Miss Lexi is Threeee!

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party01Well, well, well, Miss Lexi is three. I wish I could say that the first three years flew by, but let’s be real. Honestly, her birth feels like a lifetime ago and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. As families with multiple kids know, when your second (or third, or fourth,…) offspring arrives, it’s as if they’ve always been there. This little miss, in particular, has made her presence known for every single day of these three years. It’s amazing how much energy and laughter (and screaming) that she has added to our world. She is a force to be reckoned with and, as you can see above, marches to the beat of her own drum.

If you’ll recall, when I first found out I was having a girl, I was terrified that I would have a small tyrant wielding a Barbie and bossing the boys around. I chuckle now, in a maniacal way, because that’s exactly what she is. And adorable, angelic-looking, tiny Titan who will move mountains with her will. It’s amazing how different two children can be. I sometimes worry about Parker because he has such a gentle heart and cannot yet conceive of the fact that sometimes, people are mean on purpose. He isn’t helpless, not by a long shot, but he is sensitive. I can honestly say that I do not have that same fear for Lexi. She is determined, independent, and has the heart of a lion. She won’t get hurt, she’ll get mad. Somehow, I think that mad is safer.

Both of my loves have changed a lot over the last three years, but one thing has remained the same. These two love each other with ferocity. Sure, they have the occasional sibling squabble, but more often than not, they are kind to each other and fiercely protective of one another.

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So regardless of how hard the transition was from one kid to two (very hard), I’m glad that they have each other. Happy birthday, sweet girl. Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

 

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Keeping the “I” in Family

Friends, this year has been nuts. It’s been a crazy, beautiful kind of nuts, but still. Somehow, we’re already a third of the way through the year. How? What? Now don’t get me wrong, I have a lot to show for that 1/3 of a year. I’m almost done with my first book, I’ve traveled to Hawaii and Mexico, and the kids are still alive. I’d call that a success.

What I’m struggling with right now (as in this very second as I sit in bed having just tucked the littles into theirs) is that my lovely children requires a lot of attention. Lexi, for example, fills a room with her presence and her needs, which is quite the feat considering that she has yet to break 30 lbs. as she nears her 3rd birthday. I am fighting hard to maintain patience and to also give Parker his fair share of attention. But let’s be real; I’ve been in the “parenting of small children” trenches for over 7 years now. It is a tough job to do while keeping your sanity. I always thought that people whose children were close together were certifiable. Now, I’m not so sure.

I have a very strong sense of self and frankly, I just love life. The experiences, the tastes, the sights, the sheer joy that every day is a gift. I love being a mother, but it by no means is the only thing that defines me. I am also a professor, a wife, an avid outdoor enthusiast, a book-lover, and introvert who craves solitude. All of those things take up space in my head. What I struggle with is that MOM takes up the majority of space and it’s not the love and cuddles of getting to be MOM (which I still get in spades), it’s the gripes, demands, and idiosyncrasies that are wearing me down.

Let me give you an example – or 30.  In the mornings, Lexi wants to put her pants on before her shirt, but only if it’s a shirt and not a dress. If it’s a dress, the dress goes first and then the socks and then the leggings. Parker wants a snack the very second he gets in the car after school. Not just any snack, but only one of a few snacks. If that snack is not readily available, I will hear about his near-death levels of hunger until we get home. Lexi wants me to read her two books before bed. If Parker volunteers to read the books, Lexi will yell over his voice so that she is reading the books. Lexi will tell you that she does not have to go potty mere seconds before she poops in her diaper. Parker wants to sleep with my scarf, but only if I’ve been wearing it for at least 15 minutes before bed so that I can “charge” it up with mom powers (I’ll admit that this is actually very sweet if a bit on the hot side). Lexi wants me to rock her to sleep, but she doesn’t want her head to hit my collar bone or my shoulder or my scratchy shirt or my hot skin. Unfortunately, the child is not yet capable of levitation, so rocking is a bit of an issue. every. single. night.

The kicker is that I have wonderful children. They are lovely, thoughtful, kind to each other, and delightful. When I put Parker to bed tonight and gave him a long hug, he said to me, “I wish I never had to let you go.” This is the stuff of melting hearts, folks. My kids are the sweetest creatures on the planet. They are also utterly exhausting and could wear down Mary freakin’ Poppins. Where am I going with this? I’m not exactly sure. Only that after having a handful of days of only taking care of myself, it suddenly feels overwhelming to keep an entire house moving. You’d think that the break would be restful, but honestly, I think that it makes the re-entry just that much harder. It is, in fact, almost exactly like running a marathon. As long as you keep moving – you’re fine. You’re in pain, but you’re fine. But once you stop…no matter how sweet it feels to rest your tired, aching legs…it is virtually impossible to muster up the will to get moving again.

