Happy (first) Mothers Day to a wonderful daughter

Last year on this day, little Svea was preparing for her exit into the world. Emily was beautifully round and ready. The rest of us were excited and so happy about was ahead.
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Svea made quite an entrance on the evening of June 2. She’s brightened the world for everyone who has met her, just as her mom did 3 decades ago.
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Emily has become the world’s best mom — before, during and after Svea was born. (Kyle, you’re the best dad, but this isn’t your day) She has followed in the footsteps of her own mom and has done everything the right way, the smart way and the loving way. I won’t say I’m amazed, because I knew she would be like this, but I’m thrilled and honored that she’s my daughter.

Happy first Mom’s day, Emily. I love you.
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Pizza Night at A to Z Farm: Wisconsin’s worst-kept secret

Hungry for pizza? How does this sound — hop in the car, drive 80 miles, wait in line for 20 minutes to order your $24 – $27 pizza, wait two and a half more hours outdoors for your number to be called. Then sit on the ground (a few feet from some cows and goats) and eat it.

Not interested? Too bad for you, because you’re missing a great dining experience.

A to Z Produce and Bakery is a 4-mile drive up out of the valley from Stockholm, Wisconsin, near Lake Pepin. (see previous post)

Emily and Kyle have been regular visitors to the “pizza farm” and have been trying to get us down there for a year. We finally made it last night.

When the weather is nice, you have to park pretty far away. (all photos by Steve Date)

A to Z offers pizza night only once a week — Tuesday evenings from March to November. Their deal is that they sell pizzas — fantastic pizzas made with things that are grown within a few hundred yards of where you’re standing — but nothing else. If you want a beverage, a napkin, fork, a snack while you wait, or anything else, you have to bring it to the farm with you — and you have to take all the wrappers and containers with you when you leave (including the pizza box you just bought). There are no trash cans. Oh, and you’ll also need to bring a blanket or a chair to sit on.

Check the chalkboard menu when you arrive to see what kinds of pizza are offered this week, place your order, and then wander around the farm or sit back and relax for a while.

This shaded area gets the most crowded.


Picturesque out-buildings remind you this is a working farm the rest of the week.

This is not a place to go if you’re in a hurry. If you can’t wait a couple of hours to eat, then bring some snacks. Your kids will love it here. They get to run around and explore the farm while you sip your favorite beverage and catch up with friends and family.




As a city boy, I don’t get to spend much time on farms, and it was nice to soak in the sights, sounds, and yes, even the smells. To sit for a few hours on a blanket with people you like in such a beautiful place is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.


As for the pizza? I can’t imagine how it could be any better. Fresh vegetables that taste like you just picked them yourself and crust that is the most tender I’ve ever tasted make the wait and the price worth every minute and every penny.

Thanks, Emily and Kyle, for being persistent in your invitations.

I can’t wait to go again.

Happy Belated Birthday to “Billie” – (a.k.a. Emily Date)

Emily Date had one of those “significant” birthdays on Sunday.

It’s a little-known fact (unless you read last year’s birthday blog), but “Billie” was Emily’s nickname for her first few years. We had to take her in for Bilirubin tests for a couple of weeks after she was born due to the yellow hue of her skin. I guess “Billie” was a better nickname than “Jaundice”.

Emily was a happy kid -- and fashion conscious from the get-go.

She provided us with a lot of excitement in her younger years, like when she sustained a bad cut on her head when she was a year old. It was after that when she started to spend time sitting out by the garage smoking pot (see joint in her hand in photo below).

"Go sit by the garage, Emily. We're not going to allow you to do that stuff in this house!" - That's definitely a stoner stare.

Emily was a great kid — always funny and a sometimes a little unpredictable. Some of the personality traits from her childhood remain, while others have faded — such as a penchant for pretending to be famous statues.

Emily lights the way with her ice cream torch.

Emily always had a few little irrational fears growing up. She’s doing pretty well these days with balloons and clowns, but we didn’t know until fairly recently that she used to be afraid to be in the house alone.

Emily is ready to jump behind the couch after seeing a clown on TV.


Quite a shiner for the star of the Lynnhurst Park softball team.

Emily has always been very athletic and liked sports and exercise. I still remember those first soccer practices when she was 6 years old, gymnastics, softball, and later on, track.

