Pufferbellies

November 20, 2009

Two of my granddaughters are becoming violinists. I’m very happy to see their interest in music and do what I can to encourage it.

Recently Rachel began singing a little tune and seemed rather shocked when I joined in. “See the little pufferbellies all in a row.”

Not surprisingly, my twelve-year-old granddaughter had no idea what a pufferbelly was. I gave her a brief explanation, but our visit to Paducah, Kentucky provided me with a perfect pictorial example.

A not-so-little pufferbelly

As with so many things I run across nowadays, seeing the steam locomotive brought back more than a few memories.

For example, I recall my parents taking us to see Rook Station near Carnegie, Pennsylvania. Besides having a fairly large rail yard, Rook Station had a round house where the pufferbellies could be turned around and maintained.

A similar turn-table in Savannah, Georgia

I also remember a time when I was about Rachel’s age that I went on a field trip to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station in downtown Pittsburgh. Part of the tour included an animated film telling us about the future of railroading. They were getting ready to introduce diesel locomotives which would spell the end of most pufferbellies.

The "new" locomotive on the Branson Scenic Railway

A few scenic railways still use the steam engines, but they are becoming harder and harder to find. I believe the one that runs out of Bryson City, North Carolina is still using a pufferbelly.

A few years back I discovered how intense true railroad buffs are. I was working at a lumber yard in Texas when a load of old railroad ties was delivered. Almost immediately there were swarms of men intently searching for nails stuck in the wood. But these weren’t ordinary nails; they had two digit dates embossed in the heads. Those dates indicated the year the tie was put into place and were used to help the workers determine when to replace the tie. To my surprise, the nails were seen as valuable collectors’ items. I managed to obtain one and passed it on to Andy Sarge.

I mention Andy’s name because I’m hoping he can answer a question of two. While we were watching the Veteran’s Day parade in Branson, there were two machines working on the tracks of the scenic railway. The first machine was the one shown below:

A machine with steel teeth biting into the ground.

A closer look at the teeth

The teeth seemed to be used to loosen the dirt and gravel along side the track. Another interesting feature of this machine was the flimsy looking device being pushed ahead of the machine.

Unknown gizmo being pushed ahead

This thing seemed to be about twenty or thirty feet in front of the first machine. After this machine passed by, it was followed by a second machine.

The second machine

This machine would periodically drop the gray device in front and kick up a bunch of dust. I assume there were brushes cleaning the rails or redistributing the gravel loosened by the first machine.

Hopefully, Andy or some other railroad buffs will enlighten me.

In the meantime, let’s return to pufferbellies. Back in the late forties or early fifties, the Four Preps took that children’s song and produced the following recording.

And that is why I was able to sing along with my granddaughter.

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Highlights from the 2009 Easter Egg Hunt

April 13, 2009

I’ll take the easy way out today and simply post pictures from this past Saturday. The numbers of participants might have set a new record.

We started by ‘hiding’ the eggs for the first group. That gang included Anna, Daniel, Dominic, Landon, and a special guest, Amelia. Most of the eggs were in plain sight, but this group of children – who were three years old and younger – weren’t exactly sure why their parents were so excited.

Can you spot some 'hidden' eggs?

Can you spot some 'hidden' eggs?

You can lead a child to an egg, but you can't make him find it.

You can lead a child to an egg, but you can't make him find it.

Daddy explains the object of the game... again.

Daddy explains the object of the game... again.

Amelia preferred watching the other children

Amelia preferred watching the other children

Dominic's success was assured by his pre-game instructions

Dominic's success was assured by his pre-game instructions

Anna was pleased with her performance

Anna was pleased with her performance

Somehow Grandma Lu got them all to sit for a group photo

Somehow Grandma Lu got them all to sit for a group photo

Liam spent his time visualizing how he will compete next year.

Liam spent his time visualizing how he will compete next year.

After the first round, we sequestered the older children while their daddies hopped around the yard preparing for the second round.

Steve had to be reminded to hide - not collect - the eggs

Steve had to be reminded to hide - not collect - the eggs

J has always been our best bunny

J has always been our best bunny

The older children were given more of a challenge

The older children were given more of a challenge

Once all the eggs were hidden, the older children were brought out of the house. This time, Grandma Lu had them pose before the start of the hunt. It was a wise decision.

Two of the 'bunnies' seemed to be heckling the contestants.

Two of the 'bunnies' seemed to be heckling the contestants.

Once the picture was taken, Emma, Ellie, Ariana, Rachel, Alexis, and Maggie were off and running.

Uncle Steve tries to mislead the contestants for his own gains

Uncle Steve tries to mislead the contestants for his own gains

This stage of the hunt went on a bit longer as a result of the larger playing field and the more devious hiding places. One egg was emptied of its candy and sunk to the bottom of the bird bath. The children who spied it opted to ignore it. Smart kids!

Rachel & Alexis examine their bounty

Rachel & Alexis examine their bounty

It wasn’t long before the swapping began. I thought all kids like all kinds of candy. I was proven wrong as one child gave her Cadbury eggs to another in exchange for jelly beans.

