Announcing the Family
We walked in and saw a life-sized gingerbread house and a huge Christmas tree. The cast members even wore scarves!
Announcing the Family
Boarding the ship, your family name is announced and the cast members line the entrance and clap.
Setting set sail with Disney Cruise Line on Black Friday, you walked onto a Very Merrytime Cruise. DCL takes the wonder of Christmas and adds their own creative touch to create an experience that is purely magical.
We walked in and saw a life-sized gingerbread house and a huge Christmas tree. The cast members even wore scarves!
There was so much to see in the amazing lobby. I just paused to take it all in. Then I jumped in line at guest services to sign us up for anything that we could. We got tickets for the gingerbread house decorating class and a few tips about things that were going on that afternoon.
Lunch on the Ship
With an 11:30AM boarding time, we had plenty of time to get on board and make it to the buffett before there were just a ton of folks in line. It was nice to stop and make a plan together about how we were going to slip up and wander all over the Wonder.
Touring the Ship
We heard there were tours of the ship, but we took off on our own and explored and wandered around. Stairs up each deck and from one end to the other, we saw the kids club, pools, and resturants. We saw it all!
We left the day after Thanksgiving from my sister’s house. Getting up early and getting everyone moving was a breeze because we were all so excited. We started planning our cruise two years earlier.
Part of the online check-in process (Learn more about check in here) includes selecting a port arrival time that are in 30 minute increment arrival windows beginning at 10:30 AM. Arriving a little before our time was a good idea. It allowed us to make sure we knew where we were headed, unload, and get organized.
We pulled right up the terminal at the Port of Galveston. We unloaded our bags right at the curb and there were plenty of porters there to help. With 13 people piled in two mini-vans, it was an adventure. The dads took the cars to the parking garage where we pre-paid and rode the shuttle back, just the two of them.
In our matching shirts, we watched all of the other guests in their matching shirts arrive for a bit until the dads made it back to us. Then we all went through check-in together.
While we waited (and by that I mean, corralled and entertained all 7 children) I went through our boarding bag on more time to make sure that I had all of the documents that I needed to help us get through check in quickly and smoothly, things like signed pre-board documents that we printed from the portal as well as passports and birth certificates.
-Once we entered, we waited in a short line at a check point where each member of your party over the age of 18 presented a valid form of identification and our cruise documents. From there, you stepped up go through a standard security check and our carry-ons were zipped through the x-ray.
Once we entered the terminal and waiting in another very short line, I completed the Public Health Questionnaire for our group. It asked if any members of your party have been experiencing a fever in conjunction with a sore throat, cough, runny nose, muscle aches or headaches, as well as if there has been any vomiting or diarrhea over the last 3 days.
At the desk, we all had our photos taken and received our Key to the World cards. Once everything was signed and counted, we decided not to stand in the line to check our children into kids club, but chose to do it on-board. As we explored the ship, we knew that was one of the first places the children wanted to check out. We also just walked past the photo backdrops in the check in area to make our way up the escalator. Once we were upstairs there were more lines. One was to take photos with Mickey Mouse and one was for backdrop photos and your first Key to the World Card scan.
Once the key was scanned we were on the bridge to the ship!
We chose to stay on the 2nd floor in an inside stateroom to save money. We knew that we wouldn't spend much time in our rooms and with it being our first cruise, we honestly just didn't know. In hindsight, a little port hold would have been fun, but I'm not sure it would have been worth the extra cost.
There was a generous size double bed and a couch that slides into bund beds. We had 2 adjoining rooms and there was plenty of room for all of us. As a matter of fact, one afternoon towards the end of the cruise, we can back to the room and there were probably 20 teenagers in the kids room watching a movie!
When you first meet your housekeeping staff, they will ask you questions about how you want the room, the beds, etc. We asked them to leave the bunk beds out in one room and to leave the couch in the other. There were a few times that we asked them to go ahead and make the couch in the kids rooms, but you never know when a mid-day nap for the kids might just do the trick.
There was storage everywhere. We unpacked the first day, slid the suitcases under the bed, and just enjoyed the cruise. There were 6 of us. We had several drawers that went unused.
I saw an idea on Pinterest to pack a shoe rack with pockets and hand it in the closet. I filled the pockets with suggested items like baggies, medicine, band-aids, our FE lists, etc. and it was a fantastic idea.
We joined a Facebook group made up of people who were going on our cruise. They answered questions, alerted us to deadlines and things to look into, and create groups for Fish Extender Gifts. Outside each stateroom door there is a fish hanger and this is where those who choose to participate, hang their pockets, stockings, file organizers - all decorated and festive. Our groups were made of 10 families and by joining the group you agree to bring treats, gifts, momentos for the others in your group. For our group, you could bring whatever you wanted, no price range, no rules about the number of days, or even if the expectation was for a gift of each person or for the cabin... It was all up to the giver.
I cannot even tell you what fun this was. Our family signed up in a different group for each cabin and the variety of gifts was astounding. We were absolutely blessed. Each time we came back to the room, the kids - young and old - would check their pocket to see if they had a new FE gift.
Was it difficult to get it organized and made and packed? Of course. Was it worth it? Definitely.
Another fun surprise were the amazing towel animals on the bed each night. They were so creative and fun, it was delightful to see what new creation would appear each day. At the end of our cruise there was an event with the housekeeping staff where they taught us how to make several (probably the easiest) animals.
We started planning our cruise 2 years ago. Everyone was excited, but the more we talked and planned the more "over it" our teenager got. The excitement surged the week school was out for Thanksgiving vacation. When we boarded the ship, he was excited about using a waterproof camera.
