Wednesday, May 29, 2013

High Yellow

A couple of weeks ago, Cooper was preparing for his next test to show the Masters his current knowledge and skills that, if proficient enough, would allow him to advance in rank to a high yellow belt.

Here he's standing at attention.

He's practicing his "kee-choy-yong"--the yellow belt form--and modeling it for other students.

And waiting in the fighting stance.

We had to skip out on his official testing day because that was, of course, the day of Karcyn's dance recital. Fortunately, the Masters were very understanding and accommodating and offered to test him on his next class day.

Cooper DID in deed make his next belt rank, which is no surprise. So in 5 months he's gone from a white belt, to a yellow belt, to a high yellow belt (yellow belt with an orange stripe down the middle).

We love the family owned and operated School of Respect ( where Christian family values are not only encouraged but enforced!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Our dancing princess

Karcyn just wrapped up her second semester of creative dancing lessons. I'm SO glad we signed her up. Sandwiched between the sea of testosterone that are her siblings, it's just what she needed. And we were hoping that it would also help her trip over air a whole lot less.

I wasn't able to make it to her first dress rehearsal back in December due to other obligations. Besides, I wanted to be surprised by her performance at the recital. But then she got sick and ALMOST didn't make it to the recital. She was a champ, though, and danced anyway and no one was the wiser. Except for her proud momma.

Lesson learned for me. I'm no longer skipping out on the dress rehearsals if at all possible. These girls are just too cute not to see both performances.

Here's Karcyn waiting for the dancing princess introductions and her small group dance.


During the dress rehearsal, Karcyn loved to practice her bows and curtsies that were not in the choreographed dance moves :) She'd also blow handfuls of kisses to the audience as she left the floor and once she even called out, "Bye, Ms. Heidi!" She made lots of people laugh with her exuberance.

[After the dress rehearsal, while waiting for the girls to change out of their costumes, I heard someone say "Karcyn" over by Ms. Heidi. The next thing I knew, a lady I've never seen before was walking in front of the group where I was sitting and asked, "Who is Karcyn's mom?" I raised my hand hesitantly and said I was. She smiled and said, " That little girl of yours. You've got to get her to Hollywood. She is full of drama!" I chuckled and said "Tell me about it." Then she said something very touching. She explained that of all the girls out there, Karcyn was the only one dancing like she loved it. She enjoyed watching Karcyn because you can just tell that it's joyful to her. I agreed and thanked her for her comments. Then another mom turned to me who was sitting off to my left and said that her daughter had just started dancing in January and she (the mom) had noticed Karcyn being so kind and friendly to her daughter and they both really appreciated it. I had no idea, but was not surprised. That's my Karcyn. She loves everyone and is so full of life Jared and I can't take any of the credit either. These special qualities are gifts from her Heavenly Father that are just a part of her sweet spirit. We feel so blessed to have her in our family.]
The dancing princesses needed to practice their femininity. These pictures are from both the rehearsal (purple fan) and the recital (white fan).

"You must walk feminine, talk feminine
Smile and beguile feminine
Utilize your femininity
That's what every girl should know
If she wants to catch a beau.

"Dance feminine, glance feminine
Act shy and sigh feminine
Compliment his masculinity
That's what every girl should know
If she wants to catch a beau.

"Let him do the talking
Men adore good listeners
Laugh but not too loudly, ha ha
If he should choose to tell a joke.

"Be radiant, but delicate
Memorize the rules of etiquette
Be demure, sweet and pure
Hide the real you.

"You must look feminine, dress feminine
You're at your best feminine
Emphasize your femininity
That's what every girl should know
Femininity, femininity
That's the way to catch a beau." ~Disney "Femininity" lyrics

The dancing princesses were under the rule of their wicked step-mother Rowena (aka Ms. Heidi) and were subject to many chores. But they chose to do them with a happy heart and while singing a "Happy Working Song" (from "Enchanted").

Karcyn took the cleaning very seriously, just as she does at home. As you'll notice in this picture, she's still cleaning while the other princesses are dancing. She cleaned all along the back wall, along the side and worked her way back to us where the audience was sitting (at least 15 feet in length) and cleaned everybody's shoes that were on the dance floor. I would have taken more pictures, but Jared and I were laughing too hard.

