Met Dad and Linda and Roy’s family at Chevy’s restaurant for our annual Christmas get together. We missed Samantha—she’s now married and living with her husband at Ft Hood Texas. We had a great time except the service was horribly slow, the food was cold, and the orders were wrong. The upside was that the manager was so upset with our service that we all ate for free!
Our neighbor Kathy says she’s having issues with her home insurance due to our trees. Today I had Garners Tree Service come out and lop off the branches on all the trees between our house and Jan’s and Kathy’s. To save money I told the guy I’d do the clean-up so they left all the debris. It’s going to take weeks to clean up.
Started cleanup on the debris from the trees. Ruth’s dad gave us his chipper, but it’d been sitting for years and we couldn’t get it started until almost dark.
Melodie and Sean-D started archery lessons today. Sean-D is doing very well at 15 yards—he’s been going to the archery range almost every week with his bow to practice. This is Melodie’s first time ever. She is having an issue with the arrows going off at an angle. The instructors finally got it figured out—she’s releasing wrong and just needs to practice.
It was in the 60’s today so we took advantage and worked on cleanup in the yard. We got the chipper running so we made a good dent on the debris. Still a long way to go. Melodie did an outstanding job taking the branches I cut to size and stacking them in piles for future camp fires.
Today Sean-D and Melodie went to their 3rd archery lesson. Melodie is doing much better and almost hit the bulls eye a couple of times. Sean-D continues to improve and hit the bull’s-eye a couple of times. After the kid’s archery class we went to Vespers for pizza and a pitcher of soda and to play laser tag. We had a blast.
We got home around 3pm and Ruth and I tackled some of the fallen branches from the tree trimming. Melodie helped again by hauling off the cut logs and piling them up.
Melodie finished her schoolwork early, so when I got home from work I took her to the archer range for practice. She did very well at 10 yards and even hit the bull’s-eye once.
Last archery lesson before the tournament next week. Sean-D is doing very well at 15 yards, and Melodie scored 116 points at 10 yards. Trophies are giving out for everyone with over 100 points so we’re feeling pretty good.
Sean-Daniel is eleven years old today! We celebrated at home with Amber and Holdyn and Grandma and Grandpa Falconnier. Sean’s friend Logan and his mom also came over.
An amazing archery competition. Everyone’s final score was put against their own overall average for past 5 weeks—so everyone was shooting against themselves. Then the kids were matched up with everyone in their shooting distance. Sean-Daniel got 3rd place for the 15 yard, and Melodie got 2nd place for the 10 yard.
We celebrated Melodie’s birthday a day early. Grandma and Grandpa Falconnier came as well as some friends of the kids. Melodie got lots of books which is perfect since she’s entered another reading program for tickets to Six Flags.
Ruth turned 51 years old today. This kids and I bought her flowers and a balloon yesterday, and Sean-D gave her a set of dish towels and Melodie gave her a new pen with purple ink. This morning I made everyone breakfast and we sang Happy Birthday. I gave her a card and the Bluetooth hands free device for her to use in her car. After work I took everyone out to Ruth’s favorite Thai restaurant.
Last week we had a doosey of a hail storm. There were lots of reports of damage to roofs, siding, and cars. The aluminum molding around our window is peppered with dents as well as our cars, but otherwise no damage to the house our anything outside. I decided to make a claim with the insurance company for the damage to the cars, but not for the house.
This year’s Royal Ambassador camp out was at Jerry Blasdale’s family farm. They cleared out an area across the lake for our tents and a campfire. The first day we got on site before dark and set up the tents. While supper was being prepared Jerry took some of the boys our on the lake to place trout (?) lines for catfish. After supper we had a devotional and then went to bed. I actually slept pretty good. The next day everyone got up early to start the day. Activities included fishing, archery, BB gun shooting, hiking, and a Tropical Bird Show by a couple of Jerry’s family members that travel. Sean-Daniel caught some blue gill and a couple of large-mouth bass. The bird show was Christian based and the birds were parrots and McCaw’s that were rescues. The show was very well done.
The kids and I got up at 5am and heading to Carlyle lake for our first fishing trip of the year. As is our tradition we stopped off at the McDonald for breakfast first. Unfortunately the kids did not catch anything. I caught 3 large-mouth bass, a small mouth bass, and a large drum – all thrown back.
