Merry Christmas, a Little Late

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We had a quiet Christmas with all of the kids and grandkids occupied elsewhere.  Chatted with everyone on the phone and had a relaxing day at home, just the two of us.  The day after Christmas, we met Susan halfway and brought Aidan and Ally back to Dallas with us for the rest of the week.  They are always easy and lots of fun!

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Our week was full. We decided to go to The Galleria and try ice skating one day but that was a bust.  When we arrived, the zamboni was out on the ice and a hundred people were standing around on their skates waiting to get back on the rink.  A look around revealed that there were probably another hundred people in line waiting to pay and get their skates.  We watched for awhile and eventually those who were already skating got back out on the ice.  It was packed.  Rich and Aidan immediately decided they were not going to get into that herd of skaters.  Ally was still interested so she and I got in the long line while the guys went to wander the mall.  We waited 15-20 minutes while barely moving forward and Ally finally said she changed her mind and didn’t want to skate after all. I felt bad for her but it was probably a good decision considering the crowd. I called Rich and he didn’t answer, texted him and didn’t hear back. We had no idea where they’d gone so we went up one level to Starbucks. While I was waiting for my tea, Ally spied them looking down on the skating rink trying to find us.  🙂  I told her to run out there and tell them where we were while I continued to wait.  Then she saw the Build a Bear Workshop next door to Starbucks and wanted to look around–she had never seen the store before.  She had some Christmas money with her and was very enthusiastic about getting a stuffed animal so we did the whole process and she had a ball. She was so excited to get a cute little reindeer with a “beating heart” and a winter cape.  We met back up with the guys, did a little more shopping, and braved the traffic back home.

 

 

We watched the original “Jumanji” on TV one night and then went to see the new version at the theater the next day.  It was more entertaining and funny than I expected it to be and we all enjoyed it.  We stopped by to see their great-great Aunt Frankye and had a nice visit.  We went out to dinner one night, played a lot of games at home, did some English and math on Kahn Academy, read stories, and chatted about life.

Friday their cousins were finally home from their trip to Colorado so they were all excited to get together. Bonus–Sarah and Miles had stopped in Amarillo on the way home and brought Emery with them. The three girls are the best of friends (most of the time) and really, all eight grands get along great. Aidan is getting a little too old to play with the young ones but he is still awfully sweet to them and tolerates a lot of their attention since they all adore him. We went over to Sarah’s around lunch time and they immediately began playing.  Aidan and I left to run some errands and then came back to our house where Rich was working on dinner. Susan and Corey arrived early evening, then Sarah and Miles and kids came over to join the rest of us for dinner.  I was thrilled to have so many of them here at the same time, wishing Bonnie and David were present too.  Many funny stories were told during dinner and then we played a game called Song Pop Party, which was pretty cutthroat as we are all quite proud of our musical knowledge!  Such a good night with the kids and grandkids!

 

 

Today Frankye came by the house to see Susan and Corey, then we went to Sarah and Miles’ house for brunch, more chatting and more Song Pop Party!  Later in the afternoon Susan and Corey and kids loaded up and set out for home.  Sure will miss them!

 

 

That was Phase One of Late Christmas.  We have tomorrow free, then Bonnie, David and kids will arrive for New Year’s.  I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas have had a lovely season, and that everyone has a fabulous 2018.  Here’s to more peace, love, and understanding.

All the good stuff

My ex has two aunts who live in Dallas and I was always pretty close to them during all the years we were married.  When we divorced, the battle lines were, unfortunately, drawn and some of his family, whom I had known for 30 years, did not want to have anything to do with me any more.  It was sad, especially,  to lose nieces and nephews I’d watched grow up. Nevertheless, there are several family members who have stayed in touch and maintained relationships with me (even becoming friendly with Rich after we got together).  These aunts are in the latter category and we always have a lot of fun when we have a chance to meet.  Last month, Sarah and I went to lunch with them and we decided we’d set a date each month so it didn’t fall by the wayside.  A few days ago, I was to pick up one aunt and thought about texting before I left my house but I figured she would be ready. Imagine our surprise when I knocked on the door and she answered in her robe!  We both had a good laugh and she quickly got dressed so we could go.  We met up with the other aunt (they are sisters in law, were married to brothers who are now deceased) and had a great time at lunch, talking and laughing and catching up.  One of them just turned 80 and the other is 90! Love these ladies!

