February 2006


Amanda brought Benjamin over today to play with Jack (Tuesday is Ben and Jack day in the Engler and Parks households).

I spied them in the backyard, so I grabbed the camera for a few quick shots:


I’ve been taking lots of photos lately. Here are a few:

This morning came early. Christine woke up around 4:00 a.m., then fell back asleep. I woke up around 5:00 and couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I got up and walked around the boat, waiting for them to finish docking.

By 6:30 a.m. they were done docking, and they were letting people off the boat, based on what floor people were staying on… so Christine got up and we started packing.

We were done packing and out the door by 7:30 or so, and we made it through Customs by 8:15. By 9:00, we were in our car, on the road headed for Austin.

We meant to stop by and see Raymond and pick up a rocking chair for Elise from him, but Loop 610 was under construction, and they’d closed the exits to I-10, so, when we found ourselves on 290, we just hightailed it to Austin.

We did make a pit stop in Cypress to buy some new windshield wipers for the Honda… the old ones sucked, and I could barely see through the rain coming down.

We got to Austin around 12:30 p.m., hugged Mary and Frank before they left, and put Jack down for a nap. We both swear that Jack has grown a few inches, and is acting much older after being away from him for a week.

We’re both exhausted, and are suffering from a mild case of land-sickness. That is, our inner-ears still think we’re on a boat that’s rocking back and forth, but our feet tell us that we’re in our house, and it’s not rocking back and forth. Think reverse sea-sickness.

We’re going to watch the Olympics again tonight, and pass out from shear exhaustion early.

Here’s a quick round up of the last few photos I’m posting from our trip:

Page through the entire gallery here.

On Wednesday night, Christine and I ate dinner and then headed to the Talent show, which started at 10:00 p.m.

Dinner was great, as usual. I had Schnitzel and Beef Wellington as my main course. Between dinner and the talent show, we went up to the top deck to tour a little at night, and we had fun taking photos of us fighting the wind at the back of the ship.

The talent show was fantastic. Six fellow cruise guests were brave enough to get up on stage and share their talent with us. There was a girl that played piano from New York, a lady that sang a wonderful song about San Francisco, and a guy that did a great piece from Fiddler on the Roof. Then an old guy got up on stage with his little bity trumpet and did a wonderful rendition of Hello Dolly in the spirit of Louis Armstrong. After the guests performed, the crew of the Elation got up on stage to do a skit called “If I Were Not Upon the Sea” which was basically each crew member personifying a job they would have if they didn’t work on the cruise ship, while singing and acting out their jobs “in the round”. It was quite funny.

We stayed up until midnight, which was our latest night on the cruise.

On Thursday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, and headed out to Cozumel. We weren’t docked at a port, as the piers in Cozumel were all destroyed this year by the hurricanes. We had to take a little tender boat ashore.

On the way to shore, I snapped a photo of what remains of one of the main piers… pretty crazy that a hurricane could really destroy that much steel and concrete:


Once ashore, we shopped a little (and met a parrot and a donkey waiting to have their picture taken), and we bought Jack a little mexican ybarra shirt which we think will be really cute once we get him dressed in it. We also picked up a few charms for free… the stores were giving them away as enticements to get us to buy something.

After shopping we headed out for Paradise beach, by way of Downtown Cozumel… we needed to find an ATM, and there’s only one or two on the island. Here’s a map of the island, in case you’re curious. Paradise beach is about half way between Puerta Maya (were our cruise ships docked) and Punta Sur, on the west side of the island. Cozumel is north of Puerta Maya.

Paradise beach was fun… beautiful crushed shell beach, with lots of chairs and umbrellas. We paid for a couple of chairs and an umbrella after finding all of the free ones were taken, and we sat down to enjoy the sun. I walked back out to the road to take a photo of a sunflower I’d spotted on the way in… then grabbed a few beers before sitting down to read.

