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We Don’t Celebrate Valentines Day at our house , Part V

Well as you may know by now, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at our house. We haven’t for several years.

Each year we like to take off to someplace warm for a few days and thaw out from the winter freeze.

This year we had an interruption in our plans. Dylan was nominated by her school to be in the All-State Chorus for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Their big performance was, you guessed it, the long weekend over Valentines Day; a.k.a. our escape day.

That Valentine’s weekend she actually had to arrive for practice on a Thursday. Then, practice all day Friday with their final performance Saturday morning.

We were very proud and happy for her. Mom drove the kids up after school that day. I drove up and went in to watch them practice after work. I didn’t know what to expect.

What would you anticipate?

When I opened the doors of the First Baptist Church in Columbia, SC all I could think was Wow!

Wow! Some place special for a Chorus event.

What a huge church and what a spectacular choir loft! My whole church could fit in that choir loft I thought. I was impressed! What a cool site for this special gig for our kids!

And as I watched them practice I became equally impressed the Chorus Director. He coached. He taught. He was high energy yet patient. He spoke to the kids at their level and with some very bright ideas I thought. It turns out this was no simple choir director.

Henry Leck

Henry Leck is known world-wide for directing children’s choirs. (who knew?) He has his own children’s choirs in Indianapolis. His back ground and feats was quite lengthy and impressive! He was summed up in his introduction that day as a Rock Star in the field of children’s choirs.

And he had those kids on track!

I tried to get some on tape to remember but my worn out phone was overwhelmed. Needless to say, during the long day of practicing no child was bored or lacked focus and he brought things out of the kid’s voices they were unaware they had.

So here is the final presentation Saturday morning. Can you find little Dylan?

Hint, she’s in the second row.

In the center, 2nd row up, 5th in from the left.

In a chorus full of 174 talented young 4th, 5th and 6th graders from the state of South Carolina,

could you spot my favorite one?

Well she spotted me and my family.

And she somehow knew I had the camera up looking for her too.

Here is that picture close up….

See her now… with a big cheesy smile for her Dad

So it’s by no accident that I post one of my fav songs from the concert first, the last song in the event actually.

You see that morning, as I dropped little D off for her big day, I didn’t know how she was feeling so I offered some advice of just trying to be in the moment, enjoy it, and Have Fun!

Don’t be nervous or anxious (one child actually threw up during rehearsal on Friday). Just enjoy your day and have fun!

In this last song the kids were supposed to snap their fingers. I was kinda disappointed Dylan didn’t  join in right away. So I motioned snapping my fingers from my seat in the audience. She saw me right away and just mimicked me and snapped away!

So if you don’t think you can find little D among all these youngsters, look for the one up there swinging her arms, snapping her fingers and swaying her hips and having a good time.

That’s my lil D!

 Below is another one of my fav tunes, that actually had me tear up.

Mr. Leck was the one who chose all of the songs for the event and well-chosen they were! If you would like to see more go to my Youtube channel.

In the song below he introduces real well, especially in wake of the tragedy of the shootings in Florida that happened earlier that week….

Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect driving up for this weekend. I was their for support mainly. But the event really Wow’ed me.

Great job everyone!

It turns out this was the first time this event was held in this beautiful church with its wonderful acoustics. It was held in gymnasiums or auditoriums before. Also this was the 20th anniversary for the SC All-State Chorus. Mr. Leck directed the first one, the 10th one’ and now number 20. So I, or we all really lucked out.

Dare I say we, ‘Lecked out?’  🙂

But our Valentine’s getaway did not end there!

Next we were off to the Great Wolf Lodge; a hotel and resort built for the amusement of kids.

Oh god!

Mom told me I could hang at the gym or the bar if I got too kidded out!

And there were lots of them!

It too was a spectacular place! It reminded me kinda like a cruise. There was a massive check in Saturday, and everyone is herded into certain areas than shuffled off to other areas for other events at various times of the day.

But if you had a child, they were all smiles!

We were walking down the hallway one morning and both our girls were smiling so much they were practically gliding.

It was well done in a Montana type wolf lodge theme…

The rooms were pretty cool too. I guess they might by Suites be definition, as the kids had their own room, designed to look like they were inside a tent..with a TV (!!)

