mindi makes me laugh

Mindi Rae

It has been almost a year since Deborah and I went to Arkansas in hopes that the family would be able to move there. (It didn't work out but that's a different story.)

On our long drive down, we stopped in Iowa to visit my special niece, Mindi. I commented on her cute decor and style. She said Dustin called her style "kindergarten granny." Dustin has more traditional taste than Mindi. Whereas Mindi likes turquoise walls, Dustin wanted neutral tones. As Mindi looked at his paint choices, she said with finality, "Dustin, these are just different shades of dirt."

I had just recently finished a book on my dad's ancestry. I told Mindi a few of my favorite discoveries as well as a few less-than-brag-worthy anecdotes. I have always been proud of my Cherokee blood, but this time I shared some less than pride-inducing stories. I ended by telling her I enjoy researching family history and there are always new discoveries to be made. She countered my lofty sentiment with mock disapproval, "Whores and Indians! Keep digging, Valerie!"

My dad's ancestry has some close ties with Daniel Boone. His wife and I are related (although we've never been close or anything). A distant grandfather pioneered alongside Daniel Boone right up to the moment he was beheaded by Indians. When I told my dad our connections with Daniel Boone, he smiled with pride and said, "I always had a feeling I was kin to Daniel Boone."

Tickled by Daddy's amusing remark, I shared it with Mindi. Playfully she impersonated him by shivering and saying, "I feel him all over me; it's Daniel Boone."

Mindi shared a bit about a "friend" of hers. The "facts" here are terrifically jumbled but I think the idea is intact. Said Friend has no qualms asking for favors, big favors, and never reciprocating.

Mindi and Dustin had just moved into their house; just moved in, as in boxes were still in the living room. Mindi was smitten with food poisoning and heaving uncontrollably. Friend visited yet offered no assistance with the kids (who were being very rambunctious), unpacking, or a meal. Nothing. As Mindi's head was buried in the toilet, Friend explained how difficult life was with her wild teen. She wondered if Mindi would mind coming to stay at her house to "babysit" the teen while Friend and her latest boyfriend Bob went on a cruise.

Mindi pulled away from the porcelain and stumbled to the bedroom. Friend followed, "She'll probably not be a problem for you. And Bob and I really need to get away from it all." Exasperated, frustrated, angry and very sick, Mindi responded, "Hell no. No! Hell the f------ hell no." Friend got the idea.

That is the Mindi I love and who can keep me gasping for breath from laughing so hard.

christmas letter 2011

December 2011

Merry Christmas from the Gordon Dykstra Family! It’s a beautiful season and I’m grateful that this Christmas letter tradition affords us the opportunity to touch base with you. If you’re reading this letter, you’re thought of and loved.

We had a glorious family holiday in March. We went to Orlando and thoroughly enjoyed the heat, the amusement parks and especially our day at Discovery Cove where Hannah and I swam with dolphins. Hannah, at the time, was undecided whether she wanted to be a marine biologist or a tattoo artist. You can appreciate, I am sure, that we felt it very important to nurture the marine interest. (She’s not mentioned tattoo artistry in a while and, I must confess, that’s a tremendous relief.)

Family with dolphinAfter Florida, we drove to North Carolina and had a blast with my sister Stacie and her family. From there we went to Tennessee and I had several hours filled with belly laughs with my oldest, dearest friend Shelly. From Tennessee we went to Arkansas and caught up with all the family there. Try to imagine my joy seeing all those delightful loved ones.

In July, Deborah and I drove to Arkansas. At the time, we thought we would be moving to Arkansas and that my going would hasten Gordon’s Green Card process. Very long story short, it was an adventure, it didn’t work out and Deborah and I came home to St. Albert. I was disappointed that the move didn’t work out, but I know God’s hand is in it and I’m grateful that we have a wonderful life here. We’re going to put more effort into getting me down there more often so I can bask in the bliss of being Roman, Avery and Ella’s Beppie. (Beppie is my grandma handle).

Gordon is in his 14th year with Edmonton Transit. He recently got a promotion; he’s still in Business Development but now with duties producing fare products and managing the product distribution system. He occasionally drives a limo on weekends and enjoys that. This summer while Deborah and I were in Arkansas, he, Rachael and Hannah went hiking in the Rockies with our friends the Lozchuks.

Rachael, Hannah and Deborah are 16, 15, and 12. Rachael and Hannah have re-entered normal-hood and for that I am eternally grateful. They are (mostly) delightful. Gordon and I produce kids that go nuts around 12 and stay certifiable for about 18 months. Deborah, bless her sweet heart, is mildly deranged right now. I’m confident she will enjoy normalcy again. I used to say Deborah was the child that made us look like good parents – now the truth is completely out! Teenage life is not one I would want to repeat, in any case!

