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All the Reasons to Take Your Family to Santa Fe (and Return Without the Kids for Romance)

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My wife and I decided we needed a rare romantic getaway. But we also felt like we needed a family vacation – something nice for our two-year-old and five-year-old. We had a small budget and wanted to go somewhere we could drive to from our home in Longmont, Colorado.

We decided on Santa Fe, New Mexico. Neither my wife nor I had ever been there, but we’d always wanted to go. And only six-and-a-half hours away by car? No problem.

It seemed like the perfect place: plenty of things to do as a family, great food and drink, and a very affordable condo rental on VRBO that could serve as the perfect spot for some romantic relaxation after the kids went to bed.

Or would trying to cram in a family vacation and a romantic getaway over one long weekend end up being too much?

Rough start

We left for vacation in high spirits, as well as a good 15 hours early. Not only were we excited to get out of town for the weekend, but we were feeling pretty smart: A spring snowstorm was on its way, and in a few short hours would start clobbering the I-25 corridor between Longmont and Colorado Springs.


Our original plan was that we would wake up early and leave on Friday morning. But with the severe weather warnings, we hastily packed up our gear the Thursday evening before, put the kids in their jammies, and decided to head for Durango, which was safely south of Colorado Springs and the southern edge of the incoming weather.

We made it to Durango uneventfully, staying over at a La Quinta. The next morning, we awoke to rain and temperatures in the low 50s. As we ate our free breakfasts, we watched the local news on the TVs mounted high up on the walls in the dining area. They showed images of Colorado Springs buried beneath nearly a foot of heavy, slushy snow.

There was no doubt we had made a great decision leaving early. Unfortunately, we were just about to learn that we’d also made a horrible decision – specifically, the decision to stop at Durango instead of just driving all night to Santa Fe.

About an hour after we left the La Quinta, we were stuck in standstill traffic, looking helplessly out of our windows as a white-out enveloped us, and every other car around us. By noon, we were at milemarker 42. By 3 p.m., we were still at milemarker 42.

The kids watched movies in the backseat as a quiet, sickening dread washed over me. Three hours. No movement. All around us, 4×4 pickup trucks were stranded in the snow. We were in an old Toyota Prius, which we had bought used the previous autumn. We’d never really taken it out in the snow. And yet there we were, in quite literally the most severe winter conditions I’d ever seen from a driver’s or passenger’s seat.

My wife looked on Google Maps and saw that not only had they closed the interstate ahead of us, but they’d closed it behind us, as well. We were stuck in between with nowhere to go. The wind gusted up to 50 miles per hour, and the snow blew sideways as it fell from ceasely from the sky.

I ticked through the important stuff in my head: Plenty of water? Check. Plenty of gas? Check. Plenty of food? Check. Clothing? Check. And we weren’t stuck. We were just not moving. Intellectually, I knew we we had everything we needed to be safe. But on some deeper, less conscious level, anxiety was building.

And then the cars ahead of us crept forward. And we did, too. Snow scraped the undercarriage of our little Toyota. Please, Prius, don’t get stuck now, I begged the car telepathically.

Fifteen minutes later, we crested a hill and stretched out ahead of us – ground that had been barely touched by snow. The asphalt was not only clear of snow, it was mostly dry.

Southern Colorado has some strange weather.

We seemed to be in the clear, but we weren’t. To get to Santa Fe, we still had to make it over Raton Pass, just over the Colorado border on the New Mexico side. Raton Pass was closed due to weather. So we stopped in Trinidad at the start of the closure. I gassed up the Prius, and we hit a place called Tequila’s for some early dinner. It was packed with other travelers also waiting for the Pass to open.

I rubbed my temples at the thought of having to stay overnight there, of having made it only 230 miles in 11 hours of driving over two days.

Somewhere down in Santa Fe, a really beautiful condo waited for us. At least, it looked beautiful on VRBO.

As the kids munched their quesadillas, I noticed something: Good news seemed to ripple through the restaurant. At tables all around us, people were smiling all of a sudden, looking visibly relieved. Through the din of whispered conversation, I thought I heard something about the Pass being opened. My wife checked Google Maps. It was true.

By 5:30 p.m., we were on our way. When we cleared the Pass, we were greeted by “severe clear” visibility – blue sky without so much as a wisp of a cloud. We drove into Santa Fe as the sun was setting, which painted the sky pink and orange and purple. It was gorgeous.

By 9 p.m. (12 hours after we had left that morning), we pulled into the parking lot of the condo. In a few minutes, we would confirm in-person that, indeed, the condo really was beautiful.

