Monthly Archives: September 2015

Gift Series… Kid’s blocks from boxes



All righty… I’m excited to get going on this gift series just in time for everyone to get to work making instead of buying gifts for friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers!

In a time of electronic everything (even toothbrushes!) you might dismiss the immense fun and learning potential in the simple things. Before you order that iPad for your four year old take a minute to try a simpler approach. I’m starting out crazy easy and you may kick yourself in the booty because you didn’t think of this yourself (let me hear it if you already have thought of this idea!)…

What do you need:

* Boxes (I’m working on a set of all the same size… Keurig boxes make solid blocks. Small priority mail boxes are another good option Feel free to do all sorts of shapes and sizes)

* Duct tape (duck tape… however you say it!). Plain, patterned, whatever ya want!

* Scotch tape (optional)… I like to tape the Keurig box flap shut to provide stability

* Scissors (optional) if you are not a fan of tearing duct tape.

Make your own building blocks with boxes and duct tape! I’m making a whole set of basic building blocks from empty Keurig boxes (I drink A LOT of coffee) for a friend’s kids’ Christmas present. I’m hoping to have 20 or 30 by Christmas and I’ll wrap them in the biggest box I can find (further fun playing in the box!).

To make this gift even better there are A TON of choices in the duct tape department these days and they are quite inexpensive ($3.37 for 10 feet of patterned duct tape at Wal-Mart… I bet you can find cheaper… let me know if you do!) and one roll is enough to cover at least 12 Keurig boxes.

working on a gummi bear box

working on a gummi bear box

You can use any size boxes to make these blocks and with the duct tape they are actually incredibly durable. Ooh, and if you are one of those perfectionists I want to hear how long it took you to line up all the patterns perfectly. I tried on the first couple boxes but by the 7th I really didn’t think the kids would notice if an owl had three eyes or half a head.

one finished owl building block

one finished owl building block

So why building blocks? Well, I finished up my Bachelor’s Degree in Child & Family Development a few years ago and one of my final papers was a persuasive thesis on bringing back the old school forms of play instead of bombarding our kids with constant technology. It was a blast to be able to research all things play for three whole weeks! Legos, building blocks, sticks and stones, mud pies, blanket forts, Lincoln Logs… I’m tellin’ ya I felt it was my duty to really become one with the play… really immerse myself and even pull my boys in (teenager and teenager wannabe). All research that I found showed that activities, like building with blocks, encourages key development in a child’s brain and body that technology based toys and activities can’t even begin to accomplish.

Construction toys, such as building blocks, are ideally suited to encourage children to develop language skills, social skills, capacity for divergent and creative thinking, spatial skills, motor skills and hand-eye coordination (Parenting Science, 2014).

couple boxes done

couple boxes done

I do believe this is my shortest blog post ever, way to go me!

Go forth and give!


And So It Ends… Installment 6

spaghetti and meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs

As I sit here, at my desk, eating crème brulee made by my own hand, I remember the highlights of our cruise to the Bahamas. The food… yes, definitely the food. However, I have to admit my own crème brulee rivals that of the Royal Caribbean chefs! The people… yes, most assuredly the fun and kind people. The quality time with my family… yup, that was the best of the best. We spent seven nights straight all sleeping in the same room. Father, mother, and two sons. It has been more years than I care to remember since I fell asleep to the soft mutterings of our oldest son (he’s a sleep talker) and the constant exhale that isn’t really a snore but also not a regular exhale of our youngest son. Waking up to my husband beside me and my sons right above me was truly the best highlight of my trip.

On the last day we would be at sea heading back to the waters off the Florida coast. We all could have slept in as late as we wanted but go figure, we were all awake by 7:00am. I ran up to get coffee for me and fresh squeezed orange juice for my sick bay commando husband (he had been felled by a cold… of all the times!) before our room service arrived. Our room service breakfast arrived right on time and I was excited to have some yummy wheat toast with my coffee (it’s the simple things in life, right?!). I picked up the Texas style thick wheat toast and took a bite… let me correct myself… I TRIED to take a bite. It was hard as cement which made me chuckle! Room service hates us… it’s official. The boys laughed as well as apparently me trying to eat concrete is quite amusing. So I tried again… seriously, I risked a broken tooth so I gave up and stole Jackson’s pastry (hey, he went to the bathroom and left it out in the open… silly boy).

Hi Jackson!

Hi Jackson!

The boys and I headed up to second breakfast (a friend said it sounded like we were eating like hobbits and she is exactly right… so Erin, this is for you… second breakfast) and talked about getting out to join in the walk a mile at 10:30am but our full bellies 30 minutes later told us “Cash Prize BINGO” was more our speed. We had some time to kill before BINGO so we headed to the shops to look around and see if there were any trinkets we just had to have (there wasn’t) and then went down for more coffee, hot chocolate, croissants, and donuts at the coffee shop… ummmm I guess that’s third meal or maybe we’ll call it first tea time.

BINGO was a blast and this time we all got cards to play rather than the boys helping me with mine. Technically I bought all the cards as I think there’s a whole legal age thing as BINGO may be considered gambling… Who knows. Anyway, the boys had their cards and I had mine and it was fast and furious. I got closer… and closer… and closer… and then I stood (as is common practice for BINGO professionals)… I WAS ONE AWAY FROM A BINGO!! Then… it… happened…

I WON!!! I got a BINGO! A BINGO… ME… I GOT TO SHOUT OUT BINGO! I not only shouted it out but I jumped up and down like a crazy person. I was sooooo excited! Unfortunately (or fortunately if you are one of those “woohoo for other people” kind of people) several other people got BINGO at the same time as me so we all had to split the cash pot. I walked away with $52.80 which paid for all my BINGO binges on the trip. Nice! Better yet, I think I convinced my boys that BINGO is fun. I see BINGO tournaments in the Conway household’s future…

Towel Folding Demonstration at 12:30pm… grrr… we missed it thanks to our need to constantly shove food in our mouths. Yes, we were at lunch. Hey, we wanted to make sure we had good seats for the men’s belly flop competition so we had to get up to deck 9 (pool deck) early . Lo and behold deck 9 just happens to be the Windjammer Café deck… ain’t that a handy coincidence?

Ummm what's up wit the crazy eyes?

Ummm what’s up wit the crazy eyes?

1:00pm Men’s belly flop completion which was hilarious! The heavyweight guy won but he was so heavy he had to get help up onto the platform that they had them jump off of. Probably not the safest contest on the ship but it was entertaining. Apparently this guy had won belly flop competitions in previous years at varying venues… admittedly he had great form.

After the belly flop exhibition we headed down in the air conditioned centrum for the 80s and 90s TV tune trivia contest. We don’t have cable, NETFLIX, ROKU, Satellite, or anything else like that at home so my boys are subjected to whatever Kevin and I buy on DVD. Yup, my kids get to watch the classics… Alf, Andy Griffith Show, Cosby Show, MacGyver, Gomer Pyle USMC, Beverly Hillbilly’s, A-Team, and Full House. Therefore, I thought we might have a decent chance at actually getting some of these contest questions! It was fun, but maddening as many of the tunes they played were on the tip of my tongue. I did immediately get Beverly Hills 90210 (of course), Frazier, Law & Order, The Simpsons, and a few others that are escaping my memory now. We got 12 out of 20 but unfortunately none of them were ones my kids were able to get and I realized that I watched way too much TV as a kid in the 80s and 90s!

apple pie anyone?

apple pie anyone?

