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We’re on a Boat. And a Rope

Last weekend we took a cruise with some friends to Catalina, and Ensenada.  The kids loved it and have missed ‘living on the boat’ ever since.


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Early in our marriage Andrew and I said we would NEVER take a cruise.  We like to explore, get out, travel, and not be confined.  But then two couple friends of ours with 4 kids each and some adopted darling traumatized children mixed in booked it and sold us on it.  All meals served the whole time, kids club, upper deck pools and water slides.  “Someone just book us,” and they did.

And it was great.  How amazing to live on the ocean.


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So we sailed, relaxed, swam.  But there was also plenty of adventure, too.   When we landed in Mexico, we met a man with a van, and walked by him, but then realized why take 3 taxis when we could get all 10 kids, 2 babies and 6 parents in that one van.  It was genius, and we took it to Las Canadas.

“Zip Lining,” we told the kids.  They shrugged not knowing how high or that it entailed ‘ropes.’




Look at how calm these kids are so high off the ground listening to men who don’t speak English tell them what to do.  They had zero fear.  The only one of my children who had any fear during zip lining was Maria.  Probably because she was old enough to have common sense about gravity, heights, inertia and body mass compared to rope width.

These guys were like, “We don’t have to walk?  We’re good…”


But she did it, and she did great.  She was scared and anxious, but I think the experience was good for her in that regard.


No way in the US would they let just the two boys ride together on their first ride, but that’s one of the beautiful things about Mexico.  I think that I would have been more nervous had it just been Andrew and I, but I was so focused on  getting the kids situated and showing them that there was nothing to worry about that I felt no fear myself.  Plus, these guys waited for no one, so you were zip lining before you had a chance to think about it.


Safe trip boys



We all had well deserved treats after from a vendor under a palm tree, who also refused the extra $5 Mike offered them to put rum on top after zip lining with 8 kids.


I was so proud of these little guy, they were so brave.  A group of adults behind us who squealed through the experience commended them on their courage.  They just ignored them and got popsicles.


We went to our favorite taco place and brought our friends, Mariscos Titos.  $35 for 12 kids and 6 adults to eat fish tacos and drinks.


There was no live music this time so Poppy improvised.

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Elijah had missed his nap and his sensory system was working against him.  He couldn’t calm down.  We used to put pressure on ourselves to ensure he was regulated, but now we put that job on him.  “You can eat once you’ve regulated,” we say casually and ignore the whining and bucking of responsibility.


But after a few moments, he’ll ask for daddy to hold him so he can suck his thumb and calm down, sometimes blocking out his eyes to bring more calm to his body and mind.

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Anna in the glasses is adopted from Ukraine and reminds us a lot of Elijah, but maybe a bit more naturally regulated.

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Bye Mexico

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The staff on the boat are all from overseas.  There are no minimum wage laws at sea, so I assume they pay them very little, but compared to where they come from; the Philippines, Peru, Bulgaria, etc it probably pretty great.

The women who worked at the kids club were from the Philippines and were so loving and attentive.  We let the kids stay up late, while us parents ate out on the ship.


Oh, and it was a ‘Santa Cruise,’ meaning all the men who play Santa each year get together and go on this cruise.


Meaning the most heard line of the entire week was from Poppy who was yell whispering, “Das da REAL SANTA!!!!  DA REAL SANTA!!!  HI SANTA!!!!!”

“Wow, you’ve gotten so much bigger since last month!” one told her.

“Thank you for my sandals!”

“Well, ho ho, I see you’ve been taking good care of them.  That’s always something I am looking for.  Good job!”

And she was beaming.


Till next time



Happy Ethiopian Christmas

We are celebrating Ethiopian Christmas today.  In Ethiopia, Christmas is a much more Spiritual Day than here.  There are no presents and it involves fasting and feasting, focusing on the birth of Jesus.

We made homemade Injera, Doro Wat and Berbere.

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Poppy helping with the Berbere





መዲናና ዘለሰኛ


“While the rest of the world has already celebrated Christmas and the New Year, Ethiopian Christians are still warming up to celebrate the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ. Christians in Ethiopia celebrate Christmas Day on January 7. This date works to the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed. The Ethiopian name given to Christmas is Genna which, according to elders, comes from the word Gennana, meaning “imminent” to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin. Christmas (Gena) is celebrated in a quite different atmosphere as there is no “Santa” or exaggerated gift exchange. Gena, is just the feast to commemorate the reality that our Lord was born.



How to Ride the Real Polar Express


Finley’s birthday is at the end of November, and his favorite book is The Polar Express.  For his birthday this year we wanted to have a fun, family experience that captures the joy of childhood, and also conveniently ushers in the magic of the Christmas Season.

In Williams Arizona they have a train, an long, beautiful old fashioned train that does just that.  In fact, on this train, the servers wear white coats and tall white hats while singing and serving hot chocolate and cookies to jammie clad children and parents who are singing and riding to the ‘North Pole.’

And if you can hear the bell sound, it means that you still believe in Santa.



We stayed at the Grand Hotel, which was a great spot walking distance from the train adventure and fun Christmas activities all about, plus and an indoor pool.  I know it’s in Arizona, but pack WARM because it’s very chilly there.


The hotel has special mailboxes and letters where you can write to Santa.


The night before we walked around down town Williams which was fun and had a couple good spots to eat and sight see, but is a tiny, little town.


In the morning we ate at a diner, Pine Country Restaurant, with great service and the kids loved the food.

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Finley Celebrated being 6 with a cinnamon roll to share with everyone.

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Birthday Boy


After breakfast, we walked around the Polar Express store and had such a good time, the kids were getting more and more excited about riding the Polar Express that evening.

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Getting our tickets to ride

The Polar Express

Writing a letter to Santa

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(We also visited Bearizona which was close and awesome!)

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As the day ended, we put the kids in their Christmas jammies.  All kids wore jammies to ride the train.

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Dinner before the Train Ride

And we even got to meet Mrs. Claus while we waited.


But then it was time to get in line for the train!  Conductors walked around and said, “Well?  Are you coming!?”  to all the children.  My boys nodded silently.  You could feel the excited buzz in the air among everyone waiting to ride.

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When we got on the train, it was still light out, we picked the earliest time slot of this reason and it was fun to walk the Arizona wilderness out the train window as our train car sped along.

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The staff was upbeat and fun, and sang to us and passed out the hot cocoa, the kids were loving it!




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The Polar Express in Williams 


The sun set and we neared the ‘North Pole’ in record time, and Santa come on board with us once we arrive.  The kids couldn’t believe it!  He handed everyone a bell.

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The Polar Express


On the way home, the entire train car had song books and sang Christmas songs together with the staff.


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The Polar Express in Williams AZ


It was so much fun, a memory to last a lifetime.

Things to remember when booking for your family:

-book early, spots fill up quickly

-pack warm

-secretly buy a bell at the store for your child, and let them find it before they board

-find the Polar Express store sometime before you go, we happened upon it by chance and were so glad we did.

-we loved having the earliest time slot to enjoy the scenery outdoors, but anytime you book will be magical.


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