Posts Tagged: vacation

May 13

Hawaii 2013

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Nov 11

Disneyland 2011

It is a lucky child, I’ve decided, who gets to go the Happiest Place on Earth on their birthday. Particularly if they get to dictate the day. Which, in our case, meant lots and lots of character and princess Meet and Greets. It was a fabulous day.

Jul 11

When Mama is away……

Daddy and Anna will play. Anna told everyone, for weeks, that when Mama was gone on her trip (I just went away for four days with my sister, to Palm Desert), she and Daddy would have “no rules! And eat ice cream and popcorn and candy and chocolate ALL DAY! And watch movies! And have no bedtime! And not wash hair!”

Coming home, it is evident that this was not totally the case, but they did have fun. Anna told me so. She also, diplomatically, told me that she loved being with Daddy and being with Mommy JUST the same because she loves us both SO much. Whew.

I had a fantastic time with my sister. The weather was remarkably not insanely hot (!) and we got to do all sorts of crazy things like go out to the movies (Bridesmaids. Awesome movie) without children, go hiking without children, sleep without fearing being woken by children, swim without children, shower without children, drive in the car without children, shop without children, and go to a spa (without children, naturally). Do you sense a theme?

It is crazy that it is possible to love our little girls SO much and yet be SO relieved to have just a handful of child-free days. We got to talk and talk and talk and never once were we interrupted to wipe a butt. It was great. I even awoke cheerfully at 7 am each morning, well rested because I had not once been called in to investigate the monster status of a bedroom in the middle of the night. The only downside is the bit of melancholy I always feel after such trips, where I feel so acutely the longing to live near enough to my sister to see her every single day. I wouldn’t trade our relationship for anything.

How many of you guess that I came home to a perfectly tidy house? You would be wrong. Just kidding. Actually, it was incredibly clean (even though Adam did jokingly text me last night that he should have scheduled the housecleaners to come through this morning to clean up the disaster), though Anna put away stuff in her room last night. And by “put away” I mean shove dirty clothes under her chair, baby toys in with her stuffed animals, and little blocks and books and Polly Pockets in with her dress up clothes. That’ll take a while to sort out, but I really can’t blame Adam for delegating the clean-up responsibility. That was a stellar move.

I’ve wondered if the differences between my personality and Adam’s personality is ever any more evident than in the differences between us when the other one is out of town and we are in charge. When Adam is gone, Anna and I become recluses. We hang out at home. We have easy, simple dinners, things like grilled cheese sandwiches and, Anna’s favorite, “cheesy, buttery pasta!” When I am gone, Adam calls all of our friends and proceeds to cook for all of them, every day, all day long, the most complicated meals he knows, things that need to cook or braise or smoke all day long and that take finicky ingredients. Personality meter? Who knows. I do like people…..I just prefer to conserve my energy when I am having the single parent gig, I suppose.

Anna seems well fed and sufficiently clean. The dog and cat are still alive. I got to spend several days with my sister, hiking* and eating and drinking and talking and spa-ing (massaaaaaaage so gooooooood). I really can’t complain.

*P.S. Every single person I spoke to before I went on my trip, upon finding out where we were going, told me that we HAD to take the aerial tramway out of Palm Springs. I repeat, HAD TO. Even Adam (who I didn’t know had even ever gone to Palm Springs without me in over 14 years, except for maybe that one business trip he took and then wasn’t he supposed to be, like, going to a conference or something, not taking aerial tramways to enjoy the views?). So we did. And it did not disappoint because we went from barren desert to piney forest hiking in 10 minutes and that is pretty darn cool. Do it. You HAVE TO.

Jun 11


Right before we leave I am always a mess. The house is a disaster zone: there are assorted piles of sleeping bags and propane and camp mugs. I have lists and I am baking cookies and I am yelling and frantic.

And then we get in the car and drive away and it all melts away. When your whole world is reduced to what you can fit into your car (or, even better, on your back), when the sounds that you concentrate on are a gurgling stream and the wind and the birds, when the kids are content to dig in the dirt and run around like little wild animals? That right there is perfection. There is no more worry except “when should we start the s’mores?”

