Disney Wonder California Coast Cruise Sept 2013 (Day 2)

Day 2 was a sea day and I’ll be honest, I think sea days are the best part of any cruise. Seriously, I’m there to enjoy the boat, and there’s SO much to enjoy on a Disney cruise. I’ve heard of people who don’t even get off at port, and honestly I don’t blame them.

Kevin and Theo headed off to the pool. It has to be pretty warm for me to get in the water–any water, anywhere, but Kevin is much more willing to brave the cold so off they went. Good thing too, Theo has consistently said that one of his favorite parts of the cruises was the water slide. And the other nice thing about swimming in the cold? Barely any lines. He went down the thing like a million times.

Violet and I headed to Toddler Time in one of the lounges. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was delighted when I got there. Basically the nursery staff brought out a big bunch of toddler toys and it was open playtime. They had coloring sheets but Violet was much more interested in the toys.

Violet loved this spinner thingy

Violet loved this spinner thingy

She also liked the ride-on toy

She also liked the ride-on toy

But she LOVED the bar menu. Girl after my own heart!

But she LOVED the bar menu. Girl after my own heart!

We headed back for our nap, once again rejoicing in our suite where I could read in peace. Then as I was reading, I heard a huge commotion coming from the balcony next door. It sounded like this:

“Excited mumble, excited mumble, Dolphins! Look! EXCITED MUMBLE DOLPHINS!!!”

So of course I grabbed my camera and headed straight out to the balcony. Then the neighbors apologized for making a ruckus but pointed out that there was a whole pod of dolphins swimming in the ship’s wake. It was awesome! I couldn’t believe what we were seeing! I double-wrapped the camera strap around my wrist and tried to take a picture.

I SWEAR there’s a dolphin in this picture.

Can't you see him?

Can’t you see him?

Or to zoom in  a little,

There he is!

There he is!

Actually he (she?) kind of looks like a shark in that picture but I swear, you could tell it was a dolphin in person.

Also, do you like my classy graphics work? Yeah, I probably could have done something in Photoshop but Paint is much easier and quicker for a non-Photoshop person like me.

After the nap we saw a show. Naturally I took no pictures and cannot remember which one it was, but the kids liked it. The shows are great onboard, really professional-quality. There are two seatings for dinner, the early one at 5:45 with a lot of kids because it’s closer to most people’s normal dinners, except for us, and the 8:15 seating which is what we chose, where there tends to be fewer kids. If you have the early seating, the show is after dinner, if you have the early sitting, the show is before dinner. Two shows, don’t try to work out the fuzzy math.

It was semi-formal night for dinner, but since I love dressing up we made it formal. Unfortunately this turned into a HUGE battle with Theo who refused to wear the bow tie from his tux (tux purchased on ebay for $35). There was a significant amount of crying and pouting and frustration on all sides until we all compromised on the vest that matched Violet’s dress but not the bow tie. We stopped by the photographer hoping to get a good family picture, maybe for the Christmas card. Hahahahahaha! Family pictures, so elusive!

3 out of 4 of us look cute

3 out of 4 of us look cute

Wait, that must have been the Golden Mickeys show because Mickey is wearing his Golden Mickey outfit. If that’s the case, we didn’t go to that show. I have no idea what we did. Sorry.

Anyway, Theo’s pouting continued through dinner *sigh*

Hey there grumpypants

Hey there grumpypants

But Violet did great.

She liked having both water and milk

She liked having both water and milk

This is what I did at almost every dinner:

Cooling off the mac and cheese

Cooling off the mac and cheese

However, dinner perked up considerably after Theo had a bite to eat, and especially when he got his dessert. Every night, he ordered plain vanilla ice cream with Mickey sprinkles. It was pretty much the best dessert EVER. In fact, he missed it so much the night they ate at the kid’s club (Pirate Night) he was totally bummed he didn’t get it. But more on that later.

Violet was also a fan of dessert.

Yum!

Yum!

