Category: travel

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In a couple of days I’ll be hitting the road with my best friend (the other Amber) and all of our kids for the long-awaited Road-trip of 2017.

It’s a tradition we started 5 summers ago, after reading stories from one of our favorite authors (winky face to you, Melanie Shankle) about the adventures and memories that came from doing the same thing with her best friend and their kids every year.

We loved the idea so much that we started our own version of the tradition: No husbands. No plane rides over oceans. No babysitters. No fancy Pinterest-worthy handcrafted car-entertainment. Just 2 Ambers, 5 kids, and the open road. Actually, this year we’ll have 6 kids because one of them has reached teenager status and officially needs a friend to survive a long car ride with “the littles”.

Every year the Road Trip is the best of times:imageimage

And the worst of times:

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But it never fails to be the highlight of our kids’ summer and the thing we all talk about for the rest of the break.

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One year the car broke down.

One year we promised to take the kids to the famous Sea Glass Beach, got lost on an 11 hour tour of the coastline, finally discovered that the beach was too dangerous because of high tides, and settled on getting ice cream as our “fun” for the day.

One year Amber was kept awake all night long for two nights in a row, driven crazy by the faintest sound of a Mariachi band that she assumed was outside her window (because that’s normal…?) but it turned out that the radio next to her bed was set to the Spanish station on the lowest volume.

One year my 6-year-old son lost his ever-loving mind in an Oscar-worthy meltdown at Disneyland because he was terrified of Johnny Depp- a fact we were all unaware of until we were boarding the ride for Pirates of the Caribbean and he literally tried to jump off the boat in a mix of terror and fury.

This year we’ve got Yosemite on the docket, then we’ll head to a random water park in a little town called Gilroy, which is apparently famous for it’s garlic production… So basically Gilroy Gardens will either be really cool or really lame, and I guess we’ll just have to find out when we get there. (Sidenote: “Gilroy Gardens” is actually harder to say than you’d think, so now we just choose from “Gilmore Girls”, “Bilbo Baggins”, “Gilroy Bilbo”, “Guru Gardens” or any other wildly incorrect but fun to say pairing of words.

After GooGoo Gardens we’ll head to Santa Cruz and Capitola for the last couple of days of our trip where we’re guaranteed some beach fun and delicious pastries from our favorite little cafe there, aptly named The Buttery. We’ve made it a point to stop there almost every single year, BECAUSE BUTTER.

When all else fails, we always have The Buttery.

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I guess you could say we’ve learned a few things about road-tripping the hard way over the years, so we thought we’d share a few insider tips, in case you’re hitting the road with your littles this summer too.

  1. Whatever number of water bottles you think you’ll need for a long car ride- double it.  This will also double the number of potty stops, but by God, we can’t let them go thirsty.
  2. Crossing the street with children is the equivalent of crossing the street with 5 drunks. Proceed with caution.
  3. Never underestimate the power of candy. Also never underestimate the power of promising a “surprise” even when you have no idea what that “surprise” is yet.
  4. If you’re wearing flip-flops in the vicinity of little kids, your toes will be stepped on multiple times a day. You will be expected not to mind this.
  5. Anytime after hour 7 in the car, there will be psychotic bursts of hysteria: laughing and gleefully shrieking one minute, crying and wailing the next. The kids may do this also.

Good luck, go with God, and, wish us luck on our next adventure!

I’ll let you know how it goes….


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Well the third annual Road-trip is officially on the books and I can honestly say it’s been the best one so far. Which is saying a lot, because we spent more time in the car than any other year.

32 accumulative hours, to be exact.

Not that I’m counting or anything.

As I told you guys last week, Amber and I decided to go big this year and brave the 12 hour drive to Disneyland. Which was really more like a 16 hour drive because CHILDREN. We spent 4 eight-hour days in the car (round-trip) and I’m happy to report that the kids handled it amazingly well. There was no melting down. There was no fighting. There weren’t even any complaints of hogging air-vents, or “she won’t stop looking at me!” like we’ve experienced in years past

And bonus: we listened to the entire Hamilton musical on the way, because what the heck else are you supposed to do in a car for 8 hours? Now, I should pause here to admit that I have been extremely resistant to all of the hype surrounding Hamilton. I had no intention of getting sucked in. I had no intention of caring at all. I certainly had no intention of becoming one of those people who are always blithering on about a musical and insisting other people listen to it.

But you guys.

It’s so good.

It really is incredible.

I had chills more than once listening to it.

