Pop Pop

Summer Happiness

dinner alfresco

Sophie solo kite flying for the first time

apple picking

throwing bad apples in the cornfield

teaching the art of swinging a baseball bat

James to Pop Pop: “Hat, please.”

He wore it for the entire game.

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” —George R.R. Martin

A Summer Day With Family At My Parents’ House

Earlier this summer my cousins Emilie and Wendy, and Wendy’s children Makenna and Mavvie, visited Ohio from their hometown in Kansas. We see them so rarely—their visit was a treat. And we spent a wonderful summer afternoon at my parents’ house.

Sophie, Makenna and James jumping on Nini and Pop Pop’s bed

Mavvie, James, Sophie, Makenna and Owen eating popsicles on the porch

kids + Emilie, Pop Pop, Nini, Wendy and my grandma

porch view

porch popsicles

Mavvie, Sophie and Makenna

porch feet



Mavvie (photo taken by Makenna)

Sophie (photo taken by Makenna)

Owen (photo taken by Makenna)

my grandma (photo taken by Makenna)

James, a notoriously slow popsicle eater


my mom and grandma

Owen throwing a tantrum and “running away”

Mavvie trying to console Owen

Great Grandma and Owen

Makenna’s cartwheel

Great Grandma + children



my mom’s lavender, drying

more fun in Nini and Pop Pop’s bedroom


wrestling with Pop Pop

the boys’ favorite snack

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” —Henry James

Picking Daisies

Every spring I look forward to the small field of daisies in my parents’ yard. Early May Nini brought out three Mason jars and the kids delighted in walking in the field, picking flowers and making bouquets. James struggled with the picking. He’d find a daisy, grasp it, pull and then yell (so loudly) “Help, Nini! HELP!” until my mom would come over and pick it for him. For more than a week our house was filled with the white and yellow flowers, a flower that always reminds me of home.

“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” —Therese of Lisieux

Grandparents’ Day

Sophie is lucky. Several weeks ago was Grandparents’ Day at her preschool and she had four grandparents present, including two from Baltimore. I was lucky, too. Most of my childhood was spent with four grandparents present in my life. At the time, I didn’t realize how lucky I was. They were simply a part of my life, as normal as oatmeal with brown sugar, Saturday morning cartoons, wild onions stuffed in a Mason jar. One of my earliest memories is of a birthday. It was my fourth (or fifth? I can’t remember). I got a bike, with training wheels, light blue, I think, with a white basket with plastic flowers attached to it. The details are fuzzy but I distinctly remember riding down the sidewalk, listening to my Grandpa Mangan encourage me, cheer me, push me on. “Go, Kara, go!” “Go, Kara, go!”

Sophie is now 4. I hope she remembers her grandparents—all of them—taking time out of their busy lives to be with her, for a couple hours. To watch her paint, do work, wash her hands, eat a snack, sing a song. Of course she won’t remember the details, but hopefully, she’ll simply remember their presence, their love.

Whenever Sophie and I used to have a good day—a really good day—I would become so sad at the thought that she’ll never remember. She’ll never remember me curing her newborn tears by dancing—crazily, swinging—wildly, singing—loudly to “Build Me Up Buttercup” (which she loved) in our old house. She’ll never remember nursing (which, I suppose, at 15 she’ll be glad she doesn’t but still …). She’ll never remember sleeping on my chest, or the first time she saw a giraffe or the time she and Andy rolled down a snowy hill after a terrible attempt at sledding. But I believe, and maybe I’m wrong but I truly believe, all the actions and inactions, words and quietness, dancing and stillness of her early years somehow became embedded deep inside her brain. She will never remember the details, I know. But I have to believe, deep in her consciousness, she will know, feel, that she was loved. And that will help shape who she is, who she becomes, how she will, someday, love.

