Category Archives: grandkids

Family Fun

Every summer we take a family (with friends who are family) week at Nemacolin in the Laurel Highlands. We’ve done this since Kayla and Logan were just little guys.

It’s fun, and it’s busy, it’s relaxing and noisy and loaded with young energy.

This year was no different.

Our pals have joined us on this week since their two boys’ tiny days. (In fact since before their youngest, Brendan, was born!) They are tiny no more! Altogether we’re six kids, ranging now from nearly seventeen (Kayla) to 8 months (Griffin) and seven adults. We still outnumber them!

From left: Logan, Griffin, Colt, Ryan, Brendan, Kayla

The kids really only see each other a couple times a year, including this stellar week, but every time, they slide right back in as if they’d hung out the day before.

We bring our old, original Wii and set it up in the living area of our suite for group fun in the evenings–or for a rainy day. There’s a big pool, tennis courts, loads of activities for those who want them. And, of course, spa treatments.

Also shops!

There are ropes courses, climbing walls, zip lines–and lovely walks.

This year, Jason and I took Griffin in his stroller for one of those lovely (long!) walks. Good thing Dad went with us because there are challenging hills, and while Nana could’ve managed, it would have taken some rest periods!

The second walk, I had Kayla–young, long-legged girl–who pushed the baby and stroller up the big-ass hill.

Kayla and I hit the shops–and Logan hooked up with us. Colt, Griffin and I hit the toy store.

When we had a couple of foundation meetings, kids juggled baby-sitting.

We had pool time, gym time, hang-out time, game time. And our now traditional family (minus Griffin for this) Paint Night where I learned I don’t (or didn’t) understand the concept of negative space.

Finished art

Griffin discovered the joys and rewards of crawling–he can motor pretty well now–and the sheer delight of having lots of kids to play with him, entertain him.

Look! Big kids.
Oldest and Youngest
Big and little
Exhausted by fun.

One night we hung out with a kind of virtual reality screen–throw a football or hit a golf ball at it. Our pals the Orrs are seriously athletic, and their oldest, Ryan, is quarterback on his high school football team.

The boy can throw a football!

I honestly thought Griffin would just explode. Nothing has ever been funnier in his eight months of life.

And it’s great to see kids so willing to entertain a baby, to haul him around, to take his hands so he can walk–a favorite activity.

Perambulating

I can imagine Griffin waking up at home this week and wondering: Hey, where’s my crew?

So another summer week’s in the book, with good times for all.

There’s nothing like kids–from teens on down to babies–to remind you what summer’s really about.

Nora

GO WEST YOUNG MAN

This summer’s grandkid trip features Logan at fifteen, and–by his choice–Montana.

He and his posse–BW, Jason, Kat, Griffin and me–head off to Paws Up for five packed days. When a boy’s never been west, you can’t have a much better intro than Montana.

The flight out’s smooth–thank all the gods–and the weather when we land a LOT cooler than Maryland. First stop, a bite to eat which includes Griffin’s favorite treat, french fries.

His Nana’s grandson.

Then it’s time to fulfill Logan’s first request. The boy needs a hat and boots. This offers a nice walk–stretch those plane legs–and a chance to see some of the horses in the paddock before BW checks Logan in for his first activity.

A guy can’t go west without testing his skills on the rifle range.

I plop Griffin on the grass. He is very entertained grabbing it, yanking it, talking to it.

He’s also thrilled to gut laughs by the tether ball play.

Kitted out.
Sunny afternoon with Nana + grass!
The spellbinding tetherball.
Can’t look at the camera right now because: HORSE!

Grandda takes Logan to the range, and the rest of us head to our cabin to unpack, settle in. It turns out Logan has a keen eye and steady hand with a .22. Those endless hours of video games likely help there. Montana Logan shoots the crap out of the targets for a solid 90 minutes.

Call him DeadEye.

Logan has the loft room in the cabin, so I join Kat and Griffin to show him his space. As he’s well pleased we leave him to unpack then clean up before his first western barbecue.

Kat, Griffin and I decide to walk over to the Village, and while the road–pitted, horse poop, rough–is a challenge for the stroller, we manage just fine. You can smell the burgers and dogs and brats before you get there, and hear the music from the live band on the outdoor stage.

Griffin likes the music, and shows his own keen eye every time a pretty girl walks by. The men join us for the feast, the view, the music. You don’t go hungry at Paw’s Up. And, oh, that sky.

Dinner al fresco.
Full plate.

But our body clocks are still on East Coast time, and we unanimously agree to call it an early night.

We (except Griffin and me) have a hot air balloon ride booked for the morning. But the weather up there looks iffy, so that’s called off.

I head up to the living area of the loft for my workout while Logan catches more zzzs in his bedroom. I hear Jason and Griffin down below, go to the rail to say good morning. It’s rewarding to hear Griffin’s happy babble when he sees me. Jason brings him up, puts him in the pack and play. He’s well entertained watching his Nana jump around for her cardio section before the rest of the crew stir and all but Nana head out for breakfast.

Since they won’t be gliding up in the clouds, we vote to hike down to the obstacle course. The Grizzly Man isn’t for wimps. I have to give Kat major kudos for hiking it with an extra twenty pounds of Griffin strapped to her in the pack.

The trail’s steep. I’m talking feel those quads sing steep. Logan handles the obstacles like an American Ninja champ. Nothing stops him. And he instantly becomes Griffin’s favorite cousin, bringing on gut laughs as he climbs, swings on ropes, jumps and balances.

Logan the Magnificent.
Hidden high above the course.
The conqueror

I’m in pretty good shape considering, but I’m winded more than once on the climb. That’s okay because I can take time to admire the wildflowers. We’ve never been here this early in the season, so I haven’t seen the bitter cress or wild lupine in bloom. Makes me happy when I catch my breath.

And I only had to wince and close my eyes a couple of times while Logan performed.

Lunch!

Well earned and much appreciated.

The gang–which does not, again, include Griffin and me–have a river float booked. After Daddy entertains his boy with tosses and rubbing his belly on Daddy’s head, Griffin and I are happy to wave them off. We have some play time, then a nice rock on the porch when he gives Nana those I’m Tired tells. I’ll take rocking a cuddly baby on the porch with a fabulous view any day over riding the rapids.

The crew.

Team Logan returns, wet, cold, triumphant.

