Katy

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
caring
major league
sincere
genuineness
animates
thoughtful
worker
lists
builder
fanatical
awesome
smiley
OBT
stupendous
committed
loyal
trustworthy
quick-witted
magnanimous
friendly
organized
considerate
realistic
smiling
farmer
finisher
comfortable
conscientious
industrious
tenacious
Kotter
nice
loving
egalitarian
friends
baseball
glasses
passionate
kind
right
quick
interesting
helpful
respectful
genuine
witty
cute
card-maker
dedicated
baseball guru
photographer
inspirational
detailed
pliable
humorous
high-fives
perspicacious
dependable
late
funny
brotherly
Xenia
generous
Carnac the Magnificent
courteous
kind-hearted
diligent
fun
sports guru
brilliant
hospitable
family
supportive
selfless
beloved

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

A Now-Pink Highchair

Sophie’s dolls (some of which were my dolls, when I was little) eat their meals in the same highchair my dolls used when I was little. Katy and I shared the highchair, as well as a doll crib. It’s seen some great wear, but still, Sophie was thrilled to receive it (Colleen has the crib).

One boring, cold, rainy Saturday afternoon, while the boys were sleeping and Andy was away, I decided we should paint it. Sophie wanted it to be pink, of course, which was easy because we had leftover pink paint from painting her bedroom walls.

And yes, I opened the paint can with a chisel.

And yes, I stirred it with a broken mini-blind rod, which I found in a pile in the basement.

We moved into our house when the boys were three months old. My days were a hard cycle of pumping, feeding, changing, unpacking. Some parts of the move, such as the basement, were never properly dealt with. As the weeks went by and we needed things from the basement we’d dig around in boxes, leaving messes, never organizing a thing. Andy has never minded it but I’ve always felt agitated, walking around our first floor knowing below me was a mini disaster, well beyond your typical basement disaster. (We made a path so our meter reader wouldn’t break an ankle.)

But putting off cleaning the basement is easy to do. Especially with three small children.

However, the frustration I felt trying to find a paint can opener, stirrer and brush in our throw-it-down-the-steps-and-deal-with-it-later basement put me into a full-blown tizzy.

Operation Clean Basement is underway.

Andy is less-than-thrilled.

Back to the highchair. It’s amazing what a couple coats of paint can do. Sophie loved the project. Sure she missed a bunch of spots, and at times she applied the paint too thickly and too evenly (I did, too). Paint got on the kitchen floor (despite the newspaper) the bottom of her feet (and mine), on my elbow and in her hair. But given that I’m a terrible painter, I loved having her help me. Because no matter how it turned out (and honestly, it turned out surprisingly OK), I could say “Sophie helped me!” when anyone commented on the paint job.

“Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it.” —Danny Kaye

Christmas!

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.

Greg

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

Suzy

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

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

Uncle Kyle and Sophie

family

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).

Bliss.

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

Luke

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

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.

Love,

Aunt Kara

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

The Ocean in a Jar

When we arrived at our Ocean Isle beach house, my sister, Katy, gave each of the kids a Mason jar to fill with sand and shells. She decorated the lids of the jars and each jar had a tag around it that said, for example, “Owen’s First Beach Trip, Ocean Isle 2011.” I loved them. She is so creative like that.

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Early August, while the boys were napping, Sophie and I decided to make all three ocean jars (the boys, sand, breakable jars and fragile shells do not mix—so we decided to make theirs for them, and then put them up high in their bedroom to enjoy from afar, until they’re older). First, we dumped all the shells on the kitchen table.

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Next, Sophie filled the jars with sand.

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Then she picked out the shells she wanted for each jar, and put them in. Although I wanted to, I stopped myself from telling her how much sand, which shells I thought were prettiest, and where and how I thought they should be placed. Rather, I let Sophie make them completely on her own. As such, she filled them so full with sand. And then she simply threw any old shells in, not caring if they were upside down or right side up. Some, she even buried. But they are hers. And her brothers. And she loves them. And I’ve always told myself that if my children want to color outside the lines, I will let them.

You can see the finished ocean jars above. Also, this is what our kitchen table looks like on a daily basis—a basket overflowing with art supplies, rolled craft paper, Alphie, a plastic bowl full of paint, a glass of water with Queen Anne’s Lace in it, a glass bowl with two Impatiens in it (Sophie loves to pick flowers and give them to us as gifts), the ocean jars and a big glass bowl filled with the extra shells.

I love a beautifully decorated table. If I had the money, I’d have a vase overflowing with fresh flowers on my dining room table always. And I’d throw dinner parties, often, ones that allowed me to do clever things with place settings and the centerpiece. But lately, I’ve been finding just as much joy in a hand-turned wooden bowl filled with clementines (which Sophie eats at least four of daily, now that she can peel them herself) on our formal dining room table. And I absolutely love the mess of our kitchen table. Especially because it’s not a mess of bills or freelance work or dirty dishes. Rather, it’s a mess of art and creativity and play. And I may not have believed this about me five years ago but these days, I’d pick a tiny glass bowl with two floating Impatiens in it, picked by the daughter I love, over a big bouquet any day.

Thank you, Aunt Katy, for the ocean jars. We had so much fun finding the shells and making the jars, and they’re a keepsake I know the kids will love, always.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh