San Diego Zoo

Last weekend we took a trip to San Diego.  It was Ike’s longest planeride yet.  It went OK, as in nothing too mortifying happened, I don’t think anyone complained about us, but I am not too keen on doing it again anytime soon.  Four and half hours is a LONG time to keep him occupied in a confined space.  Food helped.


We made it nevertheless and Ike got to hang out with his Dori and his west-coast family.

Isaac’s three cousins, two Aunts, and Uncle all live in the southern California area and were sharing a rental home in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.  They were all thrilled to hang out with Ike, he is such a little rock star.  We went to the zoo, while we were there, because it is San Diego and that is what you do there.  I am not particularly fond of the zoo, any zoo, but I have to say, if you are going to visit only one zoo, make it this one.  It was spectacular.

It was also incredibly crowded.  Ike was attached firmly to his leash when he wasn’t being carried or pushed in his stroller.  He was very thrilled about it.


There was every kind of animal you can imagine and a few that you probably can’t.  The exhibits are layed out in a most creative fashion.  My favorite was a cheetah cub and a puppy that shared a habitat because they had become friends as babies.  How sweet is that?

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They also had Koala bears, which I challenge anyone to take more than a 2 second look at and not melt a little inside.  Bonus.  There was a baby Koala!  Perched safely inside his mother’s lap, I couldn’t even see him for a while.


This is what Ike though of the Koalas.  Maybe the baby koala told him he was thirsty?


Here’a all the family taking in some warthogs.  Ike had their greeting down pat and they loved it.  Sort of looks like he is trying to hop in there and join his clan.

And Thomas? Oh he’s fine.  Really.  San Diego is a walking kind of city and a little adjustment to us city-folks.  Several people shared the use of the wheelchair throughout the day.


Checking out the giraffes.  Ike is not interested in giraffes in California or Atlanta apparently.


Ike waving hello to the Rhinoceros.  Well, the Rhinoceros’s butt.  Maybe he was saying Bye.  I don’t remember.

Here’s a picture of a donkey named Sophia.  Despite persistent pleas from Alencia and Karlos, she refused to turn around, thereby validating everyone’s nickname of “Ass!”.


Again, I cannot recommend this zoo enough.  It’s a little pricey, but totally worth it.  It’s HUGE though, so spring for the rental strollers or wheelchairs if you are so inclined because there is a ton of walking.  There are also assorted food/refreshment stands to keep you strength up.  We bypassed the enormous elephant habitat to refuel at one of them.  Budget extra money for libations throughout the day, or pack your own if you’re into being thrifty and prepared (our family is not).


On the Road with Ike

How far we’ve come from the days when a 20 minute drive from our house to the doctor’s would send Ike and me both into a whirlwind of despair.  We seem to be on the go almost every weekend with extensive carseat time.

I owe most of our car-related stress relief to Raffi and other kids-centric music.  Ike’s latest craze? Old MacDonald or more affectionately known around our house…E-I-O?

We took a trip over to Birmingham this Friday to see my little cousin graduation with her Doctorate Degree in Nursing (very impressed is this lowly Bachelor’s degree holder by the way).  The trip was about 2 and half hours each way.  He slept most of the way home, but on the way there, I’m pretty sure we heard Old MacDonald at least 1,000 times.  Every time it ended we heard this from the back seat:




We played Old MacDonald from Raffi, from Dora, from Barney from EVERYONE!  Over and over and over. But I guess that’s better than hysterical screams from the backseat for two hours.


Here is Ike and me with the beautiful smart graduate, who is also getting married this fall.  What a year right?!  We are so proud.  This is about 30 minutes before Ike had a world class melt down and I was more or less shamed out of PF Changs, but let’s remember the good times shall we?


Prague, Czech Republic: the High Points

Truthfully, I spent most of my week in Prague inside of the Hilton hotel; in meetings, in symposiums, in hospitality suites.  In, in, in, in!  But on Thursday the conference ended around lunch and I was free for the afternoon with a flight first thing Friday morning.  I had to get out, out, out in a hurry!

I had about 5 hours time to visit/experience the important things in Prague. I did my best.

1. Took a boat tour ($12US).  The Vltava river flows directly through the city of Prague and many beautifully ancient bridges cross it.  The boat tour picked up about two blocks form my hotel. The tour provided a beautiful view of the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, and the metronome that marks the former location of the Stalin statue (imploded in 1962).



