Monday, November 29, 2010

Grumbling about all the excess, and some other things

Black Friday came and went and we didn't buy a single thing! Ok, that's not true - we visited the tile store and kitchen and bath store on Friday, and then went to Starbucks to treat the kids for behaving - mostly :) Oh, and I picked up a Cricut personal cutter at 7am on Saturday because it was a SMOKING deal (now what the heck do I DO with it? Do I really NEED it?) but other than that, we didn't buy anything. There's not much in this world that will entice me to wait in a line for a store to open at 3am when I have the magic of internet shopping  and price comparison at my fingertips :) That said, if I had a partner in crime to head out with I would probably go - as it stands though, I'd be going it alone in the dark and cold and frankly that's just not all that appealing. Anywho!
We were supposed to have company for the evening Friday night, and they'd arrived at 4pm & were in the house all of 15 minutes when Evie threw up. They promptly said their good-byes and high tailed it out of there - not that I blame them! So with our evening suddenly free, Matt and I tackled the toy closet in the playroom & worked on purging some things. Christmas is in a month and my kids want for nothing - really. Evie has a room full of stuffed animals and yet it's never enough. I swear William doesn't know what any of the stuff he's asked for actually DOES; Sarah imagines things in her head that she'd like to have and then its my job to 'interpret' that and hope she isn't disappointed. Jason? Doesn't need a thing, but surely I have to come up with SOMETHING for him (other than the $90 Dance Star Mickey he saw on TV and has to have)...
Evie and William are about at the age where I really remember Christmas from my childhood. When I was around William's age, each year my sisters and I got  new winter boots, because we needed them. I remember we would each open the box, see it was boots, and chuck it aside to move on to the next gift. These days it seems like most in our circle have all the 'needs' met, and in most cases even the 'wants'. At what  point does it all become ridiculous?
Evie and William 'get' the fact that, even though they make lists, they aren't guaranteed everything. And we're trying to convey that point to Sarah - just because you ask for something doesn't mean you get it. Especially if you invented it yourself - Santa Magic has limits, although he does try really hard :)
Food is another thing that sort of gets out of control at the holidays. I remember my mom baking cookies with us, dozens and dozens of different cookies. She'd put them out when neighbors came over, take them with when we'd visit family, and freeze a bunch for us to have over the holidays. I feel the 'need' to continue that and bake all the cookies I associate with Christmas, but then I end up eating them all. Because while we all did the 'cookie swap' in years past with neighbors, that's kind of died off - everyone's on a diet, and everyone is doing their own baking. It's not so bad now that my kids are bigger and I have FOUR of them, but still - do we all need to be eating all these cookies?
I guess as we head into December, I'm wondering how to keep it simple and MEANINGFUL. I'm hoping this is the year we get it right, and don't go overboard, and make the mistake of setting expectations too high for next year. Because that's a downward spiral toward disappointment I don't want to get into.
So William lost his tooth! All that wiggling during Thanksgiving dinner paid off, and by 6am Friday morning he was standing next to my bed telling me all about it. The other 3 front teeth are all wiggly too so I'm wondering if he will still be able to bite anything by Christmas :)
I want to thank everyone for voting in my poll and telling me your thoughts in the comments! I really, really appreciate each and every one. I think I'm going keep shooting for twice a week, on Monday and Thursday mornings. That's a manageable number for me, and since the voting is pretty much split evenly between 'more' and 'whenever you get to it' we'll stick with the status quo - at least until maybe next fall when Jason starts preschool. Surely I will have a little more time then, right? Or have I drifted off into fantasy land again??

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble

Pie to feed an army. Or a bunch of 1st graders.

I was really prepared for Thanksgiving to be a miserable day. You see, we don't have family nearby - 3 hours is about the closest, and we're headed to see them in two weeks for Christmas - so typically the 6 of us rattle around the house on Thanksgiving, trying to treat it as a special day when in reality, it's just like any other - only Matt and I feel like we shouldn't be doing chores, we should be relaxing, while I spend hours in the kitchen cooking a meal that will only be appreciated by about half of us. At least on Easter you have church to go to, and Christmas has presents. Thanksgiving is all about the food, and as you all know by now I'm still trying to drop a few pounds - needless to say, it's not necessarily my favorite holiday.

