You've packed your shorts, sunscreen, and swimwear but don't forget these cruise essentials for a fun-tabulous time!
White T-Shirt and A Fabric Pen
Toss the autograph book and have your favourite Disney characters autograph a white t-shirt with a fabric pen instead. Better yet, drop off the tee at Guest Services at the beginning of the cruise, and it will be returned to your stateroom the last night of your cruise filled with character signatures. Your kids will have a wearable keepsake to help them remember the awesome time they had.
A Disposable Camera
Mom and dad are usually in charge of vacation photographs, but if you give your child a disposable camer, you can see your cruise through their eyes. You might have gotten the perfect family photo but thanks to my kids we have this awesome portrait of Goofy.
A beach bag is essential for a cruise. We used it every day when we went to the pool and for our day at Castaway Cay to carry sunscreen, books, and our Wave phone (the phone system that allowed us to call our kids whenever they went off exploring).
Water Bottle/Travel Mug
On a Disney cruise, you have access to free, non-alcoholic drinks (pop, lemonade, iced tea, and water) as well as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate at the self-serve beverage station. Bring water bottles and/or travel mugs for each member of your family to save you many, many trips back to the drink machine. Plus you'll feel better about not using the disposable paper cups provided.
It may be hot outside, but the air conditioned restaurants and theatres can be a bit chilly. A nice sweater will keep the chicken skin at bay.
BONUS ITEM: Headbands
If you have long hair, a headband will be your new best friend because it's not only humid on the southern cruises, it's windy. A headband kept me from eating my hair while I lounged by a pool and at the beach.
Recently, there have been posts popping up about having your kids buckled into their car seats while wearing winter coats and how it is a safety hazard. There's a great post about it here that shows and explains exactly why it's so dangerous.
But I'm not going to write about that. What I'm going to write about is what happened to my family on Mother's Day 2008. It was 3:45 in the afternoon and we got into our van to drive my in-laws' house to celebrate Mother's Day—my boys were six and two-and-a-half at the time. Not two minutes later, in a residential area, we were hit head-on by a drunk driver. This was followed immediately by getting hit by a vehicle from behind because the driver couldn't avoid the accident. The collision happened so quickly, there wasn't time for my husband to even attempt to swerve away from the car coming at us. One second we were on our way to dinner, the next we were in our van turned completely in the opposite direction, air bags deployed, the back windows of our van imploded because of the pressure created by both vehicles hitting us. I turned around to see my older son's face covered in blood.
That's when survival instinct kicked in. I didn't even so much as glance at my husband as I tried to maneuver to get out of my seatbelt (that's okay because he didn't look at me either). All I knew was that I needed to get to my boys.
There's a happy ending to this story. My husband and I were injured (but not 'catastrophically' as the insurance agency so delicately puts it). We both suffered whiplash and went to physiotherapy for months, my husband had abrasions on his face from the air bag, and I had a broken pinkie finger. I was the lone person who saw the car coming directly at us and had put my hand up to my mouth as I gasped when the collision occurred and the air bag deployed—snap goes the pinkie.
My boys though? Perfectly fine. My son's face was bleeding because he had been carrying a birdhouse he was going to give to my mother-in-law for Mother's Day. The force of the impact had snapped his head forward, he hit his face on it, giving him a bleeding lip.
The police officer at the scene (the accident required three police cars, two fire trucks, and two ambulances) said that had the accident taken place fifteen years ago, our family would have suffered greatly. Stringent seatbelt and car seat regulations have reduced injuries.
That car accident changed me. Turning to see my son's face covered in blood changed me. We think there will be time to avoid a collision but sometimes there isn't. In less time than it takes to blink an eye, a drunk driver in the opposite flow of traffic hit the meridian, flew over to our side of the street, and smashed into us in the middle of a Sunday afternoon across from a park where parents were pushing their kids on swings.
An accident can happen anywhere at anytime.
You have the power to help ensure your children are as safe as possible.
I get that it's a pain to take your kids' winter jackets off when it's cold. But I also get how life can change in less than a second. Have your kids wear sweaters, keep blankets in your vehicle, warm up your vehicle before you go out.
But DON'T assume because you're running errands only a few minutes from home nothing will happen or your children will be okay if they are wearing bulky winter coats.
As someone who's been through it, it's a chance you don't want to take.
Who doesn't like getting something for free? I get excited when I get a free sample in the mail so imagine...IMAGINE...how excited your child would be if one day he went to school and came home with a brand new book that was his to keep.
That's exactly what's going to happen for thousands of grade one kids across Canada thanks to the TD Grade One Book Giveaway.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read but my most vivid memory of a book was from when I was seven years old. My dad was in the Air Force and we were transferred. We had to move from my home in New Brunswick to Manitoba. It took a week of driving to get there which left plenty of time to read, and there were no iPods or DVD players back in those days. I don’t remember much of the trip but I do remember reading Charlotte’s Web and when I got to the part about Charlotte dying, I sobbed uncontrollably. Partly because my heart was breaking for Wilbur, partly because it allowed me to let out all my own sadness because I had left behind my best friend Cathy.
I wasn't just sad for Wilbur who had just lost his friend, I was Wilbur.
Good stories stick with you—they provide you with peace, comfort, excitement, adventure, and everything in between. Our house is strewn with books, and yes, I am old-school in that I like a book. A real book. There is no electronic reading for me.
So it makes sense that books are my Achilles heel. I will say no to my boys when it comes to tech and games, but if they ask for a book, the answer is always yes. I want my boys to be avid readers and will do anything to encourage it.
That’s why I love the TD program. Organized in association with the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, the TD Grade One Book Giveaway is the largest, free-book distribution program to school-aged children in Canada. Thanks to TD, every year since 2000, Grade One students across Canada receive a free copy of a Canadian children's book to keep.
My boys are well beyond the Grade one age so you may be wondering why I’m writing about this program. (1) Because I want all kids to have the same love of reading that I do, and (2) because both of my sons were recipients of books from the TD Grade One Book Giveaway.
In 2007, my older son received The Zlooksh by Dominique Demers.
Three years later my younger son brought home Caramba by Marie-Louise Gay.
I didn’t even know the TD Grade One Book Giveaway existed; I only know that both times my kids were flushed with excitement when I picked them up with school. They couldn’t wait to show me their "Brand-new book, Mom! For free! They just gave it to us!" And the very first thing we did when we got home from school on each of those days, even before their backpacks were put away and jackets hung up, was sit down and read this brand new book together. Both books were read time and time again until eventually, my boys outgrew them and we donated the two books to a program where other children would read and enjoy the stories.
This year, the TD Grade One Book Giveaway book is one that will capture both girls and boys—Boy Soup written by Loris Lesynski and illustrated by Michael Martchenko.
Boy Soup is about a giant who wakes up one morning with a cold. He looks into his own book, "The Giant’s Home Medical Guide," and learns that if he makes a big bowl of soup made from little boys, it will make him feel better. The boys may have been easy to catch but thanks to the heroine of the story, Kate, all might not be lost. (Click to see a fun animated version of Boy Soup.)
This rhyming story (which we all have to admit, reading a story that rhymes is much more fun than reading a regular story) is whimsical and fun and when I asked my older son—who has moved on to loftier novels—what he thought of it, he said, “I think little kids will like it. I would have liked to get it when I was in grade one.”
If your child is one of the lucky kids to receive this book this year, enjoy the story and enjoy the time you’ll spend reading together. And if you can, please share your reading story with me and what your child thought of Boy Soup.
If you want to continue to inspire and encourage your kids to read, here are some other great book recommendations.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I may go re-read Charlotte’s Web.