Thursday, December 3, 2015

Our Disney Cruise ( Review and Tips)

For Thanksgiving this year we went on a Disney Cruise. We are so thankful to my friend +Marilyn Bell for talking us into it. Errrrrybody says how awesome a Disney cruise is and they were all right. I was reluctant because I am scared of water situations and getting sea sick and 100 other things but turns out all of that was OK.
We went on the Disney Magic to The Cayman Islands and the Disney Island Castaway Cay. 5 nights of awesomeness and SUCH.GOOD.FOOD.

So a few Bullet Points  of Randomness : 

1.) Boarding and De-boarding the ship was pretty quick and painless. I was expecting that to be a nightmare.

2. The Buffet was so awesome every day for every meal. 1 million choices and always a seafood bar too ( my fav.). One of my regrets was making reservations for adult only dinners. Not everyone would agree I am sure, but the regular dinners at night were pretty fancy on their on, I was too tired at the end of each day to go get all dressed up for a fancy cocktail style dinner. You can take the kids or take them to the kids club. 

3. There are a million photo ops on the boat. I regret not planning ahead and taking advantage of this. Our boat was all decked out for Christmas and even Santa was there for pics. I was so bummed I didn't pack their Christmas outfits for Santa pics or dressier clothes for Family pics. Pictures cost more too so it would have been worthwhile to take a bunch and pay the package rate. 

4. I was too busy with work to plan well in advance and wish I had planned excursions for us through the boat. I even could have done it on the boat but Erik wasn't feeling it.... then we got off the boat and were like.. dang what do we do. So we went with some of the locals on excursions which were about half as much money as the ones from the boat, however the boat ones were much nicer and a safer bet. Next time I will book Disney excursions.  Our boat was smaller and not as nice, then started smoking half way there .. and their "snacks" ended up being a gallon of water and a gallon of some mystery soda. With a Disney related excursion if the boat broke down or something they would know to look for us... ha just stuff that crossed my mind when we were riding out to swim with sting rays!
I also should have left sister in the nursery on the big boat for this day. :) She as too little to appreciate or enjoy this stuff.

5. Pirate Night! Everyone dresses up like pirates and i mean some folks go ALL OUT ! It is a good idea to bring pirate gear with you. They provide the mickey kerchiefs for you which was nice. 

6. Everyone decorates their stateroom doors with magnets. I will make us some cool ones next time! Here is one of our neighbors doors. You can download free designs and laminate them to make your own decor.

7. They have lots of dance parties. Sister LOVES a good dance party and was so excited. They shot confetti from the ceiling and played loud pop music and she was shaking and grooving and saying " OOOHHHH" She basically walked around that boat like she owned it and talked to everyone she encountered. 

We loved swimming with the stingrays. Well bubs wasn't sure about it but I thought it was awesome!

One night they had a bingo where you could win money and Fenn loved the Bingo game. He cried a time or 2 when he thought he was losing but it was still fun and funny.

Every day they put these print outs in your room. They look like a TV guide but show you all the events of the day making it easy to plan what you want to do. We loved them because there are SO many choices and activities and it is nice to plan day to day so you don't get overwhelmed. They also have an app you can download and use on the ship without paying for wifi when using the app. Within that app you can text message each others phones. I wish we had known that earlier in the trip! 

Disney's Castaway Cay island was one of our stops and it was pretty dang cool! It was like a beach with every activity you would want ( snorkeling, paddle boats, shops, food, cabana service, water slides, on and on... ) Beautiful and it has a kids club on the island so you can have both family time and adult time on the beach. Fenn played on the beach with us till after lunch then wanted to go to kids club to play basketball.  

