Universal Happiness

Our oldest grandson and I spent a day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando last Wednesday. A single day to do both parks justice didn’t seem feasible, but we made it work by purchasing express pass tickets and hitting all the rides we knew we wanted to ride.

The day began with rain! Such a bummer! But we got in the express pass line for the Minions ride and got out of the weather quickly. It wasn’t one of our “must” rides, but it served the purpose of keeping us dry and warm. The same was true for the Jimmy Kimmel ride. They were both fun, but not really what grandson Garrett was looking forward to on his first visit to Universal.

The rain slacked off somewhat, but the day was much colder than we’d expected. We stopped in a shop and I bought a hooded sweatshirt and we both got lanyards to keep our tickets and passes safe from the elements before heading into Diagon Alley.

Here’s Garrett outside the unassuming entrance to the magical world of Harry Potter:

Much to his embarrassment I asked complete strangers to take a photo of us in the middle of Diagon Alley. I told him he was going to get used to me being an extrovert. I’m not sure he ever embraced it, though.

He sort of thinks I’m nuts. He’s not wrong.

We stopped into Gringotts,

and we rode the Hogwarts Express:

We drank butterbeer once we arrived at Hogsmeade:

We rode spectacularly produced rides in the World of Harry Potter. They’re such a great mix of roller coaster action and film that reality gets all contorted by fantasy and you feel you really are dashing about a Quidditch field or escaping from Gringotts. One’s senses are confused and delighted in so many ways. I giggled and screamed in the same breath.

Hogwarts Castle was an amazing sight.

We ventured to many other parts of Universal and Islands of Adventure, taking on mummies and assisting Spiderman, but The Magical World of Harry Potter was the highlight.

Garrett and I had a blast. Okay, I had a blast, and I’m fairly sure he did–he’s not quite as extroverted as I am. (Note the Slytherin hat.)

Peace, people!

Too Excited to Sleep

There’s no doubt I’ve had a weird week running from one medical related appointment to another, fasting for a procedure every day, and then sleeping off anesthesia most of today.

Tomorrow, though, life takes a turn for the better because my Illinois grandkids are finally going to be here! It’s a good thing I got my sleep in earlier today, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be too excited to sleep tonight, kind of like these kids in this old Disney commercial:


Peace, people!

My Great-Hedgehog

Bandit is the beloved pet of our oldest grandchild, Dominique, so I suppose that makes Bandit my great-hedgehog.

Above, Dominique with Bandit.

Aren’t they adorable?

Bandit even allowed me to cuddle her. I’m kind of smitten by this prickly baby.

I had to say goodbye to the Texas bunch today, and I’ve stopped for the night in Meridian, Mississippi. I’m about halfway home. My body sure doesn’t travel as well as it once did!

Peace, people!

More Pictures from the Road

On Saturday Studly and I traveled the second leg of our Christmas journey, driving from Clarksville, Tennessee, to Port Byron, Illinois. We made good time and soon were hugging our daughter and three of our five grandkids.

This is how the youngest one dressed to greet us in 33° weather:

After getting the grandkids all riled up we headed to a pizza place across the river in LeClaire, Iowa, where we played pinball and Pac-Man, tried our luck with the claw game and the fortune telling machine while the pizza was being cooked. I was too busy playing to take any pictures, but I took this one of the granddaughters posing as the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who in front of a shop in LeClaire.

There wasn’t nearly as much NASCAR style driving going on today, so my sanity isn’t in question as it was last night. I didn’t take many photos from the passenger seat today either, but we did pass a truck carrying its payload in an unorthodox manner:

Studly called my attention to this odd sight as we approached the truck north of Springfield, Illinois. We pondered for many miles how this little car was loaded onto the bed of the truck.

Other than these two pictures I only snapped a few others:

Studly got a bit excited when he saw snow on the side of the road. I hope that’s the ONLY snow we see this week; although, the forecast is calling for a white Christmas.

That’s part of the Peoria, Illinois, skyline, above. Not a great photo, but Peoria is kind of a cool river town.

