family celebration, vacation, and babymoon

Last week was a wonderful celebration!  My mom and dad invited all of us to join them on a Disney Cruise of the Caribbean for their 40th wedding anniversary. Planned a year in advance, it is hard to believe that we just finished this magical time together.  We were so lucky to partake in this incredible vacation and so lucky to be celebrating so many wonderful family moments. While on board we toasted to my parents and their beautiful commitment to one another over their many years of marriage, we sang happy birthday to Avery who recently turned three, we enjoyed being together as a family, and David and I enjoyed some quiet moments that we deemed our “babymoon.”

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We boarded the Disney Fantasy at Cape Canaveral  and spent two days at sea while we cruised down to St. Maarten. The ship was just beautiful. Disney is known for its attention to detail and its excellent customer service and in both of these areas they again excelled. Our dining staff, Yanina and Kaya, became instant friends and helped make our experience truly magical. Each day aboard, we explored all that the Fantasy had to offer from midship pools, to Broadway shows, to character encounters with Avery and Smith and so much more. Ending each night in one of the rotating dining rooms with Yanina and Kaya, we would recap our adventures and dine on lavish four course meals. It was a vacation fit for a king and I am not sure how much of the weight I gained is from the baby-to-be and how much was from the extravagant meals!  Regardless, it was well worth it as we all settled in to life on the Fantasy.

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Our first port of call was St. Maarten.  Here we departed from the cruise itinerary and Bryan became our guide. Having traveled extensively in the Caribbean when he flew for American Eagle, Bryan took us over to Maho Beach best known for its picturesque beach, delicious beach side bar, and the low flying planes overhead!

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To be that close to planes landing was actually quite amazing.  The bar showed the arrival times and people lined the beaches and paused from their swimming to watch the aircraft land. It was so cool!  This topped with warm clear blue water made our day in St. Maarten quite special.

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Our next morning, we woke up in St. Thomas to yet another beautifully warm and sunny day. We left the Fantasy early and boarded the Kon Tiki Island Boat Cruise. While aboard, we sang, danced, and partied our way to an isolated beach where we spent the afternoon soaking up the rays, enjoying our time together, and just relaxing.

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Our last stop was Disney’s Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. This island oasis was groomed in true Disney fashion. From their pathways, to the set up of the lounge chairs, to the island BBQ lunch, to the underwater reefs the island exuded care, relaxation, and fun. This was our longest day off the ship and we enjoyed every moment. David and I snorkeled in the morning.  It was so different snorkeling while pregnant.  At times, we would  be gliding along the ocean looking at schools of fish and then the little guy would move and bump and kick. I like to think all that movement was because he was enjoying the weightless swimming  in the sea. David and I would stop and say, “Wow so right now it is just you and me but very very soon baby makes three!” With only 88 days until the estimated date of arrival this trip marked our last vacation as “just the two of us.”  Thankfully we had plenty  of time with our niece and nephew to practice a little parenting this past seven days =)

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But really just being together as a family made the trip so special.  It is sad being home now in that it is so quiet.  I keep expecting to see someone come around the corner to say hello or to ask us to run off here or there on the ship. I am so thankful for last week and I am really looking forward to our next family gathering which will most likely include baby-to-be!

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detour: niagara falls

It has been quite an excellent ten day holiday hiatus. On December 21, David, Buster, Bella, and I piled into the car and drove West to Ohio for a week long holiday with my parents. Our time there could best be summed up by the words: quiet, relaxing, cozy, and calm. We lounged in our pjs for long hours, walked in the neighborhood for exercise and ate until our bellies were too full. The time both ticked by slowly and flew. Before we knew it, we had to say goodbye to my parents, which is always hard. I wish our family lived closer or I wish we could teleport, either would do.

On our way back to Boston, we took a little detour. For the past four years we have driven to and from Ohio for the holidays and always pass the exit for Niagara Falls. Each trip we say, “Let’s go see that some time.” But, we inevitability never do. On the way to Ohio, we are always too excited to get there.  On the way home, always too tired to stop. Finally, this time, we decided to take the detour and see the falls.

