Monthly Archives: January 2012


Ever since we read about the opening of Legoland in Florida, Fletcher has been dying to go. Since Lola Gray got a trip to Disney for her birthday last year, this time it was Fletcher’s turn for a trip, and of course you know where we were headed.

Legoland did not disappoint. Disney it is not (they just didn’t do as well at keeping the lines moving – or at least entertaining you while you waited like Disney tends to do), but there were plenty of rides, amazing Lego creations galore, and multiple ‘shows’ that we never got a chance to sit down and watch (other than a glimpse of the water ski show from a distance.) The park is only open from 10am to 5pm but we managed to see most of the park in that time. Lola is not a fan of anything too fast or too high in the air, which limited her a bit (even the carousel was too much for her!), but Fletcher loves rollercoasters.

Before and after Legoland we were able to get a little taste of Disney since we were staying on property at the Pop Century resort. Pop Century is one of Disney’s ‘value’ properties, which is their nice way of saying cheap. And there was nothing fancy about the place. But after staying at a moderate hotel last year we decided that really the only benefit to the upgrade was the nicer pool – and last year we didn’t get to use the pool at all! Not worth the extra money this time around. The room was tiny, but clean and functional since we hardly spent any time there at all. The restaurant left something to be desired, but since we only ate breakfast there one day that didn’t really make much of a difference either. On the up side, the property is scattered with fabulous statues of famous Disney characters which the kids and I loved.

Plus staying on property gave us access to all sorts of Disney ‘extras’. On Friday night we went to the Ft. Wilderness campground (where I want to stay on our next Disney visit!) for the Chip & Dale Campfire Sing-a-Long followed by an outdoor screening of Brother Bear. It was almost a disaster: I had read online somewhere that you could buy pizza at the movie but when we arrived it turned out they only sold hot dogs and chili – not something that was going to fly with my vegetarian children.  Fortunately, Raymond zipped off to the camp store and bought bread, peanut butter and jelly! Not the dinner we had expected, but fun none-the-less.

After a long day at Legoland on Saturday we decided to head over to the Disney Boardwalk for dinner. We finally got that pizza, which we ate sitting outside on the waterfront and watching the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. There were ducks in the water that would fly up to beg for pizza crusts every now and then (Lola loved this, but Fletcher was very upset with her for encouraging them!) and street performers to watch. The kids ate dessert while Raymond and I had a beer, then we watched one more round of fireworks (from Epcot this time) and one more street performer (Lola was bouncing up and down begging to be picked to participate, and Fletcher, my always enthusiastic son, was laughing so hard I really thought he might pee in his pants! Both had a chance to participate in the performance and I think that made their night.)  before heading back to the hotel, thoroughly exhausted but happy.

I have to say I am ready to go back again! Maybe for my birthday this year?



  by ashleygaddy
, a photo by ashleygaddy on Flickr.

How is it even possible that my amazing little boy is 8 years old today? This kid lights up my life every single day. Every. Single. Day.

Practice makes perfect

Fletcher had his very first practice with the AAYO on Saturday morning, and I think it was an eye opening experience for both of us. It was a big change from his school lessons, and since only 6 of the 40 some musicians were new to the group I’m sure it felt to him like everyone else knew exactly what they were doing. Honestly, that wasn’t far off the mark. It had to have been overwhelming for him.

He did his best to keep up, and I was super proud of the effort. But I think we are going to have to step up the practice routine at home! He said the hardest part was sight reading the music, so we know what to work on. Plus, I made an audio recording of the entire hour long session so he can practice the songs along with the full group, and I think he has enjoyed that. We are going to miss next Saturday’s rehearsal, but hopefully when he returns in two weeks he will be more comfortable with the music and ready to jump right back in again.

Discovering new places

After 8 years living in this neighborhood, it is nice to know I can still be surprised by it. Who would ever have thought that an oasis like this was within walking distance of our house?