I highly recommend bringing along waterproof long-sleeved bibs. They saved many dresses and made for easy cleanup!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney Wonder California Coast Cruise Sept 2013 (Day 1)

One of the best family vacations we’d taken with Theo was a cruise on the Disney Wonder in September 2011, so deciding to take another Disney cruise didn’t take a whole lot of deliberation. The California Coast cruise is ideal for us–it’s a repositioning cruise that starts in Vancouver and ends in Los Angeles, requiring us to 1) only buy one set of plane tickets, and 2) visit one of our favorite cities in the world, Vancouver, where we honeymooned. Perfect.

This past June I turned 40. To celebrate, rather than throwing some big party for my friends and family, we decided to splurge on our cruise and get a suite with concierge service.

Oh yeah.

When we travel, we try to get suites as often as financially possible. The kids sleep better in their own room and we can keep the light on and do crazy things like sharing a glass of wine or reading before we go to bed, rather than laying there, silent and motionless, in the dark while our light sleeping night owls try to their hardest not to fall asleep. Good times, good times.

The concierge service came with the suite. To be honest, we didn’t think we would use the service much and if we could have gotten a suite without concierge we probably would have, but that would have been so short-sighted because we did end up using the concierge, a lot, and now it will be hard to go back to cruising the regular way. *sigh* Concierge offers shoreside services before you board, which I didn’t take too much advantage of, booking our own Port Adventure (excursion). Checking in at the terminal, you have to wait in the regular security line but when you check in to the boat, you get the earliest boarding time and your own special line to wait in, which wasn’t a line at all since we got right on. It was great, but I can see how on one of the really crowded, bigger ships, it would be really, REALLY great.

We were in room 8078 and the first thing I did when we stowed our stuff–well, first we ooohed and aaahhhed at the room, and then we stowed our stuff, but the next thing I did was decorate our door. The doors are metal so magnets stick to them. I got some DISigns (signs) off of DISboards and made myself at home.

Our door!

Our door!

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself again. The first thing we did is board the ship, and the fun part of that is that they call out your family name as you walk in and all the crew claps for you like you’re a celebrity. Then since we were concierge, we got to go to a special concierge reception with free snacks (and free booze!) where we got to meet our concierge team, sign up for kid’s activities and port adventures, and hang out. Unfortunately the kids weren’t up to hanging out so we only stayed a brief time there. I understand that on the two larger ships, the Dream and the Fantasy, there’s a special concierge lounge, but on the Wonder they only hold a couple of concierge activities. That’s okay, the kids were bored through them anyway.

THEN we got to our room.

The living room/kid's room

The living room/kid’s room

The room was, like, huge and gorgeous. And gorgeous. And spacious. And beautiful. And ours.

Yeah, baby. I’m already spoiled rotten.

We were greeted with a basket of fresh fruit, which was replenished daily.

That's us!

That’s us!

I loved having a dining table. It was the perfect size for four and while we’d brought our own booster seat for Violet, we could have gotten a high chair.

The baby amenities on Disney cruises are awesome. They brought a pack n play which they set up and took down every day so it wasn’t constantly in the way. Violet is still in diapers so they brought us our very own Diaper Genie for easy disposal. I mean, that alone is worth the price of a cruise.

Or maybe not, but you know what I mean.

Our bedroom had a lovely bed, our own balcony door, a little desk area, and a two-part bathroom with a jetted tub and a separate toilet/shower area.

The bedroom

The bedroom

Also a TV

Also a TV

Desk

Desk

Vanity

Vanity

Full-sized jetted tub!!!

Full-sized jetted tub!!!

Even the shower was beautiful

Even the shower was beautiful

The kids’ room also had their own bathroom with shower so they didn’t have to bug us for ours. Nice. And they also had their own balcony door, and the balcony was shared between the rooms with a partition on either side from the other cabins.

Here is a picture I took of the main room from the balcony. Clearly I took this picture through the glass. Why on earth didn’t I open the balcony door and then take the picture???

I have no idea.

The living room/kids' room

The living room/kids’ room

The couch folded out into a bed, which is where Theo slept. There was also a Murphy bed in the bedroom that could have been made up for the kids, but honestly that would have defeated the entire purpose of having  a suite for us, so the couch it was! It seemed perfectly comfortable.

