Category Archives: Travel

And Just Like That…

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…Summer is almost over. How did that happen?

Well, I know how it happened. It was a very fun combo of baseball + vacations + work + never, ever sitting still. Ever. We have never had such a busy summer and the craziest thing is I know that this is just the start. We only had one kid with a 3x a week commitment- soon it’ll be both kids and bigger commitments.

We just got back from a wonderfully relaxing vacation to NJ. We started going to the Jersey shore 12 years ago or so- it was a place the Hub’s family went to yearly when he was a kid. I admit- I was a snob about it, all I knew about NJ was what I saw on TV, which was not favorable. But here’s a little secret I found out- NJ is gorgeous.

Even when it’s grey, it’s gorgeous.

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But let’s face it, it’s a heck of a lot more gorgeous when it’s sunny and 85, which it was for 5 days in a row:

SunnyDayScorch and the Hubs were on this trip with us but you don’t see them in these pics because they spent hours every day playing in the water. The waves were huge thanks to an offshore storm and Scorch, oddly enough, loved being pummeled by them. The harder they knocked him down, the more he laughed. He walked away from vacation with skinned knees, elbows and a raging case of swimmers ear (to be fair, he was nursing that before we left- we just thought it was an ear infection).

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We ate wonderful seafood, saw some spectacular sunsets, rode the ferris wheel a million times, rammed each other in bumper cars and spent at least 5 hours a day at the beach.  It was just about perfect.

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So here’s to 2 more weeks of summer!

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Snow Birds

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3 years ago we started to go to FL in the winter. Being in upstate NY, winter lasts from roughly Oct through April so this mid-winter break is an amazing thing not only for our tan lines, but for our state of mind. Last week was finally the week- so the day after another major storm struck we hit the road, pointed our car south and didn’t look back.

First, we went to visit a Mouse. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and it was amazing:

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The kids loved the pool and would have honestly spent all vacation going down the water slides there over and over and over…. We stayed in a Pirate themed roomed which just was the cherry on top of all the rest of the awesomeness.

We only had a couple of days at Disney, so we spent day 1 at Hollywood Studios where Scorch got to live out his lifetime dream of fighting Darth Vadar (last year he fought Darth Maul).

Don't worry, Scorch kicked his butt!

Don’t worry, Scorch kicked his butt!

We also got to ride the Star Wars ride 3 times at the Bean’s insistence, see the stunt show, go on the back lot tour, run around like ants in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground and finally (after trying for the past 3 years) go on the Toy Story ride (worth the wait!). It was hot so we only lasted from 8:30 – 4 and then we went back the pool for swimming, pizza and drinks- which is the perfect night if you ask me.

Day 2 was the Magic Kingdom. Last year we were there on President’s Day and this year between it being a Monday and the rainy weather it felt like we had the place to ourselves in comparison!

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A little rain wasn’t going to stop us, so we bought some over-priced ponchos, made good use of our Fast Passes and walked from one end of the park to the other. The best part about the rain and lack of crowds? Being able to take the kids on Big Thunder Mountain over and over! It’s safe to say we’re raising thrill seekers.

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$32 for four ponchos. We’re never throwing them away- ever.

Tuesday morning it was time to head to the West Coast to visit my parents. Which was fortuitous timing because the Bean woke up with a stomach bug. I’ll spare you the details about how fun the 2 hour drive was, but we all go there in one piece and the Bean finally could curl up on a couch and watch Frozen* over and over until she felt better- which was thankfully within about 6 hours.

We spent the last 3 days of vacation at the beach, the pool and my parents house and it was lovely! I love ending our vacation on the relaxed note.

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The Hubs and I even got a date night while my parents took the kids out. Want to guess who arrived home first that night? Hint: it wasn’t the two 60-somethings with the kids under 7 years old.

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The last night we went to the beach for sunset. It. Was. Spectacular.

