Tag Archives: Happiness

10th Anniversary Trip to Maui

When we were little baby 26-year olds, Derek and I ventured to the island paradise of Maui for our honeymoon. This was back in 2005 before the days of smart phones and Pinterest and pumpkin spice lattes. The dark ages.

We always said we’d go back for our 10th anniversary and whaddyouyaknow? We pulled it off.

Things were obviously much more complicated this time around. We didn’t even own a house the last time we went there. Or a dog. Or really anything.

This time it took a symphony of many people, rearranged schedules and a 4-page Word document so my parents could run the orchestra – and get the kids to school clean, fed and happy – all on time. We owe them big. I think they’re STILL tired.

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The view from our hotel room. The poor, 26-year old versions of us from 10 years ago could only afford a partial ocean view so we decided an upgrade was in order this time around. Hours were spent on this balcony just looking at the ocean whilst drinking some local beer.

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Ten years ago we discovered a hidden black sand beach along the infamous Hana Highway. We had a general idea of where it was, but we considered ourselves incredibly lucky to find it once again. We were the only two people on this amazing beach while the Pacific Ocean roared cold and angry at our feet. It was amazing. We just kept looking at each other in disbelief. And then it started POURING. There’s a metaphor for marriage in there somewhere.

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I believe during our last trip to Maui we rented a Geo Metro. I’m not even kidding. The rental car place talked us into upgrading to a Pontiac and we wisely agreed. This time, we again decided to go big or go home. And we did not want to go home. So we rented a convertible! A bitchin, Camaro convertible. We felt really cool. See above.

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Before we knew it, the week was up and it was time to head home. Words cannot express how much I missed these two. I felt it in every ounce of my body. I ached to squeeze their cheeks, to see their smiles and to comb their hair and make their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But the time away with my husband of 10 years was invaluable. We forgot what it was like to have uninterrupted conversations, to leisurely lay in bed in no rush to get up and get the day started, to stop off for a beer whenever the mood strikes us. It was glorious. My goal for the next 10 years is to remember that feeling of joy, love and happiness and incorporate it regularly into our everyday, hectic, crazy life.

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Happy anniversary, babe. Thanks for making all my dreams come true. I love you.

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Dear Charlotte,

It has officially been three years since you were born and I heard your daddy exclaim, “Is it a GIRL? It’s a GIRL!!” as you entered the world. To say we were shocked and thrilled would be an understatement. In three short years you have brought more joy, love and happiness to our lives than we thought possible. IMG_4748

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We used to joke that we hit the jackpot when we had Riley, but with you, we know we are equally lucky and we are equally grateful. You haven proven to be an opinionated, independent little girl. Which means there have been some tantrums this year. They’re almost comical – you stomping your foot with an emphatic “NO!” And then you calmly looking at us to see what our reaction will be.

The one thing I will remind you of over and over when you’re older is what a crappy sleeper you have always been. Seriously. Ever since you outgrew infanthood, you decided that sleep is not something you’re interested in. I still get up with you almost every night. Last night was THREE TIMES! Seriously. You don’t need anything. Other than a hug from your beloved mommy. But you magically nap like a dream for your daddy every day while I’m at work. Figures.

Xmas came and went and now we can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for us!

Few things in life have made me as happy as seeing the relationship between you and your brother. As we imagined, he’s been your protector, your BFF, your irritator and well, your favorite person. No matter what he’s eating or what treat he gets, he automatically asks for a second one for you. He’s got your back. Since birth he has called you “Goo Gee.” Like most good nicknames, none of us remember where that name came from, but it has stuck and we all call you Goo Gee. Another thing to tease you about when you’re older of course. But in reality, we’ll probably still call you Goo Gee on your wedding day.

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You idolize your big brother, that’s for sure. If he’s riding his bike, you want to ride your bike. If he’s playing Thomas trains, you want to play, too. It is rare not to hear you exclaim, “Rah-leeee!” in either happiness, attention-seeking or in anger. A perfect brother-sister duo.

