Tuesday, June 29, 2010

i heart faces photo contest -- "pets"

I stumbled upon this photo contest today and figured, why not give it a shot for fun?

Here's Bob with my Gramps' dog Bailey, just about the most playful, gentle, kid-friendly pet I've ever met. Bob LOVES him.

More on our trip out to the farm to come...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Traveling with baby: what we learned

Our Jamaica adventure was definitely a success.  Here's what we learned, some through doing it right, and some through doing it wrong.

1.  This is probably the biggest one:  Bring the car seat to the gate!  Way back when, before Bob was born, we purchased a "travel system" with a car seat and three-wheel jogging stroller.  The super stroller is such a smooth ride, and we thought it would be cool for, I don't know, taking on easy hikes or something, because we certainly didn't get it for its jogging capabilities.  There are so many hills in my neighborhood that if I ever do start jogging I certainly won't be pushing that wheelbarrow of bricks along with me.  Anyway, the thing is heavy and huge -- it doesn't even fit in my Jeep with the top down.  Hence, we rarely use it.  I think I'm going to take it over a few tough curbs and try to return it via the service plan I bought...  Point is, for our trip we purchased one of those minimalist frame strollers that the infant car seat clicks into.  I resisted doing this since Bob will probably graduate to a convertible car seat soon, but I am so glad we did.  It worked perfectly.  Super light and easy to fold and unfold.  No carrying baby through the airport, plus I put my carryon bags into the basket underneath, so I didn't even have to carry a thing.  No buckling and unbuckling Bob as we got on and off shuttle buses and taxis, plus his car seat is much more comfortable for him than an umbrella stroller.  We had no issues with checking the car seat and stroller at the gate -- we didn't even get any evil glares from the airline crew.  Both of our flights down to Jamaica were full, so we didn't get to use the car seat for those, but like I said, no big deal.  Our flights back both had extra seats (if there's just one seat open you can generally get people to move around for you) so we did get to take Bob in his seat for those.  Even though Bobby was great as a lap baby, it was so much more comfortable not having him in my lap, and far more comfortable for him, too.  Here he is at takeoff:

And since I didn't have a tiny person on my lap cramping my style, I was able to take some pictures out the window, which is my favorite thing about flying -- oh the sky and clouds when you see them from that perspective!

I'll also put in a little plug for American Airlines -- they were extremely accommodating with our missed flight and all.  We were impressed and blessed my how everything worked out.  Plus, I don't know, maybe all airlines do this, but no baggage fees on international flights.  We were planning to drop a couple hundred dollars on fees -- so glad we didn't have to!

Here's Bob happy as a clam in his seat after his nap:

It also felt good knowing that if we were to hit any major turbulence or anything, Bubbs would be totally safe.  I've read other blogs where people say rent a car seat when you get where you're going; I beg to differ.

2.  You know what your baby uses and needs every day -- there's no need to pack twice as much "just in case."  This one's not such a big deal when you have a strong loving husband with you willing to lug all the luggage, but for our next domestic flight, when we will have to pay checked baggage fees, I'll definitely pack much lighter.

3.  About gear:  Once your baby can roll over, beach tents are pretty much pointless.  Maybe one with a zipper would have done better than the velcro ours has, but I'm pretty sure Bob wouldn't have lasted long in there, and he definitely wouldn't have fallen asleep, regardless.  A float for the water, however, is a must-have.

4.  At Beaches, we had a second floor room.  It was a bit of a pain to get Bob and his stroller up and down the stairs every time we went to and from our room.  Also, every time Bob napped in the room, Ben and I were confined to our tiny balcony (except occasionally Ben ran down to hit the water slides and grab a drink).  At Idle Awhile, we had a first floor room with a veranda.  So much better!  Easier to go in and out, and a bit more freedom while Bob's napping inside.  Plus the luxury of being able to walk straight out to the beach is lovely.  I think we'll be requesting first floor rooms on this type of vacation from now on.

5.  About breastfeeding: I never understand when people say they don't want to breastfeed because it's too much of a pain.  I'd so much rather let Bubbs suck on my boob than have to mess with all that bottle and formula nonsense.  We did take a bottle and a couple cans of formula with us just in case I wanted to drink.  I took advantage on our last morning at Beaches and Bob had his first taste of the stuff.  He drank it right up.