Logan’s favorite cousin status is only more solidly cemented.

The whole river gang hits the hot tub.

Time for dinner.

We thought to play a game or two after, but the energetic day’s taken its toll all around. So goodnight!

Workout for me in the morning, then breakfast for the gang. And we’re off for a guided tour of Garnet Ghost Town.

Our guides point out the beargrass along the way. Fascinating starry white puffs on stalks. Each plant only blooms every three to five years. The woods and hills around Garnet are loaded with them.

Beargrass
Up close
Ghost town pose.

We do our tour on a gorgeous morning walking around and through the old log buildings of the once thriving mining community. Daddy hauls the baby, Mama hauls the baby, everybody eventually hauls the baby who loves looking at everything and every one.

And before you know it, lunch!

My two boys really pack it in. No fussy eaters here.

Logan, Jason and Kat are off to ride ATVs. Time for another porch rock, and some down time while the baby naps.

ATV adventurers

Our adventurers come back coated with dust and success.

Clean up time before our Chuck Wagon Dinner experience.

We now have two cowboys as Kat and Jason scored a bandanna and boots for Griffin! He is seriously dressed for Chuck Wagon time.

Serious cowboy

They shuttle us over to yet another gorgeous area of the resort by the Blackfoot. Food’s more than plentiful, but first Montana Logan heads to the river. I watch him and Kat skipping stones.

Kat wins this one, hands down.

Pretty, pretty evening, lots of kids running around, some cowboy poetry. And more grass for Griffin. I swear he’d sit for hours in the grass.

OOOOH! Grass. Thanks Nana.

But there’s horseshoes, and I spot Logan taking on Grandda. We have to go watch this. Kat, Jason and I play pass-the-baby. The score stays close, but it looks like experience will triumph over youth.

But then, Logan, steely-eyed, lofts his shoe. It’s a Ringer!

I wish I’d had my camera out to capture that look of surprised delight on his face. I did get the aftermath. And he takes BW by a point.

Good form.
The ringer.

Back home. And some Reverse Charades.

This again has the baby in squealing with joy. Look at all those crazy people!

Logan thrashes us.

Night!

BW to read, me to sleep, and apparently the rest to hang out awhile. During that time, Logan’s favorite cousin status reaches new heights–as they demonstrated for me in the morning.

Logan meows. Griffin: Hysterical!

Logan shakes his hair. Griffin: Gut-busting!

Logan makes a face. Griffin: I think I cracked a rib!

Kat, being one smart mama, now enlists Logan every time she needs to change Griffin if he’s fussy. All Logan has to do with shake his hair or make noises, and Griffin’s squealing with joy.

I love, seriously, how engaged and patient Logan is with him. He’ll get down on the floor with him, or take his hands for Griffin’s favorite walking practice. And the little guy will walk endlessly if you can keep up. They’ve bonded hard over these days to the point Griffin just has to see him to break out in grins and excitement.

Morning time. Breakfast for them, workout for me. Then BW and I have massages booked.

Ahhh. A trip to Spa Town’s just what the doctor ordered. Blissed out we return for Logan’s Aerial Adventure Course. I’ve seen him take on those types of courses before–he’s like a monkey. But this one is bigger and more complex.

He handles it like freaking Spider-Man. And again has Griffin lost in hero worship. He swings, he climbs, he balances, he walks the tightrope, he belays down from–I don’t know how high a platform–then climbs up to the second part of the course.

We find grass for Griffin. Logan finishes the 90 minute course with 20 to spare, and is invited to do any part of it he likes again. But he’s satisfied. And hungry.

I like grass that’s THIS high.

Lunch is welcome, followed by a little down time. We have a jigsaw puzzle we’re working on. Progress made.

It’s Griffin and me and the rocking chair. And the rest off for a trail ride.

When the gang returns I learn they had the kind of excitement you’d rather not. Jason says he noticed his mount seemed a little testy, kept putting his ears back. Then about ten minutes away from home, he spooked. Turned straight into Kat’s horse, spooking that one. Had Logan’s horse shying.

Logan got his under control, Kat managed to pull hers up from the gallop he’d launched into. But as Jason pulled back, his horse turned again, and tossed him.

Before.
Just about to head out.

Fortunately–as best as you can be fortunate–he took the brunt of the fall on his hip and shoulder. The wrangler was quick, and they called out the EMTs just to be sure. The group’s a little shaken, and Jason plenty sore on top of it.

He’s got ice, has a long hot shower, some Advil. He’s moving slow, but okay. Still we opt out of that night’s BBQ. The rest head off–and they’ll bring us food back. I’ve pretty much hit a wall activity-wise and take a solid nap. That with a minor break, turns into 10 solid hours of sleep.

Human enough in the am for my workout. Jason’s better, but his main deal now seems like a pulled inner thigh muscle. Some stretching, some ice, a spin in the hot tub. Improvement.

Better yet, he and Kat and Logan have massages later in the day. Perfect timing for Jason. Kat and Griffin go rappelling. Jason’s in no shape for that! But Kat rediscovers her love for it, and Logan has a great time.

Another day, another rope.

They head down after lunch for a good rub while Griffin and I have that floor and porch time.

Logan, Grandda and Kat head to the go-cart course. Though he’s doing better, Jason opts out. The report is, once again, Logan wins the day.

Logan and and his Granda.

We’d planned to have dinner and a movie in the cabin for our last night. Our timing is perfect. As we wait for our food delivery, a storm–a whopper–rolls in. It’s dramatic and fabulous–especially since we’re all cozy indoors. (Logan’s become our official fire starter.)

The wind blows, the rain slashes, and the hail shoots like bbs. I have drama, wine and a fire. It’s pretty great.

It blows out again while we eat.

Up to the loft for movie time. How about some Captain Marvel? Griffin doesn’t make it through, but sleeps peacefully on Kat’s lap.

It’s a nice, relaxing end to our many adventures.

Miscellaneous photos from the trip:

Quick morning workout, pack it up. Breakfast, happy Griffin who watches Logan with adoration all the way down the loft stairs.

Back to the airport on a–thankfully–clear day for the flight home.

Have to say goodbye to Jason and Kat–who remain the best traveling companions ever–and the happiest baby in the world of babies.

We’ll see them again soon as we have our full-on family spa week coming up in no time.

Drop Logan off at his mom’s, and his two siblings actually come outside to see him. Absence makes the heart grow, after all.

