Thursday, June 28, 2018

Nicholas in The Netherlands, 2018 Review

After our time in Atlanta for Nicholas' high school graduation (last post), we flew back to Amsterdam, bringing Nicholas back with us as our graduation gift to him.

You may remember that he was here for 2 weeks back in 2015, when he turned 15.  How 3 years can make such a difference is beyond me, but at his age, that's 1/6th of his life.  HA!

So, for those of you who have watched him grow up, here you go:

Our first full day after arriving was Monday Market day.
Astrid began this stay by making a Dutchman out of him, eating herring the Dutch way.
More Dutch you cannot get.  [Even I have not done that!]

To be honest, this time we didn't try to cram everything in, going all over tarnation.
But we DID do something almost every day, even it it was just a citadel walk.
One goal was to find the 27 Memory Bricks that are hidden around Gorinchem since his last trip.

 Nicholas helped us find 25 of the bricks over several days.  
[Astrid and I are still hoping to find the other two.]

On his last Saturday, Astrid and Nicholas climbed the church tower of our nearby Grote Kerk.
I stayed below to capture them once they reached the top.

There were also times of meeting up with friends and family close to home, 
where Nicholas could share in the life we live here.
He said those times were some of his favorites.

We DID go out-n-about, of course, even to Germany,
giving him another country-notch on his belt, like Belgium the last time.
We drove to Monschau, Germany, 218 km southeast of Gorinchem.

OMG!  Half-timbered houses, a castle and a river running through it all.
This was actually a birthday gift to me from Astrid!  Can you see why?!

So many wonderful memories in that idyllic tourist town.

I even collected a few weathervanes while there!

We then drove to Düren for an overnight before driving to Cologne, Germany, the next day.

We wanted Nicholas to see a HUGE European cathedral!
It doesn't get much bigger or better than the Cologne Cathedral...
and it's neighboring promenade along the Rhine river and it's bridge of love padlocks.

A shorter trip to nearby De Haar castle in Utrecht gave Nicholas another castle experience.
We took him last time to the Loevestein castle (from 1368) across the Merwede river from us.

De Haar is from 1892 and hosted many movie actors over time because of the Rothschild family
who funded the rebuilding of the castle that had gone to ruin over the years.

Then it was my 73rd birthday on June 13 and Astrid took us to the Rotterdam shipping port
for a 75-minute cruise of the 3rd largest shipping port behind Shanghai and Singapore.
Guess what!  On your birthday you get the cruise for free.  Lucky me.

Seeing monstrosities like this gives new meaning to the word 'shipping.'

Rotterdam is one of the cities destroyed during WWII
whose rise from the ashes gave new meaning to quirky architecture.  We love it.

We then drove 30 km west to the world's largest lock/storm barrier in nearby Hoek van Holland.
The Maeslantkering is part of the Dutch Delta Works and closes when flooding is a threat.

You know me.  I have to play around.
The top of this hill was our vantage point for seeing the storm barrier.

And because we were so close to the North Sea, we continued on to the beach.
Just had to touch the water...and eat an ice cream!

One last trip was to nearby Wijk bij Duurstede, 53 km from home.
Can't believe we didn't take him last time to the only drive-through windmill in the world!
The castle isn't available for inside viewing apart from event venues.

I bet you can imagine getting married there, right?!  

We even picked up fresh cherries along the way.
It's one of our favorite short-trip visits.

And like the Memory Bricks in Gorinchem, Nicholas helped us find the windmill tiles in the road.
They must be new since our last time because it was our first time seeing them. 

That was our last outing before taking Nicholas back to Amsterdam on June 17.
Two delightful weeks of just BEING together before he goes off to Oregon in the fall.

Nicholas Joseph Grannan.  Class of  2018.
We're still pinching ourselves because we feel so lucky to be his g'mas!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Atlanta 2018 Review

This time you may need to fasten your seatbelt because of everything that happened in 1.5 weeks surrounding the high school graduation of g'son Nicholas.  It really was a ride and both Astrid and I showed it in bits-n-bobs on Facebook!

 Before we do anything else, of course, we have to get the "new" growth stats.  HA!
This is the 4th year we've done this with Astrid and Nicholas.
Lucky for us, he already had his cap and gown before the actual graduation ceremony.

SIL Dennis' Mom Judy and daughter, Brooke, arrived the same day, from California.

So, then, of course, we had all the shenanigans...while we were "waiting" for the big day.

Not to be outdone by Mom, here comes g'ma!
As I said on FB, if anyone says "I like big butts and I cannot lie" (Sir Mix-a Lot), I'll shoot you.  HA!

I'm so lucky to have Astrid document so many fun, happy moments.

Astrid was the one who gave the basketball hoop to Nicholas as a house-warming gift in 2016.
Nicholas grew up shooting baskets with g'ma!  Couldn't let that go to waste!

