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Travel

Travel

water park, waterpark, great wolf lodge, wisconsin dells, travel, bloopers, gopro

Last weekend, I went to a Great Wolf Lodge Water park with my family and I took my GoPro HERO4 Black. I got it for my birthday last year and I know everyone was wondering what the heck a “mom” was going to do with that camera. I mean no one wants to see first person diaper changes, toddler tantrums or tween eye rolls, right? It’s not like I’m jumping off of cliffs or going to be skydiving anytime soon but still, I think being a mom is pretty exciting stuff so I started bringing it with me on trips.

Mostly, I’ve been using it for recording purposes, just like I would any other camera but when I made our reservations for the water park, I packed the GoPro and my new XSORIES: U-Float 100% waterproof and buoyant handheld camera mount because I thought I might catch some fun shots of the girls or capture a thrilling ride down a waterslide.

water park, waterpark, great wolf lodge, wisconsin dells, travel, bloopers, gopro

Oh, I caught something all right. I caught my entire family losing their minds on the Tornado waterslide. Unfortunately, my husband was the one recording so mostly you see my oldest daughter and I completely losing our minds. I like to think of it as my own personal Mom’s Gone Wild video, wild as in primitive, primal and out of control of her reactions.

This video is not normally something that I would share because well, I am definitely not showing my “best” side plus I’m in a bathing suit. But you know, life is short and I’m always honest with you about what my life really looks like so I’m sharing the video of what most people really look like when they ride terrifying waterslides. Nobody can keep their composure and be cute all the time and I have to say this crazy little video made my entire family laugh.

We will never forget our weekend at Great Wolf Lodge thanks to this water park video.

I know a lot of people share what they want you to know on social media; painting the picture of the perfect life. I don’t do that. My life is complicated, sometimes hard and crazy beautiful because even when life’s harder than hard, I have the 3 other people on this inner tube to laugh, cry and love with. I am blessed to be able to have these moments.

So, here I share it with you and I encourage you to share it with anyone you know who needs a good laugh because people being terrified as they are being thrilled is funny to watch. Just don’t judge me on my bathing suit body. I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all?

What’s the best water park or adventure vacation you’ve ever taken your family on?

Disclosure: I was provided the Xsories U Float camera mount for review purposes but all opinions and water park mayhem are my own.

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Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

Last Thursday our family spring break started. The Big Guy, the girls and myself jumped into the Rally Red Mitsubishi Outlander that I was driving for the week and headed to my mom’s house in Chicago. I was excited because after a week trapped in the house with a husband with bronchitis and two very cabin-fevered little girls, the open road was exactly what we needed to blow the stink off spring break.

Outlander, Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

We loaded up the Outlander with all of our goodies for the weekend, including the girls and their favorite stuffed animals, bathing suits for days and all the pillows in the house. I was impressed the sporty little Outlander held it all, with plenty of legroom. Those adjustable seats in the second row really made traveling comfy for the girls. Then we made our way west for a pit stop in Chicago before picking up Grandma and heading to the Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells to celebrate 3 of the cousins’ birthdays. What can I say, apparently we Cruz girls are affectionate in the late summer months.

Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

We loved driving the Outlander because it drove sporty, fast and handled well. I loved the built in GPS. My only issue was that you couldn’t operate it while the vehicle was in drive. I know it’s a great safety feature just a little frustrating when you don’t know ahead of time. I also loved that it only took $30 to fill it up.

Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

The first day of our road trip included a stop at, my sister, Bertie’s house to discuss wedding plans. I’m the matron of honor and love being able to help plan her big day. My girls played with my nephew, my husband and soon to be brother-in-law bonded, and we girls made wedding playlists, discussed flowers, hair styles, make-up and tuxedos. To make the night perfect, my mom ordered our favorite hometown pizza. It may sound boring but we cherish these moments because there are never enough of them.

Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

I come from a big family of six brothers and sisters and I miss seeing my sisters everyday. Sisters are the built in best friends and I miss girl talk with them and raising our kids together. Being at my sister’s house hanging out, planning her wedding and hearing all the love and laughter fill the house made this one of the best spring breaks ever for me.

Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

The next morning, we loaded my mom into the Outlander and made our way to the Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells to meet my other sister, Mellie and her family. We’d never been before but this is how the kids wanted to celebrate their birthdays and who am I to stand in the way of kids’ birthday wishes?

Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

We arrived at the Great Wolf Lodge. The girls nearly bolted out of the Outlander headed straight for the waterpark. As soon as you walk through the doors, you are immediately aware that you are in a kid-friendly, nature themed lodge. We headed to our room and were welcomed to the hotel with a few surprises to help the birthday kids celebrate their birthday in style. The kid’s received Paw Passes from the hotel. I would highly recommend that if you ever go to the Great Wolf Lodge you get one for your kids.

It included fun thing for the kids to do like a MagicQuest Game, a MagicQuest wand (to play the game), A Great Wolf Creation animal (think Build a bear but much softer), Paw Points arcade card with 20 points, 12 oz. Mike and Ike Candy Cup, Great Wolf Lodge swim goggles, Glitz Glitter Tattoo, personalized Leather bracelet, Clubhouse crew adventure game and more.

