Apr 16, 2014

My Favorite Vacation Spot Is...

I certainly hope my daughter's going through some sort of growth spurt, because that's the only explanation I have for her waking up in the middle of the night, multiple nights in a row. I'm having flashbacks of when she was a newborn, and it's not a fun memory...or reality, for that matter. This mama is tired.

Oh, this also happened today, so that's awesome (#not). But, I managed to get myself to the gym for some Zumba this morning, and then I promptly drove through the Starbucks line and got myself an iced grande vanilla macchiato (I'm seriously addicted). By the way, have you ever paid it forward? I tend to pay for the order behind me when I'm at Starbucks and I'm always curious if they keep the trend going. Either way, I hope it makes the person happy. Speaking of happy, "Happy" was the first song we danced to in Zumba and it was the first song I heard on the radio after the gym. I'm taking that as a good sign for the rest of the day.

I'll stop rambling now and get on with today's prompts—I've had them written since last week and forgot to schedule it, so here I am writing about sleepless nights, periods, and trying to have a happy outlook. I hope you have a happy day!

Finish this...

My favorite vacation spot is...everywhere! There's such a thrill about being in a new place. But, to answer the question, here's a list of my top five favorite vacation spots (in no particular order):
1. Savannah, GA
2. Red River, New Mexico
3. Alsace, France
4. Amalfi Coast, Italy
5. London, England

You'll be happy to know that I finally went through my France and Amalfi Coast pictures, so I'll share them soon, along with a recap from our weekend in Savannah.

If I won a million dollars I would buy a home in New Mexico. There's a specific area of town my husband and I have our eye on for our "forever home," but it's not exactly cheap. In our dreams, we'd love to buy some land and build our home there. One million bucks would come in very handy for making that dream come true. I should probably start playing the lottery.

If I could go on a date with ONE celebrity, it would be Alton Brown. I've shard how much we like A.B., so going on a "date" with him would be pretty awesome. Although, my husband would have to be the third wheel; his man crush on him is pretty big, and I'd hate to leave him out.

If I found a genie in a bottle, my three wishes would be
1) Find a cure for cancer. All cancers.
2) Own a private plane with a crew that would be ready to jet off at a moment's notice.
3) For everyone's salvation. The world would be a much happier place.

My favorite clothing item is my nursing tank top. I absolutely loathe wearing bras now. Except for the fact that they make my boobs look awesome (i.e. perkier and better cleavage) a bra does nothing for me. A nursing tank, on the other hand, is fantastic. It's long, has a little bit of support, is stretchy and comfy, and the little nursing clip feature is awesome (and I'm not just talking about for feeding the baby). My only complaint is that there aren't many colors available. Boooo.

Linking up with (Nicole {Three 31} Lisa {The Coastal Chicster}, and Becky {The Java Mama} Jen {The Arizona Russums}) for a weekly series called Finish This.

Apr 15, 2014

Julia's Easter Adventure

"They grow up so fast." If I had a penny for every time I've heard that phrase in the past year I could probably buy a private island right now now. But this past Sunday is the first time I actually saw it; it was the first time I actually took a step back, looked at my daughter, and realized that she's very actively growing up.

I saw it from behind the lens at my husband's squadron's Easter egg hunt. I did a double take when I looked through the viewfinder, not believing I was focusing on the right girl. She just looked so different walking around in her little tutu, butterfly sandals, bunny ears—the bunny ears she put on all on her own, by the way—and dangling her basket on her arm like a purse. I could barely handle the cuteness! 

At just over a year, she could've cared less about finding eggs. She was more interested in the grass and twigs, and acorns that looked like food. Actually, truth be told, she didn't find any eggs. Heh. A couple kids felt bad for her and gave her eggs that they found. Bless their little giving hearts!

Near the end of the hunt we noticed a giant Easter Bunny made his appearance. My husband and I looked at each other, silently we were both thinking about The Santa Fiasco(s) of Twenty Thirteen. With a nod, we decided to give it a shot. It turns out Julia doesn't mind a man dressed up in a giant bunny costume. Go figure. She kept her distance, but definitely didn't freak out.