  Saturday before graduation, Nicholas, Astrid and I went with son Mark to the last Star Wars movie.
After that, Mark took us on a tour of his M3 company where he is now in Quality Assurance.
A colleague, appropriately, had the Wookie bobble-head on his desk.

Then it was Memorial Day Monday when g'pa Bill and Linda joined us, from Florida.
Bill is my ex, so, yes, families do change and blend and merge, sometimes gracefully.

I loved that Astrid shared her own take on the day...her first time meeting my "distant past."
[Bill and I were married 21 years, from 1969-1990.]

Then it was the big day:  Tuesday, 29 May 2018.
Lambert High School, Suwanee, GA, Class of 2018.
(Remember that I had just had my 55th reunion, Class of '63, a couple weeks before!)

He did it!

The party afterwards was almost as important as the graduation itself.

Astrid's collage is fabulous, showing all the "usual suspects."
I absolutely love this for all the people important to Nicholas.
(Yes, that's my other ex, Donica, who played an important part in Nicholas' first years with me,
on the top, far right.)

From that point on, Wednesday till when we left on Saturday for Amsterdam,
Astrid and I took walks every day in the delightful subdivision where Amy lives.

The trail is near the Chattahoochee River and so has inlets throughout.
(I loved it until someone on FB told me about the venomous water snakes in Georgia.)

The Nature Trail was exploding with fungi because of many days of rain.

I loved picking-n-choosing different images for our Shutterchance photoblog.

Here's Astrid's take.  Don't you love it!

One day she even caught this black racer, sunning itself a block away from Amy's.
OMG!  Who knew they were in the neighborhood! 
(NOT poisonous, thankfully.) 

She also did this collage of the geese down at the neighborhood pond.

Sometimes I practice using my macro mode on the camera , of course.
The flowers at this time of the year were plentiful and gorgeous.

We aren't usually there when the magnolias are in bloom!

Saturday evening, 2 June 2018, Astrid, Nicholas and I flew back to The Netherlands.
THAT'S what's coming up next....

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Michigan 2018 Review

It's going to take time to get through these last weeks of gallivanting about, especially since they're not over yet...not until g'son Nicholas leaves for Atlanta on Sunday.

So, the easiest thing right now is to show the Facebook posts I published each day, first in Michigan for a week and then in Atlanta for 1.5 weeks.

Astrid and I flew to Detroit, MI, on May 16th and were picked up by sister, Ruth, and BIL, Don.

First order of business was to go eat lunch in Chelsea (home of Jiffy).
Gotta love the bike that made us feel right at home!

To be honest, the most important part of being on The Farm is just to BE there.
Just BEING with Don and Ruth where they live is a vacation.
We needed that.  We were all so relaxed.

A surprise awaited us from Ruth, who had already quilted a table runner that reminded her of me.
She had wanted to perhaps make more placemats and napkins for us,
but I convinced her that the table runner had our name written all over it.
Once Nicholas leaves, it goes on our table, with accompanying napkins.
What a gift, especially watching her make the binding at the end.

Another very special memory was spending a few hours with their son Peter.
While Andrea stayed home to work, Peter and the kids went with us 
to the 4-H Children's Garden at Michigan State.
OMG.  A D O R A B L E.

You may remember that the main reason we went to Michigan in the first place
was to attend my 55th high school reunion:  Class of '63.
There were 32 of us who attended (with added spouses) from our class of 178 classmates.
All of us are 73, mas o menos a year!  :)

The joy it was to connect with my classmates was like meeting them again for the first time.
This was so high on my bucket list that I could have died and gone to heaven.
It was even better than I had imagined.
(I'm here with our class president, Bruce, and his wife Maria.)

And they all totally loved and included my wife, Astrid.
How could they not!
(Carol Baker on the right was a girlfriend all through my youth.)

The class reunion was on Friday night and Saturday was a luncheon for 500 classmates
who have graduated 50-plus years or more.  The oldest present was from the Class of '33 (age 102)!
That was a special day but my own Class of '63 reunion was the highlight for me.

On Sunday, it was time for my sibs to meet up and have our own reunion!
6 of the 8 of us were present:  Nelson, Moi, Nancy, Jim, John and Ruth.
Bennett (#6) is wandering the galaxies somewhere.
Susan (#2) was on a pre-scheduled cruise for her 75th birthday.

But here she is (left) from eons ago.  Nelson celebrated his 75th a year ago.
I'll celebrate mine two years from now, followed by Nancy the next year.

Which brings me to the ones who were responsible:  Barbara and Carl Hart!
I always visit my parents' gravestone when I'm in Grand Ledge, MI, where I grew up.
It seems a fitting close to this first busy week of our vacation.

Next post will be all about Nicholas' high school graduation,
plus our time enjoying the neighborhood where he lives....