Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!


Unspeakable Joy...

Merry Christmas friends and family!!

Another first for us! This was Meisi's first year at home for Christmas. :)

Ok guys, she is precious all the time but oh how I wish I could have bottled up her sweet voice, words and excitement today. :)  Of course, we couldn't find the plug for the camcorder so short videos on phones were best we could do.

Last year we started a new tradition of only giving three gifts for each person as the kids get so much from grandparents.

The Gold gift (wrapped in gold paper) is something you really want.
The Frankincense Gift (wrapped in white) is something that can help you grow closer to Jesus or be used for personal worship.
The Myrrh gift (wrapped in brown paper) is something for your body (clothes, shoes, jewelry, perfume, etc).

They do still get a stocking filled with a few special candies like juicy drops and bottle pops and necessities like undies, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste.  Sounds boring for our electronic world but it is so fun to hear their excitement over their toothbrushes and toothpaste.  Our kids are also fully aware we fill those stockings. :)  We do visit Santa, often multiple times,  but it is a tradition like visiting Mickey Mouse at Disney.

Here is Meisi equally excited over Daddy's new toothbrush.  She was jumping up and down, cheering as he pulled it out of his stocking. :)

After stockings we read Luke 2 and talk about the reason we celebrate Christmas.  "...The Savior has been born, He is Christ the Lord".  

What love God must have for us to send His Son to be born humbly in a manger as a human baby...  "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." John 1:14 

What mercy Jesus had to die for us, all of us, so we can have forgiveness by making Him Lord of our life.

Joy to the World the Lord has come!

As we watched each other open presents, Meisi would get a present the big kids handed her and  she'd say, "For me?"
We'd say, "Yes."
And as if to make sure she hadn't heard us wrong, she'd ask again, "For Meisi?!"
We'd say, "Yes, princess, for you."
She'd jump up and down, and rip them open.
Repeating with nearly every present.

I'm not sure how kids learn to rip paper off presents so quickly!  Apparently Brian wasn't ripping fast enough, so Meisi was explaining here, "Rip it Daddy, like this," using hand motions.  haha

While it has been a busy, exhausting month for our family with traveling, baking, a house that I'm certain a tornado must've hit... it has been joy filled.

Spending time with Grandma in Virginia

Spending time with Nana and Papa when they came to visit us here then having the privilege of worshipping with them at our church.

Thinking back to this time last year, I was so sad to not be with our baby girl.  Oh the longing we had to be with her.  We are so very thankful that today she is home.  Although, it seems she always has been. :)  

The best gifts aren't bought in stores.   

My cup overflows.  

And as I'm finishing this post I hear this conversation...
Aili, "Ian when we get our little brother from China these dolls would be perfect!" she shows him the Bitty Twins in the American Girl catalog.  ;)  hahaha

Merry Christmas!  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our first Cruise!!

We have said since we moved to Florida three years ago that we must go on a cruise while here.  We finally did it (thanks to some nudging from my dear friend Debbie). :)

We took over 500 pictures on this 3 night cruise and it is hard to narrow down the pics...but I will try!

Our first day on the ship was full of fun exploration of the ship and of course, lots of eating. ;)  First thing on agenda was the buffet while they prepared our room.  Much to my surprise, the host who sat us was from Indonesia.  I was so excited, as was he, when I said, "Apa Kabar?"  We chatted a bit about how much I loved being in his country and his people.  Next, the servers in the buffet - from Indonesia...again conversations started.  Throughout this trip the servers who knew Brian and I could say a few words in Bahasa would smile broadly and speak with us at every opportunity. There were folks from many countries working on the ship (India, Trinidad, Jamaica, Philippines, Thailand, Serbia..) but how awesome that God surrounded us with people from the very region that our hearts long to be.  That definitely made this trip a more prayerful one for me.  Each time I saw their face or just thought of God's hand in putting us together, oh how I hoped His love would shine through us.

I did a poor job narrowing pictures - hope you aren't looking at this on your phone because there are way too many pics!

Our Room
 Kids LOVED the window seat. :)
 The bed was so very comfy
 Meisi thought the couch was bouncy. :)

Next stop was the pool which was short lived for Meisi as we learned that she wasn't allowed in any pools. :(  They have a policy that no child in swim diapers could go in the pools.  There was a splash area but she doesn't care for the ones that spray from the sides like this one did.

Before dinner we checked out the kids club which was incredibly cool.  Meisi was having so much fun running around in there.  Unfortunately, she had to go to another area to play but she didn't seem to mind.  Her first stop in there Cinderella was visiting. :)
Obviously it was fun for ALL ages... ;)

 Time to eat again..
 My kiddos LOVEd the round windows and the comfy seats.  
My sweet friend Debbie. :)  We wouldn't be on this trip without her encouraging.  We mostly only saw each other at dinner but agree that a girls only cruise MUST be in order! ;)  Anyone want to join us??
Our crazy big table of beautiful kids that we LOVE so much we absolutely let them spend as much time as they wanted in the kids play area between meals. ;)  
My hubby had the servers sing to me for dinner. :)  Fun birthday celebration again!  I seriously doubt this year's birthday celebration could be topped!  
 Can you tell our kids are already getting tired of all the pics we are taking?? 
 Turn down service made the bunk magically appear.  The Magic of Disney! hehe
I was so tired that night I think I fell asleep while Brian was talking to me - before 11 pm which is very unlike my night owl self! The mixture of the fun and the rocking ship wore me out!  It was rough waters (per others who have sailed) and wow was my head spinning!  No motion sickness but constant dizziness.  I have no idea how people drink alcohol on these ships, I could barely walk around as it was. 

