Culture Shock!

I was a stranger in a strange land. Gone were the familiar greens and blues. Everything was white. And cold. Very cold!

I knew that it had been a harsh winter in Michigan. I heard about the polar vortex and kept current on conditions because our son and his family live there. But I was not prepared to be dropped into a setting of white.

As we began our descent into Grand Rapids, this was my view.

Close up was a lot more intimidating. Driving with snow drifts higher than your car is stranger than driving after Hurricane Irma left piles of debris along our Florida streets. Our Irma debris held on for over two months. I think the Michigan snow drifts might beat that.

It was embarrassing finding myself commenting on the snow. As a Floridian, I’m used to people talking about the weather. Our summers are long and hot. The heat can be oppressive and unrelenting. And the rain – the rain can sneak up on you and be delivered not only downward but sideways in sheets that take all visibility away. But just as suddenly as it began, it can be gone.

Snow is not like that. Snow stays and gets pushed around by convoys of plows. It gets piled high as an elephant’s eye. It gets dirty and then covered by fresh snow. The plows come day after day. The piles grow. Ice storms mess with your footing. You have to borrow boots from your daughter-in-law (thanks, Dacia!). You have the feeling that you don’t belong here. It’s otherworldly.

So, comment I did. I couldn’t stop talking about how white everything was. My sweet daughter-in-law seemed amused by my snow befuddlement. I did grow up in Maryland. We had snow there. But not like this! I stared out the window in amazement. I couldn’t get over it. Finally, I realized I needed someone to help me with my culture shock, so I called in an expert – my four-year-old grandson. Felix loves snow. He was a little baffled by my lack of experience with it, so he offered his point of view.

 

I figure if it’s a little too much snow for a four-year-old, it’s okay that it’s a lot too much for me.

Are You Ever too Old for SeaWorld?

SeaWorld used to be a calm, risk-free place – a place for animals and shows with one lone roller coaster to break things up a bit. Now, it’s the opposite.

For Christmas we gave our local grandsons (10 and 12 years old) a day at SeaWorld with us. We love to give an event when possible. It’s so easy to wrap! We had the date prearranged with our son and his wife to make sure our calendars didn’t collide. The fun began on the way there. (more…)

Bath and Body (didn’t) Works

I was in Bath and Body Works yesterday sniffing through their vast collection of holiday hand soaps. Currently in my house, last year’s soaps adorn the sinks. I tend to over-buy so at the end of the season, I put those soaps under the sink until the next year. With a small amount of people in our house, it takes a couple Decembers to go through one. With my current stock, it will be 2021 before I need to buy again.

This year I decided to avoid that shop like I avoid leaving Florida in the wintertime. I’m in North Carolina as I write this, so I guess both plans went south, or in the geographic case, north.

So, I’m freezing and trying not to let my comments about how cold it is be all that I say to people. “Hi, I’m Bonnie. I’m freezing.” How’s that for an ice-breaker?

Anyway, no matter what the temperature, I want to see my kids and grandkids, so I loaded up my car for a quick trip to see my daughter, who also happens to be my shopping buddy. She has four children so they can go through a container of pump soap in about 36 hours. She is the reason why Bath and Body Works is so successful.

I got to thinking. Everybody loves Vanilla Bean Noel, Twisted Peppermint, and Winter Candy Apple. They are names that grab you. Names you want to look at everyday when you wash your hands. But what names didn’t make the cut? What names were wash-outs and what did they smell like? Here’s my list:

Charred Santa – Fire in the chimney with a little bit of toasted jolly and fluff

Cranberry Reindeer Droppings – Subtle and spicy undertones of cranberry with a hint of reindeer excrement

Burnt Vanilla Cookie – Even with a truly unpleasant fragrance, this soap cannot be resisted. You’ll smell like you just burned a fresh batch.

Holly and Poison Ivy – Fresh smell of holly with a trace of Calamine Lotion

Tinsel Trauma – Slightly metallic smell that will take you back to your childhood. Use in a well-ventilated room and keep away from children.

May you have a wonderful, clean-smelling Christmas Season!

