Fish Tank… Round Two

Written by Patrick on August 29th, 2015
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It was roughly three years ago when Hunter got the itch to try his hand at pet ownership. At the time we thought fish would be a great foray into this venture because how hard is it to keep a fish alive, right?  Turns out we have a gift for short stories when it comes to tales of fish.

This experience was short lived as the two fish we purchased went from tank to bowl (toilet that is) in the matter of three weeks.  Not sure what they call that in the aquatic field but it was the equivilant of having a black thumb.  After we had the fish funeral and Hunter said a few words about the dearly departed, we packed up the tank and tucked it away in the garage for “another time”.  Fast forward to today which is “another time.”

After swim lessons today I brought the boys home, got them changed and we headed to The Loop for some lunch at Wendy’s followed by a trip to PetCo.  The previous day we got the supplies out of the garage, cleaned up the tank, and got the water ready to welcome some new additions to the house.  Hunter was so excited about the trip that he couldn’t sleep the night before.

As we wrapped up lunch Hunter was bouncing in his seat in anticipation of PetCo.  I can honestly say that the pet store is one of Hunter’s favorite places on the planet.  Not only was he excited to see the fish, he also loved looking around at the reptiles and hamsters.   We got some great help from one of the employees there who pointed us in the direction of the fish that have a fighting chance in our household, so I thanked him for that.  We wanted to get a fish for both Sawyer and Hunter so they both picked out male beta fish, only to find out that they can’t be in the same tank together or they will kill each other.  That would have been a fun one to explain over tears.  We settled on two female beta fish and some food and we were ready to go.

As we were checking out we noticed that the rains were coming in and it started to pour before we finished checking out.  We took the opportunity to take another lap around the store and see some of the slimy creatures for a second time.  When the rain slowed we made a break for it, ran for the car and headed home.

When we got home we followed the acclimation advice that we received and let the new fish have their water meet the room temperature before transferring them into their new home.  This allowed us time to admire the fun sign that Emily made for the new fish.

After much deliberation and change in direction we settled on the fish names, Arnold and HiroBaymax (Sawyer couldn’t settle so he just combined the names).  I am writing this at hour six and am happy to report that, asside from a few squabbles, the fish are getting along swimmingly (too on the nose?).

Here is hoping that I am not updating you next weekend about our tank cleaning and storage project.


Wings, Swimming, Animal Kingdom… What a Weekend!

Written by Patrick on August 15th, 2015
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Our weekend got off to a nice relaxing start as Hunter got to crash with Grandma and PopPa on Friday night and Emily and I enjoyed some wings from the Nona Tap Room.  A pretty healthy end to a day that started with Breakfast Burritos from the Wawa which opened down the street on Thursday.   We enjoyed our dinner and I put Sawyer to bed and we relaxed with some TV and called it a night.

Saturday started out beautiful as I got up at 5:45 and went for my morning walk as the sun was rising.  Today marks the 17th day in a row where I have walked over 10K steps so I didn’t want to let the streak die.  I got back to the house at about 7:15 expecting Sawyer to be ready to tackle me as I came in the front door but the house was silent!  I enjoyed some quiet time while the rest of the house slept which is extremely rare in this house!

When Sawyer got up he and I played Legos for a while in the family room.  He is such a riot as he stacks all of his “guys” on the propeller of his helicopter.  He really has an active imagination.  After we wrapped up play time we decided to head out and get Emily her weekend Starbucks and also pick up some breakfast food for he and I.  We grabbed the normally Trenta Iced Coffee from Starbucks, some chocolate sprinkle donuts and a breakfast sandwich and headed home.

After breakfast and hanging out it was time to take Hunter and Sawyer to their swimming lessons at the North Shore neighborhood pool.  This is their third swimming lesson session for the summer and they have both gotten a lot better at swimming.  Since installing a pool in a backyard the previous fall we decided that we wanted to be confident that the boys could swim in the event they fell into the pool.  I took the boys to the lessons while Emily got ready to go out for the day.

After another successful lesson, we went back home, the boys changed and we headed out the door for some lunch at Toasted.  Not sure if you have had the pleasure of trying this place but it is a chain down here in Florida and they specialize in grilled cheese sandwiches.  Emily and I got the brisket sandwich and shared some truffle fries while the boys got the traditional grilled cheese sandwiches.  Cannot say enough good things about that place!

Hunter and Dad at Toasted
Prior to leaving the house we installed the new car seat we purchased to put in my new car so that we could take my car on some of our weekend outings.  The installation process took about 4 hours of ridiculous sweating and pulling but somehow we (Emily) got it installed.  This allowed us to enjoy my new car for the first time as a family as we jammed out to tunes on our way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  As we approached the park we saw some pretty frightening clouds looming over the park.  Just as we got through the entrance gate the rains started coming so we ended up hanging out in our car as we waited for the storm to pass.