MagicQuest, Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

This was nothing we had anticipated but I assure you, we will never go there again without getting one of these passes. This made the experience next level. After hours swimming and riding water slides, the tornado being our family’s favorite, we were able to let the kid’s wind down playing MagicQuest. Then the next afternoon, they got to hit the arcade and gift shop to collect all of their souvenirs.

Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

Know what the best part of the entire vacation was? Hanging out with my mom, my sisters and talking, our guys bonding and the cousins giggling and getting to spend real quality time together. That truly is the priceless part. I can’t wait to do it again. We took plenty of photos and video, including one of those cheesy vintage photos and we had a blast doing it.

Great wolf lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Mitsubishi, family Spring Break

Do you ever travel with your extended family? If you don’t you definitely should. I know it’s hard organizing a vacation with multiple families but it is also the stuff memories are made of. My girls will never forget this trip because they got to share it with their cousin.

Disclosure: I was provided the Mitsubishi Outlander to drive for the week by STI and The Great Wolf Lodge provided Paw Passes for my children but all opinions about our family spring break are my own.

 

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spring break, budget, kids, Land of Nod

Our life is always hectic and spring break is one of those times of year that I prefer to NOT go running off on a family vacation to some place awesome like Disney World because, you know, the rest of the world is doing that. I just want to sleep in and enjoy not having to be anywhere. I want to actually enjoy just being and giving our minds a break.

I like to take the time to relax and enjoy my kids. Granted, we get bored so we need to do more than just sit around staring at one another and it wouldn’t be right to make the kids clean the entire break, ahem, right? Yeah, no. I know it wouldn’t be right.

So here are a few budget friendly ideas for your next spring break.

spring break, budget, kids, Land of Nod

Indoor camping

There are so many great things you can do just by staying put. We live in the suburbs so first on our list is indoor camping! The girls got an amazing tent, constellation nightlight and sleeping bags from the Land of Nod this Christmas and I know they love camping out. So, one night (or maybe two) this spring break we will pretend we are camping. I will put up the giant tent, lay out the sleeping bags, we will have hot dogs on the grill and s’mores ( in the microwave because it’s snowing today), tell some ghost stories and let our imaginations go wild. This is one of the perks of small children, those imaginations can take you absolutely everywhere without ever leaving the house. The best part is that all play houses and tents are on sale for 20% off through March 23rd.

Local waterpark or hotel

For the last weekend of spring break we are surprising the girls, meeting their cousins and spending a couple days at the Great Wolf Lodge. We’ve never been so we are super excited and by arriving early, staying only one night and leaving late, we are maximizing the fun on a minimal budget. Also, I searched out an awesome discount and that made it even more affordable. We live in the Midwest and unless we drive or fly a few hundred miles south, we’re going to be surrounded by snow and/or wintery weather mix. I hate the cold but if we go to an indoor water it is a balmy 80 degrees. Now, I was not a fan of indoor waterparks until I had children. I prefer the beach but I have found that at the waterparks, it’s always warm and there are so many different slides, pools and activities that no one ever tells me, “I’m BORED!” You may even want to meet up with a group. We are meeting my sisters and their kids and husbands and celebrating a couple cousins’ birthdays while there. We can’t wait! The 7-year-old is marking her calendar. For an added bonus, take Grandma and relax a little. If you want to get out of the house but don’t want the hassle of added cost of a waterpark, you can always just stay at a local hotel with a pool. The kids will love it.

Visit Family or Friends

If you are watching your budget, why not go visit family or friends? You save yourself the cost of a hotel, you get to spend time reconnecting with the people that you love the most and your kids have a blast hanging out in a new city. I’m lucky my family lives in Chicago and it’s only a 3-hour drive, so it’s an easy couple day trip and the city is full of places to go, foods to eat and people to see that my children don’t get to usually do so everyone wins.

Explore Your own City

Whether you live in a big city or a small one, there are always things to do. Check out a new restaurant that you’ve never tried or visit a boutique or shop that you’ve never been into. There are all kinds of hidden gems that most cities have and no one has the time to try new things because we always do what we know because it’s easy. For instance, there is a wonderful art museum right across the street from my daughter’s ballet school. We never go in because we are always going to ballet. During spring break, we are going to check it out and try a new restaurant downtown. If you want to kick it up a notch, get a play date group and do local scavenger hunt in your own city.

Take a vacation from your regular life

If you ask me, the best thing about spring break is not having to be anywhere so why not just relax. Have a pajama movie day. Spend all day coloring in a coloring book with your kids. Have an at home spa day or give each other makeovers. Just do something that you don’t get to do every day like breakfast for dinner or pizza for breakfast. Most of all just try to enjoy your time with your kids because, as I keep reminding myself, they are only little for a little while.

Bonus: We are getting to test drive a Mitsubishi Outlander for the week, so I’ll be completely taking a vacation from my regular life. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Disclosure: While all opinions are my own, I was provided product for review purposed from The Land of Nod.

What is your family doing this spring break?

