Moving On

In Southeast Florida, we have the luxury of moving on from Hurricane Ian. Unfortunately, many Floridians will not be moving on from the storm anytime soon. As I mentioned in my previous blog, these storms have their own mind. For most of the forecast period leading up to landfall, the track was projecting a Tampa landfall. It was unusual to see how much the track was changing even less than a day out. Usually, by a day or two out, they have a pretty firm idea where it’s going. Sadly, the track moved south significantly putting a bullseye on Fort Myers.

Honestly, this was a scary scenario. The track was changing rapidly. By the time, it was clear people would have to evacuate, there wouldn’t be enough time to do it. Even for us, the track started showing Ian moving on across the state after landfall. With the rapidly changing track, it was a bit worrisome for everyone. If the track had changed putting us back in the cone, we wouldn’t have had the time to put our shutters up. Nonetheless, this is exactly why most Floridians prepared for the storm. We had water, food, batteries, and our medicines. It’s always best to be ready for the worse as we hope for the best.

Tuesday night was the worst weather in our area. We had several tornado warnings and actual tornados near us. In fact, there was an ef2 tornado 4-5 miles from where we live. To the northwest, there was another, smaller ef1 tornado. Naturally, I earned the title of mean mom during the storm. While the tornados were dropping from the sky around us, my son wanted to drive to Taco Bell. This mean mom wouldn’t let him drive during a tornado warning during a hurricane. And for that folks, I have been dubbed ridiculous.

Wednesday and Thursday it was windy, but our weather wasn’t super bad. It was difficult to watch the utter destruction of Fort Myers as this monster storm came ashore during high tide. The storm surge with this storm was incredible and deadly. Fortunately, we could stay in contact with our friends and family on the west coast for most of the day. Thankfully, our friends and family came through the storm safely. Even though we’re moving in from Hurricane Ian, I will be sharing fundraisers benefiting our fellow Floridians who have lost everything.

Utah Trip – Hiking

Our Utah trip this past summer was awesome. Of course, the highlight was being reunited with Jake, but we also had some great adventures together. One of my favorite things to do in Utah is hiking in the mountains. Unfortunately, I was not in great shape this time because I had just started running again. Consequently, the first hike in Utah’s heat and at a much higher elevation didn’t end well for me. I definitely lost my cookies going up the mountain. Fortunately, Jake and the Mayor took great care of me and we got down the mountain safely and intact.

The medicine I’m on with Calibrate is great, but nausea can be pretty bad, especially with exertion. Hence, I lost the cookies on the first hike. Our second hike was an easier trail with more shade, but the elevation and heat still kicked my arse. This time I was careful it take more breaks and keep my heart rate lower. I didn’t lose my lunch that time, but the hike kicked my butt. We did see a beautiful snake slither across the trail. Thankfully, it was not poisonous. Unfortunately, it was too quick for us, so nobody for a picture.

One of the most unique hikes we did was at the Golden Spike National Historical Park. This park is about an hour northwest of Ogaden on the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Rather than a hike up a mountainside, we hiked down to the shores of Salt Lake. Due to the drought, the American West has experienced, the lake is at its lowest level. Consequently, we hiked across the dried-up lake bed for more than a mile to reach the shore of the lake.

It was striking how dead birds or insects would lay preserved from the salt on the lake’s bed. As we approached the shore where the waves were breaking, there was a wide crust of salt running parallel to the waterline. As you looked out over the lake, it was a beautiful blue with haze coming off the water. It was gorgeous! Meanwhile, the waves of the lake had a bright reddish hue that made the lake look otherworldly. I was not tempted to go in the red water, but Jake and the Mayor did. They both said it felt like an Epsom salt bath. When they walked out of the lake, a layer of salt was left behind on their legs. Naturally, they collected some salt to use at home.

Beyond the beautiful hike on the bed of the Great Salt Lake, Golden Spike National Historical Park is a pretty neat place. They still have Victorian-era locomotives that travel the tracks, so visitors can see what they looked like. There is now a plaque where the golden spike used to be commemorating the coming together on the intercontinental railroad. As for the actual spike, it’s now on display at Stanford University.

