What An Adventure!!!

So Gramps and I decided to go on a little camping trip to Iowa, spending a few days with his two cousins and their wives along the Mississippi River.  Just a week to get away from the heat here in Texas, visit with family and enjoy the outdoors.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Doable, easy, no big problem.

Well, that’s what I thought too, at least on Day One. The first day of travel was uneventful. A peaceful day of driving and arriving at a pleasant State Park in Kansas.

After a couple nights in another campground, we headed for the Iowa State Park and the group campout, although with one camper tire that had turned up low on air.  After re-inflation, things started to fall apart, although we didn’t know at the time how much.  Other drivers passing us started pointing.  I thought they were rude.  Gramps finally realized something was wrong and pulled over.

Sure enough, a flat tire. Not just a flat tire, but an exploded tire!  We were driving on the rim and the tread was wrapped around the axle.

Gramps was unable to get the lug nuts off the wheel because it kept turning – brakes wouldn’t hold it, chocks no good, pry bars…nothing.  And we couldn’t call for help because we were in a “No Service” area – cell phones wouldn’t work.

Well, we were just going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers, so we flagged down a nice gentleman who drove Gramps to the nearest spot where the phone would work and he could call for roadside assistance.

As things happen, a nice burly man stopped on his own accord and offered to help while Gramps was gone.  He was able to get the lug nuts off and started to replace the wheel.  I could not call Gramps to tell him to return because, as you recall, I was in a dead zone.

By the time Gramps did return, the tire was almost in place and a service tech was on his way.  We finished getting the spare on, thanked all our helpers and drove off to find cell coverage, and cancel the service request.

We soon arrived at the State Park, set up, had dinner and fell into bed.

During the night, a big thunderstorm came up and we noticed a leak coming from the skylight.  So we put a big bowl under it and went back to bed.

Before sunrise, I picked up my clock to check the time (5 am!!) and found my hand in a pool of water on the top of the bedside table.  At the same time, I felt water dripping on the back of my hand. We had another leak!!  We got up and sopped it all up with paper towel, then put another bowl in place to catch the drip coming from the ceiling.  No more sleep for us.

That same day, we discovered the carpeting in the living area was sopping wet.  Not just wet, but saturated, soggy, boggy wet.  We finally discovered that the water tank fill hose is in that corner and we had used that inlet to fill the tank with about twenty gallons of water the previous day.  Searching further, we found a large cut in the hose, which meant that most of that water leaked into the camper and got sucked up by the carpet.

Well, we tried sopping it up with paper towels until we ran out.  It became clear that paper towels were not going to do the job, so to save the flooring, we started removing carpet. Gramps cut out a four foot square of carpet – can’t tell you how ugly THAT looks!!!

Then we decided to put the fan down on the remaining carpet to help dry it out. The only problem?  It’s a 12-volt fan, without an outlet in that area.  Time to go to Wally World!!  We needed a 110-volt fan and certainly more paper towels.

By then the cousin couple from Michigan had arrived, so we all began setting up their unit and cheerful visiting.  All was well for the rest of the day.

Next day, we found the truck carpeting along the sill was saturated.  Did it leak in the all-night rainfall?  Yes, we tried paper towels by the roll.  Then Gramps pried the carpet up with screwdrivers and pliers to allow air circulation. By the end of the day he had added a hair dryer that eventually ran three straight days and nights and never did dry out the carpeting.

Then the camper lost battery power, which meant we had no 12-volt lights or water pump, and no water service.  We started hauling water in a big tub from the fill station to the camper for the toilet and the sink. That was a fun day!!!  Meanwhile, battery trouble-shooting continued.

Suddenly the next day, the battery power come back on all by itself.  No one knows why or how.  We were just glad that finally something good had happened.

Finally all three families had arrived and we had nightly campfires together.  We had drinks for everyone, big dinners made by one couple each evening, long talks, lots of laughs . . . and bugs.  Biting bugs.  Bugs that bit some of us but not all of us.

That’s right, I was one of the chosen and in two evenings was covered on my hands, arms, back, legs, ankles and feet.  With so many bites I looked like I had measles. And itch?!!  I felt like a bear in heat.  I was rubbing on everything and everybody.

