June 1, 2007
Patrick had gymnastics tonight, and was moaning and groaning about going because since the showcase it's "so boring!" He's sure glad he went now! They started on a bunch of new things, including a back handspring, which he's been dying to learn. He caught on very fast and immediately said he wanted to go back tonight for open gym (2 hours where they can basically do whatever they want) so he could work on it some more. One of the older gymnasts was watching with the parents and I said how happy he will be to finally be learning a back handspring. When I pointed Patch out to her, she was amazed that it was his first time doing one and he did it so well! :-)
Mark came home this evening from Ft. Lauderdale, and I finally have my whole crew back under one roof, especially with Tropical Storm Barry knocking on our door. Fortunately, this one seems to be harmless, and will bring us some much-needed rain and maybe even put out the forest fires for good.
June 4, 2007
Woohoo! We're on our cruise! We knew things were going to be great when we actually got out of the house this morning on time. That was a miracle! We got on the ship with no problems and went straight to the food! The whole Finster clan gathered for lunch, and then we explored the ship. It's amazing! There was only one mishap - Mark and I forgot to bring one of our bags, which held our formal clothes for the dinner with the captain tomorrow night. Fortunately, with all of the brothers there, Mark will be covered, and I can make do with what I brought. The kids hit the pool, but Alex and Patrick didn't like the salt water. We had a small moment of panic when nobody could find Chase, but he had gone to the hot tub at the other end of the pool. Dinner was fantastic in the main dining room. Patch is clinging to us like glue, but Alex sat at the big kid table with all of the cousins. We sat by a window, and about half-way through the meal, the motion sickness set in. OMG - how awful! I went to the cabin to lay down, and finally started feeling better after 1 1/2 Dramamines. Mark's mom brought some motion sickness patches for behind your ear and that is working wonders, thank God! Our room is spectacular, and we're having to force ourselves to leave it to enjoy the rest of the ship. This evening, as we were trying to get settled for bed, Heather and Ashley came over and invited Alex and Patch to play cards down in Nana's room. Then Mark went to the casino with his brothers. They all came back much sooner than I expected. Alex and Patch had gotten into another fight, and Mark said he ran out of money already. LOL At least he knew when to stop!
June 5, 2007
We had a full day at sea today. We woke up nice and late and went to the breakfast buffet. The kids spent most of the morning and afternoon at the pool and going down the water slide. They also spent some time at Camp Carnival (the kids program). The boys are in different age groups so they had to split up, although they were with their cousins. Patrick decorated a Carnival t-shirt, and Alex's group played games. Before dinner we went to the Captain's cocktail party and did a little dancing and had professional portraits done. We even got some pictures of all 23 of us! We'll see tomorrow how they turned out.
After dinner all of the kids gathered in Nana's room to watch a movie. Mark and his brothers hit the casino, and MB, Patch and I went to the evening show. All of the excitement starts tomorrow when we get to Grand Cayman. :-)
June 6, 2007
The kids (and consequently, us) stayed up until about midnight watching a movie, and we had to wake up at the crack of dawn this morning for our shore trip to Grand Cayman. I've finally left the United States! This was my first time on foreign soil. :-) Let me tell ya - the Caribbean is gorgeous! I've never seen such deep blue waters. When our group was loading into the buses for the tour and we said we were a party of eight (we were with Mike, MB, Julia and Ryan), we were put in a van all to ourselves. It was awesome - we made it to everything just before the big buses got there so we didn't have to deal with the crowds, and we had our own personal tour guide. First on the agenda was a turtle farm. There were hundreds of sea turtles all vying for the food the kids were feeding them. We were allowed to pick up the 2-year-old turtles, which was a blast! When you first grab them in the water, of course their flippers are going like crazy, but we learned that if you rub under their chins, they calm right down. Amazing!
