So I’m not going to lie, when people say things like “it’s not really a vacation with kids” I’ve never truly related to that. Like, for sure it’s different. In one scenario you are solely responsible for entertaining and keeping yourself alive, and in the other you are responsible for a lot of people.
Maybe because I’ve never been a partier or a drinker really, and don’t find that to be “fun” or even a little bit relaxing, being responsible for other humans doesn’t typically feel that tedious or as if it’s taking from the vacation. I genuinely enjoy being with my kiddos, as terribly crazy as they often are. And fortunately J does, too. I wouldn’t say we’d never do a totally kid-free vacation, because maybe some day, in the future, we will. Who knows? But for now, we enjoy having them with us, and we are super fortunate that we’ve built a relationship where neither of us feels underappreciated or whatever if we don’t have constant (or if we are being honest, like any) one on one time with each other.
All that said. This vacation was exhausting. Oh my gosh. It wasn’t even the kids, ha. I think it was my rotund stomach and the extreme sleepies of third trimester pregnancy. I was lucky enough to get several naps in, to sit on the beach or in the water and take a load off while J primarily care for the littles, but still. It was exhausting. But no more exhausting than if we’d been at home.
The kids were so happy to be on the beach. It’s really all that Sweet M and Bean remember, and they talk about it daily. Bean even squealed, “I love da beach!” while M inquired, “Shouldn’t we be living here always?” I told him I’m working on it. I’m not sure how many more years, or even months, of cold I can withstand. I thought I wasn’t bothered by cold and snow. And then we lived in Hawaii and I realized I was wrong. So, so, so very wrong.
There is a completely different sort of vibe and atmosphere to being near the water. Life is just more mellow and calm. Everyone is more chill. It’s the way life is supposed to be. Or at least mine anyway. I am not cut out for the hustle and bustle of busy life.
Anyway, here’s a bunch of photos of beach life. I’ll write later about H’s fun surprise. Well, both of them!
We just got home for our last hurrah vacay before baby Fimito makes his appearance in a full short weeks (WHAT!?)
But our drive down is getting a post in itself. As well as our time there because I’m a busy lady and need to get some stuff done theoretically (but I’m also exhausted, so it’s nice to have an excuse to sit!).
Anyway, we decided to drive down and split the drive into two days, stopping at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, which we get into for free with our Wonderlab pass – woot woot! And then traveled another hour or so south and stayed the night in Montgomery, before finishing an easy drive the next day to our destination in Panama City Beach.
We departed on a Sunday, and two days prior the air conditioning went out on the van. For serious. It needed something specific and they couldn’t get the part in until Wednesday (three days after we were set to depart) so we made the drive with no air conditioning. 35 weeks pregnant. With four kids. Yep, we are cray cray. I would not have been cut out for the Oregon Trail, that’s for sure!
But the kids were stellar. We left at around 6:30am, and made it to Birmingham at 1ish. And everyone was mostly happy and amenable. We stopped a few times to stretch and run around, but they’re mostly pros at this point, even though Bean is still not a fan of the car at all (she wasn’t such an agreeable traveler on our way back…).
I made J listen to all the Janet Lansbury under the sun with me. Literally hours. The whole way. He is such an amazing human, haha. Because he even actually listened. No ear plugs or anything, bahaha. And would stop it to ask questions or discuss things that we agreed with or had concerns about. I still marvel at what a good man I married sometimes.
The McWane Science Center was totally worth it. We spent about 3.5 hours there and definitely did not get through it all. It was so nice to get the kids out of the car for the afternoon and play. And they thoroughly enjoyed it.
It’s all very hands on and fosters lots of thought and imagination. And they have a huge section for the under 6 crowd that the babies loved! (Although, I guess they’re toddlers +. I should stop calling them babies all ready).
After that we loaded up again, let the kids enjoy some Wendy’s for dinner, where when asked what she would like Bean replied, “ketchup.” I turned around to look at her and she furrowed her little toddler eyebrows at me and sighed. Yes, she sighed. Pray for me, guys. And then said, “Chicken nuggets.”
And then we unloaded in Montgomery for the night, where we woke up to this sweetness before heading to PCB.
