Wednesday, July 30, 2014

MidWeek Surprise

Just a short post today to tell you about one of those little moments that happen in life that make it a bit easier to get through the day. One of them happened today. 

My wife, works extremely long stressful hours at her job. Some days she leaves the house before 7 in the morning and does not return until after 8 at night. 

Since going back to the office after she had some time off at the beginning of the month the demand on her time has gotten even greater. This past weekend she worked at least 10 hours both days. Earlier in the week she worked a 17 hour day not getting home until 1AM. 

Obviously she does not have much of a life outside of the office these days. When she does manage to make it home she is exhausted both physically and mentally. 

I do my best to make the time she has at home as calm and relaxing at possible. So she can sit and enjoy her time off and possibly "refuel" as much as she can. 

That's why today I did something for her that I knew she'd enjoy. I offered to take her to lunch.

When I picked her up from the office I suggested that we go to The Lunch Pail. It's the small cafe inside of the Montana Grill restaurant. 

Without her knowing it I had arranged for my daughter-in-law and granddaughter to meet us there. 

Paula had not seen Aria since she was at our house nearly every day during the week my sister's family was here visiting. 

I could tell my wife was in need of an "Aria encounter" so I made arrangements for Brandi and her little one to surprise her at lunch. 

She got to spend an hour with our precious 2 year old. As you can see, Aria was glad to see us too.  

They had a great time together playing with the sugar packets on the table and fishing the ice out of Aria's drink cup with a spoon. 

It's not easy for me to have to watch Paula have to go through such a stressful time at her job; especially since I am currently "between full time jobs" for nearly 9 months now. 

But I do my best to make things as easy on her as possible. I try to keep things together here at the house. I also make sure I have dinner ready for her whenever she manages to make it home at night. 

When you love someone sometimes you know what they need without them ever having to ask for it. I knew that spending time with Aria in the middle of yet another busy and stressful week was something that would make my wife smile and ir did. Of course, I couldn't have made it happen without some help. Thanks Brandi. That hour together meant a lot to Paula. 

Still and all I'm humbly going to take credit for a very good idea. Every once in a while being right feels really good; especially when it helps someone who means the world to you.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Latest In Lego

It's been a busy month in a lot of ways and my world of Lego is no exception. I have assembled 8 models so far in July. I have shared pictures and stories about half of them with you already. Today I'm going to show you the rest. 

Let's start with one that you've already seen. The Emmet Construct-O-Mech model from The Lego Movie. I mentioned this in the 2nd part of my family vacation series last week. 

Now, as promised I have uploaded a 4 minute video showing the features and details of this model. I must warn you though. If you are among the pop culture derelicts who haven't seen The Lego Movie yet this video could be a bit of a spoiler. 

Emmet's Construct O Mech Demo

For several months now I have been trying to build the 3 models of the Lego set, Aviation Adventure. But shortly after I opened the kit and started building I realized that there was an entire bag of pieces missing. 

I ended up making two orders to get the missing parts from Lego but they were sent to me free of charge (thanks Lego). 

I've already shared the speedboat I built from the kit. Here's the expert model from this kit: a prop plane. 

I really really like this model. There are some really cool features to it. Here's the link to the demo video on my You Tube Channel. 
Aviation Adventure Prop Plane Demo

For me, the process of making advanced Lego models takes a couple of days. It takes a while to see the results. Sometimes I like to have immediate results when I work with Lego bricks. 

That's why I still buy kits that are a little easier to build. This past week I made some bubble pack models: A Rocking Horse...

...and a Turkey. 

Come November this bird will complement the "Thanksgiving Feast" bubble pack kit I got last year.

The last model I want to share with you in this post I just completed last night. It's the last of 3 models I've built from the Lego Creator "Cool Cruiser" Kit#5767. It's a sports car that Lego calls a "cabriolet". I just think it's cool. 

