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Monday, December 17, 2012


I can't stop crying this morning. I'm so very sad today, this first school day since the tragedy in Connecticut. I'm so sad for the moms and dads that are waking up this morning with no babies to take to school. No little piggy tails to tie, no lunches to make, no little hands to hold on the way to school. No sloppy wet kisses on the front steps. No "I love you, Mama". No jammies left on the floor by the heater.


So devastatingly heartbreaking.

Dear Earth Mother,
Please help them find peace.

Monday, December 03, 2012

To Do This Christmas

SPEND less ..... money. 
SPEND more .... time having "California Snow Ball" Fights with the kids. 

MAKE less .... lists.
MAKE more .... merry. 

DO less .... shopping. 
DO more .... baking with kids. 

HAVE less .... stress.
HAVE more .... singing. 

WATCH .... more Christmas movies with my kids.
WATCH .... less calories. 

BE Scrooge .... less. 
BE-lieve .... more. 

Wishing you a stress-free, merry-filled Christmas!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

You know you're a busy mom when... return home after a long day of running errands and try to unlock your front door using the keyless entry fob for your SUV. pick up your iPhone, unlock it with your passcode, and then put it to your ear as if you've called someone. You do that regularly. leave your house to find that your car has been stolen right out of your driveway. Before you push send on the 911 call you remember that the last time you saw it was when you parked it at school to pick up the kids...yesterday. And then you'd walked home.

...your nine year old exclaims, "Mom! I lost another tooth!" And you hear yourself reply,"Awesome! Now go get a dollar out of my wallet and put it under your pillow."

How do you know you're a busy mom?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Comforts of Home

We've so been enjoying the comforts of home. Namely:

cold milk
health care
Costco (the napping opportunities are spectacular)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Make a Boat a Home

In a large mixing boat combine the following:
A Whole 38’ Admiral Catamaran
2 Hulls for added stability, speed and space
4 cabins - (2 forward and 2 aft)
A tasty galley (I like mine with an oven)
The spice of one salon and dinette with seating for 10
2 bathrooms for added seasoning 
A freshly cut head sail and main sail (most people prefer the white meat - we occasional enjoy the aged black variety)
The splash of 2 forward trampolines (cocktail quality - not the cheap stuff) 
A briny cockpit
The zest of 4 kids (vary to taste)
Throw in a pinch of Mayan pillows for added color (I like mine imported from Guatemala.)

*Optional: A Belizean kitty adds a lovely homey flavor if so desired 
Shake vigorously in 6-8 foot seas.
Bake for 4-5 months in the tropical sun. 
Sprinkle with stars.
Serve with a side of sunrise. 

I've been meaning to share these interior pics of Balance so you can have a visual of the boat we were on. It was the perfect size for our family and so wonderfully cozy. We came to love it.

Salon with dinette. Galley in the background.  

 Looking to starboard. Control panel and VHF on the right. See my herb garden? 

 Galley and looking forward down the port breezeway to the girls' Vberth cabin. 

Starboard breezeway and the boys' Vberth. The door in the bottom right hand corner is the starboard head (bathroom). 

Port Aft Cabin. There's another one identical on Starboard.

Companionway (stairs) to the Starboard breezeway and Aft Cabin. 

Starboard head. There's a toilet opposite the sink and the sink faucet becomes a shower head when necessary. 

*Since we lost our steering and were stalled out in Honduras for weather we have had not a lick of internet. I apologize profusely if you thought for a second that we had sunk to the bottom of the Caribbean. Not at all. In fact, we were able to leave Honduras during the predicted weather window and made incredible time to San Andres. There Capitan discovered a broken chain plate on port which connects the shroud to the top of the mast and is partly responsible for holding the mast up. Ugh! I almost barfed when I heard that we could have lost our mast. But we didn't. That's lucky. And Dave and Bill were able to remove the broken piece and take it across town to yet another welder to have it fixed.