The whole world reduces to the crackling of the flames on the logs, the million stars in the sky, the flask of liquid fire passed from gloved hand to gloved hand as we laugh and eat burnt marshmallows and talk. Oh, I love it.

May 11


Pretty in Pink

Anna was in love with the cruise ship decor. She exclaimed, over and over, “This place is SO FANCY! I LOVE this ship! It is so FANCY and PRETTY and PINK, don’t you think so, Mommy?”

I would moan and clutch my eyeballs. Let’s just say I was relieved to come home to the soothing palette of our home environs. We are not fancy. Well, Anna is fancy but our home is more about wood tones and calming pastels and lots of off white.

Then again, I can’t get a cocktail put in my hand with a snap of my fingers here like I could on the ship. Adam doesn’t like it when I snap my fingers at him.

May 11

A day in Puerto Vallarta

A dozen or so (13?) years ago, Adam and I went on a cruise to Mexico. We were newlyweds. We were mere babes! Infants, really! We looked like this:

Circa 1998 (?), Adam and Jen in Puerto Vallerta

A few grey hairs and wrinkles and a child later, we returned to the very same city that the last picture was taken (we’ve been back to Mexico in the interim, just not back to Puerto Vallarta until this year).

It was just as I remembered…..

….sort of. Plus a few more high-rise hotels. Okay, a LOT more high-rise hotels.

But there was still all of this, all of this crazy beautiful, color saturated, flavor-explosive everything:

Adam loves street foods. Pictured here: ceviche and shrimp tostadas

The markets are just as I remember them, the sellers just as loudly persistent

Look familiar, Santa Barbarans?

The colors!

Yet more street food.

Blurry, yes, but I put this here because it features Mexican militia armed with AK47s. You don't see that around our neck of the woods.

I love this: Adam eating a street taco in the background, Anna looking surly in the foreground, and the S-curve, neverending, of the sidewalk all down the middle

Skipping down the street

Ice cold beer. Oh, yeah.

This is what I look like, un-retouched, after sweating all morning while walking around town. This is my special treat to you: my unmade-up face. You are welcome.

I've never seen a prouder girl than her, after she handed over her pesos for this fan, whispering "gracias" to the cashier. Made my heart swell with pride.

Until next time, Puerto Vallarta!

May 11

What IS it?

Are all of you out there familiar with the towel animal phenomenon? Is this just a Carnival Cruise Lines thing? (We’ve been on other cruise lines and I don’t remember). Anyway. Every night when we came back from dinner there would be three chocolate mints and an animal of some sort, made out of folded towels. It was one of the highlights of the trip, for Anna, I’m pretty sure. She would squeal with delight as she would call out (she insisted on being the first in the room, of course, so that she could be the first to lay eyes on the creature), “It’s a MONKEY!!!” or “IT’s an ELEPHANT!” Or whatever.

But one night she went in the room and squealed and then went silent.

“What is it?” we asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, suspiciously. Adam and I came around her so that we could get a closer look. “You tell me,” she said, “What IS it?”

“Hmmm,” said Adam.

“Yeah….ummm…” I replied.

You tell ME. What IS it?

May 11


This has been such a crazy month. And I know that it is absolutely absurd to complain about VACATION, Oh, moan, All that VACATION that we’ve been taking because if that isn’t the height of Snootypants McLeisure, I don’t know what is, but…..VACATION! Moan, complain, excessive sighs of relief to be back home and back to normal! There. It’s true.

Watching "Tangled" on the big screen, poolside

Part of the thing about vacationing, as parents of a small child, WITH said small child, is that it isn’t “vacation” per se. It is more like…..taking your job on a road trip. If your job requires dealing with poop and demands to be fed every two hours and whines a lot and maybe, occasionally tries to bite you.

We have had our superadorablethisisawesome! moments. We have also had our OMGwhatwerewethinking moments. And also our thistotallysuckswhydidn’twejuststayhome moments.

