April was jam packed full of travels as we welcomed spring! The four of us flew to Grand Cayman for spring break for a week. We decided to do something a little bit different by renting a VRBO versus staying in a hotel or resort and it was so worth it! We rented a car so we were able to explore the island on our own time and go wherever we wanted. Our condo was oceanfront and was complete with two bedrooms, two baths, a nice kitchen/den, and a screened-in porch. We drove around to the northwest side of the island to Starfish Point where we held lots of starfish, then we ventured to Rum Point for some painkillers and shade. The water was absolutely gorgeous. I went scuba diving one morning and dove to 101 feet on the north wall, which was incredible. The visibility was so good and I saw barracuda, trumpet fish, puffer fish, and bullfish. And, since it’s a small world, my good friend, Becky, and her family were on a cruise that ported at the Caymans, so we met up with them for lunch one afternoon. We went to Stingray City, which was an interesting experience. At first the girls seemed very eager to swim and were just slightly nervous…but, that quickly changed to fear when a stingray grazed by Brayden’s leg (coupled with the fact that the waves were pretty big). She started nervously saying “I want to go back to the boat” and Hanleigh was also on board (no pun intended) with that plan. Meanwhile, Trent and I went back to swimming with them. We were able to kiss the stingrays and even have them give us a backrub. It was pretty cool, although they are really slimy! It’s like touching a hard, yet gooey booger. Yuck! There were times that I was a bit nervous as well since there were so many swimming around us. After that, we went to another snorkel location where there were still stingrays, but it was deeper, so the kids did much better. We took an evening catamaran sunset sail and it turned out we were the only ones on the boat, which was pretty cool. The weather was gorgeous and we got to enjoy some rum punch. The rest of the time spent in the Caymans was by the beach and the pool. The girls met some other kids their age by the third day we were there and are even keeping in touch with one of them as a pen pal. Since this trip was such a success by going the rental route, I know we’ll do it again. The amount of space we had for the price was well worth it!
We came back from the Caymans on a Thursday and on Friday morning, Trent and I turned around and drove to Charleston while Kyle and Erin watched the girls for the weekend. This was our 11th year in a row running the Cooper River Bridge Run race and for the first time, none of our friends went (due to injuries or lack of training). That didn’t stop us, though. Per our ritual, we went to Taco Boy for lunch and as always, it was delicious! We ate dinner at a new rooftop bar called “The Watch” and it was awesome! We’ll definitely go back. We woke up early and headed for the aquarium docks at 5:40am to ride the boat to the buses to the start line. Over the years, our times have improved, but this year, we beat our previous times by a lot and set our own personal records! Trent’s time was 48:41 (7:50 average pace) and my time was 50:31 (8:07 pace). We must have been in the mood to celebrate because instead of heading back to the hotel to get cleaned up, we stayed in our stinky running clothes for many hours. We went to Burns Alley for a tasty, early-morning beverage and joined all the other fast runners (that are MUCH faster than us!) to reminisce about the race, the funny costumes we saw, and how we hate that darn bridge. After that, it was time for some lunch and Moscow mules at the Rarebit (SO GOOD!). We were planning on going back to the VRBO to get cleaned up, but nope…life had other plans! As we were walking down King Street, we heard some music and saw a lot of people dancing at Republic, a place we had never been before. Why not join them? So, we did. Two hours later and after non-stop dancing at the front right by the band, we left. I can’t wait to bring our friends there next year for some celebrating. It was incredible! We popped in for a quick selfie at the Vendue Inn Rooftop, breezed in and out of the Griffon, walked to the wine store and got drenched by a massive rain downpour. Once we got cleaned up back at the condo, we went to dinner at R. Kitchen. It was the coolest restaurant concept I’ve ever seen. It’s in an old house that only holds about 20 people up against a u-shaped bar where everyone can watch the chef and sous chef prepare dinner right there. We had a delicious soup, a pistachio and goat cheese appetizer, filet with marinated mushrooms, a chocolate torte with berries and a fudge sauce, among many other things. I think it was a six-course meal and wine is included as well. It was $45/pp, which was a steal. We’ll try to encourage our posse for next year’s CRBR to go there. After dinner, we met up with my co-worker, Kathy, and her family for an after-dinner drink and then hit the sack. It was a long day. On Sunday, we drove home. Whew!