It should have taken us six-and-a-half hours to get to Santa Fe. Instead, it took a total of 27 hours over the course of two days.

Art by: Sarah Pedry

Museums, museums, and more museums

Our kids love museums. If you say the word “museum” to them, they literally jump for joy. That’s a big reason why we picked Santa Fe: It’s absolutely packed with museums. Really good museums. Too many good museums for a couple of parents who only have 48 hours to spare and two kids who keep shouting, “LET’S GO TO ANOTHER MUSEUM!”

We started out at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The woman behind the counter gave our kids pads of paper and pencils so they could draw and take notes as they went through. I’m thinking, Man, that’s a great idea! More museums should do that! Then she warned my wife and me that we should not let our kids get too close to the walls or art since they had pencils. So then I’m thinking, Yep, we’re going to be the parents of the kid who put his pencil through “The Barns, Lake George.”

I’ve always really enjoyed Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. This museum showcased a range of her paintings and illustrations through the years – far beyond the flowers. I would have been able to take it in more had I not been so hyper-aware of how kids never walk in a straight line, never look where they are going. Man, I really wished they didn’t have those pencils.

Fortunately, we left the museum without damaging any art. And despite my wish that they were never furnished with writing implements, we’ve now got a pretty great memento: my son’s renderings of Georgia’s works.

Among the other museums we visited were two on Museum Hill: the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, a well-curated and powerful place with an enjoyable “discovery” area for the kids. Then we headed across the courtyard to visit the Museum of International Folk Art. Very little can prepare you for walking into the main gallery, where there are literally thousands of sculptures, paintings, illustrations, weavings, and more. It was overwhelming in the best way possible.

The following day, we headed to the House of Eternal Return at Meow Wolf, which I count as a museum of sorts, but may be more accurately described as an interactive art exhibit that feels like a waking dream. (I particularly liked opening a refrigerator in the strange house, and discovering that it was actually a doorway to a different world.) It equally terrified and amused the kids.

Then it was off to the Botanical Gardens (back on Museum Hill), and then to the Institute of American Indian Arts (which, if you visit, do not forget to check out the galleries upstairs), and then over to the New Mexico History Museum, which, among other things, included the Palace of Governors.

At this point, we were mentally numb. We knew we were in the presence of wonderful art and fascinating history, but as we walked through the Palace of Governors, I looked at my wife and asked her seriously: “Where are we?”

“An old place,” she answered, her brain as maxed-out as mine.

Meanwhile, our kids ran from one thing to the next, still enthralled by everything.

I recommend every museum emphatically. Just give yourself more than 48 hours to see them all.

Food and drink

My kids were determined to become experts on the quesadilla, I was determined to become an expert on margaritas, and my wife was determined to eat a variety of authentic and spicy local dishes. (I should mention that I have Crohn’s disease. So between that, and the typical palettes that children have, we usually eat pretty bland, boring meals at home.) So here’s where we ate:

Tomasita’s: Food was solid. Margaritas very good. The sopaipillas and honey they serve at the end of the meal? Heaven.

Cowgirl: Imagine a family-friendly dive bar that’s also a restaurant, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Cowgirl is like and why it’s so popular. They’ve got an actual playground on site, so instead of them acting like wild animals at the table, they can go do that out by the slide while you sip margaritas.

Tecolote Cafe: The place faked us out with its strip-mall location. There was nothing strip-mall about the interior, or their awesomely indulgent food. Inside, Tecolote is a light, spacious, festive spot decorated with handmade, customer-donated illustrations and weavings of owls. But the real interest is on the plates. We had chocolate chip pancakes, french toast, huevos rancheros smothered in red chile. Even their coffee was dynamite.

Kakawa Chocolate House: “Why don’t we just move here to Santa Fe?” my wife and I wondered as soon as we stepped into this tiny, insanely cute place that serves a variety of rich chocolates in sipping and truffle forms. The kids got the truffles, while my wife and I got the sipping kind (including one made with a blend of local chiles).

The Cheesemonger and Clafoutis: For our final night, my wife and I had the ambitious idea to have our own romantic “date night” dinner back at the condo after the kids went to bed. So we hit up the Cheesemonger and Clafoutis for a variety of cheeses, a baguette, and some very fine prosciutto and olives.

The Clafoutis baguette was one of the best baguettes I’ve ever had, and the rest of the spread was more than amazing. One small problem with our plan: When you’ve done seven museums and other activities in the span of 48 hours, you find that you’re just a little worn out once the kids go to sleep. So we redefined “romantic” as “let’s put our pajamas on and try not to fall asleep on the couch as we eat this stuff.”

