I know I promised you guys this post almost 2 months ago already, but I finally got around to putting it in writing, and it was a lot more involved than I thought it would be! Our time on the Disney Magic for the Marvel Day at Sea sailing was amazing. These cruises bring a magic that only Disney can provide. We were on the ship for Caleb‘s birthday and the way that he was treated and made to feel really special was something that I would not trade for the entire world.
We had actually been on a Disney cruise a couple years back. Before Caleb turned one, we did a special sailing for New Year’s, but it was very short. It was a three night sailing and we only stopped at Castaway Cay. We had a great time, but we definitely felt like a longer amount of time was necessary to truly enjoy being on the Disney cruise - especially when it came to seeing characters. So when we saw this opportunity for a Marvel sailing, we jumped at the chance, since Caleb has an obsession with all things Marvel.
I’m going to break this up into two posts: the cruise and ship itself, and the Marvel Day At Sea - as I think that will be the easiest for you to follow. There are certain things that are given when it comes to cruising: your food is all included, entertainment is included, and there are different ports of call. As far as schedules go, getting information, and logistics, it works just like any other cruise ship. For questions on what to pack, head over to my post on packing for a Disney Cruise.
We were on the Disney Magic, which is the oldest and smallest of their fleet. The ship is easy to navigate, state rooms are all in one area and not completely spread apart, and it’s not too far to go from your state room to the dining room, or from the dining room to the theater. There is also plenty to do on the ship - they have an amazing kids club (Oceaneer Club) and that could take a post all on its own. It is very secure, and provides tons of opportunities for kids to go in either on their own or accompanied by their parents. I didn’t get to use the fitness center on the ship, but my husband did and said it was great. The adults only section of the ship is amazing and so relaxing from what I can tell (since I only walked through there). There are bars and areas to grab a drink all over the ship, and there is plenty of seating throughout as well. There are two main pool areas, a splash pad for little ones who are still in diapers, a waterslide, and the adults only pool. There are theaters, a nightclub, a several areas for dancing and people watching in the evenings.
The one thing that really stuck out to us the first time we cruised with Disney was how conducive the staterooms were to families. First of all, they have actual BATHTUBS. Not teeny tiny showers you’re trying to squeeze into or bathing your kids and struggling to not drop them. The bathrooms are also split up - one door for the toilet and a sink, and another for the bathtub and a sink. Two sinks! Definitely useful fo four people getting ready at the same time. Staterooms have plenty of storage - drawers, cabinets, and shelves, so you can put everyone’s things away. The bed is also raised high enough where you can store your luggage AND strollers underneath! You can request a pack n play for babies to sleep in (which we did), and they will also bring you a diaper genie.
One of the things I enjoyed on the ship was going to the movies. In the Walt Disney theater, you can watch movies that are still out in theaters. So while we were on the ship, we were able to watch Mary Poppins returns, which I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch yet.
As far as entertainment in the evenings, we only made it to two of the shows. Since my kids go to sleep relatively early, and are pretty miserable if they don’t get to sleep, I did not want to keep them up five nights and suffer the consequences. So we watched two of the shows in the theater, and we watched another on the closed circuit TV in our state room while the kids were asleep. On Pirate Night (in lieu of a formal night, they do Pirate Night, which is so nice to not have to dress up in formalwear with kids), they have an awesome deck party with a show with Mickey and Minnie and fireworks! The last night Caleb stayed up and Chloe went to the nursery - more on both of those later.
There are also characters available throughout the ship at different times of the day. Sometimes you need to make a line for them, other times they are dancing and interacting with passengers. There are also special character meet and greets that you book ahead of time online. They don’t cost extra, but they only allow a certain number of people to take part and it usually includes more than one character. We did this for the Marvel Day at Sea. But if you don’t get a coveted spot, show up early and ask if there is any way you can get in. We did this with Chloe and the princesses, and they asked us to wait a few minutes. Once the line went down completely, they let us in, and Chloe got to meet Cinderella, Bella, and Tiana.
