A Wonderous Voyage 

When my family and I embarked on a seven day cruise to Alaska on the Disney Wonder I was prepared for a truly magical experience. But after a challenging flight where I had to physically restrain my two year old during take off ( in fear that we would get kicked off the plane) I was beginning to have my doubts about the trip. She didn’t improve as we made our way through the ship’s boarding procedure, refusing to have anyone but mommy console her and I ended up carrying her every step of the way. Sadly, our trip was quickly losing its magic.

Once on the ship we encountered crowded elevators and a mass of people making their way up to deck nine for the castaway party. Through all of the chaos a mother and her daughter caught my attention. They were positively glowing and I don’t know if I was attracted to them because of their fashionable nautical wardrobe or the fact that as mother and daughter they looked so happy to simply be together. I admired their special bound and hope my daughter and I have a relationship like theirs when she grows into a young adult.

We made our way up to deck nine with only minutes to spare before showtime. There were people everywhere and even more people looking down on us from deck ten! As we frantically looked for a place to stand, a Disney cast member took down the rope blocking a gazebo and ushered us inside, giving us the perfect spot to see the show! My daughter shimmered with excitement as Mickey Mouse and friends filled the stage with animated enthusiasm. We danced along to the spirited party music and Chip the Chipmunk captured her heart by blowing a kiss her way!

After the characters and dancers left the stage I turned around. To my surprise, there was the mother/daughter pair who had caught my eye outside the elevators on our frenzied dash to the show! I continued to feel drawn to them and wrangled between approaching them and keeping to myself. Although I questioned my decision, something inside of me pushed away any decisiveness and I made my way over to them. I quickly explained that I usually don’t approach random strangers but wanted to complement them on their stylish cruise attire. They in turn complemented my family and I on our matching cruise t-shirts, adding that they enjoyed watching my little princess dance. I told them we were on the cruise to celebrate my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary (visiting our 49th state for 49 years of marriage.) Through teary eyes they told me they were cruising together in memory of their beloved husband/father who passed on a year ago after a tremendous fight with cancer. I am not an overly emotional person but tears welled in my eyes as I immediately embraced them and said, “Your husband/father is here on the cruise with you. I don’t know how to explain it but I just feel his presence.” I assured them I wasn’t claiming to be a medium or a psychic or anything like that. It was just something I felt that I couldn’t completely articulate.

Tracee and Brooklyn pose for a picture with me and my mini me!
We continued our conversation and I discovered twenty-year old Brooklyn, wise beyond her years, was an only child and a college student interested in pursing the health profession. Tracee (with two Es) was a proud Momma who beamed with pride when she described the dedicated care Brooklyn showed her father during his heart wrenching struggle.

After meeting Tracee and Brooklyn I completely changed my attitude about the trip. I no longer worried about everything going smoothly. Suddenly my daughter’s toddler meltdowns and the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do and see everything seemed insignificant. (our big dog sledding on a glacier experience was cancelled due to weather) Instead, my focus shifted to spending quality time together (with the added bonus of having the majestic views of Alaska as our backdrop). As Carly, our delightful cruise director stated, “Now is the time to disconnect with the outside world and reconnect with your family.” So that is exactly what I did and I will never forget the memory of seeing my brave little girl grin from ear to ear as she danced with Minnie Mouse or the quality time my dad and I spent sipping hot cocoa on our private verandah after the rest of our family went to bed. As we passed seals riding on ice bergs, viewed amazing waterfalls flowing down mountainsides and stood in awe gazing at the Mendenhall Glacier, we were creating magical memories. Delightful memories that I will no longer take for granted. 1572-12152152-Tracy Arm-26947_GPR.jpg

Although I saw Tracee and Brooklyn several times throughout our Alaskan adventure we never exchanged email addresses and I left the ship knowing I would never see them again. However, I will never forget them and will treasure the moment we shared and the lessons they taught me on that wonderous day. They reminded me to focus on the little miracles in life. As I further reflect on my encounter with Tracee and Brooklyn I realize the Holy Spririt was at work in me that day. God used me to speak to Tracee and Brooklyn and I was open to listening to Him. I am reminded that God is always with us and He can speak to us at anytime, even on a crowded cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

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Stickers, Stickers, Everywhere!

When I was in the 5th grade I had a beloved sticker collection. Each newly acquired sticker was kept in tact and pristinely placed into a giant photo album where it was safely kept under the shiny plastic to be admired over and over again. I never used any of my stickers (like actually stuck them on anything) and the bigger, puffier and shinier the sticker; the more it was valued. Unicorns and rainbows were hot commodities along with the amazing sheets of scratch and sniff stickers found at the local teacher aid store. Gift shops and drug stores would sell individual designer stickers by Lisa Frank, Suzy’s Zoo (my favorite) and Sandra Boyton. I would save my money so I could buy these special stickers for my collection. It was a big event to go to the mall to buy new stickers. What a thrill to tear the newly found sticker off of the roll and then find the perfect spot for it in my book! 

Designer stickers from the 1980s.
Pictures of my sticker collection.
Other coveted stickers in my collection included Garfield, Pac Man and Snoopy. My friends and I would trade stickers on the playground during recess and get together to admire our collections after school. I belonged to the Lisa Frank fan club where I was matched with a sticker pen pal. We wrote letters to each other and even traded stickers through the mail! I was the shining example of a ten-year old sticker addict! 