 

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YouTube, YouTube Space L.A., L.A., California, WeAllGrow Summit, Latinas, build a better blog, tips for a better YouTube Channel

Have you ever been inside of YouTube Space L.A. ? Last week, I was in Los Angeles for the first time for the first annual #WeAllGrow Summit for Latinas. While there, I had the privilege of taking a tour inside of Youtube space LA. (I know I just said “Inside of YouTube Space LA” like that was not a big deal, but it so was!)

YouTube, YouTube Space L.A., L.A., California, WeAllGrow Summit, Latinas, build a better blog, tips for a better YouTube Channel

So, firstly, I’d like to say that Los Angeles was beautiful and the weather was marvelous. It was 67 when I arrived. I wore sandals.in.February! Of course, I saw locals wearing parkas and boots and I giggled because hello, it was 3 degrees when I left the Midwest last week.

After a brief stint of being lost with the most geographically confused taxi cab driver in the world, we found our way. Or rather I should say that I found our way.

There we were, YouTube Space LA.

*insert choirs of angels What? Was I the only one who heard them?

YouTube, YouTube Space L.A., L.A., California, WeAllGrow Summit, Latinas, build a better blog, tips for a better YouTube Channel

Fun fact: Did you know that YouTube Space LA is located on what used to be the largest private airport. It belonged to Howard Hughes and the building itself was a hanger where The “Spruce Goose”, officially known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules, one of the largest planes was built. Pretty cool fact, right? You don’t care about any of that do you?

YouTube, YouTube Space L.A., L.A., California, WeAllGrow Summit, Latinas, build a better blog, tips for a better YouTube Channel

So let me tell you some things that you probably didn’t know about YouTube that you should:

Did you know that if you have a Youtube Channel,no matter how many subscribers, you can take online courses to help better your Youtube experience; allow you to do YouTube better, if you will.

If you have 10,000 subscribers and you’ve taken the required online YouTube courses, you can book time at YouTube Space LA, YouTube Space NYC, YouTube Space San Paolo, YouTube Space Tokyo…etc. You get the picture?

Shhhhh, little known fact, if you have at least 5000 subscribers, you can book YouTube Space LA. The place is super cool and so are all the people who work there. I had a blast on my tour last week.

That means that you can book the equipment, rooms to film, screening rooms and production to edit. WHAT? And it’s free.  FREE! Why do none of us know this? It does me no good because I don’t live anywhere near one but you, you can do this.

P.S. YouTube, how about a YouTube Space Chicago?

YouTube, YouTube Space L.A., L.A., California, WeAllGrow Summit, Latinas, build a better blog, tips for a better YouTube Channel

Some things you can do to make your YouTube channel rock?

  1. Customize your header.
  2. Customize your thumbnails.
  3. Make sure that thumbnails and title are not misleading.
  4. Customize your channel icon and channel banner.
  5. Make a welcome video.
  6. Customize your playlists to keep viewers watching your videos.
  7. Make sure that you use keywords when tagging in your description, include a call to action and, if possible, upload posts on a scheduled day to get subscribers looking forward to your vlogs.

YouTube, YouTube Space L.A., L.A., California, WeAllGrow Summit, Latinas, build a better blog, tips for a better YouTube Channel

The key to a great YouTube channel is regular engagement and interesting material. You need to treat your YouTube channel like it is it’s own entity. Think of it as a second blog not a part of the blog you already have. It takes a lot of hard work until you get the hang of it but if you keep at it, your YouTube channel can be a great platform to boost your blog’s traffic and vice versa.

Photos of YouTube: Robson Muzel & #WeAllGrow Summit

 

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Park Model homes, Park Model homes in Florida , Buying a Park model home , Park Models for sale , Carefree Park Model homes , Affordable Florida vacation homes , Carefree RV Resorts

The Big Guy and I love to travel with our girls. We drive on a lot of family vacations just so we can share the world up close and personal with them. We are very Griswold in that way.

We fell in love with Florida on our honeymoon and it’s always been my dream to have a vacation home but we aren’t really ready to commit to a costly investment because we are still in the thick of raising two young girls. Then, I heard about Florida vacation homes.

Carefree RV Resorts provide an affordable and fun way for everyone to be able to own a vacation home, many located near beautiful Florida beaches. The thought of being able to take my girls to Florida every year and maybe some day our grandchildren makes me giddy thinking of all the memories and photos of happy children bounding down the beach as tired parents walk hand-in-hand closely behind.

Carefree offers a huge selection of new and used Park Model homes for sale in their family of 101 RV parks and Manufactured Home Communities across the United States and Canada with something to fit every budget. 50 of the parks are located in beautiful, sunny Florida including resorts in Daytona Beach, Naples, Orlando, Tampa, Key Largo and Sarasota; located in some of the most desirable vacation destinations. While the majority of communities are located in Florida, there are also properties in Arizona, California, Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ontario, Canada. There truly is something for everyone.

