5.24.2010

Vaycay Extravaganza: A Day of Tourist-ness

We were super tourists on Tuesday. We occupied our time with things specifically found in Myrtle Beach and nowhere else...

We woke up to a gray, gloomy sky on Tuesday morning, so we decided to go to Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum on historic Ocean Boulevard (yes, I know that there are Ripley's museums all over the place...but it's still a big tourist attraction in Myrtle Beach so it counts!)



Playing in the fountain outside of the museum. I absolutely love Kyle's face in this picture.


The first thing we saw after walking in was this 8-foot statue of a man COMPLETELY made of old toys! (And, um...sorry about my little brother's head sticking out from between the guy's legs. I didn't even see that until right this very second. Also, I look very puffy in this picture. I blame the humidity.)


This is a model of the hand of Willie Camper, an 8'5 man who could hold a dozen eggs in one hand unstacked. You know what they say about men with big hands...


This was Kyle's favorite part of the museum. He was mostly freaked out at everything we saw, but they had this machine where kids could "color" a picture by pushing a button and then touching the screen. We had a hard time tearing him away from it.


This was quite possibly the MOST entertaining part of the museum. There was an image of an object at the back of this horned guy's "mouth" and you were supposed to put your hand in the mouth trying to touch it. My sister and I figured something scary would happen, and since we're super big chickens, we got Cole to do it. His facial expression isn't candid (he already knew what happened), but trust me -- Stephanie and I screamed.

After finishing up in the museum and being equally grossed out and amazed at the things we saw, we took a walk up Ocean Boulevard, which my siblings described as "like being in Mexico, only in SC." The street was lined with tiny tourist trap shops, made even dodgier by their proprietors standing outside soliciting potential customers. We ended our stroll soon after we began it and headed back to the condo.

After lunch and a nap (for Kyle and me) we piled into the cars and headed inland to Conway, SC. Conway is a quaint, historic river town on the Waccamaw River.


The Waccamaw is what's called a blackwater river -- a slow-moving river that flows through swamps and wetlands. Blackwater rivers get their characteristic color from tannins leached from decaying vegetation in the water. Conway has a lovely river walk built along the river, so we spent some time meandering along the boardwalk.


Kyle, of course, ran pretty much the whole time.


Cole and me on the river walk.


We found and fed a duck (yes, one duck. I'd always seen them in flocks before, but this was the only one in sight), which was Kyle's favorite part of the afternoon. Good thing I had goldfish crackers in my purse!

After getting our fill of river scenery, we took a short drive around some of the neighborhoods in Conway. We were looking for something specific, which we soon found:


Conway is full of old oak trees that are protected by law. When the streets were built, instead of cutting down the trees, the people simply paved around them. Now you can find several places where there is a tree very literally in the middle of the road.

On our way back from Conway, my dad noticed the car he was driving was having some issues. Apparently the engine was stuck in third gear and the transmission sounded like it was going to fall out (his words, not mine). This induced a little panic on his part and he had to take the car back to the rental place and get another. By coincidence he had to talk to the exact same girl that gave him so much trouble when he initially rented the cars on Saturday...lucky him.

For dinner, we decided to go to one of the seafood buffets that are ubiquitous in Myrtle Beach. Seriously...it's like LDS meetinghouses in Utah. We chose one called the Giant Crab -- it apparently had more than 170 items. It actually was really good! I'm not a seafood fan personally, but they had a station where they cooked pasta to order and a hibachi grill so I had PLENTY to eat. I DID try a bit of crab leg at Cole's request, but I have to stay I'm still not a fan. We also got our first taste of hush puppies, which are fried bits of...something delicious. I'm still not sure what they are exactly, but I'm pretty sure we each ate our weight in them that night. Kyle was over the moon because they had a fish tank with "Nemo" and "Nemo's Dad" (yes, I know his name is Marlin, but for some reason Kyle insists on calling him "Nemo's Dad"). He paid several visits to that fish tank during dinner. We got back to the condo that evening fatter and happier.

In the next installment: a bit of nudity, real alligators, and the zoo.

5.22.2010

Off the Subject, But...

Does anyone else have those days where it seems like all of your flaws/shortcomings/deficits hit you in the gut at precisely the same moment and your insecurity has rabid insecure babies that devour you alive?

I've had two of those days...in a row.