As I type this, Studly and I are unwinding in our cozy hotel room with a view of the Mississippi River outside our window. We’re watching the Kansas Jayhawks play basketball while recharging our batteries for tomorrow’s activities with the grandkids. We’re going to need all the energy we can muster. Wish us luck.

Peace, people.

Geek Heaven

On Saturday I was able to attend a Scholastic Bowl tournament that my eldest grandson competed in. Needless to say, I was in heaven; although, it was hell not to be able to blurt out answers.

In the first match I had to sit on my hands to keep from raising them to signal I had the answer.

For subsequent rounds I sat at the back of the room and scribbled answers on a piece of scrap paper. The act of writing kept me from doing something stupid like embarrassing my grandson.

His team didn’t win today. Maybe next time they’ll put me in the lineup. Surely I could pass for a 15-year-old geek. Well, at least the geek part.

Peace, people.

Suffering from a Severe Lack of Oomph

I surrender! I have all these photos of the grandkids’ visit, but not the oomph needed to write about them. My oomph evaporated on Monday afternoon when I left the kids at the airport in Panama City Beach, and I’m not sure when it’s coming back.

Life continues, though, as does this blog, so I’m going to take the easy, less oomph reliant path and just post photos. If the spirit moves me, I might even comment on them. If not, well, make up your own captions. Oh, I started at the end of their visit and went backwards for some reason.

Here are a few from our morning in Panama City Beach before we headed to the airport:

Dominique and friend, Sophia, pose outside Dick’s Last Resort.

Enjoying a pineapple drink on the promenade.

Dominique pushing Jackson in a beach wheelchair so he wouldn’t get sand in his cast. I pushed him out to the beach and she pushed him back to the pavement. Hey, I think I know the moment my oomph disappeared!

Ahhh! The sun and the sand and the water.

Dining at Dick’s Last Resort, where the waiters are rude on purpose and the giggles are non-stop.

From our trip to Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia on Sunday:

Poppa (aka Studly Doright) and Jackson built a motorcycle during the kids’ visit. For some reason I didn’t take any “before” photos, but this bike was in pieces at the beginning of last week:

Tallahassee Museum and Zoo is one of the grandkids’ (and grandparents’) favorite places to visit.

While the two 15-year-olds embarked on the tree-to-tree adventure,

Jackson, Studly, and I explored the zoo area:

At Jackson’s request we went “thrifting.”

And I took the girls sightseeing and swimming at Wakulla Springs:

And that’s about it. The kids and I stayed up late to watch a scary movie one night, but I didn’t document that. I had crafts for us to do, but those ideas were met with little enthusiasm. That’s just fine. I’m not sure my limited supply of oomph would’ve allowed for much creativity.

It’s awfully quiet around Doright Manor since they’ve been gone. The only one happy with the kids’ absence is our cat, Patches. Maybe she’ll help with the oomph issue.

Or not.

Home Sweet Laundry

My cats were glad to see me when I arrived home Tuesday afternoon after a week on the road. Studly Doright was, too. I could tell by the way he purred when I rubbed between his ears. 

Today has been devoted to laundry. It could’ve been much worse, but Studly took it upon himself to do his own. I did a happy double take when he told me that he’d successfully pushed the appropriate buttons on both washer and dryer. He even took the time to learn how to properly use the Tide pods that I’m so fond of. 

Studly has always claimed he didn’t know how to do the laundry. Now, this is the man who taught me the difference between a two-stroke engine and a four-stroke. He’s the same one who made sure I knew how to check my own oil and to change a tire. And yet somehow laundry mystified him until this past week. 

Well played Studly. Well played.

Peace, people!

He’s really good with the grandbabies, too. No instructions necessary.

Peace, people!

Garrett’s Day

When Studly and I decided to have grandchildren we didn’t waste any time. Our Dominique was born on September 13, 2002, and our grandson Garrett followed just short of three months later on December 6.

