Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marco Island, Florida: Our first family Vacation!

We traveled to Marco Island Florida, the week of labor day.  Aside from the threat of hurricane season, this was a great time to visit.  Tickets were a decent price ($100/each way non stop from DCA to RSW).  The water temperature was perfect, the beaches and airport security line were nice and empty!  I've never gone through security so fast, there was not a soul in line.

Marco island can be summed up very easily.  A beautiful and quiet retirement community with SO many shells.

Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen so many beautiful shells in my life.  I came back with at least 20 beautiful conch shells all with a unique story imbedded on their swirls.  Sanibel Island which is a neighboring island to Marco, was one of the places Paul and I thought about going a few years ago because of my love for collecting sea shells while at the beach.  So when my Mother in law told us she was throwing herself and her kids a 60th birthday celebration in Marco Island, I knew exactly how I wanted to spend my time!  I don't know about you, but I love letting my mind wander as my eyes focus downwards and my ears hear the beautiful sound of the crashing waves.  I can't think of a better way to enjoy the peacefulness of the simple things in life.

Someone else is following in my footsteps, but for a different reason.  Maybe, he was tasting a salty seafood lunch?!  I kidd, I kidd.  Needless to say, my love of mindlessly wandering looking for shells was put on hold to make sure my child didn't kill himself with his love for putting all things into his mouth (when does this fun little part of babyhood end?). 

Marco, was a great place to take a young baby.  There were no rowdy party goers, the beaches were CLEAN, I mean the cleanest I've probably ever seen, and because it is on the gulf coast you didn't have to worry about standing in the water with your baby and being knocked over by an unexpectedly big wave.  It is also awesome that the sun sets right over the ocean.  As an east coast girl, this was an quite the treat. 
Is there a better way to enjoy breakfast?!
We stayed in a really nice, newly renovated hilton grand vacation club property called Sunset Cove Resorts.  It was stunning.  I was in awe of the interior designer who put the condos together.  The layouts, textiles, furnishings and finishes were amazing.  The shower in the master suite was probably the size of our entire powder room.  I wish I had taken more pictures of the condos, but alas the only thing I managed to take a picture of was the dual toned paint colors which I'm considering doing a rendition of in our family room.  Do you like it?

The only thing I would change about the hotel is the location.  It is part of a marina, which isn't walkable to the beach, so we had to drive there.  The marina is really great if you are there to do boating.  It still provides a great view.  We were able to see a double rainbow, dolphins and beautiful sunsets and an awesome lighting storm from the screen in porch.  There is a free shuttle to the beach, but with a baby and a carseat, you had to drive yourself and pay the $8 a day to park at the public beach entrance which was a few blocks from the surf.  The HGV club on the beach was already booked up in Marco as were all the HGV clubs in Sanibel so since there isn't really a whole lot to do in Marco aside from going to the beach, I think if we had been able to stay right on the beach our opinion of Marco and our trip would probably be very different.  The outer banks still stands as my all time favorite place to go for a family vacation with or without kids.

 Being so far from the beach did make it feel like we weren't actually at the beach.  We ended spending a lot of time at the pool since going downstairs to the hotel's terrace was a lot easier to manage between naps and meals then getting everyone out the door and in the car.  The pool was pretty cool.  I've heard about walk in pools being the new style and they are fantastic!  So easy to get into.  Especially with a baby or young child who is just learning to be comfortable in the water.  The pool was small and got crowded during peak times, but we really enjoyed it.  It has a fantastic view of the marina.  The beach chairs were also really nice and new.  Sammy practically owned them as you can see below.

There was a beautiful new shopping center with a starbucks who be still my heart, gave my first pumpkin spice latte of the season a few days early.  The shopping center also had wonderful restaurants, a marina with some rockin boats and cute shops within a 2 minute walk as well as a grocery store right next door.  Since the main point of the trip was a family reunion, being in condos with our siblings and parents worked out perfectly.

On a dock behind a Marco Island Restaurant
I've written about my love for the beach many times before and even designed Sammy's nursery in a beach theme (read about our beach trips, here, herehere and here!) Needless to say, I was more than elated to finally get some sand on Sammy's baby toes.  What a wonderful experience!  Sammy took to the beach like he was made for it.  Not surprising since he did visit the beach 4 times during my pregnancy!

Hard to believe 10.5 months later, here we are.  Does any first time mother really ever grasp the gift they are about to receive when they become pregnant?!  I certainly never could have imagined that my very happy life was so incomplete before.

I'll trade mindlessly wandering looking for shells to playing in the sand with Sammy anyday. 


And before you get to thinking he is a complete mama's boy, here are some pics with his second favorite person in the world.

