Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Can Call Me Grandpa

One last quick getaway before the arrival of our first grandbaby. That was the plan.

I made a non-refundable reservation for a Holiday Inn in Gaylord over 200 miles north in a region which embraces the winter and cold with snowmobiles, skiis and ice sculptures. Leave Saturday, return Sunday. That was the plan.

Then this past Saturday morning before we could wake on our own the phone rang. It was Greg, our son. His nine month pregnant wife's water had broken. They would soon be on their way to the hospital. Could we watch Simon, their Boston Terrier?

What??? She was still over two weeks pre-term. With her first, a baby that often comes late!

So we agreed to take Simon, figuring (correctly) that we could pass him on to Wendy's sister. She could use a playmate for their dog Harley for the weekend. Since our reservations were only for one night, by the time we made a quick trip up and back our new grandbaby would be here for the holding and we could retrieve Simon as well. New plan.

Not the best plan as it turned out. A light, swirling snow made the trek north treacherous. We passed numerous accidents, spin-outs, even ambulances. Sometimes Wendy had lots of bars on her cell phone, sometimes not.

Then the anxious waiting. We got a call at 1 p.m. Labor progressing. More anxious waiting. Then close to 9 p.m. she was fully dilated and ready to deliver. Thought the next phone call would come soon. Didn't. Not till 4 a.m. did we learn that Lindsay had finally delivered a seven-pound, nine-ounce boy within the previous hour--Grant Nicholas.

Two hours later we're preparing to hit the road south. Not many people were up and at 'em this early on a bone-chilling winter's morn. Our car let us know just how cold it was with a strange whining noise, almost like a cry, when we tried to pull out of the parking lot.

"It's okay. We're going home," Wendy tried to re-assure our car. As we drove on, we could understand its distress. The thermometer on the rear view mirror recorded the outside temperature: twenty six degrees BELOW zero. That doesn't include windchill either.

But the drive home to Ann Arbor had its reward.

Ain't he a doll. And don't I look like a proud grandpa?

Now just to convince the new parents that Wendy and I would make g-r-e-a-t babysitters. Probably didn't help that their dog Simon came up missing while on our watch. Do you see him in the picture below?

Maybe from a better angle. Check out this picture.

We'll do better with a new baby. Promise.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When Attic Treasures Aren't

American Pickers is a History Channel show about two guys who travel about the country scouring attics, barns and basements looking for that special find that epitomizes the phrase, "One man's junk is another man's treasure." Wendy and I watched it for the first time a couple weeks ago.

Well hea, I've got an attic above the rafters in my garage. Lots of old stuff up there. Even I don't know what's all up there. Wonder if those guys from the show would be interested. They offer cash on the spot if they find something they want.

But first let me check up there first. I know right away there should be something Wendy and I as future grandparents will want.

No, it's not the Lite Brite, one of the toys our boys played with for a time when they themselves were just tikes . . . though I do hear that old toys are popular with collectors. So after digging around the attic some more I find what I'm looking for.

See it there, partially obscured by the old blanket? It's our boys' old Simmons crib, bought before father-to-be Greg was born. It was a gift from my parents who bought it for us at a furniture store near Saginaw. Lasted us through two boys, then lasted through my sister-in-laws' two boys.

It's been up here in the attic ever since. With some effort, I pulled it down piece by piece and set it in our basement, ready to be re-assembled. In my opinion, they don't make cribs like they used to.

Wherein likes the problem apparently. My son and his wife complained that our boys' old crib is obsolete. Not only that, it's been condemned. Outlawed. Can't even be re-sold if those picker fellows happen by.

What?? How so? My daughter-in-law Lindsay sent me an e-mail with three links detailing crib recalls and recent federal guidelines that ban the sale of cribs like the one we bought almost 30 years ago. The problem? It has a drop-side. Thought it takes two separate actions (lift the side then kick the bracket underneath the side) to cause the side to drop allowing access to the baby inside the crib, apparently this crib is considered too dangerous for use nowadays.

I personally think this crib is as good as any made right now. But I won't do anything to risk the well being of our precious little guy, as Wendy likes to call him.

Now, what about the Lite Brite?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Too Cold To Blog

Not really, but as I age here in Michigan I'm growing less and less fond of living in nature's refrigerator for three months plus out of every year. Carry me back to Key West, please.

Maybe it's just me. Others seem to tolerate colder temperatures better than I. Like my colleague at work with whom I share an office. He runs a fan throughout the year, January included. I sometimes have to add a layer to make up for the extra chill in the air.

Or like my wife Wendy who stripped my favorite fleece sheets off our bed saying it was too hot to sleep with them on. Great, now it's stone cold cotton as the frigid winter's night sets in. I'm prepared for it dressed in warm socks, fleece pajama bottoms and sometimes even a sweatshirt. But I'd rather have my fleece sheets back, especially when my wife wants to warm her cold feet on me under the covers.

