Thursday, October 31, 2013


So here we are at Spook Central, where half the county it seems descends on our neighborhood dressed in all sorts of costumes to get candy galore.  The neighbors here go all out, as explained each year in this very blog.  The above is just one house that had a few inflatables, including the Frankenflatable.  By this point, Madison was still running from house to house to house.  

A last-minute change:  she was Merida on Saturday for the trick-or-treating in town, so tonight she wanted to go back to a Catwoman costume.  She even had a little diamond to carry around with her (that's the one she "stole from the museum").

We had our house decorated nicely for all the visitors that came by, but we didn't see much of the house tonight, did we?  The group of us were all ready to go out and get some candy!  But the first thing we did was have a little party at our place.

Here is Daddy with one of his gifts:  yes, it's unusual.  It's a giant rubber band ball, which is pretty unusual and funny.  He also got some t-shirts and a Studio Ghibli box set, which was very cool.  Mommy had hot apple cider, brain cupcakes, and pumpkin spiced cream cookies - all kinds of goodies!  We opened presents and ate our sweets, and soon it was time for our brave adventurers to set forth!

Everyone was ready to go, which we certainly did.  Some houses went completely overboard with decorations, which was amazing to see.  Everyone was friendly to Madison, who was quick to let them know that she was Catwoman.  She was very polite, nearly singing "thank you" every time - and unless told otherwise, she stayed on sidewalks and driveways.  Daddy has a bag in his hand for emergency storage, just in case things overflow.  Which, they did.  Madison completely filled that orange pumpkin, which Daddy wound up carrying most of the way.  Meanwhile, Mommy and Nana watched over the house back home.

We had a lot of visitors.  But Mommy had a lot of candy too - and pins as well.  Down the road, Ye-Ye was watching over his house, giving out candy there for the visiting kids.  He said there were a lot this year, but didn't expect these visitors!

When we were done with our adventure in the neighborhood, we drove down the road to Ye-Ye's house for a quick visit, and a quick trick-or-treat!  By this point, everyone was tired, and pretty much ready to turn in.  The neighborhood is always bigger than our ability to walk it all.  We even started early this year - around 5:45 or so.  It was still light outside, and we were the only ones down our road to begin with - but the idea was to get out early and end early (especially with the threat of rain).

Which brings up another thing to be grateful for:  no rain.  We were watching this forecast for the past ten days, and rain was going to happen tonight.  The wonderful thing is that we watched it get pushed back - first it was going to be at 9:00 pm.  Then it would start at 10:00 pm.  Then it moved to 11:00 pm.  In the end, the rain did get here - but somewhere around 2:00 am or so.  It didn't affect us at all!

Everyone was pretty tired as we went to sleep, and no doubt we'll be acting like the walking dead tomorrow a bit.  The sugar from all the candy will help, won't it?  We have a LOT of candy.  But we had a LOT of fun tonight!

Earlier in the day, we were at the school, helping Madison at school.  Mommy had a station setting up a creepy ice cream snack, and Daddy was teaching the students about estimating (just guessing how many popcorn pieces can fit on a picture of a pumpkin).  Madison was happy to have us at school.

And Daddy picked her up after school for her flu mist.  That's so great, isn't it?  Now, instead of a flu shot, there's mist.  No pain, just something getting stuck up your nose and sprayed.  This is a much better alternative!  Even the nurses were dressed up a bit for the kids, so the atmosphere was fun there.

The rest of the day was preparing for the big night, and oh what a night.  It was a memorable one, a spooky one, and one filled with candy and fun!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Grunkle Stan

Tonight was our Fall Festival, which saw way over 1,000 kids at children's church - lots of costumes, inflatables, rides, and lots of rides.  This is the result of a lot of work and setting up, which Daddy played a pretty good part in all day long.  The end result was not much time for Madison - although we did manage to do something fun:  Daddy brought along the next Winnie the Pooh book, and we read that one from the office to her.  I say we:  it was our friends Lance and Chris who helped tell the story.  So together, we read Volume 6 or 7 - I can't remember which.  I do remember the story was about saying, "I'm sorry."  And Madison enjoyed hearing it from everyone here.

We said our goodnights, and moved on to the field outside, where we set up for a great night for the kids and the community.  And Daddy dressed up too:

Stan Pines - that's the idea, anyway.
We all dressed up in different costumes, ranging from Duck Dynasty to the costume you see above.  That's Daddy as Grunkle Stan from the show "Gravity Falls."  The kids recognized who I was, although the adults didn't have much of a clue.  To them, I was some sort of deranged Shriner.

Which, based on my experiences working in Helen several summers, wasn't that far off of a description.  But we won't go there!

Where we will go is this:  Madison had a good day at school today.  And she had a good time at tennis practice again.  She's really looking forward to tomorrow, of course - but who isn't?  It'll be a busy, full day - but it will be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Okay, so we got lost a bit today.  Daddy even had a map to get through the corn maze, but despite all that, there was apparently a wrong turn somewhere and there we were in the corn maze, pretty much the only ones left and the sun was going down.

But we were still having a good time, and didn't spot any aliens either.  This is always a good sign.  Or "Signs," if you get the reference.  Really, there wasn't too much panic about being lost - in fact, Mommy was taking some great pictures with her camera and Madison was having fun in the middle of it all.

We got there a little later, probably not long before the place closed.  The corn maze isn't that far away from here, and we were itching to take Madison to a corn maze for a few weeks now.  After all, it's a tradition each year, right?  Madison was asking, and pretty excited about the idea - so after piano class today, we got there just in the nick of time.

We didn't see any aliens in the cornfield, and no crop circles either.  This year, instead of crop circles, the aliens chose to make a maze that resembled an old man on a rocking chair, sitting next to a jug.  This you can see perfectly - if you were in an airplane.  Or... a UFO.

Anyway, we had a good time there this afternoon.  At the end, Madison made the right choices that got us free from the corn labyrinth.  She was ready to go eat afterwards, so that might have served as motivation!

This is all about twenty minutes away, so food was pretty close.  Mommy made this split pea soup at home which was delicious.  It is, however, one of those foods that resembles something Shrek would eat.  It's this dark green mass, and you can easily imagine an eyeball suddenly floating up to the surface.  But it tastes delicious:  Mommy made this from scratch, and it's filling and I suppose even "hearty."

Tonight before bed, we continued our reading of Winnie the Pooh.  Daddy also read a spooky Olivia book as well, but soon it was clearly time for bed.  We wanted Madison to get into bed early tonight, just because of all the activity coming up.  It's best to get rested up, and Madison was ready for an early night besides.

