Category Archives: Travel

Life’s a Beach


We are a family that loves our vacations. But we are, usually, a family who road trips (with mixed results, tbh). We drive to the NC beaches or Florida or up to one of the Great Lakes. In fact, the kids have only flown once prior to this month only because 1) I got a great deal on airfare and 2) I pretty much bribed the Hubs – he hates to fly.  But 2 years ago, I was out with my girlfriends – my friends whose husbands are the Hub’s friends and whose kids are my kid’s friends – and we decided that February 2020 was the year we were all going on vacation. 10 adults, 11 kids – we were going on vacation together, damn it.

And that sounded all well and good until it actually came time to plan said vacation. Then things got a little dicey as we tried to figure out where to go and I tried to figure out how in the hell to get the Hubs to agree to this vacation. My Hubs is a creature of habit and, as mentioned before, hates to fly – let’s not even mention the cost of this.  All of our vacation options would require us to fly outside of the US and I knew this was going to be a hard sell.

So this past summer, our friends booked their vacation. The February 2020 trip that was dreamed about in 2018 turned into a trip to Cancun and everyone was committed – except for us. The Hubs was still holding out for some very legit reasons (the cost) and some more interesting ones (not wanting to fly, being convinced we’d be kidnapped in Mexico).  Turns out, going to a friend’s 40th birthday party with all our friends taking the trip, getting a few beers in him and begging worked – I got a very begrudging “I’ll leave it up to you – if you want to go, we’ll go” from him.

For those of you who haven’t been in a relationship long enough, that was his passive-aggressive way of agreeing to go on vacation while making sure I knew that if things went badly, it wasn’t his fault, it was allllll mine.  Was it an enthusiastic yes? Not even close! Did I care? Not at all- I booked that trip the minute the travel agency opened Monday (pro tip: traveling with 20+ people? Use a travel agent).

Of course, after we booked the trip everything we read and watched on TV had to focus on terrible things happening in Mexico.  Seal Team on CBS? Multi-episode arch about the horrors in Mexico due to the drug cartels. Hell, even the new <horrible> Rambo movie dealt with Mexico. Every time something came up, I got the side-eye and a quick muttering about how Mexico was a fantastic choice for vacation from the Hubs. It was a fun few months, let me tell you.

But – miracle of miracles – we still managed to go to Cancun if February with our friends! I’m very happy to report that we all survived the short plane ride (~3.5 hours, direct flight), no one got kidnapped and no one got sick (although two of the travelers- Scorch included – got the flu the day we got home). It was perfect.

Heather holding a heart-shaped shell in front of the ocean.

We stayed at a resort that was a great fit for our 11 kids. There was so much for them to do and the resort was small enough that we could let them roam in packs by themselves all day. Would I recommend it for adults only? Hell no – again, so. many. kids. – but it worked great for us. The food was great, the staff friendly and kind, and the ocean. Oh you guys- the ocean.


We had to put our beloved 18 year old cat, Reese, down two days before we left. I’ve lost two other pets in the past 3 years, but Reese’s death gutted me. She was the last of the animals we adopted before having the kids – she was our constant companion since I was 24 years old. I cried into her fur when Pete was in training for months in Georgia, while we battled infertility and miscarriages, when I felt like a terrible mother, when our marriage hit rough spots. Losing her was horrible enough- but it also felt like saying goodbye to a huge chapter in my life.  I was a zombie in the days leading up to her death and the day we put her down.  By the time we hit Cancun, I needed this vacation – and the ocean didn’t disappoint. It didn’t bring my cat back, but it soothed my soul.

I honestly have no idea if we’ll ever take a trip like this again. Getting everyone’s schedules to align took an act of God, committing to savings for 2 years wasn’t easy and who knows if we can make the magic happen again. But I’m so glad we had this experience- this moment. It was worth all the back and forth, heartache and annoyances to get us there.



The End of Summer


This summer has been amazing – hands down, one of the best we’ve had. We have traveled to new places, visited with family, caught sharks, hung out with friends, welcomed a new nephew / cousin into the crew and watched more than a few ball games.


