Monday, March 31, 2014

My Temporary Life as a Bahama Mama

The day we left for the Bahamas was a snowy one at home. It was an isolated storm that spit heavy snow closing most major highways. When we got up, preparing to pack the truck, my husband was forced to shovel snow off our driveway. Just as we received an all-call stating church was canceled, he came in concerned about being able to make it out of town, noting that we should leave as soon as we can. I did not hesitate in agreeing. He laughed as I explained that there was nothing keeping me from hanging out with my sister on the beach, seriously. Thankfully, once we were on the road and creeped approximately 30 miles south, all was clear, the sun was out, and the temperature around 50 degrees! So strange. We couldn't believe it.

We spent the afternoon and evening enjoying the company of friends, who also took us out to eat and drove us to the airport. By this time I could tell it was going to be a looooong night. We went through security without a hitch and 20 minutes before boarding Bean was fighting sleep. We were hoping the red eye wouldn't be too difficult for her and I was kinda in a panic (I'm sure those around us were thinking, "Greeeeat! A screaming baby.") Thankfully, she passed out just before we boarded and slept through the four hour flight. (YAY!) Unfortunately, there was no sleep for Kyle or myself (okay, maybe a half hour or so), but all was well - we were running on coffee-caffiene fumes - but we were running. The next flight was actually enjoyable because Bean loved the plane ride from Miami to Marsh Harbour. She kept looking out the window explaining how "pre-ahhhhh" (pretty) it was. I couldn't agree more. I have never seen so many blues!

Arriving in the warmth was invigorating after surviving an all nighter! My sister already planned for us to have lunch at the resort where David manages the harbor at Abaco Beach Resort.

While waiting for our food to arrive there was NO keeping Bean out of the water. Jumping in, catching Daddy off guard (hence the floatation device, lol)!  
Floating and kicking! I think swimming lessons are in order this summer!
This was our view while we enjoyed our lunch! So beautiful!
Conch Burger = YUM!
Bean was a big fan!
After lunch we headed to the beautiful beach. Bean was an immediate beach bum.

She had been running on 4 hours worth of sleep. We were not going to battle the pacifier (only allowed during nap and night, night) or the aw-aw's on the beach! This blanket became the beach blanket (I brought 2) and by the end of our trip it was disgusting!
I couldn't get over how much she loved the sand and the water!

Even if the waves toppled her over, and even after swallowing salt water, she did not want us to hold her hand. (Oy.)

After pulling an all nighter and enjoying beach time, we did not survive the trek to Mandy and David's home. All three of us passed out! Poor Mandy! Thankfully they planned a relaxing evening full of fantastic traditional Bahamian food. We had Smudder Mahi for dinner (and yes, I will share this recipe).
Preparing dinner!

Seriously, SO GOOD!
Baby Time!
Kyle and David spent the entire evening preparing the boat for their deep sea fishing trip the next day. I was tired, but Kyle was extra exhausted after all that hard work. He was anxious to get to sleep, he had been dreaming about this day since we booked the trip. We went to bed with a full tummy and did not wake up until it was time to get up and play the next day!
This isn't the greatest picture, but it gives you an idea of what my daily morning Bible reading with coffee was like. Screened in back porch with a great view... ahhhhh....
Kyle left bright and early and David surprised us with massages on the beach! We spent the morning relaxing with more baby time and a few minutes exploring the beach by Mandy and David's house.
Look how sleepy I am... bleh...

Mandy's cute little house!

Isn't it gorgeous?

Mandy and David can't say the word "beach" around their dogs because they like it so much and go crazy! Haha!

Look at those adorable sandy toes! 

After some beach time we prepared for more beach time and our massage! Bean couldn't get over the beach BALL. She was in heaven.

After an all nighter and a wonderful full night sleep, this massage was definitely appreciated. Oh.My.Word. This lady knew her stuff. She combined massage with stretching and the result was fantastic. I felt so much better afterwards. I wasn't drained or didn't feel dehydrated or so worked over that I couldn't move. It was seriously perfection. The perfect start to any vacation. Plus Bean enjoyed time on the beach playing ball, time in the water, and eating her apple (I tried telling her it was a pear, but there was no convincing)!

