Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jesus Loves Barabbas, and He Loves You Too

With Easter upon us, I cannot let this time of year go by without recognizing the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for my sins.  And not just this time of year.  I am reminded of His love each and every day I am alive.  I am reminded every time I look outside at His wonderful creation.  I am reminded of His sacrifice and love every time I look at my children.  It was a harsh, cruel death that He didn’t deserve.  But He loves me more than my small mind could ever comprehend.

Tim posted this video to our youth page, and when I saw it was 8 minutes long, I almost didn’t take the time to watch it today.  I thought I would wait until tomorrow.  I am so glad I watched it. 

Please take 8 minutes of your day and watch the entire video.  While Jesus loved Barabbas enough to let him go free, it’s a love that He has extended to you and me.  This Easter, search your heart, and think about the gift He gave us.  If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, what are you waiting for?  He is waiting on you with open arms.  He’s already paid the price and given the gift.  All you have to do is accept it.

When I think of the gift of salvation that was paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, I think of God the Father willfully  giving His son.  He knew there would be some that would reject Him.  He knew there would be many who would turn their backs and ignore what He had done.  As a parent who had to give a child back to our almighty God, I see His gift in a very different way.  I have said it before- I didn’t have a choice in Faith’s life and death, other than to glorify God and be obedient.  It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  I would never willfully choose death for my child.  But God had a choice, and He chose you.  He chose me.  This Easter, I pray you choose Jesus!!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Disney Cruise on a Dime (or two or three)

Rob and I knew that if we were going to take our family of 5 on a Disney Cruise, we were going to have to be somewhat frugal and get the most for our money.  This post is going to include some tips that we found helpful in accomplishing this.  Now…I don’t know that there is such a thing as a “cheap” Disney cruise, but there are plenty of ways to make it less expensive!

  • The travel agent- We have used vacationstogo to book several cruises.  They have always been wonderful, and we have had no complaints.  We have also used Sam’s Club and the actual cruise line as well.  This time we went with Disney directly.  I am so glad we did because they knew all of the ins and outs, and were dollar for dollar with vacationstogo. 


  • The specials- I looked online to see the “Special Offers.”  There were a couple we could choose from- Florida Resident and Kids Sail Free.  The Florida Resident was a better option because we were able to go earlier and longer for less money.  I feel like this is an advantage of using Disney direct.  Our poor Disney agent was a doll.  He ran numbers and options until we got the best deal for our family.  He knew all kinds of loops and options that I would have never thought of.


  • The ship- Disney has 4 ships.  The Wonder and the Magic are the older two, while the Dream and the Fantasy are the newest.  Obviously the two newer ships have better pools and slides, and I am sure they are nicer all around.  Our first choice was to take the Dream out of Port Canaveral.  We have seen the ship in port before, and Cade was salivating over the thought of the Aqua-Duck (the really cool slide.)  We took the Wonder for Cade’s third birthday and knew it wasn’t too shabby.  When we started running the numbers, it was $1500 cheaper to go out of Miami on the Wonder, and one day and night longer.  To me, that was a no- brainer. 


  • The rooms- We never spend the extra money to get a nicer room on  a ship.  Truth is, you spend very little time in them, so I see it as a waste.  However, be sure and ask your booking agent about all options available.  If a verandah room is available for small additional fee, you may feel it is worth it.  Sometimes, depending on the special and time of year, you can get a verandah room for the same, even less than the others.  Just check!!!  Because we were last minute booking, and we had a family of 5 using the Florida Resident discount, they made us purchase 2 staterooms.  Both were ocean view and they were 6 doors down from one another.  They didn’t care if we all piled in one room to sleep, but they made us purchase the additional room.  At first, I was really upset because the more in a room, the cheaper per guest.  However, I am so thankful that God works these things out.  Traveling with a 3 month old takes a lot of luggage.  We used the second room to store all of our luggage and souvenirs in, so our sleeping quarters weren’t so crowded.  We were also able to split up taking showers and baths.  It worked out perfectly.

The NUMBER ONE tip for saving money on the initial cost would be to BE FLEXIBLE!!!  Be flexible with the dates, with the ships, and the rooms.  I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.

  • Snacks and Drinks- Disney is one of the only (if not THE only) cruise line that offers sodas and milk at no additional costs.  There is no cup to buy, no soda card nothing.  They are all included.  Except…if you order a soda or milk from bar service (like during a show) you are charged $2.01 for a can of soda.  If you are off of the ship, you pay for soda.  There is a soda fountain that is open 24 hours a day onboard.  We took our own sports bottles and filled them up with soda and ice before shows, before we got off the ships, and before we went to bed.  I know this sounds like a lot of soda, but there is also pink lemonade, juice, etc.  But hey…we were on vacation!  I did pack some bottled water for the baby, and to take when we got off the ship.  I also packed some snacks like goldfish, granola bars etc. for us to eat while we were off the ship.  Food on the island is EXPENSIVE!!!  And I hate to pay for food when we spent all of that money to eat on the ship!  On our shore excursion, our lunch was not included.  So I packed some peanut butter crackers, goldfish, cookies, water and we had our sodas.  It worked out great!!


