Things I wish we brought with us to Universal Studios

Planning a trip can take weeks, sometimes months. I like to plan a couple months in advance for trips, especially big trips, like going to Florida for a week. But sometimes you just have to go on random road trips. Like deciding Friday afternoon that you want to go to Florida for a week, and get a 5 day pass to Universal Studios, and leave Sunday morning at 4am to drive 24 hours straight there. Oh, and doing all that with 3 little kids.

I tend to over pack. Ask my husband, it drives him nuts. I’m the person that packs 20 pairs of underwear, 15 outfits, and 3 pairs of shoes, for a 1 week trip knowing full well I can do laundry there, and won’t even wear half of what I packed, and only actually use 1 pair of shoes. So when I had about 24 hours to pack for a family of 5 for 1 week in Florida, it was a bit crazy around here. And I forgot some stuff. Even with all my lists I made.

So here is what I wish I had brought with us. That in hindsight, may seem obvious.

1. Extra sunscreen. Especially a bottle to actually put in my backpack that I brought to Universal Studios with us every day.

2. Umbrellas, or better yet ponchos. It rains in Florida, a lot. One day when we were at Universal Studios, we got caught outside in a Tropical Storm! There was no shelter expect a patio umbrella with 8 other people under it. In the middle of a Tropical Storm. A storm that lasted 30 minutes, soaked us all, and knocked down palm trees. Oh and I should mention that my daughter is scared of storms. Not out greatest moment.

3. Fan water bottles. I have two at home. I got them for like $4 each. But I forgot them at home. They would have been super awesome to have in the Florida heat walking around an amusement park all day. And yes the do sell some at Universal. But they were smaller, and the ones I saw were $15. I seriously could not justify buying them. We made do with ice cream and lots of slushes.

4. Stroller. Yes my daughter is 5. So let’s hear it mommy shamers. No my kid doesn’t use a stroller on a regular basis. But spending all day, every day for 5 days, at Universal Studios, in that heat, chasing after her big brothers, a stroller was nice to have. Plus I could hang bags on it. So yes, I did give in and bought one of those cheap little ones from a department store. When the cost of one of those was the same as renting a stroller for 1 day from Universal, it made sense to buy one. We found her a cute one with a canopy and a basket underneath. Perfect for holding extra bottles of water, and putting bags on.

5. A hat and sunglasses. I managed to pack a hat for everyone else in the family, but me. And I managed to pack all the sunglasses, expect for my 13 year old. Not my finest moment.

6. Extra hand sanitizer. I love those pocket size ones, but they can be lost easily. It would have been really nice if I had thrown in the extra one like I had debated about before leaving the house.

7. Bathing Suit. We didn’t actually go to the water park, but there is a splash pad and water play area in one of the kids areas. I did pack extra clothes, so that was good. I just never thought to throw in a bathing suit.

8. Change. Pennies and quarters. My daughter kept finding those machines that you put a penny in and and some quarters and you get some thing with a design on it out of the machine. I can’t for the life of me think of what they are called at the moment.

9. Portable charger for my phone. Between taking pictures, videos, using the Universal Studios app, sending pictures to grand parents, my battery took a hit each day.

10. Wipes/ Hand wipes. For messy faces and hands covered in melted ice cream and chocolate. So much easier than having to take them into a crowded bathroom.

 

Having listed all the things I forgot, you would think I was horrible at packing, have no idea what I was doing, and that we didn’t have a great time. But none of that is true. We had an amazing time. And I do know how to pack. I just was very forgetful this time on such short notice for a trip!

So hopefully this list will help you, and me, next time!

~ Michelle

What kind of tires to put on a Caravan for Overlanding

So I’ve been stopped by a lot of people on the street asking what kind of tires I’m running on the Caravan.

People are always asking when they see the van online and most can’t believe that I’ve actually put BF Goodrich KO2’s on! I was in the market for new tires anyway as the OEM Yokohama Avids were almost worn out. The old van had street tires all it’s life, Goodyear Assurance Directionals and they did a fantastic job on paved roads, but this time I wanted to be able to take the new van down some more challenging roads and not have to worry too much about whether or not I’m going to get stuck.

As I couldn’t find much at all about people putting all terrain tires on a minivan I took to the Subaru forums to see what those guys were running. There was good debate about the KO2’s vs Geolanders and a few other brands. While the Geo’s were better on road I wanted to maximize my off-road capability as I’m only FWD. The KO2’s are the most aggressive tires I could find in a size to fit. Without a lift on the market for the Caravan and hesitant about using wheel spacers I couldn’t go taller or wider without rubbing. Obviously there would be more road noise and a hit to my mpg I still wouldn’t have chosen any other tire. I love these things on and off-road!

