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Maddie is 6.5

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

I always have a tough time getting myself organized for Maddie’s letters since they are “due” less than a month after Cullen’s. Here it is…Maddie’s 6.5 year old letter, a little over a month late. (more…)

The Sunday Somethings, 21sep14

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Something that makes me happy: That Board Gaming Thing. I think this was the best year yet…plus it didn’t hurt that we had an extra day of games and friends. I love seeing so many wonderful people that I only get to see at TBGT (and now the winter gaming event).

Something I’m thinking: I’m quite bad at writing these lately. It’s been 4 weeks since the last update!

Something happening around the house: Our dishwasher has been broken the past couple of weeks. Gabe tried a few things to repair it, but we’re going to have to either get someone to fix it or buy a new one. Hand washing dishes makes you really appreciate modern appliances!

Something I’m reading: I finally finished Words of Radiance. I felt like I was reading that one FOREVER. I loved it. Now I’m reading Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe also finished Words of Radiance. He’s now reading Ghost Brigades.

Something I’m watching: We haven’t been watching much, but we did enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy.

Something I’m playing: At TBGT, I played Giant Takenoko, Splendor (several times), Speculation, Castles of Mad King Ludwig (several times), Among the Stars, Whacky Wit (several times), One Night Ultimate Werewolf (a new playtest expansion), Trains, Steampark (twice), Istanbul (several times), another playtest that I am not supposed to reveal, Fury of Dracula, The Hanging Gardens, Diamonds (twice), La Boca, trivia contest, Imperial Settlers, Times Up, Camel (C)up, Dead of Winter, Concordia, Concept, Cards Against Humanity, Subdivision, and Tragedy Looper. Lots of great stuff this year! I can’t wait until the winter gaming event. My favorite game of TBGT this year was Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I also quite enjoyed Tragedy Looper but I am not sure how often I’d be able to get people to play with me. Gabe played Splendor, the playtest I mentioned, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Istanbul, The Hanging Gardens, Imperial Settlers, Times Up, Camel (C)up, Dead of Winter, Concordia, Concept, Cards Against Humanity, Subdivision, Templar Intrigue, Terra Mystica, Tobogo, Galaxy Trucker, and Space Hulk Death Angel. We also played Splendor with Earl and Michelle, and Maddie has played Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers twice now. She’s so excited to be playing grown up games!

Something I’m creating: I have been working on Maddie’s letter (only a month late). I spent the day with Michelle and Paula doing crafty things. They were quilting most of the day. After I finished most of Maddie’s letter, they taught me how to use the sewing machine! I made a very cute, purple wallet! I’m excited and hope to make a pouch for the new iPhone the next time I get together with them.

Something about the grownups: Let’s see. Gabe’s been working the new consulting gig, and they haven’t given him too much work to do yet. Fortunately, he has a guaranteed number of hours that he can bill them, so that works for him! I had my trip to the NIH “for science” as part of the GEMS study for first line relatives of MS patients. That was interesting and boring at the same time. It was mostly like visiting a hospital, but it was fun to see the enthusiasm of those doing the study. Everyone also seemed grateful for my participation since this is a study that has no direct benefits to the participants. It was a long, full day of poking and prodding, questions, and tests. Some of the tests were interesting to me, and I got to see some advanced photos of my eyes. I still haven’t gotten the test results back, and I’m interested to see the MRI results. The MRI was 2 hours long with no music or TV. That machine is loud, even with the provided ear plugs! We both attended That Board Gaming Thing. We juggled the kids for the few few days, and then Kristin came to stay with the kids on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to be able to play games together while she was with the kids. We had a great time. I love that TBGT falls on or around my birthday every year. I call it my 5-day birthday party (well, this year, it used to be my 4-day birthday party). Gabe is happy for the start of football season, and he hopes to watch games with friends on some of the Sundays. I am excited that fall is starting up – my favorite season of the year! I ordered a new iPhone 6+. I hope that I won’t regret getting the giant phone!