  • Shore Excursions- Because we had saved so much money on our initial cost of our cruise, we decided to splurge on a shore excursion.  Let me start by saying that you would never be bored if you stayed on the ship the entire time.  There is so much going on onboard, that if you decided to never get off, you wouldn’t miss anything.  But we decided to do an excursion in Nassau since we have been there before.  We have always wanted to do the dolphin thing.  But it is always SOOOO expensive.  I talked to our Disney fellow about his thoughts.  Our options were the Atlantis or Blue Lagoon.  Now the Atlantis has an aquarium and a water park, both of which are amazing!!!  But again, you pay for that amazing.  That is also the number one tourist attraction (next to the straw market) in Nassau.  So we opted for Blue Lagoon.  This excursion offered the same dolphin experience for a total of $150 less for all five of us.  And… wasn’t crowded at all.  It was very relaxed and beautiful.  We did purchase ONE picture of all of us, because we were able to take our own camera as well.


  • Pictures- This is where we always spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY!  I am a sucker for memories, so I always get reeled in.  Cruise ships take amazing pictures, and who doesn’t want to remember all of your fun times?  One 8x 10 is $20.00.  A 6x8 is $12.99.  There are soooooo many photo opportunities on a Disney Cruise, especially with the characters.  The really awesome thing about the photo staff is that you are able to use your own camera at EVERY photo opportunity.  And they will even take them for you!  This will save TONS of money.  Now…I was so stressed out making sure I got EVERY.LAST.SHOT I wanted to get, that I was missing out on watching my kids interact with the characters.  We made friends with one of the girls at the photo store and she told us about the picture CD.  The actual cost of the CD is $230, and it has each and every shot of you and your family on it.  They swipe your room key at each photo, so it is easy to keep up with.  You can go at any time and check the kiosk to look at all of the pictures.  They still print all of the hard copies too.  For an additional $50, you get each and every hard copy print as well.  While this was a splurge, Rob and I decided that we would do this for our souvenir.  I don’t regret it.  If you saw my photo album in the previous post,I think you would agree that we got our money’s worth.  And that wasn’t all of them!  We didn’t decide until late day 2 that we wanted it.  They only do 100 per cruise, so we knew we better take advantage of it.  I don’t regret one cent of that purchase!


  • Costumes- Dress-up for Pirate Night is a must!!!  No it is not a requirement, but you will be wishing you did it when you see everyone else in their costumes.  We were so blessed to be able to borrow our costumes.  Emmy’s costume had to be made, but we did that on a dime, too.  Mrs. Stacy made the tutu and the bow, I made the onesie with a rhinestone iron-on that I found on clearance at Michaels for $2.99.  We already had the leg warmers from Christmas, and I think she looked pretty cute!!!  Rob’s costume was one I had made for Cade’s 4th birthday.  We purchased the mask, then I made the rest from a consignment shop.  I also made the crab claw.  We had sold this costume to our friend, Tim in the Keys.  When I called him to ask him if he still had it, he told me he would ship it to me.  That’s what he did!!!  He still had all of the pieces!  If you have little girls, they are going to want to dress up like the princesses.  Bring your own!  They sell them in the shop for a whopping $75, and that does not include a crown, shoes or anything other than the dress.  Pack one in your suitcase.  You’ll be glad you did!


  • Souvenirs- On the ship they have a shop or two.  It is pretty much the same stuff you can buy in the parks.  Kelly had given me some good advice to go to Walmart, the dollar store or anywhere else that may sell Disney paraphernalia.  We got several items for Cade and SG, and had them on their pillows at night.  SG thought it came from the characters.  Cade is way too old for that (so he thinks.)  My friend, Amanda, told me about the autograph options onboard.  Per her suggestion, we bought pillowcases for each of the kids.  Our friend, Robyn, put their names on them for us, along with the year (including the Mickey Ears.)  We took them, along with a sharpie, to Guest Services once we got onboard.  They had every single character sign the pillowcase, and had it waiting on their bed the last night.  Stress Free!!!

pillow SG’s and Emmy’s were the same and included the princesses.  Cade’s was red with yellow embroidery, and he didn’t care to have the princesses on his:)  This is something they can use and can have forever, for a total of $10 each!!!  My sister did give each of my children spending money, so they were able to buy some things in Nassau and onboard.  But that’s what Aunts are good for:)

This post is getting really long with lots of information.  I will do a separate post tomorrow with additional tips and tricks to make your vacation as stress-free as possible!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“Swimming with the Dolphins…kinda sorta”

When we asked our kids what their favorite part about our vacation was, it was unanimously decided that the dolphins were their favorite.  We have been on several cruises and never spent the money to go see the dolphins.  But because we were able to save quite a bit of money on our trip overall (that will be the next post), we decided to try it out.

