Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our family Cruise

My husband and I love to cruise. We went on a cruise for our honeymoon and found out that we LOVE it. We then went on our second cruise when we'd been married 2 1/2 years and it was fantastic. Now we've been married for 5 years and we were itching for another cruise. After looking at our options we decided to go as a whole family this time and take our children. My friend Amber (from music camp, college, she's been my friend for a long time) and her family came with us.
After weighing our options of reviews verses price and on board options we decided to go with Carnival- it was by far the cheapest for 5 people, had rooms for 5 people, and take 2 year olds at the kids camp- no other cruise lines starts at 2 (EVERYONE else starts at 3, they may offer paid babysitting but not inclusive kids camp) and with two two year old girls that was a HUGE deal.
We had heard a lot of things about Carnival being the "booz cruise" and being how any cruise line in the Caribbean is the "party" destination. But we had also heard that it isn't as bad as the rumors say and we hoped we made the best choice considering all our needs.

We choose a 5 day cruise (that way if the children didn't handle it well it was shorter), out of Galveston, TX (because we could drive there and stay in budget), with two stops Cozumel and Progresso, Mexico (so we could see Chichen Itza).
We loved out shore excursions, Chichen Itza was awesome and in Cozumel we did a private island called Passion Island. It was awesome. We were a little concerned about the "all you can drink" alcohol but there was only one person who was obviously drunk when the shore excursion was over. The awesome part of Passion Island was the kids section. They had activities, and a play area and children supervisors that were great with the kids. We didn't fully leave our children there (although we could have) we sat up next to the play area were we could watch them play. Our daughters discovered water color painting and did that for over an hour.  
Our children LOVED it. They had so much fun. The loved their time at the kid's camp and would beg to go. 
Our steward had fun with our children's toys and kids loved seeing it and the fun animal towels.
So its a good thing our children enjoyed the kids camp because there was nothing else on ship for us to "safely" do with our children. If we weren't at the kids camp, we were in our room using the laptop to watch a movie.
Here comes the downer side of everything....
1. Carnival bills themselves as "family friendly" not just that they have a kids area but they advertise that everything is family friendly for the entire family.
FALSE it was such a drunken party all over the ship that we would avoid walking anywhere near the pool or the casino with our children. I didn't want to expose our children to that atmosphere. 
On top of that I didn't want to be in that atmosphere. We didn't go swimming once because we didn't want to be in that area.
Compare and Contrast- On our other two cruises we would go to the pool, participate in the different on board activities. Never once did I feel like the fact that I wasn't drinking anything but soda ever make me self continuous or even aware that I was the only one not drinking. Every activity focuses around alcohol.
In addition, even the shows said they were family friendly. We went to one of them that said was rated "PG for costumes". I would have given the costumes a PG-13 rating and the show as well. NO way would I have taken my children at any age to see it. After that we skipped the other shows.
2. Our room was a lot smaller than on the other ships we've been on. It ended up fine, but it was tight for 5. I think if we didn't have a balcony it would have been much more difficult. The TV channels were a joke. There was never anything to watch, especially for our children. And our room was two floors above the "broadway" shows theater and we could hear EVERY word and note through the whole show. Either the boat was not constructed with sound proofing or the show is way too loud, or both.
3. Besides a few super stand out employees the rest of the service was below par- way below. We love to do the "unlimited" soda. One thing we LOVED is they had Coke ZERO and Sprite ZERO as part of their soda options. If not for this options I wouldn't have done the unlimited soda. I am not a huge soda drinker- but when I do drink soda I only drink diet soda. I do not drink my calories (except for milk or juice in the morning for my breakfast). So here is the complaint. The soda was done in cans that they poured into cups with ice for you. It was never already cold soda, and often was flat because it doesn't take a whole can to fill the cup and the rest of the can would just sit out until someone asked for that soda again, then they would get what was left from the last can before they would open a new can. It created a lot of flat soda. Then there were the bar tenders where you had to get the soda. Besides the bar tender in the main lobby with the guest services desk, all the bar tenders acted like your were imposition them to have them get you a drink. Yes we aren't making any more money for them, but we did pay for it and that makes money for them.
Shout outs---- Regina in the dining hall was AWESOME!!! and so was Daniel the dining hall drink server!!!
4. The food was... okay. It wasn't anything amazing or even special. I really liked the hot chocolate in the buffet area that was inclusive, and the soft serve ice cream always available. And my favorite was the chocolate molten cake in the dinning hall. But when it comes to meals, nothing was so wonderful to brag about. And the same food was available at the dinning hall as were the at the buffet. 

