Why We Are Not Going To Disney

I expected a different outcome. For example if you were to give your children three choices for dinner: 1. Pizza 2. Noodles or 3. Cow liver, you would expect a fight to ensue between them over the pizza vs. noodles while the cow liver option is not even discussed.

 

Because they are kids. Little kids still in many ways and some things make sense to them. Like Pizza. And Disney.

 

Last year we decided to make going on a family vacation a priority. My husband hates when I talk about this, but I’m putting it out there because nothing is his fault or my fault or anyone’s fault, it’s just how we’ve all made sacrifices to raise our family. We decided that I would stay home with the kids while Jed started his own business. Both decisions were risky – we lost our insurance, our steady and larger income and security – but we did it because we decided it was important for me to be home and we had a certain amount of confidence in Jed’s business. And that family time was more important than money. I still believe this. But things like family vacations have taken a hit.

 

For a few years not having a big getaway didn’t seem like a big deal, but eventually I could tell that both of us were feeling like a big part of us was missing. We were both travelers before kids. Heck, we met on a flight to Bangkok. And we know that one of the biggest gifts we can give our kids is the gift of showing them the world.

 

Knowing we could plan for one big trip and it would be awhile before we could do this again, we decided to make a budget and a plan and let the kids choose the vacation based on what we could afford. We have been talking to them about Disney, as we have never been, and the whole “Is it a requirement for kids to go to Disney as least once while they are little guilt” was heavy on my heart last year – so we decided to make that an option as well.

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So we sat the kids down last January and told them that we could take a big vacation and these were the options they got to choose from:

1. A week in Disney World

2. A week on a cruise(Maybe a Disney cruise even)

3. A week at an all inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean.

4. A week in Europe(probably just Amsterdam and Paris) – but we may have to delay our trip until the following Spring.

5. Two weeks in Costa Rica at a rental house on the beach

 

I honestly expected three votes for Disney as we had talked about it so much and they’ve heard so many stories from friends about going there. And we would’ve been okay with their decision and maybe a door of guilt would finally close.

 

But not one of them yelled out Disney. All three said “COSTA RICA!”

 

And then we knew they were all really our children. Because they also choose sushi over pizza most days.

 

So we are heading to Costa Rica with the knowledge this means The Mouse is probably dead to us and we have all accepted that and moved on. Moved on to Costa Rica this year and maybe a safari in Africa in a few years and then maybe a trek to Nepal or Thailand- back to where we met and our family journey started. And along the way I want to show them my apartment in Amsterdam and the castle where we married in Scotland.

 

And start making some global memories for our family.

 

Because I know this is only the beginning.

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I’m Structured And I Know It #girlsaretrippin

(Say that to the tune ‘I’m Sexy And I Know It’)…

 

I will admit right now that I’m very structured when it comes to parenting. Don’t mess with my kids bedtimes, mealtimes and nap times, and don’t call me after 7pm, or forget that we have dance on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and you will always find us at The Nook restaurant at 4:45pm on Sunday nights.

 

Some may call it crazy-anal – but I call it smart.

And in being completely structured for almost 11 years, and getting my kids to bed before they are too tired, and fed before they are too hungry – well I can honestly say we’ve never had to deal with a tantrum and we’ve never had a kid fight bedtime, and we’ve never had to walk out of a restaurant or store, nor even had a child get out of a chair at a restaurant.

 

Kids like structure, consistency, and something they can count on.

 

And while there were times it pained me to be structured, and sure things could slide a bit here and there for vacations, visits and friends – it’s worked. For us.

 

But can I just say that I’m glad my kids are getting a bit older and I’m glad we waited until now to do a colossal road trip, because structure had to be thrown out the window – but my kids are just fine. Eating later and earlier, flexible bedtimes and wake-ups, and taking each day as it comes. It’s working, and my kids are being awesome. I just hope they know that bedtime goes back to 8pm when we get home, and dinner will arrive promptly on the table at 5pm.

