Thanksgiving Around the Corner

Hi friends–  I afraid to say that I’ve been stewing a bit over Thanksgiving. For the first time in a few years, ALL our family will be together in Ojai for a Thanksgiving weekend (It warms my Mom-heart!!) and I think I’m letting the details of getting us all together overwhelm my heart and mind.   I need to back up and not lose sight of this time of Thankfulness…


Some Family together about this time last year.

So here I am– stopping to sit in quiet and thank God for a few things today:
1.  The maple trees turning in the backyard, beauty out my window.
2.  My people (especially Larry) who walk through these days with me.
3.  Food in the fridge and a fire in the fireplace.
4.  MOPS moms and young adults at church who keep me from feeling old.
5.  Our kids–scattered and settled and doing well.
6.  Grand-kids learning and blossoming– nothing dearer.
7.  My Monday ladies who listen and understand and pray with me.
8.  Books and music and mugs of tea in the quiet of our home.
9.  Our parents who know us well and keep us grounded.
10. A walk with God, who loves us more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3)

I’m sure you have your own list– Doesn’t it bring a calm to your soul to think through your blessings??

O Lord, who lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”  — William Shakespeare

 

And I wanted to send you one last pumpkin recipe (Thanksgiving breakfast??).  So quick and luscious!  Made these with two baking buddies– Jenna & Bekah.  Love those girls!!

PUMPKIN TWISTS
1 egg
2 tsp. water
2 sheets puff pastry (1 box), defrosted
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tab. coarse sugar

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tab. milk
1 tsp. vanilla (or maple syrup)z

In a small bowl whisk together the egg and water.  Set aside

Open out the puree pastry onto the counter.  With a rolling pin, roll both pieces into 12″ by 16″ rectangles.  Cut each piece in half to have 4 !2″x 8″ rectangles.

Mix together the pumpkin, sugar and pumpkin pie spice.  Then spread the the pumpkin mixture to cover the 4 rectangles clear to the edges.

Starting at the long side, roll each rectangle into a long cylinder.

Then with a sharp knife cut clear through the cylinder, leaving a 1″ part at the top that is not cut.  Turn the two cut halves of the cylinder around so the pumpkin layers are showing.  Then braid the two stands together, so that the cut layers of pumpkin show on top.

Then twist the braid into a circle and carefully set the circle of pastry onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Repeat until you have 4 braided circles (so pretty!)

The brush the egg mixture onto to coast the tops of the pastries and sprinkle on the coarse sugar.

Pop them all into a 400 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the tops are crusty and golden.

While they are baking whisk  together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla for the glaze.

When the pastries come out, let them cool for 5 minutes and then drizzle on the glaze.  Delicious warm from the oven!!

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Thanks Bekah & Jenna fo dropping in on a Saturday morning to bake and talk and eat.  Love you two!

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“What we’re really taking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday in November, when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”  –Erma Bombeck

 


Thankful  Heart Charts with the grand-girls 2016

And every Grandma needs a few easy tricks up her sleeve when the family gathers for Thanksgiving.
#1.  Thankful Heart Charts– Been making these every year since our boys were small.  Provide a cup full of markers and everyone draws tiny pictures of all they are thankful for (or contributes to a bigger chart to share with everyone).

#2.  Gratitude Basket –Last year Jodi had everyone write what they were thankful for on a slip of paper (keeping it a secret!) and then after dinner she pulled the slips from the basket and as she read them, we guessed who had written each one.  Some easy to guess, some hard, some hilarious.  So fun!

#3.  A to Z Thankfulness — Go around the circle and think of things to be thankful for, starting with the letters of the alphabet.

#4.  Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt– Give each grand-kid a brown paper bag with this list on the front– a turkey, a pretty rock, 3 leaves, something fuzzy, something smooth, a small pumpkin, something green, a stick, something you think is beautiful.  See what they come up with!!

     
Grand-girls in homemade turkey hats & standing by the welcome turkey at the front door.

 

“In November, people are good to each other. They carry pies to each other’s homes and talk by crackling woodstoves, sipping mellow cider. They travel very far on a special November day just to share a meal with one another and to give thanks for their many blessings – for the food on their tables and the babies in their arms.”– Cynthia Rylant,  (a favorite children’s book author)

And finally, here’s a few of our favorite Thanksgiving books to share together after the turkeys eaten and there’s time to sit cozy on the couch.
      

    
Best Thanksgiving Books   (Link to theses books & more)

 


Finally as you sit down around the table for Thanksgiving ahead, I hope for you that your heart is happy and settled and full of gratitude for your blessings great and small.  Thanksgiving Blessings to you, dear Readers.