There are a lot of unique aspects and features to this model. They are best demonstrated in a video. Again here's the link to my You Tube channel. 
Cool Cruiser Cabriolet Demo

Finally, this past week on the "Brick & Bloks" Lego themed blog published a post that featured a preview of the next series of mini-figures. The information was released as part of San Diego Comic Con. Here is the photo that accompanied the post. 
Lots of interesting and unique offerings in this set. The guy in a pig costume, the goth girl, wizard, and rock star are the ones that caught my eye. 

They won't be released in blind bags until October but that will give me some time to study them and figure out what to look for when I start buying them for my collection. 

You're up to date with all the latest in Lego for me. My next report will feature one of my favorite types of models but haven't built in a while. Keep in touch to see what it will be. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Record Breaker

Today is the day I've been looking forward to all year long. Initially I thought that this occasion would happen back in the middle of June but it didn't. But now that this post has arrived I have to say I am proud of it. This is my 171st of 2014. It breaks my most posts in a single calendar year record of 170 set back in 2009. 

Having recognized the establishment of a new yearly blog post record I have to decide what I'm going to write about in this milestone entry. 

I have decided to share with y'all a couple of moments of "enlightenment" that I've had lately. 

The first one is rather whimsical and something that it only took me 34 years to realize. It has to do with a song that's part of one of my all time favorite movie soundtracks.  

The 1980 film, The Blues Brothers, is not only one of those movies I have to watch every time I see it on TV but I love the soundtrack. 

The movie's opening song and the first one on the soundtrack is called "She Caught The Katy." Some of the lyrics are: 
She caught the Katy
And left me a mule to ride
Now my baby caught the Katy
Left me a mule to ride
The train pulled out 
I swung on behind

Now I've been singing along with these lyrics for over 3 decades and always thought "the katy" was a slang term for a Cadillac. I can only assume that I thought that because that was the type of car a blues song would be about.

But while watching one of my favorite TV shows the other night, Mysteries At The Museum, I saw a story about the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad whose nickname was "The Katy" because of it's stock exchange symbol "K-T."

Knowing that the song laments about a woman leaving town on a train helps to illustrate the sadness the writer feels about the broken status of his relationship with her. 

The only relevance this realization has is that in the future when I hear this song I will mentally picture a train leaving a station instead of someone driving away in a Cadillac.  

As a "thank you" for allowing me to expound on this really trivial bit of personal discovery I now present for your enjoyment a link to the You Tube video featuring the song. Be careful it can get in your head and you'll be humming it all day.

The second enlightening moment I want to mention is the result of the book I'm currently reading.  

My habit of reading has really tailed off this year. I haven't finished one book all year long. I have listened to a couple of audio books but have not actually completed reading one. 

Having said that, the book I have been reading is the biography of Jim Henson. This is the book I bought after I attended a release party at the Bowling Green Barnes & Noble store in June of last year. At the time of this post I am about halfway through the book. 

Jim Henson is one of the top 10 on my most influential "famous" people in my life. Let me share with you the story that illustrates the effect he has had on me. 

The artist who first sparked my aspirations to perform with puppets was ventriloquist Paul Winchell. He fascinated me on the afternoon kids TV show "Winchell Mahoney Time" when I was about 6 or 7. 

Around that time, the Muppets were just something my dad really liked. He used to call us to the TV to watch the segments of the Jimmy Dean show that featured the Muppet Rowlf the dog on Saturday nights and occasionally on Sunday nights when the Muppets performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.  

But in 1969 it was Henson's work with the Muppets on Sesame Street that got me obsessed with puppetry. 

Once I met Kermit, Burt and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster through the black & white TV in my living room I was hooked. I made it my goal to create a troupe of puppet characters just like on Sesame Street. I wanted a puppet troupe of my own. 

Over the next 5 or 6 years I collected the Fisher Price version of the Sesame Street hand puppets, finger puppets, and even some small Disney Character marionettes. 

However once I started going to middle school the idea that I played with puppets was not something my friends would let me get by with. They razzed me about it and I really wanted to fit in. Eventually I traded in all my puppets for a peer group and a shot at having a girlfriend.  

