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The Sunday Somethings, 04dec11

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Something that makes me happy: The annual Christmas date with Audrey makes me very happy! This year, we went to brunch at the Umstead hotel and then to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I had seen them perform years ago. What an amazing show! I hope to do a write up about it soon.

Something I’m thinking: The blog has been neglected lately. We’ve been extremely busy with getting ready for the holidays and our cruise.

Something I’m hoping: I’m hoping that my family stays well between now and the end of the cruise. I’m paranoid about someone getting sick and missing the cruise.

Something happening around the house: Our annual poker tournament was on Saturday. Good times! The bonus room is still set up like a poker room with the chips as we left them late on Saturday.

Something I’m reading: I barely read this week, but I’m reading the 3rd book of the Percy Jackson series (on the kindle from the library!).

Something Gabe is reading: He’s almost finished with The Hero of Ages.

Something I’m watching: I went to see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 with girlfriends. Yes, the movies aren’t great, but they are fun. We did see the trailer for The Hunger Games. I cannot wait for that one!!! It better be good!

Something I’m playing: We introduced Die Burgen von Burgund to Melissa and Jason.

Something tasty: The brunch at Heron’s was YUMMY!

Something about both kiddos: The kids are very excited about Christmas lights on our way home from work each day. I am looking forward to showing them the crazy decorated house near us, closer to Christmas. I think they are going to love the decorations on the ship as well! Cullen is already saying, “I like Christmas lights on cruise ship.” He started saying that at random once I told him that we would find lights and decorations on the ship.

Something Maddie is doing (45 months old): Most people don’t see the side of Maddie where she talks NONSTOP, but wow. That girl talks continuously when she’s at home or in the car or anywhere when it’s just our family. I swear, she doesn’t stop unless she’s in the presence of others. We don’t get a lot of silence in this household. I can’t remember the last time that she took a nap at home. Every once in a while, she will fall asleep in the car on a long trip. She does pretty well with “quiet time,” which is more of a break for us than it is for her! The down time benefits everyone!

Something Cullen is doing (22 months old): We taught him our “other” names this week, and he answers that Mommy is “Kerry” and that Daddy is “Gabe.” I tried to teach him his last name, but instead of saying his real last name, he insists that his last name is “Brudder.” Ha! I tell him, no, that’s not right and tell him his real last name, and he says, “No! Brudder! Stop saying that!” We’ve been having lots of conversations lately. It should be interesting to spend a week with him on vacation and then another week for the holiday. I always notice big developmental changes when he spends extended time with us.

Something I am struggling with: I did something to my shoulder, and it hurts like crazy. I hope it is better soon.

Something I’m doing towards my goals: Somehow, I managed to get tickets to Les Miserables AND Wicked this week for dates next year. Woohoo! I’ve wanted to see both of those shows for a while. We’re also working on the arrangements for next year’s Disney trip!!! And…we’re getting ready to go on the cruise on the megaship.

Something I’m looking forward to: ALLURE OF THE SEAS!!!

Something captured: Lasers! Fire! Headbanging violinists!

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey

Accomplishing my goals

Monday, January 17th, 2011

I don’t really do resolutions or goals in the new year, but I thought it would be a good time to look over my goals list and see which ones might be feasible to accomplish this year. Below are some possibilities.

Organize a charity poker tournament – I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. I think perhaps I need to just start small and hold a tournament with my friends and family at my house rather than try for a tournament with hundreds of entrants. This is something I should really think about doing for this season’s Walk MS fundraising.

Run a 5k – I really want to do this this year. I had my sights set on a small 5k event in mid-May, but I’m thinking that a race in the fall will be more feasible. I can do this. My goal is to run the entire 5k.

Take a cake decorating class – Our first class was supposed to happen this past Monday. It was postponed due to the weather. Monday will be our first class now. I’m excited! I plan on making both Cullen and Maddie’s birthday cakes this year. Unfortunately, I’ll only have one session before I make Cullen’s cake. Hope that I can learn fast!

Take another CPR class – I’m actually signed up for a child and adult CPR class in a few months. I signed Gabe up for one later this year. My work is now offering quarterly free child and adult CPR classes. This is a nice benefit!

Take Gabe bowling – He’s NEVER been. I know, can you believe that? I think that this might be his year.

Try a cruise on a megaship – We are booked on Allure of the Seas later this year. I can’t wait!

Visit the Georgia Aquarium – This could happen this year, though it’s not usually a priority when we are in Atlanta. We’re usually there for a short period of time and have a lot of people to visit. Maybe we’ll make it to the aquarium during one of our visits this year…

Read all the Michael L. Printz Award winning books – I’m thinking about choosing two from the list. Since this is an ongoing award, that’s the only way that I’m going to make progress on the list!

Read all the Newbery Medal Award winning books – I’m also thinking about choosing two from this list. It’s also an ongoing award, of course, so I need to start making progress on it. This is a good place to go if I need filler books between my more serious reads. I think it would be nice to always read the current year’s book and choose one from the past. I don’t know if all of the books on the list stand the test of time or not.

Read Time Magazine’s 100 Best English-language novels (1923-2008) – I’m considering picking one from this list. I have so much to read, so we’ll see. Most of these are probably not as quick to read as the other two lists!

The Sunday Somethings, 12dec10

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I really debated just skipping this week, but I had things I wanted to make sure to write down about the kids and the goings on in our household….obviously, we’ve been busy!

Something that makes me happy: My annual Christmas date with Audrey Podrey. We had a wonderful time last night (yes, Wednesday) at Sitti and at the theater for the stage adaptation of A Christmas Story. I intend to write a review of each, as I have done after our past Christmas dates. We’ll see if that actually happens. Lately, I’ve had more blog posts in my head than on the actual blog.