Garrett wasn’t our first grandchild, but he was our first grandson. He restored symmetry to our family. From the beginning our Garrett was a fascinating kid. He started talking very early and his curiosity was boundless. He questioned everything from the moment he started talking, and that continues to this day.

He taught me all the ins and outs of Thomas the Tank Engine, such as the names of every engine and how to lay down a good track. When he outgrew Thomas and Friends Garrett became a Lego aficionado, a true master builder who once told me that every set must be built according to the directions at least three times before the pieces can be used for other purposes.

Nowadays Garrett is a spelling hotshot. He practically eats words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After winning his school’s spelling bee as a fifth grader, he went on to place in the top ten at the regional bee. He’s also a budding oboist AND he can ride a motorcycle. Pretty well-rounded kid. Oh, my favorite thing? He still says, “Nana, I love you.”

There is something he’s not fond of doing–math homework, so awhile back I wrote this little story.

“Garrett Battles the Math Monster”

No one knew about the monster in Garrett’s bedroom except for Garrett. He’d almost told his parents, but he didn’t think they’d believe him. He thought his sisters might be scared if he told them, so he kept it a secret.

As monsters go this wasn’t a particularly awful one. It had but one purpose in life–to prevent Garrett from completing his mathematics homework. The monster didn’t care about English, science or social studies assignments; it just didn’t want him to tackle math.

When the monster first moved into his room Garrett thought he could just ignore it and it would go away. He could see the enormous beast from the corner of his eye as he worked on assignments. It had silver scales, almost like mirrors that winked merrily as long as Garrett practiced spelling words or memorized state capitals. But as soon as Garrett pulled out his math textbook, the scales turned blood red and began pulsing with a menacing intensity. The monster would snarl angrily and poise for attack. Quickly Garrett closed his book and watched the monster mellow out.

“Ok,” thought Garrett. “No math, no problem.”

But there was a problem. Garrett’s math grades began to slip. Then to slide. Then to plummet. Things were serious. It was time to banish the math monster.

Every afternoon Garrett entered his room with the intention of driving the monster out. First he tried to reason with it.

“Hey there,” he said. “I’m in need of a break here. Do you think you could go mess with someone else for awhile?”

The monster showed his fearsome teeth and howled.

Next he tried fighting his scaly nemesis with fists. All Garrett got out of that idea were bruised knuckles and a black eye.

Maybe the monster was afraid of animals. Garrett brought in his cat Lucy to test his hypothesis, but Lucy took one look at the monster, screeched and scampered upstairs to hide under the sofa.

Nothing was working. Then Garrett had an idea. Maybe he needed to attack the math monster with words.

“Hey, Scale Breath,” said Garrett. “Can you spell extrudable?”

The monster looked perplexed. “How about excruciating?”

The monster started growing smaller.

“What kind of monster are you if you can’t handle a little spelling contest?”

The monster shrugged.

“Try this one,” continued Garrett. “Esophageal.”

The monster’s scales began to lose their luster.

Feeling more confident, Garrett said, “Spell Feuilleton.” The monster grimaced and seemed to shrink even more.

“Stichomythia!” Garrett crowed. The monster’s scales were now a dull brown and he was half the size he’d been just syllables ago. “Knaidel!” Shouted Garrett, and the monster shrunk again.

Sensing victory Garrett asked, “What do you have against math?”

The monster hung his now tiny head and said, “I didn’t want you to be good at math. You’re so good at everything else, I just thought that if I could keep you from being a star math student that it would make me feel better.”

“And did it?” asked Garrett.

“Not really,” admitted the monster. “But I did enjoy hanging out in your room.”

“Look man, you can hang out here. Just don’t interfere with my homework anymore. You’re making me look bad.”

“Ok,”said the monster. “Could I ask you a favor?”

“Sure,” said Garrett.

“Teach me to spell?”

Happy birthday, Garrett! I love you! Don’t let the Math Monster win!

Below: Spelling bee stud; Big boy sliding; Hanging out with Dominique