William's Feast of Friends luncheon

To top off THAT anticipation, the forecast was for a cool, breezy, drizzly day - so we'd be cooped up inside. BONUS! Nothing says happy like four energetic kids stuck in the house all day, right?

I don't think he knew I was coming :)

In reality, I have to say it hasn't been half bad. Evie helped me make pumpkin pies this morning, and Sarah helped trim the green beans, and was actually excited about it! The kids decorated some wooden ornaments for Christmas - thank you, Michaels, for all your awesome kids' crafts! - and everybody mostly got along without any drama - imagine that! Of course - Matt and I opened some champagne and had Mimosas throughout the afternoon, and by dinner the bottle was gone - so I'm sure that helped ease some parental pain. The chardonnay we opened at dinner has about one glass left and my name is written all over it.

William and TJ

While we may not necessarily feel like observing it, Matt and I agree that it's important to observe the traditions of the holiday because the kids won't always be little. I can only hope that 20 years down the road I'm cooking for a crush of people when my four come home for the holiday, hopefully with families in tow.

My Turkey! You should hear her gobble :)

In the meantime, I cook a turkey breast - enough for the 6 of us for Thanksgiving and a night of leftovers - and all the trimmings, and pumpkin pie.
Emma and Evie at their 'Diversity' lunch. Don't ask, I don't know.

We eat around dinner time, clean up and then have dessert...

Prayer hands!

...William spends 10 minutes at the dinner table trying to pull out his loose front tooth...

...we have pie and then everybody settles in to watch Elf - best Christmas movie EVER. We'll spend the weekend doing fall clean-up in the yard, and maybe on Sunday afternoon when it's warmer and sunny we'll get some Christmas decorations out. Or maybe we'll wait until December 1st :)
This tree outside our church had all its leaves on Sunday.
I took this picture on Tuesday. By Wednesday it was bare.

Whenever Evie brings schoolwork home, I always have to check the back of it - you never know what you're going to find - nothing I'd like better than a cat that enjoys coffee with her morning paper....

And finally, I'd like to direct your attention to a little poll I have at the top of the page: I try to post twice a week and feel kind of bad if I miss one, as - due to the magic of the internet and statistical counters - it seems that some people stop by more frequently than that. SO - if you wouldn't mind responding, I'd appreciate it. If you want more Harried Mom, I'll do my best to oblige - and if you really don't care, then I won't worry about it :) Thanks in advance!

Monday, November 22, 2010

3 weddings and 2 doodles

Matt and I were invited to 3 weddings this fall. A rarity, in that most of our friends and all of our family are married - I think the last wedding we went to was 9 years ago when I was pregnant with Evie - it seems like almost another life. We only actually made it to two weddings and one reception, despite our best intentions - one was the day before our cruise, and one, this Saturday, we missed because I caught the stomach bug going around our area - instead of having a date with my hubby, I spent the day on the couch watching Discs 3 through 5 of GLEE's first season. But that's life, right? Just like marriage, stuff happens. Anyway.

Within a span of 7 weeks, 3 couples we knew got married. The first was a DC wedding at the National Cathedral with a reception at the Women's National Democratic Club - the groom, a co-worker of Matt's was getting married after divorce and brought 2 teenage girls into the mix.
The second was our kids' piano teacher, a lovely 21 year old who married her sweetheart under the local park's gazebo on a sunny, windy October day. No pictures, because I stink and forgot my camera.
The third was this past Saturday - my friend, after many years of searching, had found and married his sweetheart and I am so sad we missed it.
3 different couples coming from 3 different places, all taking the step to say 'I do' in front of friends and family, exchanging rings and pledging 'until we are parted by death'. I was struck, listening to the service in the underground chapel at the cathedral, by what all those words and promises really mean. If you haven't been through it before, you don't really know what you're getting yourself into - surely all first-time brides and grooms are coming into this thing with an idealized view of what their life will be like. I applaud those who, for whatever ever reason weren't successful the first go-around, have the courage to stand up and go for it a second time.