I couldn’t have hand-picked a better daughter. You’re hilarious, independent, opinionated, equal parts girly and tom-boy. You’re perfect. Even when you’re stomping your foot and waking me up at 3 a.m.

Driving the boat.

I love you so, my sweet little girl.

Happy birthday.

Love, Mommy

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Tap, tap, tap

Last fall I started taking a tap dancing class. Yes, I am the queen of weird hobbies and it just made sense to start tapping. One of my friends and I had talked about taking a tap class for years and we finally found an adult, beginners class, so we signed up.

For the last six months I’ve been tapping every Thursday night all leading up to last week’s recital. I was reluctant to do it, especially because my friend couldn’t participate in the recital. Her husband was just living his dream running the Boston Marathon, so she thought her tapping should take second billing. Whatevs.

Anyway, I had to embark on the recital without my sidekick and with some older ladies. I was the youngest in the class by probably 10 years, but everyone was so nice and welcoming. They had all taken the class last year, so they knew what they were doing more than I was.

Recital day came, I put on my red sequinned halter top, and I was not really even nervous. Probably because it was too ridiculous for a 36 year old mother of two and to be nervous about a tap dancing recital. What?

I’m happy to report everything went great and even though I was blinded by the stage lights, I could see two tiny hands waving to me from the middle of the theater. I waved back, which you’re totally not supposed to do, but whatever. I wanted them to know that I saw them, that I knew they were proud of me and that even when you’re a grown up, you can still do the fun things you want to do.

According to Derek, Riley was squealing and squirming in the seat before my class took the stage. He said he was so excited to see me dance. That’s what I want them to tell stories about when they’re older. I want them to forget the times I raise my voice, or give them PB&Js for dinner and the dog hair tumbleweed that just may be rolling across our living room right now.

I want them to remember that their old mom did fun things because she wanted to do them. That it may even be kind of ….cool? Inspiring? Goofy? All of the above?

Either way, I had lots of hugs and “you were awesomes” afterwards and it felt great.


P.S. This little boy yelled to a girl in a different class that performed before mine, “You’re beautiful and I want to marry you!” We’re going to be in trouble with that one…

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My Top Tips for Doing Disney with Little Kids

Disney is no joke, people. In my experience, this isn’t a vacation that prides itself on being spontaneous and go-with-the-flow. If you’re going to Disney, you need to be prepared ahead of time. We were there for 5 days in February with our 2 year old and 5 year old. As nervous as I was to take this big vacation with our kids, it turned out great and was worth every bit of money and effort. And believe me, it was a lot of both.

So here are my tips for traveling to Disney World with small children.

1. pack food! Don’t waste time or money in the morning by going out to breakfast. If your kids are like mine, a bowl of cereal or a bagel and a banana is all they really want anyway. We checked one suitcase and it was filled with breakfast foods. Those little boxes of sugary cereals you don’t normally buy? They’re a perfect vacation breakfast treat. Horizon Organic makes milk boxes that don’t require refrigeration before they’re opened, so I packed them in zip-locks and threw them into the suitcase. This way, we were up and out the door early enough without having to stop off for breakfast on the way to the parks. Oh and don’t forget to pack snacks (I mean, really, what mom would?) We actually didn’t go through as many snacks as I thought we would because since it was vacation and all, we let the kids get the Mickey-shaped ice cream bar, popcorn, or whatever they wanted in the parks.

2. Let them nap when and where they can. I had read a bunch of things online about leaving the parks to head back to your hotel in the afternoon to allow for nap time. Great idea in theory, but logistically, I didn’t think it was worth it. We stayed at the Art of Animation, one of the Disney resorts, and for some lucky reason, the bus stop for that resort always seemed to be the farthest away. Not to mention how huge the resort is and that we had to walk what felt like miles to get to our hotel room. We would’ve eaten up the majority of the afternoon if we had gone to the bus stop, waited for our bus, walked to our room, let our girl nap/rest, pack everything back up, walk back to the bus stop, wait for the bus and head back to the parks. No thanks. So what did we do? In Magic Kingdom, there is a real, working steam train that travels the perimeter of the parks. It makes three different stops but you can ride it as long as you like. We rode that baby for about an hour while Charlotte napped in the crook of her daddy’s arm. Riley, our 5 year old, even splayed out on the seat with his head in my lap for some down time of his own. It was a great break for us adults too, since we welcomed a chance to get off our feet for a while. (According to my Fitbit, I walked about 20,000 steps every day we spent at one of the parks!)

