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The Sunday Somethings, 24aug14

August 24th, 2014

Something that makes me happy: We had a great time at the neighborhood party! We suggested that maybe we should have a cookout, and then it turned into a huge feast complete with a bounce house and participation from the majority of the street. We had a great time and even continued the party this morning and afternoon.

Something I’m thinking: I’ve been thinking WAY too much about work lately. I’m looking forward to a couple of getaways where I’ll be unplugged from work.

Something I’m hoping: That Maddie’s Elsa dress actually is delivered. I finally saw it was available online, and by the time I finished my order, they were sold out. I couldn’t tell if my order went through or not, and I didn’t get an email confirmation for a while. I called to confirm, and they *say* that we have a dress on the way! I’m going to have a happy little girl.

Something happening around the house: Our house was party central this weekend! Thank goodness the weather cooperated for us. We had a little rain while setting up, but it was otherwise perfect.

Something I’m reading: I finished No Quest for the Wicked. I started and finished Firefly Lane for book club this month. I really enjoyed it. I can’t remember the last time a book made me cry! I started Words of Radiance, the second book in the The Stormlight Archive. That series is fantastic so far! I haven’t picked up Rogues again, but maybe some day…

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe finished Lies of Locke Lamora and is also reading Words of Radiance.

Something I’m watching: Gabe and I are finally going to see Guardians of the Galaxy tonight.

Something I’m creating: I’ve been doing a lot of crafts with the kids, catching up on our kiwi crates.

Something tasty: Our neighbor made fantastic pork barbecue in his smoker. YUM! We also tried Chuy’s for the first time, finally. They brought out all of the sauces for us to try.

Something about the grownups: I’ve been working too much, but I was glad to have a break from it all with all of the festivities this weekend. We were supposed to go to the movies last weekend, but I had a bad cold all weekend.

Something about both kiddos: The kids are enjoying the kiwi crates. They made sea foam paintings with paint and soap bubbles (and completed it by drawing mermaids, fish, and seaweed with chalk). They made campfires and s’mores. We made hermit crabs. We also did robot mazes and created art using the robots to draw. Both kids really enjoy the projects, though Maddie can focus on it for longer periods of time. They both requested to have dance parties after dinner a few times recently. They had a great time playing with neighborhood friends last night (and today), bouncing in the bounce house, and staying up late. They both ate a TON of watermelon. We went to a Durham Bulls baseball game recently. The kids enjoyed it, even if most of us didn’t pay attention to the baseball. They had a great fireworks show! Maddie was in heaven. We went and took care of Mr. Turtle a couple of times in the past few weeks, too.

Something Maddie is doing (6.5 years old): First grade is going really well for Maddie! She has homework each day. So far, her homework is mostly math and spelling in addition to the daily reading log. She seems like doing homework so far, so we won’t let her know it’s something she’s supposed to hate. She’s been bringing home mostly Arthur books from the library. She brings home some of the picture books, but she’s been most interested in the Arthur chapter books. She reads to us every night for at least 20 minutes (and sometimes almost 40 minutes!). We are enjoying first grade, but we are glad for a break! She just finished her first week of track out. She tried science camp for the first time, and she loved it. I’m so glad! The kids get to do two major experiments a day plus create fun snacks (one in the morning, and one in the afternoon). They created spy equipment, played with hydrophobic surfaces, made slime, took apart electronics, learned about circuits, and ended the week with Diet Coke geysers. She will be going to art camp this week. Track out makes me want to go to camp. She gets to do so many fun things. She finished up gymnastics, and she will start going to swimming twice a week soon. She enjoys piano, but her piano teacher thought she would benefit from private lessons instead of group lessons. The cost was only $10 more per month, which we didn’t realize. The private lessons will be a much better fit for Maddie.

Something Cullen is doing (4.5 years old): Cullen is so excited to become a “French kid” at school. He isn’t quite a graduate (I don’t think), but he will be soon. All the kids have left for kindergarten now as the first day of traditional is tomorrow. He has been going to French classes and special “graduate” art classes. He says he’s doing some more challenging “works” as well. He’s very excited about this next step in Children’s House! He enjoyed his swimming lessons and will be starting at the same place that Maddie is taking lessons soon. He’s excited about that. He’s figured out how to use the Roku, including finding Netflix and the kid profiles to play their shows. He still loves playing the iPad every chance he can get. Cullen ate the most watermelon at the neighborhood cookout! He had at least 10 big wedges!

Something I am struggling with: I really need to get Maddie’s 6.5 letter done…

Something I’m looking forward to: I’m looking forward to more parties with neighbors! In the next few weeks or so, we have a trip to the beach, my trip to Maryland “for science,” swimming lessons, music lessons, Maddie at art camp, Maddie at drive-Daddy-crazy-at-home camp, Maddie back at school, and TBGT (woohoo! 5-day birthday party this year).

Something random: I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before…but it turns out that one of the new neighbors is from my hometown and I babysat him as a kid! How is that for random?? We also found out at the cookout that another family is from the same county.

Something captured: Science camp finale!

The Sunday Somethings, 03aug14

August 5th, 2014

Something that makes me happy: Time spent with good friends!

Something happening around the house: We are sad to see old neighbors leave, but we are excited to meet our new neighbors!

Something I’m reading: I finished Much Ado About Magic. I started Rogues, a collection of short stories. I enjoyed the first few, but I needed a break after about 30% of the book. I’m now reading No Quest for the Wicked, also in the Enchanted, Inc series. I hope that I will find the motivation to finish Rogues. I need to read my book club selection soon as well.

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe finished The Way of Kings. He started Rogues and also needed a break. He’s reading The Lies of Locke Lamora now.

Something I’m watching: Gabe has been watching Arrow, and I’ve been watching it somewhat while getting work done. A friend offered last minute tickets to the NCT production of The Little Mermaid which I really enjoyed!

Something I’m playing: I played a quick game of String Railway. Cullen has still been playing all kinds of board games. Gabe beat Pikmin 3, and he’s now playing Assassin’s Creed 3.

Something about the grownups: Work has been busy for me. We’ve been getting Gabe’s contracting set up including some of the paperwork and logistics. His workload hasn’t been too heavy yet. I had my book club last week, and we discussed Eleanor & Park. Most of us loved it, but a few members of the club thought it was just okay. We didn’t have very much to say about it which leaves me thinking we need more “book clubby books” for our upcoming set. I loved Eleanor & Park, but I didn’t have too much to say about it. We discussed it a little bit, and we had plenty of other topics to explore. We had to change our meeting spot since our coffee shop closed. We are now meeting at a Panera which works pretty well.

