Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rememberance Garden

I was awakened one early morning last January by the sound of an ambulance. The lights reflected on my bedroom windows and I jumped out of bed thinking my elderly next door neighbor was ill. As I walked out into our dining room I could see flashing lights in every window of my house. I shouted for my husband and moved to look out the side door. 
A horrific sight unfolded.  The house across from me on the cul-du- sac was completely engulfed in flames stretching 3 stories high in the sky. We would later find out that nonfunctional smoke detectors failed to alert my neighbor Becky, her husband who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, their adult son who was disabled and wheelchair bound and his service dog. All three would perish by smoke inhalation in the few short moments before our firefighters arrived. 
Our neighborhood was devastated. I was "facebook friends" with a few neighbors near me and we messaged all day long. I was recovering from surgery and was really depressed. Their burned house was right outside my kitchen window and there was a constant stream of traffic from my other windows. One teary afternoon, a school bus of children from the Catholic school stopped and prayed in the circle. There has to be something good that could come from this. 
My answer to most things is pie. I decided for Lent that I would do a service. I baked 10 pies each Saturday and took them around my neighborhood. I introduced myself, made them introduce themselves to me, commiserated about our tragedy and invited them to join a private facebook page I created for our neighborhood. I believe I made over 40 pies. 
Sharing and conversations led to a discussion of creating a memory garden in the circle near the house. Here we have Mr. Merry supervising the planting of a weeping cherry tree while preparing our flower bed. 
On a warm May morning, a group of neighbors gathered and planted the garden. Everyone donated flowers and some donated funds for the purchase of small flowering bushes. A nearby neighbor purchased the plaque. 
Another neighbor donated the lighthouse, one of Becky's favorite things and now a focal point of the garden. 
Small annuals provided summer color and we planted perennials to take hold and bloom next year. 
And while we planted, the house - boarded for almost 6 months by then, watched the garden take shape. 
My elderly neighbor donated the sleeping angel, which my grandchildren called "baby napping" as we took buckets over every day to keep the flowers alive during  a very hot and dry July.
In late July a neighbor, who is a disabled Viet Nam vet and felt bad he could not help with the gardening, donated the solar lights to showcase the garden after dark. The house had finally been torn down. 
Our Facebook page organized our very first block party in August. Despite temperatures that nearly reached 100 degrees, we had a great turn out. One neighbor who DJ's on weekends donated his services and the city granted us a permit to close the street. 


I took this picture of our garden in early October while a few brave marigolds still held the fort. I want to remember to plant some again next year for fall color. 

I won't mention the insurance company. It has been a struggle as a neighbor with a vacant boarded shell of a house, home to wildlife for six months, then demolition rubble, and now . . . nothing. It is my understanding that lumber to frame the replacement house will be delivered on November 30th and construction will begin in December. We had our first snow fall last night and I am wondering how that works. I feel so sorry for their surviving children. They are in their thirties with young families and this is never ending for them. 

But if one good thing has come from this horrible experience, it would be that we have transformed our neighborhood into our mini Mayberry.  We continue to "talk" on our Facebook page. People post lost pets, found garbage can lids in the wind, local information. We held a street-wide garage sale, admired everyone's teenagers in their homecoming togs, and lamented the lack of parking when our street was repaved this summer. We have even organized some outings (okay, ladies only). 

Now, when I look out my kitchen window, the memories of that horrible morning are starting to fade. There is still sadness with the loss of life, but I also see new beginnings when I look at our garden. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

And Now There Are Nine

Sometimes I just think to myself that 
I am the most blessed grandmother ever. 
And then another blessing appears. 
Announcing Baby Leo. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gramma Camp Wrap Up

I always have great ambitions of blogging again. I was going to do a five part series on the six days of my Gramma Camp. Well, it has been six weeks since camp, so let's just look at some highlights. 

I found a fun idea on Pinterest and gave it a spin. Why do tie-dyed t-shirts when a pillow case will last longer? I found bulk pillow cases on eBay, bought some inexpensive squirt guns and filled them with fabric paint mixed with a little water. Hung them dry, ironed them on high setting, washed in warm water, re-ironed and sent them home. The kids loved this one. 
 Painting tool boxes. Temperatures were in the 90's so we moved several activities indoors. 
 Luckily my youngest granddaughter has a pool in a nearby town and invited us over in the evenings. 
 My older grandchildren, a 10 year old and 8 year old twins are now my counselors and create activities on their own. 
 To escape the 100 degree temperatures on the third day we went to an indoor playground. 
 Then my husband and I took 8 grandchildren aged 10 and under to a Mexican restaurant by ourselves. Because we are that crazy. 
 I had an engineering challenge each day for the oldest four who do not take naps. This was constructing a house from spaghetti and mini marshmallows. 
 It cooled off slightly and we took them to a nearby "touch a truck" event and got caught in a horrendous thunderstorm. 
 Another Pinterest activity - suncatchers made from glue and glass beads. Note: glitter glue does not work. The glue evaporated and left the glitter. I refilled the plastic lids with regular glue and they are still drying
 More Pinterest
 The camp theme was construction so we learned how to make concrete. 
 We broke up chipped dishes and put them in cake tin filled concrete to make a walkway in my fair garden. FYI - 1 large bag of concrete fills 8 disposable cake pans. 
 Then my engineers made bridges from popsicle sticks. 
 We toured my granddaughter's Uncle Joe's farm where they have a cattle operation with almost 1,000 head of cattle. My counselors were very interested in the electrical grid and all the mechanics of the operation. They are still talking about it. 
 And my two year olds are still talking about the cows and mooing.
 They made Uncle Joe a giant thank you card. 
 The next morning we made our annual beach trip to the north coast. We can almost see Canada from here. 
 We always follow our beach outing with a trip to the local pizza buffet. 
 The engineers attempted gazebos from coffee stirrers. 
 We visited Uncle Michael's to check on the status of his vintage car project and enjoy a potluck dinner. 
 Then back to Uncle Troy's pool. 
And camp finished on Friday with a big kid trip to the Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Library and Museum. 

We dropped these kids off at their homes and immediately left for a funeral three states away. It was a very hot and very busy camp week. I always make Shutterfly photobooks for each family for Christmas to help remember all our camp memories. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Gramma Mimi Camp Day One

I will admit that when I held my first Gramma Camp with my very first grandson I did not factor in quantity of future grandchildren and age of the gramma. But camp it is and here it is. 


My theme this year was construction. I had ulterior motives. Grampa retired last year and I was thinking this would take some of the pressure off Gramma. Unfortunately, my best laid plans went astray when our truck lost it's brakes a week before camp and the parts store ordered the wrong parts and the garage workshop was off limits due to the deconstructed truck. 
 Gramma Camp, where two year old use power tools. 
We did set up a tent and cut out our bird houses. This took all four days and only one bird house got constructed. 
Lunch in a tool bag and back to work!
We used squirt guns to tie dye some pillow cases. This was a big hit. 


While the four littles took a nap each afternoon, the four bigs did an engineering challenge. Our day one challenge was to build a ping pong ball roller coaster from straws. 
After nap we painted the wooden tool boxes that we had built first thing in the morning. We had wanted the wood glue to dry. 
We made construction site dioramas with stickers. 
And after supper, we went to my daughter's house to tire them out in the pool! 

Stay tuned for further Gramma Mimi Cousin Camp adventures!

Miss Merry