Friday, August 20, 2010

Forty Years of Wedded Bliss!

Yup, this Sunday we celebrate 40 years of marriage. Bob and I were married August 22, 1970 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Pelham, New Hampshire. We had about 70 guests and had a reception at a golf club afterwards. We spent the next ten days driving over 5,000 miles on our honeymoon - camping across Canada on the Trans-Canadian Highway, attending Mary and Tasos' wedding in Illinois and then heading down to Kentucky to see Bob's alma mater, Eastern Kentucky University. Three wonderful sons were born in 1972, 1974 and 1980 - Scott, Mike and Eric (short, strong names with such a long last name), respectively. We now have five grandchildren - Josie, Sasha, Andrew, Joey and Catherine. Seems just like yesterday that we joined hands at the altar - two scared young people, not knowing what the future would hold for them.

We've had many ups and downs - job changes, personal challenges - but, the joys and blessings have SO outweighed the concerns and upsets. We have seen our kids grow, seek their futures and form wonderful relationships. We have both been blessed with the love of travel and have visited countries all over the world. I have a very patient and loving husband who has pushed me to visit new places, try new foods and get home from work on time (never!). My hope is that we have many more years together, especially after I retire in September 2012. We'll see...but, it has been quite a ride!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Up date on our vacation house

When we rented the house for our family get together it did not exist. We saw a snow covered hole where the house was going to be placed but no house. I am pleased to tell you all that the house is now ready for us and does exist.

Last Friday it was cold, cloudy, rainy and just plain nasty. Jeanne and I agreed to watch the neighbor's three kids and since it was too cold to take them to the camp, we decided to check out the house and see what progress they had made in getting it ready for customers. We all packed into the car and off we went to New London. On the way we stopped and saw the largest ball of twine in the world. Over 40 feet in circumference and over 17,000 pounds, the ball is located in a tiny town, Darwin, in the middle of Minnesota. The girls enjoyed the visit but Gavin was under the weather and just kept sleeping during the entire trip. We arrived at the house after about a 90 minute drive.

The house is going to be tight but perfect for our family. There is a wrap around deck that over looks the lake. My guess is that with a few cases of beer, most of our time will be spent sitting on the deck talking, playing cards and just watching the flow of the tiny resort.

The up stairs has a nice kitchen, big refrigerator and living room with a flat screen TV. The dinning area has a table large enough to fit everyone at the same time. The only down side is the chairs and table is made of hard wood and wights a ton. I don't think the kids will be able to move the chairs but there is a bench that is perfect for them. The master bedroom is up stairs (we plan on using that room for mom and I). There is another up stairs bedroom with a queen bed and a bath room on that level as well.
Down stairs area which is accessed from the parking lot and convenient for the kids, has six bedrooms and a small living area with another TV. There is a large picnic table under the deck as well. One of the bedrooms has a bunk bed large enough for all the older kids to sleep in at the same time. Three of the downstairs bedrooms have queen beds, one bedroom has a single bed and the other has two single beds. At this point that should be enough for all of us. We are planning on Scott and Tammi (4), Mike and Jess (5), Eric (2), David and Mel (4) and ourselves (2). That is 17 people and we are allowed 18 without additional cost.
The 'resort" has a nice beach so the kids should plan on lots of beach time. They also have good fishing on the lake. This past week they said they were pulling in 3 pound large mouth bass and decent sized walleyes. Mike is renting a fishing boat (thanks Mike for agreeing to my suggestion) so we need to make sure you all get a fishing license.
I hope Tammi can come a bit early with the girls but everyone, if you can, should plan on spending a little time with your grandmother.

To save some time, we can buy most or at least some of the food before everyone gets here. Shopping in Willmar is limited (we still have not found the grocery store) and a half hour away from the resort so what we can get in the cities would be helpful. We will buy the beer before hand unless you all want to be part of that buying decision as well. I know how important good beer is to the Utah group and the Chicago group and the Minneapolis group. Let me know if we should pre-buy some stuff.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

One week after Mom's 98th Birthday

It's been over a week since Mom's birthday. All went smoothly - Linda arrived safely the previous Sunday from Virginia; Mary dodged the flight cancellations due to the volcano in Ice land and arrived on Tuesday. Dirk, Linda's son and my nephew, arrived on Wednesday from San Francisco. So, Thursday evening we gathered with Mom in her room at Millstream Commons and ate cheese, crackers, pickled herring, shrimp and drank beer & sparkling wine to celebrate the eve of Mom's birthday. It was fun to catch up with Dirk and his work at Google, and visit with Mary & Linda, as I knew it would be a busy day to come. The conversations took a twisted turn, however, when Mary and Linda lit into me concerning the sex abuses cases in the Catholic Church and the need for Pope Benedict to resign, in their opinion.

