McKevitts in Maui: 2015

We just got back from an amazing, week long trip to Maui. B and I both agree that it was probably the best vacation we’ve ever taken as a family. We went into it with very few planned activities or expectations other than to disconnect from social media (me!) and email (B!) and enjoy the time as a family and get as much beach time as was humanly possible. With B traveling for work, I am fiercely protective of our family time, and this week with just our five was exactly the refresh break we needed. Sometimes, in the hub-bub of everyday life, the things you have to do: the kid shuttling, the meal cooking, the house cleaning, the disciplining so that you don’t raise hooligans, can lead you to forget that family life is, at it’s core, supposed to be fun. I realized during this trip that this was our first trip that was purely us five. We’ve traveled a decent amount with the kids and always made vacations out of all of our trips, but often our vacation destinations were driven by seeing people we knew places, even if we stayed on our own. But anyway, back to the trip.


You can pretty much break our trip into two parts: the travel, and everything else. Let’s just touch on the travel quickly. Flights from Denver to Maui were absurdly expensive, we were kind of thinking they’d be lower since August is not Hawaii’s busy season, but nope. Due to the fact that the flights alone are usually what we budget for our annual vacation, and also not knowing if it would be better to have a quick layover to break up the sitting or do it all in one swoop, we didn’t splurge for the direct flight from Denver to Maui (lesson learned: splurge for the direct flight).  So, on the flight out, we left Denver at 5:45 am and had a quick layover in Phoenix, before taking a six hour flight from Phoenix to Maui. The flights were torture. I’m not a great flyer. I’m not an anxious person usually, but flying brings out a certain level of anxiety that I’m not used to. Suddenly everyone on the plane is not to be trusted (I’m the same way in movie theaters now, too…to the point where we just don’t go to movies anymore), and take-off and landing tie my stomach in knots. But this isn’t about me. The big kids were awesome. We generally don’t allow technology for flights, but based on the fact that we’d be flying for 8 and a half hours, we broke our normal rule and downloaded as many Stella and Sam Sprout episodes to B’s iPad as we could. I also bought a few little dollar store activities, and the kids slept for about 2 hours of the Maui flight. It was a long haul, but the big kids didn’t complain once. Peter, on the other hand…made a name for himself. As soon as we took off from Phoenix, Peter fell asleep in the Ergo – he’d been awake for 5 hours at that point since we woke him up at 3am.  He woke up an hour later, and I distracted him for a good hour with stickers. And then we reached sheer exhaustion but the toddler doesn’t want to sleep point. And I would say that Peter screamed on-and-off for two hours of our 6 hour flight. To the point where the next morning (at 5:30am) when I was on the beach with my time confused youngest two, a man stopped and said “Peter! I remember you from the plane. I’m not the least bit surprised that you’re awake at this hour.” At least he had a good sense of humor.

But the beauty of  Maui is that the second we were in our rental car, the flight portion was behind us. We stayed on the Northwest side of the island. I grew up going to Maui for Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family and we always stayed in Kaanapali, and this time we were a little further North towards Kapalua. It was so fun to be back in a place that some of my best childhood memories are tied to with my own family. I think that’s what made this trip so special to me – exposing my kids to something that was a huge part of my childhood. But also, exploring a place I knew with my husband and seeing it through different eyes. It’s so neat to see how your view of the world changes as you’re exposed to new people and things.

So anyway, Maui. We mostly played at the beach and in the pool, with a couple little activities mixed in. Or room had a full kitchen, so we ate breakfast and lunch or dinner in the room and ate out one meal a day. We’d wake up (early…because…time change) and hit the beach within 30 minutes of being awake. We found a sweet beach early on that has a huge reef about 300 yards out, so it protects the shore from huge wave breaks and makes it the perfect, safe place for little kids to play in the ocean. I forced B (seriously – had to force him) to play golf at Kapalua on Monday, and that was the day I took the kids to the protected beach. We had the best time floating, building in the sand and pretending that we were a family of fish. The next day, Tuesday, I decided we should all go to Kaanapali beach. That beach is truly beautiful and the quintessential sandy beach, but the waves were intense. Tom, Nell and I all got knocked over and tossed by a huge wave as we were exiting the ocean: I realized the tides were getting a bit high for my comfort being in the water with a 5 and 3 year old, so we body surfed a wave in, and as I was carrying them out of the water, the undertoe combined with a huge wave behind it and we were thrown under, tossed around and landed on our backs (me still gripping the kids with all my might) with B and random strangers running at us to help. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life and from that time on, we decided to play it safe and stay at the little wave-less beach.  We redeemed Tuesday by eating a delicious lunch over the ocean at Koa’s Seaside Grill on Front Street in Lahaina. Delicious food, and gorgeous views.

On Wednesday, we woke up and headed straight to Baby Beach with B so that he would see that not all the waves were terrifying. And once B saw Baby Beach, that was our home base for the rest of our vacation. We had several people at the hotel with kids our kids ages who had similar big wave experiences ask us if we had found a beach that was good for little kids, and B told everyone about Baby Beach. I said, “Good thing we’re leaving in a few days, our secret little spot is going to be so crowded now that you’ve told everyone about it!” It truly was like a hidden gem that we had all to ourselves for most of each morning – which is funny because we found it by googling “Best Beaches for Kids in Maui”, but maybe not everyone googles? After spending the morning at Baby Beach, we headed back to our hotel and I rented a standup paddle board for 24 hours. The first day was really rough on the ocean outside of our hotel, but the second day was beautiful and we had a blast.  Wednesday night we went to the Maui Nui Luau. I warned B that they can be a little hokey, but it’s a neat way to see a bit of Hawaiian tradition and culture. It was indeed hokey, but it was fun, the food was good, and the kids thought it was the best. Which truly, is all that matters. In the future, we’d probably skip the luau, but if we did do it again, we’d probably choose a different one.



