Colleen + Sophie

November 2013

“In my cousin, I find a second self.” —Isabel Norton

Late Summer 2013

A catch-up.

The boys developed a love of washing windows, which I hope remains with them always.

A pool party, with dear friends.

To celebrate the end of summer we took the kids to Coney Island.

It was terribly hot …

and so much fun.

Sophie and Andy rode the ferris wheel …

while the boys had to watch (sometimes, being little is hard).

Of course, they managed to find rides suited to them, too.

Nini and Pop Pop joined us.

And still to this day we’re asked to go back, at least once a week.

We had tea parties with Colleen.

In September, Sophie tried out soccer.

We went to the Preble County Pork Festival, a family tradition, with lots of family.

The boys experimented with sharing sandals.

We went to Woodfill Elementary’s Big Top Festival.

And we took naps on the porch.

And in mid-October, it was still warm enough and green enough to climb trees.

“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.” —Celia Thaxter

Summer 2013 Trip to NC

That trip to North Carolina I mentioned in my last post? Pictures!

p.s. Only one year of this until I’m caught up.

p.p.s. Andy was at GenCon with friends, which is why he is absent from all these photos. Also, thanks Mom and Dad, for making that 8-hour drive with me. Not sure I’m ready to do that alone with all three kids (still).

“It was different, going to sleep with all that new breathing in the house.” —Cynthia Rylant

Sophie’s Skirt

Did I ever post about Sophie’s skirt? I don’t think I did.

About a year and a half ago (maybe two years?) Sophie drew a picture of a princess. My mom saw it, asked to borrow it, sent it to Spoonflower and presto, Sophie became a fabric designer.

Then, summer of last year, she and my mom got to work.

Sophie admired her work …

and then posed for a picture. (Gosh she looks so young! I can’t believe this was only a year ago.)

My mom made a matching skirt for Colleen, which they wore together during a weekend visit to North Carolina.

“Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that – one stitch at a time taken patiently and the pattern will come out all right like the embroidery.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes

My Dad’s Retirement

Work, for my dad, started early—in life and in the day. He grew up on a hog farm in Lewisburg, Ohio. He helped with the hard work of the farm, and my grandparents paid him and his siblings for the work that they did. He went to college, taught, got a master’s degree and taught some more. He was good at his work, but he never let it define him. Case in point: In 1982, he started working for McGraw-Hill Book Company. I have postcards from the early 80s from places like New York City—places my dad traveled for work. I remember going to the airport with him, getting on his plane and stepping into the cockpit. I remember a pilot giving me my own pilot wings. I remember watching his plane leave the airport and I remember the excitement of postcards in the mail. I don’t know if I simply associate Harry Chapin’s “The Cat’s in the Cradle” with my dad’s decision to leave his district manager job or if the song truly influenced him but he did leave it after three years. And most of his career, from 1985 to 2013, was spent with Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, most recently as Vice President of Business Operations. He did a lot of good there.

In June, he retired.

We attended a banquet for all the Great Oaks retirees late this spring. His speech made me teary.

And then in June, Kyle from San Francisco, and Katy, Tom and Colleen from North Carolina, came to town to celebrate.

These were some of the best summer days and nights.

We celebrated many things that week. We had dinner at A Tavola followed by cake and gifts at our house to celebrate Father’s Day and my mom’s birthday.

Our immediate family toasted and gifted my dad after dinner at Troy’s Cafe. My mom gave him two engraved bricks that both say “But it’s Baseball! Gary Gebhart”—one’s at home, the other, at Great American Ball Park.

For weeks beforehand my mom gathered one word from people who know my dad—one word that describes him. She then made The List.

The List
major league
baseball guru
Carnac the Magnificent
sports guru

The next day family, friends and colleagues attended a party at my parents’ house.

My dad and brother-in-law spent days preparing Detling Field for a ballgame. We played a bit but then …

a downpour.

Still, an enjoyable day, complete with Eli’s BBQ sandwiches for all.

Now my parents are both retired. My dad still works, but it’s work of his choosing. He gardens. He works in the yard. He works out. He attends services at First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati. He volunteers at the Freestore Foodbank. He tutors a kindergartener once a week at South Avondale Elementary School. Every week he and my mom go on a date—Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Findley Market, a concert in a coffee shop. Next weekend they’re going to Colonial Williamsburg to see the Threads of Feeling exhibit with my grandma and my sister and her family. They went to Hawaii.

