Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dog Day Afternoons

This is Alyssa waving ¡hola! from her and Rob's hotel suite in Cabo...they are flying home tomorrow night and were just checking in to say "Hi!" Is it me or is Alyssa looking rested and happy?!! Ahhh... ¡muy bien! siestas!!! (My apologies for any misspelling of the Español - I am sorry to say I don't speak el lingüístico, but I am about to get a little online help!)
This is the hotel that has been their "home away from home" for the last week. Maravilloso!!

Alyssa and Rob flew to Cabo on April 25 with two of their BFF couple friends. Oh. That was probably redundant. So my abbreviated computer-speak needs some help, too, apparently...

This little stamp was part of the greeting from Alyssa. So colorful - ¡Tan bueno! Which brings me to the point of this blog, which is PUPPIES GALORE!!

May I start this post by saying that BOTH Buddy (on the left below) and Puddin' (on the right below) were having bad hair days when I decided to drag out my camera and begin blasting away. Yeah, should've brushed them up a bit. But I was loving their little cuddle session on the bed. We are watching Buddy while Alyssa and Rob are on vacation.

I like this photo because Puddin' (a.k.a. 'Mr. P.') has been known to be a little, um...cranky, shall we say? No, he doesn't play well with others. That is probably due to his eye sight problems and the fact that he is now blind - and only 5 years old. BUT. He doesn't let this impediment get him down and he trots along like there is no impairment at all. Until I leave something in his way, such as a vacuum. Or a dog named Buddy.

That's right. Nobody explained to Buddy that Puddin' trots through the house like nothing whatsoever is in his way. Until his dog pal Buddy visits and happens to be standing in Puddin's path. Then comes a major head-on collision. Buddy, being about half of Puddin's size, typically gets spun out to the side when this bulldozer plows into his petite frame. But he brushes himself off, figuratively speaking, and even (sometimes) thinks Puddin' wants to play. Which I will get into later.

So being a fine sunny afternoon, I took the pooches out onto the deck where they could enjoy the sun. Don't ask me where their peculiar positions are coming from. Buddy is sitting there rather frog-like while Puddin' looks like he is ready to launch. Or something.

Here is Mr. P. enjoying some rays.

And Buddy, who has decided he's had enough solar exposure for one day and is headed back inside - if SOMEBODY WOULD OPEN THE $*$@^# DOOR!!

Puddin' enjoys his spot on the couch so he decided to hop on up to cuddle on the blanket. However, nobody told him that Buddy was ALREADY on the couch enjoying the blanket. So, blind dog jumps UP on the couch - and lands square on top of Buddy. This brings about much whirling dervish activity of flying fur and tails and ears and then what amounts to doggie apologies all around, a "Hmmph" sort of look from Puddin' who elects to settle into a new spot on the sofa. He is, after all, trying very hard to be a mannerly host to his guest.

Then, all of a sudden - what is that sound???!! Why - yes, it's the sound of a white Dodge Dakota pick-up truck entering the garage. Could it be? Could it? Could it? Oh, yes-yes-YES!!!

Enter Mr. H. who is greeted by much jumping and lunging and doggie squeaks and squeals - I mean, he must have been gone for EONS, right? This is a homecoming that is so reunion-worthy. (Aren't they all?) Everybody gets some serious ear rubbing. Well, except for Mr. H. of course, but everybody of the canine persuasion who came equipped with large floppy ears perfect for rubbing!

All of this rowdy activity and tail wagging prompts Buddy to attempt a playful game with Puddin'. Well. It was a worthy attempt: Buddy rearing up on his hind legs and darting forward at Puddin' who is doing his best to ignore this young pup. ("I was just walking by, you silly, insolent little scallywag! You are SO immature...) Yes, I do in fact imagine that dogs talk this way.

So Buddy gets "the look" from Puddin' (that's right;, Puddin' can still give "the look" even with his blind eyes) and Buddy thinks better about continuing any further attempts at a playful tussle.

We have enjoyed this week of our "granddog" visiting with us and we'll all miss him tomorrow when we return him back to Rob and Alyssa. One of my favorite memories? Well, it seems the "Budster" has a stubborn little mind all his own.