It was kind of like that one time I thought I’d casually watch just the first episode of Scandal, and the next thing I knew it was 3am and I was in too deep to ever turn back. I’m afraid that Hamilton, much like Scandal, is a polarizing trend. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no gray area. Read More…

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Today was the first day of the annual road-trip that Amber and I take with our kids. We got up early, loaded my car to the literal brim with kids, beach bags, snacks, and the like, and after MUCH anticipation we finally hit the road.

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In case you missed it, last week I shared all about this tradition that we’ve started, and a few things we’ve learned over the years (the hard way). You can read about our past triumphs and tribulations here.

This year is a little bit special though, because we’ve decided to pull out all the stops. We’re going big, partly because we just wanted to, and partly because we threw the idea out there only halfway seriously, but then failed to plan anything else before it was time to actually go.

So it’s really happening.

We are going to Disneyland, people.

That means a 12 hour drive across state lines.

In the same car as the children.

It is either the best or the worst idea that we’ve ever had.

We told them this morning, and the kids had no idea, which was nothing short of a miracle because I have a hard time keeping a lid on fun surprises because EXCITEMENT and FEELS! So we waited all the way until today, and we let Teya (Amber’s oldest, who is 12 now, and opted for middle school church camp instead of the road-trip this year) tell them so she still felt involved on some level.

There was an excessive amount of hooting, hollering, and cheering upon hearing the word “Disneyland” so Amber and I were sufficiently pleased with ourselves. Read More…

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Well I don’t want to jinx anything by saying it out loud, but I do believe things are finally quieting down around here. Our schedules have been so busy for the last two months that I’ve landed in July and I’m not even sure how I got here.

I’m entirely disoriented but I only have 5 days to get my bearings, because the most important week of summer (as far as the kids are concerned) is almost upon us.

It’s here, you guys.

It’s time for The Annual Ambers Road-trip. Read More…

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It’s my first real post of 2016 and there’s so much that I want to talk to you guys about! So much actually, that I realized I need to divide it up into 5 separate posts, so as not to make your eyes bleed from exhaustion by trying to squeeze it all into one. See how much I care about you guys? You’re welcome.

It’s been a very busy few weeks around here. Christmas happened. 15 of my relatives came to town to celebrate with us, which including my local family equaled 25 of us all together. It was quite the Griswold style affair. I hosted our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, so I don’t mean to brag or anything, but that’s a lot of people and if you need me I’ll just be over here high-fiving a million angels because DISHES.

Here we all are, squeezed into one photo in my kitchen.

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It was a lovely time with family and- bonus! It turns out my children thrive on extra chaos. They loved it.

Here’s our own little family on our porch on Christmas Eve, because for some reason that has become our tradition since moving into the Forever House.

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Every holiday we take a picture on the porch. It may feel redundant as the years pass by, but one day it’ll just be Husband and I standing there and I want to document all the years we have with our littles on this porch.

As you guys know, we’d been planning to surprise the kids on Christmas morning with the very big news that we’d be leaving to join our best friends in Hawaii a few days later. You also know that I held on to this secret for an entire year which is basically the biggest accomplishment of my life. I’m happy to report that all my be-labored efforts to keep a lid on it were totally worth it and their reactions fully lived up to my expectations.

They basically lost their minds. It was the best. I really wanted to include the video of their reactions here so you could see for yourself, but unfortunately I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to do that so you’ll just have to use your imagination. But just know that it was totally magical.

There was a minor (major) kerfuffle the day before we were meant to leave when we realized that we (and by we I mean Husband) booked tickets to the WRONG ISLAND. Yes, he did. After some very expensive last minute rearranging, and a rather pointless pit stop in Honolulu, we joined our friends in Maui for 9 whole glorious sleeps. In fact, on the plane ride home Husband and I had to recount this together at least three times on our hands because it went by so quickly that we were convinced the whole trip was only 4 or 5 days long. It turns out Hawaii is a strange vortex where time has no actual meaning. The days were long and leisurely but the collective whole of them felt as if they were so fast they’d never even happened. Like some kind of dreamy and tropical mirage in the desert of regular life.

It was wonderful. Read More…

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I don’t mean to brag or anything, but the Ambers kind of nailed it with The Roadtrip this year. You guys. We wound up visiting seven cities in four days with five children. I’m no mathematician but I’m pretty sure that all adds up to WHAT THE DEVIL.

I don’t feel like we were moving at a break-neck pace or that we were even operating on much of a schedule. Like I said, we played it pretty fast and loose in the planning department this year. It just kind of worked out that we were able to squeeze in quite a bit. Plus, it didn’t take us long to realize it was best to keep the troops moving along- because when five kids are tired and bored things can start to get dicey.