Something about both kiddos: I really shouldn’t go so long before posting these. It’s so much harder to look back over the past month and figure out what has been going on. We went to the beach over labor day weekend. We had some bad experiences with the hotel itself, but we had a great time on our vacation. We met Gabe’s parents there, and we all had fun playing at the beach, eating tasty foods, and swimming in the pools. Both kids loved all of it. Gabe’s parents brought the ingredients for bubble tea, so that was a great treat as well. We are going to have to look for a new location to visit next time. We decided that we are NOT going back to the hotel after some rude experiences with hotel staff and the unfortunate experience of leaving expensive electronics at the hotel (and the trouble of getting those back). The kids had a great weekend with Kristin while we were at TBGT. Kristin had them doing all kinds of playing in the mud and rain, and they went hunting for handfuls of worms. The kids have been playing together pretty well lately! They have been playing happily for most of the morning today. Both Maddie and Cullen love tacos now, so we have taco night about once a week. It’s everyone’s favorite family meal! They both attended a friend’s birthday party at a park this weekend.

Something Maddie is doing (6.5 years old): She is now taking swimming lessons twice a week, and we’re already seeing a lot of improvements with her lessons. She loves it. She’s getting more confidence, and she has said that she wishes that she could take swimming lessons every day. I’m glad that she has found something that she wants to stick with (for now, anyway). When we were at the beach, she swam halfway across the pool by herself quite a bit. She gets a bit nervous at about that point and starts to flail a bit. I’m guessing that she’ll be doing really well the next time we go to a pool! Gabe said that she made it look easy swimming across the lesson area at her last lesson. She played in the waves some at the beach and always loves playing in the sand. Maddie is so happy at the beach. Maddie had a week of track out at her favorite art camp where they explored Egyptian art. We got Maddie’s Elsa dress, and Maddie is excited to be Elsa for Halloween. Maddie started taking private piano lessons, and that seems to be a much better fit for her than group lessons. We set up my old keyboard from my childhood with full sized keys (though it doesn’t have the full 8 octaves). She is very excited to be able to do her practice on it and play with it. We were glad that our first week back at school was homework free, but we’re now back into the regular routine of homework and nightly reading. I volunteered at her class this week, and I read them a book called Ish about loyalty. The class was a bit crazy, but it was fun to read to them. Maddie surprised me when I got back from TBGT with a very special birthday present – a board game that she had made herself! That seems to be her thing lately. She’s made several board games with different designs and mechanisms.

Something Cullen is doing (4.5 years old): Cullen had so much fun playing in the waves at the beach! We had wished that we had brought the little belt float for him so he could swim a bit more in the pool. We had to carry him most of the time, at least when we were in the deeper sections. He’s probably at the point where the belt float would give him a little more confidence. He just started swimming lessons once a week at the same place that Maddie is taking them. We didn’t want them in the same class, but they are currently in the same level of classes. Cullen started taking general music lessons aimed at young children. I think that the kids in his class are ages 4-6. He’s learning about various instruments, rhythms, music terminology, and singing. He loves it. He was a little nervous the first time. I’m excited that both kids seem to be enjoying their music classes. Cullen hasn’t been playing devices as much lately, so we’re glad to get him to do other things. We got Cullen’s Halloween costume as well. He tried it on this morning. He’s going to be Superman. As soon as he put on his costume, he wanted to show us how strong and fast he was. He’s excited about it.

Something I am struggling with: Writing up these (and Maddie’s letter!).

Something I’m looking forward to: Let’s see…this afternoon we’re having a playdate and dinner with Austin and Elizabeth. We have the usual swimming and music lessons. I have my book club this week and we’re discussing The Husband’s Secret. The kids have a birthday party to attend next weekend, and we’re having the first games night in a long time. October brings Gabe’s birthday, dinner and games with friends, our anniversary, a visit to the pumpkin patch (hopefully!), Halloween, and more fall fun.

Something captured: So much to choose from when there’s a whole month of updates! Here’s Maddie and Cullen with Maddie’s first game, The Ice Cream Hunt.

Cullen is 4.5!

Tuesday, 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

Sunday, 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, 18may14

Sunday, 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.

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

Tuesday, 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!

Maddie’s 5 and a half!

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

I’m only about a week late with Maddie’s letter this time…not too bad! Big changes between the last letter and this one with the start of kindergarten!