After turning his nose up at his dinner, I removed Buddy's bowl and put it on the counter. Otherwise, Puddin' would consume his own dinner and Buddy's, too.

I put our dinner on the table. Mr. H. and I were sitting down to our plates when I noticed Buddy sitting on the floor looking up at the counter. Hmm...what IS he doing? Ok, Buddy is sitting there growling at his dinner, which is WAY up on the counter. "What on earth??" I am wondering, and then realize what he's doing. Ok. So he WAS ready to eat now. And did he eat? Yep! Every crumb.

So Alyssa and Rob: We all anxiously await your return and if he could swing it, I know Buddy would say, "¡Vaya rápido! ¡Le he echado de menos!" (¡¡Sí!! Aren't those online "English-Spanish" translator sites just ¡Grande!??)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Column: Warning! Warning! Grandparents on Duty

I seem to be slipping a bit (is it an "old age" thing? Yikes!). Well, maybe it is. So here, a few days late, is the posting for my latest column, which as it turns out, is about grandparenting. That would be grandparenting specifically to Gracie, our 22-month old baby granddaughter earlier this month while yet another baby granddaughter, Emily Mae, was making her World Debut with her mommy and daddy at a beautiful harbor-side hospital in Newport Beach.
Now one question I DO have at this time is why are grandparents STILL portrayed as kindly, white haired little old ladies and men? And while the "kindly" part is fine, what if we, you know, "accessorize" our greying hair with streaks of blonde? Or dark brown? Or whatever your color fave in the World of Hair happens to be! Because we grandparents are a hardy bunch. We survived entire wars (well, Vietnam WAS a war, right?) and first trips to the moon, and polio vaccines and all kinds of stuff the "Generation X'ers" never experienced. Yep, we've seen it all, people! So I would like to start a campaign that says "Let's portray grandparents as they really are! Young! Hip! In touch!" Ok? And, um, yeah, I do have that gimpy knee and all, but still! It only bothers me when I...walk....

So that was a long way of getting to the point, which is that my latest column is about the ways that my first grandchild, Miss Gracie Elizabeth, is already finding to outsmart her "Mimi." But, oh, isn't that ride SO much fun??!!!

Now, before I become even more grandparent-like and forget why I'm posting this entry, here is the link to the story of how Miss Gracie is outsmarting her Mimi on a pretty routine basis, I'm afraid...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Flashback Friday: Hooray for Hollywood and Highschool Senior Trips

Yet again, Flashback Friday has lagged into Saturday. However, what occurred on Friday became fodder for this week’s flashback.

Yesterday, yes that was Friday, I returned from Long Beach to my home in Morgan Hill. Driving in mid morning Southern California traffic, I was missing my little granddaughters, Gracie and Emily, and thinking of Ashley and Jim and their new life’s path they were about to begin with these sweet little girls.

It was a beautiful spring morning so typical of LA, and I’d decided to take an alternate route out of the Southern California metro area since many of the LA freeways were packed, unless it’s o'dark-thirty in the morning. Therefore, I was driving the 101 through downtown LA rather than risk languishing indefinitely on the over-burdened parking lot also known as the 405 (or San Diego) freeway.

This alternative route, winding through downtown LA and finally to Hollywood, afforded views of the "Hollywood" sign to my right and the Capitol Records building to the left, providing a rare visual opportunity to remember and reflect upon the time that was, for me, a major turning point in my young life.

In June 1965, my best friend, Toni Just, and I had just graduated from Central High School in Pueblo, Colorado and were preparing for our “senior trip” (actually there was no such thing in those days so we just developed one on our own). We’d saved up some money and booked a trip to California. Neither of us had flown before, so this trip was a BIG DEAL. Dressed to the hilt (yes, people actually dressed up to fly in those days), we boarded a small prop jet at the Pueblo airport and off we flew on our connecting flight to Denver.