Our hands, back when we were young

You start out your marriage with two bright and shiny rings - a circle, unending, representing your love and unity. Time passes and with wear and tear some of that luster is lost - and you have to think back to remember what it was like when everything was new. But is it worth less? Or do those scratches and dings and dull spots have value?

A while ago I thought about having my wedding band polished, but I decided against it. My ring reflects the passage of time since the day Matt put it on my finger, and I've come to appreciate the fact that it's not as bright as the day it was made. We've earned those 13 years of wear and tear, and I'm proud of them. I'll be happy if I can go to my grave with that ring still on my finger, worn down to a sliver.
I wish our 3 couples the very best for the future & hope that they live long and happy lives together. If I could give any of them advice, it would be DON'T SPEND A LOT ON A WEDDING - oops, too late for that - and TALK to each other. No one can read minds, don't pretend that you can. If you can't talk, you're doomed to fail. And that's all the marriage advice you'll get from Harried Mom.
Wish the lighting were better, I love the look on his face :)


In correlation with the elections earlier this month, our schools talked about the democratic process and such. Evie was very disappointed that she wasn't elected class something-or-other, and I found this gem in William's backpack:

He'd like your vote because he will share, and also turn the lights off. William, you've got MY vote!

Evie brought this masterpiece home from church today - what is it with my kids and the doodling on the pew envelopes??

That's all I've got, as we head into Thanksgiving and the pre-Christmas craze, please remember to be thankful for what you have! You never know how long you have it for :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A birthday, a visit from a friend, and some ponderings

My baby turned 3 last week. How on earth is that possible? It seems like just yesterday we discovered he was on his way, I remember that day so vividly (as you would, I guess, with a surprise baby number 4 on the way when you were content to be finished with number 3 who was only 6 months old...)

Jason just fit right in from the very beginning. He wasn't fussy, he slept through the night early early on, and just was so easygoing. As he's gotten bigger, and I've been able to compare them all, I've come to the conclusion that Jason is the apple of my eye because he is so much like his daddy. The other ones have too much of me in them, and it has clearly messed them all up. At 3, Jason actually seems to hear us when we ask the kids to do something - more than once I've been shocked to say 'please start picking up' to turn around and find HIM the only one doing it - and he does a great job. No wonder he's my favorite. (Sshh, don't tell the others, I think they already suspect that!)

So Jason had his big day last week, and he was super-ready for cake and presents - after all, he'd watched the other three AND me have our birthdays in the last two months, so he knew the drill. We had carrot cake (since he didn't tell me anything other than he wanted 'cake', I chose! It's healthy and delicious, from Good Housekeeping - click HERE) and then some presents, and he loved every minute of it.

Matt insisted in the beginning that Jason belonged to the UPS man.
Don't see how he can deny being this boy's daddy anymore.

I mentioned before that Laura from Piece of Cake came to visit us for the weekend, she wrote a lovely post about her visit with some fabulous pictures of the fire pit, my kids & our town- if you haven't read her before, go check out her blog. She loves coffee and wine, has four kids of her own, and will make you laugh, possibly cry, and remind you to be grateful for what you have. As they say, time well spent.

Now that I'm actually sitting here writing, I don't know that I have any ponderings other than the same things I've been saying for a year now - time is moving TOO quickly and I don't know where the days go. I keep thinking I'll get to the thousand things on my list, but it never seems to happen. I thought as the small people got bigger I'd have some more time to attend to these things, but all I seem to manage is the chores - do you have any idea how much laundry six people create? And then there is the constant repair of things that get busted. There is always at least one toy on the kitchen counter awaiting repair, and Sarah managed to pull the paper holder off the wall next to the toilet because she's been using it as a handle. I'm starting to think that there will be no time for 'extras' until Jason starts preschool in the fall. Which really, when I think about it, isn't all that far away.