2. Caught the tram to Old Town Prague ($1US).  We took the tram just on the other side of our hotel into Prague’s “Old Town”.  I think it’s funny that this particular area has been deemed “old” because with the exception of a few modern buildings here and there the whole city is pretty old.  We saw the astronomical clock, the colorful Jewish Synagogue, a handful of torture museums (dude!), the State Opera, and an authentic Czech outdoor market (where I bought Ike an authentic handmade slingshot, $2US).



3. Ate Czech Beef Goulash ($14US).  I was told shortly after arriving in Prague that I’ve not had proper goulash until I had Czech Goulash, so obviously I had to make that happen.  And, after 5 days of nonstop Americanized hotel food (very good Americanized hotel food mind you) I was ready to have some authentic cuisine.  At the recommendation of a co-workers wife who had spent the week sightseeing while we were in meetings, we ate at a small, halfway underground restaurant/pub.  The goulash was AMAZING.  If you’ve never tried it, you should go to Prague and get some immediately.




Happy Goulash Girl right here.  By the way, Goulash is a traditionally Hungarian dish of stewed beef and vegetables seasoned with sweet paprika.  Mine was served with super savory potato cakes.

4. Shop for some crystal.  ($0US, if you don’t count the noncrystal souvenirs I picked out for the kids in the crystal shopping district). I didn’t know before I arrived, but Czech produced crystal is some of the finest in the world.  And buying it from a place as inexpensive as Prague makes it a very budget friendly shopping item.  There were endless shops selling crystal vases, glasses, jewelry and more along the streets in Old Town and downtown Prague.  If I had an extra day there, I would have spent some time trying to replace the various wine glasses that I’ve broken over the years.

While I would have loved to have more time to explore Prague, I feel content in seeing the major landmarks, and of course trying out the local food-fare.  I hope to go back again someday, the city is beautiful and the people are very nice and friendly and generally helpful.


More Birthdays

We went back to New Orleans a few weeks ago to celebrate Miss Savanna’s SIXTH birthday!  My oldest niece is now SIX YEARS OLD!  She’s quite a sassy young lady too!  I haven’t seen my nieces and nephews in way too long.  It was good to hang out with them.




Baby Selena was not super happy to meet her cousin Ike.


She wasn’t super happy to meet anyone that wasn’t her mommy or daddy though.

We left early Saturday morning.  This fly guy here…


Is becoming a very experienced traveler.

My dad put out a huge spread for us Saturday night after the birthday party.


My uncles and cousins came over, we opened some wine (a lot of wine) and we had a great time.

Are these not two peas in a pod?


While we were there Ike’s god-family visited on their spring break.  I’m not sure who was happiest to see who.  All of us, to see all of us, I think.  But especially these two.


We went to the aquarium.


We took a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar.



Then we walked about 12 blocks looking for change so we could ride back.

I always miss the city when we have to leave.  All the pretty colors, the homes and buildings all have such unique personalities.




Of course we had to stop for beignets while we were there.


Keep a Young Toddler Busy on an Airplane

We kind of fly a lot.  Probably not as much as some people. but probably more than the average people.  Ike definitely travels more than the average one year old.  Typically we are fortunate enough to be given a middle seat between two strangers who just love little kids.  They NEVER ask to be reseated when they see us coming.  Never.  Ike and I make it our mission to change their minds about traveling with adjacent to kids.  In order to be successful in such an endeavor we have to have some tools.

Our “Tools for Success”

