Back in March of 2012 in anticipation of my "big" birthday on Christmas, John asked me to pick anywhere to go and celebrate. Now I know he didn't mean anywhere-anywhere, but anywhere Canadians usually go on holiday and for those unenlightened, I will share those locations: Cuba, Jamaica, or another Caribbean island, Hawaii, Arizona. . . or another US destination, etc. Cuba is out for us and Hawaii did look tempting, but in the end I chose Houston with a cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico.
I am very thankful for such a wonderful husband who tries to make me happy and was so generous for my birthday. I never expected such an offer. It gave me nine months of something to look forward to especially in the cold climate which is very hard for me as I feel in a little chilly in 100 degrees F.
Since we have had snow on the ground since October, December 18th was a welcome respite from the cold and darkness. My people were thrilled to see Aunt Molly and family! Every time we return to Houston, it is as if we never left. It is also so refreshing to see the kids so happy and grateful for each little thing. . . "Mom, they have restaurants here." "I miss my favorite radio station." " I love Target." (Grace and I did our first Target run in about 45 minutes. The people working there must have thought we had won the lottery because we were so excited and running around, trying on clothes for ourselves and the girls. Much loot was plundered.)
The girls had a big day of getting nails painted with Mariel and not just the average painting, but very festive snowflakes. It's getting to be art these days. We then went to the annual movie-going fest with The Hobbit, Les Miserables, Rise of the Guardians and The Impossible. Holidays just seem like holidays with a movie or two and that great pop machine. And since the Mall was right there, we had to check out some stores. Honestly, the prices are so much better in America and the weather allows us to walk around and talk and make a memory of it. Did I mention that they have Trenta iced green teas?
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I enjoyed my time with my homegirls: Chris ( I appreciate your wisdom and honesty), Lorri (I could have talked to you forever and I am so thankful for your friendship), Elisa,(your gentleness with your family is a model for me and your praying spirit, I can never forget what a great time we had with all of you last summer) Luann,(you make such a lovely home and have such a warm family. . .I want your house and I want your dog!! I'd take Jaime too. smile) Holly(thank you for feeding us, keeping the girls and yes, the guns, if it's not the coyote, it's the guns. We loved it.) with special mention of Marjorie and that very spiritual Sunday school class we had. We were also very thankful for the members of Christ Church who were so kind and continue to touch our lives from a distance.
The cruise: So on December 23rd, we embarked on a Royal Caribbean ship with two adjoining rooms for boys and girls. The ship was in high Christmas spirit with decorations and a huge tree. It was also such a happy sight with all the families who do this every year instead of exchanging presents with extended family. There were many grandparents with just the grandchildren and I found myself secretly imagining that sometime in the future. So many uncles and aunts kissing nieces and nephews, grandparents,and newly engaged couples meeting family for the first time. It was special.
The meals: Wow. I didn't realize how much our family would talk to each other if we weren't preparing meals or doing school work. . .or running to errands. We talked and we found out what we like to eat, our favorite foods. We talked about memories and dreams for the future and we just talked to each other. For example, one night at dinner someone asked what the funniest thing each person had ever said, "Noah said, that if he dies, don't regurgitate him." That became a running joke for the entire cruise.
I also didn't know which children were so daring with food: Josh ate lobster and caviar . . .and seafood at every meal. Moriah, Grace and I chose the same meal, independently of each other almost every night. I would just tell the waiter "times 3." At one meal, Claire was late, so we just ordered for her and out of maybe 7 choices for each, we ordered the appetizer and the entry that she would have ordered. Fruit something first and then pasta.
At one meal, the waiter asked Josh if he could eat a second lobster meal, Josh said, "yes." and he brought out another one. The waiter also played a trick on John by bringing out the wrong dessert on purpose, knowing that John would not complain and then when he finished it, he brought out the right one. We all laughed.
Being on the ship on Christmas Eve was just glorious. They had a service and then we layed out by the pool. My favorite place was the Solarium, the adult pool. I drank iced tea, listened to a book on tape and started to unwind. The kids would come up to me and say, "You look happy." I had my big, floppy, black hat and sandals was so happy not to be wearing boots and scarves and gloves. I remembered the sun.
The kids played in the pool, got sunburnt, played minigolf, got ice cream, drank unlimited amounts of pop, ate at the Mexican buffet, joined a line dancing class, played ping pong, rock climbed, ice skated, rollerbladed. . . and just ran around like crazy!
We said that this Christmas Eve would ruin every other one from now on. John and I ended the day outside on the ship's deck, gazing at the stars.
Christmas Day was just as wonderful. They had a special holiday menu with a breakfast of eggs benedict which Josh persuaded me to try. I loved them! We had cloth napkins and tablecloths. Then the kids did face/hand painting of snowflakes and lizards. Then they sat on Santa's lap and got gifts of ear phones. Noah and the younger children serenaded us with Christmas carols in the main lobby. We had another church service. I thanked God for 50 blessed years.
At night, there was an ice show with dancing Santas and Christmas movies that the older kids attended.
Our port days were amazing. First of all, it was warm. We walked to some stores in Jamaica and bought a bamboo skirt.
Grand Cayman was Josh's 17th birthday, so we kayaked to a coral reef, snorkled and then kayaked back to Tiki beach. The boys took a jet ski ride and I remembered the sun again. The fish were beautiful at the coral reef and Grace said, "One of the fish smiled at me and it looked like it was wearing dentures." At night, the waiter sang "happy birthday" to Josh and gave him two desserts and the older kids took off to a night movie.
Our last port was Cozumel, where Grace and I went shopping at Cinco Soles in town to buy blouses and bracelets and earrings and vanilla! We walked a little through the town where Grace was approached by every vendor, "Are you a princess?" "Are you a movie star?" We then met everyone else at an outdoor waterpark called Playa Mia with a water slide, a water trampoline and water rock climbing wall. I think the highlight was John taking the kids out on sailboats. I loved the hammocks.
Although I wasn't brave or hungry enough to try, the Mexican food smelled amazing.
All in all, I would call the cruise an adult dress up time. We had two formal nights and took pictures with Grace applying make up to all the girls. We dressed in swim suits all day with coverups and hats and on the last night, I wore some of my Mexican clothes and earrings. It's nice to escape for a while and have fun.
All too soon, it ended as I knew it would. John had a hilarious treat for us when we disembarked. He rented a stretch Excursion. We laughed so hard and I think Josh was a little too comfortable in there. John said, "I would call the driver, but it might be long distance."
John and Josh saw his Mom and sister and family and spent New Years Eve with them. They reunited with family and went to a trampoline park. We rang in the New Year with the Allens, Apples to Apples and a lovely toast by Don.
On our way home, Moriah said, "Who am I kidding, I can't live without a dog?" She is kidding no one; we have loved our time with Feller, Missy, Homer, Sir Ollie Love Alot, Oreo and someday there will be Snickers.
I am most grateful on our trip for the amazing hospitality and friendship of my dear friend, Molly. In sickness and in health, you have treated us like family and we are blessed to have you in our hearts. As you know, you are as a sister to me and I thank my God because of you.