Top 7 Vacation Destinations I Would Return To

My husband and I love to travel and visit new places.  We’ve been fortunate to travel a good bit over the years even though I wouldn’t say we’ve traveled extensively. When I was on vacation recently, I started realizing that there are some places I wouldn’t ever return to.  Once I’ve been to certain locations, I feel like I’ve checked those off the bucket list and can move on. I also came to realize that there are some destinations that I would most definitely return to even though we always try to explore new places.  I thought I’d share our favorites for those who enjoy traveling. Here are my top 7 picks, in no particular order, of vacation destinations that I would return to again.

Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park and any coastal town in Maine like Kennebunkport. When we lived in Western Massachusetts, it was easy to take a weekend trip to Maine.  If you haven’t been, go! Hiking, biking, canoeing, sightseeing, whale watching, leaf peeping in autumn and so much more. Get popovers at Jordan Pond in Acadia after your hike.  There are many B&Bs which are super cute. Sit on a porch overlooking the water. Catch the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain which is the first place where the sun rises in the U.S. Just sit somewhere and enjoy the coastline and nature.  Simply wonderful!

 

The Oregon coast is a favorite too.  Take a drive along the coastline. Go for a hike.  Play golf at Bandon Dunes. Visit a winery or two. Stay at the Haceta Lighthouse B&B and watch the sun set from the porch or on the rocks below and enjoy their 7 course breakfast the next day.  So much to see and do in that area and the coast is just beautiful. We will definitely be back.

 

Banff National Park, Alberta Canada—-I particularly loved staying at the Fairmont Banff.  One thing that I loved most was the Rundle Lounge inside the Fairmont where you could get drinks.  There is various seating options for either two or a few people or larger groups but they were situated interestingly enough that each group felt somewhat private.  I loved it! Beyond the hotel itself, hiking and sightseeing are a must! And the water color at Lake Louise and other areas is simply incredible! You will say to yourself “is this real” and “am I dreaming?”.  

 

Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Wyoming, Montana, and Canada.  Wow! You will just say “wow” a lot on this vacation from Grand Prismatic Spring to Old Faithful to the amazing scenery every direction you turn.  We are wildlife lovers and we loved seeing all kinds of animals at these national parks. You can see bison, mountain goats, big horn sheep, coyotes, and grizzlies, and you may see elk, moose or a wolf.  My favorite hikes at Glacier were Avalanche lake and Highline Trail hikes. I would not have gone on the Highline Trail hike without peer pressure. If you have a bit of fear of walking on a narrow ledge holding onto a garden hose bolted onto the side of the mountain, suck it up for the short distance and enjoy the rest of the hike.  Yes, it is super scary at the beginning of the hike for a few minutes but go with a group of friends (or make new friends with others wanting to go on the hike, which is what we did). There are so many vistas, valleys, and hiking destinations to explore in both parks. Just don’t forget your bear bells! No matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

 

The Greenbrier Resort, West Virginia.  I love to get dressed up once in a while and you must do that at this resort.  The dress code is business casual with jackets required for men and dresses or evening suits or dress slacks for ladies.  Fun to do for a weekend! Play some golf while you are there.  I am not really into stalking famous people but at this resort you may just run across someone famous.  I literally almost ran into Lee Trevino at the golf course and my husband saw Jerry West even though I had no idea what Jerry West looked like. But you must eat at his restaurant at the resort, Prime 44 West!  It was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. You can tour the Bunker which was a top secret Cold War Fallout shelter. I hope to tour that next time we are there. You can also go for a hike, play tennis, go for a swim, go horseback riding and so much more.  Just a beautiful spot for a romantic getaway.

Venice, Italy.  We just got back from our European family vacation and this was my favorite destination during those travels.  It is just a cool place. If you can overlook all of the tourists and tourist traps and venture into the parts of the town that aren’t as crowded, you will enjoy it so much more.  Find the small restaurants with good reviews that are off the beaten path. You will especially want to get some homemade pasta and gelato during your stay. Do the obligatory gondola ride but just not on the main canal. It is worth it.  I would absolutely go back with just my husband because it would be much more romantic there with just the two of us.  