Park Model homes, Park Model homes in Florida , Buying a Park model home , Park Models for sale , Carefree Park Model homes , Affordable Florida vacation homes , Carefree RV Resorts

Carefree RV Resorts have homes ranging from under 20K plus additional annual lot rent for pre-owned homes and 50K for a brand new, fully customized homes made to fit all of your family’s specific wants and needs so even if you are finicky about what you want, you can have it for a very reasonable price. Really, can you put a price on childhood? On your memories? On the quality of your life?

Living in Carefree RV Resorts is not just a place to live, it’s a lifestyle. They offer a wide-range of amenities, pet friendly communities, themed weekends activities like wine tastings, lifelong learning classes, and special interest groups. They offer both family friendly and Age Qualified communities, so it’s not just for retirees.

Park Model homes, Park Model homes in Florida , Buying a Park model home , Park Models for sale , Carefree Park Model homes , Affordable Florida vacation homes , Carefree RV Resorts
Carefree is currently running a special called “Your Passport to Paradise – You stay we pay!”

Park Model homes, Park Model homes in Florida , Buying a Park model home , Park Models for sale , Carefree Park Model homes , Affordable Florida vacation homes , Carefree RV Resorts

With the help of a Carefree sales advisor, your visit will be planned at prime Florida destinations based on your interests and preferences. Carefree will select properties that have everything you are looking for to preview during your personalized visit. Accommodations include up to 4 nights for 2 guests in a Carefree Resort Home. Flexible dates. Subject to availability.

Arrive by car or RV and simply commit to a guided tour of the Carefree property of your choice. Availability varies by property. Plan your visit before April 30, 2015. Every home buyer will receive a $1,500 check within 15 days after close of their resort home.

Disclosure: Many thanks to Carefree RV Resorts for sponsoring today’s story and encouraging me to make my dream a reality by owning an affordable vacation home but all opinions are my own.

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Las Vegas, Consumer Electronics Show, Vegas, Tech, CES, #CES2015

Last week, I attended CES! CES!!!! I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life to attend. Just me and about 170,000 other tech junkies descended upon Las Vegas. It was my first time; I was a CES and a Vegas virgin. Talk about go big or go home? WOWZA!

I could go on for days, hell, weeks, writing about this experience but I will start by giving you the jist of what it feels like to attend CES, it’s like climaxing and then despite your better senses continuing on, in that crazed, hyper sensitive, overwhelming feeling of pleasure and pain overload but you still want more….more….more…THAT.IS.CES!

The next thing you know, your feet are on fire, you drank too much at some VIP event because you forgot you weren’t 21, you want all the tech, you’ve been up til 5:30 eastern time every night because you are so jet-lagged. You really don’t know what time it is anymore and then you find yourself so overwhelmed after 3 days of walking in the dessert of lights with that ginormous fucking badge that weighs twelve pounds that you hit a wall (figuratively not literally, though if you are tired enough you might do that too.)

You’ve seen more hookers than you ever have on HBO real sex and Taxi Cab confessions combined, been given directions by a Mexican Elvis who requests a selfie with you and seen and heard gadgets that have blown your mind.

Next thing you know, there you are crying, stranded in the airport in Dallas, your flight’s been cancelled because of “weather” and you were the dumb ass who “voluntarily” checked your carry on because some smiling flight attendant asked politely in Vegas and when you ask the flight attendant in Dallas to help you find your much needed luggage, she rolls her eyes at you (ROLLED.HER.EYES.AT.ME!!), scolds you and turns you into a sniveling, sleep deprived ball of snot in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport with TSA eyeballing you like you just smuggled in heroine ( or maybe it was that new Vibe selfie flash) in your anal cavity.

Speaking of strange and weird shit happening, as a stranded traveler living my own personal version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, I ended up in a shuttle with 1) a gentleman from California who happens to be the boss of one of our closest friends from college, who now lives in Colorado but originates from Chicago 2) an ex-lobbyist turned UCLA Poli Sci Professor who has a reoccurring roll on Hawaii 5.0. This trip was all about the surreal.

Finally, around 10 p.m. Texas time, there I was wearing my new scarf as a sarong, in 20-degree weather while washing my panties and yoga pants out in the sink so I had clean clothes to wear the next day. I did this all by hand. A friend told me that MANY people use the in room coffee makers to wash their unmentionables. I didn’t but think twice before you use those to make coffee. That “weird” taste might be someone else’s ass.

Anyways, aside from all the drama of the flight home, CES is awesome. Being that it was my first time there are some things that I wished I would have known going in, so I am sharing them here with you. Yes, I will get to all the really, cool shit I saw tomorrow.

