Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring in the land of Cleve.

Spring has sprung and at times it seems to have left... only to be reminded again with all the yellow haze around here. For several days we were 80 degrees... then we spend days dipping into the low 40's. And then we wonder why everyone has this issues with head colds. It's hard to dress the kids in the mornings because by afternoon they are sweating. The pollen has been horrendous this year and I can tell by the puffy little eyes around here, the coughs, and the sneezes. A few more weeks and we should be good.
The girls have decided to be really big helpers in the kitchen. They love to dress the part, make menus, take orders and then help be wait staff. I don't have to set the table anymore. One day soon, they'll be washing the dishes too. Once that happens... woo wee!! :)
Ruthie's kindergarten class recently took a field trip to a nearby state park. We enjoyed perfect weather. Sunshine and warm temps. We hiked around the lake, listened to the park ranger's speeches about safety and bears. We had a grilled hot dog lunch with all the kids and parents then we visited the waterfall. I'm surprised none of the kids went home wet with as much "exploring" as they did. Lydia went with us and was a great hiker. She may be ready to start school in August after all!
Here are a couple of Ruth's friends from class.
We still miss having Cheyenne in the class. She is one of her friends who had several strokes back in March and is still in the hospital. We pray for her daily and are waiting to see what God has in store for her family. Right now, they wonder too. We don't see the good. We don't see the reason. But we do trust that there, in the big picture, is a reason for God's glory to shine through Cheyenne, her family, and her friends.
Acorn thumbs!
All for now.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just a Cruisin...

Curtis and I went on a couple's marriage cruise with 14 other couples in our church. The church has put a cruise together for several years now and Curtis finally agreed to go (after many years of begging).

Here are the kids with Grammy and Papa bidding farewell as we left the church. Check out the emotions in the faces.

Our itenerary was bus ride to Cape Canaveral on Sunday. Sail from Port Canaveral with Royal Caribbean on the Monarch of the Seas on Monday. Visit the Bahamas island of CocoCay and Nassau. Return to land on Friday and drive home.

We stayed overnight in a hotel (to be nameless) close to the port. They weren't much for service or protection from the weather... but the pool was pretty. The rooms all had sleep number beds too. We thought that was pretty cool. It was nice to have that overnight rest before boarding the ship. Hate to start a vacation all worn out and all!

We had a great group that went. A few couples that we knew, some we knew of, and some we didn't know at all. We were the youngest couple (although there was one girl a little younger than us... her husband is not, so we voted ourselves as the youngest!) :) and the dear sweet Knolls were the oldest... the expert cruisers!!

Our dinner table was right by the window and was such a beautiful view each evening. We ate the early dinner... so it ended up right at sunset for dessert. Our table mates were Keith and Anne Jennings. We tend to hang a good bit with them on dry land, so I was thankful to enjoy their company this week as well. We laughed a lot, talked a lot and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. and we're ready to go again.

Here's our waiter, Alex.

Our head waiter... we never got his picture.

Here's our assistant waiter with Keith and Anne. Curtis called his name a bunch and he always brought him whatever he wanted... and more. He was very personable!

We ate breakfast one morning with this couple, Andrew and June, from Kissimee, FL. Originally, they are both from Giahana South Africa and have just recently come to the states. They are believers as well and we had good morning conversation with them. Super nice people!! She's a nurse in the ICU and is planning a marriage cruise for her church couples for next summer. Here's our on-deck photo as we were leaving port... Anne and Jenny.

Keith and Curtis... and the last of the Florida coastline.

The Monarch anchors just off the Coco Cay coast and tenders all the passengers back and forth all day long. We went to the beach early morning and hung out swimming and relaxing all day. Curtis snorkled for several hours and saw tons of cool underwater fish, boats, airplane, etc. If we ever get copies of the underwater camera I'll try to post some of those pics as well. I was going to float on a mat while he snorkled, but it was an all boy snorkling adventure so I opted to float in my own little cove and sit under a tree for a while. I would have visited with Anne since Keith was also in the water, but she fell asleep. I could post that picture here -> .....but I won't. :)

We had lunch on the island and headed back to the ship before they pulled up anchor at 5. That was also our "formal" night so we cleaned up and got all pretty for dinner. See!?!?!

We also had a huge group photo after dinner of all 15 couples all dressed up. It was quite an impressive staircase - but it's on Al's camera. There were some tuxedos and fancy gals. I was please with Curtis' coat and tie. Doesn't it look nice??

