Black Friday

I have considered wearing an armband to show that I am grieving over the loss of Black Friday. Gather around and let me tell you the story of the true meaning of this shopping event. If you started Black Friday shopping in the last 10 or 15 years, then you have no idea the fun you missed.

First of all, nothing was open on Thanksgiving Day except for the occasional grocery and convenience store. We ate our feast and played games together and watched football. Movie theaters were open. Many times, we’d catch a holiday movie on Thanksgiving evening with family and friends. After which we would go home and enjoy one more piece of pie and go to bed because we had to get up early the next day.

Early meant around 5 am. Lots of stores opened at 5 or 6 and my mom and I would plan our route by scouring the ads in Thursday’s paper. Why get an early start? There were lots of good deals, but also you could get free stuff. FREE. You didn’t have to buy anything. Amazing.

Free ornament from J C Penney’s – I put this on the tree every year and it reminds me of shopping on Black Friday with my mom.

The jewelry store in the mall gave out coupons to possibly win a piece of jewelry and they’d give you little cheap charms, too. J.C. Penney would have their free Christmas ornaments. Target gave out goody bags full of swag. And that’s just to name a few things.

We would finish our shopping before noon, come home, eat another turkey sandwich, and decorate the house. I got a lot of Christmas shopping done during what was the kick-off of the season.

I remember back in the 1990s when my daughter Dena had reached the age where she was old enough to go with me. She was thrilled. Now a mother of teenagers herself, she has turned Black Friday into an event of epic proportions. This year she started out late on Thursday night with her 16-year-old daughter, returned home several hours later for a nap, and then went back out again, this time making it a foursome with her 14-year-old daughter and me. She has more energy than Charlie Brown has anxieties.

 

New Black Friday memories

I have given up being excited about the event, but I am excited about spending time with my daughter and granddaughters – to a point, that is. I won’t leave the house until 9 am, and my first stop has to be Costco. That’s where the real magic happens.

I wanted to introduce Dena to the joys of Costco Black Friday shopping. I’m not talking about the things you find in their ads; I’m talking about food. Food that you and your family and friends will eat and then you can brag about the deal you got on it. Plus, you don’t have to get up before the crack of dawn. And that’s a huge plus.

In years gone by we have gotten Butterball turkeys for two or three dollars. This year, unfortunately, Costco was better about judging how many turkeys they needed for Thanksgiving, so none were left, but that still left the pork loin.

 

At $8 off per package, we got this baby and five more like him for around $4. That’s three for Dena and three for us. Her family of six will devour a half a one in one meal – that’s $2 a meal. Score! Bob and I will cut ours in thirds and we’ll be eating pork until next Black Friday.

Later in the weekend, when my non-Black-Friday-shopping daughter-in-law asked Dena what her best bargain of the day was, you can only imagine my joy when she said $4 pork roast. Score one for Costco and getting up after the sun rises on Black Friday. I may as well say it, score one for me, too.

I’ve Decided They Can Come

They bring with them a lot of energy and it can seem like they take more than they give. I had seriously contemplated what it would be like if they didn’t come this year. I’d get more rest. The budget wouldn’t take the enormous hit it usually does. There would be no consumption of mass quantities (of food).

Image result for picture of Coneheads consuming mass quantities

Do you remember the Coneheads when they appeared on SNL? Supposedly they were from France. Photo Cred: FilmFed.com

But I can’t say no and I really can’t stop them anyway, so I’ve decided to let them come. That’s right – Thanksgiving and Christmas are welcome in my home this year.

Image result for picture of the grinch contemplating stealing christmas

No Grinching for me this year. Photo Cred: tvline.com

Can you imagine what it would be like with no Thanksgiving or Christmas? I tried and I can’t. For me, the struggle is that my kids and grandkids are spread across the country now. Some are close, thankfully, but it’s not the same as it used to be. It hasn’t been for quite some time.