Our biggest problem, was that we learned that the world's definition of "family friendly" is - 'there is a safe place to drop off your kids while you go get smashed'. 
It was a good cruise for us at that moment in our lives. Having to take the girls everywhere with us would have not worked and the girls had so much more fun at the kids camps. But we will probably NEVER do that particular cruise again.
Overall we did have a great family vacation. 
and everyone was happy to get home again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Get out the Bugs- Reveiw

One of the ladies who was the chorister before me in this area always did this activity for the end of the year- program reviews. She had large plastic bugs she had bought at the dollar store and would either put them in a large garbage bag or would put them on the board and use the garbage bag like a sheet. I got back from visiting my sister late Saturday and was trying to think of something to do the next morning. I even debated running to Walmart (being the only place open) and seeing if I could find large plastic bugs. My husband assured me that construction paper laminated would work just as well. They did. I found bug silhouettes on the internet. Enlarged them and printed them as large as I could and traced the outline onto the construction paper and cut it out. I then laminated them so that I can write the titles of the songs. 
I grabbed a sheet to use to cover the bugs. Then the children have to search under the sheet to find a bug  (song). Since it was a sheet (and this came to me while I was standing in front of children), we were "getting the bugs out of our bed" because we don't want bugs in our bed.
The children were all about this. I had my Junior primary singing better than they have in months and singing songs that I wasn't even sure if they knew at all because they wouldn't sing it for be before. They were also so worried about the bugs still in the bed when our time was up. I promised them that we would finish getting the bugs out next week. I made a note of which songs were left (we got 4 of the 8 out). Senior primary were less enthusiastic about actually getting the bugs out. But they sang well to pass off the song, they all wanted to be picked to find a bug, and they enjoyed identifying the various types of bugs pulled out. The completed 6 of 8 songs.
I would call this one a success. If it works this well every time then no wonder my friend used this activity for her review EVERY year (and she was the chorister for 7 years in her ward). 

instructions: have enough bugs for each song. if you have more or smaller bugs make some of them specific verses of the songs.
Tell the children we are getting the bugs out of their songs so that the songs are Program ready. Warn them that if they don't sing the song well enough then the bug is going to go back into our bed and will have to be found again. I gave them singing the song twice through before I placed the bug back under the sheet. If it was *just* one verse they were having problems with I would give them the chance to redeem themselves by re-singing that one verse before the bug went back. 
I placed the bugs into my primary folder when they were passed off, but you could put them in a jar, a box, display them, or put them away.

Monday, August 19, 2013

the Twins turn TWO

The girls turned two a week ago on the 11th. I didn't know how to make their birthday special. It was a Sunday and we were up in Mesa. So I got them birthday muffins. We also had cake and ice cream after dinner with their cousins. They also got a few gifts- a magnetic drawing pad, a water drawing pad, big girl underpants, and a Little Einestine DVD (which my brothers have decided were missed named and should have been called "little mozart"
They were adorable for church in their new Sunday dresses. I hope they enjoyed their birthdays and that it felt more special than just any other Sunday.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our time in Mesa