684I don’t usually spend too much timing wishing my life was different, but I’ll admit that these trips down south in the winter make me really question why exactly we live up North. The Hubs has a little over a decade until he can retire and I told him on our drive home that my goal is to be a Snow Bird when we grow up.

*Best guess, the Bean watched Frozen 14 times between Tuesday and Saturday. Want me to recite it to you?

I’ve Had Better

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We just returned from our annual camping trip.  I really wish I could tell you it was as relaxing as years past, but frankly, this was the worst trip we’ve had in as long as I can remember.

First, there was the weather. Hello rain and cold temperatures- you’re not welcome this week.  We arrived on Saturday to the camp ground and within an hour, it started to rain. And it didn’t stop until 4 pm on Sunday.  While we do have a pop-up camper, you still have to get out in the rain to walk to the bathrooms, get food, talk to others, etc.  So we spent Sunday at a local (30 minutes away) mall seeing a movie and wandering around.  Thankfully that night was gorgeous, so we were able to go back, have dinner and a much needed campfire. Monday was lovely, but cold so we drove an hour to this cute touristy town full of great bars and adorable shops. You know- just the things a 5 and 7 year old want to spend their days doing.  Thankfully there was also a 2 hour boat ride to help pass the day along.

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Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday were picture perfect beach days so we did get to soak up some sun and relax.  But the weather was supposed to take another nasty turn Wednesday night, so we packed it in after a day at the beach and headed home 2 days early. That about broke my heart, but there is a very limited number of things to do when the weather is bad and we did ’em all.

The second strike against our trip was the Bean. Or more specifically the Bean and her mighty attitude.  Her sass turned to down right rudeness and for the first 2 days of our trip I really wondered if I gave birth to the spawn of Satan.  She was rude, she was demanding and she made me feel like the biggest parental failure on the earth.  Thankfully after Day 2 (and countless time outs, loss of privileges and discussions), she came back around to her normal self.

And lastly, my husband.  Last week before we left on vacation, he went to the doctors because he thought he had strep throat. That was negative, but he didn’t feel much better before we left. He was a *trooper* on vacation- taking turns getting up with the kids, taking them fishing, playing kickball/baseball/lacrosse- but he clearly didn’t feel good. We got home around 8:30 last night and he was back at the walk-in at 9:15.  Turns out the poor guy has Influenza-B.  In July. While we’re on vacation.  Only him!  Here’s hoping the meds kick in soon.

All that said, the trip was not a complete bust. The kids had a awesome time, despite the weather.  We had a great time with the kids making fun memories on the boat ride and on our first fishing expeditions.  We laughed until I cried around the camp fire at night telling stories and reconnecting with the family and old friends camping with us. The days at the beach that we did have were gorgeous- pure sun shine, clean water, gentle waves.  We ate like kings and I had a blast watching my kids get more self-confident and self-assured navigating their way through camp site life.  We started to teach Scorch how to ride his bike without his training wheels and I taught both kids how to play a mean hand of Uno.  The bad never outweighs the good- I mean, we were on vacation and that can’t suck no matter how hard it tries- but I can’t wait for our do-over next year!

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Beach Lovin’

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Last week, the Heat’s went to the beach. And it was wonderful.  And now we’re home. And that’s not wonderful.

The end.

Honestly, that’s all I really feel like writing as it sums up life today perfectly.  But that’s not the whole story.  We drove to the Outer Banks of North Carolina last week by way of Jamestown, VA so my history nut husband could impress us with his smarts.  Breaking the 12 hour drive up to 3 days felt so luxurious- we never once sat in traffic longer then 5 minutes and we had all the time in the world to explore.

The kids and I exploring a replica of one of the ships that sailed from England to Jamestown, VA.

The kids and I exploring a replica of one of the ships that sailed from England to Jamestown, VA.

Jamestown was really neat- they had a Native American village, a replica of the settlement set up by the English and replica’s of the 3 ships used by the English to sail to America (ships that I couldn’t imagine spending 1 day on, let alone 4.5 months). The kids enjoyed it and it was a perfect pitstop for a few hours during our travels.

