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.

Back to the Grind …

Back to Work …

After three weeks off work, tonight I have to return to the grind. I was lucky to be able to take some time off to be with Sam and the kids. While showering yesterday, I realized that the time I’d be home was coming to an end. Sam joked that I was probably happy to be able to get away from the crying and craziness, but that isn’t true. I know that I am going to miss them and want to be home instead.

I am looking forward to getting back into “the norm”. Things have been “on hold” for a few weeks while I’ve been home. I’m behind on my Bible reading, my classes, and other things, but know that once I am back into the swing of things, I’ll get everything caught up.

One thing about being back at work that will be nice – lack of snacks. Over the past three weeks, I feel like I was always eating! Potato chips, cookies, fast food, and candy seemed to be everywhere. I am glad to be back at work where I have a packed lunch and a bit more control of what I am eating.

AJ

Our baby boy has kept us VERY busy. We took him to the ENT to discuss his lip tie and tongue tie. While in the office he snipped both (which freaked us both out – because they literally just clip them with scissors!) and he has been doing much better. Sam and I discussed things and we’ve decided that he will eventually go to all formula. He has no trouble with bottles and is sleeping much better. He still has the GERD, so he will be on meds to help with that.

Sam has all her pictures saved on her iCloud. She found picture of Ella and took a picture of AJ and they could be twins. It’s really amazing how much he is starting to look more and more like her as a baby.

Ella on top. AJ on bottom. Both about the same age.

He still gets cranky, but he is starting to take time to look around. He’s more and more alert every day.

Great Neighbors

I don’t recall if I blogged about it, but this summer a neighbor had posted on the neighborhood Facebook page that they needed someone to mow their lawn. I reached out and said I would help. She asked whether I had children and explained that I had two sons from my previous marriage, a daughter with my wife and one on the way. She asked if I knew what we were having and at the time I knew it was a boy.

Last week, Sam was on the couch breastfeeding and there was a knock on the side door. She freaked out, because the couch is right by the door! She asked if I was expecting anyone and I told her I was not. When I opened the door, it was the lady whose lawn I mowed. She asked if I remembered her and I told her I did. She told me that she wanted to drop something by for the baby. She had a little gift bag and handed it to me. Ella was standing there saying “Hi” and “Bye Bye,” so the visit was cut very short. I felt bad because I couldn’t even introduce her to my wife.

Anyway, she made a beautiful sweater for AJ. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work goes into something like this, but it is so nice. I can’t wait to get a picture of him in it to send to her.

Halloween Weekend

For Halloween, we had to make sure to let AJ wear his “My First Halloween” onesie. Ella happened to be wearing her Halloween dress, so we snapped a few pictures of them.

As I began this paragraph, I started to write “my youngest son came over…” I realize that I can’t say that anymore, because now AJ is my youngest son!

Anyway, my second born son came over for Halloween weekend. I picked him up on Saturday and he stayed Sunday night to trick or treat. He brought a bag with two or three costume ideas. He decided to go as “an old man.” As he trick or treated, he told people who asked that he was “my dad when he was younger!” That got quite a few laughs.

Prior to trick or treating, I took Ella on a walk around the neighborhood. I had to stop and get a picture of one tree, because it was just breathtaking. So much color to it.

Ella had her first round of Trick or Treating and didn’t quite get what to do. She went as a ladybug and was so cute. At the first house, I got her out of the wagon, handed the bag to her and she walked up to our neighbor. I told her to say “Trick or treat” and hold open her bag. Once the neighbor started to put the candy in the bag, she dropped the bag and grabbed the candy from them! It was quite funny.

We walked just our street with Ella and then took her home. She didn’t get her afternoon nap, so she was getting pretty tired anyway. I then drove Dimitri around the rest of the neighborhood. I was glad we drove, because it got very windy and very chilly as the night went on. My aunt had some things for the kids and actually found us while we were out trick or treating. She stopped by when we got home and got to see them.

Because he had school the next day, I had to take my son back home. My oldest son had gone out trick or treating with his friends and was at his friend’s house. The house is pretty close to ours, so I met them there and he took his brother home. By the time I got home that night, I was in bed and fast asleep!

As far as weekends are concerned, it was a good one! It’s always nice to get to see all of my kids and spend time with my family!

Halloween Dress Up

Tonight on ABC, one of the greatest Halloween specials of all time aired again – It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  It is in this special that poor Charlie Brown utters those sad words, “I got a rock.”

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In that scene, Lucy is wearing a witch mask.  It got me to thinking about Halloweens of my past.  I remember the streets would be packed with kids when I went out trick or treating!  I remember standing in lines at the doors of my neighbors, waiting for my turn to yell “trick or treat!”  By the time I took my boys out on Halloween, I was sad to see that the streets were not very busy at all.  I remember being out late and rushing from house to house – hoping to get them all before they turned the porch light out (telling you that “we’re out of candy”)!

As I sat here pondering this blog, I tired to think of some of my past Halloween costumes.  I can remember some of the ones from when I was older: a vampire, Oliver Hardy, and a Robot.  The robot was a couple cardboard boxes my dad taped together and spray painted silver.  We put cassette tapes, a vacuum hose, and other things on it and it was actually very cool.  My brother used the same costume for a play he did in elementary school.