Thursday was sort of a repeat of Wednesday – we woke up, went to the beach where B and I took turns snorkeling while the other stayed with the kids, swam in the pool, did some stand-up paddle boarding, and then went to Whaler’s Village and ate dinner on the beach at Hula Grill. Peter was not the most enjoyable at meal times this trip. He’s in a phase where he doesn’t eat much, and he’s squirmy. So B and I were passing Peter back and forth to try to keep him from ruining everyone’s meal. I’m sure we looked like a hot mess. When we were done, our server came over and said, “All done? Well, today is your lucky day. Another table has picked up your meal.” He told us that the table had already left, and we’re pretty sure it was a couple that was sitting behind us who at one point picked up a crayon Peter had thrown on the floor. B and I were both dumbstruck, and honestly felt a little guilty, but then we told ourselves, “They wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t wanted to, and we’ll just have to remember to pass it on someday”. We laughed as we were leaving and I said to B, “They either saw us and thought ‘Man, those two are in way over their heads, let’s buy them a meal.’ or they said, ‘What a sweet family, don’t you remember when our kids were that age, let’s buy them a meal.'” We’re hoping it was the latter, but something tells me the first one might be more realistic.
Friday we woke up and went to breakfast in Lahaina, then went to our favorite baby beach. We spent the morning splashing, floating and sand playing. After naps we went back to Lahaina and had the most delicious Hawaiian Shave Ice at Ululani’s, then did a little bit of shopping and went to see the Banyan tree. It was our last night in Hawaii, so we ate dinner at the hotel overlooking the beach and watched the sunset and schemed about how we could extend our trip by another week.

Saturday we did our traditional wake-up, hit the beach and play. We came back and showered and did final packing before checking out of the hotel, then headed to the East side of the Island to look around. We ate at lunch at the Flatbread Company before heading to the airport. We decided that based on Peter’s age and phase, this was not the trip to eat at Mama’s Fish House, but we will be back someday, hopefully with a less scream-y Peter in toe, and then we will have our delicous fancy meal.


The flights home were long and made us ready to be home. So maybe that’s why you do it – so that once you’re on the flight, you feel ready to be home and not sad to be leaving Hawaii again. It was a red-eye flight with a layover in Dallas (yes, that’s past Denver. I told you the flights we got were awful. Next time, direct it is.) Peter screamed for about an hour, but did fall asleep for the part of the flight where everyone else would want to sleep. I didn’t sleep, and during that time Peter was crying and I was trying to settle him, I got plenty of evil looks from a not very pleasant newlywed bride. But what can you do? We’ll never see her again, and someday, maybe she’ll be traveling with a 17 month old and I hope that people treat her more graciously.


So what would we do differently? Direct flights. And we’d stay an extra week. Here’s a video I put together of our trip:


Traveling With Kids: Beach Vacation

We just got back from five days on Siesta Key, Florida. It’s one of the best beaches I’ve ever been too, and the fact that Mr. B’s sweet grandparents live nearby makes it pretty much our number 1 vacation destination at this point in our lives.  We try to go down to Florida once a year to visit B’s grandparents and get some beach time – it doesn’t always work out to be exactly on the calendar year – it was a year and a half between our first visit with Thomas and when we took both T and Nell last Fall, but less than a year between our November visit last year and this one – but in five years of marriage, we’ve made five trips to Siesta Key, so I’d say we’re doing well with our goal.

We love traveling with our kids. I know it’s not for every family, but B and I find so much joy in watching our children discover the world. Whether it’s Nell’s first real encounter with sand – she was meh about it – or Thomas discovering that he loves the ocean and body surfing waves after a summer of refusing to be anywhere near water without pitching a relatively large fit (which broke his swim instructor mama’s heart), it’s almost like we rediscover the world through our children’s eyes. I think the biggest key in enjoying a vacation with your young kids is to manage your expectations. The plane ride (or car ride) will have its tough moments. You won’t stay out late drinking and eating like you used to. What used to be my idea of quality beach time – at least half a day every day in the sand and the surf – has evolved to mean that two 90 minute beach sessions a day = success. Rather than walking the entire beach hand in hand with Mr. B talking about our goals for the next 5 years, we’re now running the same 20 yards of beach over and over again after two kids and talking about how to survive bedtime with four people in one tiny bedroom in our hotel. Our late night extravagant dinners have changed to early dinners, and drinking wine on the beach at sunset has become eating ice cream on the beach at sunset. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Siesta Sunset Ice Cream

On the first night we were at the beach, we walked up to Siesta Village from our hotel and grabbed ice cream to eat on the beach and watch the sunset. And for the first time in my life, I saw the green flash. Well, I’m calling it a partial see, because I had my camera up to my eye to take the picture above of the sun setting into the ocean and definitely saw the flash, but had to wait for confirmation from those around us that they saw it too before I felt comfortable saying I’d seen it and it wasn’t just some camera effect. Thomas’s mind was blown seeing the sun set into the ocean. “The sun goes Night Nights in the water?!? Can I sleep underwater? Pllllllease.” These are the moments that make playing musical Nell for 3 hours on an airplane so worth the trip.