I’ve decided, once again, that that is okay. I’ve also decided that it’s okay if I have a favorite season of life. I have a favorite season of the year, so why not extend that to life’s seasons. Mine would be the years when my husband and I had all the kids at home. I loved it in spite of the sleepless nights, crazy hormones, constant calendar challenges, and all.

For favorite season of the year, it would have to be summer. Long days of sunshine, trips with the family, more relaxed schedules. I can almost hear the waves crashing on the beach as I type. My least favorite is winter. I hate to be cold and I don’t like the short days, but I do enjoy the coziness of it and the holidays.

Image result for picture of its a wonderful life

One of the movies we have to watch every Christmas – It’s a Wonderful Life. Photo Cred: imdb.com

Don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying the season which God has me in now. It’s just not my favorite one, and that’s okay. It really is a wonderful life all through the seasons. Do you have a favorite season? Either of life or of the year?

A Homecoming I Couldn’t Have Pictured

My plan was to take the year off from decorating for fall. I was thrilled with my decision. I even bragged about it to my daughter, which normally would be dangerous. One year I had told her that I planned on doing much less Christmas decorating and you would have thought that I canceled Christmas. I offered good, sound reasons, but she looked so disappointed. She may have believed that she was witnessing me aging right in front of her eyes. Who knows, but she was a little distraught over it.

I thought I was safe with this year’s decision. Dena lives in North Carolina and wouldn’t have the ongoing reminders that my house was free of fall leaves and pumpkins. My tables could be dusted without moving all the tchotchkes. There would be nothing to put away before decorating for Christmas. I was happy.

Last weekend we traveled to Maine for an October getaway. It had been planned for a few months, so I was dismayed when I found out that Dena would be coming to Orlando while we were gone. She would be attending her high school twentieth reunion and would stay at our house. I wouldn’t see her.

Part of me knew I wouldn’t see much of her during that time anyway, so I found happiness in knowing that she was staying at our house.

On return home last Monday night, the first thing I noticed was a basket of fall décor on my dining room table. It confused me until I looked around and found pumpkins all over the house. Dena!

I’ll admit it, I was mildly annoyed but then deduced that she must be returning next month to put away the things which she got out. After all, that is how I raised her (tried to raise her).

It was 7:30 at night. We had been traveling all day and by the time we lugged my mom’s, my sister’s, and our luggage into the house, plopped down our bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches on the counter, and did that other thing you do after riding for a while, we were pretty tired.

But there was a feeling that we were being watched. In addition to the pumpkins, leaves, and baskets, there were pictures – lots of pictures. They appeared one after another. I hung my mom’s coat in her closet and a picture of one of my grandchildren dropped out. I looked on the fridge and found that Dena was looking back at me. There she was again, nestled into our grandchildren photo gallery on the foyer wall. She and her family were everywhere, including:

  • On the ceiling in the shower
  • In my car visor
  • In the freezer
  • Underneath of a jigsaw puzzle she had put together
  • Behind a pillow on the porch
  • In Bob’s and my laptops
  • In a container of cashews
  • Taped behind my make-up mirror
  • I flipped open the blinds, and there she was again – in two different rooms.
  • In my desk
  • In Bob’s closet
  • In the front closet
  • In the mailbox
  • I took out the garbage this morning, and there was my grandson looking at me from a picture taped to the inside of the lid.

Here’s my favorite hiding place:

I’m being watched on the pool deck from the phone holder on our hot tub.

 

It was time to call Dena. This was the best homecoming she could have planned and I have decided to forgive her for decorating my house because there is something wonderful about coming home to pictures of family. I will, however, continue my efforts to get her to come back down here to put this stuff away next month.

The selfies she took at our house were supposed to be clues to where other pictures were hidden. I’m not good at Clue.

So far, we have found 27 pictures. She tells me we have a long way to go before we find all of the pictures and that she hid clues in some of them to lead us to more. I think she forgot that I am terrible at the game of Clue and I’m sure I have messed up the sequence which would pave the way for Bob to discover more pictures. We’ll have to wait and see where she turns up. One thing for sure, she will.

