Monthly Archives: December 2011

Children, movies and a holiday week coming to an end

The rest of our holiday-vacation week has gone fairly well. Mrs. Poolman and I have been kept busy entertaining an easily bored, and somewhat difficult-to-please 11-year old.

On Thursday, we visited the Georgia Railroad Museum (aka: The Roundhouse Museum.)

The turntable at the Georgia Railroad Museum

A friend of ours is the curator there and we thought it would be a good outing. I enjoyed it. Mrs. P was neutral. Christine the Younger liked the short train ride, although the complained about being uncomfortable in the tight seat most of the time. Sigh.

After the train museum, we took her to a movie, “We Bought a Zoo!” The movie wasn’t at all what I expected. Instead of a silly, children’s comedy (Think Kevin James.), it was a pretty decent flick, based on a true story. At times, the movie had a few too many story lines running simultaneously, but I would still give it a strong recommendation, especially for someone looking for a PG rating for kids and “tweens.”

Actually, the evening before, we rented another movie that turned out better than expected – “Letters to Juliet.” It was a cute, feel-good movie that was entertaining. It won’t be up for any Academy Awards, but it was certainly worth the $2 rental fee. I was the only one in our group who picked up on the reunion of Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero as the older-generation, reunited lovers. The pair played Guinevere and Lancelot in the 1967 film production of “Camelot.” The movie was just the beginning; their relationship continued beyond the ending credits.

Note: After having a son, the pair went their separate ways. Years later, Redgrave and Nero reunited personally and were married in 2006.

Redgrave and Nero in "Camelot."

Writer Princess joined us for a dinner of homemade lasagna (my sauce, Mrs. P’s “construction.”) Son-in-Law was fighting a bad cold, so he stayed home. (Thank you!)

Friday was scheduled to be our last day with young Christine. It was a gorgeous day, so we headed out to the beach. Obviously, it was too cold to go in the water, but it was a nice day for a walk on the sand.

Tybee Island beach, December 30, 2011

Both our children, SIL and Poolboy’s girlfriend were heading to Jacksonville Friday evening, to spend the New Year’s weekend with their cousins. That worked out well. They were able to give Christine a ride back home.

All told, it was an interesting week, but we’re glad to have our house back.

We’re planning a quiet New Year’s Eve. Our neighbors have invited us and a few other folks for game-night evening. We may make it until midnight, but I’m not taking any bets. In any case, it’s just a two-house walk home. I don’t think we’ll get into any serious trouble.

Happy New Year!

A busy week off work

We have had an interesting week thus far. Both Mrs. Poolman and I have the entire week off work.

On Monday, Mrs. P and I drove down I-95 to meet her sister and brother-in-law and our 11-year old great-niece, Christine, for lunch. Christine returned to Savannah with us. There some problems with child care over her Christmas break from school, so we invited her to visit us for one of the weeks. We ate leftovers for dinner and watched an age-appropriate movie we had rented, “Monte Carlo.” I am happy to report that, although the movie is clearly aimed towards a younger audience, it was cute and entertaining, even for us old folks.

On Tuesday, we got a late start and ate lunch before heading out. We cruised downtown Savannah for a while. Christine enjoyed some of the antique (She called them “junk.) stores – at least for awhile. Eventually, everyone’s patience wore out and we returned home for a dinner of take-out pizza, and a viewing of “The Help.” Poolboy and Girlfriend came over to watch with us, and Christine was very excited to see someone other than Mrs. P and myself. (We don’t take it personally; we understand.)

Today’s big event was ice skating. Each year at Christmas, the Savannah Civic Center creates an indoor ice skating rink for several weeks. Christine had been very excited about the prospect — until it came time to step onto the ice. Both Mrs. P and I had brief discussions with her and advised her that a “whiny brat” act does not work well with us. Christine ventured out on to the ice, and seeing that this is Savannah, she was not the only novice out there. She stuck close to the side and only fell once, with no damage.

On a personal note, I stayed up, but it was touch-and-go all the way. When I was a young teen, I was fairly good on skates. There was a skating rink within walking distance of our house. It was the “go-to” gathering place for all our classmates on Friday nights. My brother and I had season passes and probably went ice skating two to three times a week for several years. We taught our younger sisters how to skate.

Of course, that was 45 years ago, and  I haven’t been on skates in more than 20 years.  But I thought, “Hey, it’s like riding a bike, right?” Wrong! I looked and felt like a complete novice. Eventually, I got somewhat into the rhythm, but was still “jerking” all over the place. Fortunately, for me, Christine did not want my assistance. She much preferred the side-boards. The two of us flailing around together would have been a truly ugly experience.

After the ice skating, we drove over the Savannah River Bridge to visit the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.

The Savnnah National Wildlife Refuge was formerly old rice fields.

