The best thing about traveling with our boys is that no matter where we go together everywhere feels a little bit like home. Are there inevitable hard parts when traveling in a party of six? Sure, but those parts rarely outweigh the good parts.

As I have mentioned before Ryan and I booked this trip knowing it might not be as easy as past family trips but almost as soon as we hoped off the plane we were incredibly surprised by just how accommodating New York city could be. When we reached our apartment in Harlem I was delighted with it’s spaciousness and the family friendly vibe of the neighborhood. Being walking distance to some of the most incredible soul food restaurants in the United States was pretty awesome too! I was impressed with how comfortable my northern California country boys were on the subway and how they even thought the quiet rumble of it rushing underneath our apartment was a soothing sound at night. Our experience with New Yorkers themselves was also wonderful! Not once were we given frustrated looks as we fumbled our way in and out of the subway or when we accidentally took over a busy sidewalk with a stroller and three other slower moving kids. People were helpful, kind and even complimentary to our sometimes overwhelming family. I also noticed the huge sense of community New Yorkers have with one another. This city has been through a lot in the last ten years and the pride and resilience of it’s residents could be seen/felt everywhere we looked.

We did a lot with our five days in the city! We took the boys to their first Broadway musical (The Adam’s family) and even though the show started later in the evening they were wide awake and on the edge of their seats for the entire show! We were mesmerized by Times Square at night and were respectful of the lives lost on 9/11 as we walked though the memorial. We couldn’t wait to have dessert in Dylans Candy shop and the boys couldn’t believe that there was an entire 3 story store dedicated all to Nintendo!

Ryan and I are always excited to show our boys different parts of the country and expose them to different ways of life. I hope it helps them to understand that their lives can take any shape they want them to take and that the world is a much bigger place than just what they see everyday. At the end of a vacation I am always happy to come home, California is where I belong. However there were a few tears from one of my boys when he realized our last night in the city had come and it made me wonder if on this trip a heart of a New Yorker was born.

Growing up I never gave much thought as to what kind of life I would have as an adult. I never aspired to be the mother to four boys and I never thought I would be stoked to be driving those boys around in a minivan. I never thought I would end up being the kind of girl who prefers the country over the city and I never, EVER imagined I would find myself in Austin, Texas working in the box office at a music festival called the FunFunFun fest!

For the past three years my husband’s (along with two other partners) company handles all of the ticketing for this amazing festival. What exactly does that mean? Well, prior to the festival tickets are purchased online, these tickets are either shipped to festival goers or picked up a few days before the festivities begin. When the festival actually starts tickets can then be bought at the box office and that’s where I (and Patti) come in. Of course there is more to this operation than I am aware of (apps for the festival to be made, late nights at the office mailing out tickets…), but if you’re interested in any of those details you’ll need to talk to one of the boys (or girls) over at Ground Control a.k.a Groundctrl.

Once a year for an entire weekend I get to be apart of this incredible team called Groundctrl. We all get up early in the morning to set up before the festival begins, we work in the mud, the dust, and every single festival goer has to go through one of us before they get to head over to the orange stage to enjoy an awesome set from Slayer. When it’s over we stay up late to celebrate that days successes’ and to swap stories/photos of amazing bands we were able to see. At the end of the trip this group of people looks more like a close knit family rather than just a fan services company and I am always incredible proud to be apart of this team.

So even though I never dreamed I would be selling thousands of tickets to fans of the FunFunFun fest, listening to Henry Rollins officiate a wedding at the yellow stage, or sitting back stage with Patti to sip John Daly’s and enjoy Frito pies, I am so incredibly thankful life constantly leads me to all of this year after year!

There are so many different categories we can put our friends into. We have friends who are super fun and friends that are very serious. There are friends that are younger than us, friends that are older, friends that have no kids, and friends that have a ton of kids (I think we usually fall into this category). Then you have the type of friends that are so much more than that and the word “family” is a much better way to describe the way you feel about them. Similar to falling in love, a friendship like this happens maybe only a few times in your life and Ryan and I feel very lucky to have these types of friends in our lives.

