Sunset kayaking

Posted in Celebrations, Trip on August 15th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After Jen getting seasick on our sailing adventure and having a busted eco-tour, we were excited to try a different excursion. This time, we went for a night kayak tour. We’ve done kayaking on previous trips and really enjoyed it. We were excited to do it in Aruba. Jen was a little worried about being on the sea again, but she took two Bonine and thought she’d be fine.

The tour was supposed to have other people, but they cancelled at the last minute. So, it was just us and our guides. We had a clear bottom kayak to see the marine life under the boat. Jen’s smiling at the beginning of the adventure.

Kayaking

We got started as the sun went down so we could see the sunset from the ocean.

Kayaking

Sunset from a kayak

Sunset behind Jen

Sunset

Kayaking

Our clear bottom kayak was equipped with underwater lights so we can see the fish after the sun goes down.

Lights

We didn’t see any larger or more colorful fish under the lights (like those we’d seen snorkeling a couple days before). I guess they had all gone to bed. We did see some little fish, though.

Little fish

Sadly, this was where things went wrong. Despite taking two Bonine, Jen got seasick. Our guide asked if everything was OK, and she told him the situation. So, we stopped paddling around and just headed straight back to the beach.

Once we got there, we sat in the parking lot while Jen recovered and our guides packed up the boats. We could see the lighthouse well from there.

Lighthouse

They gave us some fruit, iced tea, and water as post-paddling refreshment. After 20 minutes or so, the stuff was packed and Jen was feeling up to driving back to our hotel.

Our guides were great. I’d definitely recommend a kayak tour with Clear Kayak Aruba, though I’d probably choose one of their day tours in a different area to see more life under the water. That of course assumes that you don’t have major problems with motion sickness. For us, I think this’ll be our last kayak tour. I don’t think our next anniversary trip will involve any boats.

Exploring Aruba’s natural beauty

Posted in Celebrations on August 14th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

In previous trips, really enjoyed going on eco-tours, where you get to see some of the natural beauty. There are a bunch of them (often called jeep tours) in Aruba, which will show you some of the undeveloped parts of Aruba. Many of these are run by the larger tourist companies, but we decided to go with a local woman who was recommended to us - Madi. She seemed to provide a much more personal, local experience than the big companies, though reviews said that her trips were occasionally unreliable. We decided to risk it. After some difficult communication, we managed to book the tour.

We almost got a private tour, but she managed to find another group (two moms and three kids) to join us. She and her husband picked all of us up in a van that we drove to the entrance to Arikok National Park. That other group did have a special request - to be dropped off at Baby Beach instead of their hotel, which Madi agreed to. She told us it would be out of the way, but she’d take us to a couple extra places after dropping them off.

At the natonal park

We then switched into her jeep to drive into the park and to the Natural Pool. Well, that was the plan at least.

Broken down jeep

Yes, the jeep was in very poor condition, and refused to work. It struggled to start, took us a few feet, then died. We waited in it as they tried to fix it. Eventually, our guide told us the Natural Pool was actually closed for swimming (she’d just found out), so she’d take us to a different, less known, natural pool. Given the non-working jeep, this seemed like a good course of action.

The van that brought us there had left, but thankfully it came back to pick us back up. Then we went back the way we had come. Much of this was on the road (we did not go off-road into the national park), but we did eventually go off-road. This van was not made for going off-road, and Jen’s back ended up sore for days.

Rescue ride

We then went to the Natural Bridge. It was a very cool place, though sadly not as cool as it used to be. It collapsed in 2005, but it’s still a lovely area. A lot of people just stand on the rocks by the parking lot, but Jen and I were more adventurous. First, we climbed down to the sand behind the bridge.

Natural Bridge

Waves

Then we climbed up the rocks on the far side of the fallen bridge.

Climbed up

Here’s the bridge from the far side. You can also see a picture of what it used to look like before falling down on the side of the building.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge selfie

On the other side of the Natural Bridge was a place that the waves crashed to create a mist called a Blow Hole by our guide.

Blow hole

At this point, despite the vehicle difficulties, we were in a positive mood about this tour. Our guide kept telling us how great the hidden spots would be, especially including this unknown natural pool. As we drove away from the Natural Bridge, we stopped briefly at a small inlet where the waves crashed in that had a rock that looked like a fish face.