I am, however, trying to find the time to watch GLEE! My neighbor has gotten me hooked & given me season 1 on DVD to get caught up. I have to say - I actually dug out my piano music on Monday and PLAYED. It's been too long. I'm kind of amazed that the brain doesn't forget - songs I played 20 years ago (was it REALLY that long ago?) in college for a recital are rusty, but my fingers knew what to do. It may be time to hunt down a teacher and take lessons myself - what better way to convince Evie not to quit than to set an example myself?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fire Pit Folly - Part 3

It's finished. Finally! After taking 3 weeks or so off for travel and Halloween, we finished the fire pit on Friday morning last week, just in time for some weekend company :) Matt had Thursday off last week for Veteran's day so we rented a brick saw and Matt got to work cutting brick and block. I pitched in and set them after he'd cut them and believe me - it took all day. Poor Matt was out there in the cold running a brick saw which of course uses water - his hands were so raw when it was all said and done, and I tell you - 40 is no joke - I swear neither of us could stand up straight for a few hours. But - it was worth it! It's finished, and it's fabulous. We had our first fire Friday night after I returned home from picking up Laura at the airport, who came to visit us for the weekend. On to the pictures!

I can't take a straight picture to save my life, apparently.

Jason enjoying a marshmallow!

Our first s'mores as a family. No one liked them with marshmallows.

It wouldn't be a fire without a glass of wine or two

We realized some things Friday night, one is that mid-November is COLD and even sitting next to a fire you're pretty chilly - so if you come over to sit with us, bring your UGGS and winter coat. And a hat, and possibly gloves. Also - buying firewood in small bundles is not cost-effective, talk about burning through cash! So I guess we'll be looking into buying wood in bulk & figuring out a good place to store it. Also - the ghetto poker Matt made out of rebar and masking tape will have to be replaced with something a bit more permanent.

We REALLY had a great time around our fire Friday night, and I'm looking forward to many, many more in the future. We need to back-fill behind the wall & get the lawn recovered from the construction, but I can just picture it all back together with some pots of flowers on the patio and maybe a nice set of chairs to relax in. We'll get there. Now hopefully the kids won't break anything when they try to sled down the hill this winter...
So this is the week I'm going to get caught up on everything - Jason had a birthday last week that I need to share, and I have a TON of things to catch up on around the house but I'm looking forward to things being a bit more relaxed this week before we roll into Thanksgiving and the Christmas chaos. Why do I feel it's chaotic? Too much to do in too little time? Too many things to remember? We say every year we're going to keep it simple but in the end, I think we miss it - but maybe that's a post for another day...I hope you all have a great week!

Monday, November 8, 2010

FMM: Top 10 of 2010

I was hoping to talk about the fire pit today, in all its awesome finished-ness. That won't be the case today though :( You see - Harried Mom was supposed to call the stone place on Friday to make sure they had the little bit we needed to finish it in stock, and also have them gather it together for a quick pickup on Saturday morning. Harried Mom (who hates making phone calls) didn't see the point in this, as they either had it, or not, and we'd just get what we could Saturday morning. Alas, the stone place was closed for inventory Saturday morning. Why they couldn't do inventory after Noon when they close, I have no idea, but instead of spending the weekend out in the cold laboring away (which Matt did anyway, the yard needed a LOT of attention!) I got to putter around inside and tackled some things (does your house ever look like a bomb went off?) and the fire pit is now on hold until Thursday, when Matt has the day off.

Anywho, I was really wondering what, if anything, I was going to say today when I got a message from Becca from The Texas Darlings about Friend Making Monday. I can't tell you the last time I did FMM - or the last time I visited another blog, sorry peeps! - so it must be a sign that today is the day to jump back in and catch up.

Friend Making Monday is a great way to visit new blogs, get to know your friends better and make new ones along the way. If you'd like to participate, simply answer the question below and add you post to the linky on Becca's blog. Make sure you visit at least 5 other blogs and leave know you love comments, so spread some around :)