So I knew we couldn’t venture to Florida and not do a theme park. It seems kind of sacrilegious or something.
The big kids really wanted to go to Universal for Harry Potter World, but I was steadfastly adamant that I would not go while pregnant because I wanted to ride the rides, or without J and someone else who could help with the toddlers who obviously couldn’t ride all the big rides we’d want to ride. Eventually we will get there, but this was just not the time.
I kinda leaned toward Disney because I know it is so super toddler and pregnant-momma friendly, but I also suspect Disney will be in our future again for a longer duration since J typically attends a conference there each year.
Which landed us with Legoland. We’d been there once before and super loved it, but it wasn’t during water park season, so it sounded like a really fun and exciting adventure. Plus, we’d be going with M’s godmother and her two boys, so extra hands for riding the bigger rides that Sweet M and Bean couldn’t ride (or their pregnant momma!).
It was a mega hit and I am so glad it’s the choice we made for this trip! It was low key enough to not be too stressful, but exciting enough to keep six kiddos under the age of 9 thoroughly engaged all day.
Also, it was Bean’s very first theme park so that was exciting. And she got there at opening and left at close and didn’t take a nap because she’s a wild party animal like that!
It was so much fun to spend the day with our dear friends and watch our little loves play in the water and ride rides until their hearts were content. And I super loved that Legoland had play areas all over the place and within lines of bigger rides, for the younger tykes who weren’t quite big enough for some rides. They had so much fun playing and never felt like they were missing out on the excitement and thrills that their big siblings were partaking.
I’d never been to Savannah before. It was just one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit for it’s historic beauty and charm. J and I had planned to venture down their for my 29th birthday, but then we learned we were headed to Hawaii, so those plans got postponed (not sad about that).
So when I decided I was going to take the kids to visit M’s godmother in Jacksonville, FL, I decided to make Savannah a short getaway before hand.
We got super lucky because the kids’ Grandpa J was all ready in FL, and wanted to join us, so we got to vacation with him for a few days; no one was sad about that!
Grandpa J stopped and picked up this awesome Chicco travel playard for Bean, which I cannot recommend to the world enough. It’s so easy to set up and take down. It comes in an easy to carry and transport travel bag, and as an added bonus has a bassinet attachment. I haven’t thought too much about what we even need for baby Fimito, but we don’t have a bassinet or cosleeper yet, so this is great (albeit it will fit in the small space of our room – I haven’t tried that yet, ha!).
We officially stayed on Tybee Island. Apparently Savannah is all St. Patrick’s Day – who knew? – and Tybee Island does a huge parade the weekend before St. Patty’s Day since Savannah has a huge one the following week. Our condo was a block from where the parade ended, and we all showed up hungry. So we had primo seats at our restaurant for parade watching, and then we went outside when we were finsihed eating to get more up close and personal. The floats were fantastic and the kids had a lot of fun.
Then I took the kiddos over to the beach because they were itching to get their toes in that water! The water was freezing so I didn’t think they’d make it too far, but I ended up walking back to the condo with four very wet kiddos. They certainly didn’t mind though.
We grabbed coffee and smoothies at a nearby little restaurant the next morning before heading to Wormsloe Historic Site.
It was one of the few things on my “must see” list of Savannah. Basically it encapsulates so much southern beauty; everyone should see it. We walked around the grounds and enjoyed the little historic village area and footpaths. It was definitely Georgia heat though – I’m not sure I can imagine being there in the middle of summer!
Afterwards we were all hungry and decided to try out the Pirate’s House. I’m always leery about restaurants that are well highlighted. I’m afraid there is a lot of hype and maybe won’t actually be so great. J and I typically veer off the beaten path when it comes to eating on travels. But oh my goodness. The Pirate’s House did not disappoint.
The food was so good. Which can be said for all the food we ate while in Savannah and on Tybee Island. And since my life basically revolves around three things things: my kids, traveling, and food – it’s always a good thing when the food is delicious!
Then we headed back to the beach. Because as awesome as my kids are with traveling and doing and seeing all the things their Momma wants – the beach was right there. And they’re all such water babies, that it’s hardly fair to deny them that salve to their souls.
