Then last fall, when we saw that there were some great deals on cruises going on, we decided to finally put a piece of our vision into action. We needed a good chunk of in-person time to discuss our 2014 goals and plans for Power of Moms and figured we might as well do our planning retreat on a cruise ship where we could simultaneously feel out whether a cruise might be the right venue for a future Power of Families Retreat. So we booked an inexpensive 4-day cruise out of Long Beach, CA (near where April lives and drivable for our family) and presented the cruise to our kids on Christmas. They were so so so excited! The prospect of a huge floating hotel with a swimming pool and waterslide and all-you-can-eat food of every kind combined with visits to exciting new places in the company of the Perry kids was just plain wonderful.
Last week, it was finally time to head to California for the cruise!
We drove to CA on Saturday and spent a wonderful Sunday with my brother Noah, his wife Kristi and their fun kids.
When we got to Noah and Kristi's, the boys jumped right into some screen time (what is it about boys and screens?) while the girls (Liza and Lyla) pretended to be princesses and fairies princesses (sad I didn't get a picture of that!)
Set those screens down and look up a minute, boys!
On Sunday, we had a great time visiting Noah and Kristi's ward and exploring their beautiful neighborhood and just enjoying the wonderful feeling of sunshine. But somehow I didn't take photos of our time exploring. I just got this photo of everyone watching "Joseph, King of Dreams" later in the afternoon. It's a good movie (in case you can't tell by everyone's rapt expressions).
We topped off the day with a rousing game of sardines (where one person hides and everyone else has to sneakily find that person and join them in their hiding place until everyone is squashed into one place together). I loved playing that with my siblings when I was little and it was so fun to see my kids and Noah's kids enjoying the game so much.
They fit 8 kids under this twin bed - I had to lift up the mattress to get a shot of part of the group.
The kids had SO much fun with their beloved little cousins. And Noah and I realized that the nine kids we have between us are close to the same age-spread of the nine children our parents had. Wow. That's a lot of kids.
On Monday, Jared and I went for a beautiful run then we said our goodbyes with a great little dance party at Noah and Kristi's and headed off to get on the boat.
You should have heard the squeals of glee when that boat came into our view!
I'll let pictures tell most of the story of our 4-days of cruising, eating, talking, planning, playing, laughing and exploring Catalina and Ensenada, Mexico with our dear friends, the Perrys.
Ready to pull out - that's the Queen Mary in the background.
Exploring the ship - and finding the waterslides - pretty darn exciting!
Playing a little miniature golf:
Meeting up with the Perrys - everyone ready for serious fun:
Made-to-order omlettes and everything else anyone could imagine for breakfast on the boat:
Exploring Catalina Island - such beautiful vistas and tons of great hikes to choose from:
Up on Mount Ada overlooking the cute town of Avalon:
Headed over to see the old casino/movie theater (that round building)
The casino was beautiful - all art deco elegance. We didn't take the $10/person tour but could see the lobby and beautiful old theater.
Just beyond the casino was a nice beach area for swimming and snorkeling. Despite the fact that it was in the low 60's, the kids were game for some time in the water. Crazy people! I was cold enough just sitting there watching them in my sweatshirt with a towel wrapped around me.
Here's Eliza and Grace:
Yes, he was freezing. But he didn't care.
Ashton and Isaac did some serious snorkeling and saw some pretty amazing fish and kelp forests. I couldn't believe how long they stayed out there looking at the fish. They had the whole bay to themselves - no one else was crazy enough to go in that cold water on such a cool day.
Isaac couldn't stop shivering for a long time and Ashton looked blue-tinged when he got out of the water... But they said it was totally worth it!
That night on the boat, it was formal night at dinner. We enjoyed steak and lobster and lots of other delicious stuff at our own special table where we ate 4-5 course meals together every night.
Every night at dinner, a great magician visited our table to delight us with pretty amazing tricks:
And our waitress, Kostadinka, spoiled us rotten. Oh, what a pleasure it is as a mom to sit back and have someone take such great care of you and your family and delight everyone with exactly the food they want w/o having to even think about the cost of what people want to order. The delight of getting ANYTHING YOU WANT on the menu (or even asking for things not on the menu) was such a novel and exciting thing for everyone. And to top it all off, Kosta was from Bulgaria and I had SO much fun pulling out some of my rusty Bulgarian to talk with her!
Wednesday morning, we pulled into Ensenada, Mexico. The kids were excited to see the huge Mexican flag come into view.