Home to the dogs, to unpack, to just chill.

Those cowboys wore me out!

The boys.

But nothing makes a nana’s heart smile more than having her teenage grandson tell her this was his best vacation ever.

Happy trails!

Nora

Time for fun

If you don’t have time, you need to make time for fun now and again. This was my week for making fun time.

What could be more fun that a day with girls–sisters and daughters–and the happiest baby in the world?

It’s our tradition to do a shopping spree at Saks in Tyson’s every year for Kat’s birthday. The team we work with there aren’t just the best, but have become family over the years. We start off in an area they’ve closed off for us and transformed into a garden–with a harpist!

Oh, the peonies! So fragrant, and fat as soccer balls.

Griffin likes the music, and also the selection of handsome baby clothes to pick from. Nana shows his some options. Yeah, that’s okay, hmm not bad. But when she holds up a little man suit, this is met with enthusiasm. Obviously, every handsome boy must have a little man suit.

We have delicious shortbread cookies–butterflies, dragon flies, blue birds–and an incredible cookie birdhouse made by Lily from the Graff department. She’s an baking artist. Some of these I have to take home for Kayla as my girl is extremely fond of Lily’s creations.

Delish!

Then it’s time to get serious about wardrobe for girls.

Griffin hangs with us, hangs out with the team, has a walk-about and even takes a nap. When we break for lunch the teams presents us with an amazing gift. They will have a dogwood tree (which happens to have been Kat’s mother’s favorite) planted wherever Kat wants, and have included a really lovely plaque. It’s so touching, so thoughtful.

Kat and Jason will find a spot in their lovely yard where they’ll be able to watch it grow and bloom.

We have a simply wonderful day, and are now outfitted for all our summer adventures.

Because fun days should be expanded whenever possible, we learned years ago to stay overnight. After a post-shopping room service dinner, we have to say bye to Mary and Sarah–both have obligations in the morning. But Laura, Kat, Griffin and I get comfortable.

Griffin isn’t interested in sleep because this is too much fun. Laura can make noises by rubbing her fingers over the sofa, and there’s nothing funnier than that. Still, eventually it’s night-night for all.

I wake as usual about five-fifteen. But I wake to the sound of a baby laughing. About the best wake-up call ever. I join Kat and Griffin and a glorious sunrise for amusement with hands and sofa noises.

Mama’s tired, and Nana’s up, so Kat can catch more sleep while I get more play time. The boy doesn’t last long before he starts the eye-rubbing, head scratching that says: I need a nap. While he naps, I get my workout in–a good deal for all.

After-nap munchies

All good things must end, so we pack up–it’s quite a load–and head out. Happy Almost Birthday, Kat!

Back to work for me, but a slightly shorter day of it Friday as my older babies are coming to dinner. A good time to catch up on what’s what at the end of the school year. The two oldest will be joining the work force this summer around vacations–a very nice balance, imo.

We’ll be having fun with Logan shortly as it’s his turn for a summer trip, and it’s coming right up. Details to come.

Saturday, it’s work out, get in some quick gardening because we’re spending the afternoon in Baltimore at an O’s game. Kayla’s going with us. Logan declined as he considers baseball boring.

I love the boy, but this is heresy!

It’s a perfect day–low 80s, low humidity, sunny, and there’s nothing prettier than a baseball field. And no field is prettier than Camdon Yards.

We’re a happy group, guests of my broker and his team. Kayla and I settle in to watch them finish prepping the infield as the stands fill up.

And here comes Griffin for his first ballgame. Unlike Logan, he doesn’t seem to find it boring. He also samples his first crab cake, and like a good Maryland boy, enjoys it.

A pretty little blonde girl flirts with Griffin who flirts right back.

We have a fine time despite watching the O’s lose. They just fell apart after the fifth. But I’ve had time with my oldest and youngest grandbabies, hang out with Jason–who loves baseball–and Kat–who simply doesn’t understand it–on a perfect June day.

Thanks, Bill!

Today, I get my workout in, and focus on finishing some gardening. Then it’s deal with my seriously disordered house.

Because tomorrow, solid work time starts again. And that’s fun, too.

Nora

Weekends

I’ve had the good, the best and the ugly recently.

The ugly I spent knocked out with a really nasty bout of vertigo. As anyone who’s dealt with it knows, vertigo sucks hard.

But that’s done now.

The next, the best, I had a weekend of baking, gardening, family dinner, and Griffin! Our boy is full of fun, which probably comes from being–honestly–the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. Life’s a perpetual picnic for Griffin. He plays peek-a-boo, but likes being the one doing the peek-a-booing by holding a napkin up to his face then dramatically yanking it away.

Hello!

It’s great having time with all the grands. There’s Kayla who was prepping for races–and took First in the 3200 in Regionals–and Third in States! You go, Legs!

Way to go Kayla!

And Logan who’s now the second tallest man around here. He has to bend over to hug me! Next month I get him for five days when we take him to Montana. Really can’t wait to see how he likes his first trip west.

And Colt who can have a conversation about pretty much anything because, as he says, he read it in a book. He’s like Sam from Game of Thrones. The kid’s in third grade and can talk about the universe.

I had a girl day here between weekends, just a lovely day with girl pals. Salad, pizza and champagne. And a special guest appearance by Griffin. The boy’s happy to go to any lady who wants a baby fix. And now he’s got his first tooth, so we have to watch how much he gnaws on pizza.

Food! Glorious food!

Girl pals are the best pals. You need to take time to embrace and enjoy them.

This weekend–so far–the rain’s waited to pour until evening, giving me nice weather to weed and fluff and enjoy the garden. Things are popping, and blooming and spreading. I’ve got lots of pots, and a bunch of them waiting until the lower patio and wall project’s finished.

We had the–ugly to me–fence taken down at the end of the parking area, and are replacing it with a stone wall to match our other garden walls. It’s going to be great! But meanwhile, it’s a mess. But we’ve reached the point where I can actually see how good it’ll look when it’s finally done.

Today, after my workout I’ve got some indoor chores to deal with. Then I may do some side dressing with compost in the garden.
Tomorrow it’s back to work, and I’m hoping for a good, solid week of that before June pops out at me.

The summer, as it always seems to be, is packed. So a nice, quiet, solid work week, a good, gardening weekend is just the perfect prelude to the busy summer to come.