At age 15, I tried to learn but didn't stick with ventriloquism. Again the reason I gave it up was because, for some reason girls weren't attracted to a guy making a stuffed animal sitting on his lap talk...go figure. 

Even though I'd put it aside in my youth, my interest in puppets and ventriloquism never ever left me. Fast forward 40 years.

In 2006 I took up ventriloquism again. Returning to my artistic interest reignited my passion for puppets. I began collecting them again.  I now have about 3 dozen puppets. 

Now here's where the moment of clarity as a result of reading Jim Henson's biography comes in. 

While reading the section of the book that deals with the 5 years The Muppet Show was in production and The Muppet Movie was made I realized that those years were probably the apex of the Muppets during Henson's lifetime. 

 At that time the Muppets had grown into what they were mostly through Henson's vision and efforts. Breakout characters like Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear had become popular and well known all over the world. 

As a kid I had the dream to emulate the cache of characters that Henson had created on Sesame Street. As an adult, who was back into the world of puppets, I once again tapped into that childhood desire to be like my idol. My cases full of puppets sitting in my back storage room is evidence of that. 

But I have realized that there are two things wrong with my aspiring to the model of the Muppets. First of all, the Muppets are made up of a troupe of puppeteers. There are dozens and dozens of men and women who give life and voice the Muppets. But each puppeteer only performs a handful of characters. I perform as a solo act and have a limited range of voices I can do. 

Also I am a ventriloquist. If you look at even the best of the best ventriloquists, (Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Jay Johnson, Taylor Mason, to name a few) they have multiple characters but only a few.  

So I think the next step in my personal development of my ventriloquism should be "thinning the herd" in regard to the characters I perform. 

I already know that my most popular character, Cecil the turtle, is at the top of the list. But as of now the rest of the lineup has to be determined. 

Some of my puppets are front runners because they are personal favorites. But I am going to have some decisions to make. 

I'll be writing more about this process and may even create a way for my blog readers and Facebook friends to help me choose. 

So there you have my latest "epiphanies." One about some  song lyrics that's basically unimportant and the other about making a major decision in my future approach to ventriloquism. 

Thus begins the first step into a new frontier of more than 170 blog posts in a year. Hmm...wonder what I'll write about? Aria? Lego? My travels? Happenings at church? Self Indulgent childhood memories? Smiths Grove stuff? Yeah I think there's some material there. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Opening Of The Crossroads

I began posting pictures of the construction of the latest convenience store here in Smiths Grove back in February. Here's the first shot I posted. 

 As the status of the building progressed I put up more pictures. I knew from what I was told by the employees, the new convenience store/gas station was going to replace the IGA grocery store

The opening was first scheduled for the middle of May. But the harsh winter weather caused some delays and pushed it up a couple of months. After nearly 9 months of construction the new Crossroads IGA officially opened on Wednesday July 16. 

As I've mentioned in a previous post the store held an open house on the Tuesday night before it's official opening. 

My family and I went to see what it was all about. I wasn't expecting much but was really impressed. Here are some pictures of the inside.

Not only was the place shiny and brand new but the staff was very friendly and generous with samples and giveaways. 

I had several delicious barbecued spare rib samples, diet sweet ice tea, baked goods from Cinnabons, and best of all Carvel ice cream. 

Paula and I each got a sample bag of fresh fruit that contained an entire quart of fresh strawberries, a banana, some peaches, and a small container of a mixed variety of fresh melons. 

Some family members got free cups of coffee, generous samples of sandwiches from Schlotzky's deli. It was quite a happening.

After being there for just a few minutes we realized that most of Smiths Grove had come out to this big event. The crowd got to be a bit much. Having had our fill of all the samples being offered, we left. 

You could tell that this preview was an important event because of all the guys suits or a shirt & tie, who looked like they were in middle management of the various companies involved in the store, standing around watching all the employees do the work. Although there were a couple of store level supervisors and managers, who were working really hard to make sure things worked as well as possible. 

