Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cruise Blessings

Timmy and I had the unexpected treat of going on a last-minute cruise.  We dropped the younger kids off at Meredith's for "Camp Hammer" and drove to Miami to board a ship headed to the Bahamas.  It was such a refreshing time for both of us.  This is what made it special....

~Sampling international foods prepared for the diverse cultures represented by the passengers
~Having our bed made for us every morning while we were at breakfast
~Waitresses so kind and serving with excellence and cheerfulness
~My own delicious creations of yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and fruit all mixed together
~Finding the ship restaurant with the best ice cream
~The stateroom attendant who prepared our room for the evening and left us with a towel critter creation

~Falling asleep to the gentle rock of the boat
~Sailing all night to arrive at the next Caribbean beach
~Finely chopped coconut in freshly baked macaroons
~Overhearing "Happy Birthday To You" being sung to a passenger by a crew with heavy foreign accents
~Smiles exchanged and fellowship enjoyed by passengers and workers alike, all with different skin colors, accents, and backgrounds
~Eating at a variety of incredible ship restaurants

~Daydreaming on the white sandy beach while enjoying the distant sound of bongos being played in a nearby island restaurant
~Islanders carving conch shells so they make a loud, honking sound
~Purchasing a honking conch shell of our own.  Now, when it's lunch time, we can either ring the bell or blow the shell.

~Telling Timmy a toenail joke that made him laugh out loud
~Pausing from reading on the ship's deck and noticing that the view matches the cover of the Coastal Living magazine I'm enjoying
~Sound of children playing in the ship's baby pool
~The always smiling staff
~Eating ice cream creations on the 12th deck, sitting in the sun
~Hearing not one cell phone ring for 5 days in a floating city of almost 3,000 people

~Vibrant flowers blooming on the tips of tree branches
~Being in the company of couples celebrating 50th and 57th wedding anniversaries
~The familiar sound of Michael W. Smith's praise music playing on a radio in a Bahamian shop
~The also familiar sight of a speeding ticket being issued but to our island taxi driver
~Apricots, lamb, curry chicken, prosciutto with melon, glass noodles - in abundance
~Sea gulls circling as we eat on deck

~A late night snack of brie with figs and grapes on rye
~Entering a world where everyone is on vacation
~Being mistaken for Germans because of our light hair; being asked if we wanted our dinner menus in English
~Riding in the elevator with an excited staff member just weeks away from his return to his wife and nearly one year old baby after ten months on board

~Elderly man appearing to be in his late eighties, obviously excited about the port where we've docked, walking eagerly with the help of a cane to get on the boat headed to the beach  
~Small boat rolling over waves as we're tendered from the cruise ship to the island
~The foresight of an adventurous husband who bought snorkeling gear that we've used more often than I ever imagined possible
~Clearly visible rippled sand on the ocean floor six feet below the water's surface
~Muffled sound of a fellow snorkeler encouraging everyone to come see the stingray he just discovered right below us
~Swimming alongside a school of vibrantly colored fish

~Time to think and pray
~800 staff serving 2000 passengers
~A middle-aged grandmother's impromptu voice accompaniment to a staff member playing "La Bamba" on his guitar as we arrived at the breakfast buffet
~Watching a joyful mother feeding cheerios to her fair skinned, dark haired Asian toddler
~Deciding which restaurant we'd like to eat in for each meal

~Praying over the fifth meal of the day
~Offering to take a picture for a couple holding a camera at arm's length pointed at themselves
~Everyone dressed up for the evening meal
~Beautiful music being played on a baby grand piano
~Finding salmon on the menu nearly every night - enjoying it smoked, seared, grilled, or with crab meat
~Inventing creations of coffee mixed with hot cocoa and cream, late in the evening

~A much needed overcast day to give our red, sun-kissed skin a break
~Recognizing a familiar Christian hymn on the ship's overhead music system
~Walls of glass windows overlooking the ocean
~Answers to prayers for insight; recognizing areas in need of change through God's grace

~Reading in our cozy cabin while the rain poured outside
~Seeing Timmy encouraged about the farm while reading one agricultural magazine after another

~Sea gulls -- their caw reminds me of so many happy memories made over the years at the beach
~Only ocean as far as the eye can see

~Couples on the bow of the ship, overlooking the ocean and enjoying their last evening on board
~A completely worry-free week knowing our younger children were in the absolute best care in the world - a big sister who loves them so much
~The challenge to display in my work as cheerful an attitude as the cruise staff who work ten hour days for ten months straight with not even one day off
~A husband who loved me enough to take me away from my work for a while
~Celebrating the friendship that has been created in these almost 28 years of marriage
~Overhearing a conversation on the eve of disembarkation of a southern-accented, older mother saying that she told her family if she comes home to a messy house, it will ruin the whole vacation

~Grown sons who cheerfully carried our load of farm responsibilities so we could enjoy time away
~An extra day after the cruise to get caught up on computer work
~The familiar and luxurious accommodations that Disney provides; a washer and dryer in our room to launder all our cruise clothes; one last towel creation to enjoy

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Camp Hammer

We recently enjoyed the first of hopefully many future weeks of "Camp Hammer"! Sullivan, Harrison, and Sheridan spent the week with Margaret Alice and me (Meredith) while our parents drove down to Miami and went on a cruise to the Bahamas.

We had such a fun time together! Our days were filled with swimming, playing at parks, bowling, baking and shopping during "Sister Dates" with Sheridan, several favorite meals, and a whole lot of smoothies, milkshakes, and ice cream! I planned many activities for my sweet campers and we stayed very busy.

We strolled to the neighborhood pool nearly every day and had several picnics:

Margaret loved having such a full and active house and was so exhausted every time I would lay her down for her naps!
Sullivan, Harrison, and Sheridan all wanted to take turns feeding Margaret:

In addition to strolling to the pool and park, we would walk together to the store and even went to a restaurant as a special treat one night. 

We also toured the Airborne & Special Operations Museum. Stephen and I went to the museum together before he deployed, so I was able to pass on all of the interesting facts and history that he previously shared during our visit.

We went to a drop zone on two different days to watch paratroopers jump from airplanes, but unfortunately both times the jumps had been rescheduled. Next time I hope to take them to watch Stephen jump!

They all agreed that bowling was their favorite activity of the week. They had never been before, but insisted that they did not want a lane with a guarded gutter because "that would make it too easy". They were hilarious to observe as they tried to figure out their perfect techniques and each thought that they were doing quite well by the end. Final score: Sullivan 54, Harrison 44, Sheridan 34:

Harrison has a special touch with Margaret and just adored holding her and playing with her!

Right before putting Sheridan to bed, we would have a reading lesson together. She was able to sound out the words for two full sentences and will undoubtedly join her big brothers as a voracious reader very soon!

On our final day of camp, we celebrated Harrison's 11th birthday! We were so thrilled to have our parents join us in the evening. Harrison received a camcorder for his present:

He requested that I make a carrot cake for his birthday cake:
Blowing out the candles:

We eagerly look forward to our next "Camp Hammer"!

Daddy, Margaret, and Sheridan before everyone left