We wandered around the town a bit and found a great deal on an excursion out to see "La Bufadora" (the Blowhole where sea water goes into a cave and then spurts up 200 feet in the air).
On the 40-minute ride, we got to see so much interesting juxtapositioned stuff - Americanized areas with Starbucks, Walmart and Home Depot next to areas where home furnishings and clothing are sold in outside run-down garage-looking places, tons of taco and tamale and pineapple/coconut stands, hodge-podge shacks built of scraps with goats and chickens wandering about next to beautiful new homes overlooking the ocean.
We also saw these "tuna farms" where they raise tuna in these rings just off the coast.
Here's "La Bufadora" - while a guy played beautifully on his guitar, we watched the waves come in and the "blowhole" spurt up again and again - it's sort of mesmerizing and very pleasant. Silas especially loved watching it and didn't want to leave.
Liza and Grace
Right near La Bufadora, there's a great market where the kids had a lot of fun haggling for souvenirs. Isaac was especially into bargaining and gets the prize for using his Spanish the most.
The boys just HAD to have a picture with the baby jaguar they had at the market.
And the twins and Isaac loved loved loved this parrot who danced to the music and was just beautiful and so interesting.
After everyone found the souvenirs they wanted (a new fedora for Ashton, a bracelet with her name on it for Eliza - made in 3 minutes right before her eyes, a poncho and backpack for Isaac, bongo drums for Oliver and a hat for Silas - after much ado and some tears when it took forever to find just the right one for him), we had some really delicious tacos at a little stand (and enjoyed tons of free samples of delicious pina coladas and churros).
Back in town, we visited the beautiful cathedral and learned about some service projects at orphanages and homes for abused women and children that we'd love to make a part of a future Power of Families cruise. As it turns out, the great tour guide that we stumbled upon when looking for a ride out to La Bufadora is the perfect lady to help us set up such a thing!
Then we wandered around downtown a while, the boys proudly sporting their new panchos, hat and drums:
And visited the lovely history museum where we got to see some lovely things plus, in searching out a bathroom, we found the "center of culture" where we got to see kids making beautiful clay sculptures and taking classes in traditional Mexican dance - great for the kids to meet some Mexican kids and see what they enjoy.
Back on the ship, Isaac tried some frog legs for dinner (and he went for alligator fritters the night before and escargot the night after - he gets the prize for the most adventurous eater!)
And Ashton got picked to be in the really fun "Hasbro Game Show" where he got to toss basketballs into the huge Connect 4 game and scored the winning point for his team!
April, Eric, Jared and I spent several hours each evening after the kids were settled discussing Power of Moms plans and ideas. We covered a ton of ground!
Our last day of the cruise, we were at sea the whole time. The kids played games and did fun activities at the kids' camps provided while Jared and I checked in with them periodically and had their own fun and April and I talked and worked and talked and worked some more. We got a ton of great Power of Moms planning done that day.
The twins and April's little boys couldn't get enough of the waterslides (even though it really wasn't very warm...)
And the sunset was gorgeous:
It was great to see the Loosli and Perry kids having so much fun with each other throughout the trip. I caught these photos of the older kids hanging out over dessert while the twins and younger Perry boys enjoyed a movie at the kids' camp.
At our last dinner on the boat, people went a bit crazy on dessert. And on everything. We'll all be eating extra healthy for a while to make up for all this!
Since Eliza had to miss her Daddy Daughter dance for Activity Days, Jared held his own little Daddy-Daughter dance with her on the ship:
The room steward left us a special "towel animal" in our room each night. The twins thought that was pretty darn awesome and made sure to go to the "towel folding fun" class so they could learn how to make such cool things out of towels.
The kids really gorged themselves at our last breakfast on the boat. Here's Silas with an omelette, a ton of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, and a bunch of fruit. He actually ate very nearly all of it!
And April and I are thinking that a Power of Families cruise is definitely something we'll want to offer in a year or so. We'd love to bring together a bunch of great families to enjoy an experience like this and have a great balance of family time, sight-seeing, good old-fashioned fun through the games and activities we'd offer in the evenings, and learning through the workshops we'd hold during the day the ship is at sea all day. There's a nice conference room on the boat and everything. And the kids' programs seemed great so the kids can be happily entertained while their parents enjoy workshops/discussions/adult activities (or kids could stay home with babysitters if parents want to enjoy this as a couples get-away rather than family get-away).
It's fun to see a vision we've been excited about for a long time start to really take shape.
And it's really really fun to get away as a family and have such a great vacation.