Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Family Time in Holland

Before and after our trip to Sweden and the cruise, we spent days of love and laughter with Ben, Ruth, and our grandchildren. We enjoyed Kate's 3rd birthday, highlighted with laughter and the joy of watching how beautifully she knew how to share with Ashley. We were still there for the first day of the school year for Ashley and for Kate, starting preschool for the first time. We were there when Aiden turned 6th months old, and knew joy day by day. 

When I think of our travels, these are the first days that come to mind. It's not the monuments and tourist sites that made August memories the most special of treasures. It's the time spent with family. It's true that it's not where you go in life, but who you share it with that makes it special. 

There were times spent at the local play area near their home, when the girls ran from swings to other playground equipment. It's a nice place for children, and a great place for a nap, as Grandpa demonstrated. 

Ashley showed off her skill on a bicycle and the girls played in the sandbox. Ruth's patience seems endless. You can't hide the kind of parents you are when you invite the folks to spend a month. These are solid, loving parents—consistent and deserving of as many children as they can handle. I realize I've said this before, if not on my blog, then at least to friends: I'm so glad they're raising my grandchildren. I know my other sons well enough to believe they'll be good parents, too, when they're so blessed.

Just in time to see us before we returned home, our oldest son, Tighe, flew in to Amsterdam on a business trip and was able to join the family for a visit before getting down to work. It was such a wonderful time, and I loved hearing the girls count down the days before Uncle Tighe's arrival. They adore him, and it's no wonder why. He's so willing to get down on their level and play, almost tirelessly. Most importantly, he loves them back in the same way.

He had his arms and lap full almost from the moment of his arrival, it seemed, whenever he sat down. Standing up, someone was climbing one of his legs or dancing around him. Uncle must sound like a word of delight to him, the way their sweet voices sang it out.

Our time with the family was sweet, and here's a short slide show to share some of our favorite photos of those days.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two Visits to Stockholm, Sweden

After a few wonderful days with Ben & Ruth and the grandchildren in The Netherlands, the trip to Paris, and a few more days in their home after our return from that marvelous trip, we all flew from Amsterdam to Stockholm, Sweden. Each time we visit their family in Europe, we have an adventure together, and this was the beginning of this year's journey.

It started and ended in Stockholm, but I'm combining the two visits to save myself a little confusion. My camera, unlike Benjamin's, doesn't have a GPS locator in it, and I was (again) a little careless about resetting the camera's date and time function. There you have it. My younger brain wouldn't have forgotten. Now I'm just happy to take good photos and sort through them later.

Because Ben hurt his back just before leaving for Sweden, he was in considerable pain and unable to lift anything, including children or luggage. In fact, he had all he could do to walk for a few days. At one point, Ruth looked at the kids, the luggage, and Ben. He was hunched over like an old man, his face twisted in pain. We were preparing to leave the house for a flight, a cruise, and another flight. "Are we nuts?" she asked me. "Probably," I answered, but none of us wanted to scrap the travel plans he had worked so hard months ago to put in place. Besides, we'd already paid for everything, so—carry on!

In Stockholm Benjamin bought walking sticks to help him get around in a fairly upright position. Ruth and John took up most of the slack with carrying the kids and luggage as needed. Until my shoulders are repaired or rebuilt, I'm very limited on what I can do without causing further damage, and my left hip hurts worse than either shoulder, so I was nearly as bad as my son. We were a motley crew, but together we managed everything. John is a trooper, with never a complaint. It's no wonder I call him my Sherpa.

The sights and sounds of Stockholm will stay with me forever. The weather was supposed to be heavy with rain and thunderstorms, but we got just a few drizzles and some glorious clouds. It was cool and bright most of the time, which made all the walking so much easier. I've mentioned before that I do not do heat gracefully. It's all I can do to be nice when the temperatures "soars" beyond 80°. Yes, I said 80. I love it around 60-65°. Even 70-75° is fine. That's about what we got.

Trust me. You've never been shopping until you window shop with grandchildren. They had so much fun trying on hats and wigs, playing with little wind toys and looking at things, I spent the one afternoon of shopping just laughing until my cheeks hurt. It amazed me how few times they expected to be allowed to keep anything. Once in awhile they'd ask, but it was never with the expectation of hearing a yes. Good parenting. You can't ask the grandparents to come for a month and hide what kind of parents you are, or what kind of relationship you really have. It's solid and beautiful.

