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.

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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


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376 Responses to This is Your Life!

  1. Gloria L. Nugent says:

    How sweet to see the pictures & read your narrative of the twin’s lives seen through your eyes. Those are lucky boy’s to have such a nice Aunt Sue to appreciate their talents in school & on paper with their art projects. So glad you could share!!

  2. lani nelson says:

    Thank you for sharing. Oh so lovely. It has brought tears of joy to my eyes. You have and are a beautiful family in every way. Lani

  3. Ann says:

    What cute boys, and so talented!! I can see why you are so proud of them 🙂

  4. Susie says:

    Susan, Such a tribute of love to your sister and her sons. They are pretty cute . So happy they are artistic. I can see the resemblance in your family members. I know you being the oldest sister , you were in charge at times. I am the oldest sister in our family also. Blessings to all, xoxo,Susie

  5. deezie says:

    Hi Susan
    What fun that was seeing your Sister and her beautiful twin boys. They are simply adorable and what cute pets the have. I love when you give us a peak into your life, its such fun. You have a lovely family
    enjoy this gorgeous weather Susan

  6. LINDA JUNE says:

    Ah, a new blog–thank you, thank you! Loved hearing about your nephews–and all the love that is in your family. Love does make the world go ’round, and through your blog we get to share in yours.

  7. Marianne says:

    You are two lucky sisters and they are two lucky boys! Many Blessings!

  8. salve says:

    Susan, the twins are adorable! Our family also had twins – two! The first one – boys who were toddlers when they died during World War II. My Mom hardly talked about them. The second one – a boy and a girl! When my brother came out – he cried softly and passed away. I was there and saw him. All of us were born at home. His twin sister has three children and now has two grandchildren! God is Good! Thanks for the story about your sister and her twins! Loved it!

  9. salve says:

    And talk about that beautiful picture of bird Gracie – we are bird people too! We rescued a baby pigeon who ended up in the middle of the East 33rd St by Empire State Building. We brought her to a pet doctor – the doctor was shocked! Well, she lived for nine years with us and our two girls! Then we had a parakeet who lived with us for eight years; currently, have parakeet siblings called Blue and Yellow. Unfortunately we are not as creative as your family – LOL!

    • sbranch says:

      Remember, most of my cats have been named Man and Girl 🙂 That pigeon story is amazing. Lucky you!

  10. beebarbs says:

    I loved that entry, Susan! Loved the boys drawings and little characters — family is so special — thank you for sharing yours!

  11. Lynn Cunningham says:

    I enjoyed everything about this letter ~ full of the love you have for your family, and the love they obviously return. Two thumbs up for your sister, to not only endure, but triumph. I remember reading a quote from Jackie Kennedy that being a good Mother is the most important job in the world, and that if you haven’t done that right, then all your other accomplishments are meaningless (or words to that effect). I would say, given this loving tribute, that your sister is doing it right. And your nephews are two amazing kids. I love their kindness and compassion most of all. (And anyone who is a true animal lover is ACES in my book, right from the start). Thanks SO much for sharing important pieces of your life and heart with us!

  12. Patty in Redlands says:

    Mason and Paden are handsome and creative and darling! So glad you shared about them. Good job to your sister and to the Stewart family who care for and love each other. This was a wonderful post, Susan! Thank you.

  13. charlotte says:

    Very cute, sweet boys. I can see why you love them so. Thank you for sharing with us.

  14. Ellen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your precious nephews with us! What a gift they are to their mom, you, and the rest of your family. : )

  15. Lee Rose says:

    Being a proud yet cool Aunt is a very important job. You are handling the responsibility admirably. (I have 13 nieces and nephews, including twin boys).

  16. Jeanette says:

    What a sweet post and way to honor your sister and the special Mom she is along with sharing those special boys with us! They are remarkable and you can see how much fun they are to be with…
    Hugs and love,

  17. Candice says:

    I cried all the way through reading about your twin nephews. You see, I am a twin too and other twins fascinate me. I loved reading all about Mason and Paden. Their Aunt Sue is the best aunt ever. People always ask Alice and me what it’s like to be a twin. Since it’s all we’ve known all our lives, we always laugh and say we don’t know what it’s like to NOT be a twin. We feel sorry for people who don’t have twins. Alice and I live together and are like two peas in a pod.

