Monday, June 29, 2009

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice...

That's what little girls are made of!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

1st 3 Days of Cruise

Here she is--our home away from home for 7 days. The Ecstasy! Before you continue reading, it's only fair that I warn you that I wrote A LOT! It will not hurt my feelings if you skim or just look at the pictures, but I wanted to record the details, so I could remember later.

For those of you who don't know about our good fortune, Dee and I booked a 5 day cruise back in February. We were supposed to leave Monday 6/8 and stop in Progresso and Cozumel, but when the Swine Flu struck, cruise lines cancelled Mexican ports. Instead, they sent us to Jamaica and Grand Cayman, and along with the change in itinerary, they changed the 5 day cruise to a 7 day cruise at no additional charge. Thankfully, Grammy and Pa didn't mind keeping the kids a few extra days.

Since they added the 2 days to the beginning of our cruise, that put us leaving the day after the last day of school. So Thursday, my mom flew from Lubbock to Austin and met us at the airport. We then put Emily and Ty on a plane with her, and they all flew to Lubbock together where my dad was waiting. Dee and I watched the plane leave, and before we made it to Round Rock, they were already in Lubbock!

So on Friday, we were required to work until 8:30 p.m. When we were finally able to leave, we drove straight to Houston (Pearland), arriving around 12:30 a.m. We stayed with Dee's brother and his wife. We were exhausted by this time, but we knew we were 12 hours away from being on our ship, sweet ship.

My 2 observations about boarding were the following:
1. It is much more simple to go on a cruise without 2 little ones (I know; this one is obvious)
2. The Galveston cruise terminal is much more organized than the New Orleans terminal. When we left out of New Orleans, we got to skip lots of people and head to the VIP line since we had small children with us. We got through the regular line in Galveston about 3 times faster than the VIP line in NO. Go figure!

I don't know if everyone knows this, but one thing that Dee and I really enjoyed doing when we were dating/engaged/newly married is salt water fishing in and around Galveston. Since Dee's parents sold the boat and moved to Central Texas, we haven't been fishing in about 4 years. I really enjoyed seeing our old fishing spots from our ship. On the afternoon before our anniversary, it was fun to reminisce as we "cruised" through the ship channel. Enough of this cheesiness--the neatest part of our leaving port was the school of dolphins swimming ahead of our ship. There must have been around 100 (I tried counting and got as high as 19 before I realized there was no way I could count them all).

As we participated in the safety drill, set up our room, and got ready for our first dinner, we just kept saying "Wow--this is SO EASY without kids!"

Speaking of dinner, we went with the 8:15 seating for the week, and we were assigned a table full of women. Dee was the only man at the table! Thankfully, he grew up with 3 sisters and handled himself just fine.

Here is our towel friend who was waiting on us after dinner.

First Full Day at Sea/Sunday/6 Years of Wedded Bliss:

We had a pretty relaxing anniversary. I woke up and walked 2 miles on the top of the ship (yes, that's relaxing to me). Waking up on my own time, wearing my favorite pink tank top, being able to exercise without feeling rushed, looking out at the ocean...well, still the gulf at that point, listening to my ipod, and having some alone time--to me, that's bliss!

After that, we ate breakfast, and I headed to the pool with Twilight in my hand. Later, I met up with Dee to attend a wine seminar. We learned how different wines are made, and they taught us about pairing food with 5 different wines. They also taught us how to properly smell and sip the wine, and they didn't make us spit it out! It was really interesting. This is the Riesling we sampled (the only one Dee liked).

Dee was cracking me up because he was eating his fruit and cheese before he was "supposed to," so he didn't get the full effect of the pairings. Is anyone really surprised?

There's not much else to tell other than major relaxation--naps and reading by the pool. I am so glad we chose the late dinner. Had we chosen the 6:00 dinner, I would have had to leave the pool around 4 or 5. Instead, I got to continue basking when all of the early dinner people had to leave. This night was the 1st formal night, so we attended the Captain's Welcome Reception and even two-stepped on the dance floor before dinner.

Since it was our anniversary and we were all dressed up, we waited in line to have our pictures made. We were going to splurge on a $20.00 photo since it was a special occasion. We were so disappointed the next day when we saw that they had over-photoshopped most of the photos. Plenty of people were still buying them, but they did SO much skin smoothing that our faces were blurry, and our skin looked artificial. I guess other people didn't mind because the lines at the cash registers were very long. Thankfully, one of our table-mates (actually, a high school student who was on vacation with her mom) took some nice pictures of us with the point-and-shoot camera that we borrowed from school. Here is my favorite (with, of course, a touch of my Photoshop magic) if you missed my last post.

It was lobster dinner night--YUM! And our servers entertained us for the first time.

The ladies at our table informed the maitre d' that it was our anniversary, so just before dessert, they sang us an anniversary song and made us kiss every time they said "kiss." Embarrassing, but fun, and thanks, Hannah, for being our photojournalist!

Here we are after the silliness was over!

It may sound lame, but one of my favorite things to do is to run back to the room after dinner to see what kind of towel friend we have waiting for us. Little did I know, there was another surprise waiting for me...

Roses--thanks, sweetie!

I can't remember now if it was Sunday or Monday, but one of the shows was a country revue, and our cruise director played the fiddle. He is super-talented, and his version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia was the highlight of the show. I know most of my readers don't really care, but I want to remember it 6 months from now!

2nd Full Day at Sea/Monday:

Tuesday morning, I woke up to go running. I only ran for about 10 minutes before getting drenched by rain. Thankfully, the rain didn't last long enough to ruin my pool/Twilight time! Actually, Dee and I played Bingo that morning with the older peeps. Dee insisted that I needed to play at least once in my life. And there's not much else to report for Tuesday. If we had a to-do list, it would have looked something like this...

