Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Land Ho, we made it across the pond

Ponta Delgada – Azores, Portugal – April 6, 2014

It was great to see land after a week in the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative. It was cold, raining and very windy. We were told by some fellow travelers that it is common to see fog and rain in the mornings in the Azores. They also told us that there was a Burger King with free WiFi in the port. We decided to go to the Burger King so that Stevie could load his telepods into his game (he has not been able to do that on the ship since internet access is so expensive). Of course, we felt compelled to buy lunch there so our first meal in Europe were hamburgers from Burger King.

First order of business was internet that wasn't costing .75 cent a minute.  Stevie loaded his Telepods on the Ipad and Mommy checked and sent emails at Burger King

We ran into one of the kids friends "Dionne" at the popular hamburger restaurant


Stevie was a great help.  He pushed Hannah all of the Azores and most of Europe


While in the Burger King, another family we got to know came in to check their e-mails. They were going back to the ship and offered us their umbrellas. With their umbrellas, we were able to make a short walk to the Gate to the City.

Hannah invented a new sport called “stroller surfing”. We stopped to take a picture and Hannah was sitting in her strolled holding the umbrella … and the wind was moving her along.

Kat and Hannah in front of the gate to the city of Ponta Delgada – Azores, Portugal
Steve and Stevie getting out of the rain
We are hoping that the weather will cooperate during our next stops. We brought clothes for cooler weather but rain makes it very hard.   Stay tuned for more.....

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Life on the High Seas

One thing that did not work out very well was our room. While the room itself was great, it was located right under the BB King lounge and for about 3 hours every night (until midnight), the music was blaring. Apparently we were right under the stage and the room shook with every beat of the drum. One night we just could not bear it anymore. Stevie was so tired but he could not fall asleep until the music stopped. We contacted the front desk (at this point, we still had 9 days to go) and Steve negotiated a move to another room on the 4th floor. The trouble was that when we moved our stuff to the room, we realized that the couch did not open into another bed. So they let us have another room right next to it. We were not quite happy with the arrangement to have two rooms but at least it is quieter. The boys are in room 4107 and the girls are in 4109.

As we are passing through time zones, we have been adjusting our clocks by 1 hour. They move the time from 2 to 3 PM in the afternoons. As of today, April 9th, Hannah and I seem to have adjusted to the new time. Steve and Stevie are not quite there yet but I bet they will be all set by the time we get to Italy.

We have been going to the pool every day. Hannah is quite the celebrity as everyone is surprised how well she can swim. 

 Home school kids have it rough

Stevie doing a "spear throw"' water entry maneuver, by the end of the cruise he could swim the entire length of the pool underwater

Hannah the "social butterfly'' made a lot of friends on the cruise.  This is Kristy, her favorite

We expected to be bored during our time at sea but we are constantly busy. We walk on the promenade deck and play shuffle board. We have checked out board games from the library and Stevie has learned to play Sorry, Checkers and he is learning to play chess. Stevie also likes the Game of Life that he has been playing in the kids club.

The kids have enjoyed club HAL (especially Hannah) and they are making friends. There are 14 kids under 12 on the ship. It is much more structured than we expected, they change activities every 30 minutes so in a way, it would be nicer to have more free play. But it does keep the kids entertained.
I cannot say that the club HAL is ideal – they only have a small room and the two ladies that take turns watching the kids do not seem to be very “warm and loving”. One gets the impression that they are here because they want to work on a cruise ship and not because they love being with kids. They also call parents over every little thing. Once I was called because Hannah was crying (another girl pushed her or something like that). By the time I got there, Hannah was fine and wanted to stay in the club. There was really no reason to call me.

We attended a family karaoke night at the kid's club, it was a lot of fun.  I had a hard time talking Kat into singing in public.  A couple of drinks at the bar and she was ready to rock and roll.  A full version of this video is available for $19.95.  For this price you will get to see Kat swinging on a chandelier, punch another woman and we will throw in a ging-su knife set. 

