Escalated Plans

Joe & I are notorious for a simple idea turning into a grand plan. Let me give you an example;

This past Christmas Will planned to ask Santa for a turtle, so we visited the pet store to learn more about this potential new family member. If you aren’t aware turtles can live a long time and I definitely didn’t want to be caring for a Christmas gift for the next 50 years. So we started to think of alternatives options. We checked out the lizards, hamsters and at one point decided that it might be best to get a guinea pig, but of course they are social pets – so we’d need two, not one! Did I mention we have a cat that might eat them both? Quickly the plan escalated from a little turtle living in a 10 gallon tank to two guinea pigs, needing a very large (and smelly) caged area. Luckily I realized what was happening and put my foot down. Santa ended up bringing Will a small aquarium with a few fish & a frog. I didn’t like that idea either but it was the lesser of evils.

Fast forward to last week when it all happened again. Spring Break was quickly approaching and of course Ella really wanted to go (fly) somewhere. Joe & I had just gone on our solo vacation to Punta Cana so we didn’t really have the time to take off of work, nor the money to plan a big trip. We discussed driving to Florida so the kids could see the ocean, and we’d break up the long drive by visiting Nashville. Don’t get me wrong, typically I love road trips, but the thought of being trapped in the car with my two children, fighting non-stop for 32+ hours just wasn’t doing it for me.

So I started to look for cheap flights near the beach and stumbled upon a non-stop flight to Orlando & even better, it was in & out of Madison. That literally NEVER happens, so I had to show Joe. Since the change of plans was new, he needed some time to think about it. By the time he had decided, those flights were gone, but we had already set our minds to Orlando so we looked for another option. Luckily we found another cheap flight in & out of Milwaukee that was also non-stop – and we booked!

Of course we couldn’t fly into Orlando and NOT take our kids to Disney, so we started to look at tickets to Magic Kingdom. We told ourselves that we’d do just one day at Disney and we’d find the cheapest hotel since we’d barely be there. But then a Disney Resort seemed to offer so many great options. Long story short, when we land (we’re currently in the air) we’ll be picked up by the Magical Express and delivered to the Disney Pop Century Resort. As originally planned, we do want to show the kids the ocean so we are only doing one day at Disney and then we’ll head to Clearwater Beach for a few days.

I saw this plan escalate as well, but surprising our kids with their first flight, first trip to Disney and first time in the ocean is completely worth it. We kept it a secret until two days ago. We told them we couldn’t do a full vacation because of work, but that we could take a few days and head to Milwaukee to see the Brewers play & visit the zoo. Unveiling the surprise was almost as fun for us, as it was for them. Take a peek for yourself!

Obviously I was very anxious about the trip, especially since Will worries about most things (see: his response to flying in the video), but so far I have been so proud of them & delightfully surprised. They both were amazing at the airport & so far have been fantastic on the flight. They are currently coloring & watching a movie on the phones (thank the powers above for technology)!

I really hope this doesn’t jinx the rest of the trip!


Love So Hard

IMG_6563Somehow it’s that time of year again…we are en route to our annual vacation, this time to Punta Cana. This year we decided to mix it up a bit – Ella’s spring break isn’t until April 10th & we didn’t want to leave for someplace warm just as it’s starting to get nice (ignore the 70 day in February) in Wisconsin.

That means she still needs to get to school though, so for the first time we hired a nanny to stay with the kids for a few days. We feel very fortunate to have someone who 1) is willing, 2) we trust and 3) the kids like. Ms. Krissy works at our daycare and Will loves her, so it’s nice that our timid one will be comfortable.

That doesn’t mean it comes without worry & a whole lot of planning. I HATE asking people for things – even if I pay them, so IF I do so, I want to make it as convenient as possible for them. That means a whole lot of meal planning, cleaning & list making ahead of time.

Planning for Will was quite easy, just lay out clothes for each day & Krissy can take him to & from work with her. Ella on the other hand was a different story. Yes, there was laying out her clothes, but there were also check lists to make sure she packed her lunch, remembered her helmet (they’re rollerblading in gym class), got to Drew’s on-time and a list of responsibilities too – mostly all dealing with the pets. Feed the fish, let the dogs out, kennel the dogs, leave the basement door open for Mac, feed the animals, etc. You never realize how much goes into a daily routine until you have to write it all down – and that’s a lot to remember for an 8 year old!

By the time the planning was nearly complete, I was more than ready for this vacation. The kids were feeling a mix of emotions too – a bit or nerves, some sadness and a lot of excitement! They were so wound up yesterday afternoon that we wanted to murder them. They were driving us crazy! We couldn’t wait to get in the car and out of that house.