She'll sleep tight tonight.  And deep in that cornfield, so will those aliens...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Snow Lore

Mommy ordered a snow shovel because she has a hunch about this winter.  Of course, this blog six months from now will be the true test of whether or not she's right about her hunch - but even so, a snow shovel is a remarkably handy tool when the weather is pretty snowy.

So folks around here seem to think it will be a snowy winter.  Firstly, the Farmer's Almanac was right there at the front, leading the snow charge.  Next, the old snow lore started peeking it's head up.  Someone noted that the caterpillars were more black than brown, which is always a sign of snow, of course.  For your amusement, here are some bits of snow lore we found on the web:

* As many days old as is the moon on the first snow, there will be that many snowfalls by crop planting time.

* If ant hills are high in July, winter will be snowy.

*  See how high up in the trees the squirrels make their nests. If they are at the top of the tree you can be sure snow will come that winter.

*  If the first week in August is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long.

*  For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall the following winter.

*  If you see a fuzzy black caterpillar that means snow and the more you see the more snow you’ll have

*  If the oak trees produce a lot of acorns, there will be a hard winter. 

*  Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry will cause snow to gather in a hurry.

*  As high as the weeds grow, so will the bank of snow.

*  A green Christmas = a white Easter.

*  The thickness of the onion skins determines the severity of winter. Thick skin, alot of snow and cold. Thin skin, mild winter.

*  If the first snowfall lands on unfrozen ground, winter will be mild.

*  If there is thunder in winter, it will snow seven days later.

*  See how high the hornet’s nest, ’twill tell how high the snow will rest.

*  The higher muskrats’ holes are on the riverbank, the higher the snow will be.

*  A halo ’round the moon means ’twill rain or snow soon.

*  If a squirrels tail is really bushy, then expect a cold winter.

*  You can predict the harshness of the winter by the thickness of berries on Holly trees.

These are all completely true, because I found them on the internet.  My favorite one of all time might be from an episode of Newhart, from this guy, George:

I just remember him being certain snow would come because he saw a rabbit run into the woods.  From that day on, that's always been our indicator as a family.  If you see a rabbit run into the woods, by gum it's going to snow!

Nana and Ba-Ba were with us again today, although we didn't do anything near as adventurous as of late.  We attempted piano practice for a bit - it's getting a bit more difficult for Madison lately.  At least one song in particular.  

It is cool outside, and time to gather some kindling for the fire.  Daddy's been picking up some stacks of wood from a neighbor a few miles away - he's a nice guy selling big stacks of wood for a pretty cheap price.  We've got plenty of wood for the fireplace right now, and plan to pick up a lot more.  We'll be adding to the pile soon, and are certainly anxious for that first fire in the fireplace.

Mommy made a fantastic dinner for us, but when does she not do that?  She had this roasted chicken, which was enough to feed all of us, along with the roasted potatoes and carrots.  It was nice sitting and eating together.  And it was also nice getting a new Christmas tree.  Can't wait to share pics of that room when it is done, but we have a Christmas tree already in the office room - it's to the left when you first walk in the house.  We've got a fireplace there, Madison's keyboard, and of course the tree.  One highlight of that room is this HUGE picture we got, a painting of the Nativity scene, all nicely framed and ready for Christmas.  It was such a great deal, really hard to pass up.  And now, we'll be putting it up just in time for the Christmas season.

Tonight before bed, Daddy read a few books to Madison.  First, she's having me read to her this entire Winnie the Pooh series, "Lessons from 100 Acre Wood."  It's so great to go back to 100-Acre Wood again!  This is a book series we inherited somewhere along the line, but it has 18 or so books in it.  We're reading one per night, and Madison is quick to remind Daddy if he forgets.  So far, we're on book #4, and will no doubt finish up within a couple weeks at this rate, one per night!

This is the next book Daddy read - he got this for Madison from the Book Fair a few weeks ago.  The power goes out in town, and it's up to Pinkalicious to come up with a great idea to save Halloween for everyone.  Madison enjoyed the pictures and the story, and the pink pumpkins too.  This might be a trend that pops up next year - we'll see!

Daddy went to bed extremely early tonight, but not before sharing the cruise photos with Nana and Ba-Ba.  Everyone smiled and relived the memories, and immediately wished they were onboard the Dream once more.  Well, it just might be a while before that happens again - unless we dream about it.  Until then, goodnight... and pink-or-treat! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

4th Annual Pumpkin Carving Party

We had a tight rope walker at church this morning - he's seen above, talking from his chair, which happens to be on a tight rope.  It was a pretty cool message - he was talking about how tightrope walkers have a fixed point that they need to focus on, and even though the rope may sway, that point is unmoving.  Of course, the tie-in for our lives is that despite it all, our focused point should be Jesus.  It was a great illustration, and everyone enjoyed his simple message, although some of us were anxious for him to COME DOWN OFF OF THAT HIGH WIRE.

Madison was in service this morning as well, the theme of the day being "Pitfalls."  We were talking about running away from temptation, and remembering where the real treasures in life are.  Yes, we're still doing our video-game themed series, "Level Up."

When we got home, it was time for something special:  our Fourth Annual Pumpkin Carving Party!

Madison helped out with the cleaning of the guts, although she didn't get her hands in the gooey mess!  She used a spoon, as Daddy did the dirty work.  But he wasn't alone in that - there was plenty of goo to go around!

We had quite a few show up, everyone enjoying Mommy's chili recipe, and other dessert items, like pumpkin spice cake, Kona coffee, our spooky house brownies, orange and black dipping chips, and of course the brain cupcakes!

Jellied brains!  The munching went on throughout the afternoon, and into the night - and right away, the artists began to craft their pumpkins:

Madison was right there with us.  After cleaning out the insides, she designed her own face on the pumpkin, and Daddy sculpted it out for her.  I think it turned out fantastic!

The evening ended with the typical "family portrait" shot, where we put candles in each pumpkin and lined them up in front of the fireplace.  Daddy's is the bottom left - the Toy Story alien.  Josh's is bottom right, a grumpy Frankenstien sort of face.  Here's the official picture below:

It was a longer party, and a fun one.  Madison and the boys were playing "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1" and a few other games on the X-Box inside, while the grown-ups socialized, carved, and of course ate all the chili.  The weather was perfect outside for carving, and the day was wonderful.

To cap it all off, Ba-Ba and Nana arrived from Florida just as things were winding down.  They got to meet the friends, and see the pumpkins lit up in front of the fireplace.  One by one, everyone said their goodbyes, and Madison gave each one a hug.  Soon, it was time for her to go to bed - school is tomorrow!  But it was a very nice party, a perfect day for the final weekend in October!

