Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hawaii: First Impressions

I'm eager for Sherry and the kids to arrive Saturday. Primarily because I miss them. But also, I can't wait to see what they think of this place. Waikiki, I think, was designed for Caroline. Though I think Sherry and Sam will like it here, too, this is a Caroline destination if I've ever seen one.

My best way of wording it is this: If you forget where you are, you think you're anywhere else in the U.S. (with one big exception . . . keep reading). I'm sitting here beside the pool: the chatter, sounds, money, food . . . all seems like anywhere else in America. Then you look around and you realize that the line between outside and inside is blurred. Heck, there's really no front door at this hotel. One just walks in the lobby, which is more like a big porch. Then you see the palm trees. Then you realize there's something different.

At today's workshop I found myself engrossed in an excellent lecture. The conference room, the language, the colleagues . . . could have been Plymouth Meeting for all I knew. But then I walk outside to go to Hangar 79 and . . . volcanic mountains and Hickam Field.

Hickam Field. 

In Hangar 79. You may note bullet holes in the glass panes, bullet holes left by Japanese aircraft. 
Other than the palm trees and perfect weather, the biggest difference I note is the diversities of people. This is an amazing crossroads of people, visitors and residents alike. I don't think I've ever seen this varied of a group of people in one place, ever.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Today's Trip (annotated)

So, this was a somewhat interesting itinerary for a Friday in July.

Seriously, it was sun glare, not indigestion.

We began with breakfast, sneaking in a visit to a somewhat new restaurant on the way to the Orthodontist.

Look, Dad, no metal. 

Then there was the Orthodontist, where Caroline provided proof that, yes, all hardware was out of her mouth.

Sam and I pose with the Phanatic's ATV. Weird observation: his ATV has passenger car tires, not the rugged treads one normally sees on an ATV.  

After the Orthodontist we joined friends in South Philly for a tour of the Phillies' ballpark. It may be 14 years old, but it remains my favorite in the Major Leagues. I just wish it was located closer to Center City.

Selfie at City Hall.

Whoo Hoo! 
Up and back, we walked about 3 miles. 

That's all right, though, we spent the afternoon engaging in a Scavenger Hunt up near the museums along the Ben Franklin Parkway.

All three of today's destinations exceeded expectations. I didn't realize how happy Caroline would be with her new smile. The Phillies didn't disappoint, providing a tour that was nearly 2 hours long, showing us much more of the ballpark than I expected. And the scavenger hunt, well, I was lucky enough to get teamed up with Caroline and two of her friends, and spending a day running around center city with a trio of ten-year-olds . . . collecting clues that were mostly historical as well as cultural . . . was about the best way for a dad to enjoy a Friday afternoon.

Best Photos of the Week

I enjoyed a fun, full week with Sam and Caroline. Lots of good photo opportunities, too. Here are the two best.

Sam on Independence Day. 
I was wondering why Sam was down along Easton Road for so long before the start of the parade. When he came back, he told me he had gotten to talking with a World War II veteran. Enjoying the tales of that man's service. It looks like he is getting into the family business, history. 

Caroline today in Lansdale.
Before our trip to the city, Caroline had an appointment at the Orthodontist. I didn't realize how big of a deal this was. She had her braces and pallet expander removed (currently she is enjoying popcorn on the couch . . . we'll temporarily suspend our standards regarding snacks in the living room). Her new smile looks so good it seems she's always had it. When her doctor showed me the "before" pictures (back when she was, in her dentist's expensive phraseology, a "candidate for orthodonture) I had a hard time believing that that was her.

Caroline's picture captures pure joy.

The reprieve is temporary: braces are on the way again in about two years.

Friday, June 29, 2018


Pap and Gram with Kendra (probably Christmas 1989)

My mother-in-law wrote a wonderful post reflecting on the joy she found spending three days with our kids last week. We were lucky to have them be there with our kids those days as I finished my year. Her post came at the same time that my family and I were engaging in a difficult task: cleaning out the apartment of my grandmother.

Gram's new home is a nursing home where she is receiving good care. She is a hospice patient there, but I'm learning that one can be in this state for quite some time. On the way back from moving furniture from her apartment, Matt (my brother), Stephen (my nephew), and I stopped to say hello.

Pap's retirement certificate. 
As we cleaned her apartment I came across some old records, including paperwork from my grandfather's retirement. He ended his career at Hammermill Paper in 1986. In 1990 he died from cancer. Those 2 1/2 years between his retirement and his passing were some of my favorite in my childhood.

Even before he retired, Pap was a big part of our lives, as was Gram. We visited their house often. They visited us often. But our visits to them were our favorites. Heck, Matt and I would cry when it was time to leave. But the even best version of our visits came when Matt and I (and then Kendra) visited Gram and Pap.

Without our parents.

And the best of those visits came between October 1986 and March 1990, the time between Pap's retirement and his passing. Now he had even more time for us. Now we didn't need to worry about waking him if he was sleeping for a nighttime shift at the paper mill. Further, we were at ages to really enjoy these times: In 1986 I was about the same age as Caroline is now, and Kendra was old enough to be more a part of the fun.

We would go into town and buy toys.

We would play with our imagination outside.

We would play with neighbors at the farm next door.

We would get into trouble.

Matt and I would carouse outside while Gram made us dinner, and Pap sat in the living room with his arm over Kendra's shoulder, enjoying cartoons.

Gram and Pap with my brother at Grange Fair. 
Gram reads to her four grandsons. I'll forgive Kendra for not making this photo . . . she wasn't born yet. 
Our visits to Gram's were still wonderful after Pap died (when I was 14). They became less frequent, though, as we got older and busier. And as Gram found it necessary to downsize. In the 42 years, though, that I've enjoyed a loving relationship with my grandmother, the 3 1/2 years that stretched between fall of 1986 and spring of 1990 represent something of a golden era.

I cannot count the ways Joe and Nancy's visit with my kids last week was different: it took place here, not there; it was in a town, not on the hillside of Nittany Valley's East End; they were building a geodesic dome in the basement rather than hay forts up at Herlochers' farm, etc.

But the one thing in common was the joyous moments had when grandparents are with grandkids.

And the parents are nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Day three of the summer saw me spend very little time with both kids. Oh, we were all around for breakfast, and for the "Do Something Productive" time (typing, practicing, watering). But then . . .

Alex supervises the Do Something Productive hour from his perch at our back window. 
Strings camp, which meant I was all alone (and sipping a coffee at Dunkin Donuts while catching up on work gossip.

After strings camp, Caroline was up at the high school for her cooking camp while Sam and I hung out. We took a bike ride, tracing a 6-mile root that connected the three train stations of Lansdale.

The route of our ride at 1:00 today. 
I got Caroline home, but then she got a call from Zoe and was there for the rest of the afternoon.

She got home near dinner time, and just a few minutes later Sam got a call to go up the street to Jacob.


So, when it was time for Caroline to go to Zoe's, she asked how long she could stay. My answer: 5:00 pm. Why 5? Growing up it was the default time to be home from getting together with a friend. When I was Caroline's age, that friend was most likely to be Ben, who lived just down Grove Rd. and could be reached by dialing 286-5227. Note that the number isn't 10-digit. Note, also, that I still have that number memorized but don't have it memorized for any of my adult friends.

(I'm still in touch with Ben but don't have his number memorized.)

Today happens to be Ben's birthday.

Ben is second from left in this pic from a 2013 road trip. 
I'm grateful for friendships like Ben's (and Gary's . . . Gary is to Ben's left). Friendships that are about as old as the hills. Distance and schedule prevents us from getting together as often as we'd like. But I think of friendships like these as I look at my kids setting up patterns of getting together and hanging out at ages 10 and 12. Patterns that leave me at home alone, but not lonely. Patterns that may lead to friendships that last another 30 years.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Do Something Productive

More than a year ago Sherry was home with the kids for a day, and this three word charge became something of a mantra. It's part of the new routine for summer 2018. Here's what the schedule looks like these days.

Before 8:00: Unstructured

Dad reading a book and watering garden. No touching of news until physical newspaper arrives. Then perusing online op-ed pages rather than Twitter. Boy can indulge in video games. Girl sleeps. 

8:00: Breakfast

And Dad chooses it. It's served at 8:00. Dish cleanup happens immediately afterward. 

Tending to these sorry holly bushes could be productive. 

Breakfast until 11:00: Do Something Productive.

Build the head, body, or home. Just do something productive. Dad can be used as a resource to identify productive things. 

Watering this lonely hosta could be productive. The mulching of this plant (first appearance of mulch on this property in years) was also productive. 

11:00: Strings Camp

Dad finds way to work coffee into this hour. 

Noon: Lunch

Afternoon: The answer is probably yes.   

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Expensive Summer

Seriously, the weather is this nice for my first week of summer? 
So, let's see how much I spent on my first day of summer.

Well, there was the bike repair. That was only about $5 because Sam's tune-up was done where we bought Sam's bike. They just charged us for the part that needed to be put back on.

Then there was the $1 coffee I bought while waiting for Caroline to be done strings camp.

Did I say strings camp? That's right. That was about $150 a kid. I think. It's been a while since I charged that card.

Oh, and Caroline had a second camp today: cooking camp. That's another $150 . . . I think.

But then came the big ticket item. I won't tell you how much, but I will acknowledge that it was greater than the camps and less than a new car.

Sam with the winner. 

Trying out one of the eight possible choices. 

The contenders. 

Sam and his teacher outside the shop with his new violin. 
A special but expensive day. I'm a brass player, and ordered the trombone I still use through my dad via mail order in 1989. There was no trying them out. It was, well, as simple as filling out a form for a Bach Stradivarius 36 with F attachment.

However, being the dad writing the check today, I'm struck again at the generosity of my dad entrusting me with an instrument when I was 13, an instrument I still use weekly. I hope we're so lucky with Sam.

Violin shopping was a different experience. It's more upscale than trombone shopping. That being said, it's not snobby. Our experience at David Michie was very pleasant. They were welcoming, prepared, and gave us the space to make a decision.