They have their own TV… I have mine!

Then, daily they had regular kid activities planned, mostly out in the lobby with the animated log cabin and a cast of characters and animals that would capture a kid’s imagination with an amusing story. Like the storytime I took Skye to that night.

She busted her way upfront and was completely engulfed in the robotics.

Skylar in the blue, front and center, waiting for the robot boy to talk again

They also have a pretty good indoor water park there!

That is the wave pool above. You can also make out some water-coasters too.

Yes, the resort may be for kids but the water Tornado was pretty exciting too as you glided half way up the walls in the down flowing currents.

swirling up the side of the Tornado

It was pretty exciting as you swirled around the sides, like riding in a giant toilet. 

But the genius part of the Great Wolf Lodge was the Magi and Shadow Quest games that turned the hotel into an enormous treasure hunt activity.

Trust me, there were lots more kids in these hallways than this.

You’ll buy, er, chose a magic wand, top it with extra powers as you find and capture certain magical runes. Then set off on a quest to battle Charlock, the evil dragon, once you have accumulated all the mystical powers needed. You immerse yourself in Vellara, a realm of enchantment, as you befriend the Treetop Pixies, to give them their magical powers back then return special gems to Ursa Major (in order) to restore that bear back to the constellations.

Well, Ursa is when we ran out of time.

We completed about 14 such quests to get to help Ursa, becoming Master Magi(s) status along the way.

You get to decide how much time you want to spend with Magi-Quest, depending on how many quests you undertake at a time. Play can last anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, er, all evening, as you go for more and more mystical Runes with the aid of your magi-wand and deciphering the clues on where to find these powers. You can always take a break and come back later.

Using their acquired powers to defeat the dragon

Now these clues for each now Rune (level) were hidden or riddled on three different floors. You usually had to find 5-7 items (treasure hunt) in order to acquire the new power, or Rune. One crystal would be at one side of the hotel, the next crystal on the other side of the hotel, then upstairs to the other side for a painting and then across to the other….

It truly captured (dozens of) kid’s imaginations as they raced through the halls (with their parents) to find the next secret.

They would play, tirelessly, for hours at a time. There seemed to be no end to it.

Their imaginations would be captured any given part of the day and energies worn down to zero.. so they could sleep well through the night.

Genius!

making the Red Crystals glow with her Magi Wand. It actually needed to glow Green.. “the crystal glows green if you’ve found all that you need. IF it glows Red you can not proceed.

Add to it the instructions asked you not to use the elevator in the middle of the resort but the stairwells on the sides  (ahhhh!!!)

What a workout!

You had a list of clues on where to find all the crystals or amulets or paintings BUT not all information was given (like the Pixie Crystal above). Somethings you had to figure out for yourself!

Or ask the kid that was a step ahead of you what they did.

To defeat the dragon you needed a Powerful Shield, the Frozen Arrow, and the Freezing Spell; three items not easy to come by!

figuring out how to awaken and defeat the Dragon

The order of the Symbols is critical here.

Down the Forgotten Hallway you will find them.

Within a Great Painting these symbols appear.

You will be better served to mind them.”

But what they didn’t tell you is you had to offer these symbols in a certain order at the opening of the Dragon’s gate, plus one symbol not mentioned, to proceed just to wake him up to battle; otherwise he never knew you were there.

Genius!

Like I said, a great place to be a kid.

As for me, MY special delight was….. are you sitting down…..

DUNKIN DONUTS!!!

delivered right to your door in the morning for a breakfast!

This must be what heaven is like!

3D Breakfast…Donuts Delivered to my Door in the morning

So that is where we spent this year’s Valentines Day vacay.

Wonderful singing, fancy hotel rooms, over-chlorinated pools, magical story times, magical quests, and Dunkin Donuts delivered right to my door.

I think this beats Jamaica.

Photo Op ~ yes the kids were all smiles!

Have a great week knuckleheads!

I’ll try to do better next time!

Today only comes around once in a life time. Make it AMAZING!

We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at our house…

So if I haven’t lost you all yet are you ready for another few dozen family pics?