Then the truck door panel, held on by one screw because Gramps had been working on it, came loose when the screw fell out and so every time he opened the door, the panel fell down a few inches.  It had to stay connected for mirror and window power.  Solution?  Climb across from the passenger door.  No problem!!!

Oh, and don’t use the driver side window either, because it had become unreliable and got stuck in open position once.  So when going through Toll Booths, Granny had to jump out, run around, pay the toll, run back and jump in the truck.  Quite a sight really!!!

Days with the cousins were fun.  We shared meals, we shared war stories, we shared many laughs and hugs.  The campout was over too soon.  Time to get ready to go home. Make plans to do it again.  Stock up on wine from an excellent Iowa winery, stock up on fresh sweet corn. ( We were in Iowa remember!! ).  Get the camper ready to go.

While breaking camp, we found that one of the gray tanks couldn’t be drained due to a broken tank valve.  Yikes!!  I was starting to get a little paranoid.  What more could happen?  I didn’t even want to think about it.

We drove home with dread following us.  What was going to happen?  Where would it happen?

Our first day of the return trip, we got to our campground with no issues.  Maybe our luck had changed.

The last day started out fine and then suddenly Gramps began slowing and pulled over to the shoulder – he heard and saw yet another tire (the old spare) flailing. It couldn’t be!!!!!!!

BUT IT WAS!!!!!  And it was the spare tire we had put on after the first blowout. Yessirree!!! The exact same tire!!!

We were getting pretty good at changing tires by then.  I knew exactly where the jack was and how to put it together.  We had just been through this routine.  It all was very familiar, and even a blessing to have trouble on a beautiful day, good highway, little traffic, and plenty of space for the tire change.  In hindsight, we should not have used that old spare, but rather the new tire.

By now, I was laughing a bit hysterically.  It all seemed so funny, so ridiculous, so arbitrary. Whereas earlier, I was stressed and worried, thinking how will we make it through all this?  If anything more happens, I will surely crack.  But then more happened and I didn’t crack.

It all looked pretty funny now, so absurd.  We had no control of anything, we might as well enjoy the ride.  We sure couldn’t stop or change it.  When my mind changed, it became a lot more enjoyable.  It was almost exciting, waiting for the next catastrophe to occur, to be surprised by the next disaster.

We started making bets on what would happen next.  Would we arrive home in a ball of flame?  Would the grey tank become too full and spill into the camper?  Would the roof come off in a wind gust?

The options went on and on and got more bizarre.  But it kept us entertained that last four hundred miles.

We got home in one piece, so to speak.  But we were limping for sure.

We got the camper into emergency surgery the next day, thanks to our sympathetic RV dealer.  We had only four days to get her fixed before a two-week trip to California.

Four days later she came back with all the immediate needs fixed.  Good news!  We could go to California without a care in the world.  She would work like a charm.

So we got her home, opened her up.   OMG!!!!!! She was full of ants!!!!!!  Ants everywhere!!!!!!!  ANTS, ANTS, ANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It feels like deja vu.

Am I in the Twilight Zone?

I’m back to hysteria again.

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It Happened On A Monday

It happened on a Monday. It could have just as easily happened on a Tuesday or a Thursday, but yes, it was a Monday.

It happened at 6:30 pm to be specific. Again it could have been anytime but I remember it well and it was definitely 6:30 pm on a Monday.

What am I talking about? Mac’s first band concert, of course.

It seems Mac has decided to play the tuba this year – 6th grade. (Can you believe it? Wasn’t he in kindergarten just last year?)

There were tryouts at the beginning of the year on many different instruments. Mac blew into the tuba mouthpiece and the director announced he was “a natural”. My interpretation– “We are short of tuba players and you look pretty good.”

Anyway, Mac now believes he was born to play tuba, which is a good thing. He is in the beginning band, a very good thing. And they had their first concert last Monday night . . . . . at 6:30 pm, a very, very good thing.