Well, we can now say that we've been to Hell and back! Yep - there's a city in Grand Cayman named Hell, and it was the second stop on our tour. It's actually a tiny place with a gift shop and a post office, but the reason for it's name is the rock formations there. Heather has to write a summary about her summer vacation on a post card. She chose a postcard from Hell that says, "I'd rather go to Hell than to school." Perfect!
We were running a bit ahead of schedule so our guide took us to the beach for a short break. Ryan and Julia loved jumping off the sand ledge, but poor Ryan could barely climb back up.
Our last stop on the trip was definitely the best. We took a boat out to a sand bar where stingrays gather. It was unbelievable! The stingrays were HUGE and swam right up to us! We had been under the impression that the event would be more like Seaworld, where the stingrays are captive and had their barbs removed, but these are wild stingrays, complete with huge barbs. Patch had a horrible time. He was terrified of the barbs, because he knows that is what killed Steve Irwin. Mark was holding him in the water and I took him from Mark, not realizing what was going on, and walked over to where our guide was holding a stingray. Suddenly Patrick just lost it and tried desperately to get away from me. I don't think I've ever seen Patrick truly afraid, and this time he was utterly terrified. :-( Mark took him back on the boat while Alex and I petted the rays. It was really freaky to feel one brush against my leg from behind! When Mark came back out and said Patch was on the boat crying, I happily volunteered to go take care of him. It was really, really cool to swim with the stingrays, but I was getting more and more jumpy by the minute. Definitely an incredible life experience! (By the way, Becca gets a great big THANK YOU for lending us her underwater camera.)
I had just enough time back on the ship to do some laundry before I went for my facial at the ship's spa. Ahhhhhh. This evening we went to a magic show, which was followed by a family comedy show. We were laughing our heads off! After that, Heather and Alex went to Camp Carnival for a game of Mission Impossible. Apparently, they compete to see who can do "the impossible" the best or the longest. Heather got a medal for eating a whole bowl of soft-serve ice cream with salt and pepper in it - without using her hands. LOL Alex got a package of Starburst candies for standing on one leg the longest.
Every evening the cabin stewards turn down the beds and leave towel critters on the beds. Here are some of ours.
June 7, 2007
What an awesome day! We arrived in Cozumel this morning and went to a national park for our dolphin adventure. Nine of us did the "Royal Swim", which was the best of the best. It was Mike, Jay, Stacey, Mark, Alex, Patch, Heather, Ashley and me. Each one of us got to: kiss a dolphin, hug a dolphin, take a dorsal fin ride, and a foot push! Absolutely nothing compares to being propelled through the water by two dolphins at your feet! We were all high as kites for the entire day by how absolutely incredible the experience was. The younger kids and their parents did a toned down version, where they kissed and petted the dolphins and were able to give them commands. We stayed at the park for quite some time and played in the huge pool or snorkeled at the beach. Mark and I did a bit of shopping in the tourist district and I got some silver earrings to go with the necklace he got for me when he was here in January.
Back at the ship, we settled back into our rooms. We left port in the middle of dinner, and I once again thanked the gods (and Mary Ellen) for the motion sickness patch. As I type this, we're at sea, and it's very windy. The boat is rocking and rolling like crazy! Alex and Heather are going to a Camp Carnival late night party at 10:00 tonight. It lasts until 3:30, but neither one of them wants to stay that late. It'll be interesting to see how long they last.
A photographer took pictures of our dolphin encounter, so of course, I just had to buy them!
Absolutely nothing compares to being propelled through the water by two dolphins pushing your feet!