My boy is growing up (sniff). Tonight at church he went to be with the church youth group.
Temperatures have been over 100F for over a week and a half, so we stayed inside. Sean-D and I worked on another wood working project—a squirrel feeder. David and Alana were driving through on their way back to Colorado and stayed the day. At night they went over to the house of a friend of Alana’s dad, who lived near the Mississippi river and Ruth and Melodie went with them to watch the fireworks over at St Louis. Because of the drought many towns had to cancel their fireworks because of risk of starting a fire.
Summer vacation is over and the kids started school. We didn’t do much this summer because it was just too hot—over 100F every day and no rain. This year Melodie went back to Berean Christian School for 4th grade and Sean-D is still being home schooled for 6th grade.
We are officially set for our Puerto Rico trip from 09 – 23 November. We’ll be getting there a couple of days before Dad and Linda.
Hurricane Isaac finally broke the drought spell. Belleville lifted the fireworks ban due to the drought.
A little over 1 month until our Puerto Rico tour. We started practicing our Spanish at the supper table tonight. Temperature today was a high of 50 F. It’s been a crazy year for weather.
Last night Ruth and Melodie started their project to paint her bedroom. I had heard about daughter’s wanting to paint their rooms, but I thought I was safe since her walls have wood paneling. Ruth had checked around and was told how to do it—apparently it’s a common practice. They spackled and primered one wall last night.
Happy Birthday to me!! 51 years old today. Sean bought me a couple of grill lighters to go with the new grill I bought and a bottle of coke, and Ruth got me an aluminum RFID wallet.
Puerto Rico Tour 10—23 Nov 2012
Our first trip to Puerto Rico as a family. The last time I visited was around 1997 when my brother and sister’s families and dad went with me. Dad will be with us on this trip.
10 Nov – The taxi arrived at our house at 4:30 am and we arrived at the airport at 5:10 am (not bad). Passing through the luggage check-in and TSA check was a breeze this early—no crowds. Our flight left on time at 07:10 am and we arrived at the Philadelphia airport without incident at 1030 am local. Just as I was getting optimistic, it was announced, while we were waiting for our connecting flight, that said flight would be delayed 2 hours. We roamed the airport until boarding time and at 1:20pm local time we were airborne and headed to Puerto Rico!
We arrived at San Juan at 5:50 pm local, and my dad was already there waiting for us. But not too long; while we were waiting for the delayed departure he was waiting an hour for his luggage. When we got to the baggage claim our luggage was waiting for us. Dad had also reserved our rental van (Kia Sedona), so we went outside and waited for the complimentary pick-up.
After we squared away the paperwork for the rental we headed to my aunt Esther’s house where we will be staying for the next few days. When we arrived at the house she was waiting for use with a rice and chicken supper.
11 Nov – Attended services at First Baptist Church in Rio Piedras where my dad went when he was a boy. Melodie went to Sunday School where the teacher taught the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The adult sermon was based on Matthew 5:43.
This afternoon we drove to Old San Juan to visit El Morro, but the traffic was so bad and there were tons of people walking about. On top of that the road to El Morro was blocked by police cones. We finally figured out that it was Veteran’s day and decided to post pone the trip. Instead we drove over to the cruise liner’s dock and found a Cold Stone ice cream store. Then we walked around where the vendors sell souvenirs to tourists. Ruth bought several souvenirs. As the sun was setting a few bands started playing along the walk way and there was also an old-fashioned dance show complete with period clothing from the early 1900’s.
12 Nov – Today we went to El Yunque’ rainforest (Dad and his sisters we too). Because is was veteran’s day we all got in free. On the way up the road we stopped at the new museum. It was very nicely set up and they also had a movie about the history. We left the museum and continued up the road; stopping for a bite to eat at a small restaurant; and then finally parking at the trail head to go down to Las Minas falls. Dad’s shoes had the soles come off, so Dad and his sisters stayed at the top while Ruth, the kids, and I hiked down.
It started raining about 2 minutes after we started down, but after all, it is a rainforest. We took shelter whenever it rained hard, and we finally made it to the falls after about an hour (would have only taken 30 minutes), and by then it had stopped raining. Ruth and the kids played in the water and I stayed with our stuff. After about 30 minutes we hiked back up, stopping along the way to see the things we missed because of the rain. All told we made it back up after another hour. At the top we met dad at the parking lot and made one last tour to see the “bath” where my dad used to swim when he was a kid.