Eat lots of yummy food
Soak up the sun
Take a nap
Finish Twilight

Everything completed for once--that's why we look so happy at dinner!

Here is our head waiter entertaining us.

And here is his assistant. They were both great, especially watching out for Dee amongst all of the women. They kept his plate full and kept his Diet Cokes coming!

And here is our towel masterpiece! Every night, we stacked them on a shelf next to their "friends," so by the end of the week, we had a full zoo.

I borrowed a few pictures from Carnival's website to give you a small tour of our ship. I have to admit that although the Ecstasy's staff is first-rate, the ship's decor is dated (very 80s). In fact, Carnival will be gutting it and completely re-doing it this fall. I can't wait to see what she looks like when they are finished with her! Anyway, when you board the ship, this is the atrium where you enter.

We would have hung out in this piano bar every night. The pianist was great and could sing and play pretty much anything, but the smoke really got to us (it is one of the few places where smoking is allowed).

Important Places on the Top Decks:
1. The pool area where I spent most of my time lounging in a chair facing the water
2. The main pool area where the fun and activities happen where I didn't spend any time
3. The track where I exercised 3 times (pretty good for vacation)

The next 2 days were spent in Jamaica and Grand Cayman. I hope to post those pictures soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer--So Far, So Good

I know I have a few folks wanting vacation pictures, but they are slightly delayed due to my "crash after-cruise diet" I experienced earlier this week. I do believe in 36 hours, I lost whatever weight I gained on vacation. I think the culprit may have been something I ate, but I had eaten out every meal for 3 days before I got sick, so who knows?!?!? Anyway, images are finally uploaded from my memory card and are almost ready!

Here is one of us at dinner on our anniversary.

You will just have to wait on pins and needles for the rest! In the meantime, I definitely need to document a few things about the kiddos.

Ty is saying new things every day. He is definitely in the stage where adults need to watch what they say because it will be repeated! He also doesn't answer "No" to every single question--he will now say "okay" if it's something he wants. Here are some examples from today.

Me: Do you want to go swimming?
Ty: Okay. Come on, Mama! Let's go!

and later

Me: Do you want to go to the library?
Ty: Okay. Come on, Mama! Come on, Emma!

stopped at the intersection by the library

Ty: Hi, Li-ree-ree! (times 1000)
It makes me happy that anytime we're headed to downtown Temple, he starts saying li-ree-ree whether we're going there or not.

after handing his chosen books to the librarian for check-out

Ty: Thank you
Librarian: You're welcome (he hands Ty his Curious George books and Elmo movie)
Ty: (walking away with books) Bye-Bye, Li-ree-ree!
The librarians got a kick out of it!

The day I was sick and thought I was about to die on the couch, he brought me a half-dead june bug, and Emily proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs. I told him to throw it away (he loves throwing things away). After he obeyed, he came back to me and said, "Mama, bug is in there" about 20 or 30 times while pointing to the trash.

And I'll save the best for last. We LOVE to read Sandra Boynton books, and his current favorite is But Not the Hippopotamus (pronounced something like Hippo-pa-mo). After we read this book, he puts it in his crib along with a cuddly friend or two or three (and sometimes a baseball glove or bat). Then, I lay him on his pillow, give a kiss, and say "I love you, sweet dreams" and leave the room. SO whenever I talked to him while we were on vacation (we did a few phone calls and one video chat session), he would always tell me "I love you, sweet dreams" when he was getting off the phone. It could be 8:00 a.m., and he would still say "sweet dreams"--yes, it melted my heart every time.

And Emily, Emily, Emily. Who told that girl that she could get so big so fast? She had her first dentist appointment this afternoon, and she loved it. She giggled through a quick and painless teeth inspection and cleaning. She did not look pleased when the hygienist spoke to her about giving up the thumb. I feel so bad for her because I see her struggling to break the habit. She so wants to be a big girl, but she is scared to give up the comfort. It makes my heart hurt to see her torn like this.

So on a lighter note, I couldn't decide what to make for dinner, so I let the 4 year-old decide. She said she wanted macaroni, pizza, and string cheese on the side. And for dessert, she wanted coffee brownies (I have never made any such dessert, so I don't know where she came up with that one). I took her to Wal-Mart and asked her what kind of pizza she wanted, and she said barbeque chicken pizza with mozzarella cheese. As I was browsing the baking mixes for some type of mocha-brownie, she spotted the lemon bars and asked if she could change her mind about dessert. So she helped me put together the pizza and stir the macaroni. She ate every bit of her dinner and had seconds. I have noticed that when the kids help make something, they eat more of it.

After Ty went to bed, I let her stay up late to make the lemon bars. As we were sprinkling the powdered sugar, she looked at me and said, "Mom, how did you know I wanted powdered sugar?" I said, "I'm your mom, and I'm pretty smart." Then she said, "You're such a good mom." I wish every day could end like that! Anyway, I just needed to write that down for the history books, so I can remind her when she's a teen and suddenly decides I'm a terrible mom.

This post has dragged on too long without much of a point other than me trying to document some little things. I have a few pictures of the kids playing with shaving cream this morning. I am doing everything possible to prevent them from asking to go play outside (last week, we got 5 or 6 emails about rattlesnakes in our neighborhood), so I allowed them to make a mess in the kitchen for a little while. It was easy to clean up though!

I'm not sure, but I think that age 4 is too old to post "topless" pictures of little girls, so I "censored" a few of these!

If you are brave enough to try this, we just diluted a little shaving cream with maybe 1/4 or 1/3 c of water, added one drop of food coloring, and let them have at it. I had Emily practice making letters, and Ty just made a mess. It only took about 2 minutes to clean the kitchen, and I rinsed the kids off in the bath and then took them swimming!