Let’s Not Lose Our Heads This Christmas

He was more than a figurehead. He was part of a village. Who would have known how weak he was – not me. He was proven. He had been part of our Christmas for over 25 years. That means he had survived my four children with nary a scratch. I never would have suspected that he would lose his head over a banana.

If there is going to be a decapitation, it is better for your grandchild to do the dastardly deed than for your child to do it. There is ample forgiveness for the grandchildren who visit and then leave, who don’t wear you out with the everyday maintenance which they require, who haven’t been told 16 million times not to play with the Christmas village.

The same act would likely have been met with frustration if one of my children had committed it. But my grandson. He can be destructive with a flair of adorableness. That face! How could I be upset with that face.

From the other room I heard the sound of porcelain clinking – never a good sign. I looked around and Winston was nowhere to be seen. When last I saw him, he was holding (according to him) a perfectly yellow banana. I liked the way he appreciated little things like a bruiseless banana of perfect color. But the innocence of the moment was soon shattered.

Little did I know that for some reason which escapes me, he was holding that banana over the unsuspecting head of the Christmas tree delivery man. Maybe he was counting people with the tip of it. Who knows, but evidently, even bananas which have not been peeled can be slippery because somehow or another, Winston knocked one figurine into another with said banana.

“Everything alright in there?” I asked.

“Not really,” he answered. “I think one of the guy’s heads is loose.”

I cautiously inspected the disturbing scene. The head was way beyond loose. It was severed! Right there, in front of the maid and two innocent children! Some in the village simply turned their backs to the gruesome sight, but I could not. Winston could not. He looked up at me with that beautiful, perfect banana in his hand, wondering what would happen.

Well, of course, I cautioned him that bananas are not meant to be held over or placed among Christmas villages. The proof of the danger of this sadly lay before us. Then I put the severed head in the wheelbarrow and wheeled it over to my husband Bob’s desk. He has repaired a lot more than porcelain severed heads in his days as a father and grandfather and neighbor and friend. He has a reputation, and I am happy to tell you that he lived up to it. Mr. Tree Deliverer is back at work. The two children are in therapy but expected to put it behind them by New Year’s Day when they are packed up for the year. The warning of NO BANANAS has been emblazoned upon Winston’s mind. I’m just glad he wasn’t holding a pineapple. That could have been a real disaster.

It Takes More Than Autumn Leaves to Get Me to Michigan in October

Hail, sleet, and snow in the midst of a thunderstorm – that was my welcome to Michigan. The date was October 20. I had left almost 90-degree weather, an atypically warm Orlando autumn. To say this was a shock to my system would be an understatement.

First stop after touching down was Costco, of course. It was as I pulled into the parking lot that the sleet began. I sat there in my rental car in awe of the sudden extremely different from Florida precipitation when it started to hail, accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. Being a Floridian, I can drive in the worst of a rain storm, but this, I wasn’t so sure. Then, flashing through my mind, were those weird road signs that warn bridges ice before roads. I would be crossing bridges. I reminded myself that I could do this, but I didn’t wanna!

My first thought was, I needed a nap. I’d gotten up early to catch my flight and sleep on the plane, well, that doesn’t really count. But the thought of driving through this kind of weather did wake me up.

Of course, I didn’t have an umbrella, and the sleet was mixed with rain that was coming down pretty steadily. I needed to do my Costco run before making the two-hour drive to my son’s house. He and his wife were expecting their second child, and my grandmother calling was strong.

Neither snow nor rain nor cold nor gloom of Michigan autumn would stay this grandmother from the swift completion of her appointed Costco run. I decided to go for it – cold, wet weather and all. And then, it stopped.

I was so thankful! I bought my stuff and made the drive with only slight rain falling on the windshield. The temperature stayed above freezing, so the bridges were fine! The snow flurries waited until I arrived at their home.

Seeing my son, Joe, my grandson, and my very pregnant daughter-in-law was all the sunshine I needed. It was wonderful to be there. Now, the baby could come any time. He was due on the 24th. He had a plan of his own.

No grandmother I know has ever been so well rested while going to help with a new baby. After scheduling to be induced on November 1, Aubyron delivered a very healthy, 10-pound baby boy on Halloween. That was a Wednesday, and I was scheduled to come home on Saturday. We were really sweating out those final days, wondering if I’d get to see the baby at all, wondering if I’d be there to help with their three-year-old. Thankfully, I was able to push my departure back a couple of days and go home on Monday.

