While Jenn and I were in Columbus for some CE (and seeing Grandpa Dave & Grandma Laura's new house and sharing a good dinner at The Cheesecake Factory!), Lydia went to Grace's Birthday Party where Jenn's cake was on display. It was smaller than her previous cakes, but the investment of time and creativity was no less.
Grandma Paulette took Lydia to the party, then took Henry for some ice cream, all while Grandpa Doug too Lincoln to Leesville Lake for a bit. Fun times with the grandparents!
Jenn and I got to have a good dinner at Cafe Istanbul before we headed home.
My first meeting with my first applicant went well. She made a very good impression, and I could see myself working with her. We'll see how the rest of the process goes.
I want to take this occasion to publicly acknowledge Grandma Laura and thank her here on these pages for taking such good care of the kids for the week Jenn and I were away. Jenn and I value our vacation time together, and none of it would be possible without our parents taking on the kids, and this past vacation Grandma Laura took the whole week with them. We appreciate her so much.
It took the kids about a week to get back into the routine of having us home. Lots of getting up in the middle of the night, clinging, some touchy attitudes. They're back on track now.
As it turned out, Grandpa Doug & Grandma Paulette were on their vacation the week after ours, so Dad ran solo for a week, then I ran solo for a week. As is usual, stuff happens during one-doctor weeks that doesn't happen at other times. I had at least 6 walk-ins, and we usually don't have 2 in a month. We both got through it, but it confirmed that we're a 2 doctor practice, and running with 1 for very long gets a little crazy.
Jenn built a gorgeous cake for a friend's baby shower themed after "On The Night You Were Born" books. This was her first attempt with her new airbrush, and she killed it.
Lincoln came to the Clinic with me today, and boy does he love the calculator.
At a playdate the other day, our friend Courtney of LoveBug took some photos of Lydia as she was playing on one of her props. What do you think?
I received an e-mail from a reader who'd recently adopted a little one from Henry's orphanage and she informed me that a Facebook group has sprung up of families with children from Zhoukou. Holy cow! I've had fun visiting the page and seeing how other families are doing.
This weekend the kids will be with Grandma Paulette & Grandpa Doug as Jenn and I take off to Columbus for the Midwest Veterinary Conference. I'll be meeting my first applicant. Weird. Proof that time keeps ticking.
I'm writing our post-vacation post on the airplane. This is a first for me partly because I was able to anticipate the San Juan airport's wifi capability, partly because I was able to sort through our hundreds of photos here and there during our vacation, and partly because Jenn still has books remaining on her Kindle so I must find a way to occupy myself between San Juan and Charlotte. (Casablanca will be next.)
It's a nice way, though, to finish our vacation and solidify the memories of what was a very, very good vacation. It's now hard to rank our cruises. Our first was incredible because it was a lovely cruise and it was our first. Our second had fantastic on board entertainment with what we're coming to understand as the king of cruise directors and we met what have proven to be some really neat friends in Pete and Moe. Our third would be ranked last for a number of reasons, but we can't overlook our great time on Grenada on that trip, as well as the fact that I was formally introduced to cricket, one of my now-favorite sports to watch. 2014's cruise didn't surpass #2 or #1, but it's got to be considered among their company if for no other reason because this trip included Aruba and, from my perspective, some fun photography opportunities. More on this below.
We left at the crack of dawn on Sunday, 2/2. I'm not real crazy about Sunday to Sunday trips, particularly this year when I'll return to work within 18 hours of arriving home while running The Clinic solo. (Other-Dr. Gates, or ODG as he's known in my online community of veterinarians, left yesterday for St. Croix.) But this cruise had the itinerary we wanted, and S-to-S was a worthwhile price to pay.
Our first stop was St. Thomas. Jenn and I have come to not care too much about stops in St. Thomas. We made it a priority to get off the island, so we booked an excursion on The Jester. This was the perfect way to enjoy St. Thomas.
