bottle was to be opened by the last man, who then was to name his fallen comrades and drink a toast to their memory.

After the founder of the club died earlier this year, Helmer and Leroy decided to open the bottle at the town Veteran’s Day Ceremony. Former Governor Pawlenty’s wife was a special friend to the group, and she participated in the ceremony. Ken Burns, who featured Luverne in his documentary The War, wrote a congratulatory letter, which was read aloud.  Then they opened the bottle, drank a toast, and the name of every member was read and a passing bell was rung.

Helmer insisted that the remaining members in 2014 be honorary pall bearers at my dad’s funeral. He is a hero to me, along with Leroy. I have known them both since my childhood.  I need to write to Helmer.

Who are your heroes?


The Pajama Proliferation

YA and I spent Christmas Eve at my friends’ home (Alan and Julie). They have 11 grandkids, age 8 and under.  It’s chaos.  As if having that many kids hopped up on holiday sweets and anticipating gifts together in an enclosed space isn’t enough, Alan is just a big kid himself and eggs them on.

Just before we opened gifts (one at a time starting with the youngest), the pajamas were brought out. This has been a tradition for many years, complete with paparazzi-style photo session once all the kids are jammied up.  As much fun as it is, I do think about the cost of this tradition.  Everybody gets new pajamas for the occasion.  Then the next year everybody gets a new pair.  None of these pajamas gets handed down or worn the next year.  Of course, considering how fast all these kids are growing, they probably need new pajamas every year anyway!

What’s your favorite tradition?


Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown

It’s time to child-proof the house. We have a 22-month-old child visiting between Christmas and New Years, with her grandma (my sis) and her dad (my nephew). Although they will be sleeping at an air.bnb nearby (bless their hearts), they will still spend much time here in our little house. I’ve been trying to look around the place with “toddler eyes” and have discovered several problematic spots where Lela Ann might have a field day (and/or be in danger).

Husband and I are very used to our adult, somewhat “open and cluttered” lifestyle. I like “see through” furniture that appears to take up less space than closed cabinets, and many of the open shelves are at toddler level. Here are some potential hazards…

So I’m trying to replace breakable things on lower shelves with soft and plastic toddler-friendly things. I’ll get out my toy box, my kids’ books (at least the stiff-paged board books), and the musical instrument basket. I hope to clear one corner so she can have one place to create and leave a “mess”. I’ll try camouflaging some problematic spaces with fabric, like this on the electronics shelf:


When have you had to kid proof your place?

Are you having any Christmas visitors (whether you have to child-proof or not) this year?