We spent the last two weeks in Mesa. The premise of being there was that I could be a help to my sister. And I believe we were a help. But we did take advantage of being up there to enjoy ourselves.
One day when we had my sister's daughter with us we went to Sonic and everyone got their own Strawberry or Cherry Limeade. The twins were suppose to share but Nellie didn't want to share so Rose ended up with my Route 44.
Tues we went to the Arizona Museum of Natural History. I remembered they have dinosaurs there and knew that would be a huge hit with our four year old. Of course it was. Wish I took more pictures. I didn't know that there were so many dinosaurs that have been found here in Arizona. I hadn't been to the museum since I was a in elementary school. I am so glad we went.
When we left the Museum on Tues, Al then announced that he wanted to go to the place with the live fish and sea animals. I knew he was talking about the aquarium but I wasn't going to take him 2 places in one day and going there in one trip would be expensive. When I mentioned his request to my brothers they suggested the Bass Pro shop in Mesa. They have fish there. So that is what we did for our outing on Wed. Well Al, although found the place interesting, was very keen to point out that it was no aquarium.
Al finally broke me down and on Thursday we went to the Sea Life Arizona Aquarium at Arizona Mills mall. It was a larger aquarium than we had visited previously but I didn't feel like it has as many interactive activities. Al was in heaven the girls really enjoyed it too. The first time through we didn't see the octopus, and after a lot of tears we went back in and asked if they had an octopus. Turns out they do and they told us where we'd find it. So we went all the way through again. I need to remember that on thing like this that my children will regain interest again and do it all over if we just take a break and come back again. Each time through it took us about an hour with my children's short attention span. 
Friday we hang around the house and then their cousins had a sleep over with them that night. First one of its type.ll

New Nibbling and time in Mesa

My sister had her baby on the 5th. His name is Theodore and we are calling him "Teddy".
We went up to Mesa to see our new cousin and to help my sister out in any way I could.
his cousin (on the other side of the family) Maggie was born the same day at the same hospital
As they were getting ready to be discharged from the hospital he has what we started calling "breathing attack episodes"
It  was scary. He would stop breathing and turn blue.
Many theories were given why this was happening
eventually they moved him to Cardon Children's Hospital.
He still hadn't been home yet. They monitored him for seven days and found nothing.
Finally after being 13 days old he was release to go home for the first time. They are going to have to keep a monitor on him for a month but at least they are home. I think my sister handled the whole thing very grown up. I am grateful that prayers have been answered and they are now home as a family.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Singing Fish Review

Singing Fish was one we did a few Sundays ago as a review.
The idea is to have "mama" fish and "baby" fish and have the children return the baby fish to their mama. Our children really enjoyed it, especially JR primary. When you match a baby to the mama you sing the verse that is written on the baby fish. Our JR primary were so upset when Singing Time was over and they were so worried about the babies that didn't get back to their mamas.
Here is the instructions and songs we used. I know that not everyone picked the same songs we did. But that means you only have 2 songs to pick lines from those verses. 
Here are some sihloettes of fish that you can use as a guide to cut them out. I just free handed mine out of construction paper (oval with a triangle tail) then I drew on eyes and mouths.

Here is a picture of what my fish looked like.
Have fun reviewing and playing with singing fish.
*It doesn't have to be fish. It could be any animal or even people. It is just really easy to cut out fish.

Monday, August 5, 2013

2013 Arizona Monsoon Season

The Monsoons are in full season here.
As a reminder here is a picture from about a week before Monsoon season started. 
See what my backyard looks like in the height of the heat of summer.

Now take a look at these photos from this year's monsoon season
see how lush and green it is
pic of the waterfall on the mountain behind our house
Where did our mountain go? Almost wouldn't know there was a mountain there.
And take a look at that rain fall and that uncut overgrowth. 
It is time to get that push wacker out.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review activity "I HEAR with my little EAR"

I have a sub this Sunday. I have created a guessing game for her to practice the songs with the children.

Each song has a set of clues. Each clue was written to be given in the form "I hear with my little ear... a song that we........."
Here are the clues that I used. I know that many of you didn't pick the same two "you choose" songs as our ward did, but that means you only have two songs to make your own questions for. Use my questions as a guide. Ignore the (notes) those are for my sub.