Where did your summer travels take you this year?  What are your favorite kid friendly vacation spots?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bliss In Imperfection

As I sit here at close to 9:30pm, eyes heavy from a long day from chasing a wee one who loves to be chased, with sore tatas because said chasee now likes to bite, in a room with a suitcase used as a baby toy I am thankful for my blissfully imperfect life.  There is nothing like bringing a baby into a family to teach you that perfection really is imperfection.  I wouldn't change a thing, even the baby teeth coming in that combined with the kiss followed up with a nice chomp on my cheek and left a bruise.

After a lot of thought, I've decided since 99% of my posts have nothing to do with living frugally anymore, I'm going to update my blog name to "Bliss In Imperfection".  I'd have made it imperfect bliss or blissful imperfection, but both were taken from people who don't even blog.  I hope you like the new name and can relate to the concept that while nothing and no one is perfect, those that can embrace their imperfect life really do live blissfully.

Also, since no post is complete without a picture, I leave you two cute ones from today with the the biter and his companion.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tips for Traveling With a Baby

We just enjoyed our first trip with Sammy.  He was 10.5 months and it was a great age to travel with a baby.  I think we would have been just fine going sooner, but since we are on one income now, vacationing unfortunately has taken a back burner to lets pick...paying the mortgage.  A fair trade to being able to be a stay at home mom.

Here are a few of my tips that should help other newbie parents traveling for the first time:
  • Relax!  
    • This is after all your vacation.  No, it isn't going to be like it was when you went on your honeymoon, but hey, neither is your life at home most days either.
Tips for Traveling:
  • If you are flying, fly non stop.  
    • It is worth the extra money, trust me coming from el cheapo that is saying something.  The fastest way there will make everyone happier. 
  •  If you are driving and have a small car, consider renting.  
    • We were able to rent a mini van thru Costco for $96 for 6 days! 
  • Don't over pack for your stay.  There will be plenty of things you'll find right there in your room to play with.  Plus if you are visiting family, they will keep your baby entertained. 
    • I wasn't going to pay $80 in bag fees so we did two carry on bags and had no issues.  
    • I packed Sammy 5 pairs of pjs, 6 outfits, a few extra one piece rompers a few of his bathing suits, baby beach towel and his pool float.  I also packed some toys for the hotel.  

    • Don't pack that much for the plane.  
      • A favorite toy, a new toy, some easy to eat snacks
      • Enjoy the free entertainment of all the people (especially other kids) around you
      • The airline magazines were thrilling for Sammy.  He loves looking at pictures and adores ripping paper.  A win win!
    •  Remember, Diaper bags and breast pumps don't count as carry-ons so utilize that space!
      • Strollers and car seats also get checked for free.
    •  If your baby is small enough, connect the infant car seat to the stroller so that is all one piece.
    • We traveled with the base to the infant seat.  You don't need it to safely install the seat, but it is a much faster install with the base.  It also gives you the ability to easily transfer a sleeping baby.
    • Gate check your stroller and carry your baby either in your arms or by using a carrier and use your stroller to carry some of your bags.  
      • Going through security You are going to have to take your baby out of the carseat, but not out of a carrier.  So if they are going to fall asleep, it's better if its on you vs a seat they will have to be removed from.
    Tips for Your Stay
    • Stay in a condo or a suite, vs a hotel room.
      • Unless you cosleep as in your family is used sharing a room, your baby having their own space is going to be key in helping them adjust to a new environment as well as adjust back to their old sleeping arrangements when you return home. 
    • Call ahead to the hotel and check on their crib/high chair arrangements.  If you feel they meet your standards, leave the pack and play at home.
    • Reserve the crib and highchair and have them ready for you in your room.
    • If possible request an extra mattress, so you can double them together.
      • Aside from being in a new environment, I think Sammy had a hard time sleeping because the crib mattress was very thin.  The next night  I was able to put two crib mattresses together and he slept SO much better (a good indication is the height of his butt propped way up in the air).  
    • Put your baby in the darkest room.  (This might even be the bathroom).
      • We were fortunate to stay in a hilton grand vacation club condo that had a master bedroom with a huge walk in closet.  We were able to perfectly fit the hotel crib into the closet so Sammy had his own door to block out our noise and it was completely pitch black.  Y'all know that's how the nap snob rolls!
    • Recreate as much as you can for your baby. For us this meant:
      • Bringing a crib sheet from home
      • Bringing some favorite books for our naptime/bedtime routine
      • Bringing our ipod with Sammy's happiest baby on the block white noise soundtrack
      • Bringing Sammy's unwashed sleepsack so it smelled like home
      • Bringing our video monitor with us so we could still keep an eye on him while he slept.
    Hope this helps you out!  Do you have any tips you'd like to share that will help us on our next trip?
    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Eleven Months With Sammy!

    Wow, Sammy 11 months!  Typing it just makes me repeat what I say every month.  How are you 11 months old already?! I can't believe how much you have changed over the past 11 months.  This month your toddlerness is really starting to come to the surface as your infancy sadly fades away.  I love watching your kind, intuitive spirit shining through.  It makes me feel incredibly blessed to have been given the gift of being your mother.