Something about both kiddos: Both kids attended our kiddo book club meeting last Sunday which was at a local museum. We were supposed to read books about the rainforest, but we (ahem, I) forgot to find and read some books. Since we were exploring a rainforest exhibit at the museum, we didn’t have much chance to talk about the books that everyone read. The kids had a lot of fun at the museum. I love the kid book club, and I hope it inspires a love of reading for all of the kids. We went out to eat with Jason and Melissa and the kids had their first experiences at a Japanese steakhouse and Build-a-Bear. Yep, that was an expensive night! The kids really enjoyed making their “bears” (Maddie created a rollerskating Twilight Sparkle My Little Pony and Cullen created a Superman dog). They both now want to have their birthday parties there. Perhaps we can combine the two parties once again this year. They both liked the Japanese steakhouse! Cullen loved everything he tried (and he tried a little bit of everything), and Maddie liked the rice and plain chicken. The chef was great and put a little of the rice and the chicken aside to make it more plain than the rest. We are trying to get the kids to have better habits with cleaning up their toys. They have the awful habit of taking everything from their rooms and carrying them downstairs into the living room. They especially like to do this while Gabe and I are still snoozing. We’ve had some more dinners with Austin and Elizabeth’s family. I love how Elizabeth and Maddie are so similar and get along well (and we already knew that Austin and Cullen were two peas in a pod!). We’re having a good time with our dinner playdates. Both kids have played a little Pikmin. The controls are a little harder to learn on that game than some of the others they have played.

Something Maddie is doing (6 years old): Maddie is still taking swimming and gymnastics with one lesson each week. She seems tired of gymnastics and has two more lessons to finish out the summer. We will continue swimming for a while, and she seems to enjoy it. We are thinking about doing two a week to help in her progress. Her instructors would like to see her build some more confidence before moving to the next level. She starts a “blast off” piano introduction this week. I hope that she enjoys it as we’ve signed up for regular piano lessons starting next month. She really wants to do rollerblading, but we definitely won’t be able to do that AND two swimming lessons a week. I think we’re going to focus on swimming for now, and then we may shift to something else in the spring, depending on how she is doing with it. She has daily homework now…at least Monday through Thursday evenings. She hasn’t figured out that it is something that she should hate just yet. She enjoys doing her math and letterland (spelling) worksheets. She likes having her reading log completed. She’s reading every day, and we’re seeing some progress with her fluency. She has been bringing home 3rd grade reading level chapter books. She struggles with words here and there, and she is careless at times, but she has been doing quite well reading those to us. She reads to herself at school some, but she doesn’t do it at home very much.

Something Cullen is doing (4.5 years old): Cullen is taking a series of 8 swimming lessons over two weeks. He loves it and can’t wait to start regular swimming lessons at the same place Maddie is taking them. He is having so much fun, and he’s building his confidence. We are hoping that he can start regular swimming lessons in September. Cullen went with me to help take care of a pet turtle for friends. He loved meeting Mr. Turtle! It was so cute to see the turtle and Cullen checking out each other. Mr. Turtle was very curious, and we fed him a worm and some tomatoes. Cullen has played some video games recently, but he’s now banned from them for about the next month. He’s still working on his reading skills and reading to us most nights.

Something I am struggling with: Phantosmia. Everywhere I go, it smells like something is burning. This is a bit annoying.

Something I’m looking forward to: Maddie has two more gymnastics lessons. She is continuing swimming and will be starting piano. We have dinner plans with friends. We’re taking care of Mr. Turtle this weekend, and both kids will get to visit with him. Maddie has less than two weeks before she tracks out. It will be nice to get a break from the homework, and she has some fun camps planned. We are struggling to find a camp that is open for Labor Day week. Last year, we were on vacation that week. I hope that it isn’t this difficult to find coverage every year! Worst case, she’ll have to stay at home and have Netflix and video game camp while Gabe works…maybe spend a little time at the office with me.

Something captured: Most of the kids from the book club meeting on Sunday (two of them met us later inside the museum).

Cullen is 4.5!

July 29th, 2014

It’s time for Cullen’s next letter…he turned 4 and a half on July 22nd. (more…)

The Sunday Somethings, 20jul14

July 20th, 2014

Something that makes me happy: First grade is starting out well for Maddie!

Something I’m thinking: Well, the good news is that I’m writing this on an actual Sunday! The bad news is that I haven’t done it in a month.

Something I’m hoping: I hope to get started on Cullen’s 4.5 year letter this week. It’s going to be more challenging without regular somethings posts, but I know I’ll have plenty to say.

Something happening around the house: We did some organizing around the house, and we put all of the kids’ Legos in one place. We have a few more than we thought! The Legos kept the kids busy for quite a few hours yesterday. I hope that their new space inspires them to play and create even more with them. We had some tree guys come out and prune a bunch of our trees and take out a tree that was too close to the house. Oh, and Gabe accidentally ran into the side of the garage, and we had to have a garage guy come out to fix it. Oops.

Something I’m reading: I finished Lost Lake. I also read Eleanor & Park (for this month’s book club), Don’t Hex with Texas (book 4 in the Enchanted Inc series), Allegiant (finally! it took me a while to get into it since it had been so long since the other books), Mitosis (which is really a short story in the Reckoners series), and The One (the last book in The Selection series). I’m now reading the 5th book in the Enchanted Inc series, Much Ado About Magic. It seems like a lot of reading, but most of those were quick reads, and it has been a month since my last update!

Something Gabe is reading: He’s still reading The Way of Kings.

Something I’m watching: We’re going to see Marvel Universe Live this afternoon. Hopefully, we will all enjoy it! We haven’t really been watching much as I’ve been trying to catch up on photos and such. Gabe went to see Edge of Tomorrow while he was between jobs!

Something I’m playing: The kids have been playing a lot of board games. Cullen has been especially interested in games. He likes playing Candyland, Kids of Carcassonne, Max the Cat, Looping Louie, and Ninjago Spinners. He’s also very into the video games, but we are forcing him to take a break from those. He is getting quite good at the Mario games, both the adventure style and Mario Kart.

Something I’m creating: I started working on the WWDC photobook. I was hoping to get it done before August 1st, so I could use a free book code. I don’t think that I’ll be able to get it done before then. I have too many other things taking up my time! I’ve been spending a lot of time on Maddie’s school’s PTA website, getting it ready for the new school year.

Something tasty: We’ve made a couple of trips to Goodberry’s this summer. Yum!

Something about the grown ups: I’m participating in a 20-year study on first line relatives of MS patients (siblings, parents, or children). I’m excited (and a little nervous) that I was selected for another phase of the study involving sending them blood and flying to DC/Maryland for a full day of medical exams and MRIs. Gabe left his job and is now contracting, doing much of the same thing with a one year guaranteed contract. We’ve been busy getting paperwork, figuring out what we’re going to need to do for retirement accounts and estimated taxes, setting up health insurance through my company, etc. The logistics are a little stressful, but it is an exciting change!

Something about both kiddos: Oh good grief, when it takes a month to write, I’m not even sure where to start here. We took our first trip to Great Wolf Lodge. We went with Melissa and Jason and stayed for one night. The waterpark seemed smaller than I thought it would be, and I wasn’t sure whether it was a place we’d return to over and over. Once my expectations were adjusted, we had a really fabulous time. We are excited to return in the future (and already have a family trip planned to the Cincinnati one!). Both kids were pretty comfortable in the water. They both loved the wave pool and activity pool. Maddie wanted to do all the big slides, and I experienced some vertigo type feelings after riding them with her. Cullen enjoyed splashing in the younger kid area the most. Both kids enjoyed getting ice cream and playing MagiQuest. We weren’t sure whether we’d have much time for MagiQuest, but after seeing all the kids running around with magic wands, we decided to give it a try. It was so much fun! They loved running around pointing their wands at things. We were able to meet Nana and Papa for lunch before we headed to the waterpark since the resort is so close to their house. The following weekend, we headed to Edisto with Melissa and Jason. We joked that we spent every weekend of our summer vacation with them, since both trips were in between grades for Maddie (she only has a week off between grades). We had a fantastic time in Edisto. The kids love the beach. They were so happy to play in the sand, and they were not afraid to play in the ocean either. We had a couple of dinner/play dates with Austin and Elizabeth. I love seeing the four kids together. Maddie and Elizabeth have so much in common, and Austin and Cullen are best buddies as well. We are hoping to get together regularly so that the kids can continue to see each other. Maddie and Cullen continue to be best friends and play well together more often than not. Both kids want to start out the night in our bed, but we don’t usually let them both start there. Sometimes we let one or the other start in our bed, though.

