2021 – What a Year!

At midnight tonight, we’ll start a brand new year – 2022. Some have compared a new year to a book. The book with 365 blank pages – one for each day – and said that the book is ours to write. There is truth to that.

As I looked back over my “book” entitled “2021,” I see that (despite the pandemic and all the crap that came with it) I really did have a good year. Bear with me, he’s the recap:

January

January started with some snow. It actually looks like we should be getting snow again this week. Ella absolutely loved being outside in the snow. It was fun to watch her try to figure out just what all the white stuff was. Today, when she sees it, she get’s excited and yells, “Snow! Snow!”

In mid-January, we scratched our heads and wondered just how Ella was 11 months old! I mean, it seemed like she was just born!

The pressure was on as we closed in on her first birthday. With Covid, we weren’t quite sure if we’d even be able to have a party for her.

February

As we got closer to Ella’s birthday, Sam was just not feeling right. 3 days before Ella’s birthday, we found out that baby #2 was on the way!

This took us both completely by surprise! There was great excitement all over again. The hardest part was keeping it a secret…

Ella’s first birthday was a fun and busy day. We ditched the pink blocks and marked the birthday with a HUGE number “1” balloon. This was followed by a trip to the Sea Life Aquarium, the Build a Bear place, and cake at Nana’s house.

We were glad to be able to get some professional “1st Birthday” pictures, too!

March

In March we got our first look at the baby we now know as Andrew/AJ and announced Ella’s promotion to big sister.

Ella also got her first haircut

March also consisted of many walks around the neighborhood and stops at the park.

April

Big brother, Dante’ turned 19 this month! Before that, Easter fell on my mom’s birthday. We got Ella all dressed up in her Easter dress, stopped at the cemetery to visit grandma on her birthday and then went to Nana’s for an Easter Egg hunt!

Ella is so very blessed to have wonderful people in her life. Aunt Margaret is one of them! (She will kill me for posting this picture, but I just love this!!) She and cousin Marissa came to visit and the highlight was watching them read books together.

We also found out the baby’s gender, but that wouldn’t be revealed until May.

May

Birthday’s have never really bothered me, mostly because I opt for the Jack Benny attitude and say that I am stuck at 39. However, in reality I turned 51. 30 was big. 40 was tough. 50 a bit hard to swallow. Over 50? Well…..I examine my own mortality every day.

The month started warm enough that Ella got to spend lots of time in her sandbox and pool.

We revealed that Ella was having a baby brother and got another look at him on an ultrasound.

Ella and I worked on a special project for Sam for Mother’s Day and we got to visit the Detroit Zoo.

May also brought Ella her first taste of corn on the cob!

June

My second oldest boy celebrated his 14th birthday in June. We got to spend Father’s Day together by visiting Crossroads Village. They had a Classic Car Show there and we walked the village and rode the train. It was such a great day with my kids!

It was SO hot that day!!! By the end of it all, Ella was physically exhausted. June was a hot month and we did get to get out and enjoy walks in the park and a day at the splash pad.

July

By July, Sam was 5 months pregnant and was so sick. The pregnancy was a rough one on her. The heat didn’t help things. Despite that, the middle of summer was packed full of amazing things and our family had loads of fun.

We celebrated America’s Birthday, Ella had her first visit to the public library and bowled for the first time, and we all visited the Saginaw Children’s Zoo.

August

As Summer drew to a close, we continued to squeeze as much into it as we could. I got to spend a perfect day doing a daddy daughter picnic, my name was finally on the board at the Corner Cone for a free ice cream, Ella spent lots of time drawing with crayons, and our stress levels were through the roof as we took Ella in for her ear tube surgery. We also got another peak at AJ and had a visit from my brother.

September

Fall! My favorite season of all. I was glad to be able to get together with Margaret, Walt and my buddy Chris at Margaret’s house. Since she’s already mad at the one picture I posted, I’ll just share the one she told me I could share. Hopefully, that makes things a little better….

