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Countdown to Departure on our Round the World Trip

Teamwork Couple Climbing Helping Hand

All The Feels

Mom Says:

People have been asking us often how we feel about our upcoming trip. If truth be told, for the past number of months, my mental image has been one of those windy, twisty, scary-as-f*&K roller coasters. We buckled in for the ride when we decided to do this round the world trip over Christmas holidays last year. Over the past 8 months, through selling our house, having surgery, getting vaccines, connecting deeply with friends, and putting our whole life in storage we have been climbing that trek to the top.

A couple of weeks ago, I could feel us in that moment.

You know, that split-second, moment of pause at the very top right before you tip over the other side, dive down a 60 degree slope, careen around corners, turn upside down and finish the ride with all sorts of vomit-inducing adrenaline tricks.

THAT.

via GIPHY

I wanted to puke.

When we left our house and moved into 2 bedrooms at a nearby friends, we transcended the hump. The universe gave us a gift in providing a landing pad that feels more like the world’s friendliest hostel rather than an inconvenient couch-surf. Props to Izzy and Angus, (2 recent college graduates) for being so chill and fun when they got way more than they bargained for by having 4 Powells thrust upon them for a month.

Today, at T-minus 3 weeks out, we can feel that thrill as we start our deep dive into our global adventure.

There is no escaping it now (not that we want to). We are all in. #TeamPowell is ready to rock this. The kids are excited and talking a LOT about the “When we go on our world trip” while Chris and I are running around frantically getting all of those “things” you never think about or usually put off done before we leave.

Our mantra: Nobody ever said they regret moving forward. Sure, you get stuck in the moments where it’s actually the change that is uncomfortable. Once you get to the other side of the discomfort, the world truly feels FULL of life and opportunity.

mark-twain

Someone asked me the other day if I was stoned. I’m not stoned. I’m just at peace.

I have been working hard at mindful living. Making effort to take notice of the little things (hot showers, cushy beds, abundant food, kind people, Kraft dinner, smells, tastes, you name it) as I know so much of what we take for granted here will be absent in our world over the next many months.

We are finally organized. Our 2 backpacks that will house a family of 4 for 7 months proudly weighing in at 30lbs a piece. Most of our life is now in storage and we have started our goodbyes.

I can feel the shift in all of us.

That fear of the roller coaster gone and replaced by the thrill of the ride.

And what a ride it’s going to be.

how-i-feel

Dad says:

Stoked.  Absolutely stoked.  I have never used that word before outside trying to seem cool on a double black run with the kids, and that was a total fake.  I was not stoked at that time, I think I pee’d a little, truth be told.

But I am now. We are closer to departing than ever, and have arranged some arrangements for our first destination…The Galapagos!  Oh yeah, out of the gate with a bullet!  Now, if it was just me/just Jenn and I, it would be done differently.  We would arrive as the sun is setting, having no plan or destination or place to stay for that matter.  Generally, that works out in the end, but I will admit there is a chance of failure and sleeping on a park bench.  Only happened once, but proof positive if you know what I mean…

With the kids, it seems like a good idea to wade into this adventure, slowly until the tender bits are past the point of no return. They are generally as excited as I am, but there are bouts of uncertainty that I need to acknowledge and address.  They are 10,  give or take, and we are stealing them away from friends and schoolmates to grow as people, dammit, and I guess we should appreciate that they might have some misgivings. Sleeping in the great outdoors night 1 might be a bit off putting, if you know what I mean.

BUT:  the bags are packed, we could leave now honestly. And not so secretly, that would be ok…

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Family MattersReal LifeTravel

Finding the Edge of Comfortable

Go far

When everything feels icky & squirmy & totally uncertain

Mom Says:

I was a bulging, sweating, 8 months pregnant hot mess in the middle of one of the hottest heat waves we have ever experienced. My husband will recount to you tales of woe and suffering as he endured the words “I’M UNCOMFORTABLE!!” more times than I care to remember. It has become a standing joke between us, one that is typically accompanied with boohoos and mockery to indicate said Uncomfortablist is being entirely unreasonable.

On a happier pregnant days
On a happier pregnant day at the cottage

The word comfort has been an enemy in so many ways throughout my life. At the start of our marriage, I would share with my husband (often) my thoughts that the minute we were comfortable, we were done for. Comfortable meant being normal, stagnant, conforming and lacking passion. I didn’t want us to ever get there. I wanted us to strive for date nights and spicy moments so that the notion of comfort would never take hold.

