Thursday, January 5, 2017

16 Cousins ALL Together

On Saturday December 17th we headed out for a two-week Christmas vacation.  We pulled the kids from four days of school to go on a cruise with my family.  All of my siblings were there, my mom, my Aunt Merle and all 16 cousins. It was SO FUN to be altogether! 

When we arrived in Long Beach we enjoyed the sunny weather and chased the waves at the beach. 

We also met up with Connie to enjoy some hot tubing and to kill some time before getting on the ship on Monday. 


Carnival provided a cruise that we could all afford, and we were really happy with our experience.  It was super family friendly.  The kids couldn’t wait to try out the water slides on the ship, although the water turned out to be freezing cold.  

So they all hit the “kids hot tub”.  Every time I see this picture I think of a joke I heard at one of the comedy shows.  “What do you call a hot tube full of kids? Pea Soup.”  We were all so happy and content. 

Cathie gave all "the girls" matching hoodies.  It's not just fun for kids to be twiners!

Our first night at dinner Josh and I ended up at a table with two four year olds and two six year olds.  Josh made the best of it by giving manner lessons.  The girls were so cute learning how to use their manners in the formal dinning room.

My mom gave each of her grandchildren a book of 25 brand new one dollar bills along with wallets, purses and other cute things.  They loved having the extra spending money (or for some of them money to save.) 


Our ports weren’t amazing, but at least I wasn’t temped to spend a lot of money on excursions.  Our first stop was Catalina.   

Cara and Emi enjoyed shopping.  Caleb and Colter went crab hunting with Keith and apperently found some impressive crabs.  Josh went bargen shopping with Connie while the rest of us sat on the beach in the cool air and sunshine.  The kids tested out the water.  It was indeed COLD . . . 

Every group has a show off that will do anything to get everyone to laugh! This group happened to have Johnny!

All you can eat icecream on the ship wasn't enough for Caleb when he had money from Grandma burning a hole in his pocket. 


Our second port was Ensanada, Mexico.  Cathie, Christie and our families got of the ship together and we spontaneously rented a bus to go to the blowhole.  Yes, we filled the whole bus! 

Andy was on his own vacation.  He roomed with my Aunt Merle and enjoyed nearly complete freedom.  We’d show up for breakfast, as he was just finishing up.  If we couldn’t find him he was most likely at the buffet or the miniature golf course.  I think he ate all day long!! He was my only child that didn’t want to go to the kids club because he needed to be 9 to check himself in and out.  He didn’t want to go and get stuck there.  He took full advantage of his freedom! He wasn't happy about getting off the ship with us until he got a giant soda. 

I have seen blowhole’s before so it wasn’t that exciting to me, but the kids LOVED shopping between where the bus dropped us off and the blowhole viewing.  It was nice that it was only one street of venders.  The kids were extremely impressive negotiators and came home with more junk than I care to remember. 

Christie spoiled the little girls with cute “Mexican dresses”. 

I’ll admit that piƱata colada’s and churros were amazing! 

The view was fantastic too!

Day three also included formal night.

Our waiters were really fantastic with the kids.  They made the kids little origami gifts and did magic.  And of course did some dancing with them. 

The tweens REALLY got into dinner and loved ordering many dishes.  Cara and Emi loved the strawberry bisque that was poured onto these strawberries. 

I’ve always hesitated planning a cruise for a family vacation because I look for vacations that provide family bonding.  I don’t know if I’d do it with just my children, but it was perfect to do with extended family.  Ali and Johnny loved the kids club and I didn’t feel too guilty when they were there because they were with cousins.  They did adorable crafts and had fun themes.  Johnny and Ali after pirate night at the kids club! 

I was surprised at how much the kids enjoyed the programs and entertainment.  I loved that they could choose to come or not.  It was usually up to them.  This was so much better than going to a cabin or meeting at a home because we could all relax and not worry about cooking and cleaning.  It was the perfect extended family vacation!


Our final day was at sea.  We took advantage of the extra time to take cousin pictures.  There are always little ones who don’t want to cooperate, but it is fun to capture the moment in time. 

We kept ourselves busy even having lots of fun on our day at sea.  We won a couple of solid gold trophy’s. Caleb made himself the butt of the comedian’s jokes two nights in a row, giving us all a great laugh.  We were sad to see it come to an end. 


We had one last day to enjoy being with the Coombs so we took advantage by going whale watching. Josh drove our family and the Coombs in the RV bus to another port to catch our whale watching boat. Unfortunately the weather was cold and a little rainy, but we were glad to not say good-by yet.  We didn’t see any whales, but we did cruise along with a pod of dolphins for a while.  It was really amazing!  We all LOVED seeing the dolphins!!

After a sad good-by we headed to extend our vacation another week by driving to Santee Lake RV Park near San Diego when the Coombs went to the airport.  The motor home has been such a blessing to us because we don’t have to pay for eating out or staying at hotels.  It makes traveling really affordable. 

The Traditional Portion of Christmas

December went so fast!  It feels like we just put up the Christmas decorations, and they are already down. The kids only slept under the tree once! Good thing we jumped on that early in December. We didn’t have a lot of time for our traditions, but we did have an amazing month!

I am always seeking for ways to keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas. This year we went to the First Presidency Christmas devotional the first Sunday in December.  It was fantastic to be in the same room as President Thomas S. Monson and his amazing counselors.  I felt so good about giving my children the opportunity to experience being in the presence of the prophet in the conference center, and the world-class music of the Tabernacle Choir, in a one-hour event.  We loved it!  It is definitely something we will do again!

The kids didn’t really have any school Christmas programs, but Cara did have a NOVA graduation.  We kept busy on Saturday’s with Andy’s basketball games (of which I have zero pictures.) He was on a team with his buddies and they dominated.  There was talk of it being a stacked team, but really it was just the neighborhood kids that want to play together.

And snow fall, but as you can see Johnny was conflicted about what kind of goggles he wanted to wear.

We enjoyed some pre Christmas celebrations with neighbor gifts . . .

Our ward Christmas Party was unique and memorable.  It was a live nativity complete with a camel and donkey.  It was in a huge, heated barn and really something else.  I guess I’d never seen a camel up close.  I was amazed at how tall and big it was.