6.  A note on our split stay: it worked out really well.  We had fun living it up and being crazy at Beaches for the first half of our trip, and then we had a relaxing wind-down for the second half.  I thought it would be annoying to switch hotels, but it wasn't bad.  We'd definitely do it again.

So, traveling with baby turned out to be not such a big deal.  In a lot of ways, it's easier because everyone is so helpful and accommodating when you have a baby.  You get to go through the handicapped lines at security and customs.  People are nicer.  And Bobby was truly a joy to travel with.  It was super cute that he learned to wave right before our trip.  It's amazing how much a smile and a wave from a baby can brighten someone's day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jamaica - part four (Can you believe there's more?)

I know, I need to quit blabbing about my awesome vacation to Jamaica.  But how can I?  I'm only half-way through, and have you realized yet that 

 Jamaica (and vacation)!?

Did you notice that I didn't show you a picture of our room at Beaches?  I didn't even think to -- it was a hotel room basically.  Here it is (sorry the bed is all rumply):

I didn't even take a picture of the bathroom, and it was too dark to get a good one anyway.

Now here's our room at Idle Awhile, the second place we stayed on our trip:

While the (what do you call him?) concierge was showing us our room, Ben and I were both thinking, "okay, so we don't get normal pillows or any blankets..." but it turned out that the red thing is just a cover and there were pillows in the closet. Phew.  And, by the way, I think at Sandals/Beaches you have to pay about $3,000/night for a room that qualifies you for one of these swan towel flower arrangements:

The bathroom was lovely too -- so open and bright:

Idle Awhile isn't all-inclusive like Beaches, but seeing as how we were saving about $600/night by staying there, we could pretty much eat and drink all we wanted anyway.  We ordered room service for every meal we ate there except breakfast, because it's so much easier to enjoy food with Bob asleep in his crib than with him grabbing everything he can reach and/or whining because he's bored in a high chair.  The only tricky thing about staying at a hotel where luxury is not included is the tipping -- we didn't carry enough cash and we didn't know the appropriate way to tip anyway.  Made for some awkward moments, but everything worked out in the end...

The genuine Jamaican feel of the place was accentuated by the stray cats that hung out by our veranda -- a mother with four or five kittens.  Ben kept shooing them away, but I was just having a kitty photo shoot.  Here's the mom, skinny as a paper clip, nursing two of her babies:

And now three:

(Sure did make me thankful that I only have one baby to nurse!)

Here's a partial look at our veranda, which was lovely.  Two sides were open and there was a ceiling fan above, plus there were plenty of trees and shade, making the veranda far cooler than anyplace outdoors at Beaches, and therefore a very enjoyable place to spend time.  It was also nice to be on the first floor so that we could walk straight out to the beach.

The sunset on our first night at Idle Awhile was definitely the best of our trip:

The next morning Bubbs got us up early, then ate and went back to sleep, so Ben and I just hung out outside -- he read on the veranda and I walked around taking pictures (surprised?).

Here's the view from our veranda down to the beach:

Here's the rest room by the ocean:

The view from the restaurant/bar:

And then our little prince awoke:

We spent the majority of the day down at the beach.  (Warning: serious chunk-butt to follow.)

We brought a baby beach tent with us and didn't use it until this, our final day, hoping Bobby would rest in it while Ben and I swam.

He chillaxed for about 10 minutes before he plotted his escape and started shoveling sand into his tent.

It was a perfect day:

Oh, Jamaica, I miss you.  See Ben and Bob on the beach below?

We also brought this floaty for Bob and regrettably didn't use it until the last day either:

As you can see, Bobby loved it.

It's a shame we didn't use the float at Beaches, but we did have the best laugh of our vacation at the thought of using it.  In our minds the darn thing was huge and covered in pink flowers.  And there we were at a resort with a bunch of rich people, already sticking out because we had the youngest baby there (not that it was a bad thing - everyone loved him), and we were about to pull out and blow up a giant neon floatation device to throw in the pool?  Um, no.  Once we finally gave it a shot, I really did wish we had used it all along, but oh well...

