Friday, June 5


We were barely home for a day, when Momma, Daddy and I packed up again and headed to Ohio to be with Grandpa Sam and Oma.  Grand Pa had gone to the hospital for some minor surgery while we were in St John, but something drastically went wrong.  The doctors had to put him in deep sleep in hopes he would come back to us.  But Grandpa Sam never woke up, and on May 24th he passed.
It was only twenty months ago when Grand Pa Sam held me for the first time shortly after I entered this world.   His visits to Virginia or our visit to Ohio were special times for Grand Pa and me.  Some may tease me in years to come about all the time I slept on the beach in St John.  I think it was in those quiet moments of my slumbers that I told Grand Pa Sam my stories.  He loved me and he loved the beach, and I know he wanted to hear all about my adventures. 
And I as I grow older I will miss him, but I know whenever I lay on a beach or play in the ocean that deep inside me the stories we shared as I napped on the beaches of St John will be alive in my heart forever.

I love you Grandpa…  My story is for you ~ Thomas

Wednesday - Time to Say Goodbye

The household was a buzz when I arose this morning.  All of the adults were dressed, packed suitcases lined the hallway, and the last minute walkthrough was underway.  Daddy and I were playing around until Poppa called him to help make one last trash run to the dumpster down the road. Nobody wanted the stinky trash in the car when we headed for town.  We had a seven passenger Explorer that has worked well all week.  There were no problems fitting our towels, cooler, and snorkeling gear up to this point, but there was no way that all us and all those suitcases were going to fit.  When we arrived, the nice lady from Catered To had hauled a few of our things and groceries to the villa.   I also remembered Daddy did not arrive with us.   We crammed into the blue beast and things were tight, but we all made it in one trip up Gifft Hill.   That was not going to be the case this morning.

The hands of the clock showed a few minutes after nine when the first run to Cruz Bay occurred.   Everyone but Daddy buckled in for the ride.  The suitcases and Daddy would be in the second run, with a stop for gas before the Explorer was returned.  Poppa dropped us in the park by the ferry dock and returned to Hummingbird Hill.  We walked around town doing a little more shopping and people watching.  When Poppa returned we scrambled getting all the suitcases unloaded and doing the rental car return.

The Piper Car Rental agent met us right there in the park and after a quick inspection our group was now on foot.  The blue beast had served us well and I waved as it drove away.

As predicted on Mother’s Day, we headed to Cruz Bay Landing for another brunch.  The place was jumping for a Wednesday morning, and this morning an outside table was a must.  We had to chill for a while until a two tables opened.  Me, I just ran around the park chasing the puppies.  The smiling waitress came almost immediately and asked if she could get anybody a drink.  Deep down inside I knew that poor Mary woman had to be almost out of blood, but sure enough Poppa, YaYa, and Aunt Bridget got that nasty looking drink again.   Oh well, we will be leaving soon and Mary should be safe again.   

It did not take long for the food to arrive and sure enough it was a feast.  It would hold us until dinner in Charlotte which was hours away.  Of course there were some  pretty good snacks in between.   I thought it was time I step up to the plate with the check.  However after examining the bill carefully there were no numbers so I figured the nice waitress just let us slide.  I was ready to move on, it was time to go!

We left Cruz Bay Landing pulling our luggage behind us and dodging all the chickens running around the park. (I  knew they were not puppies... not enough legs)  The walk to the ferry dock is very short, but with every step I knew our departure was near. 

With our tickets bought, we settled into the ferry station waiting area.  The windows truly framed how beautiful our week had been.  The water, the sand, and fun that I enjoyed this week is framed by the window.  It wasn’t until everyone was settled that I realized we had a bunch of stuff.  

It seemed like we had just gotten comfortable when it was time to start hauling our stuff to the ferry.  The top deck was a must for the trip home.  It afforded me one last view as we pulled out and headed to St Thomas.

The trip is very short and so much fun.  Daddy was a little freaked that I would do something stupid and fall over, but since he did not make the first transit he was unaware that I was experienced ferry traveler and needed some space.  We found a happy middle ground as the ferry engines roared to begin the crossing.  (aka Momma's Lap)

Sitting on the top deck, I now know why puppies like to stick their noses out the window of a car.  The wind and sun felt so good. 

As we pulled into St Thomas, Daddy showed me where he used to live many years ago before Momma and me.  Great location, but they looked pretty small.

