Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ticket to Ride

Start 'em early!
I would like to say that I have been riding a bike as long as I can remember.  That wouldn't be quite accurate.  All these years later, I still remember learning how to ride a bike - and the skinned-up body parts that come from the lesson.  I remember the Schwinn bike, given a fresh coat of baby blue spray paint to spruce it up.  I think it weighed more than I did!  I stood when I road, my legs not long enough to reach the pedals from a seated position.  The feeling of freedom was amazing in the rural town I called home.  I could go as far as my legs would take me - as long as I answered the dinner bell when my mom rang it from the front porch to call me home.

I spent a couple of near bike-less decades in my 20's and 30's.  That is, I didn't do much riding, though I did teach 3 little boys to ride.  Of course, that alone didn't take that may years, but the mothering part was pretty all-consuming.  It wasn't until they went their ways that I picking up a bike again.  And my picked up, I mean, the new bike was light enough to actually consider lifting.  What a change!  For the past decade or more, I have been doing a lot of biking.  And some of my favorite memories include grandboys - of course!  And because Bryce had me all to himself the first five years of his life, many of those memories include Bryce.
My favorite bobble head!

We had a little red bike that Bryce used to ride - one of those first bikes with training wheels, the pedals connected directly to the front wheel, and no brakes.  Given his size and ability, this should not have been a problem - until he discovered that our driveway sloped toward the garage.  He would take the bike to the edge of the driveway and zoom down, threading his way between our two parked cars and coasting to a stop just before the front wall of the garage.  This is a move he executed perfectly EVERY time.  Even with considerable "boy" experience, it made me nervous.

Then there was the time I took him for a ride in the Bugger connected to my bike.  As we went up a hill (a small one, even by Illinois standards), Bryce encouraged from behind, "Go faster, Granma!"  One of us was not amused, the other was disappointed...

Ready to ride?
I am spending this week riding my bike amongst the corn fields of Iowa on RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) along with my brother Bruce, son Corey, and 14,000 of our closest friends.  And by "closest" I mean the roads will be jammed with bicycles!  A little over 400 miles in the course of a week, we will traverse the state from west to east.  On the same trip last year, we rode alongside a grandfather and his granddaughter on a tandem bike.  It was their first RAGBRAI experience as a team.

It got me wondering - Bryce, do you think we could we make the trip?  Hmmm - maybe.  I think I'll put him up front and tell him to go faster.  I think he owes me that much!

Greetings from the tall corn in the great state of Iowa!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Two times Two

Two years ago this week, I was making final preparations for a 400+ mile trek across Iowa on a bike.  An Iowa native, RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) was calling me back to my roots.  I had put in countless hours and miles in preparation to join my brother Bruce and son Corey on the journey.  It was to be the highlight of my summer - until something more important came along. With a scant few days notice, I bowed out of RAGBRAI, leaving my teammates to traverse the state without me.  In my place, Flat Lory hitched a ride on Bruce's back, something he has not let me forget in the intervening years.

So what would possibly make me throw aside 6+ months of training at the last minute?  Grandloves, of course - which is always the answer to all questions in this blog.  Specifically, it was the premature births of Faith Anne and Naomi Hope.  Rather than pedaling among the corn, I was grandboy deep in the newborns' brothers while their Mom and Dad were at the hospital.  At the time, Aidan (3), Josiah (2), and Elijah (not yet 1) were in my care for a week.  My brother might try to convince you that he had the harder job carrying Flat Lory across the state of our birth.  I only know that I had the better job, and I wouldn't trade all the rhubarb pie he ate even with all the PB&J and mac & cheese I indulged in with those boys.  (I've never claimed to be a culinary master.)

Last year and this one as well, I will spend a week in the Iowa sun, sleeping in a tent and rising early to pedal across my home state.  But before and during my journey, I marvel at those two little girlies who turned the Harris world upside-down.

They turn two on Friday.  How is that possible!  And yet, the have gone from tiny little loves, well under two pounds each unable to breathe on their own, to strapping (through still skinny) two year olds exercising their lungs when they feel overshadowed or slighted.  In other words, they are typical two year olds!

Recently, I received the blessing of watching the two of them (and just the two of them) for the day.  What a day it was!  At times, they expressed their opinions showing they are still babies and wanting undivided attention.  Other times, they wanted freedom to explore their world independently.  As I said, typical two year olds...

Faith and Naomi, you have blessed us with your presence - your love, your demands, your personalities.  Thank you for keeping us on our toes.  Thank you for giving us double the joy, even when you are being double-trouble.  Thank you for letting me be Granma!  Happy, happy birthday to two very special two year olds!  With twice the love - twice over!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Back to my Roots

Clockwise: Josiah, Aidan, Tyler, Bryce & Elijah
Most of you probably realize that Tuesday comes around with great regularity.  Me, too.  But my Tuesday always starts with a Sunday evening panicked question:  what will the blog look like this week?  However, since Monday intervenes the Sunday to Tuesday sequence, I continue my day of rest...in favor of a Monday evening full panic.  Some bloggers, I understand, actually have blogs prepared ahead of time.  What a novel concept...

