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.

 

Always Check Out the Gushing Sound

Every morning around 10 o’clock our pool pump automatically turns on. It’s part of the magic of modern life. I can set my dishwasher to turn on four hours later. I can set the dryer for “wrinkle control” to aid me in my goal of never ironing my clothes again. I can set my coffeepot to turn on in the morning. And, if I could only figure out the timed bake on my oven, I suppose I could set dinner to start cooking while I’m out. Of course, that would require preparation of dinner early in the day, and we all know that ain’t happening.

These are things that I take for granted and barely notice until something goes wrong. For instance, maybe I set the “wash later” control but failed to push the start button on the dishwasher, which equals stinky dishes. Maybe I set the coffee pot to come on in the morning, but fail to put coffee grounds in the basket, and I wake up to a nice pot of hot water. No big deal. I’ll get to it in a minute.

But when I heard a gushing sound from the backyard it didn’t take long to realize that something had gone wrong. That something was the pool pump working against us and turning the pool into a wading pool because the pool pump lid popped off. Meanwhile the back corner of the pool cage behind the house was beginning to rival Wet and Wild.

I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t notice this until it had been going on for about 30 minutes, because I was asleep. Yes, I was asleep at ten in the morning. I was taking an early afternoon nap. You see, my husband and I have had two of our grandchildren on our own this week. That means that I’m getting up almost two hours early, waking sleeping children, helping them get dressed, and driving them to school. And that means that by 10:00, I’m ready for a nap.

So, when I rose from my nap, pulled the curtains back and looked out in the backyard, I was surprised to see that the water level of the pool was markedly lower than it was yesterday. I didn’t remember Bob (my husband) taking the level down after our recent rains, but I figured he must have done that. Then I opened the door and heard Old Faithful erupting all over the side of the house and yard. I was kicking my shoes off, wiping the sleep out of my eyes, and trying to find the facetime icon on my phone all at once. That’s a lot for somebody who just woke up from a morning afternoon nap.

Thankfully, Bob was available and I showed him the gusher. He calmly told me to turn the pump off. I love simple solutions. Later I wondered how long it would have taken me to think of that. After all, it took me a full minute to find the facetime icon on my phone. That’s just another example of how we need each other (or really how I need him).

I was also reminded of being thankful. Originally I was planning to be gone all morning, but yesterday as I was making my list of things to do today, I felt like God told me to stay home and work on my blog. That may sound weirdly mystical, but it’s simply part of trying to be sensitive to the fact that God really does have a plan for my daily life, and he impresses me to do (or not to do) things from time to time. Before I took my nap, I wondered what I’d be writing about. Well, as Paul Harvey always said, now you know the rest of the story.

 

The first step barely has water on it

Relaxing by the Pool, Leaky Diapers, and Phelps Face

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Typically sweet Layna helps water the plants

There is nothing like relaxing in the pool on a hot day. And, having three young children in the pool with me is nothing like relaxing. It was unbelievably hot down here in July – the hottest July on record. I was reminded of how thankful I am to have a pool in our backyard.

I was watching my 19-month-old grandson Felix, so I figured it would be a good time to import a couple of the others. Seven-year-old Jett and four-year-old Layna love to play with him.

We aren’t a formal group, so a swim diaper and a hat is all Felix needs in the pool to be dressed for success. I slathered us up and strapped swimmies on the little two and we were ready to go.

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Pool and pacifier – that’s all I need

Before long, Layna said that she had to go potty. She assured me that it’s perfectly acceptable for her to do it in the yard since it’s just #1. I can work with that.

Felix, looking a lot like a floating chlorine dispenser as he spins around and bobs up and down, loved swimming with his cousins. Things were going, shall we say, swimmingly, and then it happened – a disturbance in the force.  I announced that it was time to go in the house.

Layna informed me that she had to go to potty again. I told her that’s fine, but since we’re going in the house anyway, she could use the actual bathroom. I opened the door, which is right off the pool deck, and invited her in. She was appalled that I would think she’d consider going in the house where it’s cold when the backyard works just fine, thank you very much.

Michael-Phelps-Face-olympic-games-rio-2016I gave her my best I-mean-business look. She gave me Phelps Face.

“Layna, you are going to use the potty,” I said as I picked her up and put her on it.

Her reply as she sat there, “I’m not going to go.”

She exercised such control of her mind and body that is was a little scary.

I’ve been around this block a few times, so I was determined that I would win. While Jett was drying off, I stood outside the bathroom door watching Layna not go potty while taking Felix’s swim diaper off. Suddenly I was standing in a puddle of brown watery poo courtesy of Felix being on antibiotics. Arg.

The upside of this was that Layna quickly figured out that I meant business and did hers on the potty. Plus, Felix got to play in the hose.

Everyone was happy inside playing when I made the mistake of closing the bathroom door to the hall. A treasured, glass thingamajig, that I’m sure meant a lot to me when I found it, but at this point I have no idea why I have it, came crashing to the tile floor from its shelf next to the door. The shards exploded into the hall and the four adjoining rooms. Since Felix freaks out when the vacuum is running, that made it a little more exciting; but with Jett’s help, I was able to clean it all up.

It was a perfect afternoon. I spent it with three of my wonderful grandchildren. Nobody drowned. Nobody cut themselves on glass. I got my floor vacuumed. To be perfectly honest, at this point in life, when something breaks I chalk that up to one less thing to dust. I don’t like dusting, so that’s a win-win.

Everyone’s a Critic

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Layna is four and in charge of life. She noticed a bug in our light fixture. I told her it was our pet Fred and that’s why I haven’t gotten it out of there.

She said, “That bug isn’t really your pet, is it?”

“No, I just like to joke.”

“Well, I don’t,” she said.

In disbelief I said, “Of course, you like jokes.”

Her reply – “Not bad ones.”