June 8, 2007
Today was a nice relaxing day at sea (sounds like I do this all the time, doesn't it? LOL). Alex and Heather ended up skipping the late-night party, so we made up for it with a game of Uno last night. Alex knows the ship so well now that I'm asking him for directions, and we're comfortable letting him roam the ship on his own. Patch will go with him, but isn't comfortable getting himself around without Alex. They've spent a lot of time at the pool or in the arcade, and Mark and I spent most of the day in the cabin reading our books. I've finished two so far on the trip. :-)
We have three assigned tables in the dining room, so dinnertime is the one time of the day we can count on having everyone together. We always have a fantastic time, but tonight was even more special. We ordered two birthday cakes and celebrated all of the May and June birthdays and anniversaries. It was also our last dinner on the cruise, so it was bittersweet. After dinner the kids went to Camp Carnival, Mark went with his brothers to the casino, and I enjoyed some more peace and quiet while I packed. Alex and Heather had once again planned to do the late night camp, but Heather couldn't stay, and Alex didn't want to go without her, so he never did get to do the late night stuff. :-(
June 9, 2007
We woke up at the crack of dawn to discover we were in the port at Tampa. We finished packing and went to the Lido deck for our last ship meal. It sure is gonna be the pits to have to clean up and cook for ourselves again! Alex had a football game at 10:00 this morning. We were certain he would miss it, but put his cleats in the car just in case. It worked out after all. We were able to leave the ship at 7:30 and actually had him to the game 10 minutes early. Mom brought Boudreaux out to the house and he generously gave out head-hugs and wags to welcome us home. Then I brought Grendel and Dee Dee home, and the peace of the vacation was shattered by reality. LOL Dee Dee was so thrilled to be home with us that she jumped around like a pogo stick and tore through the house with excitement. Mark and I have been joking all day long because we still have our sea legs and it seems like the entire house is rocking back and forth!
Here are some more great pictures that Nana took on the cruise.
June 11, 2007
The Florida summer afternoon thunderstorms have started, and today's was a doozy. The poor dogs were terrified, so Alex invited Dee Dee up on the couch with him (NOT allowed. LOL). We're thrilled because we sooooooo need the rain.
June 14, 2007
The restaurant we went to tonight had a fabulous balloon artist to entertain the kids. Alex asked for a Colt's helmet, and Patrick asked for an alligator (NOT a "gator" mind you!).
June 15, 2007
The schedule for the next two days is jam packed, so we celebrated Mark's birthday today, a day early, since this is probably the only time we'll all be together for the next 36 hours or so. I'm thrilled that I've got a ton of closings scheduled, though!
Patrick bought a quill pen today, just like Harry Potter uses.
June 16, 2007
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARK!
What an insane day! Alex had two football games, and a party afterwards for the end of the season, I had three closings, Alex went to a birthday/slumber party, and Mark took Patrick to a friend's son's first birthday party.
Alex games went well, and he played great. We then went to a sports restaurant afterwards to get trophies, and Alex was named the Player of the Season!
And poor Mark's birthday was lost in the shuffle. Fortunately we celebrated last night.
June 18, 2007
Dee Dee wanted to cuddle with Mark, but the laundry basket was in her way, so she just took the most direct route! I don't know what that wink is about, though. LOL
We headed over to the River for Father's Day. Mark got to try out his new chain saw on a wild cherry tree that had died on the lot next door. He was lovin' it!
June 19, 2007
The dentist referred Patrick to the orthodontist because it looked on the x-ray like the adult teeth that haven't come in yet are skewing the adult teeth that are already in. He had his orthodontist appointment today and I am thoroughly relieved to say that he doesn't need braces right now. He said we should plan on it in a few years, but right now we're good. Whew!
June 21, 2007
Daytona Beach has a water park that is a bit smaller and a lot cheaper than the big water parks in Orlando. Becca and I took our boys today and had a blast! The water slides were great and everyone was tall enough for all of them, but the favorite activity for everyone was floating around the Lazy River. The Lazy River circles through the whole park and has a current that was just enough for the moms to float around lazily (imagine that) and the kids to swim and flip and get silly. A huge bucket on top of the play structure would periodically dump water down on the kids - they loved it!
June 23, 2007
We keep buying new toys for the dogs, and have yet to find one that is indestructible. At least they're destroying the toys and not our house! This was a fluff-ball toy that lasted all of two minutes.
June 25, 2007
Nothing like new water guns on a hot summer day.
Jay and Stacey sent some pictures of Maddie and Caroline that I just had to share. They're so CUTE!