Grammy Camp

It was Karen who reminded me.  She has vivid and fond memories of the times Rich and I would leave her and her two bothers with their grandparents in Duluth while we continued up to the Boundary Waters for some alone time canoeing.  That much I remembered.  But I didn’t recall that she referred to it as “Grandma and Grandpa Camp.”  The name alone conjures up visions of kids having a great time, sans parents, doing all sorts of special things with their grandparents.

For some time now, I’ve been eager to bring my own grandkids to Duluth for a visit.  But I had to be patient.  Last time I gently asked if they would like to come, the answer was a swift and firm “No.”  Even from the feisty middle child who I thought might be game.  I had to bide my time until they were old enough to relish the experience.

I also had another stipulation.  I wanted them one at a time.  I craved having one-on-one time with each of them, where I could have their undivided attention and they could monopolize mine.

At last the day finally arrived.  Ben had an extra week of Christmas break when his parents and siblings were back at work and day care.  It seemed the perfect opportunity to try again.  Emboldened by attending Kindergarten, Ben was actually excited about the idea of spending three days with us.

I knew we were off to a good start when I went drove down to pick him up and he practically jumped into my arms shouting “Grammy!”  The next morning he arose before six, eager to add his blanket and stuffed animals to his backpack.  The fun started almost immediately when we stopped at Caribou for coffee and I bought him a hot chocolate for the ride.  This was going to be a true Grammy visit.

My instincts were dead on.  We had the most delightful three days together.  Everything we did took on the aura of being special.  He relished all the attention, and so did I.  The normal tendencies of sibling rivalry, the temptation to push the limits of discipline and finicky eating evaporated.  Homesickness never materialized.

The only downside to the visit was that Rich, aka Grandpa, was out of commission with a sprained back.  He was unable to participate in any of our antics, but observed it all from his painful perch on the couch.  But I was in my element, and carried on.

Ben in the train engineBen loved the Train Museum, particularly the huge snow plow train and the tall steam engine.  He overcame his initial fear of the giant trains and soon climbed inside to sit in the engineer’s seat.  I took him to Marshall Hardware, where they have a couple of aisles stocked with modest but time tested toys and let him choose one to bring home.  A blue steam engine was his proud pick.

Bens PizzaWe had just as much fun at home, playing, cooking and crafting together.  My inner child was reborn as I spent hours building with Lincoln Logs, making Lego creations and connecting miles of Brio train track.  Ben was in seventh heaven making his own pizza for dinner, using pepperoni to create a face.  Making it turned out to be far more interesting than actually eating it, but it was totally worth it for the joy it delivered.

The best were the moments of silliness.  Scooping ice cream was an absolute necessity after dinner each night.  That much he inherited from me.

Grammy and Ben being sillyMy favorite craft was making cookie cutter ice ornaments.  Inspired by Outside in Duluth, we filled a pan with water, cookie cutters and twine hangers.  In the frigid temperatures, it all froze quickly and soon we were hanging beautiful icy shapes on the outdoor tree covered in lights.  Those ornaments will serve as a tender reminder of Ben’s visit until they melt – which doesn’t look to be any time soon.

Ice heart ornamentchristmas-ornaments-ben-molly-2-trimmed

It was well worth the wait, for the time to be right and the visit to be a success.  And since sister, Mya, is now begging for her turn I know I will get to do this again soon.  Grammy Camp has been firmly established.

Wedding Finery 2.0

Two sons.  Two summers.  Two weddings.  Two entirely different celebrations.  But the same flower girl and ring bearer for both.  And the same seamstress – me.

Each wedding clearly reflected the individual tastes of the respective brides (let’s be honest here, they do set the tone!).  As the plans unfolded this year, it became clear that Katie and Erik’s wedding would be a formal and elegant affair.  Glitter and sparkles also reigned.  It seemed only fitting to dress the little attendants accordingly.  I was up for the challenge, and Katie loved the idea.

Simplicity 1507 Mya dressI started with the flower girl dress. Eager to impress Mya with her finery, I showed her the pattern.  Big mistake.  She was excited all right.  “I want the purple dress!” she exclaimed.  What you have to understand is that 4-year-old Mya is very strong willed.  And doesn’t forget.  That phrase would haunt me up until the day of the wedding.

Materials for Mya's dressThe simple looking dress on the pattern disguised its complexity.  In addition to a silk skirt with an organza overlay, it also entailed a double-layer petticoat and lining underneath.  But it was well designed, and those additional features clearly distinguished it as a special dress.  The extra effort was well worth it.

