Friday, April 26, 2013

Our Night at the Museum.

So Michaela came home from a Girl Scout meeting back in the fall with a flyer about doing an overnight trip to NYC, complete with the added twist of sleeping IN the actual Museum of Natural History.
"How cool!" thought Mommy.
"I'm not going unless you go," said Michaela.
And thus our plans were made.

March 23rd was the date and we headed down in a minivan stuffed with excited, chatty girls and slightly anxious moms.

We got there just as it was getting dark, and walked to where we would be sleeping: the giant-sized hall of Ocean Life- or something like that.  It's the enormous two story room with the life sized blue whale hanging from the ceiling.  The room was filled with hundreds of cots- our beds for the night- all arranged in long rows.  We dropped off our stuff and headed for the exhibits.

Our sleeping quarters

We saw tons of neat stuff!
I loved the dioramas of the different animals and they even had one featuring Pilgrims and Indians.  And you KNOW how much I groove on that.

They even turned off the lights in some of the exhibit halls so that you were walking around seeing the dinosaur skeletons only by your own flashlight.  Totally cool.

Some of the girls goofing around in the gems area
T Rex!- in the dark

After seeing a good chunk of the museum, we ate a late snack and had the opportunity to get Girl Scout patches and t-shirts that you can ONLY buy if you are doing the overnight program.  I even bought a patch for myself.  Hey, I'm a Girl Scout, too, technically.

We finished the night by watching a movie about the migration of monarch butterflies.  It was beautiful.  Then we headed back to our room with the cots to get ready for the night.  Unfortunately, the closest bathroom to this gigantic room had three bathroom stalls and about 400 women and girls fighting and waiting and complaining about waiting and hopping very dramatically because they had to go pee SO BAD.  Quite a scene.

Thankfully a friend of mine who had gone with her sons the weekend before stressed the importance of bringing earplugs.  Because it was LOUD.  Then, at about 12:15 am, it was like a giant sound system volume control suddenly turned the sound down, waaaay down, and within about 5 minutes, all 400 people were finally asleep.  And it was eerily quiet.

I slept pretty well until about 2am when I heard one of our girls trying to wake up another girl. 
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"I have a really bad nosebleed," she answered, and my 11 and a half years of being a mom- and being woken up in the middle of the night for things ranging from pee, vomit and/or blood to fevers to colds to insomnia to being told that there was 'not enough space' in one's bed- kicked into action and I was instantly awake and helping her to the bathroom to clean up.  We got that taken care of, though I admit to being a bit startled by the fact that this 11 year old girl was clearly taller than me and quite more developed, if you get my drift.  These are girls I've known since kindergarten.  And now some of them look like grown women.  Incredible.

The other 400 girls decided that 6:15am was a good wake up time, so we got up and ready.  In the three stalls.  Then it was off to the museum gift shop and a trip across the street to Central Park for a nice walk.  The weather was sunny and breezy and lovely.  We explored much of the park and then headed back to the Museum to finish out our trip, after hitting a NYC Starbucks.  Clearly caffeine and sugar were fueling the moms on the trip.

Central Park
We finished up touring around the museum and headed back to the cars to leave.  We were happy to get home to our own bathrooms and beds.
All the girls loved this Easter Island head and wanted their pictures taken with him

So much to see!
We had a blast- a really, really fun and memorable night.  You can totally understand where the inspiration for the movie Night at the Museum came from.  So glad I was able to experience it with my big girl! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Miracles in Front of Us.

This is my dad.

Nine months ago he was diagnosed with an advanced, rare cancer.
Eight months ago he started chemotherapy every other Tuesday.
Five months ago he had a CT scan that showed the chemo was not working and his doctor told him, "There's nothing else I can do for you."
Five months ago we learned about Dr. Lambert.
Four months ago we prayed that he would survive long enough to meet with her and see what, if anything, she could do.
Four months ago he went into the hospital to have surgery.
Four months ago he was carried on a vast Ocean of Prayer- bigger and more powerful than anyone could have imagined- through the surgery with no complications.
Three months ago he came home from the hospital, better than our wildest dreams.
Three months ago my brother called and suggested we all go on a dream vacation together to celebrate.
Two months ago my dad was well enough to return to his part time job.

This is my dad, a few weeks ago, standing poolside in Miami and watching his six grandchildren have the time of their lives.  It is one of my favorite pictures of our whole vacation.  It is hope, it is survival, it is prayer, it is power, it is faith, it is love, it is perfect.

