Monday, July 31, 2006

Walking Through the Hoops


We had such a marvelous refilling of Nicholas this weekend that I hardly know where to start! It actually started on Friday afternoon when I went with him and Amy to his annual check-up at the doctor's, where we found out his weight is 30% and his height 35% in his age bracket (he's just a wiry squirt!).

Then I took him home with me for an overnight. Before dinner, Donica started teaching him about basketball. She recently had the goal installed, so this was her first time to take him through the hoops (remember, she played basketball in high school).


First, it was learning to dribble the ball correctly. "Use your fingertips," she said, "and don't slap it. It'll bounce back to you."


Then she taught him how to how to hold the ball with his left hand and push it with his right for shooting baskets. Oh, and also how to use the backboard for banking shots.


Bingo! That little squirt kept shooting basket after basket, making as many as he didn't. Later he told me that Donica needed to practice more, since she wasn't making as many baskets. HA. She told him she DID need to practice more (but she wasn't used to having the basket set at the 7' height for his age and she wasn't going to beat him at P-I-G!).


Then, for good measure, she had to show him how to dunk the ball (with her help) and hang from the basket. Just for the halibut, of course. Actually, G'ma was the culprit. Yes, some things you can definitely blame on me.

The BIG game of the weekend was NOT basketball, however. We took Nicholas to his first Braves baseball game here at our Atlanta stadium on Saturday. But that's another post....

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Itty-Bitty Light


The one under DSL, that is!


You don't even want to know! But after 3 1/2 weeks on dial-up, we are now back on DSL, myriads of calls, questions and answers later. The final straw was yesterday when our new modem (above) was finally delivered...but to the wrong address! It was shipped to the computer company where I last worked 4 years ago (and where, as I recall, our first modem was shipped 8 years ago!). I was fit to be tied, because it's 21 miles away and would mean a totally unnecessary trip, right?!

Wrong! In going back to my old company and catching up with a handful of friends before leaving, I found out that one of my dearest friends there for 15 years (who worked with me in accounts receivable) had just passed away last week of lung cancer. She was a heavy smoker (who had tried to quit so many times, bless her!) and was getting ready to turn 66 next month.

So that itty-bitty light will now be Martha's Light, every time I see it. Today it's one BIG LIGHT, for more reasons than one!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mad Hatters


HA! Blame this one on Amy's comment from my last post: "You could probably do a different post each day on your collections, each day being about a different collection, and next thing you know 2007 would be here!"


So, here's a look at our collection of 95+ baseball hats that line the ceiling of our basement office, in no particular order. Donica buys them and I hang them :)


Here are 4 hats up close and personal from above my desk. I just looked up and snapped the pic. Every hat means something, of course: starting from the left, my mom graduated from Smith College in Northampton, MA, where we walked the campus one autumn; we visited the Dole Plantation in HA a couple years ago; we went to Wimbledon in England when the tennis courts were empty one spring (the day the Queen Mum had her funeral, which we saw on the wide-screen TV in a room near Center Court); and yes, we went to a Brooks & Dunn concert.

I could list all 95 hats for you and entertain you for hours...but I'll spare you. I'm mad but not that mad!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Only In America


Blame it on Lisa who simply asked, "What is a State quarter?" in her comment to my last post. I told her she's been out of the country way too long, because we are midway through the 8th of 10 years collecting them!

Direct from the horse's mouth: "From 1999 to 2008, the United States Mint will issue a new state quarter approximately every 10 weeks. Each quarter's reverse will celebrate one of the 50 states with a design honoring its unique history, traditions, and symbols." So far this 2006 year, Nebraska is the only quarter we've seen!

And guess what! We're collecting them for Nicholas (we assume) in several different ways:


1) The quarter spoons from the U.S. Mint's 50 State Quarters® Collectibles come out shortly after the quarters are in circulation . When we started the collection 8 years ago, the rack came with it for a reasonal price. We don't usually collect spoons (like some people do wherever they travel) but this collection makes up for that.