We went over to the kids clubs to get Theo and Violet registered. There are several kids clubs but we used three: Flounder’s Nursery for toddlers and babies under 3 and in diapers, the Oceaneer Club geared toward younger kids, and the Oceaneer Lab geared toward slightly older kids. There’s also a tween club and a teen club but obviously we weren’t eligible for those. Kids under 12 can go to either the Club or the Lab as they like. I’ll cover more about the clubs on a different post because we didn’t take many pictures there the first day. They did have family open house times where you can go in and play on the play structure and do the activities as a family, which was great because it gave Violet a chance to hang out there as well. I can’t wait to take a cruise when she’s old enough to be in the real kid’s club instead of Flounder’s.

Anyway, Theo headed to the computers but Violet enjoyed the open coloring and a surprise appearance of her favorite book.

Open coloring

Open coloring

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

And we walked around some more.

Along a rail

Along a rail

 

After getting acquainted with the ship, it was approaching Violet’s nap time so we set up the pack n play in the bedroom and Theo and I headed out to the sail away party. This was a deck party by the pools where they introduced the crew and there was lots of singing and dancing and peppy music and it was impossible to not get totally excited about sailing away. I almost cried I was so happy.

 

The crowd on the deck

The crowd on the deck

We attempted to watch from the upper rail and fortunately a nice couple of adults made room for Theo right up against the rail.

I love it when people are so nice to kids that way

I love it when people are so nice to kids that way

We walked to a different angle to catch the Funnelvision, where they show movies during the cruise.

It's a Jumbotron!

It’s a Jumbotron!

And Theo loved waving the little pom poms the crew members were handing out.

Here Mommy!

Here Mommy!

When we got back to the room, Violet was asleep and Daddy was relaxing in the living room reading. It was completely awesome having her in the other room where she could sleep in peace but we could still use the room.

Theo took his travel train set out on the balcony.

I love this train, it packs so easily

I love this train, it packs so easily

Bye bye Vancouver!

Bye bye Vancouver!

I love to get my kids dressed up for dinner. Unfortunately Theo was not onboard with this plan at all and every dinner was a struggle.

4-year-olds, what’re you gonna do?

An attempt at a family picture

An attempt at a family picture

The way dining works on Disney cruises is that there are three main dining rooms (MDRs), each with a theme: Triton’s, Parrot Cay, and Animator’s Palate. You rotate each night to a different MDR, but you take your wait staff with you. That part is awesome because you really get to know your wait staff and it’s a lot of fun to see the same faces every night.

We started out in Parrot Cay. Theo was all camera shy while Violet was doing well.

Don't take my picture

Don’t take my picture

So far, so good

So far, so good

 

But then Kevin did something really horrible like moving Violet’s water cup or something and this happened.

*sigh*

*sigh*

Look, even the high chair has Mickey on it!

Anyway, Violet got over whatever she was ticked off about in that picture.

Kid dining is great on Disney cruises. Each night they have a kid’s menu with a kid version of whatever is on the adult menu, then a kid-food menu that doesn’t change. Theo really liked that because he had the mac and cheese every. single. night. To be fair it was really good mac and cheese, but still. Another nice thing is something we noticed on our last cruise, which is that they get the kid’s meals out right away. It’s wonderful because the kids don’t have to wait for the adults to order or for their food to come, they can just start eating. And the adults don’t have to worry about rushing through either. Another nice thing is that if the kids finish early, you can run them up to the clubs and finish your own meal in peace, which we did one night.

However Flounder’s Nursery only has a limited number of spots, so you need to call ahead an arrange that, but more on that later.

Daddy took some selfies with our pretty girl.

dayone-24 dayone-25

One awesome thing about concierge that isn’t available to guests in other staterooms is that you can order food from the MDRs as room service, including a hot breakfast. Everyone can order room service, but it’s a limited menu. Since our cruise was so short (5 nights) we didn’t eat dinner in the room, but we did take advantage of the breakfast once and it was really awesome to enjoy eggs benedict in my PJs.