So once again we patched our boat back together with duck tape and hose clamps and headed out into the great blue yonder. We had a lovely sail with the winds in our favor and were able to consistently make 8-9 knots! (Believe it or not, that's fast. ~10-11 mph.) On the way, a bright orange U.S. Coast Guard helicopter snuck up behind us, flying low and trying to be all stealth by coming in down wind (and as Dave says - on our "six"). Of course, they were looking for any kind of illegal behavior, but we just felt like they were coming by to say hi. So we all rushed up on deck, jumping up and down, blowing kisses and waving profusely. They gave up on being stealth and saddled right up on our "nine". They were so close that we could see the co-pilot smile! I'm sure we were a sight. Then they tipped their "wing" in salute, waved, circled the boat, waved again, and flew off. It was magical. And knowing that our U.S. Coast Guard was out there patrolling those waters, near enough should we need them was so absolutely reassuring. I won't lie. I got a little teary eyed.

The rest of that crossing was relatively uneventful except for that GINORMOUS container ship coming from the Panama Canal that crossed just a short distance in front of us. Sheesh. Sketchy. We nearly felt their wake. There are stories of big huge freighters like that running down sailboats like ours and not realizing it until they get to port in Japan or wherever. Yikes. But we didn't end up as a hood ornament. That's lucky. And we made such good time that we arrived in the San Blas Islands 8 hours ahead of schedule. You'd think that would be a good thing except that when you're planning a 50 hour crossing you try to plan it so you arrive at your destination in daylight. Daylight is especially helpful when your destination is wrought with hidden coral heads and shoals that appear out of nowhere. As we were coming into the anchorage at midnight Dave called me up on deck for bow watch. I was just getting out of the shower, but I could tell he needed me urgently. So I threw on my foul weather gear (glorified rain coat), grabbed a mag light and hurried to the bow. I heard the breaking waves before I saw them. You don't ever want to see breaking waves from the bow of your boat within the scope of your mag light. Not ever. Breaking waves are bad. I tried not to sound panicked as I spun around in my raincoat and said to Dave, "Breaking waves dead ahead!" I felt like a pirate. At about the same time our keel found the sandy bottom and we heard the unmistakable crunching sound of fiberglass on sand. Not a sound you want to hear. Not ever. Dave threw both engines into reverse and we got the heck off that shoal. No harm, no foul. Never happened. Besides, Dave said it was all worthwhile to see me running around the bow in nothing but a rain coat. I'm sure.

In the San Blas we met up with Dave's brothers and their families and had a lovely family reunion in the islands. From there Dave and the kids and I did our last 11 hour crossing to the marina at Shelter Bay near Colon, Panama. It was such a beautiful crossing to end our trip. Not a ripple on the water and the Panama coastline was gorgeous. We had a whirlwind 36 hours at the marina detaching ourselves from the boat and getting it hauled out for body work and repairs. I cried like a baby leaving the boat. So many emotions. I was so thankful to the boat for carrying our family safely through the Caribbean. And so relieved to have completed our adventure relatively unscathed. Then it was back to Panama City for a glorious night of luxury at the Trump Ocean Resort. We flew home on Tuesday and have been holed up in our darling little house wearing our pajamas, wasting copious amounts of hot water, and flushing the toilet unnecessarily since then. I cannot even tell you how great it is to be home.
We may never leave.

Thanks for keeping track of us. And now I'm going to bed to sleep for four days straight. Good night. 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

"Dave, We Just Lost Steering."

These are not the words any captain (or first "mate") want to hear an hour into the first watch of the first night of the first crossing between the Bay Islands and Panama. Nosirreebob.

So when Connie popped her head into the aft cabin with this disastrous, debilitating news, and Dave jumped out of our bunk and into his shorts in one single maneuver, I knew we were in trouble. We had left Roatan 9 hours earlier and we were roughly the middle of the ocean. Just us and the full moon against 6-8 foot seas (those are big) and 25 knots (that’s a lot) of wind on the nose. At least, it had been on the nose until we lost steering and couldn’t maintain our course. Then the seas were coming at us from all directions, snarling and snapping like hungry wolves. Surrounding us. Baring their teeth in the moonlight, shackles raised. Smelling vulnerability on the wind and waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Terrifying. In the dark. With no steering. 9 hours away from Roatan. Nowhere to run. Surrounded by snarling, slobbering waves. 
This is NOT how you want to start a 50 hour crossing. No it’s not. 

