Category Archives: travel

Great (vacation) expectations

I just wanted a weekend away. We’d been working on our house nonstop to get it ready to list when the first signs of Spring hit. I had visions of heading south, sunshine and relaxation with my family. I’m allowed these kinds of expectations, right?

But, as it works out – no matter how far in advance we I plan, pack our color coordinated outfits, cross off lists, clean the house , we end up like this.

Or this …

Or this … minus the short-shorts (until he sees the sun, Matt’s legs more closely resemble Ellen’s).

I wish I could blame the kids. Their sudden need to pack every toy they own (for, in this case, a four hour car ride), inability to do anything with their trash other than hand it to me or drop it into the depths of the third row seat cracks, and kid-popular ‘are we there yets?’ haven’t made traveling easier, but it’s not entirely their fault.

You see, there was the time Matt brought the cooler full of 50 pounds of green beans he was supposed to deliver instead of our food; the time we got locked out of our bank account 1000 miles away, ran out of cash and proceeded to blow past every toll in New York figuring we would pay online later like you can in Chicago. It was a good plan until we got a fine, on top of the $20 per incident fines from the rental car company. There was the time all of Matt’s clean underwear got peed on by the stray cat that accidentally tagged along all the way to South Dakota. One time, we left the water running while in a hurry to leave. It was 2012, the year of the biggest drought Indiana has ever known. We once got lost on an access road literally one mile from the airport and I missed my flight.

I may have memorized Clark Griswold’s speech by now.

“This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fun we’re going to need plastic surgery to remove our smiles.” (the clean version)

The damage this time? I had the kids swim in their underwear and a T-shirt thinking I had left their swimwear behind until I found it the moment we returned to the room. Also, the very expensive mirror our son yanked off the wall. That was damaged too.

But hey, at least no one was fighting over who has to sit next to Aunt Edna.

A few weeks have passed, and I’m ready to hit the road again, full of great vacation expectations once again. But instead, I should probably go make some freezer meals and smell diapers or whatever else it is I should be doing for baby prep!

A few highlights of our trip to Lexington:

the sea of galilee & golan heights {israel travel}

In case you’re still hanging with me, I’m chronicling our trip to Israel from January … still! A quick trip for 3/5 of us to Florida to visit my sister, sick kids, sick mom, kidney stones, heading towards the final stretch of pregnancy, a ridiculously warm February, getting our house ready to put on the market and talking with sellers, builders, realtors, drywallers, a painter, electricians and my husband many, many times about whether or not we should move (still ongoing …) have all happened in the last 30 days. And I have a feeling life isn’t about to slow down.

I left off at the beginning of our trip, with our arrival in Tel Aviv and a stop at Caesarea. Afterwards, we headed on to the city of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Leaving Tel Aviv for the lake was like going from New York City to small town Indiana. Quiet. Tranquil. Stunning.

 In Mark, he talks about Jesus’ travels through Galilee.

‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’

And I can see why. I’m not a morning person, but sitting out on the balcony watching the fishermen do their thing was so worth getting up for.

Afterwards, we got in the tour bus and headed for a small artist’s colony in Safed – a little town full of cobblestone streets and shops. The bread in Israel is fresh and so, so good.   

We kept going to the northern tip of Israel, along the Syrian border to the Golan Heights. 

This is the highest point in Israel. In fact, we saw a little snow. In recent times, Israel has only occupied the Heights since 1967 after the Six Day War. We could actually hear Syrian military exercises from where we stood. Maybe that should have been a little crazier to me, but the whole area was really kind of peaceful. In the midst of abandoned minefields from past land conflicts, there is lots of agriculture, and in the Spring, I hear they have the most gorgeous wildflower fields.

We learned that Israelis are pretty carefree. A waitress we had later in the week in Jerusalem grew up in the Gaza Strip and talked about a missile landing IN HER HOUSE like I would talk about a water leak … just a slight nuisance. Maybe they just cannot afford to have the false sense of security we grow up with in America. There’s something about their spirit that gave me an attachment to the country.

On the way home, our guide stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes – the place where Jesus probably preached his most famous sermon.

Until he spoke those words, many people believed if you were sick, poor or otherwise down on your luck, you were unworthy. Imagine how his words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek,” revolutionized how they thought about Jesus’ love.

tel aviv & caesarea {israel travel}


Our first ‘day’ of our Israel trip consisted of a 10.5 hour flight, four hour layover in Jordan and a short 25 minute flight to Tel Aviv. By the time we arrived in Israel, it was dark there and we had (mostly) lost a night of sleep to bad airplane movies (Space Jam??) and even worse airline food. I was never so happy to see a Starbucks when we landed in Jordan, and the guys found a McDonald’s. Such American tourists we are.

