Thursday, March 13, 2014

Deferred Gratification

Deferred gratification--the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward.

This Spring Break week has certainly been a lesson in deferred gratification for both me and my kids.

Thank goodness my kids are not yet on Facebook, because if they saw all the cool vacation pictures the locals are posting, I'm sure this week at home would be even harder. (But I still love looking at everyone's photos!)

I've had to remind my kids (and myself!) that we are not traveling or doing any "cool" things this week because we are saving for a bigger trip this fall. And because my husband is recovering from a surgery where he can't walk or drive for 6 weeks and he needs me around to drive him to therapy and help him out at home.

Luckily, the weather here has been nice, so we've spent time at some parks:

Feeding ducks:

And skipping stones at the creek:
We even made it to the free library event this week, where the kids made colored bubble solution and used it for artwork.
Tomorrow is our big splurge--I'm taking all 3 kids to a movie.

The week is almost over and we survived--but when summer rolls around, we will have to remind ourselves again about the benefits of deferred gratification because we are staying put at home the entire summer.

I know with my kids, we have to get out of the house at least once a day or there will be large-scale fighting and bickering. Planning for how to occupy and enrich my kids for 10 weeks of summer starts now!

Is anyone else laying low at home this year for Spring Break or summer? What are your survival strategies?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Disney Magic 2.0 Trip Report: Conclusion and Final Thoughts

In case you missed any of the trip report posts, here they are:

Day 1: Savings, Splurges and Getting There
Day 2: Legoland Florida
Day 3 Part 1: Embarking the Re-Imagined Disney Magic 
Day 3 Part 2:  First night on the ship
Day 4: Nassau
Day 5: Unexpected Day at Sea
Day 6: Castaway Cay
Days 7-8: Art of Animation 



Conclusion and Final Thoughts:

Now that we are back home, I go through my post-vacation ritual of making a music video, blogging and creating a photo book. Because part of the fun is remembering what we did on vacation.

If you are considering a Disney cruise or any other vacation but you think it's out of financial reach, I encourage you to research before you give up. If we had just pulled up the price of a Disney cruise during the summer, and had to tack on hotel and airfare on top of that, I guarantee we never would have gone on this vacation. Usually, there are ways to reduce the cost of any trip. Check out travel websites like disboards.com, tripadvisor.com and cruisecritic.com. Ask your travel agent about specials and sales for a resort you are considering.

Final thoughts:

*  My husband and I prefer a Disney Cruise over the Disney parks. While our kids like both equally, the parks are much more work. The parks are exhausting. On a cruise, we all have a chance to relax. Everything we need is close, and the service is outstanding.

*   I will continue to pull our kids out of school for off-season vacation prices until my oldest goes into middle school. Which is sadly only two years away.

*  There are still many things I haven't had a chance to do or see on a Disney Cruise, including:
    -- a spa appointment
    --the Rainforest Room
   --Midship Detective Agency
   --adult comedians
   --Disney Vacation Club presentation
Maybe next time! We are going on our first 7-night voyage in the fall for our 10-year anniversary.

*  Spending alone time with my husband is a priority. Even though it is challenging to accomplish with our current situation, I really believe that getting a few hours to ourselves on vacation strengthens our marriage. If you have access to free childcare and can take a trip with just your spouse, take advantage of that!

*  We are currently accumulating frequent flier miles on American Airlines and hope to get free flights in 2015 to either Hawaii or the Caribbean. We are in process of researching land resorts that have kids clubs for a future vacation. If you have any recommendations, please share!







Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Disney Magic 2.0 Days 7-8: Art of Animation

Friday, January 24, 2014:

I always dread the last morning on the ship. We had to be at breakfast by 7:00 a.m. We had one last meal with our fantastic servers, and we were off the ship by 8:00 a.m. We breezed through customs and quickly got back on our private van shuttle, which took us to Disney's Art of Animation Suites.

