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10 Things To Do In Vegas With Younger Kids

August 24, 2019

When my husband informed me that he would be working in Vegas for a few weeks this summer, I have to admit…I wasn’t exactly excited to take my kids (including a two-month old) to Sin City. (Not to mention the crazy heat they typically experience in the middle of summer.) After all, I have never viewed Vegas as a kid-friendly town. However, after my first week of getting on a first-name-basis with the hotel concierge, I realized there’s plenty of awesome attractions catered to kids. Below are my kids’ favorite Vegas attractions and activities:

1. Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. When I asked my boys what their favorite part of Vegas was, they both shouted, “Avengers Station!” This amazing interactive experience involves filling out your own S.H.I.E.L.D. agent profile, answering questions through each superhero exhibit, watching videos, posing for photo ops on Captain America’s motorcycle, facing off as a team in a fight against Ultron, and countless more superhero activities. Also on display are a variety of the Avengers equipment such as Iron Man’s armor suits, Captain America’s shield, Black Panther’s mask, Thor’s hammer, etc. A must-do if you have superhero-loving boys!

2. Springs Preserve. This was my personal favorite excursion with the kids. This is where the legendary Old West explorers Kit Carson and John Fremont used to park their horses in the mid 1800s. It contains some fascinating museum exhibits (including a dinosaur exhibit, a gold-mining history exhibit, and a flash flood simulation), nature trails, a train ride, an impressive playground, an outdoor reptile exhibit, and botanical gardens. The historian in me loved learning about the Nevada history, especially the evolution of the area and the Hoover Dam. It definitely is something for everyone of all ages. (Tip: Go on a day that isn’t too hot as you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.) 

3. Adventuredome. Located in Circus Circus, this is an indoor theme park with rides and games (including an arcade, mini golf, laser tag, and 4-D movie adventure) for all ages. I would recommend visiting here during the week, as it can get more crowded on the weekends. Be sure to look in advance at the rides so you know if you want to buy individual rides or an all-day wristband. Prices are very reasonable and the best part? It’s an air-conditioned theme park!

4. Titanic Exhibit. Located at the Luxor, this is a fascinating exhibit for kids and adults alike. With lots of amazing artifacts, photos, stories, and an iceberg, it doesn’t disappoint! My kids favorite part was the ticket they give you upon entering. Each visitor is an actual ‘passenger’ on the Titanic, as your tickets provide you with a little bio about who your passenger was and why they were on the Titanic. At the end, you discover their fate. This unique touch made it more exciting for the kiddos as it kept them interested and focused up until the end. Though it has a bit of a somber feel, it’s incredibly interesting for everyone of all ages.

5. Mandalay Bay Shark Reef. This underwater world with 14 exhibits (ranging from sharks, rays, crocodiles, komodo dragons, and exotic fish) was a favorite with my boys, resulting in two visits. The polar experience was their favorite, featuring an IMAX-like experience watching a huge glacier break off.

6. Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. My kids LOVED this pet comedy show with the cutest pet tricks you can imagine. From cats pushing strollers to dogs jumping rope to lots of circus performing, this show is a home run for younger kids (approx under the age of 7 or 8).

7. Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat. Located at the Mirage Hotel, it’s a calm oasis away from the craziness of The Strip. The Dolphin Habitat is a massive tank that holds bottlenose dolphins who take part in various informal shows doing tricks with the trainers throughout the day. There is also an underwater viewing area where my boys loved watching the dolphins play and interact with each other. The Secret Garden is home to a variety of cats including panthers, tigers, leopards and lions. They have fascinating facts posted through out the garden about the cats, as well as incredibly knowledgable cat keepers who will answer any question your little ones can think up.

8. Top Golf. My kids are golf lovers, but even if you don’t play golf, this is still a fun place. They cater to everyone from beginners to advanced golfers, and kids to adults. It’s a great location as well with a good food and drink selection!

9. Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. This is one of the few free things to do in Vegas. It is a beautiful glass dome past the lobby at the Bellagio. It consists of beautiful flower and plants constructed into stunning seasonal scenes. It makes for some lovely photos ops! Note: There’s a great ice cream shop down the hallway with an awesome chocolate fountain.

10. Free Circus Acts at Circus Circus. At Circus Circus, the free show area is upstairs in the Carnival Midway arcade section. You will need to check their daily schedule of acts, but they range from your basic silly clown acts to impressive acrobatic acts, trapeze artists, and animal shows. They’re short yet entertaining for the kids and a nice break from the arcade craze!