Something Maddie is doing (6 years old): Maddie is still our little daredevil. She did every slide that she could do (there’s one that the kids aren’t tall enough for). Maddie’s last week of kindergarten was fun. They had a special activity each day that week: end of year celebration, super centers, summer fun day, board game day, and pajama/movie day. Maddie was most excited about the pajama/movie day! Gabe and I went to watch the kindergarten classes perform several songs. It was quite cute. We then went to her classroom where Maddie’s teacher had a presentation to show us with pictures from the year. We then had a picnic with her outside of the classroom. Super center day meant that they did “centers” all day (art, computers, iPad, blocks, etc). Usually, they only did centers at the end of the day. I volunteered for Summer Fun Day which was an opportunity for the kids to spend the pennies that they earned for good behaviors in the last few weeks of school. They could spend their pennies on manicures, face painting, games, tattoos, bubbles, and chalk. After this portion, they could spend the rest of their pennies on items in the class store. I was manning the bubbles and chalk area, which allowed me to get some fantastic photos of every kid in the class. Maddie’s board game day didn’t go as well as she hoped. She was bummed as she didn’t get to choose who she could play with or what she could play. Friday was her best day. She was so excited to wear jammies to school (she picked her My Little Pony jammies) and they watched Frozen and Finding Nemo. That was a great way to end the school year! She was really nervous about starting first grade, but fortunately she had only a week to worry about it (with Great Wolf Lodge and Edisto trips to distract us). Her biggest worry was meeting new friends. Since there are only two classrooms on her track, we tried to explain that half of her class would likely be the same friends she already knew. Once we started to learn that some of her favorite people would be in her class, she said she was most nervous about meeting the teacher. Our teacher seems very nice and just graduated from college. She seems to have some great, fresh ideas and enthusiasm for teaching. Maddie likes her so far! We’ve had two full weeks now, and Maddie has been getting great behavior reports. I hope that continues! We went to meet the teacher this past week. We have been impressed so far. Maddie gets a packet of homework at the beginning of the week, and she has to turn it in on Friday. She also needs to read 20 minutes a day, and she has been pretty happy to do that. She can now get 3 books from the school library at a time, and she’s excited about that. Maddie has swimming lessons and gymnastics each week. She seems to enjoy them both, but she says she doesn’t want to continue gymnastics in the fall. She has asked to do rollerblading again, so maybe we’ll do that. We keep thinking that they might move her up to the next level in swimming, but we’re still in the initial level. We’re hoping that they will move her up soon so that we can start Cullen in that level! Maddie was so happy at the beach, playing in the sand and the ocean. Maddie spent a few days at art camp, and she was excited to see one of her preschool friends there. The theme that week was Egyptian art. Sadly, Maddie has stopped sleeping at night with stuffed animals. Since she was sick and threw up in the middle of the night, she is now afraid that she will barf on her buddies. I’m sad about this, and we’ve tried to reassure her several times that it isn’t likely to happen (and we can clean her buddies if it does). It does make bedtime easier, as we don’t have to worry about where the required buddies are hiding in the house…but it’s still sad. As a result, she’s not as attached to any of her stuffed animals at the moment. Maddie is very into My Little Pony. She chose to get My Little Pony figures as most of her behavior rewards toward the end of last year. She has quite a few little ponies! She has a renewed interest in Legos lately. We had several sets that she hadn’t put together yet, and she put those together in the past week or so. Oh, and she’s inexplicably attached to Mrs. Stick, a yellow toy drumstick. We’re not sure what the deal is with that.

Something Cullen is doing (4 years old): Cullen had so much fun splashing around at Great Wolf Lodge. I’m so glad to see that he’s more comfortable with the pools. He is taking a special two week set of swimming lessons soon. After he completes that set of lessons, we are hoping to sign him up for regular lessons at the same place that Maddie has been taking them. Cullen has rotating attachments to his stuffed animals, and he sometimes sleeps with one or two. Pluto has been one that has been a constant lately. He often takes a buddy or two in the car with him. Cullen is now playing a lot of the Wii U and the DS instead of the iPad, though we are forcing him to take a bit of a break from the video games. We are surprised at how skilled he is getting, but he tends to throw fits when things aren’t going his way. That’s one of the reasons he’s taking a big break! He also has been obsessed with the video games, so we’re trying to help that as well. He is adjusting to some of his good buddies moving up to kindergarten, and he’s strengthening some of his friendships with his fellow future graduates. He has had a few issues with being a good friend, so we’re working on that with him, the teachers, and his friend’s parents. He still likes reading to us, and he reads to us almost every night. He has been practicing counting up to 120, since that is what Maddie’s doing with her homework. He’s going to be more than ready for kindergarten next year!

Something I’m doing towards my goals: I got caught up on some photos, but I’m still quite behind on that. I started on the WWDC photobook, but I haven’t even made it through the first day! (To be fair, the first day involved our long bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge which accounts for probably half of the photos!).

Something I’m looking forward to: I guess I should write about all the things that may be happening over the next month… Maddie continues to have swimming and gymnastics. Cullen has two weeks of swimming lessons 4 days a week. The kids have book club. Both kids will have music lessons in a few weeks or so. Maddie will be starting piano, and Cullen will have an introduction to music.

Something captured: This is one of my favorites from the past month, but we had many good ones!

The Sunday Somethings, 22jun14

June 22nd, 2014

Something that makes me happy: I took the kids to Krispy Kreme for their first experience with “hot now” doughnuts. They had so much fun viewing the conveyor belt and eating fresh donuts! They were quite excited, though I wasn’t sure that loading them up with sugar was our best start to the day.

Something I’m thinking: Um, I have been very negligent of my somethings lately. We’ve been so busy! Oops..it’s been more than a month. I guess I didn’t do a “better job” like I had hoped in my last post. So…the kid updates are going to be even longer than usual this time!

Something I’m hoping: I hope that Maddie’s last week of kindergarten goes well. They have a lot of fun activities planned this week, and we should find out her first grade teacher at the end of the week.

Something happening around the house: The sunflowers that we planted in early spring are blooming! We are all excited. We are talking about doing some landscaping in the front and the back, but we’re not sure what we want to do exactly. We do know we want to get rid of some of the overgrown bushes.

Something I’m reading: I finished Damsel Under Stress. I then started and finished The Way of Kings which was a 1000+ page fantasy novel. I enjoyed it, but I felt like I was reading it forever. This week, I started and finished The Secret Keeper for this month’s book club selection. I’m now reading Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen.

Something Gabe is reading: He finished Last Argument of Kings. He started and finished Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and started The Way of Kings.