Wednesday we spent the day docked in Nassau, Bahamas. We took our time getting off and started walking the usual street stores. We roamed around with John and Mindy Winters until lunchtime, when they had an excursion date. Then we finished our "shopping" for all our free bling jewelry for the kids and paused for a quick Starbucks break. I had a headache and blamed the lack of caffeine, although it was probably the sun and heat. We also wanted a souvenir cup that said "Nassau" on it... this store had none. Well, there was one under the cabinet that Curtis found when he opened the cabinet with his foot... but the handle was broken. So the young man behind the counter said we could just have it but he needed to check with his manager. So while he's in the back room, Curtis continues to peruse the cabinets and two well dressed gentlemen who were in line behind us questioned his motives. Turns out the one dude was a Starbucks district manager or something high up who was there for lunch and was protecting the company assets. The store manager comes out and in true Bahamian style, starts bartering with Curtis over how much he'll pay for the broken mug. This man in line just says no, and gives it to us for nothing. So, now we have a free broken handled mug from Starbucks and a new lunch friend. He sat next to us at the counter and told Curtis all about the local customs in customer service, or lack of. He also directed us to a local diner (if you call them diners) for some conch fritters. This was the same place the lady in Diamonds International pointed us to. Or was that Tanzanite International? Or Gold International? There were a bunch of International stores that sold all the same stuff for the same price...

Ok... back to the story. We decided to walk the streets... a little further than the typical tourists walk. We went past the Straw Market, past Senor Frog's, around the Hilton and suddenly it seemed very... empty.... native... quiet. If I hadn't been with Curtis I would have turned around. But he was unconcerned and we walked on... and on... and on. The beach was really beautiful and I realized it was there for the smaller hotels that were right in front of us. We took a few pictures and moved on. Our goal was fritters! The natives call the area the Fish Fry and the restaurant of choice was Twin Brothers. Did you know there were TWO Twin Brothers? Apparently, as told by the local greeter girl, the brothers had one place and got in an argument over something so they each opened their own place. Both call themselves Twin Brothers, there just a very small 2 behind one of them. They claim the same food and prices, same service, same family recipes. I think it's a funny story and maybe they just did it to get people like us to come eat their food. It worked! We had Conch Fritters and Conch Salad... which is just fresh salsa, SPICY fresh salsa with chunks of conch thrown in. It was yummy... but we needed chips or bread or something to help with the heat. After lunch we crossed the highway (on foot!- have you seen them drive??) and walked through the cricket field up to the Fort Charlotte... we didn't go in, as we had approached from a less than public direction, so we didn't see the story, history or anything else about the Fort. They did have a good view of the water, ports, ships, and Paradise Island (Atlantis). We walked the long hike back to the docks and caught a water taxi over to Paradise Island. We did some more walking into the Atlantis and found the aquarium section... which is FREE. They call it "The Dig" which is set up like an archaeological dig within the fish... it's hard to explain but really cool to see. We were going to walk around the pools and hotels but it started raining so we had to retreat back inside the hotel... and without a room, our access was limited. And we were getting hungry and tired. We opted to try to catch the last water taxi of the day back to the dock... which we barely made. We missed dinner with our friends that night but caught good grub in the Windjammer Cafe instead... a solid back-up! That night was also the midnight buffet poolside as we left Nassau. That was fun dancing the conga line with Mindy and watching the island lights dim in the distance. Curtis was impressed over and over with how things aboard the ship functioned, how he didn't even know we had left the dock.. and he tried to figure out which direction we were going, what we were close to, what was next, etc.

Thursday at sunset we all met on the top deck and had a vow renewal ceremony led by James Dollar. We were all set to be serious when I noticed a launch had just taken place at the space center at Cape Canaveral. We paused our service and watched the rockets cross the entire span of sky... we got to see the second boosters fire and fall away, and we watched until the rocket was no longer visible by our eyes. Talk about fire works... really cool!

Friday we were back in port and had to leave. That's always a downer... but I was ready to get back to the kids. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and I knew they were well taken care of... but I was still ready to be home. Or have them with us at the beach, on a cruise, or vacation... but together, somewhere.

We loaded up our bus and headed back to Clermont as fast as we could... stopped twice for FAST food and were home, in our house by 9pm. Not bad for a day's travel!! The kids were glad we were home but none of the girls left Grandma's lap to greet us. Haarumph! Yep.... they were well taken care of!

Cruise Itinerary: 19 April: Port Canaveral, FL 20 April: Cococay, Bahamas 21 April: Nassau, Bahamas 22 April: Cruising 23 April: Port Canaveral, FL

The cruisers: Bill & Kristen Ellis, Al & Elaine Bell, Gene & Georgia DiBartolo, Rick & Rebecca Yarbrough, Tim & Terry McCune, John & Mary Knoll, Curtis & Jenny Davidson, John & Mindy Winters, Barry & Patti Lord, Danny & Sally Wise, Michael & Shannon Mooney, Brian & Sadie Hill, Keith & Anne Jennings, James & Harriet Dollar, Kirk & Denise Williamson.