While we were waiting, I had the best time with my grandson. We built blocks, did puzzles, read stories, baked cookies, and played. I tried to pack in all the stuff that I don’t get to do on a regular basis with him. It was wonderful. We also saw all that their small, college town had to offer. We took walks. Many, many walks. My poor daughter-in-law was miserable and trying to do what she could to encourage the birth, and my son was getting a little anxious, too.

Let me give you a little glimpse of our tour. I was struck by the comparison of what a Michigan store stocks and what a Central Florida store stocks.

An entire section of things to keep the ice off your car. You can’t find this stuff in Orlando.

I mentioned they live in a college town. That should have given me a clue as to what this was all about.

Everything you need for beer-pong in one handy spot. I’ve never noticed that at CVS where I live.

They have a Family Video rental store, though I found no VHS tapes in there. The walls were lined with DVDs and I understand it is quite popular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, if that weren’t enough, they have real, live Fall up there. They don’t have to fake it by purchasing colored leaves and pumpkins. Those things are there naturally. It was beautiful.

But the most beautiful thing I saw there, showed up on October 31. Yes, all else pales in comparison. Welcome to the world, Oliver!

Grandchild #8. He’s so beautiful!

Now you understand why I haven’t posted lately. Love is very distracting and consuming in the best of ways.

Traveling with My Engineer

Travel. Bob and I are known for traveling a lot. Sometimes family or friends have traveled with us. That has resulted in a reputation that leaves some scared to do so. We are what you would say… aggressive. We make a plan that is so detailed that we have to write in time for rest. Seriously. This is what happens when you are married to an engineer, or at least it’s what happens with my engineer. We figure that there will likely be time for trips that are heavy on relaxing in our future (God willing). So, for now, let’s see how much we can cram into a vacation.

This last trip began because Bob became concerned about my state of mind. Excessive sighing, staring at the wall (of pictures), wandering through the toy aisle at Target. These were tell-tale signs that I was missing my grandkids and kids. I had not seen the Michigan group since Christmas. So, before I was reduced to weeping and gnashing of teeth, Bob scheduled time off from work and the plan began. (more…)

Hope

Ella two years ago at the Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive. She’s a serious birder.

There is a birding bond between my granddaughter, Ella, and me that helps us keep in touch even though we are now long distance. Ella will turn 13 next month, and ever since she was a toddler she has been fascinated by birds. At an early age she could identify all the backyard birds that visited our feeder. None of this red bird or blue bird stuff for her. She wanted to know their proper breed names.

We have taken her and her older sister, Mia, birding a couple of times. Ella loves it. She is an excellent spotter as well, picking out birds hiding in bushes and trees far better than I.

I’m never surprised when she or her mom, my daughter Dena, sends me a picture to try to identify a newbie. I was surprised to get this picture.

This poor little guy flew into their sliding glass door. Ella was crushed and quickly scooped it up and laid it in their vacant bird-cage. Since her mom wasn’t home, Ella texted this picture to her. Dena sent it to me as she was not in a position to help. Ella and I began to facetime each other. She was convinced that the cardinal was still alive, so I had her wrap it in a cloth to keep it warm in case it was in shock. Ella held it and tried to will it to live. She named it Hope.

While facetiming I also was interacting with the rest of the kids. For hygiene’s sake, I asked did anyone else touch the bird. Mia, who was holding the cat way too close for comfort to our little patient, scrunched up her face like I had suggested the unthinkable and said, “No!”

Layna, who is six, showed her concern by reiterating that the cardinal is the state bird of North Carolina. I’d say what a poor little thing it was, and she would say, “I know and it’s our state bird.” Such concern over the potential loss of so proud a symbol of their state mixed with pride over knowing this important fact was impressive.

But Jett’s mind presented the most interesting prospect and potential problem with helping this beautiful, red cardinal. “What if it explodes?” he asked. I think he’s played one too many games of Angry Birds.

Meanwhile, I told Dena that she could give it a couple of drops of whisky from an eye dropper when she got home. If there was any life left in it, that might help. Unfortunately, they only had Vodka. I’m not sure that made a difference.

