Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Addition to our Family...

I have to admit when I held Griffin in the hospital just hours after he was born, I remember thinking, "This cannot be the last time I hold a newborn. I'm not done with babies."

And then the fighting came. The reminder of sleepless nights. The potty training. The poop seemingly EVERYWHERE.

With time ... and lots of it .... most of that went away. I felt somewhat human again. And although my bathrooms always have a 'boy urine' smell to them, I realize that it will likely always remain that way unless I have my own child-free special room and bathroom built for me like Clair Huxtable did in The Cosby show.

Life has it's own routine now. We have the two boys who have a schedule which includes their own beds, alarm clocks, private quarters upstairs, and for the most part can feed themselves scraps for survival if need be.

Then there are the pets. We have 2 independent cats who somewhat come and go as they please. Bailey, the 11yr old Basset Hound stricken with Addison's Disease, finally is stable and runs on her own clock as well. Between the daily prednisone pills and $90/mo steroid injects ions, she sleeps mainly all day in her basket in the closet hidden away from the children. I spend most of the day envious of her.

So, with life so seemingly stable, why would I sabotage that? Would there really be anything out there that would be that worth to me? Definitely:

Mr. "Bo" Jangles
Pure Bred Chihuahua
8 weeks old
Will only get to ~5lbs full-grown

A year ago, you would have never been able to convince me that I'd own a Chihuahua, for 3 pre-conceived reasons, mainly; They're yappy, I don't want to buy dog clothes, and I will not carry a purse to accommodate carrying a dog inside. 

The more I told myself that I shouldn't prejudge, I started to soften. First of all, look at those ears! Then I learned that he was litter box trained. True, I didn't want a newborn baby, but I could have a different sort of baby that would want to snuggle all the time without all the other crap you put up with for 9mo of pregnancy. 

So. I got Mr "Bo" Jangles for my Christmas present last weekend. He's not yappy; in one week I haven't heard one peep from him. Ok, so I bought him a jacket to wear outside BUT - he doesn't like it so I don't pressure him. Therefore, I still consider this to be a clotheless dog. I don't have a doggy-compartment purse and still do not plan on buying one. I just carry him in his blankie ...

So far he's been a great fit for our family. Bailey has new life and spunk again, I get my baby fix, the boys are learning how to be soft and gentle, and I even see head-kisses coming from Nate as he tells Bo what a pretty baby boy he is. The cats don't get why we have a rat in the house, but they don't seem to mind.

Now all I have to do is convince Nate that the ball-swelling related to getting the Mr Vas D's snipped is no biggie. Peas to the groin, baby! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Magic Happens on Ships

We had waited for a long time to tell the boys we were taking them on a Disney Cruise. The time finally came and it was really exciting. It took Maysen awhile for it to really sink in, but once it did it he was bouncing off the walls. I started to write the following post in a journal form, but realizing it would literally be about 200 pages long, decided I'd shorten it up and mainly include photos. At the end of the post will be a link to view all of the photos from the trip. Enjoy (I know we did!)

Puerto Vallarta - our ship
Having packed the night before, once we told the boys about our secret trip, we only had to load up the Tahoe and do the final packing. Amazingly the boys went to sleep up in the play room and at 4:00am we were on the road. Maysen stayed awake the entire 14hr drive to LA where our ship was docked. Amazingly, the trip went really well. Thank goodness for in-car DVD players! We also had endless supply of snacks, crayons, and coloring books.

DoubleTree hotel before we embarked
We rolled to a stop at the DoubleTree by Hilton in San Pedro, CA around 7:00pm. We toured the hotel while we waited for our entirely-too-expensive room-service (but who cares, we're on vacation and too tired to get back into the dreaded Tahoe and go anywhere else) and we were all in bed by 9:00pm ready for the big day ahead.
We'd enjoyed our morning with breakfast buffet and a stroll along the marina looking a million dollar sail boats and yachts. Finally the time had come and  the hotel shuttle took us directly to the ship around noon. It was a whirlwind! Our bags were unloaded and we were hustled into the terminal where our check-in process literally only took about 20min. There were Disney characters there to greet the guests and already the spirit of Disney filled the air.