Labor Day Weekend at the Beach

Monday, October 8th, 2012

So…I’m trying to catch up on here. At least this one isn’t from THAT long ago…

The kids have really started to enjoy the beach, so we spent a long weekend on Ocean Isle in North Carolina. The drive to the beach was a bit long. We tried to leave a little early, but we didn’t leave early enough to beat the traffic! Maddie complained that it was “taking as long as Atlanta!” It almost took us as long, and we were so happy to arrive at The Islander Inn.

Each morning, we grabbed breakfast from the hotel, and then we spent the morning on the beach. It was so nice to walk right out to the beach from our building!

We made sandcastles together.

The kids had tons of fun playing in the sand and finding seashells.

They asked to be buried in the sand several times.

I dug some giant holes. This was the smaller of the two holes, and Cullen could fit entirely inside of it.

Maddie made sand angels.

Maddie and Cullen didn’t want to go into the water, though they both got their feet wet on the first day. After the first day, they didn’t even want to get close to the edge of the water. They did enjoy swimming in the pool! We were happy to have an indoor pool to keep them out of the sun in the late morning. Well, Maddie enjoyed swimming in the pool. We had just gotten her one of those little block float things that you strap to their backs. She swam by herself quite a bit. Cullen played on the stairs, but he didn’t want to go into the water that was “too deep.”

We tried to go eat at The Sugar Shack on Saturday, but we found out that you need a reservation if you don’t want to wait for 3 hours. We were glad to be able to get a reservation for the following night. The meal at The Sugar Shack was our favorite of the trip! YUM. Those were the best ribs I have ever had.

We walked on the beach in the evenings.

We saw some beautiful sunsets (this one on one of the restaurants overlooking the waterway).

Maddie and I took a walk on the beach and walked on the long dock while Cullen was napping. Maddie wasn’t a big fan of the dock. I think she has a healthy fear of heights. She also wouldn’t walk within 10 yards of the edge of the water.

Cullen was a handful at dinners and at bedtime…but we all had a great time. Looking at the photos, you wouldn’t know that we had any difficulties at all. I know that we had some challenging times here and there, but overall we had a wonderful time.

Cullen was in a phase of dramatically tilting his head when smiling for photos. He got that idea from his sister.

Cullen and Maddie loved Sharkey’s, and we went there three times on our trip. They enjoyed the hot dogs, chips, and being able to color on the table. I loved the sweet potato fries, hush puppies, and the cinnamon-sugar-butter. Mmmmm. I could go for some of those right about now.

Maddie is busy at work in this photo. She’s drawing a detailed pirate ship scene.

The kids can be so sweet together. I just love this photo of one of those moments.

What a wonderful time. We will definitely be making more trips to the beach in the future!

Maddie is 4.5!

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

I can’t believe that Maddie is four and a half (or was on August 20th!). Time for another letter to Maddie! (more…)

The Sunday Somethings, 02sep12

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Something that makes me happy: We just had our first family vacation with just the four of us (no meeting family or friends at our destination). Overall, it was wonderful! We had our share of meltdowns and some ideas of things to avoid for our next one, but it was a success.

Something I’m thinking: I’m glad this is a short work week, though I’m sure it won’t seem like it.

Something I’m hoping: I’m hoping to go to bed soon, though it isn’t yet 9pm. I’m so tired from the weekend!

Something happening around the house: I love when we manage to clean the house before we leave for vacation. Sadly, this was not one of those times.

Something I’m reading: I’m reading Juliet by Anne Fortier. I’m undecided about whether I want to finish it. I read some of One Day by David Nicholls. I didn’t feel compelled to get too far into that one.

Something Gabe is reading: He actually managed to finish Feed by Mira Grant at the beach (it’s a different Feed than the one I was reading). Maybe this will get him back into the reading routine…

Something I’m creating: I need to be creating some things for our upcoming That Board Gaming Thing. Time is running out!

Something tasty: I splurged this weekend with food and had all kinds of tasty things. I especially enjoyed the hushpuppies and sweet potato fries with the yummy cinnamon sugar butter dip from Sharkey’s. Our best meal was at The Sugar Shack. We had high hopes as we showed up on Saturday without a reservation and they were booked until 9pm. We made reservations on Sunday for 5:30pm (other reservation times were already booked). We arrived a few minutes early and still had to wait at least 30 minutes for a table. It was all worth the wait. We had awesome crab fritters and the best ribs I’ve ever had. We might just have to go back to Ocean Isle just to eat there again.