“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.”  — Cicero

 

Two Grandmas in San Francisco


Two Grandma’s walk Lois to the park for a little sliding and climbing.

Hi all– This week the Grandma Team (that’s my Mom and me) trekked up to San Francisco to see the SF crop of grand-kids.  Mom met the “O” cousins for the first time– that’s little Otto and littler Oscar– her newest great grand-guys!!  It was the best!

It made me think of my dear pie making Grandma Rose, born in 1903. I’m her grand-girl, now grandma to 8 small people who will likely live until 2103– and will be probably be grandparents themselves.  It’s a chain of Grandmas over the centuries…


Crafty Kid Fun Halloween morning at the local community center.

And it made me think about grand-mothering.  It’s such a sweet vocation. I’ve heard a grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher and a little bit best friend.  I really want to be that for those 8 kids who call me Grandma.

So I’m collecting ideas:
#1.  Create an Art Cupboard in a spare closet– so grand-kids can paint & glitter to their hearts content
#2.  Send secret code messages
#3.  Build a marble maze together
#4.  Make an erupting volcano with clay, vinegar & baking soda!!
#5.  Let everyone make their own small pizza for dinner
#6.  Teach your grands how to play rummy fo high stakes M&Ms
#7.  Have a two person book club– get into what they are reading!!
#8.  A Treasure Hunt with clues that send them around the house collecting ingredients for a banana split.
#9.  Make & paint popsicle stick picture frames & insert their photo
#10. Have a Scavenger Hunt at the library (a book with a mouse on the cover, a Dr. Seuss book…)
#11. Make Orange Soda floats on a hot day
#12. Keep an “Art Gallery” of grand-kid artwork
#13. Write letters to family members, stamp & mail them
#14. Create a Fairy Garden
#15. Take an umbrella walk when it rains
#16. Toast marshmallows in the fireplace
#17. Interview each other & video it on your phone
#18. Draw & discuss your family tree
#19. Write a short play & act it out for the parents
#20. Show them photos of when you (or their parent) were children
#21. Make crazy paper hats (with feathers? pom poms? fake flowers??…)
#22. Build a bird feeder
#23. Wrap each other in toilet paper to play mummies
#24. Draw a giant maze with sidewalk chalk
#25. Plant a vegetable garden
#26. Go to an art museum and sit and copy a painting
#27. Learn to play the recorder together
#28. Have a Brownie Bake-off!
#29. See who can build the tallest Lego tower
#30. My grand-girls favorite– take an evening flashlight hike around the block


Surprise attack hug from loveable Lois

“Grandmothers are moms with lots of frosting.”  –author unknown

“Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete.” –Marcy DeMaree

“Grandmas don’t just say “that’s nice” — they reel back and roll their eyes and throw up their hands and smile. You get your money’s worth out of grandmas.” –author unknown

So here’s a few more pics of our week of grand-mothering.  Can’t wait to do it all over again…

      

      

    

“We should all have one person who knows how to bless us despite the evidence, Grandmother was that person to me.” –Phyllis Theroux

“Grandmother — a wonderful mother with lots of practice.” –author unknown

“If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.” ~Italian Proverb


Lois helping out with the morning Cranberry Bread

Cranberry Bread– Make it over and over in the fall– Great toasted for breakfast!!
Here’s the recipe:


The Best Orange Cranberry Bread

‘If I had known how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren, I’d have had them first.” ~Lois Wyse

Thanks Bunches Ani and Brian for taking us in and taking care of us so well.  And thanks Mom for being an intrepid travel buddy!!  It was the best having you there– rocking sweet Oscar and chatting away with Little Lois.  You truly are an amazing Mom and Grandma.

Birthday Girl’s Weekend– Santa Barbara!!


Hello friends– Do you have fall birthdays to celebrate in your family?? We have a big one– Maryann turned 10!!  So last weekend we trekked up to Santa Barbara for her “ten year old birthday trip.”  Let me tell you, it’s big fun to have all that time to ourselves with our bright spunky girl!

We started out referring to our Birthday Fun Map–  First stop was the Moxi Museum for kids.  Maryann was in her element.  Hands on exhibits using light, art, sound, movement.
     

     

Then we were off on the Little Toot tugboat tour of the harbor– the Captain even gave Maryann a turn at the wheel!
     

We made a Sunday morning stop at the Santa Barbara Mission–founded 1786.
     

Then dropped in to stroll through the lush Santa Barbara Zoo.

     

We picked out our favorite pieces at the SB Art Museum– and puzzled over a few we were unfamiliar with.
     