Things To Do In Orlando Besides Disney World

January 24, 2019

Since my husband’s work and golf tournaments bring us to Orlando quite often, my kids have enjoyed the perk of being able to take advantage of the many kid-thrilling adventures in the area. They have their favorite spots that we visit each time, but I also like to switch things up and try new places. We always do Disney, but typically, that’s at the end of the trip after my husband’s obligations or work is finished so he can join us. Until then, it’s just me and the kids taking our own adventures. Below are some of our favorite things to do in Orlando besides Disney:

Meet-A-Gator at Gatorland

Gatorland. This is truly the “Alligator Capital of the World.” We finally visited Gatorland on our most recent trip and were blown away! They have over 2,000 alligators on their impressive 110-acre theme park and wildlife preservation, including a collection of extremely rare leucistic white and albino alligators. There’s plenty to do here including gator-feeding, the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, entertaining animal shows, a petting zoo, the Stompin’ Gator Off Road Adventure, train ride around the park, Meet-A-Gator (where your kids can sit on one while their mouth is taped shut and the trainer on hand), and a water fun wet park. (Note: Be sure to bring a change of clothes for the wet park!) My kids absolutely LOVED it, as we will most definitely be back next time!

Lego Store at Disney Springs

Disney Springs. We try to make at least one visit to Disney Springs each time we’re in Orlando. My kids have a blast in the Lego store, as they have impressive lego character displays, fun tables for the kids, and a build-your-own lego race car for car races. For my train-lover, we always visit the little train ride, which all the kids enjoy riding before checking out the nearby toy store. Even though the hot air balloon was down the day we visited, it looks mighty impressive. (It hovers 400-ft over Disney Springs.) They have an Erin McKenna Bakery which made my kids day considering my kids are gluten-free. (Erin McKenna is a DELICIOUS gluten-free, vegan bakery that the Ribeiro family all know and love.) They also have a luxury bowling alley, Cirque du Soleil shows, movie theater, popular restaurants, and plenty of souvenir shops. You can never be short of things to do at Disney Springs!


WonderWorks. This is a chain, as I know of a few others around the country, but if you have kids 5 and older, they will LOVE it! From a glow-in-the-dark ropes course, laser tag, the Wonderzones, a dinner magic show, and a 4D XD motion theater, this is an awesome place!

Monkey Joe’s

Monkey Joe’s. If you’re looking for 2-3 hours for kids to burn some energy, this is the place. It’s wall-to-wall fun…a great arcade, bouncy houses, inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and an impressive playground for ages 3-12. They also have their Mini Monkey Zone for toddlers under 3. (Note: Another great feature is the fact it’s located in the same shopping area as a Maggiano’s, where we always eat afterwards.)

Pirate’s Cove

Mini Golf. There are TONS of awesome places to take your kids to play mini golf in the Orlando area. Pirate’s Cove and Congo River Golf are our favorites. My oldest son is obsessed with mini golf so it’s no surprise that we play over ten rounds of mini golf per visit.:)

Turtle Trek at SeaWorld

SeaWorld. Despite the kids-ride area being down, they are opening a new Sesame Street area in the Spring that will have daily parades, Abby Cadabby’s Garden where you can meet all of the characters, Sesame Street-themed rides, and wet and dry play areas. (We will be looking forward to this next time!) Our current favorite rides and experiences are: Turtle Trek, Manitee Rehabilitation area, Antarctica Empire of the Penguin ride and Penguin Habitat, Dolphin Cove, Shark Encounter, Dolphin Days Show, and the Sky Tower.

Other options that we have enjoyed in the past include:

  • Renting a paddleboat at Lake Eola Park
  • Day trip to Tampa to enjoy the beaches, aquarium or children’s museum
  • Day trip to the Kennedy Space Center
  • Old Town Orlando
  • iFly Orlando Indoor Skydiving

Monaco Grand Prix & Italian Getaway Recap

June 8, 2018

When your Formula One racing-fanatic husband gets invited to check-off one of his bucket list items by attending the Monaco Grand Prix, you try to do everything in your power to make it happen. It was a rather last-minute trip, but considering it was perhaps the most prestigious Formula One race of the year and the first time in 15+ years my hubby would be able to attend a race, we tweaked our schedule to make it work.

Since Monaco happens to be next door to one of my all-time favorite countries (Italy), we figured it would be convenient to make this trip into a Monaco/Italian Getaway. I had been to both places numerous times in the past for work, however, no matter how often you’ve visited Italy and Monaco, every time is like the first. Since my husband, Alfonso, had only been skiing in Italy and never toured around, I figured showing him Venice and Rome before heading down to the Amalfi Coast were on the ‘must-see list’ for him. And since it was such a last-minute trip, we ended up booking our hotels two days before leaving. (I don’t recommend this method.):)

Below are some of our favorite highlights and places from each city.