My dad stopped by the other day, after tutoring, just to hang out, to play tickle monster with the kids, to be beat in Bingo. This time for him is so incredibly well-deserved. And I’m just so thankful to be a part of it.

“Don’t simply retire from something; have something to retire to.” —Harry Emerson Fosdick


Finding the perfect tree at Burlington Tree Farm.

Decorating the tree.

Sophie’s handmade Christmas present to us, from preschool (she couldn’t wait until Christmas to give it to us).

A late night writing Christmas postcards.

Christmas at Great Grandma Gebhart’s house + handmade train whistles from my uncle Skip.


Pop Pop’s lap overflowing with grandkids.

James and Owen with their new cars from Great Grandma.

Autumn and Amanda

Opening presents.

James’s new Jake the Pirate set from my aunt Ellen and uncle Skip (he loved it).

my grandma


Aunt Katy and sleepy Colleen

Uncle Kyle and (Great) Uncle Skip

Autumn and her mom, Lisa

Sophie getting some puzzle help from Autumn.

Andy and my uncle Roger in the kitchen.

Aunt Ellen

Christmas at my grandma’s farm, a tradition I’ve long loved.

Nini making pomegranate cosmopolitans.

Nini, Katy and me!

(They were delicious.)

Nini reading Eve Bunting’s Night Tree to the grandkids.

A Christmas gift for the birds—bagels covered in peanut butter and bird seed.

Hanging our gifts on the pine tree.

Mom and Dad (Nini and Pop Pop)

Writing letters to Santa.

Christmas around the house.

Sophie’s preschool Christmas gift to us.

The decorated mantel—Sophie wasn’t pleased with it so she added the ribbon and, if you look close, handmade snowmen hanging from it (of course, I left it).

A Christmas Eve viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Andy reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

James and Owen, clearly ready for bed.

More Christmas around the house.

Letters, cookies, milk for Santa, and lots of carrots for the reindeer.

Christmas Eve, right before bed = joy.

He came!

The walk down the stairs.

Christmas morning.

Christmas day at my parents’ house.

Colleen and Sophie

Uncle Kyle

Opening gifts.


Colleen’s handmade hand-print wreath (with the help of Nini) to Uncle Tom and Aunt Katy.

Uncle Kyle and Sophie


My mom made beautiful teddy bears for each of the grandkids. They loved them.

Kids’ table.

Grown-up table.

The BonBonerie Christmas cookies.

Sophie trying out her new skates …

in my parents completely reorganized, repainted basement.

Christmas around my parents’ house.

Christmas dinner and paper crowns.

James, Owen, Sophie and Colleen

The teddy bears my mom made …

(they’re comfy).


Day-after-Christmas snow.

Gear. So. much. gear. (But of course, no boots. We hadn’t bought them yet.)

The kids’ first snowfall of the season—and their first snowman!

Making the traditional Uhl Family Christmas Cookies with Grandma and Paw Paw.

Owen taking a TV break from making cookies.

So good.

Christmas Eve w/ Grandma and Paw Paw.

Christmas morning—again!

Sophie opening her very special craft box, which Grandma put together.

Paw Paw and Grandma

Early morning sun.

Grandma made a craft box for all three kids—it’s huge and organized and labeled and filled with so many wonderful things—all three children play with it daily (thank you).

Thomas the Train tracks = love.

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: The presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” —Burton Hillis

Labor Day Weekend in NC

beautiful Katy; beautiful Colleen


Katy reading to Colleen and James

the beautiful/terrifying spider waiting for dinner on their front porch

climbing Jack’s beanstalk at Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem

catching flying scarves

initial pictures

making donuts

Colleen climbing

a trip to the grocery

tower building

happy Pop Pop

Katy and Tom, storytelling

“But in the east the sky was pale and through the gray woods came lanterns with wagons and horses, bringing Grandpa and Grandma and aunts and uncles and cousins.” —Laura Ingalls Wilder

I Spy

A few days ago Sophie, Owen, James and Colleen received an e-mail from my mom—an I Spy game (can you spot the bumblebee?). I love that our children are able to play “I Spy” virtually, in my mom’s lavender garden. Now if only e-mail included scent.

“I spy with my little eye …”

Happy 1st Birthday, Colleen

It seems like it was only a few weeks ago I was driving, in the middle of the night, alone, to meet my first niece—to meet you, Colleen. And here you are! With your amazing Mama and Dada, eating a cupcake.