We needed to drive back down to Luquillo before dark because the road was windy and dangerous. For supper we went to the International Toston for some Mofongo. We got back to Esther’s house about 8:30pm after stopping at Wal-Mart to get my dad some new shoes, and gluten free stuff for Ruth.
13 Nov – Spent the day at Pinone beach. This is the kids first time in the ocean, and they had a blast. There is a long line of reef that stops the waves, but there was a current. We collected a lot of shells and found a hermit crab. It was a beautiful day.
This evening we went to a bible study at a church member’s house. They were we to do and their house was very large and much like a museum with paintings in and art pieces in the long and wide hall. The bible study was outside on the patio and preceded by a wonderful supper – buffet style.
14 Nov – Today we went back to Old San Juan to see El Morro. Before going in we walked along the outer wall viewing the cemetery and the coast line. When we got to the castle Melodie and dad stayed at the entrance while Ruth, Sean, and I visited all 6 levels – it was a lot of walking.
15 Nov – Today we went back to Luquillo and spent the day at the beach. This beach was one of the nicer ones—being safer and cleaner, but you had to pay $4 to get in and park. I remember coming here when I was little. Today we had clear skies for the first time and just a slight breeze. For lunch we walked to a road side restaurant. Ruth and Melodie shared a roast chicken, Sean and I had pork with rice and beans (our staple). Aunt Ruth got a whole fried fish, and she freaked out Sean and Melodie who were commenting on how gross it was, by pulling out its eyes and feeding them to a stray cat. After eating we went back to the same beach and swam until closing time at 5pm.
16 Nov – Went back to Old San Juan and caught a ferry across the bay to Catana. We walked around and then had lunch before heading back. FBC Rio Piedras was having a “Discovery of Puerto Rico” festival. Dad was singing in it and had to get back to the house to get ready. Ruth went to the festival, but I stayed home with the kids to pack for our trip west.
17 Nov – Today we left San Juan and headed west towards Arecibo where we spent the night at dad’s friends house—Herminia Gonzalez. Herminio lives in the Arecibo moutains and his house is a little difficult to get to. He bought his house in 2003 and has planted a lot of fruit and coconut trees over the years so it is now very lush. He has grapefruit, lemon, orange, papaya, banana, passion fruit, and many others that at the time he couldn’t couldn’t remember what they were called. Dan cut open a coconut with a very sharp machete and handed it to Sean-D to try- he didn’t care for it though. Herminio cut down a sugar cane and passed out pieces –everyone loved it.
Later on we drove over to Herminio’s sisters house. There’s a large waterfall by the mountain road right across from the restaurant and rec area his sister and her husband used to run. It has fallen into disrepair since her husband died 20 years ago. You can still tell it must have been a booming business with 3 barbeque pits for roasting pigs, a large round reception building, a pool, and several tiny cabins just for 2. Now everything is covered over with weeds. An area around the apartments is kept clear by the daughter who lives with Herminio’s. There are a lot of banana, coconut, papaya, and citrus trees around.
18 Nov – We took Herminio to his church at FBC Arecibo where there was a wonderful worship time and sermon—all in Spanish. This church was a lot more contemporary compared to the more formal FBC Rio Piedras church. Melodie went to Sunday school and Sean-D stayed with us. She seems to enjoy being with the kids. She said that they look like her; referring to her Puerto Rican features and skin tone.
On the way back to Herminio’s we stopped at a roadside barbeque van to pick up some rotisserie chicken, rice, and cassava. After lunch Herminio loaded us up with grapefruit, sugar cane, a few coconut plants for dad’s property in Aguadilla. We said our goodbye’s and headed for Aguadilla.
We arrived at Aquadilla in what used to be Ramey Air Force Base—now run by the Coast Guard. We picked up the key for our rental house at a complex area where I once went to school. I recognized the building, but couldn’t find the playground. We got settled in our rental house at 107 Cliff Street which was once military housing.
19 Nov – Spent the day at 2 beaches. The first was recommended by the coast guard security guy. He called it Montones beach. (note: when we got back home I google earth’d the area and we actually were at Jobos beach which is just west of Montones beach). There was a big crag about 20 feet high that blocked the waves and created an area of relatively calm water. The waves outside the crag had waves high enough for surf boarders. This water was the clearest yet and we could see colorful fish like Blue Tang and possibly the cleaning Goby. We spent most of the day here.