Toni wanted to be a flight attendant (“stewardess” back in the day) so she was super excited to finally fly. I, on the other hand, was a bit more apprehensive. Upon take-off, future flight attendant Toni had her head in the barf bag while I, Miss Fraidy-Pants, kept yelling, “Look-Look-Look” out the window for approximately the entire trip. Toni got her bearings back in Denver and felt a little better. This was fortuitous because we were about to board a United Airlines flight for Los Angeles.

When we arrived at LAX we were delighted to see “up close and personal” the famous open rounded sculpture that houses the Encounter Restaurant on the airport property. Toni’s cousin Paulette and her new husband, Ray, who lived in a small apartment in Pasadena, met us at the airport. Toni and I were thrilled to be staying with her young (and to us, awesomely hip) cousins.

From Ray and Paulettes, we could walk to all kinds of neat spots – including an Orange Julius stand that became our favorite haunt in the lazy late afternoons while we waited for Ray and Paulette to return from work. The Orange Julius was a true “California drink” to us…this concoction originated in Los Angeles in 1926 – long before we were born, but its creamy yumminess had not yet reached our hometown in Colorado. Orange Julius was the perfect counterbalance to those warm summer afternoons.

But the locales we could not WAIT to visit were the BEACHES. And Southern California is lousy with beaches. Almost on a daily basis, Toni and I grabbed our beach towels, our secret concoction of tanning fluid (baby oil, iodine and vinegar - yes, we smelled like salads AND hospitals) and marveled at the sight as waves rushed in, covering us in a teenage ecstasy of living the good life.

I'd seen palm trees before - but not like these. They grew EVERYWHERE. Right down to the beaches. Yep - this was indeed Utopia and we'd landed square in the middle of it!

While we were in Southern California enjoying our new “grown-up” (in our minds) post-graduation status, we visited wondrous places. We strolled down Hollywood Boulevard and stood at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. We shopped at the famously naughty Fredericks of Hollywood where we both bought (rather tame) bikinis that we wore on our numerous trips to the beach.
My bikini was a bright neon lime green and had white cotton lace ruffles on it. I thought it was PERFECT with my new California tan. We were a bit surprised that the famous (infamous?) Frederick's of Hollywood seemed a little, well...seedy to us given that we'd ooh'd and aah'd over its sexy photos in our Photoplay magazines. Also, there were some pretty weird sights on Hollywood Boulevard...but we chose to gloss over the randomly unsavory side of the place.

I was fascinated by the lush plant life in Southern California and told everyone I knew about the vines of ivy growing right across the freeway overpasses. (The freeways were graffiti-free in those days and whoever'd heard of a gang?!) In their new Mustang with Ray at the wheel and Paulette nestled up close to his side, we sped by the famous Hollywood sign high up in the hills and the iconic Capital Records building. Everything was surreal on that perfect summer “Senior Trip.”

Later we traveled to San Diego to stay with Toni’s aunt Jean where we burned to a crisp on Pacific Beach. We were so sunburned that we alarmed Toni’s aunt to the point she was about to drag us to the hospital. But with Jean's ever-present ice packs, we recovered and peeled and had a great time tooling around San Diego with Toni’s fun aunt Jean in her new black Ford Thunderbird. For dinner one evening, Jean introduced us to an exotic new food – broiled swordfish. Living so close to the ocean it was natural to serve seafood on a routine basis. Toni and I were raised in an area famous for its rainbow trout, which were WAY less exotic than the succulent swordfish.

It was a perfect summer trip for two best girlfriends at the end of their high school careers.

While we were in California, I learned that my dad’s place of business, the Pueblo Army Depot, was closing and he and my mother had decided to sell our house and move to Arizona.

Thus ended my childhood. With one phone call, I knew things were forever changed. I also knew I wasn’t cut out for Arizona, but this glamorous state Golden State with its beaches and lushly landscaped homes, movie stars and recording artists, warm weather and webs of freeways was already feeling like home.

