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Name: Lauren         Location: Middle Tennessee, USA

Welcome to my blog! I am a Christian, wife, and mother who enjoys reading, running, and all things Disney. Stop by regularly for a glimpse into my life!
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Monday, January 28, 2013
A Disney December, The Final Chapter
Saturday was slated to be the highlight of our cruise, but as soon as we woke up, we knew something was wrong.  We walked out onto our balcony, and realized we were in an industrial area instead of at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.  In a few minutes, we heard an announcement that the ship was in Freeport because of a passenger's medical emergency.  (Thankfully, we later heard that the passenger was in stable condition.)

The ship left Freeport and headed back to Castaway Cay with an expected arrival of noon.  Several activities were added to the agenda for us to enjoy in the morning, so we headed to breakfast and then set off to find fun.

Although Andrew still enjoys the characters, he chose basketball over photo opportunities during this cruise.  I guess that's pretty normal for an eleven-year-old boy.  Emily, on the other hand, wanted to see as many characters as possible, which made me very happy!  We spent the morning visiting with a few friends, including these fun villains.

We ate an early lunch, and then we participated in Family Fusion, a fun game that's part trivia, part Newlywed Game.  We competed against three other families and were leading the entire time, but lost at the end by 5 points.  It was lots of fun, even if we did miss out on the cool trophy!

After Family Fusion, we went back to our balcony to watch the ship dock at Castaway Cay.  The ship backs into port, so we had a perfect view.  Unfortunately, this is as close as we got to Castaway Cay.

The winds were very high, and the captain was not able to dock safely.  After trying three times, he announced that we would not be stopping at Castaway.  Instead, we enjoyed another day at sea.  Andrew seemed unfazed by this decision.  He went right back to the basketball court and played all afternoon.  Adam was also fine with the change because he went to see Lincoln in the Buena Vista Theater.  Emily and I were the most disappointed.  We had plans to parasail at Castaway Cay, and we were very sad to miss out on this experience.  But, it didn't take us long to regroup--after all, we were on the Disney Dream!  The cruise director added several activities, including an extra performance of the stage show Believe, so Emily enjoyed some time in the hot tub, and then we watched the show and met some of the characters in the atrium for a final farewell (also known as "See Ya Real Soon" in Disney speak).

We headed to Enchanted Garden for our final dinner.  We hated to leave these wonderful meals!  If you ask Andrew what he liked most on the cruise, he gives an enthusiastic response about the food.  Of course, I enjoyed all the meals because Disney made gluten-free dining so easy.

After eating, Andrew went to the kids' club for a final evening of fun. Emily also went to the club, but she stopped to exchange pins with some of the officers first.  She was thrilled to exchange pins with our cruise director Natalie!

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and our cruise was no different.  We returned to the cabin and prepared our luggage for departure.  We kept out the things we would need in the morning and set our luggage in the hallway to be transported into the terminal.  I thought I had everything just the way we needed it until I woke in the morning and realized I hadn't kept out any pants for myself!  Yes, I was the mom wearing a hoodie, shirt, and her flannel pajama pants at breakfast.  I was mortified!  As soon as we got into the terminal, I grabbed my jeans as quickly as possible and headed for the bathroom.  No, I did not take pictures of this--there will be no photographic proof of my mistake!  Thankfully, my kids aren't teenagers yet, so they weren't embarrassed by their mom's mistake.  :)

We are so thankful we had the opportunity to spend this week together.  My favorite part of our Disney vacations is that we are together, and it seems like we are in another world.  I treasure these times, and I look forward to more cruises and WDW trips in the near future!

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  posted at 5:32 PM  

Thursday, January 24, 2013
A Disney December, Part Five
We woke up on Friday ready for our day at sea.  Disney Cruise Line provides daily schedules, called Navigators, for each day, and we had studied the schedule and highlighted activities we wanted to enjoy (I am all about schedules and planning as most of you know).

Emily and I rushed through breakfast to make it to the princess gathering in the lobby.  She was able to see Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and Tiana.  Although she doesn't dress like a princess the way she used to, I am so glad she still loves these experiences!

Not surprisingly, Andrew didn't want to participate in the princess gathering, but the basketball shootout was right up his alley.  This was quite amusing because the wind was blowing so much that the participants couldn't make any of their shots.  The wind definitely leveled the playing field--most successful shots were due to luck!

While Andrew was enjoying the hoops, Emily was being pampered.  She chose to get a braid in her hair, and this was the best $4 (a very reasonable $2 for the braid, plus tip) that we spent the entire trip.  The braid stayed in for over a month! 