So.. recap of the tips :

  • Food is awesome. Fancy night dinners are not necessary unless you are a foodie and really want to get all dolled up.
  • Bring a beach bag for excursions and all your usual beach stuff. Bringing your own masks and snorkels is a great idea and money saver if you have room for them in your suitcase. Grab some towels before leaving the boat when you go on excursions.
  • Choose the Disney excursions when you get to your ports. They cost more but you get what you pay for.
  • At the end of the trip they will charge your bill for tips for the various people who wait on you during the trip. I didn't know this, so make sure you budget for that, and bring cash if you want to add to it at the end of the week. 
  • Pack Pirate clothes, disney clothes, and picture worthy outfits for some nice family shots. I packed way too much and next time will literally take swimsuits and some casual dresses. 
  • WiFi is mega expensive so when you get off the boat, find some free wifi and get busy! But honestly that probably made for a better trip because it forces us to unplug.
  • Bring your own cup for yourself and kids that has a lid. Tervis is ideal so you can use it for coffee or cold drinks. 
  • The kids club is awesome. If you have kids under 3 they still have childcare but it costs about $9 an hour. It was incredible and totally worth it. The kids clubs are themed and so cute. The older kids club is very big with several themed areas, lots of activities and all kids get a magic band with a GPS tracker so they can tell you at any time where your child is and what they are doing.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions I didn't cover! 
We loved it.
The End.

PS... no one go sea sick :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Last 6 Months!

Yikes! Can't believe I have not blogged in 6 months. Life just keeps getting busier I guess but I am sad that I have not been as good at documenting the kids stuff. Gonna try to do some small catch up's and some blogs on the house progress before the end of the year!

Sister is now 2.5 years old. That is really hard to believe! She 
 is going to Mother's Day out twice a week and loves it. She ( like her brother) is never sad to see me go. They love to go and do and be with people. 
She weighs about 35 lbs, wears a six 3T all of a sudden and size 7 or 8 shoe.Not sure about height as she will never be still long enough for that measurement.
Thankfully she has been in good health since last fall. Last fall and winter, we all 4 were sick constantly. This year we have not had any colds, stomach virus, flu or ear infections ( can I get a Hallelujah?!) I still give them both a powder probiotic that I secretly mix into juice.

Sister is about to turn a corner with her talking I think ( Praise be to God) . She started speech therapy a few months ago and we are considering amping that up from once  a week to twice a week ( which was originally recommended) . She has always been a noisy kid and talking in gibberish so I never thought she would be a late talker, but here he is... 2.5 and about 10 words and phrases that she uses. In the past 2 weeks I have noticed her starting to mimic what we say or repeat us ( when she can) and that is major so I feel like she will start reciting poetry soon ( naturally) HA .. 
She says: Momma , Dadda, Bubba, No, Yes, Thank you, You're welcome, there ya go, good job, here it is, two, santa, and sings twinkle twinkle little star all day long.
She also started physical therapy to correct her pronation. They had some tiny little pink plastic braces made for her that she wears anytime she wears shoes. They help her with balance and control so she likes them and is falling so much less than she was. She is also starting to step over things and jump, which she could not do before so I know they braces are doing their job.  She has started lots of climbing recently too with her new found confidence.They are cute too but it is hard to get her shoes on over them. Anybody have any tips for that or brands that work well with braces?

Also, just a sidebar.... recently I have had 2 people ask me " So why do you think both of your kids have had these developmental problems?" um guys... RUDE. What the H do you want me to say to that? I have no idea! Genetics? Life? So in case you were thinking about asking me that... don't. 

Sister is also super sassy ( no idea why ?!) and independent.  She LOVES music and dancing, and any art project. The only problem is she has colored almost everything in this house. I have a really hard time keeping her away from pens and such.  She also colors her face and body.

She loves Bubble Guppies, Dora and Curious George. She has started pretend playing with her stinky bunny and wraps him up like a baby and kisses and rocks him and such. It is SO cute. She's a good little momma. 

I think I am supposed to be potty training her but I have no idea how to do that. Fenn was so easy, and I  think she will not be. Also will take any advice or tips for that.

Fenn started Kindergarten in the fall and is LOVING it. I mean like never wants to miss school and always wants to do his homework and try to get ahead of his classmates.  He has done incredible with his site words and can write and spell lots of basic stuff and sentences these days. Blows my mind how much they teach them in kindergarten, how fast they do it and how much he studies his teacher. He comes home using all of her vocabulary words and body language and inflection re-teaching us all of his lessons and such. He always worries about her football team doing well. ( Michigan). I am so thankful he has a great teacher since she influences him so much.