Before saying goodnight - here's a copy of the "Pumpkin Story" I set up a few years ago.  The idea has been around for years, although I believe I copied and pasted the words from another place - can't remember who, so I can't exactly give credit there.  But the story has been around for years, and we thought we'd make a nice hand-out for the kids.  In fact, we're printing and handing these out again this year!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Monster House

Last night, Mommy made us some spooky house-shaped brownies to decorate, and we sure made some monster houses!  Madison said hers (above) was extra spooky because of all the eyeballs and bones.  You can't read it anymore, but she actually spelled out "KEEP OUT" in green across the center as well.  She did a great job, and of course enjoyed spending a lot of time decorating it.  Daddy's house is below:

This was somewhat the theme of the day - we watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" after this, which is a tradition that most of us in America have.  Please don't let it die - the "Peanuts" cartoons are essential holiday cartoons.  And they're still fun to this next generation:  Madison loved it.  She loves Snoopy, of course.  But the whole thing is fun for her.

Here's another animated character she loves:

Today we went to downtown Gainesville to do some trick-or-treating!  Madison dressed in her Merida costume from last Christmas, and got ready to get some candy!  Yes, by the time she was done, that pumpkin was 3/4 filled up with candy and prizes.  It was a nice afternoon watching all the kids dressed up, running from booth to booth to get candy.  There was also a place for face-painting and temporary tattoos:

Madison got some candy corn on her cheek, and an orange butterfly on the other cheek.  Note the baby photo-bombing us in the picture above!

It was a quick trip, and that was okay because it was a full day.  Earlier, we went to the school's Fall Festival, which had all kinds of things to do.  Madison didn't have to dress up for this one - we went out to the school, and jumped up and down in the bouncy houses, and the large inflatable slide too.  There were all kinds of games of chance:  Madison tried a frisbee toss, fishing for rubber ducks, hockey slap shots, and even throwing a soaking wet sponge at a teacher's face!

We spent a little time there, and spent most of the day moving from one thing to another.  It was a busy day, but that's the thing about this year:  there's so much to do!  

Of course, there was work to do as well:  Madison spent a lot of time with her piano practice, doing songs like "Enchanted Forest" and "Sneaky Snake."  These feature the A minor scale.  Mommy and Daddy spent a lot of time moving things downstairs, and cleaning out one particular room.  We'll post photos when we're done, but this year we'll actually have an extra Christmas tree that we can put by the front window.  It'll look pretty.  We moved the fake fireplace over to the wall - so it parallels the room with the real fireplace.  And of course, Madison's keyboard will be there next to a small table with a lamp on it.  It'll look nice when we get done - as will the cleaned out basement.  We've got a lot stuffed down there presently, but with new furniture down there, at least we'll begin to have things a bit more organized.  Speaking of which, tomorrow looks to be all set up: we have a few extra pumpkins for our 4th Annual Pumpkin Carving Party.  It's going to be another great day!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Tooth Fairy Strikes Again

This morning, the Tooth Fairy took note of the gaps in Madison's teeth - one on each side of her front two teeth - and had a little fun with a pumpkin carving!  There was a bag around the stem, and a strobe light inside the pumpkin - Madison woke up this morning in a dark room, looking up and seeing the pumpkin on the other side, smiling at her.

Daddy and Mommy dropped Madison off at school today, as we went together to a room at the school to learn about the new technology that we're allowed to bring into the school.  Although another unit is probably better for us due to connectivity issues, we're sticking with the Kindle for now, as she can read books and so forth, and it's just 1st grade - how much technology could she possibly need right now?  I know, don't answer that.  But there are computers there at the school, and we will get her more advanced items later on - we're just making a judgment call right now that the Kindle gives her what she needs in sight words, math challenges, and other learning apps as well.

It was a big day for Madison - and Mommy too.  But Daddy's day at work ended at about 8:30 pm or so, when he raced home to say goodnight to Madison.  He also read a few seasonal books, first one about a square pumpkin named Spookley.  We learned through this story that Huey Lewis was indeed right:  it's hip to be square.  Daddy has also been reading a series of books for Madison - today was book #2 of a Winnie the Pooh story series covering different virtues.  They're good books, and Madison is anxious to hear them read.  Also on deck for tomorrow:  another Shaoey and Dot book, where both will overcome their fear of thunderstorms.  Madison said tonight that thunderstorms frighten her as well, so this may be good timing.

We've been moving a lot of furniture downstairs, although slowly.  This front room is about to be converted into something quite different, and our DVD collection is heading downstairs.  Once you've amassed a larger collection of DVDs, it's difficult to figure out what to do with them, beyond putting them on a shelf.  And with our collection, we had filled quite a few shelves - we just had a lot of movies along the way, not having cable or satellite.  A lot of Disney, of course, for Madison.  Okay, and for us too.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Madison lost another tooth today!

It was the one on the other side of her two front teeth, so she's effectively got a mouth like Mater - two buck teeth with an empty spot on either side.  She was pretty excited about this news today, which was surprising in that less than a week ago, she lost the other tooth.  Tonight before bed, she was quick to remember the little bag that holds her tooth - now safely underneath her pillow.  Who knows what the Tooth Fairy has planned this time!  Stay tuned until tomorrow - this one will be fun, I'm sure...!

We had ballet tonight, which was a return for Madison, having missed last week.  She had a great time - Daddy sat outside the door and listened in to all the routines, and calls for different positions.  Daddy was stuck there for the hour and a quarter, so he wound up sitting in the hallway playing "Star Wars Angry Birds 2."  This is one of those back-and-forth games that Madison and Daddy keep taking turns with, trying to advance further and further.  It's a fun game - there are actually some great ones on the Kindle that we've been enjoying.  This latest edition of Angry Birds is a great time-killer.

We got home and did some piano, and had dinner too.  Daddy read a few books, and had Madison check out Raz Kids online (the school's online book-reading program).  As noted here earlier, you can send messages to your child to encourage them - but Daddy and Mommy sent a note of a different kind this time.

We mentioned earlier an assembly program called NED that was at her school.  One of the illustrations they use is that of a yo-yo, which is used to talk about persistence, and never giving up.  This is pretty much the main focus of the program.  CONVENIENTLY, they sell these yo-yos... what a trap!  So of course, Mommy and Daddy were at the school this morning, and picked one up for Madison - a pink one.

She mentioned wanting a yo-yo yesterday, and we just so happened to be at the school this morning.  Madison said a few others in her classroom got yo-yos, so the parental peer pressure was on.  By gum, Madison was getting a yo-yo!

SO ANYWAY, her note told her that a caterpillar had a gift for her - a caterpillar that likes candy corn. Of course, that's Heimlich, who is still guarding the candy corn over in the kitchen.  Madison went to go see him, and there she found her very own pink yo-yo.

