Friday, November 18, 2016

44-46. What a difference a day (at home) makes!

Friends and family are everything!  They show you who you truly are and remind you where you came from.  We are so blessed to have a beautiful family and some amazing friends back home who haven't let the distance separate us and in some cases our friendships have even grown stronger since we've been away.  After 8 months of our voyage we needed a little pick me up from those who know us best.  So before we head west for the next leg of our amazing adventure aboard Abby, the girls and I desperately needed a visit back to the states for some squeezes with some very important people.  We were even more ecstatic when Andrew agreed (reluctantly, at first) to join us for our journey.  
First order of business when arriving in the states after 8+ months away - 
a proper Chick Fil A meal :) 

We left one of our warmest weeks in Grenada to be surprised by the chilly 60 degree weather in TX.  Our thin island blood was not ready for that!  But we were so excited to see our cousins in TX that we didn't mind snuggling on the sidelines to cheer Jaxon on at his soccer game.  
We had a great visit with my best friend and sister, Manda, and all her boys, Nathan, Aiden, Jaxon And Collin.  
We got to visit their school, 
    Dress up day at preschool.
do a little shopping (for warmer clothes) 
and eat some yummy meals.  
Then the party blew up!  The rest of the Shannon gang from OK showed up and my parents treated us to an amazing stay at The Great Wolf Lodge with an indoor water park and lots of fun activities.  The kids chatted nonstop catching up with each other and mom & dad were in heaven having all their munchkins in the same place at the same time.  
We even rocked out at the dance party.  The kids got their groove on but you know Andrew & I wouldn't let them have all the fun!  
It was an amazing time of making memories all together.  

    Oklahoma sunsets.
Then we headed to OK for some quality time at the lake house (my home all my life), with a stop over at Ryan (my brother) & Rachel's to spend a night with Cina, Lilly & David.  It was a quick visit but so worth it to hear the girls giggling together 
and Andrew even got to visit his old street luge buddy (Rusty, it doesn't mean you're old, just that we've known each other a really long time).  And for inquiring minds, yes, Andrew street luged.  You should ask him sometime about how often he kicked Rusty's booty on the hill or crashing into a briar patch at about 50MPH.  But back to the amazing family visit ;) It's crazy cool to watch my kids play with my old toys in the same space where I grew up.  
I think planting and watering flowers with Grandpa, 
catching snakes, 
playing with the dog, 
and cooking with Grannaw 
kept Sky busy enough she didn't even miss chasing crabs on the dock every morning.  
But way too quickly it was time to say "goodbye" to our OK and TX family and move on to the next stop - NC.  

Highs & Lows of our TX/OK visit
    Low - the reality of being back in the hustle and bustle that is life in the states.
    High - time together with the whole family, watching all the cousins together
    Low - our time was too short!
    High - getting to be with everyone together
    Low - our time was too short! 
    High - the water park and sleeping over with Cina.
    Low - our time was too short!  (That makes a majority vote for longer visit next time!)
    High - getting to have time all together as well as have one on one time with each family.  
               It might be my favorite visit home yet!
The pace slowed down a bit as we visited Grammy and Poppaw in their mountain top hideaway.  
The fun changed to playing with daddy's old toys, hikes in the woods and chasing the illusive stink bug.  Grammy made some new friends for onboard Abby 
and the girls always look forward to tractor rides with Poppaw.  
We enjoyed some beautifully cool and relaxing mornings on the deck and evenings visits with friends.  
Thank you to Jen & Will and Amy & Darren for making the trek out to see us.  It was so great catching up!  But just as before, our visit too quickly ended and we were on the move again.  