That’s the condensed recap of our year. It’s been a bit of a tumultuous year, and 2012 looks  attractive;  we have experienced God’s grace, mercy and love repeatedly and needfully. We are very thankful for that.

It’s a great time of year to remember His goodness toward us. I hope you experience the joy, love, and peace that this Christmas season represents, and remember the amazing reason we celebrate.

With Love,


For the Gordon Dykstra Family


Rach face

People ask why I'm not blogging much. I use to have so many things to say. My kids were angelic and oh, so very cute. Writing was easy because I had great subjects to write about. My kids ceaselessly delighted me.

Now, I'm not so easily delighted by them. To blog about their lives these days would make me very vulnerable, like opening myself up to judgement. I don't want everyone knowing the jungle I'm living in. Daily I'm confronted with self condemnation. I haven't yet figured out just what I did that produced these kids who are so unlike my visions. Confessing our home life would be like hanging a sign around my neck saying something like, "Ask me what kind of stupid my kids did today?"Rach ears

They still give me many times of joy but they give me moments (hours, days) of despair as well. That's why I'm a little quieter these days. I don't want people judging them, or me, harshly.

I know their beauty will surface again. But right now, they're kind of weird and I'm not in my proudest phase of motherhood.

That said, isn't my daughter Rachael (above) beautiful? She's almost 16. She has a lovely face and a lovely personality.

Rach hairWhen she turns sideways it's a bit hard to look at her though, at least it is for this mama. This is her ear look. I think it's pretty ugly, but I definitely prefer looking at this profile to the opposite side. For when I look at the other side, this is what I see . . . 

How did Gordon and I, two very straight-laced people, produce a Punk? It's a mystery to me.

She's a punk and proud of it. I just don't get it.

But she's got a beautiful heart and I love her with everything in me.

a wee safari adventure

Arkansas safari collage

One of the highlights of our visit in Arkansas was a trip to the Wilderness Safari. Here are some pictures from there. My favorite is the one with Roman covering his eyes. He wasn't comfortable with all the animals traipsing around the car so he covered his eyes. Surely, if he couldn't see them, they couldn't see him!

Avery couldn't get close enough and is standing in the window not wanting to miss a thing. Those two are like night and day.

A funny memory of the day was Roman seeing the gazelle or ibex (or whatever it was) and exclaiming, "What is that freakin' horned animal?"


same boat?

Hannah One of the reasons I've blogged for so many years is to capture family memories, especially things my kids have done. However, try as I do to get my kids to do cute things these days, they tend to be "too cool for cute." Growl.

Several weeks ago Hannah told me she missed my blogging. I was mildly blown away by this because Hannah seems so aloof and uninterested. I was touched by her desire and told her I'd try harder to blog more often.

Hannah has friendship issues. She has two friends and one of them is an off and on relationship. Her best friend doesn't go to her school so she's a bit of a loner at school unless her friend D is in "on" mode. D is a boy and Hannah does not like him in a romantic way, but she loves him as a friend. Her day is not a good one unless she and D have slugged each other in the hall. That is the test of their friendship. If they slug each other, they are "on". If there's no slugging going on, they are off.

Recently I asked Hannah who D's friends are. She said he kind of drifts among groups, that he doesn't have a set of friends who he is always with. He just kind of tags along with whomever he's in the mood to tag along with.

Encouraged that others have the same issues as Hannah, I enthused, "Oh, he's kind of in the same boat as you."

Very seriously, she retorted, "Oh no, he's in a much better boat than me."

I was tickled.


Gordon and Valerie I really suck as a mother to teenagers. I'm really, really bad at it. I don't understand how I trained them so diligently to do xyz and now that they're teenagers they don't do xyz. I've been known to pitch hissy fits, I'll admit. But more than fit throwing, I tend to be a melancholy reflector. I sit for hours wondering what I did to make it all go wrong. Why don't they do xyz? Why do they do abc when they know damn well I'm against abc? I'm quite pathetic.

Among my common thoughts is that a good time for a mother to die is when she has teenagers. Truly, at that stage of her kids' lives, they won't miss her.

One day recently I ventured out of my pathetic reflective mode and demonstrated my fit-throwing prowess. I threw a towel, I said a swear word or two or three, and generally behaved unseemly.

About the time I got over it Deborah had an emotional breakdown. I rolled my eyes and whispered to Gordon, "All these hormones are about to drive me crazy."

Gordon, who had eyewitnessed my fit just moments earlier, droned, "Yeah, not everyone can rise above their emotions like you."

discovery cove, orlando

 Stock Photo 01

For each of us, Discovery Cove was a highlight of our time in Florida.

Last year we started planning this trip. Initially the main purpose in going to Florida was to see my friend Debbie. We didn't know that she would be gone by the time our trip rolled around. Several times during our time in Florida I felt melancholy remembering that the whole purpose of the trip - in its initial stage - was so I could spend some time with Debbie.

