Project 52 – 31 with Adorable Children

January 17th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 31!

1996_03 9 Me holding Tim

31 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 31, June 14, 1995, to June 14, 1996.

The previous year, our second child Timothy was born after a pregnancy finishing up on bed rest and a very difficult labor. I didn’t bounce back quickly, what with starting to work again when Tim was 3 weeks old and, I see now, plenty of postpartum depression.

But around the time I turned 31, my journal sounds a little less frantic. I did teach summer school that year, which meant 8 hours per week of classes instead of 4 hours per week, so essentially working full-time for a couple months. Hmmm. That’s probably why there’s not much at all written in my calendar or journal for June and July 1995. (The entry that sounded so much calmer was before summer school had started.)

I’m going to try to just summarize this year, but I have a whole lot of cute kid pictures to share.

My journal does say that this was the time — before he’d quite learned to talk — that Timmy threw amazing, head-banging temper tantrums. What can I say? He was precocious. But those did get better a few months later when he started talking and could tell us what he wanted. And my goodness, he was cute!

We went on a short vacation to southern Illinois that summer. This picture cracks me up, because it’s so typical of my kids at that age. Jade (then called Josh) was quietly reading a book, and Timmy was getting into something, exploring!

1995_07 0a Hotel

We went hiking, trying to find “Old Stone Face,” and I almost got heat stroke.

1995_07 0b Vacation

The next day looking at these Cypress trees was nicer.

1995_07 0c Vacation

1995_07 1 Vacation

At the end of July was Timmy’s First Birthday!

1995_07 2 Timmy's Birthday Cake

1995_07 4 Timmy's Birthday Cake

1995_07 5 Timmy's Birthday Cake

My kids were cute at this stage!

1995_07 6 Timmy Glasses

Josh was 7 years old and losing teeth!

1995_07 7 Josh Tooth

1995_07 8 Hugging

1995_07 9 Smile

1995_07 10 Smile

1995_09 1 Upsidedown

1995_09 2 Puppy sweater

1995_09 3 Smile

1995_09 4 Glasses

Of course, most precious are the ones of Josh with Timmy.

1995_09 5 Reading

1995_09 6 Reading

1995_09 7 Missing Teeth

I’m not showing nearly all of the messy eating pictures!

1995_09 8 Messy Food

Stacking cans was a favorite activity. (My Mom was the one who taught me to keep cans in a low cupboard because they make great toys.)

1995_09 9 Stacking Cans

And in October, Kathe and Darlene came to visit! Kathe brought her son Tim, who is 6 months older than my son Timmy.

1995_10 3 With Kathe and Darlene

Rub-a-dub-dub, Two Tims in a tub!

1995_10 4 Two Tims in the Tub

1995_10 5 Kathe Reading

1995_10 6 With Darlene

For Halloween that year, this time Timmy was a clown, and I bought Josh a cell phone costume that really rang. They wore it a few years, and loved to make it ring after saying “Trick or Treat!”

1995_10 Halloween

In the Fall, we again went hiking to find Old Stone Face, and this time we found it! (We’d walked right by it that summer in the heat.)

1995_11 1 Vacation

1995_11 2 Old Stone Face

And again this year we took pictures for our Christmas cards at Carlyle Lake.

1995_11 5 Christmas Picture

1995_11 6 Carlyle Lake

1995_11 7 Carlyle Lake

1995_11 8 Carlyle Lake

Timmy still enjoyed stacking cans:

1995_11 3 Stacking Cans

1995_11 9 Stacking Cans

I had to include one picture with Timothy screaming. He was climbing over Josh, trying to get at the computer. Look how patient sweet Josh is being!

1995_11 11 Screaming

We went to Aunt Kay’s for Thanksgiving again:

1995_11 13 Aunt Kay

1995_11 12 Aunt Kay's

Just more sweetness:

1995_11 10 Smiles

1995_12 1 Toothless

While they played video games, Josh used to give Timmy a controller that wasn’t hooked up!

1995_12 2 Video games

Along about this time, the possibility came up that Steve might get to transfer to the USAFE Band in Germany. So when we drove out west for Christmas, we knew it might be our last trip in awhile. We saw lots of friends and family. I’ll show some of the pictures that came out the nicest.

Gramp E. and Gram E. welcomed us warmly to Phoenix.

1995_12 3 Gramp E

Cousin Karli and her parents were there, too.

1995_12 4 Karli in wagon

1995_12 5 Josh

All the grandkids so far!

1995_12 6 Grandkids

1995_12 7 Pots

1995_12 8 Christmas

Our next stop was my sister Becky’s house in Encinitas. They took us to the beach.

1995_12 9 Encinitas

1995_12 10 Beach

1995_12 11 Beach

1995_12 12 Burying

1995_12 13 Beach

My parents and some siblings and cousins came down as well.

1995_12 14 Encinitas

1995_12 15 Christmas

This next picture reminds me of two stories about Timmy and cars, which he loved.

We were driving into San Diego from Phoenix, and Timmy was getting really fussy. Well, then we turned onto an 8-lane freeway and were suddenly surrounded by cars — and he was amazed and overwhelmed. He’d never seen so many cars at one time in his life!

At Becky’s house, Timmy really loved Michael’s bucket of cars. He wasn’t talking a lot then, but he was pulling the cars out of the bucket one by one and saying “Caaaaar!” with each one and setting it down.

I noticed what he was doing and commented on it, and the next car he pulled out was the Batmobile. This time, he said, “Ooooooo!”

It’s my cousin Carmen talking to him in the picture. Timmy could say her name!

1995_12 16 Cars

1995_12 17 Smile

With various family members, including my Aunt Linda and cousin Kristi:

1995_12 18 with Buhlers

A trip to the Botanical Garden in Encinitas gave us some nice shots.

1995_12 19 Botanical Garden

1995_12 20 Botanical Garden

Megan, Megan, already a rebel!

1995_12 21 Botnical Garden

1995_12 22 Botanical Garden

1995_12 23 Botanical Garden

Becky was expecting her fourth child, Kristen, in the Spring.

1995_12 24 Botanical Garden

And we spent more time in Phoenix before we drove home:

1996_01 1 Phoenix

1996_01 2 Phoenix

When we got back, it was back to teaching Statistics and Calculus (2 nights per week, 4 hours per night). Steve was also taking classes still, 2 nights per week. Because of my job, he got very cheap tuition ($2 per unit) at Belleville Area College, and ended up finishing an Associate’s degree in Computer Science before we left Illinois. I was never quite sure why he didn’t try for a Master’s degree, since he already had a Bachelor’s degree in Music. But I believe he is now working in the computer security field, so perhaps it was just as well. And it did make my job more valuable. Though it doesn’t look like we got too many evenings together.

I guess when babies get where they can reach the top of their heads, they like to put things there:

1996_01 3 Cheerios hair

1996_01 4 Bucket Head

1996_02 4 Drum

But this was the stage where anything Josh could do, Timmy wanted to do, too. Josh always liked to pose for pictures with their thumbs up. Timmy thought he was doing the same thing, but it was an odd twisting of his hands with fingers up. So cute!

1996_01 5 Copying

1996_01 6 Copying

1996_01 7 Copying

1996_01 8 Copying

1996_01 10 Copying

1996_02 1 Copying

1996_02 2 Copying

1996_02 3 Copying

1996_03 1 Copying

1996_04 1 Thumbs Up

But my absolute favorite picture of Timmy imitating Josh was this one below. We always prayed with Josh at bedtime. You can see Timmy trying to figure it out:

1996_03 7 Praying

Josh was also the age when a towel after a bath becomes a cape.

1996_01 11 Super Josh

1996_01 12 Super Josh

1996_04 9 Super Josh

Just more fun:

1996_02 6 smushed nose

1996_02 7 cart

1996_03 3 Pooh

1996_03 4 Couch

1996_03 6 Hide and seek

1996_03 8 Dry bath

1996_03 10 Cardboard box

Josh turned 8 years old in March and had another Chuck E. Cheese party.

1996_03 11 Josh's Birthday

1996_03 12 Josh's Birthday

1996_03 13 Knex

We went to Aunt Kay’s again for Easter.

1996_03 2 Easter

1996_04 1 Easter

While we were in Chicago, we visited the Sears Tower:

1996_04 5 Sears Tower

1996_04 6 Sears Tower

1996_04 7 Cars with Aunt Kay

Timmy still really liked to jump on Josh.

1996_04 12 Rockford

And more simple fun:

1996_04 8 Duplo

1996_04 10 Hamper

1996_04 11 Hamper

1996_05 1 Super Sofa

1996_05 2 Bouncy horse

In March, we’d found out that yes, we’d get to move to Germany in the Fall. I was so excited about that.

Although I believe in enjoying where you are and what you do — I was very pleased to get to quit teaching. (I’m an introvert and don’t like getting up in front of a bunch of strangers who don’t really want to learn math and having to be their adversary and test them.)

I was very pleased to get to leave Illinois. (My friends and family were far away. I really do prefer the coasts. We’d been there 5 years, and that seemed awfully long.)

I was very pleased that I’d get to stay home with my kids. I didn’t know how long that could last, but Steve did get a Cost of Living Allowance in Germany that might make up for losing my job when we moved.

And — Germany!!!! I’d spent 6 weeks in Austria back in 1986, and I’d fallen in love with the German language. And Europe itself. And I was just so excited.

Here’s part of what I wrote in my journal on my 32nd birthday:

“It’s my birthday again today! I’m 32! And I’m happy. 🙂 Lord, it’s going to be an exciting year for me. I am thrilled about moving to Germany. And the rest of my life is going well. Steve and I are deeply in love; class is going smoothly; Steve is finishing his AAS degree; I’ll get to quit teaching soon; Timmy & Josh are lots of fun; my photo albums are meaningful; and I hope to get going writing soon. I am so happy about all that You are doing for me now, Lord.”

1996_06 1 32nd birthday

1996_06 2 Blowing Candles

Project 52 – 30 with Baby Timmy, Part Two

January 13th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 30, Part Two!

1994_10 4 Carlyle Lake with Me

On Tuesday night, I was happily writing Project 52, and my computer mouse broke. Tonight my new mouse arrived from Amazon, so I’m finishing Week 30, my reflections on being 30 years old.

I’ve been thinking that using my calendar from 1994 is getting me bogged down in detail. So my plan was just to summarize the year briefly.

But then I started looking through pictures! I had a new baby that year! Both my children were so adorable! So there are going to be lots of pictures in this post, but I’ll try to keep from going on too long!

Last time, I covered Timmy’s birth at the end of July. I had 3 weeks off before I went back to work — but I only taught one class that Fall, Calculus 3 from 6 to 8 pm on Monday and Wednesday nights.

And that makes me think how nice it was that at Belleville Area College, they gave me the same class to teach over and over! I’d been teaching almost 10 years by now — and that was the first that I really got in a routine with a class. It was so much easier than preparing new classes each semester. Now, this was partly because this was the longest I’d stayed at any one school. But still, at BAC, I was more quickly given consistent classes to teach.

I still wasn’t crazy about teaching, but I did manage to enjoy it, and I think I did a good job.

Mind you, I’m not a natural teacher. Not at all. I’m naturally good at doing math — but that makes it a little harder to teach it well. I don’t quite understand how it can seem difficult to people. It’s all so logical and beautiful! I also always, always wrote tests that are way too long.

My favorite student in all my years teaching came about that time. She was a 14-year-old high school student taking Calculus 3, because she’d run out of math classes she could take at her high school. It’s not a surprise she was the best student I ever had at a community college. And she enjoyed Math as much as I did. And when I showed the class some beautiful thing, she thought it was beautiful, too, instead of just thinking I was weird. And sometimes she’d show me some cool mathy thing, and it just made me happy to have her in my class. Because honestly, community college students don’t often take math classes because they love it.

