Romeo and Juliet

Several months ago the girl expressed an interest in seeing Colorado Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet, and because families of students enrolled in its dance academy received a 20% discount, we were able to get a good deal on tickets for great seats. The show was entertaining for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were the snippets of dialogue from my family:

Tom: This is the most boring thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Also Tom: They already did the balcony scene, how much left is there?

The boy [after Mercutio is killed]: I can still see him breathing!

Me [during intermission]: Do you think they’ll live happily ever after?

The boy: Maybe in heaven?

The girl: Don’t you know they do a double suicide?

Tom: That guy in the market has been trying to sell fabric for an hour and a half! That’s all he does!

Also Tom [after final scene]: Thank God they died quickly, I was worried it’d go on for another ten minutes.

The show was actually well-paced and enjoyable to watch. The dancing was pretty and the fight choreography had the kids enthralled. Tom struggled with the three hour production but that was attributable to a combination of a bad head cold, our wine pairing at dinner, and his old age in general.


Seattle, Washington

I must be easily influenced because in the span of a few short months I went from being indifferent to Hamilton to spending an outrageous amount of money to see it. My friend Grace was obsessed with it and I blame her for making me obsessed with it too. Actually I’m not even as obsessed with it as my kids are. I blame Grace for causing my kids to become obsessed with Hamilton and in turn causing me to spend an outrageous amount of money because of it. We started listening to the original cast recording after we had seen The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. The kids were immediately entranced by Hamilton because it was so novel and so different from Phantom. The girl loved it because the songs reminded her of “music from the car radio” which was her way of saying Hamilton sounded modern. It was a clever concept and I was impressed by its originality, but I wasn’t about to blow my kids’ college savings to see it anytime soon. And then tickets went on sale in Denver and everyone lost their damn minds, including me.

As soon as the Denver Center for the Performing Arts announced Hamilton tickets were available for purchase, Tom and I waited in the online virtual waiting room all damn day and by the time it was our turn to access the theater’s website, there wasn’t a single ticket left. The public frenzy was no joke and I totally got caught up in it. At least we never entertained the idea of waiting in line all night in freezing temperatures at the box office, like some poor fools did. After tickets sold out, we checked some of the secondary markets and saw tickets for sale at ten times the price of face value. In a fit of rage I texted Brian and Ariana and invited ourselves to visit them over Presidents’ Day weekend, booked flights to Seattle, and bought overpriced tickets to see the Seattle production of Hamilton through StubHub. Immigrants, we get the job done.

I experienced some buyer’s remorse in the aftermath of the frenzy, but after having seen the show, I no longer regret my impulsiveness. I’m usually disappointed in live performances because they never quite live up to the recording. Not the case with Hamilton; the live performers were just as good if not better than the recorded cast. The kids LOVED the show. Sometimes I worry that they’ll become spoiled because we so often indulge them, but we indulge them so often because they don’t act spoiled and they’re such great kids. They bring us so much joy that they deserve some joy in return, especially if it’s the kind that I enjoy too.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I don’t like to make a big fuss about my birthday every year because I’m not a fan of aging, but turning 40 is kind of a big deal. I think it’s natural when you hit certain milestones to pause, reflect, take stock of things. Am I where I expected to be at this point in my life? What’s working and what isn’t? Am I on the right path? If you asked me 10 years ago to predict where I would be right now, there’s no way I could have predicted this. I feel like the luckiest person alive. I’m not saying I’m 100% satisfied with every aspect of my life. What I need to work on the most is myself, the things I want to improve about myself. Most people who know me might laugh at the idea that I’m not 100% satisfied with myself. I tend to give the impression that I think I’m perfect. I am pretty awesome, but not without my flaws. Every new day offers the potential to be a better version of yourself, and I want to work toward being kinder, more generous, more compassionate, less petty, less insecure, less lazy. There’s a lot I need to work on, but there’s a lot I like about myself too. The very best parts about me and my life are the people in my life, and I am so incredibly grateful for them. I’m not usually this much of a cornball but old age has made me sentimental. I decided to embrace the latest version of myself by celebrating in style.