It was a race against time however because we had Fastpasses to Dinosaur from 2:30 – 3:30 and we were approaching 3:00.  Hunter had recently “rode” Dinosaur during his time at the Animal Kingdom summer camp and was eager to ride it with us.  I use quotes around rode because I am not sure if closing your eyes and screaming the whole time constitutes “riding” but at least he sat on the ride vehicle.  We grabbed a stroller and speed walked back to Dinoland only to arrive at Dinosaur 2 minutes before the end of our fastpass window… but the ride was down due to technical challenges.    Although we were a bit bummed I could sense the relief on Hunter’s face that he didn’t have to actually ride.

We used our new-found time to explore a bit of Dinoland and then made our way to Africa through Asia.  We got to see some of the new additions to the park like the bypass through Asia, the Harambe Marketplace and the new Zuri’s Sweets (home of the recently headlined “poop” desserts).  Checking out the delicious treats helped pass some of the last remaining minutes before our Kilimanjaro Safari.

 Zuri's Sweets, Disney's Animal Kingdom
We absolutely love the safari because it is truly never the same ride twice.  As we made our way through the early portion of the ride we rounded the corner to the savannah and saw some dark clouds approaching.  Luckily the rain held off for a bit so we could enjoy an amazing giraffe sighting with three of the new babies.  It was just a matter of time until… downpour! Although the trucks are covered they do let quite a bit of water in through the sides and drips in the overhead tarp.  We squashed into the middle of our row as much as we could and enjoyed the unique experience of riding the safari in the rain.  I recommended it if you ever get a chance, and have a poncho!  Below are just a couple of photos from the safari.

When the safari truck finally pulled into the unload zone the rain was still coming down pretty hard so we ran down the path and found a merchandise cart with an awning overhang that shielded us from the remaining rain.  Emily reluctantly signed the release forms on the photo below.

As the rain eased a bit we left our cover and headed back to Dinosaur which had recently reopened. Hunter’s level of stress elevated again as the reality of riding Dinosaur was once again a possibility. The ride was open and we used our Fastpasses from before to skip the line. This was  Sawyer’s first official ride over 40″ as he just recently crossed the threshold. As anticipated Hunter closed his eyes for a large portion of the ride, but less than his last outing he claimed. Sawyer was a little shell-shocked but there were no tears.  

After Hunter got his eyelids unglued we made our way toward the exit, only to be stopped by Sawyer who wanted to ride Triceratops Spin.  Although this committment required putting our lives in danger due to the incoming weather we thought, “how bad could it be?”  We completed the ride and booked to toward the car as the rain was falling.    We wrapped up the day by heading home, getting in our pajamas and having a fun dinner of snacky foods.

Really Fun Saturday!


Disney Dream Cruise Vacation 2015 – Day 5, At Sea

Written by Patrick on August 2nd, 2015
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Our last cruise day had arrived and everyone but me took the opportunity to sleep in. The boys have been going full steam from sun up to sun down and I have never seen them sleep in so late. We finally got everyone upright and ready to go and we headed to breakfast one last time at Cabanas. We art out back on the outdoor deck to enjoy the ocean air without the worry of seagulls.

In an effort to maximize our activities for the day, as well as beat the crowds, we wore our bathing suits to breakfast so we could hit the Aquaduck and pool right after breakfast. Turned out to be a perfect plan as we got to do a bunch of the boys favorite activities a few times each. The weather was absolutely ideal and we had a blast.

Since it was conveniently located on the way back to the room we enjoyed a couple ice cream cones to stay cool and calorie rich. We had read on the Navigator that Captain Henry would be doing a meet and greet in the shops on deck 3 so we headed back to the room to change so we could bake it in time. Hunter had purchased a Disney Dream cruise ship model that he wanted signed by the captain so we took that and the photo album that Emily got as a Castaway Gold Member.  The line for the meet and greet was longer than we had anticipated so I took the boys around the shops while Emily waited in line.  Captain Henry was a really nice guy and has been sailing for 40+ years.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship, Captain Henry

Since we were near the shops we of courses needed to pick up a few things (it’s like Disney plans that or something).  Sawyer has been absolutely obsessed with Vinylmations so we picked up one from the Frozen series as well as a couple of the toys from Inside Out.  We also picked up the hidden Mickey cruise ship book that we were excited to use after lunch. The boys of course wanted to open their new toys a play for a bit in the room so we headed back for a quick breather before lunch.

Sawyer with Anger from Inside Out

Since it was our last lunch on the ship we wanted to go one more round at Cabanas, to enjoy some of our favorites from throughout the cruise.  Everything from the pizza to the sushi and fresh seafood was absolutely delicious.  With our stomachs full to the brim we were off to burn some calories hustling through the ship doing our last round of Midship Detective Agency and spotting hidden Mickey’s.  The boys each got a card this time so they could both participate in the crime fighting fun.  While the boys were hot on the trail to solving their mysteries, Emily made the brilliant suggestion that I should go explore the ship and take some photos which I was happy to oblige.  I was able to navigate some of the adult sections of the ship as well as revisit Palo and some of the other restaurants while there was good light and nobody dining.

