Archives for May 2012

Tales From the Crib: Week 36

MOM! Mama! Maaaaamaaaaaa!

Did you hear that? Did you? It’s me! I can say “mama”.  More importantly, I can now follow Mommy room to room, and if I can’t keep up, I just yell “Maaaaaaamaaaaa” and she comes to get me.  It’s great.  She’ll never be able to leave me again!!! Muahahaha.

I can also give kissies.  Mostly, I just give kissies to Mommy, but sometimes Daddy does something funny and then he gets one, too.  My cousins, the rowdy puppies, like to give ME kissies.

See, I had to stay and endure slobbery puppy kisses while Daddy and Grandpa went to the Indy 500!  At least Mommy stayed with me.  This year.  I need to come up with a plan to get her to stay with me next year.  Hmmm…any ideas?

Auntie Amy and Uncle David came to play with me.  And Uncle David gave me a lecture about responsibility.  He knows all about that, since he’s graduating from college this week!

And then Auntie Amy stole my toys.

A baby can’t catch a break around here.  Even Mommy put me to work.

Okay, okay.  I’ll help you make dinner, Mommy, but I AM NOT DOING THE DISHES!

Tales From the Crib: Week 35

It was Garage Sale Week!  And this neighborhood takes its garage sales seriously.  There was a funnel cake tent, a french fry booth, a fried Oreo booth (yuck, yuck, yuck!!!), a popcorn tent and lots of grilling of hamburgers and hot dogs.  I got in the action and made a lemonade stand.

I had chips, apples, oranges, pecan rolls, donuts, water, and of course, lemonade!  On the first day, I only made $2.50, and $1.00 of that was from Daddy and The Bearded Beast We Call Brian (Daddy’s friend from work).  Things got better on Friday and Saturday, though.  I made about $10.00.  I’m going to use my monies for our Summer To-Do List “Do a Good Deed”.  I already started!

Me and Mommy did the sale all by ourselves. On Thursday and Friday, we kept our tables in the garage, and when it was my naptime, Mommy just closed the garage door.  That didn’t stop people from being CRAZY though.  People knocked on the door to ask if we still had certain items or when we were opening back up.  Some people even peeked in the house and tried to make offers on items in the house!  Mommy finally got persnickety and closed all the windows, curtains, and locked the doors.  I told you, these people take their garage sales seriously!

When I wasn’t napping, I was bait.

It worked. We were swamped.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact we live on the main corner, too, but I’m going to attribute it all to my utter cuteness.  I hammed it up, too.  I liked to pop up from over the back table when anyone came in.  I made goo-goo eyes at all the Grandpa’s (they’re the ones with the money!).  I also made a new friend–she was from Tennessee and I loved her accent.  I crawled right up to her and made her pick me up.  Then I gave her a kissy and laid my head down and closed my eyes.  Mommy was slightly shocked, but I’m not about to pass up a good cuddle.  I have needs, too, Mom!

By 11:00am on Saturday, we had hardly anything left to sell.  We made almost $300! We didn’t even know we had that much stuff.  Mommy and I both still have a few clothing items, but we’re going to take them to a resale shop to get rid of them.  That’s right, we followed Garage Sale Rule #1–NEVER bring anything back into the house.

Since we closed up at 11:00 on Saturday, we had plenty of time to rip more bushes out.  That’s right, Daddy is a bush-whacking machine.  He ripped out another 3 bushes.  Thankfully, Uncle Brad and Aunt Mandy stopped by, and they hauled all of the old bushes away.  Uncle Brad left his motorcycle in our yard to try to sell it.  I saw a twinkle in Daddy’s eye, but alas, he was good and saved his monies.

After a hard day of work, me and Daddy played hard.

Watch out Michael and Marco…Matty and Daddy are coming for you!

Tales From the Crib: Week 34

Aww, man. I don’t want to sit still…how many times do I have to get my picture taken, guys?! Anyway…

I saved Mommy! I did. I saved her from the bad man.  Mommy had to go to the chiropractor this week, but she forgot to tell Daddy so he couldn’t come home to watch me, so she took me along.  She brought me snacks and a blanket and toys for the office, but I had other plans.  I saw the table that they put her on. And I saw those wires that they hook her up to.  And I thought, Mommy. I will save you!