Now, my favorite class to teach was probably Intro Statistics — because that’s practical math. I liked bringing in real world examples that related. That class was usually full of earnest nursing majors who thought they weren’t good at math, but who worked hard at it and usually did quite well. Teaching night classes, I tended to get lots of adult students — and they were great students. But they didn’t necessarily like math.

Anyway, when I went back to teaching 3 weeks after having Tim, I only taught Calculus. And it was getting where I didn’t have to do too much preparation, so it was a real breather and meant more time with my baby. (It was hard on our finances, since I’d taken the summer completely off when I’d planned to work twice as hard. But such is life.)

And what fun to have this sweet baby!

1994_07 7 with Me

Jade, then called Josh, was now 6 and a half years old and was a doting big sibling. In fact, looking back at that year, I remember how I would walk Josh to school with baby Timmy in his stroller. All the little girls also walking to school would stop and coo over the baby. The boys, not so much. But Josh would coo over the baby. I thought it was because this was their baby brother. Anyway, it’s all the more plausible that Jade was a girl all along. Not that a boy can’t be a tender and kind big brother. But if Jade was a girl all along — well, it fits.

Anyway, Josh was a wonderful big sibling.

1994_07 5 Big Sib

1994_07 6 with Josh

1994_08 1 Josh holding

1994_09 2 with Josh

Here I’m reading Josh The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis, at bedtime.

1994_08 2 Reading books

We had lots of visitors that year. I’m resisting posting pictures of every visitor, but you’ll see the ones who brought babies with them. Steve’s parents came early on. My Mom even came, bringing my youngest sister Melanie.

The church ladies at Faith Alliance Church threw me a baby shower, now that I was off bed rest.

1994_08 4 Shower

Josh started 1st grade!

1994_09 1 Josh 1st Grade

That Fall, we went to Carlyle Lake to take family pictures with the pretty trees in the background. The only trouble was, we got there as the sun was going down. But I still like this sequence:

1994_10 1 Carlyle Lake

1994_10 2 Carlyle Lake

1994_10 3 Carlyle Lake

1994_10 5 Carlyle Lake

And now I think I’ll just post pictures of my cute kids. I got a lot of time with my sweet children that year, and that was wonderful.

1994_10 6 Timmy

1994_10 7 Stroller

1994_10 8 Me and Josh

1994_10 9 Hiking

The looks on their faces in this one cracks me up:

1994_10 10 Faces

1994_10 11 Smiling

1994_10 12 Talking with Josh

1994_10 13 with Josh

Here’s Josh blowing dandelions at Scott Lake (just a couple blocks from us on the Air Force base).

1994_10 14 blowing dandelions

And Steve carved a pumpkin with Josh again:

1994_10 20 Halloween

Timmy was a baseball player for Halloween:

1994_10 21 Halloween

The finishing touch was some black paint under each eye:

1994_10 22 Halloween

Josh was a clown again. I loved the way it made his smile enormous and infectious:

1994_10 23 Halloween

Here’s Josh on our back porch with a double rainbow:

1994_11 1 Josh with rainbow

More just nice pictures:

1994_11 2 Cuddling

1994_11 3 Smile

My sister Becky and her family came to see us over Thanksgiving. Timmy had just begun sleeping through the night, so then having visitors meant I still wasn’t feeling real rested. But it was great to see them!

I love this picture of Aunt Becky meeting Timmy!

1994_11 4 Aunt Becky

And lots more pictures with the Friese family:

1994_11 5 Frieses at Science Center

1994_11 6 Me and Becky

1994_11 7 Frieses

1994_11 8 Megan

1994_11 9 Michael

1994_11 10 Jason

1994_11 11 Sillies

1994_12 1 Megan

1994_12 3 Michael and Tim

1994_12 4 Sillies

Timmy’s not smiling quite as big by this time!

1994_12 5 Smothering

Just more pictures of my cuties:

1994_12 2 Me and Tim

1994_12 6 Cuddling

Then came Timmy’s first Christmas:

1994_12 7 Tree

We spent it at Aunt Kay’s in Chicago. She gave Josh a big cuddly sweater from Ireland.

1994_12 8 Aunt Kay

I don’t see any snow pictures from this year. But that makes sense! We didn’t go to California over Christmas, so of course Illinois didn’t get much snow!

More cuteness:

By this time, babies used an “Exersaucer” rather than walkers (like Josh had).

1995_01 1 Saucer

Josh could still fit in Daddy’s tuba case!

1995_01 2 Tuba Case

Timmy got his teeth all out of order, getting outside ones first, and on top. He was still really lopsided.

1995_02 1 Toofies

I think I wrote about this trick when Steve first did it with Josh. Before a baby can walk, they balance nicely on one hand, if you’re strong enough. Steve only did it over the sofa, but the babies didn’t fall.

1995_02 2 Balance

Reading the Little House books at bedtime.

1995_02 3 Books

1995_02 4 Bath

Those eyes!

1995_02 6 Bath

All those baby milestones! Now sitting up:

1995_02 7 Sitting

Josh took this picture!

1995_03 1 Out front

1995_03 2 Out front

1995_03 3 Hugging

And now we learned the charm of letting Chuck E. Cheese do all the work of a birthday party! Josh was 7 years old!

1995_03 4 Chuck E Cheese

We had another celebration at home and made cupcakes to bring to school:

1995_03 5 Birthday

We dressed them up for Easter. So adorable!

1995_04 1 Easter

1995_04 2 Easter

1995_04 3 Easter

1995_04 4 Easter

Timmy was quite round by this time.

1995_04 5 Cuddling

More balancing:

1995_04 6 Balance

1995_04 7 Balance

This one cracks me up because of the book title. When Timmy was born, we told Josh to be gentle with the baby. But we forgot to tell the baby to be gentle with Josh! By this time, Timmy simply loved to jump on Josh. Eventually, we had to tell Josh to defend themselves.

1995_04 8 Monster


1995_04 9 Crawling

Being together!

1995_04 10 Together

1995_04 11 Together

1995_04 12 Playpen

Steve’s parents came, and brought his sister Stephanie — and her new daughter Karli, three months younger than Timmy.

1995_05 1 Gramp E

Karli could do a great Cabbage Patch face!

1995_05 2 Cabbage Patch Karli

With all their grandkids! (Though they got one more, David, a couple years later.)

1995_05 3 Grandkids


1995_05 4 Standing

This picture is fun because he’s playing with a toothbrush.

1995_06 1 Toothbrush

And he did learn to walk before his first birthday.

1995_06 2 Standing

My Dad also came to visit. He has always loved to read to little ones.

1995_06 3 with Dad

And this picture makes me happy.

1995_06 4 with Dad

So I think that’s all I’ll say about that year. Looking back, it was a happy year with my children. Of course, at the time, it wasn’t so simple! There are plenty of difficulties all wrapped up in being a mother of young children. But to this day, I’m so thankful for those children.

Edited to add: I just read through my quiet time journal from that year, and Wow! I had a bad case of postpartum depression. And lots of conflict with Steve. I wondered many times if we would last. And we didn’t talk about the conflict. I talked about it in my journal, but we never did talk it out. I fantasized about leaving so he would appreciate me.

It’s sobering to me — because I didn’t remember that at all until I read the journals. I was overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything and my babies, and didn’t feel like I could do it all. Steve was taking classes at Belleville Area College to get an associates in Computer Science. He was able to get tuition of $2 a credit because of my working there — which made my work more valuable than just the pay.

But now I look at it and see the seeds of resentment between us. We didn’t work those things out. I would always conclude talking about it with something like, “I know Steve really loves me.” It never ever dawned on me that we really would get divorced one day. I was completely committed to marriage, and I thought he was, too. After all, he was a Christian! And divorce is wrong!

But somehow, we never learned to come back together. I do record that I felt bad when Steve volunteered to be on loading crew so he could leave sooner on a 2-week tour. That hurt. I’d been dreading his trip, and he was looking forward to it? Did he want to get away from me? Well, maybe he did, even way back then.

But we still definitely had good times. When we went to Germany in 1996, that brought us together. For awhile.

Looking at it now, I hope it will be different if I ever marry again. How to keep that root of bitterness from growing between us? I think I’ve learned ways to forgive. But it does take two to keep a marriage going, and you have to both want to. Maybe it is not so bad this happened. It seems the roots went further back than I had realized.

Anyway, looking back, I’m glad the joys of that time are what stuck in my mind.

Project 52 – 30 Years Old, and a New Baby! – Part One

January 10th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 30!


30 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 30, June 14, 1994, to June 14, 1995.

As I mentioned last week, I began the year I was 30 pregnant, on bed rest, and on terbutaline trying to slow down frequent early contractions.

But turning 30 is a great occasion for a party, and it was also a wonderful time to see my friends from church who’d been bringing me food. Steve threw me a lovely party and folks came to me.



My calendar says I had some visits the week after my birthday. Rob Dalton, my friend from Lakewood First Baptist, the church I attended in high school, was in town on a business trip and stopped by (since I couldn’t go to him). I remember it was great to see him.

A couple days later, the de Rivera family — our friends from Biola, from Los Angeles, and from Philadelphia — came to see us and spent the night.


June felt a little like I was ensconced in luxury, holding court, with beloved friends coming to me!

But — the next day was another trip to the hospital — and Steve left for a trip with the Brass Quintet to Seattle for a week. I’ve got notes that every day while he was gone, ladies from the church brought me lunch and dinner. My neighbor and church friend Penny took Josh while I was in the hospital that first day. (No more delaying the trip for my contractions! They were too common now.)

I had two more trips to the hospital while Steve was gone. They weren’t overnight, but my notes say those three hospital visits lasted 4, 8, and 6 hours. Typically, they’d hook me up to an IV and give me fluids and IV terbutaline. At least I think that’s what went on. Anyway, they’d hook me up to a monitor, verify that I was having contractions, and give me drugs to try to slow them down. I went in when they were only a few minutes apart.

Okay, Steve got back on July 2nd and did the VP Fair Parade in St. Louis. On the 3rd, I went into the hospital at 8:30 am and was kept overnight. At that time, I was 34 weeks pregnant, so the baby was getting bigger and in less danger. But it was confusing because I was having lots of contractions.

No more hospital visits, just lots of doctor appointments the next week. On July 15, I hit 36 weeks and then on Monday the 18th, they took me off bedrest. My notes after that talk about going shopping and working on bedrooms. I think we moved Josh’s bedroom and got the baby’s room ready.

When I went off bedrest and off the terbutaline, my contractions did keep going. My calendar says I went into Labor and Delivery and sure enough, the contractions were 3 minutes apart. And they sent me home. I wasn’t dilating. So I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to come in. There were times when they were 2 minutes apart, but they weren’t doing anything.

Finally, on July 29, my water broke! No question about it, I went in and this time they didn’t send me back home.

Labor started well enough. Though I was annoyed that they had a policy not to give any drugs at all until you’ve progressed to a certain point. (With Josh, it was after I got drugs that I really started progressing.) Again, this time I progressed better once I had an epidural. But then it was time to push, and I pushed for 2 hours, and it turned out his head was turned to the side and he was stuck.

Steve had a really bad moment, because he saw the doctor get worried, and the baby’s heart rate drop. (I was oblivious.) They called in an OB/Gyn doctor from the next room (my doctor was a family practice doctor) and he used forceps and got the baby out.

For the record, any anesthesia had completely worn off by this time, and they wouldn’t give me more because I was pushing. And let me just say that it HURTS when they use forceps to take a baby out of you.

Oh, the other notable thing about that night was for the pushing part there was a shift change of nurses, and there were only men in the labor and delivery room. (Only in a military hospital would this happen, but they did have lots of male nurses.) At one point when I was pushing, I said, “It hurts!” and trying to be compassionate, a nurse answered, “I know,” and I looked around and saw only men, and I said, “NO you don’t! None of you knows!”

(I don’t know why that struck me so hard at the time, but I ended up leaving on a comment card that you should always have at least one woman in a labor and delivery room!)