One big thing I do not like about the club is that they do not have a dedicated bathroom for the kids. The kids have to go by themselves to a restroom that is outside of the club area, next to an elevator and next to a door to the outside deck. The ladies that watch them are not allowed in the bathroom with them (which is common practice) but the bathroom door is so heavy that Hannah cannot physically open them. It was also very scary for Hannah to be in the bathroom alone. We had to make sure that Hannah went to the bathroom before going to the club so she would not need to go later. I have seen the ladies stand in the door of the club watching the kids go to the bathroom but I have also seen a little girl going to the bathroom alone and no one watching from club door.


Another day of sleeping in,  it's a rough life but somebodys got to do it


Hannah could not control herself when her handsome brother suited up for formal nights

We had some excitement at the pool … an older woman was upset that there were children in the pool. When it was pointed out to her that there was an adult only pool on the back of the ship, she was not happy with that. She keeps coming to the family pool, acting rudely and pushing people around. The worst moment was one afternoon when she grabbed a 7 year old girl and smacked her in the face. Then she would not let the girl go. Other parents came to help and it all ended up in a yelling match. When we came to the pool the next day, we came in there just as the girl’s parents were again yelling at the woman, we were not sure what happened prior to that.

We spoke to another woman who was in the pool and the woman kicked her several times as well. After this, we have seen her in the pool but she was going around people rather than pushing and kicking them out of the way. Maybe someone from the crew spoke to her.

Our kids seem to be the center of attention all the time. We have gotten a lot of compliments on the kids’ behavior. We are very proud of them and they are wonderful but it makes me wonder what people expect the kids to expect to behave like.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bon Voyage

David drove Steve to the Orlando airport on Saturday, March 29th, to pick up our rental car. While we enjoyed nice weather the whole time in Florida, a large storm system was moving through and we were leaving in heavy rain. It was a bit challenging to get everything into the rental car without getting soaked but we were soon on the way. We took the Turnpike south all the way to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at the hotel around dinner time.

Instead of going out to dinner, we went to Walmart and bought a few snacks. We spent the night in the hotel and after breakfast in the room, we drove to the airport to return the car. It was now Sunday, March 30. At the drop off, they told us where to find the shuttle to the port. We had perfect timing as a bus was just loading up. They dropped us off right in front of our ship. We checked in and had to wait for a little while at the port.

We boarded the ship in the early afternoon and were told that our room was not yet ready. We made our way to the Lido deck to have lunch. As we were finishing our meal, an announcement was made that all rooms were ready. We went down to the main deck (1) to our room 1058. It was an inside room in the middle of the ship. We were quite pleased with the size of the room. It had a queen size bed, a couch that folded out into a single bed and a bunk bed. Overall, it was very roomy for a basic cruise-ship cabin. The room had a small bathroom with a shower.

We had reserved early seating for dinner (at 5:45 PM) and still had plenty of time before that. We got our bathing suits on and went to the pool. As we were getting into the pool, a woman that was already swimming told us that she did not think kids were allowed in the pool. We confirmed the pool in the middle of the Lido deck was the family pool and went on swimming. I was a bit irritated by the incident but the woman apologized later. Someone told her that the middle pool was for adults only. The big difference between the two pools is that the one in the middle has a retractable roof and therefore is much warmer than the pool in the back of the ship.

Stevie playing air hockey at Club Hals

We ate a lot of meals at open dining because we slept in every day

The ship's monitor kept us up to date on position, weather, speed etc....
We traveled a total of 4853 miles to cross the Atlantic.

We don't dress like this in Tennessee unless someone has died or is getting married

The kids are totally embracing the concept of cruising and having fun on the high seas

Shuffle Board and ping pong became a popular activity

The girls getting ready for formal night

We got dozens of compliments on how beautiful and well mannered of children were.  There were only 14 kids on the Eurodam which had over 2,000 passengers

Our ship left the port shortly after 4 PM. I have to admit I was a little anxious. I was thinking we were crazy to take our kids all the way across the Atlantic. We had 6 days at sea ahead of us with our first stop being in the Azores on Sunday, April 6th.The sea was quite choppy. Most of the way, the waves were about 18 ft tall, reaching 21 ft on Friday, April 4th. But remarkably, this did not seem to affect the ship much. We could feel the ship roll every now and then but overall it was a very smooth ride.  More to come...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Epic Journey Begins