But alas, you do. And you start to limp along until you find your rhythm again. And then you forget that you ever stopped to begin with and you keep going until you cross that finish line and then, and then, your rest has been earned and you can take as much time as you need to truly recover. You just had to hold on for that last little bit.

Okay, I feel better now. I just need to find my rhythm again and to remember that these years are fleeting. I know that they are. I just need soak up the good, deal with the bad, and find the patience of Mother Theresa so that I avoid sounding like a shrieking harpy.

I’m really glad that we had this little chat. I’m going to catch some sleep – tomorrow is another day and a chance to do better. Yep, I’ve got this.

How I #SeasTheDay on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas

Hi again! As I’ve mentioned before, this was my very first cruise. For as much as I travel, that seems a little bit nuts, but I think the reason why I had never pursued it before is because to me, cruising seemed…lazy. There, I said it. I know that it’s not like me to prejudge things, it just that when people got back from cruising, all I heard them talk about was the food…and the naps…and the food. It just didn’t seem like something that would jive with my active lifestyle. Um, I was wrong. Dead wrong. There are so dang many things to do on the ship! Here, let me show you.

You can play a rousing game of mini-golf on the top deck…DSC_7476

You can rock climb up a seriously impressive wall. For real, check out the height of that climb!

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You can practice your surfing skills on the FlowRider (which was hysterical to watch)…

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You can also go swimming or lounging in one of the three different pools (kid-friendly, adults only, or a combo) or check out the numerous hot tubs….

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If you want to keep up your fitness level, there’s a boxing ring in the state-of-the-art gym (along with everything else you’d expect to need for workouts). If gyms aren’t your thing, there’s also an outdoor running track on the top deck. Say what?!

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Suffice it to say that I didn’t have time to nap. I was too busy running around the ship and trying out all of the fun stuff to do. I spent waaaay to much time hanging out by the SurfRider and Climbing Wall. Watching people try is as much fun as trying it yourself and everyone is a good sport when you, ahem, wipe out (which is really almost inevitable).

Now, was there food? Of course. Was there lots of food? Yeah. What really surprised me, though, is how many healthy options they had. Salad bars, fruit bars, smoothie station, grilled fish, sushi (yep, for real),… I could go on and on, but truly, there was something for everyone.

We got a tour of the main galley from the female head chef (girl power!) and I was impressed to learn that not only do they have a kitchen staff of over 200 cooks, but every single thing they serve is made fresh onboard. From the pizzas to the rolls; from the steaks to the tiger shrimp – nothing is prepackaged. I love that.

One of the many cooks doing his thing (they work in shifts, but the kitchen is buzzing 24 hours a day).

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I was happy to see that they go through A LOT of salads.

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While the Windjammer Cafe was great for grabbing a quick lunch, I really enjoyed the full service in the fine dining room.

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I ate all of my breakfasts in there and most of dinners. During breakfast, I brought my laptop down, enjoyed my mushroom and herb omelette, and sipped a bottomless cup of coffee while I worked on my book. It was seriously divine. For dinner, the menu rotated daily and we had the option of about 10 appetizers and 7 or so entrees (to say nothing of the desserts). I enjoyed shrimp, salmon, escargot, and too many different types of salads to mention. Everything was delicious.

On my third cruise day, we did something that was so much fun – we took a cupcake decorating class at the Cupcake Cupboard!

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Our cupcake instructor was a pastry chef from Manilla, Philippines and he was wonderful. During our group class, we learned how to make a double-patty angus burger. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to turn these ingredients into something that resembled a burger….

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but our pastry chef talked us through it and I was shocked that my burger turned out so great.

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Now, there was also a competition component to the class. You all know where this is going. I am so competitive (even in cupcake making) that I put on my game face and went to work. The competition was for who could assemble the tallest burger. So I added extra frosting in between layers and cut the bare minimum off of my initial cupcakes and the results were…I won. Woohoo!

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Then came the best part.

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As a vegetarian, I got a kick out of eating my first “burger” in seven years.

I’ll have one more post coming for you (that has lots of fun excursion video), but I want to reiterate that my idea of what cruising entailed couldn’t be father from the truth. It was such an action-packed, fun-filled 5 days. I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you want to know more about all that Royal Caribbean has to offer, you can read about it here.

Disclaimer: I cruised with Royal Caribbean International as part of a press group. While my cruise was complimentary, I did not received monetary compensation and all opinions are my own. Naturally. 

