3 Things NOT to do in Bali

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Yes… you read that right!  Bali has about a million ah-mazing things that you absolutely should check out.  In fact you could head on over to Pinterest right now… search Bali and be flooded with the most gorgeous pictures you could imagine.  However… I am warning you there are 3 Things You should NOT to do in Bali.

1.)  Do NOT take bananas into Monkey Forest

Sounds super tempting I know right?  What is cuter than a whole forest full of sweet fluffy monkeys??  Nothing you are thinking.  Well sorry to burst your bubble but think of this forest as a death trap instead.  It is an entire forest full of mischievous monkeys who mean business.  These monkeys have fangs, are willing to fight for their bananas, definitely are NOT afraid of humans… AND they call their homies for back up when you run out of bananas.  Nothing scarier than hearing crazy fanged monkeys swinging from the trees above coming for you and your bananas- AHHHHHH!!!!

2.)  Do NOT be fooled into thinking there is a leisurely bike trail in Bali

We were excited that our hotel (the amazing Alila Ubud) had complimentary bikes so thinking we were fit adventurous people (we really are not) we checked out a couple bikes.  We asked the concierge at the hotel about routes and they confirmed there was a nice easy route for us.  Off we went.  Oh, boy did we learn.  There were so many hills and they were SO STEEP we literally had to walk our bikes up.  We were struggling so bad that several wonderful Balinese people stopped on their motorbikes to make sure we were okay. #embarrassing  I mean we must have looked TERRIBLE!!  Eventually we made it through the hills only to have a sudden downpour come and completely drench us.  So, in Bali just remember that bike rides = big hills + tons of traffic + pouring rain.  We definitely got a little more adventure then we bargained for 😉

3.)  Do NOT go river rafting if you are scared of heights

So, I may or may not be a bit of a wimp (meaning I am the wimpiest person you know).  The first river rafting trip we took in Bali was a class 3 and it was pretty easy.  So, when my hubby found a second course that was also class 3 with just a few spots classified as 4’s I thought “no Big… let’s do this.”  Holy smokes the difference in classes… I was ducking under rocks and cliffs that were nearly scrapping my nose and then we plunged down this insanely steep hill.  My heart skipped a few beats for sure.  So… if you go river rafting (which you should bc its fun) just know you’ve been warned!!

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*In all seriousness Bali was probably one of my favorite trips!!

some may say it was bc it was sans munchkins

 

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Costa Rica- Days 3 & 4

IMG_4100After escaping death by crocodile successfully (read more about that here) we were off and ready to explore all that Guanacaste had to offer.  First stop was a boat tour that was right down the road.  Oddly enough after learning about the crocodiles we were all super intrigued and wanted to see one for ourselves.  (Hey I never claimed to be normal).

There was a boat tour through the estuary where the crocs were supposed to be.  Now… in our heads we were picturing nice big boats that placed the passengers up high and away from harms way but just close enough to be fun.  Well… As we would soon learn Costa Rica has lots more tricks for us up its sleeves.

IMG_4087We walk over to the hotel.  Try to speak our broken Spanish and explain what we are looking for (thank goodness our niece had just returned from a semester in Spain).  The waitress nods and points to the right.  We walk down the path to find a tough looking man with a rickety VERY tiny little boat who gestures for us to all hop in.  We look at each other like “Is this man for real?? Surely we will sink this boat.”  But, he says we will all fit so we laugh and start climbing in.

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As you can see the estuary was beautiful

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But after seeing a ton of trees, water and birds we were starting to think this was a waste of money.  A few minutes after that thought crossed our minds the driver pulls up to a bank.  This is not the start… we were not told we would be making any stops.  What is this guy doing???  He climbs out, pulls up one of the fence posts to create a gap between the barbed wire, whips out a machete from his belt and starts cutting a path.  He looks back and gestures for us to follow.  Reluctantly (stupidly… depends on how you look at it) we follow.  After about two minutes of walking behind our boat driver turned guide as he slashed a trail he tells us to stay and wait.  We watch as the guide disappears into the thick brush in front of us until we can no longer see him.  We all look at each other and realize we are idiots!  IDIOTS!  We are in the middle of who knows where, in a place where crocs are supposed to live and now we are all ALONE!  Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

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After our total freakout (about 5 minutes) we see our guide making his way back through the brush.  We are all assuming he just went to take a pee.  We tell him we were scared and he assured us we were fine and we continued on.  The trail was a bit scary with what looked like snake holes at our feet complete with crab skeletons and mounds of black hair around them.  I was completely freaking out having the kids walk through it all.  Especially, since most of us were in flip flops (again idiots).  But, finally the guide got excited and pointed up.  There were monkeys in the trees.  That is why we were up here.