The evening started out with Gramps and me arriving at the school and coming in to the auditorium through the back door. All the kids were nicely seated in the audience section and no parents were anywhere to be seen. Suddenly Mac stood up and said to us, “You can’t be here!” What ever happened to “Hello Granny”?

We smiled and waved to him. “Hi, Mac.” Again, “You can’t be here!” He’s very big on rules and regulations lately.

“OK” we said. “We’re leaving. Where are we supposed to be?”

Mac. “Out in the hall! You can’t be here!”

I’m not sure to this day what we were not supposed to see but obligingly we went to the hallway and there were all the other families waiting patiently.

Finally we were allowed back into the auditorium and all the kids were by then on stage in their performance seats. Of course, we could not see Mac. He was one of the four tubas in the back row.

The concert was great with lots of Christmas music. All the instruments were featured throughout the evening including the four tubas in the back row.

The time passed too quickly and before we knew it we were hugging Mac back out in the hall. “Congratulations” and “Good Job” were heard from everyone. Mac was beaming.

How special for him to have both parents and both sets of grandparents hugging him and telling him how great he did. Even his great uncle, a musician, made an appearance and was very impressed.

Nothing feels better than family hugs. Nothing sounds better than family applause. Nothing feels better than family support. Even if it just happened to be a first time ever band concert on a Monday night at 6:30 pm.

Three Days With Mac . . . Or How To Occupy An Eleven Year Old

This week Mac’s parents have gone to Florida for a little R&R. Gramps and I will have Mac for three days and the other grandparents will  have him for three days. Share and share alike we say.

He came with the usual bag of clothes, a stuffed animal and the dreaded electronic gizmos. Although when he is at our house, he likes to use my phone because it has the “good games”.

Immediately upon entering the house, Mac asks for my phone and retreats to his bedroom. (Really the guest bedroom but we call it “his bedroom” while he is here)

This means there is no talking, no interaction, no relationship going on between us and him. This is totally unacceptable to Gramps and me. So we have put a limit on electronics usage in our home and especially no devices at mealtimes.

Instead we do other things. Mac loves to ride his bike, so we do that often when he is here. Good for him and good for us.

He and Gramps have explored the uncharted areas around our house and gone bird watching many times. They always have a tale to tell when they get back from their biking trips.

Gramps and I walk around the neighborhood every evening and Mac either walks with us or rides the bike around. Walking in our little neighborhood means greeting other neighbors, walkers, dogs and children playing in the street. So Mac joins in the conversations and pettings. It takes a while to get around the block but it’s a wonderful journey.

Of course, we play board games too. Our current favorite is Monopoly. Mac always wants to be the banker. I always use the thimble as my playing piece and Gramps always wins. I don’t know how he does it.

One evening we watched “How To Train Your Dragon” in 3D. The best part was looking at each other in those glasses and laughing out loud. We had popcorn and everything. Lots of fun!

The next day we took Mac out in the boat. What a grand day that was! Perfect weather. Perfect water. Perfect company. We did some fishing – caught nothing but shrubs. We let Mac take the wheel with Gramps a couple times, which thrilled him to no end.

We all got wet and wind blown. We laughed. We talked a lot. And Gramps showed Mac the sonar depth finder. (It’s a guy thing)

The last morning, before our handoff to the other grandparents, was designated as “lazy day”, so Mac played electronic games to his hearts’s content. He laid on his bed giggling to himself.

He told me later, “I love my down time”.

Our three days with Mac were packed with fun, conversation, interaction, learning and love. I can’t wait until the next time. I’m already making plans.

Camp Out, Pig Out

This is the eleventh year that four friends and Gramps and I have gone camping together for a long weekend in the spring. We have known each other for many years. In fact, one friend Ethel and I have known one another since the sixth grade. We have seen all the good, the bad and the ugly in each other many times over.

It started innocently enough with a group camping trip. We traded meals and that’s when we found out that Bill or Mr. Bill as we call him, was a master cast iron chef. He then became our breakfast guru.

Breakfast soon became a bacon lovers delight. Bacon does go with everything, you know! As in bacon and eggs, bacon and pancakes, bacon and ham, bacon and cheese, bacon and potatoes, bacon and . . . bacon. There are so many ways to eat bacon, as we discover each year.