And we rounded out our day with a tour through the historic courthouse– up the tower for views across Santa Barbara.

     

The sun was about to set when we headed back to deliver Maryann home.


We’re so thankful for days exploring with this sweet girl.  Happy Birthday 10 year old Maryann!!  Here’s to a great year ahead!

Summer’s End and Peach Tarts

By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.   –Helen Hunt Jackson

There is a time in the last few days of summer when the ripeness of autumn fills the air.   –Rudolfo Anaya

 

Hey there– I’m wondering if autumn is rolling in where you are.  It’s just starting to come for us and I’m savoring the September warm (but not too hot!) days and summer fruit still in piles at the market.  This week I picked up a few peaches for tarts.

You can get these pretty tarts in the oven in about 10 minutes–so easy. They’re the perfect light ending that last summer meal.

PEACH TARTS ON PUFF PASTRY
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed*
2 large ripe peaches
4 oz. cream cheese
a few shakes of cinnamon
2- 4  tab. honey
serve with:  ice cream

Cut the puff pastry into 6 squares with a pizza cutter (or a sharp knife).  Lay the squares of pastry onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

Divide the cream cheese into 6 parts and spread it over the pastry, leaving a 1/2 inch margin around the edges.

Slice the peaches thinly (leave on the skin) and layer them over the cream cheese. Dust the peaches lightly with cinnamon.

Pop them into a 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is puffed around the edges and the peaches are tender.

Drizzle honey over the peach tarts and serve them warm with ice cream or whipped cream.  Enjoy!

 

And just want to say Good Bye Summer by collecting these memories all in one spot.  I’ll miss the golden days and good times with family & friends in these long and lzy summer days…

Kicked off summer with Grammy Camp— love reading and creating and laughing with those girls.

     

 

We began the 4th of July with a breakfast & beach walk along with dear friends.
     

 

Family came in fo the weekend to celebrate Nick & Alyssa’s beautiful wedding.


John & Laurel took us in for a great week in
Wisconsin— lots of boating, evening walks, good meals and time to talk…

     

 

The Monday night friends rounded up a few times for lunch over our summer break.  Love those beautiful faces.

 

A bunch of family met up rustic little cabins for 5 days of hiking, s’mores and campground meals at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Loved having the grand-girls at arm’s length and waking under those glorious trees!

     

 

And finally there were a couple trips up to San Francisco to dote on grand-kids and to welcome new grand-guy, Oscar into the world.

   

Ah Summer, going to miss those long bright days, times with out & about with people we love.  But the joys of Autumn are around the corner.

 “The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.”

―E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

 

And P.S.  — here’s a few more favorite peach recipes:
Avocado Chicken with
Chipotle Peach Salsa

 

Fresh Peach Cobbler

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Peach Crostata

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Peaches & Cream Tart

 

 

 

 

  

 

San Francisco Days and Roasted Tomatoes


One of my favorite houses in the neighborhood.


Out on a trek through the woods of Golden Gate Park with this mini hiker!  

Hey there friends– Back from 3 weeks in San Francisco with new baby Oscar and his dear family. Missing them all from here.

We made this new favorite roast tomato pasta for dinner one evening there, and liked it so much we did it again a couple days later when friends dropped to meet that Oscar!

It’s super simple and the tomatoes and garlic smell incredible roasting in the oven!

ROASTED TOMATO PASTA
8 oz. mini ravioli (or your favorite pasta)*
2 cups small cherry tomatoes (red or yellow)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

garnish: parmesan romano cheese, grated & sprig of marjoram or basil

In a large bowl, stir together the cherry tomatoes, red onion, chopped bell pepper, garlic, basil, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Then turn it all out onto a baking sheet that has been lined with foil.  Scrape all the extra oil out of the mixing bowl on to the tomatoes.

Pop the tomatoes into a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are just starting to brown a bit.

While they are cooking, cook up your favorite pasta according to the directions on the package.

Drain the pasta and spread it on a pretty platter.  Spoon the tomatoes and all the juices on the baking sheet over the pasta.  Serve it hot with a sprinkle of parmesan.  So so good!

*I used mini ravioli from Trader Joe’s here, but fresh ravioli is the best!

Hi again–

Just wanted to drop in a few more photos of our SF days (bits I want to remember)– Baby snuggling, good talks, quiet meals together, plenty of playground time with an almost 2 year old.  So glad we could be there.

     
Brand new little Oscar, at the hospital and on his way home for the first time.

     
Lois lined up with kids waiting to get in the library for story time.  With Mom on the playground.  Lois & Grandma Duplo tower!