Another awesome thing about concierge is that they can arrange all kinds of things for you, like nursery time. You are allowed to reserve 2 hours per night (so 10 hours in a 5 night cruise) before the cruise starts, and the spots can fill up fast. We did this on our first cruise when Theo was 2 and it was a bummer some days because it didn’t leave us a lot of flexibility. However, with concierge, you can decide last minute and they call and check if there’s room. Let’s just say that we never had a problem with there being room for Violet :). There is a nominal fee for Flounder’s, I believe it’s $6 per hour, and worth every penny.

It was a fun-filled first day, and the cruise was just getting started!

Keep the Faith

In 2006, two things happened. Well a lot of things happened, but for the purposes of this post, two things happened, one very important and the other which seemed less consequential.

The important thing was that we started the China adoption process that would eventually lead us to Violet, and the lesser important thing was that I started working at Build-A-Bear Workshop in Downtown Disney.

You can see why one is more important than the other.

At that time, Build-A-Bear had a line of soft, stuffable dolls called Friends 2B Made. What many people don’t know is that there were actually two dolls in that line–one was a set of small, skinny dolls that we sold in our store (along with their various clothing items and accoutrements), and the other was a full-sized doll called a “Sweetheart Doll” that was only sold in the small handful of Friends 2B Made stores around the country.

Going by faith, I bought a Sweetheart Doll with Asian features for our future daughter. Did you know that you can buy any Build-A-Bear animal unstuffed, then take it to any BABW location and they will stuff it for you for free? That’s what I did with this doll. Part of the Build-A-Bear experience is the heart ceremony, where you take a small stuffed heart, make a wish, and place it inside your new friend before it is sewn up.

I wanted our future daughter to do her own heart ceremony.

But then, like many, many other families, our China adoption stalled out. Our wait grew and grew. We kept ourselves busy. We had Theo, the baby we never thought we’d have. I stopped working at Build-A-Bear right before he was born. This doll that I’d purchased, limp and lifeless, got moved around from closet to shelf to stuffed-in-the-back-somewhere. But still, we kept the faith.

Until finally, after 6 years, 3 months, 24 days, our dreams came true and we met Violet. The following year was a complete whirlwind. I all but abandoned my blog, juggling two kids–a cheeky but lovable 4 year old and a laughing, running hurricane of a toddler. It wasn’t until a year later that I was able to reflect on things. To slow down, take a deep breath, and take stock of all that had happened. To finally get into the groove of a new normal, a bigger family, a bigger heart.

On November 11th we celebrated our one-year anniversary, our Violet Day. You can read about our celebration at Goofy’s Kitchen, Part 1 and Part 2. When we were making plans for Goofy’s Kitchen, it occurred to be that we’d be in Downtown Disney. And that’s when I knew.

It was time.

What had begun in 2006 had come full-circle.

I dug the doll out of the closet and dusted her off. Her yarn hair was disheveled, and as I ran my fingers through the tangles I thought about everything we had been through, holding onto this doll that Build-A-Bear stopped making 4 years ago, holding onto our hope and dream. I put the doll in a bag and we headed out to Goofy’s Kitchen.

After our meal we walked down to Build-A-Bear. The Bear Builder who helped us was amazed. He’d never seen a Sweeheart Doll but knew what it was and he was surprised to see an unstuffed one come into the store. Both Theo and Violet stepped on the pedal of the stuffing machine and blew some life into that floppy body.

Then it was time for the heart ceremony. Theo took a heart for himself and chose one for Violet. They worked together like the team they are, best friends. Theo held the heart up to his chest to make a wish; Violet copied her big brother. Then they placed them inside the doll. I almost forgot to take a picture.

Almost.

BABW

BABW-2

Picking an outfit out for Violet’s new doll was a no-brainer–the Minnie Mouse dress. Finally we left the store, Theo happily swinging the empty box and Violet clutching her dolly, refusing to let her go.

She loves it, plays with it, and insists on sleeping with it. In fact, I had to wait for her to be at preschool before I could even get a picture of it. But here she is.