About 4:30pm we headed to another beach called “Crash Boat”. The name comes from a shipwreck from WWII. The shipwreck was left on the beach and was visible for many years. It can no longer be seen but the name held. (note: I google earthed the beach and do see what looks like the wreckage). There was guy selling jewelry and every once in a while he would call the pelicans to feed them. It was cool watching these huge birds come at his beckoning. We watched the sun set and then went home.
20 Nov – Today we went to our old house where I lived from the ages of 4 to 11. It’s on a street now called Clavellinas. We visited with our old neighbors still living there: Olga and Ismael, Jelly, and Julia. Jelly’s grandson now owns our old house. I did not recognize the old neighborhood because of all the development in what used to be open land. We stayed and visited a couple of hours. We ate some Star fruit off a tree in Olga’s yard.
When we got back to our rental Ruth and the kids went to the swimming pool down the road while dad and I walked down a path leading down to the beach. The path was steep and treacherous and the only access was through a locked gate. The coast guard security guy had given us the combo and warned us not to go swimming because of the reefs. He also warned that the path down was tricky. He was right. There were stairs about 1/6th of the way down and after that we had follow a very old path that had long fallen into decay—it took a while to find. All that was left was a thick rope to hold on to and the old cement anchors for what used to be a steep boardwalk. When we finally got down to the beach it was all worth it. Rocky cliffs were very majestic and beach isolated. We eventually had some visitors on horseback just as we were leaving—a little late as the sun was setting.
21 Nov – We packed up the van and drove away from our cozy rental house. Heading back to San Juan. We stopped in Arecibo to visit the Observatory. There was also a little science center and a short movie about radio telescopes—very fascinating how the whole thing came about. We decided to leave about an hour before the observatory closed at 5:00 pm. It would be getting dark soon and dad didn’t want to drive on narrow mountain road at night so we headed back to the car. When we got to the car, surprise!, a flat tire. We had been getting the low tire alarm on the dash board for the last couple of days, but since the tire looked fine we ignored it—oops. God was certainly with us. The lug nuts came right off, we found the spare after finally conceding to look at the manual, got the spare on tire on, and pulled up to the gate at 4:57pm. Oh, and the whole time He held back the rain which had been coming and going. We got the Esther’s house without further incident.
22 Nov – Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico!! We spent most of the day washing clothes and packing, cleaning the rental van, and getting ready for the party. At 3pm we headed for the party at my Aunt Ruth’s house which was just around the corner. Celebrating with us were my aunt Aixa, her husband Jeffrey and her daughter Gina; my cousin Cuchi and her husband Miguel and his parents; and my cousin Lizzette. Our dinner consisted of turkey, rice with gandules, macaroni, salad, pumpkin pie, ice cream, carrot cake and flan. After supper Ruth (my wife) played a few songs on the keyboard, and we caught up with each other lives.
23 Nov – Our return to Belleville Illinois was uneventful and smooth. Neil picked us up at the memorial hospital metrolink station. Everyone agrees this was our best vacation ever.
I finally got around to fixing our old computer and setting it up for the kids. I changed out the hard drive and reloaded XP. Then I went to Ofiice Max and bought a new flat screen monitor to replace the CRT monitor (that weighed a ton and stuck out almost 2 feet). Now it’s set up for the kids to use.
My parakeet Virgil has been acting depressed the last few months and I finally got around to researching to see what I can do. It turns out that the cage he’s in is for finches and it’s recommended to have 2 parakeets if you cannot spend time daily with them. So yesterday Melodie and I headed straight over to Petsmart. While I picked out a large cage Melodie picked out Virgil’s new buddy – his name is Percival. It was a rough first day/night for both. Against the advice of the Petsmart employee I put them together in the cage and turned out the light. This morning there was blood spots around the cage and poor Percival was injured. I don’t think they were fighting because they were standing side by side. Probably during the night something startled them and in a new cage they panic’d.
After church I checked on the birds and they seem to be doing great. They have found the food and water and are both preening themselves.
Christmas Day meal at our house. Lydia and her family came over as well as Amber and grandma/pa Falconnier. I got a special present for Sean-D called Chaos Tower. We almost couldn’t get it built, but after finally deciding to use the instructions it started coming together.