We went to the Christmas eve service at our church. The kids were involved in singing a song with our pastors wife and other kids. It was a nice service, but at the end when we were all singing Christmas songs, I just broke down crying. It was too hard to sing some of those joyful words, my heart just wasn't in it. Knowing Noah's body was just laying right outside, I felt like I should've been out there with him instead of inside church while everyone was singing.
That night before bed, Hannah asked if in the morning before they open gifts, if she could read a letter to Noah she wrote. So precious that it was more important to her to talk to Noah before even thinking about her gifts, made my heart melt.
Christmas morning was a mixture of emotions for all of us. I think during prayer we were all wiping our eyes as Kevin talked about Noah. And then when Hannah read her letter, I tried to keep from bawling, her note was so sweet!!! We were definitely missing the antics of what a 5 month old would've added to our Christmas morning. But we are so thankful knowing we WILL see Noah again one day again soon!! I played the song "Christmas in Heaven" that I posted here just the other week, it's such a fitting song. I can't even imagine the celebration Noah got to be a part of in Heaven!
Here is Hannah's Christmas note to Noah:
Dear Noah, I hope you have a fun Christmas. It is your first Christmas. You would've loved moms homemade sticky buns. I wanted to get you a gift but it just didn't work out. I can't wait to have Christmas with you! I will see you soon. Merry Christmas Noah, I love you very much!
Here is a picture of the kids with their Noah dolls before opening gifts:
We tuck them into bed, and usually after awhile they come out crying. Susan has said she is really missing Noah and wishes he was here to hold and spend Christmas with us. Erik said the other night how he is bored because he doesn't have his brother here to play with. We usually end up talking, getting his videos out from the hospital so we can watch and hear him. I admit that's hard for me to do at times. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing Noah as it seems like just yesterday he was here. But it just makes my arms ache for my son and what I don't have.
The other night while watching videos, it went into clips Kevin had taken after he died. I had forgot we video taped all of us just holding his dear little body, staring at Noah and trying to take in every detail. The part we had of Sarah was her just gazing at him as she held him against her, all wrapped up in his blue blanket we bought him. She just rocked Noah for minutes on end, never taking her eyes off him. All of those videos are so surreal to watch, I can't even put it into words.
Watching the videos of Noah moving and hearing him often helps calm the kids down. We talk about what he might be doing in heaven and pray with them. The kids know that we don't have all the answers and we are always open and honest with them, as hard as it may be. It's so hard as a parent to see the kids ache so bad, I just want to take away that pain for them. I know that Noah's life is teaching them so much. I still wish though I could've spared their innocence from losing their brother.
Well today when we got the mail, I could hardly believe my eyes!!!!
I can't get over how so many amazing people have been there for us this last half year. I don't know where'd we'd be without this wonderful support. ♥
Anyway, I called and after some run arounds the lady finally asks me to identify myself with a bunch of information. Then she confirmed that yes, I filed for his birth certificate and they have it. But I wasn't sent it "because he died." I was shocked to say the least. She went on to say though that she will send it to me. I said what about his social security card as I filled out the info for that too in the hospital. She said "oh, that wasn't filed then because he died." She said once I receive his birth certificate, I will have to go down to the office to re-apply for his social security card. Needless to say I barely got off the phone before I burst into tears.
Someone let the bawl drop as others I know whose babies died, got their childs paperwork. So to tell me I didn't receive anything because Noah died was a line of malarky. I felt hurt and upset that my son wasn't treated like any other child all because he died. UGH!!!!
Thankfully today was a better day. Jen & Gwen came to visit (we missed you Michele, hopefully next time!). We had both made cookie dough prior to the visit so the kids spent the afternoon baking cookies while Jen & I got to spend time catching up.
During the afternoon, a friend from church stopped by with her daughter & surprised us with many goodies from our church family for Christmas. It was such an encouragement to be remembered and blessed in such a special way. It couldn't have come at a better time either. We really appreciate those of you who still lift us up in prayer, send notes, call to see how we are, visit and even the occasional meal or treat that always seems to be brought on a day when it's needed the most. We are so grateful to all of you for your support these last several months!!!!!
It's hard to believe it's been 5 months since Noah was born. I can't help but think of all the things he'd be doing now like rolling over, starting to push his arms up a bit, giggling at Erik making silly faces at him, etc. Just today during one of Erik's classes, they were playing hang man and were supposed to pick words related to their class. Erik's teacher told me when it was his turn the phrase he ended up picking was "I Love Noah". ♥ The kids pain is still evident in all they do still as well.
A close friend gave me a Christmas gift today. I know she said it wasn't much, but when I opened it I just cried. It was these adorable stacking boxes that match Noah's nursery (with animals and the coloring) and had his name on the boxes. And a lovely friendship mug that will always make me think of her when I use it. It meant so much to me that she remembered Noah. It may have seemed insignificant to her but it meant the world to me!
A friend shared this song and it really touched me. Made me wonder just what all Noah is experiancing in Heaven as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
I'm really missing you my sweet boy!!! ♥
Thank you to everyone for following our travels, for the many great emails we received (sorry if I wasn't able to respond to each and every one of them, slow ship internet) and for the prayers covering us as well. We all stayed healthy while traveling and everything went great! It was a much needed time away for all of us.
To those of you who will see the kids in the coming days, be prepared to have your ears yakked off with the many things they are anxious to share with anyone who wants to listen!Haha And a huge thank you to my best friend for posting my daily updates here while I was away. ♥
Have a great weekend!
Today was our last full day at sea, which is honestly hard to believe. It seems just like yesterday we got on the ship. It doesnt matter how long vacation is, it always seems to fly by. We are definitely feeling the cooler temps today. I know, still not as cold as well experience at home tomorrow, but when youre used to 80-90 degrees for over a week, 60 plus windy feels cold! Haha
This morning after breakfast, the kids went to clubs again and we headed up to Dizzys to just relax and read. At 10:45 the kids came up as the kids club were having a talent show at 11 in Dizzys. All 4 kids did some hula hoop tricks for their talent. They had a lot of fun.
At noon, our roll call was meeting in the formal dining room for lunch, which weve never done lunch here. Weve always eaten lunch in the Windjammer. It was nice for something different. We caught up with everyone that was there, took pictures and exchanged contact info.
Afterwards, we headed up to the Promenade as we heard they had some sort of buffet out. Granted, I know we just ate lunch, but we all ate light and only had soup figuring wed get something somewhere else to eat later. They had all sorts of little stations of food set up from one end to the other. They had the largest black forest cake Ive ever seen. It was probably the equivalent of several full size sheet cakes. There was also make your own sundae, sushi, a guy demonstrating how they do fruit cut outs and designs, and all sorts of other food.
The kids then went back to clubs and I started working on doing a bit of packing then headed back to Dizzys to do some more reading. A few more pages and Ill be done with my 5th book since being on vacation! When the kids came back from clubs, they told us about a science experiment they did. I love Royal Caribbeans kids clubs as they dont just let the kids do whatever, they do educational but fun activities with them!
Totally off subject, but I was putting cream cheese on my bagel the other morning and happened to look at the top of the packet when something caught my eye. The cream cheese I was putting on said it was made in New Holland, Pa!!! What are the chances my cream cheese was from our area!