  • Toys – Small toys, since the carry-on diaper bag will probably be packed with extra necessities, like all the milks, all the diapers, a ton of wipes for any and every spill that may happen, snacks, a change of clothes, etc.  The toys should also be somewhat quiet, so as not to disrupt our such welcoming neighbors.  A toy set with a ton of pieces is probably a no no, since they will inevitably end up in the seats in front of and behind you.  Our favs: soft books, toy phones (turned off), one or two Little People (Ike loves the super hero ones).
  • Food – pack them lots of snacks!  Puffs, crackers, bananas, string cheese, cereal bars, whatever travels best for you.  Sometimes the chaos of parking the car, getting the bus, checking the bags, passing security, etc can take longer than expected.  While we may be able to hold off for a meal, a toddler definately can not, and they do not hesitate to let you know it.  Pack lots of snacks.
  • Things already on the Plane – Part of what makes a kid so squirmy is the fact that they are in a new environment that begs to be explored.  Let them.  Within reason of course.
    • Those magazines in the back of every seat that say “take one, free”? Take it.  Let him tear it to shreds try to keep the shreds in your own seat), keeps them busy for at least 10-20 minutes.  Ignore the eye rolling when you hand over the ball of paper to the flight attendant (they said “ANYTHING you wish to discard”).
    • The tray table – figuring out whether to push, pull, turn, twist to get it to fall is a source of entertainment as well.
    • The window shade (if you are fortunate to have one) makes for an excellent game of peek a boo.IMG_9673
      ep that’s the straw from my drink, we were playing seal.
    • Ask for an extra cup when the complimentary drink service begins, the fact that it isn’t a toy and isn’t given to them by a parent makes a huge difference.  A nice, pretty, blond, flight attendant could give my son garbage and he’d treat it like treasure because he is a giant flirty ham.
  •  Hand Games – Itsy Bitsy Spider, Patty Cake, Where is Thumbkin?  Any, all, and over and over again.  These are particularly effective during landing when the patience of everyone is wearing thin.
  • ScreenTime – I saved this one for last, because I know that screen time is a Big Bad Wolf for children under two, but, desperate times.  When all else fails get out the ipad or smartphone.  We have a few Baby First shows and two or three apps for emergencies or when we’ve run out of all our other distractions.

Or you can always hold out hope that this will happen.

Asleep in the most uncomfortable position. 

There are two main times on an aircraft where a toddler needs to be kept busy.

1. Taxi/Takeoff/Landing where the child needs to be seated and relatively still.  I usually distract with food, milk, a sippy cup, my phone during this time.

2. Cruising where we are afforded a little bit more freedom.  I let Ike down and he is happy to play on the floor for a while, and work on unpacking the diaper bag.  Sometimes we take an exciting walk to the lavatory to change his diaper.


How do you keep your kids busy on long flights or road trips?


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Runaway Bay

My husband requested that we celebrate his birthday with a family vacation this year.  His birthday is January 15th, so it usually falls near the MLK holiday.   This lends pretty well to quick getaways.

There is a resort that was recommended to me through a mother’s group recently, and it has been on my mind since hearing it several months back.  The resort is called Franklyn D Resorts and it is located in Runaway Bay, Jamaica.  We booked it about a week out and I was weary when they told me that I had to pay the full stay up front without any cancellation (no cancellation is generally no good for a nonrev traveller).  I booked it anyway and there ended up being somewhat of a comedy of errors in getting there and back.   But we all made it, both ways.

Back to the resort.  It was better than I could have imagined.  Is it new? Modern? Luxurious? No.  What it is, is homey, cozy, welcoming, and perfectly comfortable.  It’s not huge, but it’s also not cramped.


We had a two bedroom suite which gave us an enormous amount of space to spread out.   All the rooms have a beautiful balcony to enjoy ocean noises and gorgeous sunsets.

There were three restaurants, all of which are open air, and also one grill near the pool that served food in between the main three meals.  There’s one bar, but there was never a long wait.   The food was delicious.  Nothing super fancy, but everything traditionally Jamaican.  Jerk Chicken, Patties, Broiled Oxtail, fried plantains, fresh caught fish, OMG!  The restaurants weren’t huge, but they were attended very well.  There was a hostess to greet us at each, even the poolside grill, there was a person to get us drinks from the bar, and there were waiters and bussers to keep everything moving.


The beach was beautiful.  A bit small, but sunny, calm, and clear.  They had towels and chairs that we could use as well as snorkeling gear (I passed because EW fish!) and some nonmotorized water activities.



But the best, most spectacular part of this tiny little slice of Jamaican heaven?  The Vacation Nanny.  Um yes, that is a real thing!  A VACATION NANNY! A person who let’s you (the parent) enjoy the vacation.  It’s amazing.  Every resort everywhere should do this!  No they shouldn’t.  Because I love FDR and I want to go there every year.