We read for a few hours, and then I bought lunch. There was a $40 minimum if you used a credit card. That’s a lot of beer in Mexico my friends. Needless to say, when we got back to the boat, I was pretty worthless, and went to bed early.

But, on the way back to the boat, we picked up a hand-made recorder for Jack, and then got in line with our good friends from the cruise (we found some people we didn’t know near the front of the tender line, and they let us cut in line with them).

Last night we took it easy and watched the end of the women’s ice skating at the Olympics…

This morning we got up to enjoy our last day on the cruise, as tomorrow morning we sail into Galveston. We’re going to go lay out in the sun today, and try to even out our sunburns, so we don’t look stupid when we get back on shore.

We laid out today from about 9:30 until noon, but not until both of us had lathered up in plenty of SPF 30 sun block. We were dying hot at noon, so we found some shade and read inside, in the air conditioning for another 30 minutes. Then we headed to lunch outside, where we watched the cruise line’s version of “Survivor at Sea”. What makes these people get up and compete in these games astounds me, but they’re always funny.

After Survivor, we headed in to watch “The Newlywed Game”. Three couples competed. Once couple had been married 50 years, one 25 years, and one 5 days. Needless to say some of the answers were hilarious… and after 50 years, that one couple wasn’t ashamed of much… Hilarious.

We stuck around and palyed BINGO again. $60 down, nothing to show for it… but we do get to keep the BINGO cards! WOOHOO! (That last woohoo is heing yelling in my best Erin Taylor immitation voice.)

It’s about 4:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon as I type this, and we’re about to get ready for dinner, and we’re planning on spending some time outside enjoying the sunset before we head into Galveston tomorrow. Fun times folks.

We’re really enjoying this cruise, and vow to do it again something in the next 20 years.

Something else I should point out. The staff that makes up our rooms always puts a little towel animal in our room, and it’s pretty cute.

Photos from the last couple of days are here and here.

This morning (written on Wednesday, 2/22), our boat docked at Puerto Progresso, Mexico.

Christine and I went ashore around 10:00 a.m. after eating breakfast at the breakfast buffet. After we disembarked the boat, we took a bus into Progresso (the boat docked forever and away from the town… about 10 minutes by bus).

We got off the bus, and Christine called home on our cell phone, to check on things. Home is fine… as is Jack and the Grandparents. I toured the market while Christine was on the phone, and I saw the meat market… ugh. Lots of really fresh fish out under the hot sun covered in flys. I guess the flys keep the fish clean?

We then got on a tour bus headed for Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan state. Merida is about 4 hours from Playa del Carmen, 4.5 hours from Cozumel, and 1000 miles from Mexico City (or so our tour guide told us).

We drove the 20 miles to Merida, and got out at a monument to the Yucatan Mayans, that told the story of the city and state. It was interesting, and I took a few pictures there. Miss Yucatan 2003, 2004, and 2005 were at the monument to take some photos while we were there. I should have taken a few photos of them… heh… but I didn’t. Gosh.

Today was the first day of Carnival, so there were lots of preparations for Carnival in the two cities we visited. And lots of kids going to see the festival.

We got to the city center in Merida, deboarded the bus, and went to the main cathedral. Got some good shots in there. It was interesting to me that Jesus wasn’t nearly as beat up in this church as he was in Guanajuato… I guess life’s a little easier in Merida than it was in Guanajuato.

We then went over to the State Government offices to use the restroom before heading off on our own.

The town square was beatiful… and there were lots of folks just hanging out passing the time talking. I think they were waiting on the parade that kicks off Carnival:

We walked down a few streets to find something to eat. We found a pretty decent place to eat, and had a plate of Nachos Especiale (Nachos with beef and Guacamole – good stuff). Fancy… I know!