We left Tennessee on Monday, March 17, 2014. Everything for this trip was packed in 2 large black suitcases we bought brand new for the trip, two small backpacks, camera bag and a computer bag. We also carried a small cooler with Steve’s medication, a bigger cooler with left-over perishables from our refrigerator and a pink umbrella stroller. We left at 8:30 AM and followed I-26 through the Carolinas and then got on I-95 through Georgia. We arrived in Macclenny at Aunt Sally’s and Uncle Otto’s house at around 6:30 PM. The kids did really well on the long drive. It rained the whole way and got much heavier as we got to Florida.
The "Blue Hole" swimming area, 2miles from our home in Tennessee

Life in Tennessee reminds me of how great we had it growing up in Florida, back in the day.

We spent the night with Aunt Sally and Uncle Otto, had breakfast with them in a restaurant the next morning and drove to Jena to visit Uncle Albert and Aunt Vivian. They made us a nice lunch and we played cards for a little while. Later that afternoon we continued our drive all the way to Center Hill to mom’s house.

We did a little bit of shopping in Bushnell – we got some groceries for the next few days as well as sheets and an air mattress.

We spent the next few days with mom, either at her house or taking her to doctor appointments. On Wednesday, 19th, Steve had a doctor appointment to get a prescription for the next 3 months.

On Friday, March 21st, we went to Legoland since we still had 4 free tickets I won at the homeschooling conference last year. All that Stevie wanted was to go to the pirate show. We arrived just on time for the first show but got there too late to get to one of the water cannons. Stevie was very upset but we decided to go to the next show at 3 PM (there were only two shows that day) and try again. Steve talked to one of the employees to see if he can help us get to the water cannon – with his help, Stevie was able to get to the cannon during the second show. Stevie had a blast. We went on a couple of other rides but pretty much went home after the show.
Mission Accomplished!!!

On Sunday, March 23rd, we went to Typhoon Lagoon as it was still in the 80s but cooler weather was expected in the next few days. This was our last opportunity to use our season tickets from last year. They will expire while we are in Europe. It was very enjoyable. Both Hannah and Stevie swam in the lazy river by themselves without anything.

Stevie also wanted to go to the wave pool. He and Steve went through the big wave several times. Hannah was on the big kid slide while the boys played in the waves. This was the first time Hannah was able to go on that slide. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Our second week in Florida was very much like the first. Mom had several appointments at home and in Clermont that we took her to. We also shopped for the last few items for our trip. On Tuesday, the 25th, we met Jana in Clermont. She met us in Paradise Park where the kids played for an hour or so. After that we went to the Olive Garden for dinner.

On Wednesday, 26th, Steve dropped me off with the kids at Krista’s while he went to a doctor appointment. The kids were happy to see each other. We got to see Madisen, Morgan and the rest of their family on Thursday as well. We met for dinner and then went over to their house for one final playdate. Stevie and Madisen played Digger’s Garden Match together. It was the first time Stevie has played a board game with another child all by themselves. Pretty cool.

We had a little cook-out at Mom’s on Friday. We made hamburgers on the grill and Steve, David, Stevie and mom did some target practice. Stevie was really enjoying this as well.

David drove Steve to the Orlando airport on Saturday, March 29th, to pick up our rental car. While we enjoyed nice weather the whole time in Florida, a large storm system was moving through and we were leaving in heavy rain. It was a bit challenging to get everything into the rental car without getting soaked but we were soon on the way. We took the Turnpike south all the way to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at the hotel around dinner time.  Thanks to all of our family for helping us make our retirement vacation a reality.  Thank you Sally and Otto for giving us shelter and fellowship on our trip down.  Thanks Albert and Vivian for the lunch and friendship during our brief but overdue visit.  Thanks to Mom for our 11 day visit at your house, food and company.  Thanks to David for all of your help while at mom’s house, driving us to get rental car in Orlando and checking on our property in Tennessee.  You have all helped to make our vacation possible and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  We will keep adding a little more to our blog every day or so until it is caught up.  Love Steve, Kat, Stevie and Hannah…..