He started off the year being obsessed with dinosaurs but now that we have read about them for 6 months and know all there is to know he has moved on to some new things. He loves to learn about states and capitols, state flags,  ( Except he calls them "lands" instead of states) and he is OBSESSED with sports and memorizes all the scores every week for college and NFL. He was driving me crazy asking me about scores all the time so I taught him how to ask Siri and now that is the 1st thing he does when he wakes up " Siri, what was the score or the Bulls game." He can't pronouce certain teams right ( He calls Cornell " Cornhole" and Alabama "Ourbama" etc) and so that confuses Siri and makes him crazy. 

He is about 48" tall, wears a 5 or 6 in clothes and a size 1 shoe. Weights about 60-ish lbs. Been a while since he was on the scale. He is so skinny now and I miss his baby does and thickness.  He is still a super picky eater.  We have been making him eat school lunch in an attempt to get him to try new things. I thought if all his friends were doing it he might too, but not so much. He puts it all on his tray as instructed and then most of it goes to the garbage (which sucks that we are paying for that every day) but I am not giving up hope.  He came home so proud yesterday telling us he had tried a new food and guess what it was.... a "push pop" sucker ?!?! He didn't like it either though.... 

He played soccer this fall at our church and he really loved it! and we really enjoyed it as well!

He was super kid at school which means all sorts of things but each parent has to come one day and talk to his class and such and eat lunch with him. Erik was MUCh better at this than I was and all kids everywhere love him. I was traveling when he went and sent me these pics and I was so proud of how he rocked it!

One of the bajiillion theme days of Kindergarden, my boy dressed like what he wants to be when he grows up.. a Paleontologist. :) ( as typical of most of the theme days I remember or Fenn reminds me that morning then I am scrambling to try and pull it all together before the bus comes! This outfit is hilarious and a little ala napoleon dynamite with those boots! Here he is with his best buddy Pierce! We are so excited to have neighbor kids to play with. 

And this is the class buddy JoJo. Everyone gets to bring him home for a weekend and scrapbook about his days with us. :) Fenn got to pick out his clothes to bring home which were Harley Davidson gear and a sports jersey! LOL

Bubs and I have had some good adult time and travels too! Beach trip with all our B'ham besties. June with Matt, Scott, Millie & Seth and September with The Warrens. 
September I had one of my dearest friends Linzy's wedding in Alpine Texas. Trying to find pics from that because it was such a cool town and fun trip. 

November was NYC for another dear friend's baby shower for her 1st baby. For this child I have definitely prayed and am rejoicing in God's answer to prayer and a beautiful pregnant little momma. Another great trip seeing some of my college girlfriends and their mommas and eating lots and LOTS of good food.

2015 is winding down and has been really awesome! Looking forward to 2016!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Move & Reno Updates and Blunders..

*** This is so old! Like months! But I thought I would go ahead and post it so that I can update on what I have changed my mind about. I have had lots of emails from folks asking me various things about the reno so i really want to get all that stuff published for their reference. ****
We finally made the move! and moving.... is no joke. Funny that I forgot about that from before but this time was different with us both working full time and having another child. Thankfully nanny Rose helped us with all the packing and cleaning etc. ( and that is about all you will hear of the wonderful Nanny Rose, because like my bubs I try to keep their wonderful-ness under wraps so no one tries to steal them :)

The house is still not finished. A lot is done but we moved in with no kitchen or cabinetry and sinks anywhere. Every day lots happens. Ideally another week or 2 would have been perfect but I am happy to not be driving back and forth and living amongst towers of boxes.  The most challenging thing since moving in, has been taking care of the kids with no kitchen and keeping them contained from areas that are not safe yet.

Amazingly, this process has not been the nightmare I expected or that people describe.  I think it is incredible that everything was done according to schedule, and that we didn't have any bank breaking unexpected issues. 

We knew from the start that cabinets and countertops would be in after we moved. I just didn't feel comfortable making those purchases till we closed on the house and Nashville is SO busy with construction right now that the wait time for things is longer.