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We all calmed down and enjoyed watching these monkeys up close in their natural habitat.IMG_3360

After we were done with the monkeys we walked back to our boats and continued on.  Until we heard my oldest munchkin and niece yell “CROCODILE”… we all swing our heads and the driver puts the boat in reverse.  Up on a bank (identical to the one we had just hopped out on to take our monkey stroll) was a baby croc.  Our boat driver wanted to give us a better view so he drove right up to the bank.  Remind you we were literally 4 inches off the water in our rickety old boat.  The croc didn’t appreciate our closeness so he opened his jaw to show us his rows of pointy teeth.

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Our driver can tell we are scared and he thinks its funny.  We tell him to go.. and he laughs and drives closer.  That croc literally jumps in the water… we SCREAM!!!  And, the driver again laughs and then S.L.O.W.L.Y. pulls away from the bank.  Our hearts our racing.  Part of it is excitement… we just saw a live crocodile up close and the other part was complete panic.  The driver had mentioned how baby crocs are often not too far from their mamas.  I couldn’t get that thought out of my head.  “Was mama chasing us?”  Then I took out and notice we are heading right for what looks like the top of a crocs head.  I look around and it seems like everyone is so preoccupied talking about the baby croc that no one sees what I see.  I feel like I have to warn the driver so I point straight head and yell “CROCODILE!!!  CROCODILE!!!… coconut.”  Yes, instead of being the hero and saving our lives from this mama croc I completely made a fool out of myself as it was no croc… just a coconut floating in the estuary (so embarrassing!).  The kids do NOT let me live that down.  It’s been almost a year now and they have all written about the “crocodile, crocodile coconut story” in school and they love to bring it up in random conversations- ha!

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Day 3 we had booked a super fun excursion that included zip-lining, horseback and kayaking.  So, once again I was going to be a stress ball the ENTIRE day- yay!!!  Let me tell you this trip is a lot more fun to blog about than it was to live through.  Mama’s do NOT like watching their babies swing like tarzan across the jungles, kayak through huge boulders and fast moving waters or on top of horses that are spooking.  This trip was some test in trusting my kids and letting go.  But, seriously… how cool are these pics!!!  A trip my kids will never forget for sure and a great bonding experience for our whole family!!!  In case you are wondering we always hop onto tripadvisor and read reviews before we booked places and we gathered pamphlets from the local shops around town.  For the adventure shown we used: Guanacaste Vieja Tours and we LOVED them!  Their guides were great… and funny too.

I was just thankful that all the activities usually ended with some sort of sauna, volcanic mud bath etc…  Mama always needed a good soak by the end of the day.

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I mean seriously… my kids hanging high off the ground… upside down- AHHHH!!!DSC_0042 DSC_0051 

But you know what they say… “If you can’t beat them… Join them!”  So, I did.  That’s me in my pink tank upside down.

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Cuteness Alert!!!

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Do you see the spec in that pic above on the right.  Yes, that is one of my children.  You know… just zipping across a ravine- No big!

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Super cool bridges!!!  My kids are SO lucky!

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Now I LOVE horses and have owned them in my youth so the horseback was something that I thought we be no big deal.  However, these horses were super skinny and not anything like the horses I was used to.  I was nervous with my kids just hopping on and heading out to the trails.  I would not recommend the horseback for begineers as we had several horses spook along the trails.  And, they put my little munchkin on a horse with me.  Just sharing a saddle trying to keep her on and hold the reigns.  I was sweat’n it the WHOLE time.  But, the kids impressed me.  They did great!!!  Next up was kayaking…

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Off we went… it was gorgeous and super fun!!

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We stopped along the way and jumped out.  They let the kids swing into the water off the rope swing.  Another moment I wasn’t sure we would all live through.  The kids just laughed at me and my panicky self.  They LOVED it and the guides assured me they would all be fine.  Then back in the water where things started getting rougher…

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Do you see those pics… yes super cool but leaving through that and watching as the kids boats went in between the rock- AHHHHHHH!!!  Crazy.  They LOVED it though.  One of my favorite pics from that trip is above where the kayak is horizontal on the rocks… I was sure they were going DOWN and there I see my munchkin with a huge smile and flashing his classic “hang loose” hands as I am yelling- “HOLD ON!!!”

Classic!