But the main attraction for the week was our time in Nags Head, NC.  We rented a house with my mother-in-law, her husband, and my husband’s brothers and their families. In all, we had 14 people in one house- 8 adults and 6 kids ranging from 4 to 13 years old.  It was an awesome week. We don’t see my brother in laws often as they live all over the country, so it’s always a treat to hang out with them and my nephews. The kids get along like long-lost best friends and keep themselves entertained well, so there is plenty of time for the adults to catch up.

Wiffle ball on the beach- can't beat it!

Wiffle ball on the beach- can’t beat it!

We did some sightseeing- first, at the Wright Brothers National Monument.  The Hubs and I thought this was awesome, but it was wasted on the kiddos.  Maybe in a few years they’ll appreciate it.

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We also went to my favorite place in the whole OBX- Jockey Ridge State Park. 

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Jockey Ridge consists of the largest natural sand dunes on the East Coast. The sand is powder fine, the views are breath taking and everyone has a blast- as long as you don’t mind getting sand everywhere. See that huge hill behind the Hubs and Bean? People run down it, boogie board down it or roll down it.  There is also a hang gliding school located there where people throw themselves off the dunes. It’s amazing.

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But mainly, we hopped between the beach, the pool, the hot tub and the kitchen. We got too much sun, went to bed too late, slept too long, ate too much, jump a lot of waves, read a lot, reconnected and basically loved life.

Scorch and his cousin dodging waves.

Scorch and his cousin dodging waves.

And now we’re back to the land of alarm clocks and schedules and laundry and real life. And while our real life is pretty great, it’s no day at the beach.

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Home Again

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And it’s like I never left. Except that I did leave. And it was awesome. The conference was fantastic- I got to meet some of my long time colleagues, eat some truly wonderful food, dance to a band I’ve never heard of but were evidently famous in the 70s/80s, sleep in a gorgeous hotel room with huge ceilings, take a 2 hour tour of an incredible city, watch too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on NetFlix, read some very good books and meet some cool people on the plane. I came home energized and so enthused about what I do for a living.

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And it was all really, really amazing and I’m so glad I went.  And when I got home, I was picked up at the airport and whisked off to baseball practice and just like that- BAM– I was back in my life. Except today, the Hubs made the kids lunches while I showered. And I was told numerous times by everyone how much they missed me.  And all that makes me think that I need to go away for a week a bit more often just to keep my family on their toes.

I Left My Heart…

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Many, many months ago I signed up to come to a conference for work in San Francisco. Many, many months ago when I signed up, the conference seemed forever away- so long away, in fact, it didn’t seem real. But time did its thing and before I knew it, that conference that seemed so very far into the future was here.  And I, being the wuss that I am, started to get a little nervous. Not about the conference- I’m a conference geek. Small talk, learning new things, meeting new people- all of it makes me happy. No, I was nervous about that whole spending-5-days-across-the-country thing.

I mean- 5 days is a long time. I’ve never left my kids for 5 days and I’ve never been this far away.  Then you throw in the events of last week in Boston and all the news stories about the FAA furloughs that will result in major flight delays and my little bit of nerves turned into a whole bundle of nerves really quick.  But, I didn’t have a choice. I was committed.  So yesterday I made the trek cross country to San Francisco.

And I’m so very, very glad I did.  It’s a tough life having to sleep in a huge bed by myself with no children waking me up at 4 am.  It’s a hardship to eat meals while they’re hot and not have to share a bit.  And it’s horrible to have this gorgeous view from my window.

 

Today I spent the day taking a fascinating class, filling up 4 pages of paper with notes on things to do at my job when I get home.  Then I got to have dinner with wonderful people that I’ve got to work with for the past 2 years but have never met while looking out at this view:

Yup, I miss my family. And I’ll be dying to get home to them on Friday.  But for now, I’m just going to enjoy every second of this gorgeous city, my nerves be damned.