For my birth week we rented a six bedroom villa with a three person staff to cater to six couples living the good life in Puerto Vallarta. The first half of the week was party time with friends and the second half was family time, for which my mom and the kids flew in. The villa was optimally configured for sprawling out, relaxing, and lounging poolside or on the beach with a drink. Luz kept our rooms clean, Sergio prepared our daily meals, and Emilio took care of things like calling taxis and serving food and drinks. Tom bonded with Emilio so much that the day after we left Puerto Vallarta, Tom sighed, “I miss Emilio. I wonder if he’s thinking about me too.” I’m pretty sure Emilio didn’t miss having to unclog the toilet after Tom’s transgressions. I myself had a hard time adjusting to the “no toilet paper in the toilet” rule. The minor inconveniences were far outweighed by the luxuries. The villa was situated on one of the nicest beaches in Jalisco; soft sand, beautiful water, never overly-crowded. It was great to chill and hang out, which is what we did most of the time. We did go out to dinner on the night of my birthday but I was exhausted by that time. I blame Niah. She knows what she did. I perked up a little after dinner when we stopped by a salsa club to listen to live music. The following day was a bit of an accidental orgy when we all got spa treatments in a group setting. I like my friends and everything but not enough to choose to be naked in the same room with them.

Throughout the week various individuals would say to me, “All of your friends are such nice, down-to-earth, cool people!” And I would be like, “Duh.” I don’t hang out with assholes. If you’re my friend you should be proud because it means you’re definitely not a loser. I have to give a special shout out to Brian and Ariana because they’re the only friends who have been to each of my “milestone” birthday parties since I started throwing them at 30. It takes dedication and loyalty to put up with me for that long, and to travel halfway around the globe to visit me during an existential crisis. We share common interests like extravagant tasting menus and shirking parental responsibilities. The walking food tour we did together in Old Town Puerto Vallarta was fantastic because it involved both.

And just when I started to miss the kids, they showed up. Family time consisted of good food, a boat trip to Yelapa, snorkeling in freezing cold water, basking in sunny warm weather, and just appreciating our many blessings. It was perfect, and exactly how I wanted to enter my 40s.


The Girl’s 9th Birthday in NYC

This was our first time implementing the birthday choice: party or trip. Having never been to the East Coast, the girl chose to celebrate her 9th birthday in New York City. I had a feeling she would love it because she’s my daughter and a true city girl at heart. She loved it. We stayed at a hip new boutique hotel in Chinatown, near the Manhattan Bridge. We strolled through so many of New York’s cool neighborhoods and ate phenomenal Chinese food, thin crust pizza, steak at Peter Luger’s. We visited the World Trade Center Memorial and boarded the Staten Island Ferry for views of the Statue of Liberty. We snapped an obligatory photo of our fearless girl next to the Fearless Girl statue. And of course we hit up Times Square and Central Park. But the pièce de résistance was our night at the theater.

I wanted to introduce my kids to a Broadway musical and initially picked The Lion King because they loved the animated film when they were little. But then I remembered my first love was The Phantom of the Opera, which I played on repeat every single day for at least a year of my life. My eighth grade teacher got me hooked on it so I was a few years older than my kids were, but that didn’t stop me from getting them hooked a few months before our trip. By the time we arrived to NYC, they were so brainwashed that when we tried to trick them into believing that we had gotten tickets to see The Lion King, they protested, “NOOOOOOOOO!!! LION KING IS FOR BAAAAAAAABIES! WE WANT TO SEE THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA! PLEASE CAN WE SEE THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA? PUULLLEEEEEEASE???”

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I am an evil genius mastermind. Or maybe my kids are just really easily manipulated. It turns out that this was the fourth time I’d sat through The Phantom of the Opera and it was more tedious to sit through than I’d remembered. I kind of wish we’d seen The Lion King because I’d heard fantastic things about it but never got around to seeing it. I guess that’s karma for brainwashing my kids.


Bali, Indonesia

We’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in some pretty amazing accommodations in the past but nothing had prepared me for Mandapa. Our flight arrived to Bali after sundown and due to heavy traffic caused by Barack Obama staying at the neighboring Four Seasons resort, we didn’t reach our hotel in Ubud until well after bedtime. Though the surrounding landscape was blanketed in the inky darkness of night, I could tell there was something magical about this place. When we reached our villa my jaw dropped. The rooms, the furnishings, the decor, everything we laid eyes on was sumptuous and inviting. If I could decorate my house like this I would never leave home. Our luxurious bedroom suite opened up to a private patio, pool, garden, separate media room/lounge area, and a towering wall of jungle foliage beyond. The villa and grounds were lovely at nighttime but when bathed in daylight they were positively dazzling. For the umpteenth time during this trip, I was blown away.