We sat on the beach watching the storm brew - it was amazing.
I wish Kyle could've said the same. I think he enjoyed himself but he didn't catch any fish. I could tell he was disappointed, but they were going out again to give him another chance. Thank goodness we have such amazing friends!

That evening we met their friends for dinner at Mandy and Davids. Fresh fish tacos. Yum.

Day 3 was another fantastic day. We slept in, took our time for breakfast and prepared for lunch on the boat. Bean passed out on the boat and napped for quite a while before we landed on the island where she could feed wild pigs. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.... she enjoyed every minute of it.

I love her face in this one! Haha!

We harbored the boat at Green Turtle Island and toured the local museum, which they boasted was one of the earliest examples of Bahamian architecture still standing (with an outdoor kitchen and latrine still intact). That was so cool. Each building on this island was unique and packed with so much history! The museum was definitely my favorite, along with this particular house....

The Albert Lowe museum.
The house was FILLED with model boats that Albert Lowe handcrafted, his largest model was finished when he was 75 years old! They were incredibly detailed. 

One of the upstairs rooms.
The boat ride back was extremely choppy and we were beyond ready to be home to relax, we took our time and chatted the whole way back. I loved that part of our day.

Each evening ended perfectly with something new and yummy (ALWAYS with Avacado, which were HUGE).
We told David and Mandy to give us the Bahamian experience and by day three we were beyond satisfied with the results. David made conch fritters and grilled wahoo packets on the grill. My mouth waters thinking about it.

The next two days were rainy but we made the best of it by relaxing on Mandy's screened in porch, reading, laughing, reminiscing, talking, Facetiming with Mel, and simply enjoying one another.

Mandy took us to Snappas for lunch, a bar and restaurant hovering over the water. FUN atmosphere.

The next rainy day morning was also relaxing and when the weather finally cleared up a bit we visited a blue hole, which is a bottomless fresh water pit in the middle of nowhere. I called it a black hole, it just made sense to me! It was so dark and eerily beautiful.

It was a tad chilly that day, but Kyle braved it anyhoooo...
We ended the afternoon with a trek down the beach close to Mandy and David's house and found a sea biscuit! I was so excited! We also had an encounter with a crab and had an all around great time.

We ate at Mangoes for dinner and couldn't believe how fast the days were going. We had 3 days left to enjoy and we made the best of every minute.

Kyle finally got his second day of fishing while we toured a Bahamian yard sale (haha, craziness). Mandy scored a lovely couch for her porch that matched her table set almost perfectly! Brielle scored a "pre-ahhh" necklace that she insisted on taking home (seriously the nastiest thing I've seen) and now wears them everywhere. Mandy couldn't resist getting them for her. (Thanks Mandy!) ;) I walked away with some books and frames. It was a great morning!

We ran home to prepare for a beach day with our babies! Time on the beach = perfection. There's no better adjective for this trip. We walked around on the sand, finding sand dollars and shells, allowing Bean to explore and giggle and talk and talk and talk about how much she loved it! She was so cute. In fact, she walked right up to this lady gathering sand dollars and said, "Hi baby!" and the lady thought she was so adorable that she gave her all her sand dollars. Haha. She came alive on the beach.

This beach, called Treasure Cay, was especially beautiful. The sand was extra fine and extra white, making it so incredibly soft! (This is where I got sand for Bean's Bahama's sensory bucket.)

Mandy & Abi
Love this pic
And this one too... hehe... look how happy she is!
A LIVE sand dollar (didn't know what they looked like until now)
Eating peanut butter on the beach is a bad idea! 
Especially when you stick your WHOLE hand in the container. Peanut butter + Sand = Icky, icky, icky

Kyle, David and one of their friends, joined us on the beach. Kyle caught two beautiful Mahi and got to dive for conch.

My favorite picture!
They made fresh conch salad on the beach (another Bahamian tradition)...
By this time I knew it was past time to get out of the sun. Plus Bean was exhausted (she just didn't stop) and I was so tired from following her around! One of the things I wanted to do was read on the beach, welP, there was doing no such thing with Bean. She played and played and played until she quite literally dropped.