So when the Dr. came in, I went ballistic.  I screamed, and yelled, and clung to Mommy so she couldn’t get away.  And it worked! Mommy had to reschedule.   The Dr. probably thinks we’re crazy now.  You see, I didn’t tell you the whole story.  To make sure we got there on time, we left BEFORE my nap so that I could nap in the car.  But once we got there, Mommy decided to close her eyes too, “just for a minute”.  We woke up almost 2 hours later!  So Mommy went in to reschedule and they were able to squeeze her in.  She noticed that I had fallen asleep on my jacket, so I had the indentation from the zipper across my face.  After my maniacal plan to save Mommy from the crazy-contraption table worked, we went back to the car and Mommy looked in the mirror—she had a handprint on her face from where she fell asleep in the car.  Oh man, we’re a crazy pair!

In happier news, Sunday was Mother’s Day!  I’ve since been told that it is indeed “Mother’s” Day and not “Moth-er’s” Day.  Daddy kept saying Moth-er’s Day so I thought we were going to get to see all kinds of moths or maybe hit up the Butterfly Show.  But apparently it’s a day to celebrate Mommy! I can be down with that.  Once I learned that, Daddy helped me order some flowers and chocolates.

I know Mommy’s getting sick of flowers, but Daddy wasn’t a big help at the last minute.  I also gave her what she really wanted (kind of)—I slept in until 8:00 and then we went to breakfast.  Daddy helped me by celebrating the night before with candles, wine, cake, a movie, and a massage after I went to bed.

That’s how babies are made! Yay!

Oh, Mommy said, “No way, Jose.”… I don’t know who Jose is, but he’s apparently not getting a baby sister either.  We also took Mommy to the garden center and bought her a hydrangea bush, an azalea bush, and some other pink bushy thing.  Then me and Daddy spent the whole day ripping out old bushes and putting new landscaping in.

 

Oh, maybe Daddy and Mommy did all the work and I played.

All in all, Mommy said it was a good day and she loves us both very much!

Upcycled: Cardboard Toy Box

Moving involves lots of boxes. LOTS. Between the renovations happening around here and the influx of “baby stuff” that’s needed, Amazon has become my new best friend.  What did people do before online shopping, especially 2 day shipping?  I just don’t know.

I try to be environmentally conscious.  Watching all of these boxes just get tossed was killing me.  So I started looking for other ways to use them around the house.  A month or so ago, I realized that Matty’s jumbo blocks were overrunning their basket–they needed a bigger home.  Enter, the cardboard box.  It was big enough. It was sturdy enough. And it was free!

Of course, having a cardboard box with “AMAZON” across the side isn’t the least bit visually pleasing, so I decided to jazz it up.  I wasn’t sure my plan was going to  work, so I grabbed some cheap fabric I already had on hand, and haphazardly glued it to the box.  It looked bad, but it was better than before, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in motherhood so far it’s that perfectionism is over-rated.

I did make a mental note to see how it held up, and to reglue it later to make it better.  Ha. Hahaha. I felt proud just getting this accomplished so  I don’t know when I planning on having time/energy to redo it…

That VERY SAME NIGHT, I was catching up on my blog reading and came across THIS

Damn super-moms.  On the one hand, I was happy that my idea to cover a box with fabric was being used by other creative people, but on the other hand, I knew I was going to have to fix up Matty’s block box sooner rather than later– I don’t want the poor kid growing up thinking that is what crafting is all about.

I wanted this project to be free and to continue to use things I already had, so I turned to my paper and ribbon and scrapbook paper collection along with a bit of Modge Podge.  And voila!

Not too shabby, eh?  It took all of 15 minutes, which juuusssst fits into Matty’s 20 minute naptimes.  It felt so good to get this done and to craft.  I’m making it a habit.  I will “make” something every week. EVERY WEEK.  Life’s too short and parenthood is too crazy not to take 15 minutes to zone out with ribbon and a glue gun.

Tales From the Crib: Week 33

Oh, hi. Sorry, I get kind of distracted lately.  SO MUCH TO DO!  Anyway, it was SO HOT this week. Almost 90 degrees!  I didn’t know life got that hot.  We tried lots of things to keep cool:

Like Popsicles. I didn’t really like them…

And swinging. I like to go really high!  Thanks for my swingset Mimi and Papaw!

And rolling around in the grass. It doesn’t taste as yummy as it looks either!

And outside bathtime. It was the best!