The first audition

On Saturday, Fletcher auditioned for the Armstrong Atlantic Youth Orchestra. The kid loves playing violin. Loves it. And while to my ear it still sounds pretty darn squeaky much of the time, he does not seem deterred. So when a friend mentioned the youth orchestra auditions, I thought why not.

We called in early December and learned that the auditions would be January 7th. Fletcher would need to play one song that he knew well and also be able to play scales and  a new piece by sight. At the time, a month seemed like plenty of time to practice. But it was December, and he wound up only having 2 lessons and a few sporadic days of practice during that month.

Oh well. We decided to go ahead with the audition – worst case scenario he would hear from the orchestra director what he needed to focus on in order to do better next time. R & I tried to prepare him, telling him that as artists we get rejected all the time. It’s part of the process, and if he didn’t get in it only meant he needed to practice more and try again. No big deal.

But he said, the night before the audition, that is was a big deal. That he really, really wanted to do this. That he would cry if he didn’t make it.


I told him it was ok to cry, that all he could really do was try his best.
And I held my breath.

On Saturday morning Fletcher and I drove out to Armstrong Atlantic State University for the audition. In the car he was chatting about his new Skylanders game and his playdate that afternoon. He seemed fine. Then we walked into the building, and the nerves kicked in. As I was filling in his paperwork people kept trying to talk to him, but he could barely answer.

At one point he squeezed my hand, pulled me down so he could whisper in my ear, and said “Mommy, I’m really nervous.”

I took him outside for a minute. We sat in the sun and he played his song for me one more time. And then he was gone – whisked into the warm-up room – and I was left to wait.

It felt like I waited a loooooooong time. Kids of all ages came and went with various instruments, and when I heard snippets coming from the warmup room they all sounded amazingly good. I had to remind myself that these kids were auditioning for different orchestras at different levels. None of them were as young as Fletcher. I got an update that he was still in the warm-up room, nervously rosining his bow. The manager told me his bow was so well rosined he might never need to do it again! But hey, whatever it takes to work out that nervous energy, right?

I sat there and prepared myself to console him, to tell him again how proud I was of him even trying, how amazed I am by his musical talents.

And then he came out, violin in one hand, his acceptance letter in the other, and a huge grin on his face! He pumped his letter in the air. He was barely touching the ground as he crossed the room towards me. He got in!!!

The boy is crazy proud of himself, and I am crazy proud of him. He is an official member of the AAYO Debut Strings Ensemble, and his first concert is coming up in March. We need to get him black dress pants and shoes and a black satin bow tie! I grin every time I think about it.

In case you can’t tell, I am so proud I could pop. Not so much because he got into the ensemble, but because he  tried. He was scared and shy but he didn’t let that stop him. Frankly, I’m not sure anything can stop that kid. 🙂



We are now exactly one week into 2012, and if this first week has been any indication, this could be a very good year. We said goodbye to 2011 and hello 2012 with good friends, sharing first a beautiful walk along the historic McQueen’s Island trail, followed by dinner at the fabulously kitschy Crab Shack, then football and fireworks and even more friends. Ginger posted some lovely photos here – with the puppy in tow I have not done a good job of carrying the camera lately!

The winter break passed far too quickly, but before it was over Lola Gray and I joined her friends Elsie and Camille, and their mothers, for a fancy tea party downtown. Once again, Ginger comes to the rescue with her wonderful photos – thanks Ginger!

Visiting Virginia

A funny thing happens when you get a new puppy. Suddenly, carrying a big camera around seems like an impossible feat. Thankfully, my new iphone has a decent camera so I was still able to catch a few shots of our wonderful trip to Virginia. We celebrated my Grandmother Sophie’s 96th birthday, and spent lots of time playing with NayNay, Grandaddy, cousins, aunts, uncles and, of course, Pepper and Duke. Poor Aunt Erin was down for the count with a nasty virus most of the time we were there, but it was great to have Aunt Boo home from London for a visit.