Beach with Thomas

Thomas adored the ocean. I was nervous, as I mentioned earlier, because this summer he gave his mama a lot of trouble refusing to swim. In typical Emily fashion, I said since before I had children that I would never use any kind of floatation device for my kids and never, under any circumstances, would I put them in water wings. When my friends asked me for advice, I said, “If you HAVE to have something, please pick a life vest so that they learn their torsos are how they float, not their arms.” I mean, honestly, I’ve probably deterred 5 friends from putting their kids in water wings. And last Tuesday when T was at school and I was running last minute trip errands? I threw the freaking clearance Target water wings in my cart, because our summer had been such a mess and I was willing to do anything to at least have T enjoy the water again. I didn’t break them out until he’d already been out in the ocean with me, jumping waves and having a blast, and then I gave him the water wings and he had an absolute blast. He loved floating with the waves. We held hands in the ocean and kicked our feet up together towards the sky. And I looked at B and said, “I don’t care how lame they are or the fact that I think water wings look dorky. I don’t care that I think they’re the worst invention ever for teaching your child to swim. He’s loving the water. I’m sold.” Sorry, friends who I’ve told to avoid water wings. Do whatever you need to do for your kid. Oh, Emily.

Thomas on the Beach

Nell on the Beach

Little Miss Sis was hit or miss about the beach and the water. Some moments she loved it, some moments she wanted nothing to do with it, marched herself over to the umbrella stroller, climbed in by herself and sat with her arms crossed staring at us playing. She’s hilariously herself and we love every spicy little part of her personality.

Tom and Nell going to the Beach

This was one of my favorite moments of the trip. The second morning we were going to the beach, B and I were still packing the beach bag and finishing sunscreen and T and Nell were ready to go. Thomas took Nell’s hand and said, “Come on sister! Let’s go to the ocean! Mommy and daddy will catch up wif us.” Ha. 5 minutes later he fell on the walk to the beach and his skinned knee was apparently impossible to recover from, so it diverted our entire beach trip – we ended up driving to Longboat Key to see it and hope the kids fell asleep in the car.

It was a fabulous vacation, and one that we look forward to every year. So that’s where we’ve been the last little while, now I’m ready for Fall.

“Less Stress” Travel and a Giveaway!

Mr. B and I have done what we consider to be a decent amount of travel since becoming parents. Between our trips to Florida and DC to visit family, our big road trip last Fall, and a trip to Oregon, we’re far from jet-setters, but we love to travel and hope to expose our kids to fun places around our state, country, and maybe someday world. I can honestly say that B and I love traveling with our kids – rather than dreading the flights, activities, and entertaining our kids, we look at it as a challenge to see the places we visit through the wondrous eyes of a child.

I shared some of my tips for tech-free toddler travel in January if you’re interested in how we entertain the kiddos on flights and road trips without an iPad or DVD player. But getting to your destination is only a small part of traveling with kids. Once we get to our vacation spot, there are things we think about to make traveling with our kids something we look forward to and love rather than a headache and chore.

Whenever B and I pick a destination for our family vacations, we immediately look into a couple things. The first thing on our agenda is to find kid friendly places to stay. B and I are of the opinion that we need to expose our kids to grown-up and nicer situations if we expect them to learn how to behave in grown-up and nicer situations. We take them out to dinner at restaurants that aren’t your typical family-geared chain, etc. But when it comes to where we’re going to stay on vacation, we know that things will be less stressful if the place comes with a seal of kid friendly approval. Whether that means places that cater to kids or just hotels or condos that allow kids (and serve breakfast – breakfast at the place we’re staying is mandatory with our crew) doesn’t matter as much, as long as we know that we’ll be welcomed and not shunned with our two children under the age of 3.

When we travel to Florida to visit B’s grandparents, we always opt to spend a little bit extra for a suite instead of a standard hotel room so that we can put the kids down for naps and to bed in the bedroom and stay up to watch TV, read, and talk. When we don’t have the option of a suite, we tend to keep the kids out a little bit later so that we can see lots at our destination and all go to bed together – the key, we’ve found, is flexibility.

travel with kids

 The second thing we look for when planning a family vacation is kid-friendly activities. A quick search usually will yield a list of activities for kids of all ages so that you can plan out the places you want to see before you travel. Again, flexibility is key when kids are involved, and so B and I have our list of possible things to do and we do what seems feasible as the days come. In general, we know that we need to do something active at least once a day – generally before naps – so that the kids have fun. Then we sometimes squeeze in something more geared at B and me – like touring the monuments in Washington, D.C. But in general, we just try to frame everything we do in a way that Thomas (and soon Nell) can understand and appreciate, and honestly? B and I end up having so much fun, too.


When Mr. B was in high school, his extended family took a Caribbean cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line and it was one of B’s standout vacations. He loved the flexibility to run around with his cousins while his parents, aunt, uncle and grandparents did their own thing. He still talks about the excursions they went on, and the places that he got little tastes of that he wants to take our own family back to someday. As our kids get a bit older, cruises will be a great option for the type of vacations we love – laid back family fun, the ability to see different parts of the world, and water.