I was so proud of her when she stuck with soccer even when it became apparent that she wasn’t going to be a starter in her senior year. She played for the love of playing and was a well-liked team leader.

She’s tried a lot of sports over the years and loves being active. She’s completed two marathons as well as a couple of half-marathons — the most recent being the Med City half-marathon in Rochester on Sunday.

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Here’s one of my favorite photos of her. She was (I think) 14 or 15 and starting to look like the mature Emily we know and love today. The print has a nasty wrinkle running across it. I hope to find a better print or the negative some day.

I think Emily told me once that she doesn't like this photo, but I do like it and that's all that matters.

In 1999 she went off to college in Virginia and life was never the same again — for us or for her. But it was a great experience for her and I’m so glad she was able to do that. She made some good friends at UVA — not to mention meeting a young Mr. Cedermark from New Jersey — even though that friendship didn’t take off until a few years after graduation.

Emily worked as a tour guide during college at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Well, one thing led to another, as they say, and soon Emily and the Cedermark lad were wed and lived in Jersey City. They moved to Rochester, Minnesota almost a year ago to start the next chapter of their lives together.

Emily with Andrew and Craig - the two Cedermark boys she DIDN'T marry.


She married well. As we like to say in Minnesota - Ya, they clean up pretty good, don't they?

Emily has grown up to be a beautiful woman and genuinely good person. She’s got a good head on her shoulders and her heart is in the right place. What a wonderful feeling it is to be her Dad.

She recently contributed to my 5th grade team’s trip to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota — both financially and by volunteering to come with us as a chaperone. It was great for my students to be able to spend some time with her. They loved her and she pitched in and worked hard at making sure my girls were on top of things. I and my students can’t thank her enough for spending those 3 days with us.

Emily, Ajoyia and Josh at Wolf Ridge

On Emily’s birthday the other day, I got to run a half-marathon with her, her sister Lauren, Kyle’s brother Andrew and his friend Carianne in Rochester. It was a wonderful time. I’m so lucky to be able to do things like this with my kids and I’ll never forget how great it feels.

Med City Half-Marathon - only 13.1 miles to go! (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Emily, you’re 30. Wow, that’s amazing to think about — not in a way that you’re getting old, but to think about all you’ve accomplished and experienced already, the places you’ve been — and you’re only 30!

You’ve come so far from little (yellowish) baby “Billie”.

Thanks for being such a wonderful daughter.

Love you,
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We have grandchickens!

One of the great joys of parenthood is being lucky enough to be around to see your children have young ones of their own. I experienced that recently and it was quite an emotional day. The fact that Emily and Kyle’s new arrivals aren’t human did nothing to diminish the exhilaration I felt when meeting them for the first time.

Lady Gaga, City Girl and Chicky Baby were born on April 5th, so they were already a little over a month old by the time we saw them. Emily described their arrival in her blog, “Love from Minnesota”. Here are a couple of photos shot by proud Papa Kyle during their first few days.

Left to Right, Chicky Baby, City Girl, Lady Gaga (photo by Kyle Cedermark)


Chicky Baby and City Girl try on Emily's shoes (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Lady Gaga is a Silver-Laced Wyandotte, City Girl is an Americana and Chicky Baby (remember PeeWee’s Playhouse?) is a Buff Orpington. When we visited them in Rochester a week ago, they seemed to be getting along well, although Emily says they each has a distinct personality. Here’s what they look like now.

All the single ladies. The girls like to stick together (photo by Steve Date)

Emily and Kyle are great parents. They’re nurturing, but want the kids to grow up and learn to fly on their own. Dad takes the flying a bit too literally, however.

City Girl looked good on take-off, but the next few seconds were not impressive. (photo by Steve Date)

Of course the girls aren’t our first grandanimals. Peet’s been around for 3 years now. At 21 dog years, he’s a mature, loving big brother.

Peet gives Chicky Baby a little brotherly peck. (photo by Steve Date)


Peet gives lil' sis Lady Gaga a pony ride. What a good brother. (photo by Steve Date)

They’ll be old enough to start laying in a few months. Can’t wait to have my first grandchicken omelet.