But the end result made it all worth it, and on July 29, 1994, Timothy Ronald John Eklund was born!

His poor little face was hurt from the forceps, and that first night one eye was stuck open and one eye stuck closed because of a pinched nerve from the forceps. But those all healed quickly.


I was happy happy happy when the baby was born and that awful labor was done. Steve started crying. He had honestly thought he was going to lose me or lose Timothy.

[A couple months later, I came home from teaching to find Steve crying. He’d been watching E. R. and those manipulative writers had written an episode where a woman dies in childbirth. That was the night Steve told me that he’d been afraid he would lose me or lose Timmy. That was when he told me that he’d seen that the doctor was afraid. And this is how I know, beyond any doubt, that at that point in our marriage, my husband still loved me deeply.

That’s also when Steve decided that he didn’t ever want me to get pregnant again. I checked with the doctor, and though it was likely that I’d have to go on bedrest again if I were ever pregnant, the turned head and forceps delivery was just a fluke that probably wouldn’t happen again. But still, it was an awful scare for Steve, and he didn’t want to go through that again.]

By the next day, Timmy was already looking better.



Ready to go home! Newborns in a car seat always look so small!


And — my cordless mouse just quit working. And I can’t seem to fix it. And I really don’t enjoy using the trackpad on my laptop, especially when trying to manipulate pictures. So — I’m going to call this post Part One and try to finish talking about the year I was 30 later in the week.

Project 52 – 29 – Baby’s Coming!

January 4th, 2017

It’s time for Project 52, Week 29!


29 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 29, June 14, 1993, to June 14, 1994.

Coincidentally, the day I’m writing this is also the 30th anniversary of the day I got married. In case you’re wondering, when I was 29, our marriage was still going strong, and I had no reason to think that would ever change. I see by my 1993 calendar that on June 19, our friends the Keaheys watched Josh while Steve and I went on a date! We saw the movie “Dave” — still one of my favorite movies.

The year before had been surprisingly stable, as I mentioned last week. Stable enough, that I started hankering for a baby. A baby when we felt ready for one! But come on, I was almost thirty — we didn’t want to wait too long! My thinking was that if I had the baby at the start of summer, I could take the summer semester off, and teach fall and spring….

That summer, I was teaching Calculus 3 6:00 to 10:00 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Well, look at that! Now that I found old calendars, I realize that I dated some pictures incorrectly. Although we did go to Wisconsin and see Grandma Eklund shortly after we moved to Illinois, the big Eklund Family Reunion happened in July 1993. So the pictures I posted of that in Year 27 were in the wrong place, and that’s why Josh looked bigger!

My calendar shows we were busy, busy. Josh was taking piano lessons. I was doing things with friends, mostly from church. Oh look — I wrote down that was when we finished reading Runaway Ralph to Josh. We had transitioned from three books at bedtime to three chapters at bedtime. I think we usually traded nights between Steve and me, but we read different books. I think that was about the time that Steve read the Little House books all to Josh.

In early August, we visited Aunt Kay in Chicago again.


We also visited Jody and Craig Sunken, friends from New Jersey who were now living in Chicago.


We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo.


And we stopped to see the Rauseos, too.


I don’t remember the occasion, but the next week, Kathe came to visit! And let’s see — by that time she was expecting her firstborn, who would be named Tim. I ended up choosing the same name for my next child (They were six months apart.) But that wouldn’t matter — It wasn’t like they’d ever live near each other!

It looks like Animal Concentration was something we played with guests at that time!


Hmmm. Kathe brought Josh a book with a dog named Tim in it.


And we took Kathe to the St. Louis Science Center. Have I raved about the Science Center yet? I so loved that St. Louis had a fabulous Science Center and a fabulous Zoo — and they were both free! So we could drive to St. Louis and spend a couple hours and see cool things — and we didn’t have to feel like we had to spend the whole day to get our money’s worth. It’s such a wonderful concept. (Hmmm. Now the Smithsonian’s available, but I don’t go there as often. Though to be fair, the Smithsonian is much harder to get to and doesn’t have free parking.)



And that Fall, Josh started Kindergarten! I walked with them to school and back through the base and past a cornfield. It was half-day Kindergarten. Their teacher was Mrs. Schieppe. She was wonderful.


Also that Fall, I began coaching the church’s Quiz Team! It was all about memorization. The kids memorized I Corinthians and II Corinthians and the quiz questions were taken straight from Scripture. I have long been a believer in Bible memorization — It does you good in spite of yourself! So I agreed to coach the Quiz team. We’d go on trips about once a month to other churches in Illinois to compete.

Here are the kids on the team:


Here’s a sweater I knitted for a friend’s baby:


And that explains it! That picture I posted of the first sweater I knitted for Josh was in the wrong year. (It was on the roll with the Wisconsin Reunion.)


So it really was after cross-stitching a blanket for Megan that I realized how much nicer it would be to knit things instead of cross stitch. Because you wouldn’t have to frame the results. It turns out it’s also much easier to do while you’re doing something else — like watching a video or reading to your kid (when they hold the book). With knitting, you don’t have to look as carefully at where you put your needles. I never looked back.

Fall semester, I was teaching Calculus 3 and Intro Statistics, both on Monday/Wednesday nights. Still busy, busy.

One thing I loved about our base housing in Illinois was the sweet gum tree out our window. That meant we had to rake leaves.

And that meant time with an exuberant 5-year-old.













Josh dressed up on Halloween as a clown again. Halloween was Sunday, so base trick-or-treating was on Saturday. Our church had an alternative to Halloween party, but since that was on Sunday, we went to both! Josh won the costume contest with their great big grin.



I wrote a Josh quote on my calendar on that Saturday. “This is the best day of my life. But then, I’ve only lived 5 years, but hey…”



Shortly after Halloween, a sad thing happened. On Wednesday, November 3rd, Steve left for a trip to March Air Force Base in California. He took our camera with him, since they were going to stop at the Grand Canyon.

Now, the college where I taught, Belleville Area College, had a “Kids’ Club” that students and teachers could use. Now that Josh was in Kindergarten, they were old enough to go to Kids’ Club, and I didn’t have to find a babysitter when Steve was out of town.

But that night, when I finished teaching at 10:00 pm, I was going up the stairs in our apartment holding my books and hurrying Josh along. I think I was holding one of Josh’s hands. I know I was anxious to get both of us into bed, since Josh had school the next day.

And Josh tripped — and hit their face on a step — and cut their face open right below their eye.

We went to the Emergency Room, and Josh got 8 stitches. (It reminded me of when I got stitches when I was in Kindergarten. Oh, looks like I didn’t write about that in the Kindergarten post.) Josh was a great sport and held still when told. They fell asleep while the stitches happened. I was something of a wreck.

Naturally, this happened on the very day Steve had left for a 10-day trip! And Steve had taken the camera, so no pictures of Josh’s impressive black eye.

Here’s how it looked months later:


The next day I let Josh sleep late, and they made a dramatic entrance to Kindergarten.

Some time that Fall, we had another fire next door! It was a Saturday, and we were sleeping late. I heard some noise outside, and looked out and saw a fireman all in his gear — in our backyard! When we went outside, they were putting out a fire in the downstairs apartment on the other side of our building! (We were on the top right as you look at the building. This was the one on the bottom left.) They hadn’t thought anyone else was home! I was pretty mad they hadn’t gotten us out!

Since they were planning to build new base housing, they just left the burned apartment and the one above it empty. They probably didn’t require them to clean at all, so after they moved out, we had two empty and not clean apartments next to us.

That year, we went to Aunt Kay’s for Thanksgiving again.



And — that was the year I met my Uncle Duane’s family. Uncle Duane was the only one of my Dad’s siblings who didn’t live on the west coast, but in Rockford, Illinois.

Here are Uncle Duane and Aunt Vanie:


Here I am with my cousins Karen (bottom left) and Terry (top right):


And here are our kids:


I thought this one was funny because their heads all look alike!


Josh was still taking piano classes and had a recital in December.


The teacher had the kids doing songs together with drumsticks and rhythm. She explained to us how to make a Christmas tree costume for the recital. It was cute!


Here’s Josh performing:


For Christmas that year, we drove out to Phoenix, stopping in Colorado Springs to see Sam Powell, our friend from Biola, and his kids:


We went to Four Corners:


And saw the Grand Canyon:


We saw Gram E and Gramp E in Phoenix, and that was the Christmas when we told them that we were expecting a baby in August! (Remember how I thought I’d have a baby at the start of the summer? Well, we managed to hit a due date of August 12. That was right in between summer and fall semesters. Why not? I’d teach both semesters!)


And went to California. Here’s Baby Megan (Becky’s third child) and Dave at the Hatch house:


We spent some time at a park by the sea with the Friese family:






We got to Ruth’s house again. Jennifer and Susan met us there. I’m pretty sure that Jennifer was expecting her first, Carl John, at that time.


We went to Disneyland again. This year, Ruth and John went with us.


Josh was now old enough to pose for pictures when they hugged the characters they loved so much.






More time with the Frieses:




I like this one of the three kids playing Monopoly. You thought Josh was precocious playing Monopoly at 4 years old? Take a look at Michael here!


Here’s Megan being adorable again:


And then….


And the whole Friese family!


So we had a wonderful trip. Back home, we did get a few snow days that year.


I have a note that on January 25, I heard the baby’s heartbeat!

I like this picture. I was a member of Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club, and I suspect I took this picture when we had just received The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, by Eugene Trivizias. I laughed so hard! It’s still one of my favorite picture books.


And a little bit late, I finished knitting a blanket for Kathe’s baby, Timothy. Kathe prefers natural fibers, so I chose a cotton yarn. And it was so soft to knit, that got me started on my own run of knitting with cotton.


On Josh’s 6th Birthday in March, I still hadn’t discovered the wonders of letting Chuck E. Cheese do all the work. We had a party at our house.


The little girl on the right in the cat costume in the picture below was quite a talker, and didn’t like anyone to top her. When Josh told them all that on the next birthday in our family, his Mom would be THIRTY, that sweet little girl said, “Well, MY Mom’s going to be EIGHTY!”

What really cracked me up about that was the other kids, including Josh, all bought it! They looked very impressed. The girl’s mother actually looked to be about twenty.



Steve’s Mom always sent us an egg-coloring kit at Easter. Steve, who had more patience for such things, was usually the one who colored eggs with Josh.


So — Things were going according to plan. I was teaching Calculus III and Statistics again, two nights per week. I took Josh to Kids’ Club when Steve was on trips. I didn’t lose my headaches for that pregnancy, but everything was going pretty smoothly.

On May 10, we saw an Annular Solar Eclipse. We took Josh out of Kindergarten early. It was a bright sunny day, and we got a great view of it, with special viewers. I thought it was really cool the way the shadows of leaves all had little bites taken out of them.

On May 11, we went to Chuck E. Cheese. (I have no idea why. Maybe that’s what sent me over the edge.)

On May 12, I gave my Final Exams. Ready for about 3 weeks off, then I’d teach a full load for summer school — two classes, essentially full time (8 hours teaching per week). That way I could afford to take a half load in the fall after the baby was born.

On May 13, I went on an overnight trip with the Quiz Team.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but somewhere along the way, I learned that Monosodium Glutamate, MSG, gave me awful stomach cramps. Back in my college days, I’d finally figured out that MSG was why I always got a headache after having canned soup or a frozen meat pie. But by this time, I got bad stomach cramps.

Now, I never intentionally ate it, but there was usually something suspect when I had this problem. My mother-in-law liked to use cream of mushroom soup in casseroles, and that could do it, for example.

Well, we had a potluck meal for lunch on Saturday May 14, where the Quiz Meet was happening. Perhaps that was the problem. But anyway, we stopped at McDonalds on the way home. It also may have been the vanilla shake I drank — but after we’d eaten, when we were almost ready to go, I had to duck into the bathroom with awful stomach cramps.