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Costa Rica Day 1

Costa Rica Day 2

Costa Rica- Day 2

Costa Rica was such a last minute trip… and I think bc it was really my sister’s trip (senior trip!) I didn’t do much planning.  We stayed in Guanacaste Costa Rica and I had some knowledge of a town called Tamirindo that was near by and had restaurants and shops (more touristy area) and I knew there were places that rented horses, kayaks etc…  But, no firm bookings really at all.

Thankfully, Costa Rica was a great place to be with no plans.  We had internet so each night we would plan out the next days adventures.  And, bc we did everything last minute the people kept offering us amazing deals.  It would be like $70 to zipline… or pay $90 and you can horseback, zipline, eat lunch and go to our volcanic baths.  Ummm… who’s going to turn down the later???  Not us.  So, we lived it up the whole time we were there.

But, we did almost not make it past day 1…

The house we rented came with a map that looked like this.  The hubs thought we should take a walk and explore Tamirindo town.  The map said that we could catch a boat over.  So, we checked out the map and headed out for a walk.

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It was a gorgeous walk… but it looked like we were walking through a swamp.  We were all a little creeped out until we finally made it through and found the water.

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It was an absolutely GORGEOUS view!!!

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We saw the boats so after taking some great pics we hopped on for $1 a person USD and off we went.  Except the ride literally only took us across that tiny slip of water you see above.

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We all laughed thinking we had been had… that the $1 must just be for gullable tourists as obviously we could have walked around that slip of water or swam across etc…  So we thought (dun… dun… DUUUUNNNNN…).

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So we took more awesome pics, walked through shops and drank delicious homemade smoothies.  We realized that Costa Rica was not a cheap place to visit as food costs were similar to those in the US.  And, we learned the reason you pay $1 to take the boat across is bc that tiny slip of water is filled with CROCODILES… WHAT???

A store owner explained frantically when she overheard us saying we would swim across that the locals keep trying to get the government to put a sign up to warn tourists about the crocodiles.  We weren’t sure if she was pulling our leg so we started googling it.  Turns out there have been multiple attacks where the crocs have gone after people… dogs etc…  We cancelled the kids surf lessons which were going to be near that part of the water and rented a car so we wouldn’t have to cross that water or walk back through the swamp at dusk- YIKES!

Costa Rica- Day 1

The trip of a lifetime… or a trip you will need a vacation from once your done.  Depends on who you ask- ha!  If you ask any of my munchkins what their favorite family vacation was the response will unanimously be- COSTA RICA!!!!  Which is amazing bc we can’t get them to agree on anything… EVER.

It all started when my little sister decided she wanted to go somewhere different for her senior trip.  I suggested Costa Rica because 1) It was somewhere different 2) It was affordable and 3) the flights weren’t that long.  Little did I know that the trip would be the hardest trip of my life.  And, simultaneously everyone else’s best trip E.V.E.R.

Why?  Well… this trip was daunting every day.  Think of your kids boating in lakes full of live crocodiles, on horses, flipping over in kayaks, zip-lining upside down, zip-lining in thunderstorms, driving in the rain up and down super steep cliffs, near live volcanoes… need I say more?  I mean the list could go on and on.  Costa Rica is definitely NOT for the faint of heart (me).  I literally woke up EVERY morning praying we would all live… and went to bed every night thanking God for letting us all live.  It was EXHAUSTING!

However… with all that said after the trip was over and looking back.  It was an extraordinary vacation.  We learned so much together, experienced so many new things together and we definitely bonded a bunch too.  It is something I wouldn’t change and I actually think the next time around I would relax and have a lot more fun.

Let’s get to the fun stuff…

Day 1:

We rented a house through VRBO for the first time and it was a fantastic experience.  Super cool way to hang out together since we went with my mom, sister, two nieces, my brother and his wife plus all the kids except the baby.  We paid a little extra to have our maid also make us breakfast.  It was SO cool to wake up in this gorgeous tropical place, listening to the birds and monkeys.  I’d head out take a dip in the lap pool and then come in to the kitchen and see this yummy spread of homemade food and fresh squeezed juice to kick off the day’s adventures.  Some days as noted below I just went and hung out in my pj’s… I LOVED that backyard!!

I had to throw that pic of one of my munchkins in with the glasses- he’s too cool!

I loved all the wildlife the kids could explore right at the house.  We had tons of lizards, crabs and butterfly’s.  Huge iguana’s and we could hear the monkey’s although we were never up early enough to see them.  The house also had all the comforts of home, a little market, restaurant and ice cream hut right next door.    The kids wasted no time hopping up at the ice cream bar the night we arrived 😉

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to be continued…

Dubai with a Munchkin… Day 1

Our first real “adventurous” type trip with our munchkins was to Dubai.  It was a crazy emotional trip bc we were on our way to meet and bring home one of our son’s who was born in Ethiopia.  At that time we already had three biological munchkins and with such a long trip my mama heart just couldn’t bear leaving them all.  So, like any super crazy wise parent would do we decided we would take the oldest along for the journey.  And, boy what a journey it was.