The cruise… was like that a lot. It was a schizophrenic trip. Back when we were planning (again, we had Spain all planned and then….Hello, Adam’s company trip! Four days after a long international trip!), it sounded so great to go as a family. There were hard times (how could there not be? We were traveling with the Tiny Dictator!). And there were, for sure, things that worked. Things that were awesome:

Ice cream, 24 hours a day. Sweet.
Cereal in those mini-boxes (wait….why are all of these food related?)
swimming pool (when it wasn’t too frigidly cold)
hot tub
waiters that bring you anything you want.
movies on the big screen. Outside. With free popcorn.
and, MOST OF ALL: Camp Carnival.

Camp Carnival is Carnival Cruise Line’s child care service (free from about 10 am until 10 pm) and it is BRILLIANT. Anna was absolutely in LOVE with Camp Carnival. It was the first thing she wanted to do in the morning (well, after her mini-box of cereal) and the last thing she wanted to do at night which THANK GOODNESS meant that we didn’t have to have a replay of our first two evenings on the ship the entire trip (our attempt to get Anna to buck up like a big girl and eat dinner at the late seating–8:15–in the dining room, along with the adults. Like a family! C’mon, it’ll be fun!) which began with whining, escalated to angry yelling, and ended with unceremonious, fast departures from the grown-up dining room to BED. After the first two nights we decided that the idea of family dinner was perhaps over-rated and gave in to Anna’s request to pleasepleaseplease let her eat dinner with her new friends at CAMP CARNIVAL please MOM, please??!?!?! And, lo, there was much rejoicing. Adam and I got a date (sort of. With Adam’s co-workers. Good thing we like them). Anna got to be with her friends and eat the worst sort of kiddie junk food (pizza, hot dogs, french fries, chicken nuggets, jello, mac ‘n’ cheese, and the like….sigh, I know) and NOT have to sit at grown-up (BORING) late (“I’m TOO TIIIIIIIIIRED!!!!”) dinner.

I loved watching Anna play her first round of miniature golf on the ship (her strategy: always go first, use the putter as a kind of tool for scooping the ball along towards the hole, then put your FOOT over the hole so that no one else can get their ball in after you have locked in your victory). I loved watching her swim and jump in the pool like a crazy lunatic monkey. I loved hearing her calling out to her new friends from the Camp and then proudly proclaim, “I know that kid! She’s my NEW friend!” I loved letting her pick out her own souvenir in Mexico (a paper fan) and pay for it herself. I love her excitement over the towel animal left on our beds at the end of the day.

But, lordy lordy lordy. I am tired. I am glad to be home. Enough with the vacation, already. I’m ready for a vacation from my vacation. Now….where’s my pina colada?

Mar 11

Girls’ Weekend: The Mama Perspective

So, you have to know that, in general, our (the girls, that is) saying is “What happens during girls’ weekend, stays in girls’ weekend,” but I can tell you this: I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. And, I will proudly share with you, my reading public, (and I can only share this because it is ME and not anyone else; I cannot share who won in other “categories,” nor can I share just what, exactly, those categories were, but suffice it to say that they were all immensely humorous) that I, Jennifer Johnson Gray, won FIRST PLACE for MOST UGLY CHILDHOOD PHOTO (we all brought baby, childhood, high school, and college pictures). I am so proud. I will not divulge the runner-up. Let’s just say that us Mamas all learned a valuable lesson here: it is ALL about the hair. And feathered bangs a la Farrah Fawcett on a 10 year old who has gappy teeth and a mullet in the back, who is wearing a pink jumper and who is put into a terribly funny and awkward pose by the Sears Photography studio is….oh hell. It is just not good. But it is funny.

We laughed. We sat by the pool. We went to the spa. We laughed. We ate (lots). We laughed. We learned more about each other and, in the process, grew closer. We laughed.

We are already planning our next trip.

We love our babies. We love our husbands. But sometimes Mamas need to get away and just….be. And laugh.

Feb 11

My two loves

Chillin' in Mammoth

Aren’t they cute?!?!?!