It was déjà vu backwards.  Next was a taxi ride over the hills again on our way to the airport.  My eyes were getting heavy, but I tried to hold on.  When we arrived a week earlier on the plane, they announced that we should be at the airport three hours early.  Poppa was taking flack from everyone about being there too early, but there was no one in line at the check in.  We were two hours and forty-five minutes early and the group was rumbling.  It still took us forty-five minutes to get from the check in desk to our seats in the lobby with no line.  I am with Poppa, early is better when it comes to this airport.  

Uncle Brandon and Aunt Bridget were leaving before us to go home, and when it was time for them to go Poppa and I watched out the window as their plane finished loading.

Then it was our turn.  I was so happy that Daddy carried me up the steps.  These steps are much harder than the ones at Annaberg Plantation.  We all settled in but were separated for the long leg to Charlotte.  I snuggled into my car seat thankful that even though I was under two I had my own seat and it was a window seat!  With a rumble and roar it was down the runway and off into the air.  Peeking out the window the blue water and St Thomas disappeared from view.

I tried to read for awhile, but my eyes got heavy and I started to drift away again.  My dreams took me to the all the places I had enjoyed during the week.  My nap seemed to make the flight to Charlotte short, but we still had another layover, and by now it was dark outside. 

Dinner at the airport was ok, but I was ready for my own bed.  The North Carolina to Virginia leg was short, but our arrival was close to midnight.  We loaded into a taxi for short ride to my house and Poppa, YaYa, Daddy, Momma, and I were asleep in seconds.  My trip had come to an end, but there were so many new experiences and memories that will stay with me forever.  I am so happy Momma and Daddy allowed me to go to Josh and Lauren’s plunge event. 

I want to leave a hint to other big people; St John is definitely a place that small children can have fun - so take them!

Monday, June 1

Tuesday – Lets Go Exploring!

Today is officially our last day to explore this paradise called St John.  I can tell you that even a 20 month old knows this is a very special place.  Each morning I arise with anticipation of our next adventure.  My backpack was loaded and today we are going to try to make it out to Leinster Bay.  After the failed attempt yesterday due lack of fuel, I have complete confidence Poppa has our Explorer ready to go.  Instead of the North Shore route we head down Centerline Road and then down the big hill to Annaberg Plantation. 

We pulled in to the lot and were lucky enough to get the one parking space under a big shady tree – SWEET! 

Before we hiked to beach on Leinster Bay, we decided to go explore the plantation ruins.  The hike from the parking lot up the hill to historic site is very short, but oh boy is there a lot of steps.  I am proud to say that I did them all by myself.  My friend, I can tell you that is a tough workout for a little boy!   My Momma may be a runner and my YaYa a swimmer, but hundreds of steps for a little person is a major feat.

Once we reached the top of the hill, the views were amazing.  Although the Saharan Dust still obstructed the view slightly it was beautiful looking out.  Mary’s Creek to the west and the Sir Francis Drake Passage views to the east.  Everything is so brown and I sure wish the dust would go away.

The plantation had all these cool rock formations.  Daddy explained the rocks are what remained of the buildings that made up the sugar plantation 150 years ago.  Exploring each building was like a brand new adventure. 

Of course, the big people took a
 ton of pictures… snap – snap – snap. 
Peeking through holes in the walls was fun.  I never knew what I would find.  I peeked through one hole and Uncle Brandon was on the other side. 

I could have spent hours climbing, chasing lizards, and discovering new things, but the sun was getting higher and the beach was calling our names.  I gathered up the adults (it is like herding cats) and lead them back down to the Explorer to gather up our beach stuff. 

YaYa really shook it up by loading me on her back for our mile walk down the Leinster Trail.  The walk was very easy.  There is nothing better than a flat trail that is mostly shady.   We could see some type of animal running through the woods.  They could be puppies, but if they are, they are ugly puppies.  I found out later that they are mongoose, and they are some kind of sneaky critters.  The trail parallels the water.  Cool breezes and lots to see helped the time pass quickly.

Arriving at the beach, we were happy that we had gotten there early.  We were like the second or third group on the beach, so it was easy to find a nice shady place.  I was ready for a snack and some water time to cool off.  But I knew that after all the exploration at the ruins and step climbing a serious nap was in my future.  Behind our spot there were lots more of those mongoose animals running in and out of their holes.

The water at Leinster was a clear as my bathtub.  I was enjoying throwing pebbles and watching them splash.  The water was full of little tiny fish swimming back and forth.  Even a small barracuda came up to tell me good morning.  

After stomping up and down the beach, it was raft time.   Almost immediately, I was down for the count.

