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Thursday, December 20, 2012

‘Tis the Season

Here it is folks. It’s that time of year. Sheesh. How many of you are you are so sick of the holiday clich├ęs? It comes down to these few last days before the end of the year and I am just ready to have it over with. Sorry Jesus. I feel the same about almost anything I have to plan that includes other people. Sorry people. This may actually turn in to a rant so if you find yourself filled with the Spirit, you may want to just click the little x in the top right corner.

Unfortunately it is right about now I become a bi-polar Chrismafreakakonis. I really love the magic and the wonder and the kindness but hate the rush and the stuff and the other stuff. You follow? Let me ‘splain.

It irritates me to no end that this time of year for so many (you know who you are and you can pretend all you want but we know who you are too!) revolves around buying shit. To remedy this feeling of loathe at a time of year when I should have only joy in my heart I did away with most of the stuff. I refused the mall. I bought only things I thought were from my heart and I made a lot of gifts this year. I have a hard time explaining to my kids why Santa loves (with tons of shit) little Johnny more and why he hates poor kids. We all know none of this is true but in the end think of what it looks like to a five year old. It breaks my heart. I remember the days (thank you Mom, I love you and now I get it) when I would be upset with Santa thinking maybe I wasn’t good enough this year because I had one Cabbage Patch doll under the tree and apples and oranges in my stocking. Looking back, I am forever grateful that he came at all. For goodness sake people, if you are going to spoil the shit out of your brats do it on their birthday, not Jesus’.

So while I assemble 38 candy cane reindeer and bawl my ass off over stupid things like “Oh, Holy Night” (damn it Celine, you are destroying more than the English language when you sing, my dignity goes to hell too) it makes me wonder “when will the wonder die?”. I’m sure in the next year my eight year old will figure out why Carl the Elf didn’t move and my heart will shrivel a little. It saddens me. I want to teach my beasts that kindness is not just a cold weather activity. We volunteer all year long and I can’t help but think we could all be doing a little bit more this time of year.

A dear friend posted not long ago that she didn’t understand why people were boasting about their kindness on Facebook. Shouldn't kindness come free of reward? Yes. But sometimes it feels so good that you want to shout it to the heavens and hopefully inspire someone who wasn’t in the loving and giving mood. That being said some crappy ass soccer mom bought my latte today in the drive-thru. I was pissed. She just drove off before I got a chance to thank her for her unnecessary kindness! I was so surprised, and I had already dug out my five bucks, that I paid for the dude behind me with a “well shit then, I’ll just get his”. Oh, and dipshit at Whole Foods last week… it was me, you’re welcome. Lucky you I wasn’t in a purse stealing mood.

I was raised very well (and Catholic) and I am trying to teach my children with love, forgiveness, and kind hearted behavior instead of straight Dogma but this time of year it is so easy to dismiss the should have for the must have. I want them to know that I love them by the way I act instead of the things I buy. Call me cheap, call me a hippie, but if it really matters follow my lead. I get a lot of questions about Christmas and I answer each one with well thought out and gentle honesty. I am not trying to kill Santa and I surely do not want them to miss the real reason that we all celebrate our winters the way we do whatever your religion, trust me I have had a lot of questions this year! Santa will come to our house, and since my boys have been having a hard time with the ol’ love thy brother thing they have mostly things they have to share coming from the big guy.

Since this will be my last post of the year I implore you to go out in to this great big world and make a difference in someone’s day, no matter how small, they will notice. I promise.

Please know that I appreciate you and I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Blessed Solstice, Cheerful Kwanza… whatever your belief… much love to you.

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See ya’ll next year… unless the Mayans were right. Either way I am gonna stay up past midnight… I’ll let ya know how that goes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Epic Experience Pt. 7 (final installment)

The last full day at sea we spent all day at the pool but since we were headed north to the Bahamas the weather was starting to cool and the wind was really picking up. That evening we ate Brazilian and went to see the Legends in Concert. It is a hilarious celebrity impersonators show. The Legends company does shows all over and are very picky about their stars. They have to fit the celebrity to the tee, looks and voice. It was so fun!

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We were entertained by Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, and Jimmy Buffet.