The defining detail came about fortuitously.  Needing extra fabric to alter one of the bridesmaid dresses, there was enough left over for a sash to trim Mya’s dress.  That not only tied it perfectly into the wedding party, but gave the Sash and buckledress the zip it needed.  Struggling to get it to tie into a nice bow in the back, I turned to glitz and Hobby Lobby.  Using a diamond studded buckle and pin back, I fashioned a fitting anchor for the sash in the back of the dress.

Mya and Isabel's dressesIf one dress is good, two is even better.  Although not part of the wedding party, I saw no reason that baby sister Isabel should not match her big sister.

Next I turned my attention to 6-year-old Ben.  His attire was to be a suit that I carefully matched to the fabric and style of the rented tuxes for the groomsmen.  To be honest, I did briefly inquire as to the viability of renting a suit for Ben.  But the $200 cost quickly sent me back to my sewing machine with renewed determination.

I had made one tailored suit coat before, and relied on knowing that I had once mastered the required techniques.  I soon learned that sewing for little people presents its own challenges, creating the same level of detail on a much reduced scale.  Slacks with a fly front and side pockets was new to me, and went together quite nicely.  However, the trick came in scrunching the waist down to Ben’s skinny measurements.  With multiple try-on sessions and Ben’s patience, I finally got it right.

Ben's suit coatBen's pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glittery hair bows, tie, and pocket hankie completed the ensembles.  I finished all my machine sewing with only a few hand details left just over a week before the wedding.  And that night the big storm tore through Duluth and took out the power – for four days!  That was a close call.

Wedding morning, Mya dons her dress under protest at first.  But finally overcomes her objections when Katie whispers that she wants her to “look just like her” in a white dress.  Ben asks Daddy to get him dressed in the room with the groomsmen, and emerges looking just like the rest of the guys.  Isabel, wisely, is outfitted in her dress at the last minute.  And I’m swelling with pride at seeing them in their wedding finery for the second time.  Then I turn my attention to being Mother of the Groom.  It is, after all, Erik’s wedding day.

Molly with Grandkids at Wedding trimmed Ben and Mya before wedding trimmed Katie Erik Wedding Vows

Wedding Finery

For weeks I’ve been working under wraps. I eagerly volunteered to sew the outfits for my grandchildren’s roles as Ring Bearer and Flower Girl for my son Carl’s wedding. And like many wedding plans, it meant staying mum about the details until the big day.

Finding sewing patterns turned out to be a lesson forMya dress front me. While I naturally began with Simplicity, McCalls and Butterick, my daughter took a different route. In short order, she sent me an email with links to dress, vest and tie patterns online – all through Etsy. I’d never gone that route before, using patterns created and shared by creative sewers that I could downloadBen vest and tie and print right at home. I was a little concerned about the quality and fit of the patterns, but soon found that they were well designed and included excellent instructions.

Selecting fabric was also informative. With the bridesmaids wearing yellow sundresses of their own choosing, my daughter, Karen, and I sought coordinating prints in yellow tones. We found a few at a chain fabric store, but before finalizing the selection, I checked out Hannah Johnson Fabrics right in Lakeside. There I feasted my eyes on beautiful prints all displayed in color families. I quickly honed in on a brilliant floral piece and several good options for companion fabrics. Knowing that these fabrics were 100% cotton aimed at quilters, I expressed my concern about sewing a dress for a toddler that might wrinkle easily. The helpful owner of the shop quickly allayed my fears, explaining that quality cotton would wear beautifully without wrinkles. I took her advice, paid the premium for the beautiful fabrics and didn’t regret it for a moment. She was absolutely right, and I know I’ll be a repeat customer.Isabel dress and panties

Half way through the creative process, it was a great joy to finally begin the sewing. Clothes for little people go together quickly and are so darn cute. I couldn’t resist snapping photos of each piece as I completed it, sending it to Karen and bride Chelsea to see. One project led to another, and as soon as baby sister Isabel Flowers for haircame along, I sought out patterns for her wedding outfit as well – all on Etsy, of course. To my delight, I found patterns for a newborn dress and diaper cover for free. It was hard to stop, so I went one step further and created fabric flowers for Mya to wear in her hair, and a matching headband for Isabel. I’m sure given more time I’d have found more details to add.