Where in the World…

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Sorry for the radio silence, but the Heat’s took a trip. We saw this guy:

Taken by Scorch

Taken by Scorch- the expression cracks me right up!

Then we stumbled upon this other animal:

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Scorch fought this scary guy:

He totally kicked his butt, too.

He totally kicked Darth Maul’s butt, too.

We visited with a mouse or two:

M&M_Parade

And we even chased a few of these around the beach:

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Ah, Florida, how I do love visiting you!  We hopped in the car a week ago Thursday and started the 1100+ mile trip down the coast to some warmer weather and relaxation. The weather wasn’t quite as hot as we would have liked it, but we managed just fine! It was just to nice to see the sun every single day- you don’t realize how much you miss it until you see it again.  We spent 3 days at Disney- a half day at Hollywood Studios, a half day at Animal Kingdom, a day at the Magic Kingdom and a day at Epcot. Then we got back in the car and drove to the west coast for some beach time with my parents.  That made my soul very, very happy!  Honestly, I could skip Disney all together and spend a week at the beach- but the kids and the Hubs love the parks so much that that wasn’t going to happen.

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Going to Disney World with a 4 year old vs a 3 year was much, much, much easier. Beaner could fit on a lot more of the rides now that she’s finally over 40 inches tall, but most importantly, she’s lost most of her fear. Rides that scared her silly last year were a joke and she asked to go on the Star Wars ride 3 times.  Scorch is at the sweet spot of an age where he still loves all the main Disney characters- Mickey, Minnie, Donald, etc- but he’s ready to try some of the scarier things too like the roller coasters. All in all, we could not have asked for a better couple of days!

And now it’s back to reality. I’m scared to check my inbox at work tomorrow and I dread having to get the kids ready for school- but all that is more than worth it for the trip we had!

Playing Catch Up

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The Good

> Hell week at work is over. My project was out on time and with minimal bumps. Doesn’t mean the work is over (it’s never, ever over) but I’m over the first hurdle.

> We had a fantastic weekend. My parents picked up the kids after school on Friday because the Hubs and I had a wedding to attend 6 hours away on Saturday. We spent Friday night at home (I was coming off a 16 hour work day)- we went out to dinner to celebrate and were in bed by 10. My idea of a perfect evening. We got up and out on Saturday and drove to my favorite city (DC) for a quick 24 hour visit. The wedding was beautiful, we had a great time and the car ride was blissful with no kids to worry about.  It always makes me very, very happy to be reminded of how much I like spending time with my husband.

> We were spared Sandy’s wrath. The forecast was not looking good yesterday during the day- we were told to prepare for 3-5 days without power, but a last minute turn in the storm means we got hit with exactly nothing. Some rain and some wind, but nothing crazy or life threatening. My heart goes out to all those hit hard by the storm.

> Halloween tomorrow! I’m ignoring the ugly weather we’re going to get (40’s and pouring rain) and just focusing on how excited the kids are!

Now, for the bad…I have 7 loads of laundry to fold. Blech.  Back tomorrow with a more coherent post…promise.

One Last Hurrah

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With summer quickly coming to a close (*sob*), we decided to take one last trip before we said goodbye to my favorite season. After kicking around a few ideas, we finally settled on a long weekend in Boston.  Like every other vacation we’ve ever gone on, we didn’t get on the road quite as early as we’d like on Friday, but we still managed to get up to Boston by mid-afternoon. After quickly checking into our hotel*, dropping off our gear and hoping on the T, we made it to the New England Aquarium by 4.

Now, I’m not a huge lover of aquariums in general, but I could have spent a good hour watching the rays go by and petting them.  Luckily the Bean felt the same way!

After the Aquarium and a few meltdowns on our way out through the Gift Shop (really bad move on our part), we were able to walk to Quincy Market and have an amazing dinner. If you love food and have never been to Quincy Market, you have to fix that ASAP.

