Natalie and Paul’s Wedding

If you recall, my friend Natalie got married at the end of December. My whole family went to the wedding. It was the first family wedding of theirs held away from their family church, so it was pretty different.

Here’s some photos:

Our long row of family. Simon ducked out at the last second….

Ooh, I just love that.

I just wanted one cute shot of them, in their matching clothes, as they kept saying they were each others “date”.
I swear, almost seven is harder than almost one.

Look at that beauty. Isn’t that fantastic? One-Take Auntie Livi, that’s what they’re calling me now.

My parents looked so nice….my dad is the dorkiest picture smiler ever. (Yes, Lane, even more than you.)

Ah, but then, just when you’re reading to give up….look what they give you. Everyone looking, smiling and in matching outfits. I just love this photo (and yes, it is in my blog header). Love it, could be my favorite photo of the holiday season.
As I was entertaining the baby (who knew babies don’t care about weddings?) a friend offered to take a photo of us together.

Too bad the baby clammed up around a “stranger” but it is still a lovely photo.

The first dance….

My favorite shot of them.

Father/daughter dance.
The mother of the bride, Kathy, came up to me later in the evening. She told me she was mad because they always do “father” stuff at weddings. She said that she married off five daughters (she didn’t say it like that, I’m paraphrasing) and she wanted a moment. She asked me to come up with a song that she could use to dance with all of her girls. A mother/daughter dance.
I recommended “You are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne.

This is that dance. It was sweet for about 60 seconds, until….

Her five sons-in-law got wind of the idea and bribed the DJ to let them crash the sweet dance. The music changed to ”
I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred and the boys were….um…grinding on their mother-in-law. It was funny, yes, very funny, but I felt bad for Kathy. She wanted one simple thing and was denied that.

“Macca” and Hayden, her daycare boy. Macca is his word for grandma. She is not his grandma, but he calls her that, it’s so sweet. He was thrilled to see her at the wedding.

 This picture makes me laugh. Jamie (the brunette on the floor) is such a lady….

My sister with Colleen, the oldest sister of the bride.
And, lastly, Arionna wanted to dance all night long. But when you’d get her near the dance floor, she’d get nervous. Finally, her mommy got her to dance and she loved every minute.

You can’t tell, but she’s laughing very hard.
It was a fun night and a lovely wedding. We had a good time and the kids were exhausted. Well, not Cam. His other grandma came and got him about 8pm so he could go home and sleep. But Arionna and Simon were wiped out.
And that’s it. All five girls are married. No more family weddings to attend, it’s kind of sad…

My Real Mom

I was reading a blog this morning and it was a writing prompt. It said: write about an UNtrue family story

And, just like that, I was inspired. For those of you who follow me but don’t actually know me, here’s a little background before we begin. I am the second of four children. Two boys, two girls. We are insanely close in age…five years for four kids. We also look a lot alike. I don’t have a picture of the four of us, but take my word for it. We’re similar looking.

When we were growing up, our parents’ best friends, the Kranz family, had five daughters, all roughly the same ages as us. We spent many an hour with that family, many a party, many a family vacation. We were one big extended family.

Now, I honestly can no longer remember the exact origin of this particular tale, but it has become family legend. A story to be dragged out at parties and reunions. The occasional allusion in a fit of humor.

Once upon a time, as children, we somehow got it in our heads that it would be fun or funny to convince the Kranz girls that our mother is not actually our mother. Of course, the problem was that the older children could remember my mom (Kaye) being pregnant with the younger kids. So, the legend developed as follows.

John (my dad) and Kaye (his wife) are parents to two children. Zack and Emily. Nick and Olivia, the older two are the children of John and his first wife (unnamed or else I’ve forgotten what we named her). As these sad tales are wont to go, poor unnamed first wife ended up in prison, resulting in divorce and John getting full custody of the children. 


Oh yes, it was burglary. We didn’t have much money and she stole to feed her children. (Wouldn’t do at ALL to have her be a complete villain). But, she got caught and in order to create a cautionary tale for mother’s everywhere, the judge threw the book at her. Possibly literally. I was so small when she was sent away I wasn’t actually present at the trial, nor would I have remembered it if I were. 

