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Carrie Elle

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Cruising with Kids (and Babies)

Do you remember my long-winded post about the week leading up to our "vacation" - the week where everyone got sick and we had to fly to California for a five-day cruise with our family (and two sick kids)?

Well, now that a couple of weeks have passed and I've had some time to reflect, I've put some tips together that might help you, should you find yourself stuck on a cruise ship with small children in a foreign country wondering what you're going to do all day (because I can tell you, wandering a city you don't know with crabby little children and a giant diaper bag isn'

Our cruise was with Carnival.  Carnival is known for being family-friendly, and the ship we traveled on had the amenities to prove it: two water slides, a splash park, an arcade, miniature golf, several pools and even Camp Carnival - an entire program dedicated to kids.

That said...many of these activities were directed towards children a little bit older than our own (Jack being three, Claire being nine months).  If our kids were just a couple of years older, I do believe we would have had a very different experience.

And so with that in mind, you can take this advice with a grain of salt.

Here are some things to keep in mind when booking (and packing for!) your trip.

Sleeping Arrangements

Carnival provided us with a small crib, free of charge (which Claire never actually slept in, and which we mostly used as a playpen).  They did not have crib sheets, but rather wrapped a regular sheet around the mattress in such a way that it was nice and snug.

Jack slept in a twin-size bed, and we ended up pushing the crib up against his bed to use as a bed rail (because the last thing we needed on this trip was for Jack to fall out of bed in the middle of the night).

Be sure to find out what kind of sleeping arrangements will be available so you can plan accordingly.

In-Room Entertainment

I assumed (and if there's one thing I know, it's never assume anything!) that we'd have TV on the boat.  And we did.  Kind of.  But, we mostly had grown-up channels.  Yeah, we had Cartoon Network - but it was the Mexican version (meaning that in between random cartoons we had never seen before, masked wrestlers would appear on-screen and frighten my poor child).

Rather than movies on-demand and child-suitable programming, we were stuck flipping back and forth and back and forth between a very select few channels.

My recommendation would be to bring your own entertainment (small DVD player or iPad with some movies loaded on it, maybe) if there will be a need to plop a child down in front of the TV (you'd think that on a cruise ship TV would be the last thing you'd want to waste your time with, but it would have been nice to have on the airplane...ow when we were at the Urgent Care...or when Jack was sick and we were stuck in our stateroom...or when it was bedtime and we were so exhausted it was all we could do to turn on the TV and hope it would lull him to sleep...).


One of the things I actually worried about, and with good reason, was how I was going to bathe these kids on the ship.  We didn't have a bathtub, and babies are slippery little buggers and not at all fun to shower with, and Jack is terrified of the shower.

So the first night, I think, "No problem! I'll stick Claire in the sink!"  It looked big enough.

Well, that didn't go so well.  The sink didn't have a flat spot to sit in, so as soon as I sat her down - she freaked out.  And sent water flying ev-er-y-where.

Our solution was just to have dirty kids (no, was).  We did attempt a few half-hearted sponge baths, but it's safe to say the nightly bath was not part of our bedtime-routine-at-sea.  AND we had wet toilet paper that first night thanks to Claire's shenanigans.

Next time, I would bring some sort of inflatable tub (like those ducky ones I've seen) - this could sit on the floor of the shower for the baby, and then I could fill it up with water for the big kid to take a "real" sponge bath.


One good thing about cruise ships?  There is plenty of food.  All kinds, and for all tastes.

It was no trouble to round up a hotdog and some french fries, or order a PB&J from Room Service.  And for those with healthy eating on their minds, fruit was unlimited and veggies were bountiful.

If you eat dinner in the more formal dining room, you might take a drink with your for your child (in a sippy cup)...or, you could let your three-year-old sip lemonade from a wine glass, like we did.

On-Board Entertainment

There is plenty to do sure to read the daily newsletters you receive to find kid-friendly activities.  For example, the ship's comedian made balloon animals (and swords!) for all of the kids who wanted one on our last day at sea.  This is the kind of thing I wish we had been able to participate in the first few days, it would have killed some time and engaged the kids.