Kiawah Island, SC. My husband and I went here on our honeymoon and then again for our one year anniversary. Many years later we returned over Christmas break with our kiddos and they fell in love with Kiawah as much as we did. There are wide hard-packed sand beaches.  We rent bikes and ride up and down the many miles of coastline from the famous Ocean Course golf course to the lower tip of the island called Captain Sam’s Inlet where we can watch dolphins come up to feed at low tide. For this golfing family, there are several wonderful golf courses on the island.  There are alligators (except when it gets cold enough for them to hibernate) which are fun to watch from afar. There are many paved trails inland for running or biking where you can see marshes and wildlife and maybe get some shade on hot southern summer days. You aren’t far from the great town of Charleston which makes for a fun day trip of shopping and eating.  Grab some low country southern food like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Kiawah. It is a special place.

 

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my short list of memorable and favorite places.  Get out there and explore this amazing world of ours!

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Milkshakes and Memories

Do you know how sometimes you get a scent of something and it immediately reminds you of someone or a place or a time?  Same thing happens when you hear a certain song played or you eat a certain food or you see a particular object. For instance, when I get a whiff of a perfume like what my grandma used to wear, I immediately think of her.  When I chew Dentyne cinnamon gum, I immediately think of my grandpa because that is what he would give us when we would come to visit. Don’t you love remembering your loved ones and reliving cherished memories by engaging in an activity or eating a certain food or listening to a particular song or watching a specific movie?  Smells, sights, sounds, tastes and feelings transport us. Memories are definitely linked strongly to our senses.

Today would have been my father-in-law’s birthday so we will have ice cream to remember him and all the times we had desserts, especially milkshakes, with him.  Memories of him taste like strawberry milkshakes, feel like him leaning in to tell a story, smell like roasting marshmallows over a campfire, look like my kids running into his arms, and sound like him saying my name as only he did.  So many things remind us of him. We miss him so much!

Kids Need to Explore More Than the Internet

When my son was younger, he used to love “to explore”.  When we would ask him what he would like to do, that is often what he would suggest.  He explored wherever we were including the backyard, the park, his grandparents’ properties, the beach, the woods and many other locations.  We spent a good amount of time outdoors in the evenings and on my days off. Along his explorations, he collected many things including rocks, shells, sticks, and he even found an empty box turtle shell once.  He kept all of his beloved collection in a large tackle box. We still have it to this day. It is a treasure of his treasures.

 

I got to thinking about this the other day when I realized my children have hardly stepped foot out of the house so far on summer break.  Albeit has been raining nearly every day since school got out, it saddens me that my teens are only exploring YouTube, Instagram and other lovely places on the internet along with way too much Fortnite.  Because of this, I’ve made a new rule for the summer. The kids must have some outside time each day whether that is kicking the soccer ball in the backyard, taking the dog for a walk, going swimming with friends, going for a run, going for a bike ride or whatever.  Just get off of your phone for Pete’s sake!

 

I guess as a parent I need to be proactive in taking away the phones and games and planning more outside activities.  I also want my kids to be proactive in wanting to get out more and do more in nature. I want them to notice clouds, flowers, trees, and wildlife.  When they are older and looking back at the summers of their youth, I want them to remember the feel of grass under their feet, sunshine on their face, and raindrops on their head.  I want them to breathe fresh air and take notice of the beauty surrounding them. I want them to enjoy all the earth has to offer.

I am not sure when my son stopped wanting to explore, but my wish for him and my daughter is to always explore, observe, learn, and appreciate the world around us.  Our world is amazing! As Ellie from Up! said, “Adventure is out there!” There is so much in the world to see with many more adventures than an online game can provide.  Happy exploring!