Before leaving I tried to get one some on in management to step aside and let me video a short interview about the grand opening of the store and how it would fit into the Smiths Grove area.

I wanted to get an idea of how the idea for the store developed and how it had been tailored to meet the needs of the Smiths Grove community. 

Unfortunately the place was so crowded and everyone was so busy, I couldn't get anyone. I had planned on going back the next day during the official grand opening and getting the interview but I never did.
It's been a little over a week since Crossroads IGA opened and I believe I've been there almost every day. 

The grocery store is pretty good but I haven't really shopped for a lot of stuff there. I've purchased 2 liter bottles of diet Dr. Pepper, a precooked roasted chicken, and my sister bought my niece's birthday ice cream cake. The store is there for the convenience not for finding a bargain. The prices are higher than they were at it's grocery store predecessor.  

Paula and I have quickly become obsessed with the soft serve Carvel ice cream. It is so much better than what you can get at Mickey D's or the Flavor Isle here in "the grove". In the week the store's been open we've had it about 5 times. It is the best soft serve we've had in a long time. 

There is a drive thru window for the sandwich, bakery, ice cream shops. I've used that a couple of times. It's very convenient. 

I like the place and will take full advantage of it being here. Having said that here's a few things I don't like about it. 

The parking in front of the store is not logistically the best. The way the spaces are situated if there are cars at the gas pumps closest to the store it's a kind of tricky to back out of them. 

The "fast food" counter at the front of the store is rather poorly designed in regard to servicing the customers. The pair of cash registers at the counter both serve customers wanting to buy any of the three types of food available. 

This means that if you are waiting to buy just an ice cream or a cinnamon bun and you get in front of a family going through the lengthy process of ordering a Schlotzky's sandwich you are going to be waiting. This happened to me the 2nd time I went in to get just two small ice creams. There should be a separate line for each of the types of food you can get. 

Also there is no direct path to go from the front store to the back half that has the groceries. There is a large island that has a refrigerated case filled with cold convenience items just set up right in the middle of the store. 

If you enter from the front door you have to either go to the extreme left past the shelf with the bread or to the right past the coffee/fountain drink area. So I guess the thing to do if you want to do some grocery shopping is park on the side of the store. It has more of a direct access to the back half of the store. 

Perhaps that is by design. The front half of the store is for convenience and the back half is for shopping. It really is the crossroads of the type of stores that bring people in.   

But having said all that let me restate that I think this new store is going to be a positive thing for Smiths Grove. However the loss of the actual IGA full grocery store will also be felt in a negative manner.  

Having only been open just a little over a week the long term effect on the economy and traffic in the area is yet to be determined. 

But from what I've seen so far there are a lot more people from the interstate stopping off to get gas or pick up something quick. 

If you find yourself approaching exit 38 on I-65 in Kentucky and need gas, want a snack, are looking for something to take home for dinner or are simply just curious, I highly recommend you check out the newest addition to "my little town": The Crossroads IGA

Friday, July 25, 2014

Family Visit Top Ten: Part 5

Finally, I've come to the last entry in this series about my "staycation" with my Kentucky family and my sister's family from Pennsylvania. It's taken a week to tell the story but I have enjoyed looking back at a lot of what we did. 

TeeJai's Birthday
This last of the ten topics I've chosen to highlight is a day that resulted from the main reason for the Pearsons visiting when they did. Just like last year my niece, Teejai, wanted to spend her birthday, Thursday July 17,  with us here in the Bluegrass State. 

Shari and I made plans for a special family outing the night of TJ's special day and kept it as a secret from her all week. It drove her crazy. I took full advantage of it as a means of teasing her too. 

On Wednesday night when we were all together as a family we celebrated my niece, Teejai's birthday with an ice cream cake. Here's a short video of her blowing out the candles. I know I have put this up on a previous post in this series but it also fits into this one. 

The one thing she asked to do on her birthday was go back to the Opry Mills. Since her surprise was also in Nashville we told her we'd take her to the mall first. 