Momma and Daddy played in the water right in front of my resting place while everybody else went snorkeling.  Lo and behold, as I was resting, one of those mongooses snuck out of the woods.  He was foraging our beach site for food.  Daddy had to chase him away.

It is a pretty a long snorkel from the beach out to the Waterlemon Cay, but I am told it is an excellent place to see turtles and sometimes starfish along the way.  Unfortunately, today was very windy, and when you broke from the cover of the land to crossover to the Cay, it was very difficult swim.  Poppa, YaYa, Bridget, and Brandon made it out to the little island with a young girl that joined them.  She did not want to go by herself and on this day, that was a smart decision.  The currents were strong and the group thought it best to stay on the inland side of the Waterlemon.   Poppa was so excited that he saw a hawksbill turtle on the snorkel.   He said he always sees green turtles, but not hawksbills.   Upon their return, the girl that snorkel with them found that she was not as lucky with the mongooses.  One ate her power bar that she was saving for her walk back.  Lesson learned; if you are hanging out at Leinster make sure your food is safely secured.  As I said, the ugly puppies are sneaky little critters.

Momma and Daddy headed out to snorkel but opted not to swim to Cay.  They snorkeled back towards the plantation.  The saw rays and turtles in the grasses along the shore and under the moored sailboats in the bay.  I was still asleep with one of the turtles popped his head up close to shore to tell me hello.  Everyone was very hungry by the time I awoke, but we still had one more adventure.   

YaYa wanted everyone to head up the Johnny Horn trail and take in the view.  Just a very short walk up from the beach on the Johnny Horn Trail there are more ruins and another amazing scenic overlook. 

What a great place to snap some family pictures and do a little more exploring.   

After this last adventure, it was time to head back to Annaberg.  It was kinda sad on the way back because everyone knew it was going to be our last beach.  I hunkered down in my pack as  Daddy carried me back to parking lot.

We drove back to Hummingbird Hill slowly stopping at some of the overlooks to take in the beauty of the Caribbean.

Arriving back at our villa everyone took a little quiet time to relax, start packing, or just enjoying the beautiful plants and gardens of this unique villa.  While the rents were packing, I took the opportunity to grab the Kindle and catch up on a little Fireman Sam.  Hummingbird Hill has an excellent WiFi signal.  We did have to reset the modem a couple times, but that is not big deal.  Fireman Sam adventures streamed just fine and everyone was able to check their email with no problems.   Aunt Bridget said we were on vacation so the television stayed in the OFF position.   Only a couple days did we even plug in the iPod for music.  In the evenings, Uncle Brandon would play his ukulele or we just played games, so being able to grab a couple of Kindle minutes was a treat.   Down below the cottage the owners have built an extensive collection of orchids.  A nice man came and watered them because there has been no rain and some of them opened up to say hello.   If you have parents or grandparents looking to take small children to the islands, Hummingbird Hill is a great place.

With all of our chores done and a very nice wind down period, we headed into Cruz Bay for dinner.  This was our only dinner out.  All other meals we cooked in the villa.  Oh yeah, how could I forget… that yummy rehearsal dinner at the Westin.   After a little last minute shopping and one more round at the Beach Bar we headed up the steps to Vista Mare for dinner. 

Poppa usually asks whoever is at the head of the table say prayers... I was lucky he forgot tonight.
Another lovely view awaited us while the sun set.  It seemed everyone was hungry after a day of exploration, but we did not rush.  We sat for a long time talking about all the fun we had together, but we all knew it was time to go home.  Poppa’s Mom had to go to the hospital and Grandpa Sam was not getting better.  Sleep came quickly tonight because we needed to be well rested for the next day. It will be an all day travel day.

Monday, May 25

Monday – A Magical Boy = A Magical Day

The sun had hardly crept out of the ocean when I was up ready for today’s adventure.  My Momma had not seen a turtle so the plan of the day was to head out to Leinster Bay in search of turtles.  Poppa told me that I might even see a turtle pop his head up to get a breath of air.  (BTW - yes I know a turtle is not a puppy, puppies do not swim underwater)  I was pumped and ready to see the turtles!  Daddy loaded my carrier in the Explorer because we had a ¾-mile hike to the beach on Leinster. 