In warmer weather, this is a great place to see alligators. No such luck today. But it was a beautiful day and the drive through the refuge was very picturesque.

Mrs. P and Christine at the Wildlife Refuge.

Lots of birds, but no reptiles.

I believe this is an American Coot, but I wouldn't swear to it.

Another movie rental for tonight, and we are ordering wings for dinner. Should be a good evening.

Christmas night

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas today.

It was quiet her at Casa Poolman. Mrs. P worked yesterday and today in neonatal ICU. Eventually, both our children and their partners joined us here around 730 pm for a nice dinner and a presents-opening. All is good.

In the course of conversation with my son-in-law, my daughter and I realized that he had missed out on many of the holiday stories that are semi-legendary in our family. He has been hanging around for nearly 5 years, but he is totally unfamiliar with some of the family holiday stories that are the essential meat of being part of this family. (And we have some great stories! The story of “Naked Aunt Naomi” on Christmas Eve has to be the all-time best seller. More on that later.)  He has never met some of our family’s biggest characters, simply because they died before he met my daughter. We’ll have to work to get him into the full impact of being a part of the family

Tomorrow morning, Mrs P and I head south down I-95 (traffic permitting) to pickup our 11 year old niece who will spend the week with us.

To cap off a nice Christmas day, take a look at this story from CBS News’s Steve Hartman. I have been a big Steve Hartman fan since he was a reporter at KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities in the mid-1980s. He is very good! This isn’t one of his best, but it is a very nice Christmas story. Merry Christmas, everyone!

A quiet Christmas at Casa Poolman

Christmas 2011 is a quiet one here at Casa Poolman. Mrs. P is working back-to-back 12-hour shifts in neonatal ICU both Christmas Eve and Christmas, so we are taking things low key.

I spent Christmas Eve taking care of some chores around the house, and then ushered at 4 o’clock mass. I am amazed each year at the number of people who show up for a Christmas mass five minutes before the start-time and are surprised there aren’t any seats available. Hello, people! If you aren’t at least a half-hour early, you are late.

As expected, our 4 pm Mass was standing-room-only, and barely that.

After Mass, I dropped off some cookies and brownies to several neighbors and friends and stopped by a traditional Christmas Even open-house at an old friend’s house. I got home shortly after Mrs. P, so I could hang with her for awhile before she had to “crash.”

Tomorrow, I’ll be “hanging out” and then preparing a Christmas dinner, with the plan to have it ready shortly after Mrs. P arrives home around 7:30 pm. Poolboy, Girl Friend, Writer Princess and Son-in-Law should be joining us then.

The menu will be a rib roast, twice-baked potatoes (courtesy of Mrs. P), saute’d green beans and Caesar salad. I hope that satisfies. If not, well, too bad.

Both Mrs. P and I are off work all of next week. Actually, it should be interesting. Our niece, Kristine, will be spending the week with us. She is 11 years old and lives in Jacksonville. It seems that all the adults in her circle are orking next week, and they have no other child-care arrangements. Mrs. P and I thought it would be great for her to come spend at least some of the week with us. We haven’t had an 11-year-old around our house for more than a short visit in a long time. Should be interesting. We are meeting Mrs. P’s sister (another of Christine’s great-aunts) and brother-in-law in Brunswick for lunch on Monday and exchanging the child. Seriously, though, we’re looking forward to it.

And finally, I am a sucker for a good flash-mob. One of my former bosses, sent me this one with a Christmas theme. The camera work is nothing to brag about, but it is a fun little video. Enjoy. Merry Christmas from Casa Poolman!

So how ya doin’? Don’t ask.

My fellow blogger “Hubby Diaries” wrote a post this week totally abusing her husband for having a “man cold” or “man flu.”

I know that stories are legendary among our female companions of men turning into total babies at the first hint of a sniffle or cough. I hope I’m not one of those. I typically come down with one cold a year, which usually degenerates into bronchitis. I try to ignore it for several weeks in the expectation my immune system will do what it is supposed to do and just make it go away. (What’s the point of all those little antibodies if they’re not doing their job?) Eventually, I end up at the doctor’s office to get a prescription for an antibiotic.  When I do run a fever and feel lousy, I just snuggle down on the couch and apologize to Mrs. Poolman for being such poor company.

However, for those members of the gentle sex who like to make fun of their ailing partners, I have a question. Which is worse – the occasional “man flu baby” or the chronic “I’m always feeling bad” whiner?

None of my male-friends ever complains about the way they feel.

“Hey, man, what happened to you?”

“Well, I coughed up a lung and left it in the passenger seat of my car, but I still have one left so I’m cool. So, what d’ya think about the game last night?”

On the other hand, I know any number of women for whom complaining about aches, pains and discomforts is a way of life.

“Hey, Mary, how are you?”