Wait a second — that’s a little creepy, isn’t it? But if the eggs aren’t fertilized, they’re not really potential great-grandchicks, right? Oh well, I’ll figure that out later.

"Who's my pretty girl?"


"Say Mama -- MA . . . MA"

Congrats to Norman Vladimir from a sentimental old sap

I watched the Kennedy Center Honors last night for (I think) the first time in my life. It’s the kind of show I haven’t tended to pay much attention to over the years.

Norman Vladimir - a photo from his website, where you can hear some of his songs http://normanvladimir.com/

But my daughter Emily’s good friend Norman Vladimir was singing with the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company and I wanted to see him.

Emily has known Norman since her first year of college, when he was Norman Vladimir Smith, from a small town in Tennessee. I last saw Norman a little over a year ago at Emily’s wedding. He’s a great guy, currently making his way in the music scene in New York.

Norman and Maya dancing at Emily & Kyle's wedding.


This appearance in front of President and Mrs. Obama, Oprah, Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, a crowd containing seemingly every celebrity in the U.S. — plus a national TV audience — is a big break for Norman. Judging by his Facebook comments about the evening, he’s ecstatic about the experience and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a wonderful singer and a great friend to Emily. I’ve only met him a few times over the years, but he’s the kind of guy whose laugh and smile brighten every room he’s in. He seems like an old friend the first time you meet him. I was thrilled and proud to see him as part of this big event.


But my reaction to Norman’s appearance was not the “sentimental sap” part — that was straight up admiration.

What I didn’t expect was how much I enjoyed the rest of the show. Seeing people like Merle Haggard and Paul McCartney — aging entertainment giants for my generation — genuinely moved by the tributes, is what got to me. I’m not a big Broadway musical kind of guy, but even I got a little verklempt when Chita Rivera, Angela Lansbury and Carol Channing sang together to a trembling, glassy-eyed Jerry Herman in the balcony.

There were many such emotional moments — cutaways to Bill T. Jones channeling each movement of his dancers, Merle Haggard’s lips barely perceptively singing along with his own songs – eyes occasionally looking upward, Oprah reaching behind her head for Steadman’s hands during Jennifer Hudson’s performance from “The Color Purple”. Whatever you think of Oprah, this moment was genuine and sweet, and she deserves the honor.

But there was more to it than just watching these stars react to the accolades. I loved the way the honorees represented a variety of genres and the way they all genuinely seemed appreciative of and happy for each other. The audience also seemed to “get it”. We saw white country music fans (let’s admit it – not the usual African American ballet crowd) transfixed by the Bill T. Jones dancers, black people (let’s admit it – not the usual country music crowd) joyfully clapping along with Vince Gill and Brad Paisley doing “Working Man Blues”, Oprah knowing and singing the words to Haggard’s “Silver Wings” — and the big finale with Mavis Staples walking on stage to pick up McCartney’s “Let it Be” from James Taylor and sing the hell out it while Sir Paul teared up, probably thinking about his mother, who inspired the song.

Maybe it was seeing Norman have a brief moment as a part of all of this that got me in the right mood. Maybe it was seeing some of the aging icons of my life reacting to this kind of a tribute in such a genuine, emotional way — humbly watching, not being full of themselves — and being thankful. Maybe it was the realization that the old stars in the balcony were once young, struggling artists like Norman and many of the other performers on stage — and that the torch was being passed. Whatever the reason, I found myself enjoying the show very much.

Go ahead — call me a cornball.

Norman and Maya ham it up at Emily and Kyle's wedding (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Way to go Norman! I’m proud to know you. Thank you for being such a good friend for Emily and Kyle.


This dream you’re living has come about because of the talent you have, the passion you’ve found, and most importantly, all the hard work you’ve put into it. My hat is off to you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

Emily, Kyle & Norman

3 Dates run the Twin Cities Marathon

Yesterday was great. I got a chance to run a marathon with my two daughters. Think about that for a minute. What a wonderful thing.

7:00 AM - It's go time! (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Last April, Emily ran the Charlottesville, Virginia Marathon with her husband, Kyle, his two brothers and their girlfriends. She did very well on a difficult course, posting a 4:19. Younger sister Lauren had also been doing a lot of running over the winter and spring, working her way up to some significant mileage. Dad, on the other hand, had been slowly, but steadily sliding into old age. Although I ran marathons regularly for about 11 years, I had decided in 2002 that I would retire from the sport and put on weight (apparently).

