Category Archives: memories

Our Caribbean cruise vacation: part 1

We’ve been home from our much anticipated cruise vacation for just over 2 weeks now and I’m still in a little bit of a euphoric/bittersweet fog thinking about it. I booked it with 410 days to go on our cruise countdown and much to my disbelief, it has already come and gone.

Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Atlantic coast of Florida Friday afternoon, October 7th. The day we were supposed to load up and drive down. We were frantically watching the weather channel all week leading up to the 7th as the storm slowly approached the US. By late Thursday night, it started to look as though the eye would not be making direct contact with the shore as the meteorologists, Florida residents, and many vacationers feared. Since there was still so much that was unknown on Thursday night, I cancelled our Cape Canaveral hotel for Saturday night and switched the reservation to a hotel more inland in Ocala, a couple hours from the coast.

Friday we decided not to leave until midnight since our destination was now 2 hours closer to home and since we figured many evacuees would be trying to get back into their homes on Saturday morning. I was so worried about driving all night. How tired would I get? Would the boys sleep? What if there was traffic or construction problems? I pictured the drive down there and back as being as monumental of an event as the cruise itself. The boys were GREAT in the car. They are wonderful road trippers. They really entertained themselves well with coloring, writing, drawing, and sticker books. They didn’t complain a lot and for that, I am so thankful. This was our first really long road trip (16 hours total) so I worried about how we would all deal.

We checked into our hotel in Ocala around 230 or 3 then ate a late lunch/early dinner at a neat local place. We were all pretty exhausted and in bed by 8pm.

Somewhere between the Florida state line and Ocala, it occurred to me that we had to drive through Orlando Sunday morning to get to the port. That must have been around the same time that I found out that our cruise was scheduled to depart a couple hours later in order to allow for some extra travel time. Since we weren’t short on time, I covertly had Ryan check online for breakfast reservations at Disney World. Being less than 24 hours before breakfast, I wasn’t expecting much. I thought we might squeeze in at a lesser known resort and just enjoy the Disney ambiance. The beauty of checking reservations at the last minute is that people get there, change their minds, and rearrange their plans. Lo and behold, we were able to snag 10am reservations at one of the Character dining experiences that has been on my Disney bucket list for quite a while. This one is 1900 Park Fare, located inside of the Grand Floridian resort.

We got to meet Alice and the Mad Hatter, Pooh and Tigger, and Mary Poppins. That’s a lot of bang for your buck and the breakfast was delicious. It was such a fun surprise for the boys. Leading up to the cruise, Dexter kept saying “I can’t believe we’re driving ALL the way to Disney!” We told him over and over and over and over that we were driving to the CRUISE, not to Disney. You can imagine how great he felt telling us “told ya so” when he started noticing the distinct Mickey road signs everywhere. We were all floating on that Disney cloud and it was kind of hard to leave, even if it was so that we could go on a fantastic vacation.

We took a few minutes to walk around the resort. We’d never stepped foot on the Grand Floridian property before so I wanted to check it out a little bit. Honestly, I was curious to see the changes they’d made since little Lane Graves died there in June. I know this is weird, but I wanted to stand there where it happened and try to put myself in his parents’ place. I tried to imagine feeling what they felt, the tension and raw emotion in the air there that night as they waited and in the days following the tragedy. I closed my eyes and felt the same sun on my back. I took my flip flops off and felt the same sand under my feet. I couldn’t do it. I could not even begin to fathom losing a child, so tragically, and during what was supposed to be such a happy time. My heart hurt for them. It still does. Can you imagine leaving vacation with one less family member?

After I had taken a few moments honoring Lane and his family, we moved on and headed over to Cape Canaveral. One good thing about the Hurricane passing through there was that all tolls were suspended. Since I’m not used to tolls, they stress me out and it was nice to skip that. We parked, took our shuttle to the Royal Caribbean terminal, and got checked in without a hitch. The entire process was quick, painless, and seamless. We were on the boat by 1:30 and our luggage showed up to our room a couple of hours later. We were excited to eat at the Windjammer for lunch and check out the ship.

We swam and goofed off until it was time to do the safety briefing. As we were hanging out on the deck, we watched a Disney cruise ship and a Carnival cruise ship head out. As it turns out, we knew people on both of those ships. That was a neat feeling. Royal Caribbean notified us that we would be leaving port at 9pm but everyone must have made it on early because we pulled away around 6 or 630 – right at sunset. It was a beautiful and exciting start to our cruise!

The boys went to a mini-session at Adventure Ocean (the kids’ program) to get a feel for it. Theo was nervous but ended up doing fine and they both had a great time. We tried to go to a show at 10pm and everyone was falling asleep so we headed back to our tiny little cabin and called it a day. The sea was REALLY rough that night as the hurricane winds were still moving out and we were sailing at top speed. I assume anyone who suffered from motion sickness probably would have had a bad night. Theo and Ryan both complained a little but no one got sick.

Pics! Day one – Saturday October 8th.

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We hit Atlanta around 830am Saturday morning and stopped at the most interesting Chick-fil-a on the south side. Part of it was fast food and the other part was sit-down.

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At some point when I was a kid, we stopped at the Florida welcome center and I distinctly remembered getting fresh-squeezed orange juice. For whatever reason, I wanted to do that with the boys. They also got a free map. Traditions are the best.
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Cheers!

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The Mojo Grill where we ate in Ocala. Delicious.

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Two happy, sweet, tired little boys who didn’t know we were visiting Disney (sorta) the next morning.

