Monday, June 30, 2014

30 on the 30th

We had a nice weekend at the lake celebrating Shylah's 30th birthday, which is actually today. 
She's 30 on the 30th. Her Golden Birthday. 
Darci made these special cookies for her. So cute!
David had custom printed koozies for all, and a matching shirt for Shylah.
We enjoyed good friends...
 boat rides...
and even some fireworks over the lake.
 Courtney snuggled with Coco and Moda.
 And Moda found a cozy spot to keep warm.
Gumbo is always happy to take a boat ride.
 Big Jon at the wheel.
I found some silly selfies taken by the newly-engaged couple on my phone. 
I think they're saying "Happy Birthday, Shylah!"
It was great to celebrate with you, Shylah. Hope you have a 'cheer'ful day!!
Happy 30th Birthday!!
Love you!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Turtles in the Sand #TBTStories

Yesterday's Wednesday Hodgepodge question about sand got me thinking about the fun we have had over the years on the beautiful Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman. My Throwback Thursday Stories post today is about those toes-in-the-sand days of turtle building on the beach.

Our sand turtle tradition began when my mom and dad first started vacationing in Grand Cayman in the early 80s. They went with another couple, and one day, the two men built a large turtle out of sand. It was a great conversation starter with folks on the beach, and it soon became a vacation tradition. One year, their turtle even made the Cayman newspaper. The Cayman Islands have been known for their abundance of turtles since 1503, when Christopher Columbus approached Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and saw "two very small and low islands, full of tortoises, as was all the sea all about, insomuch that they looked like little rocks, for which reason these islands were called Las Tortugas."

When we started going with my parents to Grand Cayman, the kids were excited to continue the tradition. My dad even had t-shirts made for us.

This is a photo of my dad and Jim with David and Andrew in front of the turtle. I think it's 1987.
Of course, as you might imagine, this wasn't just a casual dig in the sand. Turtle construction is an intricate and serious undertaking, requiring careful planning and gathering of tools and equipment. Early in the week, my dad would make friends with the maintenance crew to gain access to shovels. You certainly can't build a turtle of grand proportion with plastic sand shovels!
Everyone would work together (well mostly my dad and Jim) all day long, to craft the magnificent, friendly creature emerging from the water. After completion, everyone (even non-shovelers) would pose in front of our turtle. (Don't you like my mom's sassy hand-on-hip pose?) Lots and lots of beach-walkers stopped to admire our work, many took pictures, a few took a picture of themselves with the turtle, and some even wanted to hold the shovels!
My dad and the kids spent several days prior to building gathering the pine cones from the Casuarina trees that grow on the edge of the beach. My dad worked painstakingly to outline the shell of the big fellow. He used a couple of flat leaves for the eyes.
One year we had a crowd for turtle building day, when some of our friends from the 'burg were staying just down the beach. Now that's quite a crew!
One of my favorite turtle photos is this one, from 1991, when Adam was just 4 months old. We used it for our Christmas card.
The turtle building has slowed a bit over the last few years. Seems like these days we favor beach sitting over shoveling. :) I think this may be the last time we built a turtle, with the group of 17 we took in 2009. The Casuarina trees don't seem to produce the little pine cones since the hurricanes, so he doesn't have a fancy shell. You can't see it in this photo, but they used coconuts for the eyes.
Cute little Matthew got lots of lookers when he said, "Wanna see our turtle? The eyes are coconuts." The college boys thought it wasn't a bad pick-up line. Lol.

Linking up with Jessica at The Mom Creative for Throwback Thursday Stories. #TBTStories. (No linkup today, but I'm sharing my story anyway.) :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sunshine on the Hodgepodge

Another summertime Wednesday, and that means time for the Hodgepodge. Our hostess, Joyce, invites us over to her place every week to answer her thought-provoking questions and share the fun. Be sure to click on the button to pay her a visit.

Here are her questions and my answers:
1. What summer activity most takes you back to your own childhood?

The county fair. Although there have been some changes since I was a child, fair-goers can still pick up a duck and win a prize, take a ride on the ferris wheel, check out the 4-H exhibits, walk through the livestock buildings, take a little one on the merry-go-round, and enjoy a refreshing homemade lemonade on a hot summer day.

2. What's your favorite summer smell?

Chlorine. Because it reminds me of this:

3. It's beach season in the US of how do you feel about sand?

I like sand 'cuz sand means beaches. Beaches mean vacation, and vacation means family, fun, and building our traditional giant sand turtle. Yep, sand is good.

4. Sun tea, SunChips, sunflower seeds, Capri Sun, Sunny Delight, Sun-Maid raisins, sun-dried tomatoes...your favorite food or beverage with sun in its name?

Sun tea for sure. I don't make it much any more, but over the years there were many summer days when my gallon jar sat on the counter brewing tea.