Back up to the pool to check out the Summer Lovin’ pool party to kick off the classic movie “Grease” celebration. My boys had never seen Grease so we grabbed some meal number 5… maybe 6… and got prime seats for the showing of Grease. The boys liked it all right though they said it was a bit cheesy.

I like desserts

I like desserts

We left early because guess what… there was more BINGO! This was cash prize and WIN A CRUISE! The boys and I were excited. We had officially become BINGO addicts. The cruise was a cruise for 2 and you had to be 18 to “officially win” so I told the boys whoever went and got mommy a coffee would be the one I’d take on the cruise if… wait, no, WHEN I won. Gunner jumped at the opportunity. Silly boy… I’d be taking Kevin if I won that cruise. I think Jackson knew as he didn’t even contemplate falling for a coffee run. While Gunner was getting coffee I ordered a strawberry daiquiri (no alcohol)… I didn’t even have to get up the waiter came to me. I think at this point I had gained 5 pounds… I wonder how that happened?

BINGO started and we were cruisin’ right along. Three away… two away… and then it happened… I was one away AGAIN! I stood up excitedly for another couple numbers waiting for the one I needed. Bah, two other ladies got it before me. Grrrrrrr. They had to have a BINGO off to see who would get the cruise which we didn’t stick around for as we had a scavenger hunt to get to.

Jackson wanted to head down and hang out in the cabin with Kevin so Gunner and I did the red, white, and blue scavenger hunt. There were about 20 things (Gunner adds, “20 strange things,” and we found 18, though we had to be very creative for a few (picture of a bluebird… yes, we went to the cabin and begged Kevin to draw a picture of a blue bird in between his sneezes and nose blowing.) We needed a red drink so I felt it my duty to get another strawberry daiquiri… hey taking one for the team! Gunner and I came in second place and got medals. Of course a fellow homeschool family beat us. Those darn homeschoolers. We couldn’t find a blue pill and blue crayon… hmmmmmmmmm I’m ok with that lol.

6:00pm poolside movie San Andreas which we wanted to watch so we got supper and ate it poolside while watching the movie.  I thought it was a good movie. A little Sharknado-like with some of the tsunami flooding, but good nonetheless.

ooh a second towel animal left for us by our cabin cleaner person.

ooh a second towel animal left for us by our cabin cleaner person.

9:00pm final Farewell Production Showtime and the boys didn’t want to go so they got some food and went down to the cabin to relax. 10:00pm I swung down to get the boys to head up to the poolside again and watch Pitch Perfect 2 on the great big screen by the pool. Of course, we had to get late night supper to watch with the movie. Pitch Perfect 2 is a really good movie! In fact, we just bought it this week when it came out on DVD! Boys love it too.

Ummmm it’s late… I’m exhausted… boys are exhausted… and we didn’t think we’d be able to keep our eyes open for a SECOND showing of Pitch Perfect 2 at midnight though we do love the acapella. We rode the elevator down to deck 3 (as we often did when Kevin wasn’t with us… he’s a stairs man all the time… me, not so much). We all fell asleep pretty quickly after showing off our silver medals from the scavenger hunt.

When we woke the next morning at 7:00am we were already in port at Cape Canaveral. None of us were very hungry so we decided to pack up and head off the boat to get an early start driving home. We took showers, packed up, headed out, went through customs, caught the shuttle back to the hotel, got the Mazda and were on the road to Indiana by 9:00am… I kid you not! Amazing!

The drive home was interesting as Kevin’s cold was making him quite goofy. Usually he’s a quite serious and stoic man while driving or doing anything which involves the risk of injury, but on this trip home he was cracking jokes left and right and teasing like a teenager with a crush on his girlfriend trying to impress his buddies in the back seat (namely our two sons). A few hours into the drive I asked the family if I should take my phone off airplane mode. I should text our neighbor and our farm sitters that we were on our way home… My husband and sons all agreed “NO!!” So I waited a few hours and then slid it off airplane mode just to message our neighbor and farm sitters. Ding… ding… ding dingdingdingdingding… turn it off, turn it off! Dog training messages, extended family messages, etc. I really wasn’t ready to be back to reality so I sent my two texts out and put it back on airplane mode. Gunner of course slept through most of the trip home. We made it to north of Atlanta that first day and stayed in Cartersville (my brother’s name is Carter so it made us think of him) with a very young and friendly front desk woman who told me all about her car troubles, boyfriend issues, and crazy weird hours she has to work while I filled out our vehicle information on the registration. I wanted to ask for restaurant recommendations for dinner but wasn’t sure what conversation that would inspire so left the subject alone.


Applebees was the dinner choice that night (feeling like a super mom as it was the SECOND Applebees trip for my boys in a week). Kevin was feeling pretty cruddy so he rested at the hotel and we brought him back a burger. Uneventful night’s sleep at the hotel though I think we all kinda missed 10pm rations.

sleeping beauty

sleeping beauty



In the morning we were on the road and Kevin was all fun and goofy again. Time went fast (of course I can say that now… weeks later) and before we knew it we were pulling into our lane at The Shepherd Hobby Farm.  Home! We were home and it felt SOOOOOOOO GOOD! Everything and everyone looked great. Animals were wonderful and they got lots of snuggles. Someone had hit and demolished our mailbox while we were gone but that was no big deal… replacing mailboxes is fun, right? Well, not BINGO fun, but it’s its own kind of fun.That night Kevin and I slept in our own bed and the boys in theirs. Did they miss us as I missed them? There was a whole level of house separating us and I truly did miss them. I got up a couple times in the night and went downstairs to check on them. They slept soundly and peacefully. It reminded me of the days I would check on them as babies… you know, to make sure they were still breathing. It’s just what a mom does.

It was a good trip folks… a really good trip. No phones or computers but yet there was always something to do if we wanted to do it. No cooking or cleaning for me and plenty of people to socialize with if we wanted to (sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t). I can tell you all that we are hooked on the notion of cruises and will revisit destination options for upcoming vacations but for now we are all quite content to just be home. Home is good. We have created a place here that we really don’t need a vacation from.  We all agree that though the cruise was a fun vacation and we may do another one, we really like “stay-cations” best of all. The comfort of home is what this gal is made for!


Make your home someplace you don’t want to vacation away from… we all need that place of comfort!


Conways… Memories… Yes please! Installment 5

Our ship as we boarded her at the end of our Nassau fun

Our ship as we boarded her at the end of our Nassau fun

Day 3 of our cruise and Kevin had not gotten better overnight. He had gotten worse. Totally stuffed up, cough, and utter icky feeling all over. This cold had knocked him out for the count and I was bummed. We had bought a “Resort For a Day” package several weeks ago which gave us a hotel room by the world famous Atlantis water park as well as admission for 4 for a day of fun in Atlantis! We had gotten the room because it was a cheaper deal than just buying four passes to Atlantis and Kevin has never been a fan of swimming and water parks so we figured he could hang out there if he didn’t want to stick around Atlantis.