VENICE: The last time I visited Venice, it was mid-July and was smelly, hot, VERY crowded, and I honestly didn’t have the best experience. Since we went in May this time around, the weather was perfect, the crowds were low, and the smell I had remembered from last time was nonexistent. (I’ve heard from locals that visiting in April/May or September/October is best.)

My husband LOVED Venice and the only thing he was upset about was not being able to stay longer. We stayed at the most amazing hotel, The Gritti Palace. The hotel restaurant they have out front was one of our favorite experiences…to be able to enjoy amazing Italian food and relax watching all the boats and gondolas pass by was almost fairytale-like.

Must-See: St. Marks Square, Doges Palace, Basilica di San Marco, any of the glass-making factories on the island of Murano, and the Bridge of Sighs. (My first time to Venice, I merely took a photo of the Bridge of Sighs from afar. This time, I wanted to walk on it to see the same views the prisoners. It’s called the Bridge of Sighs as the prisoners believed to take a sigh as their last view of the city before going underground to their cells.)

The view from the Bridge of Sighs.

Tips: If you don’t have the time to linger and get lost (as you most certainly will without a guide considering your GPS will have issues working well here), be sure to hire a tour guide as it saves much time and is an incredibly efficient way to see a lot in a short period of time. Don’t shy away from the hole-in-the-wall restaurants…we found some that were absolutely phenomenal!

ROME: We intentionally didn’t stay long in Rome as I’ve been there numerous times in the past and knew I could pack into a couple of days what my husband would find most interesting. We took a private tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which in my opinion, are the most historically fascinating and impressive places in Rome, in addition to the Vatican. We also visited the St. Sebastian Catacombs. We stayed at the beautiful hotel, Hassler Roma, which is situated at the top of the Spanish steps in Rome’s historic downtown. The hotel is beautifully decorated and the service is exceptional. The view from the sixth floor offers an amazing panoramic view of Rome. Our favorite was the outdoor patio bar with the awesome seashell bar! On the back end of our trip, we spent a night at the Baglioni Hotel Regina which also has a prime location. It was a very different vibe from the Hassler, but we had an equally awesome experience. Our recently-renovated suite was stunning with beautiful views. The spa and bar/restaurant downstairs were also fabulous with a unique decor and great service.


Must-See: Vatican City, Colosseum (the largest amphitheater in the world and over 2,000 years old), Roman Forum & Palatine Hill (which is next door to the Colosseum…also, your ticket from the Colosseum is good for entry here as long as you go on the same day), Trevi Fountain (the largest Baroque fountain in the world), Spanish Steps (made popular in the 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn), and I personally love the history of the St. Sebastian Catacombs.

MONACO. I have so many wonderful memories from Monaco during my 20s when I used to visit there for work. To experience Monte Carlo at anytime is amazing, but to experience it when the Grand Prix is in town is unlike anything else. It’s true to it’s reputation…loads of celebrities, sports stars, and wealthy Europeans (predominately) dressed to the nine watching the impressive Formula cars race past on the streets of Monte Carlo in front of the sensational yacht-lined harbor.  Simply, it’s spectacular.

Harbor at Monte Carlo, Monaco.

We were fortunate to be hosted by one of the race teams, Force India, who gave us a tour of their garage and cars, and wined and dined us in their paddock (hospitality suite). They treated us to some of the best seats in the house as we were able to spectate the race from a balcony lounge above their garage. This enabled us to not only have great views of the race, but to be blown away by watching from directly overhead as the cars came in for their crazy three-second tire changes. My husband was like a little kid in a candy store. His main highlights were meeting his favorite F1 driver, Lewis Hamilton, and being able to walk through the grid before the race began. It was an incredible experience and we are so appreciative to both Force India and Will Buxton.

