Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Maddy AKA Princess

Last week my daughter, Maddy, was caught putting make up on in the bathroom at school.  Most of you are probably thinking not a huge deal except, Maddy is only 7.  In her defense, she didn’t bring the make up to school, she just couldn’t resist putting it on.  Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy with her and took away her IPad for a week.  Of course, I just couldn’t let it go at that.  I called Maddy to the living room so I could give her a lecture. Maddy was sitting on the coffee table, I was on the couch, and my husband in the recliner, the lecture begins.  I start out with how disappointed I am with her judgement and how she needs to make better choices….. etc.  As I am half way thru, I notice that my husband, who had been looking at the paper while I was talking, has suddenly put the whole paper in front of his face.  I then hear a snicker from behind the paper.  I glare over in his direction as to say, “really?….. I am having a life lecture here!”  He puts the paper down and with a straight face says, “aren’t you over reacting??  I don’t see what the big deal is.  Aren’t you being a little hard on her?”  At this point I am speechless.  My oldest son chimes in that Maddy is on her way to becoming a juvenile delinquent.  He reminds my husband that the “princess” (that is Maddy’s nickname given to her by her two older brothers) has already been to the principal’s office more times than both of her brothers combined.  Score:  Maddy 3 – Brothers 0.  My husband tries defending himself, but finally gives up knowing it is a lost cause.

Needless to say at this point, my whole lecture has gone by the way side and Maddy is declaring how great her dad is.  She lunges from the coffee table into his recliner and gives him a big bear hug.  She professes that she is going to take care of him when he is old and live with him forever!!
Note to self…… Jeff’s presence not needed at next lecture.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Celebrating the Little Things

Over the past week my wife and I have been working with our two year old on potty training. In just a week we have had quite a bit of success. Occasionally, I think I learn about as much from the parenting processes as he does from whatever it is that we are working on.
At the beginning of the week my wife and I sat down and decided what it would take to master the process. We agreed we needed a really cool chart to celebrate Jackson’s successes, some stickers, and the occasional prize! We came up with some ground rules, like each time he uses the “big boy potty” he gets a sticker to put on the chart. We had to start small and if we could get him on the actual toilet he got a sticker for that. Then as we started getting that down, he would get a sticker and a small prize for each successful trip to the bathroom.
The first day we took him into the bathroom and had him sit for two minutes. After that he received two stickers. He was so excited to receive the two stickers.  His eyes lit up and you could see how proud he was of himself for accomplishing this and receiving his reward. After he started having successful trips to the bathroom we celebrated with two stickers and a little toy. Each time this has happened we have celebrated with stickers and a little toy at the end of the day. When he receives the praise his eyes light up and he just beams. After just a week we made it all day yesterday with only one accident. I felt pretty good about that.
As we worked through the week I realized the importance of celebrating the little things. I think as a culture we often get over fixated on the end result.  It is only when we accomplish the little things that we can achieve big goals.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Family Lake Vacation

Many of us as kids remember summer vacations with our families. Some better than others!  We made a few different stops during my childhood, Colorado to ride horses in the mountains and Sidney to the Rodeo but at some point we found the perfect spot.  My Dad liked the water and loved to fish. We grew up spending a lot of time on the Des Moines River. We ran bank lines, went jug fishing, swimming, jumping off the tire swing, and learning how to water ski.
When I was a young girl, can’t remember exactly, (and yes that is a sign I am getting older) probably around 10, we started going to the Lake of the Ozarks. After a trip or two to the lake, Mom and Dad found a resort called Bass Point in Laurie, Missouri. That has been home to me for a week every summer since. I know lots of people like to travel and see different places but it must have been love because it became a trip almost every year without fail.
We spent the early mornings getting out and water skiing while the water was smooth as glass and the afternoons with Dad pulling us tubing and making sure we did not stay on long. The older we got the faster he pulled to be sure we got thrown off, one rider after another.  With five of us and sometimes friends along it was a lot of hours of boat driving for Dad, so the faster he could dump us the better (which I learned was a good strategy as I became the boat driver with seven plus passengers to pull).  
A least once each week Mom and Dad would take us on a long boat ride up/down the lake, often to The Clown, a little restaurant on the water under the bridge, for a burger and fries. We would spend another day taking a picnic and swimming off the boat and jumping of a cliff into the lake. Usually Millstone lounge one evening to celebrate my birthday as we were almost always at the lake on that day.
As we have grown up, gotten married, and had children, our spouses and children have joined in the tradition. My role has changed substantially over the years.  My kids have learned to ski there, tube, ride the wave runners with their cousins, and spent many nights up all hours playing cards and board games.  We have spent hundreds of hours over the years sitting on the dock in the evening sharing a cold beverage, telling funny stories of the day and from previous years.
To my surprise, it amazes many people that to this very day almost 40 years going, most of my siblings and my parents still go to the lake every summer together.  It is part of who we are, what we love, and I hope the day never comes that we don’t pack our swim suits and make the trip to the Lake of the Ozarks.
I would not trade those weeks for anything in the world. The memories I have shared with my parents, siblings, husband and children are priceless.