Sadly, that was basically the end of the tour. We drove and drove for about an hour, gradually starting to wonder where these great places were. Then we arrived at Baby Beach to drop off the other folks. There was a lot of arguing (mostly in Papiamento, the native language, which the other guests spoke). I never fully understood why we didn’t visit any of the other places we were supposed to. Danger was mentioned at some point, and a lot of discussion about how Baby Beach was too far away and we never should have come that far. I asked about the extra things after dropping off the others she’d told us about, but she said that it was too late and this would be the last stop of the tour.

We ended up spending a little time at Baby Beach, since we were already there. It’s a very nice beach at the end of the island that is protected by a reef. The water’s only a couple feet deep most places, and incredibly clear.

Baby Beach

Baby Beach selfie

Then, we had a 45 minute drive back to our hotel. On the drive back, Madi sat in the back facing me like a tour guide for a little while (though there was not enough room for this, which made it very awkward) trying to make us feel better about the tour. When it became evident that this wasn’t working, she moved to the back row, lay down, and went to sleep.

Sadly, I cannot recommend anyone take her tour. Perhaps you’d have better luck with her, and perhaps you’d enjoy her cooky nature more than we did, but I think there are much better options out there.

Oh, and if you’re keeping track, this is now one sailing excursion where Jen got seasick, and one completely busted jeep tour. Will our record improve? You’ll have to wait to find out.

Sailing the Black Pearl

Posted in Celebrations on August 13th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Our first big excursion in Aruba was a sailboat cruise. We did this in the Bahamas and it was great, so we found one that sounded similar in Aruba. This time we chose to try a sunset cruise instead of one in the day time. There were lots of sailing excursions in Aruba, but most were party boats. We looked for something more calm and relaxing, and found the Black Pearl.

Black Pearl

Yes, it looks a bit like a pirate ship, but note the blue cushioned lounge seats. This was sailing in comfort.

We stopped twice to snorkel on our sailing adventure. Jen enjoyed it for a bit…

Snorkeling

Fish

Fish

Fish

Sadly, Jen’s enjoyment didn’t last. She had taken a Dramamine before the trip, but she still got seasick while snorkeling. Our hosts kindly gave her a couple Bonine to help. Then, at our second stop, we skipped out on some of the snorkeling and swam over to a beach in front of a giant expensive house to sit on solid ground for a while. It was very helpful, and was a beautiful spot to sit as well.

Solid ground

Sun getting low

The stop helped Jen a lot. As did the food when we got back on the boat. They gave us cheese sandwiches, and then grilled cheese sandwiches as well. These were made with Dutch Gouda (widely found throughout Aruba due to their relationship with The Netherlands), and were quite yummy. After the rest and food, it wasn’t long before Jen was smiling again.

We're on a boat

The ride back afforded lots of beautiful views of the sunset.

Sunset approaches

Sunset

Sunset

Aruba sunset

And one more pic after we were back on dry land.

Sunset

The cruise was excellent. We didn’t go as far away as our Bahamian cruise (our Aruban cruise just went up the coast a bit), but it was still fun. Even Jen said she enjoyed it, despite her seasickness. I’d highly recommend sailing on the Black Pearl if you’re going to be in Aruba. And they even make a video of the experience!

Aruba

Posted in Celebrations on August 12th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For our 15th anniversary, Jen and I wanted to take a big trip somewhere. Our previous trips have included Jamaica, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. Given then infinite wisdom of the Beach Boys, we knew we had to complete the first verse of the song Kokomo. So, we booked our trip for Aruba.

I love ARUBA

This was a trip for just the two of us for an entire week. The girls stayed with Grams (thanks Grams!) and had a great time. The girls actually said they wished we’d stayed for longer, as Grams spoils them more than we do :)

We stayed at the Amsterdam Manor resort on Eagle Beach. The big high-rise American hotels are mostly on Palm Beach, while Eagle Beach has much fewer people, making it much quieter.

Amsterdam Manor

We arrived at our hotel before check in time, so we hung out on the beach in front of the hotel until we could get in. It’s a very nice beach, and despite being much less crowded than Palm Beach, still had plenty of vendors offering jet skis, tube rides, and parasailing.