Lately there has been a never-ending stream of revelations about clergy abuse and bishops have been forced to resign in Ireland, Germany, France, as well as earlier in the United States. The underlying question seems to be what did Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) know about these cases and what did he do to prevent future abuses from occurring? I guess I have grown so weary of this as we in Minnesota have dealt with this twenty-five years ago with the Fr. James Porter horrible list of abuses and we have put in place many measures to prevent re-occurrence. The screening of seminarians is much more thorough, the reporting requirements are in place and the background checks and training requirements for people working closely with children and youth are pretty stringent for Catholic parishes and schools. Plus, our knowledge of sex addiction and compulsive sexual behavior is so much more advanced now than it was a generation ago - you can't just "fix" this behavior...its roots run deep in family of origin issues and a couple of visits to a shrink or a two week spiritual retreat are only band-aids. I was feeling quite hurt and dismayed by my sisters' blame-filled conversation, but understand their disgust. It surely put a damper on my joy of the evening and my long, weary drive back home afterwards.

The following day, Friday, April 30, I drove back down to celebrate with Mom and my sisters and nephew - lunch, followed by a concert with the Northfield Troubadors and cake and ice cream and lemonade at Millstream. Mom thoroughly enjoyed her afternoon and visited with a number of friends and well-wishers - probably 50 people in all. I drove home late that afternoon as Eric, Mike, Jess and the kids drove in from Elmhurst and Scott flew in from Salt Lake City that evening.

Our little house was filled with kids, adults and lots of catching-up. It was the first time in many years that our three sons were "back home" together at 5340 Queen. There was much beer drunk and memories shared. Andrew and Joey loved playing with the John Deere toys and Hot Wheel cars that I had purchased at a Northfield antique shop earlier that day.

Saturday morning dawned early (kids were up at 6:30 a.m., raring to go!). We were heading down the Sue's house in Northfield for a family dinner with all the trimmings. Before leaving we received a phone call from Sue that Grandma had passed out for a couple of minutes and she was heading to the hospital in an ambulance - I guess, just too much fun the previous couple of days. We decided to go ahead with the dinner and visit Grandma in the hospital as her condition allowed (minus the little kids). Melinda, David, Iris and Baker were also at Sue's, so it proved to be such a nice day together - kids ran all over inside and outside - tulips were blooming and it was such nice weather. We all stopped in to see Grandma for a few minutes - but she was pretty tired. The ol' ticker is just wearing out!

The next two days were filled with comings and goings - Mike and his family and Eric left Sunday morning to drive back and Scott and I drove down to see Mom once more. Monday, Scott made some repairs to ceiling lights downstairs - it was great to have him around, even though he had to fly home that evening.

So, Grandma is on to 99...she has left the hospital and is in transitional care at Three Links, regaining her strength. But, the reality is that her heart is weakening and these spells can re-occur at any time, for any reason. There has to be 24/7 care to prevent accidents and falls. She hates this layer of care, but is resigned to it. I would love to be able to move her back to her townhome in Pheasantwood so that she could spend her last days/months watching her garden and in the comfort of familiar surroundings. But the level of care needed is the caution. Meanwhile, life goes on for all of us...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

School is out

Summer is coming and with it comes the end of school. Yup! At 67, I am still in school. I audit classes and write papers on the subjects I think I might enjoy writing about-mostly in the philosophy area. Test and major research can be a bit stressful so I pass on most of those. Lucky for me Minnesota does not charge tuition for folks over 62. I pay a technology fee and parking. Comes out to about $10 a credit and what a bargain that is. In the past four years since I have retired, I have taken twenty-one classes.

I take my classes at the North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, about 20 minutes north of my home. NHCC is a community college with about 3000 students, ages 16 on up. The younger folks are still in high school earning credit for college classes. They come to the college for part of their day and spend the rest at their high school. We have a sprinkling of older folks looking to improve their education so they can increase their earning at their jobs and, of course; we have the college aged youngsters. There are only two of me-retired old folks.

Attending NHCC has changed my opinion about community colleges. My first reaction was the college was for kids who could not hack it at a "real" college and the teachers were just better educated high school teachers. Boy was I wrong! The teachers are excellent. Most with PhDs and many of them teach at NHCC because they are teachers first. You deliver a first class education.

I enjoy History so I have burned through the history department - at least the European history part. Now I am going to take some American history classes.