Highs and Lows of our NC visit
    Low - juggling getting work and ordering done with quality family time
    High - relaxing with fam and having a wide open space to practice flying his new drone 
              (thanks Mom & Dad Shannon)
    Low - Stink Bugs!
    High - hanging with Grammy & Poppaw, getting to see Jen & the kids
    Low - Stink Bugs!
    High - a Megan sleepover
    Low - not getting to see Andy G while in town
    High - the food!  We had a customized menu to fit in all our favorites.  
               I tease Andrew on how spoiled he is but I think we all benefitted from that one ;)

This time we were headed home to FL.  
The girls were so excited to surprise their friends who didn't know we were coming, I was excited about a few surprises I had up my sleeve and Andrew braced for the crazy that he knew was about to unfold.  
There is no way to do a proper blow by blow of our time in Jax!  
Our days were filled with dance performances, dinner with friends,
birthday parties, sleepovers, school plays, dance class, surprise visits, and we even managed to squeeze in a bit of family time
    A little pampering :)
and a date night.  
It wasn't all play.  On the work side we had meetings with the lawyer and accountant, repossessed some vehicles, had a business meeting with our partners, the girls had dental check-ups
and we elected a new president for the US of A!  
It was a whirlwind!  And it felt like every minute was filled.
Here's some of the highlights:  The girls couldn't wait to surprise all their dance friends but they didn't know they were going to get to see a performance.  The Scott Jones Dancers were amazing as usual and we were excited to cheer them on!  
Paige was booked up visiting her local friends 
    So fun surprising friends!
    So hard for them to take a normal pic ;)
    Celebrating Mia's 14th with some dress up!
and Sky tried to make the rounds as well 
but we surprised her by picking up Kaylee, from Aqua Vida, whom we haven't seen since Guadeloupe back in July and was luckily visiting family in Tallahassee.  We were sad when we arrived in Grenada after the Aqua Vida crew headed back to the states and we knew they wouldn't return to their boat until after we left Grenada so this was a perfect opportunity to squeeze in a great visit that she never expected.
And the last surprise we had in store was courtesy of Aunt Samantha.  
She arranged for cousin Kat and new baby Elsie to appear and blow the girls' minds!  
After a few more sleepovers to absorb all the baby cuteness
and an election watch party unlike any we've had before, this visit came to an end as well.  

Highs and Lows of our FL visit
    Low - being reminded of the things left undone, which feels like shortcomings
    High - Kyle time!  Andrew got to see all his best buddies while home but especially appreciated Kyle, who dropped everything to come stay a few days with us to make sure Andrew was able to accomplish everything on his list.  That's love!
    Low - our time was too short!  
    High - friend time, meeting Elsie, dancing
    Low - being reminded she's the youngest
             When we are on the boat the responsibility levels are very high and the freedoms are also
             Back in the states she said she felt like "just a 10 yr old" and didn't like how that felt 
             "very little".
    High - the Kaylee surprise and quality time with Elsie
    Low - being exhausted the whole time because we had quite the "to do" list and very little time to do it.
    High - we successfully squeezed everything in, I think.  All the business, all the fun and we didn't bite each other's heads off while doing it!  This trip was an amazing success!

I can't believe 3 weeks went by in the blink of an eye!  One of the hardest parts of being on our amazing adventure is not knowing when you will see your loved ones again.  We soaked every moment out of our time together, and squeezed every neck as much as possible. I just hope it is enough to last us until we meet again.  

Things learned aboard this week:
It is hard to be away so long but it is even harder to say goodbye.  I was looking so forward to visiting everyone and it being the shot in the arm I needed to make it through the next leg of our journey.  I never took into consideration that all those "hello agains" would tear my heart out when they had to be "goodbyes" again.  We love everyone of you who we got to spend time with on this visit and can't thank you enough for being special in our lives whether we are back home or on the water.
Even though we still have lots of loose ends undone back home that vie for our attention, this voyage is still the best decision we ever made!  While on land it is easy to get caught up in land life concerns and if we had to do it over again we would maybe plan a little differently for what we did and didn't complete before leaving.  But even with all those variables we still know that our time out here, together as a family on an adventure, is more valuable then anything we would be working on back there.

As our feet stepped off the plane and we breathed in the fresh air, we could feel the weight lifting.  Grenada smelled great, the humidity was refreshing and it felt like coming home.  But as we turned down the La Phare Bleu driveway Paige said, " I don't know if I'm ready to be back."  Suddenly the reality of our very tiny boat and the challenges of living aboard came rushing back to the forefront.  
I'm not sure I'm ready to be back either....