Trader Family Road Trip–Day 2: Driving and more Driving

Friday is when it felt like the vacation really began for me. CJ was feeling better and Isabella was happier so I could relax a bit.

CJ drove the first leg…

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…so I could chill and watch the scenery go by.

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One of the interesting things we saw was a truck hauling a windmill arm used in one of the various windmill farms that dot I-80. I tried to get a cool shot of it from various angles. Not sure I succeeded but it was still quite impressive to drive by!

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We covered a lot of miles on Friday, driving from Iowa City, IA to Manistee, MI in about 10 hours. We stopped at various places along the way, mostly gas stations and the like. I had plotted out a list of cool and unusual tourist attractions but none of them came at a convenient time to stop. We either got near them when Isabella was sleeping or after having just made a stop, so we really didn’t venture in to too many exciting places. That was ok. Isabella was entertained by the DVDs we brought, her colors, some sing along songs and various other things.

We started her out facing rear, as she has been since she was born. The new guidelines say to keep them that way until they’re 2 years old so we hesitated to turn her just for this trip. But by lunchtime we were ready for anything to make it more enjoyable for her and we switched it around. She loved it!

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Here she’s taking a power nap. I love how she has one oobie balance on the harness, helping to hold her head up. That’s “Bullnozer” the Bulldozer in her lap. She was the one who came up with that name too!

After stopping for dinner we changed her into PJs so that she would be ready to sleep around bedtime. She was too stimulated for that so it was Elmo’s World to the rescue!

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For some reason she thought she had to hold the case up in the air. When that arm got tired, she switched to the other one.

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Silly girl.

One bonus to doing so much driving was CJ and I letting go and enjoying each other again. With the hustle and bustle of “real life” – work, Isabella, volleyball and other activities, Samson – we had stopped appreciating each other. I didn’t laugh as much to his jokes. He wasn’t as enamored with some of my cute tricks. But once we got in the car and got away from Omaha and our normal life, a lot of that melted away. I laughed more on this trip than I have in a long time. I forgot just how funny my hubbie is!

We got in to Manistee around 9:30 and I had to make an emergency drug store run. See, I had gotten my hair chopped Wednesday night and bought some new product to try. I mistakenly packed only the new stuff and not my old stuff as a back up. Well the new stuff wasn’t working well on its own and I desperately needed some mousse. We were lucky enough to find one place still open. Phew! Crisis averted.

After unloading the car (which is no small job when it’s filled to the brim) we all pretty much crashed in bed. It was a long day but a fun one. Now it was time to rest up so we could really enjoy our family time on Saturday!

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Trader Family Road Trip – Day 1

Travel

Points

Trader Road Trip – Day 1: Bags are packed, we’re ready to go!

Yesterday we got home from a road trip. We were gone 8 days, drove about 1900 miles, stayed in 5 different hotels, visited 7 cities/towns, listened to “Hey Jude” countless times (Isabella’s fav song – and she knows all the words) and only lost 3 woobies.

I’d definitely consider it a success and we had a great time.

It’s no secret that I love to travel. I also love road trips. Getting out on the open road to see this great country of ours. There’s nothing like it. Sure, it gets old living out of a suitcase and sitting in the car hour after hour. But there’s just something so freeing about the driving. It’s also great for some family bonding time. I think we came away from this experience even closer than we already were – and it reminded us some of the things we had forgotten we loved about one another.

I’m still assembling the hundreds of pics I took and will post them in the days to come. For now, I’ll just tell you how the trip began – with one sick husband.

And I don’t mean in a perverted way.

Early Thursday morning I awoke to what I thought was someone sneezing really loud. Turns out it was CJ puking his guts out in the bathroom. We’re still not sure if it was food poisoning or a 24-hour bug but either way he was in no shape to watch Isabella much less pack for a trip. I ended up taking Thursday off work (the original plan was for me to work through the day and then we’d leave when I got home) and spending it with Munchkin while CJ slept and tried not to vomit on our clean carpets.

Around 3 he started feeling a bit more human and began packing. We were on the road by 5:45 p.m. A bit later than my agenda had laid out but I rolled with it.

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Isabella is strapped in and ready to go! She really had no idea what was going on but was just happy to be going on a car ride with her lady bug Pillow Pet.

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The car was seriously loaded down. We have an SUV and it was filled to the gills!  When you’re going to be gone for 8 days with a toddler, you bring pretty much the whole house. You know, just in case. We actually ended up using most all of it – and even realized we’d forgotten a few things. Go figure!