Am I the only crazy one?

(If not, what do you do to make them less painful?)

5.20.2010

Vaycay Extravaganza: A Day of Chill

Monday morning we were still not quite used to the 2-hour time difference. Kyle woke us up around 10:30 (which is 8:30 Utah time, and his usual time for waking at home) and, much to the chagrin of my siblings, set about waking everyone else up as well. We ate a leisurely breakfast and then hit the beach.


They had beach umbrellas and lounge chairs set up all along the shore and, to our surprise, there were still some available! We quickly commandeered a few spots and set to lounging around. We soon found out why there were so many chairs empty, however...a lifeguard came up and asked us if we wanted to rent them. The cost? $30 for the day. SERIOUSLY?!?! "No, thank you," we said, and moved along.

Kyle hung out with Papa, and the two of them had fun walking towards the waves (while still maintaining their distance, because of both Kyle's hesitation and my dad's tendency to be a mite overprotective).

After getting our fill of sun and sand, we headed back to our rooms to clean up and eat lunch. We attended an "orientation"-type meeting in the resort's activity room, where the activities director gave a rundown of both the on-site and off-site activities the resort sponsored. The draw for the meeting? Free mimosas! We, of course, did not imbibe (in fact, when we declined, one self-proclaimed "southern belle" offered to take all of ours for herself!), but we did get our fill of lemonade and free snacks. Attending the meeting turned out to be quite profitable, because we got ideas for several of our own off-site activities there. We also got to see two older and not quite sober people (including our mimosa-loving "southern belle") engage in some "horse racing" (think sticks with horse heads on them) to win discounted tickets for a big dinner show. Totally worth every second.

After the meeting ended, we decided to check out one of the attractions described in the meeting: Barefoot Landing, an extensive open-air shopping center -- Gateway on steroids, basically. One of the crowd draws for Barefoot Landing is the opportunity to see and take pictures with baby tigers.

They had gorgeous adult tigers as well. In the back is a Siberian tiger, the middle, a Royal White Bengal tiger, and in the front (my personal favorite, which also happens to be quite rare), a Golden Tabby tiger.

They had several baby tigers in glass-walled enclosures, waiting their turn to have their picture taken with eager tourists. The cost for such a picture STARTED at $79. My dad actually said he considered getting our picture taken, but after watching a few of the shoots, we realized that $79 got you about 3 1/2 seconds of holding the animal (basically just long enough to have the picture taken) -- totally not worth it. He said that he would have sprung for it if the handlers let the tourists ACTUALLY hold the tigers.

Since we're dorks, we had to get pictures taken at those ridiculous face cut-outs that are so ubiquitous at touristy locations:

Kyle actually LOVED them, and had to get his picture taken at each one. In this picture, he wasn't quite tall enough to get his face in the hole, so I'm holding him up with one arm and stretching to fit my face in the other hole.

Kyle's favorite store was called "American Vintage." It was actually really cool -- it had all kinds of nostalgia items and statues of old movie stars (like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and the Blues Brothers). You could even buy sodas in 12 oz. glass bottles. Kyle managed to find a Thomas the Tank Engine train whistle and suckered Papa into buying it for him. He was on cloud nine from then on.
Here he is, blowing the train whistle for the umpteenth time of the afternoon:

Barefoot Landing also has what is called the Alligator Adventure -- one of the largest reptile zoos in the world. We meandered out toward the entrance to find out that they were closing in an hour, so we didn't actually go in (who wants to pay a full day's admission for an hour?). Later, I saw pictures of what the Alligator Adventure looked like, and I decided we didn't miss much. It looked like it was a bunch of alligators laying all over the place. Everyone knows the fun of seeing alligators comes when you have to search for them...right? (Incidentally, we did get an opportunity to see alligators during the trip in a more natural setting, so we definitely didn't miss out).

After calling it an afternoon, my dad took Chris and Brittany back to the condo because they were on dinner duty. The rest of us trekked to Wal-Mart (it's not a complete day in the Kenner family without a trip to Wal-Mart!), where Daniel and Cole tried their hardest to drive my mom crazy (Cole has the annoying habit of filling the basket with useless items, and Daniel did his best to egg Cole on in this). We picked up groceries to last us the rest of the week, and headed back for dinner. Chris and Brittany made delicious tacos, which we INHALED. We settled down to watch Leap Year (good movie!) before hitting the sack.