5. What's your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?

In the water, with a refreshing beverage!

6. Share a favorite song with the word sun or sunshine in it's title.
There are lots of good ones, but I'll have to pick John Denver, Sunshine On My Shoulders.

7. Tell us about a time you had an exceedingly good or truly awful customer service experience. If it was awful, did you report it? Ever go back there again?

While I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly in regard to customer service, I'm sharing a story of the good:
Several years ago our big (expensive) Weber grill had some kind of a flame-up while one of the boys was grilling, shot flames out of the control panel, and melted the knobs on the grill. I had purchased it at a locally owned hardware store, so I called to see what they thought had caused it, and what I should do to correct it. The store owner was quite concerned and surprised that it had happened, and promised to call the company to see what they could do for us. In no time at all, they delivered a brand new replacement grill. It was definitely exceedingly good customer service, for which I wrote a note of appreciation to the owner of the store. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Praising God that this sweet friend had clear scans at her appointment at MD Anderson this week. God is good!

Noah was so pleased that he had a case of the baby giggles!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Baby's Getting Married!

Adam popped the question to his girlfriend, Courtney, on Friday night at Purdue, their alma mater. He had carefully crafted a plan, and all things came together to make it a special surprise for Courtney.



He even enlisted his sister to take these sweet photos so we could all share the excitement of their special moment.

We are so happy for them, and so excited to officially have Courtney as part of our family.

And look at that sparkle! The ring and her smile! :)

Of course, they went past Harry's to celebrate. As Boilers do. :)

I'm guessing Adam took this fun one of the ninja photographer and the bride-to-be.

Congratulations to the super cute couple. May God bless you as you plan your wedding and your future together. We love you!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Matthew's Great Chicago Adventure

We drove through a little rain on Wednesday on our way to pick up Matthew for our trip to Chicago, but we didn't let that dampen our spirits.
We made a stop for a snack,
and were soon making our way past the wind farms of Benton County. There are over 500 energy-producing windmills dotting the landscape along both sides of I-65 in northern Indiana. They look like huge spinning giants standing over the farm fields as far as the eye can see.
We paid a few tolls on the way,
and soon crossed the Skyway bridge on our way into the city.
The sky was gray and cloudy, but the rain had stopped.
We passed Soldier Field, home of 'Da Bears.' We had a great time there with David and Shylah on a beautiful October day last fall watching the Saints 'brees' into the windy city. Well, I think Shylah had a good time. :)
We checked into our hotel, and received a map from the nice young woman at the desk who marked some attractions that might interest our 10-year-old boy.

Matthew was soon directing us through the streets of Chicago to the Willis Tower.
He enjoyed learning about the history of skyscrapers, and seeing how the Willis Tower compares to other tall buildings of the world.
Jim, of course, watched the informational video about the history of the building, which was originally the Sears Tower.
 Matthew learned that the Willis Tower is 262 Michael Jordans tall.
After a quick elevator ride, we stepped out onto the Skydeck, 103 floors above the city.
Even on a cloudy day, the view is amazing!

 Jim and Matthew are discussing the view.
We were even brave enough to step out onto The Ledge! The ledge is a clear 'box' that extends 4.3 feet out from west side of the building, overlooking Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. We took a quick selfie.
Matthew also posed alone out there.
He's a brave boy.
We even purchased the professional photo they offer to visitors. What a view! Of course, I didn't really look down. :)

By the time we left the Willis Tower, it was starting to rain, so we hopped in a taxicab and headed for Navy Pier. We had tickets for an evening boat ride, but first, we had supper at the Billy Goat Tavern. It was famously portrayed in the Saturday Night Live skit from years ago with the lines, "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger," and "no fries, cheeps." We enjoyed our cheeseburgers and chips. There is also a legend about the owner of the Tavern trying to take his billy goat to a Cubs game. When the goat was denied admission, the owner, William 'Billy Goat' Sianis, said, "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more." And just like that, the Cubs were cursed. Although every effort has been made to break the curse, the Cubs have yet to win a World Series since that fateful day when the billy goat was sent away. :)
We took some time to walk around Navy Pier. There is some renovation going on there, and signs touting the 'reimagined' Navy Pier to come.
Here, Matthew and Jim are standing under the streams of water which spray from fountain to fountain.
The rain let up a bit, and we went outside to see the ferris wheel. We thought we might be able to play some putt putt, but the course was a bit waterlogged.
Matthew tried his best to push the clouds off of the buildings.
He also tried a ring game across from Margaritaville. After a little practice with various techniques, he was successful!
Sadly, the rain continued, and brought thunder and lightning with it, and our cruise was cancelled. I was actually ok with that, since I'm not really comfortable on a tall ship during a lightning storm.

