Entries Tagged 'Vacation' ↓

Disney Dream Cruise: Five Cool Things and a Video

I totally don’t want to be one of those people who comes back from a cruise and talks about it to everyone she meets in some cult-like, freshly brain-washed frenzy. So. I’ll tryyyy not to here.

But we just got back from a 4-day Disney Dream cruise. And it was awesome.

I’m going to give you the short version and then the long version. You decide which works best for you.

Here’s the short version.

Five Cool Things about the Disney Dream

1. The staff. Oh my goodness. Maybe it’s because I sympathize with all that it takes to offer top of the line customer service. But the staff on this boat are amazing. Here’s the thing. It’s not just that they are good at their jobs, they LOVE that boat. They take pride in it. And they want to share with you what makes it that way. Whether it’s the food, a show, a great place to hang out, the design of the boat… whatever. They each take ownership, they each truly love what they do, and they have a crazy, wonderful kind of patience and enthusiasm while handling insane people on vacation. KUDOS, you guys. Just wow.

2. The boat. WHOOOA. That thing is insane. As one person noted, when you pull into dock, it’s the Ferrari in the parking lot. Everything on it is top of the line and sparkling and gorgeous and some sort of technological marvel. And it’s always being polished and buffed and it’s comfortable and beautiful to look at and it kind of turned into home. Even our room (which should be a claustrophobic cube for sleeping on a cruise) was so cozy and comfy and perfect (a room with a porch helps hugely, however). I was extraordinarily comfortable and wowed, even with all those other insane vacationers along for the ride, too.

3. The food. I know everyone goes on about the food on their cruise. But the regular ol’ everyday buffet had fresh sushi! And they brought you warm chocolate chip cookies to your room! And they would give you two entrees for dinner (because I couldn’t decide which I wanted) and then both were awesome anyway. And there was this souffle that almost made me cry. And this butternut squash soup. All of it. Just. WOW.

4. The island. Castaway Cay is paradise. I adored it. The beach was beautiful. The water was gorgeous. The water slides were awesome. They had trams to get you around (fueled by cooking oil from the ship!) and a kids club and bars and games. I loved that they offered a 5K there in the morning (even if I got utterly drenched doing it). And the ice cream machines and cookies were there, too!

5. The horn. I was a sucker for this thing. The boat’s horn didn’t just make the usual “WAAH, WAAH” horn sound. It played one of seven Disney tunes. “Be Our Guest,” “Yo Ho Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life,” “It’s a Small World.” It made me weepy every time. Especially when the Dream did a “cruise-by” of the Disney Magic docked on Castaway Cay and played ALL of the songs over and over because that boat was heading to Europe for repairs and it wanted to say “good-bye.” Sniff. That’s Disney stuff for you right there. Sniff.

Oh and yes, there were some not so cool things.

Atlantis? Meh. We hung around only about an hour or so before we headed back to the boat. It seemed touristy, the furthest thing from authentic and just one huge money-suck. We weren’t there long but I doubt we’ll go back.

And the tourists. They were OK for the most part but sometimes there were just a LOT (note how I kept mentioning “insane people on vacation.”) And please, for the love of Disney, if you spend a day at sea on the Dream, avoid the pool decks. Utter insanity. Go see a movie or check your kids into the Oceaneer’s Club and head to a quiet adult deck far from the madding crowds (that’s what we did).

So, yeah. THAT was the short version. The long version of my story can be found in my YouTube slide show here. It’s a combo of pictures and a little video here and there. I made it as a souvenir so we can remember it always. But now I wonder if it will just woo me back there… with one of those sweet, sentimental boat horn tunes (I caught two of them in the video below).

(Oh, P.S. There is not one thing sponsored about this post. We paid for the entire cruise 100% —  just real feedback, folks.)

My Disney Dream Slide Show and Video:

Beach to BlogHer

After two weeks of living on a sandy peninsula void of much online access to anything however surrounded by national seashore, some combination of visiting family, far too many fried seafood joints, and my very content although browned, mosquito bitten, bathing suited children – I am finally packing up.