Something I’m thinking: I’m using our hour delay from work this morning (due to the yucky winter weather overnight) wisely.

Something I’m hoping: I’m hoping to send out my holiday cards tomorrow by Saturday. I had my cards ordered so early this year, but then some corrections had to be made and it took an extra month to get them right (the delays were mostly my fault). You would think that I could get the cards out early this year.

Something happening around the house: This is the third time that we’ve had a dusting of snow on the ground already. This winter scares me. Gabe put up our outdoor decorations and spent quite a bit of time trying to find the bad bulbs in a long strand. I hear it was quite the frustrating process. We have some new lights this year, including a few bush nets that cover a couple of our bushes. Unfortunately, the bush lights are almost blue as they are LED lights and not the yellowish Christmas light white. I think it bothers both of us somewhat! I say we just go for the complete Griswold house and make sure that every bush is a different color (and blinking).

Something I’m reading: Umm…since I’m covering almost two weeks here, I’m finding it difficult to remember everything that happened. I finished The Secret History just in time for last week’s book club! Book club was great. We had an awesome turnout, and I enjoyed visiting with friends. I haven’t started my next book yet. I haven’t had time to do anything like that!

Something I’m watching: Maddie and I ran some errands last weekend. We were able to get a little shopping done, and I also picked up a collection of classic Christmas movies. We now have Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. I think Maddie is enjoying seeing the movies of the songs we’ve been singing! Hooray for classic holiday fun!

Something I’m playing: Ooh, we did get a chance to play Dominion with the new Prosperity expansion that we received as a gift. We also played poker for the first time since our last annual holiday tournament. Gabe and I both placed “in the money.” I think that’s the first time that we both placed in the same tournament.

Something tasty: I didn’t have many dairy free options at the Nordstrom’s cafe when we went to visit the mall Santa, but the sandwich that I had was yummy! It wasn’t something that I would have ordered without the dairy restrictions. I also made truffles for the teachers at school, though I can’t say for myself that they were tasty. I heard from Gabe and the teachers that they were yummy! Last night’s dinner at Sitti was also very good.

Something Maddie is doing (33 months old): Maddie and I made a gingerbread train together a few nights ago! That was a fun mommy/daughter project. Gabe thought it was funny, I think. We made a good effort, but it was a bit of a messy result. Maddie said, “it looks just like on the box! Look, they are both colorful! Ours is colorful like that one!” It was colorful, but that’s where the resemblance ended. Gabe took a photo of our train next to the one depicted on the box. It makes him laugh. Maddie did great with her Santa visit (last week, you know the week that we’re supposed to be covering with this set of somethings). She didn’t smile naturally either time, though the second take worked out much better. She asked Santa for a baby doll with hair and cars and even said, “please.” I was proud of my sweet little girl! Maddie is very into playing with her baby doll these days. She’s even getting good at getting her tricky outfit back on (and has been great at taking it off for a long time). I hear from her teachers that she can play at the baby doll station for an hour. She’s recently picked up on my habit (one of those that I didn’t know I had) of saying, “awwwww…” in too many situations. Once she started doing it, I realized how often I said it myself. It’s cute when she does it, and it now annoys myself when I do it! She uses it appropriately, like when someone gives her something (as in “awww, that was sweet, you didn’t have to do that!”) or when something is cute. She has been going to bed later and later (or rather, resisting sleep later and later). I think we’re going to have to start with a later bedtime and move it back slowly (like we had to do shortly after Cullen was born, at the pediatrician’s advice). She has been more aggressive towards Cullen lately, resulting in time outs for her. She has been very good about going to time out and then discussing what she did wrong and apologizing to the wronged party afterward. She has said some funny things lately, like the other day when Gabe brought her apple juice to have with her dinner. She said, “that was a good call, Daddy. Apple juice is a good call.” And at the poker table the other day, I asked Maddie who we like to see at the poker table and she said, “donkeys.” (yes, I taught her that). I asked her if she saw any donkeys at the poker table, and without skipping a beat, she pointed at her daddy and said, “Gabe.” Too funny!

Something Cullen is doing (46 weeks old): Cullen visited Santa for the first time. He wasn’t smiley in the photos as he decided to go for the serious look. I was surprised that he took everything so well! He didn’t seem to mind sitting on Santa’s lap and was very calm. Cullen has had some rough nights since my last somethings, but I guess what else is new? We have made a few more trips to the doctor. One night while Gabe was still out of town, Cullen screamed so much that I figured something must really be wrong. I thought maybe he needed to have better reflux meds. They weren’t comfortable with giving him more reflux meds. We did find out that he gained a pound and a half in a month, which was a factor in them not wanting to give him more reflux meds. The weight gain was good, at least. His nights continue to be bad. We stopped his reflux medication altogether and plan to reintroduce dairy again (into my diet) in a few weeks. It’s hard to know what pieces of the puzzle were really helping him since we started the reflux medication and stopped the dairy at the same time. On our second visit, the pediatrician has come to the conclusion that he’s possibly a really awful teether (it is true that all of this started around the same time that he started getting teeth) and/or he is overtired. It’s a constant guessing game! Meanwhile, I could really use some more sleep. On the plus side, one of the suggestions that the pediatrician made was to co-sleep a larger portion of the night (though at the time, I’m not sure she realized how much Cullen is really in the bed at night). It was nice to know that the pediatrician was supportive and not trying to get us to Ferberize. In more positive news, Cullen started saying, “ball.” It seemed like coincidence the first few times, but he consistently referred to the ball as “ba” and was having a great time throwing it around. I guess you can say his first word is “ball!” He has been saying “mama” and “dada” while referring to us more consistently, but I’m not sure whether those really count as words or not. Cullen has also started pointing, sometimes, for things that he wants. He did this for the first time at the breakfast table the other day when he ran out of Chex. Chex are his current favorite cereal. He prefers them over Kix (which he prefers over Cheerios). He’s pulling up on everything and loves to stand. He’s cruising along the couch, when he gets a chance.