I would also recommended traveling with a 10 year old. Since I’m the lone adult in the minivan, without someone sitting shotgun to help with allthethings, Eloise has really taken care of things in the back of the van – she’s the snack person, art person, movie person, electronics person, clean-up crew, and all around cruise director..and she loves it and has asked when she can officially just take her sisters across country by herself. (Dear Children, No, when you are 16, 14, and 9 you are NOT going on a one month road trip ALONE!). Eloise will be paid dearly for her services when we return home from this trip.

 

So what I’m trying to say, is that besides starting my period at mile 1450, this road trip has been a breeze…and I thank my children for that. I think they know that mommy needs a little sanity on the road, and they give that to me. So thank you kids. I love you for being amazing.

We are setting out today for another 600 miles pull – putting us somewhere in Western Pennsylvania to sleep tonight.  Now I just need to stalk some bloggers in the area so I can pitch a tent in their front yard.

 

Are you more of a structured parent, or are you pretty laid-back?

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Top 5 Ways to Single Parent on a Vacation

I took the girls ‘Up North’ over Mother’s Day weekend for a little three day getaway.   Yes, my gift for Mother’s Day was having to get in swimsuit grooming condition so we could swim AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.  That’s what you wanted for Mother’s Day too, right?

 

Anyway, we had a blast actually but in case you were considering taking your kids on vacation by yourself – I’ve come up with some handy tips!

1. Hire/pay/beg a responsible looking teenager to swim with your kids. Seriously, it’s a known fact that moms don’t swim with their kids if they have an option out of it. There I was the lone mom in the pool for FIVE HOURS while the other moms sat there with their bloody mary’s and People magazines and they would occasionally wave to their husbands in the water with their wet offspring. I got a few ‘Oh I’m so sorry your husband couldn’t make the trip and you had to put on a suit. Thanks for taking one for the team!’

 

2.  Vacation at a place with a buffet restaurant. Seriously, there are no fights when there’s a buffet and no empty stomachs.  Also make sure some of your kid traveling companions are old enough to get their own food as I’ve been down that “balancing four plates at a buffet” road and it ain’t pretty.

 

3.  When you travel with your spouse you usually put the kids to bed early and ask for a suite so you can have some alone time/down time/twitter time without kids at the end of the day..but when you travel single parent style you let your older kids stay up FOREVER just for the company and because you don’t have WiFi and aren’t sure what to do with yourself anyway.

 

4.  Forget that talking/road game crap that everyone brags about on long road-trips – give 9 year old the MacBook, 7 year old the DVD player and 2 year old the iPad and no one makes a peep for the whole drive. (This also allows you to listen to any music you want)

 

5.  To entice your children out of the pool(and you out of your swimsuit) buy them anything they want from the gift store – logo t-shirt –‘It’s yours!’, tacky shot-glasses –“Yours!”, plastic Native American doll – – “You will treasure this forever!”

 

Have you solo-vacationed and did you have to swim? I’m so sorry.

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Disclosure:  Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge generously provided my family with a three day Mother’s Day weekend getaway in one of their lakeside cabins, but all words and opinions are mine.   It was truly a magical weekend. I’ve never been there before and we will for sure go back and recommend it to everyone! We usually go to a cabin in Northern Minnesota – but that usually means it’s not really a vacation for me as I still have to cook, clean, grocery shop, etc…where Rutgers is a completely relaxing vacation for everyone because they provide all of your meals at the lodge and the restaurant was unbelievable. Eloise said she wants to eat every meal for the rest of her life there! It was just so nice not to have to think about doing anything but having fun! Their pools, beaches, marina, golf courses and organized activities are also amazing. Seriously, I cannot rave enough about Ruttger’s service, accommodations and the all around total vacation experience. It’s like an old-time experience with modern conveniences. It was exactly what we were looking for. They’ve earned a customer for life.

 

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Project 365 Week 12

I’m cheating a bit here as I’m just doing a final photo dump from our beach vacation. I’m always happy to be the one behind the camera on beach vacations as there will never be a picture of me in my swimsuit on the internets.

If you think I actually had time to take a picture this week with my phone or otherwise you are sadly mistaken.