Enjoy your holiday weekend doing what makes you happy.

Laura and I send our gratitude to all who served, for all who fell so that we can live free.

Nora


Note from Laura: I didn’t share the Girl Time fun, as I opted to work at the beach for three weeks. I mean, I seriously love my girl pals, but I really adore my view at the beach.

Ups and Downs

My life right now seems to be a series of them without much of that steady middle ground.

I really like steady middle ground.

Updated total: 41 authors and 93 of their books infringed by Serruya. She’s a blood leech sucking on the body of the writing profession.

Arranging for a truckload of salt to dispense with her has been taking up a lot of my time, energies, sanity. Hopefully, once that’s in place the frustrating and infuriating distraction of her will fade, at least a bit.

Meanwhile I had a very happy week at our annual Drunken Girls Spa–with Special Guest Star Griffin. Nora had a week with girl pals, massages, games, champagne, and food she didn’t cook. Nana had a week of baby laughs and snuggles–though she did share those with girl pals.

And Laura’s not allowed to whine about the games as she dominated in the new addition of Cards Against Humanity.

Note from Laura: this is because I’m the Queen of Empathy and Persipacity. Not the queen of building stupid words.

Laura will continue to complain when the universe sends her messages: Buy a clue? Wear a clue as a feathered scarf? You decide.

Though Kat ultimately thwarted Elaine in Scrabble, she couldn’t –nor could any–topple Elaine who we crowned Queen of the DGS on our last night.

Our previous Queen JoAnne had a hard fall and shared the loser earrings with Pat.

A great week for all, with beautiful days, rainy days, stormy nights–including one that blew open the (unlatched) balcony doors. Flying curtains, toppling lamps, rain blowing in, women scrambling, Auntie Em summoning.

The annual paint & sip evening. Bright colors abound.

Shortly before I left for the week my tooth implant felt weird, and my bite shifted. Now I’m chewing the hell out of my cheek. But it’s an implant, I think, what’s the deal? No time to find out as I’m leaving.

Call the dentist the morning of my first day back. The day, I’ll add, I’m supposed to haul BW to the nursery in his truck, get all my pretty plants and start digging in the dirt. And have my NEW CAR delivered.

A happy day after a happy week.

Things didn’t go as planned.

Dentist says come right in, so I get dressed and do that. Figures he can fix, takes a look. Needs an X-Ray. Uh-oh.

Don’t you hate that?

Bad news, maybe worst case scenario news. It looks like the bone graft failed, implant shifted (I wasn’t wrong there, but being right never felt so bad). I need to go to implant guy. The Hammer Of Doom: It will be like starting over.

I like to think I’m pretty tough, but I just looked up and said: Oh, Jesus.

My dentist calls implant dentist himself. Again, I’m told to come right in. These are very good guys, really good doctors. But now I have to text BW, can’t be back by noon, off to second dentist.

Arrive, am seated immediately. Implant guy is so kind, apologizing for the failure, looks at X-Ray. He doesn’t think it’s a graft failure, but a fracture of same. Somehow–and this baffles him–I’ve managed to crack the bone.

He had to numb me up, always a good time!, take off the crown, take out the implant. Yes, indeed, I cracked it.

While he’s cleaning it out (even more fun than needles plunged into the soft tissue of your mouth!) I think: Fucking Serruya. I’ve caught myself stress clenching over the past weeks. Make myself stop, but still.

I blame her for my current situation. It actually helps, a little.

So he does what he does, sews me back up. DA gives me pain med, I get Rxs and make next appointment. The process takes several months of appointments. Oh well.

Off to CVS to fill Rxs. Drop off, go outside to call BW. Notice I failed to charge phone after spa and it’s down to like 16%. BW doesn’t answer. Not the house phone, not his cell–though I try both twice.

I am not feeling tough.

He finally calls me back. I cut off his explanation as phone will die. Just meet me at the nursery at 1:30. I’m getting my plants, damn it!

Get Rxs, drive to nursery.

Ahhhh. A happy, happy hour. A true up in a down day. The scents, the colors, the textures. Mine, all mine! The hell with everything else, this is my little paradise. I fill four huge carts. We fill the bed of the truck.

Sadly, I don’t have it in me to dig in the dirt. Just don’t have that next gear. But I can lay all those flats and pots out on my garden walls.

And take more meds.

Car guy’s running late, which is just as well. We put the delivery off until the next day.

My plan for Friday: Work in the morning, plant in the afternoon. I knew it was supposed to rain, but still.

Pours. So work the day.

However, many, many Serruya interruptions. No wonder I cracked a bone graft. Still, a decent chunk of work, and it’s good to be back into the story.

And here comes my fabulous new G-Wagon. I’m so glad to have this model again (and loaded this time!!) They reconfigured the interior so it’s comfortable for my Tall Guy. The old model just didn’t have the leg room.

It looks like a big, deep, dark green tank. But an elegant one. I am a General behind the wheel of this baby. And it’ll do what I tell it. I just have to say: Put on left seat warmer, and it will warm my butt. I don’t have to push a button for that now. I can tell it who to call, what temperature I want, what music I want.

It takes Barry The Car Guy an hour to go over all its beautiful tricks with me. So many wonderful tricks! I am in love with my new car. A very happy up.

Of course by the time all that’s done, my swollen jaw is throbbing. A sad down. Hit those meds, get the ice bag.

We’re celebrating Easter and Logan’s 15th (!!) birthday today. He requested pulled pork. So after ice bag, I make the rub, rub the pork.

Definitely time to lie down.

Today, I put the pork on, boil a couple dozen eggs for kids to Cool Whip dye, make the sides, make the bbq sauce and pull that pork. BW will pick up Logan’s fave chocolate chip cookie cake.

I hope to dig just a bit. Even one bed, one pot would be enough until tomorrow.

Because a big up will be having four grandkids–including Griffin for his first–here for Easter.

I’ve got an achy swollen jaw, more frustrations and interruptions ahead with our serial plagiarist, but….

I have a beautiful family I’ll enjoy the hell out of today. I have plants waiting for me to find just the right spot for them to fill.

And a new car!

Nora

Freedom!

I haven’t posted a blog in weeks as I’ve been hip deep in a book. The result? Brain drain at the end of the work day, and a zillion tasks to deal with on weekends.

Yesterday, finally, I sent the manuscript off to my agent and editor. And today I unlock and throw open the cage door for a couple of days.