So thank you, Mom, Dad, Marty and Jill, for being there. And Sophie, I hope you remember. If not, I hope you someday read this and know. You were loved. You are loved. And not just by us. Or your brothers. But the circle reaches farther. And farther still (as it should, for every child). Love like that. Live like that. Be there. Remember.

“Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.”—Margaret Mead


Pop Pop’s Song

In 2004 Andy and I were at the Blind Lemon listening to a guy with a guitar sing. We liked him but then he invited his friend, Griffin House, to sing a few songs. Andy and I loved him. As we were leaving the Blind Lemon we ran into Griffin House. I told him I liked his music. He said he wasn’t the one who was playing that night. A friend of his cut in and said he was just being humble and that he had, indeed, played a few songs. At the time, Andy and I still didn’t know his name—he was just a guy with a guitar who played a few songs at the Blind Lemon, and we liked them.

Either that Sunday or a few Sundays later, Andy and I were watching one of our favorite shows, CBS Sunday Morning. Bill Flanagan did a short series on the best emerging songwriters in the U.S. Griffin House was on that list—he played a song from House’s album, Lost and Found. “Wasn’t that the guy from the Blind Lemon?” I asked Andy.

It was. From then on, we were hooked.

We’ve been to many of his concerts throughout the years. One was with my parents, at an outdoor amphitheater, in Springfield, OH. My dad particularly liked House’s song “The Guy Who Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind.”

A few years later Sophie was born. We’d often dance with her, while listening to House’s various albums. And my dad always danced with her to “The Guy Who Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind.” In our family, it became known as Pop Pop’s song.

Sophie doesn’t remember much from when she was very young. But she knows this song. And still, to this day, out of the blue she’ll ask us, “Can I hear Pop Pop’s Song?” And when we play it in the car for her, she now sings along, softly—she knows the entire chorus by heart.

I thought for sure I had a video of my dad dancing with Sophie to this song. But last night, after much searching, Andy and I couldn’t find it. We did, however, find this, which was recorded about 1-1/2 years ago, right around her 2nd birthday:

I love her “dancing.” I love how, even at 2, she’s already singing some of the words. And call me sentimental but if she chooses to marry someday, I like to think of her dancing to this song with my dad years from now, at her wedding.

Tomorrow night Griffin House is giving a free show at 6pm at Veteran’s Park Amphitheater in Springfield, OH. Sophie and I will be in North Carolina, with my parents, visiting my sister and her family. But you should go. Next year, we’ll take Sophie—so she can hear Pop Pop’s song in person.

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” —Berthold Auerbach

Sophie’s “Secret”

One evening my dad was over helping with the kids while Andy was out of town. Pop Pop and Sophie made a double-layer chocolate cake with pink icing. (There was a slight meltdown when my dad reached for the cocoa powder to make chocolate icing. “PINK, POP POP! PINK!” Sophie screamed. Because, of course, icing should always be pink. Of course.) Overall, though, she was thrilled with this baking adventure with Pop Pop—and the result.

A couple days later Sophie and I were in the living room. Out of nowhere she said, “Mama! You stay here. I have a secret.”

And she left. For about two minutes.

When she came back, I asked her what her secret was. “Nothing,” she said slowly, smiling shyly. Once she busied herself with a toy, I walked into the kitchen. And saw this:


I walked back to the living room.

“Sophie, can you come here, please?” I asked. She slowly walked with me to the kitchen. “If you’re going to snitch cake, you should at least be more secretive about it.” He eyes grew wide. She, honestly, had no idea how I knew what she had done. I pointed to the scene of the crime. “First of all, you should have recovered the cake,” I said. “Second of all, you should have moved the chair back to the kitchen table.” I looked at her. Her eyes were still wide. She had no idea if she was being scolded or taught. Or both. “And one last thing. Don’t snitch cake. If you want cake, ask me. And I’ll decide if you can have it or not. But don’t take sweets without asking. OK?”

“OK,” she said.

There have been no signs of before-dinner dessert snitching since. Or maybe I just taught her too well.

“Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold.” —Judith Olney