We had hoped to take a trolley tour of Savannah the next day, but it was sold out. Instead we ventured to the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium. The kids all especially loved the touch tank. Bean may or may not have put a live hermit crab in her mouth…they’re both doing fine.
It was a super cute and kid-friendly, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. Outside there was even a little walking path where you could see some of the historic buildings from before it had become a part of the university.
Then we headed over to Forsyth Park for some play. Sweet M desperately wanted a playground and I’d promised him I’d provide him with one before we left Savannah. Forsyth Park was for sure where it was at. I would have loved to venture the park past the playground, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us that day.
We did get to venture to a nearby cafe called Fork & Dagger that had amazing food – can you say pork belly cheese steak? And has began a love affair with iced Cuban coffee for me. All in all, I call it a win!
It was a trip little jaunt in Savannah and on Tybee Island, but oh-so much fun and completely worth it. I cannot wait to return in the future. But the next morning we were off to more excitement…
The kids and I managed our first actual vacation without J, and while we all dearly missed him (but that’s whether it’s us traveling without him or he traveling for work without us), I think it was incredibly successful. Not too shabby for four kids and being obviously preggo at this point.
This trip is going to get broken up into a few posts because I’m pressed on time and it’s taken me this long to sit down and write. And maaaaaybe we’ve had a string of illnesses and unfortunate events that has prolonged it all as well, ha. That’s for another day.
I decided to break up our drive to Savannah by staying over in Asheville, NC. The distance to Savannah wasn’t too shabby, but I figured it’d be nice to break it up a wee bit. And I really wanted to go through Knoxville because I’d read an article somewhere about Yassin Falafel House and it being rated the friendliest restaurant in the U.S. Add on top that the owners are apparently Syrian refugees and there is falafel – it made perfect sense that we should create an entire route in order to stop there.
Our first stop of the morning was Starbucks because I left home early enough that I still needed more coffee, and kids were ready to get out to stretch and go potty. I was pretty happy that we made it to Franklin, KY before needing to stop. We are becoming champion travelers. And I was worried about Bean and Sweet M a little bit, because although they’ve done a few big drives all ready, they’re still Hawaiian babies at heart, and don’t understand being in the car for more than an hour. Or the cold. Or dismal weather. Or all the things we shouldn’t understand anyway because they’re not what makes us happy (can you tell I’m over winter over here?).
The kids played Hungry Hippo at Starbucks (another perk – Starbucks typically has games to play!) and we took our time. I really didn’t want to have to hurry at all or feel stressed on this trip. I wanted it to be smooth sailing. And really, I totally understand that it’s basically me setting that tone with everyone, so again, lots of coffee makes the world go round.
We were all eager for falafel though. Okay, maybe the boys weren’t totally excited, but Miss H was sharing my enthusiasm because I was really talking it up and she loves to indulge me because she likes her status as favorite oldest child.
Guys. Yassin Falafel House did not disappoint. I will find a reason to go through there again some day with J because I know he’d love it too. The kids all loved everything they ate. The employees were so friendly, not mention just the customers as well. So many commented on how sweet my kids were (and I’d agree, no one was screaming!), and how blessed I am (I am, I know). One employee even offered to help me out to my car (other than babies I just had a small bag of pita and hummus to go, and was definitely not struggling – they’re just that nice.) Seriously. If you’re in Knoxville. Or Tennessee in general. Or like even the midwest, find a reason to stop in. And no one is paying me to say this. For real. You’ll be happy you went.
We didn’t make it too far out of Knoxville before M declared he had to poop. Kids are fun. So we stopped for gas and then went into Wendy’s for frosties so he could do his business. No kids were sad about an impromptu ice cream break. Promise.
We made it to our hotel in Asheville around dinner/bedtime (my kids go to bed early – most people’s dinner time!). I could not for the life of me get Bean’s pack n play to set up. I was literally in tears. So I finally threw her in bed with me, so needless to say I got zero sleep because as much as she loves me, she does not love sleeping with me. I’m not sure where we got this baby, because all the other kids would still sleep on top of me if I let them (well, one still does). She woke up about every hour (she typically sleeps 11-13 hours straight – eep!), and would kick me and tell me “off now!”
