Monthly Archive: February 2018

Team Tredway

Marriage is hard. Let’s not pretend it’s a basketful of fuzzy kittens all the time. What happens when two very different people with their own preferences, visions, agendas, joys, personalities share a life? Sometimes it’s fireworks—both the scary and the pretty kind—and sometimes it’s drudgery. Usually it involves self-sacrifice. And many many times it is beauty and friendship and camaraderie that only comes after hard-fought battles. Why are the good things in life the ones we must fight for? The ones we must work hardest for? I’m not sure, but I do know that the sweetness of my union with this guy wouldn’t happen without a million “I love you’s” and another million “I’m sorry’s.” True love isn’t cheap, my friends, but it is absolutely worth the work. That falling-in-love stage lasts a hot minute, and the rest, the deeply good stuff, comes via grace. Grace given and grace received. Over and over and over again.

On Traveling with Anxiety. And with Family.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros sing it best: Home is wherever I’m with you.

I struggle greatly with travel anxiety. As much as I love to go to new places and experience new things, I have a hard time doing it on my own. It’s less about extroversion and more about chronic conditions that can get weird in a heartbeat. (Diabetes, I am TOTALLY talking about you, you punk.) I play a game called “worse case scenario” that sometimes helps me, but when I go alone, the anxiety is there. My brain is constantly trying to figure out how to keep my body safe and I end up being on high alert for hours on end, if not the entire trip. Not my fave.

Last week I had the enormous privilege of traveling, much like a turtle, with my home with me. Though we lacked the creature comforts of our own beds and pillows—Jeremy’s biggest problem—and our own bedroom doors that shut–Liv’s biggest problem–all of us expressed pure joy that we were **together**. Team Tredway. There’s an unexpected tidiness of this only-child situation where we can easily share one room together, we can easily sit by each other on plane rides, and we can share in adventures now that Livia is older. It is tremendously sweet. We were not without the very human struggles that families have, but we were highly aware of the fun of an adventure together.

At some point I realized the intense lack of anxiety I was experiencing with my family with me. And what. a. relief. Airplanes and airports became more fun. Plane delays were no big deal, and schedule changes were met with flexible spirits. I had no parental guilt of leaving a kid behind because she was with me! And bonus, I had my BFF-husband the entire time. As I write this I recognize how often I travel without them, too. And that can be a good thing as well.

My 40th Birthday Trip to Florida

The Beach

Like I mentioned in the last post, I crave the beach. There were many moments in the planning of this vacation where I questioned the logistics of hitting up a beach and Universal Studios in one fell swoop. But considering the relative nearness of Orlando to not one body of water, but two, well… it seemed the right time to push on and make plans for a little beachside R&R. I should add here that planning a very REBECCA type of vacation felt selfish a lot of the time. However, my closest friends encouraged me to do what I wanted to do—and I’m so glad for their insights here.

I chose the Gulf side of Florida for a few reasons. The biggest was that I wanted to watch the sun set over the water. We Treds are not normally awake for sunrises, which ruled out the Atlantic side. Also, I can’t recall visiting the Gulf in a very long time. From there I tried to figure out which beaches were closest to Orlando, which ones were easiest to access for a family from Nebraska. And after that, I was simply searching for affordable housing for a few days. AirBnb was the clear winner in finding a place for the three of us to sleep, and I quickly settled on Matthew’s sweet little condo on Belleair Beach because it looked straight out onto the weather. No roads were between us and the beach. Just the water and sky right outside the back door. GLORIOUS.

As we drove over the Belleair Causeway Bridge I teared up getting my first view of the ocean. What I didn’t expect was how excited Livia was too! As soon as we reached the condo she was off and running for the beach. In the end, she spent hours and hours combing the beach for shells. I would look up from my book and see her conversing with an older woman about shell patterns or simply laying on the crushed-shell sands and letting the waves lap over her feet. She felt as drawn to the water as I did.

We had very limited time at the beach condo, but we made the most of the it. The first day we picked up coffee and chocolate croissants from a little French bakery in Indian Rocks Beach, explored that stretch of beach, and then drove up and around Clearwater Beach. The white sands are at Clearwater. By 10:00am that day the beach was starting to fill up. I would always situate myself facing the water, but it was clear that true sun-lovers knew to position their chairs for the most equal sunbathing experience possible. What I love about public beaches is that every type of human being is represented there. It is nothing like opening up a People magazine or watching an episode of The Bachelor. Nope. A little cellulite turns out to be no big deal whatsoever on the beach. I love that. Besides enjoying seashells and ocean sounds, we also ate as much seafood as our bellies could hold. Shrimp plain, fried, and in pasta. Fish sandwiches. Seafood chowders. Everything was fair game. It was amazing.

Universal Studios

Though it was hard to drive inland and leave the ocean behind me, I’m glad we had Vacation Part 2 to look forward to with eager anticipation. The second half of our week in Florida was focused on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I was student teaching my last semester of college when the Harry Potter book series was gaining popularity. Overwhelmed by my student and teaching responsibilities, I made it through part of Book 2 before setting them aside for many years. When it came time to read it again, I asked Jeremy to order me the entire series—and then I consumed it and cried when it was all over. Since then I’ve eagerly waited for the day we could visit Harry Potter World, and that day was last week.

My friend Jess hooked me up with her favorite travel agent—–Jennifer Van Hill of Key to the World Travel—and I’m so grateful for Jennifer’s help. She is the Queen of Orlando Travel and handled the details of our time at Universal Studios. We dropped off our rental car at the airport and took an Uber to Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort. The rest was planned out by Jennifer. And it was superb.