     
And one Sunday morning Larry and I went out on the town– Breakfast at my favorite ever bakery– B Patisserie.  A wonderful worshipful morning of church at Reality SF.  And then off to a cool new cafe for lunch– Theorita, specializing in pies like the baker’s grandma used to make (we split a piece of chocolate, pecan bourbon pie for dessert!)

So glad to have those days to watch our Oscar come into the big wide world– and see him blossom and grow in his new family.  Thanks Ani & Brian for everything!

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P.S. Here’s a few other favorite simple pasta recipes:
Broccoli, Chicken & Bacon Pasta
Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Saucy Tomato Chicken & Pasta
Creamy Lemon Chicken & Pasta

Recent Reading

Hi Reading Friends– I have one question for you —  What are you reading??    Do you have some recommendations?  I’d love to hear them!  Always looking for worthwhile books to track down and read.

And for you readers:

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  ― C.S. Lewis
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Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”  ― Lemony Snicket

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ― Dr. Seuss

I’ve been reading a piles of books lately.  Mostly reading snuggled up against a toddler, who has definite literary tastes. And also some a few books of my own that have been worthwhile.   Here’s a few of our favorites:

There’s been multiple readings of The Lady with the Alligator Purse every day around here.   It’s a sing-along book about a baby who drinks up all the bathwater and eats up all the soap, resulting in visits from the doctor, nurse and, or course, the Lady with the Alligator Purse, who saves the day!  Nadine Westcott has added her lively lovely illustrations to a whole string of children’s songs in books like Miss Mary Mack and Down By the Bay.  All books you’ll read/sing again and again.

Hug by Jez Alborough is also on high demand here.  A baby monkey sees an elephant mom & child giving hugs and it sets him on a search for his own big hug.  Along the way he finds other jungle animals hugging and is about to despair when his Mom appears with– you guessed it– an enormous hug!  Few words, just illustrations tell the story.  Was fun to talk though and the bonus was big hugs from my reading buddy!

Go Dog Go is a classic by P. D. Eastman (but in the Dr. Seuss collection).  It’s just a series of observations about dogs doing crazy things, in the simplest vocabulary and happy illustrations.  That’s why it’s great reading with a toddler and also a wonderful first book for a kindergartner to take on reading on his own.  It’s silly and whimsical and ends with a big dog party!!  Any kid who likes dogs, will like this book.

The Monster At The End of This Book by Jon Stone is the best!  Good old Grover notices from the title that there is a monster at the end of the book.  He spends that next several pages trying to stop you from turning pages so that you will not get to the monster at the end.  It’s funny and interactive and happily (spoiler alert!) the monster at the end is just him–lovable Grover.  I recommend this book be read with that grumbly Grover voice for best effect!!  Lois and I love it– with her stuffed Grover sitting on her lap!

Here’s my reading buddy Little Lois and I reading at the library after Toddler Story Time.

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And happily, I’ve had some time to read books that are not heavily illustrated, aimed at a little more mature audience.

One of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve turned the last page, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is a riveting story.  Westover grew up in a large survivalist family near he mountains of Idaho.  Her rigid father ran a junkyard on their land, her mother a mid-wife and herbal healer. Over the years family members suffered gashes, burns, concussions and were just treated at home, the medical world distrusted.  As well, the children did not attend schools and were cut off from the wide world.  Tara suffered from an abusive brother and parents who would not protect her.   When one of Westover’s brothers goes to college, he encourages her to do it as well.  She teaches herself enough to take the ACT and eventually goes/graduates from Brigham Young University–hearing for the first time of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement.  She continues on to study at Harvard and to earn her PhD from Cambridge.  But through these years she constantly struggles over her relationship with her family, with loyalties and the fears of her childhood at play. A fascinating crazy true story about the ties of family and the power of education.

Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky socially awkward young woman whose days are filled with office work and nights and weekends are spent alone, consuming frozen pizza and vodka.  She makes the acquaintance of Raymond, the IT guy at her work and he gradually becomes the friend she needs.  As you read along, the story of Eleanor’s disturbing childhood becomes apparent.  Raymond’s dogged friendship see’s her through her darkest hours.  Enjoyed this story for the interesting characters that I fell in love with by the end of the book–faithful kind hearted Raymond and courageous Eleanor.

Kate Bowler is a professor Duke Divinity School.  At 35 she has a wonderful husband and a small new son– and is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  She realizes how much she believed she could control her own life circumstances — that things did happen for a reason.  What results is her journey through involved treatments, surrounded by family and friends.  Her honest, vivid, sometimes funny account is Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved.  Her truths about how to live when death is a near possibility are heartening and ring true.”