I know I mentioned early on that we have 2 connecting inside rooms. I took pictures but pics dont quite do the room justice. Imagine a really small room, and its smaller than that! Haha The room is only slightly wider than a queen size bed which is at the far end of the room. Theres a little room on either side to get out. Theres a vanity with drawers, a mini fridge, a single chair with a small glass table and a nice size closet that has shelves in where most of your clothes go. The bathroom is about big enough for one person to turn around in. In fact, if you wanted to multitask, you could sit on the toilet and at the same time brush your teeth/wash your hands in the sink all while putting your feet in the shower to start washing. Yup, its THAT tiny! Haha
But it works for us as we are rarely in the room.
Tonight before dinner, they had a parade in the promenade which we watched. We decided to take a low key night and eat in the Windjammer for supper. But not before going down to the formal dining room to say goodbye to the great wait staff we had.
We have been blessed by so many people coming up to us all during this trip complimenting the kids and how they have enjoyed seeing them and how well behaved they are.
It has meant a lot to the kids to have other adults treat them almost as mini adults by shaking their hands and engaging them in conversations also. The demographics of this ship are at least 80% over the age of 60, so you can imagine the attention the kids draw. Weve gotten to know a lot of people during this vacation.
We are pretty much packed up now. We have to put all our luggage out in the hallway before midnight and cross our fingers well see it again once we arrive in NJ! Our time goes back 1 hour tonight so we have a little bit of extra time tonight. The kids are back in clubs for the last session right now. Im sure they will probably want to order room service again tonight one last time (they ordered fruit and cookies last night for a late night snack). Me, Im trying to eat my fill of watermelon while I can. With as much as Ive eaten of it lately, Ill soon turn into one!
Have a great night and Ill let you all know when we arrive home safely!
Ps. The picture Im including is from the talent show today. They had to give their name and age on stage. All 4 kids are there (Erik is sortve behind Sarah). And the girl next to Hannah is barely a year older than her!! Hannah is so tiny
You know its going to be a rough sea day when you wake up to seeing puke bags all over the ship! Haha Yup, the waves were higher than predicted at 15ft swells today. Its funny sitting up in a place where you can see people walking. They all stagger from side to side as the ship rolls, its quite hilarious to watch. Thankfully the rocking & rolling of the ship doesnt bother any of us at least. This is mild compared to what we went through with a noreaster 2 yrs ago on this ship with 20-30ft swells!
After breakfast the kids wanted to go to clubs again. I wandered around the ship watching people, checking out the weather outside, taking pictures, etc. The ship is definitely getting ready for Christmas. There is a huge Christmas tree at the one end of the Promenade. In the Windjammer, there is this large gingerbread village. These houses are as big as doll houses, its incredible! Lots of poinsettias everywhere along with the occasional Christmas song being played.
Today was officially the last day of wearing shorts for us. By later afternoon, most of the pool deck was cleared out as the temps dropped a bit and it was quite windy out (about 70 degrees today). Ive officially soaked up every possible bit of sun that I could get. Which is kindve sad. I enjoy the hot, sunny weather and am dreading returning home to cold.
This afternoon we went to another ice skating show called Blades. They werent sure if they were going to have the show due to the rough seas but they went ahead with it. We all enjoyed it.
Tonight was our third and final formal dinner. So of course, that meant doing up the girls hair again and taking lots of pictures. The menu tonight included the fisherman's platter that had lobster tail. Erik & I both had that. It was good!
Weve really been spoiled with great staff on this sailing. We have a room attendant whom every morning while were gone, fixes/cleans up our rooms, replaces any linens that were used and fills our ice bucket. In the evening while at dinner, he does our turn down where again, he straightens up our room, replaces any towels that we used, puts our pillows in place, refills our ice bucket, leaves the newsletter for the next day on our bed and every other evening, he puts a towel animal in our rooms. They really take care of you! The one evening I left our curling iron out on the vanity (not put away) and he wrapped the cord up for me! If you have any requests, they do their best to fill those requests.
We are trying to savor every last minute here while onboard. Its hard to believe that weve been gone over a week and a half. It sure doesnt seem like it. The time has just flown by. Unfortunately, even on vacation I still have been having trouble sleeping and its really been catching up with me lately (and other than 1 late night, I havent even been out late due to feeling sluggish). Ive been feeling really tired but struggle to sleep. Pray that I can get some rest these last 2 nights, its frustrating. On the upside, Susans allergies and asthma has all but disappeared while weve been away which is a blessing. You wouldnt even know she has struggled with it lately, as she is perfectly healthy right now. Sea air and warm temps have done wonders for her.
We are still an hour ahead of you all and wont change back until later Thursday night. Im including a picture of us taken tonight all dressed up. Enjoy your evening!
Today was the 1st of our 3 back to back sea days. So of course it was a lazy day since we didnt have to rush off anywhere. After breakfast the kids wanted to go to clubs so off they went. Mean time, Kevin & I went and sat outside for awhile to soak up some sun while we still have warm weather. It got quite hot sitting out on deck but it was very enjoyable.
We then met our friends down in Schooners for cartoon name that tune (theres always trivia or something fun going on somewhere on the ship). Our friends (whom we cruised with before) then offered to take the kids to lunch and let us sit out on their balcony for awhile.
So off they went to the Windjammer and Kevin & I headed to their balcony. Their room is only a couple of doors up from ours. I had never been in a balcony room before so this was a treat. I took my book along and read and Kevin just relaxed. We ordered room service (which is free) and ate out on the balcony for something different. I couldve fallen asleep out there if I had been in a lounger!
The kids spent some more time in clubs this afternoon while I finished up book #4 and Kevin wandered around the ship. Weve given them some freedom which they thoroughly enjoy. Weve allowed them to go up to Windjammer to get a snack without us (though all 4 of them are together and they take the steps, no elevator). They also have the freedom to sign themselves out of clubs if they want (but they have to come right back to the room). Theyve done that a few times, like last night, they were getting ready to play a movie theyve seen before so they came back to the room. Otherwise, they would have to sit up there till we come get them and we never know if they are wanting to leave or not. Theyve done well with having this extra privilege.
We noticed early on in the cruise that we saw our former waiters we had 2 yrs ago. This morning during breakfast both of them saw us and came up to talk to us as they remembered who we were! Which is quite amazing considering how many people theyve seen these last 2 yrs. So that was neat to catch up with them.
Its been hard for me to remember what day it is as all our days have ran together. Thankfully though, in all the elevators, there are plaques in the floor with the day of the week on it that they change every day. If it wasnt for that, Id have no clue what day of the week it is! Though several days ago, we got in the elevator one morning and had to do a double take as the plaque hadnt been changed. In fact, I honestly wasnt sure if that was the right day or not, so when we got off, I had to look in the other elevators to find out!
The kids are in clubs right now. They were having a music party and hula hoop contest tonight so they were anxious to get there once dinner was over. Were debating if well make this a late night tonight or not. Theres a hilarious game called Quest that is being played at 10:30 tonight that I missed the last time we cruised. Our waiter told us there will be a chocolate buffet at 11:30 in the Promenade. Not that I want any chocolate, but those specialty buffets sure do make for nice photo ops! Haha
Our waves have been about 8ft high today but the captain told us this afternoon that we are getting into rougher water and by tomorrow well have 12ft high waves. We are out further east in the ocean as we head back compared to when we came down. He said the depth under us right now it about 19,000 feet deep.
Im including a picture of the kids taken in front of the ship yesterday as we headed back to the pier. Have a good evening!
