July 31, 2019 – Harry Potter Birthday

The Mequon/Thiensville public library held a birthday party for Harry Potter. Children were encouraged to wear costumes, so Owen and Cam donned their Hogwarts cloaks. They were terribly excited – and so were all the other little Hogwarts students that showed up. I shouldn’t say little. Although many were small, there were also a good number of teenagers in attendance.

Just inside the front door, we completed a questionnaire to determine which house they belonged to. Owen answered as though he was Harry. Cam stood by and, when it was his turn, he answered everything just has Owen had. That kid has a keen power of concentration and an excellent memory.

The first thing we saw was the train station. I’m rusty on my Harry Potter details, but Owen and Cam knew everything there is to know about it.

Our next stop was the Magical Menagerie, filled with fanciful creatures from the books, including an owl and a large, hairy spider.

Owen and Cam were ready to do some serious shopping, but it was not a functioning shop.

There was a quidditch field outside on the lawn. We tossed small balls through hoops.

The deiving station consisted of making those little folding paper fortune tellers we all made as a kid. This one was printed with quotations from the books for the answers.

One of the last things we tried was deciphering secret codes. I tried to help the boys but was completely baffled as to how to decipher the code. This was humiliating to me as I had some cryptology as part of my master’s degree. I asked a kid how to do it, but have not tried her method yet.

We probably should have gotten there earlier; some of the activities were over. We did not miss the cake though! I saw two librarians carrying out a huge sheet cake and went over to take a picture of it. By the time I crossed the room, they had sliced it into dozens of pieces. Oh great; another code.

Owen and Cam loved their cake and punch.

The party was a huge hit with the boys and all the other children present too. I was impressed with the job the librarians did setting it up.


The Beach and Tae Kwon Do (not on the beach)

Jennifer and her friend Kim decided to take their kids to the beach, so Andy and I tagged along. The children were running along the shore and playing in the sand. The mothers were sitting on a blanket watching the children and chatting. Andy and I were the old people sitting behind the blanket in our folding chairs. No one was in the water for long. Lake Michigan is COLD! The children went in ankle deep a few times to scoop up water for their sandcastles and got out as fast as they could. We watched other beachgoers do the same. Little Olivia was in the water more than anyone else, but I didn’t notice her turning blue. She did stay covered in sand though. Then, Kim would drag her into knee-deep water to wash some of the sand off.

Why is it that children with sandy feet are always compelled to step on the blanket? And why must they sit on the blanket when their little bottoms are coated with sand. Constant reminders from moms had little effect. Well, it is the beach, after all.

Andy and I sat in our chairs eating a bag of Ranier cherries. That was after I worked up a big thirst from eating cheese balls. They are part of our beach/picnic tradition. So much so, that we stopped on the way to the beach to buy some.

The gulls were having good luck fishing just off the beach.


Andy and I also went along in the evening to watch the Tae Kwon Do sparring class. The first thing the class did was run laps around the gym/room. Cam’s belt fell off twice and one of the helpers tied it back on him. Then he continued running.

They did jumping jacks. Here son-in-love George is flanked my Owen and Cam. All ages and both sexes are in the same class. They do all the same exercises, but the children are at one end of the room with helpers for the practice. The master stood front and center calling out the exercises.

Cam’s pushup form was so adorable. He was flat on the floor most of the time.

After doing enough exercises to wear me out just watching, they started the real sparring lessons. What I like best about this photo of Cam practicing a kick is the expression on the little girl holding the shield. I didn’t get a picture, but Cam was knocked over several times when it was his turn to be kicked.

It is not enough to kick; they have to be accurate too. They also practiced with small targets. My camera timing was not right, but Owen did a good job of kicking high in the air (for him).

All the students were lined up in groups of four for the practice. The master would tell them what to practice and then one student would hold the target and be kicked, while the second kicked. The next two would be doing whatever exercises the master called out while waiting their turn. Sometimes Owen and Cam were together.

The class was an hour or an hour-and-a-half or so long and they were all working all the time. There was only one short break to get a drink of water. They did get to pause to listen to instructions, but that was it. Watching was exhausting.

We went to the Chinese buffet for dinner.

Wisconsin Dells

I had never heard of the Wisconsin Dells before Jennifer moved to Wisconsin. A few years back, we passed it on the way somewhere else and I learned that it is a very popular vacation destination. We had planned to take grandsons, Owen and Cam, there for two nights. Fortunately, Jennifer suggested that it might be better if she came along too. Thank God she was there. The boys (five and seven now) were wild with excitement.

The Wisconsin Dells have long been a place that attracted tourists. It is a scenic section of the Wisconsin River, which flows into the Mississippi River. Like so many other beautiful natural places, it has since turned into a tourist town with “attractions”. The main attraction here is waterparks. They bill themselves as the waterpark capital of the world, and I believe it. of course, we brought the boys for the waterparks. Our resort had three or four on the property. The water slides were huge. See the person dropping down the blue pipe!

I almost missed this person zooming through a huge loop.

There are also indoor water parks. This is Wisconsin after all.

Lazy River

Andy and I did not participate in much water sliding. Jennifer took care of that. We took a boat ride to see the natural wonder that made this area famous.

Andy and I sat on top in the front row (starboard side) and we had no sooner left the dock that the captain pointed out an eagle sitting in a shoreside tree.

I think these two rocks are called the gateway to the dells.

This feature is called a stack of pancakes.

The boat went behind an island through a passage barely wider than the boat itself. The water was deep.

The cliffs are riddled with small holes. The tour guide said that they all have swallow nests in them in the spring.

Here, the boat is entering “Witch’s Gulch”. The captain ran the boat up onto the sand before coming alongside the pier.

The gulch had a boardwalk through it, sometimes beside and often over the creek.