Many ships docked at Nassau... and my boys walking

Many ships docked at Nassau… and my boys walking

Oh well… looks like this day on a foreign island would be mom led while Kevin relaxed on the ship. The boys and I went out to get a taste of Nassau and to be honest we weren’t all that impressed. Four other ships were docked at the port and it was crazy busy! We headed back on the ship to get our stuff to head to Atlantis and noticed something interesting… the sign on our room door had some signatures. What a neat idea! The signs had been placed the day before to welcome all us homeschoolers (by Mazie or Shelly, not sure which) and it was really neat to see more and more signatures added as the days went by.

sign on our cabin door

sign on our cabin door


I packed a bag for our trip to Atlantis and gave my husband a kiss goodbye for the day. We embarked off of the ship once again and caught a fun water taxi to the adjacent Paradise Island where Atlantis awaited. When we got off the water taxi I had no clue where our Comfort Inn and Suites was but figured it had to be close to Atlantis so we headed that way. Did I mention it was about a million degrees with insanely high humidity? We stopped at a welcome center and asked where our hotel was. She pointed and said “Just keep walking, you’ll run right into it.” Ok, I didn’t ask how far it was because I thought my boys might refuse to go another step further if the answer wasn’t to their liking.


Gunner finding something quite funny on water taxi

Gunner finding something quite funny on water taxi


We walked about 3 blocks and sure enough there it was, Comfort Inn and Suites! Woohoo! We went to what looked like a main entrance but the door was locked and we didn’t have a room key to open it yet. Other side of the building, same thing. We finally found the main entrance (quite obvious looking back now) and poured ourselves into the lobby. The boys crashed in some chairs while I checked us in without issues. We went to our room and I celebrated the fact we had found the hotel while my boys each claimed a bed and practically passed out.  Everything just seemed less fun without Kevin and the boys tend to be a bit more… shall I say “whiney” without their dad in earshot.

Checking in at Comfort Inn and Suites... kid can sleep ANYWHERE!

Checking in at Comfort Inn and Suites… kid can sleep ANYWHERE!

I tried to get my boys up and moving but they were already sawing logs… seriously, we had just gotten in the room like two seconds before! The hotel had WiFi but I resisted the urge to take my phone off Airplane mode. I had noticed an interesting phenomena since we had left the port in Florida a couple days before. I was seeing people’s eyes, smiles, and having conversation after conversation with interesting folks without heads buried in phones. Royal Caribbean offers internet packages while onboard but they are quite expensive so I don’t think many people opted in for them. It was absolutely refreshing to not see people tied to their phones and to not feel like I was tied to mine… LIBERATING!!

Tired teenager

Tired teenager

He might be tired...

He might be tired…

My phone stayed on airplane mode and I plopped down on the bed next to my 16 year old (that usually gets him up rather quickly). I got a 16 year old “Moooooooooooommmmmmmm…” so I hopped over to the next bed where Gunner lay (11 year old who has not yet quite perfected the long drawn out Moooooooommmmmmm yet). I asked if he was ready to go be dazzled at Atlantis and he made me promise (for like the hundredth time) that I would not make him swim with dolphins. Apparently dolphins are mean creatures that are out to kill the Conways. I promised and he said he’d get up and get his swimsuit on. That’s all I needed to convince Jackson to get up and get moving! In about 15 minutes we all had swimsuits on and were ready to head to Atlantis.

Atlantis! That area above the arch is one big hotel suite... $25,000 per night with 4 nights stay minimum.

Atlantis! That area above the arch is one big hotel suite… $25,000 per night with 4 nights stay minimum.

It was a super short walk of block to get to the Atlantis resort, head through the casino, and down to the entrance where we got our wrist bands for the water park and aquarium. The fish were magnificent in the aquarium and there was a tube that you walked through where lobsters crawled above and all around you… kinda creepy but cool.

Fish and Gunner

Fish and Gunner

We found our way easily into Atlantis and came right in by the famous “Leap of Faith” water slide. Many stories tall and straight down through a tube where sharks swam around you. We may have to work up to that one… Jackson and I tried to talk Gunner into doing the tube waterslide where you go through a tube surrounded by sharks as well but there was no convincing him so Jackson and I went.  Kindof a tame ride but the tube through the shark infested water was a unique touch. We live 20 minutes from Holiday World in Indiana so we are a bit water and amusement park snobbish (Holiday World is amazing… plan your next family vacation to Santa Clause, Indiana and then stop by The Shepherd Hobby Farm in Boonville and say hi to us!

Shark attack... is the Jaws theme song playing in your head? Our ride tube went through this tank.

Shark attack… is the Jaws theme song playing in your head? Our ride tube went through this tank.

We got something to eat (so weird to have to actually PAY for food… I wish I could click my heels and be back on the cruise ship) and relaxed for a bit. We then went to the “lazy river” which was called “The Current”. The name should have given me a clue that this was no lazy river which my sons assured me it was. The Current was in fact a one mile long tidal wave river ride (though you were in your own personal innertube the whole tube) with 8-foot high elevations and drops, a whitewater rapids section, and a bunch of tunnels and caves. Huge gushes of water send you up 15 feet in the air and then crashing down and into the rock walls on either side. My innertube became my life preserver in short order. I was told by the attendant along the way that sections get you rushing by at 30 miles per hour… seriously?!?! How could this ride be legal without requiring life jackets? Of course the boys were thrilled an loved it. Have I mentioned I get motion sickness easily? Like… REALLY… easily… Needless to say about 10 minutes into this neverending thrill ride I was green in the gills and wondering what the sanitation practices were for when…. Not if… I puked in the “The Current.” My sons would be mortified, I would be miserable, and “The Current” passengers might be a little grossed out.

The Current... tame, right? This was the calm before the storm...

The Current… tame, right? This was the calm before the storm…

Oh, did I mention we had just eaten? Seriously sons… last time I let you pick the “after lunch” ride! By some miracle I made it through the whole mile (literally took forever!) with my lunch still intact… in my throat, but intact. We got to the “exit” and the boys wanted to go around again… sure, go for it boys! I’ll just pull myself up to the shore like a beached pilot whale hoping things stop spinning. Ugh, I just layed there on the cement “beach” that led up and out of the water. The sun felt good, the water was finally starting to settle for me, and I was losing my icky vomit feeling. Ooh, that was fun!

I laid there for what must have been longer than I should have because someone came up and asked if I was ok. I was. I got up and sat in a nearby chair to wait for my boys to finish their crazy fun ride. They came around eventually and wanted to go around again. Sure, why not, go ahead boys, I was going to search out some ginger ale. We agreed to meet up at the sharks when they were done pummeling themselves black and blue on the rocky river ride. Kids have weird ideas of fun. Seriously, Gunner was showing off his scrapes and bruises from “The Current!”

I found some water (no ginger ale) and drank slowly while I soaked up the beautiful Bahamas rays. I lounged in one of the pools for a bit, watched some sharks, stared out at the ocean, and contemplated going on the “Leap of Faith,” a 60 foot near vertical drop from the top of the Mayan Temple. My sanity returned and I got another bottle of water.

The Challenger and both my boys getting about 10 gallons of water each directly up their noses. Ooh fun!

The Challenger and both my boys getting about 10 gallons of water each directly up their noses. Ooh fun!

The boys caught up with me a few hours later and were pretty darn wore out. We went on one last ride, the “Challenger Slides” where you race the person next to you down near vertical water slides slightly lower than the “Leap of Faith.” G forces, water up your nose , and heart up in your throat sound like fun? Then this ride is for you. I raced Jackson and then talked Gunner into racing Jackson trying to hide my obvious terror and ocean up my nose. He did it… yup, uncomfortable and frightening for him but made for great pictures for me!



After that we were completely done. Like, totally didn’t want to walk back to the hotel done. I tried to talk the boys into carrying me but there was no having it.