Vacation time is just about over.

In a few days, I will be depositing my summer boys with their dad and so many hugs and kisses before they all head back to Tampa. But I’m not heading back to Tampa with them. Not quite yet at least.

Where could I be headed you ask?

After a blogless, wifi-less, nature filled, sandy footed two weeks far from the hustle and bustle of anything much at all, I am leaping head first into the very antithesis of this wonderfully unplugged time out.

I’m headed to BlogHer in NYC.

Hundreds and hundreds of bloggers and dear friends and so so many people I want to see but may not get to or will possibly in passing with humming laptops all logged in with endless tabs open and twitter convos underscoring every panel discussion alongside meet ups in lobbies and coffee spots and karaoke bars and parties and this and that and who knows whatever the hell else all while camping out with two blogging besties in the Hilton in New York City which already has enough hustle and bustle thank you very much to make my over-sunned mind totally and utterly stim out.

But I’m not complaining. Surrounding myself with smart, interesting people in NYC is exactly what I need before I leap into the usual routine of school days, car pick up lines, baseball practice, homework, and mac n cheese dinners.
 
Will you be there? Post here so I know to look out for you.

See you in NYC.

Summer Sunflowers

I am madly running around my house right now packing and cleaning and making my family’s life fit in a few pieces of luggage for three weeks. We’re heading north. I’m thrilled. It’s home, there are so many people to see, old haunts to visit and adventures to be had. My four year can’t remember what its like to fly so the fun will start there.

That being said, my favorite place to escape – HERE – will be shelved a little more often. I have no idea what sort of internet connection I will have access to. And if you weren’t exactly sure who the last blogger on earth was without a smart phone? Well, you reading about her now.

Lame.

But not lame.

Because we all need to switch off from these fan-dangled internets now and again. So. I will check in when I can. Because I can’t totally stay away. But until then, consider this post a little Morningside Mom elevator muzak of sorts.

I give you… backyard sunflowers. Enjoy.

*cue the Burt Bacharach piano tunes*

Oh. And a bug.

Mommy Spring Break

Somehow – thanks to careful coordinating with my husband’s work schedule, begging a close friend to take my kids for an entire day, and fantastic airline prices – I have managed a weekend get-away for myself. To Boston.

I justified my trip as my first chance to meet my BFFs new baby girl. And I truly can NOT wait to hold that sweet baby in my arms.

But let’s be real.

It’s been a lot of 24/7 with my boys recently. A LOT. As a college coach, my husband is in season and crazed (and also in dire need of a break, I might add). So I’ve been doing the single mom thing quite a bit. Groundhog days fill my spring, as they have for years. No complaining here, I swear, its just… this trip? Yeah. Well, I’m thinking of it as my own little kind of spring break.

And while most winter weary college co-eds are packing up sunscreen, bikinis and fake IDs – I’m collecting my “winter” gear, my camera and I just might dust off my ID to maybe try it out at a bar *IF* they even ask for it…

The novelty of one bag of just MY stuff. The possibility of stopping at a coffee shop in the airport to read my book. No bedtime routine. New faces. No dreaded car line. Dressing only myself, not three. Sleep. No homework. City, not suburbia. No coercing my 3 year old to eat his chicken. Just my full attention on my bestie and her family.

(Please note that doing “auntie” things by helping get her girls ready or fed or whatever needs to be done doesn’t count as parenting. It’s completely different, I swear.)

Because it’s the little things. It’s uncovering and reuniting with yourself. It’s being your own person, and not always always always a mom. Just for two days. That’s all.

I love my 24/7 with my boys. That’s what I signed on for. And I am grateful for it.

But, my friends, in two days?

SPRING BREAK BABY!!!!!

The Go-gos Vacation – Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

BlogHer Absence Explained

packingSo, like many bloggers out there right now – I’m packing. But this doesn’t exactly look like the kinds of things most of us would be packing for BlogHer, does it? You know what I’m talking about: the cute dresses, shoes, cameras, computer paraphenalia and casual but confident conference outfits… Nope, these things look suspiciously “little boy-ish”. So why is that? Well, I’m actually not headed to BlogHer this year.

