Friday, July 31, 2009

At the zoo...

I'll close July's blogging with some more pictures from our daddy-daughter summer field trips. Yesterday we went to the zoo.
Franny especially loved looking down on the apes. I am not sure if it was the height that fascinated her, or the animals.




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A visit with Poppy

My father--known to Frances as "Poppy"--came to visit the cottage for a few days. I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but its interesting for me to see my father, who has always been a force to be reckoned with, acting like a grandfather. It amazes me how enamored with him Frances is. I remember seeing my own grandparents with eyes very different from the ones my mother saw them with, and now I guess that is a continuation of that phenomenon.
Poppy read to Frances from a farm book she's very fond of right now.
And he brought with him a child's rocking chair from 1902, which originally belonged to my grandmother Frances. He used it as a child, I used it as a child, and now Frances will also, undoubtedly get a lot of use out of it. Four generations--I guess my great grandparents would be pleased to know they got their money's worth out of that chair.
He also brought an antique child's sled--I remember my parents attaching our dog to the sled and letting him pull me around... we don't have a dog, but I am sure the sled will be put to use. It can be pushed. And there will certainly be snow. Maybe we'll take her out on the frozen lake this winter.
This is Frances with her father and Grandfather. We took this from the upper deck on the cottage, which looks out over the canal.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beautiful Michigan: The Grand River and the Fish Ladder

Every now and then I have this teacher urge come over me and I start answering questions nobody asked. Here is one such example. Grand Rapids is called Grand Rapids because it is situated on the Grand River... hence the Rapids of the Grand. Here ends the lecture.
Anyway, summer continues, and so do our father-daughter field trips. Today I took Frances to the Fish Ladder Park in Grand Rapids, so she could see the fish. The Fish Ladder is a piece of functional art to aide migrating fish, and it enables them to circumvent the man-made rapids in the Grand River. It is quite a sight, seeing these large catfish swimming up and down the steps of the fish ladder. The City made it into a park, and there are nice views of the Grand River, and of the city on the east banks of the river to be seen from the park. Since Frances is big on vocabulary acquisition right now, I thought she would enjoy seeing the fish and the ducks and the river.
This picture turned out wonderfully... I love the expression on her face.
This is what I call an environmental oddity... a fallen tree has produced an island of detritus, consisting of sticks, soda bottles, and a propane tank that somehow found its way into the river, and nature takes up residence on this makeshift island... count the ducks.
Here is a picture of the fallen tree, over the actual "Grand Rapids" which are man made. You can see the historical Sixth Street Bridge in the background.


Here is a shot of Franny, sitting on a ledge with the river and bridge in the background.
Here are some of the large catfish we saw in the water at the fish ladder. It was really quite a sight, watching these fat fish trying to swim up the fish ladder, against the current. Some of the fish were really quite large.
And here is Franny with the Fish Ladder in the background, looking very much like a pouty fashion model...
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Beautiful Michigan: Kollen Park, Lake Macatawa

Here are some pictures from a recent visit to Kollen Park in Holland. Kollen Park is on what is now called Lake Macatawa, though my mother called it Black Lake. Anyway, we went to Kollen Park so Frances could meet her Great Great Aunt Ethel. The two of them got along swimmingly.

Here is her ladyship on the playground equipment.
Here she is, charming Aunt Ethel...
I thought this was a good shot.
And here is the view of Lake Macatawa as seen from one of the Benches at Kollen Park.
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Downtown Grand Rapids: The Ford Museum