Stock Photo 02I'm sure you've noticed that I don't blog quite like I use to. There are several reasons but among them is the absence of my friend and faithful reader Debbie. So many times I wrote just for her. She loved reading this blog and I loved to write stories for her. I miss her and the trip to Florida was mildly bittersweet because I was often reminded of how the trip originated.



  H kissing dolphin Our sweet Hannah developed a love for anything related to marine life several years ago. She said she wanted to be a marine biologist and we wanted to encourage this love. That is how Discovery Cove arrived as one of our destinations.

Our desire to encourage the "marine biology" thing was really enlivened when she declared that she hadn't decided which to pursue; marine biology or tatoo artistry. That's when Gordon enrolled her in the Trainer for a Day program.

Hannah  pushed by dolphin
She worked with dolphins, swam with and rode dolphins, fed sharks and rays and I don't know what else. It was a glorious experience for her. I'm so glad she had the opportunity.





  Stock Photo 12 Deborah surprised us by falling in love with manta rays. We couldn't hardly pull her out of their pools. Every time we tried for pictures - almost every time - she was unavailable because she didn't want to leave the mantas.





Stock Photo 15
I did a lot of everything, but my favorite part was being all alone with the waterfalls. For hours I had the waterfalls to myself and I loved that.






Stock Photo 19 Years ago, I put "swim with dolphins with Hannah" on my bucket list (things to do before I die). Things got a little wonky and Hannah and I both swam with dolphins but not at the same time. But that's okay.




 Trainer for the day



This is our Hannah, trainer for a day.




   Hannah and rays



Deborah wasn't the only one who loved the rays. Hannah did too.










Family with dolphin



I quite love this picture of the family. Discovery Cove was a great experience!

sea world and busch gardens

Seaworld manta Here are some pictures from our time at Florida's Busch Gardens and Sea World. We had a good time at both. This one is called the Manta and my family is on it .






Giraffe bushe gardens Nice little giraffe.







Bushe gardens dive ride This ride was freaky because at the very top, which was way way up there, the ride stopped and you dangled straight down. That's the family there dangling. (The family includes everyone but me; someone had to take the picture.)





Bushe gardens Gordon and I went on a train ride in Busch Gardens and passed this pretty scene.







Atlantis seaworld This is the Atlantis at Sea World. Hannah and Deborah are on it.







Busch gardens

This is my favourite. Gordon, Hannah and Deborah on the Gwazi at Busch Gardens. Aren't their expressions priceless?


family holiday, 2011

2011 winter our house We recently returned from a wonderful family holiday to the southern United States. We left home with three feet of snow still on the ground and that evening were driving around Orlando with all the windows open - smiling down to our livers, basking in the warmth, humidity, and scents. We were starved for warmth, sunshine and greenery. And we found it!!

That evening Hannah traveled around Orlando with her head perched in the open window occasionally enthusing, "Why doesn't the whole world live here?" I think the whole family had a touch of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) this winter. I know I did, but it never occurred to me that the rest of the family did too. Upon seeing all the moods pick up, the crankiness and irritability subside, I realized everyone had been afflicted.

2011 limo to airport (2) One of the cool experiences of the holiday were the rides to and from the airport in a limo. Trust me, this would never happen in our family unless it was very cost effective. And it was. It was cheaper than taxi or leaving the car at the airport because of a connection that Gordon has - a friend with a limo company. It was a great way to start a holiday, especially at 5:00 in the morning.

V&dBy that evening we were thrilled to be at our Orlando condo which was conveniently close to Sea World, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Disney World and outlet malls. And the pool, oh the pool. How sweet is was having just come from the Great White North.

Day 1 was amazing.





shakerboard kid

 2011 rachael little caesars 1
My sweet Rachael has her first public job. She's been working for years at paper routes and babysitting, but now she is gainfully employed at Little Caesar's. When she applied for the job the boss asked if she'd work the shakerboard. Rachael had no idea what "shakerboard" meant, but since it had the word board in it she associated it with cardboard and figured shakerboard had something to do with folding pizza boxes. Hence, she enthusiastically responded that yes, she'd work shakerboard. When she got in the car after the interview she asked what shakerboarding was. When she learned that the person who stands next to the street shaking the Little Caesar sign is shakerboarding, she turned red, shrunk down in the seat and groaned, "oh no."

Today is her third day of shakerboarding. Gordon and I have been out spying three times. I know I'm her mom and all, but it's a fact, the girl really rocks at shakerboarding. She puts in her earphones and jumps around like she was made to advertise $5 pizzas. I am so so proud. {Insert a great big grin here.}

Yesterday, determined to get a picture, I went stalking again. My picture (and a video) are pretty poor - I was driving - but I got this picture of the sweetie. Turns out we aren't the only stalkers. The boss told her yesterday that he'd driven by twice and she does a really good job. I'm so proud of her.