We recently spent the weekend in Santa Barbra with two of our favorite people, Matt & Shannon, celebrating their ten year anniversary. Ten years of marriage is a big milestone for a couple, and Shannon and I got a little teary eyed when we thought about what this last decade has meant, not only to the two of them but to the four of us. We knew each other before we were married, had babies, and became adults, and we continue to watch each other grow into the kind of people we talked about being when we were young.

As comfortable as we are with each other, vacationing with another couple can be a little intimidating! What if we don’t get along the whole time? What if they want to stay in and we want to go out? What if we want to eat mexican food and they want to eat chinese? It was no surprise that the four of us never ran into one of these predicaments but instead we were reminded of what it was to be a kid again, when the only thing you had to do all day was goof around with your friends.

I did however take note of a few things we did that made traveling together a bit more seamless. For starters if your getaway begins with a very long drive like ours did you’ll want to all sync in as far as pit stops go. Meaning use the restroom when everybody else does or you’ll be relieving yourself on the side of the road because you’re the only one that has to go! Second, the first one up in the morning is in charge of making the coffee. You’ll find that non-morning people instantly become morning people because who dosen’t love to wake up to a full pot of coffee?! If it’s mimosas that are being made always put them in a big glass. Apparently nobody likes a tiny mimosa. Lastly, if a four hour Mad Men marathon presents itself take full advantage of it. Grab a few bottles of wine, enough snacks to ruin your dinner and be prepared for the snarky comments about Don Draper to fly! Who cares about how handsome he is, he’s a total dirt ball and why the heck dosen’t Betty just leave him already?! (Shhhhh, Shannon and Matt are in the middle of the whole series and they have  no idea what’s about to happen next!)

Thank you Matt and Shannon for inviting us to help celebrate such a special anniversary. It made me excited for the two of you and for all four of us. The last decade has been an incredible one and I can’t help but wonder where we will find ourselves when the next decade of our lives quietly sneaks up on us.

Aug 15

RV Trip 2011

To say that this RV trip was a stretch for us is a major understatement. As I have mentioned before we are not a”rough it” kind of family. Our vacations in the past have been more about lunch by a pool and white sandy beaches, but for whatever reason a more adventurous kind of getaway grabbed Ryan’s attention and I am so glad it did. We discovered that although we are still not a camping family, we only need about 200 square feet to sleep comfortably. Also to Ryan’s surprise he found that he was strangely comfortable behind the wheel of an RV, and unlike me really enjoyed driving that thing. Maybe his scary driving skills only apply to sedans? At any rate I am so thankful for those seven days of close quarters, campfires and with the long drive from California to Washington (and back again) I had a ton of time to think and write. Here are a few of my journal entries that wrap this trip up perfectly.

8-8-11                                                                 Day two of our trip and we are up bright and early to hit the road again. After 11 hours of driving yesterday I personally wouldn’t  mind a day of rest but my husband and boys have their eyes on the prize, the Sol Duc Hot Springs in Washington. Maybe it’s just a me thing but between Ryan and I he is much better at completing missions. You know setting a goal and barreling towards it with the force and determination of a speeding freight train. I also like getting things done just in my own time, after I’ve brushed my teeth and washed my face. Speaking of personal hygiene I have never felt so much like a girl as I do on this vacation. Being in a RV with 5 boys a girl really starts to feel like… well… A GIRL! Hot showers, combing their hair, changing their underwear it’s all very optional to my boys. Sometimes I feel like I am the most ill equipped woman to mother four little boys but then there are those days I feel God knew exactly what he was doing when he placed his trust in me to be the first woman in their lives. Completely off the subject the Oregon coast is amazing! The little towns, the diary farms, it’s all so picturesque and heartwarmingly charming. We dipped our feet in the ocean before dinner last night and the sand was so soft it made us think of our past vacations in Hawaii. Ryan took a poll “Who likes RVing more than Hawaii?” he asked.  ”Me, me, me!” screamed the boys. As much as I am loving the scenic drive along highway 101 I don’t know if I can vote “yes” to such an important family decision yet. We’ll see how the rest of this week pans out and if Washington is all it’s cracked up to be.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     8-12-11                                                              The only word that comes to mind to describe the last two days of this adventure is “blessed”. Ryan surprised us with a night in a condo by the beach and after five nights in the RV a long hot shower, a real bed, and a movie felt nothing short of pure decadence. Our drive back to California has been much more laid back than our drive to Washington. We’ve allowed ourselves more fun pitstops and Ryan has found that driving for seven hours at a time is his limit. After we settled into our campsite last night (the very last one the campground had to offer) the boys realized that it was going to be the last time we all sleep in such a tight space for a while. Part of me is excited to get back to all the comforts of home, but another part of me knows what will also be waiting there for us. Work, school, chores, video games and all of the other things that keep us busy during the day. I’m not saying these things are bad, they all have their place but it has been nice focusing on simpler things for a moment. A place to park the RV for the night, what to make for lunch, water and electrical hook ups so we can make coffee in the morning. The boys have declared this to be the best trip we have ever taken and while I am a bit more partial to a house by a beach, we have enjoyed more moments of closeness on this vacation than on any other. I am glad they recognized this at such a young age and have not been spoiled by wherever we have taken them in the past. All in all this adventure will carry absolutely zero ill memories and we are taking home something much more important than tans and shark tooth necklaces. We shared so many silly jokes, games of Farkle, and have enough awesome memories to fill an RV and last a lifetime.