“Oh, I haven’t slept well in a week. My back aches. My neck hurts. I may be coming down with a migraine. And I think my uterus fell out last night. You know my doctor says I have a very sensitive disposition.”

I have several friends with whom I am very careful to never ask how they are. It’s not that I don’t care. Well, maybe it is. It’s just that, unless someone really is seriously ill or injured, the expression, “How are you?” is just a casual greeting, not a request for a health inventory.

Whatever you do, you must never react or respond to the complaints. To do so would only encourage them and subject you to a lengthy health history and prognosis.

“I really think these are all symptoms of dengue fever. I may have only days to live.”

“So, do you guys want to catch a movie tonight, or what?”

Here’s to hoping your 2012 is a healthy one! To quote another blog-friend, Terri, “Life is good!”

Everything is relative

As we get closer to Christmas, you hear many people complaining about the holiday pressure, crowds in the stores, traffic on the streets or difficult family issues.  Just the other day, I was talking with someone and expressed my belief that troubles and inconveniences are all relative.  It seems whenever I have something to complain about, it is very easy to find someone who has difficulties much, much worse. In perspective, my worst problems and lowest days are much better than many people’s best.

I was so reminded of that today.

I have a work-related friend I got to know at my previous job. We were not all that close, but we did a fair amount of work together. He helped run a meeting center in Savannah, and would reserve me a parking spot there on St. Patrick’s Day. One year, he, his wife and two young sons joined us for our St Patrick’s Day tailgate party. We haven’t been that tight, but we’ve stayed in touch.

Via Facebook, I had heard that his two young sons had been in an automobile accident early in December. One son was in rehab and recovering well. The younger son was “making progress.” Today, I learned the sad truth. The younger son has a severe brain injury, from which he is not expected to recover. This afternoon, the family is transferring him from peds ICU to a hospice to spend his last hours or days.

Don’t you know those parents wish all they had to worry about was last minute shopping or crazy traffic?

Count your blessings.

An interesting flashback

I had an interesting telephone conversation with my brother earlier this week. He had driven from his home to Mechanicsburg, Pa., to spend a couple of days visiting my father in Pittsburgh. Somehow, they got the idea to drive another hour west to visit the town were we grew up — Wheeling, W. Va.

Some background here. While I usually claim the ‘burgh as my hometown, the truth of the matter is that my brother and I  grew up mostly in the Wheeling suburbs of Bethlehem and Elm Grove.  My earliest memories, at maybe four or five years old, are of Wheeling. My parents moved the family back to their hometown of Pittsburgh between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.

My brother described how they drove around our old neighborhood in Bethlehem — Mt. Lebanon Drive. I was able to follow him perfectly as he described what he saw and how it had changed, at least from his childhood memories.

“Do remember at the bottom of the “steep hill” there was a house on the left.”

“Yes. David Morris lived there.”

“Right!”

It was really quite a flashback.  We moved away from that neighborhood in 1967, when my brother and I were 12 and 13 respectively. Yet, we were both able to visualize and share a tour, as if we had lived there yesterday.

Part of that probably has to do with the nature of the neighborhood and the way we grew up.

This neighborhood was actually fairly isolated. It was located top of one of the many “mountains” southeast of central Wheeling. A single road originated off of a highway and wound its way up the “mountain” and along the hill-top ridge. It eventually split in two near the end. It was one long cul d’ sac.  There were maybe 45 homes in the entire neighborhood and most of them had school-aged kids.

Every direction out of the neighborhood was downhill. We and our friends used to roam all through the surrounding woods and old farm fields for hours at a time. As far as we were concerned, we “owned” the area and walked or rode our bikes everywhere. We would leave the house in the morning and not return until dinner time. We didn’t have swimming pools, carefully groomed ball fields or parks. We didn’t need them.

We also had no need of maps or street signs. We gave the various features our own names. Death Valley, Echo Valley, The Old Tank Road, The Moon, Mount Help, The Steep Hill, The Empty Lot, Old Softy, and so on.

On one side of the neighborhood, there was what appeared by be an aborted effort to start a new development. For whatever reason, after the developers had bulldozed and cleared lanes for streets, they abandoned the project. This left interconnecting strips of raw dirt, rocks, weeds and gullies where we used to hike, play “Army,” build forts and anything else that sounded like a good idea. Eventually, those areas were developed. What we called Death Valley, the Old Tank Road and Echo Valley is now “Baytree Drive.” Maybe I’m a little prejudiced, but I like the original names better.

My brother and I are both in our late 50s now, but when he described “Do you remember when we used to go down the Old Cement Road and passed by Mount Help…?” it made perfect sense.

At the time, we probably didn’t think our childhoods were as idyllic as they seem through the prism of 40-50 years. However, my brother and I both agreed that as adults, our memories of growing up there are pretty good.