The heat really got to all of us. On Sunday, Daddy came in the room while Mommy was putting me down for a nap and woke me up. Wide awake.  So Mommy handed me to Daddy and…left.  She just got in the car and drove away…I don’t know where she went but she came home with bags and bags of food so I’m guessing it was a good time wherever she went.  Daddy had to get me to sleepy…

(Mommy and Daddy might be going crazy, but I like it! I haven’t snuggled and sleepied on Daddy’s chest since I was little…relatively speaking, of course.)

Since it’s so nice out in the evenings, I want to stay up to play.  Til like 10:00!  I don’t think Mommy is down with this plan cause she just left me sitting in the sunroom, NAKED, and she curled up on the chaise with a cup of tea and some chocolate chip cookies and I saw her eyeing the wine on more than one occassion.  I wanted a snack, too, so I ate a bug!  It was a roly poly one. Num Num Num.  After that, Daddy decided he might need to do some real parenting, so he took me for a walk…NAKED, through the yard so we could sneak up on Mommy from behind.  It was so funny.

(Look! You can even see the reflection of Mommy’s cookies…I wasn’t joking!)

That’s when Mommy decided to turn the AC on, but whop whop, it didn’t quite work.  It made some crazy whirring sound and the house didn’t cool down much. But, our house came with a home warranty so we’ll get some help with a new one!

Thankfully, it cooled down by the weekend, cause we had a busy, busy day on Saturday.  Auntie Amy ran in the Flying Pig 10k!

I was really excited about those flying pigs, but I didn’t see any.  I did see a juggler. And a cute couple running while holding hands  And some 10 and 11 year old kids! Wow!  Mommy didn’t want me to be disappointed, so she played the part of the Flying Pig.

We walked around to different parts of the route so we could see Auntie Amy and also to enjoy the city.

Then we went to breakfast, then Daddy went to Full Throttle to let of some steam driving go-karts while I napped in the car.  Then we all went to IKEA.  Then, I stayed with Grandma, Grandpa, and Auntie Amy while Mommy and Daddy went to lunch and go their hair cut.  This is what happened to me while they were gone: NOTE: Watch it fullscreen!

Whew, I’m exhausted from just watching all those people run.  Daddy said we’re going to do it next year, though we’re going to walk.  Daddy even promised to wear pink tights and a tutu.  Or dress as the big bad wolf and me and Mommy can be little piggies, but we need a third little piggy—anyone want to commit to joining us?!

Tales From the Crib: Week 32

Apparently I’m not Peter Pan and I cannot fly.  That’s all I’m saying. No, I don’t want to talk about it.

We’re still taking things easy around here.  Mommy is kind of healing up, but she still has to see the doctor three times a week.  She’s able to hold me to nurse me and we went for a walk in my stroller once this week.   We’ve had to do some more “mellow” activities. Whatever, Mom.  So Mommy got out the crayons. WARNING: They do not taste as yummy as they look.

But apparently I’m supposed to rub them all over the floor.  That will come back to bite you in the ass bum bum, Mommy.  Anywho, I got to draw my very first picture.

I’m quite the Picasso, you know, without the whole cutting off my ear thing, though.

GRANDMA AND MIMI—QUIT READING.  STOP IT RIGHT NOW.  STOOOOP.

After I finished my picture, Mommy helped me cut it into 3 pieces so I can keep a piece, and we can send a piece to Grandma and Mimi for Mother’s Day.

OK, YOU CAN KEEP READING NOW.

I don’t need Mommy to hold me and carry me so much, cause I can CRAWL, CRAWL, CRAWL. ALL. OVER. Did you know you can actually LEAVE a room? I can just crawl into the kitchen whenever I want.  And when I’m done playing in my room, I can just crawl into the Living Room to find Mommy and Daddy.

My favorite thing is pulling up and cruising. Yep, I can already go from the coffee table to the couch and back again. And again. And again. And again.  It’s so much fun!

Oh, and do you want to see my new toy?  Mommy got me an alligator walker.  I love to pull up on it and play with the twisty beads on the back.  I can’t quite push it yet, but I’m getting there.

I also had lots of fun because Aunt Angela and Kat came over to play!  Thankfully, Aunt Angela was there when I attempted my “first flight” and made Mommy feel better about my failure to launch…Me and Kat played in my room with my toys and Kat showed me how to jump on my trampoline—soooo THAT’s what that thing is for.

Mommy made dinner, then she let us bake cookies and Kat puts LOTS of sprinkles on them.