We slowly strolled back to the hotel with a quick stop at the gift shop for t-shirts. Bye sharks, by motion sickness, by crazy expensive food, and bye Atlantis. We rested at the hotel for a bit and then caught a water taxi back to the dock where our friend, the Enchanted of the Seas, was waiting for us. We stopped at the straw market before getting back on the ship to grab some souvenirs and were dragged to the inner bowels of the market by a vendor who desperately wanted me to buy some of her kinda weird trinkets.  Gunner found a neat wooden sword a few stalls down and had his name engraved into it. We really didn’t find anything else that we fell in love with so we left the straw market with just a wooden sword.

Mandatory Nassau pirate picture...

Mandatory Nassau pirate picture…

Hard Rock Café… cool t-shirts! Starbucks, yes please, Bahamas Starbucks mug! That was it… Nassau was busy and not as much fun as I thought it would have been. We got back on the ship and told Kevin all about our day. He was totally stuffed up and not feeling well at all… I felt so bad for him.

We missed dinner in the “My Fair Lady” dining room because we were in Nassau a bit later than we thought we would be so it was the Windjammer for dinner (the boys like it up there better anyways). We relaxed poolside to watch the movie “Inside Out.” Not as good as I thought it would be, but cute.

9:00pm boys wanted to watch Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 poolside and I wanted to go to the show in the Orpheum Theatre (Sideshow Bert doing comedy juggling and dangerous stunts)so we parted ways for a couple hours. Kevin relaxed in the cabin.

Movie time!

Movie time!

10:00pm Gunner was tired so he headed down to the cabin and Jackson and I went to the Love and Marriage Gameshow… SOOOOOOOOOO FUNNY! They took three random couples from the ship, newlyweds (married 3 months), middle (married 20 years if I remember right), and older couple (married 34 years if I remember right). I’ll do another post for that show because it was so funny and this one is already getting quite long. I’ll link it here after I write it. I repeat though, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO FUNNY!


11:30pm… how were we still walking? Tired to say the least! We ran up to Midnight Delights Buffet to get something to eat and back to the cabin to go into our usual food and exhaustion induced coma. Yup, sleep came quickly to all of us (except Kevin who hacked up a lung most of the night) this night. Ooh and we wanted to give room service another try so we filled out our sheet for wheat toast, pastries, orange juice, and bacon. I wonder if it will come?

Toodle loodles, until installment 6!


hand blown glass sculpture in casino at Atlantis

hand blown glass sculpture in casino at Atlantis

Hey Gunner, pose quick with that Atlantis sign... point... smile, smile better... ooh good!

Hey Gunner, pose quick with that Atlantis sign… point… smile, smile better… ooh good!


More hand blown glass sculptures in Atlantis Casino

More hand blown glass sculptures in Atlantis Casino


Are we done making memories yet? Installment 4 of vacation…

Coco Cay

Coco Cay

It’s official… there shall no longer be breakfast. Lunch, and supper… there shall simply be morning snack, meal 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and midnight snack.

As always I slept fitfully dreaming of anything and everything… my brain refuses to ever shut off and just gets weird at night. I woke early, not 4am, but early enough. Kevin and the boys were slumbering peacefully so I snuck out to grab some fufu coffee at the ships’s coffee shop “Café Latte-tudes.” There were fresh jelly donuts and croissants as well so of course I got some to go with my coffee.

I headed back down to the cabin to wait for our room service morning snack and jump in the shower. Kevin and the boys started waking up about 7:00am when I peeked out the curtains and totally accidentally let a ton of sunshine flood into the room. Our breakfast snack was supposed to be to our room before 7:30am and we got the call at 7:05 that our tasty morsels were on their way.

7:15… nothing

7:20… nothing

7:25… nothing

7:30… nothing

7:35… nothing

7:40… nothing

7:45… nothing

My spa appointment was at 8am so I couldn’t wait any longer… I wondered what had happened to our morning snack but the jelly donut, croissant, and coffee in my tummy reminded me that I really didn’t care all that much. Kevin and the boys headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast while I went to my spa appointment!

The spa was super nice though truth be told the massage wasn’t much of a deep tissue massage… I think I just liked my folks back at Fusion Spa in Evansville better than anyone (ooh, do I get a free massage for giving them props in my blog?). The scalp massage was blissful but not sure what made it a “Frangipani” scalp massage… felt like regular finger tips massaging my head but oh did that feel good. I don’t really like my feet messed with so the foot and ankle massage was so-so for me. The full body exfoliation was certainly an experience… kinda ouch but refreshing at the same time… hard to put into words. It seemed the lady had belt sanders for hands but it was a fine grit sandpaper instead of coarse grit… does that paint an accurate picture? Weird, I know.

I finished my spa treatment and headed back to our cabin to meet up with my family. Our ship was anchored just off of the island of Coco Cay (private Royal Caribbean island and we were the only ship there!) so I wanted to head there and swim with all the critters of the Atlantic Ocean. My family was not at our cabin so I took a few minutes to push the two lower twin beds together to make one big bed so I could have my snuggle buddy back that night! I shoved the bedside tables into whatever little nooks and crannies they would fit and called my job done… now off to find my husband and sons!

I stopped by the coffee shop on my way to the Windjammer (most likely place they would be) and grabbed my usual grande white chocolate mocha.  Sure enough, there they were, consuming large amounts of bacon, omelets, waffles, biscuits, and who knows what else. I joined in the fun with some waffles and biscuits, yumm!

Tummies filled we headed back down to the room to get our stuff for our island getaway. Swimsuits and sunblock… there, stuff gotten! We grabbed beach towels and a couple bottles of water from the ship on our way onto the smaller boat that would tender us to the island. We arrived a few minutes later to peer into the clearest bluest water I had ever seen. Tropical fish swam through the water as if I were peering into a doctor’s office aquarium, it was magnificent!

Loved this beach... Coco Cay

Loved this beach… Coco Cay


Kevin had read online before the trip that we needed to search out “Barefoot Beach” as it was where all the “experienced cruisers” knew to go. A beach beyond the other beaches which had hardly any people… yup that’s where we wanted to be. We walked and walked and walked and figured out quickly why few people went to Barefoot Beach… it was quite the little jaunt and there were no signs guiding you to it. We found it quite by accident and realized we had only been walking for about 15 minutes… man that sun was hot… it seemed like three hours! Sure enough, there were very few people and plenty of open beach chairs in the sun and the shade. We found a nice little spot by some trees and the boys and I grabbed our stuff to change. Before long the boys and I were in the Atlantic having a blast in clear warm water. We found huge conch shells and starfish. Gunner wanted some goggles so he and I left Jackson in the ocean (Kevin could see him and he’s 16… I’m really trying to cut those apron strings!) and headed back to the port where the shops were. Once again… felt like a three hour trek to get back there only to realize I only had my sea pass (the way you pay for anything on the ship) and had forgotten my wallet with REAL money back with our stuff. UGH! We walked back and Gunner hopped back into the ocean while I grabbed my wallet and trekked back. Wow, what a mom will do for her kids! Goggles purchased (a pair for Jackson too, just in case) and I swung by the bar to get a strawberry daiquiri (non-alcohol… part of my drink package woohoo).

Shallow enough to avoid any and all shark attacks

Shallow enough to avoid any and all shark attacks

We had fun with the goggles looking at the fish and sea creatures but I started to notice that my boys refused to go very far out. It was shallow for hundreds upon hundreds of feet out but they hung back close to the shore. I tried to lure them out but I think they assumed I was trying to lure them to imminent shark attack and they wouldn’t venture far. They made it out about two hundred feet and were quite content so I didn’t push the matter. I floated in the salty sea soaking in every minute of the peace and quiet.

