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A day in Tampa Bay

Once upon a time we woke up really early and headed to Tampa for a fun-filled day. Sure that opening line sounds dreamy and effortless, but it was just that! My husband planned the whole thing; he even picked the restaurants which is usually MY thing! And you know what…our day was perfect! Here is a guideline of how we pulled off our day with toddlers, naps and instagrammable momentos!

Firstly, we planned ahead. We knew that the focus was to visit the Florida Museum in Tampa Bay. We also knew that food is always a key player in our outings. Another thing is that I blog! And well, I needed to document the trip as much as possible and create content-worthy images for you guys! Ok, so here we go:

The night before, we packed two bags. One bag had our clothes, blankets, sweaters (just in case) and a first aid kit. Second bag was our “day bag”. This was chic diaper bag on steroids fully equipped with diapers, wipes, water, snacks, camera and accessories. The evening before our big outing, we set our  alarms for 6am, and we pre-styled our girls’ hairs before bedtime. We knew that we would be taking pictures and figured neither Alegra or Eliana would let us touch their hair at 6am! Genius right!? We also made a route map of “musts” and “kid-permitting” places/things we wanted to do/see.

Morning of…

As planned, parents were up at 6am, Dad handled breakfast and to-go snacks. Mom handled getting ready and dressing girls. It was important to feed the girls breakfast in their pjs, so we had clean outfits for our first stop. Everyone was ready and in the car by 6:40 a.m.  The girls as suspected slept through the entire ride to Tampa. We arrived to the infamous Oxford Exchange,  exactly when they opened 8AM. We were promptly seated by the beautiful patio. 

A little about Oxford Exchange (OE). It is nestled in a  stone street with a southern vibe across from a church. Upon opening the doors you are welcomed by art. The floor is a beautiful black and white pattern setting  the tone for the rest of the space. Now, OE  is not just a restaurant…when you enter the space, Darby Parker, then a book store,  shoe polishing services, a coffee shop, Aesop skincare store, and a shop featuring curated pieces from the restaurant and favorite things by owners. It is also home to The Commerce Club, “a quiet, comfortable and professional space for work, study and private meetings”. Though, thats awesome, I was here for the food (please check out my insta review on their pancakes) and the architectural beauty of this structure.  The restaurant serves “weekday breakfast and lunch, weekend brunch, and afternoon tea. No matter where guests are seated, you are surrounded by art, an open kitchen, and a sunlit conservatory. The menu offers fresh and seasonal items, a new translation of the classic bistro. Lastly, I think the modern brutalist designs remind me a little of my beloved NYC, and a little of what I have brought into my home… brass, black and white with pops of green <3.

After OE, we refreshed the girls, changed them into comfy clothes. We did the same. How? Umm we have an SUV with tinted windows lol. So in a breeze Los Vasquez were a united front again, ready for the Florida Aquarium (www.flaquarium.org). The aquarium was only 12 minutes away; we were there in no time. The girls were mesmerized  by the big cruise ships at the bay, and it must be something in the air… but it enticed us to plan a cruise trip (I have never been). We paid $6 for parking. Admission per adult is $30, children 2 years and older pay $7. We decided to sign up for the yearly membership for $130 for a party of 3, Nana does not pay until next year, when we renew. Here is a direct link to the membership plans. 

Once inside, we were reimbursed for parking now that we were members! (Actually, I went to customer service and asked for my money back assuming my rights as a member). There, I also learned that we had tons of perks as members, including 50% the zoo and other parks within the SHARE programs (click on link above for more). We then start making our way through the exhibits. The girls seem extremely pleased with the Madagascar exhibits, maybe for its tropical feel and chirping birds flying above our heads. I almost forgot I was indoors. The overlook exhibits are always a winner here and at any other aquarium. Seeing all of the bigger species dance around and being able to witness it all from a tunnel, is truly a privilege. I think this is where we claimed a corner and camped for a while to just admire the beauty of the sharks. Its was a great opportunity to show Alegra what their natural habitat looks like, and how not all fish belong in one pond (if you know what I mean lol). We then stumbled upon the outdoor terrace overlooking the Splash Pad… I honestly did not even know it existed, and frankly thought it was not part of the aquarium. The overlook view from the terrace was such a treat, we were really able to appreciate the bay from above, and the ships of course. Alegra ran around with the sun in her eyes making the best photo worthy squinty face. From there we passed by the coral reef conservation, this was a solemn reminder that our planet needs our TLC. 