(BAAAAD white balance photo, Mommy. But Daddy and I are really concerned about all the sprinkles–look at our faces.  Daddy told me that when girls do crazy things you just smile and nod and let them do it.)

Speaking of my room, I love it! I have lots of fun toys all displayed on shelves, and I spend lots of time  taking them off, then putting them back, then taking them off, then putting them back…Mommy is getting a nice break cause I’ll spend 20-30 minutes playing all by myself in my room.  And you can tell from my weekly picture that we moved stuff around a bit–my chair is in the other  corner now, so I have half of the floor open for just playspace!

We’re getting so much done around the house—Mommy is finally at a point where we can get stuff up on the walls and décor items out.  Daddy’s still chugging away at the bathroom (and at the bottle…).  Hopefully we’ll have some new pictures to share with you soon.  Daddy is a like a rabid squirrel who runs from room to room working on stuff, and so Mommy has to run after cleaning up his messes. Needless to say, we just have lots of pictures of half-done projects.

Traveling With An Infant: Yes, You Can Survive

When we first found out we were pregnant, we were in the midst of planning a vacation…to Egypt.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen; at the time, we thought we wouldn’t have another vacation until Matty was a couple of years old.  After a particularly stressful week at work, Eric demanded a vacation, so we started narrowing our options of where we could go and what we could do with a 6 month old.  We ultimately decided on a cruise, because let’s face it, not only are they fantastic, but it was the only way I was going to get taken care of, too (and Mommy deserves a vacation too, no?).  I started doing some research, reading blogs, and scouring forums trying to find some tips for traveling with a baby, but surprisingly I didn’t come across much and all of the tips were strewn across different sites.  So in an effort to help other exhausted, sleep-deprived, over-worked Mammas with a bad case of mommy-brain, I’ll dispense my findings. Plus, we managed to pack everything for 11 days in two suitcases, 1 diaper bag, a camera bag, and carried an umbrella stroller; we also got numerous compliments about how little we traveled with and how much we seemed to “have it all together”…hahahahaha.

Don’t Over-Pack

  • Many sites recommended figuring out how many diapers, wipes, food, etc. you’ll need, then taking 30% more.  Don’t do it.  Sure take a few extras, or make sure to have plenty if your baby drinks special formula, but don’t go overboard.  Your kid won’t starve.  You will be able to find diapers somewhere.  Paper towels work as wipes in a pinch.  Everything that goes in the suitcase or carry-on weighs something, and all those little somethings add up to a heavy mess.  I took probably only 10% more than I thought I needed and I packed too much; 2 unopened pack of wipes and 1 pack of diapers that only had 2-3 taken out, as well as unworn outfits.  It would have been nice to not have two 50 lb. suitcases to lug around, or extra junk to organize in a small cruise cabin.
  • This is a controversial tip, but we didn’t take a carseat.  And maybe I’m a horrible, no-good, craptastic Mother, but I wasn’t worried about it either.  There was no way I was lugging a car seat through the airport, onto a cruiseship, and on and off the ship for each excursion–making other travelers wait while I hooked it up, and then force them to listen to my kid cry for 30 minutes because he wants out, then lug it around on excursions since the bus didn’t always stay and I’d be worried about losing it otherwise.  Whew. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  Most buses didn’t have seat belts anyway.  I checked.  And since Matty was free on excursions and transfers, he technically didn’t have a seat to put a carseat in.  Do what feels right to you, don’t worry about your decision, and screw anyone who challenges your parenting choices. MMMkay?
  • Over-packing is true for excursions/days out, too.  We took Matty’s diaper bag with a few diapers, a change or clothes, towels, sunscreen, snacks, and slid our cameras down in there.  I don’t think we even needed the clothing change.  We didn’t take the stroller at all.  Our bag was pretty light-weight, which is nice when  you have a 24 lb. 6 month old to lug around.  Another couple we befriended had a 6 year old and 10 year old and they had 3 bags and a camera bag on their excursion.  They were shocked we had so little and I’m still trying to figure out why they had so much!

Pack Only Versatile Items

  • For formal nights on the ship, I usually take my go-to lbd and a new colorful fancy-schmancy dress.  That also means I take two pairs of formal shoes.  I was sure to take two dresses that could both be worn with black shoes.
  • Eric usually packs two suits, two different dress shirts, and matching accessories.  He took one black suit, one white shirt (cause seriously, how dirty can it really get in two hours?), and just different ties to switch things up each night.
  • Matty’s blow-up bathtub, which took minimal space in the suitcase, was also a baby pool.  We took it up on deck and filled it up in the showers next to the pools and dump it back down the shower when finished.  It was such a hit that other little kiddos would come over to play with him.