There have been many times of "OMG are we doing the right thing" I was real sure at first then second guessing everything because we really liked our previous house ( especially the back yard) and it's hard to leave what you love for the unknown. But since we moved in, we have both been so excited and sure that it was the right thing, and truthfully looking around thinking " Is this really ours?"  all the stressful deliberations over materials have come together just how we would have liked. I can not at this time think of any regrets on the choices we made. 

So let's see... a list of what I would do next time/ what we have learned in this process: AKA mistakes.
- I would pick all materials ahead of time to firm up pricing. ( tile, countertops, carpet, appliances, bath fixtures).  A lot can be lost in translation. I learned this when we did our East Nash house reno. A woman says a vague concept and a man prices the cheapest version of that thing. If you have all the EXACT stuff priced before hand, its much easier.

- I would include EVERYTHING in the contractor bid. I purposely asked him to leave off things like appliances and light fixtures etc. thinking I would just take care of that but it caused me much more stress on the back end and keeping up with receipts and making sure we had the money for those outside of our bid price.

- I hired my own painter because he was about 10K cheaper than other bids, BUT I might regret this. I am not sure yet. It was difficult to control his work since I had to co-ordinate him and the contractor had to co-ordinate everyone else. If the painter messes up someone else work ( hardwood floors) then you have to deal with that and who pays for the  mistakes etc. Things i had not thought through. Our painter ended up being late to the schedule right at the end and working literally 24 hours straight trying to get it all done so it got sloppy at the end. We also had to buy all the paint, and that is really expensive. He didn't have a contractor account for better pricing at the paint stores and all sorts of things I didn't think about. We shall see if he shows up to do his touch up work as he should. 

- I wish I had already chosen all the faucets, light fixtures, door knobs, countertops etc before starting so that when it came time for those I could just pull the trigger. Not knowing what you want slows everything down. Some of that stuff I thought I would just do it later, but then you gotta deal with painting around it and all. So much better to get it done on the front end when there is a team of professionals at your disposal.

- Bathroom vanities. I ordered them from the cabinet company and I regret doing that, as well as not putting more thought into the style that I ordered ( none of them have any drawers, only bottom cabinets. UGH!). I wish I had just bought some of the home decorator cabinets from home depot that come with countertops and sinks. Had I done that it would have been cheaper, looked better, and I would already have counters and sinks in the bathrooms by now. Instead I am waiting forever on countertops and we are all leaning over the tub to brush our teeth. 

Decisions I am proud of:

- The hex marble tile in the master bathroom. I LOVE it. It cost more than the basic tile we used everywhere else but it's worth it.
- raising the floor in the living room. I liked the recessed living room and thought it was kind of groovy, but it's dated and dangerous for kids and older folks so it was a good move.
- adding a bathroom in a big bedroom closet. I was weary at first thinking it was gonna be a small dinky bathroom, but now that it is done I love it and its super functional and helpful. ( not to mention added value)
- adding a gigantic storage closet in the playroom. That room was HUGE and we needed extra storage. I will post pics of it later so that to you guys can see what I mean. We split it into thirds and the last third we closed off and added shelves to make a huge toy closet and its awesome. We also added a homework desk station here and repurposed the old kitchen cabinets and countertops here and added a wall. ( thanks whit for that idea!)

- The hardwood floor color. I struggled here a lot. I wanted a darker color to make it more modern but I didn't want it to be so dark that it showed every little thing and looked dirty all the time. We chose the "jackobean" color and love it. FYI: it shows up lighter in pics than it actually is.

- I used an appliance dealer ( Lindsey Huskey at Cenwood if you live in Nashville. She is AMAZING, and I don't throw that out lightly.) I was originally just looking appliances in Home Depot but the appliance dealer educated me on brands and parts etc and we were able to make much better purchases for the same money, and she was also able to advise me on mistakes we made with design from her years or experience. Very happy with this and the appliances. I might make out with that fridge it is so pretty.

I will write more on this later when I have a better summary. Right now we are almost all the way done. Need countertops, sinks, a few light fixtures, touch up paint and the rest of the appliances to be installed once countertops are in.

