Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oman, Shangri-La

We went to Oman over the September Eid break.  It was glorious.  We were a little tired after just getting back from repat and our cruise and moving into our new place on main camp so we weren't quite as excited for this trip as the last because we didn't have as much build up time.  But we had the boys do little projects on sea turtles and the city of Muscat.  We looked at pictures and videos of the resort we were staying at and the sea turtle reserve and started to get a sense of what an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience we were in for.  
We flew to Oman on Tuesday, September 22nd and went to pick up our rental car.  The guy pulled up to the curb and we discovered that the car they brought didn't have a back row of seats.  We argued and sent them back and told them that we put the number of passengers we had in their system online and one row of seats would not do it.  They said they didn't have anything with two rows of seats.  Fantastic.  The guy went back to the lot and came back with the same model but it had a pull down jump seat in the very back.  That would have to do.  So after a bit of luggage and child tetris we were on our way to the Shangri-La resort.  We had to stop and get some directions and groceries on the way but we eventually made it. 
The resort is nestled in some incredible secluded canyons.  They have pools, a lazy river, restaurants, a beautiful beach and tons to do.  It was such a relaxing and recharging getaway together.  
We spent the first few nights of our trip at the resort and we swam to our hearts content.  
 Taryn and Kenna loved being in the water.  They both really lit up in the pools this trip and it was so fun to see their faces get so excited to be swimming and splashing.  We're so glad that all of our kids love to swim.  It's become a large part of our family culture.
 Tate and Finn had a blast in every pool we explored.  Making new friends and making up new pretend games.
 They ventured out to the beach one time with Glenn while I tried to wrestle the girls to stay on a blanket and stop eating sand.  It didn't last long.  Tate wasn't thrilled with knowing there were sea creatures swimming around him.
 On Friday we drove up to church in Muscat and had a really cool experience in their little branch there.  Everyone was very patient with our little group, which was so nice.  That evening we took advantage of the resort's miniature golf course.  The boys had a good time and we all got nice and sweaty even though the little course was in the shade.

 Glenn had to try out his new gopro and Finn was a willing participant.
 One afternoon we took advantage of the resort's kids play place.  It was unique to say the least.  There were a lot of really amazing places to climb and play and then there were some crazy slides.
 Tate and Finn loved the one that they had to ride down in sacks, but neither of them tried this one.  It was probably a two story drop and literally straight down.
 I don't know how kids don't get hurt on this thing all the time.  It was nuts.

 Oman was so beautiful.  It was everything you would imagine the Middle East to be but in the very best way.  Camels and goats wandering the mountains and deserts, souks filled with piles of old treasures, beaches lined with fishing boats and shacks, people playing cricket in an empty lot.  Everyone we interacted with were so kind.  We needed a lot of directions on our trip and it was so refreshing to talk to people who were helpful and friendly.  Not at all the response we get in Saudi.

 This trip was our first all on our own since our crew grew from 4 to 6 and it was so wonderful.  So nice to have such a blissful break playing together and really enjoying each other's company.  Realizing that we can do this with our little family was so empowering and made my heart so happy.

 Finn was dancing one night entertaining his sisters and he slipped and cut his head open right by his eye.  We got it glued shut at their first aid place in the resort but his goggles would rub right on it so we couldn't wear those the next day.  We ended up borrowing some from the snorkel place on the beach.  It was awesome to see these huge goggles on his little face.

 Such a beautiful place to stay.
 Our baby girls were so wonderful.  Falling asleep when they got tired and playing and happy when they were awake.  We tried to give them a break in the room every afternoon, which was nice as it got really hot and the boys needed a break too.  But the rest of the time we were out and they were so sweet.
 One night we got in on the camel rides on the beach.  This guy brings his camels in every night and charges a small fee for camel rides.  Finn and Glenn got to ride first.

 Finn was a little nervous being up so high but he warmed up to it.

 Tate was so excited to be riding a camel.  We were walking down the beach, he was hugging the camel's hump and he said, "Mom, this is a dromedary camel, right?"  Yep, Tate.  We are riding a dromedary camel kiddo.

What a great few days at the Shangri-La resort.  It gave us a lot of confidence in traveling with our kids and we had a wonderful, relaxing, slow-paced few days of hanging out together.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