The cold sucks whatever energy I can muster up. If I can't hibernate or be one of the snowbirds who go south for the winter (some day!), then I'll retreat to the comfort of my Lazy Boy after work and wrap myself in a blanket while channel surfing to find a monster movie on TV. I envy those with the energy for a brisk winter's walk like the couple who walk their dog past our bedroom window at six in the morning regardless of temperature or wind chill. Brrrrrrrrr.

Meanwhile, I dread going out in the morning to scrape car windows of the frost and ice, then drive to work hoping for the heat to kick in soon enough so that I don't see my breath reflected in the icy fog that freezes on the windshield. Brrrrrrrrr. Doesn't help that even if I've allowed myself extra time to drive the icy roads to work, the driver ahead of me has allowed even more time, white-knuckling it about 20 miles per hour when the speed limit is 55. Just another reason to flee south in early December.

Perhaps the harsh Michigan winters is another reason that the University of Michigan apparently had to settle for their third choice when naming a replacement for former head football coach Rich Rodriguez. If you were Jim Harbaugh, would you move from San Francisco, or Les Miles, would you move from Louisiana? Also, try recruiting blue chip gridiron prospects to play on frozen tundra in November. No, they'd rather play for Auburn, Florida, Alabama, etc.

Yes, Michigan does have a new football coach but my son Greg, who is an usher at the Big House, isn't buoyed by the fact that the new coach's name Brady Hoke rhymes with words like joke and choke. Not the type of fellow to get strike fear into our cross-state rival Michigan State Spartans, let alone Ohio State.

But Hoke also rhymes with smoke. And where there's smoke, there's fire. Michigan could use a little fire right now. I'll take that over cold any day.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Bumps On The Holiday Road

To the guests of the Super 8 in Florence, Kentucky the night of December 25th: my wife and I sincerely apologize.

Vacations always have their bumps. One of our's occurred early in the morning on December 26th when we were sleeping at a Super 8 in Kentucky. The alarm woke us up rather rudely at 5:30 a.m., but I wanted to get an early start driving as we had a long drive to Key West ahead of us.


I let my wife fumble for the alarm while I made a quick pit stop to the bathroom.


After I finished, I came out to see Wendy still desperately trying to find the shut-off on the motel alarm clock.


This thing was as noisy as a hotel fire alarm. She had pushed, pulled and turned every dial and button to no avail.


And the walls in your garden variety Super 8 are not very soundproof. I'm sure we were being heard in rooms all the way down the corridor. I finally wrestled the nightstand away from the wall and pulled the plug on the clock.


What the ??? Did this clock have a battery back-up or something? Did I have to run down the hall carrying it to the front desk like some kind of bomb? I held the clock to my ear. Nothing! It wasn't the hotel alarm after all. It was our travel alarm clock that Wendy had set nearby. And she says I'm losing it. By now, doors were slamming up and down the hall, guests obviously roused from their slumber by the racket. It was our quickest ever check-out. Do they still tar and feather in Kentucky? I was worried.

Another little vacation bump down in Key West. Very busy down there at this time of year; I couldn't find a spot to park near our hotel, so I parked about four blocks down in a space I wasn't sure was legal. Left Wendy there while I ran up the street to check in and get better parking instructions.

So I signed papers, gave them my credit card at the front desk, got a map of the hotel along with information on their continental breakfast. What about parking, I asked.

"You brought your car?" she asked with a hint of incredulity. What, like most people parachute in or something? Of course I brought my car. She basically said I was on my own. I did see some empty street spaces marked "residential." Could I park there? She said she thought I could whereupon a more veteran clerk remarked, "I wouldn't recommend it."

So . . . what would they recommend then? They said to find a pay lot, park for the night, then try to find a vacant street spot in the morning when more should become available. Turns out that this part of town is a little on the "urban" side, whatever that means. For me, it meant I was worried about my brand new Dodge Grand Caravan for the next three days. And it meant that once I found a parking spot, which I did just down the block, it stayed there until we checked out.

Anyway, the trip still was fun. Here are some pictures from the Keys and south Florida.

The iconic Key West sunset

Why did the chicken cross the road? It didn't. It stood in the middle of the road with its chicks feeding while cars and trucks drove around.

Sloppy Joes bar, Hemingway's favorite.

The lighthouse next to our hotel.

The view from the lighthouse. Note the line of folks waiting to tour Hemingway's home.

A street level view of Hemingway's home.

An alligator in the Everglades. As I approached the opposite shore of this canal to take this picture I heard a tremendous spash on my side. Turns out there was a bigger gator lurking in the brush below me. Wow. What I won't do to get a good picture for my blog here.