This is Your Life!

I’ve been wanting to do a post about my sister and her twin boys and today is the day!   First, MUSICA!  The picture below on flowerthe right, is my sister as a baby. I was fourteen when she was born (she’s the youngest of eight and I’m the oldest) so my mother let me name her — I chose Michelle after the most popular girl in my Junior High School (whose name was Shelly Stewart).  Most of us call her Shelly, some say Shelly Belly, and I call her Belle, as in Mee-shell, ma belle, somblay mon kee bon tre bien on somble . . . (my “French” is phonetic in case you can’t tell!).

family love

Mar 2011 054

That is Belle just after giving birth to the loves of her life in 2003.  Two little boys, Mason and Paden Stewart.

Mar 2011 055

My sister was forty-one when the boys were born . . . she had suffered with breast cancer a short time before she became pregnant, so these little dolls were and are her little miracles.  Mason is in Green and Paden is in red.  Not that you will ever be able to tell them apart.

Happy babies from the beginning. I have no idea which one this is.


But here’s the other one.  If I was forced to guess . . . (I can’t).  Sometimes I call them and ask who’s who in a photo and the boys don’t know either, which makes me feel better.


They have been such good friends from the very beginning,  We would come in when they were infants and they’d be in their crib holding hands.


They’ve been in it together from the start.

go. be. love.

Shelly and the boys used to live in Durango, Colorado. Unfortunately, their dad wasn’t well and so went MIA early on; that’s what happens sometimes . . . my brave sister has done it all herself. 

jim and kids

Maybe with a little help from this guy.  The twins are very much loved by my brother Jim who lived right next door to them in Durango for the first seven years of their lives.



They used to go on the job with him . . .

July 08 Vineyard 1400

My mom came to visit and the boys are doing what they do all the time, making art . . . paper, pens, pencils, brushes and paint, they love it and they’re good at it. That’s Mason in the Martha’s Vineyard lobster jammies.  You might wonder why the one on the right (Paden) has a beard and those amazing eyebrows.  That’s because this was November first . . . think about it.


Here’s Mason on October 31st, doesn’t he look happy?  He’s getting ready to go trick-or-treating.  Shelly is a wonderful costumer . . . look at these boys 

July 08 Vineyard 1395

So darling!!!!  She made their swords with cardboard and aluminum foil.  On the left, if I have this correctly, is Mason, on the right is Paden.  Or it could be the other way around. Either way, they could not have had any more fun going trick-or-treating that night than we did, going along and watching them.

July 08 Vineyard 1394

I’m pretty sure this is Paden with the beautiful eyes.  But it’s hard to tell because Mason’s eyes look just like Paden’s!

July 08 Vineyard 1398

I can almost hear Shelly going Arrrgh.

Jan 2010 110

See what I mean about the eyes?  Holy Smokes as my dad would say.  Here we are in Las Vegas at the Shark Tank (celebrating my Mom’s 80th birthday), and these are stuffed toy sharks.  The one on the right is the Hammerhead shark.  They will know who they are based on who had the Hammerhead.

Mar 2011 057

Mason, Brianna (their next door neighbor) and Paden, Adorable children, and beautiful eyes on all of them.

Mar 2011 058

One way you can tell who they are (which doesn’t always work):  Paden is usually in the green shirt, Mason wears blue.  

Paden is not happy because he is having his picture taken under the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch called “Forever Marilyn” and he would just rather not.  I really don’t blame him.


These may be the only two pictures I have of them where they aren’t smiling.

They take paper and crayons or pens everywhere they go. They have sent us their art for years.

Here are a couple of samples of their wonderful work ~ Paden’s snowman, and . . .


Mason’s fish that looks like he might have a bit of chicken in him (I mean the fish — around the mouth). (Ooops, just got a call from Mason, this is an Angry Bird, of course, what was I thinking!)  The colors in both of them are wonderful . . .

two tickets to paradise

They send me their art and I send them mine . . . these are the two tickets to paradise I made for them for their seventh birthday.

They are very proud of their Lego creations.  They put these things together, look close, there are like five of them on the table . . . 


This is another of their passions.  Minecraft. It’s a really popular video game and they LOVE it ~ at least they did last October when I took these pictures, by now I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have a whole new passion.


Joined at the hip, they have magnificent obsessions ~ they know every species of shark (and draw great pictures of them); they also know the scientific name for all dinosaurs and whether they eat carnivores or herbivores (and draw great pictures of them).  When they were around seven, their school quit teaching cursive, so they asked Shelly for books with cursive writing and they taught themselves.   Boys after my own heart.  Here boys . . . Here’s some sharks for you:


Click HERE for Fun Facts about Dinosaurs.  I bet you know all this stuff already!