The other Mom who was on the trip with me was a nurse. She said you could tell if they’re contractions if your stomach gets hard. Hmmm. It felt pretty hard to me.

Well, by the time I got home, I just wanted to go to bed. Steve told me that Josh had a really bad mosquito bite, and had had a fever at bedtime.

In the morning, I took one look at Josh — they were covered with spots. Definitely chicken pox!

And I still had stomach cramps. I called the hospital. They said the only way to tell if it was contractions or not was to come in and have them put on a monitor. It was contractions. I was at 29 weeks.

That was Sunday. Steve was supposed to leave that day for a trip with the brass quintet to Chicago for a week. They waited to leave until the hospital had gotten my contractions to slow down. I was supposed to go home and take it easy.

I woke up that night at 2 am with contractions 2 minutes apart.

And — remember how we had two vacant apartments on the other side of a wall? Well, that night I discovered that we had giant cockroaches. My scream woke up Josh.

Now — remember, Josh has chicken pox. It’s the middle of the night. Two church families have said they’d take Josh if I had to go to the hospital again. The family across the street had not had chicken pox, but the mom insisted that she wanted her kids to get it while they were young. I hadn’t meant to ask her, thinking I’d go with the family who lived 20 minutes away and had had chicken pox before.

I managed to stall until almost 5 am, but then I called the hospital. They said I should get there as quickly as possible. So I panicked and took Josh to the neighbor across the street. (It was SO nice of her to volunteer! I don’t think her kids did end up getting chicken pox from it.)

So — they admitted me and tried to get the contractions to stop. Steve’s work was nice. After he played the National Anthem at a Cubs game that day, they brought another tuba player off his vacation and Steve got to come home. And they let Steve take care of Josh all week while I was in the hospital the next five days.

Of course, they couldn’t visit me, because Josh had a really bad case, with spots in their mouth and their ears.


I must have graded my papers in the hospital. Remember how the Final was the day before the Quiz trip? At first, I still hoped to teach that summer — but it was not to be. I got put on bed rest and told to take Terbutaline (to stop contractions) every 4 hours around the clock.

My church really stepped up. People brought us food twice a week. I got a whole lot more time with Josh than I would have gotten that summer if I’d been teaching full time.

It would have been just lovely — ordered not to do housework, able to do nothing but lie around and read and write — if I hadn’t been worried about the Baby. Though they assured me that he would probably survive if born that early, but we were trying to keep him inside as long as we could.

I had a couple more overnights in the hospital. One happened when I slept through my alarm and missed my terbutaline dose. I really was having contractions that whole time. After awhile, Steve started joking that if I was admitted a dozen times, I should get a free t-shirt.

Oh, I should have mentioned that the first, five-day hospital stay, I stopped any caffeine, because the contractions scared me — so naturally I got a vicious migraine. And then they started doing construction with a jackhammer outside my room! (I’m not making that up.)

But Steve was wonderful, taking care of me, taking care of Josh. Later, when I was closer to delivery, I told Steve that people were really saying they admired how I’d handled the bed rest. He said, “It’s a dream come true for you!” And he was absolutely right. Again: Ordered not to do any housework. People bring you meals. All I could do was lie around and read and write and play with Josh. (I did get tired of the Sonic the Hedgehog song.) No, it was all much, much harder on Steve than on me.

And — my 30th birthday was coming up! I couldn’t possibly be surprised, but since I hadn’t been able to go out and see people for a month, Steve threw me a party, and people came to me.


And more about that next week!

Project 52 – 28 – Some Stability?

December 28th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 28!


28 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week this year I’m blogging about one year of my life. This week I’m taking the year I was 28 — June 14, 1992 to June 14, 1993.

Last week, I wrote about the year I was 27, when we moved from New Jersey to Illinois.

Thinking about this year, I thought, “Wow! That year, for the first time in our adult lives, we weren’t going to school, didn’t have a major move, and didn’t change our family size.” But I almost forgot that we did have a minor move — we moved on base from a duplex in Swansea to base housing on Scott Air Force Base.


I don’t remember if there was just a year waiting list or if we had to wait until Steve was a Staff Sergeant — but we moved on base in August 1992. But we didn’t have to change friends or jobs, so I don’t even remember much about that move. Basically, it was a year of settling in and feeling at home in Illinois.

Now I have both a calendar and the old pictures to work from. Don’t comment on my amazing memory — I wrote a lot on my calendar!

It looks like I was teaching a summer school Calculus 3 class — 6:00 to 10:00 pm, two nights a week, from June 8 to July 29. (So we moved during the break between classes.) Steve mostly watched Josh when I was teaching, but I see from the calendar that we’d found a teenage daughter of another band member to watch Josh when Steve was out of town.

Josh at 4 years old was still so imaginative. Still talking a lot about “the Joshua Costume” that “visitors” would wear.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “the Joshua Costume” this week. In so many ways, it’s a metaphor for being transgender. The way it started was when Josh was pretending to be some other character and told me I was calling them by the wrong name. I said, “But you look like Joshua!” So Josh explained that there was a Joshua Costume they were wearing, but who they really were was this other character. (Maybe Piglet? Maybe Leonardo or Rafael?)

Well, when Jade was 27, she told me that who she really was, all along, was Jade. I realize that I hadn’t known the right name to call her because she was wearing the Joshua Costume. It fit perfectly and grew over time, but the only way I know who’s really in there is if they tell me.

I see that in June we were already playing Monopoly with Josh. This might have been actual Monopoly, since I saw notes for Monopoly Jr. earlier. I still say that board games are the best way to learn math skills! I do remember that Josh was pretty amazing playing with the large-denomination Monopoly money before they even started Kindergarten, so that would put it right about this time.

We still took lots of trips to Chicago to see Aunt Kay and get Steve a tuba lesson with Tommy Johnson. In June in Chicago we saw an outdoor production of “The Mikado” in Grant Park.

At the start of July, I stayed behind to teach, but Steve, Josh, and Steve’s parents and sister went to Wisconsin to see Eklund relatives.


This picture was still in Swansea — making “Oobleck” — cornstarch and water to play with.


And Josh was really reading by this time.


Ooo! I wrote down more Josh quotes in my calendar. On August 8th, apparently I’d been talking with Josh about hours and minutes. I asked Josh, “How do you know that 30 and 30 is 60?”
Josh: “Because 3 and 3 is 6!”

And look at that! On August 16, I wrote that I “typed story with Josh.” That was the start of a fun tradition. I had my typewriter out, because I was trying to do some writing. Well, Josh wanted to write a story. I tried to gently point them toward a plot. But we started with a character who liked to do something. I still remember how that first story went: “Record the baby kitten loved to jump. He jumped and jumped day and night without stopping!”

I tried to guide Josh by asking what Record wanted, what his problem was — and Record took his owner’s address book, and accidentally threw it to the top of Mount Everest! So he had to jump up there and get it! (Josh’s eyes had fallen on my address book in a slot high on the wall on a key caddy.)

So began a tradition of typing out stories. And then, since Josh could read, he had a great time reading them. Steve also started taking dictation. He didn’t try as hard to keep Josh focused. The stories developed themes and motifs (like looking at the sun and screaming). Really fun.

The last week in August, I started my Fall semester of classes, teaching Calculus 3 on Monday Wednesday nights for 2 hours each night, and Trigonometry on Tuesday nights for 3 hours each night.

Shortly after that, Josh started going to Kinder Preschool two afternoons a week. Just enough to do a little social interaction. I remember I told the teachers he could read. Then a few months later they said to me, “He can read!” Um, yeah, that’s what I said.

It looks like on September 1st, we bought our first pet — Bluefish (named by Josh), a fish for Josh that was blue.

We drove out to Carlyle Lake for some hiking.




I loved the sweet gum trees out our windows at Scott AFB. Of course, living on base, we had to rake up the leaves.





We used the costume Gram E had made for the Kinder Preschool Halloween party.





And a Jack-o-Lantern costume for Halloween night.


For our long weekend on Columbus Day, we went to Shawnee National Forest and the Little Grand Canyon Trail.




Then at the end of October, we explored Illinois some more. Since I taught Monday through Wednesday, one Thursday Josh and I drove up to Quincy, Illinois, to see Steve finish up a tour with the band. We got to bring Steve home with us and went back by way of Hannibal, Missouri, and looked at Mark Twain Cave.

Meanwhile, I was attending a weekly Ladies’ Bible Study on Thursday mornings and starting to walk around the base regularly at night with a friend named Dian Lewallen (from church).

We kept making trips to Chicago, and in November we visited the Planetarium (picture at the top) and visited the Rauseos, who we’d known first in California, then visited in Maryland, and now had moved to Wheaton, Illinois, where Steve Rauseo was teaching at Wheaton College.


More 4-year-old Josh quotes!

On Steve’s birthday, November 30:
Me: “It’s a good thing Daddy was born, or you wouldn’t have been born.”
Josh: “… It really takes mothers to have children…”


On December 6:
Me: “But tickling you is such fun!”
Josh: “It’s boring for me. And discouraging.”
(Well, then.)

And the year before we’d stayed in Illinois to try to get a white Christmas? This year, our relatives wouldn’t let us stay away, so we drove out to Arizona and California. (And, yes, they got the most snowfall of the entire winter while we were gone.)

Pictures from our trip:

We went to Disneyland with the Frieses:

This picture feels typical. Josh is hugging the character, while Jason’s having a conversation with him.



We were spending our nights at Becky & Dave’s house, and went to the beach with them.




Christmas Day, the entire Hatch family was there, so we had to take pictures.

Here we are, from oldest to youngest. Rick, Becky, Sondy, Wendy, Randy, Ron, Jeff, Nathan, Abby, Peter, Robert, Marcy, and Melanie:


Then we added in Mom and Dad:


Then we included spouses (Dave and Steve) and grandkids (Jason, Josh, and Michael).


Josh with their six-weeks-younger Aunt Melanie:


And here’s our family:


Inside, Josh played piano with Aunt Linda (who taught me piano once upon a time).


And this is fun. Those stories we’d typed that Josh wrote? We assembled them in a notebook, and then Josh read them to the crowd on our trip, to great acclaim. Everyone enjoyed the 4-year-old logic involved.


We went to church that Sunday at Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles, where we were married. We saw our friends Claudia and Fernando afterward, with their kids Luis and Antonio, who was one month older than Josh.


And Darlene was in California for Christmas, too! We gathered at Ruth’s house, with another high school friend, Jennifer Ferber.


Here’s the obligatory picture showing how TALL we are:


Our family:


Ruth and John with Josh:


And here’s typical Ruth. Which one’s the kid, again?


Of course we also spent time in Phoenix with Gram E. and Gramp E.:




And we drove through Dallas on our way there and back and saw my Biola roommate Coral and her husband Jo and daughter Sophia.


When we got back, classes began on January 14th. A cool thing happened that semester. My last semester’s Calculus 3 students had specifically asked that I teach their next class, Differential Equations. It was a small class — 7 students — but they already knew and liked me. It felt so good to be requested. I also greatly preferred teaching such a small class. It never felt like I was getting up in front of a big group. That semester I taught Calculus 3 again from 8 to 10 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Differential Equations on Tuesdays from 7 to 10.

Now, since I was part-time, the only way I got a paid day off work was if it snowed. In February, I finally got two snow days on the 15th and 16th, with 5 inches of snow.

This one’s on our back porch.


There was a great place to go sledding at the other end of Scott Lake.





We got another snow day February 25. That day I typed and mailed a story for publication. (It was never accepted. But I see I was doing it. And it was a much longer process then.)

I believe this was a Calvin & Hobbes inspired snowman.



Josh turned 5 in March. Church kids and a band kid came to the party. (The band kid also went to Josh’s preschool.)



We still read books at bedtime. In this picture, they’re reading Where the Wild Things Are, of course!