Cole did his best at the helm to fend off the encroaching waves while Dave and Bill wrestled with the steering mechanism below. Connie and I took turns exchanging "this-could-be-really-bad" glances. 
As it turned out, the starboard rudder linkage (a 1/2" stainless steel rod which connects the helm to the starboard rudder) had snapped at the site of a piss poor welding job done in ’06. (If I ever get my hands on that pumpernickel...) Luckily, Dave and Bill were able to disconnect the disabled rudder from the helm which allowed for steering with the port rudder. But as we learned during our three hour tour one engine (or, in this case, one rudder) is not as good as two. But with a reefed jib and Dave at the helm, it proved to be good enough. And by the grace of Neptune and the light of the full moon, we were able to zig zag down wind toward the lights that we could see on the not so distant shore of mainland Honduras. I have never seen more beautiful lights; complete with a lighthouse beckoning to us like a friend in the night, guiding us into the safety of the mainland, not far from Cabo Gracias a Dios (Thank God Cape). Indeed. 
We dropped our hook at about 10:30 PM smack dab into the middle of a fisherman’s net. As luck would have it that fisherman, George, happened to be out fishing by the full moon and he came by our boat to tell us we had just busted his net. He was quite friendly and after Dave dove our anchor to untangle his net (it’s a thankless job, captain) he gave us directions to the little town of Castilla where we would find a welder. Gracias a Dios. (P.S. What are the chances of seeing anyone fishing at 10:30 PM off the coast of anywhere, let alone a fisherman from a nearby town with a welder? Slim.)
The next morning, Dave and I headed into Castilla where we did indeed find a welder. Jesus. A’ course the welding had to be done on the boat and, a’ course one has to have 220 volts to run an arch welder. We BARELY have 110 on our boat. Bugger. So Jesus recommended that we check with the nearby Honduran Navy to see if they would let us tie up to their dock with 220. 

Let me take a break here and paint a picture. Have you seen the movie “Romancing the Stone?” Remember the scene where Jack and Joan Wilder stumble into the little Columbian village all haggard and filthy, looking for a car? That was me and Dave in this little pueblo that rarely, if ever, sees a tourist. Dave with no shoes and his salty cut offs, shirt unbuttoned to his waist. Me trying to smooth the wrinkles out of my skirt (hadn't worn that in awhile) and clutching my dry bag protectively. With locals peeking around doorways to get a glimpse of the gringos that had washed up on their shore (bad news travels fast in a little pueblo) we asked around for a taxi to take us to the Naval Base. There are no taxi's in town they tell us and only one car. We whisper to each other “Pepe? The Lil’ Mule?” The bell maker* turned out to be Luis, a 19 year old boy with a dodge sedan (I don’t think he called it Pepe). He happily taught us all sorts of bad words in Spanish on the 5 minute drive to the Naval Base. Unfortunately, the Comandante gave us the disappointing news that he no longer had 220 on his dock. Bugger. So he sent us to the nearby Dole shipping port to see if they could help us. 

Gracias a Dios, the shipping port didn’t have any big ships on the dock that day and they gave us permission to tie up to their HUGE bulk head with 220 available on a nearby power pole. (Seriously, HUGE. Like built-for-gigantic-container-ships-heading-to-the-Panama-Canal-to-deliver-pineapples-to-California huge.) Balance looked like a toy boat - say that 10 times fast - tied up to its fire hydrant sized cleats. So we arranged for Jesus, the welder, to meet us there. A’ course, by the time we had docked Balance (the fenders were as big as washing machines) and the welder had arrived, the electricity was out. That happens often in these parts. Bugger. So we waited. With kids and grandparents taking turns keeping our boat from wedging itself under the washing machine sized fenders, we waited. For almost two hours. But then, Gracias a Dios, the power came back on. And Jesus (being a small Honduran man) was able to curl himself into a washing machine size space aft of the starboard engine and weld the linkage back together. Gracias a Dios. 
Less than 24 hours after "Dave, we just lost steering" and following a series of small miracles starting with those heavenly lights and concluding with a commercial dock with 220, our boat is once again sea worthy. We were incredibly lucky. Usually when the $#*! hits the fan at sea there is NO land in sight. Let alone land with lights. Let alone land with lights and a welder. Let alone land with lights and a welder and a dock with 220. Fogetabatit. Get out the oars. And good luck against that 25 knot head wind.
Even though our boat has fully recovered from the ordeal, our crew, being twice shy, has not. So here we sit anchored just off of Castilla, our favorite little pueblo of miracles, and wait for Neptune to call off the slobbering waves. 