Something I am struggling with: I struggled with putting the kids to bed while Gabe was out of town. Two of the nights were particularly bad! I was so happy to have him back home.

Something I’m doing towards my goals: I signed up for a cake decorating class! I’m excited about it and hope to be able to try out my new skills on the kids’ birthday cakes next year. The class starts in January and is four sessions. I’ll have taken half of them by the time Cullen’s birthday rolls around. I have been setting mini goals for myself each night, but I haven’t been completely successful every time. My biggest goal right now is to get those holiday cards done.

Something I learned: I learned that putting together a gingerbread house (or train) is a little trickier than it would seem! Also, I learned that I should have assembled the “house” and waited a day to put on the candy. My train was not very stable! Maddie wasn’t able to put the candy on the house by herself since it was about to fall over. She did tell me where to place things. Next time, I’ll make sure the “house” is sturdy before we start decorating. It seems pretty sturdy now, a few days later!

Something I’m looking forward to: Well, since it is now late Thursday evening and the next Somethings are in just a few days, we don’t have much planned between now and then. I am looking forward to both classroom holiday parties. They are both tomorrow.

Something random: My low tire pressure indicator came on in the car again on Tuesday. I thought that it was just cold and thought about ignoring it and asking Gabe to check the tires later that night. Something made me check the pressure and take it across the street to the tire place. I tried to wave someone down from the parking lot as I didn’t want to unload the kiddos if I could help it. They asked me to pull up to the garage, and then they got someone to pull the car all the way into the garage (with my kiddos in the back, so that was a little odd for me). They checked each tire and filled it to the proper tire pressure. The tires were all pretty low, but the lowest one was 28 psi when I checked it. It had already dropped to 26 psi. I can’t believe how lucky it is that I had checked that tire’s pressure (and only that tire’s pressure) before heading to the service station. I told the guy that the pressure had dropped pretty rapidly, so he looked for a nail. Sure enough, we had a nail in the tire. They fixed it for free! I felt pretty lucky to have the tire pressure indicator in the car, to have checked the tire pressure and take it to the service station and that I checked the tire that was going flat! I’m glad that we didn’t have a flat on the interstate on the way home. Whew!

Something captured: It’s hard to get photos of the two of them together these days.

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey

Poker aboard Grandeur of the Seas

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

On the first night on our cruise, we decided that we would split the night and each of us would attend something by ourselves. I was going to go to the Finish the Lyrics game show and Gabe was going to attend the comedy show. We were each going to spend a little time in the casino playing video poker.

So the first part of the evening was mine. Gabe was trying to get Maddie to sleep in the pack-n-play, and I headed to the casino. Almost immediately, they made an announcement that the poker table has open seating and the game was $1-2 no limit! I did what either of us would do when hearing the announcement and headed directly to the poker table. I was excited, and I knew Gabe was going to be excited when I came back and told him that instead of going to the comedy show he’ll probably want to play poker!

Our Alaskan cruise was never able to get together a poker game. The demographics were a bit different with less potential for a Hold’em crowd. This cruise had *just enough* players to keep a game going in the evening hours past 8 or 9pm. Aside from the interchangeable Gabe and me, the table consisted of pretty much the same 5 people plus one or two strangers at any given moment.

We had not planned on bringing a poker bankroll on this trip. Our random gambling budget is a bit different than a poker budget. One needs money to make money when it comes to poker. Fortunately, everyone, with the exception of one or two young hotshot players, was buying in for the minimum of $100. I don’t mind playing a shorter stack (when everyone else is short-stacked). I tend to do better this way than I do with a large stack, and the lower risk suits me when I am on a tight budget.

I was ecstatic to be playing “casino poker,” even if it wasn’t an ideal game. All of the players were more or less like us. They seemed to know what they were doing and had spent a decent amount of time playing live casino poker whether it was in Vegas, Atlantic City, or Connecticut. Almost everyone at the table knew more than most of the dealers since this cruise was the first time that they had offered hold’em. They made a few mistakes, but the table was quick to correct them. I cut them some slack, knowing that they did not have much experience dealing.

While Gabe and I collectively came out ahead, it was not a good money making table. On my first night, I cashed out $26 richer. Gabe played the second night, and he lost $26. So we were even on the first two nights. On the third night, the casino was closed since we were in port in Bermuda.

The fourth night was mine, and it was awesome. One of the young hotshot players was a few spots to my right, and he was bullying the table. I was annoyed that he kept raising my blinds, but I waited for the right moment. I limped in with pocket 8s under the gun, and he made a small raise from the button. I called as did several others.

The flop came 88J. Holy crap. I tried to keep my composure. I checked. Bully bet, and I smooth called. I think everyone else folded, though we may have had one caller on the flop. Turn comes, and I check and he bets again. I just called. I knew he was going to stab at it every time. Same thing on the river, except this time I obviously went for the check-raise. He bet $25, and I decided that $50 (total of $75) was a good raise. It was. He declared, “I don’t believe you” and called. Mission. Accomplished. I loved the reaction from the table when I turned over my quad 8s.

The funniest part is that a few hands later, he almost was caught in a similar situation. I had AK, and he was again in the hand. He was still bullying and raised preflop. I just called. Flop comes AAQ. He bets, I call. Turn comes and it creates a flush draw, so I bet out and he thought about it and folded. I still took down a decent pot from the preflop and flop action. I didn’t let him know what I had, of course, but I laughed on the inside. I have been in this situation many times before, and it’s rare for the right cards to come out to take advantage of this type of bully. You really have to pick your moments (or hope you can bully him at the right time). This time I waited for strong cards, and I can’t believe I got them!