I can't remember what this song was. I just love seeing Karcyn smiling, attentive, and looking like a dancer :)

One of our favorite songs is "Stepping on a Stone." Such cute lyrics and fun dance moves. Karcyn is a very animated little girl and doesn't hold back her excitement. (Karcyn just sang the lyrics for me again because I don't know them :)
Just step on a stone and do a little wiggle and clap your hands like me (clap, clap).
Just turn around and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, it's as easy as can be.
Now point your toe and everyone knows--you're dancing--can't you see?

Just step on a stone, point your toe, turn around, and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle. It's magic and we're free.

Karcyn was the line leader and lead the other dancers around the room as they sang La la lalala lalalalala la la la la la la la :)

Karcyn was then transformed into a beautiful butterfly. (I love this color orange on Karcyn. I was a little bummed to see she was given a different set of "wings" for the recital. Orange is Karcyn's favorite color and it has been since the beginning of the year...and I'd bet money this costume is probably why!)

(The multitude of costume changes and the quality of the costumes is incredible!)
This is Karcyn thrilled and surprised with her "new shoes" in another song.


And finally, after their wicked step-mother Rowena left the kingdom, the dancing princesses were able to get ready for the Royal Ball.

At the conclusion of the recital, each dancing princess was given a sash with their name on it and a Certificate of Honor so they will always remember they are beautiful and special princesses. Ms. Heidi also took the time to acknowledge each girl and the great things they've done that semester (impressive--that's not easy to do with 14 girls, in front of a live audience and without notes). Karcyn was commended for her kindness and compassion as she reached out to another girl who was new to the class. Karcyn would always say "Good job!" or "You're doing great!" and helped make that girl feel more comfortable.

After all the girls got their sashes, they were told to take their certificates to their parents and then go back to the floor for a group dance picture. Karcyn dutifully came to us and while gingerly stroking her sash, her eyes lit up and she excitedly said, "Look! I'm just like a boy scout now!" Jared and I busted up laughing. Poor Karcyn. Even in dancing, she's still influenced by her brothers ;)

We had no sooner walked through the door to leave the dance studio when Karcyn exclaimed, "You guys were the BEST audience in the WHOLE world! Thank you for coming, Mom. Thank you for coming, Dad."

Our pleasure Karcyn. Our pleasure!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cruise Flashback: Jamaica!

Land Ho!! On Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, we spotted Jamaica out the starboard side of the ship when we went up to Deck 11 for breakfast. Soooooooo exciting--land really does exist! I still could not wrap my head around the immensity of the ocean.

We were supposed to dock in the port of Falmouth around 9AM, so after breakfast, I suggested we go to the open decks on top to watch this happen. On our way up, we realized the boat was actually moving backwards. The captain was backing in to the port! about impressive!

We lathered up in our 50 SPF sunscreen, wore just our bathing suits (because I wasn't sure if there'd be a place to change into them once we got to our excursion) and off we went to disembark. Much to our surprise, we didn't stand in line too long, when you consider that about 2,000 people were being funneled down to one deck. They have this down to a science. On our way out, we ran into Todd and Jen our other table mates.

Jen commented on my bathing suit, saying how much she liked it. It's a one piece--very modest for moral reasons but also to protect my delicate skin that doesn't see much sun, regardless of how much tanning is done before hand. I spent HOURS and DAYS scouring the internet before our cruise trying to find such a bathing suit. I was at the point where I felt like giving up and was just positive such a bathing suit didn't exist. The $80-$100 1 piece bathing suits or tankinis from designer clothing lines might have been cute, but they weren't offering any more coverage than a $40 tankini I could get at Target. And I did get one of those because it's suggested you have 2 bathing suits to rotate through while on the ship and then on land. (I was stunned to find the bathing suits out on the clothes racks in January!!) The tankini would be my suit for the ship.

And then, out of nowhere, I stumbled across this website: I still don't know how I came across it, but I did. This bathing suit has MORE coverage for protection and modesty than I ever dreamed was possible and I felt so incredibly blessed to find it. I ordered one right away and it was perfect! I noticed that the prices have gone up quite a bit this past year. I paid $75 for mine. They're now $100. But honestly, it's a fair price compared to the other options for suits out there. I'd totally buy another one in a heartbeat! It was seriously the most ideal thing I could have worn for our land excursions, because it's like a 2-for-1. Bathing suit, but could pass for outerwear because of the coverage it gives. I was worried about just wearing a bathing suit off the ship and in the ports, but this suit solved that problem.