And my first niece, Megan Michelle Friese, was born in April that year. I cross-stitched a blanket for her. The way I remembered it, cross-stitching this blanket and not having to frame it was the thing that got me started knitting. But I found a picture of the first thing I’d knitted in last week’s post. So maybe it was having knitted and not framed things that got me to cross-stitch a blanket instead of a picture.


Stephanie came to visit in May. This picture was taken at Cahokia Mounds.


I suspect this picture shows that we’d been playing Animal Concentration.


And that was about it for the year I was 28! We were busy and happy. We had an adorable 4-year-old, attending preschool and taking piano lessons, reading and playing games. We had a nice circle of friends from church and/or from the band. We got to visit long-time friends. I was teaching night classes and working on my writing and being a Mom. I was still getting lots of headaches, but visiting the Headache Treatment Center in St. Louis and trying different preventatives without much luck at that point. Steve was doing lots of tours with the band, but we still often went to concerts to hear them.

But mostly, yes, that year was about my sweet, bright, intelligent, always learning, always observing 4-year-old. I had always wanted to stay home with my kids. At least I got to spend the days with Josh. And that was a lovely time. When I think of time with Josh that year, I always picture them with a smile. Even though I still wasn’t crazy about teaching math to a bunch of people who didn’t necessarily want to learn it (the Diffy Q class being an exception) — getting to teach night classes gave me more time with my kid, and that was such a gift.

Christmas Letter 2016

December 26th, 2016

Merry Christmas, and Joy to you this holiday season!

This year was about making the Nest feel like Home, even as the last fledgling took flight.


My daughter Jade and my son Tim are now both in the Portland area, and I have a new favorite place to visit. Tim moved in August and now has a contractor job with Intel. My four youngest siblings still live in the area there, and now so do my four youngest nieces. They are adorable!

My turning point of the year came in July when I had an opportunity to interview for a Youth Services Manager position at Eugene Public Library in Oregon. I didn’t get the job, but the experience of thinking through who I am and what I do best gave me new excitement about my life and calling here. And I had a fabulous vacation while figuring that out.


At the end of July, the Hatch family gathered in California for my niece Megan’s wedding, so I saw California family, too. My Mom, with her Alzheimer’s, is doing worse each time I see her, but she still perked up when she saw her baby granddaughter Zoe being happy and sweet. My Dad continues to model faithful, devoted love as he cares for her.


I am enjoying my job as Youth Services Manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library more and more all the time. We are trying out some creative STEM programming (like a Star Wars Escape Room program last week), as well as increasing story times, and I get to talk about good books!

I’m especially excited that this year I’m on the ballot to be on the 2019 Newbery Committee and help choose the most distinguished American children’s book of the year written in 2018. Voting for committee membership is in March, and you can be sure it will be the major topic of next year’s Christmas letter if I am elected.

Meanwhile, I’m practicing by being a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction, as well as continuing to take part in Capitol Choices – a DC-area group that meets monthly to discuss new children’s books and select 100 of the best books of the year. I took a personal reading retreat in October to Chincoteague Island, which was so wonderful, I’m going to look for more reasons to do this in the future.


Gateway Community Church is still the core of why I love living here. We’re building our Community Resource Center, to open in August 2017. I’m still hosting a small group in my home every Sunday after church, and we’ve been talking about Joy this last quarter. I’m helping collect books for the church’s new preschool and after-Kindergarten programs, so I’m glad to serve with my particular skills.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season,

Sondy Eklund

10. Walking in deep snow after a BLIZZARD! (The one we had this year was awesome!)
9. Walking by my lake any time of year.
8. Taking pictures of birds and flowers and autumn leaves.
7. Reading to small children while doing my awesome job.
6. Being asked, “What should I read next?”
5. Attending Capitol Choices and discussing new children’s books with my people.
4. Showing DC to visitors (like my sister Becky!).
3. Playing Eurogames like Dominion every week with friends.
2. Hosting my church small group at my house.
1. Being surrounded and loved and encouraged by a crowd of wonderful friends.










Project 52 – 27 – Moving to Illinois

December 21st, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 27!


27 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week this year I’m blogging about one year of my life. This week I’m taking the year I was 27 — June 14, 1991 to June 14, 1992.

Last week, I covered the year I was 26 and we lived in New Jersey after Steve joined the Air Force Band. I did love New Jersey and all the pine trees and greenery — but the very next summer, we had to move.

What happened was military budget cuts. And they decided to reduce the number of field bands. The band at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, even though it served the largest population area of any field band (including New York City) — was one of the bands chosen to be cut.

All the band members being cut were given an opportunity to list their preferences of where they’d like to be stationed next. Overseas wasn’t an option at that time. Of the bands that were left (Alas! the band in Washington State was being cut.), I most wanted to move to Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts. But we were still in a very bad place financially, and of course I would lose my job when we moved. So we opted for a place where the cost of living would be lower, Scott AFB in southern Illinois, across the river from St. Louis.

Before we moved, we made sure to enjoy the East Coast. We took our summer vacation to visit Steve’s Uncle John, who lived outside of Boston.

This is overlooking the Hudson River, on our way up to Boston:


In Boston:


And our favorite thing about Boston was visiting the Boston Public Garden, the site of the beloved book Make Way for Ducklings. We got a real thrill out of riding an actual Swan Boat.


But best of all were the statues of Mrs. Mallard followed by Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack! I taped this picture into our copy of the book:


Here is Josh with two of Steve’s young cousins:


And another two cousins:


(Again, Josh last year in 2015 changed her name to Jade and informed me that she was female all along. I will use the name we knew her by at the time, Josh — but will use the pronoun “they” to refer to her when talking about the past when we didn’t know she was female.)

Here’s Josh with our next door neighbor, Philip, enjoying some Discovery Toy instruments in a parade:


Six Flags Great Adventure was right near us in New Jersey, and we went a couple times that summer. I was thrilled to have an amusement park so close by.

Here’s when I told Josh that they wouldn’t get very wet on a ride. They didn’t really trust me after that about whether a ride would be fun.


I was amazed by all the trees, even in the park. Six Flags Magic Mountain didn’t look anything like this from above.


And Josh still loved all the characters. Most of the pictures just show Josh from the back with their arms around the character. It was hard to get them to turn and smile for the camera when someone so soft to hug was around.


Doug Moore, the pastor from California who married us, came out with his family and visited us and the deRiveras. We met them in Philadelphia. Here is Josh with Chrissy Moore in the Ben Franklin House.


And we made another trip to DC before we left. For awhile, Steve’s long-time friend Bob Bauman and his wife Stephanie were in DC. We met them at the National Cathedral.


That trip, we got more time with the Rauseos. Here’s at a park near their home in Maryland.


I was thinking about friends today. We only lived in New Jersey a bit less than a year and a half. We didn’t make many lasting friends. Once Audrey and Tom moved close by, that was a lifeline, but they were still 45 minutes and a toll bridge away. Part of the problem was that we never did find a church home. We attended Audrey and Tom’s church — but that was too far away to really feel a part of it.

At 52 years old, I’ve lived a lot of different places. How do I make friends? In some places, I feel like I strike it rich. Other places, it’s harder. In Virginia, now, I had a head start since Kathe and Darlene, two lifelong friends, were already here.

Yes, I usually find my main core group of friends at church. When I was teaching, I couldn’t find them at work, since I didn’t see other teachers, and students aren’t there to be your friend. Other band spouses is a good potential group, and that’s where I made my one lasting friend from that year in New Jersey.

Here’s Josh with Jody and Craig Sunken (now Jody Green). Jody was another band wife, and she and I bonded over books. We each signed each other up for Book-of-the-Month Club to get free books and talked about books. She was great with Josh, too.


And I got a short story published! I remember that the acceptance notice came on my birthday in New Jersey. It was on my 27th birthday, and I remember that I was sitting on the front stoop in Browns Mills when I opened the mail and read the amazing news.

I had taken a Children’s Writers’ Institute course and wrote this short story for that. It was accepted by Highlights for Children, and they ended up printing it in an anthology rather than their magazine. After that I started working on a book, but had trouble actually finishing it. I still wanted to be a writer, but it was hard to get around to writing when what I needed to do in my spare time was grade papers.

Another thing I remember happened in New Jersey was the day Josh walked into the room, and I said, “Hi Josh!”

The answer came in a high, squeaky voice, “My name is Piglet!”

And so Josh’s pretending began. (Interesting to me is that the first character my second-born pretended to be was also Piglet. You can tell I love Winnie-the-Pooh.)

Josh went days claiming to be one character or other. I remember many times it was one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo being the favorite. (Alas! I couldn’t keep them on Winnie-the-Pooh characters!)

One day, when Josh scolded me for using the wrong name, I said, “But you look like Joshua!”

And so the Joshua Costume was revealed.

Joshua explained that they were wearing a “Joshua Costume.” That was why they looked like Joshua, even though it was really someone else. (Hmmm. Is there a metaphor here for transgender folks?) We started calling them “The Visitors.” When a Visitor came, they wore the Joshua Costume. The Visitors tried to keep Mommy informed about who was wearing the Joshua Costume so that she’d call them by the correct name.

This went on for at least a couple years.

Right before we left New Jersey, Jessica deRivera was born. Here are Audrey and Jessica on our last visit to see them.


We took a scenic route on our trip to Illinois. We began by heading north to visit Liverpool again, where Steve had grown up.

We met his childhood friend Doug Rougeux at a lake near Liverpool:


This time, we got to see Doug perform his Bubble Show at a library, where he talked about Bubbleology.


By this time, Josh had a lot of books memorized.


Next stop was Niagara Falls. Then we went through Ohio and visited the Ericksons, friends of Steve’s family. And yes, our Honda Civic continued to die in every major city in America. When it would die (while going 55 mph), we would wait ten minutes by the side of the road, and then it would start again. Mechanics still couldn’t figure it out.

But here’s Niagara Falls:



We took the “Maid of the Mist” boat to the foot of the Falls.



But we finally made it to Illinois. And on a lovely day soon after we arrived, we visited the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.







This was August, by the way. Don’t ask me how we got such nice weather.

Scott AFB, like McGuire AFB, didn’t allow low-ranking folks to live on base. Either that, or you had to wait a year. (But I think it was when Steve made Staff Sergeant a year later that we were allowed to live on base.)

We found a nice duplex in Swansea, Illinois. Here are Steve and Josh in the back yard.


Now that we were in the Midwest, Steve’s parents came and drove with us to an Eklund Family Reunion in Wisconsin, where Steve’s Dad’s Mother lived. Here are four generations of Eklunds:


We stayed in a campground in Wisconsin with Steve’s Dad’s siblings and their families. We did some boating, and Josh enjoyed the young cousins.

Here are the Eklund siblings with their mother:


And antics in the campground:





It amused me a little bit that the Eklunds thought theirs was a big family. But I very much enjoyed getting to know the extended family. (It was a lot easier to get to know people than in a truly large family.) They always made me feel very much a part of the family, and it was a fun group.

Back in Swansea, here’s Gramp E. enjoying Josh.


And that was the year I learned to knit! We found Josh a piano class for 3-year-olds. It met in a small shopping center, right above a craft store, and I bought a Learn to Knit Book.

I’d tried to learn when I was a kid and my Grandma tried to teach me — with no success. But this time, something clicked.

Partly why I wanted to take up knitting was that sometime around this time, I cross-stitched a baby blanket for my new niece Megan, Becky’s third child. The cross stitching was a pain — You have to look at what you’re doing. But I loved making a blanket, because I didn’t have to frame it! That was always where I got stuck. I never got around to framing anything. So — I learned to knit. The first thing I tried to make did not turn out at all. But the second thing was this sweater for Josh.



And — I got a job shortly after we moved to Illinois! I applied to teach math at Belleville Area College — and barely found our phone in the moving boxes in time to receive the call offering me a job for Fall semester.

I continued to teach there all the years we lived in Illinois, usually two classes per semester, each class two nights a week.

Oh, what fun! That prompted me to dig in my box of calendars, and I just found my 1991 Calendar.

