We Are So Blessed!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Our Unit Study on Butterflies!

We thought we'd share some of the fun we had during our unit study! The blog layout cuts off a big part of the video screen, but if you click the YouTube link you can see the full screen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Our 8 Day Cruise Vacation!!

OMGOSH! We seriously had the dream vacation of a lifetime! I cannot imagine a better vacation, and we are excited to share the fun we had!
8 jam-packed days of fun- where to even start- sheesh?

Some highlights:

We swam with dolphins, held a baby lion, went on a pirate ship with pirates to a private beach where we played all day and the kids went on a treasure hunt! Maletch was pulled up on stage at the comedy club- the comedian did a Q&A with 3 lucky kids (for the funny answers/funny things kids say) and Maletch was up there for at least 30 minutes! The kids also both participated in the Talent Show and they both received medals for their performances, I won the Master Mixology contest and my winning drink was the "featured drink" in all of the bars for the entire cruise (and it was printed in the newspaper everyday)- fun, fun, fun! We also had a private photo shoot with a very exclusive photographer who captured some amazing photos- wait until you see! The kids enjoyed going to the kids club for super fun activities and much more! Sariah and Maletch danced with our waiters at the fancy restaurant every night during "Showtime"- so MUCH to share! We also had a very nice stateroom with a private balcony so we were able to enjoy the beautiful water and sun and amazing views- anytime we were in our room!

Don't worry, I captured a ton of pictures and videos- and we purchased a TON of both too!!! I will be uploading in sections- HA!

We are already excited thinking about booking the next one- so if anyone wants to plan to come too- let me know!

Okay I'm thinking about how to post pics and videos- and I'm thinking I should go in order, like "Day 1, Day 2, etc..." BUT for fun I'm just going to post a few sneak pics from the photo shoot with our exclusive photographer Matyas (that wasn't until day 6) but I'll just post this one thing out-of-order! He took 55 beautiful shots- too many to post here, but I'll post a few now and a few later and maybe make CD's for family, or maybe share a video showing the photos (so I don't have to upload them all) and you can tell me the ones you want me to post or email you- we'll figure it out!

I just love Sariah's flirty eyes in this one!
This you have to see full size, but it feels very Hollywood glam!
Matyas' work is nothing short of amazing! When we were looking at the proofs, John actually had to wipe his eyes! I have only seen John do that one other time in 11 years- and that was 10 years ago at our wedding! Wait til you see the rest of the shots! We will be keeping in touch with him! 
We have a 24"x36" glossy metal print being made of the first shot- we can't wait for it to arrive! We also have canvases of the other 2. Love, love, love!
You can click on the photos to enlarge.

Day 1: Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage and Happy Valentines Day!

Since we had 8 jam-packed days, there is so much to share! I will break it up by posting each day separately covering the activities and highlights.
Day 1 was largely a travel day: going through homeland security, boarding, 2 safety meetings, and unpacking.

Day 1: New Friends, Dinner, and a Fun Surprise
After getting settled in and unpacked we were ready for dinner. On our way to the restaurant we passed by the coolest row of decorated cabin doors- they had hung fishnets, anchors, battery operated flashing lights and each door had a large life preserver picture frame with each couple/ family's photo in it. Of course this was a large group that traveled together and booked many rooms together, it was neat seeing the lights and especially the photos of each family on their doors...
but John and I had never seen anyone decorate their doors before. I thought it was so cool and as we were admiring their décor we met the main couple in charge of the group and they were the nicest people from Texas.
We ran into them a few times that night and really hit it off with them. They explained that there are door decorating contests and even online forums about cruise door decorations-  HAHA! I mentioned that we would be doing the door décor next trip for sure because it's so cool, and I jokingly said, "Our door is so boring!"
Later that night, we thought it was strange when we noticed the man/husband making some weird excuse to follow us way down the hall towards our room- we were unsure if he was creepy trying to see where we were staying, but we shrugged it off. The next morning, we opened the door for room service to see they had decorated our door and mailbox!! How cool is that?? What a fun surprise that was! They hung 3-D anchors on our door, nautical themed beads, and dangly swirls all around our door! Of course we returned the favor and sent them something from the gift shop! Their surprise was not only fun to see every time we entered our room- but it made our door so easy to find too! We met so many nice people on our trip, but I'm staying in order- this is Day 1, LOL!

Here are a few pics of our friends door all decked out...

You really have to see the entire hall way to appreciate how cool it looked it person!

And here is what they did to our door....
 Beads on the mailbox even- How fun is that?
Check out all the dangling swirls around our door in the hall!

Towel Art:
Instead of a towel "animal," our room steward (Christopher) made us a towel heart for Valentine's Day.

Day 2 was a full one!

