Last week on Thursday night our little family (Karen & me & E&Z&H&G) headed to Kansas for my nephew Zack’s wedding. About 9:15, 30 miles south of Des Moines, we hit a deer. First time ever. I struggled to control the rental van and keep us out of the steep ditch—which I did—but we were all a little shaken up. Trooper Knedler responded quickly to my 911 call and for the next few hours did all the perfect things to keep us safe and reassured. The van was out of commission, so he called for a tow truck. That driver took Karen, Eric and me to the closest hotel while Trooper Knedler chauffeured Z&H&G. The sticker badges he gave the kids were a big hit and by the time they got to the hotel, the kids were so relaxed (Gus even fell asleep), that even though he had been in an accident and it was really late, he could joke around and give Harper bunny ears. Iowa State Trooper J. Knedler, you are my hero!

The next morning Eric and I took a 30-mile cab ride to the Des Moines airport to get another Enterprise van. We were all back on the road again by about 10:00, at which point Gus called out from the far back seat, “Let the adventure continue!”

For years, all the cousins and their spouses have enjoyed staying together at JoAnn and Roger’s house. And now their kids can’t wait to see each other. So as soon as we arrived, H&G and Soren started playing with the light sabers JoAnn had gotten them. That evening was the rehearsal dinner in Lawrence—so unexpected but lovely to be invited. The shrimp boil was at the charming, historic Williams House, built in 1861, set on eight acres of woods, meadows and flowers.

The hotel Karen and I stayed at had a pool, so all the kids got in a swim before the late afternoon Saturday wedding. The wedding, reception and dinner were held at the Compton Estate—another amazing home, with the look of a southern plantation. The grand driveway is beautifully landscaped, and there are horses in the pasture along with a zebra! Drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served poolside and then the BBQ dinner and dance were in the huge barn. Gus loved the photo booth so much he managed to go in twice. For the late night crowd there was a taco bar, but Karen and I were long gone by then as we volunteered to put the kids to bed. But JoAnn and most of the younger generation danced the night away. The next day we had a blessedly uneventful trip back home.

We’ve had countless gatherings at JoAnn and Roger’s, but with them moving to Portland soon, it was heavy on my mind and heart that this was the last time together here. JoAnn and Roger are great hosts and their large home has been the perfect place for conversations and laughs and early morning coffees and late night whatevers. I’m very thankful for the times we’ve had; with Derek and Steph’s May wedding though, there is another family gathering to look forward to.

Many, many times this weekend I thought of Mom and Dad. JoAnn, Greg and I were standing together when we noticed Zack and Lauren mentioned them in their wedding brochure. We all had tears in our eyes and a quiver in our voices.

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