In tomorrow's post: a giant toy man, car trouble, and a blackwater river.

5.19.2010

Vaycay Extravaganza: A Day of Rest

Continuing from where I left off...

My next recollection of the vacation was at 11:30 AM Sunday morning. Instantly, I thought something was amiss...after all, it was Sunday, and my parents hadn't dragged us all out of bed to make it to church at 9. *

*side note here: my family has ALWAYS gone to a full block of church every Sunday, no matter our location. It didn't matter that we were on vacation in some obscure place and didn't know anyone--we went. This was the bane of my existence growing up (it seemed like no one else in the entire world went to more church than just Sacrament Meeting if it was a different ward than their own). Now, I understand their reasoning and plan on doing the same with my little family.

Anyway, I checked and double-checked the clock, figured that no one else knew what time it was, and set out to wake everyone else in the condo to see if they knew any more than I did (I'm sure they were all thrilled about this). Turns out my parents had some trouble locating a ward/branch in the vicinity of Myrtle Beach -- there was one that started at 9, but it was a ways away. They also woke up at 8:30 on Sunday morning, figured that even if they got everyone up, we'd never make it on time for a 9 AM meeting (not to mention the fact that we had all been awake for more than 24 hours the day before and were all still dead to the world), and made the executive decision to skip church JUST THIS ONCE. Shock and awe ensued.

So, we now had a day to completely recover. We ate breakfast, lounged, and even went back to sleep for a while. Before calling my brother, Nathan, in Liberia, we gave and received Mother's Day gifts. Kyle and Cole made me an adorable apron, my mom helped Kyle make a cute picture book for me, and my parents gave me a beautiful picture book about being a mother that I still can't even read out loud without bursting into incoherent tears. I learned there's nothing quite like hearing your little one tell you "Happy Mother's Day, Mommy."

We got Nathan on the phone around 3 PM, and the first order of business was for my baby brother, Daniel, to open his mission call. He had received it the previous Wednesday, decided to save it for Sunday so Nathan could hear it, and hid it away from the rest of us. It seemed to take FOREVER for him to get it open (I'm sure he was dawdling on purpose to heighten the anticipation) and read the all-important location:

Philippines Iloilo Mission

We were all a little floored. I don't think any of us expected it (why does that always seem to be the case? Missionaries always get sent to the last place you can think of). He will be speaking Tagalog and he enters the MTC on September 15.^

^Another side note: Cole and I spent about half an hour on the church website trying to find any information about Daniel's mission, and we've come to the conclusion that it doesn't officially exist yet. It's still not listed as a mission in the Philippines, and there haven't been any press releases lately announcing it. So, we think that Daniel will be one of the first missionaries in a brand new misison! Kind of cool, really...

Moving on...talking to Nathan was awesome! A few weeks previously he had been transferred from Sierra Leone to Monrovia, Liberia, so he had a lot of new experiences to share. He also spoke with a Sierra Leonian accent for us, which was pretty impressive. They speak primarily English and a language called Krio (which strongly resembles English) there, so his accent made him sound a little South African, a little Jamaican, and all awesome.

After the phone call was over, we rebelled a little further and went to the grocery store (gasp!) to pick up a few things we still needed for dinner. The menfolk were cooking for us for Mother's Day, and we didn't have to do anything but show up and eat (which was AMAZING). So, after getting back from the store, my mom, Stephanie, and I took Kyle for a walk by the beach.


It was an absolutely gorgeous day! The water was cool, the sand was soft, and it was the perfect temperature. Kyle insisted on keeping his flip-flops on--he didn't like the feeling of wet sand on his feet. He did like it when the waves came on to the shore and he got to walk in the water. He wouldn't let go of either my or my mom's hand, though...the waves still scared him enough to stay with us. :)

Here's a side view of me, 34 weeks pregnant...in case you want to see what a beached whale looks like (literally). :)

We walked a good ways up the beach before turning around. Kyle was really quiet the whole time we walked, even when we realized he had broken shell pieces stuck between his flip-flops and his foot (ouch!). We also got to see two of these guys:

Gross! I don't know how people step on jellyfish that have washed up on shore. They're pretty noticeable. We saw them from quite a ways away and gave them a wide berth (except to take a picture).

