Tuesday, December 9, 2008

11th Anniversary cruise....does he love me??

Okay...the header is a joke....of course he loves me!! For our 11th wedding anniversary Clay surprised me a while back with a cruise to Cozumel on the Carnival Ecstasy. We dropped the kids off with my parents last Wednesday evening and left out for our ship early Thursday morning. The kids, of course, had a great time as we were confident would be the case. Clara did not even miss a beat in her schedule....Meemaw was relieved! The boys even went to a football game with PawPaw. They had an excellent vacation. Clay and I on the other hand.....

We loved snorkeling in Cozumel as before and had a fantastic time together!! We had a nice break from work and the hustle and bustle of daily life. The Carnival Ecstasty on the other hand was something we will not do again!! I am so thankful that this was not my first cruise or it would have been my last cruise!! Clay grew up going on cruises. My family did not. I get seasick pretty easy and on vacation I always enjoy the resort-type rooms and being a bum a lot of the time. It took a while for Clay to convince us that a cruise would be fantastic. So about 3 years ago, Clay, Christian, Cullen and I along with Meemaw and Pawpaw headed out on our first cruise with Clay leading the way. We went on a 7-day Royal Caribbean cruise to Cozumel, Jamaica, and Grand Caymen. Let me tell you it was FANTASTIC!! The ship was great, service excellent, food fantastic, and our ports of call were wonderful!!! We were ready to do it all again. The kids loved it!! Meemaw and Pawpaw loved it so much they came back and then cruised to Alaska with friends not too long after that.
On the Ecstasy, as soon as we stepped on board the tacky decor, stinch of stale cigarettes slammed you in the face. Our room had a pretty bad odor of stale smoke and "nursing home" scent that lingered. I was not impressed at first to say the least. I opened up my closet and there were some bathrobes there for our "pleasure" that WREAKED of smoke. That was the smoke culprit for the room. We had our room attendant remove those and then we removed the bag mat they place on the bed for luggage when coming on board and that was the lovely odor of "nursing home" removed from our room. We then sprayed Clay's cologne all over the room and wallah!! much better!! Our room was actually pretty clean and the room attendant did very well and was pretty friendly. (Let me remind you the staff did not come close to competing with the wonderful staff on board Royal Caribbean. How could they? The staff of Carnival was completely overworked and understaffed!) Clay got us a room with a window and that was very nice! Here is a shot of the room and our little bed animal of the evening. I think our attendant missed the bed animal class to learn anything more than this cute elephant and a weird looking stingray or seal...couldn't figure that one out.
Thursday the boat got way too rough and we ended up leaving dinner early and went back to the room. I was so scared I was going to be seasick this whole trip. This is a much older boat with less stability technology I guess but most of the trip was great weather and we still rocked, swayed, and stumbled our way around ship. Uggggghhhh....I get queasy thinking about it. Also for those of you that know me at all....for me to skip a meal you KNOW I was SICK!! The food also was nothing to write home about and was less than average. We ended up buying milkshakes from the coffee bar on board. After spending that money to have to buy milkshakes and desserts stunk!! Friday was better and tolerable. The boat still swayed and moved a bit but nothing like trip-over-yourself Thursday!! The shows resembled something I did in middle school show choir. The cruise director was funny and a very talented man but he cannot do it all!! One man can only do so much to salvage that stuff.