It looks like Monday might give us the weather window we need. 

Three cheers to Castilla,
~The Twice Shy Crew of Balance

*In "Romancing the Stone" the bell maker is the guy in town with the only car. You should watch it again...

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Homeward Bound

As it were, we've come to the last chapter of our Caribbean adventure. We fly home from Panama City in just under 3 weeks. It's been an incredible adventure and I'm trying not to take a moment of the time we have left for granted, but between you, me, and the mast - I am homesick. I miss my house. And dirt. And my nephew. And my chickens. (Although since we've been gone Zona ate two of them and one of my silkies kicked the bucket while sitting on her nest. That leaves only one. Hmmm.)

We're in Roatan about to throw the mooring line and slog to weather* for the better part of the next 50 hours. Joy. I won't lie; I'm not looking forward to it. The good news is the Miami Grandparents are here in all their infinite maritime wisdom, enduring patience and extensive experience slogging to weather. Thanks for coming out to help us get back to Panama, guys. The other good news is I'm smarter now and I've already administered the scopolamine patch to the back of my ear. Hopefully, that will render me at least halfway useful over the next two days. If not, Gramma Connie is here to make sure that everyone is drinking water and wearing their life jackets. Plus the tuna is made and stashed in a tupperware, the ginger ale is chilling in the cockpit cooler, and the barf bucket is conveniently located for all to use. Please send a plea to Neptune on our behalf for calm seas and favorable winds (less than 20 knots, if you please). Next stop is the Vivarillos Islands with a lovely beach and great fishing but absolutely no facilities and even less internet. After that we'll press on to the Columbian island of San Andres where we'll spoil ourselves rotten with cold showers at Nene's, pizza and shameful quantities of ice cream. From there we'll have another big crossing to the San Blas Islands of Panama. Then it's smooth sailing and party time with the cousins in the islands. One night and a birthday dinner for Grandpa and Emerson in Panama City and then we're on a flight home. Oh heavenly airplanes. What a delightful way to travel.

Thanks for coming on this adventure with us. It's been fun having you along. Signing out 'til San Andres. We'll meet you there.

Long live scopolamine,

*Slogging to weather: Sailing (read: motoring) against wind, waves and currents in a generally miserable "up stream" grind. Barf.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Sail on the Wild Side

I may have mentioned that Dave has started making "movies" of our adventure on iMovie. They are so enjoyable to watch and I thought maybe you all would enjoy them as much as we do. (It's embarrassing. We watch them over and over.) Here are the links:

Em's trailer

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My New Favorite Swimsuit

I've recently become an affiliate for the company that makes my new favorite swimsuits. I have two. One in black and the one pictured below: mango. My favorite. The top is the triangle style and the bottoms are the European brief cut. No, not that European. If you don't know what an affiliate is....I'm not sure how well I can explain it. But I'll try. I put a link on my blog and if you click on it and then order a suit from their website they give me a commission. And I'm about to order two new suits from them (I'm thinking the french mulberry and the ocean), so I figure I might as well make a commission on my own order, right? Anyway, they are not only super cute suits but they come in the best colors and are very sporty. In other words: supportive. The bottoms have a draw sting and the top has the cutest criss cross back with a tie. Which means that if you're a swimmer (occasionally I fancy myself a swimmer) you can synch everything up and do laps without equipment malfunction and without an atrocious one piece with built in shelf bra. Barf. My girlfriend Amy wears hers while surfing. She likes the scooped brief bottoms and the vent top.

" Honeeeeey? I think I'm about to jibe the genoaaaaaa......"

"Uh-oh. Hard a port! I'm givin' 'er all she's got Cap'n!" (name that movie)

So if you're in the market for a super cute new suit check THESE out....
Tell them Heather sent you. Just kidding. They'll know...

