Saturday, July 29, 2017

What April Looked Like

Yard sale!
Last year, before our cruise we had a yard sale
for the kids to earn souvenir money.
We did the same thing this year.
It's a great way to de-clutter and let the kids have spending money. 

General conference party 

The climbing girl 

Caroline won our March Madness bracket! 

Whit leaving on her field trip before the crack of dawn.
They sure look happy, considering how early it was. 

My first smartphone met its death. :(

Caroline and I had a fun visit to the science center.

They've expanded the aquarium
and it is awesome! 

Love it when Andrew and Andrea end up
next to each other in gift shops. 

B is way into thrift shopping, vintage clothing, and 
quirky random finds. I thought he might like
these random shoes I found at Goodwill.
But apparently not enough to pay $20 for them. 

Easter eggs

Miss Whitney turned 13!
I have two teenagers!
And I love them. :)

This awesome girl made her own
birthday cake from scratch! Yum. 

I chaperoned a field trip for C
to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham.
This is the fossil dig area.
One of the little boys said,
"I think they just give the kids shovels
so they don't have to pay someone
to find the fossils!" 

Romeo and C got to do a geology experiment. 

Getting close to recital time for W!
She's playing Captain Hook in this
year's production of Peter Pan. 

I also got to join B's English class on a field trip
to a murder mystery lunch.
B was the one who got murdered!

Fun to see him with his classmates.
And he recovered well from his death. 

One of my favorite ballet costumes for Whit.

Our dear friend, Margaret, from church, fell and broke her hip.
I stopped by the hospital to see her.

Spring is springing on our maple tree!

Whit also planned her whole birthday
party. We had a few Harry Potter-themed activities.
She sketched this head for
Love it!

Scavenger hunt written by Drew.


We had stake conference in April.

Whit and I sing in the stake choir.
Do you like our singing faces? :) 
We stopped to visit Margaret in her rehab facility after conference.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Family Cruise: Spring break 2017

I might be a little bit out of control.

We had talked about doing Universal Studio for spring break. Whitney and I REALLY want to visit Harry Potter world and haven't been there yet.

But while I was in my little post-cruise-funk, the thought of planning an amusement park vacation for spring break sounded EXHAUSTING. But, the thought of booking a cruise sounded so RELAXING. And they cost about the same price. So, after talking it over with the family, we decided to go for it! Yippee!

We had very few options available, but found a five-day Carnival cruise sailing out of Mobile, Alabama and we booked it. We visited Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

We had a FABULOUS time.

Whitney had an two-night field trip to Atlanta just before spring break. She was supposed to get home around midnight on Friday night and our cruise left out of Mobile on Saturday. Huh. Fortunately, her teacher said we could pick her up in Atlanta on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, Atlanta had a bridge collapse a week earlier on I-85, the major freeway that runs through the city. Traffic was CRAZY! And we were just a few minutes late. But we made it. Grabbed Whit, and kept on driving toward the coast.

It was our first big road trip in the new van.

It is awesome! We love it!

Other than Atlanta, it is a smooth and easy nine hour drive down to Mobile. We stopped in Montgomery to stay the night. The port is small and the parking is very close. Super easy to get on the ship. We loved that.

It was interesting sailing out into the Gulf of Mexico. The water was so brown when we started. After a while, it turned into the beautiful, blue ocean water that we're used to.

We had a fun day at sea to begin the cruise. It was great to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

Our first stop was in Costa Maya. I don't think that's actually a city. I think it is just built for cruise ships to port. The nearest town that shows up on a map is Mahahual. We booked an excursion with an outside company to go visit Chacchoben, a site of some ancient Mayan ruins. When Andrew and I went on our very first cruise in 2007 with Tony and Cindy, we were supposed to visit this port and do this excursion, but that stop was cancelled due to high winds. I'm so happy we were able to stop this time!

We also stopped in Cozumel, where we had visited last spring break. Last year, we swam with the dolphins at Chankanaab, a great little beach-front resort with amazing snorkeling. We didn't want to swim with the dolphins again, but we loved that resort, so just took a taxi out there to snorkel. It was just as amazing as we all remembered!

We had one more fun day at sea before we came back to port.

Our favorites


Caroline LOVES animals and is considering 
marine biology as one of the things she might want
to study when she gets older.
So snorkeling was AWESOME for her.