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Poor Munchkin was tucked in and surrounded by all kinds of bags, boxes, suitcases and toys. She looks so small amongst all the stuff!

We hit the road and it was a looong night. Not because we were cranking through the miles but because we weren’t. We stopped 2 times before reaching Des Moines – which is only 2 hours away! I had wanted to get across Iowa Thursday night (typically a 5 hour drive) but between Mr. Sickie and Miss Toddler Pants, who was in a whiny mood, it wasn’t happening. We stopped around 11 pm in Iowa City. I seriously thought about turning around and ending it right there. I told CJ that if he wasn’t better in the morning we were doing just that because there was no way I could handle a week of doing all the driving/parenting/navigating/entertaining and taking care of him. He agreed and promised to make a decision the next day.

Obviously he awoke feeling much better and we carried on.

I won’t get in to the rest of the trip yet. More entries to come, as I sort through and get everything organized.

Despite having a great time with family and my 2 favorite people in the world, I am glad to be home. There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed and snuggling with your big fuzzy dog (who spent the week at my parent’s house and I practically had to pry my mom’s hands off his collar to get him back. They fell head over heels for the big guy and did not want him to go. My mom actually suggested they just keep him forever! Ha! Fat chance!).

More vacation stories to come!

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Why I’m Looking for my Happy Place

Bucket List

Why I’m Looking for my Happy Place

On Thursday of this week I’m heading out-of-town to attend a work conference in Des Moines, IA. I know you’re all jealous.  I had booked my hotel room months ago, when I still worked for my previous company. So the reservation is being held on a corporate card I no longer have. But the expense had been submitted and paid so I assumed I was covered. Still, I thought I should be prudent and check with the hotel to verify they still have the reservation. I didn’t think it would turn in to the huge ordeal but it did. Here’s how the drama unfolded for me today.

My first call, to check on the reservation and that it’s been paid.

  • CSR Rep #1: Thank you for calling Sheraton West Des Moines, how can I help you?
  • Me: Hi! I was just calling to verify a reservation for this Thursday.
  • Rep #1: Ok, can you give me your last name?
  • Me: Sure (I spelled it out for him)
  • Rep: Yep, we have a reservation in here. You’re all set!
  • Me: Great! And it’s paid for right?
  • Rep: Um, no.
  • Me: What?
  • Rep: No, we  have a card holding it but no charges have been filed yet.

Crap. Now I suddenly have to come up with $170 I wasn’t planning on before. The other thing is that I’m sharing the room with 2 other gals and had told them it was covered already. So I felt bad to have to take that back and ask for money.

I broke the news and they were cool about it. One of them suggested I ask if there was a discount on rooms for those attending the conference. So I called back and got a different person.

  • CSR Rep #2: Thank you for calling Sheraton West Des Moines, how can I help you?
  • Me: I have a question about a reservation. Do you know if there is a room discount being offered to those attending the IIBA conference on Friday.
  • CSR Rep #2: Let me check…………..no it doesn’t look like there are any left.
  • Me: So there was a discount?
  • Rep #2: They had a block of rooms reserved and those are taken but I can get you a room without the discount.
  • Me: I already have a room reserved. Can you just apply the discount to my room?
  • Rep #2: There aren’t any rooms left.
  • Me: I know. I already have a room. Can you just give me the discount?
  • Rep #2: All the rooms are taken.

At that point I was ready to reach through the phone and strangle her. I stopped to take a deep breath and then told the gals that there was no conference discount.

What about a AAA discount? one of them asked. Ok, I can try that.

Before I called, I looked on AAA’s website and sure enough, that hotel has discounts for AAA members. Awesome! So I called back up.

  • CSR Rep #3: Thank you for calling Starwood Hotels, how can I help you?
  • Me: Hi! I was wondering if you could apply a AAA discount to a reservation I have.
  • Rep #3: Let me pull up your reservation. What’s your last name?
  • Me: [spelled it out for her]
  • Rep: We don’t have a reservation under that name.
  • Me: But I’ve called twice already today and they found it both times.
  • Rep: Hmm….can you give me the confirmation number that was emailed with your original reservation?
  • Me: No because I no longer have access to that email account.
  • Rep: Oh. Can you give me the credit card number it’s being held under?
  • Me: No, because I no longer have that card.

I’m sure by this point she had flagged me as suspicious and a problem customer.