We’ve had quiet nights at home where we’ve all retreated to our own corners and nights we’ve danced in the streets. My house has been, more often than not these past few weeks, filled with at least 2 kids who aren’t mine- usually more. My backyard is littered with wiffleballs and makeshift bases and Gatorade bottles. We’ve heard coyotes chattering in the hills across the street and adopted a new kitten.


We’ve celebrated birthdays – mine and the Bean’s – as well as our anniversary. We’ve floated in pools in the hot sun and had to bundle up to stay warm on boats. We’ve roasted marshmallows and ate more ice cream than I could measure.


We’ve worked out 3x a week at 7 am and the Hub’s has rehabbed his knee from ACL surgery. I quit two jobs that I had and loved for over 5 years and started a new one, requiring a trip to CA to meet my new coworkers. We’ve dealt with some stress (ask me how our home addition is going- I dare you) that comes with adulting, but it hasn’t overshadowed the fun.


All in all, we’ve simply enjoyed the hell out of each other. School starts in a week – the shoes have been purchased, the supplies sorted out and the schedules posted. We’re ready for routine again and all the fun that comes with fall- football, Halloween, the gorgeous leaves and the upcoming holidays. But I can’t lie, I’m going to be more than a little sad to say goodbye to this perfect season.


Road Trippin’


The calendar tells me it’s Spring. The kid’s sports calendar tells me it’s Spring. Mother Nature didn’t seem to get that memo though- it’s cold and grey and sleeting outside my window. It snowed on Easter Sunday. This seemed like a particularly bitter pill given that we had arrived home from Fl the day before.

We had a fantastic trip – hitting the West Coast…




and the East Coast…


There were feet in the sand, Mickey Ice Cream Bars consumed daily, trips to numerous pools and tanned faces. There was also one trip the ER (the Hubs, sinus infection), one puking kid (the Bean, low blood sugar) , two teeth lost (Scorch, they were loose) and minimal tears. We drove 1115 miles* on the way home and no one lost their minds until about 45 minutes from home, so I consider that a win. There was lots of family time with some of our favorites, a date night that turned into sharing a table with two drunk fishermen with lots of funny stories, and lots of movies watched over and over and over to make the drive down and back bearable.

All in all it was perfect and the Hubs is on his annual campaign to convince us all to move south. Maybe one day…


Full confession- I wanted to fly to FL this year. So did the kids. But a combination of a last minute date change and the Hubs iron will meant we drove. And while it’s a pain in the butt (2 days in the car both ways), I’m so thankful for these times.  When we travel, we usually travel with people or to see people – but those days on the road are just the 4 of us at dinner and crammed into a hotel room. We only have 7 more of these end-of-winter get aways with both kids (!!!!!) so I’m feeling the need to savor them.

The kids are also amazing travelers. I’m sure it’s a combo of their personalities and the fact that they have no choice- but they really are. Road trips with them are a joy 90% of the time (the other 10% involves vomit and/or sibling death matches).  Because they are so very awesome, we’re driving cross country with them in 2019 for a few weeks…

…and I have no idea how to plan this trip. I mean, I know how to plan the route and where to stop, but I don’t know how to plan how we’re doing this. Taking our car and staying hotels or cabins? Renting an RV? If so, do we tow our car?? That part baffles me. So hit me up, peeps, with any thoughts you have on that topic!


6 and 4


After one of the craziest, most fun, busiest summers ever, we’re firmly back into the fall routine. The kids are happy with their teachers, school is going well and we have a nice rhythm going on. This is actually our quietest time of the year with minimal after school activities and I’m enjoying every.single.second of the peace – because you know it won’t last long.

So, the summer. We did a lot – we visited Lady Liberty…


Saw a professional ballgame (or 3 – baseball was big this summer)…


Visited with hundreds of our friends at a local music fest…


Spent The Best Week Ever in the Outer Banks with family…


Visited a Fort…


And drove a dragon in a Harbor.


The kids went to different camps each week- school camps, nature camps, sports camps. The Bean learned to sail a boat and Scorch got to hang with friends. In short, the summer was really just about perfect and I was beyond sad to see it go. But you know was solves your dread of summer being over? Having your kids home for 2.5 weeks before school starts while you’re working full time. Trust me, that’ll teach you to embrace a schedule.

So- 6th grade and 4th grade.


