Kinda cool to wake up as you sail into TWO countries’ lands–with room service breakfast on your balcony.
We arrived in St. Maarten (French), Sint Maarten (Dutch). By either name, it’s a lovely island that truly lives up to its universal nickname: The Friendly Island.
Yes, we played in the waves, got footrubs and walked the long stretches of lovely soft sand. (No, we didn’t do “as in Rome” and participate on the nude beach side. Although as our teenage fashion-conscious daughter noticed, that would avoid tan lines. Pas tres bien, mon amie!)
We also shopped a bit, mom got to see some churches, and then headed back to our boat via water taxi after a gloriously friendly day.
Thanks for writing your culture on our hearts and minds, Saint Maarten. J’adore.
The only “repeat” stop from our last cruise was this lovely private island, Labadee, in Haiti. Such a country of contrasts: gorgeous mountains, beaches, people and culture. Yet such a heartbreakingly troubled history–and present–laden with turmoil and hurt. With all this in mind, we appreciated our day in Haiti.
Walking ashore, where it’s hard to decide which view from the walkway is more gorgeous.
The first beach you encounter has big oceanside waves, yet also ankle-eating rocks and coral. So it was our mermaid Caroline’s favorite playground! Julia and I were happier on the shore at this beach.
The next two beaches are sandy and absolutely perfect for a beach day. Just the thing for this Midwestern American family. It was a day that brought us all peace.
As our feet sank into the sand, those early mornings of icy darkness as we all headed off to school and work — those sank away. As the waves lapped, those days of shoveling snow melted away. Under the Caribbean sun, the stress of tests and presentations and travel dissipated. Swimming, floating and playing in the salty waves, the chill of very late nights at hockey rinks washed away. In the wind of the palm trees, the tension blew away. And in the pages of new stories, the sting of that missed 27-yard field goal even faded. A bit.
We came out of the water refreshed, renewed. And hungry! With a steel drum band nearby, we enjoyed a yummy shore lunch. Caribbean jerk chicken, ribs, loads of fresh veggies and exotic fruits … and lemon coconut cookies. Love you, Haiti.
Thanks for starting our cruise port experiences off just perfectly yet again, Haiti.
A 10-day cruise? Three full days of sailing? Whatever will you do? So asked one of our friends. We all smiled, a bit knowingly, since we’d been on the same ship, Oasis of the Seas, two years ago for Spring Break, and were all eager to get back onboard. (The one place we never did find: The Library.) Highlights of our second cruise on the Oasis:
At home, we have careers, jobs, school, studies, sports, volunteering…gosh we’re busy. Which means we’re rarely together. So the real value of this cruise was all the time together. Mostly laughing. Lots of great chats. And more laughing.
Exploring the ship
Of course the first place we found (just a few doors from our staterooms)? The Library!
A few laps on the track, more laps in the pool, Zumba!, weight lifting, dancing poolside. Ahhh.
Some Vitamin D and “Sea”
We took in at least one show every day, including CATS (yeah, it’s a weird musical), dive shows, an acapella group, a singer/comedian, ice skating show, Latin dance party, adult comedy (highlight = Jim David of Comedy Central in this election year!), international belly flop contest and Greg’s favorite (laden with BeeGee’s tunes): 70s dance party.
View of one of the hot tubs that cantilevers out over the sea, which we could see from our cabin’s balcony.
We relaxed in all of the whirlpools at all hours. My favorite: A late-night soak with Matty where we solved all the world’s problems under the stars.
Admiring the sculptures
Creations in our cabins each evening and at the towel stands made us laugh…
Today was my last lunch date at our kids’ elementary school. Ever.
After 10 years, you’d think I walked out of school relieved. I didn’t.
It all started when our oldest, Julia, was in first grade. She wanted me to come to lunch every day. I am a self-confessed helicopter parent and surely would have. Instead, we compromised: She picked a certain menu item, and every time that was served, I would come to lunch with her at school! Julia selected Build Your Own Hamburger day. So I went every one of those days.
Our middle kiddo, Matt, selected Chicken Patty on a Bun. And our youngest, Caroline, opted for Lakeville Nachos.
For one year, all three kids were in the same school. I had a lot of school lunches that year. More than that, I learned a lot from my 20 minutes in the lunchroom. I learned about their classmates (yeah, some of them ARE weird). I learned lunch ladies are polite and kind and encouraging. I learned our kids were so proud to buy my lunch, because I could never remember their lunch codes! I learned the latest gossip at the lunch table. I learned the kids’ dreams and goals–and fears. I learned who always brings home lunch. The last few years, our girls have brought their own home lunches, but I still joined them on “our” days.
So after lunch, while Cara skipped out to recess with her friends, I walked through the parking lot crying at this end of an era: but mostly happy tears, remembering all our kids’ had let me experience.
