Baby, You’re a Ship – You Make Me Want to Wear My Evening Gown… and Cruuuuuuise

…aaaaaaaand we’re back.

After fifteen days, six countries, and three continents, we are finally back.

WOW is really all I can say.  I am simply blown away in retrospect.

What a trip we had!  It was amazing and truly once in a lifetime.  It was not a vacation by any means; it was much more of an experience.  We set an alarm almost every morning, were out the door and off of the ship to meet and explore (and get a little lost on more than one occasion), came back hot and sweaty and covered in filth, but our memories (and our cameras) are filled with some absolutely amazing things.

Yet, that was not the end of each day.  After we reboarded the Royal Princess, we then showered and dressed for dinner (Sheepdog is so mad that he missed that… I wore a dress and heels every single night, and I even wore gowns on the two formal nights).  Then, we started our nighttime adventures on the cruise ship.  We drank, we ate, we laughed, we cried, we drank some more.  My sisters, an aunt and an uncle sang on stage.  We gambled and played BINGO and asked if they had any swedish fish (sadly, no).  We shared stories and reconnected with old and new friends and family members.  We met new people and made new friends.  Then we drank some more.  Sister C, Kid A, and I (we were roommates) went to bed “early,” but many of the rest stayed out until all hours of the night watching (and participating in) shows and sing-a-longs and whatever else was happening aboard the incredible floating entertainment palace.

It was like being back in college... tiny twin beds (one came out of the ceiling ), no closet or drawer space, a very small shared bathroom, and lots of drinking.  And we loved every minute of it!

It was like being back in college… tiny twin beds (one came out of the ceiling), no closet or drawer space, a very small shared bathroom, and lots of drinking. And we loved every minute of it!

We made even more spectacular memories than I could have imagined.

I tried to jot down some of the things I was thinking and feeling throughout the trip.  It was hard, mostly because we were so busy and always running from one thing to the next, but I managed to keep a journal on my laptop.  Most of the entries are unfinished because I fell asleep in the middle of writing them.

My plan is to post everything, along with some pictures, over the next few days.

For now, I have to unpack and wash a mountain or two of laundry, catch up on two weeks of lost sleep, and should probably spend a little time in rehab.

My family did it like we always do things… absolutely over-the-top.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

What Did One Math Book Say To The Other Math Book?

“Dude, I’ve got a lot of problems.”

I love that joke.  Probably because I am a math book.  And one of my biggest problems keeps popping up lately… I am very ornery and I tend to bring out the ornery in those around me.  And that can get us into some hot water at times.

For example, I see Kid C and D’s elementary school bus driver every weekday morning.  He is a really nice, reliable man in his late forties or early fifties.   He drives safely and he keeps the kids in line and they all say he is a great bus driver.  Everybody likes him.  I even know his wife (she was the previous elementary school bus driver for Kids A and B when we first moved here).  We always exchange pleasantries and what’s-going-on’s, but we are usually limited to yelling just a few words back and forth to each other over the very loud diesel engine.

Prior to Spring Break he told me that he was going to Las Vegas for vacation.  For the last few days before school was out I would yell, “Vegas, Baby!” while raising my arms and laughing uncontrollably whenever he opened the bus doors.  The other kids on the bus looked at my kids and were like, “Is your mom drunk again?”  Whatever.  It made me giggle.  And, no, there is nothing else in my coffee.

So when we returned from Spring Break and all of the groggy kids were climbing onto the school bus on Monday morning I asked the bus driver how his trip went.  He smiled a wistful smile and said it was really fun, as if he had either lost a lot of money at the craps tables or he really wished he was still on vacation.  Or both.  I didn’t want him to be sad, so my ornery busted out with some bright-side support and I yelled, “At least you still have your pants on!”

He laughed out loud and then succumbed to my bad influence.  The engine was very loud but I think I heard him yell back, “Yeah, but I’m not wearing any underpants!”  …in front of a school bus full of little kids.  The poor man realized what he said as soon as it came out of his mouth and was mortified.  Imagine the face that a minister would make if he dropped the F-bomb in the middle of a church picnic.  The bus driver made that exact face.  Thank goodness all of the kids already think I am crazy and don’t pay attention to anything I say, so nobody was really listening to us anyway.  I don’t want anybody getting in trouble, so I will say again that the engine was really loud and I probably did not hear him correctly.  But if he did say it, then chalk up one more for my very bad influence.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Thank goodness.

Speaking of Vegas, Sheepdog gave a speech on food traceability and its impact on recalls in litigation at a food-borne illness conference in Las Vegas last week (I know, I know… how sexy is that?).  Now, I have shared a lot about Sheepdog over the past year, so I feel like you all should know him pretty well.  Even so, I can not stress enough how much of a square peg Sheepdog is in the holes of Sin City.  He does not drink, he is the married father of five children, and if he is not working like a madman to pay for all of those children to be housed, clothed, fed and educated, he is either running or riding his bicycle somewhere.  Not exactly the things that come to mind when you think of Vegas, right?