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Anyone who really knows me also knows I couldn’t resist. Arm length with MJ!!! Try explaining impersonators to an eight and a five year old. “But you told us Michael Jackson was dead!” Joy. I actually think this ringer could have convinced Mrs. Jackson. His stage performance was that good. Upon closer inspection, I think my new pal is Puerto Rican. Hmmm…

Our last day was spent in Nassau, Bahamas. We chose to go to the Atlantis Resort.

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The grounds were beautiful. We went to play in the water park but my little dude was too short and my big dude a little weary of the heights. So Dad and I chose the lazy river/rapids to take them on and it was fun but freezing! We should have taken a hint from all the employees who were dressed in jackets and sock hats. Duh!

SO after some splash time for the boys in the kiddy part we dried off and headed for The Dig. Eight million gallons of salt water! Yep. You heard me. 

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See my buddy? This is Poseidon, and his wingspan is 12 1/2 feet across. His girlfriend, or lady Manta, Athena was a mere 9 feet. They were breathtaking. I could have stood there all day, except we had eels, lion fish, piranhas, sharks, and about a million other things to see.

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Lobster anyone? “Just me, you, and a little butter baby”. My husband is such a sweet talker. Yes, I know they are delish but this exhibit was totally creepy. They were everywhere! Look up!

We spent four hours in the resort and it was time to head back to the ship. Bummer.

We had a low key buffet dinner and sent the kids to the kid’s club for the farewell party. They wanted to say goodbye to their new friends and we needed to get some serious packing done. But first we stopped in to see the Second City Players. The theme for their show was “cruise life” and I was in tears laughing at the jokes about the walkers in line for the buffet and the force of a cruise toilet. Then they did this whole song and dance about messed up tan lines. It was a riot. A very much needed laugh at the end of our fantastic vacation.  

We picked up the kids and set our bags outside our rooms and headed off to bed knowing that tomorrow we would say goodbye to our home away from home.

The next day was one full of waiting in the Miami airport but we were on our way home so it was very bittersweet.

We headed home the same way we arrived…

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in style.

So many heartfelt thanks go out to all who made this trip a possibility. Most of all I have our little buddy to thank for this one. He is a survivor and a lover of life. I thank God everyday for letting us keep him and making him so strong. Our lives were forever changed with the births of each of our children and we never lose sight of just how fortunate we are. 

Epic Experience Pt. 6

Anybody tired of this yet?!

Wednesday we ordered room service for breakfast and headed out to see St. Thomas Island. We started at the Coral World Ocean Park. They do amazing reef rebuilding and well, it is set right in the middle of paradise.

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I did not pick a lame tour this time! They have all kinds of wonderful sea life to show as well as a diver feeding fish…

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and one mentally challenged stingray. The guide giving us the narrative on the diver informed us that most of the wildlife will be returned to the open ocean, except this guy. He loves captivity so much that he refuses to stay in the safest place for stingray which is near the bottom. He would rather spin pinwheels for squid treats than save his own hide. So he becomes an attraction and one of the only permanent fixtures to this aquarium. “He is just not quite right in the head” the guide tells us.

From there we head to what I can describe only as perfect. Coki Beach. On the Travel Channel’s Top 20 Beaches it is no disappointment. The sand is cool, the water warm and calm, and there were tons of fish even at ankle deep to feed and admire.

 

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The boys had a blast and the whole time my hubby and I were thinking that the only way it cold get better would be to have air on our backs.

When it was time for our shuttle we headed into town to do some shopping then back to the ship. I got a much needed latte and the kids got to play Wii on the giant screen. We will call this “little boy heaven”.

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DSC03653 Two stories of pure joy!

That evening we attended this:

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I wish I could translate how incredible it was to eat a delicious dinner with a live circus going on within arms reach of the table.

The slides were open late just this one night so we ran and changed and played until very late. My legs were so sore the next morning from climbing the stairs so many times! Unforgettable.

Epic Experience Pt. 5

It is Tuesday. We have been at sea for two and a half days and this morning we woke up at port.

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St. Maarten/ St. Martin here we come!

I can officially say that I picked the dumbest tour for this island. We were given a tour of both the French and Dutch sides of the island, by giant tour bus, complete with grumbling, traffic, and finally naps. Grrr…

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Boring. I get it. I’m sorry.

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As soon as this kid stops slapping himself, I’m gonna slap him!