2) From the U.S. Postal Commemorative Society is this 2-album collection of 9 x 10 hard-stock pages that contain the Denver and Philadelphia mint quarters for each state, with information on the front and back about the state, and with 2 or 3 U.S postage stamps specific to the state on the back. One state per page. I just noticed that eBay had an auction for the first volume (just completed with only the first 25 states of the union--not keeping up with the actual mint dates) for $375! It's a very handsome set and obviously worth the investment.


3) The H.E. Harris & Co State Series Quarters Collector's Album comes with even harder stock cardboard, doing something similar as above but is more kid-oriented, holding 4 states per page (7.5 x 9.5), two per side. Again, each state holds the Denver and Philadelphia mint quarters.


4) A smaller Whitman Classic Statehood Quarters' 2-album collection is essentially a coin holder, one album for each of the Denver and Philadelphia mints. It's pages are 6 x 8.5, holding 10 states each with see-through panes for the front and back.


5) If you do the math for the #3 and #4 collections, we have to collect 4 quarters of each state, 2 from each mint (Denver and Philadelphia). If we don't get the right quarters from change we both receive over the year, we order them off of eBay at the end of the year. If we end up with duplicates, they get thrown into this glass jar.

Back in 1999, when all this started and we went crazy, it seemed like 10 years would be forever! But look at where we are now--2-1/2 years left to go (5 new quarters per year). Before we know it, we'll actually get to Alaska and Hawaii by the end of 2008, since they come out in order of when each state joined the union.

Perseverance has really paid off. And Lisa, aren't you glad you asked!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's Just Money



Submitted to Tuesdays Photos for "MONEY"

Always around Nicholas' birthday is when we go find the coins we've collected over the past year. We separate the sheep from goats, so to speak, and add it all up. Then it all gets wrapped and taken to the bank, which we plan to do this Saturday when Nicholas is here for an overnight.

State quarters go in one jar and never get added to the mix. (I'm guessing one day down the road they will go for his car. HA.) Pennies don't get counted either, going into huge glass jugs for only God knows what. That leaves regular quarters, nickels and dimes.

This year's total: $65. Well, it won't break the bank but every bit counts and that's what Nicholas is learning. It's just money but money counts. Remember when he opened his account last year? The actual exercise of going to the bank is a biggie, as far as we're concerned.

I just love this kind of money (coins) because it makes me feel like a kid. Maybe that's why I still pick up pennies I find. "It's just a penny, Mom," I can hear my kids say. I know. I know. But I'm that kid all over again. I'm probably worse than Nicholas, which may be why I enjoy this exercise so much!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sixteen Five Tons and What Do You Get?


A resurfaced parking space, that's what! 18' x 24'

While Donica worked from home on Friday, she squeezed in ordering 5 tons of granite gravel to resurface our 3-car parking spot at the end of our driveway. The original granite had sunk into the Georgia clay and had left spots for mudpuddles when it rained.


When the dump truck came, I was ready, of course :) Warning: This is where I plug my Canon S3 IS camera again, for the Sports' mode that allows for action shots. I took a continuous sequence of about 20 shots as the truck unloaded and got a video-like short movie. That was one of the reasons why I picked this camera and am thrilled with the option. But then I had to pick just one photo so as not to bore you! Anyway, this is obviously the beginning of the fall!


Because of Donica's pain, I would not let her help me--DUH (and then she apologized for ordering the gravel when she did). But little by little, that Friday evening, when the sun was down, I started shoveling the gravel around for about an hour. I actually like that kind of physical activity which I find to be quite therapeutic. The plan was to finish the next morning, yesterday.


The next morning, however, by the time I got outside and unbenownst to me, Donica was already going to town. She had things down to a science, telling me that it worked better to shovel the gravel into the wheelbarrow and then dump the little loads to wherever for raking smooth.

"AND WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT!!" I asked.

Well, even I have to admit that her answer made sense. "I'm sure it's not a strained groin muscle," she said. She wanted to test it by shoveling and raking and guess what: no pain! She had been told by a co-worker (who frequently gets kidney stones) that her doctor told her to drink lots of water and jump up and down. HA. So Donica decided to shovel and rake.

