Category Archives: Disney

Lifestyle Choice

 My First Car

I get so very irritated at my first-born child over what he chooses to deem his ‘LIFESTYLE CHOICE‘! In this day and age when that term can have a plethora of meanings, for my 32-year-old son the meaning is that he doesn’t drive! He takes the bus to and from his job at DisneyWorld and his wife hauls him around with her wherever else they wanna go. For now, the two of them have the same days off each week even tho he is a Food Service Trainer at Magic Kingdom and she coordinates training at a Disney resort. So it’s working out well for them….but not for me! My son never gets to ‘pop over for a visit’ or to ‘pick up something at the store on the way home’ for me or to ‘run an errand for his handicapped Mama’. Whenever he DOES get a chance to come over, it has to be planned at least a couple of weeks in advance (even tho he lives a mere 4&1/2 miles from me); and then if we go out to eat….I’m the only one doing the inviting and also doing the paying (even tho I’m on a very tight ‘fixed income‘ while they have two salaries). Or if I do need my 6-foot son to clean the ceiling fans, or something else that my 4’10” daughter (with whom I live because I don’t have enough income to live elsewhere) cannot reach, then I need to have a list ready for him plus I actually gotta PAY this child-of-mine for services rendered so that he can have some spending money because his wife gives him an allowance and he probably needs cigarettes! Grrrrr!

When I was young, I lived far out in the country and couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license so that I could drive, drive, drive! The photo is of my 1st car, an ugly pale yellow Ford Galaxy 500. But it got me where I wanted to go and most importantly was that I didn’t have to ride that darned old school bus anymore!!! YAY! Of course there was a catch and that was that I had to wait around after school until football practice was over and bring my younger brother home. I also had Marching Band practice before and/or after school sometimes too so I didn’t mind. Then in the winter I had to wait again after school for my brother to get outa wrestling practice, and then in the spring it was baseball practice. Oh well, Daddy bought my car and put in most of the gas so this was a pretty decent trade-off for all of us since we really did live soooo far out of town away from the High School.

My son and his wife have been living in the same tiny 1-bedroom apartment for a few years. He recently told me that they are about to sign yet another year’s lease. It’s not the nicest apartment but it is where they began their lives as newlyweds and also where they got their dog. I’m sure they’re sentimental. He told me the other day that they’re planning to only stay one more year, as they’re wanting to save money to buy a house in a particular area. They may even have a house built because there are a couple of subdivisions being planned near a new shopping area that we all really like and have been looking into and enjoy a lot. He told me the prices and I do think that it’s too expensive but I won’t say anything because I don’t wanna be that ‘meddling mother-in-law‘ (altho I certainly haven’t any qualms about telling just him my opinion, haha) that so many TV sitcoms depict so badly! IF AND WHEN this does happen, at that point my oldest child will most-definitely need to re-think his ‘LIFESTYLE CHOICE‘ simply because there are no city buses in the Orlando area that have stops in that vicinity! I really don’t foresee him leaving his high-seniority Disney job to go into retail at this point! Hmmmm, here’s a thought: his only other job that he’s ever had prior to Disney was managing a movie theater and THERE IS definitely a very nice movie theater in that shopping center plus it’s the same company that he previously worked for! This Mama sure does miss those free movies!!!

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Missing Christmas

Missing Dad Christmas

Christmas came. Christmas 2014 is over. Most of the day I spent by myself, remembering past holidays when my own children were little. And of course, that also got me recalling the wonderful and cherished family members that attended Christmases when my brothers and I were little kids. So I mostly had a day of reminiscing and MISSING CHRISTMAS. My own parents were much younger than I am now when I was a little child and we had large family gatherings at our home filled with lotsa favorite cousins and Aunts and Uncles, as well as my beloved Grandparents. (The Grandparents and all of the Uncles are gone now and I have 1 Aunty left) After devouring a most scrumptious meal lovingly prepared by the fabulous cooks in our family (everybody had their ‘specialties’ which we came to expect and look forward to), the bigger kids would help to clear away dishes and arrange kids in the living room, my Daddy would mysteriously disappear, and soon thereafter Santa would come and hand our gifts. We had joyous holidays at our home.

1st Christmas with Daddy-5 months old-1956

Now my precious Daddy, pictured with a 1-year-old ME in the photo, is celebrating Christmas in heaven, and has been for a few years. I am sad, and the tears still flow because I miss him sooooo much. But I have learned not to be selfish, for I know that this is his ‘reward‘ and it is surely glorious beyond anything that my mind can imagine. Besides, this is Daddy’s very first Christmas in heaven with ALL 5 of his big brothers and his sister and his folks so I’m certain that they’re having a GRAND TIME! I still am blessed to have my darling Mama, pictured with me in the photo of my 1st Christmas, even tho she’s spending Christmas at her Hoosier home in Indiana. She does always hope for that ‘White Christmas‘, whether or she gets it is another story! The only white that I wanna see in the winter is the sugary white sands of the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico!