Four Days, Three Nights in New York City – Cramming It All In

When I told Bob I wanted to take a girls’ trip to New York City to celebrate our granddaughter, Mia, turning 16, he was a pushover. We included her sister, Ella, and their mom, our daughter Dena. I was excited to introduce them to the Big Apple, and two weeks after our initial conversation, the four of us met at LaGuardia Airport ready to do this thing!

Traveling with my granddaughters was a treat, though New York City hotel life was surprising for them. They couldn’t get over how small the room was. Two queen beds and all necessities, including a street view complete with a dumpster for a construction project, didn’t impress them; but they quickly adjusted.

We stayed close to Times Square and were able to walk to the theater district. Mia has been in a couple of high school productions, so she was totally digging Wicked. Our balcony seats in the Gershwin Theatre afforded great views. She was a sponge soaking it all in.

After Wicked, we grabbed dinner from the local 7-Eleven, which I highly recommend for weary travelers who have had a big lunch. You may think that anticlimactic, but if you haven’t traveled with teenage girls, let me tell you it was the perfect dinner choice.

We rested until a half hour before sunset and then walked into a nearly empty Empire State Building like we owned the place (after we shelled out way too much money to, for all practical purposes, walk around on a rooftop). The views were magnificent, and it’s an iconic New York thing to do, so – worth it!

My granddaughters! So much fun traveling with them!

View from the Empire State Building

 

I wasn’t sure how impacting the 9/11 memorial would be to the girls, but they had learned about it in school and wanted to go. I’m glad we made it part of our trip.

The 9/11 Memorial is a must-see. Spending some time thinking of all those who lost their lives on that awful day, reading their names, and being thankful for our country.

We all had a different M.O. for touring the city. Dena is aggressive like her dad but, unlike her dad, loves museums. Sadly (wink, wink), we got rained out that day. Mia likes a slower pace, taking it all in. I’m somewhere in between them, except for the museum part. I can only do so much of that. Ella had the most unique method of touring. She literally ate her way through the city. She didn’t meet a street vendor she didn’t love. It became our goal to photograph Ella eating as many different things in as many different places as possible.

Ella and Mia – Ella is eating the first of many pretzels from street vendors

A rare healthy snack choice for viewing from the Empire State Building. We have to keep up our strength.

I think she is polishing off a bag of spiced nuts in this shot, i.e. shot like picture not shot like the police came because someone got shot.

Ella snacking again and contemplating why people would stand in line to touch weird places on the Wall Street Bull.

Waiting for Ella to finish her lunch before we tour Trinity Church where Alexander Hamilton is buried.

We took a ferry to view the Statue of Liberty. It rained on us so we had to get a snack inside.

Ice cream cones before it rained.

 

 

 

Mia joins in for a caffeine fix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York pizza by the slice. Dena wonders if Ella will share.

As for our rained-out museum day, we knew it would rain; it had earlier. That is the reason why we were sitting on our ponchos as we rode atop the double-decker tour bus, to shield us from wet seats. We felt an errant raindrop here and there, but there was a lovely breeze and we were quite comfortable. That is why I took my hair out of its ponytail and let the wind blow through it. This was the closest I would ever come to doing a hair product commercial, so pleasant. And so short-lived.

Out of nowhere, the sky opened up and an insane amount of rain dumped onto us. Dena, who was on the other end of the seats from me and had fallen asleep (we started our days early), was rudely awakened. We were all trying to get up and pull our ponchos out from under us, but they didn’t cooperate. Being the least coordinated of the group, I got the most wet as I had my hair sticking to all inner surfaces of the poncho and my head through an arm hole and my purse not wanting to go under. We looked like drowned rats. It went from hair commercial to before-photo in one instant.