Norwegian gives families their best vacation ever with Freestyle Cruising and Nickelodeon entertainment. Norwegian offers a youth program that is active and filled with lots of optional activities for kids of all age groups. The youth program features counselors, sports activities and lots of fun with other kids on an overall family-friendly ship with pools, slides and family entertainment.  For more information about Norwegian’s family vacation experience, click here.




Norwegian and BlogHer are giving away a cruise voucher for a family of four to one lucky winner. To be entered in the sweepstakes, you must leave a comment on this post or another participating blogger’s post. One winner will be chosen from all the blogs participating in this promotion. To enter the sweepstakes, tell me in the comments below, “What is your dream vacation for your family”? Good luck!


No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

Entries from all participating blogs will be pooled for winner selection; only two entries per household. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 5/7/2013-6/2/2013.

Be sure to visit Norwegian Cruise Line’s brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Tech Free Toddler Travel


When we were getting ready for our two week trip in November, everyone we mentioned the flights and road trip to offered us their DVD players and iPads. And we considered it (before realizing we didn’t trust ourselves with other people’s $500+ technology).

And then we considered it as a good excuse to run out and buy an iPad.In the end, we decided against that for a couple reasons: 1) $500 is a lot of money, and B and I have talked on and off since they came out about buying an iPad and always decide that we wouldn’t use it enough to justify the purchase. 2) Our kids are relatively good in the car as it is, so even though we were talking about some long travel days, we didn’t think movies or apps were necessary yet, and we figured we could re-evaluate if the first day of driving was a disaster. 3) Even though we were talking mostly about entertaining a 29 month old, we wanted this trip to be about family togetherness, not distract the kid while we tourness. Talking to and pointing out signs, golf courses, and new cities to Thomas was one of the most fun things about our trip. 4) We really try to avoid technology and TV with our kids as a general rule for now. That’s not to say we never have the TV on or that we will do this forever – but as far as Thomas knows, my iPhone is for listening to Raffi and looking at pictures of himself (my vain little man) and the television was invented for the sole purpose of watching football and golf. And we’re good with that for now. Let me say that this was a personal decision for our family and we know it’s not a choice everyone makes, and we also know that there are television programs and apps that teach kids lots. Our little man is like a moth to flame with technology, if something is on TV or he has an iPhone in his hand, he’s addicted until we force him to move away. This combined with the fact that we know that once the kids are in school, computers and TV and all of that becomes so much more prevalent, we’ve decided that while we still get full control over our kids’ bubbles, we will limit technology.

A few days before we left for our trip, my mom watched Thomas so I could run errands and get packed and ready to go. I stopped at our local toy store – Grand Rabbits Toy Shoppe for any Broomfield to Boulder readers – and asked the lovely owner to help me find small, quiet activities for a two year old boy.  She happened to have a two year old grandson, and between the two of us, we came up golden (many of these links are to Amazon, but they are not affiliate links, so click away. With that said, if you have a local, independent toy store, I strongly encourage you to support it and it’s knowledgeable employees when you can – though I do love me some Amazon convenience).
Here’s what we packed for two weeks of mostly tech-free toddler travel (we streamed Raffi the whole road trip on our rental car speakers from Pandora and he still looked at pictures of himself from time to time, but otherwise, tech free was our gig). And a big bonus? Almost all of this was quiet enough that it transferred seamlessly to our church bag when we got home.
1. Usborne My First Coloring Book and My First Sticker Book: Airport These are really awesome coloring and sticker books (in fact, they’re now my go-to gift for toddler birthdays). They have tons of stickers, lots of great pages to color, and were great fun on the plane, on the road and while we were visiting in less childproof houses.
2. The woman at Grand Rabbits recommended the Alex Star Crayon (I could only find a link to the bathtub version, but the non-bath tub crayon exists or at least did in November) so that we weren’t having to constantly pick up crayons rolling off tray tables and all over the car. Brilliant, I tell you.  It’s a little bit hard to get started because you have to push hard for color, but this lives in my purse now for dinners out since picking up crayons off the floor of the restaurant isn’t fun, either.
3. Magic Slate. I remember this from when I was little, and they still exist. I think it was $3, and it’s Thomas’s favorite quiet activity for church to this day, and was a great hit on the trip, too.
4. Schylling Baseball Pinball Game. Another one I remember from my childhood. This isn’t the exact one I found, mine was $2 and cardboard backed, but this was the best I could find online. Thomas loved it – and it also kept B busy during the flight. Fun for everyone.
5. Calculator. Our pediatrician turned me onto this trick when Thomas was melting down after a much longer than normal wait at one of Nell’s well checks. She said, “Thomas, I bet you love to push buttons”, and handed him an old school, basic calculator from her bag. I guess technically this is technology, but it’s cheap and another easy to throw in the church bag or purse item. Plus, math doesn’t come by his mother naturally, might as well teach him the glory of a calculator at two, right?
So add to that every little book we already owned, a small football, and lots of singing made up songs and that’s how we entertained our 29 month old son on our 12 day vacation in November without spending $500 on an iPad that we honestly didn’t think we’d use enough beyond the trip to justify the expense. What are your tricks for keeping your kids quiet on planes, trains and automobiles?