Then we shopped for 15 – 20 minutes before heading back to the boat. I bought a bottle of Jim Bean for $10 before we got on the boat… it’s rediculous how much a drink on the boat is. Seriously. I think each drink is at least $5… that’s rediculous…

We then trecked back to the boat, tired and still sunburned… and probably a little redder than when we got off the boat. Merida was fun, and it’s interesting to me how these Mexicans have learned how to get money out of us tourists. On both bus rides to and from Merida, we were offered beer… at $1 a piece… which is cheaper than on the boat, but I guarantee the markup us about 75 percent… considering we’re stuck on the damn bus and it’s 95°F outside… who’s not going to buy a beer or two?

Anyways…

We got on the boat, and headed to our room to take a nap. We ended up watching the movie “Fantastic Four” while our boat headed out to sea. If you haven’t seen it yet, you aren’t missing much.

Tonight is “Guest Talent Show” night, and we’re looking forward to seeing some of the other guests on the boat make fun of themselves. Tomorrow: Cozumel.

Photos from Progresso are here.

Tuesday night was formal night, so Christine and I got dressed up. We looked pretty spiffy. I was wearing a swell tie and suit combination, with french cuffs and silver cuff links. Christine wore a sleek black top and skirt combination, with pearls.

We tried to tone down our lobster burns a little with bronzer. It worked for her, but I looked like a cross between Poe (the red teletubbie for those of you without kids) and David Hasselhoff… but more like Poe.

The Captain of the ship, Giuseppe Denado, and his gang of mobsters, I mean the ships’ officers, were hosting a cocktail hour, complete with dancing and live music before dinner. Drinks and appetizers were free, so Christine and I were there. We sat down, and five minutes later we were up and headed back to the room. Poor Christine wasn’t feeling well.

Dinner was to be served at 8:00, so I waited until 8:15 to get changed into more comfortable clothes. We were all dressed up with no place to go.

Christine started feeling better around 9:00, so we laid in bed and watched the Olympics again.

Wednesday morning, I woke up at 6:45 a.m., thanks to the sounds of our ship coming into port. We were arriving at Puerto Progresso, Mexico. Since I was wide away, with no real hope of falling back to sleep, I grabbed the camera and headed top-side. I was hoping to grab a few good photos of the sun rise, or of the port, or something… and maybe have a good cup of coffee before waking Christine up.

the ship funnel

deck chairs

I took the photos, and got the coffee, but I forgot to change my film speed after the sun came up. Gotta remember that next time.

Here are some more photos.

On Monday, 2/20, at 2:00 p.m. or so, Christine and I boarded our Carnival Cruise ship: The Elation, in Galveston, Texas. The map to the right shows you our original sailing route, but they changed our first port to Progresso, instead of Playa del Carmen… something about the hurricanes hurting the ports in Playa del Carmen.

After we boarded, the first thing we did was find our room, drop all of our gear that we’d carried on, an started exploring the ship. Our room was on the 6th floor of the ship.

We found the bar and the internet cafe area. I ordered a Jack and Coke and a Bottled Water for the wife. While I ordered the drinks, we were entertained by a little piano/strings trio that was really good. We then went up to the 8th and 9th floors and explored a bit.

Around 3:15 or so, an announcement was made that we were about to get started with our fire drill/emergency escape drill… so we started making it back to our room to grab our life jacket. Turns out everyone on the ship already knew what to do and they all had their life jackets and were congregating in their assigned muster areas.

Our muster area was “Area A” and happened to be in the main lounge/showroom of the ship. So we trecked back down to the 6th floor, grabbed our life jackets and headed to the 8th floor. We got into the lounge, and put on our life jackets as we were instructed. In this room there were about 250 other people all wearing their life jackets… We were all hot and looked pretty stupid.

We followed directions pretty well and by 4:15, the drill was over. We now know where our life boats are, and how to get there should we have to… though, I don’t think I want to have to remember those details.

We retired to our room as the ship got under way, and when we shoved off, Christine jumped up into the porthole bay to watch the sea pass by as we left G-town.