Taking classes as a senior citizen it really nice. You don’t have the stress the kids do as they study for classes and write papers and everyone thinks you’re a lot smarter then you really are. White hair and old age does that to you I guess.

A few observations: some of the young people at NHCC are really intelligent. On the most part many of the kids in my classes have excellent minds. They could compete at any four year college they chose to go to. What they lack is life experience and cultural literary. Things I take for granted, they have no knowledge of.

A good number of them are also so very conservative. They think government is bad and are believers in just about any conspiracy theory you can think of. The internet is a where they seem to get most of their knowledge I guess.

The college has international students and many students who recently arrived in the USA. I was talking to a young man from Syria who was here on a student visa. Who would have thought a little school like ours would attract a foreign student? What is nice is that student will be given as many remedial classes as he needs to succeed.

Being retired is great and having the time to relearn stuff you missed as an undergraduate makes my winters go quickly. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Momentous Week to Come

As I write this, my sister Linda has arrived from Virginia, Mary from Switzerland this morning, my nephew, Dirk, flies in from San Francisco tomorrow morning, Eric, Mike/Jess and the grandkids drive in from Elmhurst, Il. on Friday afternoon and Scott flies in from Salt Lake City on Friday night.

So what's the big deal? My mother celebrates her 98th birthday on Friday! This is a woman who has published her memoirs, fought colon and uterine cancers, heart disease, Paget's bone disease and crippling arthritis. She is truly amazing! I cannot believe her tenacity and her engagement with Life. One rarely hears complaints or criticisms from her - she just can't be bothered.

Last Sunday I joined her for Sunday dinner at Millstream Commons, her assisted living facility. Afterwards I gave her a manicure, while she watched the Twins and took an afternoon nap. Bored with the Twins (they were losing), she consented to a ride down to her townhome at Pheasantwood (we still hold out hope that she can return there with a full-time caregiver, to spend her last months (years?). I bundled her up in her wheelchair and then pushed, pulled and bumped over the wood chipped trails of her garden so that she could once again enjoy the lush promise of Spring. We sat together near her small pond (yes, it was full of recent rainwater) as she marvelled at the peonies, lilacs, hosta, May flowers and glorious tulips - what had come up, what hadn't survived the winter -and wondering if the family of ducks would return this year.

So, Friday, April 30th, we will invite her friends in for cake and ice cream at 2:30 and Saturday we will be all together for a large family dinner at my sister Sue's - roast leg of lamb, Mom's favorite. She is so excited and can't quite believe this is happening.

I cherish these special times, alone with my Mom. There are changes in her every time I visit...but why not? The gnarly fingers, the bent over walk, and the struggles to get up from her chair - she doesn't give up. She reminds us kids - what do I owe you, as we pick up toiletries for her. She will ask how did Eric's interview go, how is Scott doing at Questar, and loves the tales of Mike representing a multi-millionaire at a big auction of Florida condos.

Can one imagine the changes that she has witnessed over her 98 years? I remember as a kid sitting next to her as we picked feathers off of scalding hot chicken carcasses - she was so fast - OR washing chicken poop off of eggs, one by one, getting them ready for a grocer in St. Paul. I remember washing four loads of clothes with her (whites first, Dad's patched striped overalls last) in the Maytag wringer washer and hanging them in long, swaying lines of laundry outside by the crabapple tree. The cistern by the back door (if you shouted down it, you could hear an echo, but watch out for any snakes!), the Watkins salesman with the big jolly belly (Mr. Koester), the wonderful kettle closet that was such a jumbled mess and her frustration with me doing projects at the last minute (I haven't changed a bit, ask Bob). I remember when it was too cold to move the baby chickens into the brooder house and we had to place the crate of these cheeping little yellow fuzz balls into our oven on low heat! Oh, Mom, can't we hold them?

She has given me more that I can ever give back to her - happy birthday, Mom!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finally ....