We drove no more than thirty minutes out of our way and found ourselves in the parking lot for the falls. We were giddy for our little adventure. It was cold and icy in Niagara as we carefully made our way to the falls. You could hear the roar of the water from a distance and Canadian and American flags flew side by side as we made our approach. The falls and the surrounding grounds must be beautiful in the Spring and Summer, but I really enjoyed the  crispness and grayness of Winter. We were not alone. A few other tourists braved the icy air to view the falls. The power of the water was palpable from where we stood. The mist brushed our faces and we held close for warmth. I imagined men in barrels taking the plunge over top and wondered what the water and the drop off felt like. It was a short detour, but I am glad we took it. It was definitely a fun way to end our holiday.

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Vegas baby

Have you ever been to Vegas?

David and I made our way to Sin City for 48 hours this past weekend. What brought us so far for a weekend you might ask?  Some awesome friends of course!  We were invited to share and celebrate in the wedding of our friends Andric and Amanda. It was a fun trip for so many reasons. First, our friends got married!!!!  What is not great about that.  We stayed at a dump of a hotel which allowed for great stories to follow. We didn’t gamble but we did eat a lot.  We learned how to play craps and I sort of want to try my new skills out at Foxwoods. We saw naked Cirque du Soleil and my goodness are those performers strong. We walked the strip and “people watched” to our hearts content. We drank some interesting cocktails and danced ironically. We saw impersonators and water shows and listened to great music. We did not get enough sleep.  But, we had a good time!  Vegas in 48 hours is intense and exciting and hypnotic and not nearly enough time to see it all.  But, definitely a great place to celebrate our friends!IMG_4918

Landing at sunset in the desertIMG_4919What you might not be able to tell from this picture is that the women with the blond hair is Holly Madison. That is right, she went to the same performance as us! IMG_4922A random bachelor in drag finds his way to Andric. IMG_4924Singing Michael Jackson.  I love how casual the gamblers are about this. IMG_4925

Ugh our unfortunate hotel. We wanted to save money so we went to Circus Circus otherwise known as the mistake in the desert! Sheesh what a sad hotel room that was. Next time we will absolutely splurge and stay at the Wynn.IMG_4926Mornings in Vegas are quiet. Teacher clock still woke us before much of the city. IMG_4928The Wynn was so pretty inside. IMG_4930 IMG_4931

Interesting horse outside of the Wynn. Clearly, having come from Circus Circus this hotel left an impression on me.IMG_4968

The Atrium in the VenetianIMG_4935The Venetian IMG_4937Wine bottle art IMG_4938A little bit of Venice IMG_4939 IMG_4942 IMG_4945Ceasar’s Palace.  Seeing it made me want to watch the Hangover again IMG_4948Got my rings sparkled up at Tiffany’s IMG_4949

Playing craps.IMG_4950

Michelle’s winnings!IMG_4967

The Bellagio. IMG_4954The Paris across the way IMG_4956

ChihulyIMG_4961David and the Groom, Andric. IMG_4965Married People!

ormond & orlando

The perk of being a school teacher = summer vacation!

No sooner did the school year come to a conclusion then I hopped onto a flight to Florida to spend a long weekend visiting with my family in Florida. After a long, tiring, eventful, amazing, challenging, and exciting school year, I was able to decompress on the beach for three days. Ah….such luxury.

We spent most of our time lapping up the sun. It was so much fun watching Avery and Smith experience a number of firsts.  First time in a swimming pool, first time on the beach, and for Avery first time splashing in the waves.  On the first day, she would not even walk on the wet sand as clearly trusting such a thing was scary.  But, by the last day of our vacation, we could not keep her out of the ocean.  She let the waves crash over her legs, sat in a little wading pool, and played and played in the sun. It was precious. Mr. Smith enjoyed himself too and fearlessly floated (with assistance) in the “big” pool.

On the last day as we piled 8 people (including 2 carseats) into a rental minivan on our way back to the Orlando airport we got a crazy idea. Why not postpone our return one day more and spend an afternoon at Epcot! After a few phone calls to our various airlines, we did just that.  While it was brutally hot at a humid 93F, we had a great time. The kids went on all of the rides although the Nemo ride was the favorite and we ate and danced in the German Biergarten. A truly excellent way to kick off summer 2013!