Something I’m watching: We haven’t been watching very much lately as we’ve been playing some video games, and I’ve had a ton of pictures to catch up on sorting.

Something I’m playing: Gabe and I both have been playing Battleheart Legacy on the iPad, and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it. It’s a cute RPG. I haven’t played too much Candy Crush lately. The whole family has been playing Mario Worlds 3D (mostly Gabe and the kids), and we got the new Mario Kart for the Wii U. That’s been getting a lot of play in the house as well.

Something I’m creating: I’ve been doing a lot of sorting of photos, and I’ve been trying to get through the photos from my week in San Francisco at WWDC. I need to get started on both the Key West photobook and the WWDC photobook. I did finish my 2013 photobook.

Something tasty: Fresh, hot Krispy Kreme donuts!

Something about both kiddos: As I mentioned, the kids had their first Krispy Kreme experience. They loved wearing the hats, watching the doughnuts on the conveyor belt, and eating the fresh, yummy doughnuts (they also demanded some chocolate covered ones, but I required everyone to have a fresh one first). Since my last letter, both Gabe and I have been on trips without the kids. The kids always get to do special things with the parent at home, so they don’t seem to mind. They usually get presents when we return, and they get excited about the little gifts. Their favorite thing lately when we’re away is seeing pictures of the tiny koala bear and his adventures. He has a lot of fun, but I have to say he gets into some trouble at times, too! It’s a neat way for us to connect with the kids while we’re gone. Gabe spent 4 days away with his mom in Vegas, and I spent a week in San Francisco for WWDC with work. The kids are great friends and are constantly playing together. It’s a loud place when they are both at home as they are coming up with scenarios and making up rules to whatever world they are currently imagining. It’s nice that they get along so well (most of the time), though it also drives us crazy sometimes as they are so loud! They are happy together most of the time. Both of them have been playing more video games and getting better at Mario and MarioKart, especially Cullen. We went to the mountains with friends for Memorial Day weekend. We stayed in a cabin with a beautiful view near Blowing Rock. The kids loved the Dan’l Boone Inn (we all did and ate there twice). We all had a great day at Tweetsie Railroad. I had been there as a kid when I was a little older than Maddie, so it was neat to revisit with the kids. It’s just right for their age, and it’s nice to not have waits for any of the rides (and only pay the initial entry fee instead of paying per ride like at the fair). My parents came for a short visit while Gabe was out of town. We went to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 while they were here, and we all enjoyed it. The kids had fun with Dana twice while Gabe and I went to see Jack Johnson nearby and Vampire Weekend downtown. Cullen was jealous and wished he could go to the Vampire Weekend concert and can’t wait to be a “grown up” so that he can go. Cullen said he was going to marry me when he grows up. Maddie said, “I don’t think so…because when we grow up, our parents will be dead.” Uh, nice. The kids had their kid book club this morning, and they read Magic at the Bed and Biscuit (for the magic theme). Several of the kids performed magic tricks, and Marie had several tricks up her sleeve as well. She does such a nice job with the club, and the kids love it. Our next theme is the rainforest, and we’re going to a special related exhibit at a local museum.

Something Maddie is doing (6 years old): Since my last post, Maddie had two weeks of track out art camps. She went to a new one and her old favorite. The new one was structured more like a class, and it didn’t seem to fit her as well as her usual camp. She didn’t seem to like it for the first few days, but she claimed it was her second favorite camp by the end of the week. She learned about Monet at the regular camp the following week. Maddie has had some issues with headaches and feeling ucky in the car on long rides when she tries to read or plays handheld games for too long. She has never thrown up due to this until our ride back from the mountains. We thought that she was carsick, but it could have been a bug or something else odd going on as she threw up two other times since then. Hopefully, we’re in the clear with that now. Maddie was invited to her first ever slumber party, but we decided that none of us are ready for that. I accompanied her for the fun part of the evening, taking her home at about 10:30pm so that she could sleep at our house. That worked out pretty well for her. I’m a little nervous as the older sister threw up while we were there. I hope all the girls don’t get stomach bugs! She was quarantined from the kids for the most part, but stomach bugs always make me nervous. Maddie continues to love Frozen, and the party was Frozen themed. I got a cute video of the kids watching the movie and at least 8 of them singing “Let It Go.” You can’t see the kids, but you can hear their sweet voices. The oldest sister put make up on the girls, and they had a fashion show. Maddie had her last field trip of the year to the kids’ museum. I chaperoned, and I didn’t lose anyone, so I consider that a victory. I was in charge of 3 girls, and they were well behaved. The kids seemed to have had a great time. Maddie’s last week of kindergarten is this week, and she has a lot of fun things planned for the week. Tomorrow, her class is performing some kind of end of year show. Afterward, we will enjoy a picnic with the kids. Wednesday is some kind of summer fun day where they get to spend pennies that they have earned in the past few weeks. It will be set up as a sort of carnival, and I volunteered for that, too. Friday, they are having a movie, popcorn, and jammie day. On Thursday, they can bring in board games from home. I think they are done learning anything for the year, and we’re getting in a lot of fun. She’s a bit nervous about starting first grade. The thing that she’s most nervous about is meeting new friends. Since there are only two classes on her track, she will know about half the kids. I think she’s nervous about whether the ones that she likes will be in her class. I hope she will have some favorite friends in there! It will take her some time to meet the new ones, but hopefully it won’t be too bad for her. We can’t wait to hear about her new teacher! Maddie is still doing gymnastics through August. She claims that she doesn’t like it, but I know that she enjoys it while she is there. I think she would enjoy a straight tumbling class more. Last week’s class focused more on tumbling, and she was having a great time! She started a swimming class once a week, and she is doing pretty well with that. We’re going to try to continue the swimming lessons for a while until she seems comfortable in the water and can swim on her own pretty well. I hope it goes well at the new place. We are happy with it so far. She is signed up for a group piano class later this summer, and we’re hoping to start regular group piano lessons in the fall. She seems excited about that, and I hope that she will be excited when she starts! Maddie’s class had a “Donuts for Dad” event for Father’s Day, and Gabe was glad that he was able to attend before heading to the airport for Vegas. Maddie loves having us in the classroom. We intend to take advantage of that for as long as it lasts. I know the day will come where she’ll be embarrassed to see us at school! They made some kind of thing with their footprints and a poem about walking with dad. Maddie is very interested in My Little Pony, and that is her reward of choice. We have been working on her getting good behavior reports from school, and she earns tickets for good days. She turns her tickets in for the opportunity to buy new My Little Pony toys, and she is saving her tickets now for a larger toy. She is pretty good at “saving” for something bigger!