Today's assignment: What's my top 10 of 2010?......what is it that I am specifically thankful for in 2010? In no particular order, here goes:
  • Four healthy, happy kids who are, I hope, thriving
  • A husband who never fails to think of my happiness first ahead of his own
  • Jason, the surprise baby I didn't know I needed - he turns 3 tomorrow and I have thanked God for him every day since he was born
  • Sarah finally gave up pull-ups. I am SO THANKFUL for that. We just passed the 9 year mark of diaper changing, and have one kid to go. Anytime you're ready Jason - no pressure.
  • My own health & the fact I was able to run 13.1 miles back in September (and don't ask, the most I've managed since has been at most 5)
  • Turning 40. Surely that means I'm a grownup now, right? With all the wisdom that goes along with it? Yes, I'm thankful for it. Now I don't have to think about it anymore.
  • Being able to visit with my best friend from college not once, but twice this year. It had been way too long, and you don't find 'for-life' friends all that often. Michelle, we miss you!
  • Taking my family on a cruise! Yes it was crazy, but things always look rosier in hindsight - Matt was reading my post on it again last night & even he said it looked like we had a good time :)
  • Employment. Not mine, but Matt's. He's a government contractor and back in August we got the unhappy news that he might not have had a job for the coming year - I am so thankful THAT got resolved - for now, anyway. You never know with the government :)
  • In December Matt & I celebrate our 13th anniversary. Lucky number 13! I won't lie - this year has had some ups and downs - but getting through those and coming out stronger on the other side is what it's all about.
And that's my 10! The 10 I would mention today, anyway. Head on over to Becca's to link up your own 10, or just look around and find some new friends. You never know who you might stumble upon & become fast virtual friends with :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cruising! It's long, but it's the unvarnished truth.

Harried Mom and Dad took the Fabulous Four on a cruise and everyone had a joyous time! Everyone got along fabulously, and everything went off without a hitch. Not quite. Did you think perhaps you were at the wrong blog? Here's how it really went down. I'm going to bog you down with about 100 pictures, so be prepared - I'll try not be get too chatty, but this is bound to be long....

So you already know about the lost passports. We soldiered on anyway and were on our way to NYC by 6am on October 17th. A little after 7 the sun was coming up on a beautiful clear fall morning...
As I mentioned before, we got to the city in plenty of time, 11am - no waiting in lines! and were sent to the waiting area until they began boarding. I think by 12:30 or so we were walking up the gangway to the Norwegian Jewel.
Once on board, we were able to go to the cafe for lunch while waiting for our staterooms to be ready. After the lifeboat drill at 3:30, we headed up to the deck to watch our departure from NYC at 4pm. One thing about leaving NYC in October, the air is chilly - and it was chilly on our 1st and last sea days too. We'd originally looked at doing this cruise over Thanksgiving, and I'm so glad we didn't now - too cold! Anywho, some pics from deck 13 as we were underway...

Matt snapped these pics of the Statue of Liberty as we were leaving - I'd never seen it before in person...
Notice the stuffed animal on Evie's shoulder - keep an eye out for it, she took it everywhere :)

And this was the view I had of Lady Liberty - not quite as spectacular...
I had small peeps sleeping on me, but thankfully a glass of wine in hand.
Monday was a day at sea, and we explored the ship a bit. Evie had the first of many cups of coffee - seems like half the pictures of her she either had coffee or a drink with a straw in her mouth...
The big two were unimpressed by the Nickelodeon show for kids that morning...
They did like the kids club though, and asked to go there every day. Sarah and Jason, not so much. I spent all week taking them back and forth to get snacks and drinks, trying to entertain them, and cleaning up spilled juice. I didn't bring sippy cups, and ships don't have kid's cups. Guess they like to clean up spills.
Tuesday we were headed for Port Canaveral, Florida. Given that school is in session, we brought along homework to do & I made them work on it after breakfast each morning. Tough life, huh?
We arrived in Florida around noon. Matt was really freaked out by me taking pictures near the railing, he was convinced I was going to pitch the camera over the side.
The sports deck had a big chess set on one side and checkers on the other which was good fun, when they weren't fighting over them. Seems like whenever the four are together, the fighting starts.
My dad and his girlfriend were with us, there are many more pictures like this one :)
Once we got off the ship, we'd arranged a rental car, met up with my best friend from college, and headed over to Kennedy Space Center...
The kids sat in a capsule...(notice the stuffed hamster next to Evie...)
We saw enormous rockets...
and watched an IMAX movie in 3D about the International Space Station.
Scary picture of me and Michelle, but I had to include one!
I spent $1.53 getting pennies flattened & embossed with a rocket for the 3 kids who cared about such things...
...and entertained the little two in the gift shop while waiting for the rest of the gang to finish the Shuttle Launch Experience ride. S&J weren't tall enough to ride (note to self, 4 feet seems to be the magic number...)
We had dinner with Michelle & then headed back to the ship for a late departure. Wednesday morning we were to be in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas! Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian's private island down there, it's pretty much just a beach with beach chairs and buffet facilities. They bring all the supplies over from the ship on a tender boat before ferrying passengers over for the day. We waited a while in the Atrium...
Matt pretending he's not annoyed by the kids going around a column in circles...