I am often found pushing myself past my comfort zone. Whether it’s skydiving, scuba diving, motorcycling, bungee jumping, or climbing mountains, I have done it all. At the start of every one of these adventures, I am scared poopless. Every. Single. Time. Until I do it & then realize that that wasn’t so bad after all.

The whole fam came out to support me when I jumped out of a plane. I hope we are teaching our kids to be fearless.
The whole fam came out to support me when I jumped out of a plane. My only hope is that we are teaching our kids to be fearless.

I like it & I don’t like it. It feels icky and squirmy and often disagreeable. Yet something about pushing through the hard parts, to conquer and achieve a challenge on the other side makes it so worth the initial grossness of it all.

The thing is, I have started to think of my comfort zone as exactly that. It’s just a zone. It’s not your prison cell. Your zone can take on different shapes or sizes. The more we push, the bigger our space of allowable adventure becomes. We just have to keep pushing out the walls.

As we hit our 3 month window before we leave on our #CuppaRTW Round The World trip, I have recognized I have that uncomfortable feeling once again. This feels new for me because this time it’s not just me getting out of the zone. We as a family are taking this on, all parts of it feel foreign and unsettled.

I have been trying to explore what is actually causing these whirl-a-gig butterflies inside me and I think for the most part I have figured it out.

  1. We are planning to not plan which for a planner makes things all kinds of up in the air. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster that’s pulled out of the station and already on the ride but need to get past the urge to hold my breath through the whole thing because its a long time before its over.
  2. I am curious how we are going to manage surviving as a family 24/7 over the next many months. We are a strong team and we all love each other dearly but we already know we are going to plan for breaks or we will end up killing each other before we get out of South America.  We have even invented a safe word to roll out on the days for the kids (or each other) are driving us so batty that we might say something we regret. We are also planning on taking days in which one of us takes the kids and in which we each take one kid to keep things different and exciting.
  3. Very soon, we will no longer have a home. We are letting go &  rid of most of our stuff. The grounding stuff. As we start packing up, we are starting to work on how to create a new version of “Home” for us & the kids. We will have no place to come back to and the concept of coming home will now have to truly live in “home is where the heart is”. So how do we teach that to our kids?

I know these are all just growing pains as we start this new chapter in our life. I just can’t wait till my brain is settled on the other side and starts feeling more comfortable (baahaaahaa) with it all.

Climbing Kili was something I thought impossible. Until we did it.
Climbing Kili was something I thought impossible. Until we did it.

Dad says: 

oh, the pain of comfort…

I am, unlike above, comfortable with comfort to a point.  The balance I constantly try to strike is to look around and appreciate accomplishments before running off to literally jump of a cliff.  There is little joy in a life so hectic that you forget to breathe, look around, smell the roses, you know, LIVE…

Part of joy is enjoy, which is a poorly spelt word that should be in-joy.  Get in the moment, relish it, then set you sights on the next adventure.

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Changing the WorldTravel

Who ARE MomDadCuppaKids?

Who are Mom Dad Cuppa Kids

We can all agree there is so so much noise on the internet. For us, its really important that we don’t want this blog to add to the clutter. We want it to be fun, informative, open, and genuine.

As we get closer towards to leaving on our #CuppaRTW: Round The World Adventures, we’ve been thinking a lot on how to bring fresh & new ideas here.

Our hopes are that we can help inspire people one way or another and we do believe we can do it ways that will truly provide value.

But we realized first and foremost that you might not really know us that well.

To keep it simple, this is us.

We’re a bit goofy, awfully fun and a pretty easy-going family who like to dance and who want to live life to the fullest while we are here.

To decide if you would like to follow along on our journey, here are a few

FUN FACTS on #TEAMPOWELL

  • Chris has a dry, sarcastic, witty sense of humour. Jenn is more silly, cheeky and out there raw.
  • We met at the airport, during an ice storm at which time Chris convinced the airline to fly me all the way across the country to turn around to get back to the middle as it was the only flight (his by the way) leaving that night.
  • We love the outdoors and grew up at the cottage. Water is our peace place.
  • We are the couple that gets put at the table to keep the conversation alive at a wedding or an event.
  • We truly are a team and have supported each other through careers, entrepreneurship, extensive travel, special needs and more. Family is key and our rule is don’t ever keep score.
  • We are warrior advocates for our special needs son who put far more emphasis on the “special” than the needs, working hard to make life more about managing through Autism than Autism leading the conga line.
  • Our kids have picked up our love of dancing, adventure, exploration and sarcasm.
  • We climbed Mt. Kilimajaro as a way to celebrate 2 milestones- Jenn’s 40th bday and our 10th Anniversary. It wasn’t as hard as we thought but man were we awfully smelly/put our marriage to the test in the long run.
  • We love hosting parties (Jenn & Lauren have a particular love of turning everything into a theme) and it would be normal to find people dancing in our living room at 2am.
  • We believe that we are all one. That one of the essential values to pass on to our kids is to give back & pay it forward wherever we can. To always stop if someone needs help. 