Last weekend, we took another trip "up north" to check out a place for our family vacation. We had two places in mind. One was in Aiken, two and a half hours north of the cities, and the other in New London. New London is about 90 miles west and north of the cities (110 miles from our house).
Sunset Shores is a resort located on Norway Lake. The resort is smaller than Holiday Camp (resort we stayed at three years ago) but has a lot more going for the kids. If want to see the site check out We did not see the house since it is still under construction but we understand it has 8 bedrooms and large kitchen and living areas both upstairs and downstairs. Seven of the bedrooms have queen beds. A deck runs around the house giving lots of space for hanging out and watching the lake. It is a family run resort and the children in the owner’s family run kids programs for the guests. They have boats to rent and lots to do.
We rented it for the week starting with Saturday, July 24. It should prove to be great place for a Minnesota vacation. There is a riding stable nearby for the kids who might want to rent a horse. Mike is going to rent a boat for the week (after I ask him and he says yes) so lots of fishing. From all indications, this lake has nice big fish waiting to be caught. Kid’s games, fire ring, swimming beach, miniature golf and lots of other stuff are provided to keep the kids busy. There is real golf for Mike and Eric. Jeanne and I are anxious for the kids to see the largest ball of twine in the world. One of the highlights of a trip to Minnesota! 
Hopefully, Tammy and the girls can come out early so we can show them the Twin Cities. Josie plays the violin but I am not sure she has ever been to a real symphonic concert before so it would be nice to take her to the Minnesota Symphony while they are here. Sasha might enjoy a play at the Children’s Theater. There is lots to see in the Twin Cities and the girls are now of an age where it would be fun showing off the Cities.
We hope everyone can get here early or leave late so they can see their grandmother. Dot is pushing 98 and starting to show her age. It would be nice for the grand kids to see her before something really serious happens to her.
In addition, to our kids we have invited David and Mel and their kids to join us for the week. When your family is spread out across the nation, you need to find a way to bring them all together, including cousins, aunts and uncles. This is out way to stay connected.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In spite of the last blog .....

Well, we thought we had a place for the summer get together but, after seeing it, we decided to keep on looking.
There are a number of considerations we have when looking for a house. We need a bedroom for each family and another for the kids. That is five bedrooms, minimum. We also enjoy having a large gathering place in the house so folks can talk while cooking and having dinner. A table big enough for all of us to eat at the same time would be wonderful. We definitely need a beach nearby for the kids to swim and ideally a fire pit so we can spend the evening outside around a fire. The house we saw had the beach, gathering place and fire pit but only four bedrooms. That means someone had to sleep on the futon. And although Jeanne and I were willing to sleep in the room with the bunk beds (hence with the kids), the price of the house ($3500 for the week), was too much for what we were giving up. So, Jeanne got on the computer and after another extensive search, we now have two other options we will be looking at this weekend.
The first is in New London, about 95 miles north and west of the Cities. This home has 8 bedrooms, dishwasher, and 3 bathrooms, with ac. It includes a walkout patios facing Norway Lake from dining room and family room in basement. It is part of a resort, which has both it’s up and down sides.
The second is on Cedar Lake. We would have to rent two homes since none of the houses are big enough to allow all of us to have a bed room. Having said that, the place has a big beach, is private, not a resort, and has a fire pit and lots of room for the kids to play. This is not the most ideal, but we started our search a little late and have to make do with what is available.
This weekend we plan on traveling to both sites and make a final decision. We have asked both parties to pencil us in until the weekend. If you want to check out the two places go to> for the two cabins and to for the Minnesota cabin.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Summer Vacation for the family is all set

Our geographically spread clan has met each year for a family reunion. We have been doing this for the past seven or so years and each year we get together, I become more proud of my boys and their families. Jeanne and I “did good” raising them.

My family of origin is just not close at all. My sister has never been to our home in Minnesota. My brother, Jeff, came only because the national organization of chiefs of police had their convention in Minnesota one year and in our almost forty years of marriage, my mother has only visited us four times (maybe). In all fairness, the road goes both ways and Jeanne and I have limited our visits to my family as well, which is to say, we are not a close family.

Jeanne and I wanted to make sure we raised a family a lot closer than mine so about seven years ago with Mike's help, we organized our first family get together or as Jeanne calls it, a family re-union. Our first trip was to Utah. Scott and Tami live in Salt Lake City and Mike’s college roommate's family owned a beautiful home at Park City. We borrowed the home for a week and everyone had a great time. There was lots of wine, talk, food and just reconnecting which is important when we are spread out across the country in Minnesota, Chicago and Utah.

The next year, Jeanne and I rented a large home in Florida so my mother could be part of the party. Each day we would pick her up and bring her to the house where she would reconnect to her grandkids and great grandkids. Sometime during this visit, Scott expressed a desire to have a reunion in Minnesota where his daughters could have the same north woods experiences he had as a child. When the boys were younger, we spent just about every weekend up north in our camper. It must have been a memorable time in his young life to have him asks that his daughters experience a similar encounter with north Minnesota. So, after Florida, it was off to Holiday Resort outside of Garrison for another week together, this time in northern Minnesota. Since we were in Minnesota, we invited some aunts, uncles and cousins to join us. They came and we had a excellent week. Since then we have been to Cape Cod, and back to Florida and Utah and now back to Minnesota.

