Friday, May 6, 2016

The Clown Car Heads to Galveston

I've been meaning to write a post about our trip to the Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston since we came back a week ago, but I've been so insanely busy with post-vacation life that I haven't had one single second to myself with my computer. I'm trying to get this in before the memories fade because it was an excellent trip, one that is certainly worthy of blogging about.

Jon and I made the bold move to pack up our clown car family and take our six kids on an airplane and on vacation for a week on the Gulf coast of Texas. The purpose of this trip was predominately to introduce me to Jon's family, and give Jon and his kids the chance to visit with their grandparents, something they hadn't done in a very long time. Now that we are a combined family of six kids we have come to the harsh reality that it is impossible to visit anyone else in their homes, it is just too crowded. The only way for us to travel and visit people involves us renting our own house and bringing everyone else to us. So we rented a sweet little beach house in the charming residential area of Crystal Beach.

Each travel day took us a solid 13 hours. A two hour drive on either end of the four hour flight, it was definitely an ambitious way to spend our first week all together. Shockingly, our kids were practically perfect during both travel days. A seasoned traveler, Sofie led the way as we marched through the airport, while Jon's kids looked at everything with wide-eyed excitement. I love the look on a child's face when they experience something new, such innocent delight. We made it across the country without incident.

Jon (a native Texan) warned me about the beach in Texas before we arrived, but I did not actually believe him. This has to be the ugliest beach on the face of the earth. With Gulf water as brown as sewage from the unloading of silt from the Mississippi river, and sand akin to a New England riverbank, the beach in Bolivar is anything but gorgeous. However, sunset was always pretty sparkly and spectacular, and the water, albeit unattractive, was warm and clean for swimming. Our kids didn't even seem to notice that the beach wasn't all that nice, they immediately got to work burying each other in the sand and diving into the brown abyss.

The trip was really not a vacation, I don't think any trip where your kids outnumber you is, but it was a great jumping off point for us for future family travel. Our kids bonded in their week together, hopefully some good insight into what it will be like to live together in just a few short months. I was almost dreading the trip before we left, thinking for sure that it would be a week of kid fighting and arguing, but it was almost the complete opposite, they got along better than ever.

It was wonderful to meet the family that raised kind and caring man who has changed my life, and I was not surprised to find that I loved each member of his family, also kind and caring, lovely people. His parents may be two of the most adorable people I have ever met, and I kind of wanted to put them in my pocket and take them home with me. I feel very fortunate to have been welcomed into such a great group of people. I can't wait to get to know them better.

This trip made me incredibly optimistic for future travel as a family, although it definitely gave me some eye-opening reality about the cost of traveling with such a huge crowd. We may be looking at some serious close to home camping for many of our family outings while we save our pennies for the next big adventure.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflecting on the Hard Stuff...

I'm back to New England today after a jaunt in sunny Florida. The trip lived up to all of its excellent potential. My kids got a few days to spend with their dad, and Jon and I got a few days to ourselves (I'm guessing our last for quite a while).

Coming home from this trip has made me reflective on this year, particularly on my divorce. My kids had a wonderful time this weekend with their dad, mostly due to the fact that he seemed relaxed and happy. This is only the second time they've seen him since he left for Miami last July, and the first time was wrought with sadness and overshadowed by the knowledge that the visit would be short-lived. This time it felt as though something switched for both their father and for them, somehow they all understood that they will visit each other again, that this can and will be a regular thing. This is what should be understood, but somehow divorce and relocation can make kids feel so abandoned that they are left with a huge sense of mistrust and fear, more loss to add to their grief for the family unit they have already lost. As a parent trying to help your kids navigate this sea of emotion it's unnerving to bring them into a situation where you really have no idea where their emotions will end up when it's over.

Our visit to Florida last October took a long time to recover from, their bodies carried around the burden of that emotional visit for weeks. This time seems light years better, they were already okay even before we pulled out of the parking lot away from their dad. We ended this visit with their dad with dinner together with me and Jon and my ex-husband and the kids. The potential for awkward and cringe-worthy moments was looming large. Fortunately it worked out fine, a quick and easy meal that clearly made the kids happy, and made the transition much easier.

This past year has been a plethora of emotional baggage, both the most hideous and the most wonderful. I am still trying to find a balance for how to keep my kids happy and healthy amidst all the changes life is throwing at us, and I am pretty sure I am doing the best I can. Divorce has been one of the most painful and also most necessary things I have ever gone through, and I have come to the conclusion that there is no easy way to go about it. There will always be some level of emotional suffering at some point. My job as a mother and as a woman is to make sure we have found some level of peace and emotional growth along the way, and to try every day to see the things that make us happy.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Staycation: Not My Cup of Tea

I took vacation time from work in early March, when I learned that my mother would be out of town for the week and childcare would be dicey. In order to save money, I decided that it would be oh-so-smart to go the practical route and stay home (after much back and forth about taking a vacation to somewhere new and fun, hemming and hawing over where to go and how long to stay). 