I left my home with Nini and Pop Pop, after putting your cousin Sophie to bed on her 4th birthday. We drove through the mountains to see you. We’d drive through most anything to see you. You received lots of presents (including a tea set Sophie picked out) but perhaps one of the best gifts was for your mama—Nini made a handmade fabric scroll, with the texts that were sent and received the day we waited for you to enter this world. People say the world is losing its gift of storytelling because of technology but these texts tell a story, a beautiful story. I cry every time I read them.

You got some new wheels.

You had many family and friends visit.

You loved your new water table, from your mama and dada.

But, as always, you loved their snuggles, more.

The next day we went to the zoo. I remember taking your cousin Sophie to this same zoo, with your mama and dada, before you existed. And here you are. Almost always happy. Almost always smiling. Almost always content. As your aunt, I’m sometimes jealous of the way you so easily go to sleep—and stay asleep. Of how pleasant you always seem. But I’m also grateful, for you giving that gift to your mama and dada. I hope you know how crazy in love with you they are, how you can see it in their eyes every time they hold you, look at you or even talk about you. I hope you read this when you’re 16 and know how lucky you are. I can’t wait to celebrate many more birthdays with you. And (your mama will get this) I can’t wait to give you gum.

Happy 1st Birthday, sweet, sweet Colleen.

And Happy Making It Through The First Year of Parenting So Fabulously, Katy and Tom.


Aunt Kara

“Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.” —Jean Paul Richter

A Thank You Note from Colleen

We recently received the following e-mail:

Colleen Jennifer Rees-Four Months 061 (1)

Dear Aunt Kara and Uncle Andy,

Thank you for….

The clothes that keep me stylish.  (And lets me know what team to root for).
The diapers that keep my bum dry.
The socks that keep my toes warm.
The toys that keep me smiling.
And the advice that help Mom and Dad know what to do!

Love and miss you both!

Love, Colleen

I love that we’re able to pass these things on to Colleen (I’ve been saving them!) and am so grateful for everything that’s been passed down to us, from family, friends and even strangers.

Sometimes I wonder how—and why—the big box baby stores do so well when there are so many beautiful, useable and wearable used baby items out there. A summer goal of mine is to return bins, clothes, toys, bottles, Bumbos, a breast pump, books and many, many other baby-related things to their rightful owners—and pass along what isn’t wanted back to someone else who wants and needs them. 

Reuse and recycle—words so popular today yet so much a longtime natural part of raising children. Craigslist is a form of this. As are garage sales, Goodwill and consignment shops. It pains me to see toys that could easily be cleaned or repaired out on the curb for trash pick-up. An Exersaucer should last many, many children. As should links. And plastic cars. And baby dolls. And even items that get significant wear, like strollers.

I think about Bumbos. They’re easy to clean and practically indestructible. But they’re expensive. And they’re only used for about a year. They’ve been around for awhile (but are new enough that our parents wonder what they are and then comment on the fact that they never had—or needed—them when we were babies). And yet they’re on every registry I print out. One was on ours, when pregnant with Sophie. But shouldn’t there be enough used ones to go around for this year’s newborns? I understand new is nice and I appreciate the many new things we have. But I also wish I had sought out more used things when pregnant the first time around. It’s something I did much more of when pregnant with the boys. I had had several generous showers with Sophie. I didn’t want another shower for the boys. But yet I needed double of many things. Used was so easy to come by. And helpful, to us, financially, and to other parents, eager to create space in their basements and attics.

So pass along, don’t throw away. And if you are in need of something baby-related, do let me know. Now that the boys are 14 months, our attic is quickly filling with all those plastic things that made our lives so much easier those early months but are already no longer needed. And I’m eager to return the kindness that was given to us.

And yet, I confess: While I’m happy for the growth, it’s surprisingly hard to let so many of these things go. I remember when my parents gave Sophie that Reds T-shirt. And I remember the first game she wore it to, how she acted, what the weather was, how excited I was to take her. But even though I no longer have the shirt, I have the memories. And pictures. And little space. And no matter how loved, I believe a thing in use is better than a thing stored away, to what? Stumble across in a dusty box 10 years from now? No, I’d much rather see a picture of my niece in my inbox, ridiculously dressed up to show off what’s been given, what’s passed and what’s to come.

We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly.” —Clement of Alexandria