We have no idea where this part of our lives will take us next but we are hoping that by journaling this we can create something amazing & positive.

Please let us know what you would like to see so that we can make this the best blog it can be.

And if you have friends who you think would enjoy our energy & sense of humour, please pass us on!

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Family MattersTravel

12 Ways to Survive Disney With Special Needs

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For many parents the thought of a Disney Vacation brings visions of apocalyptic temper tantrums, crying, hungry and over-tired children.

For parents of children with special needs top that with a tenfold of anticipated stress and anxiety that accompanies the thought of maintaining a manageable environment while “doing Disney”.

Our main goal was to make this trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. Thinking through the many catalysts that could trigger a breakdown & the tools that we could use to manage them, here’s how to take the cringe-worthy worry out, survive Disney with special needs, and keeping everyone smiling.

12 Ways to Survive Disney with Special Needs

1) Teach Spontaneity

I know this sounds kind of ridiculous but kids with Special Needs (especially ASD/Autism) thrive on routine. Yet life doesn’t adhere to a particular schedule no matter how hard you try. We spent a lot of time prior to the trip working on “what if’s” and “Big deal or little deal?” scenarios. Our goal was to get the kids ready for plans not working out the way they should and keep expectations of routine low.

Another way to get to & from Disney is by boat from the Polynesian

2) Be Strategic

As we started planning, we looked at the busiest traffic times of Disney and chose one of the lowest of the year. This allowed for low volume line-ups and often discounts on packages and accommodations. We think this is one of the MOST important parts of being able to survive Disney with special needs.

  • For the record, we went Sun-Thurs the first week of November which rarely saw a line-up over 20-30  minutes & allowed us to experience many more rides in a day.

3) Make it EASY 

We booked our flights and hotel using Expedia, which offered comparisons and made choosing simple and quick.  To save money, we flew out of Buffalo to Orlando, and then took the Magic Bus to Disney.  This direct and comfortable shuttle system took our luggage straight to our hotel, and our bags were delivered shortly after we arrived directly to our room.  This made getting through the airport a snap, which is rather incredible and definitely something I recommend for anyone travelling with children, special needs or not.

4) Stay on site

We chose The Polynesian Resort for a couple of key reasons. The first, is that it is one of three on-site resorts that connect to Disney via the Monorail. We got an incredible deal for a multi-family room making access to and from the park quick, easy and fun throughout the day. It is also the best resort to watch the fireworks nightly with a perfect sightline to the show without the overwhelming loudness and crowds inside the park.

Bedroom at The Polynesian Resort - Disney World
Our Multi-Generational Room included 2 Double Beds, A pull out, Fridge and Microwave

Everything Disney when you enter your room at The Polynesian Resort

5) The Magicband

Shopping at the Animal Kingdom - Disney World
Shopping inside Disney World was an easy distraction

Staying on site also gives you access to the Magicband that goes with booking at any Disney World Resort. Truly one of Disney’s smartest additions to the park and makes life so simple with customized Disney experience. Your Magicband is everything. From your hotel room key, FastPass+ access, your wallet throughout all the resorts and Disney World. You are able to purchase food, drinks & souvenirs in Disney using the Magicband which made walking around so much easier.

6) FastPass +

The FastPass is a god-send for special needs parenting as it allows you to pre-book 3 rides in advance each day. This can be done via the Disney app, and provides a specific time you are “reserved” to head to the ride. Any opportunity where we can prevent angsty waiting is incredibly powerful in our world.

*FastPass+ bookings can be done 30 Days in advance. 

7) Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card (DAS Card) 

The DAS Card allows persons with special needs, be they apparent or not, to arrive at a ride and receive a time to come back.  So instead of standing in line for an hour, we could leave and come back later, which reduced our wait time in the actual line considerably, and gave us the flexibility to do other things that would contribute to our Disney visit in a positive way.  We got ice cream, saw characters, took a bathroom break, shopped and occasionally just sat down for a rest till it was time to go back to the ride.

Grand Entrance & Intro show - Disney World
Just past this entrance to the left is the area you apply for a DAS, to the right is Mickey Mouse
Finding Fairy Godmother just behind the castle - Disney World, survive Disney with special needs
You will find Fairy Godmother just past the castle

8) Take Breaks

Staying so close also allowed us to choose when we were going to take some “breaks”, heading back to the hotel pool to refresh and regroup, providing some peaceful downtime before we headed back to the park. With the Monorail 5-7 minutes to the park, it allowed us the flexibility we needed to manage those moments where we thought we were hitting our limit.