East Coast Road Trip: Washington DC with Kids


Let’s revisit our East Coast road trip from November in the spirit of getting caught up, shall we? If you’ll recall, we started our trip in Florida, visited with Mr. B’s grandparents and then drove north with Washington DC as our final destination, staying in Savannah, Charleston and Richmond each for a night. Mr. B’s extended family all lives in the Washington DC area. I love DC. Since we’ve been married, a number of our close friends have moved to the area as well, so when we’re in DC, we not only spend time with family, but we get to see good friends, too. We spent 5 days in Maryland with day trips into DC, and we could have used 2 more to see all the people we wanted to see even once, but we made the best of it. This trip was different from our previous DC trips because on top of seeing a lot of family, we wanted to do a lot of family friendly activities. So here’s a recap of our Washington DC with two kids itinerary. 
We arrived in Silver Spring, Maryland around 4:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday and just spent the evening decompressing from three days of driving and sightseeing while visiting with Mr. B’s aunt and uncle. His family is so lovely and B’s aunt puts us up every single time we come to town. She’s the ultimate hostess. We put the kids to bed after a delicious dinner and stayed up late drinking great wine and talking about anything and everything – history, kitchen remodels (they completed a gorgeous kitchen remodel over the summer), politics, Irish Catholic baby names, you name it – with B’s aunt and uncle. 
On Thursday, we drove into the city. The only thing I requested of the DC portion of the trip was some sightseeing. The last time B and I were in DC, Thomas was 7 months old and it was cold and we were there for a short visit, so we spent our time with family and friends instead of out sightseeing. B and I had done the sights when we were engaged and went back to meet his family, but I wanted to do them again. So on Thursday, we planned to go to the National Zoo, but a cooler morning changed our plans to the Museum of Natural History. And it was awesome. Thomas is at such a fun age for museums where he’s fascinated with pretty much everything you point out to him. He’s also at a big “What’s that?” or “Is that (insert exactly what he knows what he’s talking about here)?” age.  “Is that a big dinosuar?” “Is that a walrus?” It was a perfect stop on our itinerary. 
After the museum and lunch, we returned to B’s aunt’s house for the kids’ naps and to decompress before meeting Mr. B’s best friend/college roommate and his girlfriend for dinner. Thomas adores “Uncle Matt” and immediately fell in love with his girlfriend (as did we). 

The next day was our big DC day. We woke up and started heading into the city, realized the weather was beautiful and decided it was a great morning for the National Zoo. We got there early and headed straight for the Panda Bears, then moseyed through the whole zoo, stopping to see Thomas’s beloved gorillas eat lunch.  After the zoo, we met another of B’s best friends – and another of his college roommates – for lunch at District Taco and touring – starting at the Washington Monument and making it to all of the memorials on the National Mall. Then, we drove around in circles because Thomas fell asleep in the car while waiting to meet up with one of my best friends and her fiancé for dinner. It was a busy day but an awesome one, and it was so fun to see our good friends while we were in town. 
On Saturday, B’s cousin arranged a big party for all the cousins and their kids to get together. This family is wonderful – so loving and welcoming, and we love spending time with all of them. 

Sunday, we drove about an hour north to meet up with Shannon, John and Sir Gabe in Bel Air, Maryland. Shannon and I go way back (to April), but when she heard about our trip, she informed me that we were only going to be 2 hours away from each other and we had to see each other. And I obv agreed because Shannon and me? We were cut from the same cloth. Except she was cut from a slightly craftier cloth. But from a snakiness perspective? We’re one and the same.
Anyway, it was wonderful to meet my favorite blog husband, John, in real life. And Thomas and Gabe studied each other for the first two hours before deciding they could play ball together. Shannon covered it in far better detail – and on a far better time table – on her blog. 
After parting ways with the Wellingtons and agreeing that we’d meet again in Maine or Colorado – because those are near each other – I stuffed my face with a Philadelphia pretzel and we drove back to B’s Aunt and Uncle’s for our last night.
On Monday, we packed our bags, had a leisurely morning at the house and then drove to Dulles, stopping first at the Air and Space Museum at Dulles. It was awesome, Thomas loved the big airplanes, and B and I both loved the history. It was a fabulous way to finish off our trip, and a wonderful stay in DC. And then we had a ridiculously long delay as our flight was just about to take off for home, but we managed.

Rock You Like a Hurricane: NYC Recap

Remember back in October when my sister and I were stranded in New York by Hurricane Sandy? Oh no? Yeah, I barely do either, and I was there.  But it’s time for me to play catch-up on this little ol’ blog.

So, my sister turned 30 on November 4th. Our cousin is a resident at a hospital in NYC and when he accepted the NYC residency several years ago, I told my sister we’d go to New York for her 30th birthday. We picked the weekend before Halloween because sister is a teacher and that happened to be her fall break, and my go-to source for all things NYC You’ve Got Mail told me we’d heard that Fall in New York is beautiful.

We booked our tickets in July and I started pumping like a mad woman to leave enough milk for Nell for four days away. We stayed with my cousin, and for my sister’s birthday gift I covered the flights and tickets to the Broadway show of her choice…which I knew would be Wicked.