So these are their own home-made Minecraft characters. (His name is Enderman.) 


They make these little box creatures out of paper.(He’s a zombie.)



This one is like a snowman-pumpkinhead. (Actually to be exact, he is a “snow golem.”)  I know this may not be the most interesting thing to the Girlfriends, but for sure the TWINS will love it.  Right guys?  I thought the characters you made were wonderful . . . really creative . . . I liked them all but the craziest one was the tarantula! I don’t know how you did that!


These are their friends . . . from the left is Michael, then Seth, Mason, Ryan, and Paden ~ you can tell by their pinkies that they have decided to drink “elegantly!”  That’s what I heard.   You might note that perhaps the twins could be actors, they have very interesting facial expressions! 🙂



Shelly and the boys are HUGE animal lovers. MAS MUSICA?  This is Gracie who is no longer with us, except in this beautiful frame, which she deserves because she was a doll of a love bird. She stood on Shelly’s shoulder while she put on her make up, and took seeds out of her mouth.  Adorable birdlet we all loved.


los perros

From the left, starting with Shelly’s dog Elsie ~ then my brother Brad’s two Jack Russells, Samantha and Orbit ~ and then Shelly’s Pepper, Chica, and at the top right, that’s Schmoopy . . . and that really cute little hairless dog over there with the red car is Paden.


This is Jack.


Unfortunately Jack didn’t make it which was a very sad day for everyone. But he was given the BEST funeral with full honors. No fish was ever loved so much.  Look at the lemon/rock circle of love, plus the little cross . . . Boys, you did an amazing job with this . . . 

hearts and flowers

IMG_1223. . . brilliantly constructed from highlighter-enhanced ice cream sticks and a pipe cleaner. Rest in Peace pobrecito.

heart of any man

Elsie has also gone to heaven too, and one of the boys made this as part of their memorial.  The hearts!  ohhhh. xoxo

If you do it with heart

And now, Chica, on the right, my personal favorite because of her adorable winning smile and because she never forgot me, passed on only a week ago.  She’s in heaven now and only Pepper is left to carry on.  Everyone is being very brave and so happy they were able to have their petty-pets for so long.♥

hearts and flowers

So when Aunt Sue and Uncle Joe come to visit . . . what do they bring?

Something orange . . . hmmmm, it’s Halloween . . . so maybe . . . .


Ah yes, just a little something for the yard.

Shelly loved it too.



Belle is a great cook ~ she fixed us this most wonderful lunch of spinach salad with toasted pecans and strawberries.  To pastabalance out all that health, she made her favorite recipe for “Macaroni and Cheese.”  Here’s the recipe . . .  she changed the elbow macaroni for “shell” pasta (of course she did)  ~ this has four different cheeses and is OUTRAGEOUSLY delicious. She served it all on our great grandma’s Haviland China. (Alice Carpenter, was the boys great-great-grandma.  That’s pretty good boys!)

Course we all had to go to the giant flea market.


And now it’s time to say goodbye.  We always kiss goodbye. We are sisters for life. ♥

hearts and flowers



Bye Mason, Bye Paden, I hope you enjoyed these pictures!  You live a magical life boys, mostly because of how you are. Give your mom a hug for me.  Now look away because I’m going to say something nice about you . . . These boys are fun, funny, smart, and creative, such good artists ~ they’re really great as a pair, good to each other, good to their mom, and just the best to be around.  On top of that, for the last three years they have made the principal’s honor roll at school.  I hope they keep doing that forever.  And never change and stay just the way they are (inside anyway — they are allowed to grow up,if  they  insist).

AND JACKSON BROWNE?  If you’re out there somewhere, you should let my sister make some macaroni and cheese for you.  

heart of the home


This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

376 Responses to This is Your Life!

  1. Anne says:

    “Shelly, Shelly Bo Belly, Banana Fanana Fo Felly….Shelly!” Sorry, got carried away there! Sisters are the best! I’m the baby too and am very close to my sis…the oldest 🙂 I always loved the letter from Shelly that you put in one of your books where shes’s in her PJ’s , wrapping presents, drinking wine and watching Rudolph….Girl After My Own Heart! 🙂
    The twins are adorable! What a nice big creative family you have Susan! Hugs 🙂