Madison has never used a yo-yo before, so it took a little practice and encouragement from Daddy.  But the motto is - written conveniently on the side of the yo-yo:  NEVER GIVE UP.  You should have seen the smile on her face.  It's these little things, these little moments that are such a blessing.  To us, a yo-yo is such an old toy that pretty much everyone has.  But then we remembered that Madison has never used one before.  It just never came around, and isn't exactly one of those toys that you've got to have.  So Madison is sitting there in the kitchen, gleefully checking out her new pink yo-yo.

Soon she'll be doing all kinds of wild tricks, like the loop the loop, around the world, hop the fence, atom smasher, brain twister, over and under, boingy boing, double green triangle, walk the dog, rock the baby, Jamaican flag, iron whip, slack trapeze, hidemasa hook, and "the Man on the flying trapeze and his brother."  I just looked these up - they're real tricks you can do with a yo-yo.  Daddy can do about one trick right now, and that's make it come back up again.  The great news is that Madison can do that too - she loves her new yo-yo.

Tonight Daddy was carving something you'll read about tomorrow, as Mommy as preparing Madison's new shirt for "Spirit Day."  Having "Spirit Day" so close to Halloween could cause some confusion, but we're pretty sure it's "School Spirit."  Today was a themed day too - it was a day where kids were encouraged to dress in camouflage, which somehow is tied to a "drug free" school?  First of all, if all the kids were wearing camouflage, how did the teachers find them?  Secondly, what does camouflage have to do with not using drugs?  I have a few guesses on that, I should have looked it up.  Regardless, Madison looked great in her new camouflage outfit that Mommy got for her.

We went to Aldi's today to get more pumpkins for our carving party coming up - but we've also been getting this delicious sparkling pumpkin cider.  It's a wonderful time of year:  Count Chocula for breakfast, sparkling apple cider, chili for lunch.  We've also got this pumpkin coffee blend that is out of this world.  There are so many yummy treats this time of year, and we haven't even got to the chocolate for Halloween yet!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It's chilly outside - currently 47 degrees, which makes for a slightly below normal temperatures in October.  This is the kind of weather that makes you want to go out and get firewood, which we will do of course, tomorrow.  Today was a big day at work, and a return to tennis practice for Madison.  She had a lot of time to practice, as including her, there were only four students in attendance.  That's alright by her, and alright by us.  One of these days, Daddy will get to see her practice - it's just that this is always on Wednesday just before our services.  Tonight especially, as Daddy was speaking to the audience about prayer.  Using our video game format, Daddy used the movie "Tron" as an example.  Here's a brief excerpt:

“Pray without ceasing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIrV

     One of the first movies to really incorporate computer animation was the movie “Tron.”   This makes sense because most of the film takes place within a computer world.  In the movie, a computer programmer named Kevin Flynn is considered a threat to the bad guys, and is suddenly zapped into a world of video games, programs and a menacing MCP computer system that has ideas of taking over all computers everywhere.
     In his attempt to escape this incredible world, Flynn joins forces with a program named Tron, who is a force of good in this in cyber world.  Tron happens to be the ultimate warrior, but he must get all of his instructions from the person who created him.  Risking everything, Flynn and Tron go to the secret place where Tron can communicate with his creator – and hopefully save their world.
     It doesn’t take all that much for us to communicate with our creator.  We don’t have to risk our lives or fear being zapped by video game bad guys.  Yet unfortunately, many of us don’t spend that much time talking to God in prayer.  What a shame, too – because He has great plans for all of us, and wants to share with us information that can save our world.  Today as you read, remember to set aside time to talk to God in prayer.  With enough prayer, you too can be a strong warrior in this world.

     It went over pretty well, in fact a great night at KidPak.  Daddy came home late as always, and Madison was in bed asleep there.  But he did get to say goodnight to her from the computer.  It's always sweet, because several people from the office are there to wish her a good night.

     Mommy had chili ready - which went along great with the chilly weather.  This is honestly the best chili I've ever tasted.  She's made the recipe herself, based a little on the Wendy's recipe, from what I understand.  This is perfect chili.  The only thing that could possibly make it better would be to add crushed Oreos.  This is something we remember trying back in the nineties, based on the Lethal Weapon movies.  In one of those movies, Martin Riggs asks if someone likes their chili with or without crushed Oreos.  This was intriguing to a few friends, so one night we tried it out!  Yep, it tastes exactly as it sounds, which is to say, not that great.  That said, we'll stick with Mommy's current recipe - it's absolutely perfect!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Toy Story of Terror

We missed this last week when it first aired, but thanks to the internet, we were able to sit down and watch it from start to finish - without any commercials!  "Toy Story of Terror" brought back all the characters, and some genuine adventure that Pixar is so good at creating for kids and kids-at-heart.  We all had a good time watching this tonight, and a few other specials.  Madison enjoyed it of course, particularly the bits with Jessie, who has the most heroic part of the special.  What's great is that creepy vibe, but keeping it safe for the kids (and kids-at-heart).  Honestly, Mommy and Daddy have a "creepy line" that is nowhere near as far as others.  We don't go for horror movies in general, and stuff like this is fun for the season, and that's about it.

Along those lines, before bed, Daddy read a book to Madison:  "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  Having just seen it the other day, the characters are fresh in Madison's mind.  Daddy remembers seeing this movie in the theater the first time it came out, and even now is singing the songs in his head.  She enjoyed the reading, although I'm probably not as eloquent as Christopher Lee when reading the poem.

Earlier in the afternoon, we had piano as we always do.  Mrs. Pam is injecting a bit of Halloween fun into the practices, with creepy noises that come from her programmed piano - the kids squealed at the fun noises.  We've got some interesting chords to master - I say "we," because Daddy has to learn all this alongside Madison.  Things are getting more complicated, but Madison is keeping pace rather well.  The design of the class is such that she can keep up, and Mrs. Pam is very good at what she does.  It's a fun class, and the kids are all improving quite rapidly.  This week, we'll catch up with our practicing - it's been a challenge to do that the last few weeks.

Madison was at school today of course, and learning with Ned.  This is a new assembly program, or at least a new one to her.  They teach all sorts of concepts, but the big one seems to be "never give up."  In fact, that's what the N in "Ned" stands for.  I forgot what the other two letters stand for.  Thank goodness it is a simple name like Ned.  Could you imagine creating an educational acronym for someone like Sebastian or Mahershalalhashbaz?

Anyway, Daddy printed up some stuff from Ned's website today, activities for the kids to do at home.  Now we have a Ned door hanger on the bathroom that says "never give up."  There are all sorts of implications here, but I'm going to change the subject.

The fall weather is here, and cooler winds are sweeping across our dry state.  Although it did rain a bit this morning.  This was not in the forecast, and nobody expected it.  It wasn't any steady downpour, but rather a bit of drizzle to start the day off.  That quickly burned away to follow the pattern of this month: outside of a tropical depression, we've been much dryer.  Yet the forecast looks slightly threatening for Halloween night - we'll have to keep an eye on that, as there is still plenty of time for that to change.