Day 2: Master Mixology Contest, Build a Bear, First Formal Night, Comedy Show, Formal Dinner, and some Portraits

Master Mixology Contest:

First thing when I read about the "Master Mixolgy Contest" I knew I wanted to sign up, and I knew just what drink I wanted to make. They had everyone that wanted to compete, to submit their recipes first (on paper) for the first judges (cruise bartenders) to select their favorite 5 recipes. Those 5 recipes/people would be called as contestants up to the stage on Lido Deck.
I was all kinds of confident with my drink recipe.... if judged on taste, I believed I was a shoo-in,,, THAT IS... until I was called up with the other selected contestants and the host told us, "Okay you will not only be judged on your drink, but also on your swag!" Wait what?! Well there went my confidence- ha! What swag? I'm a girl, I don't have swagger! Then he asked us, "Have you ever seen the movie Cocktail?" I jumped right in nervously laughing, "You want us to be flipping bottles and getting crazy?" Um I was getting stage fright and thinking, "I need a drink, before I can go on stage" haha- but there was no time for that! The contest was starting, and I was in it- and lined up stage right! Last thing he said, "You have to be entertaining for the audience!" Crap, here I thought I was in a bartending drink contest, now I have to entertain, what the heck do I do?

Oh well, I was called 2nd and I got up there to find that they didn't have 2 of my ingredients ready on stage. So I sent an employee to get them and I just danced and made my drink!

A new panel of 3 judges (the actual "taste testers") were chosen - 2 people selected from the audience and 1 employee. They were actually pretty harsh on the other contestants, but in the most funny way. They were supposed to describe to the crowd how the drinks tasted- I heard one say, "Have you ever had cough syrup?" haha, and "This looks like toilet water." The other contestants were super nice, so I was thinking "Dang- ouch!" Luckily they liked my drink- so they had nice things to say, haha!  John said he could tell based on the judges that I was going to win, but I had no idea.

Apparently this was the wrong dress choice for Lido Deck, haha! I was caught having a few Marilyn Monroe moments!

The host had us all line up again at the end. He walked the line of us asking the audience to applaud for their favorite, naming us one at a time... Nothing like that embarrassing moment when they point to you!

I won- YAY! My drink became the "Featured Drink" in every bar for the entire cruise, and it was in the newspaper everyday- that was fun! I heard tons of people shouting "There's Miss Cocktail" the whole cruise - one of my new nicknames, LOL! I was given several free drink tickets too! John thought it was fun ordering my drink at the bars. John took a video of the contest- the guy contestants will make you laugh- will post soon!

Splashing is Fun!

Just before the contest started, they had an ice carving demonstration taking place on the Lido Deck. We caught some of it while I was signing up. The artist created this beautiful Indian sculpture. The funny part was after they hauled it off, there was a giant puddle of water and Maletch made a bee-line for it! He had fun splashing his feet and doing dance moves (lots of spins on the slippery floor)!
Maletch is always a magnet towards puddles! If there is water anywhere, he finds a way to get in it and get it on him! Doesn't matter if it's a water fountain or disgusting gutter water- he's going to touch it!

Build a Bear (for St. Jude):

After mommy won the contest, we took the kids to something onboard similar to "Build-a-Bear Workshop" the cruise line calls "Beary Cuddly Workshop." Carnival has partnered with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and all proceeds from the sales go to it. It was wonderful to be able to help do a little good and have some fun at the same time! The kids were excited about this! We let them choose their stuffed animal first. The kids have to first stuff them with the fill- that was a fun step! Maletch chose a Calico Cat and Sariah chose a Reindeer. Then the kids got to choose a themed outfit (cute little clothes) for their animal (Maletch chose a "surfer" and Sariah chose a "princess") and the kids got to dress them. Later in the cruise, we let them buy a second outfit for their animals (the outfits are so cute and have the cruise logo on them too)- so the kids now can change their outfits! Maletch got a "fisherman" and Sariah a "hula girl" as their second outfits. I laughed when I heard the kids talking about her "reindeer princess" so casually- as if that's something you hear everyday.

One of Sariah's Projects:
When we arrived at the Bear Workshop, we saw this huge Alien/Monster poster near the entrance. Sariah announced, "I colored that monster!" I asked her which part she did, she said, " I colored the pants part and I wrote my name." If you look closely (enlarged) you can see her name in orange next to the pants. She liked finding her art displayed, and so did we!

Formal Night:
With our "bears," we headed back to the room to quickly get dressed up for our first Formal Night which consisted of the Captain's party (which we basically skipped) to squeeze in some photos (not the private session- just other portraits)- and still have time to run to formal dinner and make the family-friendly comedy show. They had multiple comedy shows over the 8 days, some were listed as "family friendly" meaning no cussing and no offensive jokes  - and they held "adult only" comedy shows later at night.

Dinner was wonderful. The service is always amazing, and I love that the staff always calls you by name! Its amazing that when you sign in (with only your room number)- the entire staff takes the time to learn everyone- even the kids' names before they approach the table, saying, "What would you like to drink tonight Sariah?" It's that way throughout the entire ship- so awesome! Considering for 2500 passengers, they have 1000 crew members onboard- that's really an incredible ratio- and that is why you get fantastic service everywhere!
We always try to be adventurous on vacation and try a few new foods we would never normally try- that night John and I tried "alligator" as one appetizer- it wasn't bad, not my favorite- but at least we tried it! On another night, we both tried "frog legs" as well! We both found the taste "gross"- but again it was fun to at least try it!