Mama&Jeannie-1st Christmas

I’m also missing my baby boy this Christmas. That’s him pictured with me when he was a young’un. He lives in PA with his fiancee and wasn’t able to come home to FL for Christmas since he’d just been here in October. But I’ll be seeing him in April when we all gather in Indiana for Mama’s 80th Birthday Celebration!

Mama & Joey Easter 1988

So even tho I spent most of my daytime yesterday MISSING CHRISTMAS, in the evening I did get to have supper with my other 2 kids and my daughter-in-law! We had a yummy meal and then our gift exchange at my son’s apartment. I enjoy living in central Florida; the down-side is sharing my kiddies with the tourists since this is officially ‘The Tourism Capital of the World’! My daughter and my son and his wife DO WORK for a giant Mouse, after all! Even tho it’s not cold here….it is very festive!

Hometown Pride

RCHS Mascot

Thanksgiving has come and gone for this year. Many events occurred during the last 2 weeks, other than just that traditional turkey dinner. My small Hoosier hometown celebrated much more than Thanksgiving this time around. Yes….everyone was truly thankful but that big family dinner was definitely not the MAIN EVENT this holiday season. HOMETOWN PRIDE was #1 on everybody’s menu this year as nearly every household was fixated upon the day after Thanksgiving. That was the BIG DAY….for the very first time in the history of Rensselaer High School Football, our young athletes were vying for the Indiana State 2A Championship! This undefeated team from a small town of less than 6000 residents actually won! HOORAY for the home team!

I live in central Florida but you had better believe that I was cheering on the Rensselaer Bombers from my chair right in front of my computer! My brother was at the game, which was played at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. I stayed with Facbook throughout the entirety of the game because I knew that at least 20 of my ‘friends’ were regularly posting every event plus plenty of short videos. So I was still able to view EVERY touchdown. How thrilling to see about 100 faces in the crowd that I knew. Also, how humorous to see them bundled up for the cool Hoosier weather while I was in my flip-flops here in Florida! I enjoyed the commentaries. It was fun watching the faces as they discovered themselves on the Jumbotron. Everybody was wearing their new ‘Bomber Nation‘ jerseys or their own former high school attire (if they still fit!) and it was wonderful to see the old school colors again: red and black!

So much has transpired during these past 2 weeks. Tragedy as well as Triumph. We’ve had a death in the family. My best friend of 49 years got her very 1st granddaughter and is expecting grandson #3 in a couple of weeks. This same friend retired 2 days after that granddaughter was born so I’m certain that she and her hubby will enjoy babysitting duties now that their schedules aren’t as hectic. Two of my children were honored at their workplace with a fabulous banquet, as per Disney tradition, for being 10-year Castmembers at Walt DisneyWorld! I’m soooo proud of them! My youngest son’s fiancee got the amazing promotion that she’d been hoping for and so far is enjoying her training quite a bit. My daughter-in-law finishes college this week too. I’m tired just trying to think about it all, my mind cannot keep up!

The photo above is our high school mascot. I’ve always thought that this little Bomber is a cute fella. I still think of my home team whenever I see the colors red and black together too; always have and probably always will. I like those colors. Same as the Chicago Bulls, which is, of course our favorite NBA team (the Pacers probably run a close second tho!). Rensselaer is a sports town. St. Joseph’s College is in Rensselaer and the Chicago Bears held their annual training camps there every year in August for 30 years, from 1944-1974. I think most folks still root for ‘Da Bears‘, while some also cheer on the Indianapolis Colts (did I mention that Rensselaer is geographically situated halfway between Indianpolis and Chicago?). As for baseball, well that’s easy. We’re all die-hard Cubs fans! Folks from my hometown NEVER GIVE UP HOPE! High School Football has been played in the fall, talked about, and attended for approximately 115 or more years in our town. That’s about as far back as anyone IS SURE ABOUT….maybe more! So that means that portions of 3 different centuries of HOMETOWN PRIDE has finally brought home the ultimate victory, plus bumped our school up into the next division too! Hmmmm, that makes me think of something: if’n it can happen for small-town guys like Rensselaer Bombers, who have waited over 100 years….I’m thinking that there’s still hope for those Cubbies yet! Make it happen Chicago Cubs!

Morning Person

Daytona sunrise7

Mama always said that once I had kids, then I’d learn to become a MORNING PERSON….well, the oldest kid is 32 now so I reckon that if it’s not happened by now then IT AIN’T HAPPENING! Oh sure, I do enjoy the occasional sunrise but mostly I’m a person that’d rather sleep late and stay up late. Always have been and always will be.