We always love going to get pumpkins and decorating the front of the house for fall. Ella seemed to like it, too.

Ella and I also got to take one last trip to the Saginaw Zoo before it closed for the season. It was a great day for us, and Sam actually got to relax a bit.

October

We had been told more than once that there was a possibility that the baby would come before his due date. He held out almost until the date! Just two days before he was born, Ella and I got to go outside and enjoy the fall colors.

On October 11th, AJ entered the world. I watched in awe as my son was born and all the pride of being a daddy again filled my soul. We weren’t sure how Ella would handle it, but she welcomed him with open arms.

They still did not have a photographer at the hospital, so we went to JC Penney to have some newborn pictures taken. AJ looks spiffy in his outfit!

While this wasn’t Ella’s first Halloween, it was the first real Trick or Treating adventure for her. She was happy that big brother was there to walk with her. AJ was obviously way too young to attempt to go out this year.

November

Fall walks are among my favorites. I love looking at the colors. Ella and I took many fall walks and there were many instances where she’d just play in a pile of leaves! AJ kept us all busy and so it was just Ella and I making the trip to Bronner’s to get his ornament for the Christmas tree. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving at home and got the house ready for Christmas.

December

The final month of the year brought many happy memories. Professional Christmas pictures, my annual reading of Dickens, AJ turned 2 months old, a visit from Papa and Grandma, Christmas Eve with my boys, Holiday lights at Crossroads, our first Christmas as a family of four, and the anticipation of a brand new year.

Blog highlights included my entries to the 2021 Song Draft, salutes to Soupy Sales, my grandpa, and Ernie Harwell, a guest blog from my pal Max, silly blogs about hats and Bernie Sanders’ mittens, fishing memories, my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, and a blog about an amazing cartoon Dog Dad.

There were many sad moments in 2021. I lost classmates and friends to cancer, heart disease, and of course, Covid. If the past two years have taught me anything, it is that life is precious and another day is not promised. You never know when it will be the “last picture,” the “last phone call,” or the “last visit.” It takes me make to that quote that my band director wrote on the grease board my senior year. I have quoted it many times. “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.”

Life is too short. Live. Laugh. Love.

As we welcome 2022, I pray that it is a good year for all of us. May we find it full of happiness and good health. May God bless you and yours in the upcoming year.

Get ready. The Book of 2022 awaits. Grab your pen and turn to page (January) 1.

Been a Crazy 12 Days!

October is almost over already and the time is just flying! Since the birth of our son, we have been on the go nonstop and are longing for sleep. Trying to find time to write an update between diaper changes has certainly been a challenge!

Ella is getting used to having a baby in the house. She doesn’t like when he cries, and usually joins in with him. There are things she was able to do before that she really can’t right now. For example, if mommy is laying on the couch feeding her brother, she can’t just run up and jump on her. She also is getting used to the fact that the baby is taking a lot of attention.

We’re doing the best that we can to each get one on one time with her when we can. It’s harder for Sam, because she is breastfeeding. I try to take the baby and let him sleep on me so she gets mommy/daughter time. On a recent nice day, I made it a point to take Ella to the park and we had a daddy/daughter day. It was nice to be able to share that time with her. It is important that she knows that she is still very important and that she is still our baby too.

The hospital where the baby was born is still not doing newborn pictures, so we scheduled a day to have some done at JC Penney. Our hope was to get some pictures of the baby and a few with his sister. Sam and I went to Carter’s and found the cutest outfit! I love this little bowtie!

We wondered if we were going to even get to have the pictures done. The day before we were scheduled for pictures, there was an incident at the mall involving a shooting! I don’t know the details, but the entire area was on lockdown the night before. I was glad that we got in, got the pictures, and got out!

We were able to get a few with both of the kids, including this amazing picture

The gal who took the pictures had Sam and I sit in and she snagged a couple family pictures. This one came out so cute.

