Let me start by saying I love Omaha. However, this born-and-raised New Jersey girl is craving some major toes-in-the-water, toes-in-the-sand time.

But before I allow myself the opportunity to become immersed in my beach-getaway daydream, I remind myself that this trip will be drastically different than what my former self is used to. Why? Because this trip will include my 3-year-old and 19-month-old children.

Gone are the days where my biggest concern was giving both sides of my body ample amount of even tanning time. Gone are the days of getting lost in conversation with girlfriends about the latest issue of "Us Weekly." Gone are the days of taking glorious cat naps in between our gossip sessions. Oh, to be 22 again!

This time around my beach vacation will be filled with wet, sandy diapers, an insane amount of sunscreen, whining, melt downs and me yelling, “Stop putting sand in your mouth” every 45 seconds. My beach bag — once filled with celebrity magazines and coronas — will be replaced with towels, sheets, chairs, umbrellas, snacks, water, wipes, diapers, extra clothes, sun screen, hats and beach toys.

However, despite all of that, I still can’t wait.

I can’t wait to build sand castles and hunt seashells. I can’t wait for cold dips in the ocean and warm snuggles on laps. I can’t wait for walks on the beach and drawing names in the sand. I can’t wait to see their smiles and hear their squeals of joy. I can’t wait to watch them play with their cousins. I can’t wait to build the same memories with my kids that I had growing up.

Vacationing with kids — especially toddlers — is not for the faint-of-heart. It takes a specific level of commitment and organization — plus a crap ton of patience. I’ll be packing that patience — along with my endless list of items — in our over-sized suitcase, which I’m already guessing will surpass the 50-pound weight limit.

As mothers, most of the responsibility falls on us to be the ultimate travel agent, which is why we’re so exhausted by the time we get there. So for all you mamas out there already preparing or this summer’s vacation, I ask three things of you:

1. Set your expectations low. I mean this in the best possible way. Despite your planning and hours of Pinterest searching, things will go wrong. You’ll inevitably forget the stuffed animal one child can’t sleep without and the other will have an epic public meltdown over the wrong ice cream flavor. The more you mentally prepare yourself for this catastrophe, the more patience you’ll have when it becomes a reality.

2. Soak it in. Like, really soak it in. These vacations we prepare for weeks in advance seem to take eternity to get here and go entirely way too fast. Don’t feel the need to plan every moment of every day. Kids can sense our energy. If you’re not mentally present, they won’t be either. Relax and enjoy the memories you’re making (even if they royally suck at the time).

3. Go with the flow. Vacations are notorious for screwing up children’s routines. Just try to go with it. Let them have ice cream for dessert — even if you know the sugar will make them wired. Let them stay up late, eat fast food or skip naps. Let them do something your obsessive-compulsive disorder self would normally never allow at home. So what if it leads to more meltdowns? Remember, you’re already prepared for that! Plus, that epic meltdown could be a hilarious memory you look back on months (or years) from now and laugh out loud about.

For now, I'll let Zac Brown Band take me back to my original daydream of having my toes-in-the-water, toes-in-the-sand — not a worry in the world and a cold beer in my hand. And to pay homage to my 22-year-old self, I’ll be packing an "Us Weekly" in my beach bag just in case I get 10 glorious minutes to myself.

If I don’t, I’ll pass it along to some 20-something girl on the beach, working hard on her sun-kissed glow. She’ll probably look at me in terror as I strategically manage to cart two children across the hot sand with 14 bags hanging over my body. I’ll smile at her because I know how blessed I am.

Little does she know — the best is yet to come.


Stephanie Sullivan is a full-time working mom raising two kiddos in Omaha. She's originally from New Jersey and loves exploring everything the city of Omaha has to offer. She and her husband, Dan, have been married for seven years and he does a fabulous job keeping her Jersey attitude in check. She is excited to connect with local moms and share her personal stories of the emotional ups and downs of parenthood.

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