 

mfa, boston

Sadly, today was the last weekday of Spring Break. How did I spend it?  Out and about, of course! Despite being sick with a sore throat, cold, and a touch of a fever, I bundled up, drove David into work, and grabbed Skye for a day in Boston. Starting the relaxing day at Flour Bakery, we relished in our breakfast treats, coffees, and conversation for two slow hours before making our way over to the MFA.  Since the museum’s renovation, I had yet to visit and this is shockingly sad since art history was my minor!  It was so beautiful and powerful walking through the new wing of the MFA and fully taking in the art of the Americas collection.  One of my favorite parts of the day came when we stumbled into the contemporary art section and discussed our varied preferences for pieces depending on their function and/or form.  Before museum fatigue could set in, we walked through the Boston Garden and grabbed a tasty lunch at Fig’s Pizza.  Sharing a pizza that was half fig jam and prosciutto and half portabella mushroom and truffle oil was divine! My belly is still full hours later. To try to settle our fully expanded tummies, we wandered along Newbury Street until it was time to head in our separate directions: Skye to Cambridge and I to meet with my friend Lauren.  It was a whirlwind of a day but after a few days in bed fighting off my Spring Break sick, it was the perfect last weekday of the break.

spring break

March has become my favorite month of the school year. Why?  It is a month of excellent transition. Not only from Winter to Spring, but from the second trimester to the third. It is a clear turning point in the school year. When March begins Winter engulfs Boston, yet by the last week of the month, Spring’s arrival is upon us and the tempo of life shifts in the city as Bostonians come out of their hibernation.  School becomes exciting as Seniors look forward to their graduation and as underclassmen are convinced that summer vacation is just around the corner. Sandwiched right smack in the middle of the month is our two week Spring Break. It is a decadent, luxurious time that I look forward to every year.  It gets me through the dark, cold winter of Beantown and rejuvenates my outlook on the end of the school year.  Its timing could not be better.

This year, I went to visit my family in Southern California.  After getting 12 inches of snow dumped on us, I packed my suitcase with summery items and boarded a plane for So Cal. IMG_3423 IMG_3427

The flight was an easy 5 hours or so and I upgraded to a “select” seat which meant that I sat directly behind the first class cabin and soaked up the free food, drinks, and wifi all the way there.  Of course, a first class upgrade would have been ideal on such a long haul, but I was content especially when it landed me in a row all to myself.

The best part of the visit though wasn’t the location (although So Cal is beautiful), but rather  seeing my niece, nephew, brother and sister-in-law for a full week was the real treat. I wish in 2013 we had the ability to teleport so that I could visit them more often.  By the time everyone has let their hair down and gotten reacquainted and playful with one another it feels as though the trip was a blink of an eye. I really miss the opportunity to live closer to family and I take for granted that we do live in a modern world, despite our lack of teleporting, and we can visit one another from across the country with a fair amount of ease.  Although even this is never enough!

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It is amazing how fast a niece and a nephew grow. Most of my visit I am just awed that they even exist let alone that they are flourishing! I just want to cuddle and play with them all day long.  And, of course, I secretly, and not so secretly, want to steal them away with me to Boston.

Each time I visit, I am inspired by the loving, empathetic parenting I see my brother and sister-in-law committed to. They set their limits and enforce them but within those limits there is much freedom and constant love. It is clear that my niece and nephew are developing into confident youngsters as a result of the support, love, and independence that frames their daily lives. David and I can only hope to model this when our time to grow our family arrives.

This trip was full of exciting moments coupled with endless quiet times in the home when we got to “just be together.”  My niece turned two, we went to Disneyland, I had the opportunity to visit my niece’s school and tumbling class, we explored the culinary world of So Cal, we shopped, we went on afternoon adventures, and we just existed together and appreciated the closeness of family. I wish so much that David could have joined in on all of the fun, but someone had to stay home to work and take care of the pups. We definitely have to get him out there for a visit next time. Nevertheless, the trip was heartwarming and was truly the best place I could have been for my Spring Break. Planning my next visit out to the littles will consume the last days before school begins agains…