the gift of a picture with my kids on mother's day

Like most mom's, my wish for Mother's Day was for a picture with my kids. And man, did I get some! Every one makes me laugh for another reason. I am about to show you just a handful. I had about 40 to choose from. And these are for sure the winners. This top one may be my personal fave.
Alden was a riot during these pictures because between each one he would smile at me. But the second he was onto another picture being taken he'd slack his jaw. I cannot complain. I have had very, very photogenic children my entire motherhood. But this one, even with bribes, wasn't going for it.
And then our neighbor came over and got some family shots. Like 15. And here are the best two...
Elsie's dream is for the three Jelly Girls to have matching outfits. It's my dream too. I just never seem to get around to sewing the skirts or dresses. So she was thrilled when she figured out that we both had grey leggings and blue dresses with tiny holes in them. And she insisted on wearing her hair down like mine. I love her so much.
Obviously the sun was a serious problem, so we brought the camera to church and had the door greeter take this shot. Another favorite. Ivar asked recently to get a haircut with a style. He wanted to start using hair gel like his dad. What a stud!
All of these pictures feel like very honest snapshots of motherhood. Not one is perfect. Which feels so true to life. And totally true to motherhood.

Easter 2019

Easter sure is darling. My mom had a great hunt at her house again this year, with each grandkid assigned a different color egg. Alden was the color green, and even though his eggs were basically dumped on the middle of the lawn, it sure did take him a while to find them all!
 Elsie, on the other hand, was full of game, even in her high heels.
We celebrated with Annika and Jedd's family, Uncle Don and my folks. But since I never got a picture of my dad or Uncle Don, you'll just have to take my word that they were there! Sonna made a heavenly (from scratch!) carrot cake. It was so good. And Uncle Don made two banana cream pies, just like Aunt Jan used to make. Oh my. I'm still thinking about these desserts.
 Alden was wearing overalls that were Uncle Jedd's overalls when he was a toddler.
 Uncle Jedd and Alden are both still trying to figure out how that is possible!
I woke on Easter morning at 6 am from a dream that my sister had walked into my house and said, "My girls are all set, so I thought I'd come and help you find outfits for your kids, help hide the easter baskets and get the salad prepped." I woke up and was so amused that even in my dreams I was thinking through all that I needed to get done before church...and that my smart dream-self called for my sister to come and help get the show on the road! It tells so much about a woman's brain and how much she is thinking through at any given time! Even in her sleep!

We ate our traditional Easter Meal: ham and hot fruit, potato casserole, green salad, fruit salad,and new-this-year: grilled asparagus, had the egg hunt and then everyone sat on the deck for hours. It was so fantastic.

And while we sat on the deck, the cousins went wild in the basement. I found this picture on my camera as a surprise gift from my niece Sonna. Doesn't this picture just sum up cousins-in-the-basement time?!! It makes me laugh so hard. I remember these same wild and crazy times in my grandma's basement...

And some boys headed into the house for an Easter Nap.
A new favorite right here. And it kind of makes up for the fact that we never got a family picture. But clearly it was a very nice Easter!

Elsie's Mud Kitchen

If you drove by our farm these days you would see this tree that still needs to be chainsawed after the storm. It might look a little unsightly to you. You might wonder when the Groves are going to get rid of that eye sore and move it all to the wood shed. And now, with pots and buckets balanced on every flat surface you might think the Groves have gotten really dumpy. 

Or, you might think, "Well now, that looks like one fantastic Mud Kitchen!"
Ivar and Elsie came home from a birthday party on Saturday where the last few minutes were spent playing in their friends' mud kitchen. Elsie was delighted by their elaborate set up...some stumps were stovetops, others were were for cooling. Hooks on the stumps held certain utensils and each pot held a different ingredient: dirt, moss, tulip leaves (yup).

And even though yesterday was raining cats and dogs, Elsie and Hattie worked hard to set up their Mud Kitchen. And then, in an ironic twist, they walked their Muddy selves right into my kitchen while trying to fill their watering can. Thankfully I never saw that mess. Rory found it and helped them make it right.  
And today Elsie has been out all day long, mixing up recipes, jogging in the house announcing she needs another spoon. It's really great fun. And probably means this uprooted tree will get to stay put for a little while longer.

