Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ending 2016 with Adventure

Since 2011, our little Clan has been embarking on adventures wherever we could find it, whether it been exploring temples in Cambodia, backpacking Europe, road tripping to Yellowstone, or skiing down Utah mountains, adventure has been one of our family’s core values. As such, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to end 2016 and bring in the new year, than with a little adventure.

It all started in December of 2015 when we decided that we would forego our usual Christmas celebrations in place of some adventure; but, as is often the case, what adventure exactly should we take? A few parameters were put in place: first, it had to fit our budget; second, it had to take us to warmer climates to escape the Utah winter; third, and finally, it had to fit within the Christmas break time frame. After exploring several options, we all agreed on a cruise. We’ve been on a cruise before, but never with kids, so this was an exciting opportunity to try out this style of travel with them. Now cruises can be pricey, but taking into consideration the price includes food and accommodation, they can actually be a pretty sweet deal. So the hunt was on for our Christmas cruise!

It didn’t take long to find what we were looking for – an epic 7 day cruise on the Norwegian Dawn to the Western Caribbean. Embarking from New Orleans, it would take us to Costa Maya, Mexico; Harvest Caye, Belize; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico.

We used all of 2016 to save our pennies for this great adventure. Almost weekly we discussed our upcoming adventure--what excursions would we take, what would we do in New Orleans, where would we stay prior to the cruise, what would the kids do, etc. It was all so exciting! Slowly, but steadily, things fell into place.

The weekend prior to our leaving, we reviewed what was necessary to travel on a cruise. Based on the type of cruise we were taking we knew we didn’t need passports, just state-issued photo ID and birth certificate (although Boston and AJ already had current passports). We would use Audrey’s birth certificate and Martina’s driver’s license and birth certificate (Martina had slacked off and let her passport expire in July). There was one small hang-up to this plan; despite having torn through our house, Audrey’s and Martina’s birth certificates were nowhere to be found. While Audrey’s could be obtained easily enough from the county records department, there was no way to get a copy of Martina’s without her physically flying out to LA and picking it up in person. The expedited process just wasn’t going to cut it (we had only one week!). Well, fortunately, Martina has some wonderful siblings in California who offered to go and retrieve it for her and overnight it. Success! No one was to be left behind (although AJ seriously considered it).

So after our long year of anticipation we boarded our plane and without too much crying (Audrey’s first plane ride), we were off for the first leg of our adventure: New Orleans!!!

**Travelers Beware**: Martina got overly excited about eating southern creole food that she bought in the Houston airport. It was supposed to be a po’ boy, and boy was it a po' excuse for a sandwich. Definitely shoulda waited for the real thing...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Christmas Time is Family Time

Christmas is one of our family’s favorite seasons of the year – and we’re not alone in this.  Have you ever wondered why? Is it the lights? Is it the carols? Is it the gifts? The sales? Well, while I can’t speak for everyone else out there, Christmas for me is magical because of the memories. It’s nostalgia. It’s traditions.

As a kid Christmas was a time of anticipation, yes because of presents, but also because it was one of the few times a year my entire family gathered together and celebrated. Cousins, food, Christmas program, it was all there. The Christmas of my childhood seems so picturesque. As I got older though, Christmas lost some magic. Rather than see the wonder of the season it became about checklists and deadlines. Was Christmas really just a holiday for children!?!

That changed though in 2010. That’s the Christmas I proposed to my then girlfriend (she said yes).  When Christmas rolled around the next year there was more than checklists and deadlines, though they hadn’t gone anywhere. It was about our little couple – our family. It reminded me that it wasn’t about me that made Christmas magic, but it was caring for others that made it special. I wanted our first Christmas to be special, so we talked about what it should look like. What traditions did we want to continue and what did we want to create?

We came up with things like buying ornaments every year, making special foods for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and watching lots of Christmas movies.

One tradition we hadn’t planned on making, was visiting Christmas markets. While living in Scotland, we had the opportunity to experience the Christmas Market in Edinburgh. It was so wonderful! There was ice-skating, hot and delicious food, Cadbury hot chocolate, German Christmas cake, and lots of little shops. It was like a postcard!

Well, as luck would have it, the following Christmas there was a Christmas Market in downtown Provo! We were so excited to visit it. Admittedly, it wasn’t nearly as big or magical, but that didn’t matter so much. We were at a Christmas market, reminiscing about our time in Scotland, smelling the warm food, and perusing the wares of local craftsman. It made Christmas all the brighter for us and our little family, which had grown to three by this time. Since then we’ve been to the Provo Christmas Market every year, and every year it gets a little better. It’s a tradition that I hope our kids begin to look forward to as long as we’re able to do it.

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