There are several other hikes you can do at the park. We opted, however, to drive up to the Chinese Arch. It was a terrifying drive with a drop off of thousands feet to the right side. Meanwhile, the gravel road up to the arch was super narrow. While the arch was worth the drive, I’d probably go for the hike the next time around. I wouldn’t want to do that drive again.

My favorite hike this trip, however, was to Gloria Falls in Little Cottonwood Canyon. I love hiking the Cottonwood Canyons because it’s significantly cooler than hiking in and around Ogden. Our elevation at the start of the hike was over 7800 feet. By the time we hit the waterfall, our altitude was almost 9,000 feet. Thankfully, this particular hike is not arduous because if it was I really would have struggled. Once we got to the falls, the air temperature was in the low 60s. The rushing water coming off the mountains certainly had a chilling effect.

Gloria Falls, it’s absolutely stunning and worth the hike. There is plenty of space to take a good rest or eat a picnic lunch, which is awesome. If I had planned better, I would have brought lunch. The hike itself provides stunning vistas out over the forests of the canyon, the mountains, and the distant valley. It’s a popular hike, so you’ll want to head out early to find parking. Also, the last part of the trail is unmarked. Consequently, be sure to download the map from the AllTrails app, so you don’t get lost. Albeit, you’ll likely run into plenty of people on your way up to the falls. Nonetheless, this is a trail I’d hike again anytime I found myself in Utah.

One of the solo hikes I did on our last Utah trip was right next to the Weber Ice Sheet. It is a simple half-mile paved loop around a pond. While the boys enjoyed open skating, I enjoyed walking around the pond and picking blackberries. I was shocked when a beautiful doe crossed in front of me as she went near the pond to eat. When I looped around again, she was standing in the middle of the path just taking it all in. After seeing all the videos of bison goring stupid tourists at Yellowstone, I decided to give her a wide berth. Unfortunately, she was not there when I came back to run the next day.

All in all, we had some great hikes during this last Utah trip. Ones that I’ll certainly explore again. I’d love to spend more time hiking and exploring both Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Also, if my parents travel with us again, I think they’d really enjoy Golden Spike National Historical Park. Now back in Florida, I can tell you that I miss waking up in the mountains every morning. I love being up on the mountain exploring everything and every view it has to offer. There’s something almost spiritual about it! Anyway, I love Utah and I love hiking in Utah!

Deployment Diaries – The Homecoming!

I wrote my deployment diaries throughout the entirety of Jake’s deployment, but ultimately only published a few of them. After all, I think the ravings of a worried mother would have eventually gotten redundant for you all. Nonetheless, writing daily whether I published them or not brought me peace. Initially, I had expected that Jake would return in time for graduation. Unfortunately, given world events that was not the case.

Finally, this summer we had hints that he’d be returning stateside. Naturally, I held my breath because I didn’t want to get too excited in case he got extended again. After all, his and now our schedule is at the mercy of the military. And then the text, we’d been waiting for finally came, he was about to take off on his return flight home. Crazily, he had to wait until this point because until the plane is rolling down the runway, the military could change their mind and make them stay.

Like the stalker mom I am, I naturally found his flight and followed it throughout the night and the next day. I may have had a slight heart attack as his plane hit a radar dead zone in the middle of the Atlantic and fell off the screen. Fortunately, his plane was not in the dead zone for long and his plane re-emerged from the dead zone, I breathed a long sigh of relief.

Unfortunately for Jake, the journey home took several days with several stops. When he finally made it home, we were overseas. Oh, the irony. Fortunately, our trip was quick. Nevertheless, I was able to fill his new apartment with groceries from the Bahamas thanks to Shipt. His friends and Sgt helped him move in. Thankfully, his girlfriend was able to get there the Monday after he returned, which was awesome. I definitely didn’t want him alone.

Finally, about a week after he returned the boys and I were able to fly out and see him. Honestly, I thought my heart was going to burst from anticipation. It was a long day of flying, but we finally got to our Airbnb at around 11:30. On the ride from the airport, we had ordered pizza. It turns out it was the worst Papa John’s pizza any of us had ever had. Nevertheless, none of that really mattered to any of us as we were all back together.

