boatcation: on the boatgram edition

"Vivi? Do you like boatcations?" "Yes, I do very much. Thank you." #Boatcation #CarnivalSunshine
Vacation, you're both doin' it real, real well. #Boatcation
One of the main reasons we chose this ship was because of these beauties right here. Unfortunately, they have been out of commission since we boarded. :(
My #Boatcation crew, two bottles of sunscreen down, 4 days to go.
Fuzzy headed Caribbean alarm clocks. Free tote bag with purchase. #Boatcation
Between the ropes course and swimming all day she may come back stronger than Chuck Norris.
After seven days on a cruise ship, she learned how to sleep in. #Boatcation
These two.

Most of our time was spent on the water slides, can you tell? One major bummer is the big slides weren’t working for the first four days (half) of our trip. Since school was back in session, there weren’t many kids on board so it didn’t seem to be a huge priority to get it fixed, but the families who were on board were pretty bummed. The ship we were on, Carnival Sunshine, was actually retrofitted and relaunched last year (originally built in 1995.) While we could tell it was an older ship (based on layout) everything on it felt fresh and updated. There were a lot of differences between it and the Breeze (Launched in 2012. Addie, my mom and I went on it last year) but the experience was just as enjoyable. The staff of the Sunshine seemed much more personable, perhaps because it is smaller so was easier to keep track of people? (Breeze passenger capacity: 3,690 – Sunshine: 2,642) I also have to say that the Red Frog Pub on both the Breeze and the Sunshine found some of the best acoustic performers I’ve ever heard on land or sea. Good job, guys.

And in case you’re all “Where’s Addie?” Addie made friends. SHE MADE FRIENDS. SHE RAN OFF WITH HER FRIENDS! My little introvert made friends! We barely saw her but we didn’t really care because she was HAVING FUN WITH HER NEW FRIENDS! (Total benefit to cruising with kids her age: she was able to sign herself in and out of Club Carnival so she could go to the activities she wanted to (she loved anything crafty as well as the scavenger hunts) then leave when things got too loud.) We had walkie-talkies (Vivi called them docky-dockies) so we could stay in contact.

Carnival’s partnership with Dr. Seuss throughout the ship was pretty adorable. The Green Eggs & Ham breakfast was $5 per person and there were actual green eggs on the menu. There was also a Dr. Seuss parade and storytime as well as Seuss themed activities in Camp Carnival. I hate to compare, but Carnival did an amazing job with its partnership while Royal Caribbean’s partnership with Dreamworks left a lot to be desired. (It was very unorganized, un-relateable to the much younger/much older crowd, and the costumes were terrifying.)

Do you have any questions about cruising? Specifically with little humans? I’m going to be doing another post about “What I Wish I Had Known” as well as “What Totally Worked” in regards to traveling on a boat with progeny.

Find out what we did and what we paid for entertainment/food in each port here. (Because knowing stuff like this will save you a ton on a cruise.)

Carnival generously provided us with our cruise fare. Any additional expenses, gratuities, and travel expenses were our responsibility. Opinions, as always, are my own.

Read more…

boatcation: off the boatgram edition

Partner in crime. (Crime = making sure Vivi doesn't drown, much.) #Boatcation
...and maybe a less terrifying portrait?
Things became a wee bit ominous in the land of turkey and cake. #Boatcation
The girls happily helped me give Cody boobs and mermaid hair.
One year ago at this same beach Addie befriended a toddler because she missed her sister. Today they get to play together. :)
Chubby, sandy hand clutching her treasure. Toddlers. *sigh* (She fell asleep on me within two minutes of leaving the beach.)
The end. #Boatcation

What we did on each stop:

Grand Turk: There was a beach and Margaritaville pool right off the pier, rather than taking a taxi to a more private beach we figured we’d go with what was there. The girls were able to witness a beer belly competition. So, that was fun to explain. (Free, aside from a little souvenir for my sister.)

Puerto Rico (Old San Juan): You can find all that here. ($10 admission to the fort, $3 for pastries and $6 for water. Lots of water.)

St. Thomas, USVI: We took a taxi to Magen’s Bay ($8 per person each way + $4 beach admittance for Cody and me.) This was our favorite day, Magen’s Bay was perfect for Vivi, the water was shallow with no waves, the sand was soft with no rocks and there was plenty of shade. There were also iguanas, to which Vivi declared “DINOSAURS! LET’S CATCH ‘EM!” We brought our own snorkel masks as well, because I’m pretty sure I got sick in November from a dirty rental snorkel. Lunch for the 4 of us at the beach was $24.

St. Maarten: We left the girls on the ship and headed out to Maho Beach to hopefully see this. Sadly, all we saw was traffic (one lane roads around the WHOLE island + a traffic accident = long time in a taxi.) I had the world’s most tasty frozen beverage and if you ever find yourself in St. Maarten (Dutch Side) ask for Delores to be your driver, she took us around the entire island on our own little personal tour. We then had a coconut smoothie that changed both of our lives forever and ever, amen. ($50 for round-trip ride, $18 for various drinks and snacks.)

