Malcolm’s New Tree House

Grandson Malcolm’s eighth birthday is coming up this weekend. His party was held at a skating rink last year, which gave me an excuse to write about the rinks in Cape and Jackson. His parents, Matt and Sarah, teamed up with Neighbor Will Hill (he’s the guy without a shirt) to build a “tree house” in the backyard.

Will actually knew what he was doing. I built something for Sons Matt and Adam when they were a little younger than this. It started out as a simple platform with a sandbox under it. Before long, a fireman’s pole and a slide were added. The original structure used a rope ladder with PVC pipe rungs. It could be pulled up to keep Adam from climbing up to the level where he might be tempted by Matt to see if he could fly by flapping his arms.

Building a monkey bars gave me an excuse to add a swing to the mix. There was no overall plan – stuff just got added whenever the posthole digger cried out to make a new hole in the ground.

Time-lapse video

Matt set up his Nikon DSLR to take a photo every 60 seconds so he could condense a 12-hour project into a three-minute video. The structure could be more properly called a play house rather than a tree house since no trees were harmed in the making of the building, still, we CALLED it the tree house. Here’s what a REAL tree house looks like.

Mat made from shopping bags

I described how Mother had turned into a bag lady, making all kinds of stuff out of plastic shopping bags. One of her projects was to make a mat to go under Malcolm’s sleeping bag when he’s camping. He said that something like that would made a really nice rug for his new tree house (hint, hint).

Trapdoor leads to roof

Malcolm was already talking about how it would be nice to have a trapdoor in the floor, too, “just in case.” It’s a gender-neutral tree house. Neighbor Will’s two daughters and Malcolm are joined at the hip every waking moment, so there is no immediate prospect of a No Girls Allowed sign going up.

Photo gallery of tree house pictures

I was no fool: I showed up after all the heavy setup work had been done, and I left when it looked like a thunderboomer was going to roll in. The rain never materialized, but it was close enough that temps dropped to a comfortable level and Matt and Neighbor Will pushed to get the roof on before knocking off for the evening. So, you get to see the middle part of the project.You’ll have to click on Matt’s video to see the whole deal.

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

 

Medicare, 2012 and Me

Well, it’s 2012, today’s my birthday and my official Medicare card arrived in the mail. You might remember me telling you this was going to be a Big Year. This was the year that they said I could retire when I went through orientation at The Palm Beach Post in 1973.

I figured that 2012 was a lot like the Second Coming: it might arrive, but I never thought I’d be around to see it. See, Dad and his brothers checked out by age 60, so I had established that as my official Sell-By Date. Here was my post from last year.

I discovered cycling

Some funny things happened along the way. I discovered cycling, which taught me that there was a life outside the office. I still worked long and hard hours, but I also looked forward hopping on the bike and feeling the stress drain away. I told folks that I could get hit by an 18-wheeler tomorrow and cycling would have added more years to my life than it could ever subtract.

The death spiral of newspapers also worked in my favor. It gave me an opportunity to take a buyout in September 2008 and early retirement. I was going to have a chance to enjoy what tomorrows I had left without the fear of being carried out of the office on a stretcher or in handcuffs.

Herding cats and blogging

My boys thought I might like to lead bike tours in retirement, so they set me up with a bike blog. I soon found out that I wasn’t made to herd cats, so leading tours morphed into writing about cycling. The next step was to start digitizing my old photos. That resulted in this blog.

Just jingle the keys

After spending the last 15 years of my newspaper career shoving electrons down phone wires (something that I actually enjoyed), I discovered the magic of journalism again. Telling stories and dredging up old memories is a blast. It’s also given me a chance to have a lot of fun with Mother, who is ready to hop in the car at the jingle of keys. She’s good company and has her own stock of stories (many of which, I’m afraid she’s going to take with her.)

I’ve been blessed with Wife Lila who has put up with my quirks and foibles for way too many years. I warn people that I’m much more personable in print than in person. Unfortunately, that’s often too true at home, too. I don’t tell her enough that I love her. More important, I like her.

Our two boys have turned out better than anybody could ever hope for. They met and married two of the best daughter-in-laws in the universe. Their marriages have produced two extraordinary grandsons for us.

It’s been a good run

So, it’s been a good run. I’ve had five years more than I ever expected. I’m beginning to get optimistic.