We have rented a large home on Lake Minnwawa outside of Brainerd. The house has three bedrooms, a loft and a den and can sleep 14 to 18 people. Like years past, we will be inviting cousins, uncles and any other family member who would like to join us for the day or the week. Renting the homes is not cheap, nor is the cost of travel for a family of four from Utah, but it is an investment in keeping our family a family.

There is a movie: Mr. Holland Opus. In the show, the main character is a music teacher who spends his life teaching high school kids and never finishes his music masterpiece. As he is getting ready to retire, the community gives him a “retirement party.” At that party one of his students says that although Mr. Holland never completed his music masterpiece, his real Opus are the students he taught. I feel that way. I love to sit in a corner watching our children, they are our Opus. They have grown up to be wonderful husbands, and fathers and are raising amazing children. I wonder where they learned all that they do as adults. I hope some of it came from us.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I hate the snow

I know the east coast has been hit with massive (for them at least) snow storms. Thirty inches of snow for a area that has one snow plow in each town can't be much fun. But their snow is transitory. It comes as a massive big blast on Monday and by the weekend, the sun is out and all the snow is slush. A week of 40 degree temps and it is over. However, that is not Minnesota. I was shoveling some snow yesterday and notice it was the same snow that fell on November. This year, at least, once it snowed, it stayed and it looks like it has no intention of leaving. It has been so bad that I finally gave in to Jeanne and hired someone to climb on my roof and remove the stuff. Three hours and $50 later, he was still not done and has to return tomorrow. The ice dams on my house belong on the Three Gorges blocking the Yahtzee River, they are so large. The icicles are so dangerous I had to remove them before they fell on some child and pierced his head to his heart. I have seen stalactites in major caves smaller. It has been a different year. My son, in Utah, wrote that he is tired of hearing about the snow in Washington DC on NPR. He wants his "snow back" because the ski areas in Utah need the snow and he is tired of skiing on "Colorado snow." I offered him our snow but getting it there created a problem.

The sun seems higher in the sky. Snow seems to be melting and the weather guy just said look for more snow this weekend. Looks like we are putting off our trip up north for another two weeks. My guess is all the snow will be gone by August, just in time to start up again for the 2010-2011 season. I want to be a snow bird......

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Life is too short...

This afternoon I met my Mom and my sister, Sue, over at the Pieper Cancer Center near Abbott Northwestern Hospital. When Mom was hospitalized for a mild heart attack in the beginning of December (shortly after moving into an assisted living facility) we asked that she also receive a gynecological exam. Sue and I had seen some signs that there may be problems in that area. After that test and a later ultrasound, it was revealed that Mom had a 5 cm mass in her uterus (her uterus is only 9 cm wide, so it is significant). The million dollar question, of course, is what is it - a polyp or a cancerous tumor and, if cancer, how aggressive it might be? So we met a woman gynecological oncologist from Minnesota Oncology (Minneapolis Clinic). The exam went very smoothly, relatively speaking, for a 97 yr. old woman. It took all of about 10 minutes and Mom didn't experience any pain, just some mild discomfort. The doctor said she removed quite a bit of tissue for a biopsy and that it didn't feel like a polyp. She seemed to imply that it was a cancerous tumor - results should be known by next Monday.

So, of course, Mom wanted to know options:
  1. A hysterectomy - surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries - not a viable option for a woman her age who had just suffered a mild heart attack.
  2. Just leave it be as it is - it may grow slowly or it may be an aggressive form of cancer (we'll know Monday which kind it is) - symptoms may be mild as they are now, or there may be heavier bleeding and discomfort.
  3. A targeted series of radiation treatments - three or four times - targeted directly at the tumor - not to eliminate it, but to "keep it at bay", not growing any larger.

The doctor also discussed DNR and DNI directives with Mom (do not resuscitate and do not intubate) - that they needed to be updated so that Millstream Commons staff and family know her wishes - let's say they/we find her on the floor or unconscious...then what?

Finally, she talked to Mom (and us) very frankly about locating a hospice - particularly if the results are serious. She said that hospice care is very good, not only for a patient dealing with end-of-life issues, but also for family members. For a patient, it helps remove or alleviate the fear of death. For family members it allows for the discussion of end-of-life issues.

Mom took this all in very rationally - says that at this point she will leave it alone. The doctor said that could be her desire now, but not to worry about changing her mind. Mom agreed to update her DNR and DNI directives. As to the hospice, both Sue and I feel that this is premature (Sue says that there is a good hospice unit in Faribault, if that time comes).