Anyway, the next morning while Sweet M, Bean and I were cuddled in bed watching cartoons – hadn’t even gotten up to pee yet! – our hotel room phone rang and scared the bejeezus out of me. I rushed to answer it (the big kids were still sleeping) and it was the lobby telling me that someone had called because of a noise complaint from our room for jumping. I let them know we weren’t even up yet, but the gentleman was pretty dismissive.
In all of our years of traveling, we’ve never had a complaint, noise or otherwise, against us, so I was a little shaken. I woke the big kids up and rushed everyone out of the hotel asap, forgetting that piece of shit pack n play in the process. I was flustered.
I was trying so hard to let it go, but it was really gnawing on me. Like, there are for sure times when my kids are level 10 cray cray and we probably should have someone complain about us, but this was not it. Like not even almost. So I finally called J pretty upset and told him what happened, and he promptly called the hotel. Turns out that over an hour after we’d left, the same person called complaining about us again. Except we hadn’t been there for over an hour, so…they either weren’t complaining about us, or had simply seen kids go into that room the night before and assumed it’d be a problem and were sour patches. Either way, the hotel fully reimbursed us for our stay there, which was very unexpected but nice of them.
And then we were almost to the beach, so it was all behind us…
I’m really embarrassed to admit that most of J’s family hadn’t met Bean or Sweet M. Okay, I will give us some slack on Bean, since she was born in Hawaii and we haven’t been back on the mainland that long, but Sweet M is nearly 3. Eep.
I guess in fairness, that road does travel two ways, but we’ve always known that we are pretty much the ones responsible for maintaining relationships with both sides of our families, and we are okay with that because family is important to us. But it definitely gets harder the more kids we add, haha.
Which I guess leads me to our first part of this.
The Galvans are adding to their brood! We officially hit second trimester during this trip. But I was still in the fairly exhausted stage regardless. I’d been hoping to be more peppy, but in the end it didn’t matter since everyone passed the plague around – we will get there in a bit, ha.
We are super excited to add the last little member to our family (yes, yes, for real! And I originally wrote “exhausted” as opposed to “excited,” so that easily sums up why this baby truly is Finito). We discussed a 5th. We wanted a 5th. But we didn’t exactly plan for a 5th. But it’s safe to say that God always has better plans than we do. But really, we are over the moon. We haven’t had a kiddo yet that we haven’t adored to pieces.
Anyway, we left for Dallas at about 8pm, after our big kids’ Winter Follies performance and drove straight through the night, arriving the next morning. We’d planned to stop if needed, and J and I both assumed we would need to, but he was full of energy (probably siphoning it from me like our kids are) and made it straight through. Though in fairness, he did pass out for hours once we got to his sister’s house, ha.
It was so nice to have some sunny Texas weather. It was chilly, but nothing compared to back in the Midwest, so we weren’t complaining. The kids were in love with the dogs there, and were happy to have a little cousin to play with and to spend time with their tia and tio.
I’d really wanted and planned on getting up early the following morning and driving to Waco to eat at the Magnolia Table, but pregnancy and travel, dude. It hit me hard. So I ended up vetoing it and just relaxing with family.
After a few days in Dallas, we headed over to Las Cruces to visit J’s mama and some of his other siblings. His mom was super excited to meet crazy Sweet M and always-hungry Bean, who by the way, also loves beans like they’re going out of style, haha.
Jaime got put to work in the kitchen per his usual daily life (probably why I married him. Or maybe because he’s so good looking? Or makes pretty babies? Or is such an amazing papa and partner. I don’t know, take your pick. He’s an all around stellar human if I may so myself).
The kids were happy to play and explore outside, although it was fairly nippy for NM standards. But it didn’t keep them from collecting sacks full of pecans for us to take home, and they happily cracked them open and fed them to me, so I wasn’t complaining.