After a few minutes, we went up to the 9th or 10th floor to sit in one of the lounges to watch through bigger windows. After watching grey water and skies roll by for 30 minutes or so (it got pretty boring after Galveston faded into the distance) we headed back to our room to relax a bit, after taking a stroll up to the 12th floor, and then to the top deck… where it was really windy… crazy windy… Like lose your hair windy if you’re Elton John windy.

Our dinner was scheduled for 8:00 p.m., and we wanted to hit the 7:00 p.m. “Welcome aboard” show, so we relaxed for a little bit, then got dressed (that means Christine got ready… I was already ready from earlier in the day) and headed out for the night.

The “Welcome Show” was fun, and dinner was pretty good. We’re sharing a table with a couple from Manitoba Canada and a couple from Oklahoma. Our 4th couple didn’t show last night, so we’ll look for them tonight (I hope they didn’t fall over board already).

After dinner, we strolled around the boat a bit before heading to our room. We went to bed early after watching the Olympics on the tube and woke up early on Tuesday morning.

Christine woke up at 6:30 a.m., wide awake, and I woke up at 7:00. First morning away from the kid and we’re waking up at ungodly hours… what the hell? Maybe it was the “motion of the ocean” as Christine calls it. Yes, folks, at night the bed rocks with the motion of the ocean. And no, the size of the ship doesn’t matter, or so I’m told.

(Our room is way at the front of the boat, which makes the oceanic movement more pronounced, as I understand it)

In fact, you can definitely tell that you’re on a ship pretty much anywhere on the boat, if you pay attention. But the motion hasn’t affected us… knock on wood, but neither of us are seasick… yet.

Tuesday was a pretty lazy day after breakfast. Since we woke up so damned early, we figured we’d excercise (it’s been a few years since I’ve done that, in case you’re wondering). So we headed up to the sports deck, and then on to the top deck. Once outside, we walked 10 laps around the jogging path. I actually ran 2 laps (okay, maybe it was one and a half, but I did run).

The view from the top deck was amazing:

We headed to the breakfast buffet around 8:00 a.m. and then to our room to get cleaned up.

I showered first, then read a few chapters in my photography book. Christine got cleaned up and then decided to relax in the bed for a while. I headed out to explore the ship and to look for some fun photos I’d like to take…

I didn’t see much, but I did get to see a ship passing in the wind:

I gathered up Christine around noon, and we headed to lunch. We sat with a couple of old ladies from Missouri, and a couple from (or all places) Austin. The conversation was fun, and we all headed off in our own directions after lunch. Christine and I went up to enjoy some sun.

We sat in the sun for an hour or two, and we both now look like lobsters. Fun, fun, fun!

After roasting, we headed to the Bingo hall. Woohoo! B-I-N-G-O people!!!

We lost. Fun, fun, fun!

Then we found a quite place to relax and watch the waves roll by, while we ate a piece of cheesecake and sipped on a Cappucino.

Tonight is formal night, so we’re hanging out in our room right now, doing our nails, prettying our faces. I’ll iron my shirt and tux soon, so we can head out to razzle-dazzle the rest of the boat with our good looks.

Loving the vacation. More updates when we find time.

All of our photos from Day One and Two are here.

This past weekend, Mary, Frank, and Uncle Mike came to Austin to hang out. Actually Frank and Mary are babysitting Jack for a week while Christine and I head to Mexico via Carnival Cruise Lines… we’ll post about that when we get home.

In the meantime, here are some fun photos from this weekend:

Here are the photo galleries:

Riding the Duck

Hanging with Uncle Mike

Jack loves to build tall towers with his building blocks. I’m convinced Jack will grow up to be an architect, an engineer, or a demolition specialist based on his experience with his blocks. Come to think of it, he could also be a crane operator.

I think he’d make a good crane operator because he’s learned how to build his towers taller than himself, and he understands the importance of balance. He understand this balance thing in this manner:

If he doesn’t have his balance as he places that last really high block, he generally falls over, and brings his entire tower down with him. It’s pretty funny to watch.