Day 2 – Sunday, October 9th. Embarkation Day!

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Mickey shaped food just tastes better.

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We couldn’t visit a Disney resort without pressing a couple pennies.
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The Grand Floridian is truly beautiful.

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Being silly on the shuttle from port parking to the cruise terminal.

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Photo cred goes to Theo!
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“We hope we don’t need this safety briefing!”
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They loved their bunks in our stateroom.

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Oh, all the reminiscing makes me want to go back already! Why didn’t we play the win-a-free-cruise round of Bingo?

xo,

~C~

Dexter’s FIFTH birthday celebration

Dexter had a busy and exciting birthday celebration. It started on his birthday, Friday the 13th, with a celebration at his Montessori school. My mom was able to come from Tennessee to celebrate, which meant a whole lot to all of us. A special time made even more special by the presence of special people.

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I made blueberry muffins for the 9:30am celebration and we enjoyed watching Dexter get to go through all of the steps of the Montessori birthday tradition.

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Ryan’s parents were able to come to Dexter’s school celebration – what a lucky little boy to be surrounded by people who love him on his big day.

After school, he opened his presents (in a rush) before we headed over to his Ninja Gym class.

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Saturday May 14th: We were right back over at the gym for his party. He begged and begged to have his party at the gymnastics facility, like Theo did for his 5th birthday party. The big difference this time, was that the boys are actually taking classes there and their coach was able to facilitate the party. It meant a lot to Dexter.party 005 Party 006 Party 007 party 008

They absolutely love Coach Mike. And I gotta say … he is AWESOME with the kids. I feel lucky for them. He’s a great role model and influence. party 009 party 010 party 011 party 012 party 013

After the party we had more fun at home with family and went out to dinner. party 014

Dexter’s aunt, uncle, and cousin were here too but I guess I failed to get pictures of everyone. 🙁 Whoops.  My camera died at the party so I was partially relying on my cell phone and partly not caring about taking pictures; just trying to live in the moment.

It was sad to see everyone go on Sunday afternoon. My heart was full of love and happiness after a weekend surrounded by friends and family. party 015

Monday Dexter had his 5 year check up and we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know (Dexter is healthy and smart and doing just great) other than our pediatrician dropping the bomb on us that he is moving to Boston at the end of the year. So, if the boys stay healthy for another six months, we might never see him again. We’ve been with him since the boys were newborns and it’s sad to think about him moving on. party 016

I have so many blogs in the back of my mind, like the end of school stuff and just general updates on life but who knows if I’ll ever get around to posting them.

until then –

~C~

Theo’s 6th birthday festivities

Before too much time gets away from me, I wanted to post some pictures and memories of Theo’s 6th birthday celebration(s). I love this kid and I’m so proud of the person he already is and who he’s becoming. He still surprises me every day by saying something I did not expect to hear out of his little mouth.

Tuesday, March 8th: Ryan and I were both able to join Theo at school and eat lunch with him. Sadly, I didn’t realize my camera was on manual focus when it was in manual mode – such a chaotic setting to try and take pictures. Anyway…this would have been decent if it was in focus. 🙁

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Theo loves it when we come to lunch at his school. He loves taking us through the lunch line, showing us where everything is, telling us what we’re allowed to get, where to sit, etc. I love it too. It’s fun to see him in this setting where he spends so much time and has developed so much comfort and confidence in his own abilities.IMG_9871

Checking the mail – he got a card and $ from my grandma, which he loved of course!IMG_9872

The first thing Theo said to me when he got in the car was that it was the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER because while he was working on his afternoon writing, something in his mouth felt weird so he touched his tooth AND IT FELL OUT! haha…he got to go to the nurse and get this super cool tooth necklace. He lost his second tooth on his 6th birthday! I keep meaning to post about our first tooth loss/tooth fairy experience but surprise, I haven’t gotten to it yet. Anyway – he was thrilled. IMG_9877 IMG_9884

For his birthday, we had a little TACO Tuesday dinner with some of our friends and Ryan’s parents. Dirt pudding with worms for dessert! We got him Disney Infinity and it has been a big hit.IMG_9907 20160308_184604 (1)IMG_9924

Saturday, March 12th: My sister-in-law, her husband, and our nephew rolled into town and bombarded Theo with even more gifts.IMG_9932 IMG_9945

Sunday, March 13th: The day Theo had really been waiting for…his birthday party! We rented the party room at the theater and had 19 people (including the 4 of us-it was about half kids/half parents) watch Zootopia. First of all, we loved the movie! It was brilliant. Second, I was shocked at how good all the little kids were – we even had a couple of 3 year olds and a barely 4 year old there and they were all so well behaved. No one even had to get up to go to the bathroom. Afterwards we had the party room for an hour.IMG_9950 IMG_9955

In the little favor bags, I included Zootopia coloring sheets, a mini bag of microwaveable popcorn, a cute little paper popcorn container I found at Party City, and a Fruit by the Foot. We just went with a movie theme since the party was planned a month and a half before Zootopia was showing in theaters. I enjoyed the movie theme for something a little different (and NOT a character!). IMG_9960 IMG_9961 IMG_9970 IMG_9982 IMG_9991

Another year is in the books – I can’t believe this time next year he’ll be SEVEN! That sounds so old. He’ll probably only have about 3 baby teeth left, be as tall as me, and be reading Hardy Boys. Okay…maybe that’s a stretch.

xo,

~C~