 

  • Wear Comfortable shoes. Repeat after me…WEAR.COMFORTABLE. SHOES! Save your cute shoes for nighttime events. Wearing cute heels to CES means that you are either certifiable, dead from the waist down or a hooker. Go away, P.S. even TOMS can wreak havoc on the feet of sensitive soles. Let’s just say, I somehow managed a blister the size of my baby toe on top and on bottom of said baby toe. I was crippled, people. Gym Shoes, UGGs, Frye Boots, COMFORT PEOPLE but please NO CROCS ALLOWED. If you wear crocs the homeless people will make fun of you.
  • Register early to avoid fees.
  • Pick your badge up at the airport, the line is quicker than at the hotels. But if you are PRESS ( as I was) go to the PRESS kiosk or you may find that your badge was given to someone named Donald.
  • Cabs are expensive and traffic is horrible in Vegas. Take the shuttles. It’s $8 one way or $14 round trip. Very cost effective.
  • If you are a single woman who is looking for love with a nerdy, highly intelligent, somewhat wealthy, possibly a gamer, with a great BIG sexy brain… this is your heaven. The men outnumber the women about 9 to 1. STEM PEOPLE. This needs to be a priority with our girls.
  • Have a plan. Vegas is huge and there were 170,000 attendees and 3600 booths. You do the math. There is no way you can cover every booth in 5 days. It’s not possible. Make a plan.
  • Forget about passing out your cards. This is not a blog conference. Get cards. Give cards if asked or if there is a spot to leave them.
  • Network at events and smaller venues. You are not going to stand out at CES unless you are naked or wearing crocs. Wait, I stand corrected, you are not going to stand out at CES unless you are wearing crocs.
  • Walk the strip. You have to. It’s beautiful at night. Also, #Highroller. It’s bigger than the London eye and the view is not only natural it is fucking spectacular!
  • Schedule down time. I am serious, if you do not, you will hit a wall and end up in your room in the middle of the day in your pjs, eating a slice and taking a nap against your own will. P.S. It’s really hard to network when you are delirious from sleep deprivation.
  • Also, speaking of naps, get some sleep. I’m one of those people who physically get ill after a certain point of no sleep. I have insomnia so my threshold is pretty high but if I stay up past 3:30 a.m., I will literally get nauseated. I guess my body decides it’s had enough and it’s shutting down.
  • Don’t over schedule yourself. I made the rookie mistake of making lots of booth tour appointments. I was just so flattered to be asked but I will tell you, then you find yourself rushing around and not enjoying things. CES is all about flexibility; you need to be able to spend time where you find your interests.

My takeaway, have a plan but be flexible. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that you can stay comfortable in for 12 + hours. Be prepared to walk because I walked about 15,000 steps every day I was there. Be spontaneous. There are so many cool gadgets and tech and people that you never know where the day might take you and if you have the option, take a friend. Life’s never quite so overwhelming when you have someone with you to help you conquer the world.

If you love playing with gadgets like I do or just love being in the tech know, when given the chance attend CES. It is awesome. Come back tomorrow and I will tell you all about the great new tech gadgets coming out this year.

Were you at CES this year, if so what was your favorite new gadget?

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We’ve all seen those stories about college kids in other countries studying abroad only to never come home because they go missing, right? Or those kids whose parents took them on a trip to some magical, tropical island and poof! they disappear into thin air? Well, my dad lives 2,162 Miles from home in Mexico for 8 months of the year and this morning, he was missing. Let me restate, as far as I knew this morning, he had been missing for 8 days! This is not something that I would normally talk about but it happened and my nerves are pretty much shot so I’m trying to process all of this the only way I know how.

This morning I received a phone call from my sister, asking if I had heard from my father. My mom still works so she is still in the states all year round. Me, not hearing from my father for a week or even a month is not cause for concern but my mom gets daily phone calls. No phone call since July 27th. None. We called AT&T and the phone has not pinged since that day and every time we call it, it goes straight to voicemail. There is no ringing. My dad is in his 60’s.  So, I go into full panic mode. I’m a fixer. I can’t wait for things to work themselves out. That is not me. I was one hair away from hopping a plane to Mexico.

The first thing I did was call the phone to confirm that it is, in fact, going directly to voicemail. It is. I know because I called 75 times (sort of like when, in disbelief, I found out I was pregnant and took 17 pregnancy tests). Still, it went straight to Voicemail.  Then I did what any sane person would do, I called all my brothers and sisters and then I called the town. Yes, the town he lives in ….in MEXICO!

He lives in a very small town and back in the 80’s before cell phones and people having landlines, in this particularly small part of Mexico, we called the post office. I called that number and in my best rusty Spanish, I asked someone (anyone) to please go check on my father and to either call me back and let me know what was going on or to have him call me. Do you know how hard it is to track down someone who lives virtually off the grid? Think trying to locate Lewis and Clark without a cellphone or GPS. The nice woman on the other end said she would call me as soon as she knew anything. Meanwhile, I had to wait. I am not good at waiting. I am the worst waiter in the history of the world, especially when it potentially relates to the health and safety of my father.

So, I did what any insane with worry person would do, I Facebooked every cousin I know and asked them to ask their parents to call the city, call their family and friends in that small town and then I called in the big guns. I called my best friend  (Who speaks Spanish like a native) and had her inquire on my behalf. This was all within 30 minutes of my original call, one Xanax and a phone call to a long lost uncle. Desperate times, desperate measures my friends.