and then boarded a tender. And then had to get off that tender and board another one when an older man had some sort of medical emergency. Meanwhile I was trying to see the horizon past all those people so I didn't get boat sick.
And we're away from the ship!
and almost to the island! For some reason, I can't take a straight picture & didn't have time to edit all of them, so please excuse the crookedness.
We hiked over to the far side of the beach area and staked our claim under a shady tent. Which we paid $30 for, but it was worth it - everyone got a little red that day, except for Jason who pretty much stayed up in the shade.
The rocks were very slippery, and it was really hard to get pictures without some undesirables in the background, but I liked these two pictures...
I probably would have enjoyed Great Stirrup Cay more had the kids been a bit bigger, and if we'd understood what food/drinks would be available from the start. Jason will only drink apple juice or chocolate milk (don't ask, he's 3) and there was none available on the island. With the four, either Matt or I ends up leaving the other with most of the kids while we try to hunt down things for the rest of us. Consequently, someone is always unhappy or missing something. Oh, and Evie still can't seem to help running around or digging like an animal. Srsly. Most times I can ignore it, but others it really gets on my nerves. Moving on! How can one be annoyed with a view like this??
We got back to the ship, cleaned up the kids, and I took the four up to the back deck for a snack while we waited for Matt to work out and get cleaned up for dinner. It was a beautiful evening and sunset, and the light was just about perfect...
We headed to dinner toting the bottle of wine I'd bought at the bar, and Sarah entertained herself with my camera for a bit.
We got everyone off to bed early so they'd be ready for Thursday morning in Atlantis! And no, those clouds are not a good sign...
Jason was done being dragged around from place to place at this point. He had a cold & really just wanted to go home. He punished me for this by making me carry him everywhere.
We took a bus from the ship to the resort and had to walk a little ways, past all these lovely boats! I like to think I'd love to have one and sail around the world, but then I wake up and realize I'd be sick all the time. It's a nice thought though :)
Atlantis was a beautiful place...
We went to the water park at Atlantis, Aquaventure. It has a huge lazy river running through the place which also has some rapids, and different tube slides you get funneled down. After everyone was sunscreened and Matt hunted down drinks for everyone, I took E&W on the lazy river. And then lost them when they got ahead of me and around a bend. I did manage to see William jetting down a slide on his tube as I was rolling up the conveyor lift to the top, but never did catch up with them. Trying not to panic, when I got back to the where we were sitting, I raced over to Matt & he went off to track them down. Thankfully, they'd stayed together and had stayed on the river so eventually they made it back around to our spot. Note to self, talk about situations like this with the kids AHEAD of time, so they know what to do, and don't get lost in a foreign country. Oy. Anyway - Sarah had a lot of fun in the little kids' area...
...while Jason napped for an hour. Do you see those black clouds in the background??
Those clouds were really overhead around noon, and it started raining a little bit. We walked to get lunch & use the bathrooms (which were FREEZING!!! I swear it was 50 degrees in the women's room). Matt waited for the food while I walked the kids over to our chairs, which thankfully had sunshades on them. It started raining a bit harder on our walk back and I made the mistake of commenting, 'Can it rain any harder?' The kids really got a kick out of that because no sooner were the words out of my mouth than it started POURING. Seriously. I don't think at that point it COULD have rained any harder. Fortunately, that didn't last long. Double fortunately, Atlantis provides you towels, so I was able to trade in all our sopping wet cold ones and get nice dry WARM ones for everyone.