Sheepdog is more than a fish out of water on the Vegas Strip.  The place genuinely scares the crap out of him.  He went there only one time years ago for our brother-in-law’s bachelor party weekend.  He went out there with something like $200 “fun money” in his pocket (the most money he ever had in his possession at one time up until that point, and it was a big deal financially for us to send him there with that much) and then called me from a strip club or somewhere because he had already used up all of the money.  After only being there for an hour.  I won’t even say how much cash he ended up dropping that weekend, but it was not an itty-bitty number.  Apparently there was just so much of everything available twenty-four hours a day.  And apparently Sheepdog’s intensity does not translate into anything good in a place like that.

So Sheepdog and I were both joking how ever since that trip Vegas scares the bejesus out of him.  And it turns out that at least somebody was paying attention when we were talking.

On the drive home from preschool on Wednesday, we were talking about Sheepdog and I reminded Kid E that his Daddy was in Las Vegas.  From the backseat I hear him say to nobody in particular, “Daddy is a-scared of Vegas.”  For whatever reason, I found this to be particularly funny.  And I found it to be even more hysterical when Kid E asked what, specifically, it was that Sheepdog was a-scared of.  Cue the ornery me.

Now, I’m not proud of this (although I do keep laughing about it), but I told Kid E that Daddy was scared of “too much boobies and drinking and spending money.”  And being a four-year-old boy, he thought that me saying those things was absolutely fantastic, and he proceeded to repeat them over and over and over again.  And I, of course, kept encouraging him because he follows up saying “boobies” with that priceless little kid giggle that just melts my heart.  At least I did remind him that he wasn’t allowed to mention any of this when he was at his Lutheran Church-based preschool.  Fingers crossed that I don’t get a note from his teacher anytime soon.

“Dude, I’ve got a lot of problems.”  Trust me, I know.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Thirteen Hour Car Trips Will Almost Always Lead to Drinking

Our vacation this summer is going to be spent at my mom and dad’s house in Somers Point, New Jersey.  They live in a marina in a not totally kid-friendly house that is close to the beach.  It is an all-around awesome place, except for the lack of kid-friendliness and the fact that they only have three bedrooms and not enough beds to house the seven people in our family without blowing up some extra sleeping arrangements.  Fortunately, for space reasons, my parents are in Mexico for the first two weeks of our visit.  For the last few days of our trip, we will all cram into the house, go to the beach, celebrate the 4th, eat and drink together and basically remind one another why it is good for children move out of their parents’ house when they grow up and have families of their own.

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On Wednesday morning at 1 a.m. Kid E wandered into my bedroom and climbed into my bed.  About an hour later he informed me that I could take him back to his bed because he was no longer comfortable.  About an hour after that my alarm went off, signifying the incredibly early start of our very long travel day.

“Let’s get this party started,” I mumbled, 98% sarcastic, as I dragged myself out of the warm bed and put on my clothes and pulled my hair up into a ponytail.

By 3:45 a.m. I was easing out of my Georgia driveway with Kids A – E fully seat belted inside, an insane amount of beach gear zipped into a gigantic Thule bag on the roof, and too many bikes racked onto the back.  I may have looked like Jed Clampett, but I felt like The Bandit, (North) East bound and down, hopeful that I could avoid the Smokeys as I hauled ass along the I-85 and I-95 corridors.

As far as long car trips go, this one was really good.  We stopped just north of NASCAR’s Mecca (Charlotte) for some breakfast, but that was our only break other than one pit stop for gas (the kind that makes the car run) and one “I have to poop right now!” false alarm from Kid E when we were just 60 miles from our destination.  So, it was really two gas pit stops (LOL: fart joke).  The traffic was fairly light, road construction was minimal, and the Po-Po must have had a Beef and Beer Fundraiser somewhere else, as they were not occupying many of their standard access road hiding spots along the highways.

We pulled into our destination just after 5 p.m., very ready to stretch our legs and eat some dinner.  Luckily, my mom is awesome and she left two trays of lasagna and two pies for us to eat.  I stuck dinner in the oven, enlisted Kids A, B, and C to carry our gear in and unpack, disassembled the bike rack, and detached it from the trailer hitch.  Then I proceeded to sit on a beach chair and do nothing while the older four kids rode their bikes, RipSticks and scooters around the gloriously flat and virtually car-less street out front, all while Kid E squirted everyone with water guns.

Mommy's BFF

I said another silent prayer of thanks for our safe arrival, the minimal in-flight fighting and “Are we there yet?” queries, and for the ability to put the pedal to the metal and make it here in just over thirteen hours.

Then I did some quick math in my head, figuring that I had basically been up since the middle of the night.  I realized that one of my kids is a new swimmer and another can’t swim at all and we are staying in a house that is surrounded by water.  The kids had car trip fever and they had now begun fighting and trying to run each other over with their bikes.  Sheepdog is not due to arrive for another whole week.  How am I gonna do this all by myself?

So I opened a bottle of wine and proceeded to drink the whole thing.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…