This picture of their feet makes me laugh every time I see it because it captures them perfectly. Scorch will stand still and do what’s asked of him because it’s easier and he likes to please. Bean is literally trying to back away out of the picture as quickly as possible because she wants no part in following an order and cooperating. His feet are 2.5 sizes bigger than mine and she’s still obsessed with all things gold.

I love those freaking kids so much and I’m so very excited to see how they grow this school years. But honestly- I’m even more excited for next summer, because summers are the best.

To Infinity and Beyond


We just (a month ago…but it was “just” when I started writing this) returned from our annual trek to Florida and I’m trying not to question too deeply why we live in NY instead of a place where the sun comes out and the air doesn’t freeze my nostrils together. I know there are a million reasons we love living where we do, but when you leave 80 and sunshine and come home to 30 and sleeting, those reasons are hard to remember.

We knew going into this trip that it was going to be different than any other we’ve taken because we were going to fly. I know, I know- not a big deal for most, but we’ve always either driven or taken the train- but we got such a great deal on airfare that it was dumb not to jump on it. So we did and the kids were giddy about it. Truly, I think they were more excited about flying than they were what we were doing in FL.

4 days before we were scheduled to leave, Scorch came down with the stomach bug. Thankfully it was a 12 hours of sickness + 12 hours of recovery time- so nothing too bad and he was back to himself by Monday night. Tuesday, Winter Storm Stella hit our area so the kids were home from school Tuesday and Wednesday. We held our breath on Monday and Tuesday waiting to see if the Bean would get sick, but by Wednesday, we relaxed. It had been 72 full hours and if she hadn’t gotten sick yet, she wouldn’t. Surely, she wouldn’t.

(Do you see where this is going?)

Wednesday night at 10 pm, the poor child woke up and was violently ill. Between bouts of puking, she sobbed because she was sick on our last vacation to St. Louis and during Christmas and now she was going to miss going to FL. It was damn near the most pitiful thing I had ever seen and I was thisclose to crying with her as the Hubs and I freaked out over WTH to do. We were set to leave for the airport in 9 hours and there was was no way we could make this poor baby get on a plane. That wasn’t fair to her or the people on unlucky enough to be stuck on a flying tin can with us.

After some serious scrambling and a lot of late night phone calls, we were able to switch our flight to the same time on Friday, change our hotel reservation and rebook our rental car all with minimal fuss- thank goodness! Thursday we went to the pediatrician and got medication to prevent vomiting just in case and prayed everyone would be well enough to travel the next day.

Friday morning, the Bean wasn’t 100%, but she hadn’t been sick in 20 hours so we hit the road and drove the 3 hours to the airport. The whole first flight experience could not have gone better. We had zero lines, lots of time to kill and super excited kids who were thrillllled to be there. The flight itself was super smooth and we landed in FL almost 2 hours to the minute of taking off. We grabbed our luggage and rental car and took off for Disney, patting ourselves on the back over how well we handled the past 48 hours, ready to start enjoying vacation.


The Hubs starting puking 10 minutes after we arrived at our hotel.

*sigh* At least he made it to FL. We settled him in the room and I took the kids to the pool and to get dinner, basically putting the poor man in isolation. My wonderful mother-in-law was in FL to spend 4 days with us so when she arrived at the hotel, the 3 of us moved into her room to stay as far away from the germs as humanly possible.

The good news isolation worked. I never got sick and the Hubs was up and rolling by mid-day on Saturday so vacation could officially commence! And we had the best time…

From the hotel pool, where I treated myself to a few of these…


Watching the kids swim, praying the alcohol will kill all the germs.

To the parks…




These guys were electrifying…so very cool!

And then finally over the West Coast to the beach…


Dear Gulf Coast, I love you.


At the aptly named Sunset Beach on our last night in FL.

…it was perfect.

And now, back to reality. Since I started writing this post, Spring has really started to bloom in NY and I’m remembering why we live here. That’s not to say though, I couldn’t be persuaded to live in paradise full time…

DC in a Day


It’s been over a month since we road tripped it down to FL, so (because we’re crazy) we decided to road trip ~7 hours down to Washington, DC this past weekend. Clearly, we cannot get enough of our van. We picked the kids up right after school on Friday, pointed the car south and arrived to my sister’s well past bedtime, fueled on Twizzlers and gas station snacks.