We found that the less time we spent in our room, the better off we all felt.  Sometimes this meant forcing ourselves to brave the windy top deck for a round of mini golf, or venturing into the buffet with both kids rather than calling Room Service.

Find out what activities are available for young kids, and partake.

Getting Around On-Board

I brought my trusty Ergo baby carrier.  A cruise ship is a big place, and kids get heavy.  I saw many parents with strollers.  While I think bringing my whole stroller set-up from home might be a bit of overkill, I would definitely bring an umbrella stroller next time as a supplement to the Ergo (which I truly do not think we could have survived without!).

When Jack was begging to be held - AGAIN - it would have been nice to have a stroller to stick him in.


It turns out that most excursions have minimum age requirements...also, turns out our kids were too young to meet most of these requirements.  So, we were left with but a handful of excursion choices.  All of which were expensive and required being bused to another location, and not being able to return to the ship when we wanted to.  So - we bypassed the excursions and decided to go it alone (just like we would have done pre-kids).

This kind of sucked.

We thought we'd just be able to go hang out at the beach for a couple of hours, but it wasn't that simple at all.  We had to take a boat from the ship to land...then another boat to the beach...and then after staying for an hour, a boat back to the dock...and then another boat back to our ship.

My advice is to research the ports you'll be visiting.  If there aren't any appropriate excursions, or if your kids are too young, HAVE A PLAN.  Because wandering around the touristy part of Cabo San Lucas, like we did the first day, with two bored little ones, is just not fun.

This was our first attempt at visiting Cabo.  It didn't go well.
Our second attempt was better.  One good thing (I guess it's a good thing?) about traveling with kids is that you're up early...and as a result, get to the beach before anyone else!  We were back on the ship before my single and child-free sister had even had breakfast.

A Few Things You Might Want to Pack

  • Sunscreen (I know, DUH, but it's expensive when you forget it and have to buy it on the boat)
  • Jackets (even if the weather's going to be warm - it's windy on the high seas, folks)
  • Baby carrier
  • Umbrella Stroller
  • Disposable bibs (I know, not very eco-conscious...but sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do, you know?)
  • Diapers and wipes 
  • Entertainment for the kids (I wish I'd brought a DVD player or laptop with some movies)
  • Sippy cups (I wish we'd had a sippy cup with us that I could have filled with juice not only for dinners but also to take on our excursions...Jack was cranky and it was a challenge getting him to drink enough water, and I never found bottled juice on the ship).
  • A watch (this seems obvious, but we always use our phones to tell the time, get around, etc...turns out, it was kinda expensive to use the internet or our phones at all in a foreign country - and I ended up buying a watch - also...the ship operate on SHIP TIME, not necessarily the actual you can set your watch to match the time on board).
  • Inflatable tub if you need to bathe your baby
If we go on another Carnival cruise, it will not take place until my youngest child is at least three (and probably even a little older).  Also, I might look into a Disney cruise - as kid-friendly as Carnival is, I can't help but think Disney might be better-prepared for the really little kiddos!

If you have a cruise coming up - may your kids be well, may your DVD player be packed, and may your child behave in the dining room.  

Bon voyage!

Questions (because clearly, I am an expert at successful cruising with small children...)?  Or, do you have any advice to add to this?

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The 21st of April

With April 21st, my baby girl turns nine months old.  Still not sleeping (of course), but now crawling, waving, clapping, and getting into everything (EVERYTHING!). I all of a sudden feel how quickly this year is flying by.  And like I have done the past seven months on the 21st, today I recorded our day, in pictures...a diary of sorts (not that this whole blog isn't a diary!), a way to remember just how quickly these days are passing.

And today's post will be shorter than previous posts, because I FORGOT TO TAKE PICTURES for, like, half of the day.  But that's okay.  I'll make up for it in wordiness, I'm sure!

8 AM

My day started off a little like this:

Tea.  Just regular Lipton black tea, with a bag of Yogi Ginger tea and a few fresh mint leaves,  Steeped for several minutes and then poured over ice.  Yummmm.  I am getting a little tea-envy right now just looking at this picture, and it was my own glass this morning.

