"Being a family means you are part of something wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life. No matter what." ~Author Unknown

Friday, July 31, 2015

Russian Adoption Reunion Cruise

This trip has been a full year in the making.  It’s the second time there’s been an organized trip for Russian adoption families, but the first time we’ve joined them.  When Sally told me it was happening, there was no hesitation.  I’m so glad, because boy did this trip deliver.

IMG_0343Sof and I left on Thursday, and arrived at the Contemporary Hotel around 2.IMG_0347IMG_0354IMG_0356IMG_0357

The plane ride was too much fun to fall asleep, but by the time we got to the ground transportation she was out!


Sally and Ava were down at the pool, and we wasted no time meeting them.

IMG_0365IMG_0366IMG_0368  It was a fabulous reunion!  We spent the very hot afternoon hours in the pool, and the just as hot evening hours at Magic Kingdom.


We made it our late night, cramming between sticky, sweaty kids and cranky parents to see the light parade and fireworks.  I suppose you could say it was worth it, although I think I can live quite happily the rest of my life without doing it again.


We were smart the next day.  We had a plan, and we stuck to it.  We were at the park before it opened, ran to the busiest ride we were interested in(Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride), and did everything we wanted within two hours.  Bam. 



The cuteness was off the charts this day.  I mean really.  Too darn cute.


We went back to the pool for the afternoon, and were able to meet a lot of people from our group as they were all starting to show up.


Then it was time for one of the highlights of our trip…the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and princess dinner.  It was so exciting for the girls.  Sally and I loved every minute of it too! 


These girls are already princesses, but after this they really looked the part!



Next up was dinner with the princesses!  We saw Cinderella first, and Sof was in awe! 


Sof missed her sisters while we were gone.  She insisted on taking this picture to send to Adrienne.


The whole night was magical.  Sof’s first experience meeting the characters.


Coming off that magic, we headed back to the hotel for the first meeting with the adoption group.  It was so fun to meet in person women I’ve only had online relationships with.  The kids were running all over and it was late, so we didn’t last long.  We had another early morning ahead of us with the Russian Adoption Reunion breakfast in Epcot.  On the tram there we met up with Maella and her mama Kara.  A perfect addition to our girls.    


You couldn’t help but be moved watching our group in our matching t-shirts marching through the park.  All these beautiful families made through the miracle of adoption.  To see all these children thriving, and know it’s not even an option for anymore Russian babies to join American families is heartbreaking. 


We had breakfast and got to know some different people at our table. There was a slideshow including baby photos as well as recent family pics.  Then we had a special visitor…Mickey!


It was quite a job, but we got all the kids in a picture! 



After the breakfast we stayed in Epcot for a couple hours.


Then we planned on taking these two silly girls back to swim again, but lucky for us it started raining!  It made for a perfect(and much needed) nap afternoon.


It was back to Epcot for dinner and the light show that night.



We had such a wonderful time on land, it was hard to believe we had a whole ‘nother trip on the boat to go!  I’m so thankful for the experiences I got to have with Sof, the time I spent getting to know Sally better, and the connection Sof will always have with Ava.  There were many new friends to be met on the cruise, but our time with Sally and Ava was priceless.

We had an early breakfast with Mickey before going to the boat.  We added Kara and Maella to our little group too!


Kara lives in Florida so she was able to drive us to the boat.  Thank God I was with her and Sally!  They knew exactly what to do!  I would have been the last person on the boat left to my own devices!




The cruise was fantastic from beginning to end.  I have no complaints.  Right away the girls got these detective cards.  At all different places on the boat you can find these “pictures”.  You point your badge at it and you get a clue.  Once you’ve done all of them you should know the answer to your “who dun’ it”!


We got the kids signed up for kids club right away.  Sof couldn’t wait to go there!  Disney does kids care right!


The sail away party was hot, so we spent it in the pool.



Then it was time for our first dinner.  Another matching outfit for the girls!  They are so cute I can’t stand it!