    • sbranch says:

      I feel sorry for people who aren’t twins too. I am also fascinated by them. How LUCKY the are!

  18. Diana from Ancaster says:

    I so loved this blog. Thank you for sharing the pictures and wonderful story of your sister (there’s no denying you are related) and of her wonderous sons.
    I want to hug all of you/them….and your brother is some guy for being there for his family! But that’s what family is all about yes?

  19. Pat Stansel says:

    Thank you for the glimpse in your life with some siblings. Family is what it is all about & it makes us who we are. Shelly & the boys are sparkling examples of that . Looks like Mason&Paden will be carrying on the artistic gifts & delighting many with their talents. Love the sweet blog !!!

  20. Mary S. says:

    I LOVED reading about your nephews!! Such talented artists they are!!

    Love from Mary S. in Fresno, CA

  21. Penny Harrison from Oceanside, CA says:

    family – two legged, four legged, with feathers and fins – the most important part of us! Thank you for sharing Belle and Mason and Paden, with us! They look like such fun people and critters to be around! I was really taken by the Angry Bird drawing!!!

  22. Kiki Nakita says:

    Nothing better in life than a happy childhood. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Stephanie says:

    Susan you have a beautiful sister and darling nephews!! Nothing replaces the love of family. Thanks for sharing them with all of us.

  24. carmel says:

    What a joyful post! So lovely to meet Shelly, Mason and Paden. Thanks so much for sharing a part of their lives with us. Full of love. I admire Shelly and her sons for being such light in this world with all its challenges. I admire your family for all the support I’m sure you’ve given them.

  25. Pat says:

    So sad for the loss of their pets/friends. Lucky to have each other. It’s a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing. Lucky, lucky!
    PS I love Jackson too.

  26. Nellie says:

    I simply loved this, Susan! Such precious boys! Your sister has done an amazing job! I’m reminded of our own twin daughters, now 39, when they and their older sister (by 20 months) were younger. This brings back happy memories for me!

    I’ve been following Martha’s Vineyard PBS on Twitter, and I am just beside myself with wanting to be there to experience all that is going on this summer! I really must work out a way to return for a visit during sometime in June some year.

    Take care! Enjoy the summer that remains.

    xo Nellie

  27. Maryellen says:

    We have twins, too – a boy and girl twin grandchildren who just turned four. I see so many of the same memories with your twins. I would like to honor your “superwoman” sister – as a single mother of twins, she deserves special honors. She is so lucky to have the support of your family, but to raise such outstanding young men on her own, she is truly wonder woman!

    • sbranch says:

      She truly is, and so many out there like her these days. Even the moms who have the dads at home, it’s an amazing job they do.

  28. Kate says:

    You and your sister look just alike. The boys are adorable and really are creative. My grandson was into that Mindware and building with Legos, but he has gone on to other things as boys do. Thanks for sharing your family. They are wonderful.

  29. Sylvia in Seattle says:

    Loved this peek of the Terrific Twins. I’m sure everyone who reads this post will be sending gobs of love their way — as well as to their Mom. You must be a wonderful big sister and Aunt Sue. I’m the oldest of four — loved my brothers BUT would so loved to have had a sister. What a great family. Thanks for showing them to us. It was such a treat to see the art work and those three dimensional characters they modeled. Fantastic! AND where would the world be without LEGOS! Fun to see their projects.

    • sbranch says:

      It seemed to take forever for my sisters to arrive . . . first me, then the four boys and then finally, when I was ten, a baby girl was born.

  30. Lisavi says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful family! My son, Cody, who’s 7, loves Angry Birds, Legos, and Minecraft, too! He was very impressed with your nephews’ homemade Minecraft characters. I’m sure tomorrow he will be trying to make some of his own. It is so much fun to be around kids who are creative. Tell your sister to keep up the great work! The boys are lucky to have you for an an aunt!

  31. Janet in Rochester says:

    Blimey, the twins really are great artists! “The Angry Bird” and “The Snowman” actually reminded me of some of the animation seen on TV today – no kidding. Well-done, guys. This could be the start of something very big, you never know. I guess artists just genetically-abound in the Stewart clan. Y’all should look into bottling that stuff! Hope we get more news in the future on this identical duo too. Big things are ahead. And how great is it that they have so many people around them, providing love and interest and support. As your sister – and your brother Jim – and you and Joe and your Mom and Dad and I’m sure everyone else in the family are proving. If little ones everywhere experienced this kind of childhood, there’d be no wars. I’m sure of it. A great week, Sue and Girlfriends!