IMG_3865Flower Girl and Ring Bearer from the back

 

IMG_2298During one of my try-on sessions with Ben and Mya, they took off outside to show their mommy. Running around the yard, romping and chasing each other, they wiggled and rolled in their “fancy clothes.” To my own surprise I was not worried at all, thrilled with their delight in their wedding clothes.

The good news is that the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer performed their roles beautifully and charmingly – an outcome by no means guaranteed. And I think they were as excited as the bride and groom to don their wedding finery that day.IMG_3862

Spanning the Generations

It feels as though we are living in a time warp. Leaping three family generations in a week has dramatically influenced our daily routine and energy requirements.

Last week we hosted our two grandchildren, age 2 and almost-4 for three days while our daughter and her husband went on a long awaited trip. We were instantly reminded how busy toddlers can be, and the wisdom of having children at a young age. It's a good thing we are both very fit, as we needed all our reserves to keep up with these two whirlwinds.

Ben and Mya enthralled by the train

Even at this tender age, the kids have amazing memories. Ben eagerly awaited the reappearance of the Lionel train set that came out when they last visited in January. Unfortunately, the train proved a bit finicky and we had to do a lot do dancing and explaining while Rich spent a frustrating and hair raising day trying to get it to work. Fortunately he ultimately prevailed, and the train chugged around the track once more. Rich even replenished the liquid smoke so the engine could send up puffs of smoke. Whew!

Making our favorite chocolate chip cookies

My specialty is baking with the kids. Ben is meticulous about measuring and pouring ingredients into the bowl, and loves the whole process. Mya's favorite part is spooning out the cookies. Both like to eat the dough, particularly when I'm not looking. And we all proclaimed the finished cookies delicious.

From squabbles to hugs to the endearing things they said, they kept us on our toes. It was an action-packed three days. As usual, we were only able to squeeze in a couple of the excursions I had planned for them. Somehow just managing meals, naps, diaper changes and playtime seemed to fill the days. And it still resulted in lasting memories.

This week we are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Jumping from Minnesota and toddlers to Florida and Rich's dad has been quite a shift in focus. Recovering from a serious staph infection and lengthy hospital stay, Dad Hoeg has gradually been regaining his strength. The purpose of our visit was to help care for him at home and provide company and transportation.

Upon our arrival, we were surprised and pleased to see that Dad Hoeg has progressed to near-independence. In fact, today while we watched (with a little trepidation) he made his first solo trip, driving himself to the barber. While our care duties are light, we still continue to hang near the house. His routine governs ours. And our pace of life has slowed waaay dooowwwnn.

Mealtime!

The little things in life have now become the highlights of our days. A trip to the grocery store becomes a social event, as all the workers greet Dad by name. Watching any activity on the quiet street out the kitchen windows is always a source of conversation. Judge Judy is not to be missed on TV at 4:00pm. And going out for dinner is a big treat, for all of us.

Our environment has changed from dodging toys strewn across the floor to making sure our beds are properly made and up to Dad's rigorous standards. Nothing is ever out of place here.

Dad's improved health does allow us to get out and enjoy the beautiful warm weather. Even just sitting out on his patio is a pleasure. We've done a lot of reading, taken walks in the warmth of the evening after dinner and enjoyed the blossoming plants in his yard.

What a difference a week makes, navigating this generation gap.

 

Life Comes Full Circle

All families have their own way of doing things.  It needn’t be formal traditions, simply the everyday activities, customs and favorite pastimes that make up the uniqueness of family life.  We are no exception.  But when we were raising our young family, little did we realize how those customs would become embedded in the lives of our children, and that we were laying the groundwork for future generations.

Now that we have grandchildren, we are seeing our children delight in revitalizing those family activities.  Suddenly, old toys take on new lives, perhaps enjoyed the most by their original owners the second time around.  The huge bubble maker came out again recently.  It still works as well as it did before, and brings the same smiles.

Each of our children had a “playak” at the cabin.  They provided hours of fun, going beyond a simple floating boat to becoming pirate ships and swimming platforms.  For now, they have been renamed “yellow boat.”

Birthdays meant picking a theme for the party, and then creating a shape cake to complement the decorations.  We had great fun planning and decorating them together.  Not only has my daughter carried on that custom, but has shown great prowess in her designs!

I think one of my favorites is a true tradition.  When my father was baptized, someone hand made his baptismal gown, complete with tucks, lace and a matching under garment.  I and my sisters all wore the gown, as did all of my children.  98 years later, it is now on its fourth generation.

What a joy to watch the great circle of life, and see just what family customs have been treasured enough to repeat.