Something Cullen is doing (4 years old): Cullen is totally obsessed with the iPad games and now the Wii U games. He’s especially obsessed with playing Mario 3D Worlds for the Wii U, and he’s getting surprisingly good at it. I’m impressed. I am seeing him complete worlds that I remember that Gabe struggled to complete. His goal is to get the “gold star” on all the levels, which requires you to beat the level with all 5 of the characters. Maddie gets frustrated because he often beats her at the video games now. He almost always wins at MarioKart against her, and he does a lot better with Mario as well. Of course, as her little brother, he rubs it in a bit sometimes as well. We all need to work on being better sports. He can get quite upset when he can’t complete a level and keeps losing lives. He gets his video game temper from his dad (OK, and maybe from his mom, too). I told him about Nana and Papa’s 44th wedding anniversary and what that meant. He said, “Ewwww! I don’t want to hear about people getting married! That means they have to kiss on the lips!” He’s pretty convinced that kissing on the lips is what makes people married and what people have to do if they are going to get married. I tried to explain to both kids that they will probably want to kiss someone on the lips if they want to marry them. I reassured both kids that there is absolutely no requirement to get married. They are both happy with living at home forever (when they aren’t talking about marrying each other). Cullen claims that dogs get married by rubbing cheeks instead of kissing on the lips. Cullen has some transitions at school soon. Some of his favorite classmates, including his best buddy Austin, will be moving onto kindergarten. Austin’s last day is this week, and Cullen will really miss him. Before too long, Cullen will become one of the graduates (once all the current graduates move to kindergarten). He’s excited about becoming a “french kid” as the graduates get to go to french class and get special art and music lessons. Cullen has still had some tummy issues, but he has seemed fine over the past few weeks. We changed out all of the toothbrushes in the house, so maybe that helped get rid of the ick? Cullen still loves reading to me, but now he’s reading harder material. He usually reads a page or two and says, “that’s enough for now.” I try to get him to read a little more than that, but I’m letting him set the pace. He’s starting to get a lot of the long vowel rules. It’s still exciting to be teaching a young reader!

Something I am struggling with: Keeping up with photos and keeping up with posts!

Something I’m doing towards my goals: Well, I finished the 2013 book…but I haven’t made progress towards others.

Something I’m looking forward to: Maddie’s last week of school (and several fun events), a trip to Great Wolf Lodge and another to Edisto, Maddie’s first day of first grade (only a week off in between grades), Maddie’s swimming lessons, Maddie’s gymnastics, my book club, Gabe switching jobs (his last day is this week, and he has a week off before starting contracting), hopefully a scrapbooking day, and Marvel Universe Live are all in store for the next few weeks or so. It’s a busy and Maddie-centric time!

Something captured: I think the kids approved of the donuts.

The Sunday Somethings, 18may14

May 18th, 2014

Something that makes me happy: I had a great time with girlfriends in Key West! Maddie especially enjoyed the adventures of her little koala bear as he posed around town. He’s going with me to San Francisco for WWDC in a couple weeks.

Something I’m thinking: I’ve been negligent of my somethings for 3 weeks.

Something I’m hoping: I’m hoping to keep up a little better as it’s the only way I can remember what the kids did at particular times.

Something happening around the house: The usual chaos, though I appreciate that most of their toys have a “proper” place after we did some room reorganization in the past few weeks. The kids do much better when everything has a specific place!

Something I’m reading: I’m reading Damsel Under Stress, book 3 of Enchanted, Inc. I finished City of Ashes. I also read Whisper Falls and the sequel A Whisper in Time. I really enjoyed the first two books of that series! I read Columbine for this month’s book club.

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe finished The Blade Itself and the sequel, Before They Are Hanged. He’s now reading the third in the series, Last Argument of Kings.

Something I’m watching: Tonight, we’re watching the finale of The Amazing Race (very cool finale!). We’ve been loving Orphan Black, but we are a little behind.

Something I’m playing: Other than Candy Crush on the iPhone, I’m not sure what else we’ve been playing. Maybe some board games with the kids? Gabe has been playing quite a bit of Mario 3D Worlds on the Wii U.

Something I’m creating: I’m finishing up my 2013 photobook…I just have a few pages left, and it will be done! Then…I have to still do all the trip albums that are adding up this year. The Disney Cruise, Key West, and soon WWDC.

Something about both kiddos: They had a fun time with Daddy while I was away in Key West with girlfriends. They made a giant fort, which is one of the first things they asked about when they found out I would be away. One of Daddy’s signature special things is to build a huge fort while I’m out of town. They love it, of course. The kids are playing together quite well lately, and they have been playing with some toys that haven’t gotten played with in a while like the Mr. Potato Head set and several of Maddie’s doll accessories. It seems that reorganizing the house gives many of their toys new life. They spoiled me over Mother’s Day weekend with extra rest, breakfast in bed, and a fun morning to see a play (Sid the Science Kid). Gabe and I weren’t all that thrilled about the actual play itself (it was just one step above Dora in terms of tolerability), but the experience with the family was great. We have done several kiwi crafts lately. One set focused on science with a few science experiments, and the other was about farming and gardening. We planted some seeds, so we’re eager to see how they grow. Both kids made gifts at school and presented them to me at a party in the classroom. Both kids wrote notes to their teachers for teacher appreciation week. It can be a pain to get them to write thank you notes and appreciation notes, but I love what they come up with when they do it.

Something Maddie is doing (6 years old): Maddie is tracked out from school, and we needed the break. She has been getting some reports of defiance from school. Her last week before track out was perfect as far as the color chart is concerned, so we’re happy about that! We have some reward systems at home where she can earn tickets and trade them in for small toys or device/iPad time. Her first week of track out was spent at the arts and drama camp, and her next two weeks will be spent at more art camps. She loves it. She did well in her play this time and spoke her lines a bit louder. She needed some prompting with her lines. Maddie was excited that Kristin and Chad were able to come to her play this time. They just happened to be in town at the right time. More than a year ago, Maddie brought home some sunflower seeds from preschool. She has been asking to plant them for a while, and we planted them when the time was right this season. We are all excited that several of them have sprouted and are growing fast. They are maybe a foot tall now. Maddie seems to have a big interest in growing things right now. Maybe that will give us the motivation that we need to redo the landscaping in the front yard. Maddie continues to enjoy gymnastics, and we plan to continue at least through the summer lessons. We’ll see whether she wants to continue in the fall. We have signed her up for a piano introduction later this summer. Maddie had her foot doctor appointment this week, and he’s happy with how things look. She is supposed to come back in 2 years. They didn’t take any x-rays this time, and he noted that she has a callus on her small foot that shows how she compensates. Maddie said that other kids in the gymnastics class have noticed her foot, and she has told them that she was born that way. She doesn’t seem to be bothered by it at this point, physically or emotionally. Maddie’s class had Muffins for Mom, and she was so thrilled to have me there. I will miss some of these little school events and the handmade gifts. She gave me some sort of bean plant and a handmade card. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep the plant alive, but she’s excited about it given her fascination with plants lately.

Something Cullen is doing (4 years old): Cullen has had numerous tummy issues over the past weeks. I’m not sure what is going on with him. He might have a food intolerance or some sort of nasty bug that he can’t shake. Cullen continues to progress with his reading. He begs to read to me every night, and we are able to do it on most nights. He has gotten to where he can read as many as 3 different phonics books. He’s still doing short vowels, though we are on the ones that have mixed short vowel sounds. He’s almost done with that set, and then we’ll start working on the long vowels. That will be a little challenging at first, but I’m sure he’ll catch on quickly. I’m so impressed with both his motivation for learning to read and his progress. We are so proud of him. His favorite thing to do right now is to call someone on the webcam and read to them. Cullen’s class all went to lunch with their parents during teacher appreciation week. Austin’s parents were out of town, so he joined us for lunch. Cullen loved it. We then returned to his classroom for a party where the kids had popsicles, and we presented the teachers with their gifts from the class. They presented the mothers with foot cream (that they made) and a really cute butterfly made from their footprints and handprints.