As soon as Bobby got tired, bobbing in the water put him right to sleep, face down:

We leaned him back so that he wouldn't suffocate:

And after I was done taking pictures Ben carried him out of the water asleep:

On our last night in Negril we went to Rick's Cafe, probably the most famous restaurant/bar in Jamaica, known for its sunsets and for the fact that it's set on a cliff that you can jump off into the ocean.  I'd normally be all about something crazy like that, but I don't really want to be jumping off any cliffs until I've weaned my baby at least.  The food we ordered wasn't bad, but nothing special really.  I sort-of wish we had gone to one of the local places our cab driver recommended, but I guess it's cool that we can say we went to Rick's.

We saw a bride and groom jump:

The sunset was pretty spectacular from up there; the span of the sky was incredible and the cliffs were awesome, but the light was much better at Idle Awhile the night before.

I already wrote about our return home, but here's a picture of sleeping Bob with the best taxi driver in Jamaica:

And here he is rested and happy at the airport:

One more vacation post to come, then I'm done, I promise.  Stay tuned for final recollections and what we learned...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jamaica - part three

On day two of our vacation Bobby woke up super early and had no interest in going back to sleep, probably wondering why we weren't getting up in the middle of the night again.  Ben and I were super tired so we let him hang out between us in bed while we tried to rest.  When I finally got sick of the incessant kicking of little feet and woke myself up a bit, I realized that Bob had over-filled his diaper with poo and smeared it all over the bed between us.  Lovely.  As you can see, he loved every minute of it.

After that the bed wasn't so enticing anymore, so we got a nice early start to the day.  We were the first people at breakfast when it opened at 7:00.  I was embarrassed so we circled around for a few minutes before going up to the hostess.

Afterwards we walked over to our preferred pool and Bobby fell asleep in his stroller on the way.  There was absolutely no one around yet so we parked Bob in the shade and Ben and I had the pool to ourselves.  We threw a volleyball back and forth, trying to shoot it through the holes in a two-person inner tube.  (One of the reasons Ben and I get along so well: we both love to play.)

After a while Bobby woke up and we brought him into the pool.  This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Bobby was so sweet and happy in the water.

For some reason Bubbs kept sticking his tongue out while he played in the pool.

Maybe he wanted to taste the water without drinking it?

Bobby is amazing in the water.  Here he is right after a dunk.  He's such a champ -- doesn't cry no matter how much water gets in his face.

Here are some other miscellaneous photos from our stay at Beaches:

Eating fresh fruit through this cool mesh feeder thing:

Ben and I were very excited that the resort had water slides, but we figured they'd be for kids and didn't expect a big thrill.  I packed a baby life vest and said things like, "I'm sure I could bring Bob down the slides once we get to know the lifeguards... Water slides are never a big deal..."  But oh boy were we pleasantly shocked!  

The resort has childcare services available for free from 9-5.  Later on during our second day Bob fell asleep in the stroller, so we decided to check out the nursery.  It was cute and clean and air conditioned and there were three or four employees but no other kids there.  We decided to just park the baby, hoping he'd sleep for a bit, and we ran off to play.  

There were two slides, one open and one enclosed.  The open slide was pretty fun, but the enclosed one was CRAZY!  The first time I went down I lost my bathing suit and nearly drowned when I got spit out at the end.  The speed was incredible; I'm pretty sure that thing wouldn't be legal in the US.  I seriously felt like I was getting some g's on a couple of the turns.  I think Ben and I went on the slides more than any of the kids at the resort.

Of course, when I ran back to check on Bobby 20 minutes after I had left him, I found him screaming with all the poor nice ladies trying to comfort him.  He had woken up moments after we left and screamed the whole time.  So my sliding fun was over, but we did try to leave him at the nursery a couple more times.  It never really worked, but we were able to steal away for 30 minutes here and there.  Here are a few cute shots taken just after one of his recoveries:

Of course I had to try to set up some award-winning shots for next year:

On our last day Ben and I spent some time swimming while Bob slept in a shady spot, using a t-shirt to snuggle (photos below taken by one of the resort photographers):

We had a really great time at Beaches Negril, and I could write so much more about it, but this post is already way too long, so...

All inclusive is super fun.  Especially when it's free.

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