When Mandy and I finally got packed up and back home we sat in her driveway, giggling over how we were not ready to get out and clean up (the fine sand was so hard to clean and it was everywhere) so we shared a beer and let the babies sleep a bit longer before giving them a bath and waking them up. I loved that part of the day. (I'm tearing up just thinking back to that particular memory...)

Somehow we gathered enough energy to clean her entire house (having company = disaster zone) before her friends came over to enjoy Kyle's fresh Mahi, which he caught and cleaned himself. I could tell he was so excited to enjoy what he worked so hard to bring home. (I did not blame him, this was a "bucket list" moment for him.) The grilled fresh Mahi was divine.  We feasted on fresh Mahi, fresh avocado, fresh conch salad, more conch fritters, and fresh mint in our mojitos. What an ending. I felt so spoiled!

The last two days were awesome! Sunday morning we had a traditional Bahamian meal called boiled fish with Johnny cake, avocado, and bloody mary's. (Yes, I'll share that recipe as well.) After church we had lunch at mamas and for the first time I tried lambs leg. It was soooooo yummy, mama definitely knows how to cook. I cannot remember mamas real name (everyone calls her mama), but her home was so welcoming! You'd just walk through the door to food ready to eat, expected to eat, and great company. I loved getting to know the friends (considered family) that Mandy and David have in their life. They are truly blessed with some amazing people.

With their closest friends we travelled by boat to Hope Town where we got to visit the last kerosene  lighthouse still in usage. It was awesome! I've never visited a lighthouse before and I got to cross it off my bucket list!

Once we toured the lighthouse we walked around, visited a park, ended up on an ocean side beach (with ice cream), watched someone surf a bit, and finished the day getting drinks at Firefly.

This is a Cholera cemetery from the 1800's where they apparently buried people alive because they had no idea what it was, or how to treat it, etc. Craziness.
Cookie Monster Ice Cream! Haha!

So cute!

Our sunset view as we enjoyed drinks at Firefly! Beautiful.
Once we parked the boat we ended up eating at mamas again! Bean was so hungry she ate an entire hot dog and then some!

Our last day was filled with all kinds of anticipation. David had been talking about it since arriving. We dreaded it (because it was our last day) and looked forward to it at the same time. We were not ready to leave. We soaked up every last minute we had with them.

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip: We boated to Little Harbor and visited Pete's Pub (it's this awesome bar with four poles holding up a thatched roof, a boat shaped bar area, sand floors, and an all around perfect relaxing, beachy atmosphere!) We took a shot of gregormeister, which is rum fermenting in whatever they can gather from the beach (seaweed, drift wood, and whatever else they could find) it looked nasty, but took one for the experience. (Bleh...)

The lull of the boat put Bean to sleep!
ALL the signs (including signs marking roads) were made of driftwood. 
Pete's Pub is a must see.
They had this awesome game where you try to get the ring on the hook in 8 or 9 different steps. One of them was from your forehead. LOL! David got it first shot! AND I caught an AWESOME picture. It still cracks me up every time I look at it.
Here's the proof...
One of the steps was wrapping the string around the pole, unwind and try to hook it. It was fun!
Kalik is a Bahamian beer (reminded me a lot of Corona, especially tasty with lime) that is named after the sound of the cowbells at Junkanoo, a Bahamian celebration. Historically it's the day the slaves were given off and they celebrated the special holiday with parades. Apparently they celebrate this annually and it's something I'd definitely like to see.

The gregormeister pot. 
Before taking our gregormeister shot.
And yes, we survived. 
Bean woke up for conch! :)
And this was another day at the office for David. He thought I was so embarrassing making him take a pic next to this t-shirt. Haha. Sorry David!
We went back out to sea, a little wobbly (always go for drinks after paddle boarding, not before, haha) it took a bit to gather balance. Mandy (bless her) took Bean so that I could paddle board. I felt so bad, because it took longer than intended. I don't know how Mandy entertained her, but she said she enjoyed the time with her. I was thankful to Mandy, but sad because I wanted them to come along. I was torn. It was a good thing Bean didn't go because by the end It was low tide, forcing us to carry our paddle board for short stretches because the water was too shallow, and we were paddling against the wind. By the end I could see the boat and could not get to it. It was so embarrassing and frustrating! I was the last one to get to the boat. Ugh. I finally sat down and prayed, thinking there was nothing else to do. I was so tired of fighting the wind. I needed to give my burning muscles a minute, but if I did, I'd lose all the ground I just covered. Resting put me 10 steps back when I had just worked hard for a measly two. I loved the experience right up to that point. After that I was ready to be done. 