Amaya: I was too busy trying to recover from a four-museum marathon with blood orange margaritas to notice how much the rest of the my family were enjoying whatever it was they ordered.

Cafe Pasqual’s: There’s a reason why a place would have a 20-minute wait on a Monday morning. Because it’s awesome. We decided to go out for one last breakfast, because we were basically robbed of our first day in Santa Fe.

The kids split an enormous short stack of pancakes and bacon while my wife enjoyed two poached eggs on avocado toast with bacon and dukkah. The syrup is so good it merits eating it by the spoonful, which is definitely something I didn’t do (did) because it would have been very rude and set a bad example for my kids.

Right and wrong

After our breakfast at Cafe Pasqual’s, we piled into the car and made the six-and-a-half-hour drive back – very relieved to encounter no snow and a little disappointed there wasn’t a blizzard that would have forced us to stay an extra day. Along the way, we thought about what we did right and what we did wrong.

Here’s what we did right: We went to Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a little city bursting with energy and life and culture and a lot to do.

Here’s what we did wrong: We decided to do all that over a long weekend. We also tried to have two vacations at once: a romantic getaway, and a family vacation. By any measure, this was still a great family vacation. But as most parents (including us now) probably know, a family vacation is exhausting. Especially with kids ages two and five. Doing it the way we did it, we left ourselves with little time or energy for anything more than activities.

So, despite how much fun we all had, it looks we need to go back. Just the two of us.

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Student loan debt is a major problem for many mamas and their families―but it doesn't have to be. Refinancing companies like Laurel Road help families every year by offering better rates, making payments more manageable or helping them shorten their loan term.

If you're ready to start taking control of your student loan debt, here are five steps that could help you conquer your student loan debt and get a loan that works for you.

1. Understand your refinancing options.

Like motherhood, managing student loan debt is a journey made much easier by experience. If your eyes start to cross when you hear variable and fixed rates or annual percentage rate, start your process with a little education. Laurel Road offers a user-friendly resource hub with student loan refinancing guides and articles that can help explain your options and get you started on a more informed foot.

2. Potentially improve your credit score.

Your credit score is important because it provides an objective measure of your credit risk to lenders. It also has an impact on many aspects of your finances, so it's a good idea to understand and track your score regularly. To try and improve your score, pay your bills on time—your payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Having a long history of on-time payments is best, while missing a payment may hurt your score. Another action to improve your credit score would be to keep the amount you owe low—keeping your balances low on credit cards and other types of revolving debt, such as a home equity lines of credit, may help boost your score. Remember, good credit scores don't just happen overnight, but taking positive financial steps now can lead to more positive outcomes in the future.

3. Get a better understanding of your current loan benefits.

Different loan types have different benefits and you want to make sure you don't lose any valuable benefits by refinancing your current loan. Before you're ready to apply for a better option, you need to know what you have. Determine your loan terms (how long you have to pay off your loan and how much you're required to pay each month) and find out your current interest rate.

When you took out your original loan, especially if it was a federal loan, everyone who applies is given the same rate regardless of their personal credit. When you look to refinance, companies like Laurel Road look at your credit score and other attributes to give you a personalized pricing option―one that's often more competitive than your original terms. However, it is important to know that federal loans offer several benefits and protections, including income based repayment and forgiveness options, that you may lose when refinancing with private lenders (learn more at https://studentloans.gov). Try Laurel Road's Student Loan Calculator to get a bigger picture perspective of what it will take to pay off your loan and the options available to you.

4. Pick the terms that fit your lifestyle.

Your long-term financial goals will determine what refinancing terms are right for you. For example, a 3- or 5-year loan means faster payoff times, but it will mean a higher monthly payment―which might not be possible if you're planning to purchase a home or looking to move your toddler to a more expensive school. A loan with a longer term will have lower payments, but more interest over the duration of the loan.

Want to see what your options are? Check your rates on Laurel Road. They'll perform a "soft credit pull" using some basic information (meaning initially checking your rates won't affect your credit score ) so you can make an informed decision. If you do proceed with the application Laurel Road will ask for your consent on a hard credit pull.

5. Don't miss out on discounts.

With a little research, many people can find opportunities for lower rates or discounts when refinancing their loans. For example, if your credit isn't the best, look into the possibility of adding a cosigner who may help boost your rate. There are also many associations and employers who offer student loan benefits. Laurel Road partners with a number of groups and employers who offer discounts on rates―so check with your professional associations or HR to see if any options are available to you. Finally, talk to your financial institution, especially if you're planning to take out another major loan like a mortgage. In some cases, having another product with an institution can get you a preferred customer rate.