We were coming back home on Sunday, which meant we had 1 day and 1 day only to squeeze in the highlights of Washington. We left my sister’s in the pouring rain at 9 am with Lala in tow and made the 45 minute drive into the city.  I love Washington. It’s my favorite city so when Scorch started fan-girling in the back seat the minute he got his first glimpse of the Washington Monument, I got a little teary. The kid was soooo excited and I was beside myself getting to show the kids the city where the Hubs and I worked for 3 years.

There are a lot of things to see in Washington- enough that you could easily fill 5 days of sight seeing. Since we only had one day and were visiting with a 9, 7 and 5 year old, we decided to hit the highlights. One day, I’d love to go back and do it all, but for this weekend, here’s how we made it work:

  1. National Museum of Natural History: it was pouring in the morning, so starting off inside just made sense. We got to the museum about 5 minutes after it opened, waited in line to go through security and went upstairs first. The main dinosaur exhibit was closed, so we hit up the smaller fossil area, the mummies and the insect zoo. Then we migrated down to the Mammals and Ocean exhibits with what seemed like thousands of our closest friends. I would have loved to have seen the geology section (including the Hope Diamond), but the crowds were bad, so after an hour and a half we moved on.
  2. National Archives: Scorch is a huge history buff like his father, so the guys wanted to see the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitution so we moved over to the National Archives. The girls could not have cared less so after we saw the line to view the documents, I took them to the Family Center area (which was open for play Saturday) to work off some energy while the guys geeked out. Worked out perfectly! As a side note, the Museum Store there was our fav of all of them.
  3. Air and Space Museum: We walked over to the Air and Space to meet up with my parents and sister for lunch. This was ideal because there was a McDonalds and Boston Market in the museum which worked perfectly when dealing with 4 kids 9 and younger who were starving. After eating, we just did a quick walk through- we had been to the Air and Space Museum by Dulles Airport a few years back, so none of us had enough interest to brave the crowds and stick around.
  4. The Mall & Monuments: the rain finally stopped, so we moved our party outside to check out all the monuments! Walking from the Museums, we did a roughly 4.5 miles loop that let us hit:
    • The Washington Monument (we didn’t go up it, just played around it)
    • WWII Memorial: there was something going on that day, so there was a few dozen WWII vets there when we were. It was very touching to see them and to get to say thanks.
    • Lincoln Memorial: if this place doesn’t give you goose bumps, you have no soul. (Same goes if you don’t get the urge to yell “JENNNNNNY” and wade through the reflecting pool).
    • Vietnam War Memorial: this one gets me every time- it’s amazing how a place filled with so many people can be so quiet.
    • White House: So much has changed since the Hubs worked there that it’s hard to get a good glimpse of the House any more (the giant tent in the yard didn’t help either), but it was still so cool to show the kids where Daddy used to work and to reminisce!
  5. Thomas Jefferson Memorial: after walking back to the car, we bribed the kids with ice cream and drove over to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Such a gorgeous place on the river- it’s my personal favorite.

And then we were done. The kids were amazing, the sights were gorgeous and everyone had such a great day. We missed a lot- the Korean War Memorial, the MLK Jr. Memorial, Arlington, and the Zoo just to name a few. But that’s Ok- that just means we have to go back again soon!


Road Trippin’ in Florida


We did it! For the 5th year in a row we made the road trip to FL. Two 11+ hours in the car in a row (and then again on the way back!) to go 1200 miles with more movie, snacks and pitstops than I can count. And you know what? I love it. My kids are *amazing* travelers and I actually like road tripping with them. The Hubs is a horrible passenger, so he drives the whole way, so I get to read, sightsee and chitchat with the family. What’s not to love?

This year we started out in Orlando. We stayed at our favorite hotel and got to visit with some of my favorite in-laws for a few days…


…spent 1 day at Hollywood studios and saw the Star Wars fireworks display…


…and then spent a day at Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive one-day resort where you get to swim with dolphins, snorkel and float in a lazy river all day long. Breakfast, lunch and all the snacks and drinks you could want are included in the price. Our weather was crummy, but it was still the most incredible day. I really, really wish I could break my rule and show a picture of the kid’s faces while they were hugging a dolphin because it’s everything. Truly, a magical experience for all of us. Here the kiddos are looking into Dolphin Lagoon.