Something I’m doing towards my goals: I’m finishing up my 2013 book.

Something I’m looking forward to: Our trip with Earl and Michelle to the mountains and my trip to WWDC. Other than that, we have the usual gymnastics classes. My book club is at the end of the month, and I have a haircut this week. Maddie has a new art camp this week, and she is going to her regular one next week. Gabe and I are going to see Jack Johnson on Wednesday, so that should be fun! The kids have dental appointments soon.

Something captured: Happy Mother’s Day to me! My one request every year (aside from some extra rest, of course) is to get a photo of my babies with me.

The Sunday Somethings, 20apr14 and 13apr14

April 22nd, 2014

Something that makes me happy: We had a wonderful visit from Gabe’s family this weekend.

Something I’m thinking: I’m thinking about all the pictures that I need to sort from the last few months. I’m quite behind, and I still haven’t finished my 2013 photobook.

Something I’m hoping: I’m hoping to catch up on pictures soon, but I’m not sure that’s going to actually happen!

Something happening around the house: We had eight people in our house this weekend with Gabe’s parents, Dylan, and Dylan’s girlfriend Morgan.

Something I’m reading: I finished I am Malala. I started and finished The End of Your Life Book Club, and I was disappointed in that one. I am now reading City of Ashes, the second book in The Mortal Instruments. None of these are for book club.

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe finished Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and he started reading The Blade Itself.

Something I’m watching: Most of our shows are coming to a close. The Walking Dead is over, and we finally watched the last episode of Downton Abbey. We started watching Orphan Black, and now it seems like everyone else is watching it, too. We tried to watch The 100, but that was awful. We’re watching Resurrection, and that one is good enough to keep watching. We’re still watching The Amazing Race, though we need to catch up on Sunday’s episode. We’re also still watching Hart of Dixie. I imagine that show isn’t going to last much longer, but I still like keeping up with it.

Something I’m playing: We played a lot of games with Gabe’s family while they were here. We played Trivial Pursuit, Sour Apples to Apples, La Boca, Hoopla, Kaleidos, King of Tokyo, and Tribond. Grandma played Max the Cat and Too Many Monkeys with Gabe and the kids. Gabe and I are still playing Candy Crush. We played bar trivia and photohunt this weekend, too. Cullen showed Dylan how to play his Ninjago spinners.

Something I’m creating: I did several of our cruise posts since my last somethings. I still have a few more to go.

Something tasty: We made sugar cookies on Easter. Yum!

Something about both kiddos: The kids really enjoyed having visitors this weekend. They love Grandma, Grandpa, and Dylan, and they instantly took to Morgan (or “Mogo,” as we all call her). They played lots of imagination games with them, showed them Frozen, showed them their games on their devices, played board games, and put people in “jail.” Both kids have been playing their devices too much. We’ve been giving them too much device time without requiring them to turn in tickets. Maddie was out of school on Friday, and we all went to lunch with Cullen at the cafe.

Something Maddie is doing (6 years old): Maddie’s class did child-led 3rd quarter conferences. She’s doing very well in most things, though her teacher has had some recent issues with Maddie’s conduct. She also says that Maddie is weak in “retelling,” so that’s something we’ll be working on. She gets reading homework, so we have a lot of opportunity to strengthen that skill. I don’t think she’s terrible at it, personally. She’s reading well above her grade level, and she is able to tell me about it. You do have to prompt her a bit as she’s hesitant to answer. I think she’s much more comfortable when there is a right and wrong answer. She’s less comfortable when there’s not a “right” way to do something, so retelling is challenging for her. She is still enjoying gymnastics. I think she enjoys seeing her friend Sophie at gymnastics, too.

Something Cullen is doing (4 years old): Poor Cullen has had a stomach bug that comes and goes (or he’s caught several in the past 2 weeks). He has thrown up all over his bed at least 3 different nights and had a lot of other stomach issues. Poor little boy. The first night that he threw up in bed, he came down and said, “Mama! Dada! I barfed all over my bed. It was the biggest barf ever in the whole wide world.” He was out of school again today. Poor boy missed Earth Day and his class Easter egg hunt. He had fun playing the Ninjago spinners with Dylan. Dylan had a lot of trouble beating him at the game! Cullen is very excited about learning how to read, and he asks to read to me every night before bed. He gets frustrated sometimes, but I’m quite impressed with his progress. We are still working through the phonics books with short vowel sounds. I’ve been sticking with the same book until he has it mostly memorized to build his confidence, and then we move to another one. He responds very well to visual cues (like pointing to his nose to remind him of the sound for “n”). This has helped him learn much better than simple repetition. It’s not too long before I don’t have to use the visual cue.

Something I am struggling with: I had some kind of upper respiratory crud, but it seems to have cleared up now.

Something I’m doing towards my goals: We should beat our $5,000 goal for this year’s MS walk.

Something I learned: I get to go to WWDC this year! This year’s tickets were distributed through a lottery. I didn’t personally get a ticket, but I was able to get a transferred ticket from another coworker. Hooray!

Something I’m looking forward to: Maddie has gymnastics this week and next. I have book club next week. Maddie has a birthday party this weekend, and both kids have kiddo book club. We have dinner with friends next week. I’m going on my girls trip to Key West soon!

Something captured: How cute is our nephew and his girlfriend?

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 5, part 2, back on the ship

April 17th, 2014

Since we already had on our swimsuits, we headed straight for the pool deck. We started with lunch at Cabanas. At Cabanas, we ran into the guy that we all called “the squeaky guy.” He entertained the kids by touching their finger and making a squeaky sound at the same time (you know, like a squeaky toy?). I think maybe he had something that he squeezed in his other hand, maybe? It was a little bit of Disney magic for the kids (and apparently even stumped us adults).

After lunch, Maddie and I went to ride the Aquaduck. We took advantage of the crowds being on shore, and we enjoyed the relatively uncrowded pool area. We had almost no wait for the Aquaduck. Maddie rode it twice with me.

One of Cullen’s favorite things is playing in Nemo’s Reef. He splashed and had a great time while Maddie was riding the Aquaduck. He claims that he will ride the Aquaduck again when he is a grown up.

Maddie rode it again with Daddy.

We spent some time in the family hot tub, and we nearly had it to ourselves. It was much better than the middle of the day at sea when it has been crowded. The tub was a bit too hot for everyone, so we didn’t stay in it too long. Maddie loved trying to get photos underwater!

We returned to the cabin to shower. Gabe’s parents had stayed in port to do some shopping after returning from the excursion. They got a pirate shirt for Cullen, and a pretty purple dress for Maddie. The kids loved their gifts. Once we were all dressed, we headed to Disney trivia. We didn’t do quite as well this time, at least not for the first 10 questions or so. We did much better in the second half, and the bonus question got us an additional 10 points when we were asked to list all of the Incredibles and their super powers. Around this time, I realized how well sunscreen works and that I had missed quite a bit of the back of my arm and a small section on my back. Ooops!

Cullen fell asleep in an odd position while we were playing trivia, so I stayed with him and wrote some in my trip journal while Gabe, Debbie, and Maddie left for a little while.

They went back to our room where Maddie decided she wanted to wear her purple dress for princess night and the tiara. This night was supposed to be princess night, so we were trying to encourage her to wear her Sofia dress again. They came back after a while, and Maddie and I went to meet Tinkerbell. Cullen kept snoozing.