On Thursday morning I woke up around 8AM. I was really tired and kind of sluggish. But it was my niece's birthday and she had decided to come spend it with her uncle's family. I knew I had to start the day out special.  So I grabbed my ukulele and went down to the Bryce. 

As Teejai sat in the motel room eating her breakfast I sang Happy Birthday to her. I also tried to sing my own special version of the song "You're Sixteen" with words for her 17th birthday. 

I hadn't rehearsed all week and it was terrible. But Teejai and the rest were very gracious in saying that they liked it. Personally, I was very disappointed in my performance for several reasons. But that's another subject for another day. 

By midday, 9 of us (Michael & Heather couldn't go because Heather had to work) were in a caravan of 3 vehicles heading down I-65 toward Nashville and the mall. I drove with Bob & Bobby. Paula, Shari, and TJ rode with Theresa. James and Brandi were only going to the mall with us so they drove on their own. 

James was anxious to take everyone to the Aquatic Critters pet store he and I went to earlier in the month. After about half an hour there we headed back up Briley Parkway to Opry Mills. 

Once we got there our first order of business was to get something to eat. Having parked on the side of the mall opposite the food court we walked up one corridor to the Rain Forrest Cafe and back down to the food court. 

Each of us got in line to get what we wanted. Collectively we ate from Panda Express, Burger King, Villa pizza, and "Which Wich", a sandwich place. 

After eating we broke up into smaller groups. Brandi and James took Aria to the "Build A Bear" workshop to get her first custom stuffed animal. She got a pink horse that quickly became her best friend. 

The woman went shopping in the Vera Bradley outlet store; where Paula allowed Teejai to pick out her own birthday present. Bobby and I went to the Lego Store. That's where I surprised him by getting the Star Wars AT-AT I mentioned in part 2 of this series.  

We didn't spend as much at the mall as we did last year but we all had a good time. We gathered back together at the entrance where we came in, said "good-bye" to Aria, James and Brandi. Then at about 5 o'clock we left and headed for our evening destination. Teejai was about to find out what her big surprise was. 

Just like the grand opening of the Crossroads IGA in the grove earlier in the week the surprise was a matter of serendipity. It just so happened to be going on at the time the PA family was in town for TJ's birthday. 

We drove across Nashville once again; going down I-40 to 70S and then on to RT 100. Soon we pulled into the parking lot and this is what my niece saw which finally revealed her birthday surprise. 
This was her first time to Chaffin's and it was to see one of her favorite shows, Grease. 

Paula and I have been going to Chaffin's for years. This was Shari and Bob's 2nd time and the first time for Teejai and Bobby. Theresa had been there before but this time she was our guest as a gift for her upcoming birthday.

For the first time we were seated at a pair of tables on the floor of the theater. It was level with the stage area. This would be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. It was nice to be so close but it limited our view when there were a lot of people on the stage. 

Although I didn't care for it at all, everyone else seemed to enjoy the food on the buffet. 

Through conversation, I found out that our waiter was a former cast member at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. He told me that he was a parking lot attendant for 8 years. I wish I could have gotten to talk with him more. 

During the introductions and announcements, just before the show started,  all the waiters gathered on the stage and verbally recognized everyone who was there for a special occasion and or birthday. They wished Teejai a "happy birthday" with a special song. She also got a cupcake with a candle on it at her table. 

The show was a lot of fun and quite a bit different than the iconic movie we are all familiar with. The cast was very large for the venue. Paula and I couldn't believe that they were able to fit that many people on the stage at the same time during the production numbers. It was the most we'd ever seen before.

During intermission I asked Charlie, our waiter, to take a picture of our group. 

After the show was over we all gathered out in the small courtyard just outside the red barn that serves as the theater building.

We waiting to make sure that everyone was gathered together before heading home. 

Shari and Teejai went back into the theater to try and get a picture with some of the cast. The actresses who played a couple of the Pink Ladies and the one who played "Sandy" the female lead posed with her. 