The next weekend, Trent took Brayden camping with her Y Guides tribe in Waxhaw for a quick one-night trip. While they were there, Hanleigh and I had lunch with GG & Dadaw at Zoe’s. The next night, Trent and Hanleigh went to a western night dance with her Y Guides tribe while Brayden and I stayed home and watched Pitch Perfect 3. We had dinner with Mom & Jack at their new house. Their yard is so gorgeous, so it’s nice to sit out on their sunroom and take in the peaceful view. Kyle and I had dinner with Aunt Patty, so that was great catching up with her, too.
On a sad note, my maternal grandfather, lovingly known as Papaw, passed away. His health had slowly been declining over the years, and he was in his 90s, so while it wasn’t a surprise, it was very sad. My mom and I consoled each other before she traveled to Louisville to be with our family. I was unable to attend his funeral, unfortunately, but I wanted him to know what he meant to me, so I wrote him this letter, which was read during the service and a copy was even placed in the casket with him.
I know you are in a much better place right now and you were ready to go. While this is extremely sad and many friends and family are missing you dearly, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate and honor all of my fondest memories of you. Life has an interesting way of blessing us with incredible people, and while they may come and go, the most beautiful part is that the memories we share with those we love can never, ever be taken away. You have left a permanent mark in my heart and, for that, I am forever grateful.
- #1: I admire you dearly. How you were able to raise six children and support a family of eight being the sole breadwinner is beyond me. On top of that, you and Mamaw had those six children in eight years. Some may call it crazy, some may call it Catholic, but no matter what, it’s admirable.
- #2: I’m perplexed by your genetics. Somehow, everyone in this family seems to have been missing the gene that lets them call people by their correct name upon first use (Carrie, Edna, Joan, dammit…Effie). Maybe I’m wrong on this, but it seems like genetics did you a favor and you have the amazing capability to remember people’s names… I’m gonna chalk it up to a recessive trait because the rest of us fully represent forgetfulness, which leads me to my next point.
- #3: I love how you challenge your mind. Ever since I can remember, you have constantly been keeping that smart noggin’ of yours in shape by playing difficult card games (Wizard was your favorite), taking on opponents for a vicious chess match where there’s no way in hell they were going to win, and playing Rummikub (where we all have different sets of rules). If there’s one thing for sure, memory issues would never be a problem for you. Anytime we would want to play a game with you, you always obliged and were very excited to play. I’m sure if I added up all the hours we spent around your kitchen table just playing games, drinking sweet tea, and hearing those loud Spurlin cackles, I would be amazed.
- #4: I love your artistry. I have always been enthralled with your talent and ability to take a simple piece of wood and craft it into a complex work of art with your bare hands and a few choice tools. Over the years, you were able to magically create some of the most beautiful pieces of furniture using what God gave you…and then you would share your works with us. Coming from someone who can barely draw a stick figure, I’m blown away and in awe.
- #5: I love your peculiarities when it comes to food. I had never seen someone mix peanut butter, butter, and syrup into this crazy concoction and call it lunch (or breakfast, or dinner) until you. While it is extremely weird, it’s equally extremely awesome and delicious. Thanks for leaving the memory of you thoroughly enjoying that “dish”…I think it transported you to a culinary “happy place”.
- #6: I love how you can rock a Catholic prayer. Before every meal, without fail, you were able to recite with one breath, starting very loudly and then decrescendo-ing to a normal volume, the longest word ever, at the speed of a world record-holding auctioneer: “BlessthesegiftswhichweareabouttoreceivefromthybountythroughChristourLordamen”. Try as I may, I’ll never be able to replicate it, nor should I. Some things are just meant to be sacred and left untouched.
- #7: I love your quirky and innovative ideas. Where do I even begin? For those that don’t know, you and some furry, little friends had quite the battle. When the squirrels were trying to destroy the trees in your yard, your creative juices started flowing and you put some aluminum around the trees to keep them from causing more damage. But, alas, they found another route to the trees via your roof. However, your persistence and determination would not allow them to win the war. You rigged up an electric fence around the perimeter of the roof and zapped those suckers. The trash cans were so full of those boogers, that you did what any rational human being would do…put the extra ones in your freezer. I mean, who wouldn’t? You always found a solution to any problem and your diligence paid off, even if it was a bit odd. We can all learn from that.