Disney’s private island is nothing short of perfect. Even though it was January and the water was a little cold for our taste, we got down and enjoyed the beach and the island. Food is provided at two locations, there is a separate 21+ section on the island, and plenty of lounge chairs throughout. There is a splash pad for kids, and there is an outpost of the Oceaneer Club, called Scuttle’s Cove where you can drop off your kids and they will have activities for them. There are bars throughout the island as well. A couple of important notes. You get towels to use as you disembark from the ship. There is a shuttle, just like in the parking lot at Disney World. You can take the shuttle or you can walk. When you get off the shuttle at the beach, there are strollers, wagons, and wheelchairs available, free of charge, that will get you through the sand. We actually grabbed strollers for the kids (they were brand new BOB strollers), and a wagon for all of our stuff. We ended up grabbing a spot near the front part of the island, close to the food. But we did take a walk and explore a little more of the island, and it was relaxed throughout. We even got to see a wedding taking place!
The Oceaneer Club has some great activities for kids. At the beginning of the cruise, if you register your child for the Oceaneer Club, they will receive a Magic Band. This gives the cast members working in the Club your child’s location. They can only be signed out by adults who are on a pre-approved list, and the adults have to give a “secret word” that you designate when you register them. The Oceaneer Club is spread into two areas: the Club and the Lab. There are activities designated as “Open House,” which means you can go in with your child to one of the areas. The other area is secured and children who are not with an adult are kept in the secure side.
We left Chloe in the nursery one evening and they were great, as well. They get a similar Magic Band, but it is placed on their ankles. They have plenty of staff in the nursery and it is a welcoming space. They are clearly experienced because they whisked Chloe away from me and didn’t delay the goodbye, and she was perfectly fine. She actually fell asleep shortly after we left and when we picked her up, she was still asleep. (Tiny note: the nursery does have an additional cost, while the Oceaneer Club does not.)
Food & Dining
There are plenty of places to eat and grab a bite on the ship. Lumiere’s is open for breakfast and lunch if you would like to sit down to eat, and Cabanas is the buffet that is open for breakfast and lunch (and dinner, too, if I’m not mistaken!). There are also spots near the pool where you can grab a bite if the buffet isn’t open and you’re hungry.
Dinner is set up in such a way where you rotate to the different restaurants but your waitstaff follows you from one restaurant to the next, so every night you have the same waitstaff. This means they learn your likes and your dislikes, but you get to see a new environment. In the case of the Magic there are three main dining rooms: Animator’s Palate, Rapunzel’s Table, and Lumiere’s. The food was great - we thoroughly enjoyed everything and there was a lot of variety available for everyone in our party - from healthy options to rich, decadent ones. If there were any special requests, those were taken care of for us with ease, as well. If you really need something, and can’t find it, ask! Especially when it comes to food allergies or something for the kids, Disney knows how to get it done right!
I would pay over and over and over again for Disney’s service. We had exceptional service throughout - from our waitstaff to our cabin steward. Caleb befriended one of the entertainers at dinner one day, and we spotted him at a show the next night. After we went over and talked to him for a few minutes, and he found out it was Caleb’s birthday, he had a backpack full of goodies delivered to our stateroom for Caleb. It was such a nice touch and one that Caleb still talks about (he uses the backpack for school every day).
All in all, I’d say a Disney cruise is totally worth taking, and an experience the whole family will love. As a matter of fact, I might go check out next year’s sailings right now.
P.S. If you plan on doing a lot of character photo opps, get the photo package. It's not cheap, but we ended up with over 75 photos on a USB. It would have cost us way more to get all the photos we would have wanted to get and we didn't have to stress over getting a good photo ourselves.
Disclaimer: I won the Doona in a giveaway. All opinions, however, are my own!
A little over a year ago, I posted about how excited I was to use certain products. Well, after nearly a year of use, I can certainly say that the Doona was worth the hype. It has been the single most useful item we have had for Chloe.
If you’re not familiar with the Doona, it is a car seat that converts to a stroller. Instead of a travel system where you pop the infant seat into a stroller with an attachment, this is all one piece. The handle bar moves and extends, wheels pop out of the bottom part of the car seat, and it becomes a very handy stroller.
It’s safe, it’s convenient, it saves precious real estate in your trunk. Need I say more? Chloe just turned one and we are still using it. We actually JUST got a new lightweight stroller for her because I feel like she would enjoy sitting up more. But really, we could keep using it for a while and she would still be fine. As a matter of fact, the height limit is 32” and the weight limit is 35 lbs. Chloe will outgrow it lengthwise before she does weight-wise (she is just over 29 inches and 19 pounds), but she still has a couple of inches before that happens.