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Beck’s 7th birthday was on Thanksgiving and they were out of town, as were we.  Since then it’s been one thing after another and we finally managed to have a little birthday outing with him a few days ago.  We’d asked him if there was something he wanted to do, somewhere he wanted to go, or if he just wanted to pick out a gift and have a snack.  He chose to go to Toys R Us and then to stop for a treat.  Easy, right??  Well, not so much!  Note to self: Toys R Us is too big and overwhelming and overstimulating for a kid to make a choice if he doesn’t have something in mind already.  Beck loves Legos but has a million of them and Sarah said he did not need any more since he has still not finished putting together a large set he got for his birthday. I knew he really wanted to look at the Legos but he walked on by and started perusing the other shelves.  Oh, my goodness, we walked up and down every aisle once, twice, three times, four.  The only thing he *really* wanted was a $150 R2D2 robot.  We told him we were sorry but that was too much money.  He was sweet about it but we could tell he really wanted it. We encouraged him to look for smaller, similar items but that was not cutting it.  So we wandered some more. I even told him he could get Legos if that’s what he truly wanted, so what if his mom said no! LOL We suggested some educational things like science experiments or a microscope or art projects but he was not interested.  He finally picked a couple of little packages of Star Wars characters and I told him since they were small, he could get something else.  This led to more wandering around the store. At one point, he did say, “We could be on our way home if I got that robot.” Funny boy!  Eventually we found ourselves in the nerf gun section.  I don’t like toy weapons and will usually not buy them for any of the kids but by then I was worn down and when Rich spied a four-pack of little guns, Beck was excited that he could have some friends over and divide up into teams and shoot at each other. So I said okay and off we went.  Thankfully he was pleased with his choices by the end; we were afraid he would just settle for something, anything, and be disappointed soon after.  But he was sweet and thankful and happy–he really is such a good kid.  Rich said next time we will just buy any of the grands a gift of our choosing and present it to him or her instead of torturing them with so many choices and decisions.  Lesson learned!  We asked Beck if he wanted to go somewhere and get a snack so he suggested his favorite place, 7-11, to get a slushie and a treat.  🙂  We love this kid!

Tuesday was my last day of volunteer work till after the new year. We had a little party and Rich was nice enough to make homemade tomato soup and croutons to go in it.  The weather was terrible, pouring down rain–just what I needed on a day when I was hauling a bunch of stuff!  We had a nice time, the soup was a big hit, and we all brought home little gifts from each other.  I love these ladies, too!

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Now we are on Day Two of what I am calling our Six Days of Quietude.  Sarah, Miles and kids have gone to Colorado for Christmas and we will not have Susan’s kids till the 26th.  We do not often have so many days by ourselves and we don’t really hang out with anyone in Dallas other than family. So far we’ve done housework and laundry, had a flat tire on the car, got the tire repaired, did some shopping and gift wrapping, watched some TV, read, went out to eat, and today I made another big haul at the thrift store–score!

25497961_10210683076569494_4292776563060692455_n13 books, 13 toy vehicles, 3 little journals, a word-find book, a jump rope, 3 whiffle balls, plus a holiday “peace” decoration for me.  $21 minus a $10 credit I had earned, minus a special holiday scratch-off for $5 more.  So, in essence, all of that for 6 bucks!  I am proud!  The kids’ room is getting pretty well stocked so it might be time for me to quit!

Charlie Brown Christmas

Sarah and I took the kids to a local production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” this evening.  It was super cute and the kids loved it.  At the end of the show, the cast led the audience in singing Christmas carols as well as “Happy Birthday” to any kids with November and December birthdays. Beck’s birthday was in November so he stood up with the rest of the honorees and beamed while everyone sang.  He swears that “Charlie Brown” looked right at him and pointed at him during the song.  Too cute. Afterwards we got to meet the cast and the kids got the actors’ autographs.  Jack took his program and walked right up to each and every character.  Adorable! It was great to see the kids enjoying themselves so much and a great time was had by all–I think Sarah and I laughed more than the grandkids during the show!

 

DNA and Family Secrets, Part 2

Last week sometime, I received a message from a guy named Ed who stated that he, his mom, and several other family members had done their DNA tests and were showing up as a “very strong match” to our family but they couldn’t figure out the connection.  He wanted to know if I could solve the mystery by looking at our common matches and our family trees and discerning how we were related.  I took a look and couldn’t see any names that I recognized. I asked my mom to look and she didn’t know anyone either.  She asked some of her relatives and neither did they. We were all quite puzzled because, indeed, this other family were closely enough related to be first cousins in some instances. For example, Ed’s mom and my mom had enough of a DNA match to be close cousins.