She snuggled into the crook of Daddy's arm and that was it.

She snuggled into the crook of Daddy’s arm and that was it.

3. Don’t think 2 is too young for Disney. How many times have you heard someone asking why you would bring such a young child on a memorable trip that they will not remember? There are lots of reasons to bring your 2 year old to Disney, in my opinion, so listen up. First of all, kids under 3 are free to get into the parks. That’s savings of $93/day. Woohoo! Second of all, kids this age love Disney movies, which means they love seeing their favorite characters. Luckily, my girl was happy enough to see Anna, Elsa and all the others in the Disney parades so we didn’t have to wait 2 hours to meet them in person. Disney is a magical place, especially for 2 year olds. And it’s a little easier financially to bring young ones than older ones. Besides, now that you’ve experienced Disney with your kids, you know they’re going to keep asking you to take them back. So if your little ones don’t remember their first time, they’ll remember their second time. Besides, you’ll have amazing pictures like this:

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4. Stock up at the Dollar Store. All the blogs and Pinterest articles will tell you this and they’re not kidding. The most important thing to stock up on in my opinion is ponchos, glow sticks for fireworks and cheapie toys to entertain them on the airplane.

5. Buy souvineers. I admit it, I am a cheapskate. But vacation is different. When my son asked and asked for a talking, $30 Buzz Lightyear at Hollywood Studios, I didn’t hesitate. He hugged it and held it for the rest of the trip. He’ll always remember that we got him that at a kiosk outside Pizza Planet, and I will too. Yes, I probably could’ve bought it at Target for $10 cheaper, but that is not what vacation is about. This is what it’s about:

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6. No pressure. Yes, my 5-year old who is obsessed with race cars and outer space was tall enough to ride Test Track and Mission Space. But did he want to? NOPE. Would he have loved it? Probably. But those rides seemed scary to him and, in the spirit of fun, we didn’t make our normally-cautious boy ride anything he didn’t want to. The last thing we wanted was to end our day at a park with someone in tears. Or, you know, scarred for life.

7. Cancel your dining reservations. Three months before our trip I made lunch reservations at one of the sit-down restaurants in Magic Kingdom. I had heard horror stories about having to eat a cold hot dog balancing on a curb because no restaurants will seat you without a reservation. The day before we headed to Magic Kingdom, I looked at a map. Between the times we had reserved for FastPass and this lunch reservation, we would be running like maniacs from the Dumbo ride to the restaurant. No thank you. Vacation is about fun! And while Disney is not the place to be spontaneous, I didn’t want to be a slave to a clock. So I cancelled the (expensive) sit-d0wn restaurant and the kids ate grilled cheese with us at a table we wiped down ourselves. It was fine! Kids this young don’t care what they’re eating. They want to get back to the fun. And actually, so did we!

8. Pass on the Memory Maker photo package. I’m surprised to be saying this one. I went back and forth and talked to everyone I could about whether or not to purchase the $169 photo package ($199 if you purchase on-site). Again, trying to make our time at the parks more spontaneous and less rigid, I didn’t want the pressure of getting to every photographer we could so we would have enough great photos to make the investment worth it. Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those Disney photographers? They’re more than happy to take the same exact photo with your camera or phone, or both, like ours did. Score!