Feel free to "Save Image As" my notes and use them for your Singing Times. Or make up your own specific to your primary. I hope this idea helps at least one Chorister out there.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I'm a serious designer

I know that my Singing time visuals are not up to store quality. Most of them a rush and put together in about fifteen minutes total and they look like 15 minutes of work.
Back in February I started my hand and creating digital scrapbooking kits.
I opened my first store in April. And a second store last month.
I had no plans of opening any other stores until two weeks ago I saw a Designer Call to one of the larger stores that also has a forum. It has been my goal to get into a store like this (I was thinking it would take me at least a year or maybe two). I couldn't let an opportunity pass like this and applied.
I then got word that they were accepting my application and sent me a contract. 
So the last two weeks has been CRAZY insane getting a store ready to open Aug 1st. There were times that I didn't think I could make it. I had already been working like CRAZY to get my daisies and dimples store open and days after that opening I am starting out preparing for a another store opening.
Opening at a new store is a lot of work and opening at Stuff to Scrap has been even more so. 
With all stores you have to package your product for their stores. Each store has their own outward packaging requirements and size restrictions that can be uploaded. In addition to that, STS requires that you have EVERY product that is put in their store to go through an intense Quality Control process. For the most part I like that I know it was looked over by someone not me. Sometimes they catch stupid things that I have been looking at for weeks and didn't catch because I was just burned out. But it also creates a ton of stress and extra work.  All the extra work is worth it- just very time intensive. And as my husband points and when we talked about the pros and cons for us- once you do all that work its not like you have to do all of it over again. Doing my responsibilities on the site will be more work too. But I have wanted to work at a site with an active forum. This is a big step for me. For the time being I am going to be managing three stores. A some point I will close one of the other two, but we'll see. I don't even know which one I am going to close yet. That is about six months down the road. I am loving designing. Selling your designs is not a "get rich quick" way of life. It will be a while before I'm in the black, as long as I can keep my own habit of buying things curtailed. I am excited to see where this is going to lead me.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Teaching "A Child's Prayer"

I created visuals, the song by itself is hard for the younger kids. About half of our Senior Primary already knew and remembered the song. I guess that tells you when the last time our ward did this song for the program was. I'm out of town this Sunday so I taught the song last Sunday. Our SR primary is learning both verses and we are only teaching (mostly due to time) the first verse to JR primary.
This is my favorite primary song and in all my years of primary I have never had the opportunity to teach this song. Maybe that has been for the better because this song was *really* hard for me to teach.
tips from my mistakes-
1. Have them hum the melody to each song first, then learn each verse with ONLY that melody. Our pianist kept playing everything while they were learning it and it was really making it hard on the younger children.
2. Start introducing the song by having another adult come and sing the two parts with you. I tried to sing it by myself and it didn't go so well and then I couldn't do two parts at once. (or have two of the older children sing it for the primary).
3. Focus and the melody and then the words. If I had to do it over again I would encourage the children to hum each note if they weren't sure of the word yet.

I love this song, I just feel that it is a hard song to have as the last of the year. We have only this month to focus on reviewing because our program is the 22nd and all the Sundays in September are going to be used to practice for the program. We need to have the song Program Ready by then.
Here is a link to download my visuals as a zip file or you can "Save image as" each of the following.

I had a request for a copy with "no words" for use in other languages.

I hope my visuals help someone. I do them in black and white to make it easy on your printers. (I can only print in b&w) and you can color them yourself your have children in your primary color them for you. Note: most of my clip art are from the Church's webside coloring pages for Primary children. I do not have the copyrights to those pages. The rest of the image I found on the internet under public domain clip art or I made them myself. You may not use my visuals for any purpose other than personal or church use. Any uses that result in you making money is prohibited. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teaching "Families Can be Together Forever"

I made up some quick visuals using MOSTLY coloring pages from the church website.
You can download them by right click and saving as
download as a zip file {here} at