After capturing some fun photos throughout the ship I met Emily and the boys on deck 4 as they were waiting in line to meet Captain Donald.  We got a few photos and it was clear that the boys were tired and that we all could benefit from a little downtime in the room to get the boys some chill time and get our bags in order for departure.  We worked as a team to get all of the paperwork filled out and most of the bags packed.  Emily needed a bit more time to wrap things up so I took the boys up to deck 13 and we played our last round of mini golf.  Hunter and Sawyer both had a blast knocking the balls around and Hunter had a crazy hole in one.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Mini Golf

After our fun the boys and I headed back to the room to get dressed for dinner as the plan was to get some fun photos around the ship before our seating time.  Hunter decided the he wanted to wear a blazer to dinner which caught Emily and I both by surprise.  After wrestling the boys into their clothes we grabbed every camera we brought and headed down to deck three.  Although Emily wanted to take some serious shots of the boys they were in the craziest mood they had been in all vacation so we eventually just went with it.  Looking back at these photos I am glad we did.


We finished up our photo shoot earlier than anticipated so we decided to let the boys go to kids club  and Emily and I went to deck 12 Meridian for a sunset drink.  This has become our favorite outdoor venue on the ship for drinks as the view is priceless and it is normally quiet (as long as mini golf balls aren’t flying from the deck above).  After our drink we needed to go to the store to pick up a few pins for our nightly magic.  We told Sawyer that his room key is “magic” and when he uses it there is a “gift” under his and Hunter’s pillow.  We had a Vinylmation for Sawyer but wanted to get Hunter the pins he was looking at.  We shopped with such efficiency that we had time for one more quick drink so we headed to the Skyline Lounge, our favorite indoor bar, that we hadn’t been to yet on this trip.  We got a couple crazy drinks, took some silly photos and head off to get the boys and go to dinner.


Another thing that I think makes cruising magical is that sometimes you get lucky and get a table next to fun people that you get to know over the course of the nights you dine together.  The first night we ate at Animators Palette we met this awesome family from Iowa with two kids (Chase 15 and Lexie 9).  It was Chase’s 15th birthday so they were celebrating with a cruise.  Tonight we spent more time talking with them and getting to know them and it truly was an amazing dinner.  Som and Eris were amazing as usual as they made the kids laugh and Eris did his magic and crayon brain puzzles which kept both of our tables engaged and laughing all night.   We had a great conversation with Brian, Betsy and their kids sharing stories of the parks in Orlando and time we spent in their home state of Iowa.  Not sure you could have drawn up a more perfect ending to the night.


We reluctantly returned to our room with thoughts of heading back to deck 11 for one more round on the Aquaduck.  When we arrived back at the room not only did the boys get some magic, Emily and I also received some magic from one of the Cast Members that we met on the ship, Jamezy.  We met him the first night and got to know him as we visited on our walks past Evolution on deck 3.  He was so thoughtful that he sent us a bag of goodies (hat, water bottle, key chains) with a very nice note with lots of hashtags.  Emily decided she wanted to go thank him so she and Sawyer went to do that and Hunter and I got our suits on and headed to deck 11.

When we arrived at deck 11 we saw the wait was 30 minutes plus so we did the next best thing and got a couple ice cream cones to finish off the night.  Emily didn’t see Jamezy but left him a note of appreciation.  We all returned to the room at roughly the same time, got our pajamas on and said our last goodnights on the Disney Dream.


Disney Dream Cruise Vacation 2015 – Day 4, Another Shot at Castaway Cay

Written by Patrick on August 1st, 2015
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Disney Dream Cruise, Castaway Cay

As I awoke on day four I had my fingers crossed as I approached our curtains hoping when I pulled them back I would see clear skies over Castaway Cay, and I did!  I lightly encouraged the troops to get their butts out of bed because it was beach or bust today. I am sure this will come as a surprise to you but believe it or not we had breakfast at Cabanas. The view overlooking Castaway Cay was simply perfection as we ate and planned our island activities for the day. We swallowed our last bites of Mickey waffles, grabbed our prepped go bags from the room, and headed to deck 1 midship to hit the island.

We had originally pre-arranged bike rentals for the first Castaway Cay day (and when I say we and pre in the same sentence you can assume I mean Emily) but due to the weather they were kind enough to extend the offer for use of the bikes today. We lugged our bags to a great beach location, grabbed our phones and cameras and headed to the bike rental spot.  After a little arranging we were ready to explore the island. There are some really cool views of the island that can only be experienced via these bike trails so I highly recommend it.

Hunter Biking at Castaway Cay

After barely completing the 5K on bike we had had enough and were ready to cool off in the ocean. Emily got the boys and toys set up while I headed off for drinks and Emily’s favorite fresh fruit. We relaxed and splashed around a bit and built our highly unimpressive sand castle (or roughly shaped pile of sand as I like to call it).  We brought our old waterproof camera which provides for some awesome shots while in the water.

The last time we were at Castaway Cay on a previous cruise I tried the Pelican Plunge water slide and I really wanted Hunter and Emily to try it this trip. Luck would have it that the minimum height for the water slide was 38″ so the entire family could go on it together. This truly was the highlight of the afternoon as the entire family went on the Pelican Plunge slides 3 times.  Emily and the boys started on the slow slide at first but quickly wanted to experience the thrill of the fast slide. It was a riot watching how far into the water the fast slide spit you out. So many laughs.