We were all in foul moods...from lack of sleep mostly, but we also lost our passports and had to deal with the aftermath of one of our kids writing on one of the seats in the van. So imagine how grateful we were when we checked in to the Art of Animation Suites somewhere around 9:00 a.m. and our room was already ready! We were elated to have a place to crash, even if just for a few minutes to pull ourselves together. (We did find our passports, thank goodness!)

We received this activity sheet when we checked in:



We had a suite in the Finding Nemo section of the resort. The suite has a separate bedroom and sleeps up to 6 people. The kitchen table, which folds out to a bed:

The sleeper-sofa:
The bedroom:

One of two bathrooms: (2 bathrooms is a big plus for larger families!)

Here is the kitchen table when it becomes a bed:
And the sleeper-sofa at night:
The suite was very themed and quite spacious. It also had a small refrigerator and microwave.

Once we settled in, we decided to go check out the resort. Originally, our plan was to swim...but it was only 47 degrees!

First, the kids played at this playground close to our room:
Then we walked over to the Cars section to check out the scenery:








Around 11:30 or so, we were hungry for lunch. We hopped on a bus to Downtown Disney. We decided to eat at T-Rex, and the kids played in the dig area while we waited for a table.

Inside T-Rex
We had eaten at T-Rex back in 2010, but back then my middle son was terrified of the scenery. He was much better this time around.
After lunch, Brian took the boys to Disney Quest. This is an indoor interactive amusement park that we have never visited before. It is chocked full of video games!
Photo credit: www.wdwinfo.com
 The place had some virtual reality rides, like the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.
It also had many floors of old-school video games, like Pac-Man and Asteroids. Brian and the boys attended an animation class there as well. It was fun for the afternoon, but expensive--it was about $120 to get all 3 of them in.

While the boys played at Disney Quest, I took Alyssa to the World of Disney store to buy a toy. Then we went back to our room to take a nap.
Princess Aurora
Later that evening, Alyssa and I went back to Downtown Disney to meet back up with the boys and another family we know through Russian adoption. We ate at Wolfgang Puck Express.

We were all pretty tired, so after Downtown Disney we went back to Art of Animation to sleep.

The next day, our flight didn't leave until 5:00 p.m. We had a breakfast reservation at 'Ohana with Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto. To get there, we had to take a bus to the Magic Kingdom, and from there we took a boat to the Polynesian Resort. We were only at the restaurant for an hour, but each character made it to our table twice. They were moving through faster than usual!






We like breakfast at 'Ohana because it is served family style at your table...that makes it easier than a buffet when you have kids. Also, the POG juice is fantastic!
After breakfast, we took the monorail back to Magic Kingdom and hopped a bus back to our resort. We still had a few hours to kill before the Magical Express bus took us to the airport. It was still a little too cold to swim, so we checked out the Lion King section of the resort:



And then the Little Mermaid section:


Unfortunately, sometime after breakfast I started to get really sick. I don't know if I caught something on the ship, or later at Downtown Disney...but it sure made for a miserable flight home. My son also caught it a day later, and he had to miss another day of school.

Overall, we really liked the Art of Animation resort. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros:
*  Disney theming
*  Suites that fit 6 people
*  Separate bedroom for parents
*  Buses and food court are close to all rooms
*  Main pool has underground music
*  Refrigerator/microwaves in suites--can make breakfast on your own
*  Resort is not too big--we found it easy to walk
*  Suites have doors on inside hallways (instead of opening to the outside)

Cons:
*  No water slides or hot tubs
*  The resort is spread over many buildings, so if it's raining you have to get wet to get to the food court or buses (unlike Wilderness Lodge, for example, where everything is contained in one building)

Up next: Final thoughts on our trip



Disney Magic 2.0 Day 6: Castaway Cay

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Navigator

I woke up around 5:30 a.m. and felt the ship had stopped moving. I was hoping and praying we were docked at Castaway Cay!