After the rain passed, we whiled away time wondering why these two sunburned people were not wearing shirts to keep out of what sun there was...
Matt had a Mai Tai and I had a Route 66 (something fruity with Tequila) to kill our pain & then I took some pictures :)
We dragged the big two off the lazy river,
and after Evie - daredevil that she is - did the Leap of Faith waterslide,
we caught a bus back to the port. And Sarah passed out on her seat :) Ironically, we were sitting next to some ladies from a Carnival ship who had sailed from Baltimore, and they lived 30 minutes away from our home. We ended up seeing their ship in port in Baltimore on our way home from NYC. It's a small world, after all.
Matt had spied a Harley store from the ship so before heading back we stopped in so he could get a T...
...Sarah was either tired or didn't know what to make of all of this...
then we walked over to the Nassau lodge building. Matt went to the door but I don't think anyone was home.
Evie got some braids froma Certified Hair Braider...
and then it was back to the ship for dinner followed by two days at sea! Dinner Thursday night I think was the tipping point for Matt. The little two hadn't had a real nap in 3 days, and they were pretty done in - mostly Jason.
Jason flipping his bread up in the air.
This was the one night we weren't seated at a round table and the kids were bickering about who got to sit on the bench instead of a chair. This is also the night Jason finally knocked over the his chocolate milk, which was served in a tall footed glass. Matt's cry of 'NOOOOOO!' drew the attention of everyone in the dining room, I think :) But really, what can one expect? After that we made sure to request his milk in a rocks glass.

The kids did get a kick every night of seeing what the stewards had done with the towels. One night we came back to find a bunny, another was a penguin, then a sea lion, but I think the kicker was when we opened the door and saw a monkey hanging from the ceiling :) Jason was afraid of it. Notice Evie's stuffed animal strategically placed for photographing...
Friday morning Evie and I got pedicures first thing, then she went to the kid's club with William while I took the little two to play checkers...
Sarah played some shuffleboard too.
We had lunch every day in the Garden Cafe overlooking the sea...
and dinner with Dad and Marianne in one of the many dining rooms...
Our last day at sea, Evie's birthday, was a bit chilly - coffee all around!
William had fun in the driving cage while Jason pouted...
and when I'm bored I take self portraits with my kids.
Matt just waiting for this all to be over...
...and finally Evie's birthday dinner on our last night.
William fell asleep at the table...
and this is ALMOST a picture of all of us, Sarah is laying down on her chair.
After dinner we went to see the final show by the cast and crew in the theater. After they sang 'We're you're home away from home' & the lights came up, William turned to me and said, 'I feel like crying and I don't know why!'. I get it buddy, I really do :)
Afterwords, I wanted to get a picture of all six of us & was trying to set it up for my dad to take before I jumped in. Obviously Matt wondered what the hell I was doing...
...then I sat on William's hand by accident and he burst into tears.
And here's our lovely family cruise portrait. Isn't it just peachy? :) Maybe not, but it's honest.
Sunday morning I got to have a good view of the Statue of Liberty myself as we returned to New York...
...and we had our final breakfast at the open air cafe on the back of the ship. Evie's little hamster has been replaced by the only thing she'd asked for her birthday, Sunshine the Mazing' Hamster (Webkinz).
At this point, Sunday morning, Sarah was ZERO tired. Yeah right :) She started doing this sometime during the week, holding up her fists to say she wasn't tired. When all her fingers were out she was TEN tired, and ready for bed.

Silly goose :)

We got off the ship, back to the car, and home with no troubles whatsoever, and had only been home an hour when Matt started digging out the Halloween stuff to put out in the yard.

Would we do it again? I would! In a heartbeat! But - I think maybe 3 is a little young. Sarah handled it better than Jason did, and he's the most even-tempered and pleasant of the bunch. Plus all the water slides at Atlantis require you to be 48 inches tall - William was just shy of that and they wouldn't budge on it. It was heaven not to have to cook, clean, make a bed or wash a dish & come back to a spotless bathroom every day, and the kids really enjoyed some of the shows we went to in the theater, particularly the juggling. We have a deposit down for another cruise that we have four years to use (you get a discount for booking while on board), but we're actually talking now about maybe taking a trip abroad before the kids' passports expire, 5 years from now. By then they will all be old enough to enjoy it, make it through the day without too much of a struggle, and most of all REMEMBER it. Plus we have plenty of time to plan. European Vacation anyone? You can just call us the Griswolds :)

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