After a short but good night’s sleep, we woke up to this gorgeous view of the Mediterranean we had no idea was right outside our hotel window.

We then got acquainted with the group we were part of and our tour guide over breakfast. The Israeli diet doesn’t consist of anything terribly unusual. They have similar foods to us, only more fresh bread, vegetables and fruits, and less meat and dairy. And when I say more vegetables, I mean they serve salad with every meal … including breakfast. While all of the fresh food was an amazing change to the lack of winter options here; I will admit, I haven’t touched salad since we got home a week ago.

Next, we headed out to explore Tel Aviv and it’s sister port city of Jaffa. We only had a few hours here and hardly scratched the surface of seeing this vibrant, young and busy city.

Isn’t this gorgeous? Even though it is their winter, there was still plenty of green, palm trees and flowers, in addition to all of the agriculture we would see as we drove different places.

In the afternoon, we stopped for some more authentic Israeli food and continued on to Caesarea. Caesarea was an ancient port city built by Herod the Great to serve as a link to the Roman Empire. It took 12 years for the initial grandeur to be built, but then it was conquered and rebuilt … only to be destroyed and have the cycle repeated by the next dominant power.

Here, historians have found the only archaeological mention of Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor who ordered Jesus to be crucified. The port later served as the apostle Paul’s point of landing on his evangelistic journeys; and Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity, heard and believed the gospel here.

Today, a national park preserves much of the ruins and evidence of ancient cultures that came and went. I think that is what struck me the most about Caesarea and other ruins we visited: people spent their lives building what they perceived to be magnificent, only to have it demolished by their enemies who would do the same. It was a poignant reminder to me to be intentional about what I am building my life on.

Much more to come!

shalom {israel travel}

Shalom. Hello, goodbye, a peace greeting.

We just returned from the Holy Land. Matt has always wanted to go to Israel, and I told him not until the kids were grown. And then along came a Groupon deal, and next thing you know, I was the one suggesting we go (thanks to our awesome parents who watched the kiddos for the week). So we packed up our bags and headed very, very east with our best friends for a week.

We walked where Jesus spent his life. We watched the sunrise at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm. We saw historical relics pointing to King Herod, Pontius Pilot and lots of fascinating Jewish history. When we got out of the hotel, we experienced a lot of good, local food: falafels, Jerusalem bagels pomegranate juice, and more. We watched the entire city of Jerusalem shut down before our eyes on Shabbat – the Jewish sabbath.

I’m still processing all I saw and took in and in what ways it will affect me. But after 30 hours of a hotel shuttle, two flights, a delay and car ride home, I’m enjoying some cuddles with my babies today. More to come!


grand teton national park {travel}

Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times. – Asian Proverb

I struggle to put in to words the beauty of the mountains. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the Rockies, but they take my breath away every time. This is lock screen on my computer right now, and I always have to remember I was there and it’s not just a stock photo.dsc_0044-1024x681

This was actually maybe 50 yards from our campsite on Jackson Lake. We went on walks, played at the secluded beach and had campfires in the mornings and evenings.

During the days, we hiked. I was confused when I opened the trail map. Not only did we have to drive several miles to the trailhead, but the shortest hike I could find listed was seven miles. Did I mention we have three small children?

So we did some walking and turning around. At Jenny Lake, we found a shuttle boat  that took you back to the trailhead after three miles. At one point, Matt was carrying two kids plus a CamelBak that had to weigh 25 pounds.

dsc_0105-1-1024x681She likes to take normal pictures.

Like most moms, I’m the designated family photographer (plus, a camera is lighter than two kids and a CamelBak full of water). I’m not in many pictures, but our oldest did want to test her photography skills and document that I was along for the ride, too.

dsc_0406-1024x681Because everyone loves a good disco pose and photos of themselves after camping for three days without showering. 

Our trip culminated with rides for our horse-loving girls.

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Matt and I fell in love with this song by Jess Ray when we were planning this trip.

I am headed for the hills,
I’m headed for the mountainland.
Somewhere I can breathe again,
In the air of heaven.
Somewhere I can see for miles,
standing underneath the stars.
See how small I really am,
and how big you really are.

This song will forever be our ‘camping song’ and give me all the warm fuzzy memories of the beautiful Teton range.

yellowstone national park {travel}

Geysers that spew 100+ feet in the air, vibrant colors, abundant wildlife, and people who act like they’ve never driven before – that’s Yellowstone in a nutshell.