We spent Christmas day in J’s childhood home, and I know he especially enjoyed that. The kids loved being surrounded by so many people and it wasn’t even a fraction of them all (J does have 12 siblings….). The introvert in me survived. It’s funny how much I love and need to constantly travel, and also how mentally and emotionally exhausting it for me because, well, people.
We also visited with J’s good friends and it was nice to catch up and see so many people who we love.
Then we headed up to Albuquerque to visit the kids’ godparents. This was the part of the trip the kids were most looking forward to, and the part where they all got sick. Of course.
It started with H and then got passed around. Fever. Snot. Cough. General lethargy. As much as it sucked, I will say I am so thankful it wasn’t puke. I just cannot deal with puke. Ugh.
But we still got to visit, and the kids had a pretty good time. They loved the lizard and the dogs and their godparents and their kiddos. B was stoked to play video games (he’s deprived and doesn’t have any gaming systems). J was super happy to just hang out and be with his friends. I know he really misses those connections in his day to day life. Which I didn’t fully understand until we left Hawaii and I realized how much I miss those people (I swear some day I will stop talking about Hawaii and all the lovely people. May not be until I’m dead, but it will happen).
I did get some pepperoni and green chili pizza, so despite the pregnancy exhaustion and sick kiddos, I can’t say it was a bust. And of course the company was great. And I mean, there were some amazing views. But don’t tell J I said that because he’s been trying to move me out there for years, haha.
We cut our trip short though to return home with our brood of sickies, instead of sallying forth up to Colorado for some snow boarding as we’d planned. And it turned out to be a wise choice because the plague continued for another week.
But really, two weeks of friends and family was worth it all.
We finished Europe in England. Primarily London, but we did venture to Windsor one day. We intentionally chose our last week in England because we knew we’d want some place where we could just be chill and not feel like we needed to see and do too much.
Basically, if J told me to pack my bags because we were moving to England tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t even bother packing. I’d just go without batting an eyelash. London is my favorite city in the world. I know J would prefer Spain if we were doing Europe, and I’d be okay with that too. But a little piece of my heart will always be in England.
We stayed at an amazing Air BnB for the week – it was the home of a family on holiday and it was so nice to explode and decompress and make our own meals and do laundry and just basically live for a week.
We met up with one of my good university friends at St. James Park one day. The kids loved exploring the grounds and the birds and ducks. And of course, the amazing playground. And it was nice to catch up with my friend and feel like a real human who has relationships outside of my children. I mean, they’re cute kids, but sometimes it’s easy to feel a little lost with who I am apart from them.
Of course, being at St. James Park meant that we were right by Buckingham Palace, so we knocked out some sight-seeing as well. We are pretty good multi-taskers.
We took lots of naps and explored the nearby parks and ponds where we were staying. It kept things real and everyone happy.
We also enjoyed walking around London City. We took the kids to Tower Bridge and the Globe Theatre. We will for sure go back again one day when the babies are big enough to sit through shows and we will just go go go and watch a million shows. The plays and musicals in London are better than any I’ve seen anywhere else. And I’ve seen quite a bit. I mean, I don’t have a theatre degree, but I know what I enjoy watching. And London is where it is at. And I’d love to watch Shakespeare at the Globe since it’s something I’ve yet to do.
But we’ve got plenty of time for all of that. I want them to enjoy their travels age-appropriately. The big kids love the theatre, but so do J and I and neither of us wanted to be the one to stay behind, haha.
We trekked over to Windsor for a day and visited another friend. That was so lovely and fun. The kids enjoyed seeing the castle (one of my favorites!) and the town of Windsor. The heat wave was breaking around this time, thank god, so it was a bit cooler and more enjoyable.
We hit up the Natural History Museum one day. We didn’t even see everything there was to see and we spent most of the day there. It was an absolute blast and I would not be opposed to returning there again. And we wanted to go to the Science Museum as well, but just not time.
Our last day of London was an epic trip to Hamley’s. I’d been telling the kids about Hamley’s loooong before we even went to Europe, and it did not disappoint. I mean, what kid does not love a toy store? I enjoyed Hamley’s all those years ago when I was studying in England, and I was long past the age of playing. We had so much fun exploring each floor and all the gems they held. And the kids were so awesome about choosing just one toy to take home with us. As crazy as they drive me sometimes (oftentimes?) I really do have to give them all credit for being pretty much the best humans I know.