After I finish this blog, I may sit in the corner and stare at the wall for several hours.

Things have happened besides the book in these first chilly weeks of the new year.

Our annual New Year’s Day Open House was–as they say in Regency novels–a crush. Lots of people, lots of food. Laura and Kayla and Kat helped me make and bake and stir and chop on New Year’s Eve.

For the crudite, Kat created a little Christmas tree out of broccoli, with bits of red peppers for ornaments and a star carved from a radish. Who else but Kat would think of that?

#randomkatness

So I got to ring out the old, ring in the new with friends, family. And got plenty of Griffin time.

We had our annual January trip to the spa–which meant I had the glorious Griffin with me for a week. (Oh, and his parents, too.) One of the butlers brought in his personal rocking chair for our use–what a guy.

The Magickal Griffin

Griffin and I seriously appreciated it.

Then, despite the ugly and annoying head cold that struck me on my first day home, it was a return to work–with no afternoon massage.

And the start of my annual purge. Due to ugly cold this got a slow start, but progress was made. By the second weekend of purging, I hit my office.

For a zillion years I’ve kept a ton of research books–ones I really haven’t cracked open in about a half a zillion. This year, I determined to cull them down brutally, and give my office shelves some breathing room.

Clear space on office shelves

And poor BW had to haul the heavy boxes (box after box) downstairs. They’ll go into storage, then the next library sale. And my office is reborn!

I haven’t hit the lower level yet–always a big chore–but the third floor is purged, and I only have the library and guest room left on the main.

At BW’s request I cleaned out my candle cupboard. Apparently I actually have a candle cupboard. And okay, I didn’t purge there, because candles, but I organized it.

And as Parker suddenly developed–we’ll be delicate and call it heroic flatulence–my scented candles came in really handy. So does yogurt mixed with his dog food (thanks Google) as we seem to have solved the issue.

Thank all the gods as if was far too cold to banish the boy outside.

As January slid into February with those shockingly cold temperatures, I stayed snuggly and smugly at my workstation, and in the book. It was so cold, the house couldn’t keep up, so I worked with a blanket over my lap. We got some snow, which from inside, looked very pretty.

Atticus, brave snowdog

Writing can drain the brain, but you don’t have to shovel out your car and go out into the world.

The really good thing about February is it’s short–and spring training starts. This one’s been busy and eventful in my world. My running girl and her teammates took first in Regionals in indoor track (four years running!) In a couple weeks, she’ll compete in States. And she got her driver’s license.

The newest driver in the family

How strange and lovely it is to have my first girl old enough to drive and my latest boy laughing and cooing.

We snuck in a signing at Turn The Page last Saturday that turned into a door buster. The cold finally broke, lifting the temps into the 40s–with sun! Actual sun. Maybe it was the break from frigid and sunlight, but we had the happiest group of readers and authors for our mid-winter event.

And I got more Griffin time. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see happy recognition in his eyes when he sees me. He knows his Nana!

Happy, happy boy.

Mid-month we’re celebrating Inn BoonsBoro’s tenth anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Especially when our truly incredibly staff keeps it looking as fresh as it did the day it opened.

I’ll end the shortest month with pals coming up to whip through the bags and bags (I’ll hang and organize) of clothes I purged from my closet. Girl time! (With Griffin attending as the token male.)

That’s a fine way to move into March, and start pining for spring.

But for today, before and after work out time, I’m going to play sloth as I expect to slam the cage door again on Monday.

Nora

Happy and Merry

Christmas is coming, and I’m sure, somewhere, there’s a goose getting fat. Around here, we’re ready for it.

It felt good to get a solid work week in, and now that’s in the rear view. Next week won’t find me at my desk very much, and that’s fine. It’s time to celebrate and enjoy the rewards of all the preparations.

Our tree’s trimmed with presents at its feet. All that wrapping and ribbon and bows will soon be pulled and ripped in the rush to find the wishes inside.

The stockings are hung, and happily stuffed as the kids won’t be around until it’s time to dig in. I love finding stocking stuffers, from the useful to the goofy. In our family tradition all the adults do the same, so those stockings will overflow and provide a lot of fun before the rush for the ribbons and bows.

This year I enjoyed creating a candlescape on my dining room table. Of course, I’ll have to dismantle it for the feasting, but in the evenings leading up, it’s given me a lot of pretty light.

I haven’t quite OD’d on schmaltzy Christmas movies yet. I’m fascinated by how many ways they can turn a misunderstanding or complete lack of communication into a conflict magically resolved into a happy ending by Christmas.

I’m a sucker for them.

We have lots and lots of cookies, thanks in very large part to Kayla. And for Christmas dessert, in addition to cookies, I do a sundae bar, so that’s easy and delicious.

Yesterday I made some mighty fine tortilla soup to get me and BW through the weekend. Today I’m going to bake bread, but other than my workout and this blog, that’s pretty much it for the day.

It’ll be nice to have the bulk of a Sunday afternoon without chores.

So as the hours count down, Laura and I wish you and yours all the magic of Christmas, warm times with family and friends, good cheer, happy faces, and a joy in those moments that last you through the coming year.

Since we do, I’ll end this with a picture of the sweetest of Griffin smiles.

Nora

Holiday Hustle

We’ve been in the thick of it.

We had our annual Progressive Shopping night with any employees who want to participate. That’s Turn The Page, Fit, Gifts, the inn, Vesta. It’s fun to go as a group from business to business, enjoy the company, do a little shopping. It’s also a great chance to socialize and get to know each other as your own work, your own business can create a kind of bubble.

The Inn, dressed for Christmas

We all end at Vesta for dinner. So much food! But before the feast we announce our winners in the year’s fitness competition.

And the Inn BoonsBoro staff defend their title, and keep the (wonderfully tacky) trophy for another year. The team’s led by Head Innkeeper Karen, this year’s individual winner, who I’m told seriously cracks the whip.

IBB Wonder Women

And those girls at IBB prove to be clever pranksters. Part of the inn’s holiday decor is a full-size Nutcracker. He’s huge! And heavy. It didn’t stop them from hauling him across the parking lot, putting him in the doorway of a side room. And scaring the pants off Heidi, Fit’s manager, when she opened for the day.

Nice one, ladies!