The final day of our Valentine’s getaway was, of course, Valentine’s Day Sunday.  For whatever reason we opted to spend that day at the Magic Kingdom theme park (shoot me in the head).

It was crazy packed that day with lots of people off the following day!

Walt Disney World Photo Gallery Disc

But we did our usual routine again and got there scary-early so we could hop on some great rides before the rest of the world arrived.

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!

Yes we got there about 45 minutes before opening so we were right up front when they opened the gates..

AND

Got to hear this opening number again to entertain and build excitement for the early bird crowds while they pack the front gates patiently wait for the gates to open:

The early start actually gave us time for a family, pre-planned prayer to the Disney gods to have a Magical day; to get on some great rides with no waiting, for a sunny warm day, and for the kids to not get cranky for the long rigorous day ahead.

The Disney gods did not disappoint!

Magic Kingdom Tinker Bell magic too

And it worked!

We took a minute to take a souvenir shot at the customary spot so that every one can get a picture of us for Christmas..

Required souvenir shot at the Magic Kingdom

Required souvenir shot at the Magic Kingdom

Then we ALL hustled our way over to some of the rides with the historically long wait-times that we did not have a Fast Pass for.

First was the great Jungle Cruise with the comical river boat guide and then over to our 2nd fav. roller coaster there, Big Thunder Mountain. Then back over to the Pirates of the Caribbean  before any lines formed to slow our mojo.

Never waited in line once!

Then we raced over to Tomorrowland for our first Fast Pass with Tomorrowland Speedway…. for the kids!

That's me! This was my favorite ride when I was a kid. Yes, I was a kid once..

That’s me! This was my favorite ride when I was a kid. Yes, I was a kid once..

Yes, this was my favorite ride the one time I came to Disney as a kid.

Then we had some time to kill until our next Fast Pass, Peter Pan’s Flight.

This ride has an incredibly long wait times historically.  And the girls didn’t have any interest to see any of the Disney Princesses this trip so we hob-knobbed around in the Liberty Square / Fantasyland areas and took in a couple of old favorite rides, like the humorous Haunted Mansion and the timeless It’s a Small World attractions.

We found a few good carnival rides too to put smiles on our faces…

Magic Kingdom Carousel

And I did see MY favorite Disney Princess getting in a bit of a spat with my alter-ego while we were there…

Beware the Smolder! Someone is hitting on my girl

Beware the Smolder! Someone is hitting on my girl

Yes, I have a dream!

By then the park was getting packed! And a lot of standing in-line was making my feet hurt and my whole Magical attitude go south.

I prayed for a way to get off my feet. What I wouldn’t give to go on a train ride, to hear the whistle blow, put my feet up, and go someplace else mentally for 30 minutes…. hmmmm

My feet and hips hurt. The trains were calling me!

My feet and hips hurt. The trains were calling me!

I rode that train just long enough until the time for our last Fast Pass, and where we have a Star on their walk-of-fame for the now, almost famous, commercial we made for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train:

And that about wrapped up our day at the Magic Kingdom.

Going back to the beginning, keep in mind it was Valentine’s Day. When we made our reservations, about 2 months out, we could not get a single table reserved for dinner IN the Magic Kingdom. So we had to hop the tram to run us over to the closest hotel, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

Never been there!

This resort was at the last stop on the round-trip Disney tram but we made our 6:15 dinner reservations. We found this lovely hotel and vestibule, complete with a live jazz band playing to the open air hotel lobby from the third floor.

Nice!

Magic Kingdom Valentines Florida GrandAnd if this lobby was any indication of our Valentine’s dinner we were in for a very special Valentines’ Day dinner; all of us!

The dinner was outstanding!

Yes, it was still on the Disney meal plan, even in a hotel restaurant. The kids loved it. Mom loved it. I tried to embarrass Mom by proposing again on one knee beside our table,  an anniversary of sorts as I proposed for the first time on Valentine’s Day several years back.

Well, she didn’t fall for it this time and I got up without any round of applause or anything.

My perceptive 7-year-old though, never missing a beat, took one bite out of her dinner roll and held it up for my Valentine that evening…

Magic Kingdom Valentines Dinner

This kid is pretty smart!