Pelican Plunge, Disney's Castaway Cay

We were getting hungry as it had been at least 30 minutes since our last meal. We dried the group off and made our way to Cookies Too for some lunch. Our Griswold moment was when we said hey let’s sit in the back section with beach umbrellas because nobody is back there. It was true there were very few people at these tables because there wouldn’t have been room to share with the one million seagulls who were fire bombing unattended plates. The only thing Emily loves more than birds is birds in mass quantities. So relaxing. Sawyer was counting down each bite of hot dog until he met the sufficient quota to get an ice cream cone. After the boys ate their weight in ice cream we agreed to check out the shops and head back to the ship. Emily wanted to walk back and take photos so I took the boys on a tram ride. It was a truly perfect day on the island.

We decided to try our luck at the water activities on deck 11 thinking it wouldn’t be busy as Guests would still be on the island, wrong. Although it was busy I took Sawyer to Nemo’s Reef and Em and Hunter went on the Aquaduck.  The boys hit up the hot tub and Mickey slide as they are creatures of routine.

After we had our fill we headed to the room to chill and get the boys some dinner before heading to the Walt Disney Theater for a 3D viewing the Pixar movie Inside Out. We brought our $290.00 popcorn bucket for our $150.00 refill and Emily brought some movie candy for us all to enjoy. The movie was really good but sadder than I thought it would be. Even Sawyer, who sat on my lap for the second half of the movie said, “it’s sad”.

After the movie the boys wanted to go to kids club and we weren’t opposed to another quiet dinner so we came to an agreement. Em and I then headed to Currents on deck 13 for a drink before dinner and went to chill at these cozy chairs at the front of ship.  It was blissful until 5 families with their pirate kids decided to plunder the front of the adult section of the ship. Thanks for being respectful, ass clowns.

Disney Dream Cruise, Deck 13 Aft

 We finished our drinks on the way to Royal Palace on deck three where we had dinner without the boys. It was pirate night so Emily had some guilt. Maybe it was because she didn’t get a chance to spend 250 bucks on light up pirate glasses, maybe it was because she wanted to experience more open mouth chewing, or perhaps it was her need to have an endless debate about the number of bites required to cross the dessert threshold. Regardless she was feeling sentimental and missing the boys.

We finished our dinner with continued awesome service from our wait staff, and headed to get a few fun surprises for the boys upon arrival to the room. We split up and I went to get the boys as Sawyer had just messaged us and was ready to call it a night, and Emily went to prep the room. Hunter loved his plush cruise ship but Sawyer was expecting yet another Vinylmation and was ready to trade his ship in upon receiving it.

Sawyer and I got our pajamas on and went to bed as Hunter and Em went to deck 4 to get some cheese to cap the night. Pretty perfect day 4!

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Disney Dream Cruise Vacation 2015 – Day 3, Nassau

Written by Patrick on July 31st, 2015
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Day three on the Disney Dream was yet another perfect day on the ship. When we awoke we were still making our way to the island of Nassau in the Bahamas. Due to the fact that we made the most out of the first two days everyone was quite tired and not chomping at the bit to spring out of bed for breakfast. Being one of the few early risers in the family I offered to bring back some plates of food from Cabanas which sounded pretty perfect to the three who remained snug in their beds. I headed up to Cabanas and decided to eat my breakfast overlooking the approaching island of Nassau, an absolutely perfect way to start the day. I then made several trips back and forth from Cabanas to the room ensuring that the family was well fed!

We decided that we would leverage the day at port in Nassau to stay on the ship and explore some of the fun amenities we had yet to fully enjoy. After the group got cleaned up and ready for the day Hunter decided he wanted to take part in the Super Sloppy Science activity at Oceaneers lab so we dropped him off and Em, Sawyer and I set off to explore the ship.

Woody & Sawyer, Disney Dream

Our first stop was deck three for a meet and greet with Woody. Sawyer is still a little shy when it comes to meeting the characters but he got brave for his pal Woody. As we looked out the portholes we saw that more ships were coming into port so we decided to head up to deck 12 and take some photos and videos of their arrivals. Both the Norwegian Getaway and the Carnival Sensation came into port while while we were taking in the sea air on the open deck. It was really cool to see the docking process of these huge ships.  As the Carnival ship was nearing the dock we thought Hunter would be interested so we picked him up from kids club to watch the docking from the fourth deck. We took some fun photos then headed up to Cabanas to enjoy some delicious food and an amazing view of Nassau and the Atlantis Resort.  You truly cannot beat the views of the islands that you get from the various locations throughout the ship.

Disney Dream, Midship Detective Agency

We followed lunch with our second round the Midship Detective Agency game where we solved the missing puppies mystery. It has now become a secondary challenge where we split up and see who can arrive faster, stairs or elevator. After completing our mission we suited up for some more deck 11 fun of swimming, Hunter and I hit the Aquaduck, and we all chilled in the hot tub (which is super cool because it has a glass wall and floor so you can see out to the ocean).  There is something cool about having all you can eat ice cream cones at the ready that you just can’t pass up, and we didn’t, although with children ice cream has a tendency to change forms rather quickly in 100 degree temperatures.  As we were coming into port we saw a huge yacht parked at the end of the port where we docked and we wanted to get a closer look to see how close we were to it. We headed to the aft of the ship on deck 12 to grab a closer look and some photos which happened to be the mini golf course so we stayed and played a round.

