Sunday, August 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Nancy & Joan

Our annual rendezvous in the United States had several highlights.....both of our Mothers celebrated birthdays, Kate got some time off after finishing her Step Two Medical School exam and Grant got a chance to go target shooting and blow up explosives.   We also bought Grant 15 mechanical pencils for school (Target is such a great store).  We'll see how far they get us through the school year.

Grant started the trip by spending a week with Don and Joan

I was one of 15,000 runners in the Bix 7.  The road was much wider than in Holland, so the race didn't seem nearly as crowded.  But there were a lot more hills. 
Long distance airplane flights usually present some interesting situations and this trip was no exception. The area where I checked in at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport was right beside the memorial area for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down over the Ukraine.  I thought it was tastefully done, with thousands of flower bouquets.

As I waited in line at immigration in Chicago, the sniffer dog came through and zeroed in on the man in front of me.  At the agent's request he opened up his backpack and produced....a banana.  You're not supposed to bring fruit into the country.  So the agent gave the sniffer dog a treat.  Good boy! No contraband bananas allowed.

On the flight to Chicago, I sat on the aisle in a row of two with an 11-12 year old Dutch girl by the window.  About 3-4 hours into the flight, I was reading my book and could almost feel her eyes staring at me.  I turned my head and sure enough she was looking right at me.  I could tell she was shy, so I asked if she needed to get out.  Talk about a look of relief.

I've always liked this photo of Grant, so I made a copy while I was home.  He's smelling my Grandmother's iris at our farm when he was two years old (while eating a cookie).  

My brothers, Ellie and Margaret joined us on a tour of the John Deere Harvester Factory. 

We heard there was a refrigerator in the combine cab, but no one could find it.  Finally Margaret came through.  

Ellie baked a cake for my Mom's birthday and Margaret decorated it.  

We had a hot dog roast at the farm, complete with S'mores.  

Looks like Margaret should have worn sunglasses too 

Looks like I should have worn a hat.  

We visited the Buffalo Bill museum in Le Claire, Iowa.  Tom & I had gone there 40 years ago for YMCA camp.  Since then it's moved locations and been significantly improved.  

Kate in a place where she's been for the past 19 years!

Examples of the river shells that were used to make buttons.  

I wonder why their irons are not happy?  We learned that in this case "sad" means solid.  

Yet another reason why Pella is a wonderful town.  

This is an example of the old homes that line the main streets of Le Clair overlooking the Mississippi River

We had lunch at the former home of a river pilot.  

Kate likes to hang out with the stars.  Actually this is what happens when you take a picture of yourself in a mirror with the flash on.   Or you could say this is what happens when you let Mark play with technology.  

My home town has erected a huge statue of an old-time cyclist.  I'll let the readers draw their own conclusions.  

Kate picking strawberries from Tom's garden.  

Kate eating strawberries from Tom's garden.  

This is about all the old apricot tree is good for anymore.  Not much apricot production the last few years.  

Kate and Tom picked green beans for lunch. 

Grant and I got the urge to build and launch some model rockets so we walked over to Hobby Lobby.  They had everything and we were enthused, so we started to pick out all the components for a two stage rocket that would go 2500 ft in the air.  Then we did a quick tally and this rocket was going to be upwards of $200.  So we put everything back and pursued a more modest approach with a simple kit that contained two rockets.

Kate & I built this rather plain, unpainted model rocket

Grant's rocket looked a little more professional.   Kate and I say that his kit was easier   

Building and launching the rockets is always fun.  Finding them after touchdown is the challenge.  You'd think they would be easy to spot in a sea of green.  But that's not the case at all.  Here Tom celebrates finding Grant's rocket in the nearby soybean field.  

On Grant's last launch it was easy to find the rocket, but impossible to get it down.  It hung up in the very top of one of the Ash trees lining the road.  Maybe a strong wind will blow it out someday.  

Nice to see Carol joining in my love of orange shirts.  

No trip to Moline is complete without a stop at Whitey's, the local ice cream parlor.  Kate and I had to squeeze it in at 10 pm the night before we left.  The late timing didn't stop me from getting a three scoop hot fudge sundae.  

After two days in Moline, Kate, Grant and I drove over to Des Moines to meet Lori.  Our primary goal was to help her family celebrate Joan's 85th birthday.  But we also made sure to have time for our traditional breakfast at Chick-fil-a, lunch at Tasty Taco's and Iowa smoked pork chops for dinner.

Friday, there was a girls' lunch, where Joan's daughters, daughter in law, sisters, granddaughters and great-grandaughters and nieces all met for lunch.  Of course I was not invited so there are no photo's of this event.  The next evening the entire crew of 20 people met for a great dinner.  Photos are below.