I almost was. My husband bought me a ticket for Christmas in fact. I was beyond thrilled. I couldn’t wait. Last year was phenomenal and now this year, having met so many more blogging bas-asses, I knew would be even better. I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait!

But then we got a call. My wonderful sister in law announced that she’s getting married! And the date has been specially chosen to be on her grandparent’s anniversary. Friday, July 25th. We were thrilled for her. We love her and her husband to be. Plus this is the last family wedding for a long while, we all would be together and we all couldn’t wait.

Just. No BlogHer this year, that’s all.

I put the word out on Twitter I wasn’t going and I sold my ticket within days. But what we saved from that actually paid for my blog makeover awhile back. So it’s all good.

Anyhoo, I thought I would post here to explain my absence. If. Just in case. It’s at all. Noticed. Heh.

Anyway, while you all are lining up to get your creds, I’ll be lining up my two sons and husband in their crisp tuxes, readying them for a trip down the aisle to stand besides my sister in law and her husband to be.

And certainly, if you know my children at all by now, you are probably wondering how tuxes and slow, behaved walking down an aisle will work out. Yeah. I’ll keep you posted. No doubt, hilarity will ensue and I will be typing about their shenanigans in the coming week.

And if I don’t? It’s because I’m keeeerazy busy doing the family thing, the driving 12 hours one way thing, the keeping my kids from pushing their cousin into the pool thing, the general wacky uber exhausting vacation… thing.

But to all my blogging peeps heading to Chicago, ENJOY BLOGHER! I can’t wait to read your posts. And if I don’t see any of you at the Type A Mom Conference in September, I will certainly see you next year at BlogHer.

Happy travels everyone!

Mom Bloggers Tweetup at Seaworld

seaworld

This Sunday, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Seaworld with a fabulous crew of mom bloggers. All thanks to Ted Murphy at IZEA and Wendy Piersall at Sparkplugging.com, we were able to spend an entire day at the park soaking up all things aquatic. I had never been to Orlando’s Seaworld before and was very excited to see what all the fuss was about. And while I wasn’t able to bring my children, I got to see the park through the eyes of the other mom blogger’s children – all while plying them with cotton candy.

So who did I go with? Well the wonderful Shellie from Blog 4 Mom , the brilliant Susan from Egg Marketing and Sometimes Parenting Sucks , the wildly witty Britt from Miss Britt, and the beautiful Melanie from Modern Mami. And had I ever met these women before? Well, here and there on Twitter or in passing at Blog Her last year – but for the most part we met as strangers. But c’mon. Give us some credit. We blog, we’re moms, we had pleeeenty in common. We really had a wonderful day together and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to hang out with them and their families.

Now what about the park? From sea exhibit to shining sea exhibit, I had an amazing time. Since it is February, the weather was perfect and the park was not very crowded. We walked casually to each section, we never felt too overwhelmed by other visitors and enjoyed every sea creature we saw.

The dolphin area was amazing. Visitors had the chance to feed dolphins and reach out to pet them if they happened to be at arms length. You could truly enjoy this creatures curiousity – they are such wonderful and social animals. The under water viewing area was impressive. The dolphins peered right back at us, swimming slowly by. I think they were equally entertained.

After checking out some wonderful manatee (and debating with husbands whether they are technically considered “cute” – which they are), we went to the Blue Horizons Whale and Dolphin show. I happened to capture the finale on video to share with my children and all of you.

Afterwards, we grabbed some lunch and then headed over to the shark exhibit. I really enjoyed being able to move through the shark tank and see them swim over us. I also appreciated seeing how thick that glass was separating us and the sharks!

The big event for the afternoon was the Shamu Show “Believe”. We all made sure to get spots as close to the front without technically being in the “splash zone”. If the kids had a choice however, we would have been right down front, bracing for wave impact. Nope. We mom bloggers are practical, we stayed dry. But I did catch that finale on video also.

