Vincent Vacation, The Logistics

Hello again friends!  Since this was such a radically different trip from our Disney experience, I learned a lot and both Bray and I enjoyed this week away (and we were nervous when we left).  So I thought I’d share some of what we did, beyond just the funnies, and what worked for our family which is still learning the travel ropes.

1.  The airplane – so our flight into Reno was almost four hours, but coming back we couldn’t get a direct flight so we had two flights that ran over two hours each.  The kids did remarkably well.  We packed each of them their small school backpack.  The small pouch contained snacks (applesauce pouches, candy cane, granola bar, goldfish), and the big pouch contained a travel color book (with handy pouch for washable markers), a couple of small books, an activity pad, and their small blanket in case they got cold.  It was perfect.

I carried a backpack with my things as well as a kindergarten notebook, a travel magnetic game, and my iPad which had fun games and held a charge well.  This later piece was particularly helpful because we had a four plus hour drive to the house.  Which takes us to transport.

2.  The van – Yes, yes I did rent a mini van.  I can’t bring myself to own one but it ROCKED.  You can check booster seats for free, so we opted for a little hassle because it was free versus paying to rent boosters.  Plus, the kids each had their own chair they couldn’t hit each other the whole ride.

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We stopped a half hour in and had a big late lunch and let them run around.  The van gave us space to pack extras (that’s an ice chest for our park picnics!).  Had I known it was going to come with a DVD player, I would have also packed DVDs (note to mommas: rent a minivan and pack DVDs).  I did pack my car charger which did us little good since we had NO cell service anywhere.  Including accommodations.  Speaking of…

3.  Lodging – Instead of staying inside the Yosemite National Park, which I had originally booked, we stayed in a three bedroom house I found on VRBO through my darling friend who vacations with a bigger family than mine.

The pluses:  the SPACE, a wide open front and back yard with space for the kids to run; the front and back porch where Bray and I could drink our morning coffee and watch the kids play; the hot tub which we got in every single day when we returned from the park; the washer/dryer which let me do laundry so we didn’t have to pack a million extra clothes; and the inside space to spread out.  They had a closet full of old board games and we played fierce games of Battleship (boys versus girls)!  Not to mention it was over $400 cheaper than the lodge I’d booked in the park, and we cooked our own breakfast and dinners (saving lots more money).

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The minuses:  there is no convenient place to stay outside the park so we drove an hour in and an hour out every day and the road is a winding one high in the mountains; the one bathroom was a little tricky when my kids almost always need to use the toilet at the same time.

4.  The schedule – I printed out the wonderful guide that Yosemite publishes every month or two showing the activities and areas of interest throughout the park.  They highlight the programs that are family friendly, and I outlined the key ones I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss.

We did NONE of the programs I tagged to do.  Please let me know how Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure performance goes if you make it.  Or the evening theatre performance of John Muir’s adventures.  I saw nary a one.

Nonetheless, we had a great time.  Sunday we went straight to Yosemite Valley, the heart of the park, and hiked the Yosemite Falls, the lower portion is a very manageable and pretty hike.  We always packed drinks but only a few snacks because I may have been a little paranoid about bears.

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Monday we drove to Mariposa Grove and Wawona because the Grove closes in July for some time, and it’s where the giant sequoias live.  The trails there are kid-friendly, and we visited the Grizzly Giant, the largest tree in North America.

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Tuesday and Wednesday we were in and around the Valley: Tuesday focusing on our Valley Floor tour, buy in advance at Yosemite Lodge (highly recommend doing early in your adventure to orient yourself), and eating at the famous Ahwahnee Hotel which is super cool but has terrible food; and Wednesday heading over to see the climbers begin their ascent and picnicking at the Merced River across from the El Capitan Trail.

We spent our last 24-ish hours in Lake Tahoe which I don’t have time to detail here.  I will share that we were SO close to Tahoe on our hairpin Hwy 4 8800 foot elevation drive through the forest when they CLOSED the road, and we had to turn back around and add another three hours to our already four hour trip.  AGGGHHH!  The kids endured though, Bray pressed on through that terrible drive, and we ended our trip at the Marriott Timber Lodge in South Tahoe complete with walk to the lake beach (through an iffy area of town), swimming pools and hot tubs, and scoops of ice cream!

