Curacao Part One: The Island

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Curacao is not what I had expected. I am not saying that in an entirely negative way, there are things that I have enjoyed and things that I wish I had known before coming here. Not much is written about this diverse and colorful island for the indie traveler. And that is why I write this blog, to not only keep in touch with all my family and friends throughout the world, but also to help fellow travelers along their journey.

There is not much written on Curacao as a vacation destination unless you are staying on a resort. Curacao is the largest island of the Dutch Antilles or the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). The islands were originally “discovered” by the Spanish (there was a group of natives called the Arawaks that were here first) in the 1500’s and by 1815 belonged to the Dutch. The Dutch settled the island and started plantations, and the port of Willemstad became a stopping point for ships from all countries on their way to deliver their wares. You can still see this with all the many cruise ships (one or two a day) that stop here to drop off their guests on land for the day.

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Cruise Ship in Willemstad Harbor

When we decided to go make this the first out of the USA stop on our long journey, it was because we were looking for beautiful beaches, good food, frosty drinks, and just an all around relaxing time. Also I love to be tan (yes, I do still use sunscreen, don’t worry) and wanted a fresh tan before we ventured on to Europe.

We felt there were three different choices for us: Curacao, Costa Rica, and Belize. Chad We looked at all the information available both online and in book form (I know, kicking it old school!). Our main desire was for beaches that were clean and accessible, where I could sunbathe and Chad and Zoë could swim and play in the water. I, of course, also looked into the food of the region, the shopping and other amenities (do you really want to see how long my underarm hair gets if I can’t get it waxed-not pretty to say the least).

We decided on Curacao, the beaches looked beautiful and easy to get to, the amenities and shopping all seemed good, as it looked like a resort-y sort of island. Belize was out because everything we read said their beaches weren’t really conducive to sunbathing or swimming. And Costa Rica was out because Chad had been there before and wanted to see somewhere new, and because the beach towns take buses to get to from the airport, and we just weren’t ready to put Zoë through long bus trips quite yet.

So we arrived at the tiny airport terminal in Curacao (finally! see my last post for story on flights) and were greeted by a taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it, it was very exciting, I felt like royalty. I know, it’s almost sad how easy it can be to make me excited. Our new landlord had arranged for a taxi for us. It was great, cost about $35 US dollars and gave us a chance to look around the island a little bit on our way to Willemstad, the capital city of Curacao, and the place we would be staying for the next couple weeks. I was enamored with the quaint little dutch colonial houses in all their bright colors, and was surprised to see, on the more inland area of Willemstad, huge oil refineries, with tall smoke stacks and oil tankers sitting in the bay. They don’t show you that in the tourism sites. It was visible but not too close to the main part of town though and was easy to forget about unless you were driving right past them.

We booked a house through airbnb.com, a two bedroom, one bathroom house with a full kitchen and a back yard area that looked, well…simply tropical. The house, owned by a local husband and wife team, was everything and more than we had imagined! Huge really, and clean and well stocked with linens and kitchen utensils. It had air-conditioning (only to be used through the night) and fans to keep us from getting too spoiled and to feel like real locals. And all of this for under $70 a night, I felt like we had won the lottery.

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Zoë Checking Out Our New Place

After arriving to the house from the airport, getting settled in and trying to get used to the heat, 86 degrees and about 80% humidity-not bad really but it does take some adjusting, we decided to find something to eat. Lucille, the lady renting us the house, told us about all the “American” food places in the area, including McDonalds, (insert very sarcastic hooray here) when we got to the house. We decided to try the old Applebee’s that was now called “Larry’s”  right down the street from our new home, and it turned out to be just that, an Applebee’s. Not exactly the most exciting food, but not the worst either. This was the first time that we noticed that the prices of food here are relatively the same as the prices in northern California, about $10-15 a person, plus drinks.

THE FOOD

Photo Taken by Chad R. Mitchell

Zoë Enjoying Some Stewed Fish at the Old Market            Photo Taken by Chad

(Are you surprised that I started with the food? I feel so predictable…oh well. )

I had thought from what I had read, that the food was going to be creole food, not one of my favorites, but something new and different so I was excited. This turned out to be hard to find. Local food for us foreigners is only easily available in the Old Market in the Punda area of Willemstad. Old Market is where locals and tourists can eat alike (although the tourists are charged much more, about $11 a plate). I fell in love with the stewed goat and stewed fish platters that included beans and rice, and savory plantains. Best food I have had on the island, hands down. There are many restaurants and eateries along the beaches and in town that offer other food, mostly Dutch, Chinese, or American dishes though. There are also a ton of rib places, one of them two doors down from our house, called The Rib Factory which we were very pleased to find out does have delicious ribs, tex-mex dishes, sides and cocktails.