We headed up the North Shore Road so we could enjoy the overlooks along the way.  As Poppa climbed up the s-turn by the Peter Bay entrance, I think I may have heard a bad word.  The gas gauge was below a quarter tank, and Poppa was not comfortable driving all the way out to Annaberg and returning to Cruz Bay.  The big blue beast took a left turn into Cinnamon Bay and everybody jumped out.  Poppa and Aunt Bridget headed back to Cruz Bay to get gas.  The sand was so white and the water was so blue at Cinnamon that I just stood in awe.   Then I did something I had not done all week. 

I walked to the water on my own.  The water was cool and the sand became soft, and all I could do is just slowly watch my feet disappear and reappear with every wave. 

We killed time playing on the beach until Poppa returned.  When Poppa came, the family had a discussion on a change of plan.  It had become too late for a morning on Leinster Beach when the turtles come close to shore, so it was decided to head back to Maho.  Yippee – No hike!  Minutes later, I am back on the beach having fun after a very short ride.  YaYa and I played in the water splashing little fish.  Then I got a special treat. 

My first Oreo cookie!  It was some kind of good.  I got more on me than in me, but I immediately figured out how to unscrew the cookie and get the good white stuff out of the middle. 

Then it was back to the water to ride my raft. 

As usual, my eyelids started to get heavy.  A quick bed was made and I faded off to dream world on beautiful Maho Beach.
While I was asleep, the rents (aka parents) headed out looking for the elusive turtles.  It was not long before turtles were spotted by YaYa.  There were also some big rays with little fish hanging on their backs.   Daddy began snapping pictures right and left, and even got Momma in the picture with a turtle far below. 

Then he played with the settings on the camera and got some weird effects. 

Uncle Brandon had his GoPro running and Daddy was snapping lots of pictures.   Between the two of them, the bottom of Maho was thoroughly captured in still and moving pictures.  Momma and Daddy went out a couple times to explore the sea bottom and look for more sea life.  On their second expedition, they saw a small (very small) shark.  My momma is a runner not a swimmer, but she took off at pace that would have challenged Michael Phelps.  It was not the small shark that scared her, but the thought of where is that baby’s mother.  Anyway, she returned to her sleeping beach baby out of breath.
A young man stopped by our spot under the trees and said he and his fiancé had been sitting in this same spot earlier in the day.  He had been given the task of safeguarding his future bride’s engagement ring.  Well it was in his lap and when he stood up it was gone, and he did not even realize it.  Now two hours later they had returned to search for their symbol of love.   Everyone worked together and carefully searched the area to no avail.   There was only one place left to look.  

Poppa rubbed my head and said, “magic baby make the ring appear”.  He and YaYa carefully picked up the raft without disturbing my slumber and moved me further under the shade.  YaYa reached down and picked up the ring out of the sand to squeals of delight from the girl that would wear this ring forever.  Poppa even took pictures of the couple, the ring, and a sleeping baby - me.  Everyone was so happy and amazed the lost item had been found.   Thank you and congratulations were exchanged and the happy couple was off. 
We enjoyed the beach for a while after I awoke.  Poppa snapped this picture of Momma and Daddy.  It is an important picture not because my two parents look happy and relaxed, but there is a little blue bag in the background. 

As the day came to an end, we all worked together to gather our belongings.  When everything was collected one blue bag remained.   No one in our posse claimed the bag.  Inside was a book, some odds and ends, and the all important cell phone.  Aunt Bridget tried to identify whose phone it was so she called the last number dialed.  No answer so we left a message.  There was a text on the phone that said call this number if you find the phone.  Eventually we found the owner of the phone.  They were staying on the East End, but Poppa told them we are heading to Cruz Bay.  They would meet us there in 45 minutes.   They agreed to Starfish Market as the rendezvous point, which made Poppa happy.  Somehow, the villa ran out of Presidente and bottled water...again! 

Entering Cruz Bay everyone hopped out at Joe’s Rib Shack except Poppa who headed to the market.  Dinner was going to be ribs and chicken, rice and beans, slaw, corn, fruit and Joe was going to provide most of the fixings.

Poppa waited and waited at Starfish for the owner of the missing phone in the blue bag.  Finally, he got a text saying they were at Dolphin Market.  Oh well he was headed back to pick up us at Joe’s.  Well he was so slow that we had time to check out new place Long Boards.  Poppa went around the traffic circle in front of the market to return the blue bag.  Lo and behold, who was standing there?   Yep, the young man that lost the engagement ring.  I guess his sweetie was so excited to get her ring back that she left her bag on the beach.  Poppa wished them the best of luck and continued down the hill to get us. 