You are More Than a Soccer Team

The last couple of days have been hell.  If any of you have children that do travel sports, you will totally understand our pain.  My kids had soccer tryouts this week. I have often said it is the worst time of the year and this year, it was particularly torturous for us.  My son got an offer on the first night of tryouts for the same team he had last year so he was happy and thus, we were happy. However, my daughter’s story is not so delightful.  She didn’t get an offer on the first night of tryouts and anyone who has had a child not get an offer for a travel team on the first night, understands the anxiety of the next 24 hours leading up to the second day of tryouts and waiting for an offer.  I was nauseous. I barely slept. I tried my best not to let my nerves show so I would not make her more anxious. We just encouraged her to do her best on day two and told her we were proud of her no matter what. When the offer finally came, it was not with her current teammates/friends.  So hard! So freakin’ hard!

 

My dearest daughter, life sucks sometimes.  Please stop the negative talk. You are good enough.  You are not horrible or a failure. Don’t doubt yourself.  You are more than a soccer team. You are enough. This is a time for you to figure out if this is going to make you work harder in soccer to obtain your goal of getting back on your old team or if you are going to be content with where you are and focus on basketball or try another sport or even decide to go another direction.  Don’t misunderstand me, I know this hurts. I know you will miss your friends. I know you are extremely upset and disappointed. I pray that in this life that you have more hills than valleys like the one you are walking through now. I pray that when you face disappointment, you will rise, you will gain strength, you will gain perspective, you will learn, and you will grow.

To the parents who have children in travel sports, (I’m really writing this for me, but thought someone may benefit from hearing it too), I know your heart breaks for your child.  You wish you could protect her from all sadness and heartache in life. You will miss her teammates/friends too. You will miss her teammates’ parents as they have become friends after spending hours on the sidelines together.  It will be hard. It will suck. You will cry for you as well as for her. Hide it as best you can for her. Be strong for her. Lift her up. Pray for her. And mama, you are enough too. You are more than a soccer mom.

Summertime, let’s be real

Ah, summertime!  The last day of school for my kids was yesterday. They’ve been, well, we’ve been, counting down the days to no homework, no tests, no projects (no packing lunches, no carpool line, no stressing to go find last minute items for aforementioned projects) for a few months now.  This is the time of year we’ve dreamed about and yearned for. Summer is full of pool time, flip flops, sunshine, picnics, afternoons at the movies, sitting on the deck in the evenings with a cold drink in hand, hanging out with friends, vacations, going to bed late, sleeping in, and all things that are fun and relaxing.  

 

But let’s just be real for a second.  We all know the novelty of being home with our kiddos and not having a schedule will wear off quickly.  We will soon be hearing the arguing, the fussing, the fighting. “He took my this” and “she took my that” and “Mom, get my sister out of my room!” and “I’m bored” and “None of my friends can hang out today so there is nothing to do” will be our norm.  There will be arguing about what to watch on TV. There will be arguing about doing chores. There will be whining about having to put on sunscreen. There will be whining when there is a sunburn from not putting on the sunscreen. A countdown to the first day of school may commence.  

 

But oh, I am ready for the lazy summer days!  I long for more time with my kids. Yes, I will get fed up with the arguing and whining and complaining, but these summer moments with them are fleeting.  I only have two more summers with my oldest. Cue the tears. Therefore, I will soak up all the goodness summer will give me. Let’s get this summer started!

Spinning plates

It is the end of May and we are wrapping up what may be the second busiest month of the year.  Our schedule is compounded with extra events and end of the school year activities plus I am at the peak of my kids’ travel soccer schedule.  I’m sure a lot of you mamas out there feel the same way I do. You are trying to manage so much with home life and perhaps work too and it can be overwhelming to handle it all.  I often feel that I am spinning plates and frequently see them shaking and wobbling and I’m trying my best not to have everything come crashing down. My plates include: work, side hustle as an independent consultant for a direct sales company, kids’ activities and carpool, writing, cleaning, meals, shopping/errands, working out, Bible study, and many more mundane everyday tasks.  I can’t continuously spin these plates long term. Something has got to give. I need fewer plates. What usually ends up being neglected is the housework, my workouts, and good meal planning. I have a feeling I may not be alone in this. You too?