I’m still doing laundry. The suitcases remain unpacked.  I grocery shopped but not sure what I even bought so we chose to eat out most of the week. Sinful. Or American. Or both.

We are catching up on homework and projects. I’ve spent more hours than I can count researching Lady Gaga information for a 1st grade report and I bought three yards of white faux fur because I’m sewing a giant polar bear for a third grade project.

 

I shit you not.

Astrid has decided that peeing her pants is like super fun.

But no way in hell am I buying diapers again so I just carry many pairs of size 2T adorable ‘big girl underwear’ in my purse.

This is my life.

Most of the time humorous.

 

Never glamorous.

And quite beautiful if I look close enough. Especially when it’s covered in faux fur fuzz and pee while I sing Poker Face.

 

Happy Weekend.

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My Kids Are Ready to Fly Alone…

My brother and I started flying alone on airplanes(because we don’t have wings) when we were eight.  I still vividly remember that first flight we took and how my mom and step-dad walked us onto the plane and buckled our seat belts for us and then most likely they went out for a nice dinner and a bottle and wine and went “WOOHOO – KID FREE FOR A MONTH!”

 

We continued our solo flights over the next 10 years. Until we were 11 we had to have an airline representative meet us at the gate if it was not a direct flight.   I remember pretty much hating sitting in that kid jail waiting area and just truly wanted to go buy gum and Teen Beat Magazine.

 

So when I was 11 I flew all by myself (I can’t remember where my brother was).  The beauty of our solo flights was that my dad worked for the airlines so we could only get booked on stand-by tickets and we would be routed all over the country on more empty airplanes to ensure we would not get bumped.  So the only way to get anywhere was to go everywhere just to get anywhere.  I was flying from Indianapolis to Kalispell, Montana..my solo flight plan was…

 

Indy —->Atlanta —–> Salt Lake City ——> Spokane ——-> Kalispell. Yeah. Good luck with that.

 

Anyway, when I got to Salt Lake City I got bumped from my flight and yes..it was the last flight of the evening. So guess what 11 year old got to spend the night by herself in a chair in the Salt Lake City airport? IT WAS SO COOL! I bought gum.  Also I didn’t call any of my parents because I was seriously just fine. Just delayed a bit. Alone. In an airport. COOL, RIGHT??? (I think they were mad that I didn’t call.)

 

Was it horrible that I prayed for the same fate for my return flight home?

 

My point of this whole post is that I decided when we got to the airport to fly to Florida last week that I would put my children in charge. I gave them their tickets which had all the information they needed. I told them to figure out what we needed to do to get on the flight and I would follow them and I was not available to give any answers or provide any direction. Just consider me an over-sized carry-on who has to pee a lot.

 

And guess what – they found those TV screens with important departure information, and lots of signs with concourse letters, and gates with numbers, and marked seats on the plane and BATHROOMS and GUM. I gave them each $5 for any necessities and they found GUM!

 

When we got off the plane I just stood there and asked them where to go and by gosh they found a place called baggage claim and screens with flight information and numbered carousels.

 

Kids are super smart if we just let them be.   And maybe that’s why my parents never really worried about me when I was flying around the country by myself.

 

Anyway, someday soon I know these kids are ready to get on an airplane to see you all by themselves. Even if the rules have changed and they must have an escort until they are 14.   I hope the escort lets them stop and buy gum!

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Back in the old days people wore dresses and suits when they flew. I was one of those people and I still like to dress to fly. Comfortable. But still dressed nicely.

Dress, cardigan, leggings and belt all from H&M.

Straw handbag from Jason Wu for Target

Fabulous shoes from BC Footwear in this season’s hot color from Nordstroms.

Linking up with the Pleated Poppy for What I Wore Wednesday.

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So have your kids flown alone?

 

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Project 365 Week 11 – Vacationing with Kids – Reality Edition

I’ll tell you what makes you know. you feel. you be. a mother.

 

It’s taking a solo vacation with your kids.

 

I always used to say that taking a vacation with kids is not really a vacation..it’s just parenting on location.