God has been so very, very good to us.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Our Trip to Paradise, Part 2.

 Family shot in Nassau... the tourist who took this picture for us was from Syracuse!
 Pirate Megan, waiting in line to meet Capt. Hook, Smee and Peter Pan.
 Pirate Kate
 Swashbuckling Luke
 Two of the nights we were on the boat we went to a "nightclub" on the ship in between the big show of the night and dinner.  We listened to great music and the kids all had a ball dancing.  Alec, unfortunately, dances exactly like Elaine from Seinfeld.  He's so incredibly physically coordinated but when he hears music, he gets all herky-jerky.  It's adorable.  You can see him bustin' some of his moves in this pic.
 Pirate Themed Night! PopPop gets into the spirit of things with Alec's gun.  Goofball. 
 Another pirate at the table.

After awhile, the Apple products all come out... to be fair, dinner took a looong time for 3 and 5 years olds.

Gammie and Pops posing with Noel and Duran, our servers every night at dinner.  They were adorable.
 After dinner on Pirate night they had a Pirates IN the Carribean Deck Party with music and dancing and characters.  It ended with Mickey flying from one end of the ship to the other followed by fireworks!

 Ahhhhhhh.... Castaway Cay.
 PopPop relaxing on Castaway Cay.  Life is GOOD!!
 Michaela on the beach.  I started calling her my Bahama Mama but then we gave names to everyone: Beth and I were the Bahama Mamas, Gammie was Miami Gammie, PopPop was Poolside PopPop, Alec and Luke were the Key West Cuties, Michaela, Jenna, Kate and Megan were the South Beach Sisters, and Dan and Brian were the Riu (the hotel chain we stayed in at Miami) Wranglers.
 Castaway Cay had an awesome splash pad that Alec LOVED.
 Gams and Pops watching Alec and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

 We're smiling for the camera but crying inside... this is us riding on the very last tram back to the boat at the end of the day.  We played in the water, rode bikes, and even fed, swam and snorkelled with stingrays!  They are rubbery but so smooth and fun to play with.
 Alec and Kate were good buddies the whole trip.  This is walking back onto the boat.

 Three of the South Beach Sisters after the final show of the cruise, Dreams, which was so beautiful that I cried at the end. Like a baby.  It had all the princesses in it, gorgeous music and production, and at the end they showed a picture of the ship being covered by Tinkerbell in pixie dust.  As we're seeing the picture of the pixie dust swirling around outside the ship, inside the theater- on the floors, walls, and ceiling- thousands of tiny embedded LED lights start twinkling from the front of the theater to the back.  It was breathtaking.  Let's see you not cry after watching that.

 Posing in the portholes.  I think they were beginning to think the whole crusie was a gigantic photo shoot for them.
 By the last night, Alec was out for dinner.  They even brough tablecloths for a pillow and blanket.
 OF COURSE the ketchup is in the shape of Mickey Ears.  OF COURSE IT IS.
 One of the hallways in the ship had carpeting that was a map of Route 66.  Alec loved it.

 Love my girls and their bahamian hair.

We ate twice at Animator's Palette, where the room starts all black and white and throughout the meal, color is added to the walls.  The kids loved it. At the end it looked like this:
On the last night, Sunday night, all the characters gather after dinner at 10pm for a final chance to meet and greet.  Then they say not goodbye, but "Until we meet again!"  It was awesome.  AND my mom got her picture taken with Cinderella, her favorite princess, so the trip was complete.

 Much thanks to my parents, who got us all through the worst parts of the fall and made this celebratory trip a reality for all 12 of us!!  We had a blast and will never forget this week.  We love you and are so happy we were able to all be together!!
 Goodbye, palm trees... let's not wait too long before we meet again...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Our Trip to Paradise, Part 1.