While exploring the boat after dinner and the nightly show, we came across some friends!  Sof was thrilled to see Pluto as she had just picked a Pluto stuffy for her souvenir!


After a long day we headed back to our room and found our first fish extender surprise!  For those of you like me, that have no idea what that is, let me explain.  The fish extender is a bag like thing you attach to the fish hook outside your cabin.  You are put in a group, and then you buy little gifts for everyone in your group.  At some point in the cruise you deliver them to everyone’s cabins and put them in the bag.  I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “Why would someone raise the bar like this?  Isn’t there enough to think about?”.  I had Anne make us the bag according to the online specifications, and I grumbled a bit as I paid for the gifts.  But…it was all worth it when Sof saw that first gift.  She was over the moon, and delighted in finding each and every treasure day after day.


It was a wonderfully long first day, and Sof was more than happy to crawl into her little bed made specially for her.


The next day was Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.  This is the way to do the beach-Disney style.  Chairs out, free soft drink and ice cream bar, BBQ buffet lunch, and a drink guy coming around.  All you need is your bathing suit and sunscreen.  Totally takes the struggle out of the beach trip!


This was the day we added little Marina to our pack.  She and Sof really hit it off!

Sof thought the roots on the palm tree were super cool, and wanted to take a picture to send to Mrs. winters!


It’s always nice to have one dad around to make mermaid tails while us moms chit chat!  Poor Terry, so outnumbered!


The beach was fabulous, but my favorite part of every day was dinner and the show.  I like putting nice clothes on, eating, chatting with the ladies, eating, and basically just eating. 


The shows were great each night also.  This night was the Golden Mickey’s!  Sof liked the classic characters the best!


The girls were getting tired, but couldn’t miss seeing Minnie in her fancy dress!


The next day it was off to Nassau for a dolphin encounter.  When we woke up the captain was docking the boat by spinning it all the way around in this little cove and then backing into the spot!  It was seriously impressive!


The dolphin encounter was very fun, and definitely something Sof will remember, but it was a lot of waiting and transporting to get to it. 


I don’t have pictures(although I think Sally does:), but we actually got in the water with the dolphins in that little area.  Sof will readily tell you she kissed a dolphin!  She also pet, hugged and danced with them too!


I had to take a picture of the boat docked next to us.  The Sensation was the boat Mark and I honeymooned on 20 years ago!  I’ll never forget the name because Mark’s bag didn’t make it to us until the first port, so he wore nothing but Sensation clothing the first two daysDisappointed smile


The girls were pretty tired that night and sick of pictures!


They perked up when we saw Snow White walking through the hallway though!


I don’t remember what the show was that night, but I do remember Sof fell asleep pretty quick after it started!


When the show ended I carried her dead weight out of the theater, up 3 flights of stairs, into an elevator, and down the hallway to our room.  I then proceeded to change her into her pajamas and put her in bed(all while she was asleep).  A few seconds later she sat straight up wailing “you promised we could deliver our fish extenders tonight!”.  There was no way she was going back to sleep without doing that.  So off we went! 


The next day we were back at Castaway Cay.  The kids all loved trying to stand on these mats and then do tricks off of them.



We headed back to the boat in the early afternoon so the girls could get a much needed nap!


They had to rest up for Pirate night!  We modge podged together a pirate costume out of an old dance costume, a scarf, and some accessories from a pirate costume that Livy had a few years ago.  I was unsure about it right up until that night.  I am more of a “buy the perfect costume with all the right stuff that fits well” kinda gal.  So, I was super proud of myself when it actually came together perfectly! 



Ava dressed as Fawn the Fairy from the Tinkerbell movie. Adorable!


Sof with her buddy Marina…


Just some of our Russian pirates!

IMG_0862  IMG_0890IMG_0891

After dinner there was a big pirate show up on deck.  The kids had fun following along with the dance moves!


After the live show, we were able to go to the theater to catch a viewing of “Inside Out” before heading back up to the deck for fireworks!  It was a packed night!


The next day was our day at sea, which sounds relaxing…unless you have every minute scheduled!  We started the morning with a visit with the princesses.