So traveling through LA yesterday, for a few moments it felt like 1965 again as I raced by the old sign in the hills of Hollywood and the jutting spherical architecture of Capitol Records. I didn’t know it then, back in 1965, but those iconic emblems of California were, truly, calling me home.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Flashback Friday: Those Fabulous Nursing Follies and Other Taboo Topics

This is one of the oldest photographs of me where you can actually see any detail...back in the "olden days," consumer cameras lacked the sophistication to facilitate blow-ups and detailed close-ups like we've grown accustomed to today. So eventually my parents hauled me down to the local photo studio for a "formal portrait." Color wasn't used much, but if the clients wanted "color portraits" the black and white prints were lightly painted in with pastels. Sometimes the look was quite nice; other attempts could be quite garrish. My "color portrait" is out there somewhere - probably packed away somewhere. But this image, taken many moons ago, is me at about 9 months old.
Skip ahead a generation. This is Ashley at one week sleeping away in her crib. She was born on one of the few "snow" days in San Jose. Her daddy and I were marooned in the Santa Cruz mountains, which was where our first home was located. We were snowed in and I was in labor. Mr. H. was running about boiling water and frantically hollering, "I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies, Miz Scarlett!" Well, that's an exaggeration, but I do believe he was getting a little nervous about having a wife in labor as the snow was falling all around us.

Yes, that is indeed a thumb in the mouth of Miss Emily Mae. At one week of age, on April 15, while "Mimi" was holding her she began the search. Dragging her fingers over her face and (now and then) into her eyes, she at last settled on that all-important digit and began sucking for all she was worth. She even managed to locate her thumb a second time when it became dislodged. But when the phone rang a few minutes later she was startled by the noise; her thumb popped out and she was unable to locate it again.

Now the reason Miss Emily was in desperate straits searching for sustenance from her thumb was that her mommy was otherwise occupied. Emily is in that early phase where L-I-F-E means feeding, feeding, feeding. She was searching wildly for her mommy and instead found her thumb a convenient substitute. Reports from Ashley are that occasionally at night feedings even when her mommy is located immediately nearby, Emily will search frantically trying to locate the desired target. Making all sorts of strange and crazy sounds, Ashley says that as Emily is grunting and rooting around attempting to latch on that she sounds like a "pack of wild pigs."

Any currently or previously nursing mom will relate. The feeding instinct is strong and urgent and a food source had better be handy! When Ashley was born I was unable to move too far from her because it wouldn't be long before she was ready to be fed. When I developed a serious case of cabin fever after her birth, her daddy and I tried an outing to a nearby restaurant. I'd no sooner settled into the booth and Ashley wanted food! Cleverly concealing Ashley with a blanket I let her nurse. We were situated in a booth near the back and I had my back to the other diners so I hoped to nurse in privacy. But that was not to be.

A lady at a nearby booth bounded over to where we were sitting and said something to the effect of, "Oh! A new baby! Can I see her?" Well. The other thing about nursing babies is once they have "latched on" they are not eager to be pulled away. I swear you could hear reverberating through that entire restaurant the "pop" that issued forth as I wrenched her loose so I could show off my baby girl. Now, I strongly DO NOT recommend doing this. Ashley was not a happy camper for this abrupt disruption of her feeding and proceeded to scream like a banshee. I felt terrible and had I been a little more mature, I would have explained that my baby was feeding and I'd be glad to bring her over in a few minutes. That's what you call learning the hard way!!!

These days, modern mothers are pumping their milk for baby's future feeding. Working moms can return to their jobs secure in knowing that many meals are safely stored away in the freezer to be pulled out and given to baby later on. So Ashley has begun the pumping process again in preparation for returning to her job in a few weeks. Now, the pumps are a sort of cross between a mid-evil torture device and official dairy farm apparatus. Ashley had just begun to pump last evening, sitting on the bed all hooked up to suction cups and hoses, when 21-month old Gracie came bounding into her room to see what was cooking. She was happy to see her mom, but was undoubtedly wondering, "What the HEY??!!!" was going on with all that hardware! Bounding over the bed, she tripped over a hose, which pulled things loose. Ashley, who in her words was at "high tide" at that moment tried to keep her composure as milk went shooting off in every direction. Therefore, when "Mimi" came in a moment later to rescue Ashley, Gracie was VERY HAPPY to leave with Mimi and go color for a little while. My guess is with, you know, a few years of therapy, Gracie is going to be JUST FINE :)

I'm happy that mommies are nursing their babies successfully these days. When I asked my own mom about her experience nursing me, she said she pretty much didn't because she "wasn't very good at it." That's too bad because my own experience feeding my two baby girls was great - after the experience I described above. Nature's best is a great way to go. I always said I had enough milk to feed half the population of San Jose! I was blessed with a bountiful "harvest," and it's a wonderful way for mommy and baby to bond - for life!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Welcome, Emily Mae!