Cody’s Sister’s Apartment: Free! Hooray for family in Orlando with a sparkling blue pool!

Read more…

boatcation: puerto ricogram edition

San Juan
San Juan PR
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan PR
San Juan
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Way better than the forts we build at home. #FortEnvy
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
It's not gas, just a fort.
Morro wall
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nothing wraps up climbing a bazillion 300-year-old stairs like buying pastries from the back of a truck on a street corner.

Old San Juan? We dig you.

(Pictured: Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe Del Morro and Santa Maria Magdelena de Pazzis Cemetery)

Read more…

meeting mr. cleveland

When we told Vivi we were going to Cleveland for the weekend she asked if he was nice and if he had toys at his house.

downtown 2
garden vivi
garden addie
Cleveland, for the first time.
gardens 3
garden 2
Cleveland, for the first time.
Cleveland, for the first time.
Cleveland, for the first time.
Cleveland, for the first time. jack flaps
rock two
Cleveland, for the first time.
Cleveland, for the first time.
Cleveland, for the first time.

She’s still wondering who Mr. Cleveland is, and she was a little disappointed she never got to see his house — but all in all she was pretty pleased with him, his museums, his bowling alley, and his pancakes.

We all were.


Pictured Above: Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Jack Flaps, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Science Center. Special thanks to the Cleveland CVB for providing us with accommodations, meals, and attraction passes.

Read more…

madrid to be leaving.

The only other time in my life when my body has been this tired and confused were those first few days after bringing home a new baby. I have no concept of time, no memory of eating, I haven’t slept for longer than 3 hours at a time and my head feels all cold and floaty, like I’m just awake enough to remember to keep breathing.

An opportunity came to me through the dozens of various connections I’ve made in this life and that opportunity had me in Madrid, Spain for the last five days. Until last week I had never been to Europe, traveled overseas or been completely immersed in another country. Sure, I’ve made day stops on Caribbean islands and have spent a few wild nights in Canada, but nothing like this.

No filter. Also, never coming back. Sorry, Indiana.

The dozen years I spent learning Spanish in school seemed to just *poof* leave my brain when it came time for lunch on the first day, I must have looked so frazzled the server brought me a giant glass of wine with a look that said “Oh, honey. You look like you NEED this.” (Only in Spanish.)

It’s very isolating to be in a whole new place by yourself, a place where you barely speak the language and around every corner is something you’d never thought you’d see in your lifetime. I know, *EYEROLL* it’s so hard traveling to Europe, Casey. Cry me a really pretty European river lined with little tables and blossoming trees. Gross.

I’m just having one of those moments, I’m so thankful and grateful and happy and pleased with myself that I finally found something I’m really good at.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I need to sleep for a week.

I have no idea how people travel to Europe with kids — I can assure you that if mine had been with me this weekend I would have lost one.





Read more…

cruising, wiping out and NASCAR

I wonder if Cody will remember as much about our vacation last week as I remember about our cruise back in November, which isn’t much. While I remember everything overall (the gorgeous dining room, the shopping mall in the middle of the ship, a few of the shows and how big and bright our room was) there are an awful lot of little details I don’t remember, food for example. I know I ate it but I couldn’t tell you what it was (aside from the milkshake I had at the onboard Johnny Rockets, that thing was delicious.)

One day when I was particularly unwell the medical staff had me take my nebulizer treatment in one of the treatment rooms with a bed. About 10 minutes into my treatment an older gentlemen came in and started talking to me about how I was feeling, how my treatment was going and if I liked NASCAR. When I said I was from Indy he instantly started quizzing me on my favorite drivers (um, ?) and asking me if I had heard of so-and-so or such-and-such racing. He then told me his racing team had donated a few items to the High Seas Rally on board to raise money for charity and the ship had asked him to come down to the ship’s hospital to say hi to the patients. He then pulled out racing cards and started signing them, it was at that moment I realized he thought I was a chronically ill charity patient there with the High Seas Rally in need of a little celebrity pick-me-up from one of the rally’s sponsors.


I took the cards and bragged about them at dinner, I also felt a little guilty that I wasn’t exactly the type of patient he had been sent there to cheer up, but I was most certainly cheered up in a strange and twisted kind of way.
Cody learned how to sur...nevermind. #FreedomOfTheSeas

The other thing I remember about our trip was Cody’s obsession with the Flow Rider, a surf simulator located at the front of the ship (or maybe the back? I was really sick.) Cody declared after one turn on the Flow Rider that we would only be cruising Royal Caribbean from here on out because of the Flow Rider and over dinner he asked the PR rep for Royal about each ship, “How many Flow Riders does each ship have and which one is the least busy?” I spent a lot of time watching him, and others — because even though I was sick, seeing other people wipeout never stops being funny.

Cody actually got really good towards the end of our trip, but no one wants to watch someone getting really good at something — they want to watch the process of getting good at something (aka they want to watch people fall. A lot.)

So I present to you Cody’s finest wipeouts in his learning-to-surf journey:

(Cody and I were invited to experience the Freedom of the Seas together back in November. Travel and accommodations were covered by Royal Caribbean. All opinions are my own. Especially the one about people falling down on the Flow Rider being funny.)