Jason

Lets go camping

I some times wonder about my husband and his love of camping. He’s fascinated by it. He can spend days, weeks, out in nature. Me? Well I spend an hour and I end up covered in hives. So nature and me aren’t really on good terms. I love nature, I think its beautiful. I just love it from a safe distance.

But marriage is about compromise, give and take, all that crap. So camping we go.

At least this was just a camping trip with the two of us. No kids. So it would be totally restful, right? Right. Completely restful if you don’t take into account having to walk almost 10 minutes each way just to go to the bathrooms.

This was my first camping trip in a while. I was honestly a little rusty. I forgot just how important meal planning actually is. And how super important it is to make sure you actually have all the ingredients for the meals you foolishly planned out in your head but not fully in reality. I also really need to learn how to pack light. I for the life of me can never pack light. Ever. Especially if kids are involved. Which they will be on our next camping trip. (Did I really just say ‘next’?!)

I may not have meal planned all that well, but at least I made pillow cases for the trip! Thats got to count for something!

Did I mention that my husband built a bed to fit in our van?! Crazy right?! More on that in another post. It needs its own post.

It was a a nice escape from reality. Surrounded by nature, having a campfire, no noise, no tv, no radio. And when you have a husband who loves camping as much as mine, and who also likes things just a certain way, there does tend to be very little to do in regards to site set up and take down.

I will admit at first it was very odd to just sit and have no distractions. It is amazing how much noise we deal with in a day. Radio, tv, ads that pop up on websites, on games on your phone. We are forever being bombarded by advertisements. They are every where, all the time, non stop. That part I really enjoyed about camping. It was nice to just be fully in the moment.

I told my husband that. Apparently we will be camping more, and soon. So stayed tuned for tips and tricks when it comes to camping, overlanding, all with 3 little kids.

~ Michelle

 

Overland

Have you ever heard of Overlanding? Someone being an Overlander? Yeah, me neither. My husband introduced me to it a while ago. And honestly I am still trying to figure it out. Basically to Overland is to travel by car over great distances, days, weeks or even months at a time. Basically it evolves a whole lot of driving and camping. Not really my scene, but other people seem to love it. Some people are even considered “full time overlanders’. Apparently there is a whole Overland lifestyle out there.

So why did my husband who knows how much nature and bugs hate me, want to introduce me to something like this? Simply put, this is totally his scene. He loves stuff like this.

So after much talking, mostly done by my husband, I have agreed to go on adventures known as Overlanding. Still not sure what I have gotten myself in to.

One thing is for sure, this is not a full time thing. At least not right now. I am still very much a fan of running water and sleeping in my own bed in my own room. Plus nature and bugs hate me. I go for a hike and end up covered in hives. So this is going to be an interesting experience.

So as I learn more about this lifestyle, as we go on adventures, you can follow along here and on Instagram.

And if you know anything about Overlanding, tips, tricks, advice, help, please send me a message!!!!

~ Michelle

Cheers To 2017

2017 came in with full force. And not a very good force. I had every intention of starting the year out with an awesome kick ass blog post about how I was going to rock this year. I was going to have a New Years Resolution. I was going to have a focus word. It was going to rock. Completely and totally rock your socks off.

Then reality came. On January 1st I lost an aunt to cancer. Another aunt was in hospital (she is out and better now). And yet another Aunts health is failing. It has been a lot to deal with. My anxiety has been so bad. So hard to deal with at times. This invisible monster is leaving visible scars.

This year I have no idea what will happen. I have no idea what my goals are. I do know that whatever happens, I want to make the most of it. So cliche isn’t it?! But it is true. 2017 is already proving how precious life is, how important it is to take advantage of every day, tell people you love them, let go of things, move forward no matter how scary. My anxiety and depression monsters will not control and dominate me this year. Their lies will not weaken me. (Easier said than done!)

This weekend I will be traveling to the states with my parents and my toddler. Sounds easy enough right? Tell that to my anxiety. I am having non stop anxiety and panic attacks about it. This will be the longest my toddler has been away from my husband. She will not be happy to be away from her daddy and brothers for so long. And I have never had to take her to a funeral before. All of this causing so much anxiety on top of the grieving. The truth of it all? None of this is about me, despite all my anxiety crushing me, this is about a life lost and going to honour this persons amazing life. Like I said before, life is too short, I will move forward no matter how scary. I will face my anxiety monster head on and go on this trip with my daughter.