    So about your pictures, you weren't really having anything to do with the sticker.

     I wizened up and gave you a goldfish.  See who laughs last, mauhahahaha.

    Apparently, you do...

    You are so incredibly funny and understand so much of what is going on.  It shocks me time and time again to say something and see that while you can't verbalize things, you certiaintly understand them and follow through with the right action.

      For example, you had no issue getting into your cheerios.  Your eyes light up every time I mention cheerios or show you the box.  I'm not going to lie, if I ever need to keep you quiet (hello airplane ride), I stuff you full of cheerios!

    I was also struck when I realized that you recognized Daddy through pictures.  It got a little too quiet when I was cleaning up after lunch one day.  I found you in our photo album staring happily at pictures of Daddy.  I pointed to him and you'd smile.  I got a chuckle when I realized you found the picture of Daddy burnt like a lobster the best.

    As proven by the above monthly photos, you are really starting to show your dismay with situations you'd rather not be in.  Unfortunately you are doing this in true toddler fashion and I find myself reciting this in my head over and over again.  If anyone has any advice on how to tame a screecher, please do tell.  I'm not sure how much more I can take!

    A few fun milestones:  You started clapping, while on your first plane ride!  You wave hi and bye to everyone, including Bailey and Romie who cutely have become your bffs.  

    Bailey upset Romie and then they both left you.  Here was your reaction aka downward dog and praying to mecca:

    You really love Bailey's bones.  So gross, but he keeps bring them to you!  I think he's like here kid take this, don't scream...please!!

    You love sitting by the front door gazing out at the street. 

    A milestone I didn't realize would be so life changing and exciting was standing!  I think I was so focused on you walking (hopefully any day now), that I totally overlooked this awesome precursor.  I was amazed when I set you down and you stood for several seconds.  It went on for so long I realized I should probably start counting.  You are up to about 15 seconds or so without landing on your fluffy butt.  Good thing for extra cushiony cloth diapers!  You were so in awe of all your cousins walking that every time I went to sit you down, you insisted on being put down standing.  This whole standing business is about as exciting as when you learned to sit.  It is a whole new ball game for you and it is funny remembering when I'd sit you down to sit up and you'd be great for a few minutes and then bonk right on the back of the head.

    We let you experience the fountain up at fairfax corner for the first time.  I'm hoping you'll be walking before it closes for the season, so you can really have fun in there! 

    We started ordering you kids meals when we go out.  I'll do a post about great places to eat with little kids.  Here we are at macaroni grill.  Their spaghetti and meatballs were a HUGE hit and were only $4.

    On Aug 24, you took a few steps without realizing it, but so far I think fear is weighing you down and keeping you from walking free standing.  I'm sure that is going to come this month and your world and mine are going to be rocked to a whole new level of new.

    For months and months these posts were filled with my plea for you to sleep well.  Your naps have been really great!  I can normally count on at least 1.5 hrs.  We've even had to wake you up a few times, so we could get you to bed that night at a normal hour.  We used that as a photo op, so now we have sleepy baby pics for posterity sake!  I was hoping to get you with your butt way up in the air, but no such luck.  While we still haven't reached 11-12 hours of consolidated sleep, you did start going 9 or so, with a quick bite to eat and then finished off with another 3 or so hours.  That was fantastic (was being the operative word...). 

    We apparently brought back the wrong child from vacation.  You now have separation anxiety (proven by the 2 hours you wailed while Matt and Steph watched you so we could go to Zaarn's wedding in peace) and you've reverted back to being 5 months old and waking up every 1-2 hours.  Granted, you were in a new environment and were cutting your third tooth, but wow I have no idea how you still wake up happy and have energy after nights like that.  I am exhausted and am blaming your sleep on the tardiness of your monthly post.

    Speaking of vacation, you took your first trip!  OMG the anxiety as a new mom before hand was pretty funny.  Did I pack the right stuff?  Is he going to be sick before we go, get sick there, after?  Is he going to sleep (am I going to sleep?).  Closer to when we left for Florida, I found a zen like state and realized we were committed and if something went wrong, well we were still committed.  Either way my fears were for naught.  You had a great time.  You ate your fair share of sand and attempted mersecly to eat a copious amount of shells too.  I'll write more on traveling with a baby and a review on Marco Island in upcoming posts.

    You couldn't get enough of the king sized bed.  You were all over the place when I was trying to get you dressed for bed.  I get it Sam, I love the freedom of a king sized bed too.  I could barely hear Daddy snoring from the other time zone aka the other side of the bed.  I wonder if the divorce rate is lower for those with king sized beds?!  (I kid, I kid)

    You totally owned this chair.  I love your cute little toes.  Well I love all of you, I could just eat you up, you are so cute!  I mean seriously, this picture just describes you to a T.  I am Blessed.