With a new braid and some basketball under our belts, we decided to try out the mini-golf.  Like shooting basketball, putting can be tricky on a moving ship, but it was lots of fun!

Around 11:00, we took the kids to lunch, and then they headed to their respective kids' clubs while Adam and I enjoyed brunch in the adult-only restaurant, Palo.  Yum!  We ate way too much, but thoroughly enjoyed feasting in peace! Doesn't my hubby have very nice, blue eyes? :)

After brunch, Emily and I enjoyed a towel folding class where we learned to make some of the cute creatures that the stateroom hosts leave in the cabins each night.  Our favorite was this monkey.  Hmmm...it's my little monkey holding a monkey.

The rest of the afternoon was spent experimenting with science in the kids' club, shooting hoops, and shopping.  When dinner time rolled around, we prepared ourselves for Pirate Night.  Mickey, Minnie, and Captain Jack were ready for the festivities as well.

The Pirate menu in the dining room was great--I loved the gluten-free crab cake that the chef prepared for me.  After dinner, all four of us went to the show.  This was the only show that Andrew attended, and he was so glad he did.  A comedian named Max Winfrey kept us laughing non-stop with his physical comedy.  How we was able to juggle and tell jokes while riding a unicycle on a rocking cruise ship is beyond me, but we were quite impressed.  We couldn't control our laughter, and it was one of our favorite family events during the cruise.
Alas, by the end of the show, we were exhausted.  Once again, our late night at the Magic Kingdom caught up with us, and we didn't even stay awake for the fireworks at sea.  Emily is still upset by this, but we've promised her another cruise in the future to make up for it!
Coming up...our final days on the Disney Dream!

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  posted at 2:49 PM  

Sunday, January 20, 2013
A Disney December, Part Four
We woke up on Thursday ready for fun.  After a yummy breakfast buffet at Cabanas, we started one of the Midship Detective Agency adventures.  This is a fun, interactive game that involves solving a mystery using digital paintings at different locations all over the ship.  There are two different mysteries, and the kids enjoyed solving both of them over the course of the cruise.

After the first mystery, Emily headed to the kids club while Andrew and Adam went to the sports simulator.  Emily and I planned to go parasailing on Castaway Cay (the boys didn't want to join us), so we booked this as a fun treat for Andrew.  He and Adam had a great time pretending to play football, baseball, soccer, etc...

After the simulator, we ate lunch and then headed into Nassau for a very brief visit.  We hadn't booked an excursion in Nassau, but the kids wanted to set foot in a foreign country, so we headed into the visitor center to browse the shops.  Andrew and Emily found some souvenirs and stopped for a photo with Adam.  Adam is not usually dressed in such a festive manner.

Back on the ship, Andrew went to play basketball while Emily and I took the time to visit with some friends...

Next, we all went to the Buena Vista Theater to see Wreck-It Ralph.  We knew that this movie would be showing on the ship, so we waited for the cruise to see it.  The kids really enjoyed it, but I admit that Adam and I both fell asleep for a little while.  We were so tired!

After the movie, it was time for dinner.  The four-night cruises do not have a formal night, but there is an optional dress-up night.  To Andrew's great dismay, I brought some "church clothes" for us to wear.  To Emily's great delight, she found several characters even more dressed up than we were.

We enjoyed dinner in Animator's Palate.  During this meal, Crush from finding Nemo entertains guests.  This was enjoyable, especially for the kids as they waited for their food.

Before heading back to the room, we all participated in the Family Dream Quest, a fun scavenger hunt, and then Emily and I went to the show (Villain's Tonight) while Adam and Andrew participated in an X-box Kinect Challenge.  It was a great end to a wonderful day!

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  posted at 2:51 PM  

Friday, January 18, 2013
A Disney December, Part Three
On Wednesday the 19th, we woke up ready to head to Port Canaveral.  We were excited, but very tired.  Staying at the Christmas party until midnight on the evening before the cruise was probably not the best idea.  My kids don't sleep in, even after a late night, so we didn't really recover from this until after we got home (but we still felt the party was worth it).

The drive from WDW is about an hour (it would be less if you didn't have to go through 2,357 toll booths on the way).  As we neared the coast, we could see the Dream waiting for us in all her glory.  She is truly a beautiful and very large ship.  The kids were amazed.

We dropped off our rental car and boarded a shuttle to the terminal.  This process went very smoothly, and check-in was quick and easy.  We had a few minutes to wait before boarding, so we got in line to see Captain Mickey.  As soon as it was our turn, it was time for Mickey to prepare the ship for our arrival, so we posed with Minnie instead.