So, what do I feel about all of this? It sort of feels unreal...I cannot imagine my Mom not being around...she is my best friend (next to Bob) and offers me a listening heart and unconditional love. I want for her not to suffer and to spend her last days/months/years in a respectful and dignified manner - as a matriarch deserves. It's difficult to see her start slipping...God be with her on this journey.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another opportunity to act like a grand pa

Jeanne was suppose to post about the grand kids and their visit to great grandmother a few Sundays ago but she got busy, the Vikings lost and she hasn't had the time to post anything since. It is hard to post stuff when you come home, eat and fall a sleep watching TV.
Our weekends have been full of lots of activities. Our neighbor (and tenant) is a singe mom and she asked me if I could babysit her three kids on a no-school Friday. I said yes and planned a full day with the three of them. On the appointed Friday, her youngest boy (Gavin) was sick so the two girls and I went off to the Mall of America to use the rest of the points Mike and my grandsons had left after their trip. On the way to the Mall, we stopped at the Walker's Outdoor Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The kids had seen the "Spoon and the Cherry" from the road but they had never seen it close enough to touch it. It was fun watching them have the experience of appreciating art from a 9 or 11 year old perspective. From the Garden we went off to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
I have been to this museum many time but I don't remember enjoying it as much as I did seeing the art work through the eyes of young girls. Olivia kept saying some of the paintings had eyes that followed her and that was spooky. They used words like "weired", "spooky" and "scary" to describe some of the art in the museum. They were fascinated with the African exhibits, especially the masks. One had a 12 foot hat on it and that got their attention. We spent over an hour at the museum before I pulled the plug and said we had to go to the Mall for a few rides.
When I agreed to babysit I had the impression that only our school district had the day off. Boy! was I wrong. There had to be over a thousand kids at the Nickelodeon universe park. Seems half the twin cities had the day-off from school. I told the girls that they could pick any rides they wanted to but they had to alternate their choices. I raised three boys and, as a aged male, had the impression girls were dainty, gentle, lady like creatures who would be too scared to go on the fast, high, spin and puke rides. Well, I either never got it or just missed that part of parenting. These girls went on every ride with the exception of one and if there was time, they would have repeated the most spinning, hair-raising rides over and over again. We spent a few hours at the park and then had to head home. Another thing about girls I didn't know. They eat as much as boys do, at least in the snack department. On the way home they lamented that they were hungry and had to have snacks when we got home.
When your grand kids are miles and miles away, it is great to act like a grand parent even if the children are not yours. I fully enjoyed myself and I am looking forward to babysitting the kids anytime mom needs the coverage. Surrogate grand parenting is a lot better than just having your kids miles and miles away. You see old things with new eyes and that makes them so much more exciting.

Monday, January 18, 2010

God's reward for not killing off your children-Grandkids

The house is quiet and the kids and grandkids have gone home to Chicago. It was a great visit. Saturday, the original plan was to take the kids to the Shoreview Community Center water park for a day of swimming and having fun but Joe was still under the weather so off to the Mall of America we went. The kids enjoyed the rides as grandma and I watched Catherine. It was a great afternoon. We found out that Joe was a little bolder than his older brother. To get to the water slide, you had to walk into a long very dark tunnel. Joe was alright with that but Andrew decided no ride was worth the long dark walk to get to the ride. The rides themselves did not bother the boys at all, even the ones that were designed for teens or adults.

The boys now have a habit of waking me up by getting close to my ear and yelling "Wake up Grandpa." I stay in bed in the morning so they have an opportunity to do their thing. But this trip I found out that my encouraging them to wake me up has a down side. Most of the time, I am awake and make a big production of waking up. My eyes get big: my hands wave around and I act like I am startled. However, the boys caught me taking a cat nap and did the same “Wake up, grandpa” and it was a rude shock to my system to be jolted out of a sound sleep to them yelling in my ear. I guess I reaped the harvest I sowed.

Saturday night the boys and gramps watched a movie as their parents went back to the mall for shopping. We saw “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs.” Unless you are under 6, you’re not missing anything. Andrew on the other hand kept bouncing off the walls in his excitement over the video.

Sunday was Vikings day and Mike purchased all the kids, including little Catherine, Viking logo shirts. I will let Jeanne tell this part of the story when she comes home tonight.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Drop to the Floor?