Eric was our captain in addition to growing up in St. Thomas, he also has quite the sailing past and experience. He's 33 years old with 25 years of legitimate sailing work. He told stories of trips he'd take as a young boy with his fatherland brother bringing sailing yachts from New England (where the boat's owner lived) to as far south as Trinidad (where the boat's owner vacationed). He knows the Caribbean inside and out and was naming islands of which Jenn and I had never heard.
He sailed us around St. Thomas to a beach on St. John and cooked us a very good lunch of teriyaki chicken, "rasta pasta salad," and corn on the cob afterweweredone in the water. This snorkeling adventure was my first opportunity to use the new underwater camera given to me by Mom & Dad for Christmas. There's definitely going to be a learning curve both with the camera and with under water photography, but I was pretty happy with Trip #1.
Our next stop was St. Kitts, and after our good experience with Greg of Greg's Safaris, we'd contacted him prior to our arrival for his volcano hike. It's advertised to be quite strenuous, a hike of ~2,300' in elevation, and we were looking forward to a unique way to spend a day on a Caribbean island. We arrived and he'd forgotten about our booking or something like that, so he passed us off to another tour with the same destination. The cost was less, and so was the informative friendliness. Al was our guide, a second-generation tour guide, and I wondered during our hike if his father had a similar chip on his shoulder. I didn't ask. But the hike was just the exercise we were looking for, the views were amazing (when the clouds weren't in the way... that summit is a long way up!), and our group was pleasant and enjoyable. I'd book with Greg again, he's the most pleasant guy on the island, but confirm by email the week prior to our arrival.
The following was a Day At Sea. We each visited the gym for the first time on a cruise, and there's something cool about running while staring out to a horizon of ocean. We weren't sure how good we'd be after the big hike the day before, but I ran 4 miles in 35:00, and Jenn ran something like 5 miles, so we felt better about eating a few extra items from the dessert table that afternoon.
We also enjoyed once again the promenade deck for reading and resting. And the dress-up times were fantastic as well.
Aruba, the primary reason we chose this cruise was next, and it proved to be the highlight. There's not a friendlier island or nation than Aruba. On other trips, we've heard the locals speaking in their native languages and we've been certain they were talking derisively of their guests. There was none of that on Aruba. The people, all of them, went out of their way to be welcoming, warm, friendly, and accommodating.
We'd booked an all day trip with ABC Jeep Tours. They had a good price and their itinerary hit all of the hot spots we'd read we should see: natural bridge (now collapsed), California Lighthouse, Natural Pool, caves, etc. They took us to allow these places, and they gives a thrill ride in the process. If you've ever been on a Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona, AZ, picture taking that tour with a view of the ocean and about 10-30mph faster. That's ABC Jeep Tour's style.
Because Aruba is so close to Curaçao, we didn't leave port until 10:00, so after our tour, a shower and dinner, I went back on land to take some night photos. The view from our room on board was pretty cool, too.
We didn't have a plan for Curaçao so we listened to the gaggle of cabbies just off the boat and chose the quietest one to drive us to the neat spots on the island. There is a really cool cave system that is very well-maintained, and some distinctive others areas on the island, each of which our driver was willing to stop at so we could get out and snap photos.
It was nice traveling with friends, a first for us. We met Mike and Cerissa about a year ago at church, and one thing led to another until we each had the cruise scheduled. Cerissa is also a veterinarian, but for Mike's sake we kept the vet-talk to a minimum.
Curaçao is a long way from Puerto Rico, so Saturday wan another Day At Sea, another day to exercise, and then to really relax. It is becoming increasingly clear to us, though you'd never guess it looking at Jenn on Formal Night, that we're getting old. On our first cruise, we didn't want any days at sea, and now we're appreciative of two.
Next on our family travel and vacation agenda is Disney World this October with Grandma Laura and Grandpa Dave. The kids are already as excited as they know how to be, and I anticipate this will only increase as they grow through the summer.
After that, the travel plans for 2015 are very much up in the air as I move to add a new doctor at The Clinic. Their competence, and my comfort level with leaving The Clinic in their hands, will impact when and where Jenn and I take our next marriage-building vacation.