Not long after our photo, our group was called, and we were able to board.  Emily was impressed with our entrance: each family is introduced by name as you enter the lobby/atrium.  She felt very regal, especially considering that the grand lobby was beautifully decorated for Christmas.

We were directed to deck 11 for lunch, but we stopped on the way for the kids to don their swimsuits.  They were very excited to experience the Aqua Duck water slide, and we knew that this would be a great time for them to ride without lines.  They enjoyed it four times without a wait, and then we took a break for lunch.

At 1:30, we could enter our rooms, and Emily was thrilled with our verandah.  We were on the very back of the ship (aft), so our verandah was extra deep.  Emily has always had an affinity for balconies, so this was very exciting for her.

Truthfully, we didn't use the verandah much during the cruise, so we probably won't splurge for one again.  I do like a window (I am claustrophobic), but we were so busy most of the time, that we didn't take the opportunity to sit and enjoy the view.

We spent the afternoon checking out the kids' clubs.  Emily loved the Oceaneer's Lab, and she enjoyed quite a few activities during the cruise.  Some of her favorites included the Super Sloppy Science program and the cooking program: she got to make flubber and chocolate chip cookies.  Did you know that Mickey has an oven that can bake chocolate chip cookies in 3 minutes?  He's very impressive! The oven comes in handy when the kids make their own dough and get to eat the finished product during a 30 minute window.

After a mid-afternoon muster drill, we headed to deck 11 for the sail-away party.  Mickey and the gang came out to get everyone pumped up for the cruise, and we had a countdown before the boat pulled out of the port.

As dinnertime approached, we were very tired.  Our first meal was in Royal Palace, the most formal dining room on the ship.  Everything was delicious, but we had to wait a little longer than most because my meal was gluten-free, and this wait was tough because we were exhausted.  From this dinner forward, I was given the opportunity to order my meal each night for the following evening, which meant no delays.  Disney is so amazing when it comes to meeting special needs. I really appreciated the care they took of me in the dining rooms (although my waistline would have been better off if they hadn't accommodated my needs so well).

After dinner, Emily, Adam and I went to see the Golden Mickeys, while Andrew spent time in the kids' club.  The shows are first-class musicals, and Emily was enthralled with the performance.  As soon as it was over, however, our eyelids could stand it no more.  We all headed back to the room for some much needed sleep!


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  posted at 8:56 PM  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
A Disney December, Part Two
Just got a call that school will be dismissed in one hour because of an approaching ice storm.  With no time to start a major project of any kind, I thought I would sit down at the computer and continue our December trip report.

Around 3:30 on the 18th, we boarded a bus for the Magic Kingdom.  The Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is from 7:00 to midnight on select nights in November and December, but you can enter the park as early as four with your party tickets.  We wanted to take advantage of every moment!

Once inside the Magic Kingdom, we had to stop for a photo on Main Street.  I love to be on Main Street during Christmas: my favorite place at my favorite time!

We headed to Adventureland first.  The Jungle Cruise is one of my favorite attractions (the jokes never get old), and we also visited Pirates of the Caribbean, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and the Swiss Family Treehouse (why do my kids like climbing all those stairs???).

At this point, we were ready for an early dinner.  The kids love the corndog nuggets at Casey's, but Casey's is not a great option for gluten-free eating.  So, I went to Pecos Bill's to get a gluten-free meal, while Adam took the kids to get their beloved nuggets. After I got my food, I tracked them down watching the old movies from the bleachers in Casey's.

After dinner, we headed toward Storybook Circus and New Fantasyland, but we stopped at the Tomorrowland Speedway first.  This attraction doesn't seem like much, but Andrew and Emily LOVE it.  It's always on their must-do list.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the new Storybook Circus area.  We hadn't experienced Dumbo in a few years, but both kids wanted to try the new version.  Disney has done a great job with the new play area and queue.  The rethemed Barnstormer was a hit, and we also visited Pete's Silly Sideshow for some character interaction.  It was too cool for the water play area, but I am sure it is popular on warmer days.  The entire area was very well done!

My only disappointment of the evening was that we didn't make it to New Fantasyland before dark.  I loved the new attractions, but we couldn't truly appreciate the details at night, and I couldn't get any good pictures of the new castles or the exteriors of the attractions and restaurants.  I can't wait to go back later this year and explore this area more fully.  From what we did experience, the highlight for us was Enchanted Tales with Belle.  Emily participated in the show, and even Dad got in on the fun!