It seemed like a good idea to get off at next bus stop, which was for the museums, so like drowning rats, we jumped off. Reality hit us as we stood there, dripping, staring at each other – we were too wet to do anything but jump in the river, which I’ve heard is a bad idea.

That is why Uber was invented. We went back to the hotel, dried off, took a nap, and found some more food for Ella.

Our last day, we took the subway to Chinatown and Little Italy. I told the girls the following true story:

On a prior trip, Bob and I were roaming around Chinatown with three other couples. We were on the look-out for purses. Bob and I were lingering outside of a shop, waiting for our friends when we were approached by an unassuming-looking Chinese woman. She pulled out a folded poster with pictures of more purses than I could have imagined.

I think I let out a little gasp! Yes, we were interested and we had to act fast – no time to wait for our friends. We followed this stranger around the corner where she met a man leaning against a van. He took us off her hands and walked us into an office building. This was what we had heard about and hoped to experience. We’re stupid like that.

Once in the office building, an elevator opened and once again we were passed off to a new stranger. Up we went to who knows what! When the doors opened, we were in presence of the purses! There were thousands of them. We called our friends and told them how they, too, could be escorted through dubious channels of strangers and reunited with us in the purse place.

They thought us crazy, but I say – crazy like a fox!

Some of our friends joined us while, I’m assuming, the others prayed for our safe return.

Return we did, and we had lots of cheap purses as the reward for our risk.

I’m not sure why I wanted to do this. I guess it felt like a New York thing instead of a possible abduction thing. Plus, I rarely ever change my purse, so the whole thing was ridiculous. I could never recommend doing this, but it was strangely fun.

This time while in Chinatown with my girls, we were solicited by purse people. Traveling with my precious grand-daughters caused me to resist. That may mean that I’ve either gotten more street safety savvy, have come to respect brand names, or I didn’t want to have to buy purses for everybody. I’m not sure, but the girls seemed relieved.

We went to Little Italy instead where we shopped from actual stores and finished our day in Chinatown doing a little window smelling. And that’s how we ended our trip.

Ella didn’t ask to eat anything here.

Lots of fresh food

Perfect way to end the day – crackers in bed.

I understand there is some wonderful cuisine in New York City. We didn’t eat much of it, but we sure had fun.

Walking with Ellen and Shaq

As Bob and I strolled along the beach with our feet in the water, it seemed like every other shirt on the beach was trying to tell us something. I was especially entertained by a nine-year-old who wore a shirt that said: “Take More Risks.”

Seriously, kid, who are you to tell me what to do!

We were just chatting while taking a nice stroll down the beach, but we kept passing t-shirts that begged to be read.

“Save Water. Drink Wine”

“I Pooped Today”

“Whatever”

We talked about what our clothing was like when we were kids back in the 60s. We didn’t think about making literal statements on our clothes. The clothes were the statement (and they didn’t say much).

Pretty much it was like this: You have clothes. Be happy.

At least that’s the sentiment suggested by our parents.

This gave way to a conversation about designers and branding, which is something I haven’t really cared about in my clothing. I simply want clothes that aren’t too expensive and make me look smarter, thinner, tanner, more approachable, slightly aloof, sophisticated, down-to-earth, and can be purchased at Costco. That’s it.

I do like words though. And if these kinds of shirts were around when I was a kid, you can be sure I would have begged my parents for them, been upset that they wouldn’t buy them for me, and then moped about it until either they or I couldn’t stand it anymore and I was forced to get over it.

Since Bob has become a grandfather, he has become particularly good at conveying an I-walked-30-miles-to-school-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways” posit, so he elaborated about his childhood, which according to him was mostly spent outside fending for himself like an animal until his parents turned on the porch light and he and his sisters were allowed to return home. Clothing was required but nobody cared what it looked like.

I looked at his clothes and mine as we walked along and said, “Our clothes aren’t saying anything.”