Monday Dec 6, Day 9
Today was our last port of call in St Maarten. We were here 2 yrs ago and had done a tour before, so we just decided to do a beach day today. We had gone to Orient beach before and were going to go there but someone else who we went to the beach with in St Thomas, recommended a different beach. He said Le Galion was a very calm beach that would be great for the kids that wont be crowded (Orient can get crowded).
So we hailed a taxi and off we went. This island is divided into 2 parts. St Maarten which is owned by the Netherlands, and St Martin is owned by France. The beach we were headed to was on the French side (we docked on the Dutch side). The island is only 36 square miles so it only took about 15-20 minutes to get to the beach.
It was a nice, quiet beach. There was a little restaurant there that also rented out chairs & umbrellas but otherwise, the beach was untouched and in a very natural state. The water was lightly lapping the sand which was perfect for the kids to play in. (Orient had big waves). In fact, they could go out very far as it never really got too deep. The beach was in a U shape and there was a natural reef out further that helped break the waves before they could come in further. The water was a beautiful clear blue and once again, it was very warm.
We spent a good part of the day at the beach and just enjoyed being able to relax in the sun. Im on my 4th book now!
We left the beach around 3 and went into Philipsburg to walk around the shops there. It was only maybe a mile from the ship so we walked back when we were done looking around.
When it was almost time for sailaway, we went to the upper deck to see what all was going on. There was another ship docked across from us so we were watching the people on there as we were really close. Our ship was taller than theirs so we had a nice view onto their pool deck. We noticed their ships horn went a few times over the course of 15 minutes but yet, their gangplank was still down and they were still tied to the dock. We figured they mustve been waiting for someone and sure enough, a golf cart came barreling down the pier with 2 gals who jumped out. Now, you have to realize, when people on board know that the ship is waiting, everyone goes out on their balcony or up on deck to watch the people running for the ship. So when these to gals went running to the ship, both ships erupted in applause as well as yelling and whistling at these 2. It is NOT cool to make a run for the ship!! Haha
We decided to take a break from the main dining room tonight and just eat in the Windjammer where we could eat at whatever time we wanted and its buffet style. We enjoyed that for something different. They had sushi rolls (which Erik & I had some), make your own pizza (then they bake it for you), they had make your own stir-fry where you select what you want in it and they cook it up for you, as well as tons of other things to pick from.
The kids wanted to go up to kids clubs tonight, so thats where they are at right now. Last night while in clubs, they said the captain came up to meet with them. They thought that was pretty cool as not many people get that opportunity. For one of the activities they did in clubs last night, the kids were split up by ages. Poor Hannah got mistaken for a 5yr old. Haha But they did have fun with pirate night!
A funny sign I saw in one of the elevators recently; the #6 button had a sign over it saying out of order, press #3 two times if you want the 6th floor! haha I wish I wouldve thought to have taken a picture of it, it was hilarious! It didnt last too long until it was fixed.
Well, today was the last time we were on land until we arrive back in NJ on Friday.
We should have nice weather the next 2 days to still enjoy the outside and sun. I hope this finds you all doing well!
Today we arrived in Antigua. I had nothing lined up for today other than going out and getting a taxi to a beach. I had no clue yet which beach I wanted to take everyone to as Antigua is known for its 365 beaches. We were here 2 yrs ago and went to Long Bay Beach so I knew we wanted to try a new one (though that one was gorgeous!). I was reminded that it was December as I stepped off the ship to hear a steel drum band playing Christmas music!
I knew wed get bombarded by people when we got off the ship but as long as you looked like you knew what you were doing, a simple no thanks kept people away. I was looking around to see if I saw any of our friends to meet up with as many didnt know what beach they were going to either, but I didnt see any of them. A female taxi driver approached and I told her what beach I wanted to go to and asked the price. She then said she recommended an even better beach that wont be crowded and would be nice for the kids. She said if I didnt like the looks of it, shed take me elsewhere for the same price. So off we went.
She recommended Millers by the Sea. It was only about a 10 minute drive from the port (the last time we were here we had a good 30 min drive to the beach). She pulled in and it was perfect! So we gave her a time to come back and get us and off we went to stake a spot on the beach, which wasnt hard as we were the only people there!! We had the entire beach to ourselves for a long time.
It was a nice setup. Plenty of palm trees for shade as well as built in wooden canopies. There was 1 small restaurant there and lots of open beach. So we got a beach chair and picked a canopy as we planned to be there all day. It was also another beautiful warm day in the upper 80s.
I love Antiguas beaches! Soft, fine sand and clear aqua blue colored water.
Walking into the water felt like taking a dip in bath water, it was so incredibly warm!! I snapped a bunch of pictures of the kids as well as the landscape. Even while we were there all day, I bet there was never more than about 30 maybe 40 people tops who showed up. It was perfect. There were a few natives who were selling things but they didnt bother you. Our taxi driver said at some of the other popular beaches, people constantly are bugging you to buy stuff.
There was a lady who was giving different types of massages on the beach. She had her own table and she also offered her services right in your beach chair (and it was really inexpensive). So I treated myself later afternoon to a leg & foot massage as I sat in my beach chair, feet from the ocean while reading my book. That was SO amazing & relaxing!
The restaurant there was playing music, Christmas music to be precise. It probably seems completely normal to the island natives, but to us, its so different. Sitting on the beach in the almost 90 degree sun, hearing the ocean and listening to Away in a Manager just made me chuckle. We saw a lot of Christmas decorations and trees on our drive to and from the beach.
The kids played a lot in the sand since it was perfect for making stuff. They also collected more shells and spent time in the water using the float toys we had along. I worked on finishing up book #3 and also floated in the ocean for quite awhile in one of the tubes. We had a great day at the beach!
Tonight was pirate night in the kids clubs so they wanted to go up there after dinner. I heard before we dropped them off that they were getting their own bandanas and going on a scavenger hunt around the ship.
We just walked around the ship and then hung out in Dizzys overlooking the pool deck. About the time I send this, Kevin will go pick up the kids.
Tomorrow we go to St. Maarten. Oh, we were thinking of you all today back home in the cold weather as you had flurries and made something for you on the beach today. Im including a picture! Haha
Today we arrived in Basseterre, St Kitts.
Once again we were blessed with beautiful weather. It was a warm 80 degrees first thing this morning already. I had a private tour lined up for 9:30 with another couple from our roll call. In talking to other friends of ours last night from our roll call, they asked about coming along. So it turned out we had 4 others join us which was great.
You may have noticed from my updates that I dont do the ship tours. I prefer to do my own research ahead of time and find private tours that a) get you more involved in the local culture, b) are much smaller than ship tours and c) are way cheaper than ship tours!
We were loaded into an air conditioned van. I noticed right away the steering wheel was on the right side of the vehicle which meant that they drove on the opposite side of the road than we do. Our tour today was part of an island tour & panoramic view then spending a few hours at the beach.
We saw many interesting sites on the island and were taken to several different towns. We learned a lot of neat history and facts about St. Kitts as well. The island is only 28 miles long. Their main industry a long time ago was sugar cane mills and there were still old mills standing (they had a lot of slaves as well a long time ago). We saw a bastik factory (a certain type of cotton and how they use it to make many different things from pictures to clothing).
As we were driving along the coast, the driver pulled over and showed us some cow hides someone put out on the rocks to dry out, interesting to say the least.
He also warned us not to open the windows as it would smell really bad! Ha
We were taken up to an overlook with some amazing views of the island. One view showed us the narrowest part of the island where the Atlantic ocean was on one side and the Caribbean ocean on the other. On the opposite side of the mountain, we had a view of Frigate Bay which was just stunning!