    • sbranch says:

      I’m trying to bottle it into my new book. Really — you’ll see! Yes, so agree with your last statement.

  32. Pat Johnson from Paso Robles, CA says:

    OMG – by the time I got to the end of this, there were tears in my eyes – in fact, still!! FAMILY – doesn’t get any better than that word, is there?? To often we are too busy to stop and run each one of them through our brains (& heart). We forget that we are “blood” not simply family. And the value placed on our family – not enough money in the world to even write it down! When you get upset with your family, you soon realize that you are “nobody” without them so just “get a life!” I am 71 years young and I love to take the time to remember as much as I can about my years with my family – 2 brothers, 1 sister and me and Mom/Dad. Who I am today is because of all of them. FAMILY is magic……XXXXOOOO Sister Patty

    • sbranch says:

      What I think is that most families don’t realize how amazing they truly are in living their everyday lives. Nobody gets any credit for that, but they should!!!

  33. Carolyn from Indiana says:

    Tears in my eyes…….

  34. Beth says:

    The detailing of that checkered scarf on Paden’s Snowman and the gradiation of colors surrounding Mason’s Angry Bird fish just affirm their genetic Gifts andTalents in ART….shared from their doting Aunt Sue!

    And the twinkle in their eyes has to be from their Granddad Jack!!!! Mischief all around! Adorable in every way!!! Belle is a BEAUTIFUL mama!

    And who doesn’t need a lemon/rock Circle of Love with a little cross to say GoodBye to this world??? Amazing Boys indeed!!!

  35. Claudia McKinney says:

    I loved this post! I have two sisters and we are each other’s soul sisters too! And of course we kiss goodbye too! We are each so different, but so alike too. I would be lost without them.

  36. Suzanne says:

    Pure, sweet, family love . . thank you for sharing . . ♥

  37. Naomi says:

    What a precious family – your sister and her boys, their pets (so sweet how they honor them). Perfect music! Thank you for sharing . . . tears slipped out of my eyes to see such old-fashioned goodness. I am a grandma of one . . . soon to be two and I’m so looking forward to the years ahead of watching my two grandsons grow and making special memories. Thanks, once again, Susan for filling my soul with “good news”!

  38. Jacquelyn - Bainbridge Island, WA says:

    A lovely post … Your nephews are huggable and your sister an inspiration . Thanks so much for sharing. Best wishes to them. Loved the doggie pictures too.

  39. Jill Moore says:

    Wow…absolutely precious boys. I have a soft spot for boys because I have two that are grown now. You are such a great Auntie…they are lucky to have you. The love you have for them couldn’t be more obvious. Sweet!

  40. Jake Gariepy says:

    What a great post! I love reading about your family and these guys look like a lot of fun. And, clearly, artistry runs in the family.

    One comment about those Disneyland tickets you made… Can my family and I be your honorary nieces and nephews?!

    Have a great week, Susan!

  41. Fan in California says:

    Proud Auntie — Justifiably so!!! Hopefully, they’re not too embarrassed!! ;D Thanks for sharing!

  42. Cindy says:

    I so enjoyed reading about your sister and her twin boys. We are about to have twin grandsons, like any day!
    I have been a reader of your blog for a while now, but I just got “A Fine Romance” and can’t put it down! I love it! I keep telling my husband about all the places you’re seeing, and he’s going, “mmm”. Then I said we had to plan a trip to England, I’m tired of saying someday. That got his attention.! So I’m going to work on him and maybe in a year or two…

  43. Carmen from Southern Oregon says:

    Dear Susan, thank you for telling us about another side of your life…your sister & her adorable boys. I love that you were able to tell the story with a good amount of whimsy, a bit of “reality check”, and a whole lotta love! Thank you! Carmenb

    • sbranch says:

      Every life story has that doesn’t it, whimsey, love and always that reality check. xoxo