Days after getting back my daughter has a pre-op appointment and then the next week she will have surgery. My anxiety is not giving me a break this month so far. I will not let this monster have me. My daughter needs me, my sons need me, my husband needs me. Heck, I need me!

So maybe I do have a goal? Kick my monsters butts? Or maybe my goal is more simply put, to take it one day at a time, to survive, to rise above and soar?

Despite not having clear goals written down, not having a focus word, despite the hard start to 2017, I will try my damnedest to rock this year.

~ Michelle

A Weekend Of Gilmore Girls And Christmas Lights

Hello New Day.
Hello New Week.
Hello New Adventure.

HelloMonday

I’m in a weekend hangover / Gilmore Girls hangover this morning. Oh Gilmore Girls, how you mess with my emotions! I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I felt about it, so much of it bugged me, but over all I loved it. I have always wanted to live in Stars Hollow. Seriously, I have always thought it was the best little town ever. Oh! Kirk and his pet pig! Loved it!

Back to reality.

This weekend besides obsessing over Gilmore Girls, we took a wonderful last minute crazy drive down to Niagara Falls on Saturday night. We looked at the Christmas lights, it was our first time going there with our daughter. We used to do it every single year but we missed out on the last 3 years. I cried when my toddler declared “Mama! I love this! I love the lights!” Her excitement, oh man, it was just what my heart needed. Everyone in the car totally fed off of her enjoyment! It was magical. However the drive straight back home was a bit much. Sunday I was so tired. Clearly I am getting too old for these kind of adventures.

Speaking of Sunday. Our Sunday was filled with Christmas movies and finishing up the Christmas decorations outside! It was wonderful. Perfect family day. Till my husband showed just how much faith he has in me. I dragged him out to the store real quick, I wanted some plants to put on the windowsill in the kitchen. I picked out two of the cutest little plants (yes plants can be cute) and my husband declared “How about you just get one, and see how that goes.” As if I will make the plant burst into flames or instantly die as soon as I bring it in the house. Day 1 with plant, and it is still alive and not burnt. Just so you know.

Today I am ready to take on the week. I worked out this morning. I cleaned up, I organized. I dreamed big. And now my toddler is completely trashing my house, or as she says she’s “showing off her toys”. Now to clean up again, and then again, and maybe some more after that.

I started out the day wanting to write out some goals. Then I sat down to to do it, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I really have to be in the right mood for it, or there is no point. Today I am running on pure determination and sugar and caffeine. Lots of caffeine.

So now to take on the rest of the week, and to keep my plant alive!

~ Michelle

 

 

Post Vacation Reality

Hello New Day.
Hello New Week.
Hello New Adventure.

HelloMonday

We are back from our trip, everything is finally put away, re-organized and tans have already started to fad. Wait a minute. Did we even go on a trip?! Months and months of planing, and just like that it is over in a flash.

The trip itself was some what surreal. It was our first big family trip as a family of 5. Something not too long ago I didn’t think would be possible. Not to mention when did finally make it to Florida, after 26.5 hours in the car (my toddler only had two 2-hour naps that whole drive!), we stayed at my Grandparents house. This was the first time stepping foot in their house since both of them passed. It was so sad. I couldn’t help picturing them there, sitting in their chairs, watching their great-grandchildren play. At the same time it was also nice to feel so close to them again. It had been 4 years since I last visited that house. But this was the first time there since both had passed and since my daughter was born. My daughter that neither one ever got to meet.

I’m still trying to sort through my emotions from the trip, and all the fun we had. So much happened. It was wonderful to spend a week alone, just the 5 of us, going on adventures every day and spending lots of time in the pool! Time spent in the pool is always a good time. Ocean time, boat rides, trolly rides, and dolphins. So much fun, so little time. However if we don’t spend that much time in the car again any time soon, I will be very happy! 26.5 hours straight down, and 3 days, no wait 4 days back in the car? Either way it was a lot of time in the car! A lot. Thankfully my toddler was happy in the car, until the very end when she threw up every where in the car. Never a dull moment in parenthood.

Now the kids are back to school, it is just my toddler and me at home. No road trips on the horizon, but adventures are around every corner and I can’t wait for our next one, whatever it may be.

~ Michelle