Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Rock

I've written before about my Grandparents and what they have taught me. I've also written about spending my summers at their house and the friends that I have made in this small Louisiana town.  I have never shared about their yard...about the outside of their home.

Their house sits on the corner of two dead end streets. Before the new access road was built a cotton gin was at the end of one street.  After the cotton was processed huge trucks would haul the cotton out of town leaving behind little boles of cotton on the side of the road in front of their house.  Some days it looked like snow.  At the end of the other road was my summer friend, Sarah Calvert.  When I visited we were joined at the hip.

My Grandparents had the perfect yard for hide-and-go-seek with  two big live oak trees in the front, two magnolia trees in the side yard, and one very productive pecan tree in the back.  I remember countless summer days spent climbing those two magnolia trees with my friend Sarah sharing our deepest childhood secrets.  You felt like you were far away at the top of those trees when you were actually about twenty yards from the house.

One summer it rained.  It rained and rained and rained. I didn't think we would ever get to go outside and play.  Finally the sun came out and my Papa said, "Girls, get your swimsuits on...we're going swimming!"  My sister and I jumped up and put our suits on and followed him out the back door. Sarah and her brothers were waiting for us in the driveway.  Papa marched us to the front yard and pointed to the swollen ditch.  Sarah's brothers jumped in and we all followed.  We were muddy and covered in grass and we were the five happiest kids in town.  My grandfather waded into the ditch and laughed along with us.  At one point he reached down into the water with both hands and pulled out the largest bullfrog that I had ever seen!  That was the first and only time that I swam in rainwater and it was amazing.

There were many hot summer days spent running around and just being little girls.  I wouldn't think of going inside for a drink.  We would just turn on the outdoor spigot and drink water straight from the tap.  Under the spigot was the strangest rock that I had ever seen. It had several perfectly round craters all over it and one perfect hole in the middle. I always thought this was the most fascinating rock that I had ever seen.  My dad told me that every winter my grandparents would leave the outdoor spigot on a drip so the pipes didn't freeze.  They put the rock under it so the water didn't drill a hole into the ground.  After many years of drips a crater would form on the rock and then they would turn the rock to form a new divot.  I guess one year they didn't move it soon enough and a hole formed.

A few years ago my grandfather passed away.  My mother and grandmother had to make a tough decision.  Stay or go?  Just this past December my grandmother moved away from Louisiana.  She moved into a beautiful retirement home in North Carolina near my parents.  She is happy but misses her home and her friends.  I am happy that I get to see her about every month instead of only during the summertime. 

When my parents were at her house moving her belongs I received a text from my summer friend.  Sarah sent a picture of a moving van in my Mimi's driveway with the caption, "Will I ever get to see you again?"  All of the summer memories came pouring back.  I'm not much of a tree climber now, but my boys have climbed those same trees.  Sarah and I haven't been swimming in ditches, but we have watched our children swim in her pool and become friends themselves.  And I just knew that the strange rock would be a mystery to whoever lives in that corner house next.

On Mother's Day we gathered at my parents house.  Three generations of mothers.  We sat around and opened our Mother's Day gifts and homemade cards from the boys. My grandmother and mom got flowers. . I unexpectedly got a big white box and I cried when I opened it. I got a little piece of my childhood summers.  I got a little piece of their house.  I got the rock.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last Day

The day before departure we watched a debarkation video on our room TV so we knew exactly what to do the next morning.  There were a few options to debark and we chose to carry our own luggage off of the ship.  We had to be at a particular elevator bank at 7:10am to exit the ship.  We are early risers so this wasn't a problem.

Tod woke up really early and decided to go get some coffee and read for a little while.  I got up a little after that.  I went to the bathroom to change my clothes and brush my teeth.  Then I heard a gurgling noise that no one wants to hear coming from the toilet.  I quickly gathered everything off of the floor and opened the door.  Water started gushing out.  It was like a potty waterfall!  I panicked!  I kept pressing the flush button on the wall.  The water would be completely sucked out (like normal) then quickly rise!  Now I started to sweat!  I opened the cabin door and luckily our steward was right there.  She was just as shocked as I was!  She gathered lots of towels so the water would stay in the bathroom.  I kept pressing the flush button over and over to keep the water down!  Then stopped rising! Whew!   This is not how I wanted to start my day.  But I was thankful that this happened on the last day and not the first!!

A little while later we ate breakfast then headed off of the ship.  We were home by 10:30am.  Nice!

This was such a fun vacation.  The boys are at a great age that we can do these kinds of things and they are willing to be taken anywhere!  When we got home we asked them what other countries they wanted to go to.  Jacob said Ireland and Brady said Arizona......