Other than those mentioned above, I didn’t remember any specific costumes off the top of my head. This is probably because most of the costumes I grew up wearing sucked.  They were so bad, Jerry Seinfeld did a bit about them in his comedy act.  I did a Google search for Halloween Costumes of the 1970’s and it all came back to me!  Halloween costumes back when I was a kid were hardly original.  Today, if you go to an elementary school and watch a Costume Parade, you will see some really good costumes!  Many of them will even be homemade.  This was not the case when I was a kid!

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You usually bought your costumes at K-Mart, or Kresge, or the local drug store.  The costumes of the 70’s consisted of primarily a mask.  The mask had two big eye holes (which you really couldn’t see out of!), two small nose holes (which you couldn’t breathe out of!), and a slit by the mouth.  It was a cheap piece of plastic and it sometimes cracked.  The mask had a cheap rubber string that was stapled to each side.  This rubber string was what kept the mask on your head.  If the string broke, you either re-stapled in, or you took it off and didn’t wear it.

The costume also included a cheap one piece outfit.  They were like “onesie” pajamas.  You first put your feet and legs in it and then your arms.  There was a tie that you tied behind your neck to keep it on.  On the outfit it usually has the character’s name in bold letters on it.  This must have been so if the mask fell off, people knew who you were supposed to be.  97% of all kids wore these dumb costumes when I was a kid!

While I Googled, I came across two of those stupid costumes I sort of remember having.  The first was The Six Million Dollar Man:

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I also remember having C-3PO:

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I think I may have had an Underdog costume, too!

The outfits were so cheap that by the end of trick or treating, there were rips in the crotch or legs.  Sometimes they were ripped up before you even got to go out trick or treating!  We’d wear our costumes to school that day and they would rip in the classroom!  They were paper thin, too, so you either had to buy it three times too big, so you could wear something underneath it, or you covered it with your coat and no one saw what you were anyway!

Here are some of the funnier costumes I found while searching:

From TV – Welcome Back, Kotter:

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Mr, Kotter (above) and Barbarino (below)

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Mork from Mork and Mindy

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The Fonz from Happy Days

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There were plenty of super heroes, including Batman!

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And, despite how sexy she looked on TV, the Wonder Woman costume was actually quite scary …

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I mean – look at Lynda Carter!  She’s beautiful!!  That costume is just freaky!!!!

One of the most ridiculous costumes was this one based on the movie Jaws!

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Finally, for the gals who thought Donny Osmond was cute … this costume should make them think twice.

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Come on!  That looks like a weird Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner!!!

For whatever it is worth, I am going to guess that these costumes are probably worth money today.  I have a lot of friends on Facebook who have extensive toy collectibles, and they probably have some.  Mine are long gone, more than likely because they were ripped up and destroyed the same year we bought it.

It was fun to just spend time searching up the old costumes and looking at them.  Do you remember wearing these?  What were some of your favorite costumes?  What are some of your favorite Halloween memories?

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Worst Halloween Candy?

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Every Halloween it was an easy phone topic for my radio show: What is the worst candy to find in your Trick or Treat bag? I would cringe as a kid when someone would drop certain candies in my bag! Listeners felt the same way and often shared the same awful candies that I did. I had to laugh today as I stumbled on an article about a North Carolina city that banned a specific Halloween candy saying “No one likes them, don’t give them out”! So which one tops their list – and mine?? Here is the article….

https://www.thedailymeal.com/high-point-north-carolina-bans-peanut-butter-kisses-halloween

According to friends (and this article) they are called Peanut Butter Kisses. I’ve always referred to them as the “tan nougat-ty things that are in the black and orange wrapper”. I have only stumbled on a few people who really enjoy these things. Comedian Tim Hawkins said that they tasted like “peanut butter and hair”! I think he is being nice, because to me, they tasted like stale cardboard.

Here is my personal list of candy that should NEVER be passed out to trick or treaters (unless you want your house to get toilet papered or egged):

  1. The above mentioned black and orange wrapped crappy things.
  2. Mary Janes – just as bad as #1
  3. Bit O’ Honey – just as bad as #1 and #2. Eat only if you want to chip a tooth.
  4. Black licorice. Really? When you pass this out you are basically saying “Beat it, kid! I’m only passing out candy cause my wife made me. I hate kids. I bought myself a bag of good stuff – here’s this crap”
  5. Good and Plenty. Same kind of thing as the black licorice. Good and Fruity is ok – please don’t mix up the two!
  6. Circus Peanuts. Is there even any flavor to these things? They taste like Styrofoam and quite frankly are awful. No – no – please, God, NO! I guess they would be acceptable to pass out to kids dressed as clowns…..
  7. Those Necco wafer things. Come on – you know that they are just big pieces of school chalk sliced and wrapped!
  8. Wax Bottles with the fluid in them. What in the hell are these things? AND just what is in the bottles?? It could be antifreeze for all I know! Even if you like the stuff inside, what do you do with the wax? I guess if you get enough you could make a candle or something.
  9. DOTS. Unless you want to enjoy them for a week or two … cause that’s how long they stay in your teeth!
  10. Candy Corn/Candy Pumpkins – basically the same crappy candy – just shaped different. Just don’t!
  11. BONUS: ANYTHING THAT IS NOT CANDY! (Nothing worse than a kid walking up and getting 3 pennies. Really? Hey, if you want to give out money – it better be paper!!

So – what are the worst candies YOU got in your trick or treat bags and what are your favorites?