I learned a lot. I enjoyed it. All except my travel buddies were pissed at me. But we did get out and stretch our legs. What a view!

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Would it be super dumb if this was my Christmas card this year?

Finally our tour had concluded and we were dropped off at the beautiful Orient Beach! This was the first time my boys had ever been in the ocean. We live in the Midwest. We are busy, work a lot, my dude was sick, the other was a baby, I don’t travel well… make up any excuse you want, I don’t have a good reason. I do believe all things happen in their own time and I think this was the exact right time for my little guys to dip their toes in the ocean for the first time.

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The water was perfect temperature, a little rougher waves than my dudes liked, but all in all beautiful. 

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My lover and I enjoyed a local beer and got our retinas burned out by some topless oldies. The boys? Obliviously played. Got sand everywhere. My tiny dude tells me “the water is so pretty but it tastes terrible” “don’t drink it buddy” “ok mom”. It was an amazing experience.

I only took like 78 pictures on this island. The toe pictures seem really popular right now so I’ll add this one:

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I need to point out though that this is not just a “toes on vacation” picture, it is a family photo. See? My big dudes out in the water together and my little man hovers a little closer to Mom. See out on the horizon? Anguilla Island. Stunning. Bet I could swim there.

After some ineffective showering and a stern lecture on the importance of punctuality and togetherness while in a foreign country, we are all on the same bus and headed back to the boat. I’m sorry, babe. Still.

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We rearranged our plans with Raewyn this evening because the boys caught wind of a Pirate Party in the kids club. So after dinner we set sail and sent the kids off.

This is going to feel a little off task but follow me. K?

There is a section at the back of the boat, way up on top, that is an adults only “club” complete with pool, bar, and amphitheater style lounge chairs. After 8pm they open it to all ages. The first night while exploring the ship we happened back there to find it full of adults watching a movie on this giant, two story, screen. What were they watching? Disney’s Tangled. The only kids in sight were my two. Odd.

Tonight after dropping the kids at the party we were at a loss for something to do. Afraid if we take a nap we would never get up, and not in any mood to dress up we wander to the back of the boat. Today carried a pirate theme throughout and to my delight what is playing on the jumbo screen? Goonies! I have landed. Beer, popcorn, and my hunny.    

 

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We picked up our pirates and headed back to the cabins. The towel elephant was promptly decapitated and we ordered room service around midnight.

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Arrrr!!!

Epic Experience Pt. 4

What happens in the span of a day feels like several days. Must be some sort of mid-sea time warp. We did experience a time zone and some daylight savings, maybe that’s it.

Day 2!

We got up early and went to the Nickelodeon character breakfast.

 

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We got great seats and got to see all of our favorite cartoon dudes:

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After breakfast we did nothing. For like five hours. Well, not nothing. The boys swam and played and the hubbs and I worked on our tans horrid tan lines. This is the view from where we laid in the sun:

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My main squeeze and I took turns playing, napping, and eating with our children. The entire day was effortless and full of free cookies.

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We eventually pried our bodies out of their chairs and cleaned up for dinner. After we ate we were able to catch the sunset. Gorgeous. 

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Then we off to enjoy one hour complimentary arcade time. Party on!

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What was that? Yes, of course I was there! I am super good at killing imaginary bad guys and I can drive a pretend car like a bat outta hell, but that all requires me to put down my camera. Sheesh.

Day 2 was a success (no one was hurt) and we were beat and ready for bed early.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Epic Experience Pt. 3

I know three posts in one day is pretty excessive but I gotta get it down before I forget. Or blow up. Whichever.

So with Miami, FL behind us and two days of open sea ahead let the fun begin. Wait! Not yet. We don’t have a clue what to do so we start at the Guest Services desk. I originally went to just check in, sort of. I actually forget my original reason for being there. Huh. But as soon as I gave them our last name we were shuffled off to speak with Raewyn, from South Africa, our Group Service Coordinator. Boy were we in for a surprise! Where the Make-A-Wish jurisdiction ended (they sent ideas of what little dude what might want to do) the folks at Norwegian picked right up. She had a printed schedule of events for us. Something major every day. We got an hour arcade time and internet service on the house, souvenirs, and tours that were exclusively ours. I cried like an idiot the entire time she explained what we would be doing and that she would be accompanying us to each event to secure VIP seats and arrange things along the way. I was overwhelmed, the hubbs was overjoyed, and the boys were clueless. They will get it here in a day or two.