Just a side note, there are many other restaurants that I have seen in the more locals areas, but for a tourist, there are not many that are accessible. So all in all, the food has been rather disappointing and expensive. Luckily we have our own kitchen, so we have been making most of our breakfasts and lunches at home. Which brings me to my next topic…shopping.

THE SHOPPING

There is much shopping to do here, and for someone just coming for a vacation and heading back home, it would be fun. But for us, who us continuing on after this and already have 75 pounds of luggage to handle, shopping is not really smart or feasible.

There is a huge contrast in shopping here, next door to the United Colors of Benetton store is a mom and pop shop filled with cheap souvenirs and bottles of every color of curacao liqueur known to man for sale. There is a Victorias Secret and the next block over is a shop selling lingerie with Victoria Secret Bags in the window, so I guess we will think that store is the real Victorias Secret (I saw through their clever ruse though). They seem to all buy their souvenir wears from the same manufacturer so you could pretty much go into any store and find the same knick knacks and post cards. The clothing stores look like they have some cute clothing actually (in normal sizes even) so if I was here on vacation I probably would have done some clothes shopping.

Pretty much, the only type of shopping I have done while here, is grocery shopping. I know, even on a tropical island, I lead a very routine exciting life. We have a supermarket a block away from our house here, called Best Buy, which I have grown to dislike immensely. It’s a large, dark warehouse that smells a little like rotting meat. They have all the normal wares (although I stopped buying their produce because it was always rotten inside when I got home) and it was convenient and buying food to make is much cheaper than eating out every meal. Every time I would go into the store though, the ladies that work there were so rude (I think it was because they don’t speak English and maybe were nervous?) that I gave up. I stopped shopping at their mildly disgusting fine establishment and now make Chad drive me to a supermarket about 15 minutes away in a suburb of Willemstad.

And that is a good segue to my next topic…

TRANSPORTATION

I truly love to use public transportation as much as possible. Wait… let me rephrase that- I truly love to use public transportation as much as possible, except in California (most people I know would agree with me, California’s public transportation is severely lacking). In every other country I have visited, the buses, trains, subways, etc. were a great way to get where you were going while rubbing elbows (sometimes literally) with the locals and seeing parts of a place that you probably wouldn’t unless someone else was driving you.

I also love to walk (city walk that is, I’m definitely not a hiker), in fact my mother and I used to walk miles around our town just to get some exercise and visit. This is why I thought that we should be able to walk everywhere from our house in Curacao. The landlord had said in her description of the house we were subletting, that the beach was 10 minutes away, and so Chad and I decided that we would walk to the closest beach our second day here. Well, she must have meant by car, because it took much longer than 10 minutes.

We were pushing Zoë in a city stroller, not an off-road stroller, and it was very hot outside. I love heat, but direct sunlight while walking on pavement mixed with the exhaust from cars passing by, make for an uncomfortable walk. Not only that, but there were no sidewalks and pushing the stroller with a 26 pound toddler and all of our bags, made for a difficult slow pace. We kept thinking the beach was just over the next hill and pressed on. The whole time I was worried that Zoë, now sound asleep, was going to get sunburnt and be miserable so I kept reapplying sunscreen to her exposed knees (we had a light blanket shading the rest of her) and praying that the beach was close. About an hour later, we arrived at a resort called the Lions Dive and Beach Resort and stole our way onto their beach after having a snack at their beachfront restaurant, Hemingway’s. We finally were able to go in the beautiful aquamarine water! All three of us had a great time!

When it was time for us to leave the stolen beach, we quickly decided to take a taxi anywhere else we were going that day. Lucky for us there was a taxi stand about a 10 minute walk from the resort. Taxi’s here on the island do not have meters, they all give a set price for the place you want to go, for example, from Lions Dive Resort to downtown Willemstad (Punda) was $15 US (you can use either Dutch Guilders or US dollars for everything here, the conversion is 1.75 Guilders= $1) and there is no negotiation on the prices. After walking around Punda for a bit, we decided that we would need to rent a car. It was a tough decision because we really didn’t want to spend another big chunk of money, but figured that after using taxis every day, we would be spending around the same amount. Our house was not in walking range of any beaches, such a bummer. My advice, look at the map closely when choosing a place to stay, don’t take the owners word for it.

We rented a car from a car rental agency down the street from our house, Boric Car Rental. We were able to negotiate the price with the helpful gentleman there and left the parking lot with a very small economy car that suited our needs perfectly. (For those with children needing car seats, most car rental agencies will rent them to you.)

