Tuesday, March 27, 2012

75 Days and Up All Night!

Today marked 75 days before we board the Disney Dream. I received an e-mail from Disney Cruise Line yesterday reminding me that today I could go online and reserve adult-only dining, the nursery, spa appointments, excursions, and a port arrival time.

But since I am a big researcher, I knew from the message boards that I could actually start doing some of these things at midnight (or actually 12:01 a.m. this morning eastern time) and do the rest of the things at 3 a.m. eastern time. So do you think I was crazy enough to stay up or get up to do those things in the middle of the night??

You betcha!

And I guess the reason I did is because I've read first-hand experiences of people who waited and then couldn't get into the adults-only restaurant (Palo). Or who waited and then got stuck with a late port arrival time (which means less time on the ship the first day).

The first time we went to Disney World with kids (ok, just our oldest in 2008) it was 4 months before our trip and I hadn't made any character dining reservations yet (or any dining reservations yet, for that matter). I remember my sister-in-law telling me that I should do it ASAP because some of the restaurants get booked up 6 months in advance. And I remember thinking, that's crazy, I'm still 4 months away. But when I called, I had a really hard time booking a character meal. Chef Mickey's was completely booked during our entire stay, and we could only get into the Crystal Palace at odd random times during the day (like 3 p.m.). So lesson learned--I now book all Disney-related things as soon in advance as possible.

My middle of the night waiting paid off. We were able to book a dinner at Palo! I cannot wait to try this Italian restaurant. I've heard such good things about the chocolate soufflé.

And we pre-booked 10 hours of nursery time for our youngest. (Our older two have unlimited hours in the kids club--no need to pre-book hours for them). We are planning on having 3 date-night dinners without our kids.

And, we got the earliest port arrival time. WOOT!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Outfitting for vacation

As our vacation approaches I am taking stock of what we have and what we still don't have for the cruise. And I must restrain myself from going overboard from buying all sorts of cute outfits for the kids (have you been on Etsy????).

Last year I bought Alyssa a Minnie Mouse swim suit and coverup at The Disney Store when they were on clearance at the end of the season. Is there anything cuter than a baby in a bikini?

I also bought her an Ariel costume and a pirate costume (for Pirate Night on the cruise) during Halloween clearance. I scored each of these for around $4 each:

Sometime last year I also bought these t-shirts on sale at The Disney Store:

And now all the kids have water shoes (a must for walking around the pool deck and on the beach) and sandals:

I'd love to do matching family t-shirts for our day at Magic Kingdom or for our first day on the cruise...but my dear husband would not be caught dead in matching family t-shirts. Although he did say I could make all 3 kids match. So I'm still deciding on that one. Thinking about doing one outfit splurge for the kids on Etsy.

There is one semi-formal dinner on the cruise, but I think the kids will skip that. Brian and I are trying to get reservations for the adult-only restaurant, so we will dress up for that. None of my clothes fit me anymore, so I definitely have some shopping to do over the next 2 months!

Do you buy clothes specifically for a vacation? Do you set a budget, or splurge, or a combo?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Are we there yet???

The thing about booking a vacation 2 years in advance is that it takes forever to get there! We are really in the home stretch now. Spring Break was our last "break" before we leave for our Disney Cruise. Next week I will be able to do an online check-in and reserve our port arrival time, adult dinners and nursery times.

Nathan is looking forward to going snorkeling on Castaway Cay! He is wearing his full snorkeling gear today and even brought it out last night to show our babysitter.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Staycation Day 8: Last Day!

It's Friday and I am officially declaring Spring Break to be over! We will proceed with a normal weekend and start back to school and other activities on Monday.

This morning we participated in an HOA neighborhood activity for the kids, crafts and cookies at our HOA office. We painted St. Patrick's Day boxes and decorated them.

Then we went to a neighborhood mom's group meet-up at the park. I was talking too much and didn't get any pictures of that, but the kids had fun and enjoyed being around other kids.

And then to the gym this afternoon--where the kids also ran into kids from our neighborhood. It's a small world up here, I tell ya.

I've enjoyed this Spring Break. I've been able to exercise every morning without rushing to get the kids out so early. It's nice not being on such a strict schedule.

But this mom is ready for a break! We missed the last Parents' Night Out at church due to sickness, so we are treating ourselves to a babysitter and dinner tomorrow night. We really, really need it.

We came in under our $50 budget for Spring Break--$15 for the farm, $15.89 for the basketballs, and $3.02 for Sonic Happy Hour for a total of $33.91. It's really easy to entertain kids for free or cheap in our neck of the woods. The Parks & Rec systems of our city and the surrounding cities are excellent, and the libraries have great kids programming as well.

Only a few short months until our big Dream vacation....and a few more months to figure out what we will do for the rest of our summer!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Staycation Day 7: Parks and more parks

Today I took the kids to two parks near our old house. We played on the equipment, had a picnic lunch, played some sports and saw some ducks. Nothing fancy, just some good outdoor time!