The next day we went to Sea World- which, yes, I know I’m supposed to be morally opposed to. But going to Discovery Cove gets you free admission to Sea World and I’m cheap, so off we went! And it was a great day. We rode some rides, saw some shows, petted the string rays and marveled over more dolphins.


We spent the latter half of the week in the Tampa area visiting my parents, along with my sister, her husband and their 2 kids. For those keeping track at home it was 6 adults and 4 kids in my parents 2 bedroom, 2 bath doublewide. And it worked out beautifully primarily because these 4 kids were amazing. (See the little one on the right in the pink shirt? That’s Lala! She and her little brother were the best company!)


Mother Nature didn’t cooperate for beach days our first few days, but a cooler evening made for perfect Spring Training weather. We got to see the Yankees and the Mets play at the Yankee’s stadium and it was amazing! The stadium is about as big as a minor league field, so you’re up close and personal. The players and visiting past players often sign autographs before the game- in fact, Scorch got Reggie Jackson’s autograph this year. The games are fun, the crowds are friendly and there is plenty of food to keep those not as interested in the game (*cough*Bean*cough*) happy. I cannot recommend these games enough for baseball lovers.


This year we tried out a few new beaches. Normally we hit up Clearwater Beach (which is lovely) but this year we went to Anna Maria Island and Fort De Soto. I’m a sucker for any beach, but these beaches were breathtaking.

Another heart shell for the collection.


The view from Fort De Soto.


We all came home with some sort of cold/flu- but who cares. Escaping the cold, seeing the beautiful sights, spending time with family and making life-long memories was worth it!


Gone Campin’


We spent this past weekend at my favorite place taking a very abbreviated camping vacation. Being an adult sucks when you have limited vacation days, but we made the most of it. For the first time in years the weather was absolutely amazing which meant lots and lots of beach time.


In my 37 years, we’ve gone camping at this campground with this group of people (plus or minus a family or four) for roughly 32 of them. Each and every year was wonderful. We had friends we only saw a few times a year that would come camping with us and we’d run tame all over the camp ground with our bikes. It was everything a vacation should be with no electronics or distractions. Just card games, games of Spoons, bikes, hikes and eating. So. much. good. food.

We took Scorch camping for the first time when he was 2 months old and we’ve gone every year since – although we did only go for 1 day the summer Bean was born since she was only 2 weeks old and I’m not completely crazy. Camping with kids is a lot of work but there are so many people helping so the fun outweighs the work 9 times out of 10.

Except for when it was time to shower.

At the camp ground, there are communal bathrooms and 2 showers in the woman’s room, 2 in the men’s and two family showers. You have to stand there in your flip flops (DO NOT go barefoot- ever) and constantly press the water on as it doesn’t stay on by itself. The water comes out in a sharp spray and is either cold or hot- there really isn’t a middle ground. When the kids were itty bitty we’d find other ways to bathe them, but once they were mobile toddlers, covered in sunscreen, bug spray, dirt and sand it was shower time.

You guys, showering kids in this shower was like wrestling a greased pig. The kids were pissed, crying and slippery as hell. It was, at minimum, a 2 person job although 3 adults worked best (two to wash them and one to dry them and calm them down). You’d often end up sweating and wet when you were done, hoping that the whole camp ground didn’t think you were torturing your kids.

The passage of time hit me like a ton of bricks this past weekend after I showered my kids (9 and 7) and my niece Lala (4) with no fuss. I didn’t have to fight anyone, I didn’t have to wrestle them and no one cried. They took their showers, dried themselves off, got dressed and hopped right back on their bikes.

Where did our babies go??


Our nightly camp fire.

The Hubs and I came back on Monday night (again: being an adult stinks) but the kids had the privilege of staying with all the extended family for a few more day.  This makes me happy for so many reasons. I firmly believe the gift of friends and family is the best gift we could give our kids- and time with them without us even more so they can form their own connections. While we’re camping, the kids also get their first real taste of freedom when the answer is always yes. Yes, you can ride your bike. Yes, you can walk to the park. Yes, you can play at the ball field. Yes, you can make new friends. Yes, you can have s’mores every night. Yes, you can be independent and not always within eye sight because there is pack of 7 of you and cars can’t drive faster then 5 mph.