And that's the story of our couple cruise to the Bahamas... well, most of it!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Spring Break 2010--- Chatt-town

Our spring break trips never involve the beach. In years past we've travelled to Pennsylvania to visit the Rose family, Virginia to visit the Hartman's, and D.C. to sight-see, oh and visit Uncle Bob! We have usually seen cooler temperatures than what we have at home. We usually try to plan our trip around free things for the kids. We had a membership to our local children's museum which allowed us to visit all these other kid's museums at no cost. That's worth the money, for real life (as Lydia says)!

This year we did not meet up with anyone. We did not visit someones home. We stayed in a real life hotel with a POOL. We did some free activities and then we spent money to do the rest. But the memories are priceless. These are things I did growing up as well... and sometimes my brain works and I can remember them. But they are still memories regardless if I pull them out regularly.

We started our trip on Tuesday morning and drove straight through. I don't remember ever doing that, anywhere... but we did it. We went to Ruby Falls first.... just for the potty! :) Then we found a picnic area and ... well, it was closed for winter. WINTER? It's 85 degrees!! Anyway, we drove on up to Rock City and used a picnic table in the shade.

After a relaxing lunch on the lawn we went through Rock City. It was a beautiful day, hot even. The kids remembered our trip in the fall so they remembered some of the places, squeezes and displays they really wanted to see again. They are especially fond of Fat Man Squeeze, Needle's Eye and the Fairyland at the end. I think most of it is to watch Mom and Dad squeeze through the rocks. We stopped at the overlook for ice cream and a rest then we headed back out.

We love our hotel in Chatt-town. Staybridge Suites has been faithful to us, so we'll stay with them. It's a perfect location, just out of town but still on the trolley route to save from having to drive anywhere downtown. The kids love to ride around town with all the strangers... for free. We can get on and off as much as we want, and it takes us from the Choo-Choo to the Aquarium... and all the special places in between. Last time it was the cupcake place, this time... the Moon-Pie book store. They also have free breakfast and free dinner during the middle of the week. We took advantage of this bonus, packed lunches and bought very little food.
Wednesday we spent the morning at Chickamauga Battlefield exploring, listening and learning. I remember doing this 30 years ago. I hope they'll remember some of it as well. I learned a lot more this time too. We walked a TON... and then walked some more. We drove through the park to see all the different monuments for the states, the troops, the officers. We walked to the top of the tower and argued over the number of steps there were. :) Bennett and I were pretty close to each other so we're guessing it was around 130, I think. We picnicked again and watched lots of bikes ride by and a couple of kites. We are looking forward to the day when Lydia and Ruth are independent bikers and can do some of those rides together.

This is a lovely photo Curtis took at the top of the tower. I was not laying down from exhaustion... but rather to enjoy the sky without breaking my neck. See, I was even pointing out something to the kids that was surely exciting!

After lunch we went to some caves at Raccoon Mountain... to explore the stalactites and stalagmites and other curious things down under. It was more walking, 58 cool degrees, and I had a tired 4 year old. We managed with piggy-back rides through the 45 minute tour. There was one place where the guide pointed out some fossils that belong in the ocean from millions of years ago. It was neat to see how Bennett absorbed that info... and then connect the flood with the potential of being the reason for "misplaced" fossils of ocean life.

We ate back at the hotel and enjoyed some more pool time. I think the kids would be just as content to stay there and swim their entire vacation away. Maybe next time we'll just go to a local pool and call it a day!

We also explored the river front at sunset. We were going to walk across the bridge but just got halfway before the kids decided they didn't like being up that high over the water. So we went back and witnessed a very sweet proposal on the bridge. She said yes! And the girls asked lots of questions and when were they going to get married.

Thursday morning we woke to rain and storms, as predicted by the local weatherpeople. We had already planned to do an indoor day at the Chattanooga Aquarium. We loaded up with our jackets and umbrellas and headed out. Of course, the sun soon came out and the day was warm so we carried everything more than using it. We explored all around and then decided to head over to the Children's museum just up the street. They were having a free night and had lots and lots and lots of free things to give away. The kids felt the need to collect 4 of everything just because it was free... not because we needed any of it. We finally had to make them stop! So we have banks, money holders, bears, jump ropes, coloring books, crayons, pamphlets, brochures, and coupons. I guess the families in Chattanooga have good resources for their children. :) Since it was a free night... it was a bit crazy and crowded. The adults in our family ended the night after an hour and we headed to dinner. There was a special restaurant Curtis and Bennett had visited on one of their camping trips and they wanted the girls to get to experience it as well. The Station House has the wait staff that sings during dinner. They occasionally take a break from the tables to sing all genres of music. I had to sing along with way too many songs and Ruthie asked me to please sing to Lydia (on my other side) and not in her ear anymore. Oh the love!

After we filled ourselves to the brim we turned south and headed home. It was a great 3 days and we filled them with plenty of memories. The kids were glad to do whatever - wherever we went. Another terrific spring break in the books! We have the best kids ever!

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