June 4, 2010 – June 5, 2010
Started the day with a little pic posting/trip planning. It’s more work than it should be! Hung out with Jan as she chopped and prepared what would become the dessert hit of the day – fruit pizza. [Ed. note: I believe credit for the design of the fruit topping goes to Clayton. Good work, team.] Happy birthday, Clayton! Took a quick run together through the neighborhood and onto a bike path. Pretty hot, very humid [Ed. note: Learned on this trip that my grandpa used to use the word “close” to mean humid. Go figure.] We probably should have known better, given our time and place. Either way, saw a deer on the bike path, shared a very eerie sensation (almost like leg-deadening/faintness) while running over an asphalt bridge, watched for a few minutes as medieval-renaissance battle nerds jousted/sworded/maced their afternoons away [Ed. note: Whoa! I found them! They are the Beornve Realm of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society!]. Picked my parents up at the hotel, in town for the weekend. So excited to see them. Family reunion/picnic/wedding celebration at the Schnoor’s farm in Donahue, IA, about 20 min drive into the country. I’m still learning Laura’s family tree and am guaranteed to botch some of the names/relationships [Ed. note: But hopefully not publicly since I’m here to edit and can call my dad in as back up if necessary.], but I’m confident in saying that the Schnoor’s are from Ron’s mother’s side of the family, the Quists [Ed. note: Yep.]. Huge thanks to Al and Connie for hosting us and for a great afternoon. The farm (organic, mostly beans and corn) is beautiful and something much more sophisticated than I was ever aware. I have long appreciated the capriciousness of it all, the dependence on proper weather, etc., but had no idea to what extent machines and highly sophisticated science led the way. Or about how much physical work was involved. Though Al seems to be very much an old-school farmer in some ways (e.g., no GPS for planting or cultivation), the manner in which he describes his work and that of neighbors who have gone more high-tech is very impressive. I’m struck by how truly uninformed I was about it all (about most things in this part of the country, actually) and how unprepared I would be for life on a farm. Pretty humbling. The party was not only for learning about farming, it was also time for learning names (some of which I had known prior to the gathering), including: Aunt Inez (Ron’s aunt) and her husband, Jerry Connie (Al’s wife, Ron’s first cousin) and daughters, Jennie and Laura Jennie’s Husband, Add, and their four kids, Isabella, Faye, Walter, and Lillian Laura’s Husband, Jim Bonnie (Connie’s sister) and her kids, Marty and Vickie, and granddaughter Amanda [with boyfriend whose name we don't know because neither of us met him] Aunt Betty and her daughter, Sherry Marna, her daughter, Carol, her son, Marty and his wife, Debbie Cousin Patty, her son, Danny, and his daughter [Ed. note: Another name we don't know because we ran out of time and didn't get to meet her. Hopefully next time.] A huge spread of beef/pork burgers, hotdogs, several kinds of side salads, deviled eggs, various rice dishes, and tons of deserts. A few cold Coors didn’t hurt, nor did the fresh lemonade. Ben kept us laughing at lunch with talk about the practice of dentistry, his new profession. Apparently, there are several very practical on-the-job challenges, including: full-mouth tool extractions (FMTEs, affectionately [Ed. note: Pronounced fum-tees]), questions over how to handle the inevitable dripping sweat caused by the physicality of FMTEs, and so on. Good stuff. Also highly entertaining: Marty’s stories about going over to Germany to pick up his bad ass BMW and driving on the Autobahn (using a rented Mercedes, of course) in icy weather. Isabella and Faye arguing about the Cubs vs. Yankees. Jennie and Laura and Laura reminiscing about riding Grandpa/Uncle Marvin’s chair up and down the stairs of the Buffalo Prairie house. [Ed. note: My grandpa had MS and needed a chair similar to the one in the opening sequence of Up to get to the upstairs of their 2-story house.] My mom (with LVL’s camera) walking around the party grouping threes and fours together for pictures, each time saying, “This is for the blog!” Yup, Mom, you’re right. Several very aggressive dog fights, sometimes inches from very small children, none of whom seemed anything but mildly amused. Some of the cutest, smallest kittens I have ever seen. John Chanin and Al Schnoor talking asparagus pee. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the cake pictures/cutting/feeding ceremony. To our (my) very mild apprehension, Connie/daughter Laura/etc purchased a tiny cake and intended to have us do a “practice” cake-cutting ceremony (largely, it seemed, for their own entertainment). Despite not planning to have a “real” cake-cutting ceremony on The Big Day, we were game. Anything else would not have been accepted. It felt a little bit like being thrown to the wedding wolves. In the best possible sense. Posed pictures in the living room. Two hands on the cake, please, said the five paparazzi moms/cousins/etc. Cheek-to-cheek poses, next. If it sounds a little awkward (for me), it was. But only a little, as everyone was smiling and joking the whole time. It’s hard to have anything but fun around these people, even when practice posing for “real wedding” photo ops. After the seated pics, we moved into the dining room for more photo ops/awkwardness. The cake was set up at one end of a long table; seated aunts/grandmas/elders on the other end, paparazzi strategically placed behind them. Three slow, slices of the cake, both of our hands on the knife. Photos of each cut. Some audible gasps, lots of giggling. Part of me felt like I was getting Ben’s sweatiest FMTE. Not really. Slices made, pieces cut. Feeding. Arm under arm, frosting everywhere. Pink, white, cakey. “Now you have to kiss and make up,” joked (but-not-really-a-joke) Jennie. “Again,” said Bonnie, “I think I missed it the first time and we need pictures.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Certainly an afternoon I won’t soon forget; the stuff of great, great memories. So glad our parents were both there to enjoy it with us, and that Al, Connie, and the rest of the crew were game. Don’t know if I can imagine a better setting or a better set of peeps with whom to share it.