As our trip approached, so did Hurricane Sandy forecasts to make landfall around when we wanted to leave to get home. We didn’t know exactly what to do, but we decided Kate had the time off, B had taken the time off to stay home with the kids, chances were good based on history the storm would change courses, and we had tickets to a show, so we’d go and move our ticket home up to Monday if it looked like the storm was going to hit NYC. Hahahaha.

We got into New York on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and toured uptown with my cousin and his girlfriend before Wicked. We got in all the big sites thanks to Mikey – walked by but not through Central Park, Union Station, The New York Public Library, Bryant Park, Times Square, Magnolia Bakery, Rockefeller Center and Broadway of course. Thank goodness for that whirlwind tour for Kate’s first trip to NYC, because it turned out to be all we got of uptown and midtown Manhattan (at least when things were open). 

Our whirlwind tour of midtown Manhattan on our first day in NYC

Wicked was fabulous and Kate and I had a great time, and the next morning we were up early for a tour of the Financial District and Lower Manhattan with Real New York Tours with our tour guide Jimmy. It was one of the best tours I’ve ever been on, gave us such great history of New York, but real and in depth history and anecdotes. I would take this exact same tour again if I go back to NYC, or I’d take the longer one, too. It was awesome. 

Kate and I holed up in a Starbucks after the tour so I could pump. It was windy and cold, but the rain hadn’t started yet, so we made the decision to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get pizza at Grimaldi’s, then take the Subway back to my cousin’s apartment on the Upper East Side. The pizza was good, and the Brooklyn Bridge was awesome. As we left Grimaldi’s it was starting to spit rain, so we knew our decision to walk the bridge TO Brooklyn instead of back into Manhattan was a good one. 
Kate, my expert map reading sister, found the closest subway station and as we got on the train to go back to my cousin’s apartment, they made the announcement that the subway was shutting down at 7pm that night. Meanwhile, B had decided Kate and I needed to come home that night or be stuck in New York for days, so he called every airline he could to try and get us out of New York that night without any luck. 

From Left to Bottom Right: Emergency Hurricane Alert; Kate showing off a downed tree; more downed trees and a refrigerator ready to go with breast milk, beer, orange juice and hummus.

So, we went back to the Upper East Side, and stood in line for two hours to buy bottled water, hummus and pasta in case the city really did shut down. My cousin, Kate and I hung out in his apartment on Sunday night, and on Monday, we decided to venture out. My cousin, his girlfriend, Kate and I took his girlfriend’s dog for a long walk in the rain. We encountered downed trees, lots of water, and very little that was open. So we dried off, ordered Chinese food and played games in the apartment. 

Meanwhile, our flights were cancelled and rebooked about five times each, and the soonest we were looking at getting out of New York was Friday. I had a mini meltdown about missing my kids’ on Halloween, then got on the phone with the airlines to rebook us for Thursday. Meanwhile, I booked flights out on a different airline so that we’d have two options, since Southwest seemed to be canceling flights faster than Delta. 

From upper left to lower right: The fire escape (our view of the hurricane); Finding an open restaurant; The Friends Apartment Building; Takeout and Beer on Hurricane Sunday; Kate on the Windy Brookly Bridge; My Mini Breakdown; Pumping like a madwoman to keep up milk supply; Helping Dr. Cousin Mikey apply to Fellowship Programs

Tuesday, Kate and I decided to see the city regardless of the weather. The rain had let up a bit, and a friend told us Shake Shack in Times Square was open, so we walked that way. We saw the dangling crane, lots of broken trees, and lots of closed stores. But we did get delicious burgers at Shake Shack. 
We got home, our flights were cancelled again and pushed back, and so I got on the phone with Southwest. After much back and forth I finally said the customer service agent, “I have a 4 month old in Denver who is running out of breast milk, how can I get out of New York the fastest?” She was not very nice and said, “Ma’am, I don’t know what you want me to do. The only place we flew out of out there today was Bradley”. I said, “Where’s Bradley?” “Connecticut”. “Great, book us on the next flight available out of Bradley”. “Okay, that will be an extra $430 because you’re changing airports”. 
“Whatever, book it and let me talk to your manager”. 

Meanwhile, I went online (because Southwest wouldn’t let me rebook my airfare online) to see what our Delta flights could do. We could switch our flights to Bradley without any cost, and in two clicks we were on a 6am flight out of Connecticut. So when Southwest finally connected me with a manager, I said, “Don’t worry about it, I found a different airline to fly me home, just refund our original tickets please.” So now we had tickets out of Connecticut, we just had to get there.

B called his uncle who lives in Connecticut, but he couldn’t get into the city to get us because of all the closures. So he recommended trying a car service. We lucked out. There was a car service that happened to be a few blocks from my cousin’s apartment. I called at 4:45, they closed at 5, and asked what they could do to get us to Connecticut by 4 am the next day. They could have a car at my cousin’s apartment in an hour. Kate and I threw our things into our bags, called our cousin who was at the hospital to tell him we were leaving, he ran home to say goodbye, and we went via Town Car to Bradley International Airport, where we slept that night waiting for our flight. And just like that, we were homeward bound on Halloween, in time for me to see Thomas and Nell in their costumes and trick or treat with my kiddos.

It was a memorable 30th birthday trip for Kate, that’s for sure. Thankfully, we had a great first 2 days, the 3rd day was fun hanging out with my cousin, and once the mini-panic attacks over milk for Nell and missing Halloween passed, we made the very best of our first ever Hurricane. We Colorado girls don’t see those too often.