Let’s talk pros and cons.
Price: The Doona rings in at $500.00. I know many would list this as a con, but I think it is well worth the price tag. Odds are, if you are considering this, you’re considering a travel system that clocks in at just as much or double this. Since we haven’t used anything else for Chloe up until now, I can tell you that the investment is well worth it.
Overall, way more pros than cons - and I can tell you that when I was in a rush at morning drop-off with Caleb, it was nice to just release the seat and go. Not having to take the extra step of opening the trunk was so helpful. Caleb only uses a stroller when we are doing something like Disney or something with really heavy walking, which is why this worked so well for us (we ended up just taking two strollers with us when we went to places like that, and it worked for us).
Clearly, this is a product I love. I will continue to recommend this product, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to use it!
Questions? Ask away in the comments below!
For a little while now, I have toyed with the idea of letting my hair grow out naturally and not covering up my gray hair. Two years ago, my mom underwent this transition and she looks amazing and she is happy. Ever since I watched Stacy London on What Not to Wear, with her white streak against her black hair, I was intrigued by the notion that a patch of graying hair didn’t necessarily need to be covered up.
I started getting gray hair when I was 18, and ever since then, I have been working hard at covering it up. Over the last few years, it has gotten worse. I had been going to get my roots done every 3-4 weeks, and I started doing them at home to save a little money. By a week after I had dyed it, sparkly white roots were already starting to pop up. At two weeks, it was time to color my roots again.
And I’m over it.
I’m over the constant upkeep. I’m over people staring at me for the patch that grows in right over my right eyebrow, where I love to part my hair. I’m over covering up something that is completely and totally natural.
Having kids and becoming a mother has given me a confidence I didn’t have before. Something about growing a human and sustaining it makes you realize that there’s a lot of things that we put importance on that aren’t really important. Plus, I have this notion of how I want my children to see me as they grow up, and of how I want them to see themselves and others as they grow up.
In particular, having a daughter has made me hyper-aware of the limits that we as women put on ourselves. Don’t gain weight, don’t get wrinkles, don’t get too skinny, don’t let your gray hair grow in. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that her beauty is defined ONLY by what SHE considers beautiful. And what better way to show her that than to live it? And truthfully, I think it will be positive for my son to grow up seeing that beauty isn’t just thin and blonde and with a full face of makeup.
Does this mean that I’ll never dye my hair again? I don’t know. Honestly, I know that this is going to be a test of my will and patience. I’m going to give it a shot. I’ve already spoken with my stylist and we have a plan to help camouflage the growth a little so I don’t have a hard line of growth. I know I’ll come up against some comments - I’ve already had a few people tell me that I’m too young and I’m crazy.
You want to know what is crazy to me? That we rely so much on antiquated standards of beauty to tell us who or what we should be, when we are defined by so much more than that? Why is it that men are considered sexy with their salt and pepper hair, and as women, we are considered to be aging prematurely? (And ladies, find yourself a man who tells you he’s growing his hair longer because he wants to match his hair to yours - yes, he said that.)
You know what else is crazy? Thinking that my hair color is what defines me. I am defined by SO much much more than the color assigned to me by genetics. And at the end of the day - it’s hair. If I hate it, I dye it again and start over.
Does your gray hair make you feel gorgeous? ROCK IT. Does red lipstick make you feel like you run the world? YASSS QUEEN. Does a fresh face make you feel your best? HELL YES. Do you feel better with a little shot of Botox now and then? THAT’S ALL YOU MAMA.
It’s time to redefine what beauty really is. So many companies and brands have started to move towards this idea that natural is what is beautiful, but there is still so far to go. Our children will be bombarded with images of what is deemed to be beautiful from a very early age, and it’s up to us to give them the images we want them to emulate. At the end of the day, I don’t care if my daughter dyes her gray hair or doesn’t wear makeup. What I want her to do is be comfortable in her own skin, and do things because SHE wants to do them, not because anyone else tells her she should.
At the end of the day, our confidence is what makes us beautiful anyway.
Do you momma. Because I think you're gorgeous as you are.
A couple of years ago, my friend Jenny Rose over at Princess Turned Mom shared an idea for Valentine's Day that really stuck with me. As an alternative to giving out chocolates and stuffed animals for Valentine's Day, why not give books? They last longer, and they won't give you or your kids cavities! Ever since I read that idea of hers, I decided I would implement it for my own kids for Valentine's Day.