I cashed out that session $230 richer. I forgot how much I love playing this game (of course, quad 8s never hurts and getting paid for them is fabulous).

We were walking around with Maddie on the last night, trying to get her to sleep in the sling. Gabe urged me to play for an hour while he gets her to sleep, and then he played for the rest of the night (he could stay out much later than me since he didn’t need to be in the room when Maddie woke up to join us).

This night didn’t go so well. I ended up in a hand against the type of player that I hate to play against. I don’t get intimidated often, but some players I do dread getting into a hand with. I raised preflop with a decent hand but completely missed the flop. I threw out a few continuation bets and then gave up on the hand. Lost about half of my stack on that mistake. I ended up losing around $60 or $70 and wished either I hadn’t played or that I had more time to redeem myself! Gabe didn’t have much better luck when he picked up where I left off. He ended up “cashing out the easy way” by losing his buy-in. Oh well. Overall, we were still slightly profitable! And we both had a great time playing poker after not being able to do it for so long.

We knew better than to play in the tournament on the cruise, and I’m glad that we avoided it. First of all, I hate that the tournament is structured as a shoot-out. Theoretically, they have 7 tables of 7 people each. Each table can play at a different time as every table plays down to exactly one player. Then all of the champs from each table play at the final table. Considering that a heads up match is such a crapshoot, I prefer to not need to do that more than once in a tournament! It’s just not my type of tournament. Plus, we had heard from players on the other cruise that the payouts are horrible. They were again on this cruise. Only 14 people played, so I think they may not have played shootout style. They only paid the top 2, despite the fliers saying they would pay at least the top 3. At least 25% of the prize pool went directly to the house, maybe more.

The guy who got 3rd place made his fair share of rants about the tournament. He ranted quite a bit on the last night, so both Gabe and I got an earful. He was angry about the tournament payouts. He was angry about the dealers in the cash game. He was angry about Royal Caribbean in general and swore to never cruise with them again. He claimed that he inquired about the poker on the cruise before booking, and they mislead him. He had a lot of complaints.

My thoughts are that you do NOT book a Royal Caribbean cruise if your goal is to play poker! First of all, you’re not going up against that many people who are just playing poker to gamble. You’re going up against people like us who are at least semi-serious about it and know what they are doing. The house takes a staggering 10% rake. The game is played on a modified blackjack table with a maximum of 7 people. There are so many reasons that poker is not optimal for poker players on this cruise. I doubt that it varies that much on the standard cruises, though maybe you’d have better luck on a larger ship.

The tournaments are pretty crappy and they were horrible about giving information about payouts and structure. We learned this on our last cruise, and that’s one of the reasons we declined to play. They lacked information beforehand. They either know it is a horrible deal and are intentionally withholding information from the players in the hopes that they will play or they don’t realize that most of their customers are people who actually play poker. This isn’t a slot tournament where everyone is just playing to gamble. Poker is a different beast. I think that the issue is that they just don’t realize this fact, though it may also be a lack of organization as well.

I’m happy we played. My expectations were exceeded in that I didn’t even expect any hold’em tables to be running during our cruise. I knew not to expect any more than that from a cruise ship!

Bottom line: If you want to play poker, go to a real casino. If you want to get a little poker fix, sit down and lower your expectations.

The Sunday Somethings, June 21

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

I’m writing this one a few days early as we should be in Cincinnati enjoying the baseball game today!

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey

Something that made me smile this week: We put up one of the things that we got from Catherine on our wall this week. It’s a 20″x20″ collage of photos of Maddie from her first year. I love it!

Something I’m thinking: I’m thinking that I need to start soliciting item donations for the yardsale(s) that we are having later this year to benefit the National MS Society. We are having one in August and one in October, I think…

Something I am hoping: I’m hoping we get a lot of donations! Have I mentioned that your donations will be tax deductible? Instead of bagging up your items and taking them to goodwill, take them to us! I can give you a receipt. We’ll even come and pick up items, if you prefer!

Something happening around the house: We hosted our first poker game in a while. Gabe didn’t get to play as he entertained some extra guests, and I was out of the tournament before Maddie was in bed. At least Gabe saw my graceful exit with my pocket Aces and agreed there wasn’t anything I could have done!

Something I’m reading: I finished Kira-Kira and enjoyed it. It was a very quick read. I plan to take Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella to Cincinnati, though I’m not sure why I keep reading Kinsella. I like it well enough, I guess, but all of her characters are all the same and I can’t identify with them for the most part.

Something tasty I ate this week: I tried using the food processor to finely chop broccoli and sneak it into spaghetti sauce. It wasn’t too bad, but next time I think I’ll steam the broccoli first. That would have probably been better. I am not sure if this qualifies as “something tasty” exactly, but it wasn’t bad.

Something Maddie did this week: She went to the doctor where we discovered her ear infection had not responded to antibiotics. It looked really bad on Wednesday, and we’re hoping that the antibiotics have time to work somewhat before our flight to Cincinnati (which by the time you’re reading this should have already happened).

Something I struggled with this week: This week was busy – I struggled with getting everything done that needed to be done including packing for the Cincinnati trip. It’s challenging to bring everything we think we might need with Maddie while trying to pack light!

Something I’m doing towards my goals: We watched a few more episodes of Dollhouse and have just two left! I finished Kira-Kira on the Newbery Award Winners list. I also checked out a few more winners from the library. Oh, and our will is officially completed!

Something I learned this week: I learned that Maddie’s antibiotic didn’t work, and that we may need to get tubes for her. We’re talking to an ENT soon.

Something I’m looking forward to next week: It’s hard to say what I’m looking forward to the most this week. It will be an eventful week.