When he first pulled up, we went out to greet both him and Melly, I think I hugged Jake for a good solid ten minutes. Or at least until his younger brothers started making fun of me. Some day when they have kids they’ll understand the emotional investment and the need for a ten-minute hug. As hugs go, I’d say it was the best ever. There’s no better hug than one from your child that just returned safely from deployment. During the course of that world record-setting hug, I could feel the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. No longer did I have to carry the stress of him being in constant peril in an uncertain world.

To all our friends and family that supported us throughout his deployment, we love you and thank you dearly. Jake loved all the beautiful cards, care packages, and goodies he received while being down range. He surely felt the love. His deployment was not without its scary moments, but he also had great command and a squadron that took care of him down range. He was also able to have some fun adventures that he’ll always relish. The one thing he won’t miss is the ridiculous temperatures and humidity of the Persian Gulf. Lastly, my heart is with all the military mothers that came before me who, unlike me, didn’t have the technology to communicate with their children regularly. I can’t imagine their pain. And this will close out my deployment diaries for now.

Deployment Diaries- Pit in stomach

So as we get through week one of deployment, I’m noticing that the pit in my stomach will not leave. It’s like I’m watching Goalielocks in net 24/7. In short, it’s not a great feeling. Thankfully, I’ve been able to chat with him via text. This has helped immensely. This weekend I’ll be distracting myself with some Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Mayor’s hockey tournament. Hopefully, this will allay the pit in my stomach even if it’s just for a moment.

Utah Bound

We’re wheels up on our way to Utah and I couldn’t be more excited. For the ten months, our oldest was deployed overseas and is finally home!!!!! I can’t tell you how hard it was as a mother to have a kid down range. I can only think of the Military moms and wife’s that came before me when the technology took keep us connected didn’t exist. My heart would have been in my throat daily if I had to wait for a letter via post. Technology, as sucky as it can be, was an absolute god send during his deployment. Anyway, I’m super excited to be spending the next week plus out West with my boys.

Grad Party

We celebrated Goalielocks’ and his friend TK’s graduation with their grad party over the weekend. While TK is his friend, he and his family are considered family to us. It’s been amazing to watch the two grow up and go through the trials of elementary, middle school, high school and hockey together. So much has changed since they first became friends almost a decade ago.

Our friend Garlic Bob catered the event with an epic taco bar that was capped off with a nacho cheese fountain. Boy, can he cook! His food is always delicious and on point. We sampled his taco bar at a friend’s grad party last year and I instantly knew we wanted him for Goalielocks’ party. It was absolutely a no brainer.

I was a bit worried the tropical weather that dumped nearly a foot of rain in our area would keep a lot of people away, but we only had a few cancellations. Goalielocks played hockey in Dade County, which was underwater for most of the weekend. Unfortunately, that made it unsafe for his Miami based teammates to make the drive, which was a bummer.

I tried Pink Whitney for the first time at his grad party. Pink Whitney, of course, is the ubiquitous hockey mom drink of choice. I’m surprised it took so long for me to try it. I love it. It was so good! A couple of observations about the drink, it’s good, but it’s a bit sweet. Also, a group can drink a small bottle in minutes. To cut the sweetness, I recommend pairing it with sparkling water on ice. This would make it much less sweet and more refreshing.

The grad party was a rousing success. We finally headed home with two cars full of kids just after 12:30 am. Everyone had a great time celebrating the two boys graduation. I think, the highlight for me was the two boys cutting the cake and feeding each other. It was super funny. The cake, of course, was super yummy and beautiful. Hanh makes the best cakes! They’re always beautiful and super tasty without being too heavy in your tummy. It was a great night!

Twilight Zone

Last weekend’s hockey tournament was like stepping into the twilight zone. To be fair, it’s our fault for going. The memorial day tournament, as long as we’ve been involved in Florida hockey, has been an unmitigated disaster/twilight zone. This year’s tournament was no exception. Our weekend also had a 70s/80s flair courtesy of the Saddlebrook Resort. The furniture in our room was probably older than all of us.

Sunday was by far the worst day. Our first game of the day was an absolute disaster. In fact, it’s probably the worst hockey experience I’ve had to date. That my friends is saying a lot. One of the refs was not sober and did the job at a level commensurate to his lack of sobriety. There were only two refs as well because folks don’t want to pay for four. We should demand that there are four at the higher levels.