  • Two beach towels in the carry-on were also used as blankets for the plane ride and a play mat for dirty airport floors (and later in the cabin).  I also used it as a nursing cover.  Plus, umm…they were beach towels.
  • We all used the same Babyganics sunscreen.  I usually use a separate face and body sunscreen, plus Eric likes his own special brand.  Forget that. One. And it worked great even on my acne prone skin.
  • A Kindle is a true life-saver—I can usually go through 3-4 books on vacation, which are heavy and take up a ton of room.  I downloaded a few before I left, as well as electronic files of Matty’s favorite lullaby CD, and a few apps for Matty (and Eric…) if he got restless on the plane (a piano app and a color-exploding dot app were both free).  In addition, we didn’t need a laptop since the Kindle gets wireless at the airport.

Leave the Toys

  • Thankfully, I didn’t try to pack too many toys to start with: a few rubber duckies/turtle/crab toys, some learning links, and an elephant teether.  Eric grabbed Matty’s favorite stuffed animal at the last minute, and I should have put my foot down and said “no” (though it did make a great pillow for one leg of the flight).  Aside from the rubber animal friends, we didn’t need the rest.  He played with the latch on the tray table during the flight.  He played with the water bottle on the bus ride to excursions.  And pulling up on the suitcase in the cabin was the most fun he’s ever had.

  • Royal Caribbean has a Royal Babies program—besides classes and games, they also have a free-play time and a toy lending program for kids.  Parents can sign toys out and take them back to the cabin, so I knew we didn’t need much (and we didn’t actually check any toys out for the room either).
  • John and Sherry over at YHL wrote that when renting a condo in Hawaii they mentioned that they had a kid and the owners left toys for her.  We’ve stayed at a few cabins in Gatlinburg that housed toys and games for kids, too, so there’s probably lots to do already wherever you’re going.
  • Another good idea I came across for those not going on cruise is to go the Dollar Store once you get the location and buy a sand bucket and shovel and a few small dollar toys (which kids LOVE anyway), then donate them to the local Goodwill as you leave.  No hauling toys at all!

Splurge for Quality Items

  • We took the Mclaren Quest and checked it at the gate.  In all honesty we could have done without a stroller at all, since Matty had an aversion to it on Day 2 and didn’t ride in it except through the airport and once on deck.  But this is a quality stroller, that can navigate bumps like a larger stroller, and has high handles that are nice for tall folks like us.  I read on some forums that cheap umbrella strollers broke during gate check and wasn’t really comfortable for kids anyway.
  • Take a wrap or carrier.  We used the Moby, and we wouldn’t have made it without it.  Matty is used to being carried, and this made keeping track of him on excursions much easier.  We were able to let him take naps pretty easily and it gave our arms a much needed break.  It also helped Matty feel comfortable and stop from getting overwhelmed and overstimulated—no meltdowns!
  • We bought Sippy Straps so we didn’t have to worry about lost items.  We strapped the sippy cup to the stroller and to the high chair during meal times, eliminating having to crawl under the table numerous times all night.  We also strapped it around Roo’s neck (Matty’s stuffed animal) at the airport.
  • We also bought a Sunshade for the umbrella stroller so we didn’t have to worry about Matty getting burned or overheated.  Granted, he didn’t sit in the stroller much, but it was perfect when he did.
  • The beach tent was also a hit.  Since it folded up small into a backpack, it was easy to carry on excursions, and fit easily into the suitcase.

Plan Activities Accordingly

  • Sure, there were plenty of excursions we would have loved to do—exploring underwater caves, anyone?  There were also excursion that would have been appropriate for Matty, but upon further notice, they included 2 hour bus rides or long transfers between activities.  I don’t think anyone wants to spend 2 hours on a bus with a 6 month old when they’ve missed their nap and has sand in their diaper.
  • We ate in the main dining room every night, but it definitely wasn’t a sit down and chat with tablemates for 2 hours situation.  At the first sign of crankiness/boredom, we took Matty out for a change of scenery.  We usually ordered, then one of us would take him until appetizers came, then the other would take him until dinner came, and he was usually asleep by dessert (meaning whoever was holding him couldn’t join in the table conversation without waking him up).  Was it tiring? Yes. Was it different from past vacations? Yes. Was it worth it to watch him sit through the dinner portion with a napkin on his lap trying new foods while other kids became overstimulated or bored and crawled around on the floor crying? Absolutely.

