I awoke this morning to a thermometer that read -3 degrees. That was the temp! The wind chill was something like -4000! So my thoughts have naturally wandered to daydreams about summer vacation on a warm beach. In case anyone else has fantasies like mine, let me tell you about my vaca last year, because it was fabulous and I'd highly recommend it!

Matt and I took the boys to Beaches Family Resort (they advertise after every Sesame Street episode, that's where you've heard it before). There are several locations, but we chose Beaches Boscobel in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It is an all-inclusive family resort.

Let's run down the highs and lows of the trip for you:

1. Sesame Street - Because Beaches has partnered with Sesame Street, the Sesame characters are part of the resort. Three evening each week they perform a live stage show with singing and dancing, sets, etc. Every day has kid's activities like Dancing with Zoe, Baking with Cookie Monster, and Storytime with Elmo. My boys thought they had entered some magical Sesame Street land.

2. All-inclusive - Our room had a little fridge in it. When we arrived it was fully stocked with tiny cans of juice and sodas. I assumed it was like a hotel mini-bar and those tiny cans would cost a ton. Then another family told us they were free. So we let the boys have a can of juice in the morning before breakfast. The next day, it was restocked. It became a little ritual for us to have juice on our balcony and watch the sun come up every morning.

Kids Camp was open from 9 am - 6 pm every day. Your kids could stay there all day long for free. They took them swimming, fed them lunch, took them to craft time, gave them naps. They had daily themes like Olympics day when they had Olympic events on the lawn. There was a pirates day and a birthday party day. The kids loved it! They asked to go to kids camp every morning. So we dropped them off and would spend the morning lounging by the pool or on the beach. (We did get a copy of the Kids Camp schedule and would drop in when our guys were doing something worthy of a photo. It was fun surprising them!) Matt and I ate a nice lunch without cutting anyone else's food and would pick them up after naptime for an evening together. It was all included in the resort price!

3. Such service - Every member of the restaurant staff learn our kids names and often what they liked to drink, too. The Kids Camp staff knew what my kids liked for lunch and their favorite toy. There was always a clean towel at the beach. The lifeguards taught Matt how to do tricks off the water slide. No matter what we asked, it was met with "No Problem."

4. The pools - There were several pools on the resort, but we preferred those with water slides. Two pools had three levels of water slides: one was appropriate for Azlan, one appropriate for Patriot, and one appropriate for Matt and me. We had so much fun cheering for each other when we'd slide down and laughing when we fell in. The toddler pool also had fun toys that the boys could climb and splash with. Great stuff!

1. Travel day - I know customs is always long, but it seemed so much worse in Jamaica. Maybe it was just because we were waiting with a cranky toddler and a restless preschooler, but it was brutal. And the resort was a 2 hour bus ride from the airport. They don't tell you that in the brochure.

2. Fabric table clothes + no lids - At dinner, every restaurant had beautiful place settings with table clothes, real silverware, and glass glasses. No lids, no plastic plates or forks. We spilled or broke something at almost every meal. I think we ruined at least 4 table clothes. The servers were always very "No problem" about cleaning the mess and were pretty quick about it, I think because they had so much practice. I guess Beaches is trying to give the grown-ups a nice meal, but a plastic cup with a lid would really help.

3. Food variety - Matt was disappointed in the restaurant options. There are three family restaurants, a family buffet, and an "adults-only" restaurant. I thought it was fine, but we've heard that other resorts have more choices.

4. Tiny beach - For a place called Beaches, we expected a pretty nice beach. Not so much. It was maybe a football field in length and 50 feet wide (I'm not very good with distances, but it wasn't big). Taking a stroll on the beach was only a two minute excursion. It was lined with comfortable lounge chairs under palm tree awnings, perfect for reading a book and listening to the ocean. And we had lunch at the grill on the beach, definitely a memory.

5. Time change - My kids wake up at 8 am no matter what happened the night before. Because of the time change, they were ready for bed and cranky at 6:30 (some nights we didn't even survive dinner before they broke down) and woke up at an obscene hour in the morning. This could happen on any trip, but it's something I wasn't prepared for.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. I'd love to do it again and would recommend Beaches to any family. (There were teen activities if you have an older kid.) You can check out more pics on my Facebook page.
5. Our conversations are consumed by Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
4. My kitchen towels and chip clips have morphed into capes.
3. I found Lego pieces in the dishwasher.
2. My children really want me to burp the ABCs.
1. We had to make a "no guns at the dinner table" rule.