With one week to go until Valentine's Day, I decided to compile a list of books we have enjoyed in our home and that I thought would be cute to give as Valentine's Day gifts.
In compiling the list, I reached out to the amazing people over at Books & Books. If you're in Miami and have never been, get yourself there ASAP. Books & Books is my favorite bookstore. It's local and it has a couple of locations in South Florida, but it has such an incredible variety of material. Plus, the staff there are true bibliophiles - they absolutely love books. I actually love this place so much that we had Caleb's baby shower at the Coral Gables location - it has the cutest cafe and courtyard space!
They sent me list of some of the books they currently have on their shelves, and there is something here for everyone. As a matter of fact, I may swing by there this weekend and pick up a couple of these (including a new read for myself!). If you're into this idea and have the spare time this weekend, head to your nearest Books & Books and pick up a copy of one of these, totally perfect for Valentine's Day!
Love You More
By: Gary Urda
Publisher: Little Bee Books
A Hug Is for Holding Me
By: Lisa Wheeler
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed
The Littlest Things Give the Loveliest Hugs
By: Mark Sperring
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
French Love Poems
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
Dumplin’ (of Netflix fame)
By: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
99 Percent Mine
By: Sally Thorne
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Don't have time to stop by and pick one of these up? Head to my Amazon List to see some other options that you can get via Prime, with more than enough time for Valentine's Day!
Love is a Tutu and Goodnight Miami are also available from Books & Books.
I'd love to hear if you do this for your children or loved ones and how it goes - so if you do it, use the hashtag, #chaptersnotchocolates so I can see your posts!
I was provided with this shirt by Pink Blush in exchange for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
We've already established my love for jeans. I have tried and tried and tried to break myself free of my denim habit, but it's just not happening, people. Jeans are easy and they are versatile and I really do love wearing them, so I'm not going to fight it anymore.
And if you love jeans, then you should go ahead and wear them too! Once you find your style, you'll be much more confident in your skin and in your clothes.
I also really love a good tee. But it can get boring for sure to wear a plain old tee day in and day out. So one way that I change up my look is by finding tees with fun details, patterns, or materials. PinkBlush has really cute maternity clothes, but they also have non-maternity women's clothing, plus-size clothing, and kids' clothing.
This tee from PinkBlush is perfect for when I want to add an extra little something to my look. The black and white stripes are really cute, but the lace detailing on the sleeve really adds a little something extra. The tee is actually pretty long, so it can be worn with leggings as well (my requirement for being able to wear leggings is that the shirt I'm wearing them with must cover my butt - and this tee does!). It is also the softest, comfiest tee, and I know I will be wearing this over and over again.
It's perfect for running around all day with the kids because it doesn't ride up, but it is also easy for me to nurse Chloe in it! I actually wore this exact look out to dinner this weekend, but I could easily dress it up with heels and a big sparkly necklace or dress it down with leggings and sneakers. That's what I love about simple pieces - their versatility is always worth a little investment - and PinkBlush has a great selection of versatile tees like this!
Since I get asked all the time, here's a link to my beach waves tutorial on IGTV!
A lot of you were very interested in what (and how) I packed for our Disney cruise, and have asked for a packing list for that. So I put one together for you!
It's pretty self-explanatory. Some things I packed are specific to a Disney cruise, but I didn't really include them in here (super hero costumes, Mickey ears, pirate outfits). The cruise line also provided a pack n play so we didn't have to take that. They have high chairs available at every restaurant, and are really accommodating when it comes to food for kids (Chloe is already eating table food so I just took a few purees just in case).
Chloe was also sick before we left on the cruise (she had a cold that turned into bronchiolitis) so I took more medication and a nebulizer to continue treating her and in case she got worse.
I also packed one outfit per day and didn't necessarily use them all. The day at Castaway Cay we were in swimsuits and cover ups all day, so the "outfits" for that day didn't get used.
Click on the file below to download the PDF of my cruise packing list.
Questions about what I packed? Suggestions on how to make it better? Send them over to email@example.com!
We spent the last days of 2018 and the first days of 2019 in a gorgeous cabin in Black Mountain, North Carolina. We spent a week there with family, and it was a great, relaxing way to start the year. I'll share a little more about the location later this week, but one of the biggest hurdles for me for any trip is packing.