Side note: There were two Group Service Coordinators on the ship and these ladies were really hoppin’! We were hardly a group, the four of us. They did have several large groups on the ship with us though. The was a Bingo group, a lesbian group, and a bunch of folks from Jersey who were hell bent on drinking the ship dry. So in addition to all of the families with small children, we had an expanded version of the Jersey Shore cast, loads of ladies in shirts that simple read “Sweet”, and more walkers and scooters that I think was safe for our vessel. WoW! 

It was all of 2pm after meeting Raewyn and we had to get a bite to eat. Off to the buffet! I don’t know if I was just starving or if it really was the best freakin’ burger and fries ever. We got into our rooms and all bags were accounted for so we grabbed our beach towels and headed to the lido deck.  Even though the water was freezing the boys insisted we were evil fun squashers if we did not allow them to swim until they just couldn’t take it any more. We dried off and headed out for some ship exploring.

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It was such a long day that this is really the only picture I got of our ship exploration that first night. This sport court was on the 18th deck, pretty dang high up. See the ship’s stacks in the background? Super windy. We played a little basketball, a little soccer then suffered two injuries before declaring the night over. Grady and I were dribbling a basketball which hit him in the face busting his upper lip and spewing blood. Total accident. Then Doug decides to take one last shot with his soccer ball and Henry just happened to be standing like 5 foot away and caught it in the temple sending him to the ground. Also an accident. No stitches needed and only a minor concussion. Sheesh. We actually get parents of the year nominations for tandem injuries on the first day of vacation though. Go us!

We slept like the dead got up early and had some breakfast. Yum! Then off to meet Raewyn for our tour of the bridge!!! I was so excited and so was my posse. To the left you see the bridge observation area, which anyone who wants to wander up to 13 is privy to see. Then she let us in…

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To meet the Master, Captain Sverre Sovdsnes (still can not pronounce his name)  and his 1st officer, Julia who is from the Ukraine and gave us our tour. It was fascinating!

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My boys in the Captains’ chairs.

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Let’s take a look at this one shall we? The red line is our charted course. The white is the actual path of the ship. Notice the loop-di-loop we did a little while back? Barf! We were doing this tight circle in a massive ship while we were trying to eat breakfast. It was a shipwreck they stopped to investigate, standard safety procedure I believe. Turns out it was an old wreck that had not yet sunk completely, but super cool none the less.

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The dudes were very interested in the instrument panels.

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This window in the floor is used when docking in port. It is so you can see how close the ship is to the dock.

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My buddy is steering the ship! No big pirate wheel here, that little dial is how the ship is steered. There is a little stool and holes in the floor so the person steering is lower than the control station.

  DSC03412   The lovely Raewyn!!!

That was just the first thing on our agenda. Next we went to the galley!

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We had a guided tour of the galley. I have been in the restaurant biz for a very long time and I have never seen so much stainless steel in my life! We met the Executive Chef, saw where every item for the 4000+ guests is prepared, and even got to make our own lunch. Incredible!

Would you believe that was just our morning on day one?!?!?

Not a minute to rest. Not today. We saw the Nickelodeon Slime Time game show hit the water slides for an hour then had dinner in one of the many restaurants. Then… 

The Blue Man Group!!!

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This was the first time we have seen them and the show was so fun. The music was great and the Blue Men were really funny. We were marked, each with a blue spot on our cheeks. Then they gave my dude the spit picture from the show! The best part about that was instead of signing the canvas one of the guys “face printed” it. 

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After such a whirlwind day at sea the boys were ready to get rid of us. So… off they went to the kids club! Sorry no pictures allowed. In fact no parents allowed. They thought that was the sh*t! The Hubby and I were left to our own devices and decided to entertain ourselves with a trip to the Svedka Ice Bar.

DSC03458 No messing around in there! The glasses are made of ice, the chairs, the bar… well everything! They give you the down feather ponchos and the gloves before you go in to the 50°F in the entrance then only 17°F in the actual bar. This dummy wore flip-flops. The drinks were strong so that kind of made up for it and the entrance fee bought you two. Whooo!!!!

What a day!