I was peacefully working on the dining room table, updating my Quick Books and my checkbook (it'll soon be tax time), about 9:30 p.m., minding my own business. We still have the twinkly lights on in the kitchen, sending a cheerful note on a cold wintry night. All of a sudden, from the yard in back of us on Penn Avenue, I heard two separate popping noises and then three more, in rapid succession. What the hell? Should I drop to the floor? Just the other day a 19 month old baby was shot in her foot by a stray bullet as her mother descended from a MTC bus.

I paused and listened for a few moments - nothing more. Needless to say, I didn't drop to the floor. That would be much too sensible. Instead, I peered out the back window. What the hell? I asked Bob if he heard something while he was watching TV and he thought it was my laptop - silly boy! I don't watch movies on MY computer. I finally broke down and called 911 on my cell phone. Immediately, the 911 operator answered with "are you calling about the sound of gunshots on Penn Avenue?" - sheeesh! I answered her questions and gave her my name (she already had my phone # on her caller ID). Shortly thereafter the Brooklyn Center dispatcher called and asked more questions about what I had heard and then Bob and I saw a squad car roaming the neighborhood with a spotlight searching the yards around. I told Bob "we'd better not tell Mike, Scott & Eric about this". So, I'll just post it on the blog.

Kind of interesting to note my reaction, when I heard the noises - are we becoming so used to the stories of urban violence that we become almost fatalistic? Guess it's just not my time? Too bad, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Where is our outrage at the proliferation of guns in our neighborhoods and the innocent lives that are being sacrificed in the name of drugs, gambling debts, pride of gang membership and overall stupidity?

Grandparent Fix

Last weekend was a continuation of the cold spill that started in late December. On this evening's news it said that the Twin Cities average temps so far this month has been 0 degrees. So Friday night Jeanne and I agreed that we would hunker down for the weekend and wait out the cold. We would watch a little TV, take in a football game and just stay warm. That changed Friday evening when we received a call from a friend of ours who said they were in the Cities and wondered if we would be interested in coming over to their hotel and go swimming with her and the kids while Eric, her husband, was in a workshop.

Tammy and Eric had four kids until they decided to add two more to the mix by adopting two children from the Ukraine. Now they have six wonderful kids, ages 4 to 15. Ben and Sophie, the newest members of the family, came with physical problems effecting their legs and arms. Jeanne and I jumped at the chance to be surrogate grandparents, if only for the day.

On Saturday we packed up some cheese and crackers, lemonade for the kids and a bottle of wine for the older folks and off to the hotel we went.

Tammy's eldest daughter was waiting for us at the hotel and showed us where the family was staying. After a quick change, off to the pool we went. We sent the entire day at the pool, swimming with the children and filling them up, like good grandparents, with loads of cheese, crackers and "reindeer noses." It was three months since we had met Sophie and Ben at the airport as they arrived from the Ukraine. They could not speak any English but were not shy and had smiles as big as all outdoors. Wow! How things had changed in that short time.

While playing with them in the pool, Jeanne and I discovered that they understood most of what we were asking them to do and could even speak more then a little English. They may have problems with their muscles but their minds are sharp and they are inquisitive and just adorable. They both still have those broad smiles and just beamed as they learned to get around in the water. This was the first time either child had been in a swimming pool but they were acting like they had been swimming all their lives. After a day in the water, we packed it up and headed back to the room. Jeanne and I helped Tammy get the kids all dressed for their night out at dinner. It dawned on me later what a great help that must have been. Can you image how much time it must take to get four pre-schoolers dressed, two with limited ability to use their arms or legs? I can remember when my boys were pre-schoolers how long it took to get ready to leave the house.
We had a great time and look forward to any opportunity for us to be grandparents again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Miserable Minnesota

The timing of snowstorms can really ruin your day. Today, a couple of inches fell right during the morning rush hour. It took me an hour to go 16 miles (normally it takes me fifteen minutes to get to work) and a person isn't the most peaceable personality upon arrival after that kind of a drive. Only saw one accident - a car bounced off the cement median and wrecked his front left fender and quarter panel of his car. Tonight, I had a late meeting and left at 5:30 - it still took me an hour and fifteen minutes, creeping along the freeway. Bob had nice homemade chicken and wild rice soup ready for me and then announced - "hurry-up, we're going swimming at the Civic Center!". I exhibited a snippishness and bitchyness that is normally not like me..."I just GOT HOME: I JUST got home!" Needless to say, Bob left me to myself, my soup and my toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, while he went for a walk on the treadmill at the Center.