Finally, it was decided that Ella should put Hope in an open shoe box and tuck it under some bushes to see if it would revive. Alas, Hope died.

If love alone could have brought Hope back, he would have flown away to live on. He left behind a sad Ella, but I believe he taught her a few things, too. This was not the first bird that she has rescued, but it was the first one that didn’t make it. Life is full of learning from things like this. On the other hand, at least it didn’t blow up. I don’t think she could have handled that.

 

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part III

 

full-moon-415501_640Did you happen to catch the lunar eclipse during the full moon earlier this month? Maybe not – you might have been distracted by the comet going past. Or you might not know what in the universe I’m talking about.

This is where grandchildren come in handy. I would have been clueless if it weren’t for the newsflash brought to us by our eight-year-old grandson, Winston. It seems he was listening in school that day! He told us about a golden moon, an eclipse and a comet, and that we all needed to be outside at 7:30 to watch the show. Because Winston loves to tease, I thought he was doing just that. Thank goodness for Google, because I could see Winston was right on, even if some details were a little fuzzy.

Our dinner discussion with Winston and his ten-year-old brother Manning then turned to the difference between comets and meteors and what was a meteorite. They had the definitions down fairly well, giving me hope for the school system.

That is until I asked them, what was the most famous comet they ever heard of; and Manning answered, “Comet the reindeer.”

I laughed so hard I nearly spit my food across the table.

We composed ourselves and went outside at 7:30 to watch the night sky. We observed no noticeable eclipse of the beautiful full moon and no comet passing by. Not even one joined by seven other reindeer pulling Santa and a sleigh full of toys.

According to reports, we understand that we did see an eclipse – a penumbral eclipse. I have to tell you, it looks remarkably like a regular old full moon. My “extensive” research said it is hard to tell the difference between a penumbral eclipse and a regular full moon, which might be why they don’t get much press. So why bring it up now? What are those scientists trying to pull here? I don’t want to join in on the fake news bandwagon, but this is lunacy.

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part II

I have mentioned repeatedly the brilliant move I made when I married an engineer. Marrying an engineer means never having to call a repairman. To quote Ferris Bueller, “It’s so choice.”

We had been having problems with our pool pump. I watched Bob as he quickly diagnosed the problem. I’ll describe for you in layman’s terms what he did after pulling something or another apart. He looked at it. He then put the thingamajig back on the what’s-it-called saying he’d have to tackle it later. He didn’t have the right tools.

The next day after he came home from work, he kissed me hello as I cooked dinner and headed out back.

img_1607-1Layna, who is four, was happily doing puzzles on my iPad at the dining room table.

Just five minutes later, Bob was back inside. I asked him if he was going to work on the pump tonight and he said he just fixed it. “It’s easy when you have the right tool.”

I know I shouldn’t be amazed at him, but I still am. I winked at him and told him, “I think I got the right tool when I married you.”

Obviously, the compliment was wasted on Layna, who kept saying, “Bumpa is a tool? Bumpa is a tool?”

 

 

 

Kids Really Do Say the Most Surprising Things – Part I

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I am writing a few short blog posts inspired by those wonderful grandchildren of mine – my husband’s and my seven beautiful Valentines.

Four of these sweeties lived with us for the last five months of 2016, but I was too busy enjoying them to share some of the gems they left engraved on my heart.

It was a Saturday morning and Bob was getting ready to leave the house. We were checking with each other regarding our upcoming day. Bob said he was going to Home Depot, the pool store, and then he was going for a massage.

My sweet Ella

My sweet Ella

Ella, who is eleven, was watching our conversation. She looked at me and said, “Grandmom, I think Bumpa is cheating on you.”

Bob was pretty much speechless at this point. (Children will do that to you.)

Not being sure how savvy Ella is, I asked what she meant.

“I think he’s spending all of your money.”

“Well, I assured her. I don’t earn any money. I’m the one that spends his.”

That satisfied her, but left me wondering how she thinks I generate an income. I guess she figures I’m usually the one of us that takes her out and buys her stuff, so perhaps I have a secret job that I find time to do while she is sleeping. That also would explain why I take a nap in the afternoon. After all, it probably has nothing to do with all the kids in the house.