The idea of the Staycation appeals to many; lounging around the house, maybe getting stuff done that has been bugging you for a while, perhaps taking a day trip to the coast or visit the aquarium with the kids. I can stand that crap for about one day before I am bored out of my mind and pacing the halls like a tiger at the zoo. I don't procrastinate very often, so I don't feel like I have a million "projects" at home that I need to complete. Being home all day for a week sounds like a good way to go out of my mind, whilst pretending to be productive and accomplished in the name of saving money. Both of my parents, but my dad especially, are terrible at being bored and are not into staying home for too long, so the apple does not fall too far from the airplane. I love getting out and going places a whole lot more than I should given that I am not independently wealthy, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to change. 

So Jon and I planned a long week off to stay home and putter around and be productive and righteous and all sorts of good things. Facing this unbearable reality, the other day I did the only logical thing I could do in these circumstances: I panicked and booked us tickets to Florida. We leave on Saturday. I am officially the WORST staycationer on the face of the earth. Key West here we come!

Friday, February 5, 2016

The New Relationship Heads Overseas...

So I just realized that I never followed up on our weekend away to Guadeloupe. Well, three weeks have gone by and it feels as far away as anything, but it was a wonderful weekend, to say the least. Guadeloupe is a beautiful island (as many of them are) where they don't really speak anything other than French (hilarious watching us work out how to buy a bag of ice in the grocery store), and where they have the absolute WORST rum I have ever tasted (something about the distilling process, Jon explained it in detail but I couldn't retain enough to tell you properly). Despite those two annoying realities, we had an AMAZING time (not a shock). We swam, drank imported rum in the sand (hooray for grocery stores), and ate spectacular crepes (how we managed to order those crepes is still a mystery to me). We almost missed our flight home due to comical circumstances, and we solidified the truth that we love to travel together (also not a shock).

It was interesting traveling with a partner for the first time in forever. My ex and I routinely did not go places together, as he did not like to leave the house, and I enjoyed escaping our unhappy reality to wherever I could. So this trip involved not only traveling some place new, but seeing how compatible we are in a foreign circumstance. Unsurprisingly, we got along splendidly. We also learned some new and valuable bits of information about each other that will be useful as we further our relationship, as some information can only be revealed in the most extraordinary circumstances (i.e. I do not like to miss a meal. Like, ever. And apparently I'd never shared that with Jon before, eek! As it turns out, he can go approximately 75 hours on a handful of almonds and not complain once. Bionic. Good to know). All in all, we are extremely compatible, and compliment each other very well. More importantly, we enjoy going places together, and we want the same things out of most of our trips, so planning a new trip is exciting and fun, a complete 180 from the life I once lived. It really is a dream come true.

So onto our next journey, which isn't happening until April, but stay tuned for the next installment, I'm sure it only gets better from here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Weekend Getaway

Tomorrow my honey and I are setting out for a weekend getaway to paradise. At least I hope that's what we're doing. We are heading to the island of Guadeloupe in the southern Caribbean. Neither of us has ever been there before, and we found a very affordable airline promotion from Norwegian Air and thought we should probably check it out. As anyone who knows me can attest, it doesn't take much to convince me to go somewhere tropical, or really anywhere at all, especially if it's warm.

I am happy to report that Jon is totally into my crazy spontaneous traveler personality (let's face it, otherwise it probably wouldn't work out), so he is super psyched as well, and has renewed his dusty passport just for occasions such as this. It's only a weekend, but our first weekend far away together and a weekend away from all the responsibilities of life, all while checking out a fun new place. We've rented an Airbnb apartment right on the beach (which was also an amazing deal) and are planning on soaking up sun on our pasty skin and checking out some local sights. Not a heavy agenda, just sun, rum, and swimming for the most part, my favorite itinerary for these quick getaways.

I am exceedingly grateful to my parents for holding down my homestead while I skip out of town for a couple of days, something I'm pretty convinced every parent needs in order to maintain sanity. My kids don't even seem to notice that I'm leaving, as accustomed as they are to me working nights and weekends, perhaps this is just more regular life for them, who knows? They are being particularly crazy tonight, fighting and yelling and carrying on, so not exactly making me have any feelings of sadness about taking a few days off.

So off we go to pretend we speak French (not one bit, I assure you, should be interesting). I'll let you know if there is anything amazing that you absolutely must go see. The island has two very different halves, and unfortunately we won't have time to see both of them, but I'm guessing that won't matter at all. A full report to come...

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We're staying somewhere in here...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Facebook Official

So, if you're reading this from Facebook, you may have learned that I'm in a new relationship. This is a remarkable age we live in where announcing that you are dating someone on social media is akin to the old engagement announcements of yore. I changed my relationship status and, man, did my cell phone chirp and vibrate all damn day with people wanting to know more about the good news. This new relationship is no secret, I've pretty much been shouting about it to everyone and anyone within earshot, but somehow making it "Facebook official" is bringing things to a whole other level. Funny how things change when the whole universe knows your business.