Saturday we took our time moving in the morning and then headed up to Gloucester for a whale watching trip.  Now, I had heard from friends how sea sick they and their kids got on the boat, so I was not taking any chances. I had Dramamine, Sea Bands, ginger gum and some drops you could put behind your ears. Are you supposed to use them all together? I have no idea- nor did I care. We were not puking. Period.

This trip was awesome in the truest sense of the world. There is nothing more amazing then to be floating in the ocean and have a whale- this giant creature you had no idea was right under you- surface 5 feet from your boat.  I admit, I got all teary eyed on a couple of occasions while we were out there.  We had a gorgeous, calm day and a wonderful guide who talked us through everything we saw. At the end of the afternoon we saw 7 humpback whales and 2 minke whales.

If you have never gone on a whale watching trip, you really need to add it to your life list. You won’t be disappointed.

5 hours on a boat was a bit much for the kids, but we brought coloring books, the DS and lots and lots of snacks, so they managed just fine.

Sunday we met up with some family in the area to see some of the more historical sights, like the Bunker Hill Monument. Which we decided to climb. In flip flops. There were 294 steps- my legs have just stopped hurting.  From there we walked down to see some of the war ships in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Scorch was thrilled with this outing- the Bean, not so much. So I didn’t soak up as much history as I would have liked- but I did get a good workout between the stair climbing and the kid chasing.

All in all, it was an amazing trip! It was so much fun for the 4 of us to get away and play tourist for a while. I wish I could say it made giving up on summer easier, but that would be a lie. I’m going to fight the changing seasons for a while longer, I think.

 

The Beach Life is the Best Life

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I love the beach.

And luckily I have a mother in law who loves the beach as much as I do- a very generous mother in law who takes us on vacation once a year as her Christmas gift to us. Best. Gift. Ever.  In years past, we’ve hit Sea Isle City, NJ, Brigantine, NJ, Kill Devil Hills, NC and Myrtle Beach. This year we went to Ocean City, NJ and it was awesome.  I was little worried driving in because that place is jam packed with homes- so many homes in the area we stayed at that there wasn’t room for anything else, including lawns (no joke).  Last year in Myrtle Beach it was so crowded that it made getting space on the beach a competition- and if you left your spot for longer then 30 minutes, people would move your chairs and blankets so they could move in. I wasn’t a huge fan and was worried we were doomed to repeat that.

Hahahahaha. Yeah- I had nothing to worry about. We managed just fine!

On vacation with us was my brother in law and his two boys- 8 and 6. Unfortunately my kids only get to see their cousins a few times a year since we live so far away from each other, so I always worry a bit about how everyone is going to get along. I should know better by now- every time they see each other it’s like they just hung out last week. Yes- they do have on matching rash guards. It made them much easier to keep track of!

The kids are at that perfect age where they are ton of fun at the beach- the waves! sand! digging! clams & fish! wiffle ball!- and they can basically entertain themselves 85% of the time. We obviously had to keep an eye on them and at least one (usually two) of us were in the water with them at all times (those waves were fierce!), but we all got to rest and relax.  The kids spent hours during the week digging up these critters. We called them crabs- I have no idea what they really were but they freaked me out. Thankfully the Bean didn’t share my aversion.

Our days consisted of getting up, having breakfast, being at the beach by 10:30, playing until 1, going back for lunch and some quiet time and heading out back to the beach until dinner time.  We did hit the boardwalk a few times- something the kids loved!  While it drained our wallets dry, it was a blast to ride the rides and munch on cotton candy and ice cream. Outside of the night we couldn’t find a trolley to take us home and ended up walking 20 blocks with 4 kids at 10 pm (I felt like little orphan Annie!), the boardwalk was a perfect slice of pure American cheese and tackiness!

So, there you have it- my excuse from being absent for so long.  Forgive me, please?