We got back to our condo and ate a delicious dinner -- bacon-wrapped steaks, baked potatoes, broccoli, rolls, salad, and apple-cinnamon cake. Yummy! While the boys cleaned up we lounged on the couch and watched a movie on TV (they had a bunch of chick-flicks playing back to back in honor of Mother's Day). We called it a night after too much later and went to bed, still managing to be tired after a day full of doing nothing.

In the next installment: beach day, mimosas (or not), baby tigers, and tacos.

5.17.2010

Vaycay Extravaganza: A Day of Travel

We got back from vacation on Friday and spent the weekend recovering...who knew that a 2-hour time difference could leave all of us so TIRED?

I decided to split up the trip deets into several posts...both to keep my attentive readers coming back for more and so I could do the trip justice. We really did have an amazing time! So, without further ado, I'll start at the very beginning...a very good place to start.

Friday, May 7-Saturday, May 8

Our first flight was scheduled to depart at 9:55 pm. We decided to fly overnight for several reasons:
1. The flights were cheaper
2. We hoped Kyle would fall asleep at some point, reducing the chance of him throwing boredom tantrums and disturbing the other passengers
3. We could avoid flying all DAY, which would waste valuable time with which we could fill other activities

We were supposed to fly from SLC to Denver, from Denver to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Myrtle Beach. We made it to the airport in plenty of time to check in, get our bags checked (and, thanks to my sister-in-law who knows EVERYONE, we got the fee waived), and move through security, where Kyle received a strangely high amount of attention. Turns out in the Middle East, terrorists have used little children to transport explosives (not that we are or even remotely resemble terrorists; it's just a formality now to check toddlers). We boarded the flight without too much trouble. Here we are, getting ready to depart!



Kyle was SUPER excited to actually be on an airplane!


We let him sit by the window, and he had a blast watching the trucks get the plane ready for departure.


Unfortunately for us, there was a snag. A crucial part of the plane was malfunctioning, and we had to wait until it was repaired before we could take off. It seemed like a simple fix, but more and more problems kept cropping up. We ended up sitting on the plane for an hour and a half before we were asked to deplane because the flight was going to be canceled. Great start to our vacation, right? After heading back to the terminal, we had to stand in line with 175+ disgruntled passengers and reorganized our flight itineraries. Instead of waiting until 9:30 the next morning for the next flight to Denver, we managed to squeeze on to a flight going to New York that was leaving at 12:50 am. We rushed to the gate and managed to board just in time...but we had to check almost all of our carry-on bags because the flight was full and there was no overhead storage available. We had a duffel bag that we were told we could put under the seat in front of us, so we kept that. Unfortunately, we had been assigned the seats right behind first class, which do not have under-the-seat storage space. We just kind of tucked the bag into the corner and figured it would be okay. This incited a terse conversation between an ever-so-pleasant flight attendant and me:

Flight attendant: (snidely) Oh, you can't have that THERE. It should have been checked at the gate.
Me: (annoyed) We were told at the gate that we could put it under the seat in front of us, but as you can see, there ARE no seats in front of us. We didn't think it would be a problem.
Flight attendant: Well, we made the announcement FOUR TIMES that any unsecured luggage has to be checked. You should have heard that.
Me: (super annoyed) We JUST got on this plane! We haven't heard any announcements yet!
Flight attendant: Well, I'll just have to find space in the overhead for it.

She proceeded to cram our bag into the overhead compartment roughly. I seriously wanted to punch her. Perhaps this seems like a rather ridiculous conversation to get so furious over, but remember, we had just deplaned after sitting for an hour and a half before our flight was canceled, I'm 8 months pregnant, I had a rather tired 2-year-old in tow, and it was 1 AM. Plus, I'm rather well-versed in hospitality and customer service, and let me tell you, this girl SUCKED.

After the bag debacle, we finally took off. Kyle was pretty excited at this point, because in his experience, being on an airplane didn't entail anything like that. He was so tired, though, that he fell asleep halfway through take-off and he remained asleep for the majority of the flight (minus a few stirrings). I was really surprised at how good he was. When we landed, the man across the aisle even commented on how well-behaved Kyle was. I breathed a sigh of relief.