Deluxe face painting- Animal Kingdom- Disney World, survive Disney with special needs9) Use meal/snack times as distractors

One of the most difficult and often stressful parts of traveling with a special needs child is eating out, with unfamiliar foods and lack of routine, so we opted out of the meal plan to avoid the food lines, choosing instead to rent a car and drive to a nearby Target for familiar and healthy lunch/snacking foods. The fridge in our room allowed for us to start every day with a quiet, calm breakfast and we used food in the park to keep the kids busy while waiting.

10) Noise cancelling headphones

A number of the rides at Disney can be loud and jarring, so we packed a pair of noise cancelling headphones in the event that things got too much. This gave our son a chance to deeply cushion the incredible sensory experiences going on around him.

survive Disney with special needs, Noise-Cancelling Headphones are the perfect solution for Autism at Disney
The headphones worked amazing at places like the Stunt Show at Disney Studios.

11) Have a flexible plan

Getting to the park early and choosing the most popular rides first was our strategy and we were able to enjoy them without ridiculous wait times. We tried to keep the rides balanced to reduce sensory overload, and if we did a closed, fast paced or loud ride, we would follow it with an open and slower ride that would be more relaxing and lower growing excitement levels. There will be moments you need to adapt. Just stay checked in with your kids and see what they can handle.

12) Breathe & Enjoy

The attendants and everyone we encountered at Disney were amazing, with customer experience obviously a priority.  This is supposed to be fun for the whole family. So do as best you can to plan ahead, let routine go, let it flow, enjoy the moments and you too can have a Magical Disney vacation.

survive Disney with special needs, Nothing is more special than meeting some of your favorite characters - Found Lightning McQueen at Disney Studios

 

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Real LifeTravel

How Did We Get Here?

look upinto the stars.

How we made the choice to travel the world with our kids. 

Mom Says:

We have a kind of quirky approach to getting shit done.

For days/weeks/months we noodle. We say things like “yeahhhhh, we should do that” or ” we are going to have to get that done soon”.  We discuss, we let it roll around our tongues, we check out how it feels.

Then one day, without any prompts we JUST DO IT. Not in an organized, excel spreadsheet, plan of action kind of way (wouldn’t that be amazing). No, we just go and let the day takes us where it may.

In the history of our relationship this has included buying a condo, buying cars, furniture, booking trips, selling our house and and now we can include travelling the globe.

Without a real plan, we just decide that today is the day we go for it. In that moment, we take the step in a new direction to our next part of this journey.

As we start socializing this plan of ours, we are experiencing polar opposite reactions depending on the person we are sharing the information with. Amidst the “That’s so awesome”,  “You will never regret this” and “This is the best gift you can give your children”, we have discovered a collection of people who’s own anxieties and fears give them cause to say things like “Well, we would never do this” , “Aren’t you worried about the safety of your kids/missing school/getting out of real estate/living with your spouse 24/7 and so on” and the best one “That is the stupidest idea I have ever heard”.

For a tiny while, when those fear mongers set their panic light to on, I let it become my panic. For a second it threw me & I got caught up in feeling negligent on not having a plan. But I took a step back and looked again at our resolve: the universe will give you what you need.

For us, our fear of NOT actually taking this opportunity is far GREATER than what might happen on the trip.

our fear of NOT actually taking this opportunity is far GREATER than what might happen on the trip.

Part of this adventure is that it will get messy. We will likely miss flights, end up in a crappy hotel rooms, go over budget or even get so frustrated with each other we walk out for a “break”. But its the messy we are most looking forward to. To teaching the kids how to bounce back when shit hits the fan and how to adapt when things don’t go anywhere near as planned. We believe THAT is the greatest thing we can teach our kids. And we believe that the connection this will bring us as a family is probably the best part of why we’re heading out.

Dad says:

The devil is in the details, or so they say. And who wants to live with the devils of this world anyhow?  You can overthink anything to the point of paralysis, and then nothing gets done. Ever.  I have sat in meetings where the only thing that was accomplished was to set the timing for the next meeting, and even that was hotly debated.  If all you do is wait, looking before you leap, you don’t go anywhere. ever.  And who wants that?  Why, not me, I say!