Breakfasts lasted longer each year. First an hour, then two, now up to three hours including dessert. Yes, we have dessert for breakfast!

We have found that breakfast is so spectacular and lasts so long, what with all the courses and talking and more courses and more talking, that we usually don’t plan lunch anymore.

There is a mid afternoon snack. Something healthy, like brownies or cookies. Then a big dinner planned and served by one of us. It’s really just a big eat fest. Hence, the name – Camp Out, Pig Out. It has since been shortened to COPO.

Since Gramps and I are retired, we are the scouting party and arrive a couple of days early. We set up camp, get nearby sites for everyone and test the local sights and cuisine.

On Friday afternoon the other two couples arrive and set up their rigs. I always serve Friday night dinner because I have the time to cook while they are traveling.

This year we are having homemade grilled hamburgers (nothing better!), potato salad, fresh tomatoes, chips, guacamole and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Sound good?

On Saturday morning, of course, is a mega breakfast, Mr. Bill style. Bacon, bacon and more bacon. Yum! After this artery stopping meal, we usually divide up – men go fishing and/or boating, women go shopping.

In other words, the guys head to the nearest body of water, attach bits of fish/hot dog/bait/etc on the end of poles and sit for hours waiting and waiting. This activity is called fishing and men love to do it, talk about it, plan for it and buy equipment for it. Our men are no different.

Every year they go fishing. Every year they catch nothing. Every year they have a great time. Go figure!

The ladies, on the other hand, go shopping or sightseeing or both. We have been to antique stores, quilt shops, historic homes, museums, gardens, gift shops. And we have been successful every single time!

Oh yes, we have never come home empty handed. What glorious things we have found. What fabulous memories we have made. What fun we have had.

For several years now, Ethel has made matching T-shirts for the three of us ladies. One year as we were out shopping in our three identical shirts, I convinced a shop owner that we were triplets out for a day of fun. The other two were exploding trying to keep from laughing and I was having the time of my life.

Over the years, our COPOs have been varied. We have weathered rain, hail, scorching heat, wild fires and floods. We have had sick people, injured people and the forever healthy people. We have tried cooking all sorts of foods (except fish. We’ve never had fish!) and gone out for food.

 

One year our grandson Mac came with us to the annual COPO. It took about an hour for him to feel comfortable going in and out of everyone’s camper as if he lived there. Everyone became family to him about one minute later. He was fascinated with the super bacon breakfasts. And of course, because he is male, he went fishing with the boys. I’m not sure what he really did all day.

We gals brought treats for him from our shopping trip. It’d seemed only fair. He was nine and he had put up with the fishing thing all day.

Eleven years of these grand memories and here we are again! It’s Thursday night. Everyone will be here tomorrow. Saturday morning will be an eleventh breakfast extravaganza.

Then the guys and a fishing guide will hit the lake for a day of fishing. Maybe the guide will change the day’s outcome.

We ladies are going to a Quilt Show and maybe some antiquing. Whatever suits our fancy at the time.

Saturday evening will be dinner at Myra and Mike’s camper with the traveling tablecloth we use for every meal. Then we build a campfire and sit up late – maybe lil about 11:00 or so. Hey, we’re old!

Sunday am will find us back at Mr. Bill’s with the traveling tablecloth for super breakfast #2. What a way to end a COPO. Total PIGOUT!!!!

It’s Thursday night and I can’t wait. Hope it doesn’t end too soon.

Grand Things Kids Say

A couple weeks ago, Gramps and I took Mac to the lake in the boat. (It is still very hot here is Texas!) We went all around the lake and then decided we would beach the boat so we could do some swimming and wading in the cool water. Mac had his life jacket on and jumped over the side of the boat, making a very large splash. His comment – “What a huge displacement!”.

Thank you Science teacher!

Happy Birthday To You!

Birthdays come every year. When we are young, we can hardly wait for this annual event to occur. When we get older, we can hardly believe another year has passed so quickly. Birthdays are a reminder, not only to tell us we are getting older but that we are still alive.