I’m not much on giving advice, but I will venture this: if you have a kid in elementary school, join him or her for lunch. Just once a school year if you can. Flex your work schedule, change your workout class, forget the laundry. It’s 20 minutes. But it’s a rare peek into your kid’s world. And I, for one, thoughts the Nachos were pretty tasty.
Like our friends and colleagues and relatives, our family runs in every direction, often at warp speed. It’s crazy good fun filled with love and laughs. But it’s also nice to get away a bit. So this Spring Break, we headed to Moon Palace in Cancun.
We went with a great group of fellow Minnesotans. Total of 14 adults; 13 kids, I believe.
Matt got the most air, parasailing over Beach Palace one afternoon (looked like the jet ski ride out and back in to shore was quite a rush too!)
Our Caroline is a mermaid. We all joined her, too. How could you not? Fifteen pools (most with swim-up bars; all with water polo, water zumba, water volleyball), miles of beach (albeit not real swimmable, so our day at Beach Palace’s turquoise waves was a treat).
“Pets” at our favorite pools
It’s a good day when your biggest decision is where to go to dinner that evening…
I think we tried ’em all. Seafood? (The first night, Julia ordered baby octopus with “I think I’ll like that.” As they served it, she saw it really was baby octopus, suction cups and all. “I can’t eat this,” she admitted. Lesson learned for our Midwestern girl!) Mexican? Italian? Room service (why order 30 chicken nuggets? Because you can.)? Steakhouse? Hibachi? Japanese? Brazilian steak house:
Treats at every turn…
A few other surprises:
Coconut milk outside our front door
“Fresh Catch” one afternoon
Apparently this only happens once a month (we got lucky!). Fresh grouper, octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams and more, caught then grilled up on the beach.
Early morning beach walks
(just Greg and me) – note earlier info about teenagers at the swing bar!
Most of all, it was time for us, together, unplugged. That is really all we need.
Our eldest Julia had one 16th birthday gift request: A trip to New York City.
Oh, alright then. (It’s her parents’ absolute very favorite city in the world, and we have been to many cities on most continents.) So mom Elizabeth introduced her to this amazing city! We also met some other inspiring women along the way…
Girls who can do ANYTHING.
Our cab driver from the airport to our hotel was a lovely young woman who drove fast, smart, honked when necessary, and enlightened us on what Julia ought to see while in town. We had a lot of great airplane and cab rides!
Women who history remembers (history rarely remembers well-behaved women!).
We stopped by the Today Show, visited with the very smart, friendly Peter Alexander and Erica Hill. Family and friends back home said they saw us on TV. Jules realized getting up early has rewards.
In killer shows.
We took in two Broadway shows, both led by ladies. Chicago and Wicked. Both are beautiful musicals. Chicago more simple and traditional but with lots of familiar music, fabulous dancing and wry humor. Wicked just over-the-top!
The real women of Trump Plaza.
Inside this golden tribute to capitalism is tucked Niketown. It was one of our many shopping stops, and under these batons, to symbolize the Olympic Women’s Relay Team’s amazing win, our girl of summer Jules found some rocking new tennis to keep leading the race!
Women of Wall Street.
Several women are amongst those who have had ticker tape parades in their honors.
The most amazing lady we met.
One of the Park Rangers at the Statue of Liberty really made Julia smile. Referring to the long entry lines, the female Ranger said, “Well, she is a very popular lady.” What a charming way to describe this incredible monument! We planned ahead (FAR ahead) and scored tickets to climb all the way into this lovely lady’s crown. Very cool.
Ah, what a memorable girls weekend in NYC with our amazing young Julia. Thanks for showing her your best, women of Manhattan.
Our North Shore camping trip was with our largest group yet (19!), and included Elizabeth’s dad’s whole family! “Grandpa Jerry” had his sister, her whole family, plus all his kids and grandkids (-1, Julia, who opted for a week in Florida. Teenagers?!).
No need for s’mores
We were especially happy the Illinois clan made the trek, since for their meal, they brought (get this) Portillo’s Italian Beefs, sides and the most amazing chocolate cake you have ever eaten. Proof: No one had s’mores when that cake was around! And also the people were a lot of fun, ha:
Hiking on the rocks, exploring Gooseberry, touring the Duluth harbor by foot and by boat, making meals, and especially around the campfire, we all realized that campfires together forge great bonds. Thanks for all the laughs and memories, fam. Some of my favorite images of our precious time together…
Back at the campfire, we really raised the bar with the annual talent show. Poetry, songs, magic, comedy and of course the girls’ theatre production…
Hats off, Davey, you organized another awesome reunion camping trip. Love you all.