Family names were announced as each family entered the ship. The boys had seen pictures of the Disney Wonder but seeing in "real life" was something surreal to them. They looked like orphan Annie at Daddy Warbucks' house the first time.

Is this really our cruise ship?

The staterooms were not going to be ready until 2:00pm so with a few hours to kill we walked around the ship, hit up Beach Blanket Buffet restaurant, and got ready to swim! That's one of the great tips I had gotten online was to wear swimming suits on board so that while you wait for your room, you can swim!

Mickey Pool, Deck 9
This was one of the 3 pools on board and the most kid-friendly, the Mickey Pool. It's only 2.5ft deep at the deepest part so we were able to really let the kids run free without worry of incidences. It was also the perfect temperature and even the hot tubs on deck were kid-friendly - not too hot. All of the kids loved the freedom.

Cannon ball mase

Unlimited self-serve ice cream cones!
Just around the corner from the Mickey Pool is a 24hr self-serve ice cream station. Nate and I agreed early on that this would be the boys' vacation as well and that meant that the kids got to eat whatever, whenever, and stayed up however long they wanted. It was a blast! I think this was Griffin's 3rd ice cream cone (most of them melted before the "cone" part).

Oceaneer's Lab/Club = Parental Heaven. Club was open from 9:00am - midnight daily. Child to Counselor ratio was about 1 counselor per 4 kids. Each child registered with Oceaneer's Club/Lab wore a bracelet attached to arm/ankle. They were scanned upon check in and parents carried a "wave phone" (ship-issued cell phone) around with them so that they could be notified at any second if the children wanted to leave, had an issue, whatever.

Computer Lab at Oceaneer's Club
The lab part of the Oceaneer's Club contained kid-friendly computers, video games (monitored), science projects, bean bags for making forts, craft station, and much more I can't think of.

Oceaneer's Lab, craft
Craft Station. Nate and I utilized Oceaneer's Club daily for at least an hour or two so that he and I could have our adult time. At our dinner service, the boys were always served first usually within about 15 minutes and then taken to Oceaneer's Club so that Nate and I could eat dinner kid-free if we chose. There were a few nights the kids stayed with us through the whole dinner service, but mostly they wanted to be at Club.

Oceaneer's Club
The "club" part of the Oceaneer's Club consisted of barrel slides, dress-up closet, stage for dancing/acting/plays, more computers, games, etc etc etc.

mario & luigi
The first full day/night was at Sea and also, of course, HALLOWEEN! Having had 2 very stimulated full days, the boys were a bit strung out by the afternoon and the thought of wearing these moustaches were about too much for them. Maysen bawled his eyes out before leaving the room and the tears had wet the moustache and smeared black all over. WE WILL HAVE FUN PEOPLE!!!

halloween candy
We shortened the trick or treating line (hallways of hundreds of people didn't thrill me) and once they'd had a full bag of candy we hit the quiet deck outside and relaxed in the 85F breeze while they stuffed candy down themselves.

Deck 9 Halloween Party
The Halloween Deck party was a great hit though! We had a ton of fun watching everyone in their costumes dance away, play games, and party away enjoying Halloween at Sea!

Emma, Leo, and boys

Emma doing marshmellow magic trick
Emma was our Assistant Server. She made sure that we had full drinks, the kids had ketchup shaped in the form of Mickey Mouse and other creatures. She entertained us throughout dinner service with making paper animals (she made frogs and even a Transformer!). On the last night she did a magic show for the boys that included making marshmellows disappear. Griffin had that figured out - he just kept snagging them out of her bowl!