A special thanks to my parents Robert and Sandra Stump for making it all possible and starting what has become an amazing family tradition.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Grandma Amber

I became a grandmother for the second time on April 6th.  People that know me well, laugh when I tell them I am a grandma.  There are a number of reasons for that and every single one of them is legit J.  My granddaughter, Collyns, thinks that I am the greatest thing……ever, and here’s why:  We play hide and seek and scream bloody murder when we find each other.  We read books…. and books…..and books (even the ones mom and dad hide).   We tell each other stories.  Some of them are true and some of them are not.   We play hot potato, play catch, put puzzles together and play the piano.  We play with the pets, Claire and Thomasville, Macy, Lucky and whatever the other one’s name is (I can never remember).  We pop popcorn almost every time she comes to my house.  We tend to the garden, grow pumpkins, go fishing and take rides on the ranger.  We DO stuff.  FUN stuff!  And make memories.  She is an absolute joy in my life and will always be my #1 even though we now have #2, Mr. Colsyn John Wood to play with too! Welcome to the party, Colsyn!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Is She a Keeper?

Is she a Keeper?

I met my wife on the first Friday evening of the Keota Funs Days in June of 2009. That evening I was having a small gathering at my home and a few friends from the Sigourney area showed up and they brought my future wife Holly along with them.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I sat there and smiled at her, and she smiled back. Over the next few weeks we became friends on Facebook and begun to talk to each other through social media. I very much wanted to have the chance to get to know Holly better. Then my opportunity appeared.  Holly came over to my house to “help me” work on a project for my daughter. After that night we were inseparable!

Over the next 6 months Holly and I spent as much time together as we possibly could. During the next winter I undertook the large project of gutting and remodeling 2/3rd’s of my house. This was phase 3 of four in a total remodel of the 1870’s farm house that I lived in. Holly helped with the project as if it was her own. The garage became the dining/living/bedroom/kitchen for the next 4 months. Every spare minute during the next four months was committed to getting the house back into a livable condition. Date nights and all nights were spent in the house gutting and reconstructing. Our days consisted of going to work all day and remodeling all night. Finally in June of 2010 the house was completed enough to move the bedroom back into the house. There was no trim up or even a cabinet in the kitchen, but there was four walls and carpet. Over the next few months the kitchen and doors were steadily put in place.

During the construction phase I have two memories that stand out the clearest to me. The first one was the day that I had the entire wall gone under our front porch. At this time the entire first floor was gutted and there was a large picture window on the opposite side of our house. As Holly pulled into the driveway she could see all of the way through the house and look at the yard and tree on the other side of the house. At that time I could see the concern in her face, but she continued to smile and give encouragement.

The second memory was the night we were laying the subfloor in the kitchen. Holly was right there beside me all night, and when we got done at 1 in the morning, I could barely move I was so tired, but with all of her enthusiasm she looked at this as a photo opportunity. She taped me to the floor and took pictures for proof!

Throughout our journey of remodeling our home, I only remember one time that we got into even the slightest of arguments over the house. For some people taking on a project like this could be very taxing on a relationship, but for Holly and I it was just the opposite. We learned to love each even more while living in a garage and working very closely together. Through this experience we have a home for ourselves and our children that we take a lot of pride in knowing that this is where it all began. We met in the same place that we have chosen to call our home. So yes she is definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Where do you like to go and with whom?

Most of my memorable experiences include the Great Outdoors and the people most important in my life.

Here is a reflection of some of my favorite experiences and the individuals I have traveled with to get off of “The Beaten Path”.

1.    Traveling to “The Iowa Great Lakes”- When I was a kid, every summer was spent renting a cabin at Spirit Lake or Lake Okoboji. Most of our time was spent fishing for bullheads while swimming on a sandy beach. Soon, Dad decided it was time to broaden my horizons and started renting a fishing boat for the two of us. I felt quite special because of all of the one-on-one time he devoted to me.

2.    Vacation – to “The North Shore”- When my wife Cora was growing up, she often traveled to Northern Minnesota for vacation. After 5 years of marriage, in 1997 we agreed to go on vacation with Cora’s family. All I had to do was drink one cup of coffee with Cora at Kitchigami Park to fall in Love with Lake Superior. Later that fall we sold our house located in Davenport, IA and both quit our jobs to move to Duluth, MN.