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let is Snow continued....

So, as if 4 inches of snow was not enough it snowed several more times that week.  I think that at one point we had from 6 to 8 inches of snow on the ground.  One day we were below 0 degrees and another day we stayed around 0 degrees.  When the heat wave hit and we made it up to 24 degrees, we celebrated and the whole family played in the snow.  We were starting to get cabin fever and at one point had not went into town for 7 days.  Fortunately, we were stocked up on supplies and did not lose power or water due to frozen pipes.  This winter is one of the worst on record since the 1800s.  So much for global warming. 

Daddy filming, mommy pushing Stevie off a cliff, Hannah playing and Stevie just having fun


Kat and kids making a snowman

Stevie named him Snowflake, Hannah named him Olaf after the movie Frozen

Stumpy's Tree Service delivered $80 worth of White Oak

Hannah is ready for any emergencies that might arise


Ready.....   Aim........

Super model Hannah just styling around the house, she has been getting dressed by herself for a while now.

It is Feb 6th 2014 at 8pm.  Stevie suggested that we cook supper on our wood stove to save electricity.  Kat and I had purchased the stove to offset our heating costs and to be a backup for heating and cooking in the event of a power outage.  She took Stevie up on his offer and scrambled up some egg in just a few minutes.  This stove top could easily cook a whole meal.  We were quite impressed with its heating and cooking potential.

Well, it is 11pm and we just put a log in the wood stove to hold us over until the morning.  We had a full day yesterday working on the rental on top of the hill and will be back on it tomorrow.  Kat is in the kitchen doing some late night cleaning and I am catching up the blog.  We talked with mom today and everything seems to be going good down there.  Each day we add things to our checklist for our trip to Florida/Europe coming up in March and we accomplish other tasks that need to be done before we leave.  We will miss this place while on our once in a lifetime vacation. 

Let it Snow, let it Snow, let it Snow....

It has been a while since I have had a chance to update the blog.  Kat has been carrying the brunt of that while I have been doing outside chores.  This entry starts on Jan. 21st, a couple of days after the last entry.  We had several days of snow during this week.  We had recently purchased a wood stove to help heat the house and have an emergency back up heating source in case we lost power.  The heat pump that our home currently uses does not work well if the temperature goes below 35 degrees. 

The first two or three days we got about 4 inches of snow.


Time to get busy installing our pre-fab chimney system for the wood stove

Done in about 6 hours and Stevie approved

Time for a little test fire.....
Houston, we have ignition

Just in time for more cold weather and more snow....





Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blue Box is Home

   Last weekend we finally got to spend a couple of days working on our rental property. I have been cleaning the kitchen and Steve and Stevie were working outside on demolishing the greenhouse. The greenhouse was full of junk and did not look nice. Hannah kept running back and forth between inside and outside. We made good progress and made a list of items we need to buy to make minor repairs.
   Steve also continued to research online how to install a wood stove. We had someone come in on Monday to give us an estimate on wood stove installation. He was very unprofessional and really did not know much about the process. He said that they would get back to us on Thursday or Friday with an estimate but we have not heard back from him. It does not matter whether they get back to us or not as we have decided that Steve will install it himself. And he got started this week.

   Right now we are just waiting for a dry day to make the hole in the roof to install the chimney. We hope to be able to complete the installation on Monday.
   We were also waiting for a day when the ground is dry to bring the Big Blue Box home. We needed the grass area next to the drive way to be dry and firm so that we could turn around with the trailer. It snowed on Friday and the temperature never got above freezing on Saturday. That meant that the ground stayed firm enough and we went to the storage place to get the trailer. 

Trailer hooked up and ready for the final trip

We made it

The Blue Box is almost empty

Little helpers

   The trailer is now empty and all of hour belongings are in the house. We will clean the trailer up and paint the floor of the trailer and then put it up for sale.