But then I looked closer. While t-shirts yell things at you, our clothes were much more subdued. We took inventory. Bob was wearing:

  • Adidas ballcap
  • Adidas beach shirt
  • Nike swimsuit with a small swoosh
  • O’Neill flip-flops

I really teased him about being a walking, whispering advertisement. Then he turned on me.

My flip-flops were Sanuk. That was all the advertising we could find without looking at the inside tag of my swimsuit. We are very competitive, so we looked at this like golf. The person with less name brands would be the winner.

“What about your glasses?” he asked in frustration. (It looked like I was going to win this round in a cruel and unfair way.)

“You got me there,” I said. “They’re Ellen Degeneres.”

I was winning – 4 to 2, but I felt bad. I was not wearing a hat or a swimsuit cover-up, so the playing field wasn’t even. I thought I should declare it a tie, but then I realized something. “Hey. You’re wearing glasses, too.”

Bob looked at me defeated. “They’re Shaquille O’Neal.”

“Shaquille O’Neal! Shaq has a line of eye glasses? That guy’s into everything, and he just gave me the win.”

I’m still not sure why I find it so funny that Shaq has a line of glasses, but it cracked me up. So, we finished our walk – Bob in his Shaq’s and me in my Ellen’s. Two walking, whispering billboards.

 

I Could Have Had All the Toys

If there had been social media when I was raising my kids, I could have had all the toys.

My daughter-in-law posted this to her Face Book page:

This might be a long shot, but to any of my local friends: do your kids have any of these (picture included) Toy Story 4 McDonald’s toys they don’t want anymore? Or perhaps you are trying to build the RV too and have doubles of a toy like we do? My son is trying to complete the RV and we need three more pieces that might have already gone through circulation. Anyone want to trade?

 

Last I checked, after two days there were 30 comments and 1 share for this post. So many helpful people trying to meet the wishes of my grandson. I was so proud of my daughter-in-law.

But to really appreciate this, you need to know the back story. When I was raising my four children, I really liked collecting happy meal toys. When I say “really liked,” read – was slightly obsessed. When I say “slightly obsessed,” I mean completely obsessed. I even had a reputation, which was mentioned in the comments from a few of my oldest friends and family.

In those days, Friday was McDonald’s lunch day. I home-schooled, so it was an end-of-the-week treat. I’d go to the drive-through and order a meal for them and a meal for me. That way they’d have a toy to play with and I’d build my own complete set to be kept in the box or package. In the collectible world that’s called NRFB (never removed from box). I had plastic crates full of these glorious toys.

The problem was, sometimes McDonald’s would not have everything I needed to complete my set. At first, I would drive from shop to shop, asking if they had a certain toy. This was time consuming and didn’t always get the desired result and it made me feel kind of like a nitwit. Plus, if my kids were with me, they complained that I was trying to starve them. Every stop was taunting their taste buds, but I would not be deterred.

I tried calling around to the different McDonald’s in the area (approximately 47 within 15 minutes of us) to see who had what I lacked, but I didn’t really trust that they really searched, so I went back to going there and watching them search.

I am fairly certain that I was the most hated but loyal McDonald’s customer in the area. I know it embarrassed my older kids. One of them even wrote a short story about me trying to exchange a Barbie happy meal toy because she had a scratch on her nose. There was a lot of exaggeration in the story. I did not really punch or threaten anyone. I never jumped over the counter and went through the toy bins myself. But I did point out the scratch and exchange her while my kids sat with another woman and called her mom.

But back to the present. I told my sweet daughter-in-law how happy her post had made me. I even was able to find one of the three toys she was seeking. It was like I had traveled back in time.

She then informed me that it was really my son who was determined to complete the set. My grandson was, too. Well, that’s when I knew that I had raised my kids well. Sometimes you wonder if your kids will turn out okay, if they’ll make good parents. Then something like this happens. Looks like I must have done something right after all.