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cruising Day 4 and 5...Freeport, Bahamas

We landed in Freeport on Saturday morning.  We scheduled a glass bottom boat tour that didn't meet up until 10:30am so we had a leisurely morning aboard the ship.  Tod and I ran on the ship, showered, had a slow breakfast in the dining room with the boys.  Brady loved his breakfast because his cereal came with a very fancy pitcher of milk.  As he poured his own milk he said, "We should totally do this at home, Mom!"   
We met the tour group and headed by bus to the marina for our boat tour.  The driver was wonderful.  He told us that Freeport was the industrial capital of the Bahamas with the 4th deepest port in the world.  Guess who owns the port???  Carnival Cruise Lines!!  Yep, I wondered why this was a destination!  The driver told us all about the people, the schools, the government, and the island way of life.  I have to admit...this was my favorite part of the day.
It was a little chilly so we bundled up the best we could and headed on board our glass bottom boat.

We all sat along the edges of the boat and we could peer over the inside railing to see these glass panels....

After a 15 minute (very cold) boat ride we made it to the coral reef.  We were able to see some beautiful fish, coral, and amazing blue-green water.

Here is Brady with his hood up and head down while the boat was moving.  We at least got a seat in the sun!

It is hard to believe it was cold on a day like this!

We left the coral reef for another 15 minute (very cold) boat ride to see SHARKS!!  Now this was an incredible surprise.  They took us to an area where sharks were known to be. I am sure they fed them regularly so why leave?!   

The captain then baited a rope to try to get the sharks to surface.  Man did the surface.  They fought over the very gross fish head for several minutes.  Glad I got this shot...


After the glass bottom boat tour we hopped on a different bus back to the port.  This driver was just as good as the first one.  BUT...he quizzed us on all of the information that the first driver gave us! The boys both answered some questions right and that made him very happy.  He even sang us a song before we got off the bus.  It's nice to see people who love their jobs.

As you can see Freeport is an industrial city with a make shift shopping village for tourists. We were about to depart so we wanted to get a good spot on the outer deck.
We were scheduled to depart at 5pm.  We were able to see this beautiful sunset.  We decided to try to move to the front of the ship for the rest of the sunset...

Just missed it...

We realized that it was getting a little late and we haven't left yet.  People started giving up and going to dinner.  We wanted to stick it out for a little bit longer.  Looking over the railing we noticed a minivan and another strange looking vehicle racing toward the boat.  We thought it must be some passengers that were late for departure.  A few minutes later the captain came over the loud speaker to tell us that one of the passengers passed away while in Freeport and we were not leaving.  We then realized that that strange looking vehicle was a hearse.  I don't know if the family was getting on the ship or gathering their belongings to get off.  Dinner was a little somber that night. 
Day five was another Fun Day at Sea.  We slept late and watched the sun rise over the water.  Tod and I went to the jogging track and were almost blown off the ship!  It was so incredibly windy.  There was another runner and she passed us saying "Good Luck!  It's awfully windy up here!"  She was right!  It was comical.  Going from the front of the boat to the back of the boat the wind was at our backs.  I think I made that section in about four steps.  Then you rounded the corner.  It was like a wind tunnel.  It took all of the energy we had to make it back to the front of the boat.  There were moments that I am sure that I was running in place.  One mile was 11 laps.  I think I laughed the whole time.
The boys went to Camp Carnival for about an hour after lunch then we let them have some free time.  They loved that they could explore the ship on their own.  They went to the arcade, played golf, ate ice cream, and went to the candy shop. 
Tod and I sat in an alcove and read our books and played some blackjack at the casino.
We met up before dinner and decided to walk around the ship one  last time.

Jacob and I on the front of the ship (still in Freeport)

Brady couldn't get enough of the Lego Carnival ship...

Jacob creamed me in shuffle board.  Guess I am not ready for retirement!!  (Jacob is!)

Brady and Tod (with Jacobs hat on) acting goofy...
This last night we went to bed early because we had to leave the ship pretty early the next morning.  We watched our favorite channels on our little TV that showed the map and where the ship was located and let the boat rock us to sleep.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cruising Day 2 and 3...on our way to Nassau, Bahamas

 Day two of our cruise was a "Fun Day At Sea".  Well, this day started at 3:30am for me.  I was woken up rolling around on our bed and loud sprays of water hitting the boat outside our window.  We were sailing through a little storm.  When you are out at sea a little storm feels like a HUGE storm.  As my family slept soundly to the rocking back and forth, I laid there trying to go over our safety drill.  Did I remember our route to the life boat?  What was our Muster Station again?  Should I go ahead and put my shoes on?  I was awake for about an hour and decided I needed to stop driving the ship and get some sleep.  It worked.  I let the boat rock me back to sleep.

We woke up to this...

...a beautiful day with smooth waters.  The ship had lots of little bay windows to sit in.  Here are the boys.  Brady was a little nervous sitting out over the water!