Since last Tuesday would have been the late President Ford's 96th Birthday, they offered free admission at the Ford Museum, and I decided Franny and I might as well go. (During my summer as a stay-at-home Dad, she has three half-days in daycare a week... Mon-Weds-Fri... and Tues-Thurs are our days for fun outings)
I hadn't been to the Ford museum since Ford died. I have a special fondness for Gerald Ford... when he was a congressman, my grandfather occasionally served as his body guard. Ford was married at the church we now attend, where Frances was baptized. (Ford's mother purportedly dropped dead of a heart attack during a service at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in downtown Grand Rapids, which is where Suzanne and I were married--of course, that was long before our time) There was a funeral for Gerald Ford at our church, attended by Jimmy Carter, the Ford family, Peter Secchia and many other big names. The night before Ford was buried, his coffin was lying in state at the Ford Museum, and Suzanne and I stood on line for seven hours with almost 100,000 other people and we filed past the coffin right at the stroke of midnight, and were able to watch the changing of the guard. I hadn't been to the museum since then--I think that was 2006. He died right after Christmas, and his funeral was in the dead of winter, though Grand Rapids was blessed with very mild weather that week, and there was no snow.
I've been called a sentimental fool--but I can even get sentimental about downtown Grand Rapids if I have half a chance. When I first came to Grand Rapids, I lived in the dorms at Aquinas College for two years, but then got an apartment downtown, on College Avenue, where I lived until we bought our house...I was in that apartment for a total of six years. Suzanne had an apartment on Lyon Street, just a few blocks from me. I had a variety of jobs, ranging from security guard to substitute teacher, before I got my first real job, teaching 7th grade in a rural farm town in central Michigan. After we got married, we bought our house on the East side of town, and we switched churches, but as I mentioned before, Suzanne and I were married in 2001 at St. Marks, a gorgeous, old neo-gothic church which has been in downtown Grand Rapids for over 150 years, and was at one time the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of West Michigan (until the late Bishop Bennison built that hideous monstrosity of modern architecture on I-94 in Portage which they had to sell to the Pentecostals a few years back because the Diocese was on the verge of bankruptcy)
Anyway, I will spare you more of my going down memory lane. Even though I drive through downtown Grand Rapids almost every day (Suzanne works at the Children's Hospital) I rarely get out of my car and do anything downtown. So visiting the Ford Museum was fun...

...although it made me feel a bit old. Look at this picture for a minute--Ford was president when I was born. He died before Frances was born. I started feeling old when I realized that, to Frances, Gerald Ford would be what F.D.R. was to me--the old dead white Episcopalian who was president way back when my father was born...
Here is Frances, inspecting the Oval Office exhibit--no doubt planning how she'll redecorate it after she's elected.
Here I am, doing one of those self-portraits in a mirror that I think are so cool.
Here she is, having a run by the fountain. Note the red, white and blue flowers.
I think that this has to be one of the best pictures I've taken in ages... just look at THAT BABY.
Here is a shot of downtown Grand Rapids, as reflected from the glass wall of the Ford Museum.
This is where Ford is buried. Note that Frances had gotten her hands on my camera for a second, and left a greasy fingerprint on the lens (she had been eating a sugar cookie) which I wasn't aware of until I got home and started looking at the pictures...hence the smudge in the lower right corner.
And here can you see Frances doing her new favorite thing--pushing her own stroller. She always strongly prefers the cheap plastic stroller that Suzanne and Wilda bought at one of the shops in Guangzhou to any of the others we have, and since its lightweight, we go along with it. Nobody has anything like it here--its got Chinese writing all over it. You can also see the greasy finger smudge in the lower right corner.
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Cute as a Bug's Ear

Here are two pictures I just couldn't resist taking of her ladyship last Saturday when I was at the cottage. The above shot shows Frances looking like the Imperial Emperess she no doubt was in a previous life, and the shot below shows her toothy "on command" smile, which looks more like she's trying to pass a kidney stone...
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beautiful Michigan--More from Big Red at Holland State Park