The kiddos will come home tomorrow covered in bug bites with hair streaked blond from spending 12+ hours per day in the sun. Our kids are lucky because we travel a lot with them and they’ve seen some amazing places, but it make my heart so happy that that their favorite place on earth too.


Start of Summer


So…hey, been a while. Life got nuts. Like more nuts then usual. We had the end of school- both kids passed and I got all teary on the last day of school. I’ll let you decide if they were tears of joy or terror for the summer ahead. I cannot believe I have a 4th grader and a 2nd grader now!  The day after school ended, Little League ended with a bang when Scorch’s team won the championship game. There wasn’t even time to celebrate because we left the next day for the Outer Banks in NC.


Scorch, Bean and Lala

And that is when summer really started.


It was the perfect vacation. The hardest decisions were deciding whether we went to the beach first or then then pool or vice versa, and what we wanted to drink each night around the pool (don’t judge- deciding between margaritas and Cape Codders isn’t for sissies).  The weather was gorgeous 85% of the time and when it did storm it was a night and the lightening was spectacular.  My biggest complaint about this vacation is that it is over.

The waves were so big, the kids couldn't go in far even if they wanted.

The waves were so big, the kids couldn’t go in far even if they wanted.

I read 6 books, spent time with my extended family and vegged on the beach for hours a day. That’s my definition of heaven.


And now we’re back to reality. Camps, more baseball, work and all the craziness that comes with real life. But at least it’s summer time- that makes it all OK.

3rd year in a row we've found a heart shaped shell on the last day of vacation.

3rd year in a row we’ve found a heart shaped shell on the last day of vacation.

Happy Summer!

Snow Birds


Earlier this month we took a break away from the cold and the snow to spend time in FL. It was *wonderful*.  We started taking these trips down south 4 years ago and now I can’t fathom how we survived winters without this quick trip to the sunshine and warmth.

Normally we drive down- a trip that usually takes 2.5 days (we can sometimes do it in 2 but that is really, really pushing it). This time we decided to shake thing up a bit by driving down to northern VA and hopping on the Auto Train- a train that allowed us to bring our car with us. The train left NoVa at 4 pm and arrived in Sanford, FL (outside Orlando) at 9 am the next day.

I had no idea what to expect, but it really worked out well! We upgraded to roomettes- so we had “cabins” that held two chairs in it facing each other. At night, those two chairs formed a bed and a bunk folded down from the ceiling so each cabin slept two people (pictures of the setup not taken by me can be seen here). A full service dinner and a continental breakfast was included in our fare. We all dosed up on Dramamine, explored the train, did homework, read and played lots of Uno. The hardest time was from 6-7:30 when we had dinner as the excitement of the train had worn off and the kids were bored and hungry. After dinner we all went to bed and by the time we got up the next day, we were almost there.

We spent the first half of our trip in the Tampa area with my parents. Our days consisted of the pool, the beach, fishing and watching the sunset. Our most exciting day was Sunday when the Hubs and my father took Scorch to a Yankees game (basically heaven on earth for Scorch) and my mom, Bean and I went shopping. Tough life, but someone has to live it.

Our picture-perfect day at the beach.

Our picture-perfect day at the beach.




From there, we went to Disney! This year we splurged and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Resort. You guys, this place was amazing. Like, take-your-breath-away amazing. This was the lobby:


And this was the view from our hotel room:


Right outside our door were giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, ostriches and a variety of other birds. It was the coolest thing!

We only had 3 days, so we picked our favorites and tried to hit them all at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. We did the safari at Animal Kingdom:


Checked out the Flower and Garden Fest at Epcot:


And got awestruck at Cinderella’s castle:


And then we had to come home. I figured we must be doing pretty well as a family if we survived two 12-hour days in the car back to back and were still speaking to each other when we arrived. I tried not to grumble too much as I swapped out my flip flops for snow boots as we arrived home in the middle of a winter storm warning. Winter can’t last forever, right?!?