There were no direct flights into Ethiopia so we took a flight that had a layover in Dubai.  We figured we would stay a few nights to help catch up with the jet lag before meeting our son and beginning that emotional journey.  I was so glad that we made that choice as Dubai was a really amazing place to explore.

Here is us getting ready to go.  I used to be SO scared of flying so the 16 hour flight had my nerves in a tizzy 😉  All that luggage was mostly donations for the orphanage our son was from… I know you what you were thinking’ “That women is CRA-zay to lug all those suitcases and tubs half way across the world with her.”  But, see now you can just chill.

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The flight went surprisingly well.  We flew Emirates and they took great care of us.  They had a wonderful complimentary kids entertainment backpack filled with goodies that kept my munchkin happy and I remember feeling like they were serving us food, beverages and snacks constantly.  I highly recommend flying with them.

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Next up we arrived at our hotel- The Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai we were in a rush when we booked the hotel (in adoption you are so focused on the child and getting all of the legal work done when you pass court you realize that you should have booked your trip weeks ago) so we weren’t really sure what we were going to get.  My hubby’s dad had points that could be transferred to this Jumeirah Beach Hotel so that is where we ended up.  Little did we know what a fantastic choice that was.  We arrived in the room all haggard after our flight.  We walked towards the window to check out our view and low and behold there was the Burj Al Arab Hotel– the symbol of modern Dubai right in front of us.  SO cool!!!  Do you know it has a helicopter pad… optional chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.  I mean that place is the pinnacle of luxury.  It was amazing just to look at it to be honest.  And, super fun to take pics in front of- ha!!

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I am not sure why they had these camel statues all around Dubai… looked like some sort of art display as they were all uniquely painted.  Something else we weren’t sure of was what was up with breakfast.  We had trouble finding any restaurants open early for a traditional American timed breakfast (8-11am).  What we did notice was that the buffet lines mid morning/ early afternoon were C.R.A.Z.Y. so I am thinking that must be the thing to do.  We were there for such a limited time though that we didn’t make it to any.  Plus, you could pay about $75 USD to eat a buffet breakfast/ lunch or $75 USD to go on a Dune Ride, Camel Ride and Dinner Show.  So, we chose the later.  The pic below was us ALONE at a restaurant (the entire time we were there we didn’t even see another guest in the restaurant or walking around) catering to I am thinking only American guests who wanted to eat earlier than the buffet that most were attending.  The hubs and my munchkin in the ocean in front of the hotel.  And, yes!  I allowed my munchkin who almost never is allowed any fast food let alone McDonalds… to get a happy meal (ahhh!!!  Don’t tell anyone) but he loved seeing their Arabic writing on his little happy meal box.  It’s the little things when it comes to kids- ha!

Burj Al Hotel- eh… whatever mom (insert eye rolls)!

McDonald’s in a different language- B.E.S.T. T.H.I.N.G. E.V.E.R.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Did I mention they have INSANELY HUGE malls… so big they can fit an entire ski slope with chair lifts in it.  Snow in the desert… it’s crazy cool!!

Our hotel also had a water park (Wild Wadi Waterpark) which was super cool.  And, in case you are wondering bikini’s are fine for westerners on hotel property.  I had read conflicting things about dressing in Dubai before we left.  It seems like you should dress conservative (cover shoulders, nothing too short, don’t show tummy) around town and hotel property your pretty safe in whatever.

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I loved the gorgeous mall right across from our hotel.

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We used Arabian Adventures while in Dubai for a sunset Dunes Tour, Dinner & Show and I cannot say enough good things about this company.  They are amazingly prepared and all of their equipment is top notch.  Every employee tried to ensure you were having the time of your life.  They were funny, spoke excellent English and were so concerned with your happiness.  It was the highlight of our trip for sure!!

Even the camels were amazing.  They were super friendly and their caretakers actually live with the animals so it was amazing to see that connection firsthand.  I don’t recommend sitting in the third row seats as my hubs and munchkin felt sick after the dunes.  But, otherwise I think you should be fine!

The dinner was SO cool.  They had all sort of amazing dishes set up buffet style.  I felt as if I walked onto a movie lot… there is nothing but your camp, the sand and the stars.  SO… SO… SO… incredible!!!!