After our tour, we were taken to Frigate Bay for a few hours. We were all ready to get in the water as it was getting really hot in the sun by this point. The water felt like bath water, it was that warm! There werent any major waves, just slight rolling ones which made it perfect for the kids to go out in it up to their necks. There were lots of fish swimming right around us. Some as tiny as minnows, then bigger ones that were around a foot and a half that looked like mini barracudas (but they werent, at least I dont think so! Haha) I even saw a crab near my foot at one point. (the kids didnt like that and stayed far away till it was gone!)
Our one friend is big into scuba diving and snorkeling so he went out to see what he could see out deeper, near some rocks. He saw huge lobsters, a sea turtle, eel, barracudas, and several different kinds of fish. He found a huge conch shell but when he brought it up, it fell apart. The kids also collected a lot of neat, unique types of shells here as well.
At point one, a small boat came right up to the beach and these guys unloaded 2 huge bags of freshly caught lobster and carried them right into the one restaurant on the beach. Cant get much fresher than that!!!
Once we were taken back to the pier, we walked around a few shops there. One our last cruise, the kids started a collection of getting a key chain from each new country they go to. They found key chains that had names on them and said St Kitts. Didnt they find Noahs name and they each bought a keychain with his name on it. My sweet kiddos constantly thinking of Noah!
Tonight was our 2nd formal night, so the girls wanted their hair done. So I spent some time curling it and putting it up for them. We had a couple people from our roll call who said they had coupons for free photos that they werent going to use and wanted to give them to us to get family pictures. So tonight while dressed up, we decided to have the photographer take our picture. Of course, we wanted Noah to be a part of the picture so the kids brought along his lamb to be in it. The lamb sure was a conversation starter. In the elevator, someone asked Hannah if she made the lamb on board (like build a bear). She was so sweet, she said no, this was my little brothers lamb when he was in the hospital but he passed away. Everyone in that crowded elevator didnt know what to say. I admit, taking pictures of the kids dressed up tonight with the Noah lamb, made me tear up. I miss my little guy!!
After dinner, the kids wanted to get their nightly cup of hot chocolate so we walked down the promenade to get it. The kids were stopped by so many people telling them how adorable they looked.
In fact, several ladies asked if the girls had gone to the salon today to have their hair done and they said nope, our mom did it!
Oh, when I ended my update last night, I said I wasnt sure if I was going to go take pictures of the 11pm pool buffet. Well, it was about 11 when I finally got the emails sent, so I figured I might as well go up and snap a few pictures. I couldnt believe the huge spread of food they had set up! It was insane!!! They had one table of the most intricately carved watermelon youve ever seen! I snapped several pictures of the arrangements. Of course as I walked away, I took a bit of the fresh fruit for a snack. I really wasnt hungry but the fruit has been my weakness this last week. I am living up the watermelon, pineapple, etc while I can because I know once I get home I wont have any more fresh fruit. There was also a guy doing a massive ice carving demonstration.
Tomorrow we will be visiting Antigua.
Friday Dec 3, Day 6
Today we woke up to a beautiful, warm day in St Thomas. We had no plans for today other than to wonder out and catch a taxi to the beach. We had been here 2yrs ago and had done an island tour and went to Sapphire beach that time, so we wanted to try out a new beach this time. I had done some research and felt pretty confident that we wanted to try out Emerald beach.
We got off the ship and walked a ways until we found the area where the taxis gather. Most taxis here arent like what you picture at home. They are open air vehicles that can seat many people at once.
The dispatcher was trying to organize mass crowds it seemed. I said we wanted Emerald beach and we were told which truck to get into. Our driver apparently didnt want to go to this beach and tried to get those of us who got on his truck, off. Eventually it got worked out and he was told thats where he is to go. A couple sitting in front of us had been here several times before and they too were headed to the same beach. He said its an excellent beach but that the taxi drivers try to get you to go to ones further out because they can get paid more. So I felt good knowing I chose a great beach. Another couple also jumped in the taxi and it turned out they knew who I was from cruise critic as they were part of our roll call (I didnt recognize her but I knew her username once she told me). So it was nice to spend some time with someone familiar.
There was a nice hotel located at the beach we went to. They had an open area outside we walked through to get to it and as we walked past the hotel onto the sand, we all were really happy we chose this beach. Plenty of open space to spread out, not crowded at all, and the water was really calm.
The kids discovered right away that this was a good beach to find lots of different seashells. So they spent a lot of time walking around collecting shells. They also blew up the 2 tubes we brought along to float around in. The water was again really warm, felt great and it was oh so clear! Kevin went out deep to where he couldnt stand and he said you could still see perfectly to the bottom. We saw several fish swimming around our feet, they were all around a good foot long.
We stayed till about 2:30 and figured we better head back as traffic can get backed up as everyone makes their way back to town. A lady had her taxi there and had room for a few more (it was just the cruise critic couple and us). There were already a ton of people in there and I had no clue how she was going to fit us in. The back of her truck was open where everyone else was sitting, but she had a double cab truck in the front and yup, thats where she was going to stick the 8 of us (plus herself who was driving). Holy cow!! Thank goodness the kids are small. I had to chuckle, as we were driving, I saw a plaque in the front of her truck that said total capacity 18 people. HAHA There were 9 of us alone in the double cab and I bet another 12-15 in the back.
Even though St Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands, they actually drive on the opposite side of the road. But their steering wheels are where ours are at, so it makes it interesting. This country probably resembles the closest to home out of all the places we will visit this trip. We saw a Pizza Hut, Wendys and around the corner from the dock we were told was a Walmart & Kmart! And the other interesting fact is since they are part of the USVI, they are also included in most cell phone coverages from the US. So I brought my phone with me and surprised a few close people with a call while basking in the warm 85 degree sun.
(Ive heard its been yucky weather at home and I sure dont miss that!)
Once we got dropped off, we decided to walk around some of the shops nearby before heading back to the ship. The kids each had a little spending money and all but Sarah decided to get a little something. After getting back on the ship, we went on deck to watch sailaway which was 5pm our time.
Ive been really proud of the kids. Most of the times at dinner, they will order something that they never had before (and that quite honestly, is usually pretty exotic).
Especially Erik. Hes had many different types of fish this week and tonight, he ordered the asian duck (which was really good as I tried a bit of his). Sarah and I had wild mushroom & goat cheese pizza.
Tonight after dinner, there was an ice show (yes, there is an ice rink on board that seats a few hundred people). I didnt realize they were handing out tickets the day we boarded so we hadnt gotten any (they dont cost anything but you need one to get in as they only hand out so many due to limited seating). We were told though we could line up and if there were open seats after the ticketed people sat, we could go in. While we were waiting, a stagehand came up and asked if one of the kids could be in it. See, 2yrs ago, during the same ice show, Hannah got asked to be in it so we knew what to expect. So this time Susan was the one picked. So since she was in it, we got escorted right inside to reserved seats right smack in the front row, woo-hoo!!! We all enjoyed the show and Susan was grinning from ear to ear when it came time for her to be taken out on the ice (she was sitting in a small sleigh).
So that pretty much was our day today.
There is a poolside party & buffet up on deck at 11pm that I am debating about checking out. No, NOT for the food as Im still full from dinner but more for the photo op. Im sure Ill still be awake as I need to go send this update, so well see.
Tomorrow we will be spending the day in St Kitts. Enjoy your Friday night everyone!