Snorkeling at the Blue Hole

The Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef Atoll (an atoll is a sunken island - but on our boat it has come to mean...well, it has other meanings) was created when an underwater cavern sunk into itself. It makes a near perfect circle about 1000 feet across and 400 feet deep. It is a popular dive destination here in Belize with boats shuttling divers regularly from the mainland and the barrier islands. When we visited we were unbelievably lucky to have it completely to ourselves. It was magnificently eery to snorkel the reef that lines the perimeter of the hole. The reef itself is in shallow water but the depth plunges dramatically into darkness just a few feet away. The underwater pictures below are from our snorkel. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mudda's Day

Have I mentioned how much I love Belize? And one of my favorite things is the language.  Locals speak English and Creole, both of which bounce happily off the tongue with a jolly islan' rhydm. 
I could listen to it all day. 
We spent Mudda's Day in Cay Caulker. It's a little island toward the north end of the Barrier Islands. It was nice, but more touristy than Placencia, and as such, not as much to our liking. But we had a nice day with breakfast at Amor Cafe (yummy!) and then we rented a golf cart to cruise the sandy streets. A highlight was seeing a cayman (salt water croc) near the airstrip. 

Evie and I enjoying our new hand me down blow up kayak from Mistral. 

Laundry detail. 

"Whot ah lokey mudda." Breakfast at Amor Cafe on Cay Caulker for Mother's Day. 

 The kids and I have ventured into a delicious new hobby of making our own bread. Salt water bread. Cinnamon swirl bread. Amish white bread. We even made our own doughnuts. So fun. 

 Salt water bread made with fresh salt water from Tobacco Cay. 
(Per the recipe found in Dove - a must read.) 

 Our rented ride on Cay Caulker and a(nother) nasty storm front blowing in. 

 I just loved this tall and skinny house on Cay Caulker. 

The sandy streets of Cay Caulker. 

Tobacco Cay. This is a charming (albeit tiny) little isle with friendly people and lovely island architecture. This picture doesn't do it justice. It was a dreary day. 

We enjoyed exploring the little island and visiting with the locals. The kids got their fix of running and tree climbing. 

Capitan insisted that I dock Balance in Placencia. I was sweaty nervous, but I did it! And all the pilings are still standing. Phew. 

We're back in Placencia until the weather permits us to head east to the Bay Islands of Honduras (Monday or Tuesday). Thom arrived on Friday and we've been enjoying sharing all of the delights of Placencia with him. 

Thanks for checking in! Next stop - the Bay Islands. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cat's Cat (get it?)

Our kitty has brought such joy to our boat. When he's not sleeping he's a blur of fur as he chases and pounces on everything that moves (including our feet). He learned to use his litter box on his very first night (after doing his dooty on the dirt at the marina we put a nougat in a tub of sand on the boat and he totally got the hint). He's claimed a cozy spot with his "blankie" on the shelf above the dinette and sleeps soundly through the night. Thank heavens. As you can imagine, the kids adore him and I often have to break up disputes regarding whose turn it is to "play" with him. Like a favorite new toy. 

Alas, my research has proven that taking him home will be difficult at best. Panama offers the biggest hurdles, requiring expensive licenses, vet visits, and proof of home quarantine. All of which I would obstinately and happily do except that the perfect scenario for a new home for him has magically presented itself here in Placencia. As sad as it will be for us to say good-bye it would be so much more sad to wake up one morning after an all night crossing to find that he's fallen overboard somewhere between Belize and Honduras. I have nightmares. (As if I don't have enough fodder for nightmares. Please.) Besides, he gets seasick. Pobre. So for his sake and my mental well being we will be handing him over to our friend, Tracy, later this afternoon. She will love him as much as we do (she already does). And we'll be taking with us the fondest of memories of our time with our darling little kitty. 

 We've all loved having a kitty on board. He's made our boat feel very homey. 

 He's so cute and little. 

His spot behind the dinette. 

 I wish I could train my kids to barf in their littler box when they're seasick. Brilliant. 

 Kitty's got the helm.

We take him to the islands now and then which he pretty much hates. He meows and meows and looks around like he's being stalked. One time, upon returning from Goff's Cay he thought he could jump to the big boat from the dinghy. He actually would have made it if the sugar scoop had been made of...say...couch and not fiberglass. His little claws could not find purchase and he slid right into the ocean. Emerson was in the water faster than fast and past him up to Cole's waiting hands. The whole thing was over in 2.3 seconds and we all had a belly roll that left us aching. A quick fresh water rinse and a towel dry and he was soon passed out on Cole's lap from the trauma of it all. 