Due to the fact that we had a full night of activities planned we decided a nice chill break in the room would do the group well. The boys turned on the Mickey cartoons, which they can’t take their eyes off of. This break also gave Emily and I a chance to get ready for the Villians show followed by dinner at Palo. Since the boys were going to kids club I took their food orders and returned to two boys who were completely knocked out. Emily and I tried to wake them in time to see the Villians show but they were not budging. We decided to pull up the show on demand in our room and watch it as the boys ate their cold dinner.

Disney Dream, Palo Bar

After the boys were fed and back to consciousness, we took them to the kids club and headed to Palo for a nice relaxing adult dinner for Em and I. The ship has this really nice outdoor deck bar that is quiet and provides a beautiful view of the sunset over the ocean. We enjoyed a drink prior to being seated at our table. We had an amazing dinner and enjoyed Stephanie, our server from Peru and Luca who was the manager from Rome. Emily had this amazing Lobster Ravioli dish and both of us could not stop raving about the desserts (Chocolate Souffle and Panna Cotta).  Mike Super was having dinner in the next room over from us. It was a wonderful dinner and the boys stayed and enjoyed the kids club.

After dinner we decided to pick up a few Vinylmations and create a little Mike Super magic of our own. We brought them back to the room and set them up on their beds awaiting them for when they returned.  We then went and picked up the boys from kids club and headed up to deck 11 for sodas and hot cocoa (apparently 100 degrees is the perfect hot cocoa weather for Hunter).  We returned to our room for our Vinylmation surprise and our first round of room service this cruise. We devoured some cheese, Mickey bar and some cookies and called it a night.  Yet another amazing day at sea!

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Disney Dream Cruise Vacation 2015 – Day 2, Castaway Cay

Written by Patrick on July 30th, 2015
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Disney Dream 2015 Castaway Cay

Disney Dream – Castaway Cay

I would argue there is no better place in the world to wake up than Castaway Cay. Even though the weather was a bit overcast it still was truly awesome to be docked at the amazing island. Emily was smart and had ordered a few things from room service to help tide us over until breakfast (only on a cruise does that happen).  We washed up and awaited Prince Sawyer’s awakening and headed to Cabanas for a delicious breakfast overlooking the beach at Castaway Cay.

Our initial plan was to get our food and eat outside but once we saw the seagull brigade dive bombing breakfast plates we thought it best to enjoy the view from inside. Hunter ate his weight in bacon and cereal as we enjoyed a perfect assortment of breakfast goodies to get us fueled for the day. We wanted to get out and enjoy Castaway Cay so we headed back to the room, grabbed our well prepared bags and headed down to deck 1 to disembark the ship.

The weather remained overcast for most of the morning and that didn’t change when we arrived on the island.  We hauled our beach gear down the path to the main section of the island and heard multiple rumbles of thunder so we made the team decision to head back to the ship and enjoy the activities there. That was officially our shortest stay ever on the island, 10 minutes.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Mickey Slide

Sawyer – Mickey Slide

Due to the rain we felt an indoor activity would be a good call. Emily had checked the Navigator and saw a family activity taking place in the 687 Pub, the Making of Disney Dream so we headed that way. First off the 687 pub is a really beautiful spot with dark wood fixtures and plush comfortable chairs and sofas. It got it’s name because the Disney Dream cruise ship was the 687th ship constructed at the shipbuilding location. The show was short but informative and fun which was what we were looking for.

We were still in our bathing suits so we decided to make the most of the quiet ship and check out the water activities on deck 11. Sine the pub was on deck 3, the Vista Cafe was on the way allowing us to grab our mid-morning chocolate chip cookies.

 As we anticipated the combination of weather and Guests who were visiting Castaway Cay, resulted in a rather quiet deck 11. Since Emily had not yet ridden the Aquaduck, she and Hunter headed up while Sawyer and I explored Nemo’s Reef. Sawyer had a blast running around the water play area and sliding on the small Mr. Ray water slide.  Once 12:00 hit the slightly larger Mickey Water slide opened which Sawyer has been too short to experience on our previous cruises. Sawyer headed up the stairs like a champ and had an absolute blast. When Hunter and Em finished their Aquaduck ride, Hunter joined his little brother for a few slides as well. We enjoyed a little hot tub time as well as the Mickey pool before our stomachs rang the lunch bell.

Wanting to explore more of the inside of the ship after lunch we decided to head back to the room to change into dry clothes before eating. After changing we headed back to deck 11, grabbed some food for the boys at the quick serve spot by the pool and we got some plates from Cabanas and enjoyed our smorgasbord of lunch options.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship - Deck 4

Hunter and Sawyer – Crazy Photo Shoot

We had a fun afternoon exploring the ship and enjoying the offerings. We solved our first round of Midship Detective Agency which is this really fun interactive game that has you exploring multiple interactive paintings across the ship that come to life when you use your interactive card. We also got to explore the kids club with the boys during the open house time as we were docked at Castaway. After running full steam for most of the day we agreed that a chill break in the room was in order so the boys watched Mickey cartoons, Em read and I wrote this.