Look at that. Moving Day was August 13, 1991 — must be the day the movers brought our stuff. The same day says, “Got a job!” Only a week later, Steve went on a Band trip to the Azores.

That first semester, I taught two Trigonometry classes. One was on base, and the other at Belleville Area College. Both were three hours a week, just one night a week. I later increased my teaching load to four nights a week.

The Wisconsin trip was the first week of September, in between classes. (I taught the Wednesday before we left, then the Tuesday after we got back.)

My calendar says we were visiting different churches each week. We finally settled in to Faith Alliance Church on October 20. John and Sandra Morris from the band invited us.

The band at Scott AFB had a lot more families. A lot of people were new there, because of the band budget cuts, so it was easier to make friends. We did settle in fairly quickly, and of course it helped once we found a church.

My calendar reminds me that I was still having lots of headaches — but I started a Headache Treatment Program at St. Louis University that Fall. They taught me biofeedback techniques to relax — which would help reduce the severity of the headaches. I also started trying different preventatives.

Here are more pictures just having fun in Swansea:



Steve was the pumpkin carver in the household. This year they made a pumpkin to look like Pippo (a stuffed monkey), from one of our favorite series of books by Helen Oxenbury.


And on November 6th, it SNOWED!


For Thanksgiving, Steve’s Mom persuaded us to go to Chicago and visit Steve’s Mom’s long-time friend, Aunt Kay. We did, and were welcomed warmly.


Aunt Kay gave Josh a stuffed raccoon which they named Tick.


The year before remember how we missed the snow in New Jersey because the only significant snow that fell was while we were in California and Arizona for Christmas? In 1991, I insisted that we would stay home in Illinois, in order to get a white Christmas. Then not a flake fell during the time we would have been gone in the two weeks around Christmas!

Stephanie came to visit us in early December.


Oh, this is fun. There are some cute Josh quotes sprinkled throughout my calendar. In August, Josh was trying to say, “Sinister Sam,” but said, “Mr. Sim, Mr. Sam.” And this one perhaps foretold future proclamations. On September 13, Joshua said, “Some day I will be God.”

In 1992 was when Josh told us that someday when they got married, they would marry a blue woman. Where would they find a blue woman? In Alaska.

Oh, I like this one. I now think that I’m a year early on when Josh learned to read. Because the quote is, “Look what it says.. Morf, Morf, Morf, Morf.” In parentheses, I explain, (The word was from.)

In 1992, I began teaching four nights a week, with Intro Statistics on Monday/Wednesday nights and Calculus III on Tuesday/Thursday nights. Since I was part-time adjunct faculty, the only way I got a paid day off was if it snowed. It finally did, I see by my calendar, on February 12. We made a snowman.



Oh, here’s a fun conversation I wrote down in February!

We were talking about puppies, and I said “I’d rather have a baby.”
Josh: “I know where babies come from.”
Me: !!!
Josh: “They make babies with a machine.”
Me: “Do you think they made you with a machine?”
Josh: “No, but all the babies we don’t know were made in a machine.”
Me: “Where is this machine?”
Josh: “In a factory at Disneyland. In a factory in a field near Disneyland.”
Me: “How do you know about it?”
Josh” “God told me.”

Another cute statement: “0 is Four’s Nickname.”

And this one I like even better: “17 is your Nick-age.” (I think I’ll keep that.)

This calendar has all sorts of things I’d forgotten. Steve started getting tuba lessons from Tommy Johnson, a tuba player in Chicago — so we’d go up and stay with Aunt Kay. In May we took a trip and visited the Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Boy, these Josh quotes are fun. I must have been grading papers for this one: “I don’t think your students would know this one: What’s 14 + 1? They won’t know that it’s 15. That’s a Toughie!”

I didn’t take too many pictures that year. I think teaching 4 nights a week was keeping me busy. But there were plenty of outings. The Eklunds visited and took us to a Cardinals game. I started playing board games with Josh, especially Monopoly Jr. Oh look, I made a note of the time we got stuck in a loop where no one was going bankrupt and we played until the game ran out of money. When we finished, Mommy had $176, and Josh had $152. (Monopoly Jr. is the *best* game for teaching basic math skills! I like the way it has Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours, and Fives for the paper money and how you double the price when you have a Monopoly.)

And the day before my 28th Birthday, we went hiking at Pere Marquette State Park. (I don’t remember it, but it’s on the calendar.) By then Josh was old enough to help decorate the cake:


So it was a good year, settling in to Illinois.

I do remember a little song Josh sang one day while we were riding in the car:

“I used to live in New Jersey,
and then, suddenly I knew,
I lived in Ill-i-nois!”

Project 52 – 26 – A Year in New Jersey

December 14th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 26! Tomorrow’s my half-birthday, and I’m halfway through!


Half a year ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week this year I’m going to blog about one year of my life. And now I’m halfway done!

I’m afraid now that I had such an adorable child, all the rest of my posts will be dominated by photos. But I’m having fun looking at them and thinking about all the memories they spark.


Last week I talked about being 25 years old and leaving California, where I’d lived for 20 years. Steve joined the Air Force Band of the East, and we moved to Browns Mills, New Jersey. I loved all the trees in our front yard!


For the entire year I was 26, from June 1990 to June 1991, we lived in New Jersey. Sometime in Spring 1990, I went to a job fair for Burlington County College and got a job as an Adjunct Professor, teaching Math. I don’t think I started until that Fall, in which case, 1990-91 would have been the only year I taught there. (Though it seems like I taught more than two semesters — I think one of the Saturday courses I taught might have been summer school.)

Interesting to me now, I remember that the Burlington County College campus where I taught had a good genealogy section in its library. That’s interesting to me now, because now that I work in the Virginia Room here at City of Fairfax Regional Library, I’ve been working on my own genealogy — and learned that a large number of my ancestors actually founded Burlington County in the 1700s! My Mom’s Mom was a Shreve, and her Shreve ancestor had land that bordered the land owned by Brown, who had a mill — which is what Browns Mills was named after. The Shreves intermarried with other Burlington County colonial settlers with good British names like French, Pancoast, and Scattergood and the like. They were Quakers until Colonel Israel Shreve decided to fight in the Revolutionary War. He brought along his 13-year-old son John Shreve, also my ancestor, who served as an Ensign and later Lieutenant, rather than leave him home with his stepmother.

Anyway, I remember I went into the genealogy section of the library and saw some familiar names (It must have been Shreve.) but had no idea that they were really related to me. (I will have to return some day, now that I have more information. Some of the houses that my ancestors lived in are still standing.)

Being fresh from California, I was so excited to live where there were so many sites from U. S. History. On July 4th, Steve’s band played in Philadelphia outside Independence Hall. The speaker was Jimmy Carter.



We had to see the Liberty Bell while we were there.


Here’s the band getting ready to get back on the bus.


And living on the East Coast was Steve’s chance to show me upstate New York, where he grew up. We took a vacation to Liverpool, New York, that year.

Josh was ready to go on vacation!


(By the way, these pictures remind me just how SWEET a child Josh, who is now Jade, was. Again, I’m not saying that boys can’t be sweet. But I’m not so terribly surprised to be informed that Jade is really female when I reflect on this.)

This next picture is one of my favorites. We had stopped at a rest stop, and Josh and Steve were jogging along a path. The camera snapped at the exact moment Josh looked up at Steve with the thought clearly in their eyes, “Wow! Daddy! I’m running just like you!”

I think of this picture when I read the verse Ephesians 5:1 — “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children…”


We met Steve’s childhood friend Doug Rougeux, who was best man at our wedding, at Lake Oswego, New York.


There was an old fort there.


In Liverpool, Josh played on Daddy’s old elementary school playground.


Doug had been a professional clown with Ringling Brothers and now did his own educational shows at schools and libraries and parks. Josh liked Doug’s clown shoes.


And Josh was fascinated by “Little Doug.”


Lots of people visited us now that we were on the East Coast, and that was a reason to do more sight-seeing. Here’s a trip with Stephanie and Bruce to Philadelphia.


Josh was still in the wandering off stage. We had a Mickey Mouse leash we tried to use. It was a little better when Josh got tired and gave up wandering.


We stopped at Friendly’s for food on our way home.


This next picture is fun. Here’s the story. I was getting ready to read Josh some books at bedtime. I asked Josh to pick books while I went to the bathroom. When I came out, the chair was piled high with books and Josh was dancing around it. That was about the time we started the tradition of reading THREE books at bedtime.


This was also the year Josh really learned to read. I remember it was in New Jersey that Josh saw a Stop sign and said, “STOP! P-O-T-S. Stop!”

But around Josh’s third birthday, I ordered some Beginner Books through a book club. By the time they arrived, Josh had cracked the code and didn’t need Beginner Books any more. That was SO much fun to watch!

More visitors. Here we are at the Liberty Bell again, this time with Wendy.


Ah, and this trip to the Liberty Bell has a story that goes with it. We didn’t watch a lot of TV, because we couldn’t afford to get cable. Josh had seen one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Yes, they were around 26 years ago!) and was entranced. But he happened to see that one episode twice. And in that episode, a bad turtle impersonated the good turtles — and cracked the Freedom Bell!

Well, Josh didn’t understand the whole impersonation thing and didn’t realize that it was bad to crack the Freedom Bell. So when Josh saw the Liberty Bell, they started saying things like “Pow! Smash” and waving a fist at it.

Well, then Josh really looked at the bell and saw the crack. Their eyes got wide.

“It’s broken!” said Josh. “I broke it!”

And that was how my child believed they cracked the Liberty Bell with the power of their mind.

Later, Gram E. and Gramp E. were passing through the Philadelphia airport, and we went to spend an hour with them.


Those were the days when Gramp E. and Josh would play a game endlessly. One would say, “Something about… X” Then the other would say, “No, no, no! Something about… Y” And Y would be something very loosely associated with X. It was a fascinating game to listen to, and Josh’s giggles and Gramp E.’s laughs made it completely delightful.


Around Halloween time, Gram E. sent two costumes she’d originally made for Steve! (Wait, I might be remembering that wrong. They might just be from the same pattern.)



And around November, our dear friends from California, Audrey and Tom deRivera, with their son Jonathan, moved to a Philadelphia suburb, about 45 minutes away! We were so glad to see them!


We still hadn’t found a church we liked. I have to admit, I’ve never liked visiting churches. (It goes back to when my parents moved to California when I was a shy child, and they visited a lot of churches before they settled on one.) Nothing felt right. But Audrey and Tom found a nice church right away, so many weeks, we’d drive across the river and go to church with them.

This is at a park a block from their house.


We had a little accident with radiation at that park! Here’s Giant Josh holding Steve.


And my first year away from California, I was just crazy about Autumn! These were taken in our front yard.



For Thanksgiving that year, we drove down to DC and spent it with Darlene and Kathe.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the three of us. Steve took it at an angle that would show how TALL we are!


Kathe still had her dogs. (And always will, I think.)


We went to Arlington National Cemetery with Kathe and Joe.


I was reading a book on decluttering at that time and read the idea to take pictures of your trophies — and then throw them away. I’m rather glad I chose to do so and not carry them all over the world! I had to zoom in to see what they were for. Five of the little ones were for 5-in-a-row Tic Tac Toe championships in high school (and junior high). The other little ones for Hex and 3D Tic Tac Toe championships. The bigger ones are for being Junior Honor Guard in 11th grade and Co-Valedictorian in 12th grade, and one is an award for one of the classes I took my Senior year. And the cute kid is even better than the trophies.


For Christmas, Steve’s parents paid our way out to the West Coast to see them. Now, I was a tiny bit annoyed by that. They didn’t ask — and I’d been looking forward to my chance at a white Christmas. However, it was good to see family at Christmas.

We started at Stephanie and Bruce’s home in San Francisco.


Christmas Morning. Just what every nephew needs! A drum!


Josh was always much loved!