We saw sea turtles galore, Kyle saw a shark, sting ray... it was beautiful!

Thankfully the rest of the afternoon was enjoyable as we stopped to gather conch and saw star fish GALORE! Can ya tell Bean loved them?!

When Mandy put it back in the water she stuck her waterproof camera under it and snapped this incredible picture! Frame worthy, huh?

So many blues!
We ended the day with fresh sushi, I think my first time eating it set my standards so high that it will be hard to enjoy sushi anywhere else. LOL.

The next morning we got up and quickly packed, ready to spend our last morning with Mandy and David touring a 135 foot yacht (one of the benefits of David managing a harbor). David prepared our last traditional Bahamian meal for breakfast: grits and corn beef (FANTASTIC! One of my favorite dishes, and yes, I'll share that recipe too). The yacht, by the way, was so pristine you could see your reflection in the wood and eat off the floor in the mechanical room. I was afraid to touch anything. Apparently it costs $50,000 to simply fill the gas tank in this thing. Yikes.
Yup, that's the one we toured.
I was not ready to go and was teary eyed all morning as we left her house, left the beach, and when we arrived at the airport we realized we left behind the wagon. This wagon brought us so many compliments! If you ever travel with children, get one of these. It folds up perfectly for transport, but when unfolded it gives them a place to play, sleep and sit.  I had two pregnant mommy's stop me and ask where I got it, how much it was, and that they were going to find one. Nearly every airport personnel commented on how parents should travel this way! My mom got us the perfect Christmas gift and we left it behind. Mandy gallantly offered to drive home and bring it back for us. This was at 11 and our flight didn't leave until 12:35. At 12 we were boarding and Mandy still had not returned. By this time I was almost hysterical. I knew she had to hurry, her baby was hungry, we didn't even say good-bye, and the situation was all around bad. I started crying. We were lined up, ready to board the plane when my husband talked to the attendant who allowed us to stay in the waiting room, giving us 5 minutes. The minutes ticked by and she still hadn't arrived and I was now hysterical. I was praying that God keep her safe and that he answer my prayer to at least give a good-bye hug. Two minutes till we were to board she drove up. It was the quickest good-bye I've ever given, but it was by far the most meaningful. I was left emotionally drained as I said good-bye, praising God for an answer to prayer!

Next time (if we ever leave anything behind again) I'll just say forget it. We lost an hour and a half with her and I spent the time worrying over whether or not I'd get to say good-bye before I left, so stupid. Looking back it was definitely a faith building moment. And I'm still praising Him for answering my prayers, for the faith building moments I spent in prayer trusting Him to keep my sister safe, and the time I spent thanking Him afterwards. Everyone kept asking me if I was okay as I paced, which left me kind of irritated, just let me pace in peace! Haha. I couldn't explain that I only see my sister once or twice a year (if I'm lucky) and not one part of me wanted to end this trip without a good-bye hug. Looking back it was a beautiful, exhausting moment, but not how I wanted to end the trip exactly.

I can't even begin to tell you how awesome this trip was. Not just for all the events I described here, but for the moments I was there for my sister when she needed someone most, for the incredible answers to prayer in more ways than I mentioned here, for the possibilities of returning, and knowing that the good-bye I said is not good-bye. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mandy and I's good-bye's are never truly good-bye's. No matter what happens, because of my sisters unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, good-bye's are always "see ya laters" and that eternal perspective makes it bearable to leave. I did not want the trip to end, and I can't wait to go back, not just because of the beautiful location, but also because I have a beautiful relationship with my sister, my friend, my companion in Christ. There's nothing better than that.
Seriously missing this little adorable smile! Love you Abi, Mandy & David! Thank you for an incredible experience. Can't wait till next time!