This article is sponsored by Laurel Road. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's Father's Day and dads around the world are getting some love from their loved ones, and we are loving all the adorable posts on Instagram today.

Celebrity dads are getting (and dishing out) a lot of love today, and these 10 Instagram posts, in particular, are melting our hearts.

James Van Der Beek 

James Van Der Beek will always be Dawson to many millennial mamas, but to his five kids he's just "Daddy." His wife Kimberly posted the cutest pic of James with their kiddos, Olivia, Emilia, Annabel Leah, Joshua and baby Gwendolyn.

James posted the same photo to his own account, with a caption that may make you cry.

He wrote: "For me, being a father means having that quiet little voice inside of you that says 'Be a better man,' get louder and more consistent... to the point where you can't really remember where that voice ends and where you begin. It means being tired beyond what is probably healthy, and patient beyond what you previously thought possible. And even though you know you're far from perfect... being a father also comes with an unshakable awareness that all your actions have consequences - context that reaches far beyond your own self-interest. It's scary to feel that interconnected with the rest of the world - especially with your heart now walking around outside your body - because it demands more personal responsibility... but it will make you a better man. Of at least that I'm sure. #HappyFathersDay to all the imperfect dads out there, trying their best and learning on the job.👊#fatherhood"

That post gives us more feels than any episode of Dawson's Creek ever did.

Today, our Istagram and Facebook feeds are filled with evidence that today's dads are doing more than any other generation of fathers. Congrats guys, you really deserve a Happy Father's Day!

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The bond between sisters is special, but Jill Noe and Whitney Bliesner have a unique bond that goes beyond just being siblings. As twins, Jill and Whitney shared a lot throughout their lives, and when Jill became Whitney's surrogate they even shared a pregnancy.

As first reported by Today, Whitney has a rare disease called NF2 (Neurofibromatosis type 2). Because of NF2 she lost the vision in her left eye and hearing in her right ear, along with partial hearing loss in her left ear. The condition makes pregnancy risky, and the disease is hereditary.

Whitney and her husband, Pete, wanted to start a family, but adoption and surrogacy fees seemed to be putting parenthood out of their reach. Until Jill stepped in as their surrogate.

"We have always had a strong connection, I do think this experience made our connection stronger, for sure," Whitney tells Motherly, adding that she's sure that when Jill eventuallu has kids of her own the sisters will likely bond over motherhood, too.

Through IVF, Jill carried donor eggs fertilized with Pete's sperm to make her twin sister's family, and on June 7 Jill delivered Whitney and Pete's son and daughter, little Rhett and Rhenley.


"Going through this with Jill was so easy," Whitney tells Motherly. "We both had no idea what was going to happen or how we would deal with stuff during this journey. We had our ups and downs, but I think that's life, and in any situation you would experience that. But with my sister, there was a sense of everything was going to be ok, like always. We always get over our annoyance and disagreements with each other very fast with no hard feelings. It was just a great experience to have with my best friend, my twin sister."

Rhett and Rhenley are keeping Whitney super busy these days (with twins, someone is always hungry!) but she's making time to share her story because she wants other people who can't physically be pregnant to not give up on their dream of being a mom.

"It's not about blood or biologically carrying a kid that makes you a mom, it's the unconditional love, care, and security you give a child that makes you a mom," she explains.

Whitney continues: "Even though you aren't carrying or blood-related, you still have those feelings of babies being yours!"

Whitney calls Jill her best friend and Jill says the feeling is mutual, telling Today that she knows Whitney would have done the same for her if the roles where reversed.

"She's always wanted to be a mom and her disease has already taken so much from her. I wasn't going to allow (NF2) to take this opportunity from her, too," Jill said. "It just felt like the right thing to do. Our family is so strong and so supportive of one another, especially since Whit's diagnosis in 8th grade."

Thanks to Jill, Whitney is now living her dream, taking care of her two adorable babies.

Jill is an amazing sister, and Whitney is already an amazing mom.

[A version of this post was originally published June 14, 2019. It has been updated.]

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A dad's first Father's Day is always special, and Prince Harry is no exception. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a new photo of Baby Archie clutching his father's finger.


It's been just over a month since little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor came into the world and changed his father's. Shortly after the birth, Prince Harry described new fatherhood as "the most amazing experience I could ever possibly imagine."

This sweet Father's Day Instagram post is the first look at Archie the public has had since the royal family did their post-birth photoshoot in May.