I am a notorious overpacker, and since we are from Miami, traveling to where the temperature is even slightly colder than we're used to makes me want to be extra prepared. I over packed a little for this trip, but in all fairness we stayed in the cabin and in pajamas on multiple days, which means some of the other clothes I took didn't get used.
We had a couple of activities planned and we knew we were going to the Biltmore Estate one of the days, so I made sure to pack a couple of outfits that were a little nicer (not fancy by any means but jeans instead of sweatpants and nicer sweaters that we never get to wear!).
We stayed in a rental home, so there were some things we took that I might not have taken if we were staying in a hotel, but my list is pretty comprehensive. I've included some blank spaces for you to add in things that are specific to you and your family, but it's a good starting point!
Click on the file below the image to download a PDF file of the packing list!
I hope this helps you pack for your next trip! And if you think I have forgotten anything, let me know in the comments!
I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, not really. Anytime I’ve ever done them in the past, I’ve set goals that are too high and the minute I falter, I give up entirely. So in the last few years, I haven’t done resolutions at all. As a matter of fact, I haven’t done much of anything.
But this year, after hearing about it a few years in a row, I decided I would do a word of the year. After a little self-reflection and being totally honest with myself, I decided that my word for 2019 would be SIMPLIFY. In all ways. Once I decided a word of the year, I was able to set some attainable goals for 2019 that would help me achieve the simplicity I have been craving.
Over the last few years, I have felt bogged down. By compromisos, or things we feel we have to do, by stuff (SOOO MUCH STUFF with kids), by my wardrobe, and by the pressure to do it all. After a particularly busy holiday season, I decided that that was it. My primary “job” is supposed to be that of a stay-at-home mom. But my kids were not getting the best of me, at all.
And simplifying was the only way to get it done.
So for my photography business, simplifying means getting a client management software that will help me keep all my information and scheduling in one place.
For the blog, it means I will have a schedule for writing, and I will try not to stay up until the wee hours getting posts done.
For my home, it was to organize my closet and to organize the kids’ toys.
For my personal life, it’s to be present and to not say yes to every invite or event that comes our way. Will I take photos? Yes. But I may upload posts later. Will I reply to your comments and DMs? Yes - but I may not reply within minutes.
I feel like having a big word really helped me to narrow it down. Fitness is not at the top of my list this year. Neither is growing my business. There will be a time for both of those things, and 2019 is not the time. I recognize that. And while I did include a couple of goals like, “Move more,” and “Drink more water,” I know that those are completely attainable and within my reach.
So now that we are more than halfway through January, and I’m no longer on any vacation or planning for one, I’m putting this into practice. On Friday, I started thinking about Chloe’s birthday. At first, I said I would cut a cake with family at home. Then I started coming up with ideas, and pinning my life away on Pinterest. Within 15 minutes, it had gone from a small cake cutting at home with family, to a small-ish birthday party at a park with a bounce house and way too many details to oversee. I researched venues, made calls. And then I thought to myself, “How will this serve me or my family? How is this fitting into the theme of simplicity?” And the answer, before I had finished asking myself the question, was No. No it is not serving our purpose. No, it is not fitting into the theme of simplicity.
And as quickly as I scaled it up, I scaled it down.
And that’s what it’s about. It’s about knowing that you may get off course, but being able to bring yourself back. If you set resolutions and have veered off track a little, know that you can get back. Tomorrow is a new day.
Keep it simple, babe.
We have spent the last week in North Carolina, in an area just outside of Asheville (more on the area and things to do some other time). We left our house on the Friday right after Christmas and we will head back this Saturday. The entire trip is just about 12 hours one way, and we decided to drive for various reasons.
I was actually a little nervous about driving because Chloe doesn't always do so well in the car. As a matter of fact, we had a contingency plan - if she was a disaster on the way up, I would fly back with her on Saturday and Eddie and Caleb would drive down. But she actually did really well on the way up, so we'll all be driving back together again.
Caleb is a great traveler. Last winter we did a road trip and went up to South Carolina, stopping at a couple places along the way, and he was awesome. I wasn't worried about him at all. But there are things I do to make sure it goes more smoothly and that he is kept busy.
There you have it! It's not impossible to road trip with little kids - just takes some planning, preparation, and flexibility!
Hopefully you feel more prepared for your next road trip!
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.