The excellent news is that this new relationship is hands down one of the best three things that has ever happened to me (the other two being the births of my beautiful children). I have been unable to focus on much else for the past few months, a welcome and wonderful distraction from the rest of regular life. I am not going to go into great detail here on this blog (although if I see you in person I am likely to talk your ear off about it, as most of my friends can attest), but I will say that I had no idea that this kind of mutual love, happiness, and connection with another person was possible for me in this lifetime. The feelings are big, and scary, and wonderful, and I hope to hell they never end, but even if it all blew up tomorrow I would be so much better off for knowing what this feels like.

So, yeah, Facebook official. I'll take that, along with all of the other wonderful components of this relationship that don't have to do with social media. I'll take every single little joy and speed bump that comes with getting to know everything about someone you've chosen to be with. Everyday is an adventure, even the mundane, and I can't get enough.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Food Tour of South Florida

I spent the weekend in Miami, or should I say in South Florida, as I didn't actually spend too much time within the Miami city limits, but definitely enough to get a serious Florida fix. I have lived in Miami twice in my life now, and I have no desire to live there again. The traffic, the congestion, the intense materialism that the transient residents have, the obsession with fake breasts and fancy cars and glittery jewelry really doesn't do it for me. But there are some things that set Miami apart from any other city: and this weekend it was most certainly the food.

Being a city that is stuffed full of people from all sorts of exotic countries, it is very easy to find a delicious meal in a matter of seconds in this sprawled out concrete jungle. The fact that you can often times eat this meal while looking at the ocean is another slice of heaven. But to find the food that will really make you moan with delight, you have to travel a little bit further to parts unknown.

My original intention of the trip was to bring my children down to visit their father, who they hadn't seen in several months. I imagined that somehow this would be a rather laborious effort for me, and was pleasantly surprised when they went off with their dad and stayed for three days, giving me and my best friend an actual vacation, something I haven't had without my kids in years. Having spent the last eight months as a full time single working mom, this was a surprise that went way beyond the glorious, and into the realm of an unexpected lottery win. To have Jane, my all time favorite travel companion, with me really set it over the edge in awesomeville.

Our first night, tired after not enough sleep and a very early flight, we set out for dinner in Hollywood, just a couple of miles from our hotel, and stumbled upon a dimly lit, attractive Brazilian restaurant. Viva Brazil serves up a beautiful buffet of beans and rice, fritters, salads, and meats freshly carved off the rotisserie. Brazilian food is some of my favorite, and the flavors did not disappoint, especially when washed down with the Caipirinha, the signature cocktail of Brasil. We rolled out of the restaurant and I barely made it to a horizontal position in our hotel Murphy bed before I was snoring. Delicious food coma indeed.

Our second day in So Flo involved getting hideously sunburned on the beach, followed by mahi sandwiches, ahi tuna, and pina coladas in giant creepy coconut heads on Hollywood beach. We were surprised by how many restaurants in Florida hang up way too many Halloween decorations. Fake cobwebs abound in the south apparently.

That night we went out for an amazing Cuban meal (Rice and beans! Churrasco steak!) and then dancing at several Latin dance spots in Hollywood. This has always been my favorite part of this part of the world. Salsa dancing, and dancing in general, abounds. People are always enthusiastic, the place is often crowded, and just when I think I am too old for anyone to dance with me, they do.

We stayed up way too late dancing, and then the next morning had to make the pilgrimage to the only place that can save you after a night like that: El Palacio de los Jugos (the Juice Palace). This place is an institution in Miami, and has been for years. They seemingly speak only Spanish, the lines are long for the fresh squeezed juices and Cuban sandwiches, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. Anyone visiting Miami should head down to Flagler and 57th Avenue and eat here, you will not be sorry.

More deliciousness continued throughout the weekend, the coffee is so strong it's like sweet liquid crack, and the guava pastries are good enough to make you miss your plane, but the rest of the weekend is a bit of a haze as we sailed back home to regular life. I will be back to Miami soon though, I can't be away from that kind of indulgence for too long. Adios!

The Limonsillo, a funny yet appealing tropical fruit that I have yet to see in this region

The Cuban sandwich (ham and pickles, hot and cheesy) and the Juice of Life (fresh squeezed orange and passion fruit juice, aptly named by me when it is the cure-all for any bad hangover).
Cuban coffee, my reason for getting up in South Florida. So sweet, so strong, so addicting.

Ahi tuna steak on the beach

Dancing Merengue in Hollywood and Cuban dinner at Sazon in North Miami Beach

Fresh coconut water for $2.50 from El Palacio de los Jugos

Sunrise above the Atlantic