We landed at JFK just after 6 AM. They must not have turned the A/C on, because the airport was super HUMID! We grabbed a quick but overpriced bite to eat at the Burger King in the airport and sat at the gate for our next flight to Atlanta. Because of our haste in getting on the plane to New York in SLC, the rest of my family didn't get their boarding passes for the rest of our flights so they had to talk to someone at the gate (they processed us separately since we have a different last name than the rest of my family)...

By the way, if you've never had to deal with airline employees, I kid you not--it's just like you see in the movies: you ask the employee a question, they type on their computers for a MILLION years, and then give you an extremely unhelpful suggestion. This process repeats about 20 times, and then they FINALLY come up with a solution. By the end of the conversation, you want to strangle small, furry animals and you wonder why the airline only manages to employ imbeciles. Plus, they only come to the gate about 30 minutes before a flight is scheduled to depart, so you always end up rushed to get on your flight because you can't POSSIBLY conduct business with an airline employee in less than 30 minutes.

No exceptions here. My dad battled with the employee almost until the final boarding call for our flight to Atlanta. They finally got their boarding passes and we all got on the plane. Our track record for seating assignments didn't improve much, though...we were assigned the seats on the LAST ROW of the plane, right next to the bathrooms (eww). However, this flight was not full, and the row of seats opposite us was empty, so naturally we spread out. This is what Kyle did for the majority of the flight:


I tell you, this kid can sleep anywhere.

I had the unfortunate experience of watching my ankles swell to elephantine proportions. I've NEVER had ankle swelling while pregnant or while flying, so it was quite a shock for me. Since we were able to spread out, I was able to elevate my feet a little bit, but I was still super uncomfortable...and I may or may not have whined a lot about it.

We arrived in Atlanta and started our 4-hour layover. We grabbed some lunch (also overpriced!) and hunkered down to play a game of Phase 10. By this time, Kyle was the only one of us who had gotten more than 1-2 hours of sleep in the last 28 hours, so we were pretty loopy.

Our flight from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach was only about an hour and a half, which was good news for Jessica of the swelled ankles. The flight attendants barely had enough time to serve drinks and snacks between reaching cruising altitude and starting the descent. Kyle slept the majority of this flight too, but he woke up before he was ready and launched into a stellar tantrum 20 minutes before landing. Fortunately, we were seated behind a couple whose baby cried at take-off and we were surrounded by hilarious (and wonderfully understanding) older couples, so we didn't offend too many people.

We landed, deplaned, and were EXTREMELY grateful to be done with airplanes. Our next challenge was locating our luggage. Our carry-ons that we checked at the gate in SLC made it to Myrtle Beach with no trouble, and our original checked baggage would arrive later that evening. We counted our blessings, then waited for my parents to pick up the rental cars:


We were so totally exhausted that yes, we laid right down on the airport ground. I still had the most unfortunate cankles as well, so I had my feet elevated to reduce the swelling. After some hiccups at the rental desk (like we didn't have enough hiccups to that point) we loaded all of our crap and headed to the resort...and only got lost a couple of times.

From here, things got better. We checked into the resort and found out that we could be upgraded to a larger room, which we, of course, did. We also had a stellar view from our balcony:



Yes, that is the beach directly beyond the pool area. It took us 5 minutes to walk there. We changed into our suits and headed right out there while my parents went to grab dinner. After playing in the waves and enjoying the extremely soft sand, we took a dip in the swimming pools (which were a LITTLE too cold for my taste but still completely refreshing). My parents returned with dinner, which we ate at about 11 PM, and we all collapsed into bed.

Oh, and by the way, my cankles did go away. :)

*Stay tuned tomorrow for the story of our rebellion, the missionary phone call, the opened mission call, and Mother's Day!

5.06.2010

Leavin' On a Jet Plane

Don't be jealous, but...




this is where we're going to be for the next week.

We're flying out to Myrtle Beach, SC tomorrow night for a family vacation extravaganza. It's sort of our last family hurrah before my baby brother leaves on his mission. Incidentally, we'll also be opening his mission call on this trip to find out WHERE he's going and WHEN he's leaving.

(Yes, he has his mission call right now and no, he hasn't opened it yet. He wants to wait and open it when we have my OTHER missionary brother on the phone for Mother's Day. We're all dying of anticipation!)

We'll be sure to take loads of pictures!

5.03.2010

Cute Picture of the Day


Kyle and his cousin, Kimberly
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