The walk from our villa to the breakfast buffet was insanely beautiful. No matter how many times we made that walk I never tired of taking a million pictures of the gorgeous scenery. Our eyes feasted on sculpted gardens, tropical vistas, landscaped walkways, and exquisitely manicured fields and rice terraces, all set against a majestic river and lush jungle backdrop. And then there was the food. THE FOOD! Our bellies feasted on delicious Pan-Asian and European cuisine. I never knew oatmeal could be sublime, but at Mandapa, it was nothing short of sublime. I make a point of not ordering the same thing twice if it can be helped but I could not help ordering this damn bowl of oatmeal each morning. Exotic cocktails in the evening were perfection. We were in love with everything about this place. The adorable open air kids’ club even had a petting zoo with chickens, ducks, and a cow.

We hired a car service to tour the major sightseeing landmarks of Ubud and was able to customize our itinerary based on the recommendations of our awesome driver/tour guide. The kids quickly got in the habit of calling him “Uncle Darma” and greeting him with hugs. The monkey forest was definitely a highlight because our brave girl was eager to interact with the monkeys and she got her chance. The boy, understandably, was scared of them.

Another highlight, with one brief low point, was our 18 kilometer bike tour down a mountainside and through local villages of Ubud. We saw splendid rice terraces, a famous volcano, quaint villages, traditional temples, and so many other unforgettable sights. Occasional rain showers, however, made me second-guess whether this tour was such a good idea. The kids had learned to ride a bike less than a year ago, and now were expected to go on a multi-hour downhill bike trek in the rain—literally a slippery slope. Biking downhill seemed like a good idea in theory because it wouldn’t be too physically challenging, but I didn’t take other factors into account, like how risky it would be careening down a mountain alongside other vehicles. Not only was the rain making the trail muddy, there was no dedicated bike lane, so bikers had to share the unpaved road with automobiles while navigating wet rocks and uneven terrain. We were gripping our brakes almost the entire way down. A couple of close calls really freaked out Tom; he never would have allowed the kids to participate in this tour if he had known how dangerous it was going to be. The kids themselves were oblivious to the danger because you could hear them squealing with glee as they whizzed along. They were loving it, until the fateful fall. On the last leg of the ride just a few minutes before we were due to reach the shuttle and head to lunch, the girl skidded awkwardly over a patch of rough stones and crashed to the ground. She was hurled into muddy rocks and got scraped and shaken up pretty badly. After crying for a few minutes in her father’s arms as we washed and bandaged the wound on her leg, she composed herself, got back on her bike, and peddled the rest of the way to the shuttle. By the time we arrived to our lunch destination she was her normal smiling self. That was the real highlight of the day for me. We all had a great time on the bike tour and the girl didn’t let a few moments of anguish ruin the experience for her or her family. The rest of the tour group was so impressed. One woman declared that she wouldn’t dream of taking her teenage son on this bike tour because he would have complained the whole time. Our kids did not utter a single complaint and, except for the brief low point, they were all smiles.

I was so sad to check out of Mandapa and leave Ubud to head to our final destination in Seminyak. Ubud is the artistic and cultural center of Bali while Seminyak is its touristy beach/nightlife destination. I originally mapped out our itinerary knowing we were coming to Bali after spending a week at the beach in Phuket, and figured that the cultural sights of Ubud would be a refreshing interlude before ending our vacation back at the beach in Seminyak. After experiencing Mandapa, however, I was kicking myself for not saving the best for last. There was no way any other hotel could possibly top Mandapa, no way I could ever be blown away again. Plus I had read that Bali’s beaches were polluted and less than desirable so I mentally braced myself for disappointment. We arrived to Seminyak in the late afternoon and guess what happened when we checked into Katamama? MIND. FUCKING. BLOWN. The general manager escorted us to our penthouse suite (reportedly the best unit in the hotel and the only one that had a private rooftop garden, deck, and hot tub), and once again my jaw dropped. How did that happen? I had no memory whatsoever of booking this place. Both Mandapa and Katamama were distinctively Balinese in style, but the former had more of an opulent zen quality while the latter had more of a hip mid-century modern sensibility. It was impossibly chic. There was even a bath tub in the master bedroom and who doesn’t want a gratuitous bath tub randomly situated in their bedroom?

As guests of Katamama we also had access to the exclusive Potato Head beach club next door. Apparently Potato Head was THE spot to see and be seen in Seminyak and cabanas there were highly coveted. Now ordinarily I’m not into the whole super-trendy-tourist-trap-VIP-scene, but, not gonna lie, when we breezed past the waiting crowds and the hostess promptly escorted us to a reserved cabana, we felt like total ballers. It was such a scene. Funky music blared from disco speakers as throngs of families, couples, assorted friends, motley singles, and waitstaff weaved through and around the cabanas. As cheesy of a tourist trap as it was, we had fun lounging around, ordering drinks and snacks, and enjoying the beach and pool. I would come back for the heavenly soft shell crab sliders alone.