Ten birthday cake candles against a white background

Gramps celebrated a birthday this week. He is now 73 years old. Neither of us, in our youth, imagined getting this old, but here we are. We had a wonderful BBQ dinner with all the extras, including a cake made by our daughter. (Mac says his mom makes the “best cakes ever”. I agree.) Family and friends joined us.

We ate, we laughed, we told “you know you’re old when” jokes, we gave gifts and we ate again. We sang “Happy Birthday” even though there were no candles on the cake. After all, a birthday is all about having fun and sharing it with others. And truly it has very little to do with presents.

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For kids, birthdays are especially important. Each one is a consistent marker of time and growth. It is a permanent memory, like a tree ring, of the past year of gain, loss, growth, learning and change. It is also a tiding of the future’s possibilities, the year to come, the time until the next birthday.The birthday itself should be a wonderful celebration of life. It can be of any sort to suit the child and/or the family – a party, a special meal, a sleepover, an outing, a movie, balloons, a cake, anything, anything out the ordinary.

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Children need to feel every day, but especially on their day of birth, that they are loved and valued. They need some extra attention sometimes and this is the perfect day to do it!

I write a note to each of my grandchildren on their birthday. I tell them how much I love them, how glad I am they were born and how proud I am of them. Presents come and go, but they will always have my birthday notes. If they are ever feeling down or unsure of themselves, they can read my little letters and hopefully feel the love in my words.

Every birthday should make the recipient feel better, happier, appreciated and loved. Remembering our loved ones’ special days is our duty and should be our delight.

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Children adore being remembered and fussed over. I adore remembering and fussing over my grandchildren, so it is a win-win situation for us.

Wishing all my Sweeties a Happy Birthday, whenever it is!!!

 

 

A Day With Mac

Mac’s mother called to let all of the grandparents know that Mac had a few open days after Summer Rec ended and before school started. Between those ending and starting days and an upcoming vacation to Washington, D.C., there were a few days open to Grandparent time. We ended with him this last Wednesday for twelve hours.

Now Mac is eleven years and is able to entertain himself a good portion of the time, but when Granny and Gramps get involved, the expectations are raised. Plans are made to fill almost every minute of the day. Fun must be had on an almost continual basis.

We picked Mac up first thing in the morning. He spent about an hour on my phone playing a video game called “Simple Planes”. He built and destroyed numerous planes in that short hour.

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Then it was off the movies to see “Jungle Book”,  in 3D of course. It’s a great movie of love, loyalty and perseverance – good wins out in the end. And Bill Murray as a Grizzly Bear is just funny no matter how old you are! Mac loved it! We all did!

Child eating out with his grandparents in a restaurant

Child eating out with his grandparents in a restaurant

After the movie we went to lunch for burgers, chips, sodas and BBQ sandwich for Gramps. The music was very retro, so Gramps and I were humming along to songs from our college and high school years.

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The weather here in Texas is too hot for outdoor anything during the day, so home we went to play board games. Our current favorite is a game called Qwirkle, which is somewhat like Dominoes. Mac wins more often than not.

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Gramps and Mac watched a car race on TV together in the study. They rooted for their favorite cars and drivers. I have no idea who won! It’s a guy thing!

As the sun got low enough and the temperature lowered, Mac and Gramps rode bikes down to the lake near our house. They talked to the men who were fishing on the edge of the lake and rode their bikes back.

By then, everyone was hungry. Sweet Gramps made us a lovely dinner of baked chicken and sautéed squash. After getting full on nutritious food, Mac took a bowl of chips into the back room to read a book.

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An hour later, Mac’s mother came to get him. When she asked how his day had gone, he answered, “Fine. It was a normal day.” Normal day?!

Gramps and I certainly had a great deal of fun and loved the time spent interacting with Mac. We love listening to him talk and explain things. We love watching his brain work. But this was anything but a normal day! Mac was still raring to go. Gramps and I were exhausted, pooped, worn out, wasted.

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Mac’s normal day had taken the stuffing right out of us. All we wanted to do next was sit down, lay down and sleep. What a difference age makes!