10 AM

It's nap time for Claire.  But, does this look like a tired baby?

I think not.

The last couple of days, nap and bed times have been extra trying.  Not only does she not want to stay asleep, but now she doesn't want to go to sleep to begin with, either.  So, a couple of nights ago I just laid in bed with her (rather than rocking her) and "ignored" her to sleep.  So far, so good.  After a some really cute baby faces (see above), my trick worked!

And once Claire falls asleep, Jack shows off his favorite toy...Bumblebee (a transformer, and this particular toy is the biggest piece of crap ever and constantly if you see it at Target for $4 and think, "what a great deal!" - don't buy it!).

12 PM

After nap time, we decide to go to Costco.  Because that's what married couples with small kids do on a Saturday afternoon.  All of them,

Long story short, my Dad loves Costco and bought us a membership.  When we were kids, he always wanted to take us shopping with him and we hated it.  Hated it!  But here I am, twenty years later, looking forward to an afternoon at Costco and wondering what delicious goodies they will be handing out and what random brand of children's pajamas will be on sale today.

But before we go to Costco, I have to get ready.  As in, put on matching clothes and real shoes and even makeup.  This is an astonishing event and I *do* remember to take a photograph of this.  

The best part of my self-portrait is that I found my self-tanner.  I was looking all over the bathroom for it when I was getting ready and finally gave up, figuring Charles had moved it (making it all but lost).  But then I take this picture and the first thing I notice is the bottle of self-tanner in the background.  Score!

Oh!  And I got mail today.

I love Zulily, but I hate how long it takes to ship (yesterday I received a diaper and a baby dress in the mail I had completely forgot I ordered).  Anyway, the shirt that arrives is CUTE and I want to wear it out tonight to a girl's event with the neighbors...but it's too small.  Boo.

On the drive to Costco, we pass this - one of those "only in Texas" kind of things...a school bus that has been converted into some sort of Nascar fan-mobile.  I don't know how else to describe it.  It stunk, and pulled over on the freeway as soon as we passed it.

1 PM

First of all, how cute is this...

It didn't last long, but it was fun while it lasted.  

And this is why I love favorite shampoo at a less-than-ridiculous price:

Then we come home and before I know it, it's nap time again.

3 PM

And I ask you again...does this look like a baby that wants to sleep?  At all?

But I'm on to her tricks and she is, indeed, tired.

Which of course doesn't mean she actually stays asleep.  She keeps waking up.  I finally cave, and let her sleep on me while I read.

5 PM

Before I know it, it's almost time for my big night out.  WATCH OUT, Dallas.  I try to wear these shoes, but they are vetoed by Charles (whose fashion advice I always take with a grain of salt, but in this case, I kind of agreed). 

But it doesn't really matter if they were cute or not, because next time I go out I won't have to stress over which old pair of shoes I'm going to wear.  Because tonight I bought new shoes.  At the Blue's Jean Bar, of all places.

One of my neighbor's is part of a Mom's group, and the Blue's Jean Bar stayed open for us after hours to try on jeans (and shoes!).  Wine was had, jeans were tried on, and shoes were bought.  AND, I got a few hours out with the girls...and who doesn't need that every now and then, right??

11 PM

And now?  I'm home.  Claire is asleep.  I've had a full and beautiful day.

And will you look at that...I thought I was short on pictures and this would be a short post, but it looks like a short post is something I just am not capable of writing!  

Peace, love, and new shoes to all.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

When I was a kid, my dad would frequently tell me that I was "cruisin' for a bruisin'" when I would misbehave.  He mostly said this playfully (as far as I can remember, anyway), but I got it - knock it off, or else!  It wasn't until recently, when I heard myself say to Jack, "Dude, you are cruisin' for a bruisin'!" that I realized my dad was basically threatening to beat me if I didn't start behaving (and for the record, I can only remember being spanked one time and I pretended it was much worse than it really was).

But this statement has been in my head lately.

And the reason?

We just went on a cruise.  That my dad paid for.  And "beating" is exactly how I would explain it.  So, the childhood threats kinda came true.