A couple dark clouds threatened to open up on us but nothing came…After a couple hours we were all getting hungry so we headed over towards the place where the ships’ crew were preparing to grill. Everyone else must have had the same idea because there were people everywhere. Sandy, hot, and used to the quietness of our secluded beach we decided to forego the beach barbecue and head back to the ship. We grabbed a boat to tender is back and we all got cleaned up. Coco Cay was really nice!

To the Windjammer Café… we were hungry! Food, food, and more food. At this point I barely noticed what the rest of my family was eating as I was a one man wrecking crew when it came to clearing out some food (especially when I’m hungry). We were back and forth on heading to the formal dining room for dinner because there was a movie poolside that the boys wanted to watch.

Gunner had been eyeing the trampolines and rock climbing wall since yesterday and we had some time to kill so he got all sorts of adventurous and did them both. Gotta say, the trampoline made me nervous… I thought he was gonna be flung right off the ship regardless of the harness! The rock climbing wall was a little better because he decided to not go very far up… thank you son, thank you. THe wall and trampline are up n deck 11 of the ship so you’re already up pretty darn high… how can people call that fun? I didn’t think I was afraid of heights but I may just be afraid of heights…



Awww a real smile!

Awww a real smile!


The ship pulled away from Coco Ca at 5:30pm and the boys talked me into watching “Avengers, Age of Ultron” by the pool while Kevin stayed in the cabin to rest and relax. The movie was great (Robert Downey Jr. has really found his niche with that Iron Man character) and we snacked through the entire thing (how that is possible I don’t know because we were all stuffed from the meal a few hours before). After the movie we headed for coffee and hot chocolate at the coffee shop and then down to relax in the cabin.





Guess what we saw when we got to the cabin… Our room was all neat and tidy, the lower beds were all made up into a big bed so that you couldn’t even tell they were two separate beds and there was a towel dog (towels twisted and contorted to look EXACTLY like a dog) sitting at the end of the bed with my sunglasses on. We all laughed and loved it! There was even a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries as an apology for our room service breakfast snack getting lost on the ship that morning. I could get used to this level of pampering!

Thrilled to watch the rock show

Thrilled to watch the rock show

Relaxing didn’t last long as I wanted to go to the Production Showtime in the Theatre of “Can’t Stop the Rock” and the boys reluctantly agreed to go with me (they aren’t big fans of musical shows). We went, it was good, and then there was the movie “Terminator: Genisys” which the boys wanted to go to at 10:30pm. Tis only fair that we go to that after they sat through an hour of musical type dancing stuff. We went, ate some more, and watched a good movie. Wow Arnold is really getting old!

bahamas vacation sep 2015 192

I can’t tell you what time the movie got done or for sure how we made it back down to our cabin because I barely remember… I was sooooooooo tired! It was nice to have my snuggle buddy back although he wasn’t feeling well… it looked as if Kevin had a cold L The boys had just gotten over their colds before the cruise… Kevin and I were optimistic that we had not caught their nasty little germy virus or whatever a cold is but it looked as if he were down for the count with a runny nose and headache. But… but… tomorrow we are to dock at Nassau… Atalantis… all that jazz! He had to get better!

I'll take this over morning snack any day!

I’ll take this over morning snack any day!

Seriously, heart attacks for mothers are not fun! Stop it Gunner!

Seriously, heart attacks for mothers are not fun! Stop it Gunner!

Just a climbin'... or jumping off... one of the two

Just a climbin’… or jumping off… one of the two

Just…Can’t…Stop…Making…Memories Installment 3

So relaxing... nice sunset at sea

So relaxing… nice sunset at sea

The foreboding dark cloud was inching closer and closer to us and our precious new friend… the Enchantment of the Seas. As we waited we checked out the indoor ship activities in our “Cruise Compass”. Ooh art scavenger hunt, yes please. The boys and I headed one deck up and got our sheet for the scavenger hunt. We had to look at different clues and find the painting/artist they were talking about. It was quite fun and we even won a prize…  a copy of David Najar’s “Fence Line.” A lovely seriolithograph in color on archival paper from 2013. Lo and behold it was 1:30pm, time to head down and check out our room!

My new art... "Fence Line"

My new art… “Fence Line”

One of our duffle bags was waiting for us outside room 3616 (third deck) and luckily it was the one with the gift boxes in it. We had a meet and greet with our fellow homeschool families in 30 minutes! I can’t remember who, but one of us slid our sea pass card (room key, charge card, proof that you were legit to be on the ship, etc.)  and voila the door opened into a larger than expected room with a loveseat, desk, tons of storage, private bathroom, huge window, and two twin beds. We plopped our backpacks down and heard a thud outside our door. Duffel bag #2 had arrived.

We all started looking around, pulling out this drawer and that. I looked in my backpack for my trusty can of Lysol only to realize I had forgotten it in the Mazda. Oh well, this room looked plenty clean. I gave the boys the “wash your hands often and utilize hand sanitizer” speech. Mother’s love their speeches. We saw that there were two more twin beds stowed into the ceiling and knew somehow they must come out/down if our boys were to avoid having to share the loveseat for the night. There seemed to be a square hole for a likewise square tool to fit into that would surely lower the magical beds. Where was the tool? We looked everywhere! Our tool was missing! I was about to call up to guest services when Kevin reminded me that it was almost 2pm… meet and greet.

Kevin enjoying the view... contemplating how to get those stupid beds down from the ceiling...

Kevin enjoying the view… contemplating how to get those stupid beds down from the ceiling…

We resolved to get down to the mystery of the beds upon our return and figured we could push the bottom two twins together to make one big bed for Kevin and I later (not our idea, Mazie had told me many moons ago this was what was done for couples). We went to the meet and greet a few decks up in a lovely huge conference room at the front of the ship… or back… I couldn’t really tell. Oh and front is the bow and the back is the stern… when you are talking about the rear you refer to “aft” but it’s not called “the aft” it just is aft. “Forward” is to the front but it is not called “the forward.”  Confusing? Yes, it is to me and I refused to use the correct terms even though my husband and both boys were correcting me earnestly every time I used the words “front” and “back.”

I’m not even kidding when I say I had to ask my husband and kids for a refresher course just now while writing that. I simply asked “Where was the conference room, the front or the back?” That’s when the lesson began and I typed as they talked. Then Kevin asked a trick question… “What side was our cabin on?” I smartly replied, “The outer side… we had a window!” He replied, “There were windows on the other side too.” Grrrrr he was right. I tried again, “The exterior side.” I quickly realized it was virtually the same answer I had just given. He lovingly corrected me with “Starboard side honey, we were on the starboard side” (am I spelling that right?). Ok, good, now I can sleep at night.

We were able to meet the families cruising with us for the next week at our lovely meet ad greet. There were a couple families from Indiana, woohoo represent! My soap/lotion/bath salts gift boxes were given out and my name was even drawn for a prize, lucky me! I was also given a special gift (neat journal) for being funny on the forums in our Facebook group or for bringing the gift boxes to give out… not sure which, but once again, I’m not prone to look a gift horse in the mouth (please tell me that’s how that saying goes) so I accepted and was thrilled with my journal. I really do love journals!

Conway tummies were rumbling so we stayed at the meet and greet just long enough to get everyone’s names and to hear Mazie explain that we had to do nothing for the beds… they would be all ready for us when we returned to our cabins after dinner. But… how will something get done if I don’t do it… what kind of crazy train did we board… this was all quite foreign to me as I am a “gonna do it myself” kind of person. If I can’t do it myself then I’m gonna have my husband do it… definitely not used to having others do so much for me!