We did a lot of chatting back and forth about names, birthdates, places where our relatives had lived, etc., to no avail.  Finally Ed wrote one night asking me if I was sitting down because he thought he had an answer.  He was looking at a 1910 census form I had attached to my great-grandparents on my family tree.  Come to find out, his maternal great-grandparents and my maternal great-grandparents lived on the same street in Philadelphia in 1910.  In fact, they lived four houses down from each other.  My grandmother Adeline was 2 years old at the time of the census and his grandmother Anna was 3.  It began to dawn on us that it was likely that our grandmothers Adeline and Anna were actually half-sisters.  There was some hanky-panky going on in the neighborhood way back when!  We weren’t completely sure which of the great-grandfathers was the father of both girls but further research and narrowing down of information revealed that Ed’s great grandfather was the culprit.  My mom has a cousin on her great grandfather’s side who had done her DNA and guess what? No match, no relation!

There went half of our German parentage since our “real” great grandfather was an Irishman.  I never knew my great grandparents so it is not overly emotional for me to realize that I am not part “Plageman” after all, but part “Dougherty.”  I imagine it is a little tougher for my mom, who did know her grandparents and also has to grapple with the fact that her mother was not exactly who she thought (through no fault of her own, of course).  None of these individuals are still alive so we cannot ask any questions. We have no idea if my great grandparents knew that my grandmother was not really the daughter of my great grandfather. We have no idea if my grandmother had any clue herself.  Probably not, but who knows!

We compared photos of Adeline and Anna, now known to be half sisters, and they look like they *could* be related but it’s not a striking resemblance where you’d sit up and take notice.  They probably knew each other as children on the same street but I don’t think they ever knew they were half sisters.  It’s all so intriguing and I really wish we could go back in time and see it all unfold.  Was my great grandmother (coincidentally also named Anna) in love with her neighbor Edmund?  Was it a brief fling?  A one time thing? Hopefully not a sexual assault. Did they know that Adeline was theirs together and not my grandfather Frank’s? So many questions and I don’t think we will ever have the answers.

My grandmother Adeline

My mom has a new half first cousin who is almost her same age and who lives outside Philadelphia.  They want to  meet at some point. We have a bunch of new half second cousins also mostly in the Philadelphia suburbs area.  Funny, cousin Ed has a summer home in Ocean City, NJ, where my family has often rented houses for vacations and family reunions over the years.  Who knows, we might have walked right past each other more than once.  He says we should all try to get together next summer and compare stories and photos.  Sounds like a plan!

I guess the moral of the story is: don’t do your DNA unless you are prepared for anything.  I have a cousin who was contacted by a daughter he never knew he had!  And now here we are with a different great grandfather than we thought.  We were hoping to find our Native American roots or something unusual and interesting but never anticipated this! Do you have any interesting ancestry stories?

DNA and Family Secrets, Part 1

If you read my post about my trip to New Jersey to see Mom, you might have caught a quick reference to the fact that several of us spit in tubes and sent off our DNA to be tested.  Mostly we wanted to see if anything interesting came up about our heritage. We’d been told we were almost purely German on my maternal grandmother’s side (both of her parents had strong German ancestry and hadn’t been in the US for too terribly long) and English on my maternal grandfather’s side.  My maternal grandfather also told us that he had Native American ancestry from the Lenni Lenape tribe, though this had never been documented and seemed a bit of a myth or a rumor.  He was somehow related to the Cattell family in NJ, who claimed the famous Jonas Cattell, said to have warned the patriots that the Hessians were preparing an attack during the Revolutionary War.

On my dad’s side, we were pretty confident of English and Irish ancestry from the Rices and the Kirbys, though we didn’t have a lot of information about either one.

After several weeks passed, we excitedly opened our DNA results.  Honestly, they were pretty boring.  No Native American ancestry, nothing exotic, no African, and almost no German!  My mom, uncle, sister, brother and I showed up as varying mixes of English, Irish and Scandinavian.  We were a little surprised about the Scandinavian.  Where was the German? My sister found an article that was pretty complicated but basically explained that due to all of the migrations, invasions, wars, overthrows and intermarriages, a lot of people in Germany are hard to distinguish from English.  Additionally, ancestry.com and other such sites are not available in Germany due to concerns about genetic profiling left over from WWII so there is not much of a German database to compare.  We all had a tiny bit of Western European genes but that was all that might have indicated our German side.

In addition to getting our DNA results, we were also given a list of other people who have had their DNA evaluated on ancestry.com and show a match to our DNA.  I have over 300 “relatives” that share DNA with me–pretty interesting!  I knew all of the close matches–they are cousins and family members that I can easily identify.  But then there are pages more of 3rd and 4th to 8th cousins and I have no idea who these people are.  Many of them have their own family trees on ancestry so I could look and see who the common ancestor might be. It’s really overwhelming to see that many people and to try to figure out how you are connected, but also kinda fun.  I’ve been working on our family tree and have been able to trace some lines all the way back to England in the 1100s.  Crazy!  We are supposedly directly linked to King Henry I and William the Conqueror.  But, to put that into perspective, I read that 25% of the British population can claim a direct line to these guys, including many Americans of British ancestry (so we are not so special after all).