Oh, it had its good parts, for sure!  We spent time with family, frolicked on a Mexican beach, and ate all the food we wanted, whenever we wanted.  But it got off to a rough start.  And there were many bumps along the way (and I'm not talking about the ocean swell).

This story needs to be told. And, it's going to be long. it goes.

Every so often, my awesome dad and his wife coordinate (read: plan and pay for) an awesome family vacation.  Five and a half years ago, it was an 8-day Mexican cruise.  It included eleven "adults" (this term might be a stretch for some of us at that time) and three kids.  Since most of us did not have children at the time, the entire week pretty much looked like this, all the time:

So basically, as you can see from this picture of a picture in my scrapbook (that I used to have time for), we pretty much partied the entire week and were THOSE annoying people holding up the photo lines at night so we could take cheesy pictures in front of cheesier backdrops while the photographer rolled his eyes inwardly and pretended like he thought we were funny as everyone in line sighed impatiently.
This trip looked a little more like this:

Basically, Jack was screaming bloody murder (and had been for about fifteen minutes at this point, NONSTOP), Claire was enthralled by the giant boat backdrop and could not be convinced, even for a second, to look away, I am laughing because WHAT THE HECK ELSE AM I GOING TO DO AT THIS POINT, and Charles looks a little crazy.
Let me back up a few days.

It's Tuesday morning.  I wake up sick.  Not just kind of sick, but chills all over even though I have a fever, head feels like it's in a vice, can barely roll over in bed sick.  We are scheduled to fly to California on Friday, and I know that I am too sick to go anywhere and I also know that this is not a 24-hour kind of bug (I know this because my mom was sick with it for TWO WEEKS).  I am also afraid that Charles or the kids are going to get it.

Charles takes care of me and the kids.  He does this Tuesday and Wednesday, while working (luckily, he works from home).  Thursday, I am still sick and in full-on panic mode.

And now, I'll back up a few days more.

Before kids, when we had a trip coming up, we'd often be up until two in the morning doing laundry, packing, straightening my hair, etc. - and then, somehow, we'd roll out of bed a couple of hours later and manage to make it to the airport about an hour before our flight left, where we'd argue over whether we were going to eat Cinnabon or Auntie Anne's, and then end up eating both while flipping through a giant stack of magazines that I had bought before the trip but then added to when I saw in the airport bookstore that the new Us Weekly was out.


So, I had actually started packing on Monday - that's FIVE WHOLE DAYS before we were supposed to leave.  I had successfully packed the carry-on and the diaper bag, and there they sat - all nice and packed and zippered-up - right next to the bed I was barely able to crawl out of.  My plan had been to finish all of the packing on Tuesday, save a few key items (hair straightener and Jack's shoes) that I would tuck neatly into our packed bags Friday morning.

So, that didn't happen.  The two packed bags sat and stared at me, mocking me for my failure to pack the rest.  Because I was too damn sick to pack.  I was too sick to do laundry, too sick to even make a list for Charles to pack.  I hadn't even taken the tags off the new cruise-appropriate clothes I had just bought for Claire.

OK, now back to Thursday.  By Thursday, my suffering has lessened but I still feel like crap.  All the herbal tea and steamy showers in the world aren't helping to cut through the gunk in my head, and all the rest I can muster isn't beginning to fight off this funk.  I am operating at about 50%, maybe.  Charles calls Southwest to see if we can switch out flight to Saturday.

Of course we can!  For $1300.

So, it's off to the doctor I go.  Where they stick a pointy stick up my nose that almost makes me cry, and shove a wooden stick down my throat that does make me gag - all to tell me I don't have the flu or strep throat.

Breaking the law, breaking the law!

So, am I ok to travel, I ask?

The doctor says the timing is unfortunate, but yes, and gives me a prescription for some steroids.  Which I promptly take.  Which give me the energy to pack like a madwoman about an hour after they kick in.


Kind of.  I still feel sick.  Just sick with enough energy to pack.

Friday morning, we all load up.  Our bags are packed, we're ready to go, and we're about to be leaving on a jet plane WITH ALL FOUR OF US!  Wheee!