You see, my dad is a healthy 66-years old man, he rides his bike and runs and is a very much a loner. He likes his solitude. I guess he needed the quiet after living in a house with 6 kids for all those years. Anyways, the nice woman at the post office told my BFF that she had went to the house after “Debi” ( that’s me the crazy one) called and it wasn’t broken into and his vehicles were there and he was probably just out riding his bike, as he does daily. Apparently, everyone knows him in town and she told us not to worry she would go check again in a bit. Then my cousin walked into the post office and said, I just saw him riding his bike in the plaza.  Weird, right? I still wasn’t satisfied. I needed eyes on the old man STAT!

I had no solace. I spent my morning crying and imagining the worst possible scenario. I went to a dark place in my head. I was imagining that I would need to rush a passport and grab a flight to Mexico to collect a body.A BODY! I couldn’t handle it. I was on the verge of hysterics I was sure he’d gone off into the mountains and either gotten hit by a car, bitten by a snake or worse. WORSE!! Mexico worse, not US worse. The worst.

Just as the Xanax kicked in and I was about to call the federales in Mexico and then the embassy, the phone rang. It was my sister telling me that my dad was on the phone with my mom. His iPhone has died. I’m sure he is annoyed that I called the city multiple times and sent people over to find him. He is a very private person but he should know that if someone I love goes missing, I’ll never quit looking until I find him. I don’t give up. So, here I sit emotionally drained from this mornings events and all I want to do is hug my dad but that won’t be happening until November.

I always thought the worst feeling in the world was when your kid wandered off in the Target and hid under the racks for 2 seconds and it scared the crap out of you but apparently, losing your dad in another country where you can’t just look for him or call the cops is a pretty close second. I’m thinking of putting a chip in my dad next time he’s home. I’m not kidding. I’m not sure I can handle this happening again. A contingency plan has to be put into place or an intervention…for me.

What would you have done if a family member went missing while in another country?

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mom, driver, minivan, #Swaggerwagon, crazy

Do you refer to your car as a swagger wagon? Wait! Have you heard that the latest technology in minivans makes it so that I can yell at my kids in the car without having to scream over the Kids Bop #71 millionth edition CD and the two of them out octaving one another to the tune of, “NO, YOU’RE THE worst sister ever!” What?

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post about the swagger wagon; I just think that this is really cool and I want these features STAT.

Apparently, Toyota knows that parenting is hard work and it is not for the weak. Quite frankly, we can use a few more tools in our parenting toolbox especially in times of parenting desperation like road trips or 10 minutes drives to school or around the block. The 2015 Toyota Sienna has not one but TWO features that I cannot believe were not already invented. When you have kids you need all the blind spot detection, three rows of seating, airbags, entertainment system, auto warning this and that and braking in times of danger. You need all the safety bells and whistles, don’t let your husband convince you otherwise. He’s not the poor bastard driving around town in a vehicle covered in Goldfish dust with sippy cups and overpriced hard plastic, educational toys being hurled at HIS head trying to look cool with the Wiggles blasting on the radio.

Damn it people, we’ve got babies on board! I did not house those little people so some damn drunk driver can run a red light and t-bone us and I certainly didn’t sign a waiver allowing my sanity to be taken away on loooooonnnnnnggggggg road trips to places like Disney World nor did I read the fine print that said that I may or may not have to dislocate my shoulder to hand toys and sippy cups hurled and then cried for immediately while driving back to toddlers who think its funny. P.S. It was not funny! Why did no one warn me about teenagers texting on the road? I want all the blue tooths. Every time I go on the road, it feels like I’m in a game of frogger as I try to avoid all the texters, drunkards and stay in the line and not miss my exit all while little people are shouting at me and licking one another and choking on cheerios. It’s like extreme driving. I need a xanax just thinking about it.

Anyways, what are the two features I am referring to? Wait for it….
“Driver Easy Speak.” It uses a built-in microphone to amplify a parent’s voice through speakers in the back seats. Translation: You no longer have to actually scream at your children, you can whisper (that’s more scary any ways) into a built in megaphone. Take that, little people and the best part is this is not two-way. It’s just me, talking at them…all day long! So, instead of yelling, “If you lick your brother’s face one more time…I’ll drop you off at the orphanage!!” YOU can now simply whisper from the comfort of your front seat, “I see dead people!”

It also has what they are calling an optional “pull-down “conversation” mirror” I call it eyes in the back of your head and wait…wasn’t that already invented? I mean, isn’t that what your rearview mirror is for? Well, except for when you are backing up and the camera comes on and the kids could literally be back there setting shit on fire because you can not see a damn thing. Anyways, I like the idea of eyes in the back of my head and I convinced my little ones that I did in fact have this condition a long time ago. My 7-year-old still checks the back of my head from time to time. I think instead of a mirror, I’d prefer a camera…right there in my rear view left side that watched the backseats. You know, security footage to be used in a court of law.

I was so excited that for half a second, I actually considered swapping out my Enclave for the Toyota Sienna 2015 and then I remembered that I am allergic to minivans so, sadly no #Swaggerwagon for me but I do love these features and the new commercials. This one is my favorite.

P.S. Does anyone else hear Missy Elliot’s “Get UR Freak on” every time they see the word “Swaggerwagon” I’m serious? No? Maybe that says more about me than it does about you? I did learn to drive in an extended van with a bed in the back.

What’s the number one feature you look for in your mom Swagger wagon?