We decided on the Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter.  It was a blast!  We had a 25 minute boat ride to the island, which was beautiful.

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This was the scene pulling up to the island.

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At Blue Lagoon, they have dolphins and sea lions that you can interact with.  They also have a beach day that you can purchase.  Look at this inflatable water park!

IMG_1615Copy of IMG_1614 There were two dolphin options: the encounter and a deep water swim.  Our first choice was to do the swim, but SaraGrace wasn’t old enough to do that.  Also, Emmy could go as an observer, but obviously someone had to sit with her.  My husband is AWESOME and sat with her on the observation deck.  He took all of these pictures but one.

IMG_1618 The dolphins were swimming around having a great time.  When we got separated into our groups, they advised a wet suit.  I despise wet suits!!!  I thought I would tough it out, but that water felt like Ginnie Springs on a good day.  So I gave in:)

We made it over to our designated dolphin area, only to learn that our dolphins were in time out.  WHAT!?!?  We had to laugh that OUR dolphins would be the ones in time out.  Apparently they weren’t following directions, so they had to take a time out.  The cute part was that Andy (our dolphin in the picture) tried to earn brownie points by collecting marine debris and bringing it to his trainer.  It was very sweet:)

We got in the water onto a waist-deep platform.  I had to hold SG because she was too short. Copy of IMG_1598

The first order of business was to get a family photo.  The Blue Lagoon photographer took this one.

Copy of dolphin_0002 Rob was behind us so he got some pictures as well.

Copy of IMG_1595  We each got to hug Andy.

Copy of IMG_1599 Then we got a kiss.

Copy of IMG_1600 Me and SG had a group hug.

Copy of IMG_1601 Copy of IMG_1602 But she wanted her own kiss.

Copy of IMG_1603 We got to pet his belly and his head.

Copy of IMG_1604 Then we got to dance.

Copy of IMG_1605 Copy of IMG_1606 At the end of our time (which was about 25 minutes), he did some jumping tricks for us.

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We had to get back to the ship pretty quickly since it was Pirate Night, and we had a lot of dressing up to do.  I am so glad we spent the money to do this.  The kids are still talking about it, which means that they made memories.  Some of the best money we spent all week!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Our “WONDER”ful Disney Cruise Vacation



We were so blessed to be able to take a Disney cruise a couple of weekends ago.  It was a time of great fun and making tons of memories.  There are so many pictures and stories to tell of our trip!!!

After seeing Mickey Mouse as we were boarding the ship, we headed to our rooms to decorate our door.


There was so much to see and do on the ship, that before we knew it, it was dinner time!  We got to take our picture with Captain Mickey.



One morning, they had a Princess Gathering where all of the princesses came out at one time.  Here are a couple of our favorites.



I love this picture of our blue-eyed trio!


I have been dieting, so I told the waiter that I wasn’t going to order any dessert.  This is what he brought me:


The shows were fantastic!!!  Here is all 5 of us waiting to watch a show.


Very rarely do I get to get many pictures of my guys.  They are always playing around:)

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My handsome little guy!


My handsome big guy!


We didn’t get much time by the pool, but when we did, we had lots of fun.

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This was the BEST.BABY.EVER!


At Nassau-


We did the dolphin encounter on Blue Lagoon Island.  I’m going to do a separate post about this because there was so much to do.


After the dolphins, we stopped in the straw market and got talked into some braids.  I think we got ripped off!  I could have done this good for $12! 


When she saw them in the mirror back at the ship, she wanted them out immediately.  I can’t blame her.   It looks like spider legs coming out of her head!

That night was Pirate Night.  This was so much fun!  Rob was a celebrity in his Davey Jones costume.  People were taking all kinds of pictures with him, and he even signed a few autograph books.  It was hilarious!!!

DWD-130309-LSP8x10-8126628 DWD-130309-MMPirate8x10-8126919DWD-130309-MMPirate8x10-8131200DWD-130309-MMPirate8x10-8130771

Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay is first class!!!

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This is my new favorite picture of Rob and me.  I love it!!!



There are so many pictures but they were all so good!  I have attached the album below.  I can’t get them to appear in order so I’m sorry that they are all mixed up.

I will post about the dolphins, and then I am going to post all of the details (how to cruise Disney on a budget, what to do and when to do it, etc.)