The pain is still there, coming and going, but was not any worse in the few hours around the exercise. In fact, she actually felt a bit better and thought maybe she had in fact passed what she thinks is/was a kidney stone.

However, at her mom's later last evening (finally celebrating Donica's bithday, almost a week later!), the pain returned a bit. Mom says it may be "gravel" and not a kidney stone per se, which would explain why it hasn't shown up on the scans.


Speaking of gravel, here's the job, done. All smoothed out. Five tons of it.

If that's the problem with Donica--"gravel" in her system--we pray for as speedy a smooth-out. If not, we go to Plan ? (what is it by now??).

You load sixteen tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go,
l owe my soul to the company store.
(-Merle Travis, from "Sixteen Tons,"1947)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rubbers


HA! Got your attention?



First of all, I'm plagiarizing Jeff from The Thing of the Moment, except that his ball is not "in color." When I saw it yesterday I said, "OH! I've got one of those!" (Thanks to Donica, Queen of Christmas-stocking gifts!)

Then I thought, if I took this ball apart, how many "rubbers" would there be? And could I put it back together again?



Okay, Curious Ginnie, yes! You can take it apart. So, how many rubber bands are there (the ball is/was 2-1/2 inches in diameter)? The person who comes up with the closest number, above or below, gets the Gold Star :)



And yes, you can put it back together again! Yaaaaay. How's that for having fun...or way too much time to play around! (But it's Friday!)

**********

Donica update: After urinalysis and blood work, the doctor here decided the problem was between a hernia and a kidney stone the Germany scans didn't pick up. She sent Donica to a surgeon specialist for a hernia check and his diagnosis is that she does NOT have a hernia but a strained groin muscle (from all the heavy suitcase lifting?). But if so, why did the acute pain come out of nowhere, not after anything strenuous?

That was Wednesday. Yesterday she had an IVP scan for the kidney stone and found out today it was negative. But the pain is still there. If it IS a strained muscle, it'll take 6 weeks to heal. But if the pain is not gone by Monday, her doctor wants to pursue further tests. But what? You can imagine how frustrating this is for us both, especially since so many people who have had their appendix out have said their lab results showed up nothing. So that option still lurks in the backs of our minds!

Thanks again for your mindfulness, which we both appreciate!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Whole Shootin' Kaboodle


Today* is sister Nancy's 60th birthday, 13 months my junior. Remember my post about the "step-sisters?" I knew there was a photo of the whole tribe--all 8 of us kids--but I couldn't find it anywhere. Guess what! It was at the cottage in Michigan. So, here we are, as of March, 1962 (when I was a junior in high school):


(r to l) Nelson, Susan, Boots (moi), Nancy, Bennett, Jim, John & Ruth

Now it's time to introduce you to the "step-brothers:"


Nelson Hodges was born on January 14, 1942, and is 64. He really is our patriarch, now that Dad and Mom are both gone. Dad called him "Funny Sonny." He actually has a triple doctorate and is also an ordained Presbyterian minister. But his "calling" is kitchen design. It's what he does and does well. To the rest of us kids, however, he's the go-to person for any questions we have about almost anything. And so humble and unassuming. He and wife Peggy live in Holland, MI. Their gay son lives in Sydney, Australia, with his partner of many years. Their adopted daughter lives with her husband in Kalamazoo, MI.


Bennett Williams was born on June 28, 1948, and lived till he was 47. A heart attack took his life, as we knew it, in February, 1996. Dad called him "On the Minute Bennett." No wife. No children. He was our Bohemian, Renaissance Man. His love was photography, which he taught at Lansing Community College in Michigan. He also loved astronomy (had his own huge telescope) and especially liked driving all the back roads he could find to anywhere. I like to think he's still doing the same! (We miss you, Bennett!)


James Thomas was born on November 28, 1949, and is 57. Dad called him "Slim Jim." He and his wife, Wilma (of Dutch descent!), also live in Holland, MI, and have 4 grown, married children with a total of 8 grandchildren. He's a salesman for a top insurance company that caters to the senior-citizen, Medicare crowd. He says his job is heaven for him. He loves it! He has been a youth pastor in a past life (as is his son Nate) and has sung all his life. Sweet, sweet voice!