On the Disney Magic

I didn't take nearly enough pictures of our adventures on the ship but I had to write a little bit about our time on the Disney Magic.  It was truly magic.  I loved that everything was designed especially for families and kids.  Every member of the staff smiled at us, gave our kids high 5's, offered help and went the extra mile.  There were two high chairs waiting for us at our table every night at dinner.  Two pack and plays set up in our rooms.  Towel animals, special scavenger hunts around the ship to earn little prizes, tons of games and events.  They had a frozen theme night and they gave us all light-up snowflake necklaces to wear, and another was princess/pirate night and we all had cute pirate mickey bandanas in our rooms to wear.  It was all so fun.  We couldn't resist buying a few of our own pirate accessories as well.
These little ladies were pleased as punch to be in high chairs.  It was their first time in them and they felt so big!
One morning a waiter made a little mouse out of a napkin and pretended to make it jump out of his hand.  The boys were cracking up so much.  It was awesome.
We tried to get a little bathing beauties picture.  T and K weren't thrilled with this sitting position.
We didn't come even close to taking advantage of all the fun the ship offered but it was fun to have options when we had sea days.  Once the boys and I went to play a bingo game where we had to guess names of movies from clips on the big screen.  And Finn went to one Avenger's training academy class which he thought was about the coolest ever.  He still talks about how he was trained to be a superhero.  We weren't super keen on just dropping the kids off at the play place so we took them a couple of times when there was an activity they wanted to try but neither they nor I were super excited to have them there on their own.  Most of the time we chose to hang out in the water.
They had a little splash area for the babies, a very shallow, small kiddo pool, and then a deeper pool near the movie screen.  There were only a couple of times during the day when it got very crowded.  They also had a couple of fun water slides and a little splash pad area.  The boys could have stayed in the water all day.  They had a blast.
We had a couple of really cool character encounters. They had several on the schedule throughout the day, but only a few that the boys were keen enough to plan around.  Tate was excited to meet Captain America.  
He told him about his idea to make a robot dinosaur that would fight with the Avengers. and the Captain said that he would definitely talk to Tony Stark about that.

That pretty much made his life.  Tate came up to Glenn back in the room and said, "Dad!  He liked my idea!  He really liked it and he said he was going to tell Tony Stark about it!"
On our fancy dress up night we were able to meet up with Mickey.
I was so impressed, as usual, at how sweetly the characters interacted with the kids.

Aand the benefits of having Auntie Mallo with us just keep on comin'. She got back in line while we were talking to Mickey and was at the very beginning of the Chip and Dale line by the time they showed up so we just hopped in with her and got back to back visits.  

Auntie Mallo is the best.
Finn got to meet Jake!
This face pretty much says it all!
And the one that the boys wanted to meet and we missed was Stitch.  We got in line and were told that he had an emergency come up in Hawaii and he wasn't going to make it.  The boys were really sad and a minute later a sweet lady came back with a piece of paper and told the boys that she's so sorry he was called away but she would send him a magical Mickey mail and see if he'd be able to send an autograph back for them.  She took their names and that night we had this note, along with two autograph cards in our room from Stitch.
That's some pretty awesome Disney magic right there.
There were just a couple of times on the schedule where they had activities in the kids club that parents could attend.  One of them was this sloppy science class where they made flubber.
Couldn't resist some shots of the little scientists in all their gear.

Oh my goodness.  One time Glenn was holding Kenna and came into the room to talk to Mallory.  She just started laughing out loud and said, "Glenn, you have barf on your face."  Yep.  K had thrown up on his face and he didn't even notice.  Real life as a parent of infants.
It was very sweet how much attention the little ladies got wherever we went.  And how proud Tate and Finn were of their sisters.  Even Rapunzel, on her way out from a meet and greet couldn't resist a little visit.
The Disney cruise was more expensive.  But not having to worry that our kids would have fun, have food they'd like to eat, be comfortable and well-taken care of was completely worth the cost.  The shows every night were incredible and totally geared for families and kiddos.  There was ALWAYS plenty of food they like to eat.  Dinners were fun and the different themes every night kept things interesting.  And then there's this: every night at dinner without fail Taryn and Kenna would get fussy and need to be held until they fell asleep for a little cat nap.  It was really hard to cut our food while holding fussing or sleeping babies so our waiter just came over and asked to cut it that first night.  Then every night after that, when they brought out main course, he just came over and cut our food for us.  Seriously, the nicest, most helpful people.  It was just fun to be around them.
One night the wait staff made napkins into character hats.  
The boys ate that up.
Beautiful Auntie Mallo, snuggling Baby T.
Kenna chewing on the table.
Mallo and I had the hardest time getting a picture of us in our "formal night" clothes.  I don't even remember what was so funny but we couldn't keep it together. This is my favorite picture of that night.  I love us so much.
The very coolest dinner and for sure Tate's favorite as a budding artist, was our first dinner in the Animator's Palate.  They gave us place mats and markers and we were given instructions to draw a character in the outline and write our name clearly in box.
Tate took it very seriously.
Then at the end of dinner they took our drawings and then had a whole show on screens around the restaurant where they inserted our characters into scenes of Disney movies.  They made them dance and march with the music too.  It was awesome!  
The last night we were in Animator's Palate as well and they had a really cool show on the screens.  I tried to capture Finn's faces but it was so dark.  He's just in the cutest, most expressive phase right now and everything he feels is so clear and so big on his face.
Magic.  Truly magic.  It was a trip of a lifetime.  I hope they remember some of it.  And I hope that all these pictures we took will help.  We spotted dolphins out the window one night at dinner and the boys watched them swim away.  Resulting in my favorite picture on the ship.