Take a look at the smile on TJ's face in the last two pictures. That stayed there the entire night. She really really liked her surprised. I'm sure this will be a birthday she'll remember for a long time. 

So there you have the 10 things that I will remember the most about the Pearsons' 2014 trip to my little town in Kentucky. 

The best result of their visit is that there are family members that are now closer than they were before last week. The bonds formed during our time together are there to stay. 

One of the hottest topics of discussion during our evening dinners throughout the week was plans for all of us to go to Pennsylvania and visit them next year. 

Michael and Heather's plans are firm because she is going to a book signing in Hershey, PA (two hours away from Easton where my sisters live) in August 2015. They will probably meet up with Shari and her family one day at Hershey Park.

The rest of us are looking to go in June of next year so we can attend Teejai's high school graduation. But no matter when we see them again we will always treasure the time we got to spend with Shari, Bob, Bobby, and Teejai here in Kentucky during the middle week of July 2014. Hope you enjoyed reading about it as well.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Family Visit Top Ten: Part 4

I know I promised yesterday that this part of my blog series would be about the best day of our week with my family. But I'm changing that for a couple of reasons. 

First, I want to save my stories about the "best day" of the visit for the last part of this series. Then most importantly I want to use the fact that today is "Throwback Thursday" all across social media today to lessen the "bitter" portion of this bittersweet" event I'm writing about today. 

Friday Farewell Breakfast
Over the years they've been coming to visit us here in Kentucky  we have been saying "good-bye" to the members of my family from Pennsylvania by going to breakfast with them the morning of the day they depart on their journey back home. 

A couple of those morning breakfast farewells have taken place at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Cave City, just north of Smiths Grove. There were a couple of years that were not. 

Since 2011, at the conclusion of each breakfast I always try to make sure we take a group picture. So before giving details about this year's traditional farewell I thought I'd take this Throwback Thursday to reminisce through some of the group photos from the past. 

The first PA/KY family group picture I have was taken on a very special day: Michael & Heather's wedding day in October 2008. It was taken outside the wedding chapel in Nashville where they were married. Ironically the bride and groom are not in this shot. Although it's not a "farewell" picture this one started the tradition of a group photo during future PA family's visits. 

The next year, 2009, our family picture was taken on the steps of the cabin where we all stayed during the weekend of James & Brandi's wedding in the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Again, ironically the bride and groom are not in this shot. 

Although we did have a farewell breakfast on that trip at the Apple Barn restaurant, this was the last group photo op we had. 

The first "Cracker Barrel" family picture was taken at the end of July 2011. Taken at the Cave City restaurant it is the first family pic with all of us in it. If my calculations are right Brandi (standing in the center of this shot) was already pregnant with our granddaughter.  

Perhaps the most memorable thing about this 2011 family picture is the shot that's below. I don't know who she was but this little old lady unintentionally "photo bombed" our group pic. The look of surprise on her face makes me laugh every time I see it. I promise you that this was totally spontaneous and not photoshopped.

Back at the Cave City Cracker Barrel again in June of 2012. The focal point of this picture and the entire PA family visit was the newest addition to the family, Aria Nicole Conner. James, Michael, and Theresa were not there with us that morning. 

This is last year's family picture. Unfortunately some of us were not there. Heather and Michael both had to work. Because of a "family issue", my sister, Peggy and brother-in-law, Gene did not come down in 2013 or this year either. 

There's nothing I would love more than to have them back in the picture the next time PA family come for a visit. I miss them a lot. 

Also missing are Michael & Heather who couldn't be there that morning.

Finally here's the "Farewell Family Photo" from this past week. The Pearsons, and all of those of us from Kentucky are all together once again this year. 

This time the location of our final get together was at the Cracker Barrel in Bowling Green. We met there at around 8 o'clock so that Heather and James could be with us. Heather had to go to work. James had just gotten off of work and needed to go home to sleep.  

We sat and enjoyed our breakfast there were a lot of dishes with a lot of food to arrange on an already crowded group of tables. 

