This is my brother T, younger sister L and me at his Air Force boot camp graduation.
Me, L and T when he was home on leave.
My mom is in the middle, with my brother and sister running circles around her. Both have always been high-energy, and always on the move.
This picture pretty well sums up family life: T doing as instructed, me looking at L, and her exuberantly doing her own thing.
I believe this was Grandpa's 84th birthday. Maybe 85th.
Clockwise, this is J, an exchange student, my best friend S (his host mom), me and my younger sister.
S, me, L, Mom and Grandpa at an Easter service.
Me and my best friend's newborn, W (he just turned 2!)
Mom and W.
My sister and W.
Me and W's big sister, K.
Me and D, big brother to K and W.
L and K.
Me and W more recently.
When S and I first met, my sister L was two years old. She gleefully climbed all over S. Now S's kids climb all over me.
After Mom and I bought a Victorian house, we took L to get a creepy Victorian portrait to hang in the hallway. Instead, we got this.
This was at a walk-through Christmas lights display: T, L, me, and Mom in the front.
Every week when I visit my best friend's family, we find a book (or 6) to read together.
There are always lots of art supplies, and we make time to color together.
We're getting into Playground Season!
Left to right: my best friend, S, with her kids K, W and D.
My first popsicles of the summer with W, D and K.
Whatever else we do during visits, K always wants to hop on my lap at some point, look at cat pictures on my phone, and take a selfie.
These three were all born within a few months of one another. Each figured out very quickly which of my siblings they identified with; being the smallest "big kid" I of course clicked with the biggest little kid.
This little one was hilarious. She was the only child of a single, working-and-schooling mom, and spent most of her time on the farm with her extended family, or at my family's house.
When these twins were infants, the little boy was fussing during naptime. His sister woke up just enough to take the binky out of her mouth and pop it into his. They kept me laughing for six years, until going off to kindergarten.
After her mom started nursing school and she started kindergarten, we stayed in touch. They came to my highschool graduation.
A friend married a friend, and I occasionally get to babysit.
My younger sister brought home a pre-fledgling robin that was blown out of its nest in a storm. She named him Komaki, after an anime character.
I brought home berries from work, and bought bait worms from a gas station en route.
Komaki lived in the screened-in porch on our rental house, and as he got stronger he started launching from our shoulders, trying to fly.
My lifelong dream of being like Mary Poppins finally came true! Komaki flew around the porch, and then back to me.
Eli loved having a pet bird. We never left them alone together, because she desperately wanted to eat him, but they sure were cute.
Komaki thought Eli was very interesting, as well. He wisely learned how to fly into the trees, where Eli couldn't follow because she always goes outside on a leash.
Komaki loved the "wild" and quickly made friends.
Mom's dog, Rosie, is my hiking buddy. We're gradually getting closer to her actually bringing me the leash. Very gradually.
This park is roughly half an hour from home, and one of my favorite spots.
This was a perfect Spring day, and these happy yearlings agreed.
We can't usually get this far into the marsh, so Rosie got to smell a whole bunch of new things.
This is Lake Michigan; a stretch of the lower portion is only an hour away, and this beach is lovely.
The botanical gardens in Madison.
This nearby prairie comes alive every summer, and is a great place for bird and butterfly watching.
Me and Rosie out exploring.
This was taken at a park in IL, on one of our quarterly day trips.
This was taken on a ferry, which we detour to whenever we go that far north.
This little fountain is a favorite hangout, at the meeting of three local trailheads.
This was in Oklahoma, near where we used to live.
We found evidence of Bigfoot at the Great Salt Plains in OK.
We also found quicksand. It's not fast, like in The Princess Bride. My sister did need help to get out, though, after sinking up over her ankles.
This was at the Glass Mountains in Oklahoma. We wore cowgirl boots because there were a dozen signs warning about rattlesnakes, and tennies just weren't tall enough.
We drove up to see a few waterfalls in Central Wisconsin; this one wasn't magnificent, but colorful.
Adventuring out on a friend's farm.
Rosie and I even hike during the winter. We don't go as far, because I'm a wimp about the cold; she, however, cheerfully rolls in the snow.
This beautiful coyote found some apples under this long-neglected tree. We didn't get anywhere near him, but my camera has a great zoom lens.
Rosie is living her best life.
The ivy is waking up. It starts out red, like this; will turn lime green, then hunter green, and then orange/red as we move through Spring, Summer and Fall.
Out at the river, we regularly see sandhill cranes, great blue herons, geese, ducks, crawfish and a bunch of fish (I'm told they are walleye, bass, panfish and pike). And, of course, a million water bugs.
Rosie likes to splash in this creek; I forgot to bring her a towel last time, so she had to stay on dry land.
Wild columbine grows all over around here. Butterflies and hummingbirds love it.
Wisconsin gets colder than I'd like, but it sure is beautiful.