John Stephen was born on September 19, 1952, and is 53. Dad called him "My Son John." By definition, he's a Correction Officer where he works at the Charles E. Egeler Reception and Guidance Center (RGC) in Jackson, MI. But in actuality, he's a 'no-nonsense' prison guard in the library area of the campus. And the stories he can tell! He and wife Sandy have 2 of their own children, plus her two, and 3 others from 2 former marriages, one of whom (Rachel) often comments here. 3 grandchildren (I think). He is presently blossoming in a new singing 'career' that is taking off like gang-busters, Merle Haggard style (deep, deep voice), with a CD coming out this fall, we hope. Everytime I hear him, I get tears in my eyes, his voice reaching deep into my soul.

There you have it. The Gang. The tribe. The Clan. The whole shootin' kaboodle!

(* Today also commemorates Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, 37 years ago (1969). It was a couple months before Bill and I married, and I can still remember watching it on TV in Mom and Dad's living room. Do YOU remember that day?)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

That's One Smart Car!




This week's Tuesdays Photos theme is CARS. It was an immediate no-brainer for me as I remembered this shot from when I was in Duesseldorf, Germany, visiting James on June 15th.

Did you see the Smart car in The Da Vinci Code? I notice there's one in Woody Allen's new movie, Scoop, coming out at the end of July. It's really getting the press, isn't it!

It is definitely one smart car! (KPK already knows this, since he owns one, as well as all us Kinder Egg fans :)

**********

UPDATE ON DONICA: She's back here in Atlanta safe-n-sound as of late this afternoon. Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes to get her over the ocean! First thing tomorrow morning I go with her to get more lab work done before seeing her doctor at 9a. Let's hope we can put this baby to bed soon!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Emergency Flight Update Below



Well, it's come to this, after the best-laid plans of mice and men! I leave for Hannover at 9:30p this evening to go take care of Donica in the hospital and afterwards for however long it takes to figure out what's going on with her! (The miracle was that I reserved the trip today, all on frequent-flyer miles. Unheard of!)

After going to work today and making a side trip downtown in prep for her team-building exercises in Zurich starting tomorrow, her stomach pain flared up again. When she first told me she was going to fly home, I in so many words said, "NO YOU'RE NOT!" I had visions of her appendix rupturing over the ocean somewhere and didn't find that to be very calming.

Besides, her Hannover boss got his (and my) way to send her back to the hospital that had already taken umpteen tests on her last week. Now they'll just continue and will call in a specialist, if need be.

So, we'd both greatly appreciate your mindfulness for Donica in these next days...that the doctors will be able to pinpoint what the heck is going on! And in the meanwhile, I'll keep you informed.

Thanks.


After all that! Donica called me at 8:45p Hannover time to say the doctor released her to fly home to Atlanta, which she will do tomorrow. He said if she were his wife or mother, he would not worry at all. So, she's coming home, where she'd rather be right now, and will see HER doctor on Wednesday.

Needless to say, I've cancelled that miracle, magic flight! (Talk about a roller-coaster ride!)

Forever Blowing Bubbles


I'm just under the wire again for this past week's Tuesdays Photos: BUBBLE. That's singular, so put your name on one of these and claim it for your own. But save the biggest and best for Donica's birthday today!


One of the things I love about Nicholas is how tickled he gets over the simplest of things. Donica told me later on Saturday that she told him on the phone to make sure he blew bubbles in his chocolate milk for G'ma (moi) at Waffle House. He usually does it anyway but she didn't want him to forget since she knows I get a kick outta it. That was just before we went to his birthday pool party (last post).


Of course, then he had to blow them all out so that he could blow them up again. See the tiny little blown bubble on his nose? That may be my favorite.

So Donica (in Hannover, Germany), this is for you...a present from Nicholas that has HAPPY BIRTHDAY written all over it. May your heart be always and forever blowing bubbles!