Tonight Madison slept well, as did we all.  Daddy went to bed early, still catching up apparently.  But not before catching Agent Coulson on television.

This isn't the version we saw, but Madison and Daddy did see a Lego Agent Coulson on the sample Lego Marvel game.  Madison's excited about this one, but so are we.  Christmas is on the way, which means all kinds of new and fun games.  Speaking of which, the Christmas shopping is continuing - early, of course.  We could stop now, and Madison would have an incredible Christmas.  We probably should stop, but there are always a few more items to pick up along the season.  No matter how or when we pick them up, it's looking like it will be a relaxing shopping season for us.  Can you believe that's only a little over a week away?  Neither can we!

Monday, October 21, 2013


Tonight we watched "Hotel Transylvania" once more, this of course a gift from the Tooth Fairy.  Or Tinkerbell.  Whoever it is a gift from, we enjoyed the  movie again - it's one of those that gets better each time you see it.  Madison did not wear her vampire teeth for the flick, although she's had these in her mouth quite frequently the last few days.  You hear her voice sort of muffled and you know she's coming around the corner to scare you.  Or perhaps bite you.  She loves the teeth!

The thing is, she's got another tooth coming out soon.  It's the matching one on the other side, and it's wiggling just as much.  Once that comes out, she'll have just the two teeth in the middle, and will probably look a bit like Mater!

We had a lot of catching up to do with piano, obviously - we did manage to do a lot of practice this afternoon, when not rocking back in forth in our heads.  The waves - we still feel them!  Madison did a lot of work playing songs - she's planning to play "Morning" for her Fall Piano Recital, so we were getting better and better with that as well.

We didn't have any homework, but Daddy did spend a little while reading to Madison before bed.  Also, she found something on the X-box:  a sneak peek at the upcoming Lego Marvel Game.  We actually played a bit there, and she was really into that.  I'm not sure when that game will be at the house - we've got so many other ones that we might not see this one until Valentine's Day.  Which sounds like a plan, as there's a Lego movie coming out around that time.  We could have a Lego-themed Valentine's Day.

But that's February.  Today is October - the end of October at that.  We've got lots going on in the days to come, and certainly a lot under our belts.  We're certainly keeping busy!

Anyway, tonight was an early night for everyone tonight, which is the funny thing about vacations:  you need to rest after a vacation!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Halloween on the High Seas

So here we are, back home again after another fun adventure.  God's grace was once again all over us, as everyone was healthy and the weather was absolutely perfect.  We had a lot of exploring time, and a lot of fun time, and a lot of relaxing time too.  But best of all, there was a lot of family time.

We left early to make the drive to Port Canaveral, this time in two cars.  The reason for this is that on Sunday, we'll be traveling in two different directions to go home.  We made it without much incident, Madison looking out the windows as we got closer, just so she could see the ocean again, and the Disney Dream.

Boarding was no problem, as always.  We had no wait in the big lobby, other than the check-in line.  We didn't have much time there, really, because soon we were ushered through the magical mouse ears and onto the Disney Dream.

As always, our names were called out as we entered.  As we were announced, we took in the lobby once again - this was our second time on the Dream, but this time it was decorated for Halloween on the High Seas.  Pumpkins and decorative bunting hung from the balconies, and in the corner of the lobby stood a tall tree, barren and waiting to bloom.  That would come later, of course.

When you get on the boat, most of the time, the rooms are not ready yet.  And most of the time, the luggage finds its way to the rooms even later.  We plan for this well, carrying on swimsuits and other essentials in a carry-on bag.

The first thing you do on a cruise is the thing we do a lot of on a cruise:  eat.  Eat, eat and eat.  Our first destination was the Enchanted Garden, where the grandparents were introduced to the incredible buffets that would be a theme of the cruise.  Mommy's special dietary needs were met to the letter - in fact, for the rest of this cruise, orders were taken in advance:  Mommy placed orders for all of her food one day earlier, and everything was ready for the most part on the next day.  It had to be specially prepared, and always was - Mommy never had any problems whatsoever on this entire cruise.  What a blessing that was!

Already we were noticing decorations onboard, carved pumpkins and displays.  The large round windows had stickers on them, making each window a happy jack-o-lantern.  Madison loves those round windows - each one had a place to sit or even lay down in if you are small enough.  Madison is small enough, so she curls up right in the window.  It is honestly her favorite spot in the whole boat - just pick a window and she's there!

We did a bit of exploring before we could get to our rooms - we took advantage of this time to look at the Oceaneer Club.  Parents (and grandparents) were allowed in, so we explored the different rooms there as well.  It was here that we noticed something missing though:  it was Madison's new stuffed animal.  Nana got her a lamb yesterday - and somewhere on this boat, Madison left it behind.  Was it on a window?  Was it in the restaurant?  We went back and looked, but could not find it.  This was just one of our themes of the trip - it was on the boat, and by gum, it would turn up in Lost and Found, wouldn't it?  Daddy and Nana visited there several times throughout the cruise just to check, and if you want to know if we got it, you'll have to keep reading!

The rooms became available, and we were quite pleased with them.  Our room connected with Nana and Baba's room, and both had a veranda that overlooked the harbor.  Across the way, we could see the Carnival cruise ship, who we would be "racing" back and forth across the Caribbean.  Of course, we won each race!

We had enough time before the mandatory life boat drill, so we got changed into our bathing suits, and yep, we hit the pool.  We were in the deeper pool to begin with, but Madison also was thrilled to run around in Nemo's Reef, a children's play area with lots of interactive things to get you wet.  You can slide down a manta ray's back, go through a rain curtain or point a sea horse at someone and watch it squirt water.  The line for the Aqua Duck was already pretty huge, so we avoided that - besides, we didn't have that much time.  And Madison was having a great time anyway, so we just let her run around.

The life boat drill was what it always is, but Madison was behaving well here.  Iceberg jokes were made here and there - Nana mentioned that she didn't see any.  Daddy reminded her that the crew on the Titanic didn't see them coming either.  Madison has no fear of boats.  Actually, none of us really do.

After the life boat drill, it was time to sail away and out of the harbor.  As always, there's a Sailing Away party on the deck, one that we watched.  The big Disney horn tooted "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and confetti shot everywhere.  This is another theme of the cruise:  confetti.  So much of it!

We sat along the rail of the ship, in the shadow of the towering smoke stacks.  We looked down twelve stories and saw people waving, pelicans dive bombing - and even flying fish trying to avoid those pesky seagulls (rats with wings - mine, mine!).