Today we were in Samana, Dominican Republic. It was a bit overcast this morning. Around 8:30, we headed down to deck 1 where we had to catch our tender. This country does not have a dock for ships, so our ship has to dock about a mile away and we take small boats in. I was told often the ship uses the life boats to tender, but here they used a local speed boat service which was nice as the trip only took about 10-15 minutes. (wouldve taken a lot longer using the life boats).
I had a tour lined up for today with a private guide. I found him highly recommended on a website (cruisecritic.com) as well as a friend used him last year. I also had 2 other couples from our roll call join us. The tour guides name is Terry and he is from the USA (Pittsburg born). His wife is from the D.R so hes lived here the last 8 years he said.
As we headed off in an open air vehicle, it was starting to rain. He said not to worry because chances are when we get over to the other side of the island, itll be clear. We had an almost 40 min drive to our beach. During that time, he told us a lot of neat facts about the island and tidbits of information most people wouldnt know. We passed a beach where Terry said wouldve been the first place Christopher Columbus wouldve landed before Santo Domingo but he was chased off by Indians.
We saw lots of tiny shacks that were basically the equivalency of a grocery store. He said most people go here before each meal to buy the supplies they need for just that meal. Most people dont have transportation to get into the bigger towns, plus they cant afford to stock up like you and I do. Nor could they chance something spoiling before getting a chance to use it. He said they walk into these stores, ask for say 5 pesos of tomato paste, the clerk dishes some out of a large container into a baggie, and thats how they get the stuff they need for each meal.
We also saw these small tables with beer bottles sitting on them. He said those bottles are NOT beer but gasoline. A lot of people have mopeds they get around on. If they drove into town to fill up, theyd waste half their tank of gas getting back again. So someone buys a big thing of gas, divides it up into the beer bottles and thats what individuals buy to refuel their mopeds.
Terry explained the school system here. They have lots of tiny schools within walking distance of the students. Most are only 1-2 rooms big. They cant fit all the students in at one time, so the kids are split up. Elementary students go half the day, then middle school goes the other half of the day. Each group gets about 3hrs of schooling each day. He said there are high schools located in the bigger towns and its up to the students to get themselves there, which he said most do.
As we drove around, we were definitely reminded that we were in a third world country. Youll see some scenery pictures when I eventually share my photos from today. But despite that, it is a very beautiful country, untouched by the common touristy things like other Caribbean countries are. Their language is Spanish. So it was nice to be able to understand what those around me where saying and to be able to converse when needed.
We finally arrived at the beach La Playita. It was breathtaking as we pulled into it. And yes, by this point in time, the rain was long gone and it was sunny out and temperature was in the mid 80s! You had the mountains in the distance which made for a gorgeous setting for the beach.
The water was a beautiful clear blue and you could easily see the reefs that were spread throughout the beach. It was amazing how far out we could walk and the water was still so shallow. Terry went out and snorkeled a bit and found a sea urchin for the kids to see and hold. The kids found some neat shells as well to bring home.
Our lunch was included in our tour. The restaurant sat right on the beach. We had a typical family style Dominican bbq.
Bbq chicken, grilled fish, fried plantain, rice, etc. It was amazing!!!! He said you never know what fish they will have. They serve whatever they just caught that day. He said the chicken is fresh too! LOL (you see them running around everywhere).
After lunch, we took more pictures, played in the water and laid out in the sun. About 2:30, we headed out.
We asked about stopping by a school to drop off school supplies we brought with us. (thank you to those of you who donated supplies!) We got to meet a small elementary class of 9 students. Our kids gave the teacher the bags of things we brought along and the students thanked them. We also took a picture of our kids with the class together.
There were so many interesting things Terry told us about this country, I couldnt begin to list everything. He was a wonderful tour guide and I wouldnt hesitate to recommend him to anyone.
We set sail a little before 5pm. We truly enjoyed our day in the Dominican Republic.
Next stop is St Thomas tomorrow!
Have a great evening!
1, Day 4
Wow, its hard to believe its December already.
It certainly doesnt feel like it, at least here in the Caribbean! We went to eat breakfast this morning and had a nice view of Haiti out our dining room window. As well as a view of the sister ship of the Explorer right next to us in dock (Navigator of the Seas, also a Royal Caribbean ship in the same size fleet).
Once we heard we were clear to disembark, we headed off the ship. Not too many people we getting off yet. It was about 8:30 when our feet hit land for the first time in 3 days. The temp early in the morning was already 80 degrees and hit about 90 till later in the day.
I know Haiti has been in the news a lot lately due to the cholera outbreak. But where we were was very safe (trust me, I did plenty of research before we came). The piece of land we were on is privately owned by Royal Caribbean and is secluded (and barricaded) from the rest of the island. All the food and drinks are prepared and brought in off the ship.
We walked around until we found a spot near one of the many beaches. It wasnt too far from a kiddie water park and had a view of the zip lines coming off the side of a mountain over the ocean. There were plenty of loungers as well as hammocks to use. We found a spot near the water but under a coconut tree so we also had some shade if needed.
The kids were in the water in no time and said how warm it felt. I wandered down there eventually and sure enough, you could walk right in. It was so nice to be in water where you could see your feet and see where you were walking. The water was fairly calm so even Erik could walk out till the water was up to his shoulders.
They played in the ocean, the water park (which had a lot of fountains and fun things to do) and also played in the sand as I had brought along a few small beach toys. I occasionally went in the water, but spent a lot of time just laying down reading. I dont get to do much of that at home so Im making up for lost time. I brought 5 books along and there is a library on board if those arent enough. Im almost finished with my 2nd book!!
We had a yummy bbq lunch that was prepared for everyone on both ships; ribs, burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, etc. There were some guys playing live island music. Though I had to laugh when they started la-la-la-ing the tune to silent night with their maracas, bongos, etc.
Im guessing they dont know it in English. Yup, that was a reminder that it is indeed December!
We headed back to the ship a little after 3. We were schedule to sail around 5, but since everyone was on board earlier, we sailed around 4:30. The girls and I went on deck for sail away as Erik was taking a nap. We mustve gotten onboard just in time before a rain shower had come through as the deck was wet. It wasnt raining while we were on deck, but it was overcast.
I have to say the kids do really well at dinner each night. Especially considering it usually lasts an hour and a half. We are all so spoiled. Not only are the kids regularly brought chocolate milk without asking, but if I even pick up a knife to cut the kids food, our waitress is right there cutting their food and wont let me do it. Now THAT is service!! She is constantly bringing us things we dont order just for us to try a taste. Tonight after she brought us our main entrée, she came out with 2 plates of nachos with an amazing cheesy spinach dip. Seriously, we can barely finish our food most nights (as 3 courses is a lot for us). So she told us to take the dip up for a snack later. If you go hungry on this ship, its your own fault. Everywhere you turn, theres a variety of food to eat.
And that my friends is the reason we rarely use the elevator!! LOL We are constantly walking 3-4 flights at a time just to make sure we are burning some of these calories.
Tonight the kids club had family cookie decorating so we headed up there with the kids. There was only one other family there with their 2 small kids.
The kids really enjoyed this. I admit I had fun decorating my cookie as well and got quite creative (pictures once we get home).
Afterwards the kids asked to hang out in the kids club, so thats where they are currently at as I finish up this email.
Since we are heading further east, we have to set our clocks forward one hour tonight, so well be ahead of you all at home for the next several days. Tomorrows stop is in Samana, Dominican Republic.