My bride and I were absolutely thrilled that all the children had a good time with no arguing and no complaints about who gathered the most loot. I think the faces in the following pictures tell the real story of the day.

Dominic seems pleased!

Dominic seems pleased!

Ellie, Emma, and Ariana are also happy!

Ellie, Emma, and Ariana are also happy!

Finally, Grandpa had to reassure Liam that his turn will come next year.

Liam doesn't seem to be buying it.

Liam doesn't seem to be buying it.

Liam probably doesn’t buy the fact that Grandpa is improving with age either.

Wait until he starts looking back on his youth. I hope I’m around to discuss it with him.

I thought I was putting together a post that would be quick and easy. I think I might have finished sooner if I hadn’t had to wait for all those photos to upload.

Live and learn.


What a Weekend!

March 30, 2009
Our driveway

Our driveway

Things had finally quieted down last evening when, around nine o’clock, our doorbell rang.

We truly live in the woods… about a tenth of a mile off the road; for someone to come to our door at any time of the day is unusual.

It was my daughter stopping by to give us a copy of the Sunday edition of the Forsyth County News. My daughter lives in Fulton County, about thirty-five miles south of us. Obviously there was something in that paper that she wanted us to see. It was photos of her newborn son, Liam.

The paper had run an article on the Northside Forsyth Hospital’s women’s care unit and had highlighted the nurses who care for the newborn infants and their moms. Liam was born a bit premature and spent about a week in the capable hands of those nurses. In fact, he was being held by one of them when he was photographed by the newspaper’s photographer.

Becky – her preferred name is Jennifer, but her middle name is Rebecca and I’ve called her Becky since she was three or four years old – had her entire family with her, but they were all waiting in the car. So, my bride and I put our shoes back on and went out to say hello to our grandchildren, Alexis, Ariana, Landon, and, of course, Liam.

We also greeted our son-in-law, Joel Ruff, who shared some more good news with us. As a detective for the Roswell Police Department, he has been nominated for a leadership award. He should know in the next few weeks if he is the winner. As far as I’m concerned, the nomination alone is a real feather in his cap.

(Now, there’s one of those old sayings that I’ll have to track down some day.)

So, if we review the score card, this past weekend we had Dominic stay with us from Friday until yesterday afternoon. We saw Daniel on Saturday at Ellie’s birthday party, and he came to help us Christen our new kitchen yesterday.

Dominic receives a belated Christmas gift from Daniel

Dominic receives a belated Christmas gift from Daniel

At Ellie’s party, we also saw Rachel, Maggie, and Ariana.

Emma was another two time visitor. She came over on Saturday to play with Dominic before we went to Ellie’s party, and she came again yesterday.

For reasons only a five year old could understand, she insisted I get a picture of her drinking her juice.

Emma drinking her juice

Emma drinking her juice

A surprise visitor was Anna. Her mother was working and her father was busy with other pursuits, so her Uncle Paul brought her to see us.

Anna playing dress up

Anna playing dress up

We were further surprised when Anna’s mom got off work early and came to join the fun. Anna’s mom is currently carrying a few extra pounds. In approximately seven weeks, she will deliver grandchild number thirteen.

So, let’s recap. This past weekend, in addition to Christening our new kitchen, we were able to see Alexis, Ariana, Landon, Liam, Rachel, Maggie, Ellie, Dominic, Emma, Anna, Daniel, and a boy to be named later.

That’s the most we could hope for! Our oldest grandson, Tyler, lives with his adoptive family in Arizona. He’s the only one we did not see in the last two days.

I believe that’s called Grandparents’ Heaven!

———————————————————————————————

I have been corrected by my daughter! Joel Ruff was more than nominated for the award. He WON the award. The only question is when the Police Department will hold a ceremony to recognize him publicly.

WAY TO GO JOEL!!!!


Love those grand kids!

March 29, 2009
Emma & Dominic help Grandpa read a book

Emma & Dominic help Grandpa read a book

Dr. Seuss has always been a favorite of mine. It’s been a lot of years since I first read the Butter Battle Book and I’d forgotten how it ended. As I told my grand kids, the Zooks and the Yooks should have compromised and made a sandwich to share.

If you’ve read the book, you’d understand that statement. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a copy and read it.

Dominic is staying with us this weekend and Emma, who lives about five minutes away, came over to play with him yesterday. It seems the two of them spent a lot of time on my lap as we worked our way through the Children’s Library.

Later in the day, Emma went home and my bride, Dominic, and I went to granddaughter Ellie’s birthday party. There we were greeted by Ellie and her sisters, Rachel and Maggie. We were later joined by Daniel and Ariana.

Not bad! In one day we managed to spend time with seven of our twelve grandchildren. We also saw some other children and adults, but the kids are always the highlight.

Today we’re having a bunch of grandkids and their parents over to help us Christen the new kitchen. That means more photos for tomorrow’s entry.