Something random: After I give Maddie a bath, I often have a nice bubble bath. In the past month, I have started reading in the bath! This is a first for me, and I love it. Surprisingly, my books have not been in danger. I have always thought that it would be a risky maneuver, but having beat up library books helped get over my fears.

Something I captured: We got our 2008 photobooks this week! We’re forming quite the collection of our books – I love how they are looking together on the shelf!!

The Sunday Somethings, June 14

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Others writing The Sunday Somethings: Audrey

Something that made me smile this week: Maddie always does so many things that make me smile, even during a week when she was sick and cranky. Friday, the Itty Bitty Beach Party made me smile. It was so cute seeing Maddie and her buddy Keira together, plus Maddie LOVED playing in the water! She was so excited.

Something I’m thinking: How do people manage multiple kids who get sick as often as Maddie has been sick?? I feel like Gabe and I have to miss quite a bit of work to take care of her, and we just have one kid.

Something I am hoping: I’m hoping that somehow Gabe and I can both play in our poker game this week! Someone will have to tend to Maddie until she goes to bed, so this might not be a possibility.

Something happening around the house: As usual, it’s a big mess. I guess we better get things cleaned up before poker on Wednesday.

Something I’m reading: I did a good bit of reading this week, though they were all pretty easy reads. I finished Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella, which I had barely started while in Davidson last weekend. I started and finished Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for June’s book club. Can you believe I never read it as a kid? I wish that I had so I could compare my thoughts on the book. I started and finished Picking Cotton for July’s book club. I also started Kira-Kira which I’ve had checked out from the library for a little while now. It’s on the Newbury Award Winners list as part of my reading goals.

Something tasty I ate this week: I haven’t actually eaten it yet, but I’m looking forward to the pot roast that has been simmering in the slow cooker all day. We are using veggies from this week’s Produce Box.

Something Maddie did this week: Maddie slept an amazing 10 consecutive hours last Sunday night. As for the rest of the week, she had a fever for several days and likely had a painful ear infection for 3-4 days as well. Most nights, she spent over 5 hours in the crib with one 7 hour night and one 8 hour night. Her ‘bad’ nights are now about 5 hours which indicates considerable progress! Dare I say we have hope??

Something I struggled with this week: We did struggle with Maddie getting sick this week. We took her to the doctor on Tuesday for a fever and were given no explanation. She was diagnosed with an ear infection on Friday after an absolutely miserable night (but no fever). We knew something was wrong, and I’m glad we took her to the doctor! We felt like she had the ear infection on Tuesday as the intern thought she saw something. It’s frustrating to think that we could have started her on the antibiotic much earlier and avoided extra pain for our little girl.

Something I’m doing towards my goals: We watched two episodes of Dollhouse earlier this week, though we would have watched more. While Maddie was sleeping longer, she was increasingly more difficult to put to bed. She didn’t allow us much time between her bedtime and our bedtime to watch anything. I also was able to mark Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret off of the Best 100 books list and started Kira-Kira which is on the Newbury Award winners list. I also managed to finish both of my 2008 photobooks in time to take advantage of several Shutterfly sales and offers. Woohoo!

Something I learned this week: I learned how to geocache! Our division did a geocaching team building event.

Something I’m looking forward to next week: I’m looking forward to our poker game and our trip to Cincinnati.

Something random: Maddie’s favorite book right now is Alaska’s ABC Bears, a gift from Grandma and Grandpa from their Alaskan cruise.

Something I captured: Keira is giving Maddie a loving, gentle pat on the shoulder. They are too cute together.

Bermuda Cruise, Day 4, part 3, back on the ship

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

We had to wait in a little bit of a line to get back onto the ship. It didn’t take too long. Once we were back on the ship, we took our showers and changed into our dinner clothes (though we had plenty of time until dinner). We gave Maddie another bath in the shower, and she hated it, again. We definitely like to bathe her on the days that we put sunscreen on her.

Since Maddie did not nap for too long earlier in the day, we put her in the stroller and tried to get her to nap some more before dinner. We walked around the ship quite a bit as we left the port and watched our last few views of Kings Wharf and other parts of Bermuda.

Our time in Bermuda was so short, but we were happy with what we were able to see. If we had another day, we would have visited Hamilton. We might have collected some sea glass. Several others from our Cruise Critic board talked about the glass that they collected, and it sounded neat.

We walked a ton during our trip. Maddie loves the stroller, but she also requires you to keep moving. We enjoyed strolling on the 5th deck since we could make a complete loop most days and it was shaded. The only problem with Deck 5 is that it could be quite windy when we were at sea! Deck 10 also had a loop (which is about a quarter mile, who knows how many times we completed that loop and the one on Deck 5 which is longer!).

After we took in the sail away views, we headed to Rock ‘n Roll Name That Tune trivia. We had a pretty good idea that the songs were all going to be from the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately, this was the case. In fact, we’re almost positive that the songs were identical to the ones that we had on the last cruise. The repeat performances that we experienced on the cruise were disappointing. The good part is that we didn’t feel like we were missing much when Maddie prevented us from participating in an activity! Maddie woke up during the trivia game, and we headed to the Solarium for a snack. They always had hamburgers, pizza, and fries in the Solarium.

Between trivia and dinner, we let Maddie run around the decks and walk down the hallways. She had a great time and continued to make friends everywhere she went. Nobody ever called her a boy when she was walking around in a dress, but we got it frequently when she was in her stroller and it didn’t seem to matter what she was wearing.

We had the best dinner on the cruise this night, perhaps because she had a nap closer to dinnertime. She was entertained with stickers, Touchy Feely books, and crayons. She made it more than halfway through the entree. This was the only night that Annabelle didn’t make it through the entire meal. Funny that Maddie’s best day was Annabelle’s worst (though I must say that Annabelle was still content to be at the table, she just didn’t want to sit in her high chair).