  44. Oh sweet Sue,

    The kids and I loved this post equal to Jack’s posts. That is mighty high praise. My oldest sister named me,too. She was 18 years my senior. I loved her so so much and even though she when to heaven when I was 26, I love her still. At 38, I had Jacob, my 3rd boy, born in 2003 and then Holly, my only daughter born in 2007.
    What a time we are having. Jacob and Holly enjoyed all of Mason and Paden’s favorite things because they are the same things they love. Thank you for sharing your precious family. I remember clearly when you shared Shelly’s twin miracles. God is good. xxoooo e

    • sbranch says:

      I kinda had a feeling this would be a post where other kids can relate. Say hello to Jacob and Holly for me! Yes, high praise, equal to Jack. I won’t tell him!

  45. Teresa G., Lafayette, CA. says:

    OH, boy, I loved all of this! What an honor for the boys to “see their name in lights!” You and your sister look so much alike. You’re all genetically wired to be wonderful, talented, and loving. I couldn’t get over the boys’ artwork! It looks like it was done by someone older which means they’re going to really be amazing when they do get older. And your sister loves Jackson Browne??!! Well, that’s reason enough to love her! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful part of your life.

  46. Sandra says:

    What a great posting about your lovely sister and her fun-loving and artistic boys. What a beautiful relationship they have with each other and with their mum. It warms the heart!

  47. Lacy Province says:

    The last photo of the boys says it all – ‘love & family’!
    It doesn’t get any better than that.

  48. Amy says:

    Susan thanks for sharing your family with us! What handsome young men Mason and Paden are. Would you just look at those amazing smiles? Families are such a blessing!

  49. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan…. what a couple of wonderful kids… lead by a fleet of outstanding adults to help them along the way…can see that there are great things in store for Mason and Paden…..and those that love them!!! condolences concerning Jack the Fish…. love, cindy

  50. Kathie says:

    Such handsome boys. Thanks for sharing them with us. Love the fact they are reading and writing cursive. (Those who don’t learn, can’t read The Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution in their original format!) They definitely have artistic talent which is, I so believe, hereditary. We have some of that in our family, too. You’re doing a great job being a wonderful auntie and Joe’s smashing as a magnificent uncle. Family is the most important thing in the world, isn’t it? And big families seem to have an extra measure to them of love and cohesiveness that’s hard to beat. Thank you so much for sharing.

  51. Lada says:

    Beautiful family, beautiful and lucky boys … Thank you for sharing. Lada

  52. Judy in Ohio says:

    Hi, Susan…

    You definitely are blessed!

    It is so nice of you to introduce us to your sister…and your nephews!
    I am blessed to have a younger brother, and one sister now.
    My other sister passed away just 3 years and 3 weeks ago
    almost to the day…and I will always miss her, but I will always
    have 2 sisters…in my heart.

    When my siblings began to have children, my husband & I made
    a conscious decision to not have children…But we have the best bunch
    of nieces and nephews anyone could have. And we get to spend more
    time with them because we did not have children. So, a blessing, too!

    Thanks again for all of your “tales”…Whenever I am feeling a bit gloomy…
    or just slightly “off”, I come here to your place, and it all just blows away
    in the wind…POOF!

    Thanks so much for your magic!

    Hope you have a wonderful day, dear friend!!


  53. Nina From England says:

    Aww Sue How cute are the boys! Looks like your sister did a fantastic job so far! These are such wonderful times when the children are growing up and I know it sounds like a cliché but in the blink of an eye its gone! Before us Mums are ever ready for it. My boy Brad is 17 now & my “little” girl is 14 and now they want to do they’re own thing and I would give anything for one more day of building lego (I even miss picking it up off the floor 200 times a day!) Or trick or treating or going to the park.
    Treasure these moments they are truly precious! Thanks for the lovely post Sue brought a tear to my eye too! xxxx

    • sbranch says:

      I know, they are eleven now, on the brink of not being children anymore. I thought I better get this done now before pictures of them in diapers start to be embarrassing!