We got off the ship very happily Saturday morning in Cozumel. We were greeted with these great looking people! This is a view of our ship alongside another Carnival boat. Cozumel made our trip again! We did not plan on doing an excursion because we have done most of it before. Last time we had the kids with us and were unable to do some of the snorkeling b/c they wouldn't allow kids under a certain age. Our kids swim better than most adults and we knew this but you cannot explain that to people and I don't blame them for being cautious. We ended up doing an underwater SNUBA or BOB think that made me puke and a puny little snorkel trip. Meemaw and Pawpaw on the other hand had a great snorkel experience because they went on a different reef farther out that wouldn't allow kids under 10. Well, we remembered this time and set out to find something similar since it was Clay and I. We SUCCEEDED!! We found a great guy that signed us up on shore that was cheaper than the other excursions. There were only 4 other people with us and they were a family. It was GREAT!!! We made 3 stops. We started off small and it just kept getting better and better. The fish were plentiful. Right at the end of our snorkel trip we encountered the largest school of fish I have EVER seen! I have only seen school of fish like this on TV. More fish than you could ever count. And who was smack dab in the middle, perfectly surrounded by these fish.....a BARRACUDA!!! It was FANTASTIC! He was about 4-feet long from what we could tell. The school of fish was so large that our guide dove amongst some of them and they parted like the Great Sea without even coming close to the other part of the school and Barracuda. It was AMAZING!! It is wonderful to see God's handy work even in places we forget about on a typical daily basis. That made our trip all worth it!! You should have heard us underwater screaming at each other.....all mumbled through our mouthpieces...."Mmmm, MMMMM, oook bawacuuudaaaa......" Okay, that was my best online sound out I could give to you that can't hear me in person.....LOL Ha, Ha. I think that cracks me the most while snorkeling with someone you are close with....screaming at each other underwater and pointing to all the cool stuff you see. Tap, tap, tapping on each other's shoulders all the time.

After our underwater adventure we then proceeded to buy the kids their surprises for back home and a little trinket mug for Meemaw and Pawpaw. The boys got a zip-up hoodie that is white and has Cozumel and a map on it. We also got them friendship bracelets. We got Clara the cutest little Mexican dress that is a size 3 so maybe next summer she will debut it. We also got her a musical instrument with bells on it and she LOVES it!! I will try to get the video up soon.

After that we went and ate at Three Amigos...it was delicioso!! Weird paying for chips and salsa though....Here was the view from our table.

It is absolutely beautiful!! The water has more blues in it that you ever dreamed God could create. In the background was where we went snorkeling. It is hard to imagine that all that wonderful world is just below the surface!!

Here is a guy we ran into and I had to get pics for the kids. The boys love Pirates of the Caribbean (finally let them watch it). He is a real person. I have video that I hope to have soon. Just check in from time to time in the videos up at the top of the blog on the right. I hopefully will have them there in the next day or two. After our day in Cozumel ended...all too soon....we took the easy way out and rode in these little bikes.

This is the only pic of Clay and I together....sad I know. We should have asked but just said we will wait until next time and that time never came. This is the sunset on the way back. Magnificent!This is the boat we wish we would have been getting back on!! Royal Caribbean!!

Of course we enjoyed our time together and the break from the hustle and bustle of everything.....it just was no thanks to Carnival. We cannot wait to go on another cruise but have the kids with us. We also want to drag along Meemaw and Pawpaw if they want to again and Matt & Candy if Matt can leave work at the same time as Clay.

I am so grateful God has blessed me with a wonderful, loving, caring husband that could not be a better father! We have been married 11 years and God has given us many, many blessings and 3 miracles!! I look forward to spending the rest of my life with this magnificent man that God made just for me. Thank you Clay!!! I love you so much and am so grateful for who you are and how hard you work for us!! Thank you for loving us with all of your heart and soul!!

Here are some quick shots from getting the kids at Meemaw and Pawpaw's house....we played some football while standing around outside and Clara just fell in love with the leaves her oldest brother raked up for her. The first shot is Clara seeing her bell instrument for the first time...she got the biggest kick from that thing. She was in a good mood even though we woke her from a quick nap.

NOTE to readers****I tried to make this post as clear as possible. I am trying to blog, cook dinner, and was watching Clara all at the same time....my mind just cannot multitask well.

II NOTE** Notice Clara's teeth in her smile. She had her 4th tooth come through all the way while we were gone. She is looking so much older. She only has the 2 on bottom and 2 on top now. She is freely giving kisses more and more often. I have gotten 2 today!! This is a HUGE step for her....she is too busy to slow down for kisses for the most part! =)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings.....