The 2 level restaurant "Bacchus" is very beautiful and full of details everywhere. We dined every night on the upper level and this was our view:

View looking down at lower level from our table!
In addition to our M.C. hosting the "Showtime" song/dance/light show each night, we also had a walk around magician show us some tricks at our table- super fun!
 We all danced at the restaurant during "Showtime" to "That's Amore" - fun!

 At The Mad Hatter's Ball for the Family Comedy Show!

We had a few portraits taken before dinner.

Towel Animals:
It is always a fun surprise to return to the room and find our new "towel animal" of the day! The kids would always BURST through the door to see what our steward had made us- and then their other favorite part was finding where he left our chocolates! HA! The room stewards are like ninjas- they know when you leave- they never knock and bother you (unless its important)- they are super fast- and they're GONE! You'll never catch them in your room! We were all fascinated with how they make these things- sometimes using more than one towel too! Really cool. Years ago, we bought a "how to make towel animals" book that the cruise sold on-board. We still have the book, but we never learned how, haha!
They do offer several FREE "towel animal lessons" scheduled on-board which sounded like fun, but we were always too busy. Maletch was shown how to make one at Kid's Club (but he doesn't remember how).
What a cool gorilla!!

*** still to add to this post: VIDEOS of master mixology contest video, Build a Bear, and more***

Day 3: Dolphins and Lions- oh my!

Day 3:
Port of Call: Cabo San Lucas- Woot!
We bought tickets to the Dolphin Encounter excursion! I was so excited when John found this one because although they offer "Swimming with Dolphins" excursions in almost every port, and we've always wanted to do it (but we always chose something else that seemed more exclusive to each specific port- so we've never done it)... well this time having the kids with us- we were sure that was "not an option" since the age requirement almost always is 8yrs+ or 12yrs+ depending on the place. I couldn't believe my ears when John read that BOTH kids were old enough to go- they have a shallow section! Okay, sign us up! Check!!

Cabo San Lucas is one of the ports where large cruise ships can't pull all the way in to dock. So the ship anchors in the middle of the bay and they use "tenders" (little boats) to shuttle you back and forth from the big ship to the small dock on the pier. The kids thought the tenders were fun (and they are).
As we walked ashore, we posed for some fun pics (some of our favorite cruise photographers were out there). The kids made friends with all of the photography staff! Sariah had 2 favorites that she called "the funny guys." She was always looking for her two funny friends all over the ship.
 We quickly posed for these "fun shots" as we stepped ashore Cabo San Lucas!

Right past them was the meeting place for our excursion, and it was a quick walk from the pier to Cabo Dolphins. Once we got into our wetsuits, we were greeted by our wonderful dolphin trainer Abril and we had a private session with our amazing dolphin Ukalaii! What an experience!! I was surprised by the amount of time and activities that we were given with Ukalaii! We played catch throwing toys to her, we fed her fish, we held her fins and danced with her and she even gave us kisses! Ukalaii blew us away with her stunts, she did a show for us (while we were in the water) too- she did super high flips and jumps, spun a hoop around he nose- she is one amazing dolphin! This was an experience that we will remember forever! We feel blessed to be able to create so many wonderful lasting memories for our family!

Since our blog format cuts off part of youtube videos and slideshows, rather than embedding the players, here is a link to open the full screen...
Click here to see our slideshow!

***We have over 100 stunning shots with Ukalaii!! I will post even MORE pics here.... we also have amazing video footage I will add***
There is something special about collecting a few trinkets or treasures along your travels that will always remind you of that place and time when you look at them later. So we let the kids each choose another souvenir to commemorate this adventure. They each chose stuffed animal dolphins, we also picked up a beautiful dolphin carved out of wood as well.

On the walk back we found a "jungle booth" - it was an "animal habitat fundraising booth" where you could hold a baby lion.... um, yeah... sign us up for that too!!! You know you are not in the United States when you can hold a baby lion, haha! That was just so cool, the cub was pretty heavy- much more solid and heavier than any regular cat! I held the lion, and the kids sat next to me (one on each side). Funny, they were all excited to hold the lion, but then got nervous when I was being handed the cub. Then they were like, "umm, there's a lion right next to me" and they were a little uneasy. Maletch moved around (excitement and nervousness) and he scared the lion... um, not fun for mommy holding a freaked out lion, haha! We got Maletch to be still, the lion calmed down and Maletch did pet it, Sariah wasn't too sure about that! John took a bunch of pictures, although the kids could not take their eyes off the lion to look at the camera! :)
On the tender ride back, I realized how crazy our day was when I said, "We got to touch a dolphin and a baby lion in the same day!" Yeah that's quite a day!

Sariah's expression too priceless for words! 
For fun, complete this sentence, "Sariah was like ____"
Towel Animal: It was fun, after a long day of adventure- to come in and find this little bear waiting for us!

This is only Days 1-3! Be sure to click on "older posts" (just below this post) to see Days 4-8 - including our Pirate Adventure in Puerto Vallarta, the kids Talent Show, and LOTS more!

Or you can just click this link Cruise Days 4-8