I live precisely in the middle of the state of Florida. The tourism marketing folks claim that we’re 45 minutes to the Atlantic Ocean and approximately an hour to the Gulf-of-Mexico. That’s quite an exaggeration. My house is on the eastern end of Kissimmee, away from the theme parks, and it still takes me much more than an hour to get to the nearest Atlantic beach. If I wish to drive to the most beautiful beaches, which are the dazzling sugar-white sandy beaches west of the Tampa area….it’ll take from 90 minutes to 2 hours of drive-time because of the dreadful traffic and seemingly never-ending road construction which winds through Tampa. It’s worth doing it anyway because the beaches and sunsets over the Gulf rarely disappoint.

Once-in-awhile I will have an opportunity to spend a night someplace along the Atlantic Ocean. This is blissful for me and I always will leave my balcony door at least partially open so that I can smell the saltiness and can hear the sounds of the waves as they come-and-go, come-and-go. Other than music and the sounds of children’s laughter, this is surely my favorite sound. I sleep well whenever I’m near the ocean. Yes, I do have one of those ‘sound simulators‘ that imitates the sound of the waves upon the shore….this does assist in helping me to fall asleep during the rest of the year but it’s a sad substitute for the real thing. The photo above was taken the last time that my daughter and I had a weekend getaway in Daytona Beach, 90 minutes to the northeast, and sat on our hotel balcony viewing the sun as it greeted the new day. EVERY time it makes me long to live by the seashore again. We moved from Jax Beach 10&1/2 years ago to come to central Florida to become Disney Castmembers. All in all it was a good move, but I do very much miss our apartment that was directly across the street from the beach. I miss falling asleep to the sounds of the waves and our tinkling wind chimes as the ocean breezes would play with/through them nearly all the time. Walking our American Eskimo dog along the beach (after 5pm as per the law) every evening was a special pleasure for the children.

I’ve also lived near the Gulf of Mexico, though not as close to the actual beach. When my oldest son was in 1st grade and we’d just returned from Hawaii, my husband got stationed at Hurlburt Field (USAF) by Ft. Walton Beach, which is in Florida’s Panhandle. That was an astonishing place to live and the beaches there were the most spectacular of all. Our favorite was the Officer’s Club Beach near Destin and we visited once or twice weekly, along with picnicking. After having having just lived more than a year in Hawaii, my children were already ‘beachbunnies’ and still were wanting to be at the beach more than anyplace else that I could take them to play. I’ve lived on the island of Oahu a couple of times, so that means I’ve also lived near the Pacific Ocean too, both with and without children. I have frequented all of the kid-friendly beaches dozens of times and also have patronized beaches where I’d not dare to take my kids!

So I’ve lived on an island, where I could see the sunrise on one side and go to another side for a sunset….and I did that often. Now I live in a state that’s mostly geographically just a great big peninsula. I reckon I could watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean in the morning and then cross the state and watch a Gulf sunset in the same day. But I don’t. I go to beaches on both sides but, alas, on different days. I still don’t like mornings so if I do go to the beaches at Cocoa or Daytona or Melbourne, which are MUCH quicker to get to, it’s gonna be late morning or noon-ish. But I do witness plenty of awe-inspiring sunsets, even though I have to fight traffic to get there, over at or near the more splendid beaches of Clearwater or St. Pete or Honeymoon Island. Come to think of it, if I ever bought a waterfront condo or home, I’d rather it be on the Gulf of Mexico because it’s just sooooo much more gorgeous. But real-estate prices and taxes also reflect that plus I’d get lots bigger condos (more square footage) for half the price on the Atlantic side….hmmmm, maybe that’ll be what it’ll ultimately take in order for me to become a MORNING PERSON after all! If I lived at the ocean again, I know that I’d not take it for granted because I like watching the sun come up. Maybe I’d better think about this!

Silly Boy

043

My baby boy is coming for a visit in exactly ONE WEEK!! HOORAY!!! This youngest child of mine is the one that has oddest sense of humor and always keeps me laughing. He comes up with hilarious ‘off the cuff’ remarks that somehow seem to flow effortlessly and so quickly that I’m constantly wondering how he thinks up spontaneous retorts immediately. Daily I’m saying to him, “Joey, you’re a SILLY BOY!” He has been doing this for a couple of decades, beginning as the CLASS CLOWN in elementary school. He’s never outgrown it so I reckon that it’s just a part of his personality. He’s well-liked wherever he goes, so maybe that’s the reason.