The churches (or should I call them cathedrals?), theaters, canals and gardens were spectacular. If my slideshow seems long, rest assured you're not seeing one in thirty of the photos I took—especially of the children. 

I know it's not politically correct to say "my grandchildren are the cutest, the smartest," etc., and I always swore I wouldn't be that kind of grandma. Blame Ben and Ruth for having the children they have. I can't help it if I'm honest enough to admit that they are the cutest and smartest kids I've been around. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paris for Two

Just the two of us? But we don't speak French... I really wasn't in favor of this trip at the beginning. I could picture getting lost and people laughing at us as we tried to communicate in sign language. I don't know sign language.

But Benjamin told me that Paris was the number one tourist destination in Europe for a reason, and this would probably be our last opportunity to see it. We should go. Alone. The two of us together. An early 35th anniversary trip.

I was excited, yet I was moderately terrified. I thought of the Louvre. I thought about walking along the Seine and seeing the Arc de Triomphe. Going up in the Eiffel Tower sounded like something I could force myself to do. Maybe. I found out it wasn't scary at all.

Most of all, I wanted to go to mass at Notre Dame. We did that, and although I didn't get much out of the sermon, not speaking any French besides ferme la buche (probably spelled wrong, but means shut your mouth) which I don't think the priest had call to use, it was beautiful. And the organ music was enough to make angels weep. Before leaving I was able to light a candle for my mom and Papa John in front of the rose window.

A little warning...if you ever want to go to church there, make sure to arrive at least an hour before service starts so you can actually get a seat.

John and I went on a wonderful cruise of the river Seine, ate crepes along the way (chocolate) and took photos. The bridges are amazing. We saw a bride and groom walking along, him fussing with her dress, and it seemed a sweet moment in time to me. There was also a boat accident that confused us, since nobody else on our boat seemed at all concerned about it, even though divers were going under the water and an ambulance was racing along the shore toward the craft. We never found out what had happened.

I'm not sure what kind of ceremony was going on at the Arc de Triomphe the day we were there, but they rather quickly closed it off from regular tourists and a bunch of military types swarmed in with flowers and such. It would have been so nice if I hadn't run my battery out of juice just at that moment.

We loved our time in Paris, and it amazed me how easy it was to get around on their rapid transit lines. Their metro is slick and well organized. I imagine anyone who can read any language using the same alphabet could very quickly learn their way around the city. Each stop has bullet points that show which connections can be made from there, so if you know what line you need to get to, it's easy to see where you need to transfer. They've made it simple.

I loved their train terminal. After having gotten lost and making it to our train by only three minutes in Amsterdam, where you absolutely must ask someone where your train is, since there's no sign telling you, this was pure pleasure. Everything was big, bright and very obvious. Yes, my slideshow is somewhat long, but maybe you can tell me later what I could have cut out. I couldn't decide.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

July in California—Family Gatherings

July only seems like ages ago because so much has happened since. My camera is the best indicator. I've taken over 2,500 photos since then. No, I'm not going to share them all. Don't you feel lucky? Here are some of my treasures, though, and a short slide show of moments and memories we shared.

We arrived in California on the Fourth of July and our first stop was at Aunt Lisa's home in Simi Valley. She's our Ruth's sister, Aunt to our grandchildren. We shared a pot luck and went on to their church's big grassy yard to watch the children play until the fireworks started. There were the requisite oohs and aahs, of course, and then we split up for our own beds. It was the first time we'd met our newest Grandson, Aiden. It had also been ages since we'd enjoyed a face to face visit with our granddaughters or our youngest son Ben and his wife Ruth. Simply put, it was a splendid evening together.

The week had a couple of other events I'll share. Beach day was a special memory. I know, I don't much care for the beach, even though I love the ocean. I just don't love the sand. It's hard to walk on and gets everywhere you don't want it to be. It's fun to watch the kids play in it, though, and I think you can do anything with grandchildren and have a blast.

The other really special day was visiting Great Grandma Zimmerman, my mom. Papa John spent most of the time we were there in another room. His eyes were bothering him, and the flash of the camera was upsetting him, so he didn't get in any photos that day. I'm more sorry about that than I can express, especially since he's gone now. The pictures we got were wonderful, though, and I'll share those. The girls loved picking oranges from Great Grandma's trees.

Finally, if you have time, I put togethe
r a little slideshow. This one isn't too long. As I progress through our European holiday later in the coming weeks, they might get out of control, but for now I'm using restraint.