After a brief bit of relaxation the boys were ready to head back to the kids club as Hunter wanted to work on his mastery of the cruise ship game in the Oceaneers Lab. This gave Emily a chance to get ready for dinner in peace as well as gave us an opportunity for some peaceful shopping and a drink at the Bon Voyage bar on Deck 3 before picking up the boys. After we got the boys they were excited to go to the store and spend some of their gift cards. Hunter got a model ship of the Disney Dream and Sawyer found his new love, Vinylmation.

It was Emily’s favorite night on the ship, dress-up night providing us an opportunity to put the boys in clothes they were beyond excited to wear.  After acknowledging neck discomfort for 20 minutes we headed to midship for a photo with Captain Mickey and some other shots with the family. In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, photos with two boys is like trying to sweep the beach (see serious photo above).

Disney Dream Cruise Ship - Mickey Deck 5

Family with Captain Mickey

After photo fun it was time for our favorite restaurant on the ship, Animators Palette with our awesome servers, Eris and Som. This is the restaurant with the interactive screens by each table allowing Crush and friends from Finding Nemo to visit. Crush picked Sawyer to interact with which was really cute because Sawyer was so shy they got into a game of peek a boo. Eris our main server was awesome as he did magic tricks for the kids and Som made them origami swans.  It was an awesome dining experience.

Although the boys were losing steam Emily worked her magic and convinced them to hang out at the kids club while we went to the Evolution night club to watch Mike Super’s adult magic show.  All new tricks which were really amazing, a few which he performed on America’s Got Talent.  A great show and excellent way to wrap up night two on the Disney Dream. We got the boys from kids club, headed to the room and called it a night.

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Disney Dream Cruise Vacation 2015 – Day 1

Written by Patrick on July 29th, 2015
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H an S

Hunter & Sawyer – Cruise Gear

Today was the day we had been looking forward to for a while – Disney Dream embarkation day for our 5 day cruise to the Bahamas!  Emily did her usual amazing job getting us packed and prepared for five days of fun and sun at sea. We spent the morning locating and crossing off items on her laminated packing lists (really) and after item 22,541 was acquired we knew we were ready to go.

I packed the family roadster Griswold style and had to make a few tough choices, like if it made more sense to strap Sawyer or a few suitcases to the roof. I completed my game of car Tetris, and we were prepped and ready for our 45 minutes car ride to Port Canaveral.

Just before it was time to depart, Grandma and PopPa arrived at the house to see us off before our Disney Cruise. They are always so thoughtful and today was no exception as they gave the boys gift cards to use on the ship. We gave our hugs, said goodbyes and headed out, only to do a lap around the neighborhood and return for a well thought out bathroom break for the boys. And then we were ready to go.

We had planned to arrive early to the Disney Cruise terminal because we had a 10:30 check-in time due to Emily’s newly acquired Gold Castaway Club status. She was quite proud of this and took multiple opportunities to remind us over the week how lucky we were to be in her presence. Upon check-in at the terminal we received our lanyards, 1 gold and the three of us peasants got our silver lanyards. Emily quickly donned her new Trump bling as we made our way around the terminal. Our boarding number “3” was called as we excitedly got in line to cross the famous land to sea portal.  As we weaved through the maze of stanchions we noticed the penny press machines just inches away, but of course requiring us to exit the maze of hope to crush a few Lincolns for our collection. This of course gave us a chance to greet all the nice Disney Cruise Cast Members for a second time as we once again traveled the maze.

Disney Dream Embarkation Day

DCL Navigator – Day 1

But it was all worth it as we walked the gangplank and finally arrived on the glorious Disney Dream!  A really neat aspect of the boarding process on the Disney Cruise Line ships is that they announce each family as they arrive (of course I haven’t traveled others to know if this is a standard or not). Although he didn’t say anything, I think Hunter thought it was cool, too. One of the great things about getting on the ship so early was that many areas didn’t have any Guests in them yet. We decided we would head to Cabanas before it got too busy and grab some delicious food and a beautiful spot outside overlooking Cape Canaveral. The food was as delicious as we remembered, confirming that we were now officially in vacation mode.

After lunch we explored the ship with our first stop at the Oceaneers Club where we got the boys signed up for kids club and checked out all the cool activities. Now that Sawyer is 3 he is officially a “big boy” and can join his brother at the kids club. You could tell they were excited to have such an amazing playground away from their parents.

At 1:30 the rooms officially got turned over to Guests so we headed that way to put down our day bag and get situated. Luckily our suitcases were already there so Em decided she would stay and unpack the suitcases with Sawyer while Hunter and I suited up and hit the Aquaduck. As many of Dad’s brilliant plans go this one was in line as we stood and waited 45 minutes with other planful dads for the 45 second water slide ride. It was worth every minute to get to ride with Hunter though. After the Aquaduck Hunter wanted to take a dip in the Mickey pool with 3,000 of his closest friends which lasted for about 2 minutes until he wanted to get out. We enjoyed an ice cream cone together as the ship began to shut down to transition to the lifeboat drill.