High in Colorado

The final destination of our Arizona trip was Colorado Springs, where we were going to meet up with family. That was what gave us the thought to go to Sedona and check it off our bucket list, you know, as long as we were in the area. By “in the area,” I mean some place out west.

We traveled via rental car from Sedona to Colorado, thereby allowing us to check off another national park from our national park list. We like lists. Be they bucket, national park, grocery, to-do, birthday, or Christmas – we are very pro list.

We were given a welcome to Colorado which was worthy of any westward-ho band of travelers. I loved their sign and the view in the distance. I wish I could tell you the route we took because it seemed to be off the beaten path, but alas I have no idea where we were. Frankly, I didn’t care. I left all that to my trusty engineer who loves maps almost as much as he loves me.

I wonder if people in Colorado notice its beauty on a daily basis. I hope they don’t take it for granted like I sometimes do the palm trees and beaches where I live. Maybe that’s why it’s extra special for those of us from flat Florida. Any hill is a novelty in Orlando, so those Rocky Mountains almost put me on my face. Gawking at the scenery was a huge part of the trip.

The reason for our specific route was so we could stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park. It contains the tallest dunes in North America. From a distance we could see the dunes lined up along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As we drove closer, we could see the clear demarcation of mountainside, dunes, and water.

Dunes in the distance

You have to cross Medano Creek to get to the dunes.

The temperature was still much lower than normal, and the wind was making it feel even cooler. These things combined made the decision to look at instead of hike through the dunes an easy one. We watched children floating along Medano Creek as others waded through it to get (to the other side) to the Dunes. We grabbed our sandwiches and sat at a picnic table shivering and enjoying the view. It was a quick visit, but it counts!

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Colorado Springs, and may I say I highly recommend it. Plus, the weather finally caught up with the calendar and I began to thaw out. The time spent with family and friends there was memorable. The views of the mountains would have been enough for me, but when you add in golf for the guys and spa time for the ladies – it doesn’t get much better than that. Unless you get daring and stretch yourself out of your comfort zone.

Most of our group decided to go zip-lining at Seven Falls, which I believe is now owned by the Broadmoor. Bob and I had hiked around Seven Falls during a past trip with our son and his family, before this zip-line existed. I had zip-lined before, and I thought it might be fun to do it again, but what I did before barely prepared me for this course. This course includes 5 zip-lines, 2 rope bridges (over canyons, way over canyons), and a 180-foot assisted rappel, which felt more like being lowered, but that was freaky enough for me.

Bob and I in our gear

The adventure began with a van trip up a mountain where they pulled off the side of the road and dropped us off. We hiked down to our practice area where we were outfitted with 15 pounds of gear and given a ten-minute instruction followed by a 10-second practice zip-line. Then we climbed the ladder to our first zip-line.

The first three were fun and easy, but they simply prepared you for what was ahead, which was two terrifying-looking rope bridges and two more zip-lines across the canyon above the tree line. These two zips are so far from start to finish that you cannot really see where you are going, but we followed our trusty guides (one in front and one behind).

New zip line adventure awaits at Seven Falls in Colorado Springs

photo credit: gazette.com

At the bridges there is a point of no return. We lost three of our group at that point (not the tragic type of loss). They were happy to have done the three zip-lines and happy to take pictures from below so they turned back.

Surprisingly, I was not one of the three. I maneuvered across the rope bridges even stopping to look down at the canyon and do some bird watching from the bird’s point of view. I cannot say enough good things about our guides. They really put me at ease. We were told to maintain three points of contact across the bridges at all times. No problem!

After the rope bridges came the two main zip-lines. The guide would take one of the lines which was attached to us, remove it from where it was hooked on the center post of the platform (which has no railings, by the way), and attach it to the zip-line. She repeats the process with the second line so we are always secure. The first guide soars across the canyon and waits as one-by-one we leave the security of our elevated platform to soar across the canyon. The second guide follows the last person.