Something I learned: I can forget about tracking the calories while on vacation…I wasn’t sure if I would be able to relax and enjoy after tracking for more than a month. Of course, I might not be too happy about the consequences the next time I get on the scale.

Something about both kiddos: The kids had so much fun at the beach. Each morning, we went to have breakfast downstairs and then headed to the beach for a little while. We built sandcastles, buried the kids in the sand, did a little swimming (well, the kids didn’t love that part and stayed away from the water on the beach), dug some holes, had snacks, and searched for shells. The kids also loved playing in the indoor pool (and I was a big fan of not having to put on sunscreen for that). We had lunch at Sharkey’s each day where the kids enjoyed coloring on the table. Maddie has already asked if we can put a big sheet of paper on their table at home so they can color on it). It’s hard to say which parts of our trip that the kids liked the most! They did pretty well on the drive there and back, though we had a bunch of traffic on the way. Maddie complained (in a very whiny voice) that it was “too far, like driving to Atlanta.” Cullen and Maddie got their first Converse shoes. Maddie chose some low-top purple ones and Cullen insisted on the high top Robin ones (even though I was hoping he’d pick the Batman ones!).

Something Maddie is doing (4.5 years old): We got Maddie a little belt float thing (it makes her look a little like a turtle with a square float on her back). I wasn’t sure how she would like it, but it was just what she needed to give her enough confidence and freedom of movement. We were shocked that she was comfortable swimming all over the pool by herself!!! This is such a huge difference from a year ago. She even tried a little swimming without the float. She jumped into the pool with the float as long as one of us was close enough to the edge and promised to catch her. She didn’t want anything to do with the ocean. She agreed to go out with me one time, but I think she might have been worried that there were stingrays in the water. I think the waves bothered her, too. She did LOVE the sand. The first time we went to the beach, she even hated the sand. This time, she was digging, making sandcastles, begging to have her legs buried, and making sand angels.

Something Cullen is doing (2.5 years old): On the way home from work one day this week, Cullen said, “Mommy, can I take violin lessons?” The music teacher had played the violin for the kids that day. I later learned that one of his classmates has been taking violin lessons, too. We are looking into it as I think that Cullen will enjoy some type of music lessons. This week, he learned how to open his childproof gate on his room. So now when he decides he isn’t ready for bed, he just opens his gate and comes downstairs. That is making bedtime slightly more complicated. Our vacation reemphasized the point that Cullen needs to stick to his routine as well as we can when traveling. We stuck to his nap schedule, for the most part, but he was still resistant to napping. We had a few challenging meals with him not wanting to eat or sit still or stay at the table. Fun! Cullen seemed scared of the ocean this time and was even scared at the pool. He kept saying it was “too deep” and preferred sitting on the steps and getting in and out of the pool and walking around the deck. He still enjoyed being at the pool. I don’t know that we will be going to Great Wolf Lodge anytime soon, though! I’m surprised Cullen didn’t ask to sleep in “Mommy and Daddy’s bed.” Last night, he was refusing to go to sleep and around 9:30pm, he got out of his sleeping bag and climbed into our bed. He said, “I’m going to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed for 2 more weeks.” (He uses “two more weeks” as a measure of how long he is going to do something frequently, and even more frequently talks about something in the past as happening “yesterday”). He ended up sleeping all night in our bed. Every time I turned away from him, he would move closer to me and put his hand on me to make sure I was close. He’s a sweet boy, but I don’t think I slept terribly well! He was restless with sleep on the trip. One night, he woke me up twice randomly talking in his sleep. Once he said, “I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to” and then went straight back to sleep. The other time, he shouted, “I want to brush my teeth by myself!” I told him that he could do it tomorrow, and he continued sleeping.

Something I’m looking forward to: I have a hair appointment…been a while, so I’m looking forward to getting my hairs done! I’m also looking forward to lunch with a friend and not a whole lot in the way of other plans.

Something captured: The four of us on vacation!

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey