Archive for December, 2016

Project 52 – 28 – Some Stability?

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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!

Tuesday, 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!