Consequently, the other team ended up with two goals that should never have happened. One the opposing goalie caught the puck and held it. There should have been a whistle or a play the puck here, but there wasn’t. As our boys came off to change, the goalie release the puck to his teammate, who naturally got a breakaway and scored. The second goal happened after the puck hit the netting in the neutral zone and wasn’t whistled dead. Apparently, the puck never crossed the line either, but that wasn’t something I could see from my vantage point.

By the third period, we had tied it up and the game started to devolve. There were several skirmishes that resulted in players being tossed from the game. Strangely, the refs never reported any player numbers or corresponding infractions. It was an absolutely odd situation. However, it would only get weirder after the game when the opposing coach added a goal for his son to the scoresheet. Thankfully, there was someone in the tournament office that watched the game and knew it had ended in a tie. Who does that shit?

The assistant coach added a goal for his son after the game.

The oddness of the day was punctuated in our second game by an opposing parent that walked back and forth behind the bench flicking off the kids. Seriously? I should also say the opposing coach was an asshole trying to get us to forfeit stating we had suspended players that were playing. Obviously, that was complete bullshit. I firmly told the coach to take note of the suspensions already noted as served on the scoresheet. He took a picture and huffed back to his bench. What a loser. At any rate, I will happily skip next year’s twilight zone tournament.

Monday we headed home, which is always a fun drive. There’s no worse road to drive than State Road 60. It’s awful anytime of the day and in any kind of weather. Once we got home, we quickly left again to go see my brother and sister in law that can to town Thursday. We all had a blast at the BBQ and the kids got to hang with their cousins, which was great.

Volleyball Banquet

Last night we had Goalielocks’ volleyball banquet at the high school. It was a nice dinner with both the boys and girls volleyball teams. He’s played volleyball the last two years, but there was no banquet last year due to Covid. Dinner was courtesy of Olive Garden, which was good. Fortunately, it settled in my stomach. I was a bit worried as my stomach had been quite sensitive lately.

While we ate, the coach, the senior captains and the underclass men gave their speeches. They were nice, brief and to the point. After the speeches came the awards. Goalielocks was awarded a letter in in varsity Volleyball. After the awards, the kids switched into active wear and the girls took on the boys. The girls beat the boys, which wasn’t super surprising given the talent on the girls team. A lot of Goalielocks’ team was relatively new to the sport. It was a fun way to end the volleyball banquet.

We’re currently driving to the west coast for hockey. There’s nothing I hate more than driving on state road 60. It’s honestly the worst road in the history of roads. In fact, the entire of state road 60 should be at least four lanes instead of one lane each way. There’s nothing more disconcerting than your car shaking as a semi speeds by heading the other direction.

My outfit for the volleyball banquet

We’re still a good two hours out from our resort. While we’re heading west for hockey, we thought we’d make it worth the parents’ while by booking an nice resort. Consequently, we’ll be staying at the Saddlebrook Resort and Spa. The resort has a couple of incredible pools, which is where I plan on spending my day tomorrow. Since we only have to be playing this year, our game schedule is nice and light.

Turks and Caicos

Last month I spent six days in the beautiful Turks and Caicos with my beautiful Momcation friends. This trip has been three years in the making and delayed twice due to COVID. We stayed in the most incredible villa, Tip of the Tail Villa, which was absolutely beautiful inside and out. Moreover, the villa comes with a staff including a butler, maids and a professional chef. Needless to say, Chef and Sheldon spoiled us rotten. We ate like queens day in and day out. Every meal was better than the last one. I don’t think I could even pick a favorite if I tried because they were all that good.

Usually on Momcation, we hang out almost exclusively at the house maybe going on one excursion. This time we took several excursions and all were well worth it. Wednesday night we hit up the world famous Da Conch Shack, which has a live junkanoo band that night. Honestly, it lived up to expectations. Our food was super tasty and the atmosphere was phenomenal. Thursday night we went to the world Famous Fish Fry. It was okay, but Da Conch shack was better. Friday night we did a sunset champagne cruise, which was absolutely sublime. We even saw some dolphins. Lastly, saturday morning we went Kayaking in the mangroves, which was incredible. We saw a large amount of baby sea turtles and baby sharks, which were super cute. Our adventures this trip were awesome.