Waiting to check in

Our hotel room had a kitchenette and was within walking distance of a grocery store, meaning we didn’t have to eat out every meal. This was nice, since eating out is very expensive in Aruba. So, we usually had cereal for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, knocking out two of our daily meals. We then ate out for the third meal.

We ended up going all over the island. To do so, we took a lot of taxis. We also took the bus a couple of times, when the location we were headed to was on a bus line. In the end, we saved money by not renting a car, but we still spent a lot on transportation. Some people may not need this as much if they just stay at the hotel, but that’s not really our style.

As you can probably guess, we did a lot of stuff while in Aruba. I’ll post about all the things we went and did in the coming days.

Daddy date

Posted in Leah on August 11th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Molly had an event at karate a couple Fridays ago, so Leah and I had a date night. She chose Cheeburger Cheeburger, and an Oreo Shake to share.

Sweet date

We then went roller skating to complete our date. We’ve been roller skating together a lot, but always during an afternoon session. This was our first evening session, and it was very different. Crowded with teenagers and rap music (afternoon sessions are less crowded, lots of kids, and mostly pop music). It was still fun, but I don’t think we’ll be back in the evening any time soon.

Camp drop-off excursion

Posted in Family outings on August 4th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Now that Molly has told you all about camp, I thought I’d tell you about the day we dropped her off. We drove Molly to Camp Manidokan (which is a Methodist camp in Knoxville, Maryland, right where Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia meet). It’s about an hour drive from our house (assuming you don’t hit too much traffic).

All four of us went to drop Molly off. Leah really wished she could go to camp too. We had hoped she’d be able to go to their mini-camp this year (that’s the only session she’s old enough to attend), but it fell while we were at Callaway Gardens. But she’s determined to go next year and already trying to recruit friends to join her.

After sign-in, Molly was quick to hit the pool for her swim test.

Camp swim test

Then we hung around for a while in order to say hello to all the families of all Molly’s friends. Leah fit right in with the campers during that time.

Art table

Go fish

Finally, we left Molly for a week at camp. We decided rather than head home, we’d drive over to historic Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to look around and get some dinner. We had a lovely meal (and ice cream) at the Cannonball Deli. Then we wandered around a bit.

Dinner

Ice cream

We walked across the bridge from West Virginia to Maryland (and back), just like Molly does on a hike with camp.

Bridge

It was a fun outing, though parking in Harper’s Ferry was difficult and there was traffic headed back to Maryland. Between the busy day and the long drive home, we were all tired.

Pooped

My Manidokan Trip

Posted in Church, Molly, Trip on August 3rd, 2017 by molly – Comments Off on My Manidokan Trip

Hi, it’s Molly. I had a great time at camp. On Sunday, first I got there. Then I unpacked. I was sharing a room with my friends Riley and Keira at the time.

Old friends

I also had some more friends named Sarah, Emma, Jordan, Haley, Grace, Lilly, and Camille with me.

Friends

Riley, Keira, Molly (me), Lilly, Camille

Church friends

Sarah, Molly (me), Emma, Sarah (Emma’s older sister)

School friends

Jordan, Grace, Molly (me), Haley

Last year I only had one friend, this year I had nine friends.

After unpacking I changed into my bathing suit to take the swim test with Riley and Keira. After the swim test I had to say goodbye to my family. When they left I hung out in my lodge until dinner. After dinner I went to the campfire with my group. We sang some songs, saw pirates, and then some of my counselors came back from somewhere else claiming they had not seen the pirates like we did. We did not have s’mores that night though. After everything we went back to the lodge and had snack. Then I went to bed.

On Monday, first I woke up. Then I had breakfast. After breakfast I did Bible study. The 5-6 kids (me) had two groups of kids to do some things like rafting and pool games because we had 30 kids. I did the rock wall with group B. Group A did rafting. Here is me on the rock wall.

Climbing wall

After the rock wall Group B had lunch. Group A had lunch at land near the river they were rafting on. After lunch Group B had pool games. We didn’t have pool time though because they heard thunder. So I hung out at the lodge. Then after an hour of waiting we had store time. Store time is when you can buy stuff from the camp store. After store time we went back to our lodge and had free time until dinner. After dinner we had the evening activity. After the evening activity we went back to the lodge and had snack. Then I went to bed.

