Tuesday, December 28, 2010



It's Brandon's birthday!  He's 10.  Sophia was 7 last November.












Monday, December 27, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

Sophia's Elf on a Shelf, Freddy
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas flew by!  When I remembered the chaos of buying numerous, relatively inex- pensive, presents for Brandon and Sophia, I was relieved that this year I had decided to buy two gifts for them to share, and then give them each some cash.  Both had expressed the desire to have several items with large price tags.  With the money I planned to give them, each can decide on what they want to spend their moo-lah.  They're happy to have money and I'm happy to have been freed of the added shopping and responsibility for poor decision-making.

Christmas Eve - Making cookies for Santa

As in the past, I spent the night Christmas Eve at their house.  Brandon decided that we'd get up at 5:30 Christmas morning.  Dawn rejected that idea and suggested a compromise at 6:30.  Brandon came back with 6:00.  Dawn said, "No, 6:30."  

At 6:00 AM, the ceiling light came on in my bedroom.  I kept my eyes closed, and told whoever it was to turn off the light and go away.  Then I heard Dawn say, "Go back to bed, Brandon."  Some muffled conversation followed, and then it was quiet again.  But I could hear footsteps going back and forth outside my door.  Finally, I rolled over and saw wee Sophia followed by Dawn walk into Brandon's room.  It was 6:15, and apparently Christmas festivities had begun.

The lava lamp Brandon yearned for
The dress from Uncle Brett and Aunt Michelle

Putting the new karaoke machine to use

By 7:15, all the gifts had been opened.  While Dawn prepared breakfast, I busied myself gathering torn gift wrap and tidying the room while Brandon and Sophia got acquainted with their gifts.  Some time was spent "performing" with the aid of the karaoke machine.  Then it was time to pack up and head out to meet Matt with whom Brandon and Sophia would spend the following week.  

While the kids are away, Dawn and I will spend our time preparing for 2011 -- packing away Christmas decorations, clearing the slate of the old year and getting ready to meet the needs of the new year. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Other Shoe

Dawn and Matt had their divorce pretrial hearing yesterday.  If they hadn't reached agreement on all items of the settlement, their case would have gone to trial.

But they had agreed.  And both attorneys finally had documents that, while not mirror images, didn't prevent closure.  The final decree was issued today. 

Six months, start to finish.

While both Dawn and Matt had moved on toward lives with the kids but without each other, now they can officially, legally, go forward as individuals, not half of a couple.

The other shoe has finally dropped.  Now Dawn can head out in a new shoe that doesn't pinch and whose stride promotes happy feet with each step forward.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Reminder That Kids Will be Kids

Brandon is ten and already knows it all.  You don't have to ask him, he'll tell you.  Every time you question his actions.

For the sake of convenience, I've bought each of the kids a bike to keep here.  Last year Sophia moved up from a garage sale purchase 16-inch to a larger bike.  That meant we had an unused bike which Brandon wanted to trim down to a dirt bike for himself.  Fenders were removed, the frame was painted black and the girly seat replaced with one that was black. 

Then winter came.  By spring, he'd grown too large for the bike, so I bought him a new one equipped with pegs so he could do tricks.  After a few weeks he wanted to customize it.  He'd been successful in his efforts with Sophia's old bike, so I told him that while I didn't see the necessity to tear down a new bicycle, if he felt competent to modify it, okay.

He swears it wasn't his fault.  Somehow some bearings got stripped and he couldn't reassemble it.  So it laid, in pieces, on my garage floor all summer.  He wasn't allowed to borrow a bike from the neighbor.  If others rode bikes, he scooted along on a skateboard. 

Now fall is here and the kids are back in school.  I sent e-mail to the kids' dad and asked if he'd consider rebuilding the bike with Brandon over the winter.  When I didn't get a reply, I realized that the bike and its parts would continue laying on the garage floor.  So I gathered them up, put them in the car, and drove to a local bike shop.

I approached one of the techs.  "I have a ten year old grandson who says he knows how to take a bike apart and put it together."

As I spoke the words, a cyclist, in his riding gear, walked by and snickered.  Obviously he knew where I was going with this.  So did the tech, who asked, "Where is it?"

We walked out to the car, he went through the bag of pieces, identifying what he held and noting what he needed, and said he could put it back together, he'd like to reassemble it, that he loved puzzles.  

So a few days later I returned to find a rebuilt bike, sans one hand grip, all put back together.  As good as a new bike, maybe better.  Back to my garage it went to sit beside Sophia's bike.