Maddie and I were both excited to meet Tinkerbell. Nearly all of the characters who are allowed to talk have excellent interaction and do a great job of staying in character. We were first in line for Tinkerbell.

We then met Mickey. Maddie wanted to meet Mickey when she saw that he was greeting people. I think she had it in her head that she had to meet Mickey each night so she could get a Mickey bar. We joked about that, and maybe she took it seriously? Or maybe she just really liked Mickey this trip.

I couldn’t talk Maddie into meeting Pinocchio, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to meet a rare character like him. Since just Maddie and I were hanging out, I met him by myself. I thought I might be able to talk her into the photo once we got there, but I had no such luck.

At some point, Maddie decided that she did want to wear her Sofia dress. We went back to the cabin to get changed. Cullen was still sleeping, and at some point Gabe carried Cullen to the Deck 4 balcony lounge area where he continued to sleep. After Maddie changed into her dress, we browsed the shops and then got in line to meet Stitch. Cullen showed up just in time, and they were excited about meeting Stitch!

After meeting Stitch, we headed to dinner. On the way, we saw Bruno and thanked him again for all of his little surprises. Cullen wanted to take a photo with him.

When we got to dinner, we were given a placemat and instructions. I was so excited about tonight’s dinner! We all drew our characters, and we waited eagerly to see the animation show.

Following is a clip of some of the animation show (follow this link if the embedded video doesn’t show). It was awesome! Pardon my terrible videographer skills. I put the camera on the back of the chair and hoped for the best! Oh, and maybe you should just ignore the sound entirely. Yeah. That would be good, too. I labeled most of ours in the video, but I didn’t get all of them. They go by so fast!

To me, this was one of the absolute highlights of the trip. It’s not something to be missed! I was also glad to get a photo of our waitstaff that night.

I left a little bit early from dinner to get in line for Snow White and Dopey. After not being able to meeting the seven dwarfs at the Halloween party in 2012, I was excited to at least have the chance to meet one of them! Cullen agreed to pose with me with Snow White and Dopey.

And then he even met Aladdin and Genie by himself, though he didn’t want to get too close to the genie!

Of course, I had to get a photo with them as well. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of these rarer characters.

When Cullen and I got back to the room, Maddie was telling Grandma all about Frozen and playing the songs for her. They had also discovered that Bruno had left us a tray of chocolate covered strawberries and another note.

Maddie was beyond excited about this discovery, and when we wrote a note to Bruno, Maddie wanted to be sure to say, “Thank you for the chocolate covered strawberries. I have always wanted to try one of those!” Who knew that we were depriving her of such awesomeness?

We talked about our day (and favorites), and we put the kids to bed. Grandma came back to lay in the room so that we could go to play Pop Trivia and 80s Music Trivia.

We headed over to The Tube and learned that Pop Trivia was more of a full audience participation game show where the audience was divided into two teams. Our friends Aaron and Karen joined us. It was a combination memory game with trivia questions on a grid. It was fun enough, but we were really looking forward to the 80s Name That Tune trivia! It was one of the bigger trivias in terms of participation, and Karen knew just about every one. We got a point for artist and a point for the song name. I think Aaron, Gabe, and I contributed to a few of the answers, but we were mostly there for confirmation purposes. This was the most fun trivia on the ship, and the reveal of the answers was highly entertaining! The activities director did Pop Trivia and 80s Name That Tune, and she is hilarious. I took a lot of video clips of her revealing the answers (and perhaps I’ll get to some of those sooner or later). Our 80s trivia team ended up with 49 out of 50 points. We missed one artist, Rob Bass, and Karen kicked herself afterwards for not getting it. I think that the activities director was surprised when she started with, “Did anyone get 50? 49?” I think then she probably was planning to do the usual, “Ok, ok, who got 10? 20?” and keep counting until all but one team dropped out. I think she also may have said that we needed to get a life. We won the usual cruise line cheap swag, this time tote bags filled with DCL calendars. I’m glad we got a photo of our team.

We then returned to our room, set our clocks back and hour, and went to sleep in preparation for another day at sea!

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 5, part 1, St. Thomas

April 15th, 2014

Wednesday, February 26th was our second port day, this time at St. Thomas. Once again, I’m breaking up the post into two parts: shore and ship. This was our best port day of the cruise. I suspect that Castaway would have been our favorite day if we had not had such crummy weather! The excursion was perfect for us, and we all had a wonderful time on the beach. As usual, these are our favorites from the whole day, and our top top top favorites are starred.

Maddie’s Favorites

  • *** chocolate covered strawberry ***

  • Mickey bar
  • being on the top floor of the Kon Tiki
  • making a sandcastle
  • digging a hole
  • swimming with Grandma
  • Aquaduck
  • meeting Stitch

Cullen’s Favorites

  • the book Daddy is reading to us [the second book in The Penderwicks]

  • *** the animator show ***
  • building a sandcastle
  • going in the water with Mommy
  • the glass bottom on the boat
  • swimming with Grandma
  • meeting Stitch
  • meeting Snow White and Dopey
  • Aladdin and Genie

Gabe’s Favorites

  • *** the beach on the excursion ***

  • Aquaduck
  • animator show
  • Snow White [just snow white - she wasn't with Dopey]
  • 80s music trivia
  • the excursion / St. Thomas in general
  • Maddie retelling Frozen to Grandma

Kerry’s Favorites

  • Kon Tiki boat

  • seeing how happy the kids were at the beach
  • the relaxing, beautiful beach
  • seeing the “squeaky guy” at lunch
  • getting Cullen’s picture with Bruno and the strawberries he left us
  • getting photos with characters (especially rarer ones) – Aladdin and Genie, Snow White and Dopey, Tinkerbell, and Stitch
  • *** Animator’s Palette animation show! ***
  • riding the Aquaduck after getting back on the boat
  • 80s music trivia

Day 5 Summary and Photos

We woke up shortly before 7am, and we all tried to snooze a bit. Well, the kids slept in a little later than we did. We let Cullen sleep as long as we possibly could. I knew after our late night, they needed all the sleep they could get! We did the room service breakfast again this morning since we had a morning excursion. We got ourselves all ready and went to our excursion meeting spot in The Tube. Once again, they had towels for us to pick up and take to the beach.

The Kon Tiki boat ride was really nice.

We all enjoyed it. They had a steel drum band and some games.

They had a glass bottom that they lowered to view some fish and a reef. Cullen really loved that part. The top deck was a nice place to view the scenery and catch a breeze.

We all spent some time on that upper deck!

St. Thomas and the surrounding islands are beautiful. We all loved this excursion and agreed it was much better than the St. Maarten excursion!

We stopped for a bit at Honeymoon Beach at St. John. That was fantastic. It wasn’t too crowded, the water was crystal clear and perfectly calm, and the sand was awesome. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Watching the kids on this beach was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. They built sandcastles.

They played in the water.

The kids were so, so happy.

We built sandcastles and sandmen while folks back home were experiencing more winter weather.

How can you not be happy with this beautiful scenery (and these smiling faces?).

We were glad that neither kid seemed to mind going out in the water. I’m not sure if they will feel the same at a beach with real waves, but this is definitely better than the last time we were at the ocean!

