Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas morning videos

I love watching Erin's reaction when she opens the Monopoly game. Monopoly? Yes, the girl loves the game, and it has been her favorite for about two years. It just takes so long to play...

You'll see, too, that Bren was not at all impressed with the bike chain bracelet (which now belongs to Mazin), but his attempt at opening the container it hilarious. Typical Brendan.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The zoo

Sean emailed me a few pictures and videos from his phone while he, Bren and Sidney were at the zoo in Sanford. It was in the 40s, so they didn't stay long. Sean said that the three of them were just about the only people there because of the cold.






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Christmas 2010

We just arrived home. The past four days have been so much fun. I hope everyone had a great Christmas with their family.

On Christmas morning Erin was standing at the door, ready to run. They aren't allowed out of the room until everyone is there together. She was still half asleep, but ready to go.

Erin got her new Heelys, boots, stereo, collectors edition Monopoly (her favorite game), Nintendo DSi, Justin Bieber CD, puzzles, Justin Bieber board game, clothes, Target gift cards, iTunes gift cards and over $100 in cash (amongst other things). She hasn't taken the Heelys off (this isn't her first pair), but she did spend her money and gift cards already. Bren and Sean asked for money, but in addition to the $450 in cash he also received a few clothes, a new iPod shuffle (he wanted the shuffle even though he has the Nano because he wants to wear it during races), iTunes and Target gift cards. He plans to spend his cash on a new Fit street bike. Sean also wanted cash, but is saving his towards a car. In addition to his $450 in cash he got a new duffle bag (that he wanted for traveling to Peru every summer), clothes, and iTunes and Target gift cards.

I want to thank Grandma Carol and Vern for the Visa gift cards for each of the kids and for me and Brian, Nana for the money for each of us (and the food gift cards), Kathy for the Target gift cards for each of us, and Grandma B for the cash and iTunes gift cards for each of the kids. Thank you Grandma Laurie and Grandpa for the gift cards for the kids, money and the baked goodies. You are all so generous.

We spent a couple of days in Orlando with Aunt Diana, Nana, Liz and Sidney. Liz took the older kids to the zoo on Sunday, and since it was so cold they ended up only wanting to stay for about an hour. It was great to just be lazy and sit around and chat for a couple of days.
Sidney at Aunt Linda's house for Christmas dinner.
Aunt Linda's house all decorated for Christmas dinner.

Erin and Bren enjoyed some time on the lake behind Aunt Linda's house on Christmas day.
My baby boy.

Even Chappy was being lazy.

We also spent a couple of days with Grandma B, being lazy, eating and playing checkers (which the kids have discovered they love). I also had the opportunity to see Tony and Zaye for about an hour since Tony was in Jacksonville visiting family and friends. Zaye has grown so much!

It's time for some cleaning, organizing, playing and relaxing before heading back to school in a couple of weeks. Liz and Sidney are coming over for New Years, and I can't wait. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

2010 Gingerbread house

This year Erin decorated the house all by herself, and I think she did a great job. The icing is so difficult to work with, but she managed to keep it under control.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Scholarship

I'm happy to announce that for the third consecutive year I have been awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Society Scholarship! Yippee!!

Justin Bieber concert

Erin has been anticipating this concert since Brian bought her tickets back in July. She invited her best friend, Ashley, and another close friend, Rhiannon (from Orlando). On Saturday Rhiannon's family brought her over from Orlando, and she stayed for the weekend. The three girls spent the entire weekend together preparing for the Sunday night concert. It was difficult for them to get to bed on Saturday night.

On Sunday, Ashley's mom, Jessica, came by and helped the girls get their hair ready before they left with Brian. I was in Michigan, and it was nice to have Jessica there to help them out.

At about 4pm the four of them left, got situated in their seats, and had the time of their lives. The opening acts were Mindless Behavior and Sean Kingston, and at 8:50pm JB came onto the stage. As you can see from the videos it was a night full of excitement for all three of the girls, and Erin has not yet stopped talking about it.
Trying to get to sleep on Saturday night.
Jessica helping the girls get ready for JB.
Ashley was primped and ready to go!
Safe in her car seat, and ready to go.
Rhiannon, Ashley and Erin in the stadium.
During the show.


JB in the heart right above them!
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar eclipse

Despite having just returned home from Michigan I stayed up to watch (and photograph) the lunar eclipse. Although the shots that I got are not very clear it is still a good representation of what occurred if you were not able to see it yourself. It really was neat to watch.
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Michigan

I won't be home from Michigan until late tomorrow night, but I wanted to share a few pictures while I'm still here, enjoying the days with Joey and Quinn.
The sun setting from Pam's house.

Joey and Quinn after they got off of the bus on Friday.
Quinn and I made Christmas cookies on Friday night while Joey had a sleepover/birthday party to attend.
Snugly Quinn.
The snow came down all day on Saturday.


A snow moustache on Bodie.
The view from the house to the side.
The view down the driveway and across the street.
Bodie.
Another view down the driveway.

Smoky the cat with pretty blue eyes.

Happy birthday

Happy birthday to my boy, Jacob, who would be nine years old today. It is you, Jacob, who taught me to live life to its fullest, and to see the beauty in the small things around me. Thank you, and happy birthday sweet boy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Interview About Justin Bieber

Can you tell that these three girls are excited about seeing Justin Bieber tomorrow? From left to right in the video are Ashley (Erin's best friend), Rhiannon (who came from Orlando to go with Erin and Ashley), Erin and Brian. They have all three been together all day today, and I seriously doubt they will get much sleep tonight. The concert is tomorrow (Sunday) evening.