And my favorite pictures of the kids today:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Staycation Day 6--getting things done

My big plan for the kids this morning was....drumroll....the DENTIST! Yes, I made dentist appointments for all 3 kiddos. I finally decided to change to a dentist closer to our new home, so the boys had never been here before. Since they had some anxiety about the dentist in the past, I didn't tell them where we were going when we got in the car (and oddly enough they didn't even ask). So when we walked in they just started playing with the toys in the waiting room and it was no big deal.

I didn't even go back with the boys to their cleanings/x-rays. Alyssa and I got to hang out and play for a little longer until it was time for her check-up.

After lunch and after Alyssa woke up from her nap, I took the kids to Sonic for Happy Hour (half-price drinks and slushes from 2-4 p.m.). We got 3 slushes and a small tater tots for only $3.03.

Then I took the kids to the library for the Passport to Adventure program. This month's country was the United Kingdom. A librarian from Wales first talked to the kids about all the places within the United Kingdom and told some stories about giants and the Loch Ness monster to keep them fascinated.

Then there were 4 craft tables where they got to make 4 different crafts that related to the country. At the end, they got a passport stamped.

The boys had a good time doing this. Next month the country is Italy, I think we'll try to make that one.

After dinner we played outside--bike riding, football, soccer, shovels?

And lastly, I rented the movie Captain America (for free at Redbox using the code "DVDONME"). Brian and Nathan are watching that right now.

Total spending for the week: $15.89 basketballs, $15.00 farm, $3.03 Sonic = $33.92.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Staycation Day 5: Friends and Staying Home

Today we had friends from Austin come visit us! My friend Erin from college has a son in between my boys' ages and a daughter close to Alyssa's age. So the kids had a great time playing together this morning!

It was so great to see them!

They left shortly after lunch, and my plan was to take the kids outside or go somewhere in the afternoon after Alyssa's nap. Those plans quickly disappeared when Alyssa tossed and turned for over and hour without falling asleep and Joshua somehow hurt his toe and couldn't wear his shoes. So we ended up staying home the rest of the afternoon with grumpy kids and a grumpy mom. And I can just tell you that this stay-at-home-mom does not do well with staying at home all day.

Alyssa fell asleep during dinner.

We're definitely leaving the house tomorrow!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Staycation Day 4: Day at the Farm

This morning my 4-year-old asked me if he was going to school today. And I said, "No, it's Spring Break, there's no school this week." And then he got all excited and started squealing "Yay! We're going on the Disney Cruise today!!!" Because silly me, I told him that we were going on that when school was out, but of course I meant out for the summer, not out for Spring Break.

So once he got over the disappointment that we weren't sailing away today, I told the kids we were going to a farm. And my 7-year-old was not happy. "I don't want to go anywhere! I don't like farms. I don't like to feed the animals and I never have any fun at farms." I think he would be content to stay in his PJs and play legos all day. (Except eventually he'd go stir crazy and the siblings would start fighting and arguing and then we'd have wished we'd gone out).

So I persevered with getting all 3 kiddos dressed, fed, and in the car. We were heading to the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano for their Staycation--Spring Break Farm Fun activities. Another family from our neighborhood meet-up group met us there, so the boys were excited to have another friend to hang out with and I think that turned around the sour attitude of my oldest.

The farm is set up with several buildings & hands-on stations. The first one we stopped at was the chicken coop. The boys got to grind their own corn and then feed it to the chickens (and turkeys).

Our next stop was a historical house with a manual lawnmower to try.
Then onto the stilts walking.

The one-room schoolhouse was a big hit with all the kids. They each got their own desk with chalk and slate and took turns being the teacher. They practiced math and spelling.

Then we made our way to the special activity of the day--outdoor cooking. The kids got to make their own quesadillas on the outdoor stove. Yum!

Then they took turns milking the cow.
And we went on a tractor ride around the farm.

We visited the Blacksmith shop where they got to hammer on some things.
And they each got to try out a hand plough.

At the edge of the farm was a path leading down to the creek. And out of everything we did today, the boys said this was their favorite. Just throwing rocks into the water, collecting sticks, etc.
Then we had some lunch.
And goofed around some more before heading out.
I think my kiddos had more fun than they expected. This is a perfect place to visit if you have kids between the ages of 2-10. Admission was $5 (under 3 are free).

This day was so lovely that we spent more time outside at home. After dinner, Brian took all 3 kids out for a bike ride while I walked our dog.

Then the kids played football with the neighbors and just enjoyed the light night.

Oh, until the lego catalog came in the mail...stop the press!

What a great day!

Total spent so far on our Spring Break Staycation: $15.00 for the farm, $15.89 for the basketballs = $30.89 total.