When AJ is a bit older and more alert, I’m hoping to get a photoshoot with Ella, AJ, and their big brothers.

It seems like we have spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office, too! The day after AJ was born, we had a well visit for Ella and had the doc look at AJ as well. A day or two later, we were getting Ella ready for bed and as she was following me to her room, she missed the top step to the kitchen and fell. She was having trouble walking. She was crying like she was really hurt, so I wound up taking her to urgent care.

They didn’t want to do an X-ray because of radiation. In the waiting room, she had calmed down and was ok until we went back in the room. She hates the doctor’s, so she was upset. She walked a bit to be while the doc was in there and she told us to keep an eye on her. She told us that if she was limping on it or if it bothered her the next day, to call her PCP or an ortho doc. It was 10pm and well past her bedtime, so she came home and slept.

The following day, there was a little limping, but when she got up from the floor and started crying, I figured I’d call the doc. They got us in that afternoon. She took a good look at it and said she didn’t think it was broken. She said she probably bruised her calf and sent us with an order for an X-ray should be need it. She’s doing well and walking around fine.

Andrew gets more and more alert each day. He is having trouble sleeping due to GERD. We went back to the doc to ask her about it. He seems to gag and choke when he is on his back, which is how they tell you the baby should sleep. She wanted to make sure the baby was getting enough food, so Sam went to the lactation specialist at the hospital. After watching the feed, we found out that the baby is tongue tied and that thing that holds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth needs to be clipped so he can move his tongue around. His top lip is also connected very low on the gum, which makes it hard for him to latch during feeding. So we’re heading to a pediatric oral surgeon for a consult on Monday.

Never a dull moment here!

In the days ahead, we will continue to grab sleep when we can. I have one more week off work to spend with my family, and I hope to enjoy every moment of that time.

Child’s Play

I follow a lot of nostalgia pages on Facebook.  On one of the “Kids of the 1970’s” pages, they posted a picture of a toy that took me back to when I was 6!  I can still remember the Christmas morning I received it.  “Santa” had taken it out of the box and it was there on the floor in front of the tree. It was the Fisher Price Adventure People Daredevil Sport Van.  I remember seeing it in the “wish book” and wanting it because it had a guy with a motorcycle.

37570841244_5a4903f519_b

I didn’t know that was what it was called, and it was only after searching for it on Google did I find out.  What I found when I searched for it was numerous other Fisher Price Adventure People sets that I had as a kid, as well as many other toys from my childhood I had long forgotten.

The Wish Book

Every year, before Christmas, JC Penney, Sears, and Montgomery Ward would put out their “Wish Book”.  My brother and I were told that this was “Santa’s catalog” and that he and his elves could get us whatever we saw in the book.  We would take magic markers and circle hundreds of toys that we had hoped to get.  We’d often number them in order of importance so that mom and dad knew which toys were a “top priority” for us! It was an annual tradition for us and I remember my brother and I spending many hours trying to pick out exactly what we wanted.

BOOK

Star Wars Figures

In 1977, Star Wars hit theaters and was a HUGE hit.  As kids we had to have every figure!  My grandmother came through for us and made sure we not only had every one, but both my brother and I each had a set! There were SO many great toys to go along with those figures.  My brother had the Death Star Space Station pictured above, while I had the ultimate space ship, the Millennium Falcon!

box

I remember it being huge and I used to fly it around in the front yard when we were playing outside.  We spent countless hours playing with those Star Wars toys!!!