After dinner, we went to see the sunset and had just missed it again. Maddie didn’t care, she had the most fun of the cruise running around on the decks and shrieking. This was definitely one of my favorite memories from the cruise. She was so happy! A couple of older kids were playing on the decks, and she thought they were hilarious.

We took some video and a bunch of photos. Maddie had the time of her life.

After playing on the deck for a bit, we headed back to the room to change Maddie into her pajamas and put her into the carrier. We tried to go to the show, but Maddie wasn’t quite ready to sleep and started to get fussy. Gabe walked Maddie around until she slept and urged me to start playing poker. The last night that he played, he had to wait at least 30 minutes for a spot at the table. Since only one spot was left after we cut through the casino, I sat down and started playing.

Maddie fell asleep soon afterward, and Gabe was able to successfully transfer her to the pack-n-play. He did some reading while I was playing poker. A house phone was just a few steps away from the poker table, so I checked in with Gabe to ensure that Maddie was still sleeping every 30 minutes or so.

I had a great night playing poker and ended up profiting $229. Not too shabby! I was thrilled. I plan to write more about my poker experiences in a separate post, as I mentioned previously.

While I was in the casino, I took advantage of the deal that allowed $30 in chips for $20. The cashier claimed that I could use the chips at the poker table, but I wasn’t surprised when the dealer said that they were invalid. I ended up using half of it on the roulette table and the other half on the craps table. I really enjoyed playing the other table games! It didn’t hurt that I made money doing it, about $40 total profit. Overall, I ended up with about $260 in profit (after I blew $10 on a random slot machine). Maddie was still sleeping when I got back, and Gabe was excited about all of my profits!

Bermuda Cruise – Day 2, At Sea

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Day 2 was our first full day on the ship. I love sea days! We can always find plenty of activities to try, though we didn’t take full advantage on this trip. We adjusted our clocks during the night one hour forward. I had planned to go to the playgroup at 9am, but we found that our alarm had not been set properly. We woke at 8:45am, and I rushed to get ready and make it to the playgroup.

I’ll write more about the Royal Babies and Royal Tots programs in a separate post, but we did manage to join three other babies: Annabelle (9 months), Eddie (9 months), and Joey (11 months). Maddie mostly sat on my lap and watched the other babies. Considering she was the only one walking in the bunch, she may have enjoyed the older group more. They provided animal toys which were cute.

After the playgroup, we headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. We ran into one of the Cruise Critic couples that we were planning to meet later in the day. The breakfast buffet was good, but we still prefer the breakfast in the dining room.

We went to the stroller walk at 11am where we saw Eddie’s family again. We didn’t realize that the stroller walk was an actual workout. The same person who ran the playgroups headed up the stroller “run.” She urged us to go “as fast as possible” and that it was a sort of race. We had no problems letting Eddie’s family win the race. Whew, that was hard work!

Gabe headed to his hot rocks massage while Maddie and I spent some time together. We explored a bit and then went to lunch in the dining room. We joined a nice family – a young woman who is working on her PhD in psychology and her parents. They were great tablemates, and I enjoyed the social lunch since we had nobody sitting with us at dinner the previous night. Gabe joined us at the end of the meal, and we headed to the poolside to get lunch for him. He loved his hot stones massage (my lunch buddies agreed that a massage involving rocks is more manly). We caught part of Tribond Trivia, but we didn’t get a chance to play along. Mostly, we heard the recap and the answers at the end.

We then tried to get Maddie to nap before our Cruise Critic meeting, but she did not play along. We walked around the ship quite a bit. We had a bit of confusion on where to meet our Cruise Critic bunch, and the mix-up resulted in only meeting one other couple. The forum had indicated that we should meet in the Crown & Anchor Lounge, but some people interpreted it as the Viking Crown Lounge. The other couple checked both places, but we didn’t see anyone obviously looking to meet with people.

The other couple was very nice, and we decided to grab some drinks in the Viking Crown Lounge. They also had a 15-month old who they had left at home this time. Maddie fell asleep about the time that we met up with them, and she slept through our meeting. I think that the movement of the boat was good for her at naps and bedtime. I don’t think that we spent any time in the Viking Crown Lounge last cruise. It’s a nice, quiet place to grab a drink and has nice views of the 10th deck (and the ocean, of course). Every time we went there on this cruise, it was almost empty. I hear that it becomes a dance club after 10pm, but we weren’t really interested in finding out much about that.

The ship was rocking quite a bit on this day. When we were in the Windjammer for breakfast, we couldn’t believe how much the horizon was moving up and down. It was a bit crazy, but it didn’t bother any of us. Maddie seemed to notice that things were different. It didn’t take her long to find her sea legs. I found that I liked the motion of the ship, especially at night when I was trying to sleep. I will say that I had heard that you don’t feel the motion on the big ships. I have not found this to be true on the two cruises that I have taken. I have felt the ship’s motions even when we’re docked, but I might not be the best person to ask as I feel it when we’re on land for a few days afterward, too. Ha!

After our meeting in the Viking Crown Lounge, we saw the tail end of the Name That Tune trivia (Movie themes). We didn’t get to play again, but we did hear the recap and answers. It was fun to guess at them real quick before people blurted out the answers. Maddie woke from her nap and was a bit restless, so we didn’t stick around long. We hoped that she would take another nap, but it wasn’t meant to be.

We went to the Crayola Beginnings session instead. Maddie was the only baby at this arts session for Royal Babies and Royal Tots. We played with crayons and stamps and decorated a butterfly. Maddie seemed to enjoy it. The same woman who did the playgroups does all of the infant and toddler sessions. She read Maddie a story, and we went to get dressed and have our photos made.