The Pool Party


Nicholas is darn-tootin' lucky to have a g'pa (my Ex) who happens to have a swimming pool at his house because that's where Amy decided to have the S-I-X birthday party this year. What a great idea for the kids and adults alike!


In the hour or so before the kids arrived, Nicholas showed G'ma (moi) all his tricks. "This is how scuba divers get into the water," he said. I almost missed it. He then proceeded to show me how he could swim (see photo album).


In anticipation of the 3 boys soon to arrive, G'pa let Nicholas open one of his gifts early so that he could scare everyone once they got into the pool. This was one cool shark, swimming underwater the full length of the pool, scaring all of us at one point or the other. What a hit, G'pa!


Two of the boys arrived "on time" but the 3rd arrived so late that it was only after presents and the cake that I was able to get them all in one shot together without posing. Back side!


There was actually a moment of thunder and lightening with just a couple minutes of sprinkles, but guess what: that was when lunch was done and while presents were being opened. Talk about timing!


Then it was front side for the cake, with Abdul, Nicholas, Carson and Joshua. What an ecclectic mix: Cameroon, damn-Yankee stock, Alabama deep-south, and Korean (we think).


It doesn't get much better than a Star Wars "Yoda" chocolate cake! You done good, Mommy!

Don't you just love a good excuse to be a kid! I tell you what, having a g'son really keeps you young at heart. I don't think that's necessarily true about having your own kids, which is pretty weird (though I must say that my Amy and Mark were/are great kids :). It's just different and that's why we love saying that if we had known it would be this fun, we would have had g'kids first.

Tell it like it is :)

**********

Donica, btw, missed the fun because she was in the hospital in Hannover for 3 days last week with "something" stomach-related that they never figured out. She had planned to fly home on Friday for the party and then back to Switzerland on Monday (her birthday, tomorrow). I think the Universe was saying "You're crazy! That's too damn much!" We all missed her, of course, but I'm very glad now that she'll fly to Zurich from Hannover instead of from Atlanta. Traveling mercies, my Love! And Happy Birthday today, your time already (the 17th!).

Ah yes. My two Cancer lovelies!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Oh Yeah, Baby!


Yesterday afternoon, the day before Nicholas' birthday party today (remember, he turned 6 on Wednesday!), I found out from Amy that the bike and helmet we had purchased for him was something G'pa had already purchased for him last Christmas (but we had forgotten because they're at G'pa's house, not Nicholas').

So, when I picked up Nicholas from daycare for an overnight, I had to scramble! I even called Donica in Hannover to get her input. What to do, what to do! In the end, we decided to take him to the store and kinda let HIM decide what he wanted. Believe it or not, he ended up at the Yu-Gi-Oh cards!


It's not exactly how we pictured "doing" his birthday present but I'm not sure there was anything in the world we could have done better. A bike and helmet's worth of Yu-Gi-Oh cards got more "Oh yeah, Babies" outta him than I've heard in a long time. And since he picked them out, he saw them unwrapped and therefore opened them before his party today. Like I said, not at all like how we planned it.


The concentration, the study of each and every card, the tender, loving care of putting all the cards in a special collector's tin...I watched it all and smiled with pleasure over impractical abandon winning the day. Oh yeah, Baby!

This morning, after the overnight, I drove Nicholas to G'pa's house for the pool party with 3 of his friends and my family (that's another post). It allowed Amy to get the party ready and gave me my "g'son fix." He brought his cards, of course, and while they were not the focus of the party (the pool was!), he wiggled them into the scene.


Friend Joshua actually got to "trade" for six of them--the magic number today, I guess.


Mommy got to see them up close and personal.


G'pa had to wear his reading glasses to read the rules.


And Uncle Mark got to see the cool characters.

All right then. So he didn't need two bikes and helmets! When all else fails, we now know what to buy the birthday boy. (It's an investment, BTW!)