There is a concession stand with restrooms at the end of the boardwalk.

I got a kick out of the attendant’s teeshirt.

This spot, with the hole behind a rock post, was called witch’s window.

Our next stop was Stand Rock. The pilings on the pier were not heavy duty.

Stand Rock was rather impressive on its own. But, apparently, what makes it famous is the jumping dog. After the tour guide gave a talk about the history, another woman with a German shepherd appeared on the to of the bluff.

I didn’t catch him midway between but was happy to capture the leap at all.

The trail led through another gift shop concession stand. It was a pretty walk back down to the boat.

June 26, 2019 – Rock Climbing Gym

My Nephew Jonathan invited us to visit the climbing gym where he is working this week. (He works for the parent company and visits multiple sites.)

Check out Earth Treks Climbing Gym https://www.earthtreksclimbing.com/

I was standing at the front desk while Andrew and George changed to the issued climbing shoes. The place was so much larger than I was expecting.

We expected that they would be climbing using a harness and ropes. However, all the belaying-qualified staff was busy with a large group of young teens. So, Andrew and George were only able to use the “cave” as Jonathan called it. There were no ropes or harnesses, but there was a springy floor to break and falls.

It looked really, really hard! How is anyone supposed to be able to climb and hang on to that? Andrew and George did manage to do a bit of it.

Grandpa watched.

The group of young teens (and all the staff) were in the area adjacent to us.

Andrew took a swinging jumping attack to this section but did not get any higher.

I was happy there was a soft, bouncy floor when he landed.

June 24, 2019 – Prince Frederick, MD – Crabs

Sister Barbara signed us up for a painting party/class. I had no idea what to expect.

The event was held in a very large garage behind an even larger house that already had a three-car garage. There were about thirty women in attendance. First, we chatted and nibbled on the spread of food laid out in the garage kitchen.

The instructor had already painted a version of our artwork. I was concerned that I would never be able to draw a crab. I didn’t need to. She provided us with a line drawing on a sheet of paper and a sheet of carbon paper.

We painted the background boards first. I was pleased with how mine turned out. A little dab of two or three colors on the brush and, voila!, wood grain. I drew the lines between the boards with a fat Magic Marker and a ruler.

Next, we traced the crab onto the dried background, nibbling more snacks while the paint dried. We also walked around to check out everyone else’s work. All that was left was to paint the crab. For those who don’t know, that is part of the Maryland state flag on the crab’s shell. That crab/flag has become the defacto state logo. It is on everything these days. (I got the t-shirt.)

It was tedious work. The instructor had provided us with a Papa brush, a Mama brush, and a baby brush. The baby brush was too big for parts of the task, and our flags were messy. Most of us did not have our paintings finished at the end of the party. So, I went out the next morning and bought a set of small brushes in the toy aisle of the drug store. Barbara and I painted our masterpieces for the next two days. Brother-in-Love Tom took our pictures when we were satisfied that the paintings were done.

Since we are now artists, I suggested that we paint some rocks. Barbara went outside and found a few for us to paint, and we got to work. I didn’t take pictures of those before burying mine in the RV. Barbara’s rock was not done. Later.

June 19, 2019 – Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia

The U.S. Civil War (1861 to 1865) did not completely end at Appomattox Courthouse. It is where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, of 1865. It was the beginning of the end, I suppose. There were several more battles in the west after that.

Appomattox Courthouse

The courthouse did not play a major role in the surrender, but that is the name of the place. I’ve also read “Appomattox Station” somewhere. It is a very small village, a collection of buildings really. I was amazed that the modern town is a mile or so away and this location has been preserved much like it was a hundred fifty-four years ago.

The visitor information center is in the courthouse. We looked at exhibits and watched a movie about the events leading up to the surrender. There was not so much of a battle as a rush to food supplies for Lee and the effort to cut him off from Grant.

It was interesting to me to learn of Abraham Lincoln’s instructions to General Grant before the anticipated surrender. He wanted the event to be “gentlemanly” (my term) and for the Union forces to be kind to the Confederates. They had even carried a printing press with them to print “paroles” for the Confederate soldiers to carry with them when they left for home. The common soldiers were allowed to keep their rifles and horses, essential for farming life in those days.

Clover Hill Tavern, Appomattox Virginia

Our next stop was Clover Hill Tavern where some young soldiers and a newspaperman were sitting on the front porch.

The Union soldier told us about the events and deferred often to the Confederate soldier who lived in the village.

Union Soldier
Confederate Soldier

We stepped inside the tavern for a look around. Another young man was printing paroles for the freed Confederate soldiers to carry with them on their way home. I forgot to keep a copy as a souvenir.

Printing Press

We arrived late in the day and did not have time to look at everything, so we headed directly to the McLean House, where the actual surrender took place.

McLean House

I guess this room is the parlor (left side). Only a few items in the house are original, but General Lee sat at a table similar to this one, according to drawings, paintings, and records of the meeting.

General Grant sat to the right of the fireplace at a simple wooden table. His boots were muddy. General Lee was dress splendidly.

The rest of the house was furnished with period pieces.

Dining Room
Summer Kitchen Behind House
Slave Quarters
Slave Quarters
Road Through the Village

June 16, 2019 – Cosby Campground – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We could not get our act together in the morning but made it to Cosby Campground in the afternoon to visit with campground hosts extraordinaire, Debbie and Clyde.

Luck for us, Spence arrived to help Linda clean in Cosby and then Boss Larry arrived at the end of his work day in Elkmont. Larry took this picture. Linda ran and hid from the cameras. It was so good to visit with some of our best park friends.

Everyone was a bit discouraged by the funding and staff cutbacks that are negatively affecting the park. Spence lamented that Big Creek is a mess since he does not spend as much time there anymore.