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Shorter posts for the rest of the week, I promise!

Vincent Vacation, The One Liners

Bear with me friends – this week is all about the week long family vacation we just wrapped!  We don’t take family vacations very often, some of you may remember the mayhem that was Disneyworld two and a half years ago, and that was only five days.

Y’all, we survived seven days with three five year olds.  Our marriage is still in tact.  We only have minor wounds.  This warrants a week of posts. 

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So I’ll start off today with the funny light stuff.  I’ll also talk a little about logistics – what I learned for those of you planning vacations with littles soon.  And then I’ll wrap up with the amazing beauty that was Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe. 

There’s no way you can collect all the funny things three five year olds say, AND I have a terrible memory, but here’s a few of my favorites:

The eldest:  Mommy, when you smile like that, you look like you have a short moustache. 

(Ahem, anyone know the name of a good waxer?) 

Little bitI’m going to be a hula dancer and a horse rider when I grow up.

(There was a lot of hula dancing, by all three, in the hot tub behind our rented house.  No. Earthly. Idea.)

All three, running in from outside: We were working the cat. 

(The kids “work cows” with the grown ups at our family ranch.  A cat hung out at our rental house.  They decided they needed to “work the cat” since he was available…Lord have mercy.)

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Bray (because of course):  Are we on time? 

Me:  I don’t know, we’re not on a schedule.

Bray: I don’t believe you.  You have an internal clock like an iPhone map that is always recalibrating whether we are ahead or behind schedule. 

(This is sad.  But slightly true.  We were twelve minutes behind in my head when he asked me that question.  Peeps, that’s over nine years of marriage…)

The baby:  You need a living trailer around these parts.

(They call mobile homes living trailers.)

Little bit:  MaddddieBOWsa

(This was her response a hundred times to Bray when he said we were going into or around Mariposa.  Apparently, my little linguist studied butterflies in Spanish and didn’t appreciate our pronunciation.) 

I’ll be back tomorrow with some of the logistics in case you are pondering a national park or more remote family vacation yourself.  I also can’t wait to introduce you to some of the road characters we met. 

No Workaholics This Summer: Unplug!

This is another one of my summer posts, yesterday was vacation tips, since I’ve got an actual week long family vacation to look forward to (my first week of a destination trip with the family since taking my job 2 1/2 years ago!). 

I read a great post this week encouraging women to REALLY take a vacation.  Not go someplace with their family and work, but go and recharge and reconnect. 

Boy did that hit home, and I am SO excited about our family vacation to Yosemite (and the lack of connectivity). 

Several of the tips I had started to adhere to already. 

After an ever moving vacation attempt last year, and ultimately not getting a trip away anywhere because of “work logistics” (self-imposed, not from work), I PENNED in my vacation this year.  We booked non-refundable plane tickets and reserved a home on the edge of the park and made our plans firm.  We weren’t moving it anywhere since we’re not fans of losing a lot of money. 

I notify my clients the Monday morning of my last week in the office and tell them I will be out of town on vacation with limited accessibility, but offer that I am completely free the leading week to complete any projects they need.  Folks are very supportive, and I wrap up a lot of loose ends before heading out.

I also send a short wrap up of what’s going in my areas of responsibility to my boss and the attorney serving as emergency back up for me, so no one is caught off guard.  (And I return the favor.)

So what works for you when you head on vacation?  Do you unplug, and how?

If you don’t really turn technology off when you head out with your family or friends this summer, then find time this summer to really turn off and tune in to those you love the most. 

Summer Vacation Tips

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This is one of my summer posts this week since I have SUMMER FEVER and vacation on the brain!

My darling friend Kristin wrote a GREAT post a couple of years ago on planning for a family vacation.  Make sure you read them all for her insight (she’s got four kids from preschool to high school!).  Boy have I pondered those tips.  Especially the one about staying flexible since that is not my strong suit in general. 