On the grid at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Must-See: Since Monte Carlo is so small, an afternoon walk around the Monte Carlo Casino, Hotel de Paris, and down by the harbor lined with the most gorgeous yachts is a must! I’ve taken the tour of the Prince’s Palace in the past, and the changing of the guards in front of the palace is always enjoyable. My favorite spot, however, is a waking path just a short walk from the Marriott on the harbor (technically, it’s in Cap’dAil, France). It’s the most beautiful stone path with breathtaking views. If you’re a jogger, do not miss the opportunity to go for a jog (or walk) in the morning. It sounds silly that a simple stone walking path can be so fabulous and magical, but this one is! Here’s a video link: IMG_5891

Positano (Amalfi Coast). We had asked friends who had visited Positano for their hotel recommendations beforehand. Everyone raved about Le Sirenuse. It was only available two of the days we would be in the Amalfi Coast. Thus, I turned to Tripadvisor to assist me with an additional option. Fortunately, I found a great hotel called Il San Pietro de Positano. It is a true gem on the edge of Positano just outside of town. The restaurant, service, rooms, and views are the BEST, hands down! If you want to be in town and in the middle of everything, Le Sirenuse is a good option. That hotel is also lovely with a great restaurant and killer views. However, we wanted to be away from the crowds, so for us, Il San Pietro di Positano was our preferred spot, and a place we will for sure be visiting again. (We are seriously obsessed with this place.) Aside from our hotel, our favorite experience was renting a boat and cruising along the coast and to Capri. We visited the Blue Lagoon, a restaurant where you can only reach by boat, and went up to Anacapri, where we took the chairlift up to some amazing panoramic views. As for food, other than the hotel restaurant at San Pietro, Donna Rosa was truly awesome! We went there with some friends we made at our hotel and had an absolute blast!

Donna Rosa Restaurant

Must-See: A minimum three-hour visit to Pompeii, an afternoon to Ravello for lunch to enjoy the amazing views, downtown Positano and their fabulous shops, Capri and Anacapri, boat ride along the coast (be sure to check out where they hold the Red Bull High Diving Championships), and walk around to find one of the many homemade sandal shops to have your custom sandals made.

The nice thing about Italy is that no matter where you are what you do, you can never go wrong. I must say, however, that the Amalfi Coast is the most charming and romantic place I’ve ever before experienced. The views, the food, the atmosphere, the wine, the people…it’s all incredible. A true romantic paradise.

Il San Pietro di Positano

The food never disappoints.


Views from Anacapri.


On our balcony at Le Sirenuse overlooking the town of Positano.

From our balcony at Il San Pietro di Positano.

The almost 500 stairs to go down to the beach at Il San Pietro di Positano. (Don’t worry, they have an elevator that goes thru the cliff to bypass these.)

Roman Forum in Rome

Doges Palace in Venice.

The canals of Venice.



Greenville, South Carolina: Family Trip Recap

May 21, 2018

Traveling with kids can at times be a major ‘production’. Since my husband’s work requires a lot of travel, I always try to do my due diligence beforehand and make sure I have a sense of kid activities and excursions in the particular city we are visiting. This past week, we visited Greenville, South Carolina, where my husband participated in the BMW Charity Pro Am Golf Tournament. We’ve been to this charming, beautiful city a couple of times in the past for the same event, but since my kids are older, I wanted to explore some more age-appropriate activities in the area. If you’ve never been to Greenville, I HIGHLY recommend adding it to your list of possible family vacations. It’s such a unique, quaint town with so much character, amazing food, great boutique shops, and takes great pride in their involvement and presence of the arts.

Below are some of our favorite places and sights in and around Greenville:

  • The Children’s Museum of the Upstate. This is by far one of the best children’s museums, hands down! We LOVE this place. It has multiple hands-on galleries, water tables, elaborate indoor play apparatus, outdoor playground, amazing exhibits and classes catering to all ages. If you have kids and visiting Greenville, this is a must-do! Conveniently, it’s walking distance from downtown Greenville, as well.

  • The Greenville Zoo. Maybe it’s because the always-crowded Los Angeles Zoo is so massive, but I absolutely adore this tiny but awesome and charming zoo. The zoo can be navigated in under an hour, especially if you have kids like mine who sprint from one exhibit to the next. There’s also a great playground next to the parking lot.
  • Gravitopia. We have a few trampoline centers like Sky High in Los Angeles, but Gravitopia tops all of the ones I have visited, hands down! They have the best trampoline set ups, along with a Ninja Warrior area and a great trapeze area for adults and kids. My kids loved this place so much we went there twice.
  • Falls Park on the Reedy River. In my opinion, this is the gem of Greenville. My kids love walking on the expansion bridge and watching the falls…it’s a stunning view. Last year we went for a walk here on a Sunday and partook in some great family activities geared towards kids. 
  • Main Street. You can spend an entire afternoon just enjoying Main Street. From their awesome General Store, the toy store next door, Tupelo Honey (our favorite restaurant…their Fried Green Tomatoes are a must!), an impressive selection of ice cream shops and boutique stands, and their Saturday Farmers Market is top-notch. You can also catch some amazing sidewalk art.
  • The Park at the Greenville Downtown Airport. This is an awesome playground next to the tiny airport where the kids can watch small planes take off and land while playing. It offers a nice shaded area with tables for eating and it never seems to be very crowded. We have friends who live nearby and they always recommend meeting up here as it’s definitely the coolest playground for kids, especially those who love planes.
  • Soby’s and Larkin’s on the River. These are our favorite dinner restaurants that won’t disappoint. We’ve even had brunch on Mother’s Day one year at Larkin’s and their buffet spread was like a dream.