Jaws

One toy I found while searching was the Jaws Game.  It came with junk like a wagon wheel, fish bones, a tire, and other stuff that you put in the shark’s mouth, specifically on his lower jaw.  The jaw was connected to a rubber band.  You had to one by one remove a piece of junk without the jaw snapping up on you.

jaws-game

Rockem Sockem Robots

Another great one from my childhood, this game can still be bought in stores today.  It was one of my favorites growing up.  Why robots?  I don’t really know, other than the fact that when you got the right punch, the loser’s head popped up.  I

il_340x270_1796202485_jp19

Stretch Armstrong

This was the TOP toy on my list one year.  It was the coolest thing!  Here’s a wrestler that you could bend and stretch like nobody’s business!  He was awesome!  We had a lot of fun with Stretch.  It was a sad day when he sprung a leak.  It was also cool to see what made him stretch.  I don’t remember how it happened, but something must have punctured the skin of poor Stretch.  Inside was this red jelly-like substance.  It almost looked like he was bleeding.  We tried to tape him up, but that was the end of Stretch.

stretch

Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle

When I posted the picture that has wound up being the inspiration for this blog on Facebook, other friends chimed in with their favorite toys.  My friend, Allyson, mentioned The Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle.  Evil was quite the entertainer and was always doing stunts.  This cycle sat on some platform and you cranked this handle and then pushed a button to let the cycle go and do its thing.  Personally, I never really got it to do the spectacular stunts in the TV commercial, but it was still cool.

knievel 11

Weebles and Little People

Two of the toys I remembered as soon as I saw pictures were the Weebles and Little People.  The Weebles were basically eggs.  They were plastic and had people on them.  They had a commercial that said “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!”

Weebles

The Little People were/are made by Fisher Price.  When I was a kid, these things were made out of wood.  They had no legs or no arms. There were round figures with no feet or hands.  I think everyone I know had the Little People Farmhouse.  The one figure I remember most is the dog.

il_570xN_1056365662_lw2p

Outside Vehicles

I had one of the coolest bikes.  It had curly handle bars and I had the coolest thing on it.  It was called Rrraw Power.  It was an attachment you put on your bike handlebar grip.  You twisted the handle and it made it sound like a motorcycle! A kid tried to steal my bike once cause he wanted it!

0d5a34bc8d245bbb5176a05bbf2b46cf

Before my bike, I had two of the most coveted modes of transportation for kids.  The first one, the Big Wheel.  The name said it all.  It was basically a tricycle, but the front wheel was huge!  It had a cheap hand break that was worthless and if you skidded enough, you would flatten the wheel.

je2vehyuqs811

The Big Wheel was cool, but the Green Machine was cooler! It was really a Big Wheel with the steering done by two handles that controlled the back wheels.  The seat was a bit more comfortable, too.  I loved my Green Machine and loved doing spin outs on it!

toys326d

Sit and Spin

This was probably one of the stupidest toys we owned, and probably the reason I still get vertigo on occasion.  The name says it all.  You sit and you spin.  You control how fast or how slow.  It was basically your own personal merry-go-round.  The name actually sounded more like an insult than a toy.

ujk4az7u9na11

“We can rebuild him…”

Those words were spoken in the intro to the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man.  He was an astronaut who is injured when his spaceship crashes.  He is then rebuilt with machine parts.  He’s kind of like a cyborg.  He has bionic hearing, sight, and strength.  I had the Six Million Dollar Man Doll.  The coolest thing about him was you could look through the back of his head and “see through his bionic eye”.  This meant looking through a red piece of plastic and seeing things through it.

bionictransport2

Colorforms and Shrinky Dinks

I had TOTALLY forgotten about Colorforms!  I remember having a Batman set, a Scooby Doo set and the Charlie Brown set pictured below.  It came with a background scene and plastic pieces with characters and accessories that you could stick and peel on and off.

51P22ICpPHL

Shrinky Dinks were something we had, but I don’t ever recall them working right.  You had this hard plastic things that you colored with a marker or something and then you put them in an oven.  The idea was that they shrunk into a harder plastic that you could use for a key ring or something.  I never really liked them….but I am sure we had them.