Here’s a really fuzzy action shot, right before he tumbled over one of his towers recently:

Heh, the funny thing is, when he falls while building his tower, he generally gets right back up and starts over. Like I said: Crane operator or demolition expert.

More photos here.

Jack got a present in the mail from his Uncle Mike and Uncle Steve yesterday: Bathtime Fingerpaints!

When Christine opened the mail, Jack was going crazy wanting to play with the fingerpaint, but she held firm and told him “we have to wait until Bath time”…

And he loved them. He painted the walls of the bath, then he painted his belly… too much fun.

More photos here.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a Rocking Duck on sale from Playsam in Skandanavia (oh the wonders of the internet). I ordered one on impulse, because it was so damned cute. It arrived today, so I put it together tonight, and Jack gets to try it out tomorrow:

Cool, huh?

This year, for Valentine’s Day, Christine and I got up early (ok, Christine got up really early, and I got up at my normal 8:00) and gave Jack his Valentine’s present. It was an Elmo is sick doll. Ok, it’s really called a “Check up on Elmo” doll, but it’s the same thing.

We got this little doll for Jack because he’s been sick lately, and every time we take him to the doctor’s office, he hates it more and more. Hopefully playing with this Elmo will teach Jack that it’s okay to take your temperature, how to blow your nose, and that bandaids are fun!

Hopefully. Because if it doesn’t, I’m going to ring Elmo’s annoying little neck. Elmo has to be the cutest, yet most annoying doll we’ve had… mainly because of that little lispy voice he has… thankfully I don’t have to spend much time with Elmo. Poor Christine has to spend all day with him 😉

Then I went to work.

I knocked off around 4:00, and we headed to Central Park. Jack and I played on the playground, while Christine went to the store. She couldn’t find what she was looking for, so she came and got us. We went to the Bookstop and found my Valentine’s present: The Complete Photography Manual. Too cool.

I gave Christine her Valentine’s day gift at home. It was from Jack and I, so we opened it while Jack ate dinner.

She got a set of flip-flops, a stick of lip-balm, some Aloe Vera lotion, and a card from each of us.

We decided to keep the gifts pretty reasonable this year, because:

We’re going on a 6-day Carnival cruise next week to Progreso and Cozumel! That was our real gift to each other, and we are soooo looking forward to it.

Hope you had a good Valentine’s Day.

update: Photos from the park are here.

This past weekend, Christine and I dragged Jack up to the Arboreteum to hang out with the cows.

We parked in the hotel parking lot, walked through the hotel and headed over to the cow park. On the way there, Jack gave us “The Elephant” (think “brrrrr!” as you click that link – see this video for background on “The Elephant”).

When we got to the cows, Jack was having fun, running around, pointing out the cows, and anything he found on the ground (like a ladybug).

We experimented a little with letting him run around on his own, and he dashed across the grass, and then ran up the steps, and didn’t seem to mind that we really weren’t anywhere near him.

We were treated to a wonderful sunset as we left:

See the rest of the photos from our trip to the Arboreteum here.

Is something broke around your house? Do you need help with a pipe, or need to cut a piece of wood?

If so, call Jack – The Fixerupper:

Jack has all the tools you might need, and knows the importance of keeping them in order, so only one tool comes out of the tool belt at a time (haha, yeah right) and he always keeps them in really good shape.

(Photos taken on January 28th – yes, I’m a little behind)

This is what watching the Super Bowl with a 14 month old looks like:

We’d planning on attending Carlo’s Super Sunday Super Bowl Party, but alas, Jack was full of crud, and wasn’t feeling too well… not to mention, I’d worked all day in the yard pulling weeds, and disemboweling our flower beds of all the bermuda grass I could find before putting down 11 bags of mulch.

It was fun to pull Jack in front of the TV, set him up with a TV tray and watch the game…

Honestly though, we didn’t pay attention until the 4th quarter, and the ads that we did see were weak.

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