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

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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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Disneyworld… this time around with two toddlers!!

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Disneyworld seemed to be our go to trip for quite a few years in the beginning and looking back I think it was the perfect fit for our family.  Disney allowed us to get out and go somewhere with all the conveniences we needed having two little munchkins along for the ride.

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Once again we traveled with our extended family.  I’m not sure if we thought we would not be able to entertain ourselves without more people, thought we needed extra hands with the kids or maybe we just wanted to share in the excitement.  Whatever the reason it definitely made for some fantastic memories and family bonding.

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Maybe it was just for the added entertainment… as I look back at the photos of these little ones at O’hana Restaurant in the Polynesian Resort- ha!  Which by the way is a fantastic dinner served up family style at your table.  Although, there are no characters there is plenty of entertainment… like limbo obviously, maraca parade and Auntie strumming away on her Ukulele.  Plus, did you read above?  They serve you family style meaning they bring you big dishes of food right to your table.  At the end of the day when your poor theme parked feet are aching you won’t even have to get up and take the kids to the buffet line… now that is my kind of restaurant!  Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to my FAVORITE part… dessert is a Bread Pudding a’la mode with an amazing carmel banana drizzle.  YUM!!!  Tip: order the kids the shaved ice in a bucket and keep all that delicious bread pudding for yourself… just make sure you are wearing your stretchy pants 😉

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Rain… rain… what is Orlando without its sudden downpours.  Make sure you pack an umbrella or two.  Or if you are a DVC Member (Disney Vacation Club) they often have umbrellas you can borrow see above.  Too cute!

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This trip we did a lot of exploring on the not so popular attractions (i.e. Innoventions, Shows, Character Greetings etc…).  The munchkins were not fans of waiting in lines for a ride… see below.

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Which brings me to MELTDOWNS… YES!  If you travel with toddlers be prepared for the tears, tantrums and pouting.  Its just going to happen.  But, don’t let that stop you from traveling bc you will miss out on SO many more smiles, giggles and memories that are being made by being together as a family.  Plus, someday you will look back at those pictures and laugh.  So, my advice… why wait.  When a tantrum brews just laugh, snap a pic and move on.  Distraction is key here 😉

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I mean seriously… how cute are they when they are having a good time!!!  I will take the tantrums if I get these moments with them.

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Oh, I almost forget make sure to book your character breakfast when you travel with toddlers as this was a hit.  You will want to make a reservation early here:

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/

We prefer smaller ones in the hotels vs the parks which seem to always be rushed.  The one above is at the Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club Resort.

Disneyland Birthdays

So… Disneyland is always super fun.  But, it is EVEN BETTER on your birthday.  So, when the littles were celebrating turning 2 & 4 we knew where we had to go.  Off to Goofy’s Kitchen we went and then on to the parks.  Ahhhh… look at them so chubby and cute.  Now my oldest is taller then me :O

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Goofy’s Kitchen is a ton of fun for the munchkins for obvious reasons like character visits, tons of food options made with kidlets in mind not to mention music and dancing.  Make sure to remember an autograph book bc the littles really enjoy that 😉

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If you want to continue the birthday magic you can check out some other great options here: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/events-tours/birthdays/

Our kiddos LOVE the mini make your own birthday cake option that most table side restaurants offer.  Don’t forget to get lots of pictures of them with their characters.  Maybe even a few of yourself so you can look back later and think… really… did I have to wear the Mickey hat and shirt.  Insert embarrassed emoji icon here…ugh!!

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And, lastly do NOT forget to get your kiddo their birthday button.  Disney cast members are fantastic about spotting those buttons and going the extra mile to ensure your little munchkin feels super duper special 😉

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