Future Generations

March 22, 2009

My youngest son, Matt, recently commented on his Facebook page that his sister’s kids are too cute for words.

I’d agree with that even if they weren’t my grandchildren. But Matt needs to expand his horizons. His brothers’ children fall into that same category. And I’m not at all prejudiced.

So, that takes care of nine of our grandchildren – Tyler, Rachel, Alexis, Maggie, Ellie, Ariana, Landon, Daniel, and Liam. But, again, with not a prejudiced bone in my body, I also have to attest to the cuteness of Emma, Dominic, and Anna.

My guess is that our grandchild who is scheduled to be born in a few months will be equally cute.

Now, beyond the cuteness, I can honestly say that each and every one of them is also delightful. Their parents might not always see it that way, but for some strange reason, children don’t usually sass their grandparents.

My bride and I get along fine with all the grandchildren. I’m sure the future of our land is in good hands.


No end in Sight

January 25, 2009

Yesterday, January 24th, we celebrated Rachel’s birthday.

Rachel at her 12th birthday

Rachel at her 12th birthday party

Rachel is our eldest granddaughter. In reality, her birthday fell on Friday, January 23rd. But to ensure that most of her friends and relatives could attend, her party was held a day late.

One of the attendees, who might’ve been offended had he been a bit older, was Daniel.

Daniel at Rachel's birthday party

Daniel at Rachel's birthday party

Considering the fact that Daniel was born on January 24, 2008, one would think we’d be celebrating his birthday. We did that last Sunday… in anticipation of his upcoming achievement.

That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!

Obviously, things like this will continue to happen. When two cousins have their birthdays that close together – and both sets of parents want to ensure that their child has his or her own special day – their only hope is to have their dates fall on a weekend. Otherwise, one will be early and the other late. With luck, one of them will have his or her party on the proper day.

In the meantime, neither Rachel nor Daniel seem overly concerned.

Last week, at Daniel’s party, a family friend commented that I must be growing very accustomed to attending children’s birthday parties. How right she is!

While Rachel is our eldest granddaughter, we have a grandson who is a bit older. Daniel is currently our youngest grandchild, but that will soon change. My daughter, Jennifer, is expecting a son within the next month or so; Lu’s daughter, Lori, is following close behind with the upcoming delivery of her son.

That will bring the total for my bride and I to thirteen grandchildren.

Years ago we tried to estimate how many grandchildren we’d eventually have. We tried to calculated by figuring we had seven adult children who might have an average of two children apiece. Considering how young the parents of our grandchildren are, we may have grossly underestimated.

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, we get lots of ice cream and cake throughout the year. I guess that’s one of the rewards for having successfully raised your children to adulthood.

Wow! I almost forgot. For her birthday, Rachel wanted my bride and I to take her to see the King Tut exhibit. She got her wish. So, I leave you all with this…

Click here to see Steve Martin perform his King Tut song.

I wasn’t able to embed it. Hope you enjoyed this classic Steve Martin bit.


The 2008 Bake Off

December 7, 2008
Grandpa and his helpers

Grandpa and his helpers

My bride and I may be able to plead temporary insanity on this one… but we sure had fun!

We decided to invite Rachel, Maggie, Alexis, Ellie, Emma, and Ariana to help us bake Christmas cookies. The granddaughters arrived at our home around 11:00 AM yesterday and the baking began!

With a short intermission for a pizza lunch, and a longer interlude to allow us to attend a Christmas parade, we found time to bake ginger bread men, sugar cookies, some sort of molded cookies, and the beginnings of raisin filled cookies. We also prepared a batch of my very own ‘shortbread surprise’ cookies. That’s what Rachel, Maggie, and Alexis are assisting their grandpa with in the photo.

By the time we finished our dinner of chicken wings and French fries, the girls were a bit tuckered, so the older girls played some board games while the younger three practiced karate kicks and somersaults. I believe it’s called ‘boundless energy’!

Grandma finished the clean-up while grandpa finished the filling for the raisin filled cookies. Then it was hot chocolate for all and to all a good night… almost. We had one little girl who didn’t want to go to sleep.

Eventually, the sandman did his thing and all has been quiet for the last seven or eight hours. Soon grandpa will begin fixing the pancake and sausage breakfast he insanely promised to do for six of his favorite young ladies.

When we planned this event we had no idea that none of the girls had ever been to a parade. They loved it! They especially loved the fact that almost everyone marching in the parade threw candy to the crowd. I believe our girls gathered about ten pounds of assorted candy and chewing gum.

So, can we question the sanity or intelligence of a set of grandparents who gave up a perfectly good, quiet weekend to entertain – and be entertained – by six girls between the ages of five and twelve? Sure! Why not?

But, was a fun time had by all? You bet there was!

A break from baking

A break from baking

I almost forgot! Our little angels did a great job trimming the tree.

Hopefully, this will be an experience the girls will treasure for many years to come. Isn’t that what grandparents are all about?