We finished our meal, hit the tram, found our shuttle bus to our hotel, staggered in to check-out for the following morning and wrapped up our Valentine’s Day celebration away from home.

One thing about where we stayed on this trip.

We stayed at one of Disney’s Value Resorts this time, the Disney All-Star Movie resort.

Resort All Star Movies friend

We were just there to shower and sleep and were not to impressed with Moderate priced level last time. And this hotel and our room was every bit as nice, or nicer than the last venture at the Caribbean Resort. The only down side was this hotel, being one of the value branch, was attractive to all the large groups visiting Disney and so there was a lot of laughing outside and doors slamming as they went from room to room.

All in all though the All-Star Movie resort did put on a good show!

Resort All Star Movies TV

One last thing,  we visited Disney Springs for the first time, on the night of our arrival as well as the day of our departure. This is not a theme park but a big outside mall, full of all the big brand names a place like Disney World can attract, whether retail or dining. No rides there, just great shops and eats.

Like this $50 Rice Krispy treat:

$50 'magical' Rice Krispy treats

$50 ‘magical’ Rice Krispy treats

NOT on the meal plan!

Still… our girls did find some way to have some magical fun and meet some new friends…

Disney Springs w Pooh

It appears Skylar just likes warm lots of hugs now!

Warm Hugs anyone?

Warm Hugs anyone?

Yes, that is a painting on a wall she is hugging!

Crazy girl…

Thanks for taking a trip with my family to Disney World!

I wanted to get this last post in as I have some potentially sad and damaging news to broadcast next.

It appears I may have to spend some time behind bars in mid April.

I need to start passing the hat to earn my release……

In a day of surprises

Last night, while we all were all eating, a UPS truck pulled up in front of our house. It was apparent they had something for our house. But what was it?

I joked right away, “oh that’s some Big Beer from Texas. Laura Hayes said she was going to send some in a comment just after I posted about buying and selling our house. “

You know what? I called it!

One of my original followers and long-time friend of the family, Laura Hayes has a heart the size of Texas. She sent up 6 beers that were made in Texas. Plus a bottle of (Texas) ‘Rangers Home Run Red’ wine, only available for sale in Texas. Home Run red wine, eh? I gave my wife a wink and hoped I could score a Home Run some night this week.

If I can give a shout out here, Laura is actually the mother to our very first nanny, Jessica Hayes. Jessica came on at a very special time in our lives.  Not only was she a great nanny but she was an great amateur photographer and filled both ours and her mother’s house up with adorable pics of our very first child, Dylan.

Laura took our miracle daughter to heart. This lady sent gifts to Dylan in the mail, including some great educational books and learning materials for our daughter. And you may know the results of these investments!

Laura quickly became part of the wonderful list of  ‘grandmothers’ to Dylan. We had a grandmother type name for her. Dylan would try to pronounce Laura but it came out, ““wa wa” . And the name stuck. Ms. Laura became Grandma Wa-Wa.

We had the honor of meeting this nice lady one time in a visit that was too short. But we thought it would be one of many more. Her daughter, Jessica, has moved back home to Texas to continue her photography and go back to school I believe.

Jessica, was awesome in her own right. She was great with Dylan and completely relieved us as parents as to how good a teacher and role model a nanny could be.

However, what I really remember and truly miss, and unfairly to Jess, was her ability to make her professional looking videos for us. FLIP video is such a drop off compared to the magic an creativity Jessica possesses…

Here is a sample of Jessica’s work (in case any of you would like to hire her)

A video summarizing Dylan’s first year:

A video showing Dylan’s 2nd birthday and the present of a new baby sister, Skylar:

Or get your tan oil and and your favorite boat drink and travel with us on  our getaway to someplace warm on Valentines trip:

Ms. Laura sent a cordial letter with her intoxicating package that stated she also sent us something from Target. I felt bad, as we have never received any gift from her for Target. What should I tell her?

And then I opened the days mail and there was a gift card that would just about cover….ah…

Well, I better hold off. I don’t know if I wanna tell the misses about this yet…its that nice!

Thank you so much Laura for your kindness and generosity! We love you!

I will soon be playing “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” upstairs this week!

Other good news, my parents are still in town this weekend and opted to get us a new patio table and umbrella for our anniversary…which isn’t until September. Thank Mom and Dad! Make sure you use it while you are here!