It was raining when the school bus was due to drop off the kids at the bus stop on Wednesday, so I picked them up.  When I pulled into the garage, Sophia said, "Brandon, look at your bike!" 

Brandon said, "Huh?  What?  Where!?!"

"Look!  Right there!"

Brandon, sitting in the passenger's seat beside me, spun toward me and said, "Really??!  You fixed it?!"

"No, I took it to the bike shop," I replied.  "But now you have to promise you won't take it apart again."

"I promise!!"

Let's see how long it is before he's either bored or looking for another challenge. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

We Turn Another Page

Dawn and Matt have sold their house!  In this economy, with so many homes for sale, it could have been on the market for a year or more.  However, it was just into its second listing when they accepted an offer.  Dawn went into high gear boxing up belongings and moving what she could prior to closing.

The official move was right after Labor Day.  Brandon and Sophia headed off to school, unaware of the plans for the day.  Two men and a truck (also the name of the franchise) arrived and loaded furniture.  Six hours later it was in place at Courtland and the beds were made.  Time for the big unveil.  Brandon had football practice, and afterward, instead of driving to the former house, Dawn took them to Courtland.  They were accustomed to stopping by frequently, but this would be their first night sleeping there.  Both were excited to see their bedroom furniture in place but also felt some sadness at leaving the old house behind.  However, I think both were relieved that as one door was closing, another was already open, and both were comfortable with their new surroundings.  Dawn and I celebrated the end of the day with a couple glasses of wine.  I left about 9:00 so she could begin getting the kids off the ceiling and into bed. 

A week or so later, Dawn told me about a blue jay that seemed to be unafraid of people.  It had flown into the garage and had been seen outdoors perching on her vehicle's rear view mirror.  It had even sat on the railing of the patio while Dawn was there in a chair.  One day when I visited, we sat on the deck together, and luckily "Jay" (or Jaye if it's a female) appeared.

Dawn sent an email to the previous owner about the friendly bird, and Amy replied that it had appeared last year during a garage sale, flying in and out of the garage, even sitting on one person's finger.  However, she is afraid of birds, so had never interacted with Jay when he returned.


Jay comes by nearly every day when someone is outdoors.  One day last weekend, he landed on Dawn's arm. 

Dawn's friend Rachelle was visiting, and he sat on her hand. 

 Brandon and Jay have interacted as well.  Brandon had a dollar bill that Jay took from between his fingers and then flew with it into a tree!  Brandon was beside himself at the loss of the money, but when Jay couldn't eat it, or lost interest, he let the bill drop.  Brandon scurried to retrieve it, held the bill again, and Jay came to get it.  Again Jay eventually let it go and then flew away.  Dawn has a video on her phone and I'll provide a link if she ever uploads it!

Yesterday Dawn sent me a picture of her latest purchase.  A bird feeder is now  situated at the corner of the deck.  She said Jay's been by to check it out. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The End of Summer

In mid August I drove to southern Indiana, Bloomington to be precise.  The internet group I belong to, affectionately dubbed by one member's son as the Internet Ax Murderers' Dating Club, was assembling for the weekend at the home of Julie and Lee for a reunion of "family" members.  There are close to thirty of us and ten were able to make the trip.

Southern Indiana in August is as close to hell as I ever want to get.  The temperature was in the upper 90's as was the humidity.  Walking outdoors felt like slogging through knee-deep water.  For nearly three days multiple animated conversations were carried on simultaneously.  Even eating didn't silence the crowd.

Julie's and Lee's home is surrounded by plants that attract butterflies, and those of us with cameras took countless snapshots of the colorful creatures.

In July, Ohio got hot and stayed hot.  This grandma poo-pooed any outdoor day  trips with Brandon and Sophia.  But activities did pick up in late August.  

Although he was QB last year, Brandon has grown and his weight made him ineligible to play that position this year.  But he's quite happy to be out of the limelight and finally be one of those who tackles instead of being the one sacked. 
Brandon said he wanted to play in the rain.....

The annual Kickoff Classic was held last Saturday.  Teams were paired and scrimmaged with ten offensive and ten defensive plays for each. Parents and grandparents sat in the bleachers, one eye on the field, the other on the sky.  Rain, long needed, was going to arrive shortly.  Initial drops soon turned to a shower and eventually a deluge was upon us, one whose intensity became more and more forceful.  Dawn and I laughed as rain was driven through our umbrellas and runoff from the umbrellas found its way down our backs and into our slacks.  The Classic was halted after Brandon's scrimmage, perhaps because spectators who had been in the stands were now sitting in their cars, leaving only a handful to watch and cheer the boys on.

