I am very excited be collaborating with Sarah Wilson of One Savvy Mom and to give you our candid take on some of the top Family Travel Destinations in the United States.

When it comes to traveling as a family unit, there are definite challenges that can present themselves especially when traveling with young children.  Because all destinations and hotels are NOT created equal, we have compiled some fabulous destinations and accommodations that will make your next family getaway a success. We will showcase reviews for some excellent Family Friendly Destinations (Hotels, Cruises & Attractions) that you won’t want to miss when booking your next family getaway.

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It’s been a glorious nine days but, as all good things, the Big Guy had to return to our regularly scheduled life; him living some place else, me left behind to tend to our life here. When he is gone, all week long,  I have become accustomed to it. Neither of us like it, but both of us accept it. It is our status quo.But nine fabulous days ago, on a Friday in November, the Big Guy came home and surprised me with the news that he would be lingering at home with us for nine glorious days. This was certainly good great news.

You don’t feel the full effect of how much you actually miss someone, until you allow yourself to admit it to …yourself. That’s what I did. That’s where I’ve been, soaking in every single, last moment that we were gifted with together these last few days. Seeing my girls happy and smiling in the security of knowing that when they awoke the following day, Daddy would be there to hug and kiss them, to drive Bella to school, to hold Gabi’s hand as they walked back to the car, to look across the table at lunch time and see his robust smile and hear his hearty laugh at the most inappropriate times. That is the good stuff. Those are the moments that we all take for granted. To have my husband there to help put the girls to bed, to cuddle and spoon with on the couch while watching really bad television, to linger in one another’s arms in the morning as the girls happily scurried from room to room singing some made up song to wake us up on a Saturday morning.To be able to cook together, to enjoy one another’s company, to watch him sit with our girls in the dark media room and hold them close as they watch Christmas movies together, to see all three of them bask in the happiness that only daddy/daughter time together can bring.To know that tomorrow would come and he would be able to remain. To be peaceful without the impending doom of departure looming over head is a luxury that we took granted for so long but not now. Now, every single moment together is a gift.

The nine days were amazing for us, to most, they would be considered ordinary. For our family, they were extraordinary. We have not had nine consecutive days together in the same residence since this past February. It has been hard, on all of us. I never realized that just his physical presence makes such a difference to all of us.It brings us comfort, security, and love.He is our touchstone. He is my rock. He is their Daddy, which is the most important person in a little girl’s life.

I never considered before that a husband who works long hours and is only seen for a few minutes in the morning as he kisses you goodbye or a couple hours at night before you go to sleep could have such an impact. In the past, I may have felt like I was doing everything and perhaps sometimes he could have helped me out a little more but at the end of the day, he was there. If I needed someone to run an errand, or I was sick and needed to linger in bed for a few extra minutes, or one of the kids needed wiping, or I needed someone to pick up dinner, take out the trash, listen at the end of the day, a warm body to cuddle up to and recharge from an energy zapping day…he was always there. Before, I may have felt like I did everything but now I actually am, and there is a BIG difference.

Tonight, our nine day dream had to end and, as I sit here typing, we are back to the cold reality that Friday can’t come fast enough. The girls were teary eyed and slightly irrational, as were he and I.We had become so drunk on all the time together that the hangover will surely feel like the end of the world, at least for the next couple of days. If you are lucky enough to have the ones you love with you,  give them an extra cuddle and kiss, you never know when that may not be the case. What is the hardest part for you when your Big Guy travels?How do your children react? How do you handle the anxiety that separation brings?

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I sit here on this gorgeous Sunday summer morning, on my deck lounging as my girls play in their splash pool. I am surrounded by giggles as hues of bright white, sky blue and the warmth of the bright yellow sun dance all around me and to make it even more special my beautiful husband is in the same zip code with us.  As I am writing this post down, I think to myself “MY LIFE IS GOOD!”
Today is such a relaxing day. It is quite a contrast to yesterday that was spent in a mad dash rushing from one place to the next. We sped around Navy Pier trying to take in ..everything. It was the first trip to the Pier for my girls and I wanted to make every moment count. The girls oohed and aahed at the boats in the lake, the stared in awe at the giant Ferris wheel and the hot air balloon looming overhead the crowd, as they chomped on their rock candy suckers that Daddy had purchased them. I do,however, think they were sufficiently terrified by the Chicago seagulls that were dive bomb attacking us in the sweltering heat. Nothing like 100 degree weather and the fear of bird shit to get your kids moving in a hasty manner. Our trip to the Pier was cut short by the heat but as always sometimes life’s most expected happiness comes when you are least expecting it.

We decided to head to my sister’s home to spend the day with her and her beautiful family. My girls were ecstatic to spend the day with their little cousin, my adorable Godson. Gabs especially loves it because she feels like she gets to be the “big sister” when he’s around. Its so adorable how she coddles and guides him, ever the protective maternal force:) (thank God he doesn’t mind..for now).