At 7:45 a.m. we pulled open the curtains and went out on the verandah--we were at Castaway Cay!
We decided to get into our swim suits and head to the island immediately after breakfast.

Instead of going to the full breakfast buffet at Cabanas, we opted to eat at Daisy De Lites. We had muffins, yogurt, smoothies, etc.
Then we were off the boat in no time, around 9:00 a.m.
The boys wanted their photo with Chip and Dale at the post office...Alyssa was scared of these two characters for some reason.

Next, we boarded a tram to go to the first family beach.
Brian decided to rent a water trike to ride with the boys (Alyssa didn't qualify--you had to be at least 5 years old). He alternated with Joshua and Nathan. What a great view!


While Brian was out on the water with Nathan, I saw that there were characters on the beach behind us. So I took Joshua and Alyssa to see Pluto:
Then Nathan joined us for Minnie Mouse:
We spent the morning relaxing on the beach. The kids played in the sand (the water was a little cool, although Joshua went in a lot). The weather was gorgeous--sunny and mid-70s.


We spent some time relaxing in these hammocks. They were full when we first arrived at the beach, but were empty later on.



At 11:30, we headed over to Cookies (restaurant on the island) for lunch. They have a great buffet with ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, beans, salad, etc. There is also a large fruit station and an ice cream machine.
After lunch, around 12:30 p.m., we dropped the kids off at Scuttles Cove, which is the kids club for the island. There are scheduled activities there as well as free-play in the sand and splash park.
Brian and I took that opportunity to rent bikes by ourselves. We did this back in 2012, also.
On top of the observation tower--the Magic in the distance
We road the bike path to the observation tower, down the airplane runway and to the end of the adult beach. The whole ride took about an hour. It was peaceful and relaxing.

Then we picked up the kids for more beach time. Joshua wanted to go to the ocean water slides at Pelican Point. Brrrrr!


The rest of us stayed on shore while Joshua went in the cold water. Since this was our 3rd time on Castaway Cay (our first cruise on the Dream had two stops there), we didn't feel pressure to do and see everything. I had already run the Castaway Cay 5k on the earlier cruise, and we had snorkeled last time. The water trikes were new to us on this visit, and maybe next time we'll try the stingray adventure. Castaway Cay is a really great island! Lots to do (if you want), or plenty of time to do nothing on the beach. Since food on the island is free (included), the day is fairly inexpensive for a port day.
Around 3:00 p.m., I headed back to the ship with Alyssa and got her started on a bath. One last look at the waters of Castaway Cay:
Brian followed a few minutes behind with the boys, and we washed all the sand out before dropping them all off at the kids' clubs to prepare for Friendship Rocks.

Friendship Rocks is a program put on by the kids' clubs in the two "classic" Disney ships. It features a picture slideshow of the kids in the clubs throughout the cruise, and the kids get to dance on stage with Mickey and Minnie. It's definitely a highlight for the kids and parents especially!




It was so awesome to see all 3 of our kids up there on stage having fun.

Brian and I admired one last sunset and stopped by the photo place to buy a few photos. We couldn't believe this was our last night on the ship!
We picked up the kids from the club for our last dinner on board. We were going to let them eat in the club, but our servers really wanted to see them again. So we ordered their food first, then dropped them off for the rest of dinner. Mugu did a few more magic tricks for the kids.
After dinner, Brian and I went back to the room to pack. The saddest part of the trip. We had to get our suitcases out in the hallway by 10:30 p.m.

But there was still one last show in the theatre--Disney Dreams. We saw this on our last Magic cruise, and it is an unbelievable show! We gave the kids the option to see the show or stay in the club--the boys chose to stay in the club. So we picked Alyssa up from the club around 8:00 p.m. and headed to the theatre. She was mesmerized by the show, the music, the characters and the special effects.

We were back in the room by 9:30 p.m. I put Alyssa to bed while Brian bribed the boys out of the club with ice cream cones on deck. Our last day of our cruise was really fun!

Up next: Disney's Art of Animation Suites