Many schools were back in session last week; however ours begins a week later.  The heat of the past several days finally moderated and was ideal for doing things away from the condo. On Tuesday we went to Canton's McKinley Monument and the Museum.  It was my plan to look at the Monument and then tour the Museum.  Brandon and Sophia were more interested in repeatedly running up the steps to the Monument and sliding down the granite side rail.  Eventually we went into the Museum for some history.

Weather on Wednesday was a repeat of Tuesday's.  Dawn called to ask if I wanted to visit the Akron Zoo.  This is something we've done with the kids each year just before school begins.  The exhibits continue to be expanded and improved and the zoo is clean and easy to navigate.  It's a nice size and everything can be seen in a half day.

No pictures for Friday's activities.  I promised a movie (something where I could sit and they wouldn't be bored) and they agreed on Vampires Suck.  Yeah, a winner.  It's a spoof of Twilight so most enjoyed by those folks (teens, I presume) who'd seen it.  Fortunately both Brandon and Sophia seemed interested, and neither expressed a desire to leave before the movie ended.

With Dawn's and Matt's divorce about to be finalized, both kids have been assigned tasks to help with household needs. Therefore, after the movie, Brandon asked if they could go home so he could get a head start on his Saturday chores.

Once both finished their work, Brandon fell onto the couch to rest.  Dawn asked if they wanted a surprise.  She had decided it was time to show them the house they will be moving to.  Brandon replied that he did, but would like to rest first.  Sophia said she'd like a surprise, too, but not if it involved more work.  Dawn reassured them that Brandon could continue to relax and Sophia would have no more work to do.  So into the cars we got, Sophia with me, Brandon with Dawn.

I stopped next to Dawn's vehicle in the driveway, and we could hear Brandon's excited voice and see the grin on his face.

"Sophia, this is our new house!!!" he exclaimed as he jumped out of the car.  And quickly Sophia was out of mine as they ran into and then out of the garage, not knowing what to examine first.  The house is next to one of the community parks, and Sophia ran to walking track along the property line and laughing, declared to two woman passing, "I live here!!""  And then she ran back to the yard and Dawn took them into the house.

Brandon saw boxes in the family room and thought they had yet to be removed by the previous owner.  But Sophia spied some of her things in them and Brandon saw family pictures in Dawn's office.  Then he began to believe.  With the realization that the house was really theirs, Brandon and Sophia quickly headed up the stairs to see the second level -- through the living and dining rooms, out on the deck, back inside, through the kitchen and then back to the living room.  Sophia did a cartwheel and Brandon tried as well.  When I left, they were deciding which bedroom each would have.  Both wanted to go home to begin moving their belongings.  The real move will be in two or three weeks, but it looks like hours will be spent there in anticipation and preparation for what lies ahead.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Woosh -- the Sound of Summer Whizzing Past

Long time, no post.  The past few months have been chaotic, if not physically, at least mentally.

Part of the delay is that Dawn and Matt are divorcing. There have been a number of rocky months and there was no resolution to their issues.  Both are ready to move on separately.  Like building a house, early on settlement issues were agreed to quickly.  Now, they are down to finer details, and decisions are contemplated with more thought.   Still, neither wants the divorce proceedings to drag on.  Fortunately Brandon and Sophia have adjusted to the idea of living with Mom “here”, wherever that will be, and visiting frequently with Dad “there”, where rooms for them all have been added at the home where Nana and Pap live.  Dawn hopes to keep Brandon and Sophia in their current school district, so while the neighborhood may change, there will still be familiar things around them.

Brandon took a golf class early in the spring and Matt said it really helped his golf game. Unfortunately the turmoil of separating and establishing separate residences has made father/son golf outings infrequent. Still, Brandon entertains himself with golf ball challenges.

Sophia’s continued her twice-weekly sessions in gymnastics. In late June the girls, from pre-schooler to high school, had an exhibition to share what they'd learned in the prior months. Sophia’s continuing her classes through the summer and may move to a higher class in the fall. She’s still a wee little thing and cute as a bug’s ear!

Dawn’s scouting for a second job to supplement her interior design income. Those openings that are available require someone who will work evenings and/or weekend hours. She doesn’t mind part-time, but needs a schedule that would allow her to be home with the kids at night. So, she continues filling out applications and hopes that something for which she’s qualified becomes available. In the meantime, now that their house is ready to show and been listed for sale, she has more time to work with established clients as well as seek new ones.