This takes a bit of time as they recheck all of our equipment and send the group of 6 or 7 of us across individually. When I was waiting on the platform, I was pretty calm but I did become best friends with that center post to which I was attached.

The final zip-line is a quarter of a mile long. It takes about 45 second to cross it and it was exhilarating! I loved it.

The most awkward part was the rappel. You had to kind of step and lean out off of the platform before you (slowly) plunged to the ground. It wasn’t bad once I figured it out. But it sure felt strange.

Fins Course

The rappel down. Photo credit: gazette.com

I’ve included about 17 seconds of the 45 second glide that was the last zip-line. That tiny spot with the greenish/blue shirt is me. By the way, you’re traveling about 45 mph on this course. Did I mention it was awesome? It was!

 

Thanks for coming along on my adventure!

Don’t Make Me Put My Fingers in Your Mouth

It’s been quite a week. I’ve been spit upon, pinched, and had my hair pulled repeatedly. Sometimes I’ve even been subjected to screaming and awakened in the middle of the night. It’s been wonderful.

As much fun as it’s been, I still felt the need to respond to these outbursts, so I would stick my fingers in his mouth or zerbert his neck. When things really ramped up, I resorted to making myself disappear, only to reappear seconds later with an emphatic peek-a-boo. This would bring a stilled, confused silence followed by bouts of laughter.

I guess you’ve figured out that I have been on grandmother duty. I spent a week with my 4-year-old and 6-month-old grandsons (and their parents). I confess, I have kissed that sweet baby’s face when it was covered with so much drool that we both needed to be wiped down afterward.

Sweet, Soggy Boy – Can you see the drool in his neck folds? He’s a slippery one sometimes.

I have been thinking about all the things I do to my grandbabies that I would never do to another person in the world. For instance, I would never:

  1. Put my fingers in your mouth. I don’t care how bad your gums hurt; you cannot gnaw on my knuckles.
  2. Give you a kiss if your face is covered with drool.
  3. Play This Little Piggy with your toes.
  4. Let you stand on my knees.
  5. Not smack you if you pulled my hair.
  6. Put up with you spitting food at me.
  7. Taste your food to see if it’s too hot for you.
  8. Hold you over my head and say what a big person you are.
  9. Read you the same story over and over again.
  10. Burp you.

For my grandkids, there are no holds barred – at least when they’re babies. Love covers a multitude of drool.

May the Fourth… You Know the Rest

It’s been 20 years since the release of (in my humble opinion) the worst of the Star Wars movies, Episode 1, The Phantom Menace. This is one of the few movies I can remember watching where I wanted to slap the kid who played the lead. Yes, little Anakin Skywalker was a whiny brat, which gives great insight into how he became Darth Vadar, who was not so whiny, but still a brat. But I digress. I love the Star Wars movies, especially Episodes 4-6, which were the first three of the series. I am not alone in my love of Star Wars. California has declared May 4th an official holiday.

I was going on 21-year-old when the first one was released. At that point in time, it was simply called Star Wars. I don’t recall ever thinking about a prequel, which was not really much of a thing back then. When The Empire Strikes Back came to the theaters in 1980 that created quite the buzz. It brought a new hope, if you will, for more Star Wars movies in the future (or from the past).

My kids don’t know life before Star Wars. They were totally into it. So much so that we had quite a collection of Star Wars paraphernalia. I recall after they were past playing with the various action figures and Lego sets, that I began the arduous task of cleaning out the bins full of forgotten toys.

I am sentimental over these things. I saved many items from my children’s childhood.  Many, many items. My pride and joy though is the collection of Star Wars Action figures that my son was willing to part with but I was not. I stashed them away. When Episode 3 was coming out, we still had two sons living at home and they had invited friends over to watch Episodes 1 and 2 before going to the movie.  If memory serves me, the guys would return to watch Episodes 4-6 thus making it the perfect Star Wars watching event.  I decided to pull out all the stops to decorate for the festivities.  I got out the action figures, vehicles, and micro-machines and arranged them all over the living room.  Our mantel was decorated with them as were the end tables and shelves.  I think Martha Stewart would have been proud of me.