Then I read an article from Little Passports, and they also offered some wise insight.  You see, I have only taken ONE family vacation and it was to Disneyworld with not quite three year old triplets – I’m still recovering.  Some of these tips I am well suited for, like making lists of all you need or have, but other advice served as a good reminder for me, like not trying to cram too much stuff in. 

Particularly for us, with three five year olds, rushing around causes the adults blood pressure to rise and tempers to shorten, while the kids feel frazzled.  Fortunately, we’re headed for Yosemite this year and those kinds of vacations are uniquely situated to building in flexibility and downtime. 

We’ve rented a house on the edge of the park that will allow us to wake up and breakfast at leisure while sipping coffee on the back patio. 

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We have a guide book with a few things circled we really want to do and a few others we’ll try to get to if we have time.  The area is brand new to us so everything will be fresh and exciting.  If we don’t get to everything, we’ll just have to go back! 

We’ll also be able to do laundry, which may not sound relaxing, but it will keep me from having to pack lots of extra clothes for the week away.  This is my little trick I’m doing for the first time this year to try and make it easier to manage all the kids clothes in one big bag.  Every gallon Ziploc bag has a top, bottom, underwear, and socks. 

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Each child can just reach in the bag in the morning and select what they want to wear that day.  A few days in, I’ll do a round of laundry and restock the bags.  This will also help us identify what is dirty and what is clean. 

Just for me, I bought some John Muir books so I can understand some of the history of the park and hear about what he saw in the 1860s before the crowds came. 

So what about you?  What are your favorite vacation tips for a family?  Where are you headed this summer?

Happy Summer Friends!

Fashion Fridays: The Basics, Fresh

I hope you’re enjoying our four part fashion “refresher” series on The Basics!

We covered the all important fit first, and then covered the feel (or quality), and now is my very favorite installment:  FRESH!

Fresh is the unique perspective that you bring to your own personal fashion.  It’s what makes someone say, “I thought of you when I saw this!”

Some women have a very definite sense of their own style.  But some women are unsure.  And over time your style may have changed because of life circumstances.  My style has certainly changed over time.

Where should you start to gain some perspective on your style?

Pinterest, of course.  

It’s the modern way of pulling magazine pages.  Join Pinterest if you’re not on there already.  Ignore all the birthday parties and recipes; they’ll make  you feel bad about yourself.

Start a board that says “style,” and then click on the Women’s Fashion category.  START BROAD.  Do you not censor yourself.  Don’t ever say, “well I look terrible in mustard, I can’t pin that,” or “I love that look but I’m far too chesty to pull it off.”

Remove your figure or coloring from the assessment.  Literally click Pin It if the outfit, color or look aesthetically appeals to you.  You can always go back and edit.

If you want to focus your search, then use search terms for something you might need to wear: “work dress,” or “interview suit,” or “cocktail dress.”  Use broad terms rather than style specific or color specific terms because you may have aspects of your style you’ll never catch if you input “green blouses” or “vintage pumps.”  Right?

Now, after you have scrolled and searched and pinned for a half hour to an hour, go back to your board.

What are the commonalities?

Do you have those features in your wardrobe?

What colors, styles, looks, pieces are you drawn to?

I just went back and looked at my style board and found some interesting gaps.

First of all, I have a TON of color in my closet.  More color than not.  But on my board, neutrals dominate.  Particularly blacks and whites.  This really got me to rethink how I shop and how to edit my wardrobe.

Similarly, I pinned a lot of clean lines and narrow lines.  I think because I’m carrying more weight, I’ve shied away from more narrow lines, but if I buy them in my size, they could certainly still work (not tight clothes, narrow lines).

I lean toward the classic, and my wardrobe reflects that sensibility.

This fresh eyes review allows me to assess what I really admire in other’s wardrobes and how to tailor those things that appeal to me in my own purchases (and how to edit of my closet which is coming later this month, prepare yourself!).  This allows you the opportunity to shop without budget and get a better handle on what you like and what you should consider trying on next time you shop!

What IS your style?  How do you customize things to make them unique to you?