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9. Do a character meal. I know, I said not to make dining reservations, but this is the one caveat. We ALMOST bailed on the 9 a.m. breakfast I had reserved for us with characters at a different resort. Since the Art of Animation doesn’t offer this, I found a character breakfast buffet at a different resort. Which meant getting up early, taking a bus to Hollywood Studios, then taking a boat to the resort. That’s a LOT of effort. We were so close to bailing. Honestly, the main reason we didn’t bail is because they woul’dve charged our family of 4 $40 for cancelling the day of. No way! We woke the kids, left without showering, and met Minnie for breakfast! Looking back, it was one of the most fun, memorable moments of the trip. For all of us. It was work, but it was worth it. I mean, look!

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10. Trust. Disney World is not the No. 1 vacation spot in the world for nothing. They know what they’re doing. Trust that you will get to your destination and be well-taken care of. That’s why you’re giving them all that money. And yes, it’s worth every penny. Now to start saving for the next trip…

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Dear Riley,

Today you turn six years old. I want to document what you are like as a little boy so I can look back on this when you’re older and weep dramatically.

camping6As you can see from the photo above, you are a happy little boy who is a joy to be around. Yes, I’m your mom so I’m biased, but seriously, everyone feels this way about you. You make people happy.

You’re a sensitive boy who wants everyone to be his friend. This year you started a K5/1st grade class. I was nervous about you being in a class with “older” kids because I knew you’d want everyone to be your friend and some 7 year olds don’t want to be friends with a 5 year old. You’ve continually impressed us, though. You’re smart, you’re tough and you’re a good friend. I hope you never lose any of these qualities.

Goofy BFFs

Goofy BFFs

You’ve always loved your big brother role to Charlotte but lately we’ve seen that mature. You tell us if she’s doing something you know she shouldn’t and now you try to explain to her why she shouldn’t do something we wouldn’t approve of. You are her lifelong protector and buddy and really, you have been from day one. She’s a lucky girl.

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You LOVE your family. Just this week you came home with artwork you made in art class with “I love my mommy” randomly written across it. These little signs of love from you are not rare but they still make me smile every single time. You are a rare, special little boy and I can’t tell you how happy I am that you are mine.

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I love you to infinity and beyond, buddy.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

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The Happiest Place on Earth

We just got back from our biggest family trip ever – Disney World! The kids have never been on a plane before, and honestly, at ages 5 and 2, the kids really didn’t even comprehend the awesomeness they were about to experience until we walked through the gates.

I think I’ll just let the photos do the talking:

Ready for take off!

Ready for take off!

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In hindsight, I regret that this is the best family shot we got in front of the castle. I asked a random stranger to take our picture, like you do, but never in a million years would’ve thought to tell her to hold the camera vertical, instead of horizontal. I mean, really. There’s a castle behind us. There, now you know. Would’ve been an awesome picture, right?

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When I was 8 years old my parents took me to Disney and when I begged to ride the teacups they said no because the line was too long. This was waaaay before the days of Fast Pass +. What horrible parents, right???? Well I have never let them forget the injustice, so the very first ride I took my chlldren on was the teacups. Daddy got our cup spinning so fast that a woozy Charlotte fell forward and bonked her head. It was memorable for all involved.

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Hands down, Riley’s favorite ride was Dumbo. My little 5 year old really isn’t in to nail-biting adventure. And that is just fine by me.

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We got the full Florida experience when it poured buckets on us at the end of our day at Magic Kingdom. I tried to be all dainty under an umbrella at first, but that was just not cutting it. Ponchos for the win!

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We stayed at the Art of Animation, one of the “value” Disney resorts. This place was amazing. Especially for our Cars-loving little boy. These pictures are from our resort. No detail was missed. It was impressive.

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Before this day, the last time Derek and I were in Epcot was 9/11/01. We spent about an hour in the parks before they evacuated and shut all the parks down for the day. All we could do was sit in our hotel room, watch the news and cry. It was a horrible day, but 14 years later, we got our fun day at Epcot.