Anyhooooo, that’s a little background which leads me to the next part of the story.  Read on in the following post!

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

IMG_9370 (1)I am always a last minute Christmas person.  I can remember back in the day when we didn’t even put up our tree till Christmas Eve–that was the tradition–and then we left it up till New Year’s Day.  Now it seems that people are putting up decorations after Halloween!  Not to sound like an old fogey, but I can’t see the point in starting THAT early!

Since we don’t have kids at home, we don’t go all out on decorations any more. In fact, I sold/gave a lot of stuff away when we left Alaska.  But I finally put a few things up on our mantel and hung the wreath my friend Tammy made me a few years ago.  Today I actually got out and did some shopping, and I’ve mailed most of my cards. So I suppose I am getting closer to being ready!

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Sarah invited me to go with her to a gathering of a group called Seek the Peace the other night.  The organization works with refugees and has a weekly meeting with young girls to work on self worth and decision making and empowerment.  One of the struggles of refugee children is that they often do not feel that they fit in and are sometimes targeted for bullying and ostracism.  Unfortunately, the graduation rate for refugee kids in Dallas is very low (33%).  Through Project Shine, it is hoped that young women will feel supported in their efforts in many areas of life, including finishing their education. Seek the Peace does lots more (read about it here) but we joined in a holiday party hosted by Project Shine.  We took Elle with us and all of us enjoyed interacting with the “Shine Girls” who were mostly from Malaysia and The Congo; we had snacks, made wreaths, and took photos together.  Elle made some sweet new friends and it was great to see her talking and laughing with girls from differing backgrounds and customs.  She has a tender heart like her mom and grandmother.  🙂

I picked the grands up from school yesterday and we hung out for awhile so Sarah could get some errands done.  We had a lot of fun as always.  Love having these kids nearby!

Susan and Corey’s kids will be here on the 26th for a week and we are looking forward to that. Everyone’s schedule is off this year so we won’t have all the kids and grandkids at the same time. Bonnie and David won’t be here till the 1st of the year.  But I am counting my blessings that we are not so far away any more and we will get to see everyone at some point!

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

 

Weekend Update

Plants are coming along!  I am encouraged that no rats have eaten the core out of the broccoli and brussels sprouts (SO FAR) this year.  Fingers crossed that we will get to harvest some.  We’ve had several tasty salads with our greens.  Anxiously awaiting the rest of the veggies.  It’s been warm for December so that’s probably helping.

I’m really disheartened by the tax bill in Congress, the growing list of sexual harassers, the craziness that is our so-called president, and the general state of affairs in the world today. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.  Hurry up, Mueller, and let us know if there are more indictments coming.  Fingers crossed.

Here are some interesting reads for this week:

We loved Iceland when we visited a few years ago.  This is encouraging!  I believe there’s a new young female leader in New Zealand as well.

I am not a football fan but I am proud of Colin Kaepernick’s devotion to social justice.

Speaking of the tax bill….

Cool news from my former home in Alaska.  I knew these two when they were kids.

Great choice. 

I’ve been trying to do more of this.  

Love!

Have a good week!

 

 

Babysitting

As I mentioned, Sarah and Miles were out of the country for a quick trip with friends so we had Elle, Beck and Jack last Sunday through Wednesday night.  The kids are always good for us but also very busy with lots of activities so we were on the run! Thankfully Sarah set up rides with other parents for most of the schedule.  Jack doesn’t go to preschool on Mondays so we took him to the garden with us and he had fun digging in the dirt. In fact, he didn’t want to leave and said he wanted to “keep digging.”  Tuesday and Wednesday all three were in school so we could get some other things done during the day; well, I had my usual volunteer work on Tuesday so Rich dropped me off first and then took Jack to school.

Sarah also left the holiday traditional “elves on the shelf” for us so we had to figure out where to hide them each night so the kids could find them in the morning. Wednesday Rich and I woke up at 4:30 to the sounds of Beck and Jack talking and laughing and making noise. I went into Beck’s bedroom where he and Jack were lying on his bed looking at books. I asked what in the world they were doing up and Beck said they had been looking for the elves.  I said it was still “the middle of the night” and they needed to go back to sleep.  Of course they were not in favor of this and I had to take a crying Jack back to his room where he did not want to lie down.  I ended up staying with him and I think we both fell asleep for another hour. I am not sure that Beck ever went back to sleep!  Needless to say, once they were all at school, I took a nap!

Sarah and Miles had a great time and the kids were happy to see them when they returned.  We haven’t been called upon since then so I think they are giving us a little break!  🙂

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