To the Windjammer Café… We were hungry! Oh and the conference room was at the stern (back… right?) so we went up to deck 9 and foreward. Kevin is a big fan of stairs so no elevators for the Conways. We were all still very excited so we practically floated up those stairs!

Windjammer Café… food, food, and more food! Asian food, American food, Italian food, German food, Japanese food, South American food, every kind of food you could imagine! And desserts… oh my the desserts! Gunner tried the hamburger (of course) and fries… 5 out of 5 stars! Jackson went for a burger and fries as well… 5 out of 5 stars again. I had salmon, buttery herbed noodles, salad, a couple turkey baguette sandwiches, and lots and lots of desserts. Kevin had some kind of pasta with Bolognese sauce that he said was quite good and I should make at home. The lemonade was amazing, fresh squeezed for all of us!

There was muster drill (mandatory safety speech) back on deck 4 at 3:30pm sp we made our way down to our muster drill station (station 9… a very good station if I do say so myself). As we waited for all the fellow station 9 people to show up we chatted with a crew member. Marine who was in charge of the enlisted Marine Corps Band while he served. Played trumpet in the band aboard this ship, very cool! THe man had chops and played a mean trumpet! We got our safety instructions, they showed us what the impressive sound of the emergency horn sounded like, and that was that. We were all done with the safety drill.

It was almost time for the boat to shove off so we all went out to an upper deck to watch. The rain cloud stormed upon us as soldiers would take a beach during invasion. It opened its fury on the boat for all of five minutes and we ran for the minimal covering of the ledge of the deck above us. We watched as the ship shoved off and waved to the people below obviously waving directly to us. 4:15pm… “Free Spa Raffle Draw Event for $500 in Treatments”… ummmm yes please! I even managed to talk my husband and kids in accompanying me to the fitness center for this epic giveaway. Sadly I did not win but I was offered a package at a steep discount just for coming and Kevin urged me to jump on it… “The Perfect Day”… 50 minute deep tissue massage, foot and ankle massage, Frangipani scalp massage, full body exfoliation… 75 minutes of pampering (and Frangipani treatment which may or may not involve having my head covered in algae)… normally $269 and all mine today or tomorrow for $149… sure! I made my appointment for the next morning at 8:00am… I would most likely be up at 4am anyways so 8am didn’t seem so crazy.

We then proceeded back down to our room to relax a bit and see if our third duffel bag had arrived. As we were walking down we passed an area with a bunch of luggage. I spotted our third duffel and told the staff member guarding the said luggage. He asked what the liquid inside the bag was. I suddenly remember I had stashed our left over Gatorades in there and told him that’s what they were.  He said, “ok” and we were free to take our duffel bag. All those bags sitting there had mystery liquids of one kind or another which I guess will get you held up at “customs” rather quickly.

Great view for a 16 year old :)

Great view for a 16 year old 🙂

I unpacked and put everyone’s things where I though t they should go…no way I would risk giving up all control and have another person unpack for me while I was at dinner (I doubt they would do that but I was operating on very little sleep so anything seemed possible). Our dinner table would be ready for us at 5:45pm in the My Fair Lady dining room so I pulled out the boys’ collar shirts and slacks while Kevin changed into his slacks and nice shirt. I put on some slacks and a nice top as well and we were on our way to dinner.

Chairs were pulled out for each of us at our table and our napkins were infolded and placed in our laps by our servers… wow! Boys were a little weirded out by that but they went with it without shouting “stranger danger” so all was well. The menu was scrumptious! I had the fennel crusted salmon with rosemary potatoes, Jackson had the primerib, Gunner had steak, and Kevin tried the escargot (snails) and had cod for his entrée. He LOVED the escargot… buttery, salty… yummy.  No way you were going to get me to try them… the boys agreed and politely declined when Kevin offered hem some. We all loved our food. I had crème brulee for dessert and it was amazing! I couldn’t believe all this food was free… truly folks, that’s one of the amazing things about cruises… the food is included with your original ticket price!

We were stuffed but the night was still young! We headed down to our room to change into comfy clothes and to our surprise the two twin beds were lowered down from the ceiling and all made up! So neat!! The boys tried them out and gave their stamp of approval. The two lower twin beds were still separated and truth be told Kevin and I were too stuffed to attempt to get them pushed together and made up into one bed at this point. Day Two Cruise Compass was also waiting for us to check out! Day two… Coco Cay!

beds are down!!

beds are down!!

 At 7:45pm the Welcome Aboard Comedy Show began and we didn’t want t miss that. We stopped by the Starbucks on our way up to the show and grabbed some fufu coffees (yeah, free because of our drink package that we got).  The comedy show in the Orpheum Theater was so funny! We met our cruise director, Marc Walker there (fantastic) and watched comic Mike Pace do his thing. Great comic!

Cruise Compass... soooo much fun stuff to do! A new one every day.

Cruise Compass… soooo much fun stuff to do! A new one every day.

We didn’t make it out in time to go to the “Liquor Box Folding Competition”  at 8:30pm but we weren’t too bummed by that. We did head up to deck 9 to catch some snacks from Park Café and the movie “San Andreas” on the big screen by the pools. By 9:30pm Kevin was getting tired so he headed down to the cabin. 10:00pm had me and my sons in the Boleros Lounge for some “Bingo” which was actually quite fun.



Late night snacks of nachos and burgers after that from the Park Café and then we were all quite exhausted (and full) so we headed down to our cabin. The boys snuggled in their beds and watched out the window as the Atlantic Ocean slipped quietly by. We could feel hardly any rocking of the ship and so far none of us had even an inkling of sea sickness. We chatted about having something delivered to the room for a light breakfast before our main big breakfast. Room service is such a fancy thing we went for it… we all filled out what we wanted…pastries, orange juice, toast, and bacon and slipped it on the outside of our door to be picked up by the magical room service staff sometime in the night. I snuggled down into my twin bed and Kevin into his a mere 3 feet from me… we hadn’t slept apart in a long time… I missed my snuggle buddy but I was soooooo exhausted I drifted off rather quickly.

View from the center of the ship at night... cool!

View from the center of the ship at night… cool!

Day 1 is in the books… what will day 2 bring? Thus far the rain had only inconvenienced a few moments of our day but what would it bring us on day 2?


The Building of Memories Continues…

Installment 2 of our adventure away from the farm!

Last I left you we had made it all the way down the lane… only about 7 hours behind schedule. Luckily our momentum was fueled by making it into Kentucky within moments of leaving (it’s nice living next to the state border!). Gas and snacks were our first order of business as it should be with every family roadtrip.

We were all quite excited and chatted off and on for about twenty minutes before switching over to some Wretched Radio podcasts. Gunner was asleep within moments as is usually the case when he rides.


Sleepy head

Sleepy head












Kentucky flew by and Tennessee welcomed us with gusto. Jackson dozed off and on, Gunner slumbered steadily and I enjoyed playing co-pilot/navigator… my main job (as decided by me) was to echo Siri’s directions to my husband. The jury is out on how truly helpful this was to him but I prefer to think I was immensely helpful as Siri’s Australian accent was slightly annoying. Out of habit I messed around on my phone… Facebook, emails, reading articles… a little bit of everything withut accomplishing much of anything.

Tennessee flew by quicker than we all thought when we saw the Welcome to Georgia sign. Woohoo! Our sons’ first time in Georgia! We were ecstatic! Well, everyone except Gunner, he was still asleep.