  2. Jack says:

    Earlier in the day I commented here on the blog all about this beautiful day …. And turning 91 today with all the phone calls and cards rolling in … That was before I sat down to the sumptuous Crab dinner with frozen chocolate ice creme cake for desert. That’s when …. wife Jeanie presented me with my card from daughter Susan. It had a great photograph in it plus a terrific card with writing all over all the empty spaces —- plus as usual from “Susan the Bountiful,” there was another envelope and it was full of …. Slow down now everyone’s gettin’ ahead of me — but you guessed right …. it had a ton of “Dollars for Doggies” … There is no stopping that girl, when she sets her mind to something, it happens …. So that, girlfriends, is a synopsis of the rest of the story … for Aug. 5, 2014 — and let me say, “goin’ on 92” is not that bad, especially when you have people in your life like I do!

  3. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Susan! Just wanted to wish your father a HAPPY 92nd BIRTHDAY!!!!! You are so very blessed to have such a wonderful dad!!! What are his secrets for having so many birthdays??????

  4. judi says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY JACK “Blogdaddy”!

  5. A beautiful post, as always! I never fail to smile when you write~ I may not always comment, but I’ve been a faithful reader since the beginning 🙂 xoxo Jacqui

  6. Susan… I messed up my post to you and left it on your prior blog. LOL! My retirement has me a bit unorganized right now. There’s s much in our house, I am not at a shortage of projects!

    I love watching the twins grow through all of your pictures. Isn’t it fun to look back and then dream ahead, surrounded with love through it all 🙂

    Sending Pixie Dust your way as you paint and plan for your newest addition. I know I can’t wait to read it!

    Happy Summer!!!
    Georgie fron NJ

  7. This is such a neat post! I love that your sister encourages her boys to be artistic and creative. Making the Minecraft characters is so cool. Why didn’t I ever think of that with my kids?

  8. Marty from NYC says:

    Hello Jack:

    wishing you a delightful day and a year of good health and good fortune! Like many others, I delight in seeing your name pop up in the blog and know that there will be an interesting exchange between yourself and Sue. As we are finding out, you have a remarkable extended family who had a wonderful start in life, thanks in good measure to the part that you and Susan’s Mom played in their early years. Continue to Live Long and Prosper!

    • Jack says:

      Thank you Caroline , Judi and Marty … I think half the secrete is in that old addage
      “all things in moderation ” , except for kids , they are the other half …..

  9. Sara says:

    Wonderful, Susan! I bet Mason and Paden just love you and Joe to pieces! Is everyone in your family artistic AND talented in the kitchen? Those are some seriously good genes being passed down in your family!

    I love their box creatures…such ingenuity. And as for their Lego abilities, man oh man, those are fantastic! And, Susan, it’s just so cool to see the love your nephews have for each other, the same kind of love you and Shelly and Jim and your other sibs share. Your mom and dad did a great job of raising you kids–the proof is right there in the faces of Mason and Paden.

    Blessings on you and Joe and your families! 🙂


  10. Janis says:

    Smiled at your phonetic spelling of the french lyrics in “Michelle” by the Beatles.
    It’s actually Son les mots qui votre bien ensemble, tres bien ensemble.
    Meaning, these are words that go together well, together well : )
    You made me smile because remember Shelley Fabares?? Well I used to sing HER song “Johnny Angel” to my little brother John when he was young. Thanks for stirring up such a sweet memory Susan : )

  11. Karen Stefanelli says:

    Happy Birthday to your Dad !! Lovely blog Susan…great kids, just wonderful!

  12. willemien says:

    Hi Susan!

    What a sweet post! Those boys are artists too! Love the snowman. Is your dad having his birthday today? Happy birthday! Our oldest son is 5 years old today, so were having a party today! Balloons and slingers(streamers) and ofcourse a big birthdaycake. Sending lots of love from the Netherlands, to you and your family. By the way, I can hardly wait to see your new book!

    love from Willemien

  13. linda g says:

    What a wonderful post!!! We just became grandparents to Caius Jon Eros and are over the moon happy happy happy! He was born 6 weeks early and weighed in at 4.6 Oh my gosh so teeny tiny. He will be in the hospital for about a month but is doing great! Looking at “your boys” brought so many memories and joy to my heart with my own two boys, one of whom now is the proud poppa himself! I am so excited for the next adventure! Thanks Susan again for sharing… always share just what I needed to hear at the right time!!!

  14. Laurie says:

    I loved this post for many reasons! I have girl twins and it brought back many memories of them growing up and being inseparable. Now they are sassy and sweet sixteen! Also, one of them is Elly and we call her Belles, Bella or EllBell(which is now her license plate!). You’re nephews are so talented and cute, not to mention their beautiful eyes! Love, love, love your blog Susan!