Boonsboro’s decked out, and that makes a festive canvas for Turn The Page’s holiday booksigning. A busy day, and lots of fun–along with Griffin’s first booksigning. (He slept through most of it.) When he was awake, he enjoyed being snuggled by various TTP staff. I think the staff enjoyed the snuggles even more.

I get my boy through the weekend as we have another holiday event on Sunday, which includes our very special guest. Santa! (Griffin also slept through most of it, despite all the noise.)

Then there’s a work week, with some bits and pieces of holiday prep worked in. The week ends with a holiday party here for the managers. Some fun food, a lot of champagne and all the good cheer you can hold.

Back row L-R: Renee, Michelle, Natoma, Heidi, Janeen, Laura Front: JoAnne, Holly, Karen (the whipmaster), Nora

Oh and those inn girls left me a little nutcracker on my workstation. I see what you did there, ladies! Gave me a laugh–and Mr. Nutcracker will enjoy being part of my holiday gang.

For the weekend. Cookies! Lots and lots and LOTS of cookies. Logan skips this year, and Kayla serves as head baker with some assistance from me and from Colt. The girl’s on a roll. We dive in with cheesy Christmas movies on the kitchen TV–which Kayla and I agree are just silly fun. (I don’t believe Colt paid any attention either way.)

We end up with a double batch of chocolate chip (a crowd favorite) snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Candy Cane Kisses, with the grand finale of painted sugar cookies. We include a lunch break so real food goes in tummies as well.

Kayla and her sous chef, Grandda

With Colt serving as taste tester, we deem all cookies delicious.

It’s always fun to hold a marathon cookie bake, but seeing Kayla take over so willingly, and so skillfully is the best part. One day she’ll bake in her own kitchen, and I hope look back on the years she baked in mine.

Logan has no problem eating the cookies when we have the gang for dinner. And a big bag of them go with the kids after dinner.

Today, after my morning workout I have a few little gifts to bag or wrap. I need to check the bread situation to see if I need to bake. And, at some point, sign four tubs of books. But compared to a solid eight hours in the kitchen yesterday, this is a day off!

All the traditions that weave their way into the fabric of our friends and family make a warm and colorful cloth. I love watching the cloth unfold every year.

I hope you all have your own warm and colorful cloth to cuddle with.

Nora

Note from Laura: the 2018 finale to #random Katness:

First family holiday photo

Making a List

I’m a list maker. I like to see my tasks and goals in writing–and even more I like the satisfaction of checking those tasks and goals off when complete. In fact, if another tasks pops up and gets done that wasn’t listed, I’ll just add it to the list with its check.

Instant gratification.

My lists are plentiful this time of years. Gifts to buy, gifts bought, seasonal clothes to switch out, the standard weekend domestic chores. Holiday baking, present wrapping, organizing wrapping station again post-wrapping session, holiday decorating, Christmas card writing and so on.

Without lists, I’d be lost–and miss that satisfying checkmark.

This past week my list included one full day of writing–thank God!–then a trip to the dentist, who may start charging me rent, for a filling replacement. And then, preparation for the Thanksgiving feast.

Pies first. Wednesday BW sits at the kitchen counter peeling pounds of apples while I make pie crust. I bake two apple, two pumpkin, so that’s a lot of pie crusts. Apples peeled, he helps me add the leaves to the table. Then he’s off to the gym and the bookstore while I stir and fill and bake. I add buying those silicone crust shields to my list because I am DONE fiddling with making them out of aluminum foil.

While the apple pies bake, I make the pumpkin, then make the dough for sour dough pretzel rolls and set it aside to rise. Still have apples left, so quarter some up to simmer for apple sauce–my mother’s crowd favorite, so when I cook then down, mill them, add the sugar and cinnamon, that scent brings here right there into the kitchen with me.

I make cranberry sauce, letting the berries simmer while I roll those pretzel balls, set them aside to rise. Make the deviled eggs Logan specifically requested.

Then it’s the fun part of the pretzel rolls, boiling them in baking soda water, watching them plump up. Score, bake, add some sea salt and poppy seeds. Done!

I clean off the work counter countless times, watch the woodpeckers at my suet feeder, accept this is all taking more time than I’d budgeted so I’ll have to skip my workout. Still I get a decent amount of steps in as a lot of my few-times-a-year kitchen tools are stored on shelves in the laundry room, and some of the serving dishes I want are stored on shelves upstairs in The One More Room.

Why not go ahead and set the table–cross that off the list?

A long day in the kitchen–some seven hours–deserves the reward of a glass of wine. Or two.

Thursday is Turkey Day, so it’s me and the bird in the morning. My family enjoys the sausage stuffing I’ve been making for years, so it’s cook, stir, season, stuff. Slather that bird with butter, give him a nice massage, drizzle on spices, cover and into the oven he goes. Plenty of time for me to tidy up, the house and myself, before it’s back to the kitchen.

BW is once more on peeling duty–carrots for roasting, potatoes for mashing. Our rhythm is, as always, me cleaning up the potatoes for spots he’s missed.

Things are well underway before–oh boy, oh boy, here come Jason, Kat and Griffin! At last I get that baby back. He’s so ridiculously handsome, so warm and snuggly. And that enchanting baby scent. He’s one month old on Thanksgiving.

“Her” baby is here!

And now Nana’s got the boy. I do share him with Grandda briefly, but he wants a change, and he’s hungry. The dogs are fascinated, delighted–new human! They sniff, wag, and love shines from their eyes.

As Kat’s pumped, I get to sit with him, give him a bottle. He’s wonderfully alert and aware, just looking at everything. Like: Huh, new place, new colors. Interesting.

While the rocking chair where I rocked my own babies is no more, I get to rock him to sleep in the same chair where I rocked Kayla to sleep sixteen years before. There is nothing more relaxing than rocking a baby.

Ready for anything.

He naps in his bouncer while it’s back to the matter of cooking. Potatoes to rice, turkey to baste, more sides to make. Jason–our roving IT guy–and BW deal with some WiFi issue, and when Griffin wakes, Kat handles the vegetables and I get the baby. Very good deal for me.

Turkey out, time to make the gravy, put it all together.

We feast.

Clean up and baby time–as Griffin wakes from his mama’s milk coma–are group efforts. Which means it’s time to make some fresh whipped cream for pie.

At the end of the day, Mama and Griffin go up to bed, Jason and BW go down for the football game, and I unwind, and conk.