I’ve not seen my baby boy in nearly 8 months this time. Or to be more ‘family correct’, I reckon I oughta say that my BABBY BOY is visiting. I don’t even remember when or why I started calling him that but the name has stuck. Just for me though. Nobody but his Mama calls him that, but then I suppose that mothers have cutesy names for each of their children (I surely do). Come to think of it, he’s had the most nick-names throughout the years out of the 3 of my kids. I honestly don’t think that there’s been any that he’s disliked. I often call him JoeRicky, which I think is a rather cute combo of his first & middle names that I’ve never heard anywhere else. He started out as JoeJoe as a baby and had that name for several years. I accidentally called him that, I don’t why it slipped outa my mouth, last year one time while we were with plenty of other folks. I was appalled, but he didn’t even flinch! I’ve never ever even heard him say “Mama, don’t call me that in front of my friends.” I certainly CAN remember asking my own mother NOT to do so at her many ‘pet names’ for me! Imagine my dismay when my mother came 4,350 miles from her small Hoosier home to visit me at college in Honolulu and managed to get my entire coed dormitory calling me ‘Jean Bean’! Oh, the horrors! But Joey has always liked his name. When he was young, he enjoyed the fact that his name meant the same as a baby kangaroo. I used to tease him that it was probably the reason that I had to carry him everywhere! That BABBY BOY wouldn’t walk till 3 months later than his brother and sister had. In retrospect, it was probably because I DID carry him so often that he didn’t feel the need to. With his sister less than a year older than him and his brother 2 years older than her, more often than not it was just much easier to grab the young’un and go!

My family and friends have all heard me lament over the fact that it’s really very hard when the youngest child is the first to move far away. Well, it’s true nonetheless. He’s 29 and engaged to a young lady that he’s been dating for several years. But I still miss him tremendously just the same. A thousand miles from Mama is tooooo far indeed! I’m sure he’s looking forward to some of my chicken & noodles; that’s the meal that he always asks for first! We’ll go to some of the theme parks, of course. The beach is a definite MUST; everyone wants to go to the beaches. Joey usually likes to go to a beach on both coasts: the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. That’s one of the positives of living in the middle of a long peninsular state. We’re a bit more than an hour from either coast plus we have passes to SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. Naturally we’ll go to DisneyWorld since those are free for us. He and his sister and a friend are wanting to go to Universal Studios annual ‘Halloween Horror Nights‘ but they can definitely leave this old Mama out of that one!

I’m looking forward to taking photos. My other 2 children live here in this area within 5 miles so maybe I’ll get a few great group shots of ‘my little family’. But as for my SILLY BOY, as seen in the photo above….we just never know what kinda mischief he’ll get into when I get ready to take his picture! Another example: last year at Magic Kingdom, an instant before I was to snap his photo in front of Belle’s fireplace, he quickly curled himself up INTO Belle’s fireplace! Aaahhh, JoeJoe my BABBY BOY always likes to keep us guessing….and laughing….and smiling. He IS my SILLY BOY before, still, and probably always!

Magnum Kiss

Smithsonian's Magnum P.I. shirt

Meeting and seeing celebrities has been a part of my life since the late 1970s when I attended college in Hawaii. A decade later when I returned to Oahu as an Air Force Officer’s wife with 3 very young kiddies in tow, I’d had many opportunities to teach them that celebrities have lives other than those that are portrayed on TV. We saw sooooo many celebrities that it seemed rather commonplace, especially since Hawaii is a popular vacation destination for them too. I’m thinking this is the reason that my children don’t particularly ‘go nutso‘ whenever they see somebody famous nowadays. This is a good thing because now they either are, or have been, Disney Castmembers and are once again seeing dozens of celebrities. I taught my kids not to pester famous folks for autographs (unless it’s a book signing, for example) or for photos because these people are only hoping to have an enjoyable vacation experience like everybody else! And to think that, for them it all started more than a quarter-of-a-century ago with my daughter and her ‘kiss‘….a MAGNUM KISS to be precise!

I took my children to the beaches of Oahu almost on a daily basis. There were numerous beaches to choose from so we liked to explore different areas and tried to find some of the quieter beaches. Of course we adored the ever-popular Waikiki Beach but my kiddies had a tendency to get away from me quickly there since the beaches were crowded and the children were ages 2, 3, & 5 and very quick. We also tried to go as early in the morning as possible so as not to get too overly pink; besides, the tourists were mostly still kinda hung-over from partying the night before and didn’t usually start arriving until 10:30 or later. By noon Waikiki & Kaneohe beaches are packed. So earlier was better for us. A breakfast picnic on the beach was fun and lovely!

One perfect morning we were at a particular beach, which shall go nameless for the sake of celebrities that enjoy the privacy of this stretch of beaches. I knew of several celebrities that lived in the area because of a former college job that I’d had delivering floral bouquets. So I sometimes brought the kids to this beach because it was usually very quiet and we were often the only ones there! But that morning there was a couple strolling far down the beach and my 3-year-old daughter saw them and recognized HIM before I did. She jumped up and started running down the beach towards them, hollering “Magnum, Magnum, Magnum!”. (she was too young to understand that he wasn’t actually named that in real life) I was embarrassed but had no choice but to leave our things, grab a hand of each of my boys and start running after her! We 3 were so much slower than she was by herself. Of course, by the time we finally caught up, she’d already made her way to ‘the man from the TV‘ and his then-girlfriend Jillie. So there I stood, face-to-face with THE HEART-THROB of the decade, apologizing profusely to Tom Selleck and his girlfriend while he held my daughter and acted like he honestly didn’t mind! Tom and Jillie were the nicest, sweetest people and were extremely kind to my 3 children as we chatted for 20 minutes or so. My daughter didn’t wanna let go of him but he kissed her cheek and she giggled….probably his mustache tickled!