Sometimes between last Sunday and yesterday, I made the executive decision to go back to my roots.  We aren't talking hair, here, though I do have a haircut scheduled on Wednesday.  You are not responsible for that piece of information...  Rather, this blog started with grandboys - 5 of them.  So let's talk about that.

Tyler (6), AKA Spider Man, made an appearance on Sunday.  He is a wiry little midget, and seemingly disinterested in out growing the short label.  However, he has a totally boy way of entering the house, after calmly removing this shoes, he launches himself into my arms.  It is an endearing greeting now that I have learned to brace myself for impact.  The really amazing part is how he wraps his arms and legs around my body.  Once maximum velocity and height have been reached, he does not need me to hold him.  I, however, might need to employ the jaws of life if I need to use the facilities.

Bryce (11), on the other hand, has decided that he big enough (almost) and strong enough (almost) to pick ME up.  He will be, soon enough, but for the moment, I do not give him an assist with his efforts - except that I raise up to my tip-toes.  He isn't fooled, but then, his back is broken, either - a fair trade.

Aidan (5), employs a winning smile - between words.  He is never short of words - or topics - or energy.  I gave him a kiss the other day and asked him to pass it on to his Uncle Corey.  Aidan insisted on seven kisses - and, yes, we counted them.  I'm not sure how many of them he shared with Corey, but it made my day!

Josiah (4), oh my.  Josiah practices at ways to be silly.  Just when I reach my own personal limit and tell him to stop, he laughs - which makes me laugh - so any remote thought he had to actually heed my words and "stop" disappears into a gale of giggles.  How do you reprimand when you can't stop laughing?  Perhaps I am one of his favorite jokes.  Regardless, he wins every time.

Elijah (2), though, won the week - twice!  I showed up to watch his sisters so the rest of the family could take a train into the city to visit Uncle Corey.  I opened the door to Aidan's conversation, Josiah's giggles, and Elijah's proclamation, "I don't want to go.  I want to stay here with Granma."  How much do I love that kid!  So how did he top that?  Well, actually: he got on the train to go visit Uncle Corey.  The girls and I had a relatively quiet and very enjoyable day.

What can I say?  I love both the coming and the going!  And I love the absolute joy of being a Granma to boys!  That's my boy(s)!!!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Celebrating Chicago Style

Breaking and Entering 101
Someone special celebrated her 8th birthday last weekend!  We were a few weeks late with the party, so we had to do it up right!  And we did!  Bella and I joined Uncle Corey in the city for our version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles - less the planes and add a bike taxi instead.  The driver of the bike taxi joined the Lion's International Parade while cutting through to reach our intended destination.  Bella, of course, had the royal wave down - our lioness princess.

The Bean!
On Friday night Bella and I took the train to our awaiting chariot (Uncle Corey's car).  We dined on cheesy bread and pizza, followed by peanut butter ice cream.  Yum!  With full tummies and heavy eyes, we eventually made our way to bed.  For the record, Bella does not kick and snore like her older brother (yeah!!!).  Her stuffed animal, however, does tend to wander off during the night.  She contends that I stole the covers.  Seems like a fair trade - puppy found, covers lost.  All is in balance in the world.

Goofing around
After an early morning trip to the coffee shop, we made our way to Millennium Park and the "Bean" - one of my favorite Chicago locals - and then to adjoining Maggie Daily Park.  We walked, and walked, and walked some more.  Bella was a trooper, even when she was certain she couldn't make it another step.

The Grand Finale
At the appointed hour on Saturday afternoon, we made it to the stated object of our Chicago adventure.  Sitting in the front row of the first balcony, we saw Aladdin - Bella's first live play/musical.  It did not disappoint!  The sets were spectacular, the Genie was magical, and Princess Jasmine was beautiful.  Jasmine and Aladdin were a magical couple, especially when they rode the magic carpet.  Fun stuff!

There was a bit more walking before Bella and this Granma caught a train back to the 'burbs.  Even one of our fellow riders commented that she could tell from our conversation and general goofiness we had a wonderful trip in the city.  She was absolutely right!

Happy, happy birthday, my Bella!  I hope you still remember your 8th when you are 80!  I know I will, but then, I'm a bit closer to 80 than you are.  And by the time I delivered my grandgirlie home and crashed on my own couch, I felt closer to 80 than ever!  What a great feeling - and a great night's sleep, without a single wandering puppy to locate.