Today was another relaxing sea day. After breakfast, I took the girls up to one of the lounges overlooking the ocean. A friend from our roll call offered to teach the girls how to knit. They had a blast learning and have been working at it different times throughout today. Kevin and Erik spent time playing some card games and ping pong while the girls were being taught.
We took a walk outside and realized just how nice it was out. We had a high of 77 today although it was pretty breezy. The kids played a round of mini golf, then they decided it was warm enough to swim so we got changed and headed to the kiddie pool. They swam while I laid out on a chair soaking up the sun and reading.
We spent a good amount of outside enjoying the weather.
Erik had been pesting all morning to go rock climbing so we went to check it out. They decided to give it a try. They had to put on special shoes, a harness and a helmet. The guy that was their anchor was having a ball with them. It was so cute to watch them scale up the wall and ring the bell. Though once Hannah got high up, you could see by the look on her face she realized just how high up she was!
We headed up to Dizzys to sit and relax a little before dinner. We got to watch the sun set from here which was really neat. The girls worked on their knitting, the guys played card games & I read.
Our waiter and waitress at dinner have really gotten to know the kids preferences already. Not long after sitting down, they were brought chocolate milk in fancy glasses. They are loving their chocolate milk. I said enjoy it now as it’s a rare treat at home! LOL Erik had asked for jello the 2 previous nights for dessert. Tonight we weren’t very hungry and decided to skip dessert. Well, the waitress couldn’t see sending the kids off without anything, so she brought out a covered plate for us to take to the room with 4 dishes of jello!!
Everyone is pretty tired tonight so we’ve just been chilling in the room, girls knitting, watching a movie while I write out my update.
We’ve been fortunate to have had pretty smooth seas. Especially compared to last time we did this. We had hit a nor’easter 2 yrs ago and had 20-30ft swells for 2 days. The highest waves we’ve had today were 7 ft. We are over a very deep part of the ocean at 16,000 feet deep. Our current location as I’m writing is southwest of the Bahamas. Tomorrow we finally hit land for the first time. We are going to Royal Caribbeans private beach in Labadee Haiti.
I’m including a picture from today of the kids standing by the back of the ship near the kiddie pool. You can see the ships wake in the background.
Until next time……
This morning the kids woke up early I’m guessing because they went to bed early last night. Just like at home, I slept like crap again. Hoping once I get out in that warm sun, that will tire me out a bit. We headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast around 8:30. We were due to meet in Majaharas lounge at 10am for our “meet & mingle”. Several years ago I found a website for cruisers (cruise critic.com) and on there, there is a forum that you can find your ship name & sail date & meet others you will be sailing with. I had a good experience with it 2yrs ago, so several months ago I joined our current cruising group. So that’s what this get together was. The ship sponsored this activity for those of us who met online.
We got a little travel gift thing from the cruiseline when we got there (a little tablet & pen that can hang around your neck). Then all our names were put into a bucket for some prizes they were drawing for. Some were goofy gifts like a hat, others were bottles of wine (which would’ve been funny if the kids names were drawn! Our kids were the only kids there) One of the gifts they had was a $50 credit for internet time. Didn’t Kevin win that! Woohoo! I hadn’t yet bought our internet minutes so that was perfect. Speaking of internet, it took me forever to get my first update sent out because however their server is set up, it wouldn’t let me send my mass email group that I had set up & working while at home. I had to go back in and make about 10 smaller groupings of email addresses and it FINALLY sent! (yes, in the wee hours of the morning because my wonderful insomnia kept me up yet again. Grrr)
It was nice to finally put a face to a name after talking online for several months. After we left the get together, the kids wanted to get hot chocolate (again lol). Kevin took them up to Dizzys (on the 14th deck) and they took some card games up to play while I went to guest relations to use my internet gift certificate as well as make sure our room keys & on board credit were all set up correctly. I then headed up to join then in Dizzys to read for awhile.
After lunch, we walked outside for a bit on the upper deck. The temp wasn’t too bad but it was still on the cooler side & breezy. About this point in time, we were across from South Carolina. The kids then wanted to go up to the kids club. Kevin went and watched a movie in Dizzys & I worked on downloading pics to the computer & trying to get my update to send. Tonight was our first formal dinner so I knew I needed plenty of time to get the kids & myself ready.
The girls all wanted up-do’s so I spent time curling their hair. Ok so I spent a good hour just doing their hair. And then I had to do mine. The girls all wore matching black & white dresses and Erik was in a tux. They looked SO incredibly adorable! The entire way to the dining room, they were turning heads and getting compliments. People were coming up to them & giving Erik hi fives & shaking his hand. The kids actually enjoy dressing up so no, this was not torture for them.
Tonight, Erik ordered escargot for his appetizer as did I. I had this 2yrs ago and knew I liked it. Sarah & Susan also tried it as well. They knew what it was from the last time as I hadn’t told them it was snails until after they ate it! lol Erik & Hannah ordered roasted duck for their main entrée & they really enjoyed it. Sarah & Susan had filet of beef. It was neat seeing so many people all decked out.
After dinner, it was the captains welcome aboard party in the royal promenade where we got to meet a lot of the different heads of departments.
From here, we headed to the Palace which is a huge theater that is several decks high & can seat a couple hundred people. You’d never know you were on a ship when you’re sitting in here. Tonights performance was Vibeology. (this started at 9pm)
After that, we made our way to the room. The kids were tired, but they did so great this evening handling all the extra attention that was thrown their way as well as all the pictures they had taken.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow when we’ll have warm temps and can hang out outside!!
We left the house at 7:50 this morning. The kids were up early & ready to leave by 7am! GPS said it would take 2 hrs & 50 min to get to the port, we were pulling in about 10:10am. We sailed this same ship out of this port 2yrs ago so we had a good idea of what to do this time which made a big difference on how smooth it all went. We beat the onslaught of traffic and got our luggage dropped off in no time. It didn’t take too long to check in and by 11:15, we were sitting in the terminal waiting to board the ship.
The kids were given their emergency bracelets while we waited. If the kids are in the kids club and an emergency comes up where we need to get to our muster station (to board a life boat), the employees will bring the kids to meet us there. They have to wear the bracelets the entire cruise. So if you see bright blue bracelets in pictures, that’s what those are for. I inquired about how many kids are onboard this sailing, and they said only 55 and about 40 are in their age group with the rest being younger. Out of approximately 3,000 people onboard, that’s not too many kids. The sailing before us, which was the Thanksgiving Day cruise, there was close to 1,000 kids. Needless to say we prefer this time of year to cruise. The kids get SO much attention from everyone, they love it!
Around noon our number was called, and off to the ship we went. We boarded with no problems and headed up to deck 11 to the Windjammer, which is a huge buffet, to get some lunch(there’s a total of 15 decks onboard). Our port (Bayonne, NJ) is located right by the New York border so as we sat eating lunch, we had a view of the Statue of Liberty & the New York City skyline.
The last time we were on this ship, we met some neat people & kept in contact with them the last 2yrs. And it turned out, a bunch of them were also going to be on this sailing again. So it didn’t take too long until we met up with several of them. I also had belonged to an online group of people that I met several months ago, who were also going to be on this sailing so around 2:30, a bunch of us met up Schooners lounge to say hi in person finally.
At 3:15 we had our emergency muster drill where we had to go to our assigned stations & so we would know where to meet in case of emergency. After we were done here, we went back to our room to get our coats. We decided to go out on deck for sailaway. The last time we left this port, we had horrible weather. Today was cold but gorgeous outside.