That was a memory-of-a-lifetime for her! Me too! Oh, and by the way….my daughter’s name is Jillian. She’s always liked her name. Sometimes we call her Jillian, and often she goes by Jill. But you’d better believe that after meeting ‘Magnum’s girlfriend‘ that my 3-year-old preferred us to call her Jillie for about a year after that encounter. She was as much enthralled with Jillie Mack as she was with Tom Selleck! For MANY years afterwards, we’d ask her: “Where did MAGNUM KISS you?” and she would always coyly point to her cheek and smile. Such a precious memory to have her very first non-family-member KISS be from such a handsome man! Aaahhh….could I possibly have been jealous of a 3-year-old?

First Movie

Ursula&Ariel

 

When Disney’s movie ‘The Little Mermaid‘ came out into the movie theaters in mid-November of 1989, I bravely gathered up the courage to take my little brood to see their FIRST MOVIE at a real movie theater. This was a big deal with a 4-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 7-year-old….all at the same time! The oldest 2 of these 3 were extremely hyperactive, and NOT on Ritalin (I was firmly against it since they didn’t hurt themselves or anybody else plus were able to their schoolwork just fine). I knew that a trip to the movie theater was going to be quite an adventure that I had been putting off and delaying. But this was an animated movie and I was really hoping that it was gonna be a good once because it was Disney! Besides, how could I NOT take my kiddies to a Disney cartoon? Hubby and I hadn’t taken them to see ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘ the year before, and we were glad that we didn’t because it was a bit risque and I don’t think that they’d have understood the content. But as it turned out, ‘The Little Mermaid’ was the PERFECT movie to be the FIRST MOVIE for them to see at a movie theater….so much so that we saw it several times!

The 5 of us sat in the back row of our favorite theater in Ft. Walton Beach. We were almost the first to arrive and after we chose our seats, nobody else wanted to sit near us! We must’ve seemed undaunting, a family with a bunch of noisy and wide-eyed young-uns, so folks basically rolled their eyes and kept walking down the aisles to get far away! That was okay with us. What they DIDN’T know were the discussions that we’d had privately, at home, prior to coming to the movies: discussions about manners and respecting other folks and theater etiquette, etc.. All these folks didn’t know also that my children have always been extremely well-behaved. They may be noisy while awaiting the start of the movie because they’re as excited as possible, but as soon as the cartoon actually began they quieted down and enjoyed the delightful movie, clapping and laughing and cheering just as everyone else did! Our movie-going experience was such a hit that we did it again the very next weekend. We were also the last folks out of the theater (it takes a long time to gather all of our belongings plus it’s just easier to keep 3 little kids together once the crowds have ceased) By the way, several older adults stopped and commented about my children’s wonderful behavior!

That movie opened to an $84 million box office during it’s initial release and was considered a HUGE success for the Disney company. It then made $211 million worldwide. It was a big boon for Disney cartoon movies. It even began an era known as the Disney Renaissance. Since that time Disney has been cranking out many, many wonderful animated movies.

What a FIRST MOVIE that happened to be for my family too! It’s been a quarter-of-a-century ago and I am happily amazed at the influence that Disney movies has had on my 3 children. Both of my boys have worked in movie theaters, the youngest still does. All of my children have been Castmembers at Walt Disney World in Florida, the oldest 2 still are and have been for 10 years now! Could it all have started with ‘The Little Mermaid‘? Maybe! I still consider it to be the most BEAUTIFUL movie that Disney has ever made!

Sprinkle Cheese

 

TMNT pizza

Put this under the category ‘DID I REALLY SAY THAT’? My daughter & I tried the new Cheesy Bites Pizza for lunch at Pizza Hut. This is their latest promotion in connection with sponsorship of the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ movie. This photo is of our leftovers that we’ll be taking home. Of course, my daughter’s is the portion without meat since she has a been a vegetarian for 17 yrs! Not me, I love pepperoni on my pizza. Anyway, the Parmesan cheese shaker was empty and I cannot believe that I asked the server for more SPRINKLE-CHEESE!! Good grief! How old am I again? That’s what we called it when the kiddies were little….now they’re 29, 30, & 32! We both got a good laugh outa that, so did the waitress! A slip of the tongue perhaps? Or maybe it’s ME that’s entering MY 2ND CHILDHOOD.

There aren’t many pizzas that my family DISLIKES, come to think of it. For home delivery, Papa John’s is my favorite. Mellow Mushroom is probably the yummiest in Orlando, Jacksonville, and Atlanta….so that kept us happy during our last couple of decades. My adult kiddies enjoy this all-you-can-eat cheap pizza buffet called Cici’s that I rather detest so they usually go without me! It’s popular though. Between my house and DisneyWorld there are actually more Cici’s Pizzas locales than there are McDonald’s and I find that unbelievable, plus the kids get a hefty Castmember discount. My daughter also enjoys stopping at Little Caesar’s on her way home to order pizza-to-go. I still prefer Pizza Hut. So if I’m paying for my family, then it’s gonna be Pizza Hut! However, there is a major exception. If we’re in my small Hoosier hometown then we’ll be going to Pizza King! No doubt about it!