We stayed “on property” at Universal due to our experience at Disneyland four years ago with our friends the Bradleys. Staying on resort grounds usually means you get specific perks—and also close proximity to the fun—so that seemed easiest for my family’s needs. The huge perk at Universal is that you get an Express Pass with your room key. Basically, you get to wait in the fast line and thus fly past all the others in the, uh, slow line. It’s awesome. Your room key also earns you an extra hour of park time (it changes, but this month the extra hour was in Hogwarts) and that, too, is awesome if you’re a big HP fan. The Royal Pacific hotel was pretty darn fantastic. It felt luxurious. The pool and hot tub were just beautiful. The restaurants there created delicious meals, and the concierges knew—and were excited about—everything at Universal. The front desk gave us Hawaiian leis as we checked in, and that was a fun, unanticipated details that reminded me how I originally wanted to celebrate my 40th in Hawaii, but here we were in Florida, getting the sweet Hawaiian treatment. My favorite thing about the hotel were the water taxis that took us to the central part of “CityWalk,” the restaurant and shopping district at the opening gates of Universal’s theme parks. There’s something delightfully relaxing about taking a boat between your hotel and what will be a very busy day on your feet at the parks.

I’ll close up this description of Universal with some park tips:
– It’s helpful to do some number-crunching to see if staying on-property is worth it for your family.
– Jennifer gave us lanyards for our room keys and park keys. So helpful. At check-in’s you simply scan your lanyard. Also, anything purchased in the parks can be sent to the front of the park for easy pickup at the end of the day… or, if you have a room key, charged to your room and then sent BACK to your room. Yes yes yes. Loved that feature.
– The Chocolate Emporium is a giant restaurant with food and desserts in CityWalk. The wait staff dresses up in steampunk costume. You can go straight up to the bar and order dessert there without waiting in line. We recommend this place 100%.
– Why yes, I did tear up when entering the Hogwarts area. It was amazing.
– Butterbeer is served cold, warm, and frozen. We tried the first two and if I wasn’t a type 1 diabetic I’d have scorned water and only consumed warm butterbeer while there. Happiness in a cup (not a pint, only a little disappointing).
– Buy an interactive wand for your kid. It’s pretty magical.
– Ollivander’s shop was awesome.
– If your kid isn’t big enough for rides or simply doesn’t like them, utilize the Child Swap rooms. This feature is just The Best. You wait in line as a family and one parent jumps on a ride while the family waits in the Child Swap room. Jump off the ride, swap with your partner, and with no waiting the other parent gets to ride. Note: a child has to be age 14 to wait alone. Not 13 and three-quarters. I mean, she’s almost completely and totally and truly 14, but she’s also very honest and I’m 100% sure she wouldn’t have fudged the truth. (Can you tell one Tredway wasn’t enamored with roller coasters? Oh well.)
– Diagon Alley was simply fantastic. Definitely look for Knockturn Alley—which is kinda creepy, very dark, and literally cool temperature-wise.
– The candy we bought in Diagon Alley was super lame. Resist the urge to buy some (a la all the Hogwarts students) and spend your money on more butterbeer.
– LOCKER USAGE. There’s all sorts of misinformation about Universal lockers online. Seriously, it’s not that big of a deal. Bring a smallish backpack if you want, and on the big rides just know you’ll need to utilize a **free** locker of the duration of the ride. Send one person into the locker room, and go straight for a computer screen. Follow touchscreen instructions and use the locker they give you. Easy peasy. Note: you need fingers for this task.
– Hogwarts is in one park; Diagon Alley is in the other. You need a park-to-park pass to go back and forth, which you can do via the Hogwarts Express. Take the train both directions as the ride is slightly different each time.
– The rest of the Universal Studios is a blast as well. Our favorite family ride was definitely Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.
– Expect personality glitches when your family does theme parks altogether. Tears, frustration, achy feet, selfish attitudes—they will all arise. Take deep breaths and be prepared to issue lots of grace.
– It is worth saving up your pennies to make memories on a family vacation like this one. Sure, Universal Studios is not for everyone, but it was pretty magical for my family and I don’t think we’ll ever regret going. We’re not big vacation people, but this was one for the memory books. I’m glad we did it.

A Break from Winter

We flew to Florida last week for a family vacation to celebrate my recent milestone of a birthday. Yes yes, I am now 40. Forty and proud. A few events (finals! work conflicts!) prevented us from traveling on my actual birthday in December, but in the end I was very happy with the idea of traveling in February. February tends to be a hard month for me. I am exasperated by the cold temperatures of a midwestern winter and I long for spring. I know some people don’t mind being holed up indoors for several months, but I have a summer-loving heart inside of me. My soul is revived by sunshine and green things. And beyond that, I am an ocean girl. I constantly long for salt water and waves. Even my hair looks better in the humidity next to water.

I began saving money for a 40th birthday trip several years ago. After weighing pros and cons of many warm-weather locations, we ended up venturing to Florida for a few days on the ocean and a few days of Orlando theme park fun. I plan to write a bit more about the specifics of our trip just in case someone reading is interested in how we made it all work. But for now I will report back that a week spent in shorts and capris, sandals and lightweight jackets, sunglasses and sunscreen… well, it was just what the doctor ordered. We are now back in the land of single-digit temps and cold feet, but the warmth of a Florida winter is still glowing in my heart. It was a good week. A very good week. I am one grateful 40 year old.

One last note… I love this image above. The sweeping sky above the incredible ocean. The way Livia, in the distance, is in the light. It speaks to me.