At the same time, saying goodbye is always hard. You’re re-running all of the lists in your head to make sure you told the nanny everything and checking to make sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need. We said our goodbyes & got into the car and immediately I felt…guilt & sadness. #momlife. How could I feel bad two seconds into the trip. I didn’t express my feelings but instead called my mom to make sure she had everything she needed for the second part of the trip. Continuing to plan kept my mind off of it, plus Ella & I were texting the whole time. We got to our hotel and as we laid down for bed I finally said out loud, “how can I miss the kids already?” It had been less than 4 hours. They were driving us crazy. We couldn’t wait to go. And yet here I was missing them.

How can you both love & strongly dislike someone so hard?!


Riviera Maya

It’s that time of year again…vacation! Thanks to the help of my mom, once a year Joe & I prioritize taking a trip together, without our kids.

This year we chose to go to Riviera Maya in Mexico. Like other years we chose to stay at a Park & Fly hotel in Chicago the night before. This year though, we chose to pick a different hotel that’s a bit closer to the airport. Driving into the parking lot we immediately knew it wasn’t worth the $50 savings. When checking in they asked us to leave our keys with them for the duration of our trip, which seemed shady. As trusting Midwesterner’s we ignored our gut and surrendered them. We got in late and had to be up early for our flight so we were ready to hit the hay. 

Of course as luck would have it, some people in the room immediately next to ours were there for a party. For hours we endured loud music, banging on the walls & screaming. Finally at 1:30 a.m. I decided to call the front desk, but no one answered. Luckily, it was due to the fact that the staff was on their way to kick our neighbors out. Through our peephole, we counted 35+ people that filed out of the small room. 

Not the best start, but luckily it didn’t set the tone for our trip. We had a direct flight and all went smoothly, landing us in Cancun by noon. We arrived at our resort, Secrets Silversands and grabbed a drink while we waited for our room to be ready. It was exceptionally windy the entire time we were there, but the weather was the worst on the first day. We had dinner at Himitsu and ate some of the best sushi I’ve had in a long time. Every night there was live music after the nightly show & the singers the first night were phenomenal. Unfortunately it began to rain so they had to stop after 30 minutes, but that didn’t stop us from sitting in the rain until bar time.

On day 2 we laid low & visited the excursion desk to plan out our trips & spent the remainder of the day drinking in the pool. It was very cloudy so I was cold a lot of the time, but it still beat Wisconsin. In fact when we talked to the kids they informed us it was snowing & sleeting. We had the best of intentions on having dinner with a Canadian couple that night but after a long day of drinking in the pool, we fell asleep before making it out :( 

12189634_10101405191472416_4242653828440681218_n (1)Day 3 was the first of our excursions and an early start to the day. Joe loves history so we booked a trip to Tulum to see the Mayan Ruins and afterwards, we swam with sea turtles in Akumal. Our tour guide, Uri was amazing and he spoke four separate languages and translated everything he told us in English & French (he also speaks Spanish & Russian)! The ruins were amazing to see & the views of the ocean we’re irreplaceable. On our way out we ran into the Kennedy’s, who were staying in Cancun. If we weren’t in Mexico, I would have bought a lottery ticket because the odds of that happening were slim to none. Such a small world we live in!

After the ruins we packed up & headed to Akumal “Place of the Turtles” to swim with the turtles. We didn’t know what to expect, but were delightfully surprised as we saw over 20 turtles, 2 stingrays & many other fish while snorkeling. You’re not supposed to touch the turtles, but a baby kept swimming right next to me that it was hard to not run into it. We also saw another turtle with a fish suctioned to it’s shell. Uri called it a parasite, but assured us that it didn’t hurt the turtle. 

After snorkeling we had a local lunch at a beach clubhouse and I had two of the best margaritas I’ve ever had. It was a great day! We got back in time to sit in the pool for a little bit and made plans to eat with yet another Canadian couple that night. We did make that dinner & my Shrimp Ravioli was to die for. 

Day 4 was our next & last excursion where we visited four types of cenotes. Our first stop was The Fire or ‘K’aak’ cenote where we zip-lined into the water and swam to a cliff to jump from 30 ft high. The water in all the caves are fed from underground rivers, so everything was very clean, but also pretty cold! Our next stop was The Earth or “Lu’um” cenote where we rappelled into fresh waters. This was by far our favorite. We hiked up the trails and arrived at a platform. Our guide, Pedro – who was also super friendly & awesome – didn’t really setup (I think on purpose) what we’d be doing at this stop so when we climbed to the top of the platform, we saw the most amazing view. There were zip lines running straight down into a cave & that was the only way in. Our next stop was The Water or ‘Ha’ cenote where we were able to snorkel and see the rock formations and incredible underwater lillies. Our last stop was The Wind or ‘Iik’ cenote where we ziplined 300 yards across the open water at 60 ft. high.