I intended to break this up into two posts but at the end of Day 2 I lost my internet connection at the hotel and lost my whole post along with it because it hadn’t saved correctly. Just envision some light cursing, a 5 minute denial stage, and lots of uselessly aggressive tapping of the keyboard and you get the idea. Since I am recapping the whole trip in one post I promise I shall do my best to be brief. (That’s a lie. Don’t you know me at all?)

Read More…

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We are 6 days into our summer break and I think it’s important for you to know the real state of affairs up in here. To begin, the house is a wreck. This usually is untrue or an exaggeration when I say it, but this time it’s really true. The floors are sticky. The bathrooms are so dirty they bring shame on our family. I am only 4 laundry loads in to a 13 load pile of clothes, bedding, and beach towels. The windows have so many handprints and dog-nose-prints it looks like everyone was held in the house against their will and was clawing to get out or something.

The kids are a total wreck. We have been camping for the last four days and while it’s been a blast it has also been exhausting. Jaxon even told me himself last night on the fifth hour of our six-hour drive home that he was “wrecked”. Bella chimed in with, “Yah mom. I’m seriously conquered down.”  She tends to have a flair for the dramatic so I was at a momentary loss as to what “conquered down” actually meant and if it was a good or a bad thing. I’m pretty sure she meant something in between “tuckered out” and “hunker down” and simply “tired.”

I was talking with my friends recently about how the month of May was supposed to slow down and ease us into our breezy and carefree summer schedules, but how in reality the month of May was aggressively out to kill us all. Between sports and projects and end of year ceremonies and parties it all just got a little bit bananas, really. And then June came. It turns out that May is really just June’s annoying kid sister. I am here to tell you that June is the one you really have to watch out for. June is slightly unhinged and off its medication and definitely rooted in mania. Read More…

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Remember how proud I was of myself a couple of weeks ago when I tricked Husband into thinking I was pregnant? I know, I still haven’t forgotten it either. It was some of my best work, after all.

You may also remember that I’d become resigned to the fact that I would now have to live out the rest of my days in fear. For surely Husband would be exacting his revenge soon. Or maybe not soon at all. I would not put it past him to let it lie for a year. Just long enough for me to start relaxing and forget alllllll about how I ruthlessly pranked him with the belief that I was all kinds of pregnant and would be adding to our family come December.

In true Husband style, he would find the irony in the situation by actually adding to our family.

It was poetry in motion. On wheels.

One might say I got off lightly, considering this latest addition was the mechanic variety and not anything living, breathing, or furry.

So…as fate would have it, this thing is part of my life now.

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Read More…

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I should preface this story by telling you that the last few months have been totally bananas around here. In defense of my own terrible-awful attitude, I feel you should at least know that.

We have lived in the Forever House for exactly six months now. For twelve of those weeks we have had house guests. I just want to be clear on the math here- that equals three months! Did you hear me? Three months people! This means that literally half of the time we’ve been in our new home we have shared it.

God’s funny.

I talk a big game about hospitality.

How I believe in it. How it’s not just about making people feel welcome in my home, but in my life as well. How it’s about making room.

God’s like, “That’s cute. That’s nice. Let’s test that one out.”

For whatever reason, there has been an endless stream of friends and family and pets through our doors for the last few months. While this has been at times a joy, and at other times exhausting, it has for the most part been a real eye opener.

Turns out I’m a big fat liar.  While hospitality is something that comes naturally to me and that I usually even enjoy, I think I may have just run out of it for now. It turns out that sometimes I want to crawl under my covers and not think about the dog hair that’s collecting in my new carpet, or whether we have enough food in the pantry, or what I’m going to make for dinner, or where the kids are or whether they’re harassing our house guests.

I mean, let’s all be real here. Sometimes I just want to not wear a bra and fart whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I hate that there is never enough milk or coffee, the floors always need vacuumed, and the toilet seat is always warm. Read More…

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They say the first day back is always the hardest.

I tend to agree.

Except times seven.

It’s become abundantly clear over the years that the first week back is the hardest. I am referring to vacation. Before you roll your eyes at how bratty I sound- don’t. I get it. Any type of vacation or staycation or getaway or even a trip to the grocery store without littles is a beautiful thing and should always be fully appreciated. Like I always say, “It’s good to go away. It’s good to come home.” …and sometimes that’s true.

Other times it’s less “good” and more “necessary.”

Husband and I were able to sneak away together for an extended weekend for my birthday. We had 4 nights away- that’s 4 whole sleeps! Which is technically 5 days, which is almost a week. I like to round up with good things and round down with my spending. Read More…