  • Rep: Well I can’t find the reservation using your name
  • Me: How about my phone number?
  • Rep: Sure we can try that. [She enters it in]. Um, nope, nothing
  • Me: WELL WHAT THE HELL!!! [ok I didn’t say that but really wanted to]
  • Rep: This is for the Sheraton in Iowa City right?
  • Me: No, this is for the Sheraton in West Des Moines [and now I want to drop kick her]
  • Rep: Oh, ok let me check that…..nope, still nothing. I’m going to give you the phone number for the hotel directly. They should be able to help you. [she gives me the number]
  • Me: But this is the number I just called when I got you!
  • Rep: Oh, well you got transferred to reservation. Try Front Desk next time.

So I hang up and immediately go in search of something I can kick or punch. Finding nothing, I throw myself on the ground and have a tantrum. I learned that from Isabella. It’s not real effective for her but maybe it would be for me.

Once I calm down, I call the number THAT I HAD ALREADY DIALED 3 TIMES TODAY and asked for the front desk.

  • CSR Rep #4: Thank you for calling Sheraton West Des Moines, how can I help you?
  • Me: Hi! I was wondering if you could apply a AAA discount to a reservation I have.
  • Rep: Let me check…[he looks up the reservation, which he is able to find easily. Seriously, at this point they should have a hot key for me]. Um, it looks like there are no AAA discounts left for that night.
  • Me: So you can only give away a certain number a day?
  • Rep: Well it depends on how full we are and we’re booked up that night.
  • Me: But why should that matter? Shouldn’t I get it no matter how full you are?
  • Rep: Sorry, those are the rules.
  • Me: Well is there a conference discount for IIBA attendees? [pretending I didn’t already know the answer]
  • Rep: Let me look…um, no, no discount for that conference at all. But when you check in on Thursday ask again about AAA.

Oh sure, now he’s just teasing me. Whatevs. I’ve been beaten down by you people enough today.

At this point, I’ve about given up. My last attempt is to see if my new boss will pay for the hotel. $170 to this company is like pocket change for me. If I had pocket change, which I don’t because Isabella has it all in her piggy bank.

If she says no then I officially give up. But I tell you this, if I get to that conference on Friday and find out other people got a conference or AAA discount, HEADS ARE GOING TO ROLL!

And then I’m going to steal all the soaps, towels, paper, pens, toilet paper and shower caps I can find.

IN YOUR FACE STARWOOD HOTELS!

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Bucket List

In the last 2 days, I’ve either heard or read from several different sources that everyone should make a bucket list. That to really move forward in our lives and make it everything we dreamed of, we should create this list of things we want to do before we “kick the bucket.” I think that is a sign that I need to do this.

Believe it or not, I’ve created a bucket list before. Many years ago, after a painful break-up, I  made a list of everything I wanted to do with my life. Some of it was crazy stuff like jump out of an airplane or travel around the world. Some of it was simple, like get married and have children. I don’t have that list anymore but I kind of wish I did. It would be interesting to look back and see how many of those dreams I have actually accomplished. Obviously I did get married and have a child. I have gone skydiving and I have traveled around the world. I also wonder which ones I have not accomplished and if they are still things I want to do.

My new bucket list will probably be pretty different from my old one, but that’s ok. I think it’s important to do this exercise regularly, to keep our dreams at the forefront of our mind and make sure we don’t have regrets later on. With that said, here’s my new bucket list (in no particular order other than how the thoughts pop up in my head):

  1. Minnesota State Capital

    Travel to all 50 state capitals.

    This is not a new one but rather something I want to continue and refocus on. CJ and I were doing pretty well for a while, but then the baby came along and it slowed our travels way down. So far we’ve hit 10 of the 50 (Nebraska (duh!), Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri). I’d like to get in at least one more capital this year and keep plugging away at it!

  2. Travel to all 7 continents. Obviously this one has come to a halt as well since our travel has been limited in the last couple years. So far I’ve been to 5 of the 7 (North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia), which is actually pretty good considering I’d hit those before I turned 30. Just have to get to South America and Antarctica and then I can cross off this one! Course that might take another 30 years!
  3. Have my writing published. The ultimate goal would be to publish a novel. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I’ve even started several different ones only to abandon them after a couple of chapters. I started a kids book too and never finished. This blog has lit the fire for this and I hope it leads me down the right path to develop more of a writing career. Guess we’ll see!