She loved spotting all the colorful fish,
 but was a little creeped out by the stingrays.


Especially the ice cream. 

 But especially the meat. :)

*Just thinking about the fact that we're doing everything while we're on a moving boat!

*Snorkeling at Cozumel

You start seeing tropical fish the moment you step in the water.
It is spectacular.

Some of her favorites were 

the French onion soup

and the escargot.
She is such an adventurous eater.

Whit didn't love her kids club this time. The kids her age didn't participate much. She did a fun scavenger hunt, but that was about all. So, she had plenty of time to just relax, read, and play on our digital devices. She loved that.

*Brandon LOVED the club for his age group. He liked meeting new kids:  Tony, Bryce, Journey. He spent time in the club every day and most nights stayed until midnight. Woo hoo!

We didn't see the boy much while we were on the ship.
He met us most nights for dinner.
Glad he could have some fun teenage time.

*The game show

Our first night on the ship, we went to the live game show together.
Andrew got called to be a contestant on Yahtzee bowling.
His team lost, but it was fun to cheer him on.

*Visiting the ruins

When we first talked about visiting the Mayan ruins as an option for an excursion, the girls didn't want to go. We had to drive for over an hour from the port to get there. They thought that sounded like a big waste of time. I get it. But Brandon, Andrew and I really wanted to go. B told the girls, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!" So, we vetoed the girls opposition and went anyway. All of us loved it. It was amazing to see the huge, beautiful structures that were built 2000 years ago. Very different than anything else we'd experienced.

*The ruins

Chacchoben was so memorable.

This was our tour guide, Gus.
He told us we could remember his name because he
had a big belly like Gus-Gus, the fat mouse in Cinderella.
He was super friendly and taught us a lot about the ruins. 

In walking between different pyramids,
we were in the middle of the rain forest.
It was awesome! 

Loved being this close to history,
feeling like maybe these were the places
described in the Book of Mormon.

*Snorkeling at Chankanaab in Cozumel

Andrew is so good at diving down to the bottom
of the crystal clear water. 

He saw a couple of conch shells that 
he brought up for us to see. 

Following one of the big fish around.

*Sleeping in

I didn't get any pictures of our cabins, but we 
had two cabins next to each other.
We put the kids in one cabin and we had the other
one to ourselves. Andrew loved sleeping in.
We tried not to schedule any first-thing-in-the-morning
excursions this time. :)

*Snorkeling in Cozumel

Our last experience snorkeling in Cozumel was SO wonderful. I wasn't sure that it could live up the amazing memory that I had built up in my mind. 

But it did!

It is spectacular!

 A little slice of paradise.

My favorite thing that I saw while snorkeling:
this giant fish tornado!
I'd never seen anything like it. 

Pure enjoyment.

*Seeing monkeys IN THE WILD

I have always loved monkeys. As a kid, I REALLY wanted a pet monkey. I love watching them at zoos. But on this trip, we got to see monkeys in the wild for the first time. Agh! It was awesome!

Kind of hard, but can you see that guy?
There were several of them up in those trees,
jumping from branch to branch.

This little guy was closer. 

He seemed to like getting attention from people.
He was posing for us!

*Nice dinners as a family.

We don't go out to sit-down restaurants as a family very often. I loved gathering in the dining room with Noni, our awesome server. It was fun to see what the kids would order. Whitney would order the most exotic thing on the menu. Caroline ordered a steak every night. Brandon likes some exotic things, but didn't want to try others. 

One night Caroline got serenaded by one of the waiters who was swinging "Sweet Caroline."

We danced with the wait staff and discovered that Brandon can get LOW!

Other things we liked
*Getting to see dolphins in the ocean--Andrew and Caroline were watching the ocean as we were cruising along one day and they got to see a whole POD of dolphins frolicking in the sea. Luckies!

*Caroline getting kissed by a sea lion

This was in Chankanaab when we took
a break from snorkeling and watched
the sea lion show.


*B loved dancing in the teen club

*Reading good books

*Trying natural gum from a chicle tree. Gus, our tour guide gave us some while we were walking around the ruins. We liked it!

*Aerial flyers in Costa Maya.

These are performers right there in the port area.
They are crazy!
Andrew couldn't even watch.

