Monday, October 26, 2015

History Lesson

We live about 2 miles from the place where my parents first met. It was a college campus then. The college has since moved (about 5 miles north), due to expansion, and the campus where they met in the 60's is now a job training center.

Earlier this year I was running by the old campus and decided that, although I'd heard stories from the time when my parents met and their early dating days, I wanted to do a walking tour of the start of their life together. See where it all began. Hear the stories while we were physically present in the place where they actually took place.

I told my mom and she thought it was a great idea. Schedules and weather and life made it tricky to pull off for a while, but, finally, this past weekend we took our family history tour. My mom brought her photo album from college and we saw the pictures from 1968 as we stood right where those pictures ware taken. Many of the buildings look the same (at least from the outside), which is fun. They pointed to the windows that had been their dorm rooms nearly 50 years ago. We walked around the buildings where they took classes and ate dinner and lived. I'm glad we had the chance to do it and to hear the stories. Our stories. Our history.

The campus as it looks today ::

The kids enjoying the campus green . . . at least until they got scolded and told not to play there.
Oh well, moving right along ::

All because two people fell in love.
The result of love found here nearly 50 years ago. Grandchildren (8 out of 9, anyway) with their grandparents in front of the dorm my mom lived in the year she met my dad. (I bet you never knew Cousin It was in our family, did ya?) ::

Getting them all to cooperate and look kinda normal-ish can be a challenge ::

The lovebirds. Right where it all began . . . 

The dorm that my dad lived in as it looks today ::

I'm so glad we got our visit in this fall. It was a beautiful day and I'm glad my kids have seen the pictures and heard the stories. It's important to know the stories and hear of the faithfulness of God to our family. What a great heritage we have.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New England in the Fall

My grandpa died in 2007 and my grandma in 2009. All my life they lived in Connecticut, so they were the "long distance" grandparents (the distance was especially "long" relative to my other set of grandparents who lived right in our house with us for much of my growing up years). I loved when they would come to visit or when we would head east to see them.

The adorable pair ::

The entire family, nineteen sixty-something ::

With my grandparents a week or so after our wedding in 1996 ::

Before my grandparents died, they had decided to donate their bodies to science for medical research. So we had memorial services at the times of their death, but did not have bodies or ashes for them, so there was no burial. Fast forward a bit and our family (the funeral home, actually) got their remains back and started planning the service at the cemetery. My grandpa was in WWII, so he was eligible to be buried in a military cemetery. We considered Arlington National Cemetery (he was eligible to be buried there), but decided on the local state military cemetery in Connecticut. So on a beautiful fall morning a small group of us gathered at State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut to honor my grandparents. It was such a beautiful and meaningful ceremony; I am so grateful that I was able to be there! It was a full on military ceremony. I didn't expect it to be so emotional, especially considering the years that had passed since their deaths. There were three veterans that took part in the ceremony and two current military. The elderly vets shot off their guns and one played taps (Kirby has played taps many a time at a military funeral and Jacob has too, so that is especially meaningful to me.) A lone bugle playing slowly over hundreds of gravestones is pretty powerful! Then the two current soldiers (one man and one woman) meticulously unfolded and refolded the flag and presented it to my dad with these words "On behalf of the president of the United State, the United States Army, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service." The soldier was kneeling and looking my dad (who was seated on a chair) right in the eye. Face to face, just a few inches between them. I was not prepared for how moving and powerful that was going to be.

Entry of the cemetery ::

The soldiers who did the flag ceremony ::

5 out of the 8 grandkids ::

My dad and 3 of his siblings (there were 6 kids in his family) ::

Me holding the flag after the service ::

Following the service we hopped in the car (after a lunch together with the family) and drove to Cape Cod to stay that night with my aunt and uncle. They own an Inn on the Cape where we stayed on our honeymoon. This was my first time back in over 19 years. I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise walk on the beach the next morning complete with breaking ocean waves, seals in the water just off shore,  and seagulls. Then we drove to Boston to fly home. It was a short visit, but I was so glad I was there. To catch up a bit with family. To honor my grandparents. To spend kid-free time with my mom and dad. To make a few Dunkin' Donuts stops . . . it was a wonderful trip!

Sunrise on Nauset Beach ::

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Family Fun

We planned a trip to the apple orchard (our favorite one!) with some friends. The day we had planned to go turned out to not be quite so fall-ish, as the temperature was about 85 degrees -- which is a bit warmer than my liking for mid-October. But we went ahead with the plan. We just wore shorts and t-shirts and flip flops rather than jeans, sweaters and boots.

We had a great time. We are so thankful for the friendship we have with this great family. Their 8 kids added to our 6, plus the 4 adults make us quite a site when we are all together!