THAT BABY... surprised me and went down at 10:15 for a nap. Wonders never cease. More recently, it has seemed that her morning nap was going to become a thing of the past. So, since the child is asleep, I have some time to blog.
Sunday the fifth was a nice relaxing day--we went to church, went to lunch, went to visit my Aunt and cousin in Holland, and then, since we were there, and since I have a state park sticker this year, we decided to go and swing by the state park for some sunshine and beach. This time Franny was much more willing to venture out and enjoy herself, and she enjoied running up and down the pier--at least the part of the pier that has railings... And we took some more pictures of the lighthouse, known to the locals at "Big Red." I was never exactly a local in Holland, but I don't suppose it matters now. Anyway, Holland has two big beaches, each a mile from the other... one we always called "Ottawa Beach" which is the State Park, which you need to pay $6 or have a sticker to get into. The other beach is called "Tunnel Park" because it has a big tunnel leading to the beach, and Tunnel Park used to be free, but now, since Ottawa County took it over, it also charges visitors. I am only going on about this because of the terminology... Tunnel Park is now an Ottawa County Park, and we used to call what is now the state park, Ottawa Beach. It could get confusing, as they are smack dab next to each other. Anyway, I digress. Here are the pictures we took, posted in no particular order.
The child loves feeling a breeze... it always makes her smile


I am not pleased to see the bald spot forming on the top of my head, but as I am 34 now, and quickly approaching (if I'm not there already) middle age, I resolve to face this new and unavoidable challenge head-on, and not start doing a comb-over or anything else to try to re-capture my lost youth. Some things improve with age, and I hope I am such an entity...
Look at Franny in this one--she looks like she's having a religious experience. I hope this isn't a sign that she's going to grow up to be a charismatic...
Chillin with Mama
Suzanne just made this one her profile pic on Facebook...
Must have been an airplane flying over head...
I especially like this picture...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July: Fireworks and Bug Bites

We are spending most of the weekend at our cottage, though I have to be back in GR tomorrow morning because I'm ushering at church. (I get my internet access at the Gun Lake Grind, a fabulous little coffee house thats walking distance from the cottage--even in the country, we have our trappings of the city...) To celebrate Frances's first fourth of July as an American (I hesitate to call her an American Citizen just yet, as we are waiting for her N600 to be processed... we mailed the form, with the $425 and the stack of birth certificates, marriage certificate and adoption decree) to Detroit a few monhts back, but it seems as if the current processing times on that document run about 18 months... does this mean we can't get a passport until the N600 is processed? Anyone have any ideas? (Adoptive Parents: Did any of you obtain a passport for your child before getting the Citizenship Certificate? If yes, did both parents travel to China, or just one? Its all so unclear--the only thing that is clear is that the Detroit Field Office is slower than Christmas!) Anyway, it was Frances's first July 4th in America, and we will call her an "American" for the moment. We went to watch the fireworks being set off over the lake from the island in the State Park.
We went out a bit earlier than we should have, and the bugs just love devouring Frances, the poor thing. So as we sat on the ground waiting for the fireworks to start, in addition to long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, we tried to protect Frances from the bugs by putting a hooded blanket on her little head, but she didn't tolerate that for long. Before long, she was free, as she wants to be, and the mosquitos were having a free-for-all, feasting on her soft flesh.
She liked waving the American flags.

You can see quite clearly here, the bug bites that began popping up on the back of her neck. We didn't see these nearly as clearly, because it was dark at night, and the flash on my camera is what illuminated these nasty little bug bites in shocking detail... note, they don't look nearly so nasty in the light of day...
And here is the poor child's feasted-on forehead. Does anyone know if its okay to treat babies with Deet? We've been hesitant to dose her with chemicals, but at the same time, I think she gives off so much heat that she's irresistable to the bugs. Poor thing. Again, these bites don't look nearly as bad in the light of day.
I also need to point out, that her ladyship was not terribly impressed by the fireworks. She watched at first, but was far more interested in climbing on Daddy than she was in wathing the show. My only explanation for her complacency is that perhaps spending her first nine months in China--where they invented fireworks, where most fireworks are manufactured--during the time when the Olympics were taking place, maybe she got to see a lot of fireworks so she's nonplussed by them? I don't know. She got bored, and I thought the show was quite good, especially with the economy being what it is.
During the fireworks, I started trying to take the perfect picture of the fireworks going off, with the lake reflecting the colors back... I eventually gave up and put the camera away and decided to just enjoy the fireworks.
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