It was also pretty entertaining that none of them picked anything “new.” It was all the things they love most. H got Calico Critters. B got Legos. M got Duplos. And baby F got a stuffie with an “I Love Bean” shirt (which was just kinda perfect since we call her Bean). But I love that I know those kids inside and out. I grabbed a few fun books for them because books always have my heart, and you can simply never have too many.
And then that was it. We were off. Back to the mainland where we hadn’t been for a year. Back to our house that we hadn’t lived in for a year. Back to resume lives that, for a year, we had disappeared from while being island dwellers. But more on all of that later.
I’m going to get slayed admitting this here, but I don’t love Paris. I know! I’ve been there half a dozen times and J even proposed there. And I still just don’t like it. I mean, I really love the idea of Paris. I think old Paris is what is alluring. But the reality of it is that it’s just not for me.
That said, I am so freaking thrilled that we were able to take Miss H to Paris. I’m glad she got to cross that off her bucket list and all of her eight-year-old dreams were able to come true (for those days anyway).
Paris is big and dirty and not wholly family or kid friendly. And not that the world needs to cater to kids, but maybe accepting them as actual persons would be cool. And all the things I used to love about Paris 10+ years ago have mostly changed and been ruined – large walls around the the Eiffel Tower, and much of the insides of Versailles is roped off so you feel like you’re being pushed through a cattle call.
It probably didn’t help that in this city Sweet M escaped into the Notre Dame without us, ran onto the tram tacks while I was adjusting his baby sister in the Ergo, got his foot stuck in a metro door, and escaped the metro wholly at one point. Is it a surprise he’s the one aging me that quickest?
And before you start judging me or pointing fingers – I get it! I was you. I laugh to think I once thought 2 year old B was a handful. He climbed bookshelves and cabinets occasionally, but never tried to be the cover of an international news story. Sweet M is a breed all of his own.
We also entered an extreme heat wave throughout Europe at this time. For someone who ended up really loving Hawaii, I still do not love the heat. At all.
But Miss H got to see Paris and really that was what it was all for.And I’d do it a million times over to see her little face light up at the sights. She was totally committed to the idea, and I loved that.
And it was fun reminiscing to her about my first experience in Paris when I was 12. And also about being there with her papa when he proposed. It’s actually a bit amusing; for all the really wonderful memories and experiences in that city, you’d think I would like it a wee bit more.
Regardless, it was a fun experience for the kids and I hope they got something valuable and beautiful out of it. Their little smiling faces and shrieks of delight made it worth it. It makes everything worth it, every time.
Okay, that’s definitely the wrong country, but for whatever reason, that is always what comes into my head when I think of Cordoba.
Cordoba is a gorgeous city in Andalusia, and the home of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Despite identifying as Catholic myself, I don’t particularly love that this beautiful mosque is indeed used as a Catholic church in this day and age. Yes, it was the site originally of a Christian church before the great Mosque was built in 784. I won’t give you entire history schpeel here, but regardless of how the history of it has all played out, I still think it should be utilized as a mosque. Not that it matters what I think, the Catholic Church is not giving it up, ha.
I really wanted my kiddos to see the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. It’s one of the grandest places I’ve ever been, and I really just find the whole building and experience to be majestic and humbling.
Of course the babies won’t remember any of it at all, and the big kids may only retain vague memories in the long run if anything at all, but it still matters. To me, it matters. For them to have experiences that make them realize that the world is so much bigger than them; that history and cultures are deep and intertwining and beautiful and heartbreaking and worth being knowledgeable of. It matters.
They’ll have photos and the next time they’re watching Rick Steves and see him wandering about Cordoba, they’ll be able to say, “I was there! I saw the elephant tusk on the ceiling!”
And maybe one day one of my kiddos will develop a love for history. Or maybe a passions for different cultures. Or maybe they’ll just enjoy experiences that take them outside of their comfort zones, and travelling the world in order to enjoy and learn about things they can’t find in their own backyard.