Our vacation nanny was Shavalenne, which I am sure I have mangled both in spelling and pronunciation.  But she was great, superb,  the best thing ever.  Ike just loved her, he lit up when she arrived in the morning.  She let him pretty much lead, and she followed and did whatever tickled his fancy.  But she was also firm and made sure that he didn’t get himself hurt; no eating peoples shoes, or launching himself into the pool, etc.

I’m not sure if we can give this credit to Shavalenne, but since we got to Jamaica Ike’s been a champion eater.  He’s a big eater, generally, sometimes, like when he feels like it, no more than once or twice a week.  But we’ve been home for a week now and he’s eating me out of house and home!  Whenever he felt like it, he and the nanny would belly up to the grill and get a bite to eat.  This was in addition to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner that we at with Ike.   I probably just jinxed the whole thing and Ike will refuse to even sit in his highchair tomorrow.

We went, we ate, we lounged on the beach, we enjoyed each other’s company.  We did Jamaica and we loved it.  I cannot wait to go back.  FDR is going to become a regular destination for us.




Mommy had a Tantrum

…and got a mani/pedi.  Everything is fine now.

I’ve been feeling a little bit stressed lately.  About almost everything I guess.  I didn’t realize how stressed until the exhaustion kicked in though.  Long story short, there was a little melt down.

We traveled to visit Grandma this weekend.  The flight to South Bend was delayed several hours Friday night, so we elected to go to Midway instead.  That flight was wide open and everything was going along splendidly, except Ike was not sitting in the giant honking carseat I had Isaac lug through the airport.  Then I remembered that in my infinite wisdom I had put Ike’s and my coats in the checked bag so we wouldn’t have to carry them through the airport.  The checked bag that was currently en route to South Bend, as we were beginning our decent into Chicago!  Where “the current local temperature is” 15 BELOW ZERO!  Again I must praise my mothering skills here.

Anyway, we made it without any baby frost bite.  Isaac and I even got to sleep in on Saturday morning while Ike got all caught up with Grandma and his best friend Jetta (the dog).  Then we were going to go out with some of Isaac’s friends to watch one of the playoff games, when I noticed that Ike’s little fake cough was starting to sound awfully real.  We stayed in, got a pizza and were pretty much up all night with a very pissed off baby.  We went to urgent care first thing Sunday morning.  Ike’s sick, with RSV again.  I’m worried, as well I should be as his mother.   The doctor was much more relaxed about it at urgent care, he prescribed an oral steroid and told us not to worry.  He said to give him steam baths and honey for his cough and wait it out basically.  I’m very grateful for his coolness.

On top of the sick baby and the blatant motherly ineptness, we met with a realtor last week and the whole “we need to move thing” became very real.  He wants to come to our house to evaluate it’s resale potential.  Our house!? Wait, a stranger is coming to our house?  We have to hid the crap!  Wait, this stranger knows where people hide their crap and would like to see those areas too?! And have them professionally photographed!?   (steam literally escaping ears as eyes spin around in my head).  We have too much stuff.  None of it has a proper home.  Most of it probably doesn’t need a home so much as it needs an extra large garbage can (or donation site).  I don’t even know where to start.  I still feel a bit overwhelmed thinking about cleaning out this house.  I’m going to stop rambling on about it now.  I’ll work on a plan.  Tomorrow.

With the realtor obviously came a mortgage broker.  I was feeling pretty comfortable with our price range for a new home.  Until I said it out loud.  To a person who now has access to all of our deepest, darker, financial secrets.  Crap.

All of this to say, I sort of blew a gasket.  I was all “oh my god I cannot get anything right, I’m failing at everything, someone save me from myself, no just leave me, save yourselves!”  Isaac suggested that maybe I take the afternoon to go do something for me.  Maybe I let him handle Ike, and dinner, and some of the daily clutter.  Maybe he has a point.

So I got my nails done.  I feel much better now.  Plus I got to take a power nap in the massage chair.

Rather looks like someone’s tried to put lipstick on a pig wouldn’t you say?  It’s an improvement at any rate.  Plus the nap was awesome.


And Ike and Daddy?  They were home doing boy stuff and cooking me delicious shrimp tacos!


I love them.  But I was very glad to have a break to get my head together.  I’m ready deal with the clutter and the house hunting.  Anything’s possible with pretty finger and toes!