  • The ship was on Central time.  We got up every morning at 5:30. Shoot me.  I did not plan on this. Did I mention, shoot me?
  • When we “lounged” on deck, it consisted of one of us “on-duty” with Matty and the other one basking in the sun.  For 15 minutes…a 6 month old’s attention span isn’t going to allow for afternoons lounging about.  But I have to say, even if one of us was supposed to be relaxing, we had more fun playing with Matty so we both ended up “on duty”.

Use the Resources You’ve Paid For

  • We packed three pouches of baby food and a tube of Puffs.  We returned with two pouches of food.  We had to pay for Matty, so we ordered food for him every evening in the dining room, and got him a plate every morning at the buffet.  There were always an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and other baby-friendly options.  Our waiter at dinner was fantastic and prepared food differently if need be, such as steaming veggies or leaving sauces or gravies off of certain items.
  • You’re not allowed to take or bring back opened food on the ship.  We grabbed a couple boxes of plain Cheerios from the Windjammer for Matty’s snacks.
  • Royal Caribbean provides Pack n’ Plays in the cabin.  While a nice option, we actually said nevermind on the first night since Matty is used to sleeping with us anyway.  We’d rather have the space in the room.  Some folks mentioned bringing their own because they weren’t sure of the cleanliness, but seriously, it’s fine.  Get over it and don’t haul a bunch of crapt through the airport.

Don’t Fret Airport Security

  • We had no problems in security.  I’ve read horrors stories, like this one and this one, but we had a very pleasant experience.  A couple of TSA workers came around from behind the scanners to play with Matty and let him play with their pens.  So tip…I guess…don’t worry about it? And smile.
  • Because we were traveling light, we were able to get through security without a fuss and without holding up the line.  In fact, a gentleman got behind us, rolled his eyes, and asked if he could get in front of us since there was only one of him; we happily obliged—we’d left lots of time to get through security.  Pretty sure we beat him through. Ha!
  • I did NOT have to empty Matty’s sippy cup.  I simply put it on top with my baggie of 3oz liquids. I asked if I needed to empty it and they said it wasn’t a problem at all—I just needed to let them know that we had it.
  • I also did NOT have to take Matty’s pouches of baby food out of the small bag they were in.  Again, I just had to let them know we had it.  I had it on top ready for search, if needed.
  • We had the stroller folded up before getting to the scanners since it will need to go through.  It also couldn’t have anything in the basket underneath, but we did not have to take the organizer or the sunshade off.
  • I dressed Matty in one-piece footed PJ’s.  Not only did this make it easier to travel in general—no lost socks, and diaper changes were a breeze—but it ensured he wasn’t “bulky” therefore needing a pat down.  Though I’m sure he would have loved the attention.
  • I simply carried him through the scanner.  We flew out of CVG, which has the “bad” scanner and the “not so bad” scanner.  They directed Matty and I to the “not so bad” scanner without needing to ask.

I suppose the most important piece of advice I came across and must pass on is: Even though you’re on vacation, you can’t take a vacation from parenting. Translation, you can’t let your child run and scream and cry and generally annoy others on vacation, just because you need a break.  Bring a nanny.

For a few more non-specific tips, these sites have some great information throughout:

The Silent “I”

Have Baby Will Travel

The Vacation Chronicles: Cozumel, Mexico

Our 3rd and final port was Cozumel.  It was also the third day in a row that we had an excursion.  I don’t recommend this schedule.  We were exhausted. Cozumel was hot.  And Matty had his first (and only) meltdown of the trip (and by meltdown I mean he cried for 6.3 seconds until we got in the shade and put him down to play in the grass).

We did the San Gervasio Ruins and Beach Break excursion.  I figured you can’t go to Mexico without checking out some Mayan Ruins, but I also wanted to hit the beach again, so this excursion seemed perfect.  However, the description of the tour and the tour itself were a little different.  The tour was described as a “brief stop” at the ruins before heading to the beach.  In actuality, it was a day at the Ruins with a “brief stop” at the beach.  I knew Matty would hold it together for a “brief stop” at the Ruins, but after 30-40 minutes there, he’d had enough, understandably.

(I think the look on Matty’s face says it all…even his hat looks hot and frumpy.)