Soon, it was time for our first meal.  We went back to the Enchanted Garden, where Nana and Ba-Ba were introduced to the first dinner course of the cruise.  It was incredible.  Daddy goes crazy over all the seafood there, while Mommy ate in comfort all sorts of food that was safe for her to eat, and delicious as well.  Madison meanwhile ate her usual fare, although the staff was sure to give her lots of ketchup.  A special touch:  each time, they were required to make the shape of a Mickey as they poured their ketchup out.  Just perfect!

The meal was fantastic, as was the dessert.  After we ate, we walked down the hall to the lobby once again, where a rather dramatic woman was telling a story under the pumpkin tree.  There was no pumpkin on the tree though - right now it seemed like a dead old tree with a big face on it.  The woman told stories of the Headless Horseman, someone Madison saw just a few nights ago at home.  She also told stories about carving pumpkins and about a seed that each of us could put in her special cauldron.  Once planted, these seeds would blossom on the tree before us - each one into a large, already carved pumpkin!

The story over, it was time for many of us to go to the Walt Disney Theater.  There, we were treated to the first of three huge productions, "The Golden Mickeys."  This show we saw last year on the Dream. In fact, we saw all three of these shows before.  But the thing about this one is that we saw it first in Hong Kong when we were at Disneyland for the first time with Madison.  This seems so long ago!  But there we were again, seeing it for the third time, and enjoying it quite a bit.  For all the shows we got seats about four or five rows back, and in the center - perfect viewing!

Once the show was over with, we looked around the onboard shops a bit, although we didn't see much this time.  We did get a few pins, including a "Halloween on the High Seas 2013" pin.  There is only one this year, so we snatched it up to put in our book at home.  Our pin collection is growing quite a bit!

We were pretty ready for bed after this, believe it or not.  It was quite a day, and we knew the next few days would be long as well.  So we went back to our rooms, retiring for the night.  As usual, the rooms were prepared for us, with towel animals and chocolate.  There was a full moon over the veranda, and we all sat there for some time, watching out over the vast expanse of deep blue ocean water, feeling the sea breeze wash over us.  It is quite an invigorating thing to do - rest for your body and spirit.

Daddy made his traditional trip up to the deck to get Mommy tea, of course.  People were swimming, eating, partying all over - but we were ready to turn in.  We'd be up before many of them, no doubt.  And this was true!

We woke up early - really early.  Daddy actually got up around 5:50 am, which is only about ten minutes before we usually wake up at home.  The difference is that we were on a cruise, and supposed to sleep in.  However, Daddy was up - and so was Mommy after a little bit.  Madison was snoozing quite peacefully in her converted bed.  It's a couch that they prepare into a bed each night.  She was sleeping beside Alice, so Daddy and Mommy snuck by her to sit out on the balcony.  Ah, it was dark, but you could see a bit of light beginning to rise.  We were actually facing the east, so we'd get to see the sun rise.  Daddy went upstairs to get tea for us, and we sat there, taking in the show.  Slowly, very slowly, the sun rose over the water, beautifully as it always is.  We did not, I must note, see any green flash.  This may or may not be a good thing, as we were not interested in any encounters with Davy Jones.

Madison woke up when the sun was still rising, so she got to see it for herself as well - such a beautiful sight.  In fact, Nana and Ba-Ba stirred next door, and we heard their veranda door open.  Everyone was watching from their viewpoints quietly as we sailed south, south, south to Nassau.

After getting ready, Madison and Daddy escaped the room to go play a bit while the others got ready themselves.  We did something you simply have to do on a cruise ship:  shuffleboard!

Madison got very good at it towards the end.  She finally figured out the "sliding" part of it, rather than sitting there and trying to hit it.  In fact, she landed on a perfect ten at the end, beating Daddy one round.  You go, girl!

We were stalling a bit out on the deck, because just inside, people were assembling and getting in line to meet the princesses.  We joined in on the line, about in tenth place or so.  This is worth mentioning because by the time the princesses came into the lobby, the line to meet them stretched around the lobby and down the hall towards the front of the boat.  Quite a line!  The attraction is simple:  where else can you get your kids to meet five princesses in one swoop?

Madison met each one, and spent a lot more time talking with them this time.  That's the great thing about these character meet and greets:  it's not just, "Stand here, pose for a picture, and I'll sign your autograph book, kid."  It's some brief quality time together - Madison was talking about her dress with Ariel (it was a homemade dress that was donated to us).  She was talking with Aurora about curtseying, and talking with Belle about having a nightgown that looked just like Belle's dress.  Cinderella learned about Madison's wiggly tooth, and that she had a blue dress just like hers as well.  Nana, Ba-Ba and Mommy didn't miss the show:  from above, they got to see Madison interact with each princess, and were quite happy to see her have such a good time.

We ate afterwards, back at the Enchanted Garden once more.  This time, they were ready with Mommy's order, and the rest of us were ready to chow down!  I must note here how delicious the fruit was - it was like candy!  Daddy got salmon and fish, and of course a Mickey Waffle.  You have to get one of those.  It's perfect for syrup.

Today was ironic.  Ironic, because we were at Nassau.  Daddy took pictures of the lighthouse as we passed by, and backed into the harbor.  It's a nice place, but the irony is this:  we never got off the boat today.  That's right.  We went to Nassau, and never got off the boat.  There are a few explanations for this:  one is that we've been to Nassau at least five times.  Once you've seen the straw market, shopped downtown, climbed Victoria's steps and walked around Ardastra Gardens, you've sort of seen the local "atmosphere."  We've done that quite a few times now, and we didn't think that Madison would enjoy it as much as the pool on the Dream.  In fact, we asked her, already knowing the answer.  "Pool or Nassau?"  Her answer, without flinching:  "Pool!"

And we know the Atlantis resort nearby has aquariums, a beach and a water slide.  Atlantis trips are quite a bit of an investment, and the thing is, we have aquariums at home, we have a beach day tomorrow, and we have the Aquaduck just upstairs, on this boat!

So our decision was made final over breakfast.  Rather than hit the pools right away, we did something we've done a lot of this year:  mini-golf.  We did this on the boat, of course.  Goofy's mini-golf upstairs is designed really well, considering it is on a boat.  It has a funny sense of humor too, an instructional guide to playing golf, all with that Goofy sense of humor.  Resting in the harbor, we took turns putting the course - Daddy isn't quite sure who won, but he had a great blind shot that went in.  Completely behind a bucket of golf balls, he rebounded it in, and the crowd went wild!

After golf, it was time for some pool fun.  Madison, Daddy and Mommy were in the Mickey Pool a bit, while they played some movies on the Funnel vision.  Mommy eventually joined Nana and Ba-Ba on some deck chairs in the shade, and having a nice relaxing vacation.