And Donica, though your presence was sorely missed, you were there!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

SUDOKU: the Ultimate Drug


Well, I don't know if I would go that far but that's what my Sudoku for Dummies book says. Yes, Ruth and Don: after all that Sudoku craziness at the cottage, Donica convinced me to buy the book when we saw it at BJs the other day. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Ginnie, Casey and Nancy (taken by Ruth)

Don just happened to bring two of his Sudoku puzzle books with him to the cottage (he's another Teacher...like father like son Peter). My year-younger sister Nancy and I grabbed onto them right away, got hooked and then were sufficiently ribbed the rest of the time to make us feel guilty about it. Nancy's granddaughter, Casey, showed us how she tore into the puzzles.


Nancy working Sudoku

When I first started the puzzles, I used a ballpoint pen, not a pencil. I would only write down a number when it was clear THAT was the number, so why not use a pen! I didn't realize I was using a pen on EASY puzzles. HA. Little did I know.

So Don, you'll be interested to know that I now totally believe a pencil is necessary for the harder puzzles, after reading the Dummies book. This is where the twins and triplets, matched pairs and hidden matched pairs come into play and you have to write down the options (in pencil) in order to solve the puzzle. You'll want to erase the extraneous options once you solve a square so you won't be totally messed up!

Donica will probably be sorry she ever convinced me to buy the book (oh yeah, it not only teaches you strategy but gives you 240 puzzles to solve). I take the book in the car for those waiting times. I have it here at the computer while I wait on dial-up to do it's thing. So, yes, I guess you could say it's the ultimate drug--if you need to zone out and want time fly!

BTW, no math. Just logic. And if anyone ribs me again, my defense will be that it'll keep me from getting Alzheimer's. Besides, I need to redeem myself from the lousy job I did in Logic when in college all those eons ago!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks


This is a post and photo some of you will see twice, more or less, because it's the gist of what I wrote on Expat Traveler's blog on Monday. While she and hubby are on vacation this week, she invited me to be a guest writer.

I wrote, "Okay, I'm an old dog trying a new trick but I'm a new dog in the blogger world and this is my first time to do what's surely an old trick for the rest of you: writing a guest blog." That's where the title comes in.



When Expat invited me to be a guest on her blog, my immediate reaction was to be very honored. Then I panicked! First of all, I'd never done it before. Secondly, our fried DSL circuit is in the process of being replaced and, in the meantime, while we're on dial-up, I thought that would be my good excuse to get out of doing something new.

Curiosity kills dogs, too, you know (me, not Shadow!), so I did it. And I actually learned something new! I knew Expat loves animals and would be smitten with this one. He's just now turning 2 and is still a pup at heart. Donica's mom bought him for Lee, her husband, but as things like this often happen, he (the dog) follows her around much more than Lee. Must be all her good cooking!

Anyway, here's to never being too old to try something new! Besides, this photo of Shadow is just too cute to be "wasted" only on someone else's blog. Little by little, every time I see him, he steals a bit more of my heart and I want YOU to meet him (if you haven't already).

**********
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Nicholas. Today he's S-I-X (while Shadow turns t-w-o)! And his favorite color is still blue, even though he'll sometimes say red, because it's his mom's fav (isn't that sweet for a Cancer home-boy!).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My Favorite Cottage Pic



Yesterday CanadianSwiss said in a comment that her favorite pic from my cottage album was this one of Nicholas in his goggles. It's hysterical and may have a way of haunting him one day when he's an adult. Poor thing.

As an aside, his blue lips remind me of what Mom told me years ago--that when I was his age, my lips would get so purple in the cold water that she'd have to take me out. She said I learned to never look at her so that she wouldn't see if they were purple. Smart girl, right :)

Anyway, thinking of favorite pics from the holiday trip, this one is mine:


I watched Nicholas color this Sith character in his Star Wars book. He had earlier watched one of the Star Wars movies as we were waiting for other family members to arrive. Suddenly, he picked up the VHS jacket and I was luckily able to capture what he was so intently doing. I don't think it totally sunk in till after I looked at the pics online that he was collaborating on something.


These two shots are just before he looked at the jacket. What was he looking for--a color? And why is he coloring the picture upside down?

Sometimes I wish I could get inside that little head of his!