East Coast Road Trip: Sarasota, and Savannah, and Charleston, and Richmond, Oh My!

Mr. B and I had been debating the best time of year to take Nell and Thomas to Florida to visit Mr. B’s grandparents, and based on the way Mr. B’s time-off lined up (he has a good amount he has to use before December 31st), we decided Fall was it. We checked work calendars and flight prices and realized that with the amount of time he needed to take off, we could fly to Florida, spend a few days there, drive up the Eastern Seaboard to Washington DC where many of our friends and more of Mr. B’s family lives and see a lot of cool places along the way. So, we booked the flights in August and set our sights on a 12 day trip with two kids in tow in November.

When we visit Mr. B’s grandparents, we like to stay on Siesta Key near Sarasota. It’s a beautiful beach and not far from where they live, so we get lots of time to visit with them each day, while also getting some beach time. It’s a pretty great setup and will continue to be our most frequent vacation destination because you can’t beat the company or the beach. Generally we woke up every morning and walked the beach – I became an expert at nursing Nell in the Ergo Carrier while walking the beach. Then we’d go over to Mr. B’s grandparents or meet them somewhere for visiting and lunch. After lunch we’d head back to the hotel, put the kids down for naps, and B and I would take turns hitting the beach while the other stayed in the room with the kids. After they woke up we would spend a little bit of time on the beach, then go back to B’s grandparents for dinner and more visiting, before returning to the hotel for the night. 

 After spending 4 days in Florida, we loaded up the rental car and headed North to Savannah, Georgia. When B initially floated the idea of a road trip, he was excited about stopping in Savannah for two nights and Richmond on the way to DC – and possible going along the coast to the Outer Banks for a night. But we quickly decided to do one night in Savannah and one night in Charleston so that we weren’t doing long drives everyday. So leaving Florida, we had a long drive – we made it in 7 hours though based on the kids being champs in the car.  Savannah was really cool – we immediately loaded the kids up in the stroller and Moby wrap and headed to Forsyth Park for Thomas to run to his little heart’s content. 

After spending plenty of time at Forsyth Park, we walked up Bull Street taking in all the history as we strolled. Mr. B and I started enjoying craft beers a lot a few years ago, so we try to find local beers wherever we go, so we stopped in at Moon River Brewing Company for a beer sampler before heading to the Pirate’s House for dinner with a very tired – and therefore cranky – Nell. Dinner was delicious, but the company needed to go to bed, so we headed back to the hotel for the night. 

When we woke up on Monday, we ate breakfast in the hotel and then drove out to Tybee Island, where we got some good swinging and running out of our systems. 

Despite the fact that Thomas is wearing his Peyton Manning jersey in pretty much every picture, we did take these pictures days apart and we do buy our kid more than one shirt per season. But I pick my battles, and not wearing a jersey to church on Sundays and Thanksgiving dinner is all I’m willing to fight right now in the wardrobe department 🙂 Ohhh toddlers.

The weather was perfect, but we were itching to get to Charleston, so we spent about an hour and a half on the beach before getting back in the car to drive to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for lunch. 

After lunch at the Crazy Crab, we headed onto Charleston. Where we fell in love.  Love love love Charleston. My favorite part of the trip was absolutely catching up with family and friends new and old, but if I had to pick a non-family/friend related favorite, Charleston is it. I’d been to Charleston with my family when I was in Kindergarten, so while I have vague memories of the carriage ride and having tea in a ball room ( or more accurately of my brother’s disappointment at learning that a ball room wasn’t a big room to play soccer in), I appreciated the history and architecture and food far more this trip. We stayed at the Andrew Pinckney Inn in Charleston and everyone was so helpful. 

After checking in, we headed out to explore the Charleston City Market and the rest of the city. We spent about two hours walking around and fawning over the architecture and charm and made it back to the hotel just before a quick downpour. The hotel staff pointed handed the underprepared Coloradans who don’t know anything about rain two umbrellas and pointed us in the right direction for a good, non-chain restaurant that we could take two kids to without getting evil looks (Fleet’s Landing – such a cool restaurant and the food was phenomenal – Mr. B had delicious Shrimp and Grits and I loved my blackened Ahi Tuna with a ginger dipping sauce. When we go back to Charleston – and we will go back – we will dine again at Fleet’s Landing), and we were off again.

B and I were so in love with Charleston that we weren’t ready to turn in for the night, so we stopped back into the lobby of the hotel and asked for a good night walk route. The four of us set out again down King Street. As we arrived back at the hotel, Thomas told us he wanted to go to bed. How can you deny that request? 

The next morning, we were off again to explore Battery Park and the residential section of the city before getting on the road again. We just got a small taste of Charleston, so we will definitely return to see the barrier reefs, take a carriage ride, and spend more time in that lovely city.

It was another long driving day – and a rainy and cold one – to get to Richmond where we stayed with Sarah of Five Camels for the night. It was so fun to finally meet Sarah, Rob and Katherine – Katherine and Nell are just two days apart, so they enjoyed their first slumber party. Rob cooked us a delicious dinner, we sat around and visited, and just enjoyed the company. It’s crazy how the blog world works – you read these blogs and start to feel like you know someone, so when you meet in person it’s almost like you’re old friends. Sarah and her family are lovely – we had a fabulous visit, saw beautiful Richmond, and most importantly had a wonderful time with friends!