The lifeboat drill has been a point of nervous confusion for Hunter after his first Disney cruise as a young child.  I don’t recall it being terribly traumatic but Hunter cannot truly enjoy the cruise amenities until the lifeboat drill has concluded. I think it helped that our gathering location was the Walt Disney Theater, but there was still an obvious look of concern. I am sure it doesn’t help that he has taken an interest in Titanic because that story seems to end the same way every time we read it… but I digress. We made it through the seven short blasts and one long blast and now our vacation could truly begin!

We departed the Walt Disney Theater and headed to our favorite 4th deck destination, the Vista Cafe, for some delicious chocolate chip cookies before getting a photo with Pluto and heading up to the deck for the sail away party!  The party is always a great time and reminder of the fun and relaxation that lies ahead. After the deck 11 performance we headed to deck 12 forward with our extremely overpriced drinks to get in position to see Grandma and PopPa waving from their on-shore spot at Jetty Park. PopPa was easy to spot from deck 12 as he was wearing his giant Mickey glove. As we rounded the corner and left the port we decided to head to our stateroom to get ready for the night’s activities.

Disney Dream Mike Super Magic

Hunter Chats Up Mike Super

The whole family was excited because the first show of the cruise was Mike Super, a magician we had seen on a previous Disney cruise and loved. Because we had the late dining spot we got to attend the early show prior to dinner. As expected it was a great show which included levitation, a cool card trick and a really cool crowd participation trick with a die and a locked box.  We all thought it was great and Hunter was blown away. After the show Mike Super had a meet and greet where we got an autograph and told him about a previous cruise where we ran into him getting a drink and he did a special straw trick just for Hunter, which he said he recalled doing. He was super friendly and signed our Daily Navigator, which displayed an ad for his show.

After our meet and greet the boys were chomping at the bit to do a little shopping (they must get that from me). We explored a few of the shops near the theater as the boys strategized their gift card purchases.

It was finally our time for dinner at Royal Palace so we headed to deck three midship. We met Eris and Som, our servers, who were super nice. Eris had a hand buzzer that he used every time he gave the boys a high five which cracked Sawyer up.  The dinner was delicious and we were super excited when the boys got swept away to kids club so Em and I could finish our dinner and dessert in peace.  Hunter as usual was a bit apprehensive about going to kids club but we knew that wouldn’t last long.

Following dinner Em and I walked the ship looking for a good spot to get a nightcap.  After a few stops we finally ended up on deck 13 at Currents where we got a drink and walked the front adult section of the ship and almost got tossed overboard by the breeze. We took some silly selfies of us trying to keep our balance between gusts.

It wouldn’t be a cruise without cheese (not referencing my jokes this time) as Emily guided us back to the Vista Cafe where she picked up a cheese plate for a little late night snack when we got back to the room.  We had one last stop as we circled past the kids club to pick up the boys who, although were walking zombies, didn’t want to leave. We agreed sleep would benefit all so we retired to the room, turned on Mickey cartoons, and crashed.

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Another Awesome Saturday!

Written by Patrick on July 25th, 2015
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I am sure it comes as no surprise that Saturday is by far my favorite day of the week.  Today was no exception. We started the day with our weekly visit to Brooklyn Water Bagels in Winter Park which I mentioned in my post from last weekend. Sawyer and I got our regular orders and enjoyed our drive across town together.

We returned to the house with Starbucks and breakfast for Emily who got to enjoy some rare quite time alone.  We devoured our breakfast and spent the rest of the morning making silly videos and playing with the Benny’s Spaceship Lego set. Sawyer is definitely learning his on-screen delivery skills and how to play to the camera from his brother Hunter.  Sawyer decided he was going to create a Public Service Announcement with the help of a Lego guy which you can check out below (kids don’t try this at home)!

The kid just cracks me up!  On a side note I am blown away that I can not only record a video on my phone but also edit it and post it into this blog (which I am also writing on my phone).  Love technology!

After I picked up Hunter from Grandma’s we came back home, suited up, and hit the pool.  Because I have taken a multi year hiatus from blogging I am realizing there are many details I have failed to update on.  One of those details is that we built a pool in our backyard in 2014. I guess as long as I am updating you we also built this house in 2013. We are absolutely loving the house and the pool because it gives us something cool and relaxing to do on the weekends. Below is a panoramic photo of our backyard.


We had a fun afternoon swimming as the boys love to run and jump in the water. The only thing they love more than running and jumping in the water is filming it on the iPhone. Below is a slow-motion video of Hunter and Sawyer jumping in.


After an event afternoon of swimming we headed if for our afternoon chill break and Emily and Sawyer headed out to run a few errands.  Hunter and I got much needed naps as Emily and Sawyer headed off to “earn” some Kohls cash.  We capped of the night with a Christmas in July treat of holiday shaped pancakes for the whole family.  We put the boys to bed and completed our Christmas in July surprise for Sunday morning.  Another update tomorrow to follow.