This town is full of Southern charm and has quickly become one of my favorite towns in the South. Though it’s great to be home, I’m sure going to missed those Cheese Grits and Fried Chicken! Until next year…


Bora Bora Vacation Recap

October 23, 2017

After four years, we finally did it. We took a husband/wife trip without kids! For a year, we had tried planning a kid-free trip to nearby places like Palm Springs, San Diego, and San Francisco. For whatever reason, (usually my husband’s work schedule), none ever materialized. After an insanely busy summer on top of being out of our home due to water damage/renovations, my husband and I decided to pull the trigger. “If we’re going to do this, let’s commit to it and just go big,” I said. “Otherwise, it’s never going to happen.” I had always wanted to show my husband my all-time favorite island destination, Bora Bora, which I had visited a few times before for work. (Not too shabby work, huh?!) I’ve raved about my favorite Polynesian paradise for years…how “nothing compares to it,” and “when you’re there, you feel like your surrounding is fake,” and “it’s too beautiful to be real.” After showing photo after photo and acting as though I was a sales representative for the Bora Bora Board of Tourism, my husband gave me the thumbs up. Thus, we went online, put our saved up airline miles to good use, and booked our adult getaway to the “Pearl of the South Pacific.” Bora Bora, here we come!

When I had previously experienced Bora Bora for work, I visited some lovely resorts. I stayed at the Intercontinental, Sofitel, and my favorite property was what is now the newly renovated Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort. However, I had heard and read so many amazing things about the Four Seasons Bora Bora. After doing our own research and finding a deal, we decided to give it a try.

To provide an overview of the hotel, Four Seasons Bora Bora is perhaps one of the most picturesque spots on the island. The location is phenomenal. The resort is surrounded by white sand islets on an outer coral reef harboring the most gorgeous color of turquoise lagoon. And as if that isn’t enough, the backdrop is the absolute best views of Mt. Otemanu. (It’s seriously the most gorgeous views EVER!) Talk about some major beauty-sensory-overload! It consists of 300 over-water-bungalows and ten beachfront villas. The resort’s sprawling property includes a spa, lagoon sanctuary, infinity pool, fitness center, tennis courts, four restaurants, and a chapel.


  • SPA – The spa is FABULOUS! We enjoyed a couples polynesian massage in the spa suite which was divine. The massage tables are situated over a glass window in the floor so you can admire the large amounts of fish in the lagoon while you lay on your stomach. The suite has its own charming soaking tub with flowers, coconut oils, and fresh fruit.


  • FOOD – The four restaurants offered a great diversity of lunch and dinner options. Our favorite was the beach restaurant with live entertainment. The elegant French restaurant was excellent, as was the sushi restaurant. Our favorite dining experience, however, consisted of simply ordering room service on our private deck in our bungalow at sunset…it was by far the most romantic and picture-perfect setting for a private dining experience.

    Overwater bungalow room service dinner on our deck…

  • ACTIVITIES – Despite wanting to mostly relax, we did venture off to do some activities. We ended up booking the Vitamin Sea Catamaran which was a must-do! We also rented jet skis off property and had a great time on the 2-hour tour around the island, which included a stop to wade in the water and a second stop to learn how to open a coconut. We loved it so much that we ended up doing the tour twice. We also went into town to dine at the notorious Bloody Mary’s, shop, and enjoy chatting with the locals. The boat transfers to the main island were a bit on the pricey side, but it’s pretty much the only way to get there.


  • STAFF –  The staff were so welcoming and lovely. The staff didn’t just know our names, but every person we saw who walked by a staff member would be greeted by name. How they memorized all of us, I have no idea but it was mighty impressive! The attention to detail in the rooms was quite special. Each day, we came back to our room with a different ‘surprise.’ Whether it was an already-drawn bubble bath with petals and champagne, or a plate of delicious sweets and fruit at our bedside, the little details were very memorable. A big, heartfelt “maururu” to the staff for making our experience so magical.


  • OVERWATER BUNGALOWS – The famous straw-roof luxury huts on stilts in the middle of the most beautiful lagoon are just as amazing as they sound. To be able to fall asleep with the sound of waves beneath you -even on the windy nights with the crashing waves- is so soothing. The private decks enable you to jump into the ocean around your bungalow and admire the colorful fish and sea life underneath.

