Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stan Lee, Ruth Ellen, and Other VIPs

A Jedi and the Arthur Denton


Don't touch my bracer!

A Syth was sited.

Waiting to meet Stan Lee.
Do you see the coat Gabriel is wearing? He was a star this weekend because of it. I'm not sure how many people asked where he got it. At least three did while I was with him. I know more people did while I was not with him. He had multiple people want to take his picture just because of that coat. Where did he get it? Gary bought it in an Army/Navy store when he was a teenager. Gabriel is now using it for his Captain Jack Harkness costume.

Stan Lee!

Who ya' gonna call?

Playing Something Different.

Ruth Ellen, born this morning at 11:20.

My new running partners

Monday, July 29, 2013

Royal Caribbean- A Review

I've posted pictures from all of our cruise now, and I want to post a review and give some tips for the cruise line and cruise itself. There are things I wish I had known going into it that would have made my cruise easier and happier.

We went on Royal Caribbean's 7 day cruise of the Western Caribbean leaving from Port Canaveral, FL. We planned to do a lot of relaxing on beaches, reading, and playing in the water. Obviously, that is not what happened. If you're going on the same or a similar cruise, there are some tips that can help you be prepared.

  1. Pack a change of clothes and swimsuits in a bag to carry on board the ship yourself. Your luggage might not be delivered for hours.
  2. The places we ported do not have easily accessible beaches, except for Royal Caribbean's private port in Haiti. If you want to visit the beach, plan to pay for a taxi or excursion.
  3. Look at the excursion brochures ahead of time. That will give you the ability to look online for reviews of the places available for visiting.
  4. I've heard from friends that it is cheaper to get excursions on shore. For the ease of our family, we chose to do our excursions through Royal Caribbean. There were two reasons for this- a) We didn't want to have to spend time once ashore looking for an excursion. b) We were going on long excursions that lasted all day for two of our excursions. We wanted to be sure to be back before the ship set sail. c) Some of our excursions started early in the morning, and being on a shipboard excursion allowed us to be the first ones off the ship.
  5. If you like soda, get the soda package. If you or your child does not drink soda much, don't bother. It's not worth the price for the amount of time you'll spend on board if you don't regularly drink soda.
  6. Scope out all the places on board ship that you can get cups of water. It's not obvious, and it can be frustrating. However, all the bars serve water. Go get yourself some.
  7. On Royal Caribbean, you can either pre-pay your gratuities, or you'll automatically get charged gratuities every day you're on board ship. This changed just before our cruise, so we weren't expecting the automatic charge. It does make it easier, though.
  8. Eat dinner in the main dining room as often as possible. The food is wonderful and the waitstaff is outstanding. We still miss our waiter.
  9. All the ports of call accept American dollars, but most give change in local currency. Take small bills.
  10. If you're prone to motion sickness, get the patch. Also, MotionEaze was a lifesaver for Gabriel. I was impressed by how quickly and efficiently it worked. Grab some to take with you. It's something like $15 a bottle on board. Worth every penny, though. (That's an affiliate link, so if you buy through my link, I'll make a few cents off it.)

Port specific information:
Labadee, Haiti-

  • If your goal is to play in the water, go to Columbus Cove, where the water slide and aqua park are. We made the mistake of going to Barefoot Beach, where you really need water shoes. It's a fantastic beach, with great views, but the floor of the ocean is coral. It hurts to walk on it, scrape your knees on it, fall down on it... You get my drift. If your goal is water play, Columbus Cove is the way to go. 
  • Check out the zipline. It is great! But, it takes a couple hours. Be sure you sign up for it on board ship, and hotfoot it over to the zipline first thing so that you don't spend all day waiting for the zipline.
  • The Aqua Park- All I can say about this is that Dominic and I found it almost impossible to get atop the floats, but the water felt great.

  • There's a lot to do in Jamaica. Obviously, we highly recommend climbing Dunn's River Falls. 
  • If you're going to climb Dunn's River Falls, take water shoes. You can buy or rent them on sight, but you might as well just take them with you.
  • If you're planning to buy the DVD from Dunn's River Falls, make a lot of noise and be animated so that you get on the DVD! 
  • The cave is great and doesn't get cold, since it is all above ground level.
  • DON'T miss out on the jerk chicken. It is amazing.
  • If you're going to be doing a long excursion, you should still have time to hit up the little market by the dock. They have some good souveniers there, so don't worry that you'll miss out.

  • The one thing we didn't get to do that we wanted to do was a walking tour of Georgetown. We're big history buffs, so were looking forward to this. This excursion sells out quickly and we completely missed it. If you want to do this tour, be sure you get your tickets early. You can always trade them for another excursion later, or just get a refund.
  • If you want to go on a dolphin or snorkeling adventure and don't want to have to get up before dawn, be sure you get them early. They sell out of the later times early.
  • There's loads of shopping to be done in Grand Cayman, if that's your thing. They don't have a yarn store that I know of, though. (And I'm pretty sure the port shopping guide that I was nutters when I asked about yarn stores.)
  • Georgetown is a tender port. You'll be riding tenders to and from the ship. 