We got back a week ago from a fantastic trip to Miami's South Beach, where we stayed directly on the ocean, and then went on a four night Disney Cruise.
These are my initial takeaways from the trip:
1.  If you have children of any age, find a jar TODAY that you can start throwing money into to save up for a Disney Cruise. 
2.  I am completely enamored by palm trees.
3.  Life does not get much better than sitting in an open air bar on Key West with your hubby (and knowing your three wonderful children are being well cared for by their grandparents and aunt and uncle) enjoying a Mile Marker Zero pale ale.
4.  I am happy to be part of a 12 person family who can go on a massive trip together and still speak to each other after 7 days of non-stop fun.
5.  Castaway Cay (pronounced "KEY" even though it looks like "CAY") is the closest thing to paradise on earth that I have ever encountered: clear water, palm trees (see #2 above), light breeze, chairs and umbrellas on the beach, floats to lay on, snack bar, gift shop, free food, and to top it all off: a Disney waiter walking the beach asking you if you'd like a drink.  Yes, I'd like to take ALL OF THIS HOME WITH ME.

Here's the first batch of pics in general chronological order....

 Our view looking south of South Beach, Miami.  Our hotel is drectly to the right of where I am standing.  We even had a celebrity sighting of Ty Pennington frolicking in the surf with a cute younger blond girl.  He's very cute and trim and tan in person, but definitely not young.

 Alec relaxing poolside at the hotel
Kate, Jenna and Michaela enjoying the surf
View from the beach of our hotel
 Pool area at our hotel
The view out of our hotel room window... palm trees and the ocean behind it.  Heaven.  I couldn't stop staring.

 The second day there we ventured into South Beach proper.  It was interesting- great architecture and, of course, palm trees.  No celebrity or model or "beautiful people" sightings... just a few people walking around and other tourists.  We did take our first taxi ride as a family back to the hotel.  Alec was fascinated that we got into a car we didn't know and drove.

 Thursday morning, getting our last licks in at the pool before boarding our Disney cruise.
 Life is rough.  Michaela really enjoyed the smoothies.
Making our way to the van that drove us to the Port of Miami, aka Alec's Favorite Part of the Trip per him.
 Breakfast one morning on the upper deck of the cruise ship, overlooking Nassau, Bahamas.
 Dan ran the Castaway Cay 5K on Sunday morning.  He did great!
Our girls playing on the beach in Miami
Lunch under the tiki hut in Miami.  What a life these kids enjoy. 

 On the boat, the kids (except for Alec) loved meeting all the characters.  ("I don't want to meet any printhetheths..." said he with mild disgust.) On Friday morning all the princesses came down the grand staircase in the lobby and met their adoring fans.  Beautiful.

 Dan and I took a trolley tour of Key West, which we LOVED.  Here's the Southernmost point of the US.
 Enjoying a drink at Island Dogs bar.
 One of the beautiful churches on Key West.
 All of us with Goofy!!
 Alec is less sure of his Goofy encounter.  He has a firm grip on his Pirates of the Carribean flintlock pistol.

This was an exciting night for us... Kate and Jenna got to go onstage for the big show that evening and be dwarves with Snow White.  Later Michaela and I were on a game show called "So You Think You Know Your Family?" and had to answer various questions Newlywed-Game-Show style.  Questions included: Name your child's best friend (Isabel), What do they want to be when they grow up (a teacher), Who is the boss in your family (very loaded question, don't you think??... we both answered 'both mom and dad' but they made us choose one and we both chose Daddy), What does your parent do to embarrass you in front of your friends? (sings) and If your parent had to be punished, what would be the worst thing to take away from them? (I said my cellphone and she said Pinterest.  Michaela argued for a half point since Pinterest was on my phone and they gave it to us!)  With Michaela's argued half-point, we won the game!  It was a real blast and a great memory from the trip.  Plus for the rest of the cruise kids came up to us and said, "Hey! I know you! You were on the game show!" and I felt as much of a celebrity as I ever will.  Take that, Ty Pennington.

 Alec and Dan in Nassau, Bahamas.

While we were in Nassau we got the girls' hair braided by "Certified Hair Braiders".  They provided a LOT of local color to our trip there.  The lady who did Michaela's had four gold upper front teeth and was wearing so much makeup that I wasn't convinced that she wasn't a man in drag.  Jenna's was a bit gentler and patiently answered all of my annoying tourist-y questions.  It only took them about a half hour to do the hair but we got to see all the women fighting over who gets to braid whose head and all the catfighting between them, which was pretty vicious.  It was particularly interesting because they were all speaking English but I could barely understand them because of the accents and the dialect.  I bargained them down on the price (they wanted $80 per girl, which was out of the question) and both women mentioned three times to me that I need "to take care of them" and give them "a good tip" because I was paying less.  The girls looked beautiful and it was a great way to mark our visit to the Bahamas.

Lots more to share in Part 2!