Yes, they really cut the boys food for them.
Leo was our Head Server and he was amazing as well. He would get on the kids level and he was so gentle, sweet, and thoughtful. He would cut the boys' food for them when it arrived and would send extra dessert to our stateroom for the boys to eat later.

Our meals were this beautiful every night
This is an example of the dinner we got every single night. We had 5-course meals and this example was beef tenderloin, Williams potato (that's the pear shaped thing, it's potato!), and steamed veggies. We always got an appetizer, soup, salad, entree, and dessert. The food was amazing. There was a separate kid-friendly menu that was just as yummy! Even the broccoli was Mickey-shaped!

Singing Happy Birthday to Mase
On the last evening of the cruise, the dining crew sang Maysen "Happy Birthday". The chef had made him a birthday cake and he was thrilled. He felt really special. (This was at no charge to us!)

Boogy Boarding!
On Day 3 of our cruise we stayed in Puerto Vallerta, Mexico. We had pre-booked an excursion on a pirate ship. (Above). It was a 2hr ride out to a private beach where we boogie-boarded, swam, the pirates led the kids on a real "in the sand" buried treasure, we kayaked, and just relaxed. During our ride out to the beach, we had a pod of dolphins that swam with the boat. You could look down and see them right there, about a foot under the water. It was so refreshing seeing them in their natural habitat!

Private Beach - hut
The island was a private ecological beach, so there wasn't much domestication which was refreshing. There were no manufactured homes, only man-built huts. Reminded me very much of the movie Nim's Island.

Pirate tat
The 2hr trip to the beach and back was a bit long. It was hot, and the canvas that they strapped to the top to keep everyone out of the sun made a breeze impossible. They filled the ride with a sword fight, dance competitions, and fun stuff for the kids (tattoos and scars) but it was a bit long in the heat. Griffin even incidentally grabbed the first "fruit smoothie" he could find (they were passing them around the ship) and sucked it down! That is, until I noticed it was a white one and none of the other kids had a white one.  Yep. It was a pina colada! He had sucked down about half of it, not realizing that it was actually the man's who was sitting beside me. Oops! Needless to say we understood as he quietly passed out about 20min later on the bench and remained asleep the rest of the trip. It was OK, he needed the nap ....

City of Cabo
That night we left Puerto Vallarta, the cute pirates, and pina coladas behind. The next morning we were in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for 2 days. We chose not to do much in Cabo but remained on the ship and took in shows and events the ship was offering. The pools were amazingly quiet so we took advantage!

Parasailing at Cabo
Watching the parasailers was breathtaking from our balcony. We sat watching them and the sunset.

Stick 'em up, Leo
Cabo Night #1 was Pirate-Themed. The boys (minus Griff) went impromptu and dressed up. Nate had the best time. The boys got pirate guns and enjoyed walking around the ship shooting folks. They were great sports.

Zip line Mickey, pirate night
Because it was pirate night, they had a pirate party out on Deck 9. It was filled with dancing, music, a buffet of pirate foods, and finally Mickey Mouse zip-lined across the deck from above. It was amazing! After he landed, there was a magical fireworks show. Disney is the only cruise line allowed to have fireworks on board and we were right where they were lighting them off. Griffin just laid with his head on my shoulder as we listened to Disney music softly in the background watching these wonderful fireworks against the warm, dark sky.

Triton restaurant, Deck 3 main lobby
Triton, one of 3 of the restaurants we ate in for all 3 meals. Every night we ate in a different pre-assigned restaurant. However, Emma & Leo went with us to every restaurant so we had them every night. There was Triton, Parrot Cay, and Animator's Palate. Animator's Palate was a neat restaurant that started out black and white, and as the dinner service continued the pictures on the walls that were once black and white were now filling in with color; the paint brushes (beams) changed colors, and by the end of the service, the whole restaurant was alive with color.

See-through elevators Main Lobby
Elevators looking out over main lobby, Deck 3.

Main lobby, Deck 3. Mickey and Minnie were out greeting guests.