Everybody was enjoying a frozen libation when he finally arrived.  We loaded up the car and headed back to our Gifft Hill retreat.
Dinner was another feast and there was so much that I knew I would be seeing it for lunch tomorrow.   Another first also happened at our BBQ dinner.  Thomas (that's me) was allowed to come to the dinner table with no shirt.  That is NEVER allowed at YaYa's table!  Men and boys must have a shirt on before they enter the dinning area.  I think it was because I do not have many clean clothes left, and you know where BBQ is going to be on a little boy.   I am sure that being shirtless at YaYa's dinner table is a once in a lifetime experience.

Once again it seem like bedtime came early and everyone was ready for it.  Another magical day, in a magical place, and I was the genie that when Poppa rubbed my head a ring appeared.   

Poppa and I chilled on the deck watching a Fireman Sam adventure.  St Thomas was glittering in the background and it was not long before we called it a night.


Tuesday, May 19

Sunday - Mothers Day

Poppa has a standard rule - No matter where you are in the world, you must call your Momma on Sunday.  Every Sunday daddy always calls YaYa, but now when he calls we use “FaceTime” and YaYa can see me too!  This Sunday is the holiday for all Mothers and is extra special because we are in paradise together.  We called and wished Oma a happy Mother’s Day in Ohio, and then Momma got me all dressed up.  Where do you go early on a Sunday morning in St John? 

One thing for sure Poppa says, if you are in St John on a Sunday my YaYa is going to take you to church. She says, Father Anthony always seems to be talking right to you, and with the Caribbean sounds and voices filling the building with joy we spent 90 minutes singing and praying. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of YaYa’s favorite happy places!  BTW - It is also conveniently located across the street from the Beach Bar.  Hmmm… Good boy in church…

Maybe there will be a mango smoothie in my future???

Mass was exactly the way YaYa had described it with steel drums and Caribbean tempo songs.  For the most part, I was excellent.  I did get a little excited about one song and tore the page in the hymnal.  Poppa rescued me quick from Momma’s stare and all was good.  Then right in the middle of Father’s homily, somebody in the front row passed out.  Momma and Daddy jumped up to help.  Both have lots of medical background and Momma soon had the man sitting back up while he waited for the St John Rescue folks to help him.  I am proud of my Momma and Daddy for knowing how to help people.

After church we went out for a Sunday Brunch at Cruz Bay Landing.  Aunt Bridget and I posed for a couple picture next some pretty flower bushes as we walked.  I was so surprised when we arrived at the restaurant.  Right in the middle of the park, this restaurant which is tucked away in the corner serves some serious food.  We ate and ate!  Pancakes, omelets, hash browns, and fruit filled the table.  The big people grossed me out...again!  They had a couple rounds of blood of some lady named Mary – yuck! She was the same lady I was singing for at Charlotte Airport.  My Momma drank fancy coffee with ice, and that sounds a lot better to me.  We were all waddling when we walked out of Cruz Bay Landing.  Poppa loves breakfast there and I am sure when it comes to catch the ferry home, we will be there again.

YaYa and Momma decided they wanted to snorkel on their special afternoon. We loaded up the blue beast and headed over to the East End.  My oh my, what a ride.  By the time we got to Haulover Beach, I was sound asleep.  Once again, the snorkel raft became my bed. 

Haulover South has a small beach that is mostly rock and shade is not a plentiful as the North Shore beaches, but the snorkeling is really good.  Momma saw her first ray and there were some beautiful sights on both sides of the bay.  The sun hid behind the clouds so the sights were not as vibrant as usual, but still beautiful.  By the time I woke up, they were loading up the car to head back to Hummingbird Hill.
Now wide-awake, I saw everything I missed on the way over.  My favorite was when Poppa stopped the car and this big animal stuck his head in my window to say hello.  I call all animals puppies, even the iguanas, but this was one big damn puppy.  I have to learn some more words because I am positive that was not a puppy in the window. 

We stopped briefly at the new grocery store in Coral Bay to pick up a few items and finally headed home.

Since it was Mother’s Day, Daddy cooked some awesome Mahi on the grill.  Uncle Brandon took some time and gave me a lesson on the little guitar, but he holds it backwards for me.  The kitchen was a happening place as I strummed away on the strings.  Rice and beans, sweet potatoes chunked and cooked outside, with a salad of greens, mango, pistachios, raisins, and other good stuff finished off this feast.  Anyone who has not had Josephine’s Greens while on St John has missed some of the best.  Not sure how she does it on a volcanic island, but they are YaYa and Poppa’s favorite.

Another busy day ends and I am beat – Good Night All.