Our day at sea was spent exploring the ship.  Tod and I got our daily run in on the jogging track on the top deck of the ship.  It was strange running on a ship.  You could feel the boat rocking.  There were a few times I was all over the track swaying and running at the same time.  I'm sure it looked hilarious.
On all cruise ships food is everywhere.  There were two dining rooms, a cafeteria style dining room, a grill, and many soft serve ice cream machines all over the ship.  The first two mornings we ate breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria style dining room.  Lots of wonderful food to chose from.  They always had lots of fruit and salad makings which surprised me a little.  The dessert area was always so beautifully arranged.  And, yes, we did have dessert with EVERY meal!!
The  boys went to Camp Carnival in the afternoon for about two hours.  They were able to play some video games and meet the other kids on the ship.  They went reluctantly, but really enjoyed it once we picked them up.  While they were in Camp Carnival, Tod and I hit the casino!! 
That night was a chilly.  We ate in the formal dining room.  The boys loved it.  The wait staff was fabulous.  They didn't understand our names (don't know why) so Tod and I were Tom and Kathy for the rest of the trip.  We answered to it by the end of the trip.
Here is Brady with his camo hoodie on relaxing and looking out over the pool a the tail of the ship.  While Tod and Jacob....

...played ping pong.  Jacob looks a little possessed in this picture too!  Several times a day we played miniature golf.  The 9 hole mini golf course was in the middle of the jogging track.  After our full day at sea we decided to cap it off with some night golf!!

As the sun came up on day three we pulled into Nassau, Bahamas.  It was a beautiful day.

We decided not to do an organized excursion while in Nassau.  The port is a block from the town and about 5 blocks from the beach.  We found a great place to camp out for the day called Junkaroo Beach.  The owner of the World Famous Tiki Bar (actually it was more like a make shift hut) approached us and offered us two chairs, and umbrella, 4 beers, and unlimited soft drinks for the kids for $40.00.  Sold!  We set up camp!  We both enjoyed the local beer...

In case you can't read that label...
You are going to have to trust me...Bush Crack is delicious!  AND all you need is two beers!!
There was a concrete pier next to our beach and Jacob loved running to the end chasing off all of the sea gulls.

They played and built lots of sand castles.  What a beautiful day!
Jacob...hates that mom always wanting to take his picture!

The owner of the Tiki Bar's son was off of school that day so Brady and KJ became fast friends.  Brady was more into building and KJ was more into tearing down.  The friendship was short lived!

Brady...he has no waist so his swimsuit kept falling down!

You can see how close we are to the ship.  There were 5 other cruise ships that we were able to watch  come in and dock.

We debarked from Nassau at about 5pm.  We were greeted in the dining room.."Welcome back, Tom and Kathy!"  The boys were so very tired after dinner.  We tucked them in and headed out for another winning session at the casino! 
With the calm waters in the Southeastern Atlantic we slept without interruption. 
Next stop..Freeport!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cruise...Day 1 Charleston, SC

 It is hard coming up with gift ideas for 8 and 11 year old boys that doesn't include very expensive gadgets that require batteries or chargers or solar energy so they can spend hours upon hours in front of some kind of screen. Tod and I took a different route to gift giving this year.  We gave the boys a Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas for Christmas this year!!  The boys have been wanting to go on a cruise for such a long time too.  The timing was just perfect.

Before we left I had done extensive research about cruising with kids and what to expect every step of the way.  There were some YouTube videos that were extremely helpful and was spot on with every piece of advice!

We left our house on Wednesday January 15th at about 930am and arrived in Charleston, SC at 1230pm.    As we drove into Charleston there were signs on every street corner directing us to the ship, which is basically one block from downtown Charleston!  While still in our car we went through three checkpoints.  The first one was to check our documentation.  If you didn't have the right proof of citizenship you couldn't get past the first checkpoint.  The second was to give the ground crew our luggage.  We handed it over in hopes that it would find its way to our cabin.  the third was to pay to park...$85.00!!!  I knew how much parking would be, but still...$85.00??  We then were able to park our car in an old warehouse, yep...they locked up the cars in an old shipping warehouse.  Ok...$85.00 is worth knowing our car was completely inaccessible to anyone.  After parking we headed to a bus which drove us to the one block to our ship...
We had three little stops to go through before we got on the ship.  First we went through security.  Which was much less stressful as going through airport security.  Next we went to the Carnival Sign and Sail desk.  They give you your room key card which is also your credit card and your proof of passenger card for getting off and back on the ship at each port.  The last stop was to say "cheese"!  We had our Welcome Aboard picture taken!!  Super cheesy, but we embraced the experience.
Here is a picture of our room.  We had a king bed with two bunks that folded down. And, yes, each of us hit our head many times over the next 5 days!!  The best part is that we had a window!  We were able to watch the sun rise on the way out and set on the return. It was a little tight at times, but the beds were super comfortable so we slept really good!  We had a little TV that got a few channels.  Our favorite two channels were Channel 14 which was a camera mounted on the front of the ship so we could see the Captain's view.  Our other favorite channel was channel 15 which was a map showing where the ship was, how fast we were going, wind speed, and weather.
Before we set sail we had to do our safety drill.  Brady is modeling the life jacket here...
We made our way to the deck overlooking Charleston to watch us embark!  It was a little chilly leaving Charleston, but sunnier skies are just around the corner.

As the sun set over Charleston we departed on our new adventure!