Cheese, cheese, cheese, and more cheese please! I learned that cheese can make soooo many things much more delectable. When my children were very small and wouldn’t eat their veggies, of course I would add a bit of cheese to trick their tastebuds! They’d eat just about anything if cheese were on it or in it. I taught other parents the same ‘helpful hint’ too, also with successful results. My kiddies are now adults and do enjoy trying all kinds of cheeses and usually have a varied assortment in the fridge. I may not hear a “Thanks, Mama” but that’s okay….I take responsibility anyway!

Well, I notice that I need some more SPRINKLE CHEESE here at home, so I’d better put Parmesan-Romano cheese on my shopping list (even my ‘shopping list’ is on my phone nowadays, I’d never have guessed that a decade ago!). Nobody in the grocery store will know what I REALLY call Parmesan cheese, eh? Hmmm, maybe my daughter better not take me to Kentucky Fried Chicken….I might absent-mindedly order ‘chicken-with-a-handle‘ (what the kiddies called drumsticks)!!! Oh, and by-the-way, that new pizza at Pizza Hut was yummy!

LAST DOLL

birthday dolls for my 58th

Yesterday my 58th birthday came and left. My daughter bought me a couple of adorable dolls, pictured above. My mind wanders back to my LAST DOLL that my folks had verrryyy reluctantly bought me more than 45 years ago for Christmas when I was probably 12 or 13. I was much too old to PLAY with dolls but I’d gotten it into my mind that I wanted a Raggedy Ann doll! You see, I’d never been a little girl to play with baby-dolls although my Mama and Gramma had bought me plenty over the years. They’d even tried to entice me to play ‘dress-up’ and ‘tea party‘ by sewing little outfits for the dollies but I still wasn’t interested. I did, however, go through a period of playing Barbies with a little girl that lived about a mile away but I think that was just an excuse to get to ride my bike alone down the country road and antagonize the big ugly bull (that was fenced-in) as I passed by! Also, I thought it was fun when it was MaryLou’s turn to come to my house because she many more Barbie dolls and so we’d sneak into my brother’s toybox and get out his G.I. Joe’s to use as ‘boyfriend dolls’ because we had more than enough girl dolls for just the Ken and Alan dolls! My oh my, how annoyed my brother would get when he would catch us! That somehow made it worthwhile. Those dolls had all been stored away or given to charity several years before, so my folks were probably thinking I was silly for asking for a Raggedy Ann doll. I didn’t really wanna PLAY with it; I just wanted it to look pretty on my bed. After all, most of my friends had one from their childhood and that’s when I’d realized that I didn’t have one. So on Christmas morning, one of my gifts was indeed the Raggedy Ann doll. Mama has the photo in her scrapbook of me in my jammies holding the doll and the inscription says “Jeannie’s last doll”. (I’m tthinking that she figured that if she wrote it down, then that’d make it true!)

Ever since my own children were preschool age, we’ve enjoyed numerous trips to DisneyWorld. As an Air Force family we did get to live in Florida a few times, plus Texas, Hawaii, and Georgia. All the times that we lived in Florida or Georgia, we kept Annual passes to the theme parks in the Orlando area. We would visit as often as possible. When the children were very small, of course we were more limited on which attractions that they could ride on. Growth spurts meant excitement because it added more rides in each of the parks that they were tall enough to go on. It got to the point that they didn’t wanna go on some of the old rides that they considered ‘kiddy rides‘….for example, my VERY FAVORITE at Magic Kingdom: ‘It’s a Small World’. Naturally, I told them that they had to go on that because it’s my favorite! It got to the point where it became a joke/battle: “Mama, do we have to go on ‘Small World’ again this trip”? I ALWAYS said, “YES, WE DO”! They’d try to trick me, make me forget about it, etc., etc. but I always won. I simply said that if we didn’t ride that attraction….well, then I’d be singing that song all evening in the motel room! Ten years ago, these same kids of mine and I became Castmembers at ‘The Most Magical Place On Earth’! Still, whenever we go to Magic Kingdom on our days off….the joke remains. Altho now I’m in a wheelchair and one of my darlings is pushing me, while trying to steer clear of Fantasyland hoping that I won’t think of ‘It’s a Small World’, we usually still ride that attraction! The kiddies are now 29, 30, & 32….they still say “Do we have to?” and I still reply “YES WE DO”! It has become our tried-and-true time-honored tradition for them to TRY! After all, I’m old now. I’m disabled. I don’t know how many years I’ll still be able to enjoy it so I wanna ride my favorite!!!