They had henna tattoo artists which the munchkin was all over.  His first choice was a butterfly… until he realized that might be a tad feminine.  He went back for a scorpian- ha!  And, the traditional belly dancer was fun to watch too.

I would love to go back to Dubai someday as it was such an amazing experience.  I don’t think we were there long enough to capture all it had to offer.

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24 Hours in Singapore (without munchkins)

For our 10th anniversary hubby and I took an amazing trip across the seas to Bali without any munchkins.  Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!  I can just see the mist over the rainforest, the monkeys swinging from the vines, the smell of delicious coffee and the warmth of the Balinese people.  Such an amazing destination.

But, this post is not about Bali…. its actually about our trip to Singapore.  Let me explain…  our trip to Bali took us through Singapore.  The only thing I knew about Singapore was that chewing gum was illegal bc they wanted to keep the country super clean.  And, that they were full of new money.  So, on the way home we decided to delay our flight and go explore this country we knew very little about.  We only had 24 hours… I felt like we were on the amazing race- ha!!

We checked into the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the first thing I noticed was how amazing our view was.

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Look at the hotel’s shoppes (mall)

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The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands reminded me a lot of the malls we saw in Dubai.  It was H.U.G.E and had just about every store you could think of and E.V.E.R.Y. type of cuisine.  The funny thing is that I remember going to a pizza place bc we had eaten so much exotic food in Bali we were craving some comfort food from home (funny how food is like that).  Next up was the hotel’s Art Science Museum… across from that was the Merlion Statue and a gorgeous Louis Vuitton store.  Aren’t those flowers gorgeous.  I remember it being super overcast and just loving the vivid color of those flowers.

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The Singapore Flyer looked terrifying like a lot of fun.  However, we had such a short amount of time we only were able to snap a pic.  We weren’t able to ride it.  In hindsight we really should have tried it out.   Oh, well next time.  Learn more here- http://www.singaporeflyer.com/

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I read that Chinatown (click here)  was fun and so we headed there next.  The funny thing is now my parents are living in Shanghai.  I haven’t had the chance to visit them so I guess this is as close as I got to knowing my parents future culture/ home.  So weird.  I’ll have to ask my mom if she’s tried any jarred octopus.  I’m usually all about “When in Rome” but this was too much for me.IMG_8676

Crocodile oil… I have no idea what they use that for??

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We hit up the camera shop and picked up some goodies at fantastic prices.  The picture below was taken by the camera store owner.  He was the sweetest guy.  He was trying to teach us how to use our camera.

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Then back to our gorgeous hotel.  The whole reason we booked it was for this amazing infinity edge rooftop pool.  It was SO cool!!!  I highly recommend staying there!!! (Highly… ha that’s funny!  Get it… bc we were up so high in that pool.  Okay I am not great with jokes.  Whatever!).DSCN0220

That view….STUNNING!!!

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IMG_8718And, that was it.  We closed the night disgustingly full after eating some of the most amazing desserts and talking over yummy coffee looking at this view.  It was a SPLENDID 24 hours!!!

EUROPE!!!!!

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We have been very adventurous with and without the kids when it comes to vacation choices lately.  Bali… Costa Rica.  Ziplining, River Rafting… it’s one thing when I do it because I fear for my own life and assume I will die BUT even worse watching my kids upside down on ziplines and being fearless in kayaks -AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!  I think I woke up every day in Costa Rica thinking we were going to die, took a breathe of relief each night just bc we made it through only to wake up and repeat the cycle the next day.  EXHAUSTING!

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So… to get to my point.  Last night hubby and I were talking and he agreed to take me to EUROPE (I’ve never been) AND we are taking two of our munchkins with us (listen carefully you might hear me doing my happy dance- cabbage patch and running man included!).  And, we are thinking of leaving next month.  I am SO excited!!!!!

Why only take some munchkins?  Well I have a theory on this.  We have a very large family- 5 kids!!  And, while in theory it sounds great to always be in perfect harmony it is not very realistic.  So, I think it is very healthy to split the group up occasionally and give two kids our undivided attention, allow them to bond as siblings even more and maybe most importantly it gives me and the hubby a much needed break.  Two kids feels like nothing when you don’t have the baby and you are used to FIVE… catch my drift?  Plus, I have the world’s most amazing and compassionate mother who will come and watch and love on my other 3 munchkins while I am away.  Nothing better than some extra loving from Nana.  No munchkins will complain about that.  She spoils them silly 😉

So, miss Belle and Captain Funny are coming.  They don’t know it yet and I cannot wait to tell them.  Let the vacation planning begin!

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