Many say that Jamaica is the worst place to travel in terms of getting hassled by merchants; I think Cozumel was the worst.  The pier was lined with shops, with dealers calling out and asking you to buy; the Ruins were set up with shops; the beach was lined with merchants.  I broke down and bought Matty a maraca…and it broke the minute we pulled out of the parking lot.  Cheap Mexican crapt.  I also felt nickel and dimed—you could take pictures of the Ruins, but if you wanted to take video, you had to $45.  Wow.  The tour guide also mentioned numerous times that we were obliged to tip both himself and the driver, and there was a sign stating the same thing.  I have a  thing about people thinking they are “owed” a tip—no, you earn a tip for service above and beyond.  Just sayin’…That being said, the tour guide, Jorge, did do a good job.  We learned a lot about the island and the history of Cozumel.

When the Spanish first landed on Cozumel almost 40,000 Maya lived there; after introducing smallpox and other Spanish diseases, only 30 Mayan people were left.  The island stay uninhabited for many years (except for pirates and such), and Abraham Lincoln considered buying it as a place to send freed slaves.

San Gervasio is the largest remaining ruins on the island; others were ruined (pun!) during WWII to make way for landing strips and army bunkers.  These ruins are the fertility ruins—women would trek to the ruins each year to pray for healthy children, fertile soil, and a good rain.  Most of the island is now a National Park, so the only industry is tourism and a bit of fishing.

After the Ruins, we had a bus ride to Playa Mia, one of the more popular beaches on Cozumel.  While crowded, it was an awesome place for kids, with water trampolines, boat rides, playgrounds, and a variety of other activities.  Our tour included only access to the beach and drinks.  I had rum punch, hold the rum, Eric had a couple of beers, and Matty had a nap.

The Vacation Chronicles: Georgetown, Grand Cayman

Our next port of call was the Caymans.  Money, money, money, money…Sung to the tune of that one song, of course.  If one had money, this would be the place to put it.  Grand Cayman has branches of 40 out of the 50 major banks worldwide.  55% of the total GDP comes from financial services (1.2 billion), and the rest is pretty much tourism.  Because of this, the island is pretty “Americanized”, with a Hard Rock Café, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and Burger King right off of the pier.  While on the excursion, our tour guide attempted to give us a tour of Georgetown, and pointed out nothing but Burger Kings, Wendys, KFCs, and the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

We chose the Turtle Farm and Island Tour excursion for the day.  The Turtle Farm was great for kids (and most folks), but I had serious issues with a few things: 1) It was a turtle mill. They harvest eggs and control the temperature to produce males and females on demand.  I get having a safe breeding ground, but why not let nature run its course naturally? 2) They served turtle soup in the onsite restaurant and I was just waiting for one of the kids to put two and two together—the little turtle they’re holding and loving in their hands is on the chopping block for turtle soup tomorrow.

Other than that, it was a neat experience.  Various pools had turtles of different ages and visitors can pet and hold the younger ones.

In some of the larger pools, visitors can actually get in with the turtles.

For an additional charge (included in our excursion price, but not in general admission),  visitors can swim with larger turtles in meandering lagoons.  Matty was asleep by this time, so we didn’t do this part, but another family that we befriended had a 6 year old and a 10 year old that loved it.

We ate at the onsite restaurant (no turtle soup); Eric had a jerk burger and I had a chicken wrap.  It was good, but a tad overpriced.  We also hit the giftshop, and while I’m not a big souvenir person, I couldn’t resist getting Matty a little turtle to entertain him on the bus ride back to the ship.

Of course, this wasn’t needed; Matty made a little friend who played with him the whole way.

Matty was free for this excursion as well, and was definitely the youngest.  There was a little boy and girl on our tour about 4 years old, though.  They were hilarious—they were more excited about seeing a chicken on the side of the road than they were about the whole experience.  Then the little boy’s leg must have fallen asleep, because all the entire bus hears is, “I’m broken! I’m broken! Mommmmmmy, help me!”  Kids are hilarious.

We also made a stop in Hell. Yep, Hell.

The town of Hell, Grand Cayman is on the way to the Turtle Farm, so tourists can stop to send a postcard.  Yes, we sent the grandparents a postcard from Hell.  I’m pretty sure it said something along the lines of being hot as hell, too.  Aren’t we so witty…

There’s no pier large enough for cruise ships in Grand Cayman, so this was a tendered port.  The tendering process was a little chaotic, but nothing too bad—mostly people not paying attention to the fact that excursion ticket holders get off first.  The worst was waiting for the tender after the excursion, when we were exhausted and just wanted to get Matty down for a nap in bed.  No worries though, just as we found our seats, his friends from dinner saw us and started screaming his name across the plaza and ran over and made faces off the side of the pier.  Good times.