 

And it’s so true.

 

I also admit that I’ve taken vacations with my kids that I haven’t enjoyed. It’s been work and truthfully more work than being on home because you don’t have all the stuff you need in this new location that you need to parent and sooth and nourish and it’s frankly just exhausting.  A vacation for no one.

 

And now after 10 years of parenting I think I’ve finally just let all of that stuff go and realized that this is my reality and I can either continue to fight that reality and accept that vacations just aren’t going to be what they once were, and appreciate the small vacation wins that I can.

 

Because you know what. I am a parent. And damn if it isn’t that most important thing I will ever do with my life. And by damn I love that.  I LOVE BEING A PARENT. With every once of my being.

And so I won’t sunbathe with a margarita while reading my book. I will be in the pool with my kids and sitting at the edge of the pee-infested baby pool because that is what parents do.

 

And I will make sandcastles and refill buckets until I feel like tossing the bucket into the ocean. Because that is what parents do.

 

And I will carry kids across hot sand while burning my own feet. Because that is what parents do.

 

And I will teach my girls the art of just hiking the crotch of their one piece swimsuits to the side so they can pee without taking their whole swimsuit off.  Because these are life skills that my girls need.  When they are in college they will thank me and I know I’ve done my job well.  Because by damn that is what a parent does.

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Because it’s so much better than Paris…

It was a given that we would have to give up some things when I became a stay at home mom.  Eventually I will give up Anthropologie, but for now we’ve pretty given up going on vacations.

 

This is rough for us. Jed and I lived for vacations. We met in Thailand, married in Scotland and traveled the world together before Eloise was born.  Once Eloise arrived and even Esther first arrived we were able to go on some nice holidays.

 (We miss you Grammy and Papa – thank you for the surprise visit!)

Until I quit my job.

 

I love being home.  But we miss vacations.  We’ve pretty much told the girls they will never go to Disney unless I go back to work, but then I would not be home for them. They actually pondered that for a few moments and chose ME over Cinderella. I’m truly touched.

 

Although Eloise said that maybe I should go back to work for just a year or two so then she can FINALLY go to Paris. I mean she is nine now and has never been. As if.

 

So instead of taking the kids on a Winter vacation I spent $30 at Target and bought board games.  So far they seem happy. And I’m home to play with them. Win/win.

 

One day during our Winter break I said “hey I have a great idea – why don’t we each share where we would go on vacation if we could go anywhere in the whole world – anywhere, and then tell each other what we would do on that vacation and then maybe make a picture of yourself on that vacation – you know like in place of a photograph.”

 

Eloise said Paris of course and talked about how I would show her the whole city and we would go to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and go to really nice restaurants and go shoe shopping.  I died and cried and then hugged her and told her that she was my favorite child. She drew and then painted a beautiful masterpiece of Paris.

 

Esther said she wanted to go to New Jersey.

 

Really, I asked, anywhere in the whole world you want to go to New Jersey? Not Australia or Brazil or Africa or China? New Jersey – why New Jersey?

 

And Esther said it was because there were more Jewish people there and she wanted to fly out there and celebrate Kwanzaa with them.

 

Okay.

 

So she still hasn’t produced the artwork about this particular vacation but I’m thinking next December – New Jersey here we come to help that state start some new traditions!

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If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

 

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Top 10 ways to survive School Vacations…

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I’ll admit right now that I am not a big fan of my kids being home all.the.time..and me being home all.the.time and husband being home all.the.time..because pretty soon 1800 square feet feels very small.  Add into that a tree and a bunch of presents, left-overs, and more garbage and recyclables than is produced in a year in Ethiopia and you get well, a wee bit claustrophobic.(it seems this word also means fear of Santa..)

Let’s just say that Joan Crawford looks like a saint compared to my behavior most days.  Although, I still do not own any wire hangers.
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10.  Cry.  Yesterday I cried more than the kids.  Now, it could also have been brought on to a hormonal imbalance that I will not discuss or perhaps by the 8 candy bars at ate or by the 3 pots of coffee..but I just choose to cry most of the day yesterday.  It made for a long day.  But when you look like a lunatic, your kids mostly ignore you.  win/win.