Keep the faith.

BABW-3

Goofy’s Kitchen (Part 2)

Yesterday in Part 1 I explained why we were at Goofy’s Kitchen and the different characters we saw there. So, uh, go read it, okay?

Okay.

Goofy’s Kitchen is a buffet style restaurant, a fact that I completely forgot about when they seated us and failed to hand us a menu. I was like “Hm, where’s the menu” before looking directly to my right and seeing the buffet.

That I had just walked past.

I’m telling you, two kids have done this to me. I no longer have the brain I had like  years ago. But then again, who does?

The very first thing I saw was the dessert island.

Yummmmmmm!

Yummmmmmm!

Of course I had Theo with me and this is what he made a beeline for. I had to repeatedly remind him that we were eating dinner first, and I wanted to check everything else.

Like the salad bar.

I'll be honest, I'm not a salad kind of person most of the time.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a salad kind of person most of the time.

I’m not sure why these pictures turned out so yellow. The lighting? Who knows.

As a general rule, if you’re new to My Year With The Mouse, I take notoriously mediocre photography, so lower your expectations. This is for information and humor purposes only.

Anyway, there’s what I called the “kid food station” with things like mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and  mac and cheese.

3 guesses as to what my kid ate.

3 guesses as to what my kid ate.

There’s also pizza including Goofy’s Kitchen famous PB&J pizza. I actually really love this stuff. There’s something about melted peanut butter that gets me every time, and on a pizza? Genius. They have this at both the brunch and the dinner.

Brunch? Dinner? Go for it.

Brunch? Dinner? Go for it.

Oh, and mac and cheese pizza next to it, but my kid just went for the straight up mac and cheese, because that’s the way he rolls, yo.

There’s also a carving station and other adult foods for the non-mac and cheese crowd.

I had the NY Strip

I had the NY Strip

And then the desserts. Oh, the desserts. Almost as good as my favorite meal, breakfast.

In addition to this dessert bar

Molten lava cake, and this is just the front, people

Molten lava cake, and this is just the front, people

There’s also an ice cream and fruit bar

With LOTS of toppings.

With LOTS of toppings.

I opted for a delicious looking trio–the molten lava cake, a krispie treat, and a snickerdoodle.

Behold, the humble snickerdoodle.

I’m telling you people, it was the best dessert in the house.

Never count a good cookie out

Never count a good cookie out

Theo went for the pudding with oreos and gummy worms as well as some ice cream. Then he declared he only wanted the gummy worms from the pudding and just ate the ice cream.

But it LOOKS good!

But it LOOKS good!

Violet definitively proved the adage, “There’s always room for Jello.”

Attempting to spoon herself

Attempting to spoon herself

 

With a little help from Daddy

With a little help from Daddy

GIMME THE JELLO!!!

GIMME THE JELLO!!!

We had also mentioned when we arrived that we were celebrating an Adoption Day. The cast members were so excited for us. They brought us a cupcake with an “I’m Celebrating” button.

And Mickey sprinkles!

And Mickey sprinkles!

And here’s one thing I love about Disney–they never make any assumptions about your family. In our family, Kevin and I are white, Theo is our biological son and is basically a carbon copy of his father, like a total mini-me, and Violet is, obviously, Asian. So what did our server cheerfully say when he brought the cupcake?

“Which one of you is celebrating an Adoption Day today?”

Is that a “no, duh?” question? NO! As an adoptive family I can tell you–any one of us including the adults could have been the adoptee. I really, really appreciate the way that Disney doesn’t judge anyone based on appearances. It would have been really awkward if he’d just plunked it down in front of Violet and it had turned out we were celebrating Kevin’s day or whatever.

And another cool thing? As soon as he saw the cupcake, Theo said, “I want one too!” (yep, we’re at that jealousy age) and without batting an eye our server turned around and brought him one too, complete with button.

All in all, it was a fantastic way to spend our Violet Day dinner.  And I posted this before, but this was the best part of all.

Mwah!

Mwah!

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