At this point, the kids had been pretty good about following our agenda so we let them run wild in Shamu’s Happy Harbor while we chatted. Or should I say, the moms chatted and the dads braved the climbing contraption with netted tubes three stories above us. While we compared blog tips and tweeted from iphones, the dad’s sweated their way through it all, each coming back down exhausted and a bit overwhelmed. Be prepared if you head up into that maze yourselves, it is not really built for adults sizes or large crowds and can get very warm!

Our final stop was for the wild at heart. A few of the mom bloggers braved the Kraken – a ginormous roller coaster found at the back of the park. It absolutely took my breath away and was an incredible ride. Awesome for sure, but it left me seeing stars a bit on the way back to the car. (Groan, am I getting too old for roller coasters? …never.)

All in all, it was an amazing day. Seaworld is wonderful park for every aged family member. While it brings a lot of the Florida sea life to visitors, it does a great job giving us real accessibility to the animals. Afterwards, visitors are left with an educational visit and a true appreciation for what is really living in our oceans.  

Find some time when it won’t be crowded at Seaworld and go yourself!

**Update**

Izea is sponsoring a Seaworld trip for four! The contest begins February 11th and ends March 10th and is very easy to enter. Go check it out!

Rehabbing from BlogHer08… but Hopped Up on Twitter.

I have returned safely from BlogHer08 and slipped back into vacation life with my family. But here I sit. Vaguely slack jawed, short of breath, over-stimmed and kinda tweaked out. BlogHer08. It got to me. It’s as if my inner blogging hard drive uploaded some monstrous load of software and now it just needs to reboot before it can function at all. There is far too much to process, too many business cards to look through, pictures to upload and blogs to visit. I’m not ready to post about it (but I will be, oh, I will be). 

And oh no. A techie analogy. And I am SO not techie. What has HAPPENED to me?

See, clearly BlogHer got under my skin. Like pouring water on a Gremlin or discovering new super hero Spidie-Senses after being bitten by the BlogHer bug… there is no turning back now. Blogging is running in my veins, has me dreaming in widgets and seeing in technorati.

And do you know what else BlogHer08 did to me? Those sneaky sneaky women. Like crafty drug pushers, all whispering in the hallways between sessions “you gotta do it, you gotta try it, EVERYBODY (there) is doing it”… I DID do it. During an insane moment at a table surrounded by women silently tweeting away to one another in a frenzy, I signed up for Twitter. For the networking possibilities, I told myself. For the good of my blog, I rationalized. Uh-huh. As the 3 R’s says, I’ve drunk the Kool-aid now. There’s no turning back. A blogging Gremlin cracked out on Twitter. Get me to rehab. FAST.

So that’s really what I am doing here. I have put myself into a little bit of Blogger’s Rehab. As I type this, I am outside at our tiny family beach cottage, enjoying the peaceful world around me. I am soaking in the silence and watching the sun in the trees while the rest of the household naps. What a beautiful world this is here. Far from the conference site, the sessions, the swag. Just me and my family, together, relaxing our brains and rebooting our inner hard drives. 

However. I can’t help but notice. The birds. Do you know what they are doing? THEY’RE TWEETING.

(….if ya wanna find me on twitter you can find me at “Morningsidemom”, i’m checking it, i’m watching it, everyone thinks I am out here with my book, with my new bff – my HP – tucked safely away in my back pack. No. I am out here, hunched over, I don’t hear the birds… but I hear a whole lot of tweeting… so so much tweeting….)

Vacation Blogging, all I ever wanted.

I am in a packing frenzy and have very little time for any mucking about. Except, I have to share this bit of advice: don’t put your packing off until the last minute. Especially, when it is just you alone packing for everyone and you have two small children nipping at your heels.

Oh, and don’t save the laundry until the last day either. Washing colors and whites recklessly because you just want it DONE, is honestly not so smart.

And I also wouldn’t decide that you don’t have enough luggage until the last day and then haul the kids out and spend a half hour hemming and hawing over the cute luggage patterns in the outlet store (“Would THIS one be cute to bring to BlogHer, what do you think T.?” Blank stare. “If I am a good boy, can I have a Popsicle?” I’ll take that as a yes…).