9.  Play-dates – especially the kind at other people’s homes that I can drop them off with a wave and a friendly smile…and if I am really nice a bottle wine for that poor mom.
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8.  Snow – we have lots of snow – so we have sledding, skating, and snow angels to do.  Unfortunately, my children are wimps and start bitching about the cold after about 10 minutes – so suit up/strip down time takes longer than outside enjoyment time.  I tried locking them out of the house yesterday, but it was so cold they were licking the door to come in, and that of course causes your tongue to stick on metal which is a whole other subject..

7.  Games – Santa and/or Oprah gave us Sorry, Trouble, and Connect 4.  I am the reigning world champion of Connect 4 – every year since 1978 – so I kill my kids at this game, causing them to cry and NO I do not ever let them win.  Turns out that Trouble and Sorry are the SAME.DAMN.GAME. just one has cards and one dice. Was there never a lawsuit between Milton Bradly and Parker Brothers about this – because there totally should have been.  Problem is – my kids do not realize they are THE.SAME.DAMN. GAMES and want to keep playing them BOTH.
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6.  Play Wii Just Dance game.  Turns out I still have the moves after all of these years and totally beat my kids at all dances except “Who let the dogs out” because I hate that song.  But no one can touch me on “Pump up the Jam”.  Yes, you too can look like a fool dancing in your living room with the shades up.

5.  Bake – We have baked cakes, cookies, candies, bars, bread, muffins, bark…and also gain 10 pounds. Awesome.
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4.  Return Christmas gifts.  This is a favorite holiday tradition shared by all I am sure.  Jed bought me an iPad for Christmas…bought on Christmas eve.  I returned it – as awesome as I am sure it is, since I don’t have a computer right now and need a camera upgrade – the iPad seemed frivolous. How’s that for an entitled American statement?

3.  Kittens – if your kids are extra bored this holiday season – just buy them kittens. I did.  Days and days and days of entertainment value.
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2.  A pony – if kittens do not work – perhaps a pony is in order?  I personally did not buy them a pony, but by tomorrow we could be browsing at the farm.

1.  Wine – for me, not the kids.  I rely on my personal favorite Old Vine Red. Smooth, reliable, perfect.
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How is your school vacation going?  Any tips to muddle through?  Anyone else meeting the bus on Monday with flowers and balloons?

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My Reality…

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We planned our trip to New York City for months.  The girls were very excited.  They made their lists of attractions to see..
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The Statue of Liberty

The Empire State Building
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The American Girl Doll Store

Central Park

Times Square and “the ball”
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Tea at the Plaza
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We had almost 4 days to fit it all in, in between of course seeing some family and the wedding – the reason for our trip.
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But what we discovered was – that they are still little girls – and sightseeing at their ages is not all that much fun.  As much as they love the thought of cool buildings.  Seeing these buildings in person – well, they are just buildings.  And sidewalks. And streets. And more buildings. And a HELL of a lot of people to walk through, around, on top off.. And did you know the Statue of Liberty is really small compared to how grand she looks on TV.  According to Esther, she is “this big” (spread your thumb and forefinger apart about 2″).

And when I am still pushing a stroller or holding a screaming baby while pushing a stroller, my hands are not free for taking pictures. Ever.
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And after you wait for an hour and a half and spend $60 to go to the top of the Empire State Building, you hear “mom, all I see are buildings and more buildings – is there more to see? And it is really cold and windy up here – can we go back down.”  So, 45 seconds later – we are back standing in line to descend. With the screaming baby of course.
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And after all of the planning and excitement of the trip to see NYC, the favorite parts for the kids are paying $5 to Mickey Mouse to have your picture taken on the street, getting food from the deli across the street from the hotel, renting a movie and eating popcorn, jumping on the hotel bed, a Ferris wheel ride in a toy store and eating ice cream in front of the library.
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Simple things.  Things we can get at home.  Or perhaps at Disney World someday.
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But for now, I think we will save the “looking at more buildings” trips until they are old enough to appreciate it.
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And just appreciate them for the kids they are and how maybe more movie nights, ice cream cones and bed jumping is better than a trip to New York right now.

