Category Archives: travel

My New Packing List

When the boys were little, I began packing weeks in advance of trips. Whether we were traveling for two days or a week and whether our mode of transportation was by airplane or car (and especially when it was by car), my packing lists were extensive. They weren’t lists as much as they were evidence logs of my insanity.

Besides the obvious six billion necessities one needs to travel with babies and toddlers, my packing lists used to include oddities like a kneeler for the bath tub, a safety gate, waterproof mattress covers, and a step stool. Without these essential items, travel with my young, persnickety children simply would’ve been a nightmare.

I once packed a cooler with eight quarts of blueberry Kefir for a trip to Captiva Island because I was afraid the local grocery store wouldn’t sell it, and I didn’t want to be on the same island as Riley if there was no Kefir to be had.

There was also a very real period of time when we traveled with a tent. To be clear, we never went camping. We also traveled with a lamp. You heard me right. Not a night-light (although we packed that, too), but an actual lamp. Dylan’s sleeping arrangements when we were away from home were a wee bit complicated. At least we were entertaining to the TSA officers who inspected our luggage.

Needless to say, a few years make a big difference. Now that the boys are older, my packing lists are much shorter and vastly different. I don’t have to prepare months in advance and my anxiety is way slightly more manageable.

In fact, we’re getting ready for a spring break getaway, and I’ve made a new packing list of the essentials without which our family would not survive:

  • 2 laptop computers
  • 2 smartphones
  • 2 iPads
  • 2 iPods
  • 2 Kindle Fires
  • 1 GoPro
  • 1 Fitbit
  • the hot spot thingy that gives us WiFi when there is none
  • chargers for all aforementioned items
  • the plug tower thingy for the above-mentioned chargers

technology2Now that trips finally feel like vacations (sort of), the whole family can relax, rejuvenate, and unplug. Ha!

I’m as addicted to screens as the rest of my brood, but I’m also desperate to read something besides my Facebook news feed, so I’m also bringing:

  • “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • “The Nest” by Cynthia Sweeney

My packing lists then and now speak volumes about the long and winding journey of raising kids, not to mention the fast pace of technology innovation. Case in point, another one of our indispensable travel items used to be a portable DVD player and DVD storage case. (That was so 2010).

The bulky and peculiar supplies of early motherhood are no longer a weight we have to carry – literally and figuratively – when we travel. God help us if the WiFi is too slow to stream YouTube videos, but at least we don’t need dry ice to transport Kefir.

The one travel item that will always cause me insomnia, anxiety, and heartache when I pack – no matter the age of my kids or the size of the cloud – is shoes. So many shoes, so little space.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever packed for a trip with your kids?



Filed under packing, technology, travel, vacation

The Tranquility Pool


We took the kids on vacation to the Florida Keys over spring break. We stayed at a family-friendly destination, but it was also a luxury resort, so there were some areas designated for adults only, including the Tranquility Pool.

I spotted it from a distance on our first evening there. I was sitting at an outdoor table at the nearby Beach Café sipping gulping wine while begging Riley to take just one bite of the hamburger he ordered that was, in his words, “too spicy,” and pleading with Dylan to eat just one bite of the plain spaghetti with no sauce, oil, or butter and parmesan cheese on the side that wasn’t even on the menu but the staff was kind enough to prepare that, according to him, tasted funny. As our typical dinnertime chaos ensued (it happens at home as well as on tropical islands in paradise, in case you were wondering), I couldn’t stop myself from fantasizing about what it would be like to be on the other side of the gates of the Tranquility Pool.

Three days later, I found out. When we first arrived, Mike and I urged forced the kids to go to the resort’s kid camp. They needed the push as much as we needed the break, and let me tell you something. They loved it. It was so much fun that they went back for a morning or afternoon session every day we were there (yay!), which is how I got my glimpse of tranquility.

Once the kids were safely checked in for a priceless afternoon of activities and adventure, I tossed my book in a bag and headed immediately in search of rainbows and unicorns at the Tranquility Pool. I checked out an extra-soft towel from the attendant at the entrance who was in charge of towel distribution and, I suspected, keeping the riffraff out, and I boldly stepped through the pearly gates.

What I found was extraordinary.

The lounge chairs at the Tranquility Pool had cushions. Cushions! Some of them were attached together like beds. Beds! There was at least an arms length of space between each cushioned bed, and there were shade umbrellas for everyone. It was glorious.

There’s more.

At least three women were reading books in the pool. They had their books in the freakin’ water! And the pages didn’t get wet! At every curve and corner of the pool, small clusters of men and women conversed softly. They were probably discussing their sunset cruise from the night before or their plans for dinner down the road later in the evening. Occasionally, I heard faint laughter. One couple was engaged in deep conversation while doing an effortless, synchronized sidestroke from one end of the empty pool to the other. They were swim-talking, for Pete’s sake!

In awe, I made myself comfortable on a cushioned bed under an umbrella with plenty of shade. I people-gawked for a few minutes and then proceeded to read my book. I tried, anyway, but I felt the opposite of tranquil, damn it!

I gave it my all. I floated in the pool. I thought about bringing my book into the water, but surely it would get wet. Surely! I rested on my cushioned bed with my eyes closed for a bit, and I even ordered a glass of wine to take the edge off, but I couldn’t relax. It was too damn quiet! All that peace and serenity made my skin crawl. Quite frankly, it was more tranquility than I could handle.

Mere minutes into my mission, I gathered my belongings, returned my extra-soft towel to the bouncer attendant, and hightailed it back to the crowded main resort pool where I planted myself in an un-cushioned, nothing-like-a-bed lounge chair with a sliver of shade surround by splashing, screaming, running, and crying kids. I took a deep, cleansing breath and devoured my book comforted by the chaos to which I was accustomed until it was time to pick up the boys from camp.





Filed under motherhood, travel, vacation

Home Is Where The Hard Is (Or, Us)

Our weekend trip to Disney was fun.  I mean, I knew we were going to have fun even if it was Clark Griswald’s “We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles” kind of fun, but it ended up being the real deal fun.

The hotel was fantastic, being with friends was a blast, FastPass+ rocked, the boys braved (and loved!) Splash Mountain, and I kicked everyone’s butt on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.


My score! For real life!

I connected with my husband, laughed with my kids, went with the flow (even when the Polynesian Luau Dinner Show turned out to be a really bad idea), put my phone away, watched fireworks with my bare feet in the sand, and was present. Present.


Magic Kingdom fireworks seen from the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

It was an amazing getaway, and it reminded me how much I totally and completely love my family and friends, and how easy and pure and comfortable and fun it is to be with them.

Then we came home, and home is hard.

Home is laundry and dinner that no one wants to eat and hockey gear and hurry up and bills and we’re out of milk and homework and alarms and school lunches and get dressed and tie your own shoes and you flooded the bathroom again and house projects that need to be done whether we stay or sell and relentless work schedules and writer’s block and pressure to publish and fear of rejection and the reality of rejection and I have nothing to wear and I feel fat and wanting to turn back time because parents do get old and they don’t age the way we want and not fitting in.

Home is uneasy. It’s lonely. It’s wanting more and wanting less. It’s wondering what’s next. It’s wishing days and relationships and health and to-dos and everything were easier, lighter, and happier.

Like when we were away.

I’ve felt an unexplainable sadness this week. A similar feeling washed over me when Mike and I returned from our 10th anniversary  cruise.  As soon as the ship sailed away, we rediscovered the Us that had been lost in the grind of our home life. Quite frankly, it was a relief to know it was still there, but as soon as we disembarked, it was lost again. Last weekend, I caught a glimpse of Us again – this time the Us that included our children – but the glimpse was too brief, and the return home has been jarring.

Home is where life is. Real life and all of the chaos and grit that buries Us deep. Home is where the heart is, but home is where the hard is, too.





Filed under Disney World, family, friendship, travel, vacation