A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I were in the Disney Store in the biggest mall of the area. Normally I don’t go to malls and I cannot even recall the reason that she talked me into it on this particular occasion, but I agreed. I saw a display of ‘Small World’ dolls. She saw it too and quickly turned my wheelchair around….she was hoping I’d not seen it yet but HA! I had! Too late! I told her that I ‘just wanted to look‘ so I was looking at how cute and how BIG they were PLUS they were on sale AND she gets a hefty Disney Castmember discount on top of that. Just as we were about to turn around….that’s when I saw her at the very bottom: the Hawaiian doll! (I’ve been to Hawaii 11 times, have lived there, attended college there, my children have lived there too, many of my friends still live there, it’s my favorite place of all!) She was soooo cute and adorable. I picked her up and pressed her tummy and she sang the chorus to ‘It’s a Small World’. My daughter immediately said “Ohhhh, now that’d get annoying really fast so please don’t even think about it.” I started to put the doll back but when I tapped her tummy the second time, she sang the song in Hawaiian and I WAS IN LOVE!!! My dear daughter said “Nope” and wheeled me outa that store fast! We headed towards the food court, looking at a few kiosks along the way. I ordered my Chinese food and she ordered her vegetarian meal. We talked about our upcoming birthdays. She finished her meal much sooner than I did so I told her to leave me there for awhile. As she hurried away, I thought I heard her muttering “I know I’m gonna regret this”! When she returned, I pretended NOT to notice the Disney Store bag that she slipped onto the back of my wheelchair and tried to contain my smile!

I’d forgotten about the gift until we returned from my birthday supper last night. That’s when my daughter gave me the doll and I suddenly remembered about it; I was so thrilled that I called a couple of people and let the dolly sing into their voice-mail! Yeah, that might’ve been a bit over-the-top but it was fun! She also gave me a little Maleficent doll. Maleficent has always been my favorite Disney villianess and the recent movie of the same name was deliciously delightful. I soooo enjoyed Disney’s re-imagining of the character for this movie plus the casting of Angelina Jolie was a remarkable choice. So I got my 2 cutie little ‘dolls’ for my 58th birthday. Who would’ve ever guessed that? Hmmm, 45 years ago my Mama’s prediction wasn’t exactly correct but will this be my LAST DOLL? I just do not know! What’s this second childhood that I keep hearing about? Am I getting to the approximate age for that yet? Could all these years at Disney have helped that along? We’ll see! Oh, and as for my daughter….I’m sure it comes as NO SURPRISE that she was already tired of hearing ‘It’s a Small World’ shortly after giving me the doll! Awwww….well, her birthday is next week!

Gorillas Laugh

Gino at DAK

Ten years ago when we drove 3 hours from Jacksonville Beach to DisneyWorld to see about getting summer jobs, my youngest kids and I had no way of knowing that our lives would never be
the same. Little did we know, we’d turn that part-time summer job into full-time careers and wouldn’t be returning to Jax Beach. We’d learn a new way to point, we’d learn to ‘ad-lib’ at the drop-of-a-hat, and we’d learn to always carry a bandana in each pocket to wipe sweat. My 2 youngest kids would quickly find out that Animal Kingdom is the hottest park on purpose because of the critters and luxurious foliage and that the animals’ comfort was more important than people’s! My daughter was excited to get assigned to the Pangani Forest Trail because that’s where she’d get to educate Guests about the Western Lowland Gorillas, Colobus Monkeys, Naked Mole Rats, numerous species of birds, meerkats, hippos, and a few other animals. She was deliriously happy because she wanted to become a Zoologist and, at the time, was just beginning college. She was definitely in the right place. The gorillas quickly became her favorite, even though they were very intimidating. Her stories she told when she came home were so much fun, especially when she discovered that GORILLAS LAUGH!

I’m glad that the laughter that my children bring to my life hasn’t stopped now that the 3 of them have become adults. When they were small, their cutesy and endearing antics would be things that I’d mention in letters that I’d write to my Mama and my Daddy and my Gramma. I couldn’t help but share these wonderful moments with my loved ones because we lived far away, moving around from Air Force base to Air Force base, and these were ways for the grandparents to feel connected and to help to add a ‘personality‘ to the many photos that I’d share. The kiddies were all a humorous bunch, but each in a different sort of way. My youngest boy was a natural clown; he’d say or do things at the oddest times that would make me laugh so much that I’d often have tears coming down my cheeks! The funny thing is that he didn’t even mean to. My oldest boy was, and is, an attention-seeker. He was always looking for and making up ways to make us laugh, which often leads to some of the worst jokes ever (he gets this ability to come up with stupid jokes from my brothers, unfortunately). Both of my sons haven’t changed in this respect….they’re still silly and corny. My only daughter has a totally different kinda way of making me laugh. You see, she’s your typical average everyday ‘genius‘….and everything that comes along with ‘the package‘; and by that I mean that SHE HAS LITTLE COMMON SENSE! That, in itself, is so very funny at times. The older she gets, the smarter she gets (she’s definitely surpassed me long ago), and of course, the smarter she gets….more and more ‘common sense‘ flies away somewhere! And oh! Did I mention that she’s also blonde? But she IS SUPER INTELLIGENT! I kid you not! Of course, my brothers adore teasing her. Add her vegetarianism to the mix and family get-togethers can be quite rough on her sometimes as her Uncles have probably had about a year between visits to come up with more dumb jokes and to pick on her! I never worry though, she’s one smart cooky. Over the years she’s learned to reply with some rather quick-witted retorts!