*Andrew being asked to be our translator at the butterfly farm.

On our way to the ruins, we stopped at a little butterfly farm. It was kind of crazy and a little creepy. There was a spray painted dog sitting on the patio when we pulled up. The man that works at the farm doesn't speak a word of English. When Gus heard that Andrew speaks Spanish, he turned over translating duties to him. Andrew did great. There were just a few words like "cocoon" and "metamorphosis" that he hadn't picked up during his two years in Chile. :)

 *Winning several trivia games! Some cruises, we don't win a thing, but we killed it this time!

*Andrew and Whitney liked eating alligator, escargot, and frog legs. Whitney also loved the lobster bisque, especially because of the Studio C reference.

*Andrew and I loved hanging out on Serenity (the adults-only area). One night we went out there after the girls were in bed and just hang out chatting in the moonlight. Ahhhhh....

*All of the other passengers were so friendly! I think it's because we sailed out of Mobile. There were so many polite southerners on the ship with us. It was very pleasant.

*Carnival added a feature where you could download their app and pay $5 for the ability to text other passengers for the whole cruise. How convenient! We loved being able to text each other and Brandon throughout the cruise, keeping tabs on each other. Great feature.

*Andrew was happy to have finished reading two books all the way through. He has been out of the reading groove at home, so was happy to find it again on the ship.

*We saw lots of flying fish off the side of the ship. We love that!


*We cut it too close with our timeline to pick up Whit from her field trip. We should have left a little sooner and went through a drive-thru for lunch. It was so stressful to know we were holding up two whole buses of seventh graders while we were stuck in traffic!

*Whitney would change "Circle C," her kids club. Thumbs down. Not an enjoyable time.

*We wish they had better entertainment. Especially after going on the Disney cruise and having phenomenal shows every night. Carnival needs to update their shows and have more variety. These were the same shows that were on the ship last spring break. And they weren't very good the first time around. Ugh.

*Whitney and Caroline would change the salt water pool. What is up with this new trend in pools? Who wants to be salty when they get out of a swimming pool?

Not my girls.

*We would have liked for our rooms to have a connecting door like last time we cruised. But since this was a spur-of-the-moment booking, I didn't have that option.

*Both girls were disappointed with their options for TV viewing on the ship. The channels showed the same movies over and over.

*And, finally, Caroline was sad that it was too windy on the ship to play mini-golf.
Her ball would get blown all over the course! 

A few random photos

Don't you love these 100% Mexican crafts?
Los Steelers? 

You could swim with the dolphins right there at the
port in Costa Maya. We didn't swim, but liked seeing them. 

I liked the architecture in their little fake village.
Isn't it pretty?

Iguana sighting.
Not as exciting as seeing monkeys in the wild. 

As part of our excursion to the ruins, 
we were dropped off at a beach for some 
relaxing time before heading back to the ship.
 We brought along our snorkel gear.
The water wasn't great.

But we did see some cool sting rays. 

And got to eat authentic Mexican food on the beach.

Since we had not booked this excursion through Carnival,
we were on our own to make sure we got back to 
the ship on time. We cut it a little close.
It was making Andrew nervous.
I thought we still had time for a group shot of our
family with the ship in the background.
As you can see from their faces, Andrew and Whitney
DID NOT think we had time for this. :) 

At our little resort in Cozumel, they have some replicas
of Mayan ruins that you can walk through.
After we were snorkeled out, we went to the sea lion
show and then I talked the kids into walking
through this little replica village with me.
Caroline was NOT excited. 

And still not excited.

 While we were there, Brandon caught the
TINIEST lizard. It was so cute.

I love my jumping pics!

Overall, it was a wonderful spring break. All of us loved it.

 We only have two more spring breaks with Brandon at home! Crazy! So... on the drive home from Mobile, we started talking about next year's spring break. (I know, I am kind of ridiculous.) For Brandon's last two spring breaks, he's hoping to go on one more cruise and one more trip to Disneyworld. He decided he'd rather do Disney on his senior year spring break.

So, I already booked our cruise for Spring Break 2018! Eeek! I've never booked this early before. But I found a great deal and jumped on it. We're going to try Royal Caribbean. It's a step up from Carnival, but just a tiny bit more expensive. I hope we like it!