I had a chunk of cheek carved off, so I got the Big C ticket punched. I survived a car vs. bike crash last month with only road rash and a cracked rib, so I got that checked off the list. The exams after the crash said I was “normal,” which I thought was a let-down from Mother saying I was “above average” all these years, but still a pretty good grade.

I’ve reconnected with some old friends and made some new ones. Riding Partner Anne stood beside me, literally, as I was bleeding on the ground after the crash. She didn’t get a picture of it, but she’s a writer, not a photographer, so you have to make allowances.

Not gonna tempt fate

I don’t believe in tempting fate, so I’m not going to suggest you run out and buy me a birthday card for next year if you see one one sale, but I’m more optimistic now than I was when I turned 59.

There’s a new Tip Jar

By the way, (how’s that for a segue?) there’s a new little button at the top left of the page that says “Donate.” I have a new advertiser coming on board who wanted to be able to pay by credit card, so Kid Matt set up this link to make it possible. I’m not going to make a big deal out of it, but it can also serve as a “tip jar” for anybody who wants to help the boat stay afloat. (That’s not me above. It’s Tom Price, editor of The Ohio University Post, begging for money.)

(We used to have a coffee can labeled “TIPS” back in the telephone switchroom where we invited folks back for espresso a couple of times a week. This was a newspaper, remember, so we didn’t get much money, but we got lots of scraps of paper with stuff like, “Look both ways before crossing the street.” scrawled on them.)

This guy is still there

I wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and wonder who that old geezer is who stares back at me. It’s strange, because this is the guy who is still hiding behind that reflection.

Florida Steinhoff Christmas

It was good to be back in Florida in time to celebrate Christmas with my Florida family. We’re not big on ceremony.

Some of us gathered at Son Matt’s Christmas Eve for takeout Chinese Food, which is becoming a tradition.

Strict cooking instructions

Christmas dinner was equally unstructured. Everybody brought a different dish to share so that no one person got stuck slaving away in the kitchen. Even I got drafted. Wife Lila left me strict instructions: “I may not be back from church by 11 o’clock, so take the ham out of the oven at 11 sharp.” When the alarm went off, I went racing into the kitchen. Even with potholders, that sucker was HOT! I managed to extract it from the oven with minimal damage to ham and me. I don’t think anyone noticed where it bounced off the floor. It’s a good thing the cats don’t shed much; there was minimal cat hair to pick off.

The photo includes Matt and Sarah (standing), Mary Jo and Devon (Sarah’s parents), Carly, Graham and Adam, and Lila. Malcolm’s on the left making it plain that he wants dinner over with so he can go back to his loot. You can click on any photo to make it larger.

“You have to be eight to work on this”

Grandson Malcolm wasn’t hearing it when I looked at the cover of the Soda Can Robug and said, “We can’t work on this. It says it’s suitable for ages 8 and older. You’re just seven.”

“GRANDAD,” he said in an exasperated tone, “I’ve put together stuff that’s for ages 14 and up. My parents don’t care.”

I hope she likes my Nikon D40

Son Adam bid on a Nikon D3100 on eBay last week. I’m trying to convince them that they should take my Nikon D40 and let me pay the difference to take it off their hands. I’m happy with the D40 (I’ve taken about 30,000 pictures with it since 2008), but it would be nice to upgrade. Carly’s shooting 10-month-old Grandson Graham with the D40 to see how she likes it.

Lego Assembly technician for hire

I knew better than to point out to Malcolm that this box says 8+. He’s always had a great eye for detail. When he wasn’t much more than a year old, we gave him a bunch of paper cups to play with on the floor. When we looked over, he had carefully arranged them by size and was putting the smaller ones into the bigger ones. He made the transition from Thomas the Train and track layouts to Legos and major construction projects this year.

When one of Sarah’s friends posted on Facebook, “Does anyone else feel like they work on a Lego assembly line?” Sarah offered, “Malcolm says he charges $1 an hour to assemble Legos, unless it’s something cool. Then he does it for free.”

My old Cub Scout neckerchief

Mother sent Malcolm a special gift. He’s modeling a Cub Scout neckerchief and slide that Brothers Mark and David and I wore when we were Cub Scouts with Pack 8, shortly after the earth’s crust cooled. She asked him to “take care of it and pass it down to Graham” when he’s done with it.

Credit where credit’s due

I took the group shot at the top of the page, but Wife Lila took all the rest of the photos with her trusty iPhone.