I feel like YNP got the shaft from us because we stayed in the less-crowded, more mountainous Tetons. We knew going in that Grand Teton National Park would be our favorite, and is was. But that’s not to say that our day trip to Yellowstone was anything short of spectacular. DSC_0433Old Faithful putting on a show. We actually got ‘rained on,’ as the girls say, by the geyser because of the way the wind was blowing.

DSC_0426The sweetest boys in the world. Love them.

DSC_0070 (1)A girl and her bear pillow she takes everywhere – overlooking Yellowstone Lake and an area barren from a fire. 

DSC_0057 (1)Obligatory ‘Yellowstone Naonal K’ picture. 

There was just no way to see all Yellowstone had to offer. For the day we spent here, we saw bison, bear, pronghorn, bubbling springs, shooting geysers, lakes, waterfalls, and more.

cody, wy {travel}

Oldest baby girl off to kindergarten {check}. Tomatoes canned {check}. Olympic obesession put to rest {check – tear}. Two workouts completed in effort to compensate for sitting in the chair eating chocolate while watching the Olympics {check – and it’s only Tuesday!}.

I can now officially resume my life. And my blogging (You’re welcome. Hi, Mom!)

I last left off with our Great American roadtrip recap in Mount Rushmore. From there, we traversed the Big Horn Mountains. I suggested the trusty, safe ole interstate, but my safety-adverse husband thought nothing screams ‘adventure’ like taking a camper through some pretty significant hills and downgrades. At least until we hit 5000 RPMS going up, wondering why we were barely moving. We were committed at that point, but luckily the terrain evened out pretty quickly. Even so, we had to make a few stops to let the Suburban rest, which wasn’t a bad thing when you can still hear your children asking questions about the destination, despite the construction worker earplugs you’re sporting.

Once we made it to our destination of Cody, Wy., we set up camp, found a playground for the kids to run around, and visited the Smithsonian’s Buffalo Bill Museum of the West. Matt and I are kind of history nerds. We spent our first anniversary in D.C. visiting all of the historical sights. But we also wanted to take the girls because they’ve been interested in Native American history. Ever since I took them arrowhead hunting in our field this Spring, they always ask about what things were like when ‘the Americans’ were here.

That being said, after a while, they were bored with some of the traditional exhibits, so we took them to the drawing studio and the interactive teppee area. Everything was top-notch, and one could easily spend the whole day there.


Cody was a great little (large, for Wyoming) town with plenty to do. I’m glad we stopped to get off the road and recharge before heading to Yellowstone.

Mount Rushmore is somewhere I’ve always wanted to see, but other than the Badlands (which we just saw from the interstate, and I’m sure would be fun to explore more), there isn’t a whole lot else to do in the area. So when we started mapping our trip itinerary, it worked out great as a stop to break up our drive further west. After two days in the car, we were ready to stretch our legs.

DSC_0057 (2)The girls and I had watched a few documentaries about why the presidents were chosen and how the mountain was carved. My sister also lived in North Dakota for a while and sent them a Mount Rushmore puzzle from her visit, so they were familiar with it. So the whole trip they were asking when we would get to see ‘the presidents.’

Although I thought we would be able to get a little closer to the actual carvings, Mount Rushmore did not disappoint. There was something special about staring into the faces that sculpted our nation, and world, really, as we know it today.

Times were harder back then. Thomas Jefferson and his wife had six children, and only two of them survived to adulthood. This was one of those times I hope the kiddos look back on and remember something about being grateful for their heritage.

We also had the park nearly to ourselves in the morning – that made it all the more special.

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our great american roadtrip {travel}

We’ve been traveling.

3,400 miles over ten days with three children, ages five and under, and a camper, to be exact. We’re home, and we survived! Well, except for the mean stowaway kitten we left in the parking lot of the Corn Palace in South Dakota.

Two new tires, a few tense moments, ear plugs meant for sleeping that came in handy for parents in the car. Swearing we were going to be ‘old fashioned’ and not use GPS, until we needed GPS. Getting rained on by Old Faithful, hiking with no one else in sight, learning about a way of life almost forgotten, driving through a forest fire, taking two hours to get down a 20-mile ‘Four wheel drive required’ gravel rock stretch of road path.

We already miss the mountains. We’re still overwhelmed with the beauty and grandeur … and vastness … of the West. And really, the beauty of coming back home, too – especially at 6 a.m. after two straight 15-hour road days.

More details to come on:
Mount Rushmore
Cody, Wy.
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Stops along the way
Traveling/camping with kids

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite memories.