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As soon as we got to our hotel on the first day, Riley took the pad of paper in the room and started writing furiously. He told us he was writing a note to Mickey and was going to give it to him. Derek and I exchanged glances because we honestly didn’t know if we would get an opportunity to see the big guy. But we did. I got the Disney Visa card and one of the many perks is that they have a separate character meet and greet only for cardholders. We waited in line for about 10 minutes and then got our own personal time (and a free 5×7) with Mickey and Goofy. Charlotte, of course, had JUST fallen asleep in the stroller when it was our turn, so she was not pleased to be awoken and thrust into the face of a large mouse. But Riley. Oh, Riley loved it. Playing the part of the shy boy, he walked over to Mickey and handed him a note that said: “Dear Mickey, I love you. I watch all your shows. Love, Riley age 5”. When Mickey read it, he was ecstatic. Or as ecstatic as someone in a ginormous mouse costume could be. He gave Riley this genuine hug, some high fives and then we took our picture. When we left, Riley proudly said, “I bet no one ever brings anything for Mickey.” And actually, I think he might have been right.

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We almost passed on doing a character breakfast on our last day there. It seemed like so much hassle to head to another resort early in the morning, but we did it and we’re all so glad we did. The food was great and the characters kept coming over to spend time with us. And finally, our little girl who was so terrified of all the characters warmed up to them. Even held Minnie’s hand!

I’ve got LOTS of suggestions for those planning a trip to Disney with young kids. I’m going to save them for a separate post, so stay tuned.

As I’ve told everyone since we came back. The trip was a lot of money and even more effort on our part, but it was worth every minute and every dollar.

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Charlotte’s 2nd Birthday – A Horse Party

When it came time to come up with a theme for Char Char’s 2nd birthday, it was a pretty easy decision. This girl is obsessed with horses. Neigh neighs as she insists on calling them.

Thanks to some Pinterest and a little craftiness on my part, I was so happy with the way everything turned out. An outdoor backyard birthday party is exactly what I had in mind when I insisted on giving birth in the summer. You think I’m joking? Nope. I did the math. Ha!

Here’s how the party came together, in pictures.

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My dad of all people, a retired cop, is amazing at cake decorating. As in, he made my wedding cake. Today he makes his grandchildren’s birthday cakes. When I told him it was a neigh neigh party, he and my mom came up with the idea of making a two-tiered carousel cake for Charlotte. IMG_8406

Amazing, right? What a grandpa!

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I googled horse cookies and found these online. They could not have been simpler. As in, I could whip them up on a random Wednesday night. And I would if I were Super Mom.

Nutter Butters, cashew pieces for ears, googly-eyed candies from Michaels and Wilton Cookie Decorator Icing. That’s it!

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For the birthday girl’s birthday outfit, I decided to go completely DIY. In the past, I’ve purchased Etsy-created shirts personalized for the birthday kid, but honestly, the only time the kid wears the shirt is on their birthday. Waste of $25 if you ask me. So, I bought an iron on horse patch and affixed it to a onesie already in Char’s closet. Then I watched this You Tube video of how to easily create a DIY tutu. $35 on Etsy? Nope, I’ll make it myself for about $5 at 9:30 the night before the party. Which I did. IMG_8432

Yes, the food was set up in our cluttered garage, but I did my best to keep it festive. Not bad, eh?

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One of my favorite moments was when my dad and I first showed Charlotte her cake. At first she delicately touched the frosting with her finger. And then? And then she dove in fast first. Literally. See above. I tried to stop her, but my dad smartly told me to just let her go for it. So I did and it was awesome.

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It’s hard to tell in this picture, but while everyone sang happy birthday to her, it seemed to suddenly sink in that this party, and allllllll this, was for her. She just looked around the cluttered garage at the family and friends who love her more than her 2 year-old little mind can even comprehend and just smiled shyly in amazement. This was my favorite part of the day.

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And when she unwrapped the gift from her brother? The stuffed horse that he, unprompted, took off the shelf in his bedroom and proclaimed that he wanted to wrap and gift to her? Well, I would say this picture of her appreciation speaks for itself.

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