And then it happened…  a huge “Tennessee Welcomes You” sign popped back up. What? Did we turn around without me seeing it? What had my husband done? WE HAVE TO BE IN GEORGIA!! Some blame casting, assurances from my husband that all was well, and a fluttering of eyelids from Gunner that may have signaled a break in REM… and then we were back in Georgia. That was weird and I immediately opened our Google Maps to see how a psycho Tennessee/Georgia state line could have escaped my crazy thorough navigating.

Looking at my phone gave me a wonderful headache and all of a sudden the skies opened up dropped buckets of water directly on our windshield. For about 15 miles we could barely see and traffic crawled by ever so slowly. I looked at my Weather Channel App and sure enough it was raining in Atlanta… I then realized how ridiculous I was… I COULD SEE THE RAIN… OF COURSE IT WAS RAINING. I tried to close the app quick before my husband saw but it was too late… Sure enough he wasn’t planning on letting this silly moment pass… “Hey honey, could you check the weather app and see if it’s raining?”

Weather app says it's raining... is it raining?

Weather app says it’s raining… is it raining?

“Oh honey, I was just checking the weather forecast for Bahamas”… Not hehehe! I did check the weather for our destination and it didn’t look good…60% chance of rain pretty much our whole trip. Bah!

Pecans and peaches seemed to be all the rage and it just seemed the semi trucks in Georgia were bigger than any I had ever seen! At any moment I expected Optimus Prime to transform and save us from obvious alien machine takeover. Waffle Houses and Zaxby’s seem to be the epitome of fine dining in the south and mandatory every 10 miles on the interstate. I couldn’t believe we had made it all the way to Atlanta with such a late start but sure enough there we were. It is a beautiful city, especially at night.

We made it through Atlanta and stopped at a hotel on the south side. Booked full… very nice. We jumped back on the interstate and drove a few more miles. Another hotel… full. Grrrrr… I was tired, my husband was tired, and the boys were wide awake. We were all hungry which never bodes well for anyone. We found a Quality Inn with ONE ROOM LEFT! Woohoo, yes, we’ll take it! A nice military (I’m retired Air Force) discount and we had a room for the night. Off to find some food and Applebees sounded perfect. We ate until we could fit no more and the boys remarked that it was only the second time in their life that they had been to an Applebees… For some reason I felt guilty… should I be taking my kids to enjoy the fine dining of Applebees more often? Jackson loves their ribs and Gunner, our burger connoisseur, said their burgers are “da bomb.” That’s good right?

I texted our neighbor and our friends at the farm to let them know we were still alive and made it all the way to Atlanta. They texted back with the enthusiastic congratulations I was hoping for and we all rolled our fat selves into our hotel room beds. We only had 5 hours to drive the next day so I was looking forward to sleeping in as late as I wanted.

4am… Up bright eye and bushy tailed… why does this keep happening? I tried to go back to sleep but there was NO WAY! I laid there giddy with excitement. At exactly 6:33am I finally got up and went down to the continental breakfast for some coffee and donuts (hopefully).

Coffee in hand (no donuts… what the what?!) I walked back into our room and kinda tried to be quiet. You know that kind of quiet where you want to wake others up but don’t want them to know that you woke them up on purpose? If you can make them think they woke up completely on their own then you get extra points of awesomeness! I opened the curtains just a bit and the sun burst forth into the room like a rampaging bull intent on waking my entire family up.

My husband did the Dracula seeing sunlight face and Jackson let out a “MOM!!!” in only a way a 16 year old can say “MOM!!!” Gunner continued in his slumber… how does an eleven year old sleep so much?

Everyone got up and we were on the road by 8am… not bad! We continued on in our adventure and made it into Florida. Sooooo exciting! Another state my sons had never been in. We had to make it down to Cape Canaveral and we were making excellent time, woohoo!

We stopped and ate at a Dennys (a must for the Conways on a roadtrip) and later stopped for a snack at a Dairy Queen along the way… it was kinda a Dairy Queen mixed with a flea market… weird but interesting. We made it to the Radisson by the port and checked into our room. VERY NICE! Once again, we were all super hungry so we headed down to the hotel restaurant. Gunner enjoyed his pink lemonade in a “fancy glass” and we all ate while chatting about getting on the ship tomorrow morning.

I wanted to get an umbrella and some ponchos due to the weather report of “total and utter destruction of vacation due to rain” so we ran to the nearest Wal-Mart.  Let’s see… we got some refillable water bottles to make sure we stayed hydrated, an umbrella (we decided not to do ponchos… who knows why), a duffel bag (I had some gift boxes of soaps that were to be given away to our homeschool group of sailors as raffle prize type things and I had neglected to plan a way to take them onto the ship… they were just stacked in the Mazda and were quite large), ginger root supplements to help with possible sea sickness, and light sweatshirts because it was mentioned that the theater and some inside places on the ship are kept quite cool.

We got back to the hotel… Kevin and the boys relaxed in the room soaking up some WiFi while I headed down to the hot tub to socialize and relax my achy muscles. There were a TON of homeschool families staying at this same hotel who were heading out the next day on the epic “2015 Not Back to School Homeschool Cruise” so I played a little game of “homeschooler or not a homeschooler” as people passed by. This game is harder than it looks because homeschoolers are starting to look more and more like normal people!

The sun was setting but the air was thick with humid warmth so I decided to head up and talk my sons into coming down for a dip in the pool. We met a few of the homeschool families and were even able to match up a face with the name for the fabulous Mazie Middleton, our travel planner lady! I have to take a moment to give absolute crazy great props to this woman for her patience, knowledge, and impressive enthusiasm as she fielded question after question from homeschool families over the past year leading up to this cruise. I’m totally going to plug her business information here because she was THAT GREAT! Any other cruises we do will be booked through this woman for sure.

Travel through Mazie!

We swam, I chatted, and the boys got bored so it was back up to the room to try to get some sleep before heading to the ship in the morning. I last remember seeing 1:32am on the clock before I dozed off…

4:08am… I kid you not. I am up bright eyed and bushy tailed! What is wrong with me? Surely my body needs more sleep than this. I lay there tossing and turning for an hour or two before finally getting up, owning the fact that there will be no more sleep this morning. I head down to the pool to sit and enjoy the dense warmth that only Florida can give. The humidity… wow! As I sit, enjoying the suffocating Florida air, I see several cats stroll around the rock ledges of the pool. Awwww reminds me of home… minus the rock ledges of the pool and air that is almost impossible to breathe unless you are equipped with a set of gills. I have my phone and am looking over Facebook when I see a mother in our cruise group post that she needed a few things from Walgreens… ooh, chance to meet new person and something to do… “I’m by the pool, let’s go!”  I reply to her message.

She comes on down, thankful for a friendly face with wheels. We head towards Walgreens. I need to look for another option for ginger root as I neglected to look closer at the bottle I had purchased the night before at Wal-Mart… capsules of ginger root powder… capsules made from gelatin… gelatin is mammal bone based and therefore these ginger root supplements are obviously trying to kill me (I am highly allergic to ingesting mammal products… I get t carry an epi-pen and everything, woohoo!). I was hoping to find a compressed tablet of ginger root powder at Walgreens but no such luck. Looks like I would have to open each capsule and dump in a glass of water to chug it down… pure powdered ginger root is a bit strong but hey, the face I made brought laughter from my family so it was almost worth it. I did grab a can of Lysol to take on the cruise to totally disinfect my room each day as my family and I carried every germ, virus, plague, and bacteria into our cabin from the ship at large. I tend to be a bit of a “people” germaphobe… oddly enough animal germs don’t bother me but people germs… ewwwwww! I had heard the stories of cruise ship sickness and I was bound and determined that my family would not fall prey.