The weather is warmer and we are planning trips to the beach in the weekends to come. Come with us if you are in the area! We would love to have you with us! And our summer vacation is right around the corner. Hello summer!

See? I told you I would try to do better the next post?

To be fair, the prostate results didn’t go as hoped for this afternoon. I have a few more tests to see if the cancer spread anywhere else and then they may have to remove it. So I guess its imperative I ’round the bases this week’! As another blog friend Susie said in her Wild Ride, just more obstacles and U-turns. So with a deep breath I say, “Let’s do this!” Life is short! Opps….sorry… bad saying….Howabout “Its better to burn out than it is to rust”.

That doesn’t really fit either. Oh well, I’ll figure that saying out. Anyone else have one that fits? Does anyone want to hear some poor prostate jokes with little to moderate bad taste?

No, I have these girls to live for and that’s more than enough for me, looking forward. More than enough….

Four Grandmothers For Christmas; a true Valentines story

This is a reblog from my friend Luanne at Don’t We Look Alike. Last January she invited me to do a story about all the love ours girls receive over Christmas for her readers. Christmas is always a special holiday for the girls, as are their birthdays. As a parent it really touches me to see our kids so loved.

I didn’t reblog the post at the time as I did not want to burden my readers here with another ‘feel good’ story about our kids,  like I subjected you to over the Holidays. Plus, I feel like I take advantage of our two wonderful birth families enough, trampling awful close to there privacy many times. You know we love you!

But I thought, today is the day for love. See? That’s the third time I used the word so far! So if you are looking for a love story this Valentines Day, here is a very special one for you.

FOUR GRANDMOTHERS FOR CHRISTMAS

When my wife and I decided on adoption to start our family, we did not have any preconceived ideas on how. We first considered International but the time was not right for that. So we researched Domestic Adoption agencies, deciding on Bethany.

We loved how the birth mother could pick her forever family. It seemed more like destiny or fate somehow. Not only was she choosing a family similar to her lifestyle, the reverse would be that she, and her child, would be similar to us. While that was not a deciding factor, we thought it would help in the transition success.

During our first adoption we met a quiet pretty young lady and her mother. The birth mother, having difficulty with this life-changing decision, wanted to be assured she was making the right decision. She wanted pictures and open communication to help set her mind at ease. We had not considered open adoptions, pro or con, prior to that. We just wanted knew we wanted to start a family.

What a blessing that decision turned out to be. We never looked back. That first year we were surprised time and time again by the love and thoughtfulness coming from the birth mother and grandmother. Gifts would appear for Christmas. And then again for our daughter’s first birthday, along with attending her party. Then came Easter, along with signed cards and frequent calls and emails the entire year. We saved and dated these cards for a later time.

Opening a card from a special Grandmother

Opening a card from a special Grandmother

Two years later we were ready to grow our family with a second adoption. We went through Bethany’s process and were lined up with another potential birth mother.

Once again we were met by a lovely young lady, her mother and sister. The difference between this meeting and the first was we we hoped for a second open adoption, based on the love and how well our first one went.

Once we met this family in person it was a done deal. We never knew if this second birth family had considered staying in touch or not after the adoption. We pretty much acted like this is how we like to do things, since we had one adoption under our belt already. And by the looks of things so far, I believe they have no complaints about our decision.

This second family has been such a blessing to our family as well. They call, email and send equal amounts of packages in the mail, all filled with love. And, while it might be human nature to send love for their own child, each family sends gifts in the mail for each child knowing they are now sisters and ‘family’. It is really touching to be a part of all this love and never in a million years would we have thought adoptions could be like this. What could be better to a child at Christmas than four loving grandmothers?

Every Christmas has been the same. First one huge package shows up in the mail and then another. This Christmas was was no different. The Friday before Christmas one huge box arrived in the mail. Then Saturday another huge box arrived at our front door. And then again, Christmas eve, our girls got to open another generous gift box that got lost in the mail the week before. If a box ever shows up on our door step our girls just naturally think it is for them. And they are usually right.