  • Cozumel has three options for Mayan ruin excursions- Coba, which I talk about in my blog post; Tolum, which friends really liked, but you can't climb on and the ruins have been restored extensively, which can be a boon if that's what you want to see; and some 'ruins' on Cozumel that are mock ruins, but are still pretty cool, from what I understand.
  • Cozumel is an island. Many of the excursions are on the mainland. It's about a 30 minute boat ride to the mainland. If you experience motion sickness, be sure you take your medicine. If it's hot outside, be sure you get on the boat early enough to get an inside seat. There's no breeze, and the heat and be stifling topside. 
  • Cozumel has some great beaches, so this is a good place to go to the beach if you are so inclined.

Back in the states- If you fly in, and your flight is later in the day, take advantage of Royal Caribbean's excursion to Kennedy Space Center. Their excursion includes the cost of the transfer to the airport, and is actually cheaper than getting into the Kennedy Space Center and the cost of the shuttle to the airport put together. It may actually be cheaper than getting into the Kennedy Space Center, which is amazingly expensive. It is absolutely awesome, though.

Take extra money. Have fun. Relax.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Art Wall

As you may remember, we started ripping out our carpets in January. That was over six (6!) months ago. We still haven't ripped the carpet out in our library, for which I'm thankful. We just finished laying the floors in the rest of the house. The library is on hold for a while. In the meantime, we have to get the molding back in, frame the new doorway into the dining room, and get some new curtains. I really am quite thrilled with how the floor looks, and the colors we chose for the walls.

But, looking around the dining room, while I was painting the walls, I decided something was missing. I'm a big fan of murals. (On a side note, I just realized I never posted the finished pictures of Dominic's room, or of his quilt. Bad Mom!) I thought I'd paint a mural, but we are planning to sell our house in the not too distant future, and it is already going to be hard enough to leave Xavier's room behind. I don't want another wall I have to paint over. So, I decided on an art wall. (The color of the walls in our dining room is more accurate in the picture of Gary and Xavier flooring.)

Walgreens has these great peel and stick poster prints that are repositionable. This was important because I want to be able to take them down when we leave, but I also want them to be more like wallpaper than framed artwork. This is what I have so far. We printed some of our pictures from our vacation. Now, we just need to add the paintings.

This is the first painting. I just need to fix Gary's mouth and it will be done. I'm painting on contact paper. It is removable, so when we move, I can take it with me. It's not the most elegant solution, but I sure am having fun with it.

I've received art work from one my nieces and one of my nephews. I have to apply it to contact paper and put it up. I'm hoping to receive art from my other nephews and niece. (I'm also expecting another niece any day now! She can send me something when she's available, Sally.) I'm doing one of each member of our family. I'm currently working on a painting of Xavier. We've worked out what we want it to look like. I just haven't had time to lay it out and start working on it, and probably won't until next week. If you want to send me art for my wall, I'd love to have it!

I probably won't have time to do any more work on my art this week. Our local version of Comic Con starts tomorrow. Stan Lee is going to be here! I'm pretty sure we're going to be busy all weekend. And, when that is over, Wolverine! It's a geek nirvana. Maybe I should add a painting of Stan Lee and some Marvel characters to my wall.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Aging Gracefully

I've always said that I would fight my white hair. After all, I do love dying my hair. Quite frankly, I don't really dye it for vanity's sake, but because hair grows back, and I can play with it. It's like doing art on my body that, unlike a tattoo, can be done away with when I get tired of it.

A few moths ago, I looked at my white hair and made peace with it. I am 36 years old, and I have white hair. Oh, not all of it is white. In fact, most of it is still dark brown. The white is getting more prolific, though, and it's a different texture than the rest of my hair.

But we don't like to see women aging. In fact, most people in America can't guess a woman's age accurately because we don't know what a 50 year old woman looks like naturally. Imagine! Wrinkles around your eyes! Wrinkles around your mouth. Wrinkles on your forehead!! We have an entire industry built on the premise of helping keep us from getting wrinkles, reducing wrinkles, and hiding them when we finally succumb to the inevitable. Women are not allowed to have wrinkles!

A friend recently posted a link to this article. It shows pictures before and after they've been Photoshopped. Take a minute and go look at those pictures. Do we really want to forget what it looks like to age? Do we really want to forget what age brings our society?

In 2007, Rush Limbaugh jumped right off the cliff, as he so often does, of political correctness when he said we wouldn't want to watch Hillary Clinton age in the presidential office. But he was right. The fact that this picture of Hillary was being described as "unflattering" tells the entire story. We don't like to see women with wrinkles.

It use to be that this picture would have brought to mind a woman who had lived a long life, one who was wise and had much to share with society. Now, this picture just engenders disgust and a fear of growing old.

When did we stop allowing our women to age? Perhaps it is a biological thing. After all, post-menopausal women are no longer able to bear children, that thing we were created for. Perhaps biology is what causes men to appreciate younger women, and women to appreciate older men. Older men signify stability, while younger women signify progeny.

But older women use to have a place in our society. I think that when women stopped being grandmothers, we decided that we couldn't age. We have to compete with younger women for our jobs, and that vitality that we see in younger women makes us feel the need to change the way we look. I wish that our society would recognize the wealth of knowledge and wisdom the older generation can give us, and start looking at those wrinkles as badges of lives well lived. It would do much for our society to recognize that age comes before we retire, and letting our wrinkles happen is not giving up, but accepting who we are. And who we are is something to be admired, appreciated, and emulated.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Climbing Onboard

The whole reason we chose Royal Caribbean for our cruise was their climbing wall, and we didn't get around to climbing until our last day onboard. Even then, Xavier was too busy to climb with us. Dominic didn't want to climb, but we talked some more about overcoming fears, and up he went. He only got a few feet off the deck, but I was proud of him. Now to go climbing more often. Other than Dominic, our entire family loves it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Making Music

Dominic went to rock band camp last week. This is the concert they put on at the end of camp. I have to say that considering the fact that some of these kids had never even seen their instruments before that week, they did awesome. Dominic and the other singer had some trouble with the first two songs. They were played much slower than they are usually played, and they had trouble staying with the instrumentalists. Oh, but on that last song, they were in control. And they loved it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fourteen Years

Every time I look at this child of mine, I see my brother.
Gary and I returned from a night out to find our babysitter wide awake. This was unusual, as he mostly liked to lie on the floor with Gabriel and go to sleep. He looked at me and said, "Ms. Kristina, your mom wants you to call her as soon as you get home."

As any adult can tell you, a late night phone call is usually not good news. I expected to hear that my grandmother, who had been ill for years, had died. I was not expecting to hear that my older brother, at the ripe old age of 24 was missing. He had gone fishing, and when his ride returned to pick him up, his clothes, cigarettes, and the rest of his belongings were on the bank of the lake, and he was not.

Keystone Lake is well known for the number of swimmers' lives it claims each year. 1999 was the year it claimed my brother's. I knew, as well as my family did, that there was no hope he was still alive.

The next day, as we showered, I cried, and we decided it wasn't worth waiting. We would head to Oklahoma immediately. At the time, we lived in Pensacola, Florida, about a 14 hour drive away. We arrived outside Tulsa at about 7am Sunday, July 18th. We stopped at a gas station so that I could go to the bathroom, and I used a pay phone to call my parents. My uncle answered the phone.

My uncle went on to answer the phone during several distressing times for my family. When my grandmother died, it was he who answered the phone. When my father died, it was he who answered the phone. When he died, there was no one to answer the phone, and just like my brother's death, his death in a motorcycle accident was a shock.

During his funeral, Gabriel, not quite 2, provided a little comedic relief by saying, "Is it over yet?" I've never been one to like heavy funerals. I much prefer to celebrate the person we're also mourning.

Today, I don't mourn the man my brother was. He never truly had the opportunity to become a man. My brother was brilliant. I think he could have been great. But, I'll never know. So, today, I celebrate the wonderful things I do know about my brother.

He gave me my first haircut. Sure, I was only around 2, and my mother cried, but we did get to play barber.
He built wonderful treehouses, and let me help.
He never treated me like anything other than an equal.
He taught me to drive a stick shift.
He felt everything deeply.
He was an artist, a mathematician, a builder, and a comedian.
His sense of humor was wonderful.
He thought about everything.

I wish I could have gotten to know the man my brother was in the process of becoming when he died. So, here's to you, Frank III! Rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


This blog began as a chronicle of our homeschool life. Over the years (almost 6!), the blog has become much more about our family in general, and me in specific. The name "Freedom Lovers' Academy" just doesn't fit any longer. After all, one of my children is almost done homeschooling. Our family is growing and changing, and so has our blog. I have decided it is time to change the name of our blog.

My nickname while in the Navy was Bourbon, because it was part of my maiden name. My moniker all across the internet has been Bourbon Girl for many years. Gary and I have even begun to call our family "The House of Bourbon."

Along with the new name, there are going to be some other changes. Xavier has agreed to start blogging with me. I believe that Gabriel may start making some contribution, and Dominic is considering a vlog. I would love this blog to fully reflect our family, and I am looking forward to the changes. I hope you come along for the ride.

Also, I've grown 1/2 an inch since starting chiropractic care. Who knew?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Vacation Day 5: Coba

"El Dorado" game arena

Limestone roads

There is nothing I can say about this day that will begin to express how amazing it was.


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