Only, I can tell the kids are starting to feel a little under the weather.  Jack, who is three and as a result, often whiny, is extra whiny and kind of clingy (but still excited about riding on the airplane - we have literally been talking about this trip and building it up for months).  Claire is a little sniffly.  But onward and upward, right?

So, it's off to the airport we go.  And our flights go pretty well.  Claire sleeps the first leg of the trip, Jack sleeps for the second.  Both kids wake up and scream at the top of their lungs, relentlessly, for what seems like the World's Slowest Descent as we land in San Diego - grabbing their ears the whole time.  I think to myself, "This cannot be good."

But we are in San Diego.  Home!  An hour of Friday afternoon/holiday weekend/SoCal traffic later, we've made it to our brother's house in Carlsbad.

And we kind of start to relax.  I see my BFFs (and here's where I'd love to write a long blurb about how much I cherish my friends, and how amazing it is to see them, and all that good stuff - but looks at how long this is, and we haven't even got on the damn boat yet).

We retire to the hotel early.  I am still sick, but at this point functioning like a normal adult.  The kids are getting a little more sniffly.  And Saturday, we hang out with our friends and family some more.

But Saturday afternoon, things take a turn for the worse.  I return from lunch with my friends and Charles, Jack and Claire return from playing in the water park at LegoLand.  Jack's eye is oozing (OOZING) green goop.  Like, a lot of it...maybe the size of a dime, all coming out of his eye at once.  Awesome!  And then I notice that Claire's eyes are a little crusty as well.

And the best part is that we are supposed to get on a cruise ship and go to a foreign country the NEXT DAY.

We decide to go to Urgent Care.  It's the weekend, and a holiday weekend at that, but we finally find one that's open and as soon as Jack is up from his nap, off we go (and that goes over well - telling the sick child who wakes up like a Poltergeist and even on the best of days, hates going to the doctor - that he's going to the doctor).

By this time, the kids' moods have deteriorated to Cranky Cranky.  They are both whiny, clingy...this makes me both sad (I never want them to be sick) and tired (sick kiddos are exhausting!).

At Urgent Care, it appears that we do not have the only sick kids in California.  There is a long wait.  We end up being there for three hours (HOURS!  This is basically an eternity for a kid). Both kids are diagnosed with colds and eye infections (in both eyes!), and Jack has an ear infection, too.

Late night trip to the doctor on vacation is not fun.  In case you were wondering.
Both Charles and I are kind of hoping the doctor will tell us to stay home, do not step foot on a the cruise ship, and get some rest (because this would mean we'd "have to" stay in a hotel somewhere, probably on the beach with a pool, for a few days).  But we get no such advice.

Two nurses and the doctor all tell us the same thing: They wouldn't skip the cruise if they were in our shoes.  Not for a little cold and a couple of eye infections!  Just keep the kids separated from the other kids until the antibiotics kick in and enjoy our week at sea.

Antibiotics.  Well, it's now about 10:00 PM on a Saturday night, the night before Easter.  There is one CVS nearby with a 24-hour pharmacy.  So there we go.  Along with every other sick person in southern California, and apparently THERE ARE A LOT.  Who all want medication in time for Easter.


Our night gets a little longer.

By midnight or so, everyone has had their first dose of antibiotics and we are all, finally, in bed.  From the comfort of my bed, I type out a quick email on my phone to my mom...the title of the email says it all: Vacation Hates Us.

My poor little man, in bed at last.
Now, this (finally) brings us to Easter day.  Embarkation!

In my pre-sick state, I had Easter morning all planned out.  The Easter bunny was going to find us at our hotel and hide eggs around the room and leave baskets for the kids with vacation necessities like sunscreen and snacks and maybe a ship-themed toy or two.  Then, we would head over to my brother's apartment (my sister and BFF also live in the same complex) for the big apartment-wide Easter egg hunt.  After this, we would munch on doughnuts and then as a family head to the train station in great excitement of the train ride and the week to come.

It went nothing like that.

We wake tired and crabby.  We have to pack up the suitcases, which we have been haphazardly pulling stuff from for the last two days.  We have medicine to administer and a Continental Breakfast buffet to pick at.  Even the repeated promises of a train ride (which we have been talking about for weeks, and which has created much excitement!) does not cheer Jack up, and he wants to be held All. The. Time.