The next day, Sarah et al. took us to the petting zoo at Maymont, then were gracious when we had to take a slight detour because someone drove over a curb in the rental car and the tire went flat and we had to exchange rental cars at the airport. As I told Sarah at lunch afterwards, at least you know I’m definitely imperfect. After our unplanned scenic tour of the Richmond Airport, we had lunch at Capital Ale House before heading into DC for the remainder of our stay…which I’ll cover later this week because this post is too long already.

It was a lovely first week of our trip. Mr. B and I are working on a plan to become independently wealthy so that we can just spend every day together as a family traveling. Anyone have any advice on that? 🙂 We love road trips. I remember when we were dating Mr. B’s mom asked if we both liked the same type of vacations…and now I realize how that’s such a key part of a relationship. It probably wouldn’t have been much fun if I wanted to be waited on hand and foot at a beach while Mr. B wanted to tour museums. Luckily we both like a little of both of that…minus the being waited on part because as previously mentioned we have yet to figure out that independent wealth thing. Washington DC recap coming up.

Colorado Girls and a Hurricane

My sister and I are in NYC for her 30th birthday….due back in town today, but that’s obviously not happening. Just checking in to let you know where I am…I’ll be back with pictures and a hurricane recap when we make it home to Denver!

Meet Me In Chicago

After they met last summer, I was a little bit jealous of Kim and Shannon’s blog turned real-life friendship. Okay, a lot jealous. So when they invited me to meet-up this coming Fall, I was all about it. We picked Chicago – pretty much half-way for me and Shannon and not far from Kim – as our location. And then I got knocked-up. And Kim got knocked-up. So we moved our meet-up to the Spring and told Shannon she needed to be ready to drink for 3.

And the weekend? Fabulous. Beyond fabulous. These girls did not disappoint. I haven’t laughed so hard in months and we didn’t run out of things to talk about.

Kim picked Shannon and me up at the airports. That’s right, airports. Because we like to make a girl’s life as complicated as possible, we flew in and out of different airports within minutes of each other. Kim’s a rockstar.  Then we headed into downtown Chicago to check into our hotel and walk, eat, shop, walk, eat, shop, repeat.

The first night we saw a Second City show, which was hilarious.

We ate brunch at Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill on Saturday, then booked it to Millennium Park to take pictures of ourselves in the Bean. My life goal accomplished.

Of note, apparently khaki trench coats are the way to go this season. Kim was very much in style and fit in with the cool girls in Chicago. 

I was big on wanting to do something architectural, and we decided on a boat tour. But the Architectural boat tour I booked? Not so much on the architecture. And freaking freezing. Lesson learned: go with the actual Architectural society tour, and opt for a cruise that doesn’t take place on a speedboat in April. Also? Probably not a great idea to ask snarky questions when boarding the boat while 31 weeks pregnant unless you want to be given the 3rd degree on whether you should really be taking a boat tour. Listen buddy, my OB let me fly, I can take a 60 minute cruise. Mmmkay?

But terrible jokes from the guide and frigid weather aside, we did get a good view of the city from Lake Michigan on the tour, so that was fun.

And we capped off our last night in the Windy City with a late night City view from the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower.

I loved Chicago – I’d never been (other than driving or flying through) before this trip, and I can’t wait to go back. But mostly I loved these girls – we were made for each other.

Thanks for a fabulous weekend, gals.

Help Me Plan My Summer Vacation: Pacific Northwest

B and I have some good friends that are getting married in August in Portland, Oregon. Neither of us has ever been to the Pacific Northwest, and we’d like to make it an extended trip if possible.  Originally, the plan was to do a huge road trip – Yellowstone, Oregon, Washington, maybe even Vancouver, Canada. But, then Mr. B decided he needed to take a summer class, and my college roommate is getting married in September and some of her pre-wedding festivities sandwich the Oregon wedding.  Our grand road trip to Canada will have to wait for another year. So, we’re flying in and out of Portland, renting a car and wanting to see the best things we can possibly see.

Which is where I need your help. We’ll be flying in and out of Portland and we’ll be in the area for six days. The Friday and Saturday of the wedding we’ll be staying at a hotel in the Nob Hill neighborhood of Portland – but that’s all we’ve got nailed down for sure. What should we do whilst in the Pacific Northwest in August?

Mountains and water? We might stay there forever.

I’d love recommendations for:

  • Camping – preferably anywhere along the coast – and any leads you might have on renting camping equipment.
  • If I should really be afraid of sneaker waves? I saw a documentary on them a few years ago and am slightly terrified.
  • Kid friendly activities
  • Must sees
  • Must eats
  • How feasible an overnight trip to the Seattle area is – and what we should do there
  • Hotels or other overnight places you love
  • Anything else you think we should do (keeping in mind we’ll have a one year old in tow).

Here are the things B and I love on vacations:

  • Beaches and views
  • Laid back dinners
  • A few planned activities – like museums or zoos or aquariums or tours.
  • Physical activities – scenic bike rides, canoeing or other forms of boating, camping, hiking

Thanks for all of your help, you guys had awesome suggestions for Italy, so I’m turning to you again!