Maddie didn’t exactly want to cooperate with the photo sessions, but she did pretty well. She was a bit squirmy and refused to smile for the photos, but we ended up with some decent photos. It was difficult for us to decide. We had our photo made in front of most of the backdrops (we learned later that we missed a few nice ones!). We hoped that the stairs photo would be good of the three of us, but the plain blue background turned out to be the best. We had a very nice stairs photo made of us on the last cruise.

The stairs were different in the Centrum area on this cruise. I think our last cruise had a more winding staircase while this one just had a shorter staircase up to the elevator area. Maybe the other staircase was better for sitting poses. I’m not sure that would have worked with Maddie, anyway.

After photos, we let Maddie run around on the decks. She really loves the decks. I have no idea what it is that makes her so happy, but she loves it. I hope that she’s just as thrilled about running on the decks in the fall. She looked like a little sugarplum fairy and received a ton of compliments tonight.

We were so excited that we were seated at a new table for dinner this night. We were a little nervous to switch tables as we were afraid that we would get seated at a table with baby-hating people. Our fears were unfounded. We sat at a table with a couple who had been married for over 60 years and their daughter and husband. They are great-grandparents and grandparents to a 3-year old that they see often. They absolutely loved Maddie! The other two ladies at our table had been friends for over 40 years and go cruising together without their husbands from time to time. They were a lot of fun. Everyone was very understanding about having a toddler at the table (not to mention that we removed her from the dining room each night before she got out of hand). We were very courteous of other dinner guests and knew when we needed to take her out of the dining room for a change of scenery.

Tonight, Gabe and I both had the filet for our entree, which I think was my favorite entree of the cruise. The steak was very good. Maddie enjoyed her first of four cold fruit soups, a tasty pear soup. She loved it! She also had a fruit plate, pizza, broccoli, carrots and bread. She hasn’t been eating pizza when we offer it to her lately. I’m not sure why she’s not interested in pizza! She did eat a little bit of everything else. The waitstaff was accommodating of her needs, though they usually brought way more than she could possibly eat!

After dinner, we went back to the room to change our clothes and put Maddie in her jammies. We put Maddie in the sling on me. We tried to go to the “Broadway” show, but Maddie wasn’t interested. We just walked around the ship a bit instead. Once she was sleeping, we went up to the Viking Crown Lounge where we had drinks and some sort of trail mix snack. Maddie peacefully slept in the Ergo while I enjoyed my favorite non-alcoholic mixed drink, Papaya Crush. I remembered the drink from last time and had had it in the Viking Crown Lounge earlier in the day. The waiter remembered our drink orders from then.

We then went back to try to put Maddie in the pack-n-play, but the transition was a complete disaster. We tried to get her to sleep in the bed, but she wanted to climb off the bed and was very restless. I told Gabe to go ahead and go to the casino, but I had to wrestle with her for the next hour or so until she (and I) fell asleep. I was so tired! Gabe played poker until quite late. We were both excited to play live poker again. After the first two nights, we were exactly even on poker (I gained $26 the first night, he lost $26 the second night). We can’t complain about ending up even!

Bermuda Cruise – Day 1, Embarkation

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

We were extremely relieved to be on board the Grandeur of the Seas. We met the coordinator for the Royal Babies (6-18 months) and Royal Tots (18-36 months) programs. She was very nice. She was from the Ukraine, young, and had a master’s degree in education. We met with her several times throughout the trip.

We noticed similarities right away between the Grandeur of the Seas and the ship we had sailed on previously, Vision of the Seas. They are both in the Vision class of ships and have very similar deck plans. We already felt like we knew our way around the ship. This was nice, but we are both looking forward to sailing on a completely different ship in the fall. We found our stateroom, 4061, and discovered that the beds had not been pushed together. We also did not have the pack-n-play that we had requested or a child’s life vest. We went to the purser’s desk to request these three changes. Our stateroom was definitely smaller than the one we had on the Vision of the Seas. We had an interior stateroom this time (last time we had an oceanview). We had just enough space, and we were still impressed with the efficiency of the space. I will probably write up a more detailed review of the Grandeur of the Seas in a separate post.

We had decided to get spa treatments on the cruise, and I had heard that slots can book quickly. We booked our spa sessions. I booked a regular massage for 4:30pm on that day, and Gabe booked a hot stones massage for the following day. It had been a while since I had a massage, so I was quite excited! I was also glad that Gabe decided to give it a try. He had never had a professional massage, so I knew this would be quite a treat for him!

At this point, it was about 1pm, so we headed to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. Maddie ate a decent lunch but especially enjoyed the fruit tart. She was so cute eating it and got it all over her nose and face. She thought this was hilarious.

We had many people mistake Maddie for a boy on this day. I figured that it was because she was wearing blue. Most of the time, it happened while she was in the stroller. I figured they saw the red stroller and blue clothing and assumed boy. This continued throughout the cruise, even when she was wearing pink and frilly dresses! Again, it mostly happened when she was in the stroller, but it was still somewhat surprising to us. Many times, we would encounter an older couple and the woman would make the mistake. Her husband would correct her, saying things like, “um, I think she’s a girl. She’s wearing a dress.” It’s not a huge deal – I’d always find a way to work in the feminine pronouns, but I am just surprised that it happened so much. I guess that people assume that babies are boys unless they have long hair??

After dinner, it was time for Maddie’s nap, so we took a stroll around the decks. Gabe ordered his second beer for the cruise – we’re officially on vacation! Maddie fell asleep in the stroller. We kept moving while she was asleep since we knew she needed her nap! Later in the trip, we discovered that she would sleep in the stroller even when we weren’t moving, as long as there weren’t too many distractions. She definitely has a better chance of staying asleep if we keep moving.

