Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Six time zones from Spain!

Our ship is averaging about 20 knots these days, which means it is only an eight day trip to Spain. It also means we have to set our clocks forward one hour every night. Lily is making this adjustment more easily than Abi. I am catching up on z's during naptime, so I hope not to be affected as much as everyone else! I am less than delighted about being that parent with the screaming three year old in the floor, but unfortunately I think that will be the case until we get this time change business figured out.

Yesterday we were able to watch the inaguration of Barack Obama live via satelite -- isn't it amazing what can be accomplished in the middle of the ocean? Abi sat through the entire hour long affair while she played with cars. I was glad that we all got to watch together. In the Bahamas, many people we spoke to turned the conversation to our new president. It struck me as interesting that there were people in the Bahamas planning to celebrate the innaguration of Barack as well.

Tonight is an involvement fair on the ship. There will be groups gathering to set up different activities, so I will be attending and looking for a yoga class or something. My hope is that there will be something early enough in the morning or late enough in the evening that I might be able to participate. I'm also trying to pull together a group of students to participate in a Preschool Enrichment Program (PEP). There are 5 children from 1 to 5 on the ship, and I think it would be really nice to have story times, swimming buddies, student-led activities and crafts, etc. Sometimes it is easier for someone other than a parent to direct a group of kids this age, and most of the preschoolers on board have come out of a daycare/preschool setting. I hope we can pull together a nice group of students.

Luke took some pictures of the girls on board the ship this morning. I will try to have them here for you ASAP!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

School time, schedules, Bahamas for One

We have been getting adjusted to the ship for the past few days. The girls and I have spent a lot of time solo, as Luke gets broken in to his new position. We haven't changed time zones since Florida so we are in a nice little routine now. Abi usually has "school" in the morning, and we do more active things in the afternoon after her nap.

I knew I would need to get the room set up at first, and wanted to have a ready-made project on hand. This paper tissue craft kit from Alex really fit the bill. She spent ONE AND A HALF hours working on this little butterfly, without stopping. She was so proud of herself, and really enjoyed picking the colors.

Luke's job is keeping him really busy for the first few days. As such, we weren't really able to spend much time together in the Bahamas together. It worked out okay though. I put Lily in the Ergo backpack, Abi in a small stroller, and we hit the streets. Most days there were other moms to go out with at the same time which provided entertainment for Abi and an extra set of hands for me. The extra help was amazing! In the Bahamas, we went to Paradise Island and had a short visit at Atlantis to see the aquarium. Abi loved the large fish, jellyfish, and sharks. It really is an impressive aquarium.

At the end of the day, Abi declared that the ferry ride from Paradise Island to Nassau was the most special thing about the Bahamas. Just goes to show you never know what will please kids the most!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bon Voyage...Sort of.

Maybe you are wondering why it says "three days until we set sail" when we are already in the water. We left port last night, and it is only 50 miles to the Bahamas. However, it saves money to just drop anchor between Miami and the Bahamas. That explains how I was able to spend this afternoon seasick, even though we aren't really going anywhere at the moment.

Right now there are no students on the ship, so we have been able to connect with the children and staff on the ship a bit better. We will arrive in the Bahamas at 8am on the 18th, and then we will welcome the students aboard on the 19th.

Tomorrow the parents of younger children are meeting to discuss how to share childcare and learning opportunities. I'm excited to get the kids together. There are two young men that are near Abi's age, and one little girl that is fairly close to Lily's age.

Portland, Miami Beach, Boarding the Semester at Sea Explorer, and Setting Sail!

If you use your imagination just a little bit you can probably envision that a Jones family travel experience didn’t go exactly as planned. However, our flight was completely on schedule, our bags all weighed in under 50, and we had a great time in Portland prior to our flight and for the few days we had in Miami.

Hanging out with Rachel and Jayne in Portland – it’s fun to connect with old friends, and of course even more fun to play with someone else’s toys!

The cousins played at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) on Sunday the day before our flight. One last hurrah before we begin the summer of fun!

Luggage for a family of four for 100 days – yikes! (I’m sure the folks at the airline were not amused.)

Unfortunately, the first thing that happened when we got our rental car was a minor accident. You know, we just sort of gently bumped the Jaguar next to us with our car a little bit. Thankfully, that was the only accident we had – surprising considering how the beautiful folks of Miami drive… A minor bump didn’t slow us down! Check the damage on the Pacifica…
Once we got back on the road we went to our motel. We booked a motel on Priceline because we were struggling to find anything close to being in our budget. We wound up at the Whitelaw at South Beach. I’m pretty sure the Whitelaw doesn’t see many strollers. Where some motels have cookies and milk at 6pm, the Whitelaw starts pouring complimentary cocktails and pumping bass.