We try to film and photograph each ‘opening of presents’ so we can reciprocate the love by sharing (back) the gift opening experience with thoughtful the birth family. Take a look:

The love these birth families send practically doubles our girl’s Christmas. They enjoy the gifts. They enjoy the attention. They love that somebody is thinking about them. Last year when I was unemployed over Christmas these girls had the most lucrative Christmas yet. They didn’t suffer at all.

We are always amazed at the packages from these families. The best and coolest clothes our girls own came from these birth families. Each gift is individually wrapped. The box is stuffed full of presents. And the gifts are usually covered by all the mail peanuts for fillers.  As Mom and Dad, we really look forward to the opening of every box as they are always full of surprises. It’s as much fun for us as it is for them (almost)

The kids  have to dig to see if they found all the presents. We just watch their faces light up. Its a lot of fun! One year I got home early and let the girls open their gift box with their nanny, before Mom got home. I didn’t hear the end of that poor decision for weeks!

Boo in the Zoo 019

Watch their faces light up…

Boo in the Zoo 017

Last year our second child’s birth family visited us for Christmas. We all had lunch at a favorite local restaurant. We talked and laughed. This wonderful family just held and hugged and smiled with our daughter the whole time, usually with our 36 month on their lap; even while they ate. As parents, we loved so much to see the huge smile on our daughter’s face all afternoon. You have to be happy to see your child so happy and loved.

When we went to the parking lot and said our good-byes the birth grandfather snuck off to his car. He returned with two life-size gift bags, one for each of the girls. We were awed! How can you not love to see your kids so happy? And not love this family in return?

Forgive the bravado here, but you have to actually see what’s inside these packages! These bags aren’t filled with candy and trinkets they just bought the weekend before. The bags are filled with the most beautiful clothes and dresses you can imagine for a couple of toddlers. Check out the smiles and the riches from this wonderful afternoon:

What could be better than four grandmothers at Christmas? The more love the better!

Now some of you may be wondering how are we going to handle this in later years when stories of adoptions and birth mothers are shared, given the history from these birth families?

We are very clear each and every holiday. When the girls receive gifts from the birth families we tell them who they are from and that these people love them very, very much. We save and date each card received to show the history of love. We look forward to any visits from these families so our girls can attach an actual face to the names we tell them.

We tell them the gifts are from their birth grandmothers and their daughters, just like family. And that’s the way we consider these ladies. These ladies are their grandmothers both figuratively and literally. They love our kids every bit as much as we do. And we love these families just as much. Going back to the beginning of this tale, we feel we have been blessed to have such wonderful people placed in our lives via the Bethany process. Destiny. Fate. An act of God.

Some people may be leery or scared of an open adoption; to have the birth family so close. I would say, first, it would depend on the situation, the nearness and nature of the birth family. We feel very fortunate for our adoptions to be tied to two such wonderful families. We were blessed in our situation.

My blog is one way I try to stay in touch and show the development our girls with family and friends. If you have ever read my blog you would know that there is very little that I don’t share. Its one way to reciprocate some love back to our birth families. Hopefully, they won’t spend any long nights wondering; any more than any family would do.

I don’t know if it works or not as I can never put myself in their shoes. This past December we received an email from one of our birth families inquiring about our schedules over Christmas and Christmas wish lists for the girls. This email contained a super little Christmas gift for my wife and I this time. This is part of their message, word for word:

” I look forward to reading it (the blog) everyday.  I love the pictures and the videos of the girls.  I feel like I’m a part of their lives even though I’m not physically there.  You both are great parents.  I couldn’t have asked for anyone better.  I don’t think anyone else is doing a better job than you both are.  Enjoy the rest of your holidays, tell your parents hello! We love you all.”

Wow! Merry Christmas to us! How can you repay that? How can you not love four grandmothers at Christmas?

***And the hits just keep on coming! Ironically, the day DWLA published this story our girls actually received a package in the mail that same day. And this past weekend I called Mom to let her from having our taxes done, Dylan gets on the phone and says, “Guess what Daddy? There’s a package in the mail with my name on it!” Then she put Skylar on and she said the exact same thing. As there was. There always is.

And I invite you to share the love with Luanne and Marisha at Don’t We All Look Alike? They are doing a great job offering great adoption stories and education in their end of the blog-o-sphere. Thank Ladies!