059KF-1452197285-958-list_items-shrinky_dinks

Doctor Doctor

One of my favorite games growing up was Doctor Doctor.  It was kind of like Clue in that you had to, through process of elimination, figure out a problem.  In this case, find the diagnosis for what was wrong with the patient.

705950e05772aa9779540acc5d630965

Electronics from my youth

Before X-Boxes, Nintendo Switches, and even Gameboys, we had some primitive hand-held gadgets and games.  It was so fun to see some of these things as they came up in searches for toys of the 70’s.

The Little Professor

Not a game.  Not even a gadget.  It was a calculator!  I guess the school of thought was “if we made a calculator that looked like a character, kids will dig math.” For what it is worth, I think it let you play math games on it, too.

littleprofessor

Speak & Spell

I can still hear its “hello” in the computer voice that greet you when you powered it up.  Today we have “Spell Check” on every computer and word processing program, but believe it or not, back in the day, you had to know how to spell.  This little gadget helped you to do just that.  It would say the word you needed to spell and then you had to spell it.  One downfall was the computer voice.  Sometimes you couldn’t understand what word it was asking you to spell.

93096

The Sound Gizmo

This was a MUST have for me as a kid.  It was one of my favorite toys!  The cool think about this toy was it made noises.  With the push of a button, you could have made a gunshot, an explosion, a helicopter, a train, a phaser, a siren, a motor, and more!  You could have the sound be constant, looped, or have it fade out.  There was a way to pitch the sound up and down, or control the speed of the sound.  As a kid who played outside and had a wild imagination, this toy was the best!  If we were pretending to crack open a safe with dynamite – we had an explosion.  If we were playing cops and robbers – we had a gunshot and sirens.  If we were in a spaceship, there were numerous sounds we could make!  It took our imaginations to a new level!  I remember my old boss at Honey Radio, Richard D, used this on the air often for sounds, too!

05b3be4efe1b5be3d59a1a251ad12ae7

Quiz Wiz

Trivia has always been a love of mine.  I am full of useless facts.  I love shows like Jeopardy or shows that are trivia based.  Trivial Pursuit was a very popular game in our house.  Trivia was also something that I used on a daily basis for contesting when I worked on the radio.  My love of trivia may have stemmed from the Quiz Wiz Game.  It had cartridges with questions.  I spent many hours learning trivia tidbits from this game.

f1766ea0163872c269c3956bc8b9564e

Electronic Sports Games

Again, before the fancy graphics of Madden Football, we had hand-held games.  They were primitive with red dots representing base runners, quarterbacks, and hockey pucks, but we loved them.  Coleco was the company that put out most of these games.  They were very popular!  A few years ago, I couldn’t believe it when I went to Walmart and saw that they had re-released the Coleco Football game.  I know there was also a hockey, basketball, and baseball game.  Most of these were one player games.  I had them all.  The one I loved the most was Head to Head Baseball which allowed two players to play.  One could pitch and one could hit.  I remember it because it was shaped very much like a baseball stadium.

hw-6302_grande

It was one of my favorite games until ……

Atari 2600

This was the game changer!  Yeah, we had Pong.  This could do SO much more.  You could play Pac-Man on it (it was a very crappy version)!  It was a big year for my brother and I when this arrived.  We loved Maze Craze, Pitfall, Megamania, Kaboom, River Raid,  Sea Hunt, and so many other games.  The original games still remain popular today and can be found on systems that are now preloaded with many of the ones from the past.  You don’t even need the game cartridge today!

gallery-1463082693-atari-2600-1970s-toys

Oh, the many hours of fun I had growing up.

Final Thoughts

Kids today look at the toys from the past and laugh.  Many of them will never know what it means to go out and “write your own adventure.”  They will never conjure up an amazing scenario by simply using their imagination.  That is sad.  The memories that were brought about by seeing all of these toys during a simple Google search have made me smile so much that my jaw hurts.

Relive a bit of your childhood with me.  Share your favorite toy from when you were a kid!  I’d love to hear about it!