- #8: I love this family. What started as six kids has exponentially grown to 50+ family members and it’s still growing. When I try to explain to my friends how much I love this family, it is very hard to put into words. Even though I didn’t grow up in Kentucky with everyone else, and only see everyone about once a year, the bonds the we all have and share are indescribable. We laugh together, cry together, and there aren’t any topics that are off limits. We have been through births, marriages, divorces, deaths and have all come out stronger. You are the patriarch and started it all. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have this beautiful gift we call family, so thank you.
Papaw, you are an incredible person and my life is better because you were in it. You have left an impression on so many people and have given us all amazing memories from which to remember you by. I love you so much. You will be missed.
God, take care of my Papaw. He’s pretty damn special.
My best friend, Kendall, turned 40 in early April, so her other BFF, Jennifer, and I took her on a surprise birthday trip. We flew to Key West and stayed in these beautiful cottages for two nights. During our first night there, we had a delicious dinner and martinis, and then made our way to Duval Street where we ended up at an open-air bar with a live band. We had a great time dancing and laughing. The next morning, we went to a true Bikram hot yoga class (I think the room was 110 degrees). It was NOT easy but after a late night, was detoxifying. After that, we got cleaned up and then headed to lunch at the Blue Macaw where we had the best waitress ever (Theresa). From there, we surprised Kendall with a stand-up paddleboard eco tour. We had a great time, but there was one sketchy part where I nearly got run over by a powerboat and Jen got freaked out as well. We did get to hold jellyfish, horseshoe crabs, sea cucumbers, starfish, and other cool creatures. Since we had stayed out late the night before, we took it easy on Friday night with a waterfront dinner and then hit the sack (after a quick jaunt down Duval where Jen got hit on, respectfully, by a passerby). The next morning, we rented a car and drove to Miami. Kendall had no idea about this, either. We checked into our hotel and grabbed some lunch before laying out at the beach for a couple of hours. The big surprise was that we took her to see Jimmy Buffett & The Eagles in concert that night at Hard Rock Stadium. She was shocked! However, apparently we made the guy in front of us upset because we were having too much fun and talking too much. He actually turned around and yelled at us. It was pretty ridiculous. He seemed like a very pleasant person (do you sense the utter sarcasm?). We were standing up dancing and singing the songs, but he didn’t seem to be OK with that. Apparently, you should sit down at concerts and not dance or sing. What was this, Footloose? We didn’t let his poopy-pants attitude cramp our style, though. We made the most of it! That night, we knew getting home would be challenging, but I think it took us nearly three hours to get back to the hotel through some Uber drama. What could’ve been a very trying time was turned into nothing but silliness and laughter. The next morning, we had a delicious brunch and then enjoyed some retail therapy before heading to the airport. The birthday trip was a huge success and I know Kendall had an amazing time. She is such an incredible friend that I’ve shared so much with over the past 22 years and I love her so much. This was just one way to show her this and add more memories to our evolving book of friendship!
While I was on that trip, Trent took the girls camping for the weekend and went to the same campground in Waxhaw with all of his F3 friends. There were a ton of kids and they had an absolute blast! On Sunday, Trent took the kids to the Whitewater Center for TuckFest, which is a four-day festival complete with bands, demos, and other activities. We ended up buying annual passes to the whitewater center this year (instead of Carowinds) and have already been about four times. We all love the obstacle/ropes courses and later this summer, Hanleigh will be able to raft!
My friend, Laura, who I met through work many years back, came to visit us for the last weekend of the month. She lives in Laurel, MS and is such a dear friend. She is so incredibly talented, creative, kind, giving, and just a happy soul. We don’t see each other very often, but when we do, there is never a moment of silence. The two of us went out to dinner to Angeline’s and then to Merchant & Trade one evening, then the next day the five us went to the Whitewater Center (yes, again!) and the two of us rafted (she had never been to the USNWC before and LOVED it!). We all enjoyed a delicious lunch there and did some obstacle courses, too. That evening, Trent, Laura, and I went out for a bit to catch up more and on Sunday, all of us went to Wooden Robot for lunch and then I dropped her off at the airport. Then, the four of us went to Cooper’s birthday party! I can’t believe little man is now seven. You are awesome, Coops!
Over the course of April, the girls worked on teams with their best friends to enter the 3D recycled art project at school. All of the materials had to be recyclable and you were not allowed to use tape. Hanleigh and Mila built a unicorn and wrote a story about her while Brayden and the BEAM team built the Hogwart’s school (from Harry Potter). Each team won an award as well! Hanleigh/Mila got third place for 1st grade while Brayden’s team got second place for 5th grade! The projects looked so incredible. Great job, ladies!