  15. Leslie H. says:

    I have read this post twice, it’s so warm and sweet. Your sister looks just like you and Maggie Gyllenhall. Family is precious no matter what. It’s great to have each other and love each other while we can. Thanks for the smiles!

  16. Rhonda D. says:

    Happy Birthday to our “blogdaddy” Jack! Sounds like you had the perfect day for turning 91.

  17. loretta says:

    Hi Susan, another wonderful blog! I love when I see it in my email. Your flowers are so beautiful. I hope someday to visit Marthas Vineyard. You and your sis look so much alike! Take care and have a great weekend! loretta/Calif.

  18. Sonya Hewes says:

    LOVED your last blog. My mother used to sing “Que Sera” to me all the time when I was a little girl. She was from Kentucky and used to sing on the radio as a teenager/young adult. Maybe that’s where I got my singing ability as well as my children. 🙂
    And then also the cards in the spokes of our bikes – what great memories!
    About a month ago, I planted two hydrangea bushes and so excited to see how they do over the winter and come back next spring – you never know in Alaska, but I plan to put some mulch around the bottom to keep it a little warmer through the winter and then next spring, change the acidity of the soil so that my white flowers will turn blue. 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, the mulch should help! Ours get through total blizzards without mulch, but extremely low temperatures can cause lots of damage.

  19. Michele M. says:

    Susan your nephews and sister Michelle (love the name!) are awesome! I loved how you separated them out for this post. You are very lucky with a big family! Also, Happy Birthday Blog Daddy!!! I was spending time with my 91 year old Great Aunt Molly yesterday and you people in your 90’s, who are still going strong, amaze me and give me inspiration. I am hoping to continue to live a healthy long life so I can reach 100. (I do understand if my body/mind isn’t up for that there is nothing I can do about it but listen to it and go with the flow). Happy Monday Girlfriends!

  20. Gayle says:

    Oh my, for some reason, I have tears in my eyes. The sweetest, most wonderful post ever. Thank you for sharing these cute boys with us and give your amazing sister a kiss from all the blog friends.

  21. Jean says:

    It’s a quiet, almost end- of- summer morning in my still busy home where we raised four sons to FINALLY respond to this post of sister Michelle and her sons Mason and Paden! Thank you for YOUR nostalgia as it prompted mine: LEGO creations (we must have a mortgage payment’s worth in six plastic storage bins, Halloween costumes, snowman art renderings, and other boyhood memories of sons who are now 25,22,19,and 14!!! Your nephews and sister are SO blessed to have such doting relatives as Aunt Susan and Uncle Joe in their lives. Thank you for sharing! BIG hug to you for reminding me to count my blessings as we continue to parent sons into adulthood!

  22. Carol McGarvey says:

    Susan, I’m a longtime fan of all things “home,” and I so appreciate your blog, your books and your wonderful illustrations. I also am a writer (newspaper for 30 years and now magazine pieces on a freelance basis). I read with interest your piece on Internet copyright issues and would like a copy of it, but it no longer seems to be posted. Is there a chance you could email it to me? With your permission, I would love to use it as an example in a story on copyright and the Internet. Thank you so much for any help you can give to me. I appreciate all that you do to help us all find joy and express our gratitude. Thank you.

  23. Linda Delapenha says:

    Susan, It was such a pleasure to meet you and Joe at the Grange last Monday. I am one of the ladies from Tampa, Fl, but originally from CA, who traveled from Hyannis that morning. I finished reading your “A Fine Romance” before I got home on Wed. Or course, our flight was canceled on Tues. and we had to spend the night in Boston before getting a flight at 7:10am. I loved the book and was reminded of the picture I had taken in London under a sign “Beatrix Potter lived here”.
    I used to have gray Sea Bands but my new ones are black, and look a little better. I agree that they are boring, so you inspired me to get out some gold thread and decorate them! It’s a good activity for TV watching so that the cat can have time to snuggle with me!

    • sbranch says:

      I’m about to try them on again today, Joe and I are going over to Nantucket I think you could grab the sea band market with those decorations! So nice to meet you Linda!

  24. That artistic, fun, winsome, happy gene clearly is running strong in your family, Susan 🙂 Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your family with us. I love to see creativity and joy continuing in the next generation.

  25. Repuvemx says:

    I’m a longtime fan of all things “home,” and I so appreciate your blog, your books and your wonderful illustrations.

Comments are closed.