I also need time for myself and with my friends.  I need to have a short periods of time to recharge my batteries, to focus on what is important, to find gratitude, and to relax each week.  I often tell my husband that I do my best thinking in the shower. No distractions. Nobody bothering me. I need this time. Just me in the hot, soothing water while singing along to my favorite music is super relaxing.  This time of year, I love sitting on my deck and enjoying the sunshine perhaps with a glass of wine in hand. Do I hand off my spinning plates to take a breather? Or is that relaxation time just another plate to spin?

What do you busy parents do to sustain your ongoing busy schedule without crashing and burning?  I guess we need to find what is most important to each of us and continue to spin those plates and have someone that loves us help spin those plates while you sing in the shower or read a book or go for a run or chill on your porch or whatever will recharge your batteries to go back to spin some more.

I don’t want it all to come tumbling down. I want to be SuperMom and SuperWife.  As much as I wish I had super powers, I do not. I don’t have the energy or stamina to continue at this pace without reprieve.  The plates will come crashing down. I need to say no when my hands are full and put down some plates that I don’t need to be spinning.  We must give some consideration about we we can manage and what we can not, about what brings us joy and what does not, about what we can do without and we we cannot.  Find your joy. Find your balance.  We need to be sure the number of plates we are spinning is manageable and also take the time to sing in the shower.

Take Notice

It happened again this week.  Did you flinch? Did you stop to hear about it, think about it, pray about it?  I’m talking about the shooting at UNC Charlotte. After Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, church and synagogue shootings and many, many more shootings at various locations, fear and terror have become our normal.  

 

For those of us parents who have had the experience of being at their child’s school during a lockdown drill, we know how terrifying even the drill can be.  I was volunteering in my son’s third grade classroom when they had a drill. I held it together while I was there, but proceeded to my car after volunteering to weep.  For our kids, the first couple of drills are frightening, but then it just becomes a part of their normal.

 

We had a school shooting in a neighboring town and my daughter had friends and acquaintances at that school who experienced the sounds of a gun firing nearby, of teachers locking the door and hiding with them and promising to protect them.  They experienced anxiety and nightmares afterwards. I know the parents experienced the same. Some parents received text messages from their kiddos as it was happening. Can you imagine being the parent who received that text and felt helpless that they couldn’t be there to be with their child?  Can you imagine being the parent who could not reach their child when they received the message that there was an active shooter at their school. Two of my daughter’s soccer teammates were at that school and one of the moms could not reach her daughter. She messaged the soccer team to please pray.  I felt her fear, but couldn’t fathom the depth of her fear. This, my friends, has unfortunately become a reality we deal with on a regular basis.

 

We are used to security at the airport, sporting events, concerts, and now at schools.  We are used to metal detectors, pat downs, and searches through our personal belongings.  Our normal. We don’t even flinch any more.

 

With Columbine and Sandy Hook, we sat glued to our TVs. We cried.  We prayed. We pondered what we should do. Now, we are used to it. We just think it is just another terrible person doing another terrible thing.  We barely take notice.

We must take notice! People are dying. Children are dying.  It is happening in your state, in your town, in your school.  Don’t let that become something we don’t talk about and don’t think about. Let’s think about that mom whose child just died at the hand of a gunman in a classroom.  Let’s think about the person who was innocently sitting in school or church or at a concert and was killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let’s figure out how to change this.  Let’s not put on blinders to the world around us. Let’s look at the faces of the victims and the tears of the family members. When we see them, let’s feel their pain. Let’s not forget their hurt.  Let’s replace fear and terror with plans, laws, programs, and peace. Shootings don’t have to be our normal.