I left the display out for a week or so because, let me tell you, you don’t go to all that trouble and quickly clear the shelves without an appropriate time to take in all the details.

The one detail that I did not consider was our small group from our church.  We met weekly at our house and, as God would have it, that week we were talking about idolatry.  Our group had a great time with the fact that I had practically made my house a shrine to Star Wars. (Even though I suspect they were quite jealous. Jealousy was not the topic of discussion that night.)

These memories are dear to me, especially because one of my sons did end up reclaiming all of those figures I stashed and wishing I had kept more. Those are the moments.

 

Peter Mayhew

Sadly, Peter Mayhew, the actor who portrayed Chewbacca, passed on April 30 at the age of 74. Photo Credit: Variety.com

 

May the Fourth be with you.

Crossing the Country with Four Kids

Bob and I have traveled a lot, but it took us a while to get to the point where we went somewhere besides visiting family. When you’re raising four kids you tend not to be able to afford hotels or to want to stay in them with your children. And I hate camping. That said, our first big trip was a camping event. Sort of.

We planned on four weeks on the road to go from Florida to Washington State and back with an intermission in the middle. At that point Bob would fly home and work a week or two, leaving me with the kids to have some sister and cousin time off the road. Then he planned to fly back to join us and resume the trip. This was back in 1995 before everyone used the internet.

We were closing in on our early June departure date when Bob got the word that his company was closing its Central Florida division and he was suddenly out of a job. We had purchased a used pop-up camper to pull behind our big blue Dodge conversion van. (This was as close to real camping as I was willing to go.) The front two weeks of our trip were planned and reservations made. We decided to proceed as planned except for the intermission, and why not make it a six-week trip.

Bob would be drawing unemployment and we could pick up newspapers as we crossed the country for him to apply  for jobs along the way. Aside from the obvious loss of income, it seemed like a pretty good plan.

Then things started to fall apart. Literally. First, our dishwasher broke. It was old and not worthy of repair. As we debated over spending money to fix it or not, the air conditioner in our house went up. There would be no debate. You don’t live in Florida without air conditioning. We had to replace the entire unit. Ouch.

I’m not one to look for signs, but we started to question whether or not this trip was a good idea. Both Bob and I had done similar trips as kids and we always wanted to do this with ours. Our kids ranged from 8 to 16, so we knew we were running out of time.

It was then that the freakiest thing happened, the metal standard that held up our basketball hoop and was cemented into the ground, fell over. Boom. Just like that. It looked like acid had worn through it. We blame this on our dog PJ. The pole was his favorite place to pee. We considered taking him to be checked out at the vet, but that would be another expense and how would we explain to our vet that the dog’s urine had eaten through a metal pole, so we left that one alone.

Ultimately we decided that since our window was closing, we better just make the trip before something else went wrong, so off we went.

I’m so glad we did. This trip remains a highlight of our life with the kids. We traveled through 22 states and logged 10,000 miles on our car. Our kids developed a deeper relationship with each other just at the point when they would be pulling more towards their friendships than siblings. It was a win in every way except for laundry. Doing laundry on the road was challenging but we managed. People have been using laundromats for years and when you can do several loads at once, it’s not so bad.

Our children are now all married. Our daughter definitely has the road-trip gene. She and her husband also have four children. Two years ago they traveled across country with them and when they came to the Oregon Dunes, she remembered being there as a kid. She remembered her brothers and her acting like they were lost in the desert as they climbed the dunes. So, she reenacted it for us. I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I do.

 

My four kids at the Oregon Dunes in 1995

 

Dena’s four kids doing the reenactment. She has three girls and a boy, just the opposite of Bob and me.

Have you ever done a long trip with your family? If not, you may want to consider it. It was a bonding moment and an adventure that we will never forget.

 

This is Post #26 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.