Fenn Turns FIVE!

Woah! How did that happen?! Kindergarten this fall! Crazy times and I am sure I will cry cry.  Mostly though we are having SO MUCH FUN right now. Fenn is in a great place where he is easy to go places with and fun to do most anything with. He has hilarious and great conversations, remembers everything and is interested in everything. Lots of laughs these days.  In the past few months he has hit what we call the SPONGE stage. He just absorbs and assimilates everything. Every phrase, mood, word, etc. 

Interests: Dinosaurs, Any kind of art or craft, cartoon movies, swimming, fishing, board games
Size Clothes: 6 
Shoes 13.5 or 1. 

His new thing is commercials. He is really listening to them and believing everything and wanting to tell me all about it. This month he has talked to me about buying blood pressure medicine, the amoped foot thingy, "Lightsol" ( lysol), oxi clean, cloud pets , ZIPPY SACK ( he really likes this one) on and on. It is hilarious. I try to video them but if I don't act fast enough he will not repeat.

He is VERY into Dinosaurs and knows everything about them and fossil finding and what have you. Since he was born he has educated me on all types of things like this. Trucks, planets, dinosaurs, .... 

He still loves all art and crafts. He is always after me to do some sort of craft. 

He is so into "Marble runs" Domino runs" etc. Check those out on you tube if you want. I am amazed at his ability to watch you tube videos and absorb and create. It is hard to explain but he makes those mazes go up and down and sideways and it's very scientific. He also enjoys physics videos on you tube. He has officially surpassed me on intelligence. 

This boy has a fierce joy and love of life which I enjoying watching. It doesn't really matter what you are doing, he just enjoys doing something all the time, with everyone. When I ask him about his day he always says " it was AWESOME" and then I say " well what was your favorite thing you did today?" and he says " EVERYTHING!"

I have been watching all of his old youtube videos this week and I am amazed at how much he has really grown up since sister arrived. It made me kind of sad to be done with his baby talking phase, but on the other hand that was a HARD stage for us with all his developmental stuff so I really enjoy how easy things have been with him now. 

He has developed some sass mouthing lately. This morning, I can't remember what I denied him but he told me that " his spirit animal didn't love me anymore!" I don't know what this spirit animal is, or where it came from but he told Erik his spirit animal was a lion and lived in his heart. Today he told me first thing he said when he woke up actually, was that he has a new spirit animal and it is a T-REX. I asked him where he learned about "Spirit Animals" from and he told me GOD. That is always his go to answer when we ask where he learned something. 

He learned about video games over the 4th of July and is really loving "Subway Surf" and " Temple Run". I hated it at first because he gets so absorbed, but it has created some nice leverage when punishment is needed lol. He has never really been bothered before by the taking away of anything. 

He is more emotionally mature these days, and actually cries during a sad part of a Disney Cartoon movie. I have never really seen a kid cry in one of those, but he is my sensitive boy! 

He loved the construction process on his " Fird house "( 3rd house).Every time we would go check out the progress he would fill his pockets with saw dust and non sense. 

 A bear picnic. BluBear still makes an appearance here and there. He no longer needs him to sleep, but sometime he will spend a day mothering him. Putting him in the high chair, down for a nap etc.
He still likes dressing up and does it regularly. 

and LOVES his momma ! He tells me 100 times a day how much he loves me or how great I am. I know this will end one day and I will certainly miss it!

Fishing with PawPaw. He loves it and asks me to take him fishing every time we drive by anything bigger than a rain puddle. HA

Fenn & Cousin Chloe

We celebrated his birthday at Chuck E Cheese. He loved his party and cake and friends and presents. He was really aware of all of it this year and was SUPER proud about turning 5! He tells me " It's OK Momma. I am a grown up now " ha probably b/c bubs and I made so many jokes about him growing up too fast. 

Halloween 2015

Halloween was pretty short and not too exciting this year which was a shame because my boy had a killer costume! Sister didn't have any input so I got her a random costume at Target last minute :)

They did a Trunk or Treat at Forest Hills Church. 

Ladies and Gentleman, I present : Fenn the Fossil and Sister the Carebear!

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