Fast forward thirty-five years and I am a forty something with a two-year old little girl who is obsessed with stickers! But unlike her mommy, Lillian gets a thrill from eagerly ripping the stickers off of the sheet and sticking them onto everything! Every time I see her do this my ten-year old self (who never dared to use any of  her stickers) cries out with a silent Aggghhh!!!  She puts stickers on her clothes, on her beloved stuffed Sweetie Pie, and all over her toys.  So there are stickers everywhere! Stickers are stuck to our hardwood floors, in the carpet and one night I even found a sticker in my hair! 

Lillian likes to share her stickers with the people she loves; never expecting anything in return. Visitors leave our house adorned with stickers. I have shown up to multiple rehearsals with a sticker clad shirt and daddy went to work one day only to discover at lunch that he had spent the entire morning sporting a Minnie Mouse sticker on his tie! 

And she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to stickers. As long as they are sticky she is in love! In fact anything adhesive is viewed as a sticker. Last week we went to our local post office to mail a package. While there I picked up a sheet of stamps. Not even thinking I let Lillian pick them out. She got the biggest grin on her face when the nice lady behind the counter handed her a new sheet of “stickers.” She began to rip the expensive stickers off of the sheet while I frantically explained these were special stickers, called stamps, that are used to mail things to people. To my relief, she willingly traded her new sheet of “stickers” for some Goldfish crackers and I celebrated the fact that I successfully prevented a $9.80 mistake from happening!

Lillian loves stickers!

A huge smile appears on her face when the cashier at Target, or one of the grocery stores we frequent, gives her a sticker as we pass through the check out. The little girl in me gets excited when we go to Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has the best stickers! They give each tiny shopper an entire roll of stickers and the stickers are often seasonal and witty, so there is something to be enjoyed on multiple levels. For Thanksgiving they gave out scratch and sniff stickers (for free) and the little 80’s girl who used to save her money to buy stickers could barely contain her excitement! Back in the day the stickers Trader Joe’s gives out would have been a coveted addition to my growing sticker collection! 
The fun stickers from Trader Joe’s!
My old sticker collection is a childhood treasure I am excited to pass down to Lillian. I plan to wait a few years before I give her my cherished possession. Although I would enjoy seeing the excitement on her sweet little face, I would find absolutely no joy in peeling my beloved collection off of our hardwood floors! 

Negotiating the Terrible Twos

Life with a two year old is truly unpredictable. I never know what the day has in store for us! Will my little one wake up and willingly get ready for the day ahead or will she delay the start by challenging every aspect of our morning routine? I have to be prepared for either because I never know which little girl will greet me each day. Will she be a Beauty or The Beast?

I often feel like I am negotiating every aspect of the day. “Would you like to wear the Minnie Mouse shirt or the shirt with the pup on it… would you like apples or yogurt for snack… do you want to drink out of your St. Louis Cardinal cup or your Kentucky Wildcat cup?” I wish it was always that easy, giving the little princess two choices and she picks one and we happily move along. Sometimes she doesn’t like either choice of clothing and she will run around the house in her diaper. I try to negotaiate and plead with her to get dressed until I become frustrated and both of us end up in tears as we find we are once again late for our appointment. I will never judge a parent whose child is seen in public wearing snow boots in May or a pajama top with her leggings or mix matched clothes of any kind. Some days the victory comes in getting the child clothed! Once she requested toast with butter and cinnamon sugar for snack. This request was easy to fulfill and I even had her help me spread the butter and sprinkle the cinnamon. But then I cut the toast into strips instead of little squares and she refused to eat; throwing the bowl of sweet crispness on the floor. I will never scorn a parent who gives her child a Pop Tart for breakfast because sometimes getting the little person to eat anything is a true accomplishment! And one day sweet Lillian requested to drink milk from a cup that was in the dishwasher, ready to be cleaned, and when I tried to explain this she threw a tantrum because that was the only cup she wanted to drink from that day! 

Although I have read the worst thing to do is to give in to her demands, out of pure desperation I have resorted to negotiation and pure bribery. The incident occurred in the garage on a sunny Tuesday morning in May. Feeling accomplished after passing the first hurdle of getting her dressed, she suddenly stalled when we got to the car by refusing to get buckled into her car seat. She arched her back, kicked her legs and cried, “No Mommy, no!” Blood curdling screams accompanied by crocodile tears rang out of our garage. I’m surprised the lady taking a lesurly morning walk nearby didn’t call the police out of fear. I tried everything, “We can go to the park if you let mommy buckle you in… Girls who get buckled in their seats get a new Minnie Mouse toy.. Please sweet Jesus help me get this little person into the car seat! And after all of the drama and the sweat and the tears (from both of us) we never ended up leaving the house that day. 

I know this is “just a phase” and that at two years of age children are testing their independence and navigating all of life’s demands. When I mentioned these episodes  to the “library girls” I was comforted to know they were experiencing the same behaviors with their little ones. I read a few articles online and my “mommy mentor” gave me some helpful advice. Her best suggestion, “Did you try turning her car seat around to forward facing from rear facing?” When Lillian was told she was going to ride in the car like a “big girl” I am happy to report there hasn’t been another car seat fiasco!

We had two rough weeks where she challenged everything but then my little Beauty started to show her sweet face once again. She still experiences tantrums now and then but I am better prepared for them. Although her tantrums are as unpredictable as a summer storm and often reach a grand crescendo; they are short bursts that swell in sound and after ringing loudly, slowly return to a normal volume. One day our house will be filled with silence and I know I will yearn for her musical performances, the ones that frustrated me and grated on my last nerve but until then I have invested in a set of high quality earplugs! Several people have told me that once you master one stage in your child’s growth and development they move on to the next. I am preparing myself because I have already been warned about the “threeanger” and their unpredictable personalities!