And then don’t STAY in the outlet store once you’ve found what you need. Whatever you do. Don’t decide that maybe now is the time to spruce up the house with some new vases from the Home Decoration section. And then after 20 minutes of more hemming and hawing, don’t then decide that there isn’t any extra money to be spending on stuff like this and put it all back. It also might not be so smart to have spent so much time accomplishing nothing, that it’s close to lunchtime, and your two year old is having a cracker throwing, sippy cup tossing, mommy kicking, red faced squealing tantrum in the shopping cart. Yup, bad.

And then, once the kids are home and fed, don’t then decide to call your neighbor and gab about the mean couple at the fourth of July party. Because that can go on forever, establishing why they snubbed you or how they were rude to your neighbor’s children (for example, when my neighbor’s daughter approached their baby to say hello, the mom yelped in a panic “Oh my son is allergic!” and scooped him up. Allergic? To what?? …Ok, ok, I’m over it).

And then don’t realize you have not ordered your son’s school uniform and hem and haw (“hemming and hawing”, it’s a true skill of mine) over which colored polo shirts to get. He looks FINE in yellow, just buy the damn shirts already.

And whatever you do, for the love of Pete, don’t get on the computer. STAY FAR FAR AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Its eeevil. It will suck you in. It will steal hours out of that last valuable day while you ponder if the post you are composing is an utter waste of time and just a silly statement of the obvious. (Press “publish” and get on with it, girl!)

Groan. I am horrified, the afternoon is almost over! Please, if you are also heading out tomorrow for your vacation but have found yourself sitting here reading this (waste of time, stating the way too obvious) post, don’t follow my hopeless example. Please refrain from all this silly mucking about and procrastination. It will be your down fall, let me tell you. Just buck up and get packing. Spend the time preparing, read your list and check it twice, and do right by your suitcase.

Because you know what packing is all about? It’s not about having absolutely everything while you are on vacation (because, c’mon, we’re not heading into the Amazon, Wal Mart is -unfortunately- everywhere and you can always get what you need). A smart and thorough packing job, my friends, is about avoiding that certain moment in the car the next day. I am sure you know what I am talking about. After you are all packed up, and in the car (probably a little bit later than you’d like), and you’re excitedly speeding down the highway, it’s that moment when you think out loud “I feel like I forgot something.” And then, if you didn’t do a stellar job like you SHOULD have the day before, you probbaly have forgotten something. So then you need to decide if you should turn around. I hate that moment. I detest that moment. Realizing I have, in fact, forgotten something and then demanding we turn around has sent my (hates to be late) husband to the brink, let me tell you. Not such a good way to start that family vaca.

So, whatever you do, if its your day to pack before vacation: don’t shop, don’t call friends, don’t tinker and dawdle and daydream, and above all else, DON’T GET ON THE COMPUTER. Get packing and have a clean conscious that you did your best. While driving to the airport, allow yourself to laugh in the face of that “moment” and respond aloud “Well, I didn’t forget anything”, and then sit back, put your shades on and smile smugly …even if the “are we there yets?” have started up in the backseat.

Ok folks, I’m outa here. I will be blogging from the road, to be sure. Who knows where or when you will hear from me next but I will be back here, harassing you all, soon enough. Peace out.

How to numb your brain in one week.

The only bit of knowledge I dare share with you this evening is my formula for complete and total brain nummage. This formula is hardly unique – and I fear many of you have enjoyed and subsequently suffered from this sort of forumla on many occasions. But here it goes anyway. Who knows. Maybe your brain is firing on all cylinders, and thats just boring, and you would like to figure out a way to make it stop. Read away, this plan should reeeeally do the trick.

(Note: Definition of the Caroline word “Nummage”: Having been numbed to a point of total neural failure.)

1 five year old birthday party for T. At home. With games, a star wars theme, self-frosted box cake, pinata, sprinklers, candy, music, beers, balloons, streamers, heat, wet kids, costumed kids, light sabering kids, screaming kids, and exhausted kids.