Touring the ship, we visited the teen club last. It was on the very top 10th deck and a pretty cool room. The room and location had nothing to do with the experiences our son had over the week. Other teens made the experience magical.
One afternoon we walked back into our stateroom to find quite a few teens piled in visiting and watching movies.
With a child entering high school next year, it is becoming increasingly more urgrent to talk about college, prepare for college - and figure out how to pay for college. Luckily, I have been working in higher education for over a decade. I wanted to shre what I've learned with my friends who are in the same situation, so we planned an event, invited all of the other 8th grade parents, plus some of my scholars to share what we know, help them prepare, and give a few pieces of advice to begin high school with the end in mind.
Oftentimes in college, students who want to pursue graduate work or medical school, etc. are faced with "weed courses". Courses that set the students up for a incredibly challenging semester. These assignments aren’t set up for their failure, but rather to help them expand their talents, gifts, and mental abilities to accomplish a project. Many times students don’t know what they can do until they are in a position where they need to figure things out for themselves.
God often gives His people "weed" experiences as well. He allows us to deal with trials and situations that we feel very incapable of working out. It’s in these times, that we discover more about God’s power within us that gives us the ability to overcome insurmountable problems.
If we were given the choice to enroll in these faith-stretching courses, most all of us would respond by asking for a withdrawal slip. Many times these "assignments" are exceptionally difficult and we feel like there’s no way it could ever work itself out.
It seems, more often than not, we discover our faith in God, our ability to pray through difficulty, and deepen our understanding of God’s word. Our prayers become more intense and focused. When our stretch assignment has been completed, we will then be more ready for the next one—because we know what our God can do even with a tiny mustard seed of faith!
Dear Lord, I feel like I’m in a faith-stretching assignment that is well beyond me. I need your wisdom and insight to finish this task well. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Laundry takes over my life. If I didn't have my mom living close and helping out with the house and kids after school, I'm certain that there are days that my children would be naked. Piles of laundry on couches and beds and NEAR the laundry hampers makes me a little nuts.
Something had to give. We needed to take control of the laundry issue. Always looking for become more organized and teach the kids life skills, we gave every one a laundry day. This makes us do about ONE load of laundry every day. From start to finish – washed, dried, folded/hung, and put away. Using some laundry rules and hosting "laundry school", we taught the kids what to do, showed them how to do, watched them do it and then expected them to do it.
Here are some things we did to make this happen
Organize the Laundry Room
We have front load machines, which makes it easy to load and move. I made the detergent and stain removers in an accessible basket.
Taught them How to Prepare the Laundry.
Sorting out whites, darks, colors, bedding, towels, etc.
Checking pockets for forgotten items
Reading the care label of each unfamiliar garment before washing
Turning printed shirts (such as T-shirts) inside out to prevent unnecessary wear on the printing
Recognizing when they have an appropriate-size load of laundry - not too little, not too much
Recognizing items that should not go in the washing machine, such as dry-clean-only or hand-wash-only items.
We wash everything in cold, but we explained that different colors and types of laundry are separated and washed in different water temperatures or require additional products to help clean them the best way. You will likely have to repeat these instructions many times before it all starts to make sense to a younger child.
If there are clothes that get stained or need extra care, I typically ask the kids to put those items on top of the washer and Billy or I take care of those.
Taught them How to Use the Washing Machine.
They already knew about about the controls and we only use a few of the functions on a regular basis. I even made a magnet (with pictures for the kindergartner) to help them remember what to do with a normal wash cycle. We also talked about
Reminding them where the lint-catcher is, and how to check and clean it out before they start adding damp laundry to the dryer is a constant. We remove the laundry a few pieces at a time, shake them out to remove all washer-induced twisting, and place them in the dryer.
There is something special about recognition and appreciation that brings teams together, makes people engage deeper, and give more than they expected. I look forward each year to building teams, working with students, and helping them meet their goals. Appreciation plays a big part of that.
All summer I look for little things to give to the students in my college groups. So many little teacher gift ideas can be repurposed for things on campus. This is a twist on a teacher treat idea, with pink erasers, post-it notes, and pencils all tied together with this little note.
I think that our officer team will love it.
The Milkaholic theme can be used for boys or girls and would be an adorable Sip and See after the baby is born. The color scheme is a simple black and white with a 1 color accent. For this event we used a bright green, the same that was in the baby's nursery.
This event was a shower in the office, so each of us brought a dozen cookies, and I brought the milk in several different flavors as well as some juices and tea. I also provided some watermelon for those who can't or don't eat cookies. The rind went beautifully with the color scheme, so I left it on.
Things we printed:
The controversy and hurt feeling that can come with change makes bringing new people into the community more difficult.
This morning at church we looked at the book of Titus, a letter written by Paul, full of advice to Titus. The preacher tied it into an Olympics theme. He asked the congregation, "Are you coachable?" Being coachable means you’re open to listening to feedback, able to receive constructive criticism without taking it personally, willing to take a look at your own performance in order to improve it, and generally a super-badass-enthusiastic go getter type of person. A proverb says that only stupid men learn from experience. Wise men learn from other people’s experience.
An old Forbes article lays out the 5 traits of Coachable individuals and one of the things that article mentions is that being coachable is a risk unless you know you have the right coach.
Really, I never thought that I'd say, "... table for 6, please." going to dinner with my family. I had plans to be a professor and travel the world. I moved from Missouri to West Texas for graduate school and was just passing through, when I met a man that captivated my heart and held my hand.