On Tuesday, first I woke up. Then I had breakfast. After breakfast I did Bible study. After Bible study I went on the Sawmill Creek Hike. I did not jump off the rock this time because the water was freezing. Anyone that jumped off the rock was shivering when their head was above water. It was hard to get used to the water. After Sawmill I had lunch. After lunch we did zip lining. Here’s a video of me on the zip line (I’m videoing on the zip line).

After zip lining I had pool time. Then I had store time. After I got my stuff from the store I went back to the lodge and had free time. After my free time I had dinner. Then I did the evening activity. After that I went back to the lodge and had snack. Then I went to bed.

On Wednesday, first I woke up. Then I had breakfast. After breakfast I did Bible study. Then I went to get ready for rafting with group B. After getting ready for rafting I got in a van and the driver drove us to the destination that we started rafting at. First we rafted to our lunch spot. Then when we got to our lunch destination and we ate lunch. After having lunch at the lunch destination we got to go swimming. Where we swam there was a jumping rock. The jumping rock was a long rock that was just above shore, but where you jumped in the water got a lot deeper. Here’s me and some of my friends when we jumped off.

Ready to jump

Jumping in the river

After swimming for 30-45 minutes we started rafting again. After 50 minutes to an hour we got to the rapids. After everyone went through the rapids we got to swim in the water. During that time we played king of the raft. But sadly, Jordan couldn’t play due to her swimmer’s ear. Just swimming the current took us far. After all our fun we got in the rafts and paddled to our end destination. But the kids in my raft were the lucky few. When we were almost there the kids in my raft were very tired of paddling so the adult in our raft let us get out and swim the rest of the way. When I got to shore I went to tell the other kids from other rafts that we got to swim some of the way back. Some of them were jealous.

After some waiting I got in a van and the driver drove us back to our lodge. When we got to our lodge we relaxed and some of us got ready for the pool. I was one of the kids that got ready for the pool. When it was pool time I went down to the pool. After pool time it was store time. After store time I went back to the lodge and had free time. After free time we had dinner. Then we had Mission Night. Mission Night is a night that explains what foundation you can give the rest of your store money to at the end of the week. This year it was the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Also we played water games to learn about the foundation. After that we had our evening snack. Then we went to bed.

On Thursday, first I woke up. Then I had breakfast. After breakfast I did Bible study. After Bible study we got ready to go to Harper’s Ferry. After that we got in a van to drive us to the path that we walked on to Harper’s Ferry. The walk to Harper’s Ferry was long but felt short. After what felt like 10-30 minutes of walking and talking we got to the walking bridge. Then we stopped and got told a story. The story was about a man painting an ad for a powder company on a mountain. One day the man’s wife found out that the man cheated his wife and used his wife’s money! So one day when the man was painting the ad his wife cut the rope of the man’s paint bucket and the man’s rope. So the man fell to his death. On the mountain there was a splash of paint under the ad, that was from the man’s paint bucket from when the bucket fell. So we learned our lesson - don't cheat people, you could die. After hearing the story we walked across the walking bridge. Here is a picture of the train bridge right next to it.

Harpers Ferry hike

After we walked across the bridge we went to our lunch spot. After lunch we split up into four groups. First, my group went to the book store. Then we went to a historical candy shop. I got cotton candy there. It was homemade! Here is a picture of me with it.

Harper's Ferry treat

After that we went to an ice cream shop. Then we went back to the candy shop. After that I got some candy mint things. They were not homemade though. After shopping we went back to the lunch spot to meet the other groups before our journey back to where we started. When every group was there we started our journey back. Again it felt very short. But this time there was a lot of walking, talking, and singing. After some waiting I got in a van and the driver drove us back to our lodge. When we got back we relaxed in our lodge and then some of us went to the pool. After the pool we went to the store. After store time we had free time. Then we had dinner. After dinner we went up to the hill and played games and roasted marshmallows. After that some kids stayed at the hill to sleep there, and the rest of the kids went back to our lodge to sleep.