 

Royal Caribbean – What to Expect & What to Pack #SeasTheDay

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Oh my goodness, folks, what an experience this was! Since the ship is so big (14 levels), I wanted to write several different posts on the various aspects of cruising. This first post can fall under the auspices of “what to expect” when you first arrive at port.

I know this is going to sound completely nuts, but even though I’m from Ft. Lauderdale, I somehow avoided entering Port Everglades for my entire adult life. As a result, I completely underestimated the time it would take from reaching the port gate (anticipate a line of cars, tankers, delivery vehicles, and semi-trucks) to finding the terminal gate. I had the good fortune of being dropped off directly at my terminal (thanks dad!), but if you need to park and leave your vehicle, it’s probably a good idea to unload the baggage you are checking with a porter, and then drive over to the long-term parking. If you’re taking a hotel shuttle or taxi cab, you can just skip that little piece of advice.

Speaking of luggage, DO print your luggage tags at home prior to driving to the port. It will streamline the check-in process and earn you the love of the employees who are handling your bags. Also note that it might be many hours before your checked luggage makes its way up to your room. For that reason, it’s a good idea to bring anything that you might need right away –bathing suit, camera, book to read, etc…–in a backpack so that you don’t feel limited in what you can take advantage of on the ship.

Okay, back to the process of getting on board: Imagine going through airport security on the busiest day of the year. That’s pretty accurate of what the process is IF you wait until a couple of hours before departure to board. They recommend arriving 90 minutes prior to departure, but truly, I would arrive many hours earlier than that. For a 4pm departure, there was no line around 10:30am. By noon, the line was around the building. Royal Caribbean has a ton of helpful information on their website and it’s easy to find out the earliest time you can board. Once you enter the building, you will go through a security checkpoint (which includes a metal detector). Once you clear security, you will enter a second line to sign paperwork, provide your passport or birth certificate, receive your room key, provide a credit card as a deposit, and get your photo taken. When this line gets long, it will feel like going through customs at a major airport.

Don’t fear though, you’re almost aboard the ship! Once you receive your Sea Card (room key and charge account), you can finally come aboard. The feeling of victory is immense! From the moment that you board the ship, you’re free to drop your backpack off at your room or go to the open restaurant for a meal.

My stateroom with a balcony. Ohh la la!

Here’s another tip: DO eat prior to arriving at the port. It really might take as long as 90 minutes to board the ship, so you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t starving during this process. There is a great selection of food once you make it to the restaurant, but don’t be like me and arrive there feeling like a famished lion.

Windjammer Cafe with 360 degree ocean view!
Windjammer Cafe with 360 degree ocean view!

One last thing before the ship sets sail – there is a safety drill that occurs approximately 30 minutes before departure. You will be asked to head over to your designated emergency area (there are lots of people to assist you in case you don’t know where to go). The drill lasts about 10 minutes and then you are free to move about the ship!

I thought this first post would also be a good place to include some tips on what to pack. I embarked on a 5-day/4-night cruise, so you can adjust this list accordingly based on how many days you’re cruising. As a note – I showered and went through more outfit changes than I anticipated, so I used up every bit of the clothing that I packed. From outdoor pool fun, to wandering around the ship, to evenings in the formal dining rooms – I felt like I was hosting the Oscars with how many times I switched it up around the day. Here’s what I found helpful to bring:

Clothing:

2 bathing suits (so that you always have a dry one)
2 bathing suit cover-ups for wandering to the pool and back
5 casual shirts/tank tops
4 pairs of shorts
2 pairs of casual pants/capris
3 causal dresses (or slacks and polos for men) for the main dining room
1 cocktail dress (or suit) for the formal night of the cruise
very comfortable shoes – the ship is huge and you will do a lot of walking
any special clothing/accessories for an excursion if you do one
twice the underwear that you would normally wear (I’ve been showering 3 times a day!)

In the ‘other than clothing’ category:

Sunglasses
Sunscreen
Contact lens solution
Camera
Tote bag or backpack
Band-Aids

Medicine:

Since I’m often traveling on a tight schedule, I bring an array of medication with me so that I’m not trying to hunt down a pharmacy. Here is a sampling of what I usually bring:

Anti-diarrheal
Gas-X
Pepto Bismol
Advil/Tylenol
Advil Cold & Sinus (AM/PM
Sudafed
Benadryl
Zyrtec
Anti-itch cream

Trust me, in my 35 years of travel, I needed them at least once. I’d rather have them and not need them than the alternative.

In the next post, we’ll talk all about what there is to do on the ship (answer: A LOT!). Stay tuned…

 

Disclaimer: I cruised with Royal Caribbean International as part of a press group. While my cruise was complimentary, I did not received monetary compensation and all opinions are my own. Naturally.