The (good looking) kids. 14 of them, ages 4-16 :: 2 preschoolers, 2 2nd graders, a 4th grader, a 5th grader, a 6th grader, a 7th grader, 3 8th graders, 2 freshman and a junior ::

Buddies ::

Hay wagon ride to the corn maze (love his shirt!) ::

Friends ::

Helping make cider :: 

it's not easy ::

the cider press (it was super cool) ::

It was a fun fall Sunday. We also celebrated a couple birthdays (with such a big group, it's always bound to be someone's birthday) with cake and a song! I'm thinking it might very well become a tradition.

Friday, October 9, 2015

5 . . . and Flashback Friday

Our "baby" is 5 today. I'm not sure how that can be possible, but there's no denying it, despite my best efforts. She has brought so much joy and laughter and fun to our lives (and also a fair dose of frustration and irritation) and we are so happy that God saw fit to give her to our family!

She was kicking her little feet and messing with the accuracy of the scale . . . none of our babies have ever tipped a scale at under 8 pounds! ::

Look at that smile. She stole that guys heart instantly! ::

Those sweet little feet ::

At family camp, almost 2 years old ::

Almost 3 years old. Clearly, she's had that spunk for years ::

On her birthday last year wearing her "I'm 4" shirt for the first time (the 3rd Stoll kid to wear it . . . I'll be so sad to "retire" it! Or put it in the "hall of fame" -- which is where Joe says we should put extra special items of clothing. For example, his "corduroy" pants, which no longer have any wale at all. You know, there is wide wale corduroy, narrow wale corduroy . . . well, Joe may be the only person to own "no wale" corduroy pants! They have been his favorites for YEARS and all the "wale" has completely worn off. You have to see them to believe it!) ::

And a current picture of our sweet, funny, sassy, large-vocabulary, thinks-she's-a-teenager girl. We think she's pretty great ::

Happy Birthday to my favorite 5-year-old on earth. Thanks for being such a blessing to those around you. My God be with you this coming year as you learn to love Him more!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Happy Day

It's this guys birthday today. He is our rock and we adore him (and I'm pretty sure we aren't the only ones!). I am continually thankful for him. For what a great husband, dad, son, friend, leader, employee and servant he is. I am so glad he survived being born with a collapsed lung and touch-and-go health for a while there. I can't imagine my life without him by my side!

Happy Birthday Kirb! We love you and are so thankful for you!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


There have been so many days the past few months where the devotional I read through each morning has said exactly what my heart needed on that particular day. It's uncanny to me (and, at the same time, so very like God) that it can be so impeccably timed. So many mornings it brings me exactly what I need in my life for that day. Some days it is so specific to certain circumstances in my life that I can hardly believe it.

Anyway, the other day I read these words ::

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hand. {Psalm 19.1}
Right now all the leaves are falling, and there's no reason that they have to turn electric bright red before they fall, but they do and I want to live like that. I want to say, "What can I do today that brings more beauty, more energy, more hope?" Because it seems like that's what God is saying to us, over and over. "What can I do to remind you again how good this life is? You think the color of the sky is good now, wait till sunset. You think oranges are good? Try a tangerine." He's a crazy delightful mad scientist and keeps coming back from the lab with unbelievable new things, and it's a gift to be a part of it.
. . . I want my every day to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift. {Savor, by Shauna Niequist. Entry for October 5th}

I love fall! I try to savor it each year. Spend as much time as I can outside. Looking around. Smelling the smell of it. Listening to the leaves crunching underfoot. Absorbing the beauty.

I also try to live this way. Loving the gift of this life. In the big things -- and, much more importantly, in the little, day-to-day things.

Here are some of the blessings from this past week. Keep track of your own "gifts". The things you are grateful for. The little things and the big things. See if it makes a difference in your life the way it has in mine ::

5029. a walk with Kirbs on a beautiful fall evening
5030. the smell of fall
5032. finishing up a big project
5033. a clean house (even if it only lasts 5 minutes)
5035. carpooling
5036. perspective
5039. the little girls playing dress up
5040. finding the lid to my travel coffee mug (that I use nearly every day) that I lost while walking the kids to school
5041. crisp fall air coupled with sunshine
5042. wearing socks
5044. Jacob's first ever varsity playing time (go #19!)
5048. Friday morning date with my mom
5049. the boys both asking for pink football socks to wear in October in honor of their Ama
5050. Joe and Anna snuggled up together in Joe's bed, fast asleep
5051. an eagle flying low overhead as I was running
5053. Joe's great catch for the extra point in his football game
5054. a great Homecoming week at UNW
5058. the 3 little kids giddy with excitement over new episodes of their very favorite show
5060. while mowing our neighbors lawn for them while they were out of town, Jacob noticed that their mower blade was dull and sharpened it for them.
5062. the 3 littles having a sleepover on the living room floor
5066. cheering on friends at the Twin Cities Marathon events

Friday, October 2, 2015

Flashback Friday

Five years ago this week, this was my view when I looked down ::

I'm so thankful to not have that view any longer and for the sweet girl who was hanging out in there waiting to be born. What a blessing she is!