I’m up early, as is habit, fiddle around. Before long I hear the baby. When Kat brings him down, I get my morning Griffin fix–and so do the dogs. Sniff, sniff, wag, wag–a quick lick if they can manage it. And they take to guarding him whenever someone sits down with him.

While my youngest is getting many diaper changes–as soon as he’s wet, he kicks his feet like get this thing off me–my oldest is preparing to travel to New York for her first cross-country Nationals. A great opportunity for her. She and her mom come here first to meet Griffin, then they’re off with Kayla driving (!) the first leg of the trip. Some pumpkin pie (Kayla’s favorite) to take with them.

Oldest grandson, youngest grandson, their adults and a Parker on baby duty.

Logan’s coming here for Thanksgiving Redux, so I have my oldest and youngest grandsons together for the first time.

Deviled eggs for Logan to ward off starvation, more baby-rocking time for me–and I get baby smiles to bank in the memory book.

Love.

Heat it all up, dish it all out, and we have our second feast. (And a text from Kayla to let us know they arrived safe.)

Clean up–pie!–tub up leftovers for the young family to take with them. Baby snuggles and smiles, a hug from Logan who has to bend over to hug me now. More hugs all around, and then my house is quiet.

I’m so grateful for the noise and movement that was.

Saturday, finally a workout. Then a wrapping marathon with cheesy Christmas movies for company. Organize that mess again, finish up other chores while keeping an ear out for a text from my running girl.

She’s finished her race–had a great experience–and will text again when they get home. It’s raining now, and Nana worries. Hopefully, if she’s not worn out, she’ll be up today to wrap. Saves me hours, gives her some spending money. Logan comes up twice a month to do chores. It’s great having teenage grandkids close by who want spending money!

Also great is having a brand new light in my life, who’ll shine for me in just a couple weeks over signing weekend.

Meanwhile I have my annual holiday trip with great girl pals coming up at the end of the week. I’ll come home, hit my list and do the tree trimming, the holiday decorating. Cookie baking’s on that list, hopefully with grandkids if their schedule allows.

Today it’s workout and making potato and ham soup as we’re tired of turkey.

There’s a lot on the list for December. It’s work, but it’s happy. Here’s hoping whatever’s on your list is just as happy–and gives you satisfaction as you check things off.

Nora

And a wink and a smile before you go.

The Totally Magickal Griffin (Finally) Makes His Entrance

So I’ve been a little busy the last couple weeks.

On the day he was due for his grand debut–October 17– our excellent baby stirred around enough to poke a leak in his bag and get everyone excited. When we got the call, BW and I got ourselves together, headed down to Jason’s and Kat’s for what we all assumed would be the big event.

However, by mid-afternoon, he changed his mind, resealed his bag and settled down. BW headed home the next morning, and I stayed–as co-coach for labor and delivery–all assuming again things would get going any minute.

I can work anywhere, so that wasn’t a problem. It gave me time to help the any-minute-now parents finish getting everything ready, time to cook some meals for them. Even when minutes turned into hours, and hours into days, no problem.  Our Kat had on-and-off contractions and a lot of fatigue–and a couple more trips to see the midwife as the baby kept teasing his entrance.

Just after midnight on the 24th things start moving. Contractions coming close and pretty hard, so it’s a trip to the birthing center. Only to find out poor Kat’s having serious back labor (been there, done that. NOT fun.) No real progression, just pain as her boy’s decided to go spine-to-spine (like his daddy before him). After a couple hours, a homeopathic shot to try to help her sleep, and home we go.

I got about three hours, and Jason reported he managed a couple. Poor Kat didn’t get much at all. I hear my girl in the morning and go downstairs–I’m in the third-floor guest room. She’s on the phone with the midwife, pain is horrible, and she’s opting for hospital and epidural.

This is the right choice.

So we get dressed, feed the cats, move out. I let BW know.
I sit in the back seat, rubbing her arm or shoulder, see that Jason keeps taking her hand while we try to help her breathe through the pains–nearly all in her back.

When we park, she has another big one right in the lot. A nurse heading home after shift stops, gets her a wheelchair, and escorts us straight up to labor and delivery. So grateful to her.

Now she has her midwife and an OB nurse, the exam, and finally after another hour or so, relief. You just don’t dilate well with back labor, and they’re going to try to encourage the baby to turn from back to front, but first Mama needs to sleep.

And finally she’s able to for a few hours.

The room has a little sofa that expands so Jason gets some sack time, too. And the long day continues.

They have what they call a peanut ball–because of its shape–and as we go through various OB nurses–shift changes–and a shift change in her midwife–they have her try various positions with the ball.

She can eat broth and jello, but would like her own broth. BW and I make a trip to their house for that, some more supplies, and go back on watch. BW takes Jason off for something to eat; I catch some Zs on the sofa.

Day becomes evening–but she’s making progress now, and the pains are tolerable. We order pizza–and BW and I sit and have a slice in the waiting room so poor Kat doesn’t have to smell the pizza goodness. Then BW finds a place to sleep a bit, I go back to doze in the chair in the room with Kat sleeping and Jason conked on the sofa.

The night passes. I’ve actually coached before, helped out–and of course had my own labor experience. I’ve never witnessed such a long one. She’s passed 24 hours since that first midnight trip to the midwife. Come on, Baby, what’s the deal???

But as dawn breaks things are moving. Baby’s turned nearly fully around, she’s nearly fully dilated. Time for more broth, more jello, more shift changes.

Honestly, by now that room is pretty much the world.
I’ll add here, that my boy was a rock throughout. So proud of him. Of them, as they showed such strength, such endurance, such teamwork.

Then Kat spiked a fever–likely from being on the epidural for 24 hours. And the baby’s heart rate’s a little elevated. I admit that was the only thing that scared me.

By then we have our original midwife Joanne, and a completely wonderful OB nurse Allison on duty. Kat has to get antibiotics, and they have to tell her this means at least 24 hours in the NICU for the baby after birth–hospital policy.

My poor sweet girl just broke. She rallied because she is The Amazing Kat, but news like that during the last legs of a long, long labor took its toll. I know both Jason and I had to struggle to maintain so we could reassure her. Joanne and Allison were just wonderful with us all.