Next came a great moment in the vacation:  Mommy, Madison, Nana and Ba-Ba all got to ride on the Aquaduck!

It was a first for Mommy, which made Daddy pretty excited.  He took lots of pictures!

But then Nana and Ba-Ba also rode it too!  All of them got really wet, but they had a great time, and now they can say they did it!  They rode the Aquaduck!

We were at the pool a little longer here - in fact, we didn't keep an eye on the clock, because we had an appointment at the Disney Theater again.  And there was lunch to consider too!  We got changed back at our rooms - we now had neighbors outside:  the Carnival ships were just pulling in.  While playing golf, we could see them on the horizon, slowly coming in.  As soon as we were changed, we went upstairs once more, this time to a new place for lunch:  Cabanas.  This restaurant has windows that overlook pretty much everything.  And it has a ton of food and fruit and seafood and... well, you get the drift.  We ate more than we ever would anywhere else on this cruise, but it was all just so good.  Daddy got a piece of pumpkin pie, just because it was that time of year.  But we all got ice cream too.  Ba-Ba was sampling different cakes - but the main courses were delicious too.

But here's a special moment.  Madison bit into an apple, and finally lost one of her teeth.  She lost her tooth on the Disney Cruise.  We've been waiting and waiting for these wiggly teeth to come out, and finally one comes out, on the Disney Cruise.  The odds of this happening are fantastic.  But there's more to this part of the story of course, as she has yet to put the tooth under her pillow.  That comes later tonight.

After eating, we went back downstairs to the Walt Disney Theater, where we found some great seats once more - this time for a special viewing of "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  This was a "4-D" event, where there was special lighting, poofs of smoke, bubbles, and even snow falling at all the right moments in the movie.  Best of all, as Jack and Sally were embracing at the end, up from a lift in the stage rose Jack and Sally, two costumed characters who were ready to meet and greet everyone in the theater.

Madison spent some time talking to Jack and Sally about her tooth.  It was an apple, she said.  Sally asked, "Was it a poison apple?"  "No!" Madison laughed.  Then she pointed to her tooth and started to talk about the blood and bone and so forth, which was so appropriate for these two characters when you think about it.  They even all posed together for a photo, with Jack and Sally pointing at Madison's missing tooth.  This was such a cool moment.

As soon as the movie was over, we went back to our rooms for a tiny bit.  As mentioned earlier, we had been dropping by guest services to see if anyone had found Madison's missing lamb.  There was no manner of luck in that, but there was a special item in her room:  Lotso the Bear.  I'm not making that up.  They left a note to say they were still searching, and asked if Madison could watch over Lotso now as well.  He really smells like strawberries too, Madison said.  They actually gave her a replacement plush animal!  But that story isn't over with yet either.

So the next thing on the schedule was the Mickey's Mouse-querade party.  This was a chance to do a little trick-or-treating on the boat.  Madison dressed as Elizabeth Swan in her Chinese pirate queen costume, as Mommy and Daddy dressed as pirates as well.  All five of us went to the lobby, where all the characters were dressed up in a dance party of sorts.  There were games there for the kids, and everyone was dressed up in a costume.  There was an Asian family dressed as the Addams Family, which was perfect.  There was another family dressed as characters from the movie "Up."  The mom was dressed as the house, complete with balloons, and the older sister was Kevin the bird.  Of course, the Dad was Carl, and the son was Russell.  The tree bloomed, by the way.  Last night, pumpkins magically appeared on the old dead tree, each one carved with a silly face.

Madison loaded up on more candy.  Her thing is inventorying it all when she gets back to the room, lining up and organizing her loot.  She did get a lot, although you really have to fight your way through the crowds to find these trick-or-treat locations.  Still, free candy is free candy, and the whole idea of actually going trick-or-treating on a boat was pretty cool!

So here we were at dinner again.  It was just down the hall.  We were dressed as pirates, and in we stomped right into the Royal Palace.  That's the restaurant of the night.  We wandered all over the place before finally finding our table, and that was because the server that we were following couldn't find it! But eventually he did, as our little pirate parade gave the whole restaurant a show.  Food was very good, of course.  We ate a lot of it, of course.  Daddy had chateaubriand, which was good - although not as good as the one special night he had it with Mommy some time ago.  But this was the first time he had eaten some of it since that special day, which brought back sweet memories.  It was Valentine's Day, and we weren't even married yet.  Daddy took Mommy to the Sundial, a restaurant in Atlanta that is at the top of a building there.  The restaurant rotates so that you can see the whole of Atlanta as you eat.

See how one piece of food can bring back memories?  Anyway, presently, everyone else was eating too - and eating well.  Madison was having a good time with her new friend sitting beside her, another young girl who was also having the time of her life.  Madison makes new friends easily, doing this over and over again throughout the cruise.  Whoever she sits next to, she has a good time with!

Daddy left with her a little early, before dessert in fact.  But we were on a mission:  to see Jack Sparrow.  Nana, Ba-Ba and Mommy joined us down there just in time - Madison met with Captain Jack once again, having him sign her autograph book.  That he did, and he was quick to notice how familiar that pirate costume she was wearing was.  Was Madison dressed as Elizabeth Swan?  Ah, indeed she was!

We were moving along a lot tonight - so much to do on these boats.  While Nana and Ba-Ba were getting back to the rooms for a bit, Mommy, Daddy and Madison went up to the top deck for the pirate party.  Yes, back again to see Mickey and friends teach us all how to be good pirates.  Of course, when Captain Hook shows up, he's in big trouble, because he has no idea how good of a pirate we all can be.  Madison was later heard chanting out, "Captain Hook is a codfish!  Captain Hook is a codfish!"

When that ended we went back downstairs to the Walt Disney Theater, there to see the second big production, "Villains Tonight."  This was another great production, one we saw last year.  It is often hilarious, and filled with great Disney villain characters.  It has Kronk in it as well, which goes to show you the depth of the casting.  Everyone loved this show - each one is spectacular.

But this time around, everyone was pretty zonked afterwards.  We went back to the room earlier tonight, just for our own sanity.  It was such a busy, full day - and again:  we never left the boat!  We were out on the open water again tonight, this time heading north towards Castaway Cay.  We waved goodbye in the general direction of Nassau, and put our heads down on our pillows.

Of course, one of us put something special under her pillow first!


Once again we were all up early, this time watching the sun rise over Castaway Cay.  Madison woke up with a surprise:  Not only had the Tooth Fairy come, but Tinkerbell had come too!  Amazingly, she had a bag with sparkles in it, with a Cheshire Cat pin that said "I lost a tooth!"  Also, chocolate gold coins, and another special surprise:  "Hotel Transylvania" and some vampire teeth to replace her temporary missing one.  The Tooth Fairy has been holding on to those since FEBRUARY, just waiting for her to lose one of those wiggly teeth, and hoping it would happen in October.  And boy, did it happen in October.  Not only just in time before Halloween, but actually on board the Disney Dream!