Since my main office is a home office, I feel like our kids are with me at work every day. Especially in the summer.
But today was a rare chance to take our youngest to one of my company’s offices, and I hope she learned a few things. Look out, world, this generation of women will change us all…for the better.
1. Go ahead, be assertive
So what if some call it bossy? She picked our breakfast and lunch locations. A lovely walk to Dakota Harvest Bakery for cinnamon rolls. Then Rhombus Guys’ rooftop, on a gorgeous summer day!
2. Take credit for your accomplishments
Cara mastered the label machine, re-organized the office supply room, created “Best mom in the world” awards and a sweet packet of notes and pictures for her Gram, Gramps, their dog and cat. She proudly distributed them in person.
3. Be bold
Apparently my powerpoint presentation was “boring,” since she turned to her iPad instead. But she did comment that she liked the colors I chose.
4. Own your space
Take a seat at the table–or the pilot seat of a rocket ship. Listen, tune in, then contribute. And make others feel part of the action. Way to go, Cara! You’ll be a great colleague someday. Today, you already were. Rock on and lean in.
“So how many people will be here?” my husband asked, mid-stride. He thought we were meeting two other couples for dinner, but he was leery. “A few,” I lied. 100+ family members and friends isn’t a few?
But we sure had fun! And I so loved watching him smile and laugh. Happy Birthday, darlin’. Happy Birthday.
It started with one
“Everyone ought to throw their husband a surprise party,” said the lady next to me in bike class. That was 3 years ago. She was a new member, we started chatting, and I learned she had just buried her husband. At age 48. She was at the health club to ‘get healthy,’ and she told me her biggest regret was never throwing her husband a surprise party.
That sparked an idea. So I started saving $ and planning.
By early this year, I had The Chart House booked. Classic, beautiful venue right here in Lakeville. It overlooks one of the lakes with a great restaurant and private event area, including an outdoor patio and gazebo area. I selected the menu. Picked the beer. Let them pick the wines.
Takes two to decorate
I enlisted my friend Penny to help with decorations. They were gorgeous, just like her!
Then I did the evite invitation. I contemplated limiting the guest list, but just couldn’t. Greg has so many great family members and colleagues, neighbors and friends. I added on with glee! I think the final guest list was 186.
I did have to spill the news to our kiddos a bit before the big day. They were fun allies in our secret!
Matt: “Dad’s gonna be mad. He said he didn’t want anything.”
Cara: “oooooh, I can’t WAIT!”
Julia (when I had to give up my Sequoia to the shop for a few ill-timed days): “How you gonna move 98 balloons in the little car, mom?” #wickedsmile
The most important guest almost didn’t go
Weeks before, Greg was balking at meeting our friends for dinner. Days before, he was leery. Hours before, he was really suspicious! Apparently his parents are lousy liars.
But he did. And so did so many wonderful people. Thanks, all.
See? I told you Penny’s decor was beautiful:
I ran into the health club lady a few months ago and told her how her comment had impacted me. She hugged me and said, “Honey, it’s a lot more fun to plan a surprise party than a funeral. I hope hundreds of people come!”
They did, I can now tell her. They did. And my favorite one of all had fun. #Love
My bro, who makes me think like no one else ever can, asked, “So dad, what age do you FEEL?” My dad, with his sparkly green eyes and quick smile masking quicker yet pinpoint accurate thoughts said, “Mid-40s.”
This was during a birthday/Christmas celebration for his upcoming 70th birthday. He’ll be in Arizona for his actual birthday, just another sign that really, he is young.
He volunteers countless hours at a hospital and on their Board of Directors. He still substitute teaches. Here–and in Arizona (even though his next-best-language is not Spanish but Latin, good Catholic boy that he is!). He helps with church music in both spots, too, playing piano and organ, singing in the choirs. He answered the call at the last minute this year in Minnesota when the music director at his long-time parish needed sudden hospitalization: a week before Christmas! He was right there for rehearsals and Midnight Mass to celebrate this magical night with beautiful music.
He guides kids for ACT test prep. He cooks, bakes, maintains every inch of his home and lawn and driveway (you know, when it snows before he heads south). He admits he’s never operated a snowblower (no wonder I don’t like those either, it’s hereditary!). He’s a marvelous friend and confidant and advisor to many.
Best of all, he’s an incredible dad. And granddad. He never misses a music concert, he’ll meet me at a museum anytime–and he sends weekly notes to our eldest (now a teenager), just one of the ways he lets us all clearly know he is our biggest fan. He does so many more little things that just add up in gigantic ways. He’s one of those amazing people who always makes you feel like you’re the most special person on the planet.
Sounds like the energy of a 42-year-old to me!
Happy Birthday to my dad. Soak up the Arizona sun, we all love you very much.