I wish I could freeze her in this moment.  I always want to remember her this way.  Still so little, but just big enough, talking to a princess.



Anna and Elsa were both lovely and gracious, but Sof told me later “Adrienne is the real better Elsa”.  I guess she’s partialRed heart


My favorite princess on the ship was hands down this girl.


We had time for lunch and a little dip in the pool and Nemo sprinkler park.


Then FINALLY, it was time for a little mama time!  We checked those kiddos into the kids club(which they love) and headed up to the bar for a mixology class!  Think of it as science class for adoptive parents.  Our bartender proceeded to teach us how to mix 5 different drinks.  There’s no way to know if you did it right unless you drink them…right?  Of course if you don’t care for the dirty martini just pass it to Gloria.  And the Kahlua/vodka shot?  Those are all for SallySurprised smile 


Lets just say there were no mama’s really fit to pick up their kids after this.  Luckily we’re on the Disney boat, so there’s a coffee shop with a dessert bar.  Score.  Had a nice time chatting and hearing everyone’s stories.  That is until someone looked at the clock.  Ruh ro.  We had about 25 minutes to get our kids, get them ready for dinner, and meet in the lobby for the big group picture.  Oh, did I mention it was princess night?  AND they did face painting in kids club?  But this is Disney, so some magical way we pulled it off.



I knew it was the last night based on the fact that I had basically outgrown my Spanx.  Sof was sad to say good bye to her favorite server Onika.

IMG_1027    Amy is one of the mom’s I always followed through her blog.  She has a beautiful family with 3 biological kids and one Russian adopted.  She is also a photographer, so I basically hoped she was just really good at photoshop and not actually that beautiful. Nope.  She really is that beautiful, and a lovely person inside too.  Anyhoo, at the end of that last night quite a few of us ended up waiting for the elevator at the same time.  At some point we looked over at Amy and just started to laugh.  Because this just sums up mixology, painted faces, princess dresses, 40+ kids and countless parents trying to take a group picture, dinner, more drinks, shows, and finally…elevator.


It was a beautiful experience from beginning to end, and although I wanted to live in it much longer, it was time to go.


We said our god byes in the morning and headed off the ship into the real world.


Mark and the girls had been staying at Aunt Monnie and Uncle Jack’s after having their own little Florida adventure.  They took on Key West and Miami, and landed back with family.  Mark came with Uncle Jack to pick us up, while Aunt Monnie made breakfast for us to come back to.  The sister reunion was sweet, so much sharing to do.


After some swim time at with Aunt Monnie, we headed to our hotel in Cocoa Beach.  It rained buckets that afternoon, but we did go out to eat.


The next day we were awoken by a fire alarm.  We waited awhile, but it didn’t stop going off and lots of people were actually accumulating in the parking lot.  We were of course on the top floor.  We decided to mosey down the steps to check it out.  We didn’t see any smoke, so I went back to room and grabbed keys and cell phones so we could go to Starbucks and wait it out.  We waved at the fire truck as we left, and the place was still standing when we got back.  Oh,  and I should mention the next morning went much the same way.Baring teeth smile


We spent the afternoon at the family reunion in the pool.  Not our family.  Agnes’ family. 


Agnes invited the kids to join her frozen t-shirt contest.  She explained she had been collecting t-shirts and prizes for a whole year now. 


Sof won a prize she was delighted with.  God bless Agnes.  We’re not in Disney anymore folks.  Anyway, not your family reunions are the best.


Lunch on the pier was, well, lunch.


That night Aunt Carole and Uncle Gordon had us over for dinner.  I honestly had forgotten my birthday was the next day.  As it turns out, Uncle Gordon’s birthday was that day!  It was a sweet celebration with family we don’t often see.



Mark caught a lizard!



Mark does not have a lot of family, and none of them are close in proximity to us, so these times are special to us. 


Sof made fast friends with Scruffy. They were buddies all night!


It was a wonderful 10 days, but we were ready to head home when it was time.


This is the aftermath of 5 people traveling for 10 days.  Hello reality.