While Archie's mom and dad recently attended the Queen's birthday celebration, Trooping the Colour, little Archie is still a bit too small for such a big party. His older cousin Prince Louis made his first Trooping appearance this year, so we can expect to see Archie at the Queen's birthday parade next year.


Baby Archie and Prince Louis will likely be together soon for Archie's christening. Reports suggest the event will take place next month at Windsor Castle, the same venue where Archie's mom and dad got married, and where Prince Harry was baptized back in 1984.

We can't wait to see more photos of sweet baby Archie on his big day!

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Do you feel guilty when you don't want to play with your kid? I do.

Do you give in and play with them anyway, all the while checking your phone and wondering exactly how long you have to pretend to be a dinosaur? Or do you say "no" to play time and endure the inevitable whining, coupled with mom-guilt that ensues?

Neither of these options is particularly tempting.

So what's a mom, with a fully developed intellect and adult interests and subsequent lack of interest in playing with toys for 10 to 12 hours a day, to do?

Here are six phrases to try next time your kid wants to play and you need a break.

1. "I will be cleaning the kitchen. You're welcome to join me."

This is my personal favorite and one I use daily. The next time you need to get something done and your child is clinging to you, offer an invitation instead of a dismissal.

Try asking your child to join you instead of saying, "go play." The beauty of this phrase is that it gives your child a choice—they can either be with you and help with what you are doing, or they can go play independently.

Often my toddler will join me for a while and then drift off to play on his own.

2. "I'm not available to play dinosaurs right now. Would you like to read with me?"

While sometimes we simply need to get something done, other times we just honestly do not want to play whatever our child is asking us to. And that is okay.


There are only so many hours in the day that you can reasonably be expected to play dinosaurs or princesses. If you are available to spend time with your child, but find yourself cringing at the idea of one more game of superheroes, offer an alternate activity.

It's important for children to get the chance to choose the activity sometimes, but it doesn't have to be all of the time. Offer one or two activities that you would genuinely enjoy doing with your child and give them the choice of whether to join you.

3. "I'm going to read for 20 minutes and then I will be able to play Legos with you."

Let your child see your interests too. You don't have to cram your own life and hobbies into nap time and after bed. It's okay, and even valuable, to let them see that you are a whole person with your interests.

Tell them that you want to read or garden or workout for 20 minutes. Invite them to sit nearby, or to play on their own. It helps to start with a very manageable amount of time, like 15 or 20 minutes, and stretch it as your child's ability to play on their own grows.

Your child may sit and whine for the entire 20 minutes. While this can be annoying, it is best not to respond in anger. Try to acknowledge their feelings, but don't give in to their demands. You might say, "I see that you're having a hard time waiting for my attention. Reading is important to me. I'm going to read for 15 more minutes, and then I would love to play with you."

If you do this consistently, your child will get used to the idea that you have needs and interests too.

4. "I don't want to play right now, but I would love to sit and watch you."

Be honest with your child. It's okay if you want to be with them, but don't feel like actively playing. This can be an excellent way to observe how your child plays when left to their own devices. It is also a way for them to share their favorite games with you, without you feeling forced to play something you don't enjoy. Children can tell when we're not having fun, even if we try to fake it.

5. "I would love to play for a few minutes. Then I will need to fold the laundry."

Sometimes children need help getting started. It often works well to play with them for 10 or 15 minutes and then back away to do something else nearby. This allows your child to play independently while also saving your sanity.

6. "Sure, I'll play! You choose the game today, and I'll choose tomorrow."

While we naturally do not share all of our young children's interests, it is important for children to get to choose what we do together some of the time. Create a system where your child chooses sometimes, and you choose other times. Once your child is confident that they will get to decide what you play together sometimes, they will likely let go of the need to always demand that you play certain games.

Bottom line:

The beauty of learning to say "no" to your child's requests to play is that you will enjoy the time you do spend playing together. No one has fun when they feel like they're being forced to do something, even if it's by a 4-year-old.

And the thing is, they can tell. Children know when we want to be there and when we're just phoning it in—we're not fooling anyone.

When I force myself to play, I imagine my toddler feels sort of how I feel when I drag my husband to the farmers market. Yes, we're doing what I wanted to do, but I can tell he's not into it and that kind of takes all the fun out of the experience.

Once you feel the freedom to decide whether or not you want to play, you can choose the times when you do feel like being silly, playing pretend or merely dropping everything to build the tallest tower ever in the whole full world.

And your child? They will know the difference. Their little heart will be so full of playing with you when you want to be there. That's what will stick with them, not all of the times you said no.

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Learn + Play
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