Brett’s still busy in Shanghai. He finally has an apartment (two-bedroom!). He gave me a tour via Skype the other day. Furnishings are Spartan but the unit is perfect for someone who travels a lot and spends many hours at the office. He has a flat screen TV and has had “Slingbox” software added to his laptop so he can watch TV programs aired in San Francisco!  He and Michelle manage to be in the same place -- home in San Rafael or the apartment in Shanghai -- about every eight weeks.

It was the tentative plan that I would go to Shanghai in mid September and stay for about three weeks. Brett thought he’d be in the States to have meetings at the Company’s office in Los Angeles and then he, Michelle and I would fly back to Shanghai together. In the last few days he’s had meetings in Abu Dhabi (on the toe of the Arabian Peninsula) and in the next few weeks he’ll be moving his base of operation there. He anticipates 80% of his time will be spent working on current Corporate programs there and 20% in Shanghai trying to tie down contracts with Asian companies. My trip??? It’ll happen eventually, but I don’t know whether it will be to Shanghai or Abu Dhabi.

 We’re just completing Hall of Fame Week here. One of the most attended events is the balloon fest. Generally after they lift off, the hot air balloons float east or south. This year the breezes carried them west and many floated over the condo complex both Friday evening and again Saturday morning.  What a treat!! 


Friday, April 16, 2010

Moving on.......

What a glorious spring it is!  The heavy rains with the accompanying wind have not arrived.  Yet.  Oh, they will, but hopefully all the trees in bloom will have leafed out and the daffodils, hyacinths and tulips will be past flowering.  That means there are about twelve hours remaining before the rain arrives and temperature, currently in the upper 70's plummets to the 40's.  We even have the possibility of snow flurries in tomorrow's forecast.  

Brett returned to the US from China in mid-March.  He spent his time here putting together several proposals for projects in China.  He understands the Chinese way of doing business -- it's wait followed by more wait, until ----go---->.  There may be no signed contract, but when the client is ready to proceed, the service provider had better be ready to jump in with both feet.  Yes, Brett understands the practice; his employer is a little slower to accept the concept. 

Brett and Michelle both have laptops with web cams and recently subscribed to Skype.  Using that service certainly has reduced their use of cell phone minutes.  Dawn and I now are equipped for these "looking at you" conversations and it's fun to see the person you're talking to.

Brett's returned to China last weekend.  He has a 30-day visa.  That requires him to leave the country after 30 days.  So he goes to Hong Kong for a few days!  Then it's back to Shanghai.   He finally has an office so he doesn't have to conduct business from the table in his hotel room.  Now he's received the go-ahead to find an apartment.  Once a lease is signed and he has a place to call home, I'll begin thinking about a trip to visit.

Brett and Dawn talked yesterday via Skype before Brandon and Sophia went to school.  Brett shared some information with her and then asked that she tell me.  She said, "Uh, okay.  I'll have to do it today before the kids tell her or Matt tells his mom who will then comment [via e-mail] to Mom about the news."  He said, "Never mind.  I'm a grown-up.  I'll tell her."  So this is the e-mail I received before leaving to work at the hospital:

Before you hear it from Brandon or Sophia or through the grapevine I thought I would prepare you myself.  Sorry it's via email.
Things with Michelle are going great.  I think we will be growing old together.  So that's not the problem.
I enjoy China and the chance at building something from scratch.  So that's not the problem.
I'm still pretty healthy....for a guy turning 40.  So that's not the problem.
Nikki and Lulu are dogs....they sometimes (more often than not) get to sleep in our bed.  So that's really not the problem either.
Let's see.........
I think I'm about out of options to postpone what it is I have to tell you.......
You knew I was thinking of selling the Taurus [vehicle].......
Well....I did [before returning to China last week].  I don't know why.  I think I got tired of jockeying around it.  Although she was always good to me.
Well it kinda looks like this...

I did question the lack of helmet and he responded:

I bought two of the best helmets available. I took it off for the pic.
I also bought us very good "leather" for further protection.
It is a Ducati. Italian for Holy Shit!
It is one of the most desired bikes on the planet. It at least has resale value!
It is a gas powered crotch rocket as you put it. But of the classy type.
Thank you for understanding.

Finally, I said that I hoped he'd ride smart--no crazy stuff.  And he replied:

I'm 40 - no more crazy shit!

So besides the humor in the conversation, I was surprised (and pleased) that he "sweated" telling me!  Dawn said he was afraid I'd chew him up and spit him out, since I'm not an advocate of bikes.  In their situation, however, I saw the upside.  The second car was in the way and more of a nuisance than an asset.  But it's comforting to know he still values my opinion, although (obviously) the final decisions are his!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring's on the Horizon

It's been several weeks since Park Place has been updated. There's only so much that can be said about winter, and I said it all -- and provided pictures!  That February record snowfall just about did us all in.  By early March we just wanted it to be over.