Overall, it was truly an unforgettable, magnificent experience. Our mission to spend quality time together, recover and rejuvenate from our summer, and create some beautiful memories in such a special place was accomplished. It truly exceeded all of our expectations and then some. We HIGHLY recommend a Bora Bora vacation, hands down. I didn’t do any scuba diving on this particular trip, but I have in all of my previous trips to Bora Bora. To date, it has been my most favorite scuba diving destination with the vibrant colors and amazing variety of sea life. If you can stay a while and are able to travel around, I would definitely suggest visiting Moorea and a day in Papeete (the downtown market is a must-do!), both of which I’ve visited on my previous work trips. I have also visited Rotorua and Huahine which were also memorable. (Huahine has some great vanilla bean fields…I love me some vanilla beans so I greatly advise to order vanilla bean-flavored desserts in Tahiti as they are the real deal! Best Vanilla Bean Ice Cream on the planet!) A few of the friends we made on our vacation visited The Brando on Tetiaroa and said it was unbelievable. I have never been but it sounds exceptional! Even though Bora Bora is a hike for those in the Midwest and East coast, I would still highly recommend this Tahitian paradise…(especially considering the Zika scare in other tropical destinations). It’s truly a magical place that you will create some beautiful memories with your loved one.


Photos by Sadry Ghacir and myself



Family Travel

The Joys Of Traveling Alone With Little Ones

September 29, 2015

Boy looks at the plane at the airport silhouette shot from back

By no surprise, we found ourselves away from home for yet another family occasion this past week… my husband’s birthday. When my husband realized that he was booked to be in Chicago over his birthday, he made sure to make it work so that he could still spend his special day with his family. Besides, who wants to spend their birthday alone away from home? Since Alfonso was in Houston for an appearance and was flying to Chicago from there, I had the wonderful undertaking of flying by myself with our toddler and infant. Lucky me! (Can you say “ANXIETY?!”)

I have flown by myself with my two little ones before, but no matter how often you do it, it never prepares you to do it again. Most of the time, we fly as a family –a routine I have down pat. However, when I don’t have my husband for the man-to-man coverage, the experience never seems to go quite as planned. I prepped for the flight the same as I always do, with the most important items being my secret weapon: a ziplock of new toys from the 99 Cent Store. (I’ve learned it never matters how basic the toys are, as long as AJ has never seen them, they serve as a pleasant distraction/detour from oncoming tantrums or whining episodes on the plane.)

Fortunately, we made it to Chicago without too many hiccups. The silly putty and superhero sticker book were the biggest hits of the flight. All three of us were covered with Batman and Superman stickers by the time we landed. (A nice lady across the aisle even had them on her pant leg as she was nice enough to allow AJ to deck her out.) Overall, it was a successful flight, but not without constantly being on my “A” game. It’s one of those things I feel like I can never fully prepare for as there are so many unknown factors that can impact flying with young children. (Particularly when you are doing it without your spouse.) As moms, we simply just make it work. I never truly feel more like Superwoman until once the wheels touch ground and I know I survived. Thus, I didn’t even mind when I was walking to the O’Hare baggage claim covered in superhero stickers as I certainly felt like it was fitting. (Single moms… *kneels down to you*).

We ended up having a wonderful time in Chicago. Alfonso was very excited to be able to have us there with him to celebrate his birthday. His special day consisted of his favorite things: family (minus Sienna as she had school), golf (he was invited to play in a Northwestern University golf outing), and great food (we enjoyed a fabulous dinner with our dear friends in Glenview). One of my personal highlights was visiting my alma mater, Northwestern, with my boys while Alfonso was playing golf. I hadn’t visited the campus in 12 years so it was great to see all of the new buildings, supply my boys with some Northwestern gear, and show my sons my favorite view on campus overlooking downtown Chicago. I must say, it’s quite surreal to be in a place where you once created so many hopes and dreams… where you vividly remember all of the excitement yet uncertainty you felt about your future… where you had so many options laid out before you and hoped the path you chose was the best for realizing those hopes and dreams. To revisit this place with my children and share it with them was a very special experience for me.

Overall, despite the anxiety of flying solo with little ones, it was an amazing trip. (Fortunately, the flight back was a breeze since Daddy was able to fly back with us.) I’m happy my husband got the birthday he wanted and that we were able to help him celebrate it all together. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Nothing beats being able to be together as a family on special occasions. And every now and then, it may require us moms to drop our disguises and show the world our superhero powers. After all, isn’t every mom a superwoman?