We found a Starbucks after our Walgreens trip and coffee was consumed. Yummy! We got back to the hotel and sat and talked by the pool for a good long while. Kevin came down and reminded me it was time to pack up and catch the shuttle to the ship… time had flown as I chatted with this sweet new friend. We packed everything up and still had some time to kill so we ran over to Subway to get some drinks and subsequently a couple subs… my family can really throw down some food!

Mazie had arranged for those of us with vehicles to safely stow them with the hotel’s protection for the duration of the cruise and catch shuttles to the port free of charge! She also scored an amazing price on the hotel for the night, only $100 and a mere 5 minute drive from the port!

We loaded the shuttle at about 10:30am and within minutes we were gazing on our ship, the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas. It was huge! We grabbed our bags and headed in through Royal Caribbean customs. Birth certificates for everyone… check. Marriage certificate for Kevin and I to show my name change… check. Driver’s Licenses/permits for us 16 and older… check.  That’s it… we were through! Soooooooooo easy!!

Waiting to board the ship!

Waiting to board the ship!

We checked our three big duffel bags and they assured us they would make their way to our room on the ship. We waited for about 10 minutes for boarding and walking up the ramp onto the ship was so exciting! The ship was huge and quite beautiful. We settled on deck 4 in the centrum with its glass elevators, coffee shop, couches, and view of the beautiful ocean. Our room would not be ready until 1:30pm so the boys and I looked around the ship while Kevin relaxed by the big seaside windows.

Royal Caribbean has many great free drinks on the ship to include lemonade, apple and orange juice, water, regular coffee, and tea (hot and cold) but they also have “drink packages” you can get which include other kinds of drinks. I checked out the drink packages and we decided to go ahead and get the $22 per day drink package for Kevin, Jackson, and I after we saw that the coffee shop was a Starbucks and the ship had a ton of different fun soda pop flavors. This package would get us each unlimited pop, coffee (Starbucks fufu ones), non-alcoholoc cocktails/bar drinks, milkshakes, and bottles of water. Gunner is not a soda drinker and he was ecstatic with the fact that here was free unlimited lemonade so he didn’t want a drink package.

Chillin' on deck 4

Chillin’ on deck 4











There were 11 decks to our ship and the top one included a rock climbing wall and trampolines… OH MY! Even though there were thousands of people boarding the ship it didn’t seem crowded at all. Where were all the people going? Perhaps up to deck 10 with the two pools, 4 hot tubs, and huge movie screen? Maybe the Solarium with the indoor pool and hot tubs? Windjammer café perhaps for lunch with more food than you could ever imagine from every continent? Who knows but I can confirm that very few were hanging around us in the centrum. Was it my crazy “I am so excited I could throw up” vibe that I was giving off?

I gazed out the windows hoping to see some dolphins or seals but saw instead a dark cloud moving ever so slowly towards our ship. I put my phone on airplane mode, sat back, and relaxed…And so it begins…


Sail on young man, sail on…






Building Memories…


Installment 1… yup, that’s how I roll… in installments…

How does one describe one of the best weeks of their life?

For me it starts with having my husband and my sons close while surrounded by God’s glorious creation… oh and a never-ending supply of spectacular food that I didn’t have to cook or clean up after!

We did it folks… we went on an epic vacation. It all started 11 months ago when the homeschooling tunnel of fantasticness (I think I just made up a new word) fed us an intriguing opportunity to take a cruise to the Bahamas at a “There has to be a catch… you gotta be kidding me” rate. It was to be dubbed the “2015 Not Back to School Homeschool Cruise” because we would set sail in September, after almost all the public school kids had returned to their desks. I was still thinking that this was too good to be true… Hmmmm September… is it like 20 degrees in the Caribbean in September? Perhaps September is horrible hurricane season? Do the starfish invade the islands in September? How could we possibly be taking a cruise? We aren’t fancy enough for a cruise!

The Conways (us) signed on in late 2014 and excitedly told the kids on Christmas morning. They were mildly intrigued though worried about the possibility of pirates and motion sickness. The months seemed to drag on as I readied our birth certificates, asked question after question to our amazing cruise planners (props to you Shelly Rae Mabe and Mazie Middleton),  and tried to get my husband and kids super excited.  I ensured none of my does (female goats) were anywhere near a buck for the months of April and May so we wouldn’t have any kids born while we were away. What normal person has to think about such things when planning their vacation? I’m officially goat crazy!

When you have a farm, even if it’s just a hobby farm, it’s soooo challenging to get away for even a day or two.  We were incredibly blessed to have a couple offer to stay at the farm and work their tail ends off while we lounged in the Atlantic for a week. I was still thinking it would be march of the jellyfish season or the “month of algae” in the Atlantic but I figured a cruise is a cruise whether or not we would get to put our toes in the Atlantic. In all seriousness, we do not deserve to have such friends and blessings but I wasn’t going to look this gift horse in the mouth so I readied our friends a few weeks before our departure.

Time flew by as summer baked us into a beautiful brown. Before we knew it September was upon us!

The night before we were to set out for the 12 hour drive to Florida our sons were FINALLY excited! To say I was excited is the understatement of the century! I couldn’t sleep, I had barely any appetite, and adrenaline was coursing through my body like I was being chased by a lion… a lion with an ice cold Coke begging me to lounge in a hammock on a paradise island! No meal making, no laundry, no animal chores, no housecleaning, no “formal” homeschooling, no college homework, no emails, no phone calls, no hobby farm business…  NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING! TO make things even better, we decided at the last moment to take the Mazda (my husband’s main vehicle) instead of the minivan (obviously my main vehicle) so I would not be driving! Happy day oh very happy day!

4am… I’m up bright eyed and bushy tailed after having drifted off to a restless sleep a mere three hours before. I plan on us heading out around 6am to get that ever popular “early start” for our long drive to Florida. Candy didn’t cooperate during milking as it was obviously “too early” for her to be awake so it naturally took longer than usual. I spent an extra long time with my face buried in my horses’ necks as I knew I wouldn’t be getting that enchanting aroma for a whole week (talk about withdrawal!). I did some cleaning… some more farm chores… and well, I just don’t know what else I did but it was quickly 9am and the boys were starting to wake up and wonder why we weren’t on the road.

“Just one more thing to do” was muttered over and over again… my family knows to expect this from me. However… when it rolled around to 1pm and we still weren’t on the road everyone started to wonder if this vacation was still a “go”.

1:30pm, Saturday… we are on the road, headed to wherever we could get this first day of driving. I looked in the rear view mirror as we left the cats, dogs, horses, chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits, and guineas and everything I am comfortable with in the dust of the gravel driveway. I bet they all thought we would never return… or maybe they didn’t care because I fed them an extra big breakfast out of total guilt for leaving.

Our friends would be there shortly for love and cuddles with all the critters!



So your leaving? Ok, see ya later, I'll just wait for ya here

So your leaving? Ok, see ya later, I’ll just wait for ya here











I said a prayer to God for safe travels, safety for our animals and the couple who would be holding down the fort, for my dear friend to hold her baby in one more week (she was due any moment), for the amazing blessing of this trip, and for His wisdom, mercy, grace, and patience with us as we set forth on this adventure.

Heading to Florida and then on a cruise… what could go wrong?

See ya tomorrow for installment #2!

Jhenna… traveler yonder