We buried our son in the sand.

Grandma had a wonderful time taking both kids out for spinning in the water and swimming.

We had just the right amount of time on the beach, though I’m sure we wouldn’t have complained to have more time. We had a nice boat ride back to the ship. The kids spent most of the time on the top deck, though we heard that there was dancing and a limbo contest down below. The kids made some new friends and had fun running around with them. They were all so cute together.

We returned to the ship…and our afternoon and evening will be covered in the next post! What a wonderful day at the US Virgin Isles!

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 4, part 2, pirate night

April 14th, 2014

As I have said, one of the highlights of the cruise for all of us was pirate night! We had planned all along for the kids to wear their Jake and Izzy costumes to the party, but we didn’t realize how dressed up everyone gets on the cruise! We saw many adults with serious costumes, and we quickly felt a little out of place in our bright Caribbean wear!

After the movie, we met Captain Hook and Smee. The kids were excited and told Captain Hook that he was a smelly codfish.

For almost all of our photo opportunities throughout the trip, we had pictures taken with just the kids and then with us. There were a few exceptions where just the kids posed (like Sofia and Jake) and rarely when the kids wouldn’t meet the characters without us.

We saw that Chip and Dale were meeting upstairs, so we went up there to meet them. I thought they were so cute in their pirate outfits! Maddie passed on that opportunity.

We came back downstairs hoping to meet Peter Pan, but he was running late for his meet and greet. Instead, Cullen went with me to meet Captain Jack Sparrow while Maddie went to meet Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Maddie was very excited to meet Jake in her Izzy costume!

While we were waiting in line for Captain Jack Sparrow, Maddie and Gabe joined us for a few minutes. We had been talking to someone else in line about how we had wanted to meet Peter Pan, but he was running late for his meet and greet. After they finished getting their picture with Jack Sparrow, they ran into Peter Pan wandering around the ship. I assume that they told him to come and meet us, because he came by and said, “I heard that Jake and Izzy were looking for me!” We had some great interaction with him and the kids. I just love Peter Pan. He’s one of the best characters for interactions.

Captain Jack Sparrow was also great for interaction. Disney does such an awesome job with casting (and with consistency). It’s always impressive to me. Captain Jack Sparrow seemed rather impressed with Cullen’s hair.

When I posed with him, he had me put my arm around his and afterward he said that he’d never forget me. Funny enough, when we returned later in different outfits, he really did remember us (even without Cullen’s crazy Jake hair)!

We tried to catch Jake before he was finished, but we were too late to meet him with both kids. We were glad that Maddie posed with him in her Izzy costume, though! We met Pirate Minnie next.

I just love the pirate outfits on all the characters! This was a really fun evening with meeting all the various characters.

We met Pirate Mickey, too.

After we met Pirate Mickey, it was time for dinner in Royal Court. When we got there, Gabe’s parents weren’t there, so we tried to call them on the wave phone. They had been taking a nap. Gabe’s mom showed up after a bit, but Mick skipped dinner this evening. He missed one of the best nights on the ship! He even missed the pot stickers.

The waitstaff were dressed as pirates, and the menus were themed appropriately as well. I really should have gotten a photo of us with our waitstaff this night! The official photographers came around and took our photos at dinner. Debbie had gotten a pirate themed shirt for the evening while in St. Maarten.

Maddie agreed to get her photo with us, but she was a grump about getting one on her own. The pictures of her with us turned out quite cute.

Shortly after we arrived for dinner, Cullen had had enough of the Jake hair and the shirt. Fortunately, the shirt he had underneath was his cute Mickey pirate shirt, so he remained in the theme.

During dinner, Gabe and I decided to each go back to the room between courses and change into more piratey clothing. We felt quite bright in a sea of dark pirates! It made for some cute photos before dinner, but we wanted to fit in more with the rest of the ship. Next time we cruise with Disney, I think we’ll be much more prepared for pirate night!

When I returned, I saw that someone had left us an eye patch as a gift. I love the culture of Disney cruisers! Lots of people leave little surprises for other cruisers. I’ll have to think about whether we want to bring little gifts for fellow cruisers next time! We had fun with the eye patch at dinner (and the bandanas).

Gabe went back and changed and tried out a bandana and the eye patch.

We made silly faces.

Debbie didn’t prefer the bandana on her head, but she was a good sport for our silly photos.

The Mickey bars were even pirate themed tonight!

Dinners were crazy on the ship with lots of potty breaks. I know it’s a long meal, but good grief kids. Each kid usually had more than one potty break during each dinner. That was frustrating!

After dinner, we headed to see Mickey’s Pirates IN the Caribbean. Mickey and friends taught us how to be pirates, and the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Maddie was especially cute as she wore her Izzy costume all night.

The pool deck was full of pirates, pirates, and more pirates!

Gabe and I felt we fit in much better after changing into our black shirts and bandanas. It was a fun show full of the classic Mickey characters, singing, dancing, and pirates!

Afterward, we had quite a bit of time before the big fireworks show at 10:30pm. This was the one night on the ship that we let the kids stay up super late! In between, we had more opportunities for meeting pirate characters. Debbie really wanted to meet Captain Jack Sparrow. She had some photos taken by herself, and then we took some with all of us and with just our family.

I was amused that he remembered Cullen and me from earlier.

We did some wandering around the ship and happened across the pirate backdrop with no wait. I was so glad that we stopped here. I loved our photos from this little session, and we weren’t rushed with few people waiting. We started out with our family.

Including some “act like pirates” shots.

Then, they wanted to take a few with just the kids.

I love these!

And I thought Grandma might like a few with the grandkids.

Those turned out cute as well!

We went back to the room for a chocolate coin break and spent a few minutes in our cabins. It was such a beautiful night! The balcony in Gabe’s parents room was very nice. We tried to convince Mick to join us for the fireworks, but he didn’t join us for the fun. Next, we headed to meet Pirate Daisy.

Daisy was one of their favorites on our Disney trip in 2012. They still liked her, but I don’t think she was one of their top favorites this time.

We managed to meet Pirate Goofy as well. We met all of the pirate characters except for Stitch (who only met once, while we were at dinner) and Donald. I was surprised that Maddie would have anything at all to do with Goofy. She wouldn’t go anywhere near him on our last trip! She still looks unsure, but at least she posed for the photo!

The four of us posed as well. The kids were a little happier to not have to stand right next to Goofy. He’s quite tall and intimidating!

Finally, we were ready to go up to the 11th deck and wait for the show. They covered the pools to make more floor space for everyone, and we scouted out a spot to view the fireworks. We grabbed some soft serve ice cream as a treat and to pass the time before the show started. Maddie was right about having a lot of desserts and treats today! We had about 20 minutes or so to wait for the show which was just long enough for us to act like goofballs and for Cullen to fall asleep.

The Buccaneer Blast Fireworks show is great! I love how they incorporate the fireworks into the theme, and it was neat when the pirates were running through the crowd looking for Captain Jack Sparrow.

He appeared!

And they started firing canons on the other ships.

Cullen slept through the whole thing. He woke up when we got back to the room and was confused about why we took him back to the cabin before the fireworks. He was upset about missing the fireworks, but he still claims it was his favorite part of the day. Funny little boy. We all went to bed and got ready for our second port day in St. Thomas!