I was looking forward to spending some quality time chatting with my own “little ” sister. These moments seem to be so few and far between these days with us living in different areas and having families of our own. The big guy, he looks forward to spending “man” time with my Brother in law; sampling exotic beers, driving fast cars and swapping tall tales..(yeah, just like Pecos BILL:) And all of us look forward to eating the glorious Serbian/Romanian feast my sister’s Mother in law prepares for us with love and enthusiasm (seriously, that woman has a gift when it comes to cooking and baking).
What started out as a day full of sights to see turned into a day of making wonderful family memories. It was wonderful sitting around the splash pool at my sister’s house, enjoying one another’s company and the, seldom had these days, face to face conversation while our children embraced their time together.

My sister and I shared memories of our own childhood and acted as our childrens very own paparazzi. There is something magical about being able to speak to someone who has known you your whole entire life and knows every single thought and word you may have before you even open your mouth. It may have not seemed like anything special to the general onlooker but the day with my little sister was priceless. We are no longer little girls, we will always be sisters but we choose to be friends; and my sisters’ friendships mean more to me than they will ever know.

But as all good things must, our day had to come to an end. There were overtired tears from the children who absolutely did not want to part. The dull feeling of melancholy that accompanies every goodbye between loved ones began to slowly creep into the room. As we kissed and hugged and kissed and hugged once more, we made our usual tentative plans to see each other again soon ( this happens so often between  family members and friends living out of town) and we believe with all of our hearts that this time will be different. The drive wasn’t that bad, the day was so great,and  so on and so forth.
All the way home, I assured myself that “this” time our promise and plans were different, this time things will be different (reminiscent of every diet I have ever failed).Unfortunately, more than likely, life will get in the way of our plans and more time will end up passing than either of us had intended. But yesterday, life was good! Love you lil Sis!

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Chicago, Millenium park, Travel, best things to do in Chicago

My girls in Chicago’s Millennium park

I grew up in the Chicagoland area and it is still one of my favorite places in the world. It probably has something to do with the fact that all the people I love most are still there and there is just something magical about sharing the city with my own children.

Chicago is the third largest major city in the United States, but to me it’s home. It’s where I learned about life. It’s the place I had all of my firsts and I take my girls there, every chance we get. I’ve since moved away but my heart always remains in the windy city. It’s more than a beautiful city with an impressive skyline, world class sports teams and a plethora of culture and food; it’s got heart just like the people of Chicago.

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Ever have one of those weeks where you are so tired that you can’t even see straight? I’m sure, as Mommies, you have all been there. Those nights when you are up all night with a sick child, or feeding a newborn, or if you are really blessed both. Yes, we have all been there. I am not asking for pity:)LOL I am merely sharing the very interesting, albeit scarey, scenario that I experienced a couple days ago in a hotel bathroom . Wow, that sentence sounded way more exciting that what actually happened. No, there were no seedy actions taking place in the Somerset Pennsylvania Hampton Inn. Seediness would imply that something of interest actually happened.What I am referring to is something that has probably, in one shape or form, happened to most of us. I just got so darn busy, juggling so many things,that I had a week where I actually forgot to eat( as unbelievable as that does sound)and I’m pretty sure I forgot to sleep..well, except for those 3 hours I caught on at least 3 out of the 5 nights of that week.Anyways, apparently if you keep this schedule up for more than a day or two, it can be dangerous. Really!I know this because I was so tired after arriving at the hotel that I literally stumbled into the shower, with barely enough strength to lift the shampoo bottle, then rinse, lather and repeat…ok, I lied, I didn’t repeat…way too much work. This all was the culmination of a week of packing, parties, MNO’s, trying to spend as much time as possible with the people we loved and were leaving behind, and just life. It was totally worth every second of sleep I had forgone, or so I had thought. That was until, after steppig out of the shower and grabbing the nearest clean thing to me to put on, I decided to dry my hair. Not until my 2 year old daughter came into the bathroom and looked at me like I was completely insane( you know the look I give her when I walk into the bathroom and she has about 3 inches of handsoap on her 2 tiny hands) did I realize that I was running my hands under the water in the sink, while I was drying my hair! Now, isn’t it bad to play with electrical devices while immersed in water? I have decided I must get more sleep, no matter the cost. I know I am a crazy brilliant multitasker (LOL) but I don’t want to die for it! So, the moral of the story is Mommies need sleep1 Repeat after me, Mommies need sleep!

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Road Tripping with Toddlers

Road Tripping with Toddlers  is not for the week. We are on a mini vacation/ look see around town for my husbands potential new job, in Virginia. First, let me start by saying, this is one of the most gorgeous parts of the country that I have been to thus far in my life. The weather is awesome, the foliage abounds, large cities are concealed by an enveloping plethora of greenery. Essentially, you have big city life with the look of the country and all the amenities of a Beaches all inclusive resort. So, that is where we are Today!
On Saturday, however, we were road tripping with toddlers for 12 glorious hours. Yes, that is correct, 12 hours with a 4 and newly turned 2 year old.Can you say a little touch of hell on earth. My ,otherwise, sweet loving girls do not like to be confined in those 5 point harnesses on a good day on a trip across town. So, imagine their state at taking their very first long drive trip imprisoned in those wonderful harnesses.