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Boston harbor, Faneuil hall, freedpm trail, historical Boston, Boston, family travel, fun, New England, family travel, things to do in Boston, Massachusetts

I’ve made a short list of things to do in Boston when traveling with children.

When my family was in Boston,Massachusetts we saw and did a lot of wonderful things.Honestly, too many things to mention in one post but I would like to mention some of our favorites.

I won’t lie, I drug my kids all over Bean town. It was like Disney World to me. There was just so much to see and I only had 6 days to see it. This trip has made me realize that I like about 7 to immerse myself in a city and the key to any great trip is to talk to the locals. They live there and they know the best places to go, see, do and eat (Boston foodie post coming soon)

Things to do in Boston when traveling with kids

The Boston Children’s Museum located at 308 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210

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This was one of my children’s favorite places. It is enormous, we were lucky enough to be spending that day with friends and it was a welcome break from the hot June Day. Quick fact: The Boston Children’s Museum is the second oldest children’s museums in the world. It was founded in 1913 by a group of visionary educators. For over 100 years it has been engaging children in joyful discovery experiences that instill an appreciation of our world, develop foundational skills, and spark a lifelong love of learning.

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It is huge and three floors of solid fun. If you want to tire your little ones out while stimulating their brains and hearing their non-stop giggles, you will love this place as much as we did. The Museum’s exhibits emphasize hands-on engagement and learning through experience, employing play as a tool to spark the inherent creativity, curiosity, and imagination of children. Designed for children and families, Museum exhibits focus on science, culture, environmental awareness, health & fitness, and the arts. My girls’ favorite exhibits were Arthur’s world and the art room. We could have stayed there for days but closing time was at 5 pm.

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The Boston Harbor Cruise New England Aquarium Whale Watch Cruise at 1 Long Wharf, Boston, MA 02110.

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I was so excited to do the whale watch, probably more so than the kids. It was the one thing, aside from walking the Freedom trail that had me acting all squee-like.
The BHC hi-speed catamaran provided a fast, comfortable way for about 400 passengers to see, what I consider to be, the ocean’s most magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, up close and personal. The “in their natural habitat” was the most important part to me because no matter how badly I’ve been wanting to see these amazing creatures, ethically, I refuse to see them in captivity.
In 3 hours (yes, believe me the Gilligan island song played non-stop in my mind), BHC gets you to and from your destination; Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, a rich feeding ground for whales and dolphins. There is a NEAQ-trained naturalist on board to point out which kind of whale you are seeing and give you some background on each one. This was very helpful to us and educational to the children, especially since we were on board with a large group of field trip children.

If you’ve never been on a whale watching tour, be prepared for breathtaking views all around. It’s like flying without all of that pesky altitude and seeing a whale beside your boat for the first time feels a little like seeing a baby be born. It will stop you in your tracks in amazement. While on our tour we spotted a finback, a humpback and a couple minke whales. It is something we will never forget. Also, if you go on the tour and don’t get to see any whales, no worries, BHC guarantees their whale watching tours and you will be issued a ticket to return for another cruise. For me, the BHC Whale watching cruise is something everyone should try, at least once, though I fully intend to go again on our next visit.

Faneuil Hall located at 1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA 02109

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Faneiul Hall Marketplace is located in downtown Boston in walking distance from the harbor. In 1742 our nation’s fathers proclaimed it “The Cradle of Liberty” today, it is a buzzing marketplace with over 70 retailers and 160,000 square feet of space on Boston’s iconic festival marketplace. The kids loved it.
Faneuil Hall’s cobblestone streets are filled with music, laughter and people of all ages shopping and watching as street performers and musicians dazzled the crowds. Our girls thought the caricature and balloon artists located directly outside Faneuil hall were the best. There is definitely something for everyone.

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You can enjoy unique, locally loved, and nationally recognized shops while indulging in the a variety of cuisines at the many restaurants, pubs (Cheers was one of our favorites) and the world-famous Quincy Market.

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You can also start walking the Freedom Trail, right from here!

What are your favorite things to do in Boston?

 

Disclosure: I was provided tickets to Boston’s Children Museum and the BHC Whale Watching Tour but every single one of my opinions about these two places were my own. Stay tuned for Part 2 of things to do in Boston coming next week.

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Boston, Family Travel, travel, #Latina Traveler, #Latina, #Boston, #Travel,Westin Waterfront Boston,

I went to Boston and fell in love.

I am serious. I just got back from Boston and I have fallen madly, deeply and head over heels in love. The people, the food, the beautiful harbor and the accents that had me wanting to ask everyone I met to please say “The Hopper” it was my litmus test, the more “Ha-Pah” it was the more I loved it.

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It was the first trip to Boston for the girls and I. We stayed at the Westin Waterfront Boston, which I would highly recommend because not only was it very clean it is conveniently within walking distance to the harbor, Faneuil Hall, The Freedom Trail, The Aquarium, Harbor Cruises, Boston Common and the Redline. It has amazing views of the Boston Skyline and the Harbor and let’s not forget about those “heavenly” beds that the Westin is famous for, which was like sleeping in a hug. The Westin Waterfront Boston also happens to not only house 3 great restaurants and a Starbucks and delicious room service, you are in walking distance to some of the greatest seafood in the country. They even helped me draft an itinerary specific to my children’s ages ahead of time. But more important than all of that, the staff and service is beyond anything I have ever experienced and I have stayed in some really upscale boutique hotels.