Looking out to sea boys
Giant port hole seats. It was fun to sit and watch the ocean as we cruised at around 20 knots, usually. We were waiting for our show to start at 6:15pm. We had amazing entertainment shows each night. We had comedian/ventriloquist who was really funny. They were able to pull off Toy Story: The Musical which brilliant how they were able to assemble all 3 plots together into a musical. Disney Dreams was a play that was performed on the last night. It was set up where Peter Pan visits a little girl who wants to fly. Throughout the night they visit her dreams (Lion King, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) with songs and dancing, and Peter Pan who really flew on stage and into the audience. The kids loved it.

usual look at 9:00pm - he was done.
Of course all the excitement and entertainment led to exhausted and irritable children. We had to have the "Be Grateful, not Spoiled" speech a few times but in the end the boys did great. About every other day we had to have a "down" day which still seemed to be filled with fun. In the afternoon we'd take in a movie at the Buena Vista Theatre on board where they played up to date movies such as Cars 2 in 3D, Reel Steel, and Nate and I even snuck off to see The Help (which I bawled my eyes out).

Napkin Goofy hat on Griff
I just think this picture is incredibly cute. Goofy napkin hat courtesy of Emma.

We attempted a few of these and this one turned out relatively good. Everyone we asked to take our picture was extremely intimidated  by our camera. It's like "You just point and shoot".

Our character breakfast morning came after our long day on the pirate ship. It started at 9:45am and Griffin was so tired he barely moved when we tried to wake him. Feeling sorry for him (who are we kidding, I wanted more sleep) Griffin and I stayed in bed, cuddled, and snored together while Nate and Mase went down to Character Breakfast. Nate admitted he ordered the Mickey waffles with Mase and Leo was nice enough to bring Nate a kiddy plate. He even cut his waffle for him. Leo was a character!

Of course there was a multitude of character meet and greets. Griffin thought Minnie was so pretty in her princess dress ... he even kissed her nose.

Stitch was a huge hit the last 2 days of the cruise. Why? I don't know. The boys haven't seen Lilo and Stitch the movie, ever! However, the boys insisted on getting Stitch stuffed animals and seeing him was a huge highlight.

We were lucky to also have an amazing Room Attendant, Dom. He would come and fix our room up twice a day; morning and night. We're talking I'd be horrified that anyone saw our room the way it was, but he'd come in and make it look new again. At night he would come and turn the beds down, make the boys' bunk beds up, and leave us little treats. He would make us a different towel creature every night and the boys couldn't wait to get back to the room to see what he had left. I took their t-shrits down to guest services and they had all the characters sign them. What a fabulous souvenir.

Tuckered out on the last night!

We are all still feeling a bit like this! What a fun time we had. We were checking out of customs and Mase kept looking back at the ship. He was quiet and without being prompted said, "Thank you so much for this vacation. It was a blast!" That made the trip all worth it. 

We officially left LA at 10:00am and arrived back in Oregon at our home 14hrs later around 1:00am. Just as we were crossing the Oregon border I felt my throat start to get sore. Sure enough we all ended up with colds within the next day or two. Welcome to Oregon! 

We had the trip of a lifetime. I'm sure the boys will remember this for years to come. I can't wait to do it again. The spirit of Disney filled the ship and everyone in it. It is a very different experience than what you get at the Disney Parks in CA and FL, yet just as amazing. 

The night we told the boys of this surprise, they slept on the couch up in the playroom. We woke them up at 4:00am and everything was left as-is upstairs. When we returned, the boys stumbled back upstairs in a haze and laid in the mess left the week before. Moments later, Maysen stood at the top stair.

"Mom? Dad? Could you come up here and tuck is in?" 

"No. It's so late buddy, just go to sleep."

"But I want you to tuck us in to complete the trip circle. Then it will be like our trip was all a big dream."

That's what it felt like. A dream. I want to go to sleep and go back!

If you didn't get enough pics (Ha!) then you can view the whole set here.