Part of the excitement of being on deck for sailaway is going underneath the Veranzzano bridge. The ship looks like it’s going to hit it as the clearance is only about 6ft below the bridge. So we got some neat pics of that as we went under. Then we headed inside to warm up.
By this point, we had all our luggage except for the suitcase with mine & Kevin’s clothes, which made me a little nervous. I worked on unpacking before we headed to dinner. Right as we were leaving, our suitcase showed up & I finally felt I could relax.
We had scoped out our dining room table earlier so I knew where we were sitting. We have 6pm dining and it’s just us at our table. The table next to us has a bunch of our friends which is nice as it allows us to chat with them also during dinner. The main dining room is 3 stories tall and modeled after the dining room on the Titanic. In the center, there is an open atrium that you can see to the other floors. At the far end is a grand staircase going to each floor.
Our table is located on deck 5 which is the 3rd floor of the dining room, and right next to a huge window. Which normally would be wonderful except it’s dark when we eat!
Dinner each night consists of a 3 course meal; appetizer, main entrée then dessert. The kids have the option of ordering off the kids menu or adult menu. Most of them ordered part or all of their meal from the adult menu (gotta love that they aren’t picky!) Their favorite appetizer is ceasar salad.
After dinner, the kids wanted to walk down to the coffee shop in the royal promenade to get some hot chocolate (yes, all our food and even things in this shop we don’t have to pay for so the kids can have hot chocolate whenever they way! lol)
The royal promenade is located on deck 5 and reminds you of a large upscale wing of a mall, with shops, lounges, etc. While it’s only on one floor, there are 3 stories above it open to inside rooms that overlook the promenade and it spans a good length of deck 5.
The kids were feeling pretty tired by this point (about 8pm) so we took their hot chocolate back to the room & they decided to get ready for bed. Our rooms are on deck 8, the same rooms we had 2yrs ago. We have 2 interior connecting cabins. Someday a room with a balcony would be nice, but this works out as we are rarely in our cabin anyway. We were blessed to have gotten an amazing deal that allowed us to do this vacation, so we’re just happy to be here no matter the room!
The kids were in bed by 8:45 which is rare! Around 9, Hannah came over crying. She was missing her Noah doll. This was the first night since Noah was born that she hasn’t had the doll. The kids really wanted to bring them but didn’t want to chance anything happening to them so they left them at home (which they hated to leave them alone they said). I brought along Noah’s lamb we were given in the hospital & had pictures taken of him with it. I had it along so we would have something along to represent Noah & feel like a part of him is along with us. So I gave that to Hannah to sleep with & tried to comfort her. It just goes to show, nothing can ever take away the grief of missing him, even while on vacation.
It didn’t take long and the kids were sound asleep. I was exhausted as I really hadn’t slept much Saturday night, so I wasn’t up to attending any of the onboard night activities so I just unwound and read for awhile. We’re looking forward to having 2 relaxing sea days on Monday & Tuesday before island hopping starts on Wednesday.
Next up, our first formal night Monday evening. Till later.......
ps I am having trouble sending pics. I will try later
As I've been trying to get the house ready for our house sitter, my thoughts have gone to Noah. I made sure we had backups in the firesafe of his pictures and I'm even going to make room to put his hand & foot molds into it as well. It gives me a little bit of anxiety leaving those few priceless things of his here in case heaven forbid the house caught on fire or something. I know that probably makes no sense to most people, but those are the only tangible things we have of Noah that shows us his hands & feet that we can touch & hold and we'd be devastated if something happened to them.
Along those lines, we are taking along Noah's lamb we were given in the hospital & took pictures of him with it. The kids wanted something to represent Noah while we're away so it seemed like a good idea to bring our "little lamb" with us. I think it helps us all to feel that he is along with us in a way.
Pray that we will have safety traveling and that all of us will stay healthy. I will have updates posted here and hopefully a few pictures as we travel (providing the internet doesn't act up!)
I am thankful for all the things Noah taught me. He taught me to appreciate and be grateful for the little things in life that so many people take for granted everyday. As well as not getting worked up or stressed over things that really aren't worth it. He helped make my faith stronger and showed me miracles still do happen. Noah reminded me that life itself is truly out of our hands and therefore we need to make the most of each day we are given.
So even as I reflect over the toughest year of my life, I know I am still blessed and have much to be thankful for. It doesn't take away the ache of wanting my son in my arms, but I am thankful knowing I have the promise of Heaven and getting to hold Noah someday again soon.
She goes on to share their story and her emotions throughout the rest of her pregnancy as well as her daughters death and her thoughts & feelings in the time of grief afterward.
I wasn't able to start this book until several weeks after Noah died. As I read it, I shed many tears as I often found Angie writing word for word my emotions & thoughts!! She put things into writing that I hadn't even shared here. It felt good reading about someone else's similar journey and seeing that she felt EXACTLY how I did. And thought the SAME things I did. It was nice knowing that what I was experiancing was normal & that I wasn't alone. Even though her daughter had a different diagnosis that Noah, everything was so eerily similar between our situations.
I would encourage everyone to read this book. Because unless you've been down this awful road, you can't begin to even understand the thoughts and feelings we go through. But Angie does such a wonderful job putting that into words so others can gather just a glimpse of the things we go through and struggle with. She even mentions things that others around us may say or do (or not do) that subsequently hurt those of us greiving. I believe this book can help those around us know better how to understand and even help us through this process. It's an excellant book and she has a wonderful testimony!
Because of their visit and the enouragement and strength I got from spending the day with my wonderful sisters, it gave me what I needed to finally go visit Noah's grave for the first time. So on Saturday, I headed out alone to run some errands. As I was on the back roads, I was getting ready to drive past this little flower shack that a mennonite lady runs. I've passed it many times but had never stopped. I was feeling prompted to stop and see about getting just a single flower to take with me to lay on Noah's grave. I pulled in and as I walked up to this little tiny shanty, I got to see all the neat arrangements this lady makes. Even inside she had many fresh & dried flower arrangements that were gorgeous. And her prices were really low!
The mennonite lady happened to be in there as I was looking around. She asked if she could help me with anything. I choked up and said I was looking for just a single flower to take with me when I go to visit my son's grave. She said I'll be right back and she stepped outside. I wiped away the tear that had fallen and gathered myself while she was out. She came back in with a few flowers and started talking to me while she cut the stems and chose a ribbon for them. I can't even begin to tell you how much it meant to me that she cared enough to ask about Noah and talk about him with me. This total stranger talked to me more about him than some people I've known for a long time who have avoided me since Noah died. I appreciated her kind words so much. It was what I needed as I made my way to his grave. Maybe that's why I felt the need to stop when I did. It was more than the flower I needed at that moment.
She chose some gorgeous but simple fall colored flowers, gathered with a gold ribbon. As she handed me the arrangement, before I could even ask her what I owed, she said it's her gift and she doesn't want me paying for them. I could hardly see to leave because of the tears in my eyes.
I pulled into church and drove up towards the upper parking lot that is right near the graveyard. So many emotions came pouring over me. I hadn't walked here since the day I followed Noah's casket to be buried. As I made my way to his gravesite with my flowers in hand, I just had tears running down my face. When I came to his grave, I just sat down beside him and cried. All I could picture was his tiny little body in his white casket just a few feet below where I sat. That precious body my arms ached to hold & cuddle was in the cold ground. It's such a painful thought. I KNOW Noah is in Heaven and I will see him again. But still, the thought of my baby's human body being in the ground is difficult. The grass still hadn't grown over the tiny little spot where his casket was buried. The ground was all sunken in as well.