I'm in Michigan. They made this video tonight and sent it to me. Never mind the "take a leak" part. They are being VERY silly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas popcorn

For the past two years we have received a huge box from Grandma Carol and Vern, filled with a variety of delicious popcorn, pretzels and chocolate covered peanut brittle. It is absolutely delicious, and we all get so excited when it arrives.


Thank you Carol and Vern!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In air

**Edited**
We are back in the air. Left Atlanta airport about 20 minutes ago, and scheduled now to be in Grand Rapids at about 5:30pm. I'm going to take a nap and just hope that it passes quickly.
So we are currently 30,000 feet in the air, on my flight from Tampa to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The captain just came on the speaker to say that there is a leak in the front cabin door, and we will be landing in Atlanta in about 30 minutes. Not a scheduled stop. This was to be a non-stop flight. If they find that the seal can be fixed quickly then they will do so and we will be back on our way to Grand Rapids. Otherwise, we will either be placed on another flight (as seats are available) or "provided with accommodations until we can continue the flight".

Monday, December 13, 2010

A special Christmas gift

I wish I had any sewing ability, but it appears that it is just not for me. Sean, however, has the talent, and I love it. Look at this beautiful dress that he made for Erin for Christmas!



I can say that I know of no other 15 year old that has made a piece of clothing for a sibling, and it's a special gift that I'm sure Erin is going to love.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vieques, Puerto Rico

Pam and I left Tampa for San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning, and arrived there just after 11am. We called Ilca, the taxi driver that had been recommended to us, and within a few minutes she picked us up, headed for the port of Fajardo. Although we initially thought we weren't going to make the 1pm ferry we ended up getting on, climbed to the roof, and relaxed for the hour long ride to the island of Vieques.


The view in the port of Isabel II as we arrived from Fajardo.

After getting off of the ferry, catching another taxi to the rental house, and getting our bags unloaded we took off for the malecon (main area of Esperanza). This was our first view of the ocean there, first to the east and then to the west (towards the setting sun).


We took a short stroll down the coastline, and just past a small pier we found this small beach.

A few minutes later we walked back to the malecon and had a bite to eat for dinner at the Trade Winds, right on the water. Not a bad view, eh? We walked along the little shops for a bit before heading back to the house for the night. Pam said that someone once told her that a vacation wasn't good unless it involved at least two forms of transportation, and we had already been through three that day (plane, taxi and boat).

Fried oysters at the Trade Winds restaurant.
The view from our dinner table.

My plate included whole snapper, red beans and rice, and fried plantains.

The horses are literally everywhere on the island, and although some say they are mostly wild we found out that this is not the case. I'm sure that some of them are, but most are the equivalent of a dog to someone (although rumor has it that when a horse does damage nobody seems to own it).

This was our 4:45am alarm clock each morning. Several of them live in the vacant lot across the street from our house.

Along the walk from the house (2 blocks from the ocean) to the malecon there is this huge rock that has been painted. There are many rocks like this around the island, but this is the only one that I saw that was "decorated". It is about 15 feet tall.

On the second day Pam and I took a mile long walk to Hector's By the Sea on recommendation from a local bartender. First we walked a mile up the paved road,

then down a long, winding, dirt road,

saw the ocean in the distance with horses grazing,

and as we turned a corner we were greeted by three seemingly wild (and uncared for) horses,

before arriving on the property of Mary and Hector. I believe that this is the most beautiful piece of land on the island. It is several acres of beautiful green land with horses grazing, and then a cliff with a path that leads to a secluded beach.

We were both in complete awe when we got to the bottom of the cliff and saw the beach below.




Later that evening we had tacos at Belly Buttons. They grilled the tortillas on the grill, placed our choice of meat on the tortilla, and then we topped them with a variety of local veggies and sauces. Seriously the most delicious tacos I have ever had.

On Friday the owner of our rental house took us to Isabel Segunda, the largest town on the island, and the location of the only pharmacy, the two gas stations on the island, and the only two ATM's. We took a stroll to the Playa Cofi, or Sea Glass Beach, and managed to each find several pieces of sea glass. The beaches here on the north side of the island are very different than the southern beaches (Esperanza), but equally beautiful.





On the way back from Isabel Segunda Kathy, our hostess, drove us to the western most part of the island, stopping to let us see Playa Grande. A storm was coming in from the east (as you can see), and it appeared to be raining in Esperanza. Even then it was absolutely stunning.


Friday night we made the trip to Sun Bay for the bioluminescent kayaking trip. Through Sun Bay and into Mosquito Bay in the dark of the night with only minimal moonlight, we kayaked out into the bay, tied our kayaks together (a group of eight), and swam in the water, completely lit up by the dinoflagellates that fill the bay. It was one of the most amazing and beautiful things I have ever had the privilege of doing. After two hours in the bay we took the bumpy truck ride back to Sun Bay, and then our guide drove us back to our house.

We left early (5:30am) on Saturday to catch the first ferry of the day from Vieques back to Fajardo, and then another taxi ride to the airport in San Juan. After a very long stay in the airport we arrived back in Tampa at about 10:45pm.

Vieques is an amazing place, and still mostly untouched by mass tourism. It's very different than being on the mainland of Puerto Rico, and the lifestyle is very relaxed. Everything definitely runs on island time. Being there, with Pam, was the best possible way to experience such a beautiful place, and we've both agreed that it won't be our last trip there.