When Emily found out that Kyle had been accepted for a residency position at the Mayo Clinic and they would be moving to Rochester, she called me up and told me she was thinking about entering the Twin Cities Marathon. She asked me if I’d like to run it with her.

Yikes.

I was having trouble running 3 or 4 miles at the time. But of course, I said yes. I would have been a fool to turn down an offer like that.

Lauren and Emily before the marathon (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

When Lauren decided to enter, too, I was thrilled. It would be her first, and I was glad she was going to give it a try.

I wished I had more months to prepare myself and at the same time I couldn’t wait for marathon day to get here. Because Emily lives in Minnesota now, I was able to do some long runs and a couple of races with her (see earlier posts). Lauren was doing her training in Chicago, so I was only getting verbal reports about that. But she did a 5 mile and 10 mile races and then a half-marathon, so I knew she would be ready.

It was a great weekend. It was good to have the whole family (including Kyle) together. We went to the Twins game and the marathon expo on Saturday. The Twins won!

This is what it looks like from the start corral, just before the race begins. (photo by Steve Date)

The three of us ran together for about the first mile and a half. Then Emily took off a little faster than Lauren and I were comfortable with so we ran together for a while. I intended to stay with her longer, but when we went past Alan Page playing his tuba at about the 2.5 mile mark, I ran over to snap a photo of him. After that, I couldn’t find Lauren again in the huge crowd of runners.

Lauren (in center with white shirt) as we ran through the Kenwood neighborhood, just before I lost her. (photo by Steve Date)

Minnesota Viking great and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page entertains marathon spectators near his home in the Kenwood neighborhood. (photo by Steve Date)

I’ll spare you the details of the actual race, but let’s just say that it was painful. Kyle and Sandy were at mile 7 along with friends Mary and Diane. Then they met us again just before the 18 mile mark.

Emily says goodbye to husband just before the 18 mile mark. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Emily finished strong, cutting more than 6 minutes from her previous marathon time to finish in 4:13. Lauren ran a wonderful, steady pace throughout and finished her first marathon in a very impressive 4:25. Little did I know she was only about 30 seconds behind me at the end. I wish we could have crossed the finish line together. But it was very cool being with the two of them just after the finish.

Emily waves to Kyle less than a quarter-mile before the finish line.

Very proud Dad with two great daughters. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Gotta have the space blankets. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

It was an amazing day for me. I’m so proud of the girls. I’m so lucky to have been able to share it with them. It was a day I’ll never forget.

Minnesota’s Newest Immigrants

The stoic Datermark family begins a new life on the frontier.


Emily, Kyle and Peet (the Datermarks) arrived in Rochester, Minnesota on Wednesday last. Much like the Joad family of “The Grapes of Wrath”, they came with only what they could fit into and onto their car. The newlyweds from New Jersey have bravely embarked on a new life on the Minnesota prairie. After a long day on the road traversing the Appalachians and the eastern midwest, they spent two nights in Chicago, thankful for the shelter and sustenance provide by the Dervos family and glad to spend time with sister Lauren.

Emily gets rid of the old to make way for the new.


But seriously, they’ve bought a great house. Mrs. D and I spent Thursday and Friday down there, helping a bit with the beginning of the transformation process. It mostly just needs cosmetic work on the walls and floors, though, so it’s going to look great soon.

First coat of the new colors in the dining room


We’ve seen them four days in a row now, which feels kind of strange. It’s great to have them only 84 miles away, after so many years of Emily living in the east. I know it’s hard for Kyle’s family to have him so far away, but I hope they can visit often.

First lunch at the homestead, using pretty much all the furniture they have right now. The rest of their stuff is in a moving van somewhere. Nobody knows yet when it will arrive.

Kyle begins his residency at the Mayo Clinic tomorrow morning. This is very exciting, not only for the two of them, but for all of us in both families as well. Good luck to Minnesota’s newest residents! We’re so proud of you.

To see more photos of the new house, go to my Flickr page here.

Peet and the goose welcome visitors to the House of Datermark.