After the hunt and Easter bunny extravaganza, we ventured over to where people from the squadron were getting together. Food was about to be served, so we all stood around and chatted for awhile. I mingled with some old friends I haven't seen in a couple years while my husband watched after Julia.

Then I heard her cry, which isn't too uncommon; she is one after all, so I figured she just tripped and fell. But then I heard my husband say, "She just got stung by a bee!"

"WHAT?!" I seriously thought I misunderstood. Nope. He repeated it again, and this time I saw the stupid thing smushed on the ground where my husband promptly killed it. (From the looks of it, it was actually a wasp or a hornet.)

I quickly scooped her up and tried to comfort her. Her little finger was already swelling and turning red. My husband said the wasp landed right in the palm of her hand and stung her. Poor thing! While we weighed our options (go to the ER, go to the BX and get some Benadryl/Tylenol, or go home), a friend of mine got some cream and put it on her finger. Thank goodness for smartphones, because we quickly read what we needed to do: get the stinger out (if it was from a bee), get ice on it, give her some medicine, and watch her like a hawk in case she was allergic to the stupid insect).

We decided to head home, and on the way I called her pediatrician's office. I'm so thankful they always have an on-call nurse who calls back pretty quickly. She suggested giving her children's Benadryl, so when we got home we let her hold some ice (she actually likes holding ice), and gave her the medicine. The swelling remained for most of the night, but she stopped crying and started acting like her self after another round of Benadryl. By the next morning, her finger was already back to its original size.

Oh, look what I just dug up. It's a comparison photo of Julia from Easter last year at three weeks old next to her a year later. My, oh my. 

It's amazing how, in the blink of an eye, my little girl went from being "all grown up" to being my baby again. She's also going through some sort of attachment phase right now where all she wants is to be as close to me as physically possible. It's a helpful reminder that she is still my baby. At least that's what I tell myself as I start to get annoyed with how clingy she is lately.

Did you have an "Aha" moment when you realized your little one was growing up?

Apr 14, 2014

10 Tips for Cruising with a Baby

Whew, this was a fun post to write! I really tried to include things that helped us for our first cruise with a little one. A few quick details about our trip: We cruised to the Caribbean in February on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas ship. It was just me, my husband, and our daughter, and we drove down from Georgia to Florida.

I purposefully left my real camera at home, because I wanted to enjoy the trip instead of trying to take hundreds of pictures. Luckily, I brought my iPhone with me to snap a few here and there. Unfortunately, I dropped it in the ocean during one of our excursions (unofficial tip number one: don't drop your phone in the Atlantic ocean! If you do drop it in the water, order some uncooked rice from room service the second you get back on board!).

Of course, some (or all) of this may not pertain to your situation, so just take it all with a grain of salt.

Honestly, the only time I blinked an eye about taking our 11-month old on a cruise was a few days before our trip when I realized I had no idea where she'd sleep at night (during naps we could wear her or she'd sleep in her stroller).

To save a few bucks, and because we didn't want to tempt our very mobile and curious baby, we decided to forgo the balcony option and just get a room with a window. I'm sorry, let me rephrase: we opted for a shoebox-sized room with a cut out window in it so we could look out at freedom from time to time. But then I realized that our daughter goes to bed around 8 pm and after she went down, we'd be stuck—literally—in our room. We wouldn't be able to move around the room (she'd likely be sleeping in the middle of it) or make a peep, because otherwise she'd wake up. Shoot! Cue panic.

After realizing that we'd be trapped inside a tiny room during our vacation, I freaked out and insisted that we needed to get a balcony. I started calling Royal Caribbean every single day asking about available upgrade, but I always got the same answer: nothing was available. I called several times a day for about a week straight. And then, three days before our cruise, a room opened up and we scored ourselves a balcony: halleluiah!

That, my friends, is my number one piece of advice when cruising with a baby: get a room with a balcony. 

Having a balcony means that you can go outside once the baby goes to sleep. Being stuck inside your room is a drag when you're on vacation, but especially so when you're on a cruise. If you're hanging out on the balcony, at least you're embracing the ambiance (and not listening to a baby cry herself to sleep). By the way, I worried about her crying (she takes anywhere from twenty seconds to twenty minutes to fall asleep) and how loud it'd be for our neighbors, but then I realized that unless they had young kids, there's no way they'd be in their rooms and sleeping that early.