  54. Penny says:

    What a beautiful piece of writing about your amazing sister and her absolutely adorable boys. (The phrase ‘two boys’ is the best in the world to me because that’s what I have in my own wonderful sons). They look so full of life and love, just gorgeous, and fab names too! You are very generous with your family stories Susan, thank you X

  55. Oh, Dear Susan ~ such a delight to wake up to this morning ~ you must have been working overtime into the night ~

    A sweet and charming blog introducing your lovely sister and her two adorable boys and aren’t you lucky to have them? They, of course, are lucky too, for they have their Aunt Sue who makes them unique tickets to Disneyland <3

    Such talented boys too, taking after their Aunt, so it must run in families.

    Sniff Sniff ~ poor Goldfish Jack but such a fine sending off! I often wonder what archaeologists of the future will make of the garden burial grounds of goldfish ~ some ancient inland waterway that doesn't show up on any ancient maps! I think there is a shoal of about 30 or so in the back garden of the house where I grew up! lol

    Waving from Across The Pond in Wonderful WARM west Wales ~ Debs xoxo

  56. judi says:

    What a nice tribute to your nephews and your adorable sister (can’t miss that you are sisters:). LOTS of talent there and it will be interesting to see what they persue when they are older.

    Great to see one of your brothers all grown up too:) How special he lived nearby your sister whilst they were young. Am sure he was a wonderful role model for them too. Family is very important.

  57. AngieTink says:

    ✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫Good~Morning Sweet Sue….. I L♥ve Your Belle & Mason & Paden… Three Oh So Cute Peeps! 🙂 🙂 🙂 I Know They Are Part Of Your Heart ♥ Forever! My Wings are All a Flutter…..✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.✫Thank~You For Sharing Them With Us! 🙂 I Adore The Photo With You & Joe & The Boyzzzzz with that Huge Pumpkin! 🙂 & The Boyzzz Are Very Talented Artists Perhaps One Day They Will Illustrate A Book With Their Auntie Sue! 🙂 It’s Possible! 🙂 Twirling into The Last Days of July Oh My! Ready For August? xoxo Poof! ✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨`*.✫*¨*.¸¸.✫*¨*.¸¸.✶*¨`*. 🙂 ♥

  58. Tamara says:

    Susan, I read your blog religiously and am a big fan. You have a gentle way with life and really appreciate the important things, which, of course, aren‘t things at all. This past post about your sister and her precious boys brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

  59. Diane Cassano says:

    The love just oozes off the screen in this story about your family. Your family is so photogenic. Most enJOYable.

  60. Rosanna says:

    How absolutely adorable! Though I guess you aren’t supposed to say that about boys are you? Who cares! This post was such a nice surprise – something pleasant and wonderful about two little men – loved it!

    I have to say that it is obvious that artistic talent runs in the family- these two guys are going to give you a run for your money Susan – they are very talented! You know – if you get too busy, you could just let them do a guest blog from time to time – wouldn’t that be fun!?

    • sbranch says:

      They could do it in cursive!

      • sondra fox says:

        As a retired educator, I was extremely dismayed at the decision (all over the country!!!) to eliminate cursive writing from the education of our children. Does anyone out there know WHY this happened? Bad decision, to my way of thinking.
        (Sandy from Chihuahua Flats)

  61. Jude says:

    Such a lovely post. Your sister has done a magnificent job! You two look just like sisters. You certainly have the happy gene in the DNA.

  62. N Jean says:

    This is such a wonderful post. The nephews look happy and your sister looks happy also. It was lovely that you were able to spend time with them when you were touring with your book.

  63. Lynn McMahon says:

    ~ Good Morning ~ What a heart warming post~ it makes me so thankful for my Sissys! ~ I have 2 ~ one is a little more than a year younger than me and the other is 9 years younger~ When youngest Sissy was born we got to give her a middle name (which is made up of a combination of our middle names) ~ AnnMarie~ I would be SO lost without them! ~ and as for boys …they just bring out the “kid” in most everyone ~ their curiosity and endless dirty hands and faces ~ little boys are so different than little girls~ I was blessed with both in Mommyhood and Nonny~Nana hood!~ And as for pets~ we have our own little final resting place here for our extended family members who we have loved and lost~ you have given me a happy start to my day and a reminder of how many blessings I have ! ~ I see you have so too!~
    xoxo~ Lynn

    • sbranch says:

      You say Sissy — Shell and I call each other C.C. — or just C. 🙂

      • Lynn McMahon says:

        ~ I don’t think we call people most in the family by their “titles” or names (except we called my parents Mom or Momma and Dad or Daddy) ~ Grandpa ~ Grandma~ Aunt~ Cousin~ are all different!~

  64. Chris Wells In Knickerbocker, W TX says:

    Hi Mason! Hi Paden! It is so nice to finally meet you! Thank you for allowing Aunt Sue to write about you and your family. I have seen a picture of the two of you before, but this is the first time we have had a chance to really get to know you! You are very talented artists, it runs in the family!
    I hope the rest of the summer is wonderful, but you will probably be ready to go back to school before too long!
    Waving hello from Ohio.