On Friday, first I woke up. Then I had breakfast. After that we had Bible study. After Bible study we did field games for 15-30 minutes. Then we had pool time for the rest of our two hours. After our field games/pool time we had lunch. After lunch we packed up our stuff. After everyone had packed we had snack while we watched the new version of Beauty and the Beast. In the beginning of the movie very few kids (including me) went to the pool. Then we had store time. After store time we had free time until dinner. After dinner my family came and every group there talked about their week at camp. All my friends were sad to go but had a fun time. Here is one of our final pictures.

Camp girls

I had a fun time at camp. It was even better than last year. Bye!

Headed home

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on August 2nd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Saturday morning, we woke up, packed up, and began our journey home from Callaway. Here we are as we get ready to leave on the drive home after a great week at camp.

Time to go

Longs

We drove about two thirds of the way Saturday, and spent the night in a hotel in Christiansburg, Virginia. We drove over to Blacksburg for dinner at Mellow Mushroom and to see a bit of Virginia Tech’s campus. It was the girls’ first time eating at Mellow Mushroom, and it was very reminiscent of college for Jen and me (eating at Mellow Mushroom just off campus).

After dinner, we went in search of a treat. We found Gardner’s Frozen Treats in Christiansburg, and it was delicious. They had lots of flavors of Hershey’s ice cream, and then a few flavors of their own. Leah opted for Hershey’s rainbow sherbet, while I went for the homemade blueberry lavender (which was very different, but very good).

Ice cream stop

Molly went for homemade double stuff Oreo while Jen went for homemade pistachio. They were both delicious as well.

Ice cream

Then we got a good night’s sleep before driving the rest of the way home on Sunday. I was worried traffic would be awful the Sunday after July 4th, but it really wasn’t too bad. It was still a long trip, though, and we were very glad to be home.

Callaway comes to an end

Posted in Family visits, Field trips, Trip on August 1st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Our time at Callaway was fantastic, but all good things must come to an end. The younger kids have an awards ceremony at the end of the last day (Molly’s now in a group that is too old for this). Leah was named Future President (which Leah’s talked about as far back as preschool, though she is not currently planning for a term in the White House).

Future President

Emmie was given the Natural Leader award, so I guess we’ve got some leaders in the family.

Leadership

Leah, Emmie, and three of their circus performing counselors.

End of camp

That evening was the final circus, and they held the awards ceremony shortly beforehand. I won the tennis tournament (as I had done the last time we were at Callaway), and got another t-shirt (though this one was in a smaller size for Leah).

Tennis champion

The kids again paraded around the tent.

Closing parade

And then the held the final circus. Afterwards, Leah and Emmie had to get a final hug from their counselor, Jess.

Final hug

Circus counselor

Molly got a picture with her counselor, Brooke, after a very busy circus performance including the Spanish Web, the Triple Trapeze, the Bicycle Built for Five, and serving as Ring Master.

Talented counselor

Camp at Callaway was again incredibly awesome. I used to think Jen’s family was crazy for going to the same place every summer for ten years. I now totally get it. We wish we could go every year (and if any of you have a plan that might entail us going every year, I’m all ears).

Giant chair

More fun at Callaway

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Trip on August 1st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

There were lots of other fun things at Callaway beyond those detailed in the previous posts. I’ll highlight a few of them here. For one, there are lots of great places to ride bikes. We took a family bike ride with all 8 of us. My bike is holding up my phone to take this picture, which is why it did not make it into the shot.

Family bike ride

And we couldn’t miss Bingo!

Bingo

Emmie won! And Molly was kind enough to accompany her to the prize table.

Winner!

We also enjoyed the pool near our house a couple times for some relaxing swimming. Or, perhaps, some flying.

And everything wasn’t always active. There was plenty of relaxing as well. Thanks to Aunt ‘Chelle and Uncle J for bringing their hammocks.

Hammock

Hammock

Hammock

Last time we went to Callaway, they had a Hawaiian Ice truck. This time, it was replaced with an ice cream truck which I consider a vast improvement. We paid it a visit several times. Most of the time we had the girls with us, but this time we went while they were in camp. We tried almost all the flavors eventually, and this was my favorite - muscadine.

Muscadine ice cream