Next we went to Long Beach, California. Here’s my sister Wendy at my sister Becky’s house.


And cousins Jason and Josh unwrapping gifts.


Here’s my Mom reading to Josh and Melanie.


This is outside Becky’s house. I think Josh was dressed up for church.


We had another gathering at Ruth’s house, with Ruth and Susan and Darlene (also out in California for Christmas).



And here’s a gathering of folks from First Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles. It looks like Audrey was also visiting for Christmas.


And the last stop of our Christmas trip was Phoenix with Gram E. and Gramp E. again. Here Gramp E. and Josh are demonstrating how their Eklund noses wrinkle in exactly the same way.


Back home, the deRiveras were visiting:


And the very sad story of snow that year was that New Jersey got a record warm winter that year. The only significant snowfall happened while we were in California! It had melted by the time we got home. However, we got a little bit of snow and made the most of it.





Here we are crossing the river to go to Philadelphia.


Now, January 1991 was the year the Gulf War started. I remember because sometime around February, Vice President Dan Quayle spoke at McGuire AFB, and the Band played for him. And, yes, even though his misuse of the English language appalled me, I shook his hand.


Having my husband in the military when a war started was a bit unnerving. Band members did check, and whether in wartime or peacetime, the mission of the band is morale and public relations. They weren’t going to be sent to fight.

A week after the Gulf War started, the apartment next door to us caught on fire.

I woke up in the night because I smelled smoke. My first thought was that someone was bombing the Air Force base. Yes, I smelled smoke through the walls with all the windows closed. In my sleep. Steve didn’t smell it when I woke him up, but by then our neighbor was knocking on our door.

Our neighbor was a firefighter on base. His 17-year-old wife (they had two kids) had had a fight with him and gone to her mother. He was frying chicken while drunk and fell asleep. And burned down the apartment. (Well, gutted it.) He later convinced her it was her fault for not being there. (Grrrr.) But they were no longer our neighbors. We made sure we got renter’s insurance after that incident. (They were held liable.)

But it was quite terrifying to wake up to a fire next door. One week after a war started. The next day I was afraid to go to sleep, because with the residual smell of smoke, I wouldn’t know if a new fire started off a spark they had failed to put out.

It was interesting to me that Josh wasn’t scared at all. To a little kid, Mommy and Daddy will take care of it. It was terrifying to be Mommy and realize how little control I had.

In March, Josh turned Three Years Old! This is how they felt about it that morning:



Here’s the Band commander’s daughter and our next-door neighbor Philip. Jonathan deRivera was also at the party.


And who knew? Six Flags Great Adventure was only 20 minutes away from us in the forest of Jackson, New Jersey. I was so happy to go to a less crowded amusement park. Never mind that it rained a little.



Our little Josh got chosen to go up on stage during a show!


Josh didn’t bat an eye when performing:


And still loved those characters.



In April, we went back to DC to see the cherry blossoms, and Darlene and Kathe. This is on Darlene’s couch:


And in DC. I’m glad we went then, because now I never brave the crowds!



I love this one!


And later, we went to Washington’s Crossing. I think my sister Wendy was with us then, too.


At Washington’s Crossing, they’ve got the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. It’s a giant-sized painting, and they’ve got it up on a stage. Well, Josh, a musician’s child, saw the stage and decided to get up there and dance. Alarms went off and lights flashed! Oops!

This next picture was taken at the Band building probably when we’d gone to pick up Steve. (We only had one car, so did a lot of that.) Josh saw the podium and knew what to do.



The band at McGuire often played in New York City. One time, they were playing at Lincoln Center when Audrey was visiting her family on Long Island — and we agreed to meet at the concert.



And here’s another concert where the deRiveras joined us.


The annual Air Show at McGuire AFB was fun for Josh.


In May 1991, we discovered Valley Forge. It’s a beautiful place, and the history is amazing to try to fathom as well. (But mostly, it’s a beautiful place in May.) We first went there on our own.






Not long after, Darlene had a business trip near Valley Forge — so we met her at the park. (Here’s another picture I love.)




And finally, to wrap up my 26th year, on my actual birthday, we did some hiking at Valley Forge and then met the deRiveras at a nearby band concert.

Since it was Flag Day, we dressed both our boys in red, white, and blue.


And they passed out flags for the kids to wave.


Our kids danced in front of the stage for the entire concert, until they were exhausted.


What a day, and what a year!

Project 52 – 25 and Leaving California!

December 6th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 25!


25 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I started Project 52 — for each week this year, I’m reflecting on one year of my life.

Last week I covered the year I was 24 years old — and the last year I worked full-time until 19 years later. Working full-time did not go well for me. I wanted to be home with my baby. And as much as I like math — teaching math is not nearly as much fun. (Especially when you’re teaching 4 classes either you’ve never taught before or that have a new textbook.) Being good at math isn’t an advantage when you teach it. I never will understand how students can actually think that (a + b) squared = a squared plus b squared. (I saw this mistake on a test every single semester I taught college math though. And screamed every time I saw it.) Though with time, I did learn what mistakes students made, I don’t think I was necessarily good at explaining why they were mistakes. Besides, I’m an introvert. I really don’t like getting up in front of a class. I’m also an optimist, so I did learn to enjoy it. But I wanted to stop teaching.

And Steve wasn’t very happy working part-time. So he did some auditions — and the one that stuck was the audition with the Air Force Band. Now, at the time I didn’t really understand about the difference between officers and enlisted, or I might not have been as enthusiastic. You pretty much had to have at least a Bachelor’s degree to get through the audition, but the only officers in the Band career field were the conductors.

Anyway, Steve knew by the summer that he was going to enlist, so my last class teaching at Biola University was Summer 1989.

And then we took a vacation!

Since the year my grandpa married my grandma, my great-grandmother held a Reunion in Salem, Oregon every year. She had recently passed away at this time, but the family still held the annual reunion, which my family attended every year when we lived in Seattle, and many years when we lived in California — and in 1989, I went with my little family.

We’d bought a new car in March! We bought a 1989 Honda Civic, no frills (or air conditioning) — and hated the buying process, felt like they took advantage of us. We bought it for reliability — we’d had a very bad experience with my used Ford Escort. And then that horrible car broke down for us in most of the major cities in America! But at this point, we were still happy with it. But the first mysterious breakdown happened when we were driving home from Oregon, and almost home. We’d been driving for hours, and suddenly the engine just quit. Ten minutes later, it started up again.

(It was the igniter. But no mechanic was able to figure it out for years. We couldn’t reproduce the problem when we brought it in — it was worst when the car was hot or the weather was super cold. This was the first of many times we had a problem. But was still the only time we had a problem that first year.)

Anyway, I think this year’s post is going to be mostly pictures. That trip to Oregon was wonderful.


Toward the beginning of the trip, we took a day trip up to Seattle. We drove past the house where I lived when I was small, 1131 Seattle Street in Kent —


It looked SO much smaller than I remembered it! Of course, when I lived there, there was no fence around the yard, and fewer trees. Here’s my bedroom window:


We went up in the Space Needle.


And we visited the Seattle Science Center, where Josh had a great time.



The actual Reunion was a blast. I remember that if everyone came that year, descendants of my great-grandmother and their spouses would have added up to 97 people. Here’s my Grandpa Bates and his siblings from youngest to oldest. Grandpa, on the right, was the oldest.


And here’s my Mom and her siblings, also youngest to oldest. My Mom was also the oldest — which is why I’m the third oldest great-grandchild, since I’m my Mom’s third child. My Mom’s cousins are mostly closer to my age than her age. (I’m afraid I didn’t take many pictures of other branches of the family on this trip, though.)


Here are all my grandpa’s grandchildren (and one great-grandchild) who were there:


And here’s the whole branch of the family (who were there), my Grandpa and Grandma and all their descendants, with spouses:


Josh was pretty adorable playing with Aunt Melanie, six weeks younger:


These little girls — first cousins of each other — were too cute! These are my cousins Kira, Kimberly and April and my sister Marcy.


They put color-coded stars on our nametags to keep track of who was in which generation. Josh was the only one there from the fourth generation, so got to play with the green stars left over.


In those days, Josh liked to wander off. Look away for a little while, and Josh would be long gone!



After the Reunion, we did some hanging out at Grandma’s house. I thought Josh and my cousin Kimberly (Uncle Larry’s daughter) looked nearly identical.


And here’s Josh playing cards with my brother Robert.


We also saw friends while we were in Oregon! Susan and Randy Leinen lived in Oregon for awhile (friends from Brethren High School and Lakewood First Baptist). Susan was pregnant with her firstborn.


And my first Biola roommate, Colleen Jenks, was teaching high school English in The Dalles, Oregon, but then on summer vacation.


Back in California, Steve was still performing with the Pacific Brass Quintet. He kept his tuba in the corner, blocked by sofas. This picture reminds me of the time I looked over and there were Josh’s little legs sticking out of the tuba — Josh had gotten a little too curious! Once I found out Josh was okay, it still makes me laugh.


Gram E and Gramp E still visited frequently, especially once we announced we’d be moving to the East Coast. On one trip, they took us to Knott’s Berry Farm.


Josh had a peak experience there!


I’d started selling Discovery Toys by then — which was not a good fit for me. Though Josh got some great toys that way. I finally had a profitable party — at my sister’s house — just before I moved away. Selling toys isn’t a great business for someone moving around.


I so much wanted to give up teaching! I’m afraid I answered several other “Work at Home!” ads — and yes, they were scams. I got us deeper into debt, what with not having an income that Fall, but still living in California. Steve was still working part-time and with the Brass Quintet — but that wasn’t enough.

We celebrated our last Christmas in California, first at home.



Then at my parents’ house.


And then with Steve’s parents and sister in Phoenix.


This picture reminds me how much Josh loved books by then. By now, Josh would recite the last words on each page of their favorite books. And in the car, we could pass books back to Josh and they would stay occupied for hours.


Steve went off to Boot Camp in January. They’d told us the salary he’d get as an Airman 1st Class. What they hadn’t told us was that for six weeks in Boot Camp, he’d be an Airman Basic, with no housing allowance, either. We were still living in California. More debt.

Meanwhile, our small group was still gathering. Here’s me going to a small group meeting at Claudia’s house on a Sunday.


And here are all the children we had in our small group by then.


Welcome Home Daddy, in Sidewalk Chalks. After that, it was time to move to McGuire AFB, New Jersey!


I’d forgotten this! As a baby, Josh was very much a morning person. They’d wake up and happily jump up and down in their crib for a good while before insisting we get them up. This picture must have been after a nap.


Since our stuff was gone by then, we celebrated Josh’s second birthday in March at Becky’s house.





Steve’s parents and Becky and Jason saw us off at the airport.


And so I finally moved away from California — having planned to move away when I got the chance ever since I moved there against my will when I was five years old. (Sorry, but that’s the truth.)

Steve drove our car to New Jersey, and I followed on a plane with Josh, landing in Philadelphia. Since the military was paying for our flight, and since Josh was now 2 years old, this was the first time Josh got a paid seat. My strategy was to not let them know that it was possible to get out of the car seat. I brought plenty of books, and Josh slept for part of the flight.


When the plane landed in Philadelphia, a lady in front of me had just complimented me on how good Josh had been and how she had enjoyed hearing Goodnight, Moon. Then the pilot came on the speaker and announced that we’d be waiting for a gate about ten minutes.

Just as the pilot finished speaking, when the whole plane was quiet, Josh shouted, “I want OFF! I want OFF da airpwane!” I wanted to curl up and hide, not realizing that Josh was voicing the feelings of every single person on the plane.

Josh’s diaper was completely full, and my plan was to pass this duty to Steve when we landed — but the Men’s restrooms in the airport didn’t have any diaper changing facilities. Grrrrr.

It snowed while we were still living in billeting. We were so excited! People laughed at us playing in the snow, but understood when they saw our California license plates.



We visited the Rauseos — who now lived in Maryland — while we were waiting for our household goods to arrive.