Jun 21

Italy 2011

The thing that blew me away the most on our recent trip to Italy was how far away from home I was. We were so far from our daily lives, our children, my kitchen, my grocery store, my everything! I have been in a different time zone from my boys before, but this felt like I was on a whole other planet from them. We were going to sleep just as they were starting their day and sometimes the only contact we had with each other were short texts hello or a picture of where we were that day. It was too expensive for long conversations on the phone, email wasn’t an option and even blogging to give my family an idea of what we were doing was out of the question. I had to completely let go for a whole entire week and as dizzy and nauseous as that made me it was a very good thing for all six of us. My parents got to really know my boys without me fluttering around reminding them to say please and thank you and my boys fell even more in love with their grandparents. They bonded over my mom’s wonderful cooking, stayed up late with their cousins and enjoyed hours and hours of swimming at the pool. Needless to say there were tears when they had to say goodbye, but thankfully it’s summer time and for the moment we have all the time in the world to head back over to grandma and grandpas house and continue to raid their fridge.

So did we have a good time after we both mentally let go of our responsibilities? Holy smokes yes!

We learned that Italian’s take their espresso very seriously. It is never drank out of a paper cup, you do not order it from a drive thru window and you certainly do not add 2% milk, ice, and 1 1/2 pumps of chocolate to it. Although there is something to be said for that kind of drink as well.

Prosciutto, salami, cured meats of any kind, Italian’s can’t seem to get enough of the stuff! I know it sounds like a stereotype but it is 100% true. There is really no such thing as fast food in Italy but a panini filled with a bit of salami, cheese, and maybe some tomato reigned king at lunch or snack time. Even at the Autogrill, the only place to stop when you are on the road to eat, grab a quick espresso, or even a bit of wine if you like. They always had a beautiful assortment of this particular sandwich or little plates of prosciutto ready go.

Speaking of being on the road we also learned that the Autostrada is no place for the faint of heart. Driving in Italy is very scary to say the least, but when you decide to brave the Italian highway you better be ready for the drive of your life. My husband is kind of a terrible driver so I figured he would be right at home speeding and swerving with the best of them, but even his nerves were tested with every speeding Fiat that whizzed by us. Not really knowing where we were going only added to the stress, but we got through it together and laughed it off over a couple bottles of wine when it was all said and done.

Even more than the food, the beaches, and the wine, my favorite part of this trip was spending so much time with my husband without any distractions. At one point I realized it was simply him I am madly in love with. Not his drive, his charm, or even his sharp way of dressing. Just him. I was reminded of the young man I fell in love with within the first 5 minutes of our first date 13 years ago. When our boys have grown, when our lives have quieted down, and when it’s just him and I waking up together I know I will happily live the rest of my life with this amazing man.

Ok, ok enough of the mushy stuff. Aside from gazing into each others eyes every night Ryan and I shared some pretty amazing meals. There were so many moments that we wished we could transport our friends and family to where we were so they could also experience what we were enjoying. Instead I did the next best thing and took a bunch of photos just for you! I can not wait to try to recreate some of these dishes, but I know the reason they were so good was partly due to the fact that Italy has an intangible magic that cannot be wrapped up and taken home.