That isn’t to say we’ve had a bad time though! The Whitelaw is “barbalicious” according to it’s website. Apparently that translates to hot pink walls and ceilings with chandeliers in every room. What is a three year old girl not to love about that? There’s a sundeck up top with bouncy lounge pads – perfect for playing picnic or diving onto and laughing. The hallways looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, and were really indescribable. The Whitelaw Hotel – Hot Pink!
Best of all, the hotel was in the middle of South Beach, so it was really close to the beach. The girls had a pretty good time once they got used to the water. Lily never really took to the water, but Abi had a fun time sitting in my lap “catching” waves.

Girls and dad at the beach – hopefully we’ll be doing this more often!

Of course our real objective with the early arrival was to buy lots of STUFF for the kids, and us too. I met a fellow soda addict in the line at Wal-Mart. Apparently he took the six cases of Dr. Pepper stacked up on our two shopping carts to mean I had a problem. 5 cases of diapers, 8 packages of wipes, a bagillion crackers and craisins later…we left the Wal-Mart with our overstuffed SUV and went to the port to board! Ah…Americans. Sometimes you just can’t avoid being one.

This is 400 diapers. Didn’t know if you had ever seen 400 diapers. Maybe we should’ve considered cloth…

Now that we’re on board we are finally getting into a schedule. Remember, we jumped ahead three hours on this cross-country plane ride, so the girls are still adjusting. Today I woke them up at 7am, made them eat breakfast, and they seemed to adjust for the most part. Hopefully tomorrow we will have a “normal” ship day. Abi made a friend today named Barrett. He is two years old, but will be three next month. He was full of energy and they had a great time playing chase tonight. I am lucky to have a family next door to us. The Dean of Students is from Oregon and is right next door. Abi completely adores his daughter and his wife was a total life-saver today. She watched the kids while I returned the rental car back to the Thrifty counter. I was so thankful to avoid dragging the kids through Miami in a taxi!
So, that’s that – we’ve made it! We’re here! We’re setting sail tonight!

Friday, January 9, 2009

About Salem

In case you didn't know, we have relocated to Salem for the period before and after Semester at Sea.  It is a little unrealistic to apply for a job in January and say "see ya in May, after our career-related cruise around the world".  So, we just decided to move all of our stuff to Luke's mom's house and call it "home" for a little while.  

I'm a sunshine girl, so Salem is a little rainy for my taste sometimes, but there are a few amazing things I've noticed so far:

1) At the Wal-Mart they have staff dedicated to wiping down the baskets as they come in so you don't have to get a rainy wet basket.  There are often umbrella baskets where you can pick up a free umbrella to use and return at another basket.  How cute!  

2)  The grass is Salem is green, and many of the trees haven't even lost their leaves.  On the days when it is sunshiney, you can pretend like it is a cool day in California wine country.

3)  Speaking of wine...Maybe you are in Salem, and you don't have a job, and you don't make any money.  You have time and no money you say??  Sounds like a good day to leave the kids with grandma and go on a Willamette Valley wine tasting tour! 

4)  Is there any place on earth with better food than Oregon?  Honestly, if you want to go around the world to try new flavors, just buy a plane ticket to Portland instead!  

5)  We live near a street called "Commercial" in Salem.  Holy Cow!  On one strip, there is:  Fred Meyer, Lifesource, Winco, Target, Costco, Wal-Mart, and Safeway.  Seriously!  When you open the weekend paper a whole tree worth of ads falls out with all of the deals for the week.  I don't know if there is anything that isn't on Commercial street.  I like that it is impossible to get lost while shopping.  

6)  On the flip side of that coin, if you drive for 15 minutes in any direction you hit green pastures, rolling hills, and farmland.  

7)  People are nice.  I think I like Salem people.  Kinda chatty the Salem people.  The clerks always small-talk and random people in town say stuff to ya.  No one seems in a real big hurry.  That could be a side-effect of the fact we no longer do stuff on "after-work" time.

8)  Even though it rains A LOT in January, there are many activities for children that are indoors.  There is a carrousel downtown, lots of indoor kiddie things at malls or kids clubs, indoor aquatic centers with heated pools, etc.  

Winter Pictures

I just updated the little slideshow to the right from our Picasa Web Album. If you want to see bigger pictures, go here.

The pictures are from Seminole and McAlister, Oklahoma for a holiday visit with my parents, and from Salem, OR with Christmas with Luke's mom, and his sister's family.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Parenting Books: You win.

I've always thought that parenting books were kind of obvious.  Especially the ones that say things like "don't reward bad behavior".  I feel like calling the author and saying, "Really. You spent how long writing a book to tell people like me 'don't reward bad behavior'?  I'm not a Nanny 911 case, I'm just trying to get my daughter to stop telling people she is going to throw them in the garbage.  I read your book and I get 'don't reward bad behavior'.  As if I had time to waste.  Thank You."