We woke up watching the sun rise, and went to our restaurant of choice early:  the Enchanted Garden.  We had breakfast again there, and were actually wearing our swimsuits underneath.  The  mission:  get to Castaway Cay earlier.  Everyone else stayed up late last night, so get there early we did.

We had a prime spot on the beach, and the weather had yet to reach that unbearably hot stage.  Mommy can't take much sun, but then again neither can many of us  (except for Madison, it seems!).  But we were out there this morning in the water, watching for fish and building sand castles too.  Mommy got some implements to dig and sculpt, as Daddy and Madison built and built their monuments of sand.  It started out as if we were building a beach resort/castle - but in the end, it was looked less resort-like, and resembled Helm's Deep.  So that's what we made it, and left it as, defending the vacationing travelers from sand orcs.

We did a lot of splashing and swimming and enjoying the beach in the morning, and after that what do you think we did?  That's right, we ate.  Yep, we ate at the Bar-B-Que place, and ate well there also.  They actually had food ready for Mommy there, even a cheeseburger with a gluten-free bun.  We all had burgers or barbecue, corn and spicy mahi-mahi.  And the fruit again.  It's so delicious!  And nearly all of us ate ice cream after that - you just can't help yourself!

We had spent a lot of time at the beach - but the weather was getting warmer, and it was a wise decision to get all of our party back on the boat.  Daddy and Madison went straight to the upper deck to swim some more (this is where Daddy should have put on more sunscreen).  Mommy spent some time packing, while Nana and Ba-Ba did some resting as well.  Daddy and Madison walked right on the Aquaduck two times in a row, swam in the Mickey pool, played around in Nemo's Reef, shared an ice cream in deck chairs, and even got in the jacuzzi.  Can you believe this jacuzzi has a glass bottom that lets you looks down eleven stories to the surface of the ocean down there?  Madison had never been in a jacuzzi before - she just treated it like a hot bath.  We could look over the side of the boat, overlooking Castaway Cay, and guess what we saw in the water below?  A sea turtle, mate!  It sat there taking in air at the surface, just floating there for a while.

We got back to the room, and Mommy was mostly packed.  You see, we have to have our luggage out of the room tonight (except for carry-on baggage).

After drying off and getting changed, we went back to the lobby once more, this time to meet Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.  Daddy was actually second in line, so we were in pretty quickly there.  Madison was very playful with all of them, wanting to tickle each one's nose.  These pictures of her turned out so great, because she was smiling so big.  Extra cool is that these characters were dressed up in costumes for the entire cruise:  Mickey was a vampire, Pluto a candy corn, Goofy was a mummy and Donald was a superhero.  The others were in costumes as well - it's been such a great cruise!

So next we were bound for our final big meal of the cruise:  the Animator's Palate.  This was simply the best meal Daddy's ever eaten in his life:  red snapper, salmon tartar, butternut squash soup, and this rich dark chocolate walnut cake - it was all so good.  The staff came out to sing Happy Birthday to Daddy and Nana, and Crush the Turtle came by to visit everyone seated alongside the walls of the restaurant.  It was a spectacular meal to end the cruise on - we feel like anything else we eat from now on is just merely there to fill our stomachs, whereas this... this is real food!

We hustled to the Pumpkin Tree once more, where our old friend was telling more spooky stories.  The ghost tree gave a startling "moo-ah-ah-ah" and the kids were delighted to see a poof of more confetti shoot out from the tree and rain down upon them.  This was the fourth confetti down pouring so far, and not the final one.  During "The Nightmare Before Christmas," small white discs rained down with Jack Skellington's face on them.  Each production had a confetti cannon shooting out Golden Mickeys, or colorful tissue paper - and Madison had to have a collection of each before she left the theater.

That's where we went next:  the last production of the night.  It was a show called "Believe," and it's pretty much the best one of the cruise.  The others are spectacular too - it's just that this one might be our favorite.  Madison was tired, but kept awake as all kinds of characters came to visit, from Merlin to Mary Poppins to Peter Pan to Princess Tiana.  There were a lot more characters, of course.  Over the course of these three nights, there have been many, many, many characters - too many to list here.  She's seen just about everyone on this trip - it's been so much fun.

But the next thing we saw was our rooms.  We were at the end of a marathon, but a thrilling one at that.  Daddy went upstairs to get tea and drinks, and we all sat on our verandas one last time to take in the wonderful view of the sea.  Everything packed, Mommy put the bags outside the staterooms, and we said our prayers as always, thanking God for a wonderful trip.

We woke up extremely early this morning - already in Port Canaveral.  Daddy and Mommy watched out the veranda, as did Madison - we saw the Carnival cruise ships coming in.  Yep, we beat 'em again!  Of course, Daddy didn't explain that these were all scheduled to arrive at these times - to Madison, is was a bit of a race!

We said goodbye to our rooms, and went to the Animator's Palate once more for breakfast.  Mommy had gluten-free pancakes, but there was no way she could eat them all!  That's a theme of the quantities they give you here:  you just can't eat it all!

After saying our goodbyes to the waiting staff, we wandered down the hall once more.  Sort of like zombies, as everyone was pretty tired.  We filled out our paperwork, and took a last look around the lobby.  It was a great cruise, wasn't it?  So full of favor and blessing.  Two and a half years ago, we watched as it was christened.  And here we were, about to exit once again.  We'll be back, I'm sure.  We were already discussing where we would cruise next time.  Maybe Alaska?  That would be a dream come true for Daddy.  But I know the whole family would enjoy that.  We'll see where the future takes us, but for now, we're all quite rested, rejuvenated and simultaneously worn out!

We stepped off the boat and found our luggage quite easily.  Customs was a breeze, and in the parking garage, we said our goodbyes to Nana and Ba-Ba.  It's been a lovely cruise!  Madison was ready for a nap in the car - she would sleep until around 10:30 or so.  Mommy slept on and off all day.  We said goodbye, and were so incredibly thankful and blessed.

Daddy needed a little caffeine for the trip home, but we made it without incident.  We stopped frequently at rest areas, or to pick something up at Wendy's for Madison.  But it was a fast trip home - we made it in around eight hours or so.

Tonight, we did piano practice - yes, back to the "old grind."  We skyped Nana and Ba-Ba - can you believe we were in the Animator's Palate this morning?  We unpacked and watched a bit of television, although not much.  Everyone was worn out, and ready for bed.  But with big, grateful smiles on their faces.  It was another Dream come true - a magical vacation and a Halloween on the High Seas.