Waiting for the train.
We are traveling in a large group - eleven adults (the same as last time!) and nine kids (we've been busy these past six years).  We all take the Coaster (a commuter train that runs by the beach!) down to the cruise ship terminal.

Once we get to our stop, we have a ten-minute walk ahead of us.  Meaning, I carry Claire in the Ergo and pull a suitcase.  Charles pulls the bigger suitcase, with the carry-on balanced precariously on top, and the diaper bag over his shoulder...and, more often than not, holds Jack in one arm, too. It takes us more than ten minutes to get there, but we make it.

And this is where the Meltdown of the Millenium begins.

The terminal was crowded. Super, duper crowded.  We have to wait in line to be allowed to check our luggage, then wait in line for the luggage guys to actually get to our luggage, and then wait in line to get inside the terminal...where we sit on a crowded bench with a LOT OF PEOPLE, all waiting to be admitted to the next line we need to wait in.

It looked like this:

I took this because my Dad is visible...way at the front of the room...but the guy in the hat, center of the picture, totally creeps me out.  It's like he's WATCHING ME...
As we're waiting on our bench we are trying desperately to get Jack excited.  "We're almost there!" "Just a couple more stops!"  "We're about to get on the boat!"  This poor child has waited in so many lines now I am pretty sure he doesn't believe us.  At all.

But then, the line does move.  And off we go.  And Jack goes...a little too fast.  He falls.  The floor is cement.  He scrapes his wrist a teeny, tiny bit, but that is ALL IT TAKES.  He lets loose.  He screams. Charles scoops him up, and he arches his back and throws himself back in Charles' arms.

We are *those* parents, with *that* kid.

And it doesn't stop.  He doesn't slow down, doesn't take a breath, doesn't react to the giant cruise ship we can see through the windows.  He.  Just.  Screams.

The lines continue.  It's like think, "Oh, just around this corner and we'll be on the ride!" only to find out that they've tricked you, and the line goes on.  There is another spot to stop at, another person wants to look at our passports, another crew member wants to take our picture, another old person thinks they are going to be the one to make our kid stop crying (what is the deal, people!?!?).

He doesn't stop as we walk onto the ship.  For weeks, I have been building this up, talking about how big the boat is and how fun it's going to be once we get on, and here he is - throwing the tantrum of his life, oblivious to the fact that we are even walking onto this ship.

This continues while we find our room.  It continues while we flip through the channels on the TV to find calm him down.  He's red-faced and hyperventilating, alternately sobbing and screaming.  Charles puts him down and he throws himself onto the floor, screaming at Charles to hold him.

And finally...after nearly an HOUR AND A HALF of this (and for the record, he can throw a tantrum like the best of 'em but he has never, ever carried on like this), he falls asleep.

This poor little guy.  He just did not feel well.  :(

He falls asleep about 45 minutes before the mandatory safety drill.  That is mandatory.  For everyone.  That we have to attend.  That requires this sleeping child's attendance.

Luckily (for everyone on the boat), he is *so* tired that he sleeps through most of it, his little head resting on Charles' shoulder in temporary peace as a crew member attaches a bracelet around his ankle (in case of emergency) and as we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the passengers, learning where we should go in case of an emergency.

And when we get back to the room, I sneak out to the balcony and take this picture:

I am tired.  I am sick (uhhh, did you know I was sick? Ha!).  I am not having fun.  But I tell myself, in a moment of "You Make the Vacation, the Vacation Doesn't Make You!" that I am going to have fun, dammit!  And by golly, even if I don't, I'll look back on this picture in thirty years and *think* I had fun (which I have now ruined by immortalizing these memories, but that's okay!).

But some good news.  Claire actually *is* having fun!

Even sick, she was still pleasant.  Which doesn't mean she was easy.  A cruise ship stateroom is a tiny and constricting place for a curious and mobile baby to find herself.
And that, my friends, is how this cruise started.

To be continued (maybe even with some helpful tips for parents who are going to be cruising - on a ship, not for a bruising! - with babies and small kids)...

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