The port looked just like the map I had received at the shopping show. The "stores" and "kiosks" were right off the dock. We got off the ship as soon as we could so we could get our shopping done before our trip to the beach. (Our tickets were left on our bed the night before so we knew what time to meet and where). I tried to get a picture of the boat after we disembarked, but it took 3 pictures to do so since it's so big!

I got a free silver pendant from Colors Duty Free (a shopping show tip :). We got Cooper, Karcyn and Calvin color changing shirts from Del Sol (plus a free color changing bag). Then we went to another shop that had spices and got 14 Jerk Seasoning bottles (2 for $6!) for our friends. We cleaned them out. Jared bought 3 bottle of Jamaican hot sauces (buy 2 get 1 free). We also got Jake and Jared both a shirt. (Watch out...some of those shirts are definitely X-rated--I found it best, in this case, to keep your eyes down or at least at eye level).

I wanted to buy something cool like these carvings, but just didn't know what to get or where I'd put it in our house. It was neat just watching these Jamaicans working their creative magic.

At the market further down the way, I found a bag for my mom (who deserved a gift from every port and then some for watching our kids). I thought I'd try my hand at bartering. The man said $15, I said $10, he said $13. I said, "Okay." I'm not sure how I did. To be honest, it makes me uncomfortable. I like finding deals that are already established sale prices. Jared said he doesn't like bartering either because he's lived in a third world country in the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic) and this is how the people make their living.

After walking around and taking in all the sights, we went to the meeting place for our bus that would take us to Chukka Beach. I loved watching the people and listening to them talk (Yah Mon!) and couldn't help but think of the movie "Cool Runnings" :)

We drove on the LEFT side of the road! That was wild. We were even given a small tour of downtown Falmouth on our way to the beach which was unexpectedly delightful. The transportation was nicer than any cab ride we had in New Orleans, too, go figure.

The back end (aft, right?) of our ship as we drove to the beach.

Some pictures of downtown.

A lot of the homes and buildings looked really familiar to Jared from his D.R. days.

And this rare creature, we were told was a "Jamaican Reindeer" :)

Ahhh, the ocean from land!

The hospital...small but decent. I asked Jared if he wanted to work there ;)

A school (we think).

The beach!! Isn't it beautiful? Chukka Beach is a private beach owned by Royal Caribbean with private security guards and lifeguards. We were each given a lounge chair and our group also had a gourmet lunch being prepared for us that we'd be get to enjoy around 1PM.

We started our beach break by laying on our chairs and reading our books. Sometimes the best thing to do on a vacation, is nothing. Divine.

About 45 minutes later, we got in the water. It was definitely warmer than when you first get into our subdivision pool. A smidge cool at first, but nothing that stunned you or made you breathe in a sudden gasp of air because of the shock. Once you were in the water, it was very warm. And when you got out, it was warm enough outside, that even with the gentle breeze blowing, you weren't cold at all and dried off fast.

We also love our Olympus Stylus Tough camera that is not only waterproof, but shockproof, freeze proof, can be used underwater up to 33 feet and can withstand up to 220 pounds of pressure. Truly, this is a Hough-Tough camera. However, if it falls in the Puget Sound while dumping your kayak on High Adventure with your ward Young Men's group, please be aware that it is not sink-proof! (This would be our second Stylus Tough camera).

I wanted to take a picture of Jared while he bobbed at the top of a wave. And I succeeded...
but didn't think it through very well. I forgot that the wave would eventually reach me. And that expression on Jared's face is him anticipating me getting slammed by the wave.

It happened so fast that I got a mouth and nose full of saltwater instead. burned my throat. Yuck! But I did get the picture I wanted.

While we were wading out to the roped off area (it was pretty shallow), I stepped on a sharp rock. Ouch! Jared pulled me over closer to where he was. At another spot though, I stepped on something round that was also sharp and thorny. We headed back to the beach chairs but it hurt to walk on my left foot. I rinsed it off and saw about 8 thorns stuck in one patch on the outside of the bottom of my left foot. Jared pulled three thorns out with his fingers but needed some tweezers to get the rest.