We saw this deer while out for a walk on a nearby bike trail.
My sister's kitten, Dusky, and my dearly departed, Tackle.
Dusky is super mellow with people; he will sit quietly in a bath, wear a T-shirt, or let my sister giftwrap him.
Dusky does, however, have an attitude about the younger pets.
He loves them, really. When they stop chasing his tail.
Eli, my cat, is curious about everything, and loves the great outdoors.
My sister and I took her camping in the back yard; she was on Cloud Nine.
Her favorite plant is - of course - catnip. She can find one sprig in any back yard.
Every once in a while, we'll watch a scary movie. Eli can't handle it.
Mom's dog, Rosie, doesn't like scary movies, either.
Rosie will follow my sister anywhere - especially the park.
Mom and Rosie take long walks every day.
I love how little Rosie is; the vet said she'd likely grow to 70lbs. Instead, she stopped at 35.
Rosie loves cats, kids and other dogs.
Our yard was made for play dates.
Max's owner built a doggie door in the fence between our yards. He comes over every day with a sacrificial toy of some kind; if he forgets, Rosie will go to his yard and get his favorite ball.
Max chases anything that moves: water from the hose, snow from a shovel, Rosie. I latch the doggie door before taking Eli out; he adores her, but she's not a fan.
Penny loves her family's chickens, and is a little bit spooked by Eli, the first cat she'd ever seen.
Penny comes over to play in our yard, because Rosie would probably chase her chickens.
Rosie firmly believes she's the biggest kitty. I'm just grateful she hasn't tried to jump up on the counter!
Eli hates cat treats, but enjoys pilfering the occasional dog treat.
Rosie cooperates really well with brushing this year, thank goodness!
It was super hot and Rosie didn't feel right ... so she came to snuggle.
Eli loves the cat tower. She was climbing on it before we'd finished construction, and after a year and a half still hops on and starts purring.
We had Max from next door and Reggie, from the house behind them, over for a playdate. Reggie's cute enough to make us all want another puppy, even though Rosie chewed enough to make me say, "No more puppies!"
Rosie adores her wading pool ... as long as it's empty. She chewed a hole in hers so we can't fill it up.
We periodically have foster kittens; these two were named Biscuit (tortie) and Bunny (gray).
Butterfinger was an older kitten with a bad eye infection. He's been officially rescued and is doing great now. His owner sends us pictures and video clips a couple times every year to keep us updated.
Mocha came with a bad cold, and the vet gave me antibiotics. She would hiss every time I managed to medicate her, but resumed purring every time I petted her. My brother ultimately rescued Mocha, after we'd fostered her for a month.
Clockwise from the top: Sebastien, Starburst and Rusty. Starburst's right eye was so infected he couldn't see out of it, and his depth perception was terrible. He was so proud of himself when he finally caught his tail.
Eli is always the first to warm up to the babies. She hisses for a few days, watches for a few more, and then joins in the play. This was Starburst.
When we first got Starburst, he had an eye infection (same farm as Butterfinger, different litter). We cleaned his eyes every two hours and got him on antibiotics. Now he can jump onto my shoulder - and see well enough to land it!
Mom and I planted a bunch of bulbs last Fall. The tulips sprouted in March, leafed out, and sat through most of April like this.
The peonies are popping back up! They were here when we moved in, losing a battle with thistles and some other wild thing. Mom pulled out everything she knew was a weed, and then these appeared.
This cute yellow crocus emerged bright and early ... right before another snowstorm. It was perfect packing snow but flattened my first flower of the season.
The purple crocus was a little more cautious, and bloomed after the storm.
When I was a kid, one of the neighbors had bleeding hearts. I've always liked them. I was delighted to find several bunches in my new yard, including this one.
Last summer one of my customers invited me over to dig up some perennials from her garden, including these irises.
Last year this purple lilac bush was home to a family of blackbirds. I'm hoping they come back again.
This larkspur is in a temporary home; I'm planning to transplant it up front after getting the weeds under control.
My first hyacinth. Mom got me a blue one for my birthday, and it'll live outside next to this one after the temperatures reliably stay above 50F.
These daffodils will spread, hopefully into big bunches that I can later transplant all over the front yard.
It makes me happy, early in Spring, to see bright yellow daffodils popping up in peoples' yards. And now that I finally own and can have long-term plans, my yard is going to be one of them.
Believe it or not, these tulips were actually planted in a straight row! They stay close to my plan for them, but also assert their independence.
Here's one of my new wild plum trees. This week we get TWO days without rain, so I capitalized on them by mulching out front and planting in the back yard.
I'm beginning the project to flatten out my front yard. First, I lay down cardboard boxes as mulch, then cover with composted dirt. I'll plant groundcover flowers soon.
Last year I got this cherry tree as a dry-root sapling. Rosie told Max it was a big stick! I wrangled it away from them, planted it, and prayed. There is a portion I'll have to trim off, but most of it is thriving.