1 morning of sheer panic packing for a week’s vacation to the beach. Where are the UV shirts? Did you pack both blankies AND mickey mouse? Don’t forget the mega super value box of goldfish. Did we pack “Return of the Jedi”? No he doesn’t want “The Phantom Menace”, its gotta be “Return of the Jedi”, he’s ALLLLL about Luke getting away from Jabba and Boba Fett falling into the Sarlac Pit (…what?…). Wait. This place has STAIRS???? What place has STAIRS in Florida!!!! GET THE BABY GATE GET THE BABY GATE!!!

3 hours of driving to our beach destination. And we actually heard it. I thought it only happened in movies. But we heard it. The notoriously whined, in a continuous loop, starting after hour one: “Uhhhh… ARE WE THERE YET?”

7 of us – my fam, my brother, his wife, and one gloriously inquisitive and truly wonderful 18 month old – together, in a lovely townhouse, overlooking a Marina. …”GET THE BABY GATE UP!!!!! QUIIIIIICK!!!!!”

5 days of wake up, cereal everywhere, find the swim diapers, sunscreen, get the bathing suits on, find the noodles, floaties, toys, find the keys, pile in, go to pool, swim, chase, throw, catch children, pile into car, eat lunch, babies nap, we nap, everyone up, re-sunscreen, re-find everything, pile back in, go to beach, watch the undertow, watch them eat sand, stop them eating sand, pile back in car, realize someones swim diaper doesn’t smell so good, get back home, bathe, feed, play hard, to bed, parents hit the booze, eat, swear at the bug bites, appreciate how beautiful it all really is and how lucky we really are, collapse into bed and wake up and do it again.

4 hours back from our destination. There was a tanker explosion on I-75 a few days before and the traffic is fierce. It’s 99 degrees outside and my Saturn is in a full sweat keeping our A/C chugging while we crawl along. Nope, we are soooooo not there yet.

1 two year old birthday party for C. At the playground (thank God)! No games, but with a Mickey theme, another self frosted box cake, fruit, balloons, running, pushing swings, its way WAY too bloody hot, Popsicles, goopy cake, sticky kids, total baby meltdowns, and its done in less than 2 hours.

2 more birthday parties since. God help me if I have to eat another piece of frosted cake. Seriously. Birthday cake, the new white meat. It’s whats for dinner.

2 bad cases of diarrhea for both of my birthday boys. What? A diet of sand, salt water, pool water, mutual tub water, juice boxes, goldfish, and 5 lbs. of birthday cake aren’t going to keep the pipes working normally for my two boys? Soooo utterly shocking.

So yup. That’s my formula for total brain nummage. I am SHOCKED this post even got posted. I am SHOCKED I had the wits about me to move. mouse. to. box. that. says. “publish”. But I guess I did. So I must be coming around. The neurons are slowly starting to refire. I am getting feeling back in my frontal lobe. If I lay off the overscheduling-total-control-freak crack that leads to this horrid case of brain nummage, there may just be hope for me yet.

Stop laughing at me. It could happen.

Gone to the beach.

 

That’s right. Sun, sea, sand, some tunes, some sand toys, some beachy drinks. Swimming way out so the kids can’t get me. Scanning the horizon for dolphins. Sunblock everywhere – maybe I’ll get a “harmless” tan …if there is such a thing. Watching the kids play, so proud they do so well with the water. Making sure no one throws sand. Building castles, yup, I’ll be right there to help. Stop throwing sand at your brother. Sand in my sandwich and sand in the CD player. Sand in a diaper. Sopping wet swimmie diapers. T. has to poop and where is the closest potty? Hauling stuff everywhere. Sunburns. Stop throwing sand at your brother. Sand crunching in C’s teeth. Hysterical crying fits when we leave the beach. Stop throwing flip flops at your brother. Wet everything. Sandy everything. Constantly hungry and everything costs 5 times what it should. Baths, showers, towels hung out to dry, a beer or 6, tuck kids in bed, and turn the tunes back on to watch the sun set.

And realize there is no internet access. Deep breaths. Its only 5 days!

Tell me to shut up and enjoy myself.