My father, being the brokenhearted, desolate soul that his wife’s perfidy rendered him, decided the only recourse was moving forward. He got a divorce, met Kaye and married her very soon afterward. Kaye, being a wonderful, delightful, warm, and loving woman, took John’s children and raised them as her own, right along with her own. The newly added Zack and Emily. 

This was the story as it was created. Mostly. I may have squandered a detail here or there. Like the name of my inmate mother?

Well, one night, hanging out with the Kranz family, we take it upon ourselves to tell them the whole sordid “truth” about our family. They were shocked and….disbelieving. Of course, being consummate storytellers at our tender ages (perhaps I was 12 or 13 when this first came up) we added layers and details to the story. We told of how once each month John would drive us to the prison where we got to spend 30 minutes talking with our birth mother. We told of how we call Kaye “mom” because she is truly the only mother we’ve ever known. We said that we all look so much alike because we DO share the same father.

The girls were starting to believe. We were THAT convincing. But, the ultimate test…if you’re a child and there is something you aren’t sure is true, what is your next step? You ask your parents. Right there, that night, at our house, they marched up to the four adults and demanded to know, “is it true?”

This was it, the con was surely blown.


Frank (their father) said gravely, “yes, it’s true.”

Kaye and Kathy, the mothers, gamely jumped in and confirmed the story.

Then, all eyes swung to John. His hangdog expression was perfect as he confirmed the story of his first disastrous marriage that gave him his two older children.

They backed us up! I think they thought it was funny or else they were just drunk, but either way, they confirmed the story and possibly filled in some details of their own and just like that, we had them convinced.

We were children of a broken home. I am the daughter of a criminal. Kaye is not an evil stepmother, but a benevolent fairy godmother. This is the stuff of  legends. Or, at least, movies of the week.

For quite some time, very possibly YEARS, we continued this charade. It didn’t come up every day, or even every time we were together. After all, it isn’t like preteens and teenagers sit around doing nothing but talking about their parents. But, every once in a while, a word or a story or a memory would surface that would drag the story back into the spotlight. “Have you seen your real mom recently?” “Don’t you mean half-brother?” “I can’t believe you’ve been inside a prison.” And we would rehash and maybe shape new details into the lore.

Eventually, at some point, we gave in, we told the truth. It was a dramatic affair full of exclamations that “I knew all along” and “I never really believed it” but the tall tale itself persists. Now, as adults, we see each other less frequently and don’t talk nearly as much, but then, in a moment, someone will mention HER. My long lost real mother.

Most recently it was wondered why she wasn’t yet out of prison (bad behavior, I think. Or maybe recidivism). And we laugh and remember the innocent days of youth, before Google, when it was possible to lie to your friends and have them still love you after The End.


Lent Letter #34

Dear Kranz Family,

You know, when I first started this, I didn’t write a list of people I would write to. Then, a few letters in, I sat down to make a list. It was harder than I thought to come up with 40 influential people in my life. You’d be surprised, just try it.

At that point, I actually considered writing to each of you individually, just to pad the list. But, in truth, your influence on me came more as a family than as individuals. Growing up, you were our family friends. Well, you still are, I suppose, but it was different then. Frank and Kathy, you are my parent’s best friends and your kids were our friends. It’s funny how we expect our kids to get along just because the parents are friends. I think we got very lucky that we all actually like each other.

Spending time with your family always felt like watching my own life in a mirror. That sounds weird. Let me explain. You were the only family we knew like ours. Lots of kids, close together in age, family vacations, weird jokes, etc. Most of my friends, nope, all of my friends came from smaller families. They didn’t have the background that my family did. They weren’t wild and crazy on weekends. They were quieter.

You guys were not. You were like us. So watching you helped me to see how others saw us, but more importantly, it helped me see my own family more clearly. That’s an invaluable gift. I still use that “mirror” these days. Sometimes I look at your family and think it is so perfect, but then I look closer and see that you’re still a family, you still bicker and fight, and sometimes things aren’t perfect. And I feel better, because my family makes more sense to me.