As I sat there between tears, I prayed. I also layed down and talked to Noah for a bit. I cleaned off his temporary grave marker (I haven't brought myself yet to make the call about ordering his headstone). I also pulled a few weeds. His casket arrangement from the funeral, which was long since dried out, was still laying on his grave. I removed it to throw away and placed the flowers I brought for him in it's place. The wooden crosses the kids had placed there were still there next to his name.
I don't even know how long I was there as I lost all sense of time, but I'm sure it was over half an hour at least. It was hard to walk away, just like the day we buried him.
I still hadn't been able to bring myself to return to Sunday services at church. I knew I had to visit Noah first before I could go to church. So since I had gone to his grave, I felt I would try to go to church this past Sunday. It was really hard to step inside the church as all the memories of Noah's viewing and service were still so vivid. I really appreciated those of you who came up to me and hugged me or offered words of encouragement as you knew this was a hard step for me to take. I also am thankful for the notes & messages I received even after church encouraging me. I admit I shed a few tears several times while I was there.
I miss Noah so much!!!!! My son though was blessed to have only ever known love in his short life. He was spared the sin, pain & heartache that the rest of us have to go through. How amazing is that!?!? To only be surrounded by tons of love & joy and that is all he knew while with us!!!!
I'm one day closer to holding you again Noah ♥
I admit, I found it difficult to take group pictures of the kids and not have Noah somehow be a part of the picture. I pretty much took individual pictures that day. But then I came across these 5 chairs which seemed to be a perfect way to have Noah still be "included" with the group picture. I'm sure down the road, you may notice little things we do to the kids or family pictures to somehow represent Noah.
I can't believe what all has happened this last year. I admit, the last couple of days have been a bit of a struggle. Ok, so I admit, I've shed a lot of tears again lately. Even today while washing dishes I could barely see through the tears as they poured down my face.
What blows my mind is that by the time I knew I was pregnant, God already knew what all was going on with Noah and how his days were numbered far fewer than I wanted or would've ever have chosen.
I keep coming back to the scripture I used for his memorial service:
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13-16
Talk about powerful!!! Again, I am humbled by the fact that God chose my son to be set apart from all of us and that he was created special. In my human mind, I can not fathom or understand why he was chosen to be taken from us so soon after being created. Quite honestly though, most days I wish I hadn't been singled out to be blessed with such a special child. I really wish I would've been like everyone else and had been given a "normal" pregnancy and baby like 95% of those around me. But even in the midst of my agonizing grief and pain that I am currently experiancing, I am trusting His plan and that there is a greater purpose to what we have been going through. And even through all of this, I am know I am still blessed.
Noah has taught me and many others a lot!!
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things".
So true!!! And that my friends is where faith comes in. I can't even begin to explain it right now. But it is what I cling to. With each tear that falls, with each doubt that creeps into my head.....I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Noah's short life on earth holds a greater purpose that I will ever realize!!!!
I love you my sweet miracle child!!!!!!!!!
They were miracles and proved the doctors wrong, much like Noah. I was barely 100lbs when I got pregnant with them and only gained 25lbs. They actually had to be induced as I was miserable and HUGE at the end. They weight 5lbs 6 oz (Sarah) & 6lbs 2oz (Susan), both 19" long. I was literally all baby. And for not having prenatal care for multiples, they were certainly healthier & bigger than anyone expected!!!!
Nothing like being thrown into motherhood with not 1 but 2 babies!!!
Here is a picture of them as newborns in the hospital sharing a bassinet: (look at that HAIR!!! I called them my little monkeys!)
And here is a picture of them tonight as they sat together to open gifts:
Wow.....where does time go? Can't help but realize Noah is missing tonight as we celebrated. Just not the same without you little buddy!!!! It was on their birthday last year I started suspecting I might be pregnant. Seems just like yesterday......
It was held at Long's Park. Thankfully it wasn't raining but it was pretty chilly & windy. It had been sunny all day long but as we drove there, it got cloudy. We arrived & got in line to get our seed embedded paper. This whole event was done very environmentally friendly. The special paper was biodegradeable and had wildflower seeds in the paper so when the balloons eventually popped, the paper that we wrote our note on would fall back to earth and the seeds would bloom wherever our note ended up.
We had several colors of paper to choose from but we all chose blue of course. The kids were very intent on their notes. I have no idea what the girls wrote to Noah as they did it on their own. Erik wrote "I love you Noah" on his paper as Kevin oversaw his effort. I admit I teared up as I wrote to Noah.
Here is a picture that was taken of all of us as we wrote our notes, you can just barely see a bit of Kevin & Erik on the right side of the picture:
After we wrote our notes, we folded them up and put them inside the deflated balloons we were given. Then someone filled them with helium and put a small string on. We were also asked the name of who we were remembering as they were going to read the names aloud. The release was supposed to start at 6pm but they got such an overwhelming show of people, it took a little longer than they anticipated to get the balloons filled. WGAL 8 was also here and did a small clip on the event that aired on news that night. We as a family even had our picture & names taken by the newspaper. There was also music being played by a local musician.
About 6:15, the organizer of the event, Stephanie Cole, had everyone gather. She said she was going to read each childs name off, and as you heard your babys name, you release your balloon. I about cried when Noah's name was read and we watched 6 balloons join so many other balloons. I was so thankful we were able to participate and remember Noah in such a special way. I should also add, right before the release started, the clouds parted and the sky had this amazing golden glow to it. I can't describe it but I could tell it was meant to be. Just a reminder that we DO have a special Light that is still there with us during this dark journey.
Here's a pic of Kevin & the kids right after we released our balloons, watching them drift to the sky. You can see the golden sunlight on the tops of the trees:
The other event going on Friday in remembrance was an international wave of light. At 7pm (your own local time), many people worldwide lit a candle in honor of all those babies who died much too soon. So at 7pm, we lit a candle in honor of Noah and our friends babies, Ryan, Hezekiah & Olivia who are all hanging out together in Heaven waiting for us. I can't WAIT for that amazing reunion!!!!!!!
She was crying because of missing Noah.
We ended up pulling out the video of his birth and time afterwards. We listened to him cry and watched him move. Of course, this sent me into tears as well. While it's healing to watch our videos of Noah & look at his pictures, it also is painful as well and reminds us of what we are missing right now. He is 3 months old today.
This is how bedtime has been lately. Erik still has been sleeping in our room as he doesn't want to be alone because of missing Noah. Susan has wanted to watch Noah's videos. It's so hard seeing the kids struggle when all I want to do is take their pain away. On one hand I am thankful they are old enough that they will always remember Noah, but selfishly on the other hand, I wish they were younger that they didn't have to go through the pain of suffering like I am. It's hard enough dealing with my grief then adding their grief & trying to help them cope on top of it all, is tough.
Some days it's still one hour at a time, one day at a time.
I am wearing a pair of shoes. They are ugly shoes. Uncomfortable shoes. I hate my shoes. Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair. Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step. Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes. They are looks of sympathy. I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs. They never talk about my shoes. To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them. But once you put them on, you can never take them off. I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes. There are many pairs in this world. Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them. Some have learned to walk in them so they don't hurt quite as much. Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes. Yet, because of these shoes, I am a stronger woman. These shoes have given me the strength to face anything. They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.