  65. martha says:

    I loved reading this! It confirms MY belief that brothers and sisters should love and enjoy each other every day. My Sissie and I have a sister day twice a month where we go for nails and massage together…. It makes me very sad when I hear siblings say that they don’t get along. What!!???

    Anyhow….. sister love, brother love, auntie love… we can never have too much! As I told my Mother once when she said I loved my son “too much”: You can’t hurt anyone by loving them! Love to all!

  66. Carol says:

    Wonderful Story and pictures- they look and sound like Wonderful Young Men of tomorrow. Family love and everyday life are underestimated for sure. Wonderful documentation of their life and its impact on others. They are most lucky for a wonderful mum and Aunt/ Uncle.

  67. Candice says:

    Thanks for sharing, Susan. There’s nothing like a special nephew (or two!). My nephew is my baby (and is still, even though he is now 22 years old!), so I understand how proud you are of them and how much you love them. Isn’t it fun watching these adorable boys grow up?


  68. Christine Perica says:

    Love reading about Mason and Paden, their adorable pets, artistic endeavors, good grades, talented Halloween-costume-making mother and fun aunt and uncle! The world of young boys is delicious. I always want to know about it, so thank you for this glimpse!

  69. Treese says:

    The part of the story I enjoy the most is that those two sweet boys will go on to teach their children how to be kind and love all of God’s little creatures.
    Treese/Colorado Cowgirl

  70. Gail Golden says:

    I enjoyed reading about the boys, especially the part about Minecraft. My four year old grandson plays it and he talks about it constantly when he’s not playing it. I will show him those characters the twins built. He will like that, and we will make some, too.

  71. Gail Golden says:

    I enjoyed reading about the boys, especially the part about Minecraft. My four year old grandson plays it and he talks about it constantly when he’s not playing it. I will show him those characters the twins built. He will like that, and we will make some, too.


  72. Janis says:

    LOVE~LOVE~LOVE! This is what life is all about! Thank you for sharing a little slice of what a wonderful life looks like. ♥

  73. mari1017 says:

    What a wonderful family post, Susan ♥♥♥ And what a creative and loving aunt they have! Thanks for the musica – two of my favorite songs. We are blessed!

  74. Pure sweetness and pray those boys will always do well in life, no matter what life brings. Belle has done a great job and kudos to those in her life who’ve stood in the gap. My heart breaks for the missing link, what he’s lost by not being in the picture, what those boys have lost, what Belle has lost. Reminds me it’s best to be kind, we never know what personal hell someone else is going through and kindness could come at a time when we need it most.

    • sbranch says:

      Very true, he was a wonderful person, the boys father, and he’s missed a lot.

    • Elizabeth in Montana says:

      My mom raised my brother as a single mom for 8 years, until she married my dad in 1961, when my brother was 8. My brother’s dad was lost to him due to mental illness. I was born when my brother was 11 and couldn’t have had a better big brother. I never understood until I was an adult how hard it was for my mom to have to go through that and do what she did in that era; thank goodness she had her family to rely on. Single moms are heroes.

  75. Thimbleanna says:

    What a fantastic post Susan! Those are some adorable boys — how lucky you are to be able to watch them grow up — I’ll bet they’ll be wonderful men. And how lucky they are to have Aunt Susan and Uncle Joe!!!