Back at the hotel, Matthew set up the board for a game of Ticket to Ride.' It's one of his favorites. In a close game, Granny came out the winner.
Bright and early on Thursday, we were at the Museum of Science and Industry for a day of fun and discovery. While we were waiting for entry to the main museum, we checked out the Pioneer Zephyr in the entry hall area. Jim found a friendly fellow.
And Matthew talked some baseball with this guy. (Although he thought they were a little creepy.)
He caught an armful of beans with his shadow.
We had tickets for a tour of the U-505, a German submarine that was captured off the coast of Africa in June 1944, and now lives in the museum as a national memorial to the 55,000 American sailors who gave their lives on the high seas in WWI and WWII.
Matthew listens to our guide describe what is was like to live on the sub, and tell the story of the day of its capture.
It is so interesting to see it and think that it was actually in the water, sinking merchant ships 70 years ago. It's also interesting to think about moving a huge submarine into a permanent spot in the museum. You can watch a video of how they did it here.
After the submarine tour, we saw a D-Day movie in the Omnimax theater, and then went down a mine shaft for a tour of the coal mine. It's dark down there!

Jim and Matthew were both excited to go to the Farm Tech area of the museum. Here, Matthew tries his hand at driving a tractor using GPS.
He was pretty good at planting, but the harvesting was much trickier. That combine went crazy!
As if he's never seen a tractor before, he posed in the wheel of the John Deere.
He made friends with a dairy cow.
And climbed aboard the big green tractor.
Jim thought the cornfield looked pretty sad.
I know this looks almost exactly like the photo above, but this one was taken after a trip in the flight simulator, which you can see in the background. Jim was the pilot, and Matthew was the gunner, and after strapping securely into the capsule, they were climbing and diving and spinning 360 degrees in the 3 minute mission. I watched it all on a video stream with my feet securely on the floor. Do they look a little green?
In the middle of the electric trains, and below the airplanes, we found the Willis Tower, Matthew size.
Matthew loved the Science Storms area, and had fun making a mini vortex with Jim.

Then he stepped into a big vortex to learn about how tornadoes work.

One more photo before we head back to the hotel. It was a great museum!
Matthew thought the hotel was fancy.
After a little rest (Grandpa thought Matthew looked tired), we took another cab ride
to Ed Debvic's for supper.
Our waitress slapped some hats on our heads and said she would be "back in an hour."
The restaurant is known for 'Sassy Servers, Tasty Burgers.'
Our waitress, Susie, was appropriately sassy, throwing our straws on the table, and calling us 'weirdos.' When Jim asked to change his fries to onion rings, she shouted, "Oh, now you tell me. You think I can just change things all the time?" It was a fun place.
Matthew even found a steer like Cooper hanging from the ceiling.
We were able to reschedule our boat ride, so after supper, we went back to Navy Pier to take a ride on Tall Ship Windy. Matthew posed by the pirates while we waited for her to come back from the previous voyage. Do you think he was getting tired of posing? He's always a good sport. :)
Here she comes!
Such a cool ship.
Turning toward the dock.
Meanwhile, Jim and Matthew were busy crushing candy.
Once aboard, we tried another selfie.

Jim and Matthew were enlisted to help raise the sails.
pull… smile…
and they're up!
It's a beautiful view of Chicago, even on a cloudy day.
I love all the sailboats docked on the edge of the city.
One of our fellow sailors got to fire the cannon. Hold your ears, everyone!
Hip hip, hooray!
And we fired a second shot, this time with Matthew doing the firing. Ear protection set.
And fire!
Hip hip, hooray!
I think he's a born sailor.
The captain, steering with a totes mcgoats for real steering wheel (that's what 'Pirate No-Beard' called it), was also keeping an eye on the radar screen. There's a storm a-brewing.
Matthew shows off 'his' cannon.
As we headed back to the dock, we enjoyed some beautiful city views.

The clouds were rolling in, and we hurried back to beat the storm.

Safely back at the hotel, we got set up for another game of Ticket to Ride. This time, Grandpa was the clear winner, while Matthew and I tied for second place. We had a corner room with 2 bathrooms, and free wifi, which made everyone happy. :)
On Friday morning, the guys enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hotel, and then we took a walk to Millennium Park to see the 'Bean.' It's actually called 'Cloud Gate', but everyone calls it the 'Bean' since it looks like one. We tried some photos in the reflection of the shiny sculpture.
Early morning was a good time to visit, since there wasn't a crowd.
In this one, you can see the reflection of their backs and me taking the picture.
It's fun to walk around and under.
We headed back to the hotel before packing up and bidding Chicago farewell.
Back over the bridge,
and back past the windmills. Home again, home again, jigity jig.
Three days, two nights, many miles, a few dollars = priceless memories. We are thankful for a safe trip and a great time in Chicago with our favorite oldest grandson, Matthew. #matthewinchicago #grannytime #grandpatime #blessed