Archive | Travels RSS feed for this section

5 Years

10 Jun

Friday, Eric and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary.  We ordered a small cake from the company who made our wedding cake, which has now opened a shop that sells coffee and cupcakes in the Cincinnati bridal district.  We may have to start making that a regular stop!

cake tresbelle

Matthew spent the day romping with his Aunt’s dogs, feeding the turtles at his Grandma’s house, and otherwise enjoying Grandma and Aunt Amy time.

stickers

Then we finished the night by helping some friends (best man in our wedding) finish up some details for their upcoming wedding.  They have a guest list of over 400, so they needed a bit of help with their invitations!

Of course, we took a stroll down memory lane with some pictures…

And did some reflection.  We’re currently working on an art project for the house using old memorabilia, and we came across a crumpled piece of paper in the bottom of a tote.

Back in 2005, Eric and I went to Daytona after Finals Week (we barely knew each other, but that’s another story!), and before we left to come home, we made a list of all the things we hoped to do together (as friends, of course!).  Obviously, a few months later we started dating, and three years later we got married.  We never really thought about that list until we found it this weekend.  Ironically, we’ve managed to do a lot of things on the list that we wanted to do together:

#2. New York

#7. Gatlinburg (almost 7 months pregnant, no biggie!)

#8. Yellowstone

10. Take a Cruise (We’ve been on 3!)

2008 (Honeymoon)

2010

2012 (Matty’s 1st Vacation!)

#25. Columbus Blue Jackets Game

#26. Red’s Game (Lots of ’em, but our favorite was one lasting 17 innings!)

#36. Indy 500

And unfortunately, we will not be able to do #21.  Go To the Republic National Convention 2008. Ha!

It was  really fun to look back over the past 8 years and realize that the things that we wanted to do together then, are still the things we want to do together now.  And heck, after 5 years of marriage and 2 years of parenthood, we’re just happy we still want to do anything together. 🙂

This was in Eric’s box of mementos, and he get’s major points for holding on to this for 8 years!  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I married him.

Summer To-Do List Report Card

17 Sep

Well, although Summer isn’t officially over, it’s time to embrace “Back to School”, which is apparently it’s own holiday nowadays.  So in the true spirit of things, this is where I get to grade Mommy and Daddy on their efforts in making this the best Summer of my life (teheehee–the ONLY Summer of my life…).

1. Picnic on the Grass, A

2. Swim in the Ocean, A+

We went to Jamaica–need I say more?

3. Play in the Sand, A+

Jamaica, Mexico, Grand Cayman…now that’s sand…

4. Ride the Train at the Zoo, B

I went to the zoo.  There was no train-riding.  This may or may not have been my fault.  I do remember something about running around like a wild-banshee until I got  taken home.  However, Mommy could have stuck it out and attempted a train ride, no? I was going to give a grade of “C”, but then I remember I got to touch a snake, and that’s totally worth a letter grade increase.

5. Visit a Park We’ve Never Been To, A+

We ended up at LOTS of parks we’ve never been to, and we went LOTS of times.  One even had a water feature.  Above and beyond the call of duty there, Mom.

6. Play Games at the Fair, A+

We went to the fair 3 times! And we went to 2 different fairs. And I even got to ride a horsey–twice!

7. Do a Good Deed…or Two…or Three, B

We only did 2, Mom. 2. Slacker.

8. Make Popsicles, F

We didn’t make popsicles at all. In Mommy’s defense, I don’t actually like popsicles, but I bet we could have had fun trying.

9. Hike in the Woods, C

Those were scary woods. With big bugs. And she woke me up from my nap.

10. Paint a Picture, A

I wasn’t a fan. Too messy. But, we had a variety of colors and painting utensils. And Mommy painted me a picture for my room. The effort was there.

11. Have a Lemonade Stand at a Garage Sale, A+

Best Lemonade Stand EVER. Holla!

12. Feed the Ducks, A+

Ok. We didn’t actually get to feed the ducks. But some old lady chased the geese out of our way and whacked ’em with her cane, and that my friends, is a win in my book.

13. Plant a Garden, A

Oh, Mom. It pains me to give you this grade.  You see, you didn’t qualify–you just said plant it.  You didn’t stipulate by WHEN you had to plant it or that it had to actually grow.  I suppose planting your crop in JUNE and then NOT WATERING IT does actually count.

14. Visit a Farm, A

We didn’t actually visit a farm, but we did see lots and lots of animals, which was the point. And did I mention I got to touch a snake?! And ride a horse? Twice?! Oh, and a Kangaroo!

15. Blow BIG Bubbles, A+

2 Words: Bubble. Gun.

16. Make Ice Blocks, A

Oh, again, Mom. It pains me to award such a high grade for a total fail, but the thought was there.

17. Buy Fresh Food at a Farmer’s Market, A+

Mommy gets the “plus” only because Aunt Amy & Uncle David came, too.

18. Attend a Class or Group Activity, A+

Swimmy class was SO fun!

19. Go Camping, C

Mommy tried. Daddy was a woman. This is what happened.

20. Have a BBQ Party, A

I had fun. Too bad only Aunt Amy & Uncle Dave showed up on time.  Way to be my rock, Aunt Amy.

21. Catch Lightening Bugs, C

Umm…we didn’t have any. For reals. We tried.  As a consolation, Mommy let me eat a bug of my choosing.  Okay, okay, maybe let is too strong a word…

22. Do a Family Photo-Shoot, F

They don’t love me. They don’t even want to have their picture taken with me.  Maybe the Jolie-Pitts will adopt me.  I could fit in well there.

Oh wait! I lied. No, no. I was mistaken. Guess that’s an A+, too then.

23. Visit With Aunt Kristin and Uncle Jason, A

They came to our house!  But I had to share my room and toys.

24. Build a Sensory Play Box, A

Apparently Mommy thinks this would be a better Winter activity. So although she did it, I only got to experience it once.  We did a nature box.

Whoops.

25. Make a New “Summer Treat” Recipe, A

We made lots of treats.  But did you know they make Pina Colada marshmallows?  And strawberry marshmallows?  They do! So we made some delicious smores on the fire pit this Summer.  And Grandma snuck me some special treats, but I’m not supposed to talk about that…

23/25.  Not too shabby, Parents. Not too Shabby.  Especially when we did some activities multiple times and we did lots of other activities, like playing in the hose, going to festivals, having game nights, going to Grandma’s, playing water table, and adopting a kitty. Oh, and there’s that whole going out of the country on a cruise thing.  That was pretty awesome.

Overall, I have to rate my first Summer experience as excellent.  I can’t wait to see what they have planned for, oh I don’t know, the rest of my life?

Traveling With An Infant: Yes, You Can Survive

6 May

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

6 May

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.

%d bloggers like this: