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The Sunday Somethings, 16nov14

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Something that makes me happy: Crafty days with Paula and Michelle! Yesterday, I got started on our Disney scrapbook and did some sewing.

Something I’m thinking: I’m thinking about Christmas!

Something I’m hoping: I hope the weather cooperates for our trip to Ohio and Kentucky coming up.

Something happening around the house: Gabe fixed the dishwasher!!! He thought of one more thing, and it worked. Hooray!

Something I’m reading: I finished Goldfinch, which I found to be a bit tedious. I enjoyed the first half better than the second. I read The One & Only, the newest by Emily Giffin. I was disappointed in that one! I also finished The Lavender Garden, which I liked better than the other two. It would have been a decent book club read, but it didn’t blow my socks off or anything. I’m now reading Kiss and Spell, the 7th book in the Enchanted, Inc. series. It’s light, fluffy, and enjoyable. Just what I needed.

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe finished Red Seas Under Red Skies. Since the last post, he’s also read The Republic of Thieves, Prince of Fools, Annihilation, and Lock In. He’s now reading City of Stairs.

Something I’m watching: We’ve been enjoying The Walking Dead and The Amazing Race. Gabe is keeping up with a few other shows, but we aren’t watching too much at the moment. Our family went to see Big Hero 6, and we LOVED it! I also saw Gone Girl with book club peeps. It was interesting to see that movie after reading the book and knowing a bit about what was going to happen. The movie was pretty true to the book, for the most part.

Something I’m playing: Gabe has started playing games regularly on Monday nights. So far, they have played Caverna, Terra Mystica, Snowdonia, Concordia, Bruges, Glass Roads, Ra: The Dice Game. We have had a couple of dinner and games sessions with friends and played Quixx, Linko, and Walnut Grove. We had a games night, and I played Snowdonia, Splendor, Linko, Hey! That’s my fish! and Telestrations. Gabe started over playing Zelda: The Skyward Sword. We realized we didn’t get too far in that one!

Something I’m creating: I’ve been creating all kinds of things! Since the last post, I finished the WWDC book (and several of my coworkers also wanted to order a copy). I finished the Key West book from the girls trip in May. Audrey and Melisa ordered their copies! I started the Disney Cruise book from our trip back in February. I’m glad to finally start on that one, even if it is a bit daunting. I’m worried I’m not going to be able to fit it all in one book! I created our holiday cards, and I’m hoping to send them out just after Thanksgiving…but we’ll see if that happens. I did some sewing yesterday, again. I made pillowcases out of fabric that Maddie picked out for both kids. I also made a few surprises.

Something about the grownups: I love my crafty days with Paula and Michelle! We just had one yesterday, and I felt like I accomplished quite a bit. Gabe has been enjoying his board gaming nights. He’s getting to play some quality games. They are meeting about every other week. We had fun with the block party, especially the after party at the fire pit. We also had a great time with neighbors on Halloween. We enjoyed that it fell on a Friday this year, and the neighbors had another fire going as well as some fireworks. Good times. Gabe and I celebrated our 8th anniversary, and we had a great dinner at Maximillians. We went to a “romantic” movie and saw John Wick (haha). I had fun finally building the Lego Haunted House that I’ve had for 2 years, and Gabe put together the Ghostbusters car…an awesome combination. For the past several weeks, some of my coworkers and I have started having a shorter lunch and taking a long walk. The weather has been beautiful, and the trails around our campus are awesome. I’ve been walking 2-3 miles during lunch every day. I’ve also been tracking my foods and calories with myfitnesspal. I needed a little bit of a healthy reboot.

Something about both kiddos: After Maddie and I participated in the Chocolate 5k, we had a pile of Ghirardelli chocolates in different flavors. Our family held a taste test challenge with eleven varieties of chocolate. Cullen’s favorite was Intense Dark, Maddie’s was Dark Chocolate Truffle, Gabe’s was Toffee Crunch, and mine was Dark Chocolate Mint. Gabe’s least favorite was Hazelnut, mine was Sea Salt Caramel, and Maddie and Cullen both hated Dark Chocolate Mint. My favorite moment was when Cullen tasted that one and exclaimed, “That tastes like toothpaste!!!” He was horrified. I’m glad to know that Dark Chocolate Mint is safe from predators in my household (Gabe hates it, too.). The kids had fun with Halloween! We went to more houses this year, but we still covered a very small fraction of our neighborhood. Considering that they trade most of their candy to the Halloween witch, they don’t really need to gather all that much. Each kid picked out ten pieces of candy to keep, and the witch took the rest of it in trade for small Lego sets. The kids designed their own jack-o-lanterns again this year. Maddie’s was a simple smiley face, and Cullen’s was a simple frowny face. Their imperfect designs crack me up.

Something Maddie is doing (6.5 years old): Maddie had a marathon challenge at school where we had to complete 26 miles over the course of a month and a half or so. The kids could walk or run the 26 miles, and Maddie completed it! It was a challenge mostly for us to find the time to get in some mileage. Maddie and I did a local Chocolate 5k, and I was so impressed that she ran the entire way. I couldn’t believe it! The day before, she participated in Walk to School day, and she almost didn’t make it less than a mile…so I was worried about how well she’d do over 3 miles. She was so proud of herself, so maybe we’ll be doing some more 5ks in the future. Maddie was a beautiful Elsa, and somehow I was able to bobby pin her blonde wig enough so that it would stay on during trick or treating. We weren’t sure how that was going to work! She will get another chance to wear the Elsa dress when I take her to see Disney on Ice later this year. It’s Frozen themed, and she doesn’t know that she will be going yet. Maddie’s class had “Pumpkin Day” on Halloween, and I volunteered. This was a combination event with the other first grade classes, and they rotated to different stations in the different classrooms. I helped with a station where the kids brainstormed descriptive words for pumpkins. They then had to complete a worksheet with some of these descriptive words and measure a pumpkin in different ways (height, circumference). I thought it was a pretty smart move for the teachers to do something different on Halloween since the kids were going to be too excited to pay attention to regular instruction! They aren’t allowed to do anything specific for Halloween. Maddie had been wiggling a loose tooth for over a month, and it FINALLY fell out on November 3rd. Well, more accurately, I gave it a final yank. She was so excited to lose her first tooth! The tooth fairy came and gave her a whole dollar (yeah, our tooth fairy is cheap). She didn’t much like having the tooth yanked, but it was so loose that night at bedtime that I was seriously afraid that she might swallow it in her sleep. She lost one of the front ones on the bottom, and the one next to it is loose now. I imagine it will take some weeks before she loses it, though. It feels like her top front teeth are starting to get a little loose as well. I volunteered for Literacy Lunch and read some books to Maddie and three classmates. Gabe volunteered for Literacy Lunch once as well. He also volunteered for Otter Time, which is at the end of the day and involves helping kids with various academic areas and enrichment. Maddie is doing pretty well with piano, but it is hard to motivate her to practice at home. You’d think I was torturing her when I sit down with her at the piano. She does seem to enjoy it, so hopefully the practice will become less torturous. She’s doing fantastic with swimming. We are hoping that she will be moving up to the next level and new challenges soon, but she’s still benefitting from the current level. She continues to improve, and we haven’t seen her stagnate in this class yet. Twice a week has really helped her, and she seems to love it. Maddie is tracked out and she went to her favorite art camp this week where they did Inuit art. She is going to the same art camp next week and will also be going to a new Lego and Technology camp during this track out.

Something Cullen is doing (4.5 years old): Cullen still often wakes up before the rest of the family. These days, he doesn’t tend to sneak too many snacks as he has in the past. Sometimes, he does get his “breakfast toast” (which is what he calls his organic breakfast pastries). Frequently, he plays the iPad. He will play his usual games, and he’s also figured out how to access his list on Netflix. One morning, I came out and he was playing the iPad. He had been banned from the iPad for a few days, so I said, “Cullen, you know you’re not supposed to be playing the iPad.” Then, I noticed a couple of men walk through the backyard. “Gabe, there are men in the yard, and I don’t know what they are doing.” Cullen says, “They told me what they are doing!” Um, what? Yep, that’s right. Around 6:30am, the guys tasked with aerating our lawn knocked on the door and he answered it. By himself. When they asked where his parents were, he told them that his parents were sleeping. Within a couple of days, we had installed a double cylinder lock and keep the key out of reach. Cullen was an awesome superman for Halloween. He especially loved running to make his cape fly behind him (I didn’t break it to him that the cape didn’t really fly like he was envisioning). He ran out of steam before Maddie with trick or treating and was ready to return home. His class had a Halloween parade that morning…our last preschool fall parade! The parade was with all of the Children’s House classrooms, and Gabe counted at least 12 Elsas and 19 superheroes. Our kids didn’t exactly pick unique costumes this year. Cullen was sent home with a fever two days before Halloween, but thankfully he recovered quickly and didn’t have to miss all the fun! Cullen had two other opportunities to wear his Halloween costume. His Kindermusik class wore costumes on their class before Halloween, and he went to a costume party for one of his best buddies in preschool to celebrate his birthday. I love when the kids can get more wear out of their costumes! The fake muscles cracked me up. When he put on his costume the first time, he had trouble with the stiff upper part with the muscles. He said, “I need someone to help me with my bras!” Um, not exactly son. Cullen went with me to vote. He was excited to accompany me, and I explained the process to him. When we left, he said, “That’s it? That wasn’t very fun? Why did we do that?” And then after I explained how important it is and our civic duty and all that, he asked, “Did we win?” Cullen had several more Lego classes, and they finished up the session. Cullen went to another birthday party where he played mini golf and rode in a go-kart. Cullen loves music class, and he has a talent for it as well. They are learning all about different percussion instruments and rhythms. He’s doing pretty well with swimming and has a lot to learn. I’m curious to see how he does when we go to Great Wolf Lodge (soon!).

Something I am struggling with: You know, the usual. Writing these posts. It gets tedious when I neglect it for a month!

Something I’m looking forward to: In the next month or so…we have more swimming and music lessons. Thanksgiving. Great Wolf Lodge in Ohio and a trip to Kentucky. Dinners and lunches with friends. Book club. Doctor’s and dental appointments. Art camp and Lego technology camp for Maddie. Our annual holiday poker tournament. Putting up our Christmas tree and decorations! Sending our holiday cards! Annual Christmas date with Audrey. Disney on Ice for Maddie and me. Rudolph play for the family.

Something captured: Elsa and Superman

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.

The Sunday Somethings, 03aug14

Tuesday, 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!

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, 22jun14

Sunday, 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, 20apr14 and 13apr14

Tuesday, 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

Thursday, 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

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!

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

Monday, 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!

The Sunday Somethings, 06apr14

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Something that makes me happy: A good visit with family!

Something I’m thinking: I’m thinking I’m also happy about a great year of fundraising! It’s amazing to see all the support from family and friends once again.

Something I’m hoping: I’m hoping to get my thank you notes done soon. I’ve been emailing thanks the last few years, so I just need to get organized.

Something happening around the house: My parents and my sister and Chad came to visit all at once for Walk MS. This is the first time that we have had them both spend the night in our house. We borrowed a fancy air mattress from the neighbors, and that worked quite nicely. Brendon and Abby both spent the night, too. It was fun to see them interact. Abby was so happy to see Brendon!

Something I’m reading: I finished reading The Husband’s Secret, and I think we’ll have lots of good stuff to discuss at book club! I started reading I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe is still reading Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

Something I’m watching: Kentucky basketball!!! WOOHOO! We are looking forward to the championship game tomorrow. Will Kentucky win their 9th championship?

Something I’m playing: I’m still playing some Candy Crush. Maddie and Cullen played some boardgames tonight. They were excited. They played Zingo, Max the Cat, and Too Many Monkeys.

Something I’m creating: I’m still working on our cruise summaries.

Something about both kiddos: The kids had a lot of fun playing board games tonight. We have some work to do with their sportsmanship skills. They do get upset when something doesn’t go their way or they lose, and they tend to gloat a bit too much when they win. We need to carve out more game playing time! It’s great family time. We all had the Walk MS event yesterday. We didn’t bring any strollers (and couldn’t remember if we had last year). The kids walked the whole way, except for a short period that Cullen rode in our friends’ stroller. They did a lot of complaining for the mile route, so there was no way that we were going to try the 3 mile route! They had fun playing in the bouncy house area after the walk. They had a good time visiting with Nana and Papa this weekend (and Kristin and Chad yesterday). They introduced Nana and Papa to Frozen last night. Today, we dyed Easter eggs. Papa and Daddy hid them in the yard a couple of times for the kids to find. Then, this afternoon we went to the neighborhood egg hunt. It was a busy, fun weekend! Both kids have been getting themselves dressed each morning, and this has been a huge help to our morning routine. The changing weather each day makes this challenging as the kids put on long sleeves and need short sleeves or vice versa every other day.

Something Maddie is doing (6 years old): Maddie went to a birthday party for one of her favorite school friends yesterday. It was at a horse farm, and Maddie had a great time! I wasn’t sure if she would opt to ride the horse, but she did. She was very nervous, but she was excited (and she did it). I was proud of her. I was also happy to see how quickly she warmed up at the party. She went off running just about as fast as we arrived, which isn’t always the case with her. Gabe went to visit during lunch with her on Friday, and she enjoyed that. She had complained that *everyone* else’s parents had been to lunch with *their* kids (which I’m sure is totally not true). She had another gymnastics lesson this week, and that seems to be going well.

Something Cullen is doing (4 years old): Cullen has been working on his reading in the early phonics readers. He’s been working on short vowel sounds, and I’m really proud of him! Sometimes he throws out random guesses, but he’s starting to get better at making the sounds and putting it together to make the word. I feel like he’s catching up fast (though that still means slow, steady progress towards actually reading). He is really excited about reading, and he asks to read to me every night. It’s amazing to watch this process again! Cullen continues to give me directions on the way to school and the way home. He’s often right, but more importantly he has the “right” and “left” directions down now. Cullen was especially nervous about my parents’ dog Abby, but he did pet her a few times. He was nervous every time she came close to him.

Something I’m doing towards my goals: We raised nearly $5,000 for the National MS Society!

Something I’m looking forward to: This week we have the NCAA championship game to watch (GO CATS!), I have a musical (Wizard of Oz), Maddie has gymnastics, we have a “child led conference” at Maddie’s school, Maddie has picture day, I have a scrapbooking day, and we’re getting together with friends to decorate Easter cookies. We may have bike day for Cullen in the next week or two. Cullen also has picture day next week. Gabe’s parents are coming to visit for Easter.

Something captured: This year’s walk team