The Vacation Chronicles: Falmouth, Jamaica

After two days cruising, our first port of call was Falmouth, Jamaica.  Jamaica is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit—probably because of Cool Runnings.  GREAT MOVIE.

Falmouth dates back to 1769 and like most Caribbean islands, was once a hub in the Atlantic Slave Trade.  Also like most Caribbean islands, it saw a vast economic decline once slavery was outlawed.  Many of the original buildings still stand, and many excursions on the ship play up the history of the area.  We decided to go the other route and book an excursion to the beach.

We decided to pay a little bit more to go to a resort: Trelawny Breezes Starfish Resort (one of the few excursions Matty was allowed to go on, and he was free!)  The price included all amenities: food, drinks (alcoholic and non), activities, pools, and a private beach.  Since we were traveling with a 6 month old, having a guaranteed place to get out of the sun, have lunch, and have a variety of things to entertain him was worth the added cost.  And it was a good choice.

The beach was great, albeit a bit crowded.  However, we had no problems finding beach chairs.  We also hung out by the pool (one of many) for a bit and had no problems finding a place to sit.  Lunch was good, too.  It was buffet style with hot chicken and pork, roasted potatoes, a variety of meats, cheeses, and breads for sandwiches, fruits, a salad bar, and some local cuisine.  There was also a dessert bar—I think I tried it all and it was delish.  Matty really liked the watermelon.  BUT, there were birds all over.  Creepy ones. That would peck your toes to try to get food.  Here’s my failed attempt to stab them with a fork.

(Don’t mind the watermark–I’m trying out new video software and want to ‘play’ a bit before purchasing, so the free version added something smack-dab in the middle of my video…)

Aside from the beach, there were many activities.  Live music played all day, but the resort was big enough to find a quiet place without a problem.  There were hot tubs in secluded trees, hammocks, a playground for the kids, watersports (kayaking, banana boats, snorkeling, tubes), an arcade, a spa, and umm…a circus.  Yes, there was a trapeze and a giant trampoline and staff gives lessons on how to do stunts on both.  Huzzah!

We didn’t take advantage of anything except the beach, lunch, a few drinks of the non-alcoholic variety, and some shade.  The excursion was for 4 hours, and it was plenty of time.  Matty did such a good job just hanging out of the beach that we didn’t have to venture off to find him other activities.

We didn’t take a stroller, and it was a good choice (go Eric!).  We took our diaper bag with necessities: Babyganics sunscreen (which all 3 of us used with great results), a baby pool float (which we didn’t use since the pool water seemed a bit cold for Matty), a rubber duck and crab to play with, a few diapers, disposable diaper bags, wipes, a sippy cup, a tube of Puffs, towels) and a beach tent.  That’s right—1 bag and a beach tent.  Another family we befriended were AMAZED at how little we traveled with.  We didn’t need anything else.  Matthew ate fruit from the buffet.  The beach tent is from One Step Ahead and folds up really small into a backpack.  It also has stakes to hold it in place.  I also was able to lay inside with Matty and nurse him during the day with privacy.  Definitely worth it.

Falmouth is a relatively new port to the cruising world, and it’s said to be the “in” place to go now.  I wouldn’t go that far.  There weren’t many excursion to choose from, and those that seemed pretty exciting (you know, the ones we would have done BEFORE the baby), were decently far away—some of the excursions were listed at 7-8 hours simply because it was a two hour drive to get there.  The port is built at a sort of gated compound to keep out the crime and merchants/hagglers.  Shops and markets are set up within the compound so folks not wanting to go on an excursion can still get off the ship and putter around.  It seemed a bit too “new” though, taking away from the cultural experience of traveling, especially to such a historical significant place.  On a positive note, the tour guides were extremely nice and I enjoyed talking to few gals at length about baby-wearing.  They measured the Moby and I taught them how to tie it so they could go home and make one for their babies.  Awesome.

Oh, and yes.  We did smell some folks partaking in “extracurriculars” in the woods while on the beach.  Some stereotypes just won’t die.  That’s probably why the saying in Jamaica is they don’t have problems, only situations.