  76. Tawni urrutia says:

    Good morning Susan!
    What a marvelous post! Your nephews exude love and kindness and energy. Your brother Jim must have been bawling when they moved!
    I really admire the way you sum up difficulty in life, without assigning blame, and then drop anchor firmly in positve ground. I’ve thought this many times since you wrote about your parents divorce, where you said “life happens” and proceeded right on to all the terrific things your mom and dad have going on in their lives.
    And here again in this post, really shinning a light on your sister’s choice to be brilliant, as is so evident in the way the boys mirror that brilliancy. Thank you for sharing the magic of your family.
    P.S., I know you have MANY irons in the fire, but I think you should contact someone from Disney and show them those breath taking tickets. That would be the best way to present a gift certificate to the Magic Kingdom!
    Tawni Urrutia in Lodi,Ca

  77. Carolyn says:

    I loved the photos and story of Belle, Mason, and Paden! They are darling and so talented. (Cuteness and talent obviously run in your family). Your sister has done a wonderful job with the boys! I can see it in the photos.

  78. Kimberly Rossetti says:

    Great blog, celebrating what matters most in life, family. Are your sister’s two dogs wiener dogs?!? I have two of my own, Oscar and Oliver and they are crazy little spitfires! lol This was such a wonderful way to start my day.
    Love you Susan!

  79. Marty from NYC says:

    The traditional news these days is neither uplifting nor anything that anyone can be proud of as a human being. Thank you so much for showing that when there is love there is hope and that there are still beautiful things going on in this world. No matter who we are or whether family, friends or pets (or all three) are the object of our affection, love is what will see us all through the rest of the “real” world.

    Sail on, extended Stewart Clan and we shall follow you to better times and places.Thanks, Susan for adding such a wonderful story to the day. Love to all.M.

  80. Gina D. says:

    Loved the twins’ post! Just found out my niece is having twin boys…. she wants a chick (she raises chickens) theme and I just happen to have hoarded some of your chick quilt fabric, so I’m all set to make baby quilts. Growing up in So. Cal., there were many surprise Disneyland birthday events; sweet handmade Disneyland tickets!

  81. Such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing! You have such a wonderful family and you’re right, the boys are very good artists. I hope you post more of their artwork!

  82. Toni Hill says:

    Your blog always makes me happy! Thank you!

  83. LynnMarie says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your family, especially your youngest sister and her adorable twin boys. All of your girlfriends out here in blogland feel like we have been allowed into the inner sanctum. 🙂

  84. Allison says:

    What a lovely post about your nephews. Embracing family & giving the kids what they need most – love. Such lucky boys! What a celebration of life.

  85. Peggy Cooper says:

    Good Morning Sunshine! What a sweet post, and just what I needed this gloomy morning in southern Colorado. What a wonderful family! You are all so lucky to have each other, and to have had such a wonderful childhood which in turn gives the children a wonderful childhood. Now that you’ve cheered me up, I’m ready to tackle the day. Thanks for all you do!

  86. Rebecca W says:

    Love the article on the twins, but even better was sharing your relationship with your sister. I have two sisters and know how important sister(s) are in our lives.

  87. Debbie P. ~ Weedsport, NY says:

    Good morning, Sue~

    What a beautiful tribute to those adorable (I mean handsome, if they’re reading) boys! Family…that’s the glue that holds us all together through good times and bad. I am blessed with 3 sisters and 3 brothers and I, also, am the oldest. We all have children now and some have grandchildren so those wonderful times when we all get together are beyond precious to me.
    Once again, Sue, you’ve inspired me … to think of all my nieces and nephews. I have a feeling I’ll be running my own blog posts of each of them through my mind today 🙂
    What a glorious summer it’s been so far! I hope you and Joe have been enjoying life on the island. Sending you lots of love and encouragement as you continue to work on your book. Can’t wait to hold the finished baby in my hands!
    Happy Wednesday!

  88. Dear Susan, what a delightful post about your sweet nephews! I especially got a kick out of them posing with the huge Marilyn statue! That statue actually started here in Chicago, on display for almost a year in Daly Center and it created quite a stir. People were always posting their creative pics which was very entertaining and the statue was even vandalized but restored. I always thought it should have remained in Chicago, maybe by The Bean which draws huge amounts of tourists. But alas, she seems happy in the desert heat!

    • sbranch says:

      It must be some feat to move her — I would like to be on the road sometime and have her go by!