    Zipline in Cancun

  4. Ride in a hot air balloon. Sounds pretty simple but I think it would be amazing to fly high over the Earth, with nothing between you and the sky. It’s so peaceful being up there among the birds and the clouds. Really puts life in perspective. I’ve done my share of adventurous stunts (skydiving, zip line, rock climbing, and parasailing) so this would be the next one on this list. I think I had bungee jumping on my original list but now that I have a child, I will remove that one.
  5. Find my dream house. The house that we live in now is comfortable and nice, but I’ve never really attached myself to it because I know it’s a temporary dwelling. I would love to someday find a house that will be our forever home. It doesn’t have to be anything huge or fancy, so long as it has a few of the basic things I want in a home. It definitely has to feel homey and comfortable. We are planning to move this summer so I sure hope we can find a place that will be this dream home (if not right away, then someday).
  6. Buy a massage chair. Ok, I know this sounds silly but I am dead serious. See, on one date night that CJ and I had several years ago, we ended up window shopping at The Sharper Image store in the mall. They had several massage chairs out on the floor that people could try, so we did. Oh. My. God. The chair I sat in was frickin’ awesome. It worked on everything from my feet up to my neck. It released tension I didn’t even know I had! Ever since then, I’ve vowed to some day get my own massage chair, if we ever had the extra money for it. If I ever do get a chair like that, good luck getting me out of the house… [after re-reading that, I realized it sounds dirty. No, it wasn’t that kind of massage…but hey, if it could do that too…then you’d really never get me out of the house!]
  7. Have a photograph published in a magazine (specifically National Geographic but I’d settle for any magazine). For those of you who don’t know, my college degree is in Art, with an emphasis on Photography and Computer Graphics. I’ve done the computer thing (my career started out in web/graphic design before I moved on to become a Business Analyst and Project Manager) but I’ve never really pursued the photography path. When I first  moved back to Omaha, I had a few photography shows at a local coffee shop, and sold several items, but I didn’t have the time or money to keep at it and with the business of life, it fell by the wayside. This blog has forced me to dust off some of those skills to try to get some interesting photos but I’d like to do more with it.
  8. Travel to see the following specific places/sites: Spain (because of my heritage), Great Wall of China, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, African safari, the Taj Mahal and Paris. I’m sure more will be added to this list as time goes on!

    Steelers/Chiefs game 11/09

  9. Go to a Super Bowl. It would be even better if the Steelers were in it!
  10. Have financial freedom. What I  mean is that I want to get to a place where I am comfortable and have enough money to live and support the family, with enough left over to have fun too. I don’t need to be a millionaire or anything like that. I just don’t want to have to worry about money so much.
  11. Learn to swim. You read that right – I can’t swim. I’m actually terrified of drowning, which has limited me all through my life. CJ loves the beach and every summer you’ll find us out at Lake Manawa playing sand volleyball and swimming. Only, I don’t do the swimming part. I’ve tried. I took lessons 2 times as a kid and another 2 times as an adult, but can’t seem to get passed that fear. Yet. Someday I will.
  12. Learn to speak fluent Spanish. As mentioned in #8, my dad’s side of the family is from Spain. They are all fluent in Spanish yet I can’t speak a lick of it. I took lessons in high school but was never really taught how to speak it. All we learned was verb conjugation and vocab terms. Being able to converse with my aunts, uncles and dad in their native language would be so neat. It would be even better if Isabella could do it too!
  13. Meet and dance with Derek Hough. Ok, so I have a cougar crush. Derek Hough is one of the pros on Dancing with the Stars and I think he seems like such a fun and nice guy. Plus he’s really cute. He’s also an amazing choreographer and the dancer in me (took 10 years of lessons and have always loved to dance) would love for him to choreograph and teach me a dance. Then we could dance under the stars and…ehm…sorry, got carried away there. No worries, CJ knows that Derek is on my “freebie list“. 😉 
  14.  Attend the Olympic Games. Preferably the summer Olympics but either would do. I think it would be so cool to watch history being made right before your eyes, and to interact with so many different cultures from all over the world.  And watching Olympic level volleyball? Hell yeah!
  15. Be the model for a magazine photo shoot. I don’t need to be a supermodel or anything, but I do think it would be fun to be the star of a photo shoot and have people do my hair/make-up, pick out an amazing outfit for me, and then shoot some awesome pictures.  I’m already practicing my Tyra Banks “fierce” eyes.

Well that’s all I can think of right now. Reading back over it, I realize that this list is more “selfish” than my original list. Maybe that’s the difference between your 20’s and 30’s. In my 20’s I was all about others and how to make the world a better place. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to contribute to improving our world, but I also know that the best way to help others, is to be happy with your own life. I’ve done a lot of stuff for other people – almost too far to the extreme. Now it’s time to focus back on myself and what I want. Here’s hoping I can make some if not all of these items come true before I kick the bucket!!

What’s on your bucket list?

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