Around 12:00pm, we needed to munch on something and put our girls down for a nap. We took a quick drive to Ybor City, which was maybe 8 minutes from the aquarium. Randy was craving real pan Cubano, and some say that La Segunda bakery is one of the last real Cuban bakeries around. Some say this place was a Theodore Roosevelt favorite. By now, Eliana was asleep and Alegra was borderline cranky. We took turns going into La Segunda. We bought cheese and guava pastries (duh!), a 4 foot long pan Cubano, some empanadas among other goodies.  While the girls slept in the car, we drove around Ybor, sight-seeing and enjoying our treats. We stopped by the Ybor Park, I chased some roosters and busted the myth (I did not believe there were roosters wandering the mean streets of Ybor lol). We stopped at Columbia Restaurant to make a reservation and continued on our car-tour. Randy got a nice treat with his purchase of handmade cigars. When the girls woke up, we walked around the downtown area and were tempted to visit the museum, but our reservation at Columbia was approaching.

Ahh Columbia Restaurant. With over 5K reviews on TripAdvisor and another 6K on Yelp… rating about 4.5 stars, this Spanish restaurant (which can easily be confused for Cuban) is the place to eat at while in Tampa. I was like a kid standing in front of the biggest rollercoaster ready for the ride! Owned and operated by 5 generations over the last 110 years.  It is the oldest restaurant in Florida, founded in 1905 and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world! We came here for the salad, and boy what a salad that was! I added camarones al ajillo to mine. I will leave my food details for my pending published review. But in short, Columbia was quite a delightful dining  experience! My eyes wandered with so much art around me and was floored by the volume of patrons. Please be sure to stop by here, its flagship location, or its other sister restaurants around Florida.

After this late lunch, early dinner we headed home. The sun was low on our drive back, and it was wonderful remising our day on our drive back.  We were home around 6pm, and we couldn’t believe how much we had done and enjoyed in just a few hours. This all because of our awesome planning. I thank my husband for executing this idea and treating our family with a  day to remember by the bay. #dadandmomwin

 

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Frequent Flyer Miles… and Marriage

I ‘m not a regular mom, I am a cool stay-at-home mom

My husband and I came to the decision that I would be a stay at home mom for several reasons.

1. We wanted one of us to always be within reach of our children. My previous job would had required me to travel and since he travels then there would have been times where both of us would be absent.

2. Focus on growing our business and venture into new ones… I am a millennial mom after all 🙂 I create opportunities, not sit and wait for them (aaaoooooowwww) lol.

3. I had reached my salary potential, and just did not see the worth in returning. There was much more value in me growing
our businesses and pursuing my dreams while raising our daughters.

So while this decision was great for us, there was still the issue that my husband is still traveling extensively for work. Let’s cut to the chase. Having a traveling partner can take a toll on you, your spouse, the children and the household. A traveling partner leaves a void in the household that when he/she is present that void may still be there because you’re trying to recover from the moments he/she was gone.

What helps us recover and cope with my husband’s travel is realizing how crucial miscommunication (whether small or large) can make everything go to shiz. Curbing your pride to ensure conversations don’t become petty will ensure that when you guys are together it’s enjoyable!

Add value to your “Me time”

Take advantage of the time away by embracing the healthy space allotted which gives you guys a deeper connection when you’re together. Enjoy your social life, and really focus on your personal goals/projects by having the extra time after the kids are asleep…which is what I do. You can catch me doing a late-night workout to literally trying to build an empire at night. Yes, I am dead tired, but frankly having that time is so productive for me, I find a lot of value in this “me time” and when hubs is home, I can dedicate my nights to netflixin’ and chill :).

You might snap…just sayin’

Avoid a tense situation by making assumptions which lead to unnecessary arguments. It happens, I have learned through trial and error. I once snapped at my husband for not calling in time to wish our daughters good night…and frankly I did not even consider that he only had one electric converter port to charge all his devices, laptop, personal phone, work phone, headset etc. So things like this can happen, and at the moment I was ready for war. Yes, calling home is important and no I did not have to snap over this…I can still achieve to understand why he didn’t call when he said he would, by simply changing my tone and perspective. Really, it’s all about how we say things. However, I knew I was under a lot of stress, and coping with multiple demanding priorities and that was basically the cherry on top, that set me off. So trial and error it is, I am much more mindful these days and truly my experience has made me so much more understanding . Former on this you can look up “spouse resentment + travel”.

