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.