Day 5, our last day – we had originally planned to go into Playa del Carmen, but later chose to stick around the resort & relax before leaving. We went to the beach, Joe snorkeled in the ocean, picked up the kids souvenirs & swam in the pool the remainder of the day. We met a very nice couple from New York & had the best French onion soup I’ve ever had at dinner that night. We had a 4 a.m. wake up call, so we made it in early night, packed our things and headed for home.

For once the travel both there and back went very smooth and were sort of uneventful. We made it home on time to watch the Badgers lost to Notre Dame for their chance to make it to the Elite Eight. Not the ending we were hoping for, but we were happy to get to see it.

Raising kids is hard work. Life is busy and it’s so easy to not prioritize the things that matter the most. Our annual vacation sans-kids so important for the health of our marriage and I hope we continue to prioritize these vacations until death do us part.


Mexican Minute

We always rave about our trip to Costa Rica and find ourselves comparing every trip since then to it, only to find they all fall short…until now!

We’re pretty lucky since we stumbled upon this trip by chance. We were hoping to go to Punta Cana or Puerto Rico, but during our travel dates the prices were pretty high and the resorts weren’t as nice as we were hoping for. With the only requirement of warm weather, we decided to look for the nicest resort at the lowest price.

That’s when we found Secrets in Huatulco, Mexico. I knew Secrets had a great reputation but I had never heard of Huatulco. The resort was rated 5 stars and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It was leaps & bounds nicer than the other all-inclusive chains (RIU & Grand Bahia) we’ve stayed at in the past.

We flew into Huatulco so the trip to the resort was a short 30 minute bus ride. We were surprised and impressed with the quality of the roads – we learned that they had just finished paving two months prior. Once again, we visited during their dry season so the surrounding vegetation was pretty brown. Like all other trips though, it rained a few sprinkles on our first day there but at this point we view it as a sign of good luck!

Normally we jam pack as many activities as possible in the short time we are there. This time we wanted a blend with some relaxation too and the resort was the perfect setting to do so. At all times, no matter where you were at the resort you had a beautiful view of the ocean. You could see and hear the ocean from the bed and shower! It was awesome to wake up to that every single day.

The weather was phenomenal with every day being full sun and temperatures in the 90’s. The endless pools were nestled right on the beach and the water temps were perfect. The resort was smaller than those we’ve stayed at in the past, kid-free and located in the middle of nowhere so it wasn’t overcrowded. At certain times we had the upper pool all to ourselves and even had the entire beach one day for snorkeling on our own. Note: the ocean was pretty rough so if your goal is to lounge in the ocean, it might not be the trip for you.

On our past trips the food was just okay and we lived off the buffet most of the time since all restaurants required dinner reservations. That was not the case this trip! The food was amazing and there were no reservations required for any of the 7 different restaurants, plus all drinks were individually hand mixed and you could actually taste the alcohol!

We couldn’t lay around the entire time so we took a boat from Santa Cruz to view the 7 Bays of Huatulco and enjoyed more snorkeling. The water was very blue and we were able to see some beautiful fish & coral. On our boat ride back we were even lucky enough to see two humpback whales and a sea turtle!

We spent another day traveling into the city of La Crucecita. The town square was very nice and housed a million local shops for souvenirs. One of the main attractions was the Iglesias Church which features the largest mural painting of Mother Mary in North America. We were able to grab an authentic lunch & sip on Dos Equis.

Costa Rica will always hold a special place in our hearts and still outranks in some categories, but when it comes to kid-free relaxation, Secrets in Huatulco definitely moves to the top of the list!


Look for the Good

imageEarly wake up call, lugging heavy bags, standing in line and cramped quarters. That’s how I started my day, so you wouldn’t expect me to say, “man, do I love flying!” And for the most part that’s true, but there is good in everything, you just have to look for it.

Starting with our seats on the plane. Joe & I didn’t get to sit with each other but we were both near a little boy who was experiencing his first flight. Watching his excitement & joy (and a bit of nervousness) as the wings left the ground was awesome! Our view of the morning sunset over the Chicago skyline was the cherry on top. Will would have loved all the beautiful colors.

I also love the time to reflect in silence and write. Between the kids, the hubby, the animals and work – I’m never alone, not even to shower or go to the bathroom – so moments like this are non-existent and I appreciate them!

The thing to be most grateful for is our final destination, as we are on our way to Huatulco, Mexico for the next 5 days. Once again my parents (mom, really) are keeping the kids so that we can spend some quality time together. Some might say we are selfish & don’t prioritize family, but I completely disagree. Sure, I’ll miss the kids and know they would love to come with, but I think the best thing we can give them is two parents who love each other & take time to focus on just us. We’ll take them on trips when they are bigger and besides, who doesn’t love Grandma Camp?