Outsource time consuming chores

Try to tap out of those cultural expectations of how to behave when your spouse travels (i.e. making 5 course meals… not!). Hubby and I have broken a lot of those traditional/social norms. He understands that life goes on without him around, and therefore we at times have to make decisions on our behalf without consulting… and often it’s me. I take lead in most  home/kid based decisions. For example, I don’t have to wait around for him to make a decision on pest-control or when to schedule a medical exam for the kids. We have very defined roles in our relationship. I manage our businesses from home, he gets updates and when necessary we’ll do a deep-dive. Whenever I am moving a large sum, I send him an FYI; when it comes to his career we also approach that as partners… we discuss the best options for us, and carry on, because at the end of the day we are both working towards one goal in mind… though we arrive from different channels. You get me? Finally, on this topic we also outsource  a lot of those time consuming tasks. By hiring someone for lawn service, pest, home repairs, and even home deep cleaning we buy ourselves much more family time. We also use amazon.com/fresh for our shopping lists when things get a little crazy. It works for us, it can work for you.

Some quick  no-no’s

  • Choose your battles
  • Don’t bring anything up that can wait to be discussed later
  • Be mindful of each other’s tasks and sacrifices
  • Don’t book social gatherings the day after travel
  • Don’t forget to tell how much you guys miss each other
  • Try not to establish a calling schedule since this can be stressful and frustrating if a call is missed. Both work and babies can be unpredictable. Do however leverage other forms of communications like sweet texts or a 5 min FaceTime vs 1 hour call. Quality over quantity.
  • Life goes on. Do not get in the habit of accommodating things to traveling spouse… there are exceptions but don’t over stress yourself.

Now don’t get me wrong, having the experience of traveling domestic and abroad is a great opportunity for your spouse and essentially for you and your family. Just look at the perks…being able to travel with your mate on his/her trips, free upgrades at hotels and airlines when we travel as a family, and the cutest souvenirs from around the world! And while we’re talking (perks), I can selfishly take shortcuts around the house to just cater to the kids and I… pizza or cereal for dinner anyone? 👧🏻👶🏻

Don’t let a traveling spouse put a damper in a temporary situation. Love the right now moments and look forward to them while he/she is away! Remember to be mindful of each other, remember that you both chose this life, and do not forget to remind each other how much love and miss one another. The end.

What did think? comment below. Thank you y hasta luego.

Mary

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Best Bathing Suits for Babies & Toddlers!

Did someone say summer? 
Hola Mamis!
Did you know that summer is right around the corner? Seriously, it is! Seemed like a long time coming but we’re almost there! With the UV rays getting kicked up a notch and the kiddies wanting outside water play, now is the time to start thinking about how best to protect the little ones’ skin whilst also thinking about fashion for their water activities!
Let’s go through the clothing options available for our little ones’ mermaid/merman lifestyle this summer.
‘Kini Klad:
Bikinis are great, but expose a lot of skin and provide minimal protection against sun damage. While they may look adorable on our tiny diva, they don’t serve the skin much justice from the sun’s wrath!
Mami scale: 1
gap.com rainbow dot bikini Gymboree.com flamingo ruffled bikini
Tank Yank!:
Tankinis are one of my favorites…they’re almost like a one piece, but better! The ability to easily access the diaper area makes changing sandy/wet babies a breeze all while baby’s top is covered. It also adds a little more sun protection than a bikini.
Mami scale: 3
Rashional Guard:
Rash guard two piece (*insert heart emoji like so:😍*), my favorite!!!! These rash guards have come a long way. There are so many beautiful designs available with ruffles, accentuated sleeves and gorgeous patterns. Aside from the fashion aspect, this type of swimwear provides maximum sun protection and also bug protection!  Just like it’s two piece counterparts the tankini and bikini, this also gives parents easy diaper change access. Major perk if your are faaaaar from a private area to change baby’s diaper. The rash guard, protects baby’s arms, back, belly and neck areas against rashes, scrapes and sun damage. This is definitely my go-to design!
Mami scale: 5
One and done:
In my opinion the one piece swimsuit is the most beautiful design of them all. How
ever, what I dislike is the difficulty in changing baby’s diaper. I mean having to remove the entire s
uit to access an unpredictable mess? Yeah, no thanks. This design I think complicates things, even for a potty trained tot. By the time you’re finished changing
baby and getting her out and back in the swimsuit, you’re pretty much over it and done! Love your beautiful designs one-piece, but not your drama!
Mami scale: 2
rashguard gray
Swim trunk funk?
Oh don’t be sad for your little guys, I didn’t forget about you. Although it may seem like there’s only one option for your boys (trunks), the patterns, prints and styles available for them are endless. I do preference trunks that have drawstrings in the event they are a little big you can easily adjust them for the right fit and still have the trunks for the following year! That’s called a Mom Win! Don’t forget to pair the trunks up with a rash guard to protect him from the sun.
Mami scale: 5
Let me know your thoughts on swimwear for baby and your experiences with the options out there! I’d love to hear from you!
Also keep an out for my review on best Sun Block lotions for babies/tots this week!
Cheers,
Mary