There wasn’t much in Seminyak that you couldn’t get in any other tourist enclave in any other country. It had all the standard fare: trendy restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping, drunkenly loud and sunburnt Westerners. We were lucky to score a reservation at the upscale Bambu. The entire restaurant looked like it was floating on a fountain, complete with koi fish swimming in the crystalline pond waters below. We enjoyed the posh ambience and refined Indonesian cuisine.

As far as attractions go, Ubud blew Seminyak out of the water. I would return to Ubud in a heartbeat but would probably skip Seminyak if we came back to Bali. It was definitely worthwhile to experience just as Times Square is a must-see if you’re visiting New York City for the first time, but it’s not where the real heart of the place is. I was thrilled to stay at Katamama and loved it, even though I didn’t think I could love any resort as much as Mandapa. I really had to pat myself on the back for how well orchestrated this vacation turned out to be; whenever we thought it couldn’t get any better, it just kept getting better. I know how braggy and obnoxious it all sounds: “I can’t believe how wonderful my life is!” A part of me feels guilty for traveling as often and as indulgently as we do. There are so many nobler ways to spend money. But then another part of me thinks, am I supposed to not enjoy traveling as much as I do? I am euphoric, ecstatic when we travel. Isn’t that better than being bored and jaded? I never want to get to a point in my life where I’m unimpressed by places like Mandapa or Katamama. I’m so grateful for our experiences and I hope to always feel gratitude and appreciation. And am I supposed to pretend that I’m not proud of my vacation planning skills? ‘Cuz I got mad skills. I know there are haters out there but if you’re the type of person who hates on other people’s vacations, then 1) maybe you should do some inner soul searching and evaluate your life decisions and 2) maybe you shouldn’t read travel blogs.

Phuket, Thailand

When I was researching where to stay in Phuket I read a lot of reviews complaining about how commercialized and overrun with tourists Phuket had become. I decided to split our trip by staying three nights in the touristy Patong area and three nights at the nicer, more remote Surin Beach. I didn’t have high expectations based on what I’d read, but sometimes you just have to experience things for yourself. When we arrived at Amari Phuket, perched on top of a hill overlooking Patong Beach, I was blown away. The great thing about booking accommodations several months in advance is that you forget everything you did and you’re pleasantly surprised at how good you are at picking hotel resorts. And at booking fun tours.

The morning after arriving in Phuket, we had a 6am pick-up to sail Phang Nga Bay. As soon as we reached our first destination, Tom commented that I had the biggest smile on my face. I couldn’t stop grinning the entire day because I was doing what I loved most: seeing beautiful sights with my favorite people. We had to lay down in canoes and row through partially submerged caves in order to access the lagoons of Panak Island. Emerging from the dim caverns into sunlit lagoons of mangrove forests was breathtaking to behold. We kayaked around Hong Island to admire the stunning topography and then visited “James Bond” Island where one of the franchise movies was filmed in the 1970s. The kids had a blast and the crew members were so sweet to them. The buffet lunch prepared and served on the tour boat was phenomenal, possibly some of the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten. Lastly we were delivered to a private island beach where we nibbled on fresh fruit served to us while we swam in the ocean. It was unreal. I will be forever grateful to have experienced a day like that with my family.

While our days of boozing and bar-hopping are long past, the buzzing tourist hub of Patong was still fun to explore with the kids, who are turning into serious foodies. They gnawed on fresh grilled crab like it was going to be their last meal. As our stay in Patong came to an end, I worried that our next destination wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable. We hit up a few popular tourist attractions on our way to the Surin Phuket where, once again, I was blown away. Amari Phuket was a gorgeous resort but we had our own beachfront cabin at the Surin Phuket and it was incredible! The surrounding town had a sleepy charm that was more our pace. When rainstorms rolled in, I was happy to use the drizzly weather as an excuse to get plenty of massages, although it was a little startling to have my breasts massaged at one point. I guess after a couple of hours the masseuse runs out of body parts to massage? The intermittent rain hardly put a damper on our remaining time in Phuket because it turned out to be one of the best vacations ever. Considering the amazing time we had also had in Borneo, it was inconceivable that the best was yet to come.