Aria made the rounds among us wearing her pink tiara and scepter that her great aunt Theresa bought her from the country store. 

The banter and enjoyment of being together was the same as it had been all week. It was just in a different place with some of us just a little tired due to the early hour. 

When we were finished eating we all made our way out to the restaurant's front porch. We sat in the rocking chairs and on the benches for some last minute visiting. 

Aria interacted with everyone while playing with the giant checkers with her Papa at the same time. After a few minutes we all knew it was time to go. There were farewells between the Conners, Griffins and Pearsons. Aria gave them "loves" which included hugs and kisses. 

The "good-bye" for Paula, Theresa and I would be when Shari and Bobby came by our house one last time just before hitting the road around noon.  

As I mentioned at the start of this post each time we meet for breakfast on the day our visitors from the north depart is always bittersweet. 

This year it was just a little harder to say "good-bye" because of the way Aria quickly bonded with Shari and her family. 

But when the day comes, as it does each time they're here, and it's time to say "good-bye" it's nice to know that the traditions of sharing breakfast together and taking a group picture is a great way to make sure the memories of their visit last for a long time.  


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Family Visit Top Ten: Part 3

Welcome third part of my "Family Visit" post series. I've got 3 topics left. Today's is about one special person who is no stranger to anyone who reads this blog. 

The "Aria" Bonus
One of the benefits of my sister to coming to Kentucky for a visit again this year was she and her family got to know my 2 year old granddaughter. 

As it turned out Brandi had taken a couple of days off from work and planned on hanging with my "peeps" as much as possible.This meant that Aria was around a lot during the week. 

Aria took to the Pearson family like a fish to water. She spent a lot of time playing with "Dee Dee" and Teejai. 

The great benefit for me was that she want to hang around with her "paw paw" too.  

In addition to interacting with the family, Aria also did the things she always does when she visits with us. 

This meant taking me by the hand and leading me to retrieve her toys from the storage room. Then choosing which of them to take to the living room so she could play with them. She also watched her Disney sing-along videos in our bedroom while playing with her Nana on the bed.  

I didn't take a lot of pictures of her during the week but did manage to snap a few. In this one she was playing "hide & seek" with me from under that kitchen table. 
Here's another one of her during lunch at the Steak & Shake in the middle of the week. 

That afternoon I had a couple of memorable experiences with my granddaughter at Hobby Lobby. 

While Brandi, Lexi, and Teejai were shopping for material and a t-shirt to decorate I volunteered to keep an eye on Aria while she wandered around the store.

For a while I kept her busy looking at a display carousel with pegs filled with small packages of all kinds of buttons. 

She was really having fun pointing them out the ones she liked to me; then she decided to move the carousel. The problem was I was bent down over her and the carousel when she did. That's when the blunt end of one of the pegs hit me on the top of my head. Not only did it hurt at that time but later that night I discovered I had a small cut on my scalp because of it.  

After she got tired of playing with the buttons and carousel she decided to start randomly running around the bulk material area. 

I let her go because she was staying close. Suddenly she decided that she was going to "expand her perimeter" and run away from me. 

I called to her, "Aria get back here to Papa." She took off the opposite way; heading across the store. Thinking she was playing a game she was running in a zigzag pattern through the aisles. I chased after her. She thought it was funny as she continued to get farther away. 

I now had to start running as best as I could after my granddaughter. Her legs are half as long as mine. How could she run twice as fast as me?

She turned right and headed toward the front of the store. I knew I had to get to her before she got to the front door. 

About 20 yards from the front she turned left again heading back across the store. It was at this point I realized that I just might have to get some assistance. I was just about to holler to a couple of ladies in Aria's path to "stop her for me please!"

But finally, I somehow managed to catch up with her. Winded but happy that I finally got her. I headed back to find Brandi and the others. I couldn't carry her so I very firmly held Aria's hand. Brandi warned me that she would try to run away from me. Lesson learned.

Later that afternoon I had another first time experience with Aria that was a lot more fun. For the first time I went swimming with her.