Disney’s Aulani Resort: Vacation Recap

August 8, 2015

Alfonso Family12

Looking back on my childhood, some of my most cherished memories consisted of our family summer vacations. We would typically drive to each vacation destination and stop at any and every tourist attraction along the way. I remember one of my favorite trips was our drive to Seattle when I was ten. We hit up several tourist attractions on the drive ranging from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone to a mining museum in Montana to exploring some cool towns in Idaho. I loved traveling with my family, and I was obsessed with wanting to visit every state. (I’ve almost accomplished this goal… I only have Vermont, Delaware, and New Hampshire to go!) Now being a parent myself, my husband and I hope to offer the same to our children – the opportunity to show our children new places while creating fun, long-lasting family memories. (And hopefully one of our future trips will enable me to check off my final three states!)

When debating where we wanted to take our vacation this year, Alfonso and I wanted a place that both Sienna and AJ could enjoy. We had an amazing experience last summer at Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos – even though AJ was too young to really enjoy it. After many suggestions from friends and conducting my own research online, we concluded that Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii seemed like the best fit for everyone.

I had read hundreds of reviews about the resort before heading to Hawaii. I found some to be very helpful, (i.e. not using the resort to rent a car for a day, reserving a two-bedroom villa, attending a luau at nearby Paradise Cove, etc.) To offer my own review, here’s what I loved about Disney’s Aulani Resort:

  1. The resort is absolutely, positively beautiful! Aesthetically, it looks like a Disney resort in a Hawaiian paradise. It was the perfect mix of enjoying the Disney characters along with the Hawaiian beaches, food, and ambiance.
  2. The two-bedroom villa was wonderful. It was the ideal space for our family. (We brought all three kids, Sienna’s friend, and our baby-sitter.) The full kitchen was great for cooking the kids’ breakfast and dinners. (My toddler is one of the pickiest eaters ever. He is currently in the will-only-eat-oatmeal-for-breakfast phase.) Additionally, it was great to have the ability and space to clean bottles and breast pump parts -two activities that I find myself doing constantly.
  3. The beach was, in the words of my stepdaughter, “absolutely awesome!” The Aulani beach is on a man-made lagoon, which made it easier/safer to take AJ out for a dip and for the girls to snorkel without battling the waves and strong currents.
  4. The cabanas were a wonderful break from the continuous -and often unsuccessful- search of finding available chairs by the pool. We rented a cabana for two days by the pool and loved every second. There was a Pack ‘n Play set up for my 3-month old, a fan, curtains for privacy, TV, awesome waiters, and simply, it made the pool/beach experience much easier with kids. They were expensive, but well worth the splurge for two days out of the week.
  5. The Laniwai Spa was a favorite for Alfonso and me. We both had a deep tissue massage that served as the most relaxing and rejuvenating 90 minutes of our vacation. We also enjoyed utilizing the beautiful spa gardens consisting of a charming area of mineral hydrotherapy pools and showers at various temperatures. They offered a great array of massages at typical resort pricing. (Next time, I will definitely be trying the traditional Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage.)
  6. Ama Ama was hands down the best restaurant. My Korubuta Pork Chop with Coconut Rice and Thai Peanut Sauce was DELISH! Alfonso and I enjoyed a romantic date night here (sans kids) on one of the nights. The breakfasts here were also divine. Their Buttermilk Pancakes with Macadamia Nut Vanilla Sauce is a must! Your life will never be the same after letting your taste buds enjoy this delectableness.
  7. The buffet breakfast (Makahiki), where the Disney characters make their rounds, was sheer excitement for my toddler. Even though I always fed AJ in the room prior to heading down for breakfast, he used this time to stalk Goofy and Minnie and partake in the fun activities led by the Disney characters.
  8. The luau at Paradise Cove was fabulous! It’s a ten-minute walk from the hotel and totally worth venturing out to enjoy. The activities beforehand are great for all ages – the spear throwing was a big hit for our clan. (Not to brag, but I was the only person in our group to stick my spear in the target. Apparently, I have some mad spear skills.:)) The show itself was incredibly entertaining! The kids loved the experience of getting up on stage and partaking in the hula lesson. And the fire performers produced some major cringe-worthy moments with many “oooo’s” and “ahhhh’s.”
  9. The friendly Aulani staff –or “Cast Members” -were incredibly helpful. Everyone we dealt with was warm, welcoming, and always cheerful –just like at Disneyland. They certainly receive a 10-rating for hospitality!
  10. There was never a shortage of things to do! The girls enjoyed Aunty’s Beach House (where they offered activities for kids ages 3-12), snorkeling, paddle boarding, and the water slides. AJ had an absolute ball at the Starlit Hui show (featuring some hula and traditional Hawaiian dancing, as well as appearances by the Disney characters). He also enjoyed the Splash Zone, making sand castles on the beach, the Lazy River, and the Ka Maka Grotto pool. And, of course, Anders enjoyed observing all of the sights, sounds, and checking out the pool scene from his deluxe Pack ‘n Play in the cabana.:)