Tip number two: Embrace the space. So, this could create a little bit of controversy, but this is what we did and there's no way I'd do anything different. We had very few options when it came to where her pack 'n play (provided by our cruise) would go for the night, so we embraced the space and set it up in the bathroom. Nope, that's not a typo; my 11-month-old daughter slept in the bathroom during our cruise. I'm sorry, I'm not sorry.

After sleeping in the same room as her for three months, we know that she doesn't sleep if we're all in the same area, and co-sleeping was out, because she just wants to play instead. We quickly ran out of options, but then my husband realized that the pack 'n play could fit snuggly in the bathroom. We were sold.

We had her stuffed animal in there, turned the lights off, turned the white-noise machine on, and shut the door. This worked out PERFECT for us—she slept through the night the entire night, every night. Then, we got to hang out on the balcony and read, talk, watch the dolphins (for real), drink wine, and enjoy the rest of the evening. (And in case you're wondering, our room was near the deck's public bathroom, so for my late-night pee break {thanks Julia, for lack of bladder control} I just quietly left the room.)

Tip number three: Bring diapers and wipes! When traveling with babies, this is basically a no brainer, but it needs to be said. We bought a new pack the night before the cruise at CVS and then brought a few extras just in case. We also brought some swim diapers for the beach day, so we had extra, extra spares. On our particular ship (and possibly with other Royal Caribbean vessels) you can pre-purchase diapers and wipes and have them waiting in your room when you arrive (they also have baby food available). They were a little more expensive than from a retail store, but could be a huge convenience if you're flying and don't have the extra space for bulky diapers and wipes.

Tip number four: Utilize child care. This was AMAZING on our cruise. When we embarked we went straight to the nursery to register Julia with the child care on board. Because she wasn't a year old yet, we couldn't use in-room babysitters ($10 an hour), but we could partake in their nursery ($6-$8 an hour). This. Was. PERFECT.  We used the nursery at night around dinner/bedtime.

Here's how we made it work for us: We picked the early bird dinner time at 5:45 pm (gotta love eating with kids), and as soon as we sat down, we ordered Julia's meal. Her meal arrived just before we ordered our appetizers. After she finished her meal and we finished our apps, my husband took her up to the nursery where she played with other babies. Then, the providers put her down at bedtime in the cribs they had there.

My husband made it back down every night just as the main courses arrived (so he only missed the conversation in between appetizers and the main course). Taking her up during our meal allowed us to still eat together as a family, but finish dinner child free (!!) and have a few hours after to see shows, get some drinks, check out the ship, waste money at the casino; you know, have date nights!

The nursery was open until midnight, but we usually picked her up around 10. It was wonderful! Another perk from cruising in the off season was that the place was virtually empty. Every night there were maybe one or two other babies there, but they said it can really fill up during the peak travel months; I'm just glad we didn't have to worry about them not having a spot for her.

Tip number five: Leave the toys at home! Royal Caribbean loves kids, and I love them back because of their toy lender program. They have around 15 bags full of toys for their little guests to enjoy. This was great because we didn't have to pack toys for her, and because we had toys for her in our room. All of their bags were themed (animals, motor vehicles, tea party, music, etc.), and you could check out a bag for as long as you'd like. I'd suggest grabbing a bag when you register your child so you can pick from all of the options available. We kept the same bag the whole trip (only because I kept forgetting to take it back), but I liked knowing I could have swapped it out at any time (if they were any available).

Tip number six: Enjoy open play time. Unless you child is potty trained, they aren't allowed in any of the pools. This is a huge bummer when your vacation is centered around a boat with several pools. Luckily, RC knows your little one will need to be entertained somehow, so they open up the nursery for certain hours during the day and hold an open play time! The nursery staff would take out toys (always different toys) during each session, and the babies could play their little hearts out.

This is where my husband won Dad of the Year, because he'd take her up there and play with her for a couple hours a day while I'd relax by/in the pool (a parent has to be present during open play time). I always felt bad that he was watching/playing with her while I was soaking up the sun. Then he'd remind me that he's deploying soon and will be gone for months, so he was enjoying playing with her just as much as I was enjoying the break. Win/win!