My oldest, rambunctious as ever, insisted on asking, every 20 minutes or so,”Are we there yet?” I always thought that was a funny spoof on parenting but now I realize that it is, in fact, the truth of traveling with children. I never realized how frazzling that could be to me as a person. I thought “those” moms have no patience. Just say ,”Not yet, in a little while.” Why all the overreaction? Then I realized that it can actually bring you to the brink of insanity and make a grown woman, such as myself, cry, almost inconsolably, if asked in the right voice and enough times over a 12 hour period.

While the oldest was hitting us with the barrage of “Are we there yet”s the youngest was freaking out of her ever loving mind about a gnat. Yes, a gnat, that supposedly must have been the scariest, meanest, baby eating gnat you ever did see because , god bless her little bitty heart, she screamed bloody murder for at least 3 hours of the trip.Oh, the humanity! So, to sum it up, my 4 year old is wondering if we are there yet, every single second of every single minute we were on the road, my 2 year old is being terrorized by a gnat and screaming so highly pitched, that all the dogs of the world were seeking her out to eat her and end the misery, I am at the brink of insanity on the verge of losing the battle and my poor beloved husband is trying to plot his course to the nearest gunsmith to rent a gun and buy a bullet.
Then I pull out my bag of tricks because obviously the 1200 DVDs that I brought are not holding their attention. First , we color ( you know those Wonder Crayola colors that magically appear on the special paper but nothing else..that’s what you think, but that’s another story entirely), then we color the glittery ones, then we color My little Pony. We sing, only the songs that they know so we had Bella’s favorites, “Twinkle ,Twinkle” and “Mary had a little Lamb” and Gabi’s favorites “Happy Burtday to you!” and ” Five, Five DOlla..Five Dolla foot long!” Yes, my 2 year old is obsessed with the Subway commercial jingle. Have you any idea how many times they play that thing? I do , because she sings it incessantly. Don’t get me wrong, in the right context, it is absolutely adorable. She is the cutest thing that has ever walked this earth, besides her sister, of course, but everything in moderation. Interrupted only by the “Are we there yet?” inquiry of her sister. OK, so brink of insanity on way to gun shop, we stop at lunch and we try and let them stretch there legs at some wayward Wendy’s in West Virginia. Not my idea, have you seen Wrong Turn?
We get lunch, they have ants in their pants and can’t keep still. We get the food, the chicken flavored whatsamanuggets are not done, still doughy,”EWWWW, gross”, as my daughter like to say. I return them. We wait, I return with nuggets, all is good in the land.

Road Tripping With Toddlers

Road Tripping with Toddlers is Hell on Wheels

A ‘fly” dares to descend upon the table. All hell breaks lose. Toddlers jumping everywhere, screaming, crying, running away in terror. I did mention it was a fly and not Godzilla, right? Not a horsefly, just a regular old house fly! In true fix the situation fast fashion, I take off my flip flop and the untimely death of one unsuspecting fly ensues. All is good in the land, and then Gabs, because all of the attention we just received was apparently not enough for her, screams, at the absolute top of her lungs “EWWWW, FAARTED.Stinks”. Absolutely, mortified , I say ” OK, honey, it’s OK.” Then I realize, amongst all of the commotion, she did not have any kind of flatulation incident. Apparently, she just thinks it’s funny and likes to take credit for such occurrence. She is really better than the dog. This is a quirk I am hoping she outgrows.

Bella, my older one starts asking, “Mom, what are we going to do on our vacation?” I say, because I am out of the car and somewhat rational and overly sweet because I am trying to gain redemption from being “Crazy Mommy” from in the car,
“Well, sweetie.we’ll look around the town and eat out, maybe go to Busch Gardens, and we will take you girls to the pool at the hotel.” She look at me with wide eyes,” Even you, Mommy?”

First lets put this into context, I am a Mommy in my mid 30’s, I am a little over weight and a little out of shape, and I hate swimsuits with a passion. I have since I was a teenager. It’s like a taunting suit, it takes every possible flaw you can possibly have and flaunts it to the discriminating eyes of the world. But I do occasionally wear these horrible contraptions to play with my children and because I am determined not to pass my body issues on to them. In response to my daughter, I say “yes, sweetie, even Mommy.” I look at my husband and say ” What the heck, I don’t know any of these people.I’m going swimming!” To which my daughter responds in her most defiant voice “Yeah,I don’t know these people either, so I’m going swimming too!”

How funny, she has no idea about the context but dammit, she’s going swimming!! I’m still in the throes of this mini vacation that teeters between heaven and hell, I’ll post more when we all arrive safely at home, by passing any and all asylums and gun shops…save for that poor Godzilla fly at the Wrong Turn Wendys. The only thing more difficult than Road Tripping with Toddlers is road tripping with TWO toddlers.

How have you survived road tripping with toddlers?

Road Tripping with toddlers Only the Strong need Apply

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