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No Valentine’s Day here…

The Valentine’s Day holiday (?) is on the horizon. What are your thoughts on this? I may have a surprise for you. We really don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day here. Its true. While I enjoy trying to be romantic, from a creative point of view, I find lots of times it can catch Mom off guard and so the exercise is wasted. She never wants anything (allergic to flowers and trying to swear offf of the Christmas chocolates) would rather save some money, and so we don’t indulge.

This family tradition started off when I was a restaurant manager years ago and, of course, I had to work that day, one of the busiest of the year. Folks, don’t go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day looking for a special night. With all those other lovers out there, a romantic experience is just too hard to pull off, from a restaurant perspective. And who wants to wait that long for a table anyway? Go the day for before or the day after.

So we may do some cards, but we even decided against that this year, based on the price of cards for a piece of cardboard. Being unemployed has made us thrifty!

We have gotten in the habit of of traveling to some place warm for Valentine’s Day however, trying to escape some of the winter blues. This is our gift to each other.  With both of us getting 2 paaid vacations each year we enjoy taking the nice vacay to escape the cold. Valentines Day seems like th eperfect time. The rates in the Caribbean are affordable this time of year. The water is still plenty warm to swim in and you really don’t have to work too hard to get a tan or a burn.

Our routine is to find an all-inclusive somewhere so we don’t have to worry about money or finding places for meals. We started this ‘family tradition’ a few years back when we went to Jamaica. I have an entire story about that trip. Mainly, the point is beware, although we did have a very romantic Valentines sail! But after our nice trip back to Jamaica this past fall we have reconsidered.

We also traveled to the island of Curacao, close to the equator. Hard to get any warmer than the equator! We enjoyed our trips there, going back 3 times. I actually ‘re-proposed’  one year in Curacao (on one knee and everything), being able to afford a slightly larger diamond this time. Bam! Caught her off guard again. (see first paragraph above).

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

Most recently we ventured down to St. Lucia, one of the British Virgin Islands. We stayed at a wonderful Sandals resort. The island actually had 3 Sandals resorts. We were able to spend time, eat and indulge in any one of them. Advertised as a ‘luxury included’ resort (yet still an all-inclusive – kind of a contradiction in terms), the resort was great. The food and restaurants were even greater! I actually tried caviar and escargot for the first time…at an all-inclusive (!).

We had a chance to do zip lining for the first time and even took a day trip on a sailboat to a live volcano and some Botanical Gardens in the heart of the tropical rainforest. On a funny note, if you haven’t ever been to an active volcano, think twice! The intense sulfur fumes emitted by the volcano actually makes it hard to get close enough to see the real thing. It took some courage and your Dad in the privy has nothing on a volcano!

Possibly the most thrilling part of the vacation however was the bus ride to the resort, on the other side of the island from the airport. The resort bus had to navigate around two tall mountains (the huge Pitons..really, that was their name ~ you’ll see) on a narrow road with hair pin turns and steep, steep drop offs. I wouldn’t go faster than 15 mph on some of these roads in my car, clutching the steering wheel the whole time. This old, air conditioned school bus, that can hardly make it up the one side, had us swaying and rocking and really looking forward to that first drink at the resort. We laughed about it as it was the only thing we could do. The lap of luxury!

Which brings me back to today’s blog. I was thinking about our Valentine’s Day trips this weekend. We can’t make one this year as we are squirrelling away our time and dollars for the big move later this year. So it left me with thoughts on Jamaica, Curacao, St. Lucia and Costa Rica.

Mom wants to visit Costa Rica later this year for our next trip. If any of you have been there you are welcome to offer any advice or tips.

But for those of you that are stuck in some place cold right now with snow piled up to the windows and would love to be some place warm, I offer a quick, fun picture video of our St. Lucia trip (especially if you are sitting in 6 feet of snow right now). Grab something tropical to drink, rub some suntan lotion on for that tropical smell,  click ‘play’, kick back, relax and come on along with us.

I hope you all have a happy and wonderful Valentine’s Day.

We’re going to try to stay warm this year!

How about you?

What are your favorite Valentine’s Day traditions or experiences?

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