Tip number seven: Pack light. To follow up on embracing the space, remember that your room is much, much, much smaller than your average hotel room. Unless you have several formal nights aboard your ship, leave the extra pairs of shoes at home and only bring the necessities. You will have a little closet, but it's little and won't hold a ginormous suitcase. We made extra use of the room and put Julia's suitcase under the bed. (Yeah, she had her own suitcase—girl needs several outfits a day, plus accessories!) We also left the big, bulky stroller at home and brought a cheap 10 buck umbrella stroller with us, which turned out to be the best decision ever. I felt so bad every time I saw someone with a child around Julia's age using the big stroller—where did they store that thing?!

Tip number eight: Remember that you're traveling with a little person. Yes, we were on vacation, and while we didn't necessarily lower our expectation from what vacation means to us, we were fully aware that we were traveling with an infant. We knew she'd still need to take her two naps, so we brought the Ergo with us—one of us would wear her and we'd go on walks along the top deck as she napped. There were a few times she got overwhelmed with how many people were around us, so we'd leave that area and find some place a bit more quiet to hang out. She just started walking, so we knew she'd need some place bigger than the "living area" in our room to roam around, so we let her "wander" around on a deck outside (she made just about everyone smile as they passed by). Basically, just go with the flow. 

Tip number nine: Wait until your child is three years old. If keeping an eye on your kid doesn't sound all that enjoyable to you, wait until they're three (at least with Royal Caribbean). At three years old, you can enroll them in the Royal Tots program and basically leave them in the kids program all day. I'm not gonna lie, the Royal Tots program looked like so much fun; I kinda wish I could have done some of their activities. (Get this: one night they had a pirate parade—how cool is that?!) Cruising with an infant, while still very much enjoyable, was a decent amount of work. We're already looking forward to taking her on a cruise again once she hits that three-year mark.

Tip number 10: Relax and have fun! You're on vacation, so enjoy yourself. Ask the bartender to make you the drink of the day and relish your trip! Every single staff member got the biggest kick out of seeing our baby. The majority of them have families back home, so seeing Julia reminded them of their child(ren). I loved traveling when it was just me and my husband, but to know my daughter could experience new things now, too, just made this trip even more exciting. I'm thankful my husband and I discussed how we'd manage things (the baby) on our cruise, because it didn't leave either of us feeling resentful; we both had a relaxing and fun vacation.


Well, that's all from me; now it's your turn! Have you cruised with a baby before? Is there anything you'd like to add? Do you have a question about our trip? I'm all ears—leave a comment below!

*linking up with baby talk at mama & mou

Apr 13, 2014

This Week's Eat {april 13}

Was it just me, or did last week just drag on...and on....and on...? I was ready for it to be Friday on Monday. Goodness gracious. And now, of course, the weekend flew by way too fast. I'm excited for this week, though, because at the end of it we're takin' a trip to Savannah! It's been a little over two years since we've been there, and I've been itching to get back. All the flowers are in bloom down here now, too, so I'll be sure to take my camera. We've been there a handful of times before, so it'll be nice to go and just relax and walk around.

I did a search on this ol' blog and realized I haven't really talked about my favorite place in Georgia. Consider "Savannah" now added to the long list of topics I have to share with y'all. It's a fantastic place with wonderful food. Have you been to Savannah before? We have our favorite restaurants, but I'd love to hear where you like to go.

Speaking of food, here's what we have planned for this week. (And 10 points for you if you know where that quote came from. Thanks to the husband for getting this week's eats up on the board!)

Sunday: Sweet and Sour Split Roast Chicken with roasted veggies (*new-to-us recipe from Primal Cravings)

Monday: Brisket with baked sweet potato (can't get enough of that brisket recipe, and it makes for fabulous leftovers!)

Tuesday: Baked Buffalo chicken thighs with sweet potato fries (the best recipe I've found for them so far)

Wednesday: cedar plank grilled salmon with veggies

Thursday: Clean-out-the-fridge night

Friday: ...eating in Savannah, GA!

Saturday: ...eating in Savannah, GA!

Jessica Lynn Writes

What are you cooking up this week?