Day 2 - Nassau

Ian decided he preferred the play area over stepping into the Bahamas so we left him on board and took the girls with us.   We chose to not do any of the excursions and just walked around some shops.  

The kids did some artwork after we returned. 

 Then we waited for Santa!  Meisi was so excited to get her first candy cane from Santa's helper.  She is so full of joy,  truly lights up our lives (and every room she enters). :)
 First time with Santa and she smiles!  Now this is a first for our family.  Our older two were terrified of Santa for many years. :)  
 Grandma got some fun cuddle time with Meisi as we watched the Deck the Deck party. 
 Pirate Night... Arghh matey - these are the cutest little Pirates aboard the ship...arghh..

 Did someone say dance party?  We are there!!!  Ian takes after us well - LOVES to dance and he and "E" had some real moves for boys! ;)  

 By far the highlight of my trip was this...
Meisi and I were waiting in line to see Mickey and the lady said they had to cut off the line with the person in front of us.  Ahhhh... :(  I told Meisi we'd just wait and see if we could snap a picture with him in the background and guess what happened???  She got to walk the entire length of the hallway skipping with Mickey Mouse! Then he bent down, hugged her and posed for pics!!  Oh. my. heart.  She was so very excited!  Never seen a child who loves Mickey Mouse so very much.  She told everyone about Mickey Mouse afterwards. :)  

 As though the Mickey Mouse wasn't enough for my heart... sweet moments with daddy while watching fireworks..  I've said it before, but these two had love at first sight and it has grown daily. :)  
Karen took the kids that night so Brian and I had a couple hours of alone time.  Sorry if this offends some of you, but we thought karaoke was HILARIOUS!  So much more fun in Asia, in small rooms of friends rather than a bunch of intoxicated strangers. We were incredibly thankful when the last song was sung and the dance party started. :)

Day 3 Castaway Cay

The big kids, Brian and Grandma went kayaking

Meisi and I enjoyed some sand playtime.

Yep, she is squatting at a picnic table, eating.  Normal right?
Ray of sunshine she is.  Oh my, how I love you sweet Meisi. 

 She is certainly a little model too.  She picked out this spot (as she often does) and says, "Mommy picture."  

Our last night we had some Christmas pictures done. :)  Brian took the kids to do character spots while I had some alone time.   

 Never have their nicknames as Little Princesses and Prince been more fitting. :)

These were our servers we had each night for dinner.  They were amazing!  The way they interacting with our kids was phenomenal.  They did magic tricks then taught them how.  They made flowers out of paper and animals out of napkins then taught them how...  

And guess what?  The guy on the left is from Indonesia and the one of the right is from Thailand.  We talked with them each night, learning they each have families at home, small children and this is why they enjoy the kids so much.  They are on the ship for 5-6 months then home for 6-8 weeks then back on ship again.  Their stay and food is free but they only make what they get in tips.  Being a military wife who abhors military separations my heart ached more for these people.  There are no jobs in their home countries and this is what they must do to provide for their families.  How they endure these separations without the comfort of Christ is beyond me.  As we talked with our stateroom server and others on board we found they mostly all have families back home, children for whom they are trying to provide a better life.  I know it would be a stretch to say we should go on mission trips on cruises but what an opportunity to share the love of Christ.  We left notes explaining Jesus loves them and Bible scriptures that hopefully they will read and reread.  Praying the seeds planted will be watered and that God will use someone to reap the harvest....   Anyone going on a cruise soon??  ;)  

Our last morning

None in our family are morning needing to be at breakfast at 645 was a stretch.  However, that was our last interaction with our servers and we wanted to be with them.  Amazingly, none of the kids whined as they usually do in the mornings. :)  It was a quick breakfast as we had to get off the boat by 9.  Great to have a few more words with our new friends from Indo and Thailand.  Of course, the food was great as usual!  So good that Meisi waved goodbye to her food the last morning as we were leaving breakfast. :)  

So glad we had the experience.  I do think it was too short.  Maybe a 7 day cruise would be better for us?  Also, in hindsight I probably had too high of expectations as many have said 'cruises were the best vacations ever.'  I think, we've just traveled too much and our idea vacation doesn't usually involve such touristy attractions, but it was fun.  Maybe being Disney or maybe just the fast pace of our family, I didn't find it overly relaxing nor did I get as much alone time with hubby as I thought I might enjoy, but the kids loved each minute of it.  Would I do it again?  Yes, but I think I will wait until Meisi is 3 and potty trained so she can go to the kids club and get in the pools.  Still looking forward to that girls only cruise too! :)  

If you are leaving soon - Happy Sailing...go water some seeds!  :)