Thanksgiving was great and there are so many things to be thankful for!! We went to Clay's parents for Thanksgiving first. We had a great time and enjoyed some wonderful time together although it went by too fast.
Here is a pic of the kids at their table. Kathy had found little cookies with candy on them in the shape of a pilgrim hat. The kids loved them and they were adorable.
Papa Dave and Taffy have a 2-story house with a balcony on the 2nd floor. The "big" kids were playing with Clara from above. She thought it was too funny.
Here are some shots of the "3 Pierce's". Jampaw is named Pierce Joseph, then we have Pierce David, and then we have our own Cullen Pierce. All of our children have names after their grandparents. Christian's middle name is Bo (not my grandfather's "official" name but what we all called him and knew him by) after my dad's dad. He passed away a month and a day after Christian was born from colon cancer. He was a great father that provided well for his family and raised a great son, if I say so myself. (I LOVE my daddy!!). Then Cullen Pierce was named after Jampaw (Clay's grandfather). He also was a great provider and loving father. Clara is named after my mom's mom. She was a wonderful Christian woman and loved everyone. She was a strong, caring person that wanted to help others. One day I will try and post pictures of them too. This is Katelyn with her new baby brother, Pierce. Katelyn is the daughter of Clay's brother, Clint. She is a wonderful cousin and it is topped off that she lives down the street so they kids can play together whenever they want. =)
This is Mamie. She is Clay's grandmother who is now battling Alzheimer's. She is a very happy, loving, and positive woman. We ask that you pray for Mamie and Jampaw and that God will guide Kathy (their daughter)and David with how to handle the situation that they have been placed in. They too live at the lake and just love it there. A decision needs to be made about what to do next. God has a plan and I know He will provide comfort for them through these tough times of difficult decisions and the mental loss of a loved one. I worked on an Alzheimer's unit years ago and it is a devestating disease for the family. The process is long and mentally painful and exhausting. Please pray for their strength and determination to make the best decisions for them.
Clara loves daddy's shoulders!! She loves to be up high, eat his hair, and slobber all over him, not to mention he is pretty goofy and cracks her up all the time.

We were able to get a shot of all the grandkids together for Taffy and Papa Dave. The process was not easy with a 2-month old, a 1-year old and 3 restless kids ready to get down and go play.
We then went to my mom and dad's for the latter part of the day. The whole day consisted of way too much good food and too much football watching....=( We did play a hand of cards and guess who won??? You guessed....me. =) I had to throw that in. Here are some pics of us playing cards around the table.

Here is GG (my grandma, my dad's mom) whipping up the whipped cream for the pumpkin pie later!!

Here are the shots around the card table. Candy took this of Clay and I.

The newlyweds....Candy and Matt (my baby brother).

This is Matt, Jerry (my dad's brother), and GG. GG is THE card player!! I learned from the best.Okay...not the best pic of my folks but I could not leave them out. By this time they were sick of me snapping pictures!! I couldn't help it....Candy was doing it too!!

Prior to the Thanksgiving gatherings I tried to find a good food craft for the kids and Katelyn to help me with. I picked a cute one but looking back....not too kid friendly. We picked cake pops which were YUMMY but they were decorated as turkeys. Great idea!! The faces were pretty easy and the kids did wonderful with them. Take a Skittle stick on a Nerds beak and a leaf-shaped sprinkle for the waddle and wallah...(sp) a turkey face. That was easy. It was even easy to get it stuck to the cake ball with chocolate. Then......the turkey feathers (candy corn). This was too hard for the kids to do and very time consuming. I ended up with a tone of cake balls with faces and no feathers. I was in the kitchen by myself for quite some time sticking those little candy corns on those turkey butts.....urrgh. I do think they turned out cute though. Although many cake balls got eaten before they became the beautiful feathered turkeys they were meant to be......ha ha!

This is Uncle Matt. You know "that" uncle that everyone has..the "pull my finger", "lick finger put in ear", "big kid" uncle that everyone has...please say we are the only family with those....Matt is "that" uncle. Jerry is my "that" uncle. Matt is a wonderful uncle and adores the kids so much. He constantly has them laughing! They adore him too!! I love my Mattie!!These are the Fall cupcakes I made also. The acorn on top is made from caramel and the leaf is chocolate plastic. They are chocolate chip peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate ganache buttercream. The boys made (well, Christian) most of the acorns for on top. They were easy and looked so much like realy acorns it was kind of scary.

Here are some shots I took of the kids in Mom and Dad's back yard. They are the same places that Michele took shots of them last year where our family pics were taken when Clara first made it home. They are not Michele quality but I thought they turned out cute!!

Clara loves the cat and he had hopped on the back of the bench...too much for her to stay focused on Clay and I.

I love her little pout in this picture...it is too cute. It is like she is saying, "Do we have to do this??"And this one is my favorite!!