Overall, our family vacation was everything we hoped it would be. It was fun. It was relaxing. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy numerous activities together as a family. And most of all, we created some wonderful, long-lasting family memories. Aulani was the perfect place for our family vacation. I would highly recommend it if you’re a Disney-lover, Hawaii-lover, or love both. And if you have a range of ages, it caters to all!

Now all Alfonso and I need after the flight back with two under two is another vacation. Any suggestions?:)





July 28, 2015

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We have returned from yet another amazing family trip from Lake Tahoe. It is perhaps one of our all-time favorite places to visit. Not only does it have stunning views of one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in the world with its breathtaking mountain backdrop, but it is also the place where Alfonso asked me to marry him. Thus, it is a special place that we will always hold near and dear to our hearts. (Fun facts for you geography lovers like myself: Lake Tahoe is one of the clearest bodies of water in the world. It is the second deepest lake in North America, and if the lake were tipped, its contents would cover the entire state of California in 14.5 inches of water!)

The reason we make the trek to Tahoe each year is for the prestigious American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. It’s widely known as the ‘superbowl’ of celebrity golf. It involves PGA rules, competitive scoring format, prize money, head-to-head competition, no carts, and five days of golf (three of which count towards their overall score). There are also countless tournament dinners, parties, and concerts. Needless to say, it’s an exhausting yet incredibly fun week!

Considering golf is one of my husband’s greatest passions, I enjoy supporting it. For four of the five days, I packed up my BOB jogger stroller (Revolution Flex – the BEST stroller for hilly terrain) with my diaper bag and 2-month old, Anders. We set out for the 6-mile a day course to support and cheer on Daddy and his buddies. (24 miles total for the week… not bad for some good post-baby work outs!) In case any of you caught the coverage on NBC, you may have seen that my husband was not high up on the leader board. Unfortunately, he had a couple of rough rounds, but he still had fun and made his wife proud with some amazing shots, nonetheless. In addition, he was able to play all three days with one of his golf buddies, Justin Timberlake. They had a great time amusing the crowd and beach-goers on the 17th hole, which lines one of the beaches of Lake Tahoe – always the most entertaining hole on the course. To provide some highlights, here’s a video of Alfonso, Justin, and Jerry Rice dancing on the tee during the final day: Alfonso & Justin Doing The Carlton

The kids also had a great time, per usual. Anders enjoyed his daily naps in the stroller on the golf course, which offered some fresh, clean Lake Tahoe breathing air. (A far cry from the smoggy and contaminated LA air.) AJ had a blast with my parents, who came to help baby-sit. (My brother also came, as he caddies for Alfonso in the tournament every year.) My parents and AJ did plenty of the activities offered in downtown Lake Tahoe, ranging from the miniature golf course, Marriott pool, kids center, gondola, beach, etc. Sienna enjoyed hanging with her friends – fellow children of other players in the tournament – who she looks forward to seeing annually on this occasion. They partook in their typical ‘tween’ activities… jet-skiing, going to the movie theater, winning candy at the arcade, and staying up way too late during multiple sleepovers. As you can see, it’s impossible to be bored in Tahoe… there’s never a shortage of things to do, no matter the age!

Traveling this time was relatively easy. For starters, it’s a quick flight (about an hour). We were also fortunate enough to ride with a friend on their chartered private jet, which made the experience ten times easier with AJ and Anders. To be able to bypass the stress and strains of LAX and of flying with an infant and toddler on the airlines is such a hallelujah moment (let alone just riding on a private jet!). After working as a private jet flight attendant for nine years, I made sure to apologize profusely for the constant call-button pushing by my son. (That noise can drive a flight attendant mad in the galley. I remember going home from trips when I had kids constantly pressing the call-button. I would hear the ding sound in my head for days!)

Despite the golf not being as good as my husband would have hoped, overall, it was a wonderful trip. We were able to see some great friends, spend quality time together in one of our favorite places, and create some unforgettable family memories. What’s better than that? As one of my favorite quotes goes: “The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve been, and the memories you’ve made along the way.” Amen to that.