I dream of balmy weather, moist breezes, palm trees, the soothing sound of waves upon a beach and floating on my back in salt water, staring at the clouds in the sky. (According to Bob's mother, it's 42 degrees in Port Charlotte, FL, so I'd have to be on the Keys, perhaps.) Oh well, at least the days are getting longer.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

An Afternoon with Mom

After placing a big crockpot of chili on the counter to cook while I was away, I got in the car and drove down to have Sunday dinner with Mom at Millstream Commons, her new "home away from home". The trip down was a typical January day in Minnesota - vast, white fields of snow, a temperature hovering around 2 degrees, sunny and clear blue skies. My sister Sue had stopped over before I arrived and given Mom a shower and done some leg exercises with her, so Mom was in pretty good form. We had a nice dinner together and then watched the Vikings whup (past tense of whip) the New York Giants pretty decisively. Mom is quite a Vikings fan and usually stays awake during the game. Today, with such a large lead, she could afford to take a nap and everything would come out allright. Wouldn't it be great if the Vikings could get into the Super Bowl? We'd have to buy Mom a Vikings sweatshirt, for sure.

It's been nice to have four days off and sleep in during these cold mornings. We keep the night time thermostat at 58 degrees, which increases to 68 at 6:30 a.m. So, when I get up to dress for work at 6:30 it's a bit brisk! We sleep under a down quilt, which is heavenly - sort of like being in a nice warm cave. I talked to Bob's Mom in Florida and she's complaining about 32 degrees - for her, that's really cold (and bad for the citrus industry). I wonder if the Minnesota transplants in Florida, Arizona and Texas miss the change in seasons and snow on the ground? The ice that we see on our street is like a washboard - so, I don't think I'd miss it too much.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A new year begins!

It's the first day of the new year, 2010, and it dawned clear and cold. Our plans for a New Year's Eve party at a friend's house were postponed when one of the guests had emergency quadruple bypass surgery yesterday at 6:30 a.m. C.J. , a neighbor at our summer camp, had been experiencing chest pains and after a stress test, they scheduled an angiogram last Tuesday. Blockages were discovered and he was hospitalized and the surgery scheduled. Thankfully, all went well and he is resting/recovering well today.

So...having a cleared evening, Bob agreed that we'd babysit the three children of Jenny, our neighbor. Jen had a chance to go with a friend to the MN Wild hockey game and we watched Gavin (6 yrs.), Olivia (9 yrs.) and Mataya (11 yrs.) until 9:15 p.m., when Grandpa came and picked them up to stay over at his house. We had fun, watching the Disney channel and playing "Sorry" (Bob won.) I taught the girls "Othello" and after the kids left, challenged Bob to a game. He begrudgingly agreed, as he hates to play games and I beat him by one point! He said that he was bored and hadn't really tried. We stayed up and drank fuzzy navels (the orange juice at least feels healthy) and watched the ball drop in New York (rebroadcast) at midnight. As we cuddled in bed to get warm, we could still hear the fireworks going off somewhere. The "blue full moon" welcomed in a brand new year - any predictions?

Here are my predictions, or at least my "hopes":
  1. Bob and I will lose at least twenty pounds each by this time next year (and keep them off).
  2. I will have my knees attended to by a mighty good doctor. Will get back to walking.
  3. Bob will retire from the First Aid Team at the Metrodome and will begin a new hobby.
  4. Both Bob's and my mothers will continue in good, albeit fragile, health.
  5. Eric schedules the patent exam, will study really hard and will pass it!
  6. The whole family is able to be together with us sometime in August - our 40th anniversary.
  7. Mike is offered a promotion at the law firm, Jess starts volunteering with the kids' schools.
  8. Andrew and Joey love swimming and Catherine not only walks, she runs!
  9. Josie loves her chorale group and her violin; Sasha stars in soccer, Tammi does bike marathons.
  10. Scott decides, reluctantly, to begin an MBA program (on-line?) and does wonderfully.
  11. Bob and I schedule a trip for January 2011 - Viet Nam?

Politically: the health care bill passes, the stock market continues to rise slowly, Michelle Bachman's legislative seat is eliminated due to new census findings, Michelle Obama comes out with a new initiative meant to strengthen African-American families and create meaningful community service and job training for jailed inmates, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is considered a likely successor to Vice President Joe Biden in 2012, Iran's government is overthrown, Iraq continues to stabilize - even though there's some rough times and the war in Afghanistan looks more hopeful due to a change in top Afghan leaders.

Those are my predictions...what are your hopes and dreams for next year? I invite you to reply with your "top ten". My greatest hope is freedom from worry for all my family and friends in the year to come and if that's not possible, the strength to deal with what comes our way.