3.    Later that fall Cora and I went for a walk along the shore of Lake Superior in total darkness. We wondered how many people saw us and thought – “who are those crazy Iowans and why are they standing out in the Gales of November”. Because it’s pretty eerie to listen to a salty breaking through a thin layer of ice.

4.     Blueberry Picking – My father-in-law Steve owns a lakeshore property located in Canada on Manitoulin Island. He recommended that we visit in mid – late August. Little did I expect that we were about to stumble into his honey whole of a blueberry patch. We went on to pick blueberries for the rest of that afternoon and solved all of the world’s problems in the process.

5.    What a Lightshow – On our visit to Manitoulin Island we were instructed to wake up in the middle of the night. After crawling out of our tent we watched with amazement as “The Northern Lights” gave us a mesmerizing show. I made this a must see event for the rest of the week.

6.    Meteor Shower – One December evening Cora and I rented a cabin in Tofte, MN along the lakeshore of Lake Superior to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Luckily that night – we were witness to a meteor shower that we could see a second time as it was shown on the still water of Lake Superior - simply beautiful.

7.    Boulder Lake – Cora and I woke up early one weekend for a sunrise canoe trip. We watched a family of five beavers who were out people watching. One-by-one the beavers smacked their tails hard on the water to allow themselves to dive under water. That distinct sound was worth the price of admission.

8.    Remember to “Watch the Geese Fly” – When we lived in Duluth, I had a supervisor named Terry. Along with being a fantastic mentor, he taught me a lot about life. One evening while at Deer Camp, he said he wanted to tell me something very important – “Never Stop Watching the Geese Fly”.

9.    “Watching The Geese fly” – One of my Fairfield neighbors owns a farm pond that attracts Canada geese in the spring and fall of the year. Here is a picture I took one morning last fall. That morning as I sat still drinking a cup of coffee I thought of Terry while I “Watched the Geese Fly”.


Travel plans for this summer – I may take a canoe trip back to The Boundary Waters. However, my most recent book checked out of the Fairfield Library is called Iowa Canoe Trips. It’s time to see if I can get my kids to leave their personal devices at home to go exploring with me on one of our area waterways. 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015


This year for Christmas I received one of the best gifts I have ever received.  My fiancĂ©e, Emilee, and my parents got me a black Labrador puppy.  I was completely surprised and was not expecting to get a dog at all. About a month before Christmas I was looking on Emilee’s Pinterest account at dogs. After doing some looking I new that when I did decide to get a dog I wanted it to be a lab. Then about a week later she was texting me about dogs and asking all of these questions but I guess I didn’t think much about it since I just had been looking at them online. Emilee surprised me with him a few days before Christmas. He came from a breeder in Indiana.  He made the long trip here with his sister who went to one of my coworkers. I was expecting picking a name for him to be a hard decision, but really one came to me pretty fast. I thought my family and Emilee would have all shorts of suggestions, but they really didn’t have any.  I decided to name him Castle after the TV show Castle. His full registered name is Castle Cooper Gaston.

I stated before that Castle was probably the best Christmas gift I have ever received but he has also been more work than any other gift I have received. Castle is my first dog so it has been a huge learning experience for me. We always had a dog growing up but we haven’t had a puppy since I was a kid so I guess I did not remember (or truly understandJ) the amount of work it takes to take care of a puppy. The first few weeks with Castle were very tiring since he didn’t sleep through the whole night and he required constant attention if he was out of his crate. It took me awhile to adjust to the new lifestyle of taking care of a puppy but things are going better. Castle now sleeps through the whole night and is doing a pretty good job learning basic commands. Castle is now “mostly” house trained. Overall he has done a pretty good job being house trained we’ve had only a few accidents along the way. He is extremely smart, so when he isn’t completely full of energy he has been fairly easy to train. 

Castle has been a great learning experience for me over the past few months. Raising a puppy takes a great deal of patience and responsibility. The responsibility of raising a dog I have that down, but patience on the other hand has been a struggle. Most people don’t see it, but those who know me well know that I am one of the least patient people in the world.  This has been the biggest struggle for me in this process, but I have come a long way. Having Castle has done great things for my patience and I have learned a lot.  Even though some days he pushes my patience, overall he is a lot of fun. Castle has been a huge joy to have around. I enjoy coming home and taking him for a walk and playing with him in the evenings. I am really looking forward to the weather warming up and the days getting longer so we can spend more time outside. Even though you can see (below) he really likes the snow. I think he is probably feeling a little cooped up also.  I don’t currently bird hunt but I am thinking about taking it up since it could be a fun hobby that Castle and I could do together. I am looking forward to all of new adventures and learning experiences I will have with Castle.