I know that’s a fairly convoluted way of saying thank you, but it’s an important quality that no other family on earth could have given us/me. Then you add in the mountain of memories we made growing up together and it is no wonder why we are all still friends as adults. When we all get together, it’s more of the loud, laughter, beer, giggles, memories, bickering, and in-fighting of the childhood, ringed with the love of two overwhelming and loving families. I’m glad to be a part of both of them.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia (Liv – depending on which of you is reading this)

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Family and Friends

A few weeks ago, I threw together a party with my family and our family friends, the Kranzes.

Frank and Kathy have been friends with my parents for…well, ever, I suppose, and we grew up with their kids. However, as adults, we don’t see each other that often. I’d been chatting with Kelly, who is my age and she and I had been talking about a get-together.

We planned it for November 4. Somehow, miraculously , that is a date that worked for EVERYONE. Mom,dad,Frank,Kathy, Colleen, Roy, Jamie, Jerry, Avery, Macy, Kelly, Jeff, Gracie, Carrie, Matt, Natalie, Paul, Em, Chad, Zack and me. Count ’em up. That’s 21 people, across 10 separate families who were able to make it with less than two weeks notice. Either we all have no lives, or else we got very, very lucky.

Everyone brought an appetizer, and who doesn’t love appetizer dinner? We had more appetizers than we could fit on the counter at my house! I think there were something like 4 crock pots plugged in…and none of them were mine.

It was so much fun to sit around and reminisce (that means to recall old memories) about all the nostalgic (that means to remember the happy times) times we had as children and teens. Most of our family vacation memories are of both families. We chatted about favorite memories and laughed, told fun stories and laughed, Kelly sang a bar or two of “I Will Always Love You” and we laughed.

We still are trying to organize a home movie night. But Kathy needs to get involved, as she is the owner of the home movies.

I ran around taking photos:

Zack, Jamie, Kelly, and Natalie. I love how Jamie’s hair is in motion here!

Zack and Natalie…apparently he doesn’t like her!

Hmm? Maybe he likes Kelly? Or else just having two beautiful girls fawning over him…

Men, congregating (that means gathering) in the kitchen.

Uncle Matt, threatening to toss Avery over the railing.

Uncle Matt, attempting to toss Macy over the railing. Those poor, terrified (that means very scared) girls.


 Starting with my mom (if you read this blog, you MUST know my mother, but if not, she’s the one drinking wine) and going right…Mom, Roy, Jamie, Carrie (who is preggers and due on Xmas day!) Kelly, Kathy (something funny?), and Colleen.
So cute! The baby was kicking and her sisters were divebombing (that means attacking furiously (that means frantically, harshly, or angrily) in a downward manner) her trying to feel the kicks. I even snuck in there and got to feel Baby Bissell moving around.
This has most of us. My mom, bottom front in the purple, with her back to the camera. Going clockwise (that means in the same direction as a clock turns) we have Colleen, Kelly, Frank, Emily, Zack, Jamie, Roy (who is married to her SISTER but has his arm around her) Carrie (seated and drinking a mocktail (that means a fake cocktail)) Natalie, Matt, (seated with blue cap and head in hand), Paul, standing behind Matt, and Kathy.
I just like this one because of how hard everyone was laughing. Zack and Chad are about to burst. This was before Colleen fell off her chair from laughing so hard (no lie, that really happened).
Another fun group shot, I seem to have caught everyone in the midst (that means middle) of disputing (that means arguing or discussing) some long-forgotten point about family vacations. This was not the Great Easter Egg – Was it Vermilion, Otter Tail, or Ely? Debate. That was earlier. I don’t remember what they were arguing, but I love the varying stages of  expression from everyone.
Jeff found us boring and decided to take a nap. (Just kidding, he’s awake, it’s just the angle I caught him at).
Frank, telling the “Better Mousetrap” joke. I think I’ve heard that joke 5 or 6 times (and it is still funny) but somehow it was the first time for his daughters. Strange! But, damn, that is a funny, funny, joke and NO ONE tells it like Frank.
See? Told you she fell off her chair from laughing so hard!
Lastly, two inebriated (that means drunk) friends:
At the tail end of the night.
It was a night of laughing until your stomach hurt, telling tales and jokes, and just being with friends that are practically family. We’ve got a plan. Twice a year! One in summer, one in winter, from here on out.
And that doesn’t count the beer fest, coming to you in March!
Thanks for coming everyone!