He called out to one of the security guards who got a lifeguard to come over. Before we knew it, 4 Jamaican men were working on my foot. A few people gathered around, two of which were nurses to see if they could offer any assistance--which was very appreciated. One of them works in an ER and the other one said she liked my bathing suit :) The lifeguards took turns using a safety pin to dig out the thorns embedded in my foot.

Someone walked by and yelled, "Give her some rum!" One of the nurses even asked if the safety pin had been sterilized. (I'm up to date on my immunizations, I wasn't worried ;) Finally one of the lifeguards said he got them all. They had to scrape and dig to get those blasted thorns out. They poured hydrogen peroxide on the area (someone had suggested urine also works!) and then they told me to get in the ocean to clean the wound.

My foot was a little tender and it hurt a bit to put pressure on it, but it was better than it was.

After that fun little diversion from a restful afternoon on the beach, we went and got our gourmet lunch. We were given three pieces of jerk chicken, beans and rice, a hush puppy and cabbage coleslaw with vinegar. It was A.MAZ.ING! My favorite meal of the whole trip! I could have easily eaten two plates of this stuff. Easily.

There were buses leaving the beach about every 30 minutes so we could stay as long or as little as we liked (before the ship left port, of course). After lunch, Jared got back in the water one more time. I declined. Then we read for another half hour or so before catching a shuttle back to the dock.

Once we got back to the port, we went to Del Sol one more time to get me and my mom a shirt (helpful tip: buy a size or two larger than you normally would!) then we went to the spice store again for 6 more bottles of Jerk seasoning. (They had restocked the shelves since we were there that morning).

I thought I'd try some coconut water while I had the opportunity. It was fascinating watching this lady hack it to pieces with what looked to me like a mini machete.

The water was yummy, there was just a lot of it! I couldn't finish it without Jared's help.

And then we had to say goodbye to Falmouth and get back on the boat--going through a process like security at the airport. We had to slide our sea passes through a scanner so they could a) take attendance and b) verify that the person holding the pass was the same one in the picture attached to the account. We also had to go through security and place our souvenirs on a conveyor belt just like at the airport.

Once we got to our cabin, we rinsed off and changed out of our bathing suits. We went to see what was on the menu for dinner outside the dining room and decided to skip it because it didn't sound good to me (yes, this trip was all about me :) Plus, I wanted to see the boat depart around 5:30 and catch the sunset which is when dinner started for us. We watched the "all aboard" call (whoa...some peeps were cutting it too close for comfort...running to get back on the ship) and the departure from Port Falmouth.

Check out this little sandbar or whatever it is. This was a shot we took without using any zoom function on the camera. We were that close to it, making the reverse entrance into the port all that more impressive! Yeah, I know the Captain has fancy schmancy instruments, but still...

Ahhh, Jamaica. You stole my heart...thorns and all. You were the perfect first port!

Then it was off to Johnny Rockets for dinner. Johnny Rockets is a specialty restaurant, so it wasn't included in the price of the cruise. However, it was only $5 per person to order as much as you wanted off the menu, minus a couple of desserts. So for $10 we had unlimited French fries and onion rings and two big burgers--I couldn't even finish mine.

But, even though I don't like ice cream, I made sure there was a room for a shake that we shared--which was a small additional charge. STILL cheaper than eating at the real place and a fun environment. I can't recall the specific cue, but periodically the entire staff would break out in a song and dance. And every time a patron would leave, the waiter or waitress would yell goodbye and the other restaurant staff would follow suit.

Just to prove that it's a super crazy small world, there was a guy in the booth next to us with a female companion. I noticed his shirt said "Alaska" on it. Since I went to high school there and he seemed just a little bit older than me in age, I asked him where he was from. He said "Anchorage." I asked him what high school he went to, and he said, "Service" (the same school I went to). So then I had to find out what year he graduated. He said 1992. That was the same year we moved up to Alaska and I started at Service as a sophomore. He was already gone when I started, but seriously...what are the odds??

We saw no one in the Solarium (the adult only area) or in the hot tub. I still couldn't get over the fact that on a ship with over 2,000 passengers, not one soul wanted to be in a hot tub so we happily jumped at the chance to have the place to ourselves.

It was an unbelievably exciting day! I had been to Jamaica!! Our stateroom attendant (whose name I can't spell let alone pronounce, but whom I really liked) was nearby when we came back to retire for the night. He told me, with a twinkle in his eye, that we must have left our balcony door open because something flew into our cabin :)