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Indiana – Just like Mexico but without the Beaches…

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I quit my real day job 5 years ago today.  I had a 15 year high stress, high flying, high travel, high hours, ego-boosting, high paying corporate job that I LOVED. LOVED.  I ate, breathed, slept, dreamt, drank and LOVED almost every moment of it.

Until I had a child.

After said child, I went back to work yet somehow work didn’t seem that high flying, ego boosting or that important anymore.  High travel and high hours sucked. High paying was awesome, but not enough.  I ate, breathed, slept, dreamt, drank in my child and HATED going to work.

And then I had another child.  And I went back to work.

For 6 hours.  And walked out 5 years ago today.
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Oh sure I miss that paycheck.  Anthropologie misses that paycheck.  Nordstroms sometimes cries about that paycheck and still sends me love notes and random phone calls like a sad stalker ex-boyfriend.

What I miss the most though are the benefits.  Oh sweet health benefits.  As a family, that was the hardest part of quitting my job, letting those go.  We own a small business, really small, and are self-insured.  God Bless America – for a tidy sum of about $15,000 a year.  That is for high deductible, no prescription drugs, no dental, no vision, no well visits, no preventative care. Yes, thank you I am over 40 and my costs and my yearly needed tests just went up again.  Oh joy.
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So it is no wonder I only visit the eye doctor every 3 years, the dentist yearly – maybe, and my yearly “womanly”(love that word, eh?) exam is now every other year, as it isn’t always in the budget.  Living in the city makes it worse – as costs for care are even higher.  And I love my city, but sometimes I cannot afford my $4 latte and need to be happy with my nickel coffee.

Oh I loved the days I lived in Europe and had awesome health care, prenatal care and a great dentist for pennies…but I digress…

My retired grandparents wintered in Yuma, Arizona.  Living on a fixed retired income they filled prescriptions and got new glasses in Mexico.

Now I do the same –  but my Mexico is very small town Indiana.  Where I can go to the dentist for a cleaning and xrays for $45, my kids get an eye exam for $55 and glasses that cost even less, and that yearly pap is a true bargain.
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So my yearly vacations to Indiana may not be exotic, I don’t get a tan, and no one has yet brought me a margarita.  But I can still enjoy my of south of the border health care bargains.

Heck I even make sure to get my car’s oil changed while I am there as it is 1/2 price.

Now they just need to move the ocean a little closer to Indiana and I would totally move there.

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Top Ten Things Said from the Backseat…

As many of you know, I just spent 24 hours total in the car…alone..with my 3 kids.

I am proud of myself for saying “you are making me crazy in my head” only 5 times to my kids during that precious time.

And Astrid only cried for about 5 of those 24 hours.  And slept only 6 of them.

And the big girls didn’t sleep at all. I know – totally weird kids to not sleep in the car?   We kept busy listening to music – Lot of Mamma Mia, Soul Sister, Lady Gaga and more..and NO kids songs.  Yay to that.

And I paid $5 per Starbucks spotted.

They also asked me about 1,253,497 questions. And made me laugh, a lot.

Top Ten things Said from the Backseat…

10.  “Mommy, why do you pass all of the cars, but no one passes us?”

9.  “Why is there a Peru, Illinois? Does that confuse the people in South America?”

8.  “Why are there so many cornfields in Illinois?  Do people just live in the fields because I don’t see houses?”

7.  “If you poke me with that marker one more time, I will pinch your legs off.”

6.  “Mommy, you sound like Uncle Troy when you laugh, are you a man sometimes too?”

5.  “When you grow-up, Mommy – will you get a minivan too?”

4.  “Mommy, you shouldn’t sing so loudly as you aren’t very good at it.”

3.  “Can we fly next time?”

2.  “Why do we only stop for coffee?”

1.  “Mom, do you really think 15 cups of coffee is healthy for you?”

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