Neighbor Sherry lamented the fact that the area schools don't share the same week for spring break.  Sophia and Brandon were out this week; her grandchildren are out next week.  It's doubtful they'll be here at the same time until summer break.  Four unhappy kids and at least one disgruntled grandmother!

On Monday Brandon, Sophia and I headed out early.  First stop:  A desperately needed haircut for Brandon.  I'd repeatedly offered to put in barrettes to hold the hair out of his eyes.  He chose the more logical option:  a proper clipping at the local salon.  Eyes.  I could see his eyes again!  Then we drove to the mall.  Sophia wanted to have her picture taken with the Easter bunny.  I was surprised, but very pleased, when Brandon consented to stand beside the bunny.  Got a superb snapshot of them on the first try.

Sophia gave her little bike to Brandon last summer so he could do tricks on it.  Unfortunately, that left her without a bike, so our next stop was to get a new one for her.  Sophia's still inches shorter than many classmates, so this 20" bike should be suitable for several seasons.

Last month Sophia began attending gymnastics classes twice a week.  What an amazing program!  Visitation was allowed Monday evening, and Sophia asked me to come watch. The session started with 45 minutes of "floor work".  Eleven girls, probably ages 4 through 8, did stretching and strengthening exercises followed by tumbling.  Sophia's mastered the cartwheel and impressed me with her tumbling.  The last 45 minutes the girls walked the balance beam and tried to do pirouettes, were helped to swing and dismount from the uneven parallel bars and finally, ran and jumped on the springboard for the vault.  I was amazed that there was no horsing around.  The instructors expect the girls' best efforts and are generous with praise and encouragement.  Some have talent; some don't.  But they all try. 

The weather has been beautiful the last few days.  In February we set records for snowfall.  Yesterday and today we set records for high temperatures - over 80F both days.  Daffodils are blooming!  After I walked this morning, I decided the day was perfect for cleaning out the garage.  (Why does the first half of such a job always go more quickly than the second half?)  I was done by noon -- vacuumed under everything that was movable, got the cobwebs off the ceiling and packaged up to give away toys the kids no longer pay with.  The next project will be to vacuum blinds and wash windows.  Then I'll wash and hang screens.  Maybe next weekend if it's not snowing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Wonderland

We're half way through February and the snow continues to fall.  Locally we have gotten almost 24 inches since the first of the month. A little over another inch and we'll have the record for the greatest snowfall in February.  Road crews have done a great job clearing the highways for traffic.  Subdivisions take a little longer.  Our complex doesn't have dedicated streets; they're more like lanes, narrower than a common street.  Therefore, the county doesn't maintain them, doesn't clear them.  So we have a private contractor.  We've seen a lot of their trucks this winter, and their snow blowers used to clear the sidewalks are music to our ears.

We kid about the amount of snow we have, asking, "Where are the going to put it if we get any more?"  As far as Brandon is concerned, they can pile it all outside my garage! He and Christian went out yesterday with shovels from sandbox-size to a standard snow shovel and carved a tunnel into the banked pile next to my driveway.  Today, after school, instead of coming in to have a snack, Brandon went out to continue enlarging the cave.  Before he got focused on the project, I snapped this picture of Brandon and Sophia in the hole. 

Daytime temperatures have been in the high 20s or low 30s.  Perfect for the kids to play outdoors, hard to get them to come back inside.  Excellent as well for making icicles.  Our roofs have a steep pitch, and icicles form easily.  Today I watched as they grew longer and longer. As the snow melts we'll have to watch for problems with water getting under the roofing shingles. 

There is snow in the forecast for the next several days.  We've dealt pretty well with two feet of snow.  I almost feel guilty hoping that having gotten that much, it would be worth a little more aggravation to get two more to set an all-time record for February.  (Two days later, we did!)  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

The snow storm appropriately named Snowmagedden by President Obama provided an additional eye-opening experience for those of us who ventured outside yesterday, Tuesday, morning.  I'd heard of hoarfrost, ("a covering of minute ice needles, formed from the atmosphere at night upon the ground and exposed objects when they have cooled by radiation below the dew point, and when the dew point is below the freezing point").  Simply put, in the bright morning sun, the trees looked like those on Christmas cards.  They glistened as though they were jewel-covered.

I was so impressed I grabbed my camera to take pictures before continuing on to run errands.  As the sun climbed in the sky, the ice melted from the trees, and by the time I was home at noon, they were once again just naked, plain trees.