With that in mind, I seem to react badly to the naysayers of the world.  We haven’t made this decision without any study, or consideration of what might be the effect on our family.  And in the end, the decision is ours.  I find it odd that the unsolicited comments seem to stream forward without any thought as to whether they were wanted, or if they might have an unintended effect.  Maybe this is one of those times where I would love to hear “that is super incredible!”, whether you think it is incredibly stupid or wow adventurous.  Just sit back, let me fill in the blanks thus far, and then try and fall asleep figuring out if we are crazy after all…

So. Go forth, be bold, live with the consequences occasionally.  But sometimes, you won’t have to, because it all works out in the end.  And even if it doesn’t, well, oh the stories we will tell. N’est pas?

Bebold

 

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Travel

If Not Now, Then When? A Life-Changing Moment.

If Not Now

This life.

This beautiful, awesome, amazing, privileged, lucky life that we are all leading can often feel seriously and unabashedly undervalued.

Not too long ago, we travelled to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I can without a doubt tell you that it changed something in us. It was more than simply conquering the summit; though hells to the yeah, we were proud of that accomplishment. It was tough, most definitely, one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. The mountain gave us the confidence to know that the impossible is only impossible, until you do it.

the impossible is only impossible, until you do it.

But there was so much more woven into that trek.

It began with the guides: the men who helped us climb the mountain. We spent a week with them, walking 8-9 hrs a day, talking and learning about their lives, the challenge to get ahead, the corruption in Africa, the amount of money they earned in a year (which was often under $1000), the intensity of their hustle (mostly to be able to pay for schooling or food for their children), their home and their pride in their families. Life seemed like such a struggle for them. Yet despite all of this, their spirit and their smiles were ever-present. No matter what the challenge they encountered, they would simply reply with Hakuna Matata, which truly and honestly means No Worries in Swahili.

We came home to our house, our 2 cars, our phones, our computers, our full closets, countless shoes and our various amusements. Our fridges were full of groceries, we had plenty of pretty things for our house and toys for our kids were abundant. And it all felt ridiculous.

I stood one day in Toys R Us and watched countless kids (including my own) whine or throw a tantrum because  their parents were not getting the latest Shopkins or Wii game. It was like I was Katniss witnessing the opulence of the Capital in the Hunger Games for the first time, and it made me sick.

Something in that moment woke me up.

What have we been doing?

Our children (and the majority of children living in this first world nation) truly have no clue how lucky they are. I want them to feel the world. Yet telling them or showing them online the kind of conditions that other children experience in the world is not enough.. We don’t see the kind of compassion or empathy we would expect for their fellow people. They are numb. They have become too over-exposed in the digital space to be able to fully appreciate their lot in life.

And an idea started to twist and turn in my head.

We needed to make a change. And not something minor.

A massive, life-affecting kind of change to kick this #Firstworldproblem in the ass.

It has always been our dream to go on a big trip. To travel the world and find opportunities to immerse ourselves in other cultures. To give back where we can.

We use the phrase “Life is too short” as a catch-all, an answer to cover all the possibilities when we want to do better,  be better. Yet do we really pay attention to what that phrase really means?

It was time to walk the talk. We decided it was time to go and witness first hand the way the world works, and the role we play on the planet. To follow our dreams.

How can we ask our children to follow their dreams. Creating a life-changing experience

How can we ask our kids to follow their dreams when we haven’t followed our own?

We realized the time for us is now. No waiting.

If not now, then when?

When (if ever) is the right time to take that leap of faith and go do something extraordinary? You could spend your whole life waiting for the perfect moment, or you could take a leap of faith and make now that perfect time.

And so our big announcement is that we are selling our house, taking a leave from work, and traveling the globe with our family for 6 months at the end of this year.

This isn’t about going on vacation. This is about teaching our kids to become global citizens. To understand, to connect and to appreciate cultures all over this big, beautiful world of ours.

We want to make the biggest impact on our children while we still can. We have no idea what to expect, but we are going to take the leap. The universe is begging for us to explore it. For us, this is about living in the moment, in the now. We are going to go for it, let fear go and trust.

Universe is looking for us to explore it

Trust that there will be good days and bad. Trust that we are risking everything and nothing. That we as a family will grow deeper connections and that our kids will learn amazing things on the road. Trusting (and believing) that this will make all the difference in their lives and ours.

We are so excited about our adventure and look forward to sharing the highs and lows of our preparations and our journey on our blog. We hope you will come along with us for this next chapter in our lives.

To making the when..now.

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We started letting the words of this trip tickle our tongue even in this post awhile back. We didn’t realize then that we were starting to write this story. Think about what you desire most. Write it down. It very well could lead to your next chapter. 

IF WE CAN DO IT. YOU CAN DO IT.

 

 

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