One of my regular customers invited me over last year to dig up surplus perennials from her garden. These tiny irises are among the highlights - the stalks are six inches tall and each flower only two.
We do mixed-medium gardening: some in straw bales, some in the ground and some in pots. The tomatoes will go in later this week.
One of my friends brought over six little raspberry shoots he'd dug up from his yard, and we planted them in mine. These are all red; I'm planning to also get black and maybe yellow in the next couple years.
The bleeding hearts are in full swing!
An aunt and uncle in Ohio paid for the wild plum trees, freeing me to invest in another variety. This is a Chicago Hardy Fig. It came in April as a tall twig, and is now growing two little branches.
One thing to remember: never bring peonies into the house. Ants love them, and will ride right on inside.
A customer brought me this hydrangea bush. She said when it blooms, the flowers will start out white; as the summer progresses they'll turn pink, and then as we head into fall they'll turn orange. We both hope it blooms this year!
The wild plums are coming along nicely.
These sunflowers were all volunteers ... right around the fire pit. I'm guessing birds and squirrels dropped seeds over there. I transplanted them to the side of the porch, so when they get taller we can tie them to the railing for support.
The chives look fantastic!
My cat, Eli, is an adventurous soul. She was exploring the kitchen cabinets and didn't come out of one, so I crawled under to investigate. She'd found this hole and hopped in.
The gap was about four inches wide, with a two-foot drop. Eli was wedged in so tightly that I had to pull the wall off of that cabinet to set her free. I fixed it - without the hole.
The staircase was covered in one-inch ceramic tile squares, which terrified me. That would be awfully slippery in socks.
Mom and I pried all of the tiles off, washed and sanded the stairs.
We hired professionals to install the carpeting.
The old floor actually contained four or five layers of flooring: a mix of hard and soft woods.
This is the new flooring; it might last forever. A friend brought over his miter saw and we measured, cut and installed the new trim. We ran out of trim and there's a two-inch gap along one wall; I hid it behind a bookcase.
We repainted all the walls; that was fun and easy.
My hometown has an Independence Day festival every year, usually for 3 or 4 days.
My younger sister gets a wristband every year, so that she can go on all the rides. The rest of us usually buy tickets for one or two, and switch off who rides with her.
The annual parade is always interesting!
Every year, a smiley face firework is released into the sky. Every once in a while I can snap a picture of it that's not entirely blurry.
Here, we had an apparent battle of the bands down at the little lake in the middle of town. Right now they're dredging, but plan to refill it in the (hopefully) near future.
In the summer, we dehydrate, freeze and can veggies from our garden. Our next-door neighbor is even going to teach us to properly can soup.
This is fresh pico de gallo; not all of the salsa makes it into jars!
This was the first car I bought. My younger sister named her Sarah.
My sister and one of the neighbor's chickens. I think this one is Ethel.
We found Oscar unhatched on a tree when my sister was four; she saw an adult cicada on the sidewalk after a bird finished with it, and ran back to the tree yelling, "No bird eat it Oscar! Save him!" So, of course, he came home with us.
My sister and I went to the nearby Rotary Gardens with my best friend and, as usual, finished the jaunt in the playground.
Birthday party fun!
I love raking leaves ... for half an hour. Then we jump in the pile, spread it all back out, and run it over with the lawnmower.
We found this shovel display on a day trip North-ish. Less than a five hours' drive, it might not really qualify as "Up North."
There's a fantastic waterskiing team half an hour from us, and they are amazing to watch.
Sometimes, we just have to celebrate an overabundance of wild berries.
Once in a while, we don't get enough snow and have to improvise.
I'd say we nailed it with these cookies.
It's been a long time since my sister and I could share a saucer sled, but I look forward to squeezing on with little kids again soon.
Most winters are more like this.
The local Rotary Gardens have a big walk-through lights display every Christmas season, and it's tradition to bundle up and go freeze our noses.
After being cooped up inside for a month or two, I start seeing faces everywhere. Even in the coconuts at the grocery store.
When I was a kid, Mom made most everything from scratch; I'm not as good in the kitchen, but do enjoy making noodles now and then.
For my birthday, my sister and I made this turtle brownie pie. It even had a pecan crust and an "unmeltable" chocolate candle, which melted.
Every summer I find a few semi-local food truck festivals and drag the family out. Mom, T, L and I discovered pink tacos at the one in Elkhorn last weekend.
The annual benefit concert in my hometown. This was just a third of the crowd; there were probably more concertgoers than town residents.
At the concert, I met a friendly boxer (dog) that sat on me, and this precious, tiny fledgling that made my hand look big. Smaller than the sparrow fledglings I've held, I think this was a wren.
J and I met up for the annual carnival. We discovered that he can no longer handle the spinning rides, but I still can.
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