st louis family vacation, days 4 and 5

These are the last two days of our family vacation. My Uncle Mark emailed after seeing my first posts and said, "I saw your make-my-friends-jealous-blog posts..." I thought that was so funny, because it is true, these are the very best pictures of the SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY TWO that we took! Ivar and Elsie are really into taking pictures so I literally had 300 pictures from the zoo to weed through! Naturally, there are some great pics to choose from! Plus, it was that great of a time. :)
Our final morning began with Aunt Jane's oatmeal with blueberries and strawberries on top. And Aunt Jemima, which we would find out soon would turn our children into crazy-people. We packed up the car (our stuff was everywhere in the house...I worked hard this morning!) and set out for Waterloo, Iowa. We decided to make the trip home in two days. That was a great decision as Alden make his frustration known about the car ride the last hour to Waterloo. But then we got to the hotel! And we stayed put from 3pm until 10am the next morning.
We went for luggage cart rides, went swimming...
And ate a really great dinner of roast chicken, bagels and cream cheese, cuties and bananas while watching two solid hours of Diners, Drive-In's and Dives (always a hotel favorite in our family).
Oh, and Rory bought a red gatorade for Ivar when he went out to Hy-Vee. That was a goal of Ivar's for this trip: to get to taste red gatorade. :)
The next morning we ate a great breakfast at the hotel, the big kids went swimming one more time, the little kids helped me pack up all of our stuff while watching Pioneer Woman and then we loaded back up. And before we left, Rory turned Alden's carseat to forward facing! What a big day! And a big boy! And a happy boy!
On the way home, we drove through Waverly, Iowa. My Grandma and Grandpa Harrington lived in Waverly my whole life...and this town and Bartels Lutheran Home were a HUGE part of my first 25 years of life. We drove to Waverly many times each year for every major holiday and a few summer trips too...but it had been a decade since I'd been back...since Grandma died. I was filled with emotion. It is strange to see a chapter of your life so vividly and just to know that the chapter is passed. I was so glad we stopped and drove around a bit. It also meant I got to tell my kids a few stories that I want them to know.
And then we high-tailed it home. We pulled up our lane at 2pm on Saturday and that is a very nice time to get home. The little ones went down for naps, I unpacked and started laundry and then I took a two hour nap myself. I like a Saturday arrival home though. It made for a really gentle re-entry to our everyday.
So that was our trip! Family vacations are so important! I thought of this many times. Memory making is a really important part of family-togetherness, and we made a lot of great memories on this trip. I also was reminded that you don't have to fly or go very far or go away for very long. It all counts. So we decided to be more intentional about day trips (leaving a farm full of animals is no small thing...), even if it requires a few hours of driving. It's fun to get off the farm. And it's wonderful to come back home!

st louis family vacation, day 3

This sign is right in front of my aunt and uncles house, and when I saw it I wondered if maybe my uncle had it put up before we arrived! So I had my kids make funny faces, to prove what we should all be cautious with these crazy children around.
Our next day in St. Louis was blissful. I spent the morning in the parkway with the girls picking purple flowers and listening to Elsie tell me the elaborate storyline of what we were pretending...and even though she was talking non-stop, I apparently wasn't actually listening because I don't remember any of it. At some point a mother has to think her own thoughts for a while...
Then Uncle Mark told the kids that he would give them a penny for every gumball they picked up and put in a bucket. These are really sharp seed things that take over their boulevard. My big kids were thrilled with this challenge and in no time had picked up 500 gumballs each. Uncle Mark was a bit taken aback, but he did pay up. And then said the challenge was over. Ha!

Also, does your family have your own special words for things? In our family, since the kids were little, anything sharp or pointy and round has been called a Bomby Knocker. This is so matter-of-fact around here I never really stopped to consider how funny it is that we call prickly things bomby knockers. But while the kids were excitedly telling Uncle Mark how many Bomby Knockers they had found I finally snapped out of it and asked, "where did that word come from?" And Ivar reminded me that when they were really little we read a book in the doctor's office waiting room about a giant who had a big weapon called a Bomby Knocker and that I had encouraged the use of this funny word.

So now I encourage you to use it too...
This day was magical. We went to The Jewel Box in Forest Park where the tulips were positively spectacular. I couldn't get enough. It was like my body was starving for color like this, and all of the sudden I got a feast.
After walking around The Jewel Box we drove over to The St Louis Zoo, also in Forest Park. Honestly, this whole trip we never left a two mile radius (oh, except Lulu's). Everything was so easy and convenient. And we LOVED the zoo. First, it was free, which was amazing. Second, the animals there were really exciting...I had never seen a hippopotamus up close, and we got to see them very, very up close.

We walked and walked all over the zoo and made a really special family memory. 

And then we came back home and Yang Yang and Nui Nui had brought pizza and salad for supper. Yang Yang is my Aunt Jane's nephew who has lived in St. Louis for the last 25 years...so he is very much my cousin, and my only one on that side of the family! His wife is out of the country for work, and his daughter Nui Nui is adored by my kids. She slept over this night and they passed notes back and forth via Uncle Mark bringing the notes up and down the stairs. I only heard about this in the morning...I was sound asleep.
And hilariously, this is the only picture from this day of Nui Nui. (There is one tomorrow!) Rory took this pic while they were praying over the food.
We had Family Worship with everyone that night in the room where Ivar and Elsie slept and as we prayed a huge thunderstorm came through and filled the room with booms and bangs. Then Rory played Hobby Farmer with the big kids and after this big day of bomby knockers, stunning tulips, rhinoceroses and pizza parties the little kids and I fell fast asleep. While the big kids passed notes back and forth...