Read more…

butterfly farms and and too much filet

Did you know that cruise ships are designed to withstand and recover from a 45 degree tip in either direction? But the most degree of tip any regular passenger can handle without ralphing over the edge is about 4 or 5 degrees. I am full of so much random cruise ship knowledge I barely even want to be friends with myself right now.

In case you haven’t been following along, I spent last week on the maiden voyage of the re-imagined Disney Magic and am currently on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. TWO CRUISES BACK TO BACK? LUCKY! Well, kind of, yes. It’s become a myriad of first world problems for me, “Please, no more filet and lobster, I’ve had enough.” and “I didn’t pack enough sunscreen for all this sun!” and “Sometimes a girl just wants to take a nap without having to unmake her bed, AGAIN.”

I’m doing very real research for my very real job while here but I also managed to come down with a very real sickness that landed me in the ship’s version of an ER. They’re still not quite sure what happened to me, but something inside me went terribly rotten and my lungs all but gave up functioning the night before last. My blood pressure tanked, my pulse ox was the equivalent of a C+ and I landed myself in an area of the ship not often seen or even thought about by most passengers. I received some crazy high doses of antibiotics (HURL!) and my first ever nebulizer treatments. (Which I do not like. At all. I mean, I’m all for feeling better, but nebulizers are rough. Solidarity to all of you who have to administer them to your little kids.)

This morning I woke up actually happy to be alive for the first time in four days and practically skipped off the ship straight to a butterfly farm where this happened:

"Please just take the picture, this is terrifying. I can feel it licking me." - @cb_ute

His exact words were “Please hurry up and take the picture, this is terrifying. I can feel it licking me.” Did you know Cody’s fear of bugs doesn’t just end at spiders and moths but carries over to butterflies as well?

In order to get the butterflies on our fingers they gave us a little cup of rum punch to dip our fingers in. “Don’t worry about giving the butterflies rum, they’re already the most drunk insect out there — I mean, who’s ever seen a butterfly fly in a straight line?”

Two points to the funny English butterfly farmer in St. Maarten.

Five points went to our tour bus driver who said “Over there is a nudist colony, they all wear their birthday suits, but none of them are ironed very well.”

Read more…

of biscuits and birds

After this past weekend in South Carolina, I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually become It should also be mentioned that if I did move to Charleston I would also become very unhealthy because biscuits at every meal. My dryer seemed to have worked overtime while I was away because my pants are all just a wee bit tighter today than they were last week.

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

If cruises are where you go to nap, Charleston is where you go to eat. Good heavens, the eating — I returned a changed woman, stuffed to the gill with fresh, hot pralines and enough she-crab soup and biscuits to fuel a small country. Lowcountry cuisine? You have won me.

Everywhere we went seemed to be straight out of a movie, I forgot where I was a few times, sure I had fallen asleep and this was all one crazy, beautiful dream. It’s amazing how scenery so simple can overwhelm every sense. (Especially when there are tree frogs around, mercy, those frogs are loud.)

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

There were six of us total, representing different publications and websites. On the second day we were all getting out of the car to eat more biscuits and soup when one of the girls got a phone call.

Her husband had passed.


No one knew what to do, or what to say. I mean, how can you? Here she was getting what I can only imagine to be one of the worst phone calls of her life while she was far from home surrounded by strangers. Of course all of us figured she’d be on the next flight home, in fact I’m pretty sure we would have been willing to drive her home ourselves — but she stayed — all weekend she stayed with strangers in a strange and beautiful place. Her husband has been ill for awhile, and while he wasn’t “he could go at any moment ill” he did tell her to go live her life.

And so she did.

Even she said there was no sense in going home to just be sad. She took the weekend as a welcome distraction for things settle down and her new reality to sink in.

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

Never before had the phraseBe kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” been so true.

You simply never know what someone is going through.

I learned a lot from her and her courage this weekend, I’m very thankful for her example of grace in the face of unfathomable tragedy.

There seems to be an awful lot of terrible things happening lately, none of which will ever be reported on the news, but terrible all the same.

Death, illness and devastating news seems to be touching the lives of everyone right now, if not directly, than through friends or distant contacts online. It’s a painful and unique sadness knowing so much hurt is out there, knowing there isn’t a whole lot we can do beyond offering our condolences, a prayer, a hug, perhaps a casserole. I’d like to offer everyone a warm cat, but understand the logistics behind such an offering.

It’s equally important to remember that even when it seems everyone else seems to have it worse, we are still allowed to acknowledge the difficult parts of our own lives. It isn’t being ungrateful or selfish, it’s simply being honest.

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair — Chinese proverb

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

Just like birds, sorrows come and go — it’s all in how you choose to see their arrival and departure (and deal with the crap they leave in their wake.)

If you can, head down to Charleston and watch the birds. Promise it will soothe parts of your soul that have been uneasy for ages.

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

Maybe have a biscuit or two while you’re there as well.

If you’re into feeding your emotions, Charleston is totally the place to do it.


Read more…