Maddie was still sleeping when it was time for our muster drill. We grabbed our life jackets and hoped that they wouldn’t require us to take Maddie out of the stroller. Thankfully, she was able to snooze during most of the drill. She was barely bothered by the test sirens. She woke up when the horn was sounding, but she quickly went back to sleep. It’s good to be a baby.

Maddie woke up towards the end of the Muster drill. I went back to the room to return the life jackets, and we made a plan to meet on Deck 10 where we were going to try to get Maddie to sleep a bit more. We knew we could walk in a loop on that deck based on our memory from the other cruise. Plus, we thought it would be a good place to watch Norfolk disappear into the horizon. When I got to the room, I decided to do some unpacking. I just love the way that the space is organized in the staterooms. I’m not usually the type to unpack on a vacation, but I think it’s critical for cruising. We ran into another family who commented towards the end of the trip that they were tired of tripping over suitcases. I was shocked that they had not unpacked anything! I don’t think we would have been able to survive in the tiny room otherwise! We were able to put our suitcases away in the closet, nesting them where possible.

By the time I got to deck 10, it had started to rain for a few minutes. I couldn’t find Gabe and Maddie, and it was about time for me to head to my massage. I didn’t have time to look for them or see our departure, but I wasn’t too disappointed to head to my massage appointment. This was the first time we made the mistake of not having a detailed plan. We wished that we had pagers or walkie talkies on this trip! Plus, it would have helped if we both had watches since our cell phones were not available as time keepers.

My massage was wonderful. The masseuse used just the right amount of pressure, and it was very relaxing. I had so many knots in my back due to all the stress in the past few weeks as well as the usual hunching over my work keyboard. A few times, I had to giggle. I’m just a tad ticklish in spots. Overall, it was awesome. I also enjoyed the cucumber/strawberry water. Refreshing!

I met Gabe and Maddie in our stateroom just in time to head to dinner. We were very disappointed (especially me) to be seated at a table by ourselves. One of my favorite parts of the last cruise was getting to know our tablemates. I was looking forward to seeing what kind of people we would have at our table for this trip. We also wanted to have tablemates so that we would have company whenever one of us has to leave the table with Maddie. We knew the two hour meals would be too long for her. We asked several of the waiters if they could transfer us to a new table with other guests for the following night, but they weren’t sure what they were going to be able to do. We had initially been on the waiting list for the main seating, and that seating is quite popular. Dinner was very tasty, and Maddie made it through the entree. I had some kind of onion and cheese tart as my appetizer which was probably one of my favorites from the cruise. I liked it so much that I requested a second one! My entree was pork medallions followed by a peach/blueberry cobbler. Everything was great. Gabe had a caesar salad, prime rib, and the same cobbler. He later told me that his prime rib wasn’t great – too bad he didn’t tell me this until after I had ordered one a few dinners later.

After dinner, we went for a stroll on the deck. We hoped that Maddie might fall asleep, but we decided it was too cold and windy. Plus, she was showing no signs of sleep at this point. We went to the Welcome Show. Turns out that our cruise and activities directors are the same ones that we had on the Vision of the Seas. What are the odds of that? John Blair and his wife Katrina were on board with their vibrant enthusiasm. They are definitely good at what they do. They fit the bill for cruise entertainers, that’s for sure! We were a little disappointed that the welcome show was a repeat of the one we saw on the Vision. Turns out that the cruise had many more similarities than just the deck plans. We were surprised given how many people are repeat cruisers. The good part about this is that we didn’t feel like we missed as much as we might have if we had never cruised before Maddie.

Some nice man had given up his seat for us, near the back of the theatre. The seating in the back is in the form of love seats, which was perfect for our little family. Maddie was pretty happy for a good portion of the show. She thought it was funny when everyone laughed at the jokes onstage. She started to get a little fussy after about 20-30 minutes, so we had to leave.

We had a plan for me to go and see the Finish the Lyrics gameshow while Gabe tried to get Maddie to sleep. Then, I would come back to tend to Maddie while he went to the comedy show. We both would have a little bit of time to play some video poker or slots in the casino. Good, solid plan. Then, I walked into the casino and they were paging people to come and play $1-2 No Limit Texas Hold’em. Open seats, right now! I did exactly what I felt Gabe would have done…walked right over, and plunked down my $100 buy-in. I was excited to play real casino poker again, and I knew Gabe would be forgoing his plans to go to the comedy show!

Gabe appeared a little while later with Maddie sleeping in the Ergo carrier. He had a rough time getting her to sleep in the pack-n-play when I left, so he tried the sling in desperation. It worked, and we would use this method in the coming days to get her to sleep at night. Gabe stood and watched me play until the pit boss kicked him out of the casino. Obviously, we were corrupting the sleeping baby…babies aren’t allowed in casinos! He went back to the room and was able to transfer Maddie successfully to the pack-n-play. I called a little bit later, and he urged me to keep playing. I promised he could play tomorrow night.

I’ll probably post more details about the poker separately. I cashed out $26 richer – nothing to get too excited about, but I’ll always take a winning session. You won’t hear me complaining! It was so much fun. I had forgotten how much I love playing the poker! I went back to the room shortly after 11pm or so as I didn’t want to chance getting back after Maddie wakes.

Atlantic City Trip Report

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

The Atlantic City Poker trip report has been updated. For those of you who don’t want to make the extra click, I’ve copied the text here.

Gabe and I decided we wanted to get in one more poker trip before having the baby, so we decided to go to Atlantic City for the weekend. Due to the flight itineraries and prices and the hotel prices, we decided to leave on Saturday morning and return Sunday night. We invited others in the poker group to join us, and Brad decided to join us from the Raleigh area. Clint met us in Atlantic City since he lives in New Jersey now.
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