Now, fever down, baby facing up (almost), it’s time to push. Joanne’s predicted at least a nine pound baby–holy shit! I mean seriously!
Kat, as you might expect, is pretty damn tired by this time, but she is so strong, so brave. I would never take an actual picture of a laboring woman, but I still have one of her in my mind, so clear. She looked like an Asian goddess–powerful, beautiful, fierce–as she began pushing her son into the world.

Jason and I help–deep breath, hold it, hold it while you push. Suck in, hold, push. Jason was just magnificent.

I could see him crown–all that dark hair–and telling her that helps.
There’s his head, and oh my God, he’s gorgeous. Joanne explains that–big baby means big shoulders, so she’s going to have to do a little turn to help him get them out. But no–he’s ready, and with another fierce push, he just slides out into the world–and with a lot to say.

Under two hours from first push to last, at 10:39 a.m. on October 25, and we have a new light, new life, new family with a now blissful Kat holding her son, a beaming Jason holding them both.

A little comic relief when they ask if Jason wants to cut the cord. A big, instant, resounding NO. Nana? A quick, delighted, grateful yes. So I make that snip–as I did with my oldest grandchild–to give my youngest his first independence.

They have to clean him up, and Daddy crosses the room with him, takes pictures while they do all the post-birth stuff with Kat. I hold her hand through this–she has pain with this part, wants it over, wants her baby. My girl hasn’t had an easy time of it, and this part isn’t any easier.

Finally done, and Allison wheels the baby and scale over so Kat can watch him be weighed. Joanne had it right. He’s nine and a half pounds, 21 inches of serious handsome.

Kat gets her baby back, he even nurses a little. BW can come in now, meet his newest grandson. (He brought something up during the early pushing. I met the poor guy at the door, grabbed whatever it was, and said: I don’t have time to talk to you! The baby’s coming! Closed the door in his face. )
The baby has to go to NICU, but can stay with his parents for at least an hour first.

I get to hold him. Oh, here he is–and he looks right at me. There you are, I think. Yes, there you are. And where have you been, what have you seen?
They haven’t picked a first name–they have a short list, but decided they wanted to meet him first. His middle name is Wilder, a gift that BW treasures. I’ve been thinking of him by a name for the last couple weeks–had to keep reminding myself not to–but this one name on their list kept sticking in my head.

They still don’t decide when Allison asks. Don’t know yet.
It’s while Jason’s filling out a form, and I’m holding the baby. Jason laughs, looks at Kat: I can’t finish filling this out because it calls for his name.
Kat says: He’s Griffin.

And holding the beautiful Griffin Wilder, Nana does a happy dance. Because that was his name in my head.

I give Griffin back to his mother, hug my kids. BW and I leave the new family alone. Jason will stay at the hospital with Kat and Griffin. BW and I will go back in the morning–then I have to go home for Saturday’s signing.

Kat and Jason look so much more rested the next day–and Jason takes us down to see the baby, who is doing really well, but has one test that’s inconclusive–so maybe a little longer in NICU. Kat’s doing some nursing and pumping so he has plenty of milk, and he has wonderful nurses looking out for him.

Still hard to go home. Despite that, I slept like a log Friday night!
Saturday’s signing is busy and happy–even with a soaking rain. Girlfriends at home after help everything smooth out.

I get a text they’re maybe letting Griffin come home Monday. So that’s when I’ll head back down to help the new parents for a few days–and get lots of Griffin/Nana time.

But it turns out that test–and what they were waiting for–means our boy spikes a fever of his own. Nothing dangerous, but he needs to stay in for a couple more days.

I keep the cat company, help get the house ready. I know how hard it is for them to leave the baby–though there’s a hotel attached to the hospital.
They finally decide to come home, just make the trip back and forth–so I go with them on a visit, get to cuddle that sweet boy again. He’s doing really well, but needs to finish the course of antibiotics before release.

I fix a pot roast with all the trimmings. They both need some red meat, some home-cooking.

At long last, a full week after he came to us, Griffin comes home.
He’s healthy, beautiful–and his parents can finally take that full breath out. Their baby’s home. He’s so beautiful–all babies are–but maybe cooking that extra week added more magick. His eyes are already brown–no newborn blue for Griffin–and he’s so alert–and so chill.

And apparently a night owl like his mother. <g> I slept just fine his first night home–not so much for the new parents. But that’s why Nana’s here. Give me the baby, get some sleep.

Fed, changed, swaddled he reclines in his little bouncer wide awake for a full hour while I sat at their table writing. Then he slept for another before he made any fuss that first morning.

Nana believe in the three S’s when a baby’s fed, changed. Swaddle, sway and a quiet Ssssh in the ear. Griffin responds well to this.

He also likes going outside. Put on one of his little hats, and–as the weather was gorgeous–step outside in their pretty yard, show him his domain. I tell him this is his kingdom, and he seems to agree, and be pleased.

Mama nurses and pumps, cuddles–looks so happy. Daddy changes, cuddles–and looks the same. They started reading him bedtime stories in NICU and have made that a sweet, sweet habit already.

Nana cooks, does laundry and all the things new parents shouldn’t have to worry about when they’ve had this long, incredible journey, and have their baby home.

He likes to look up to the sky through their kitchen skylights. It’s obvious to me he’s spent some time flying up there before this trip to Earth. He recognizes their voices–and looks you right in the eye.

Daddy took him for a walk in his stroller around the neighborhood, and–as that post-birth business was tough, and Kat’s not supposed to do a lot of walking as yet–Nana walks him now and then, too.

He’s had a couple of visits with friends and family, and seems happy to be admired and passed around. He’s also very content to sit with his Nana in the mornings while she writes–though I did my final spell-check on the last chapter of the book I finished during all this with him in one arm. Sweet.

Now the new family is settled in–and Griffin has his first check up with the pediatrician. It’s time for Nana to go home. I made sure to cuddle and rub before I did so I could take that incredible new baby smell with me.

My kids are an incredible team, warm, easy, loving parents–I’ve been privileged to witness that first hand. My girl is a warrior. My son is a rock.
They have a perfect baby–so relaxed, so laid-back and so beautiful. It’s been my joy to have all this time with him.

The only hitch? They refused to let me take him home with me. So selfish!
But they did send more pictures–of Griffin in the Chewbacca outfit Jason and I picked out on our NY trip. Cutest wookie ever. And the report that he’s healthy, has already gained a half pound–now an even ten.

So I guess they get to keep him. As long as they bring him to Nana’s soon.

Nora