Brooklyn Water Bagels – Breakfast Outing with Sawyer and Dad

Written by Patrick on July 18th, 2015
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Brooklyn Water Bagels

Brooklyn Water Bagels – Winter Park, FL

I used to visit my friend Jon Tettambel up in New Jersey on occasion and every time I visited he would pick up these delicious bagel breakfast sandwiches that I could not wait to eat.  Ever since I was introduced to that amazing Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches on an Everything bagel I have been on a quest to find something as similar as possible that doesn’t require me flying to New Jersey to get it. The claim up in that area is that their bagels taste as a good as they do because of “the water”.

Fast forward to one of our recent trips to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in Vero Beach Florida. As is the normal ritual we checked our smart phones to see if there was a bagel sandwich store somewhere near the resort.  Emily located a bagel shop about 15 minutes from the resort called Brooklyn Water Bagels. Based on everything I knew about bagels I felt this place had as good of a chance as any to have the sandwich that we were looking for.

We could not have been more right!  The bagels were as good as we remembered and the sandwiches were amazing too. After our discovery in Vero Beach we quickly went back to the smart phones to determine if there was a Brooklyn Water Bagels somewhere in Orlando. Much to our surprise we found one located in Winter Park just blocks from where I originally lived when I first came down to Florida to attend Full Sail.

Brooklyn Water Bagels - Homemade Bagels

Brooklyn Water Bagels – Homemade Bagels

For the past several months Sawyer and I have made it a ritual that every Saturday morning he and I would wake up, get dressed, hop in the car and head to Winter Park, to Brooklyn Water Bagels to pick up our family weekend breakfast.  One of the awesome things about Brooklyn Water Bagels is that the make their bagels in house and have a window you can observe through as you wait in line to place your order.  We have our order down to a science as I order a bacon egg and cheese breakfast sandwich For Emily and I to share and Sawyer gets an order of bagel tasters. He eats the bagel tasters in the car on the way home and I have to control my urge to devour my half of the sandwich until I get home.

Although the breakfast sandwich is not an exact replica of the amazingness that we had in New Jersey, it is the closest thing that we have found in our years of searching. For those bagel sandwich purists out there the one thing that Brooklyn Water Bagels does differently is that they chop all their eggs and meat and cheese up and combine it so it’s all in very small chunks. It still tastes delicious to me but the texture difference might throw some of you off.

Hunter has now joined in the fun as for many of our first visits he would be staying with Kee and Colonel on Friday night and not be around on Saturday morning for breakfast. But since he has been around for the last few weekends (due to Grandma Curly’s broken finger… long story) he too is enjoying a plain bagel with butter. If you have not had a chance to stop by a Brooklyn Water Bagels I would strongly suggest that you do so. The bagels are simply the best Florida has to offer!  And I can’t beat my traveling companion. It was awesome getting to spend time with my buddy Sawyer!

In case you are looking for the Brooklyn Water Bagels location in Winter Park, FL I have provided a map below.


Disney’s Animal Kingdom Camp Week 1 – Hunter Had a Blast!

Written by Patrick on July 17th, 2015
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Disney's Animal Kingdom Camp

Hunter’s First Week – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Camp

The highly anticipated Disney’s Animal Kingdom Camp week one finally came and went and Hunter loved every minute.  This was Hunter’s third year in a row that he has attended the camp, for which he provides rave reviews each and every day he attends.  This year Hunter will be attending two weeks of the camp, and he is fired up about next week because his buddy Austin will be attending as well.

The week provided a lot of Hunter & Dad time because we get to travel both to and from work together.  We had some interesting discussions throughout the week as we talked about pet fish and pet snakes as well as solar power cars (blown away sometimes at how his brain works – especially at 8 am)!

At camp this week they got to do a ton of cool park and animal experiences including: Epcot – The Seas with Nemo & Friends (both the pavilion and the ride), Animal Kingdom Lodge (savannah safari), Epcot- The Land Pavilion (both the boat ride and the Behind the Seeds tour), and then Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the last two days where they rode Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest and Dinosaur.  Hunter normally opts out of both Expedition Everest as well as Dinosaur, but I have to say I was really proud of him for overcoming his fears and riding Dinosaur for the first time today!  He did mention that he closed his eyes for the entire ride but hey… baby steps!  They also provide animal experiences where an animal expert brought a creature and taught the kids about it.  Hunter was in heaven today because the showcase was a pine snake.

I continue to be impressed every year that he attends at how amazing the Cast Members are, many of whom return to do this year after year.  It was really great to walk up on day one and hear multiple Cast Members shout “Hunter!!” as we approached.  You can tell they take time to get to know the kids, and it shows in how much they love attending this camp.

I am excited for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Camp week two as Hunter gets to go with his buddy Austin and share some of his favorite things with his best friend from school.  I am sure the car ride will provide for some interesting dialogue and stories that I can share next week.  I forgot to mention that the camp is only available to Cast Members and friends and family so you can’t find much information about it online.