And I’ve saved the best for last.  I have to admit to being a huge fan of Shannan Martin, first on her blog and now her Instagram posts that are sweet, funny, honest and open my eyes to the world of need around me.  So when there was an offer to receive an advance copy of her latest book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, I jumped at the chance!  Shannan tells stories– of people in her neighborhood and how strangers became friends.  She writes about digging in deep with the people around us, about being intrepid in how we love people, about sticking around for the long haul.  My copy is dog eared right and left– and I’m ready to go in and read it for a second time to collect all the thoughts I need to remember for my own care taking of people I love. Loved every well crafted page of this amazing book.  You can find Shannan’s Instagram meditations/warm hearted stories at “Shannanwrites.”  And her book is due out October 9th.

Here’s an excerpt of her writing:
“I’m on a journey toward understanding that my highest calling is to be a woman who loves my neighbor more than I love myself. I’m not very awesome at this yet, but each day is a new opportunity for growth, for guts, for compassion, and for open hands.”

 

For more posts on books worth reading:
Halloween Books Kids Love
Best Thanksgiving Books
Two Books–Two Old Favorites
Three Books–Three Women
A Pair of Good Books
Two Favorite Books

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”   — Jane Austen from Pride and Prejudice

P.S.  Painting at the top is “Great Chapter” by Nancy Chaboun (1954-)
Painitng at the bottom is “Girl Reading” by Edmund Tarbell (1862-1938)

 

New Guy in the Family


Lois gets to know her brand new brother Oscar at the hospital.
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Hey there friends– Up in San Francisco for a couple weeks, chipping in to care for our new little grand-guy, Oscar.  And also hanging out with his big (almost 2 year old) sis, Lois.  It’s pure joy.

I could sit forever with this one week old on my lap, taking to him about all he has ahead– walking and singing, bedtime books and trips to the zoo.  I’ve told him about chocolate cake and how much he’s loved by so many people.


First family of four photo– Oscar’s very first day in the big wide world!


And the little star himself — baby Oscar!!
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There’s just so many things I want him to know!  So I’m writing them down and someday (when he can read??) I’ll send them to him:

To Oscar–Things I Want You to Know For Sure:

#1.  You are so deeply loved– by mom & dad, by sister Lois, by Grandpa & me… and a long list of dear people!

#2.  I will be happy to play with you– hide & seek, legos, and even (my unfavorite) Candy Land game.

#3.  I’m ready to cheer you on at each new step ahead, on every new adventure.  (Save me a seat at your college graduation!!)

#4.  I’ll always be ready to listen  — to your knock jokes & long stories & anything you want to talk through.

#5.  We have some good times ahead!!  Family Christmases, camping hikes, birthday cakes and lots of snuggly story times.

#6.  I promise see you as your own little person– helping you grow and change in your own unique way.  I simply cannot wait to see the wonderful grown up guy you become!

#7.  You can count on Grandpa and me to be there when you need us– just text (or whatever kids will do to communicate in the future!) and we’ll come running.

#8.  I will always remember the day you were born.  We were waiting to see who you would be!!  And you were perfect!

#9.  I will pray for you in your years ahead–  for you to grow and learn and walk in the way God has for you.

#10.  You have the whole world ahead of you little Oscar. What will it be like??  God bless you, sweet boy, in all the years to come.
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And here’s a few more photos of our time together:
     

    

     
 Above photos:  Scooter Girl!  Lois checking in on her baby Oscar.  Our girl mixing up a peach cobbler with Grandma.  Afternoon out with Ani for tea & treats at Andytown.  Lois’ walk in Golden Gate Park with Gr. Larry.  Shiny Oscar after his first bath at home.
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And P.S.
Spent this summer quilting up a little blanket for baby Oscar– such a fun project anticipating and praying for this little guy as I stitched along.
     

Links for a few more quilt pics–
A Quilt for Baby Otto
Quilt of Many Colors –Laurel & John’s Wedding Quilt
Quilt Story — A Quilt for Baby Lois
Little Quilts — Charlotte (7) & Maryann  (5) make tiny quilts
San Francisco Quilt Delivery–  Ani & Brian’s wedding Quilt

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And some last thoughts:

“Babies are such a nice way to start people”  –Don Herald

“Every child begins the world again.”   –Henry David Thoreau

“If your baby is beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time, you’re the grandma.”   (that’s me!)   — Theresa Bloomingdale.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord”  –Psalm 127:3

So very thankful for the life of this dear little one and all he has to come.  Love you tiny Oscar.