Back to the gorillas. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Pangani Forest Trail has 2 troops of Western Lowland Gorillas. The bachelor troop usually consists of 4 guys. They are separated from the family troop but Guests can view them from afar. However, both troops definitely can sense and can smell each other so this can be rather interesting at times. The family troop is a breeding troop and consists of a silverback and females and young gorillas. This number has changed many times in the 10 years that we’ve been here and I cannot wait to be 1 of the first visitors to that park when a new baby gorilla is allowed out into the gorilla habitat! Yep, those gorillas are now MY favorite too. I’ve sat and stared at that silverback for an hour or more at a time because as far as gorillas are concerned….he is 1 gorgeous specimen! He’s also a good breeder. He currently has offspring at many zoos across the country. My daughter tells lotsa stories about him.

Disney treats their animals like royalty. Their habitats are fabulous. I legally cannot tell you how nice their ‘backstage‘ areas are. They are tended to constantly by Animal Keepers & Veterinarians that specialize in their fields. None of these animals were collected from the wild. Disney is very ethical about this.

The family troop of gorillas has a big thick glass window so that Guests can view them. This only encompasses a teeny tiny portion of their vast habitat and the gorillas have the choice whether or not they want to ‘see the people‘. Often there aren’t ANY of them near the glass at all for the Castmember (who is basically acting as a ‘docent‘, explaining about this species) to refer to. There’s a heavy rope there to prevent Guests from pounding on the glass. The Castmember stands between this rope and the glass, with her back to the glass while facing the Guests and talking as folks are listening and peering out at the rocks and up the hill trying to spot gorillas. Or sometimes, especially in the hot afternoon, the big sleepy sliverback will be laying with his butt next to the glass where it’s cooler! Ohhh, how many times has my very patient daughter had to bite her tongue and NOT tell the Guest “No, I cannot tell the 400+ pound gorilla to turn over just so that you can get a better photo of his face!” Instead, the standard answer is “He’s actually displaying appropriate behavior. Facing you would be more of a challenge.” One day she came home to tell me the best story EVER! It seems that she was lecturing more than usual because none of the gorillas were visible and she didn’t want the Guests to be disappointed too much. There did seem to be an ever-growing crowd, however, and she assumed that the gorillas still weren’t nearby since nobody was taking photos yet. At this point, I must interject that these large apes are extremely intelligent primates….as of just 2 years ago, new research concluded that Humans and Western Lowland Gorillas are about 98% identical on a genetic level! My daughter and her fellow Castmembers at Pangani Forest Trail know each gorilla by sight and their characteristics, just as I know each of my children. I reckon that I ought NOT be surprised that these gorillas probably also recognize each of these Castmembers that they see on a daily basis too! Sooooo, when the silverback snuck up behind her and raised to his full big 6-foot-tall height and pressed against the glass, she still didn’t know he was there until she heard the audience gasp. Of course my 4′ 10″ daughter looked over her shoulder & was startled, jumped backed, and I’m sure her eyes were as big as those of all of the Guests as they were snapping their photographs wildly. What happened next delighted and surprised her tremendously….the silverback LAUGHED! His shoulders were actually moving up and down and up and down as he was having fun that he’d made her jump! I wish SO MUCH that I’d have been there because I know for sure that by this time, after the initial shock, she was giving him ‘the look‘ (I know ‘that look‘ very well).

A few months later my daughter left Pangani Forest Trail and moved on to another role within the same theme park–to drive the Kiliminjaro Safaris tours. It’s right next door to her former workplace so every few days she’d stop by and check on the animals that she became so fond of. On the Safaris attraction, there are many more animals that she gets to see on a daily basis and educate Guests about. Every once in awhile she’ll pick up an extra shift at Pangani Forest Trail. One time she hadn’t worn that familar green costume in a few months (her safari costume is khaki-colored) and she was looking forward to spending an hour or more with the gorillas. When she got to the family troop, the silverback saw her, recognized her, and then turned his back on her and wouldn’t look at her! She was puzzled. Later, she found out that he was probably mad at her for leaving! He didn’t understand why she’d come by sometimes in another color and I suppose he didn’t like it. Awwwww. It’s been 10 years now that she’s enjoyed her time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, no matter where she’s working as long as she’s seeing animals daily. But I don’t think my daughter is ever going to forget the day that she found out that GORILLAS LAUGH!