Being a Cat's cat is tough business. 

Taste testing this hog fish. Yummy. 

 Playing chess with Emerson. Check.

"Mama says I'm still too little to venture outside, but I'm pretty sure I just saw a flying fish."


 He loves to sleep curled up under our chins. 

 Table dancing. 

We're so going to miss this darling face. 
But we're so lucky to have found him a loving home here in Placencia. 
Thanks for loving him, Miss Tracy! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Clothing Optional

I like to refer to this portion of our trip as the “Clothing Optional” Leg. The kids have come to call it the “Mom! Put Something On!” Leg. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned clothing is simply unnecessary at this latitude. Unless, of course, you are assigned by the capitan to do bow watch on the way to the Blue Hole in order to keep an eye out for protruding coral heads. And, of course, the twins join you on the bow. They’ve never seen the light of day (except for that one time at the lake...). And even though it’s before 9am and you think sunscreen is not yet necessary, 30 minutes of tropical sun proves too much for the most delicate skin of your yonder regions. Thank goodness for the aloe plant you have on board. After two weeks, the peeling has finally subsided and the twins are as pasty white as ever. Tan boobs are simply not in your genetic make up. So sorry. 

So aside from that second degree burn, complete with water blisters, I have so enjoyed the freedom of having the boat and the islands to ourselves and the unlimited options of “island attire” subsequently available to us. {The kids aren’t nearly as enthusiastic. If they weren’t entirely traumatized by life on a small sailboat before, they surely are now.} A’ course, hoisting the main sail without the help of supportive accoutrements hasn’t proven to be the most graceful of maneuvers. And there was that one time while the twins and I were at the helm (in the shade) when from out of nowhere, hidden by the genoa until it was entirely upon my port quarter, appeared a shuttle dory full of locals commuting to work from Coco Plum Cay to Dangriga. I jumped in utter shock, having seen nary a soul in two days, gathering the twins protectively in my arms. The locals waved heartily in my direction, smiles all around, and I gave them my very best tyrannosauras arm wave back while the girls turned a brilliant shade of crimson, and not from the sun.*

Due to the aforementioned nature of this leg I don’t have many pictures that are suitable for sharing.
But I will say this...
The turquoise of the water contrasted by the pasty white of the....sails. 
Surprisingly stunning. 

*Cross your arms across your chest. Now wave without moving your arms. This is the tyrannosaurus wave. Haven't you seen Toy Story

Monday, May 14, 2012

Holiday Ro-o-o-oad.....

As most of you know we LOVE a good road trip. And, of course we love a holiday within a holiday. So to celebrate Soli’s birthday weekend we rented a sweet ride and took the kids on an inland adventure through the beautiful Belize countryside.  

It was so cozy to be back in an SUVwith the kiddies buckled safely into the back seats and my hubby behind the wheel. 

Gorgeous colonial architecture in Belize City. 
Countryside outside of Belmopan near Spanish Lookout. 

I love this little house. Typical Belizean style. 
We started our adventure on Saturday morning with a visit to the Belize Zoo. The highlight was the private jaguar encounter with Junior Buddy the jaguar. He entertained us with somersaults and kisses while the kids got to feed him chicken legs, scratch his back and feel his velvety soft paws (through a specially designed cage, of course).

Then back on the road, we stopped for a yummy Belizean lunch at Cheers. (Dave wants you to ignore his gray and I want you to ignore my wrinkles. I guess that's what happens when you take 4 kids sailing in the Caribbean for five months. Hmmph.)

On to our fabulous hotel, the Five Sisters, in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve where we swam in the falls and enjoyed the cooler mountain climate. I was enthralled by how happily the pines and palms intermingled. It was sensational to see fire flies zipping through the bromeliad clad pine trees. And the smell! A mix of pine and vanilla orchids and plumeria. Heavenly. Have I mentioned that you simply must visit Belize?

The staff was waiting with tropical beverages when we checked in! Shut up. Such unadulterated pampering. I almost cried. And check out the view of The Five Sisters Falls. 

The falls at Five Sisters. 
So refreshing...