And while there, I got to see Kathe at work grooming dogs — which I’ve long thought is a lovely example of someone doing exactly what they are called to do.


And we went into DC with Kathe and Darlene.


Josh still had a tendency to quickly wander off. After we visited the Lincoln Memorial, we were standing at the bottom of the steps discussing where to go next. I looked up, and there was Josh, halfway up the steps again.


At McGuire AFB, until you achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant, you weren’t allowed to live on base. But housing off-base was priced too high for an A1C to afford. Fortunately, we were able to get Section 8 subsidized housing, or we would have had to get a one-bedroom apartment. We found a place in Browns Mills, New Jersey, where some other band families, lived, too.

There was a kid one year older than Josh who lived next door.


I so loved how green New Jersey was! In fact, one day I was driving and suddenly wondered, “Who waters the grass?” I’d never seen anyone watering it. It took me awhile before I realized that God waters it there.


This was behind our apartment. Steve entertaining neighbor kids.


My Dad had a business trip and came to see us! We took him into Philadelphia.


We had fun at the Franklin Institute, a science museum.




I loved all the trees there!

This was in our front yard.


And this was at a nearby park.


I did find a job quickly — but I think it was after my birthday. So I get to stop there.

Being 25 was a year of Transitions. I finally left California. I only temporarily quit teaching — but I did quit working full-time and got to spend more time with my children for the next 19 years.

And I got to live where it was GREEN! (I’d forgotten how much I liked that.)

And next week, I’ll finally reach the halfway point!

Project 52 – 24 – Back to Work After Baby’s Birth

November 30th, 2016

It’s time for Project 52, Week 24!


24 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week this year, I’d reflect on one year of my life. This week, I’m posting about the year I was 24, June 1988 to June 1989.

One thing that’s struck me — when I was in college, it felt like I’d waited SO LONG to ever find a boyfriend. Now, reflecting on those years, my goodness, I was SO YOUNG when I got married and had a baby! That gives me hope. Though now it feels like I’m single SO LONG since my divorce. If I do remarry some day, I suspect the time single won’t seem so long at all. Better enjoy it while it lasts!

The year I was 24 was a very hard year. But I’m going to intersperse talking about that year with pictures of my adorable baby. There were definitely compensations.


I did still have the summer off. Josh was born in March, and Biola paid me for the complete semester (though some came from California’s Disability payments). I hadn’t planned to teach in the summer anyway, and I think I’d had my pay stretched out over the whole year.


That reminds me that 1988 was an election year. I’d been raised that the Christian way was to vote Republican. But living in downtown Los Angeles, and now feeling very poor was influencing my thinking. I remember listening to the presidential debates, and the Democrats made a lot of sense. I think that Family Medical Leave was already an issue (though it didn’t get put into place until Bill Clinton was elected). I’d been given good maternity leave, but I couldn’t imagine what we would have done if I hadn’t. And Steve had to take vacation time to be with me and the baby. (Last year my brother got paternity leave from Intel after the birth of his daughter. What a wonderful thing!)

I remember some time in those years, Focus on the Family put out one of those “Congressional Scorecards” that were distributed in church. They rated it against people who voted for Family Medical Leave, saying it would be bad for business. Excuse me? Should the organization be called “Focus on Business”?

On top of that, having lived in the inner city for a couple years gave me a lot more sympathy for illegal aliens. Amnesty had happened under Reagan, and our church had held Citizenship classes for that, besides our English classes. I also saw hard-working people, not freeloaders.

And I did not want to put my baby in daycare. We spent a long time thinking it through and decided that Steve would quit his job as a messenger/supply clerk at Canadian Imperial Bank, and I would keep my job teaching at Biola. That way, Steve could put more time into the Pacific Brass Quintet, anyway. After a couple months, he went back part-time. I was able to put all my classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Steve worked Tuesday/Thursday, so we didn’t have to use daycare.


About that time, they started putting a Dependent Care Tax Credit into the tax code — but that didn’t help those of us who worked less between us to take care of our baby ourselves. (The Child Tax Credit didn’t start until Clinton was elected. I think Earned Income Credit got better then, too.)

I realize now that Biola’s pay for an Instructor with a Master’s degree was terrible. Our rent was $700 per month, which was a huge percentage of our income. And we got taxed on that the same as if we lived in a cheaper place. I’m pretty sure that’s when our debt started… which lasted our entire marriage. Sigh.

Anyway, I wondered how people who didn’t have a Master’s degree managed to make ends meet (not realizing I wasn’t really getting paid at a Master’s degree rate). And what if they had to put their child in daycare?

I actually hadn’t decided who I’d vote for by election day. But when the day came, I voted after work, and by the time I went to the polls, we already knew Bush had won the election. So I voted for Dukakis as a protest. That was my first time voting for a Democrat. But I don’t believe I ever voted Republican again.

That summer, we dedicated Josh to God at First Evangelical Free Church in Los Angeles, where we’d gotten married. Even though we moved out of the city, we continued to worship there and stayed with our wonderful small group — which now had a total of four babies.


Also that summer, my headaches started up again. This was one thing that made it a hard year. I’d lost them the last half of my pregnancy. But that summer they came back worse than ever. That was when they stopped reliably going away at night, so it was when I had my first three-day headaches. The third day of a bad headache is when I start to feel desperate.

I had friends who would go to the Emergency Room for headaches, so I tried Urgent Care. I think it was the second time I did that that I was given Demerol and Vistaril. They told me to wait in the lobby ten minutes — and five minutes later, I almost fainted. They said my heart rate dropped dramatically. They worked over me for awhile and brought me back and told me never to take those drugs again. They sent me back to my car in a wheelchair, with my headache returning! So I rather lost faith in the Emergency Room for headaches.

But I did have an adorable baby at home!


Josh was learning to crawl!




In the fall, I went back to work. Here are a couple of pictures from the math and computer department picnic.

My sister Wendy must have been a Computer Science minor? I’m pretty sure she was an English major, but she was at the picnic.


And even Dr. Wu held the baby!


While I was on maternity leave, the professors had shifted around the classes I’d be teaching. I ended up with three classes I’d never taught before, one of which I’d never even taken. (Remember my Senior year when I felt bad for dropping a math class, Operations Research? That was the very class they now had me teaching.) The only class I’d taught before, College Algebra, had a new textbook, so I still had to prepare new notes. When I said something to Dr. Thurber, the department chair about this, he said, “Oh, you can do it.” Even I didn’t realize just how incredibly hard it would be.


So I was working Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Steve was working Tuesday/Thursday. The trouble was, I had to try to watch Josh and clean house while preparing for class (and learning the material ahead of the class) and grading papers. When Steve watched Josh, he just tried to watch Josh.

On top of that, I’d been brought up hoping I’d get to stay home with my babies some day. Steve had not been brought up hoping for that. He wrote up something later that I really liked, when he got tired of being called “Mr. Mom.” It was titled, “Just call me Dad.”

I always felt that the intensive time with Josh was wonderful for Steve as a Dad. The first time I left to go to work, Steve asked, “What do I do?” I told him he’d figure it out — and he did. From then on, we each had our own style, and Steve didn’t look to me to figure out what to do with his kids. We never called it “babysitting” when he was with his kids. I was always proud of him as a loving and involved father. And me getting out of the way and heading off to work helped that happen.

It was also, admittedly, very nice to get out of the house, guilt-free. My baby was with their Dad. Or mostly guilt-free. One day my friend Sue Danielson came back from a trip to Canada, where she’d visited Green Gables. I was the one who’d introduced her to the Anne books. She brought me back The Blue Castle, which wasn’t available in the United States at that time. I sat in my office at Biola all afternoon and finished the whole book. Steve wasn’t real happy with me when he found out I hadn’t actually been working.

I do remember it was a beautiful and vital piece of sanity restoration. I was extremely stressed out.


And working full-time, but not at work every day, was hard for other people to understand. Someone at church said, “I heard you’re only working Monday/Wednesday/Friday,” and she asked me to take her English class on a Tuesday one week. Ridiculously, I agreed — one time. Another time, I did some babysitting for a friend on my “day off.” I learned that year that I needed to say NO to things like that. It was taking every spare minute to prepare for all those classes.

I’m sure there was also some postpartum depression going on. And those headaches. I don’t think I ever took sick leave for a headache — I don’t think I would have gotten paid. But at least I had every other day “off.” It didn’t make it easy to do the work at home, though.

But my baby was wonderful and learned to climb the stairs.


That year was the one time I remember that, in a fight, I told Steve, “I hate you.” I did apologize. I did many many more times say, “I love you,” but eighteen years later, Steve informed me that three times in our marriage, I’d said those words. Sigh. That was the only time I remember doing it, and I also remember that I was an emotional wreck.

[I definitely wish I hadn’t ever said those words. But I don’t actually think it made a good excuse for having an affair.]

But the pictures mainly show happy times. Josh’s first Christmas was quite adorable. Steve was super busy leading up to Christmas with the Pacific Brass Quintet. They recorded another album for Nordstrom’s. If we hadn’t lived in California, he would have made a living wage. But if we hadn’t lived in California, there wouldn’t have been so many malls to perform in.



Josh still had almost as much fun with the box things came in. This was the box for the London Fog raincoat Steve bought me at Nordstrom’s, which I still wear.


This pony to ride on lasted our kids for years, too.


After Christmas at home, we went to Phoenix. Here’s Josh with Aunt Stephanie.



I thought it was really funny to check the size of our Carry-on Baggage.


These are at Becky’s house for Jason’s second birthday in January:



Here’s our small group! By now the Rauseos had moved to Maryland. We’ve got Art (wife RuthAnn taking the picture?), then Tom and Audrey (expecting Jonathan soon), then me, then Jeannette, and then Claudia and Fernando.


I love this one of Josh with Gramp E.


And more fun:



And Kathe and Joe came to visit — with their dog!



This one, we had fun with the heights:


Around February, Josh learned to walk: (That was back in the days of walkers. Josh had enjoyed the walker since they were about six months old. This baby liked to stand!)



And was always fun to hold:





Josh was pretty obsessed with switches. We used to put the rocking chair and a barricade of sofa cushions at the foot of the steps, for safety. The chair itself was an attraction.


When I needed to go to the bathroom, I’d move the cushion barricade and use the bathroom at the top of the stairs. When I’d come out, Josh would be halfway up the stairs. The compulsion to climb was irresistible. But one time, I came out to discover Josh had gone down the stairs and was frantically turning the stereo knobs. They jumped a foot high when I came down! I was very impressed that Josh had calculated I’d be busy for awhile! This picture was taken at a different time, when Josh used a toy to achieve the goal.


And more of the switches compulsion:



Based on the pictures, there were numerous trips to see Gram E. and Gramp E. Here’s at the Phoenix Zoo:


Feeding the dog, Sonny:


And this one shows just how much Josh and Gramp E. enjoyed one another:


Darlene came to visit. I think she’d moved to the East Coast by then, rooming with Kathe’s Mom. When she first left, she told us it would only be for a year. Right, Dar!


In this picture, I think I was babysitting Jason. I tried the, “Let’s pretend we’re sleeping!” game. It apparently didn’t work for long, alas!


Sometime in there I started selling Discovery Toys. I was hoping to find a way to quit teaching! I ended up buying all the toys for Josh. Josh was very good at puzzles from an early age.


And by June, Josh had started the cute trick of memorizing books and saying the last word on each page. The Tom and Pippo books were favorites.


Sometime around the end of the year I was 24, my sister Wendy graduated from Biola. And I marched in the graduation with the professors, getting to wear my Master’s hood again. Here are all my sisters but the youngest, and Jason in front looking a little perplexed. It’s me, Becky, Wendy, Abby, and Marcy.


Because we were having such a hard time, in 1989, Steve started researching other possibilities. He auditioned with a brass quintet in Seattle, a symphony orchestra in Ohio, and an Air Force Band in Virginia. Changes were coming….