If you’ve never been there before you should definitely consider it as a must-see destination. The beaches and waters of Turks and Caicos are second to none. In fact, the water in Turks and Caicos is on a whole other level. The different shades of blue are breathtakingly beautiful. More than that, the people of Turks and Caicos are super hospitable and welcoming. We didn’t run into one rude person, which after living in South Florida is a nice change.

Things to do when in Turks:

  • Go to Grace Bay and enjoy the beautiful white sand beaches. It’s a beautiful spot. You won’t regret spending time here.
  • Visit Da Conch Shack (Wednesday if you want to see the Junkanoo band.) This restaurant is extremely popular, so make you make a reservation a couple of weeks before you trip.
  • Champagne Sunset Sail through Ocean Vibes was absolutely amazing. They have an open bar and plenty of food form local restaurants to keep you well fed as you drink.
  • Kayak tour with Rising Tide Charters. There are several kayak tour operators in the area, but what I loved about Paddle King Jennings and Rising Tide Charters was that our excursion was only us. We had a small intimate group whereas the other tours were quite large. Our guide brought a cooler full of water for us and was eager to share all he knew about the Islands, the mangroves and the animals that inhabit the mangroves.
  • Visit Mudjin Harbor on Middle Caicos. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but if you have the time I highly recommend it. We didn’t visit Middle Caicos this trip, but did visit Mudjin Harbor on our first Momcation in 2018.

Took a Break

I took a break from the blog over the past month to focus on really living and feeling the emotions of the last four weeks. Since I’ve been gone, I had a fantastic vacation in the Turks and Caicos with my favorite moms and my middle son graduated high school. Many emotions come with high school graduation, ranging from relief they made it, sadness because a chapter is closing, happiness because a new chapter is beginning, and pride for all they accomplished.

This time around, we were missing Jake, which made the moment bittersweet. We were all so excited to see him walk at graduation, but definitely were missing Jake’s presence. And I think Jake was bummed he missed the moment as well. Nonetheless, Jake was with us in spirit through Flat Airman Jake. He skipped out on the graduation ceremony as he doesn’t like speeches. He didn’t however skip out on dinner as. Flat Airman Jake loves hibachi just as much as Jake and the rest of our family love it.

For graduation, we had my folks and Luke’s dad in town for several days. It was nice to see my folks and Grandpa Steve after not seeing them for a long time. In fact, this was my parent’s first trip to visit us since the pandemic. They had come down in 2019 for Thanksgiving to see Jake off to BMT, but haven’t been able to return until Goalielocks’ graduation. Fortunately, for our guests, the weather was absolutely beautiful for most of their stay. In fact, it was quintessential Florida winter weather. Beautiful temperatures and low humidity. Unfortunately, we knew the shoe had to drop some time and the heat and humidity would come roaring back. The weather changed while they were here, but thankfully only during the last few days of their trip.

On graduation day, the weather was actually perfect. It was overcast, which kept us a bit cooler as we waited to get into the expo center. The Mayor and I timed it perfectly and were able to get awesome seats right on the main aisle with an unobstructed view of the graduates walking. Hubby and the grandparents came a bit later because they had stopped to get gas. Nevertheless, they didn’t wait too long to get in. It would be helpful if the district had a line for the seniors and those with disabilities. My father-in-law uses a cane and I think those with cane/walkers/wheelchairs should have an expedited entrance and not have to fight through the larger lines.

The ceremony itself was absolutely divine. For once the speakers gave practical advice like saving money and investing in your future. The valedictorian’s speech, Goalielock’s (aka Colin) friend, was poignant. After losing his father unexpectedly last fall, his friend continued to persevere and kill it at school and on the volleyball court. Furthermore, it was cool to see how the graduating class supported him throughout his speech. They had a unique high school experience, to say the least with a pandemic upending a lot of it. Yet the class of 2022 persevered and made it to the finish line. Post-graduation we enjoyed a nice hibachi dinner with family. I’m glad took a break to enjoy and live in the minute of my son’s graduation.