Today I realized the ugly truth.  Being around my daughter when she is happy, kind, and well-behaved is like a moment in heaven.  I would do anything to make it continue forever.  When she is so sweet I don't want to give her a treat or watch TV or any of the other standby "rewards" because I just want to sit with her doing whatever it is she is doing and enjoy the golden blissful moment of perfection as it unfolds.  Sitting with her, being loved, adored, and included in play is the best thing in the world.  It is a reward for me.

When gloomy behavior visits, I really would do anything to make it stop.  I would buy her a pony or a happy meal or anything in else in the world to make her happy again.  And I'm not the only one - have you ever heard that song "Hush Little Baby, don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird?"  

So, obvious-advice-parenting-book, you win.  Now I understand that "not rewarding bad behavior" is much harder than it sounds.

Countdown Week

Well folks, this time next Monday we will be standing in line at the airport to board a plane to Florida and begin the family journey around the world!  I had this dream last night where I was at the airport alone with the kids getting ready to board our flight when I realized the passports were still an hour away in Salem.  Ah, night terrors:  a sure sign that life is about to get exciting again!

Today feels like one of those roller coasters you ride because they include the fastest/largest drop(s).  Everything coming up to the featured thrill is anticipation, and that is what I feel the most of today.  We're not completely packed, and I've pretty much given up on the concept of "packing everything we need".

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Health Insurance for Travel

Being that Luke and I are no longer employed at WSU, we are also no longer eligible for awesome state health-care benefits through Group Health. If we were taking off around the world as young newlyweds we could probably skip health insurance, but since we are traveling with two young kids we decided to get some health insurance. Luke found a good policy through Blue Cross and Blue Shields called "InterM". Isn't that a cute name for insurance for people in limbo?

The purpose of the insurance is to tide you over between two life events. (The loss of one job and the start of another, the end of a career and the start of Medicare benefits, etc.). Because it is only an "interim" policy, you can only have it for up to six months. However, it is very affordable even at a family rate.

We will go ahead and purchase the insurance to cover the time we are abroad even though most of the countries we are visiting have free or subsidized health care, even for foreigners. We also have an international policy through Medex which is provided by Semester at Sea. Our US health insurance policy will be for a circumstance that would cause us to return to the US, in which case we would definately want to have some kind of insurance.

Ideally Luke will have a job by the end of the summer, just about the time our "InterM" policy would run out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ergo on the Road

So, a while back I posted on the different baby backpacks we were considering for our journey.  We finally settled on the Ergo Baby Carrier, and I have to say it has worked out pretty well so far.  Lily is a twenty pound non-crawling nine month old, and she seems to like riding on my back.  Here are my tips for helping an older baby (4-8 months) adjust to being carried in a baby carrier:

1.  Have someone help the first time you use it:  If the goal is to make your baby like being carried on your back, you won't get very far if your first experience involves dropping them on the floor!  It's actually not that hard to get the hang of putting on the backpack, but it doesn't hurt to have a spotter the first time.  We also stood in front of the mirror for a while after she got in the backpack the first time so she could see herself.  She thought it was really funny!

2.  Don't plan big adventures right away:  It takes a while to get used to walking with the carrier for both parties involved.  You might try vacuuming, washing dishes, dusting, or making a bed the first time you use the Ergo.  Then move on to bigger things.

3.  Make use of the D ring on the back:  There is a nice little hook on the back of the Ergo that is quite under-rated in my opinion.  You can hang a toy from the back of it and let baby play with something other than your ponytail.  We have a Maisy board book on a ring that Gramma Ya-Ya got Lily.  She likes to sit and read on our long walks -- how studious for a nine month old!

4.  Move in interesting ways:  You can prolong the walk by swaying side to side, bouncing baby on your back a little bit, or catching a view of her face in a car or store window.

Stateside, the Ergo has been a good investment.  We'll let you know how it goes overseas! 

2009 Resolutions

I saw a post of resolutions on a blog I read pretty frequently called My Money Story.  Several people had written 2008 resolutions on their blog, and they reflected on them yesterday.  I thought that was an interesting idea.  Consider these goals up for review in 2010.

Despite the fact I could be skinnier, healthier, more well read, and a better person, I really only have one goal this year, and that is to be present for this year.  I have a tendency to get side-tracked by all the little things in life sometimes, and there are a few big things happening that I want to leave myself open to this year.  

1.  I'm living incredibly close to family for the first time in 7 years.  We live with my mother in law and within 15 minutes of cousins close in age to the kids.

2.  We're going around the world on Semester at Sea.

3.  I won't be working.

It seems we have been given the gifts of time, family, and simplicity.  I have a horrible habit of getting side-tracked by all the little things when life gives me gifts like that.  So, my goals are:

1.  Get to know my family better.  I don't just want to spend more time with them, I want to know them better.

2.  Take lots of pictures and write in a journal.  Sound simple?  Try doing it with a three year old -- it takes effort!