It was almost time for the fireworks, but we managed to squeeze in a ride with Pooh before claiming a viewing spot at the last minute.  The Christmas fireworks were fantastic!

Before seeing the parade, we headed to Space Mountain.  I love Disney World, but I don't like Space Mountain at all.  It is too jerky for me, and the darkness makes my motion sickness worse.  Thankfully, now that Andrew and Emily are old enough, Adam and I have reached the stage where we can sit this one out and wait while they have their brains shaken (yes, we are the old parents waiting on the bench).

We grabbed our spot for the Christmas parade near the Main Street Train Station.  The parade arrived at this location around 10:50, so we planned to exit at the end of the parade (around 11:15) and head back to the hotel.  We claimed our spot around 10:30, and then Adam was nice enough to save it while the kids and I went to see Mickey and Minnie.  They were dressed for the season.

Although the Boo-To-You Halloween Parade is my favorite Disney parade, the Christmas parade is lots of fun.  Snow even falls on Main Street!

Following the parade, Adam and Andrew headed for the bus, but Emily really wanted to see the princesses.  I took her to visit them, and I am so glad I did.  Emily happened to have a feather in her hair (for those of you without tween girls, this is a cool thing to do).  Every prince made a huge deal about her feather because they all had feathers, too.  As many interactions as she had had with the princesses in her life, this was one of her favorites.  She was laughing to the point of tears.  Lots of fun!

We had a wonderful time at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party!  I can't wait to return to Disney World for an even longer visit in 2013.  After six visits in one year (2011), I missed being at the parks on a regular basis this year, and I can't wait to go back!

Coming soon: We board the Disney Dream!

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  posted at 2:42 PM  

Sunday, January 13, 2013
A Disney December, Part One
On December 17th, we picked the kids up at school and headed to the Nashville airport for our flight to Orlando.  We booked this cruise on the Disney Dream in July 2011, so we had been looking forward to the trip for quite a while!  The kids knew we would be cruising, but as we left, we added a surprise by giving them tickets to the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom. We told them we would not be going straight to the port, but instead we would enjoy some time in WDW before sailing away. Of course, this announcement led to large smiles and squeals of delight.

On December 18th, we woke up at the Embassy Suites near the airport ready for a fun day at WDW.

We picked up a rental car and headed to Downtown Disney for lunch, shopping and fun. The kids always love to see the Lego displays, and we spent some time browsing at the World of Disney store.  Emily bought her first souvenir, a Mickey mood bracelet.

Earl of Sandwich was the choice for lunch.  They have a dessert called a brownie sandwich that is one of the kids' favorite snacks in all of WDW.  Sitting under the Downtown Disney Christmas tree was the perfect place for them to enjoy their treats.

After lunch, Andrew and Emily had fun playing with some of the model cars from the Ridemakerz store, and then we stopped for a visit with the big man of the season.


We left Downtown Disney and headed to the All-Star Sports Resort, which was decked out in its Christmas finery.  This is Andrew's favorite place to stay, and he was thrilled that our request for the Touchdown section was granted.

After settling in and relaxing for a few minutes, we boarded a bus bound for the Magic Kingdom.  It was time for the party!

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  posted at 2:54 PM  

Friday, January 4, 2013
Wow! It's 2013!  I can hardly believe I started this blog six years ago.  I don't post as frequently as I did in the beginning, or visit other blogs as often as I used to, but I am thankful to have my little space in blogland!

I had little time to blog during the second half of December, so I am hitting the rewind button to document some of our experiences. In mid-December, we had several theatrical outings. Both kids and I visited the Nashville Children's Theatre to see a performance of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. The show was excellent, and we had a great time. The theatre has added some concessions in the lobby, and the kids see that as being as important as the show.

On December 16th, Emily and I attended the Nutcracker at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center with her Brownie troop. Before the show, we stopped at a downtown cupcake establishment called The Cupcake Collection. I had heard that they have the best cupcakes in the Nashville area, but Emily was not impressed. She's a Gigi's fan!
We parked at the capitol building and walked over to TPAC.  On the way, we spotted the Tennessee Christmas Tree.
The Nashville Ballet did an amazing job with the scenery and special effects.  It was a beautiful show, and the girls really enjoyed it!
Coming soon...our trip to Disney World and our cruise on the Disney Dream!

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  posted at 10:51 AM  

Previous Posts
  • A Disney December, The Final Chapter
  • A Disney December, Part Five
  • A Disney December, Part Four
  • A Disney December, Part Three
  • A Disney December, Part Two
  • A Disney December, Part One
  • Backtracking
  • December Happenings
  • Update on Me
  • Thanksgiving

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