Shari, Teejai, Bob, Brandi, Aria and I went to the Bryce pool for our last swim together on Wednesday afternoon. 

Although I was familiar with how much Aria enjoys swimming in the pool at Brandi's aunt's house I couldn't believe how much she liked swimming around with her "floaters" on. She's very much at home in the water. 

Aria took turns playing in the pool with both me and Shari but mostly stuck close to Brandi. Her favorite game with me was shooting me with the toy water gun she had. When she hit me I fell back and under the water. This made her laugh. 

She also let me carry her around the pool too. It was such a lot of fun. 

We stayed and played in the pool for about 45 minutes. Then it was time to get out and go get ready for our Wednesday evening family dinner. 

I know I write a lot about my granddaughter but having her around almost every day while my sister's family was here was a big part of what made the week special. 

Come back tomorrow for first of my final pair of "Family Visit" topics. It was the main reason the Pearsons came to Kentucky again this year.   

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Family Visit Top Ten: Part 2

Halfway through my list of memories from my sister's visit to Kentucky in the middle of July. Here are some more things unique to this year's time together. 

Movies, Lego & Lodging
As a means of making things a little more convenient for Bob & Shari I set up Michael's old bed in a back bedroom so Bobby could spend the nights here at the house while on vacation. 

This meant I would have the chance to spend a lot of late nights with my nephew watching TV and talking. 

On Monday night our whole group sat and watched "The Lego Movie". Bobby loved it and proudly announced afterwards that it was now his favorite movie.That  enthusiasm would converted into action later in the week. 

Also on Monday night, after everyone else had left the house and Paula had gone to bed, Bobby and I watched one of my favorite movies from last year, "2 Guns."

Tuesday night we watched my #1 favorite movie from last year, "Now You See Me." Bobby liked both of them. 

On Tuesday afternoon after lunch at a local buffet with most of the family, Bobby and I ran some errands. He had asked if he could drive the Vue so he could learn the geography of the area. Along the way he played some of his favorite music from his cell phone for me.  Again, it was a very good time. 

But the most memorable things that I shared with Bobby during his visit had to do with our shared enjoyment of Lego. 

On Wednesday night I got out all the unopened Lego sets that I had and allowed Bobby to choose one for us to put together. He chose one of The Lego Movie sets. 

We sat down to work at the kitchen table; a place I've never worked on a Lego set before. While he did most of the assembling over the next couple hours the two of us worked together to make the key "build" of the main character from the Lego movie. 

I will be putting a video on my You Tube channel later with the details of what we built but for now here's a picture of the two of us proudly displaying our cooperative effort. Warning: if you have not seen the Lego Movie this picture might be a bit of a spoiler. 

On Thursday when we went to Nashville I amazed my nephew by getting him a gift at the Lego store. It was something that he told me he really wanted. I was more than happy to get it for him. I got one for myself too. 

On the ride home from Music City that night he and I talked about the Beatles and listened to their music. 

It has now become a tradition for Bobby and me to hang out and talk about everything while he's here on vacation.

Ironically, and I mentioned this to him, we hardly ever talk the rest of the year. Bobby says it's because he's not good talking on the phone. 

But since both of us have the same Lego model to build now I'm sure we'll keep in touch more in the up coming year. 

Steak & Shake with "The Girls"
Even before she got to Kentucky this year, TeeJai told us that she wanted to go to Steak & Shake for a hamburger. On Wednesday afternoon Brandi; her niece, Lexi; and my granddaughter were nice enough to take TeeJai to our local Steak & Shake for lunch. I was invited to go along. 

As you can see we all had a good time. TeeJai liked her burger a lot. I made sure that she and Lexi had a milkshake too. 

After lunch we went shopping at Hobby Lobby. Aria and I had a unique "first time" experience there. Keep reading for details later in the list. 

That's part 2 of my "family vacation" list. There's 3 more topics to cover. One of them was a day filled with celebration and a really thrilling surprise. Another is a bittersweet moment that happens every time any of my PA family comes to visit.