After thinking it was never going to happen, Miss Emily Mae debuted one day after her due date, on April 8. She was born at night, 8:58 pm, and she was quite the big girl - 9 lbs. 1-1/2 oz., 21 inches long. Like most "big babies" she has been an absolute angel. Now and then I hear a strange sound and think, "Hmmm...what is that noise? Oh, yeah, it's Emily!" Such a GOOD BABY!!! Emily Mae and her mommy, above, share a little time together on Emily's first Easter Sunday. Below, Emily is all dressed up and ready to leave the hospital on Good Friday, April 10. It was a Good Friday, indeed!
Emily Mae, one of the few times I saw her open her eyes while in the hospital...not that we were there all the time, of course. Grampy and "Mimi" were on duty at Gracie's house watching Emily's big sister.

And... Speaking of Miss Gracie, here she is checking out Emily Mae at the know, just making sure she has all the right parts and all...

All of this visiting with the relatives wears a girl out...that is a BIG yawn!

Emily Mae meets her Grampy Hammond for the first time on Thursday, April 9. Since she came at almost 9:00 at night, Gracie was "night-night" and "Mimi" (that's me) was not far behind! Gracie kept us busy all day and we were pretty emotionally exhausted waiting for news of Emily's arrival and how Emily's mommy was doing after a very long day of labor!
Since baby sisters don't stop the whole entire world, Gracie's mommy and daddy planned an egg hunt for Gracie on Easter Sunday during the warm Southern California afternoon.

Hmmmmmmmm....checking out what's inside these eggs! They sure aren't like the kind you buy at the grocery store!
WOW!! These eggs are ALL OVER THE PLACE!!!

OK, it really isn't every day that you come across a rapping Easter Bunny. This one not only has street cred, he "hip-hops" sideways! Yes, it's a very cute toy, except after hearing, "I like car-ROTS and I cannot lie..." etc. approximately 50 gazillion times, there is a temptation to heave this wild hare out the closest window! :)
A fun family portrait on Easter afternoon.
Emily Mae was just chillin' in her teddy bear jammies on Easter...

The Sensational Stromberg Sisters...Gracie explains that this red thing flopping around is a "tweet-tweet." Life is sweet!

And We're Off to a super start..Stay tuned, everybody!! It's going to be a fun ride!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Days of Boots, Bonnets & Bubbles

So what is a girl SUPPOSED to do as she is waiting for her little sister to be born? D'ya give up? Why, OF COURSE, you put on your Chicago Snow Boots, your pretty spring bonnet and you hit the back yard to blow a few...bubbles that is.
And the bonnet is we are hangin' out at Gracie's house while her mommy and daddy are at the hospital. Yes, Emily Mae is arriving today, so we are finding fun things to do while we wait for the ALL IMPORTANT PHONE CALL saying that Gracie's new baby sister has made her world debut. Gracie's "Bompy" (that would be "Grampy" has arrived) so we are all on RED ALERT! Meanwhile, Gracie has decided that the bright sun is too yummy to miss and loses the hat.

Thinking about a little cruise...of course we can't stray far because we don't want to miss the phone. So Gracie tries a little fancy maneuvering of her vehicle.

Just move it around a little further...never was much good at those 3-point turns, ya know....

Put a little more "Oooomph" into it....

And if you hold your tongue JUST RIGHT.........

Well.......maybe not so much. Just going to enjoy the sun a little more today...


And a SPECIAL KISS from Mommmy...letting Gracie know that, new little baby sister or not, Gracie Elizabeth holds a pretty special place in her mommy's heart...