First, let me start by saying that this is NOT a sponsored post. I was not in Boston or the Westin Waterfront working with the hotel or the visitors bureau. I was there with my family, tagging along on a conference with my husband. I was having an adventure with my girls in my new favorite city. I never thought any city could beat my love for New Orleans or my hometown of Chicago but I was WRONG!

Boston, Family Travel, travel, #Latina Traveler, #Latina, #Boston, #Travel,Westin Waterfront Boston,

Being a blogger, I tweeted and Instagramed some of our trip to share with family and friends because I was so excited to be in Boston. This trip was almost 25 years in the making for me. I also tweeted before we left because I was sooooo excited to be finally going to Bean Town.  There started my relationship with the Westin Waterfront Boston, like most of my relationships these days. Twitter was my introduction.

When we arrived, there were some of my children’s favorite snacks waiting for us in the room with the breathtaking view after a 14-hour drive in the car… with kids. The only thing that could have made it better was a Jameson and Ginger for mommy and daddy. We were exhausted and starving, so this was a welcome and unexpected surprise.

Boston, Family Travel, travel, #Latina Traveler, #Latina, #Boston, #Travel,Westin Waterfront Boston,

Oh wait let me back up, I forgot to tell you that the Saturday night we arrived in Boston, the Boston Westin Waterfront was hosting a Walking Dead Fan Convention. What? I can’t believe I didn’t know beforehand. I am a huge Walking Dead fan. I so would have gone zombie mom for it. Anyways, imagine my surprise when I walked into the Westin Waterfront looking like an unintentional walking dead in my traveling yoga pants and running shirt (because obviously I was working out in the car all the way there) and completely disheveled hair, no make-up wanting nothing more to get to my room (You know the feeling) when a very adorable, kind gentleman held the elevator for us, nodded and said have a good night. Turned out he was Jon Bernthal….effing SHANE from Walking Dead! WHAT?? He was not sporting the Shane haircut, but lighter hair, scruffilicious facial hair and its actually even more attractive in person than he ever appeared on the show. Of course, I saw him, thought he looked familiar but couldn’t place the face and as soon as the elevator doors shut, our bellman told us that there was a Walking Dead convention there all week and the place was crawling with Walking Dead cast. So, alas, no photo proof but the memory is mine forever.

Boston, Family Travel, travel, #Latina Traveler, #Latina, #Boston, #Travel,Westin Waterfront Boston,

Anyways, needless to say our trip started out with a bang and only went up from there. Too much information to share in one post, so I will be sharing travel tips for Boston in a series that I will run on Wednesdays for the next few weeks.  But I can tell you this, growing up in the Chicago land area and traveling quite a bit in my life I can say that Boston had some of the kindest, most polite strangers I have ever met. It was apparent by strangers stopping during rush hour to point us in the right direction, explaining to us how the MBTA worked, chivalrous men giving us their seats on the subway/buses, hotel staff offering local restaurant favorites, one woman letting our child cut her in a very long line to the restroom so she wouldn’t pee on herself.

Boston, Family Travel, travel, #Latina Traveler, #Latina, #Boston, #Travel,Westin Waterfront Boston, Cambridge firefighters

I won’t even tell you about Firefighter Jeremy Marrache at the Cambridge Firehouse who not only saved the day at Harvard by giving one of the girls a Band-Aid for her booboo but actually took the time to give the kids a tour, let them on the fire truck, wear gear and demonstrated how to slide the poll simply because 4 little kids wanted to in the middle of a hot Wednesday. It was a day the kids will never forget. Thank you FFOP Jeremy Marrache!

Boston, Family Travel, travel, #Latina Traveler, #Latina, #Boston, #Travel,Westin Waterfront Boston,

Yes, Boston and its people rocked my socks off. The awesome staff at the Westin Waterfront Boston who went above and beyond on the last night we were there. I tweeted a photo of my view from my bed where I was very sick with extreme dehydration from walking all day in the hot sun with only one Aquafina ( yes, poor choices were made, my friends), they surprised me by sending up room service with crackers, spring water, tea  and a note telling me to feel better. Now, THAT is good customer service. It was simply one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me without being asked to so. That made me a Westin Waterfront Boston fan forever and I can’t say enough good things about them, not in a lifetime of telling you how great they were.Boston, Family Travel, travel, #Latina Traveler, #Latina, #Boston, #Travel,Westin Waterfront Boston,

There is lots more to tell and I will be sharing all my tips for traveling to Boston as a family in the coming weeks. And, don’t think I’m not working on the Big Guy to make the move to one of the cleanest, friendliest and most fun and entertaining cities I’ve ever been to with my family. Can’t wait for our next adventure.

If you haven’t taken your family to Boston, what are you waiting for?

 

 

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