  89. Frances Fowler says:

    Susan, your nephews are adorable! Beautiful, smart, creative, and obviously in possession of Aunt Susan’s artistic talent (though I have no idea who else in your family shares this with you), they must make life a joy for your sister. A busy joy, for sure, but I picture every minute of their waking life go-go-go (I have a similar nephew, Robin, age 13, born when my sister was 41 or 42; you can tell Shelly there is no letup). I remember reading about baby Shelly in your Christmas cookbook (and one of my absolute favorite books) when it first came out, and how young your mother was when she had you; she was still young to have Shelly, but you must have been more like a surrogate mom/big sis, and probably still are. She has brought up two beautiful boys as a single mom, and looks so much like you! And they love their animals! I agree, ALL God’s animals go to Heaven, where they play and have the most yummy treats imaginable. I look forward to seeing my dogs who have gone on before me, and hope to see them first of all :-)) On another note, we’ve had a couple of days where the late July weather has felt like late September — beautiful, breezy, warm, with very low humidity — and was inspired to bring out Gladys, as I always call her, to read, because my favorite time to start rereading her books is in the fall. She is undoubtedly busy again with her beloved cockers, and if there’s a typewriter in her own heavenly house, she’s at it. Have a wonderful day, and enjoy your New England August. I am ready to spot the first goldenrod blooming on the roadside in a few weeks!

    • sbranch says:

      Me Me too too! I’m sorry, I’m always willing to skip August. Not nice, but oooooo, can’t wait for that chilly wind!

  90. Mary from Ipswich MA says:


  91. Jack says:

    But of course a crossbow …. You wouldn’t want to frighten your neighbors with a high powered hunting rifle would you ?

    • sbranch says:

      No, I guess not. Anything to say about how cute your grandchildren are? (Not to change the subject or anything 🙂 )

      • Jack says:

        As I read these comments, I see that additional comment from me, with reference to their “cuteness” would be extremely difficult to express without “gilding the roses!” At this point I would be proud to see them stand up like strong young men and help their mother as much as possible. You know my measure of a persons worth has always been individual performance ……and at 11 years old it’s not too soon to understand that requirement.

  92. Sharon C. says:

    Susan, I love your humor–you are a nut! Wonderful pictures of the boys and your sister. I have two older sisters and they are just the best!

  93. Susan Dean says:

    I love all of your posts but this one seemed very special. Thank you.

  94. Shannon (Pennsylvania says:

    Beautiful babies, handsome, smart, talented 11 year olds…..ya done good, Shelly. God bless you. I was blessed with a son and a daughter, and now I have two grandsons, ages 23 and 6. Yesterday evening we went to watch the youngest play soccer and he came home with us for a sleepover. Hubby and I were sitting in the sun porch this morning, drinking our morning coffe and reading the paper with the local tv news humming in the background. We heard our little guy come padding through the kitchen at 7 to find us, and at that exact time one of the network morning news programs came on. Only had a glimpse of the lead story, the unbearable horror of another school in the Middle East being bombed. TV was OFF before he reached us. Our hearts are ragged from the events of the last few weeks. Our beautiful little boy becomes more precious to us every day. Susan, your blog is like an oasis for my heart and soul, and it’s becoming more and more precious to me, too. Hugs

    • sbranch says:

      I understand that ragged heart. I never want to look away, because I always feel like I can help, but sometimes, I have to take a day or two off, for peace of mind.

  95. Pam says:

    Lovely family Sue. Dave has twin brothers, seven years younger than he is. They’re completely different though in looks and temperament.

  96. Oh Susan, I love you and how you love those you love!!! Love the jackson browne message….he would be a fool not to take her up on that meal! thanks for sharing a slice of your life!

  97. What a lovely post about two handsome nephews! Delightful. You can feel the love oozing with each word written.

  98. Becky Hejka says:

    This is so sweet! I love that you’ve highlighted the amazing talents and interests, and values of your nephews, in such a loving and encouraging way. They are at an age where, as adults around them, we see their perfections, (and perfect imperfections) and hold our breath that these things will not go away as they grow up! That’s the love of family, and all of us who read your post can recognize that, and tear up, because it’s what we all need more of….
    Thank you, you are truely lovely!

  99. Ann Y in PA says:

    Wow….family, fun, loving life – that says it all. Your sister is “raising them right” as my mom would say. Blessings to you all !

  100. Ann says:

    Thank you for sharing a piece of your family with us. I love your sister and her two amazing sons. Loved their artwork, how talented they are.

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