The fresh water was a welcomed respite. 

The kids clamored all over the rocks with only a 25% "slip-and-fall" rate. Just a couple of bruises and a headache but luckily she didn't have a concussion. Sheesh. 

 It felt like Tahoe in the summer. (But the water was warmer - no snow melt.)

Emerson will be twelve next month. He's struggled some over the past few months with the infiltrating hormones. Homeschooling, living on a sailboat and sleeping with his sister haven't helped the mood swings. Oh the joys of tweenagehood. 

Cole was quick to find a section in the slippery rocks where he could make a water slide. Yee-haw!

This trip has been good for family bonding. Once we got over the initial shock, that is. Or maybe because of the initial shock. Hmm.

Being one of only two groups on the premises (it's slow season) the staff spoiled us rotten, and our “jungalow” was so absolutely cozy. Perched high above the falls, the subtle roar of the river was soothing and magical. Our jungalow was two levels with a king bed and bath downstairs. It was heavenly to sleep under a down comforter listening to the hum of the falls and breathing in the cool mountain air as it flowed in through the open screened wall.  Upstairs, under the vaulted palapa ceiling, was a queen bed, a queen fold out futon and a second bathroom. A screened in sitting room with hammock, overlooking the forest and falls, was the cherry on top. The Five Sisters Lodge in San Ignacio, Belize. 
Stay there. 

Check out time came all too quickly. But, refreshed, we hit the road anew, armed with peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We passed through the charming twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio then crossed the hand cranked ferry on our way to check out the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich.

Even the kids were impressed with the huge pyramids and the immaculate grounds of the plaza. We learned about the ancient Maya (always homeschooling) and got the special treat of seeing howler monkeys in the wild. 

Adorable aren't they? 

A babe sitting on the branch behind his mama. 

Then we headed back down the hill from Xunantunich and onto the Western Highway for the 72 mile drive home (the entire width of the country). On the way, we drove through the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout which blew our minds. Not because of the people (it was Sunday - not a soul was out and about), but because we felt like we were driving through Anytown, Middle America. We’ve become so accustomed to the traditional Belizean style wooden clapboard homes on stilts that seeing U.S. style homes with basements and bay windows and crew cabs parked out front felt -- well, it felt like home. Honestly, we could have been in the middle of Idaho with its huge grain silos and dairies and John Deer tractor retail warehouses. Leaving Canada and settling here in the 50‘s in search of unrestricted religious freedoms, the Mennonites are responsible for much of Belize’s production of milk, eggs, and poultry. We home schooled about that, too. 

After leaving Mennonite country, we stopped for a delicious dinner at Rosa’s restaurant. Of course no Stewart Family Road Trip would be complete without the adoption of a pet.  (Read the story of Morgen here and the story of Arizona here and here.) This road trip was no exception. While at dinner a darling, pathetically skinny, severely dehydrated kitten appeared out of the bushes, begging for scraps from our table. It took us 6.2 seconds (if that) to collectively decide as a family that there was no way we were leaving that kitty behind to starve to death. So after dinner we loaded back into our Expedition and drove home with our new family member in tow. Now, I’m telling the kids that our job is to get him healthy and find him a new home before we leave Belize at the end of the month. But you and I both know that I am feverishly interneting to find out how we can bring him home to the States. I’m shameless. Bleeding heart, shameless. Shoot me. 
His name? Belize, of course. "BZ" for short. 

Back at home on the boat it was bath time...

...and straight to bed for all weary travelers. 

 ***I scheduled this post to go on-line while we are in the islan's. So by the time you read it we will be checking out the scene at Cay Caulker and maybe up to San Pedro on Ambergris. Then we’ll be heading south back toward Placencia where we will reprovision and pick up Thom who will help crew for the trip back to the Bay Islands of Honduras. In Roatan, Thom will fly out and we’ll pick up the Miami grandparents for the trip back to Panama. We'll stop at Vivarios and the Columbian island of Providencia on the way. We’ll meet up with the cousins in the San Blas Islands of Panama where we’ll outfit all the children with spears and send them out to harass the unsuspecting sea life. Don’t freak out. I’m mostly kidding. Thanks so much for checking in and living this adventure with us. 
It's good to have you along. Hugs, H