Only after we rented the car, did we notice all the signs on the side of the road saying “Bushalte”. They were everywhere and we learned they were the bus stops. We could have taken a cheap bus around the island…oops. On the bright side, we were now able to explore the island on our own terms and hopefully find some amazing beaches, which we did! I want to devote a whole article to the beaches that we have visited here, there is just too much to write about in this one. So stay tuned for next weeks post!

LODGING

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Our Place in Curacao

We rented a roomy house off of airbnb.com that we love, although the location is a bit out of the way. There were other houses nearer the beach (I assume) that were far more expensive. We chose this one for the size and price. We are quite happy with the house itself and love the people renting it to us (you can see where we stayed by clicking here). There are many resorts on the island that have beach fronts and seemed much more expensive when we were planning this part of our trip. I now realize that we probably would have spent near the same amount money if we had just stayed on a resort, after having to rent a car and paying to get on beaches and such.

 FINAL THOUGHTS

So what are my thoughts on making Curacao a stop on your round the world trip? They are simply this: If you choose to come here, don’t try to be an indie traveler. Buy in, stay at a resort, and relax on a beach right outside your door. The island has some things to see outside of a resort, but there is not much in the way of cultural spots for a tourist to see that you can’t get to from a resort.

Also, make sure that your budget reflects that the prices here are similar, or sometimes more (they sell 7 ounce beers in restaurants here for $5!!!!) than they are in the some of the more expensive areas of the US.

All-in-all, I am happy that we have experienced the island of Curacao, mostly so that I can now share the information with all of you fellow travelers. And why not see every part of this amazing Earth we live on?

Stay tuned for next weeks post “Willemstad, Curacao Part Two-The Beaches!” You will want this information if you choose to come to Curacao!

Freaky Flights

We have been so blessed in so many ways so far this trip, except when it comes to our flights. We have flown 5 times in the last two weeks, and 3 out of those five have had something go amiss either during or before the flight. I have chalked it up to God testing our gumption to making this trip the best it can be and teaching me to trust Him and have been trying to find the silver lining in each situation. I know, for those of you that know me well, try not to faint, I have had a positive attitude! Well mostly anyways…

We left our hometown two Sundays ago, jumping on a quick flight to Los Angeles (LAX) at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am. We were then forced to land in San Jose because something was wrong with the nose wheel (not exactly what the pilot said but close enough). As the whole plane full of people crowded off the plane to get in line to rebook their flight, I decided it would be fantastic time to put Zoë in the stroller and because of this we were dead last. Yes, Chad and I and our tired and confused perfectly behaved and patient 21 month old daughter were forced to stand in line for an hour to rebook our flight. Then when we got to the desk to transfer our flight, we waited for another hour at the counter while our airline had to figure out the payment of our new flight. At last we were given the very last seats on a full Southwest flight two hours later. On a positive note, they did give us enough vouchers for a free breakfast and Peets coffee drinks (which made me very happy, it is almost like they knew I love to eat!).

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(The first photo of us on the plane to Disneyland. Photo Taken by Jenny)

Finally we made it to LAX, just a mere eternity four hours after our original flight was supposed to arrive. But we were glad we arrived safely and headed to Disneyland right away, which made every thing all better.

Disneyland was amazing all three days we went, both of my wonderful sisters came with us for one of the days and it was so special for Zoë to have time with her aunties and for me. It was a perfect send-off. Disneyland was not crowded at all really, the ride lines were all pretty short and the weather was amazing. It was a great start to our travels. I would definitely recommend going the second week of April folks, it was perfect!

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(Zoë with Auntie Nicole and Auntie Lisa at Disneyland. Photo Taken by Jennifer Mitchell)

Three days after our lovely time in San Jose (see I am being positive!), we had a marvelous flight from LAX to Austin, Texas. Zoë, as it turns out, is a champion flyer. She had a great time watching the “boo” (blue) sky out the windows and playing with me and Chad. She probably loves it because we have no choice but to sit and entertain her, lucky girl.

Austin, Texas is a vibrant city alive with things to do and see (I know it sounds cliché, but its true!). There is outdoor seating at almost every restaurant/bar (Chad made sure to comment on this a million several times a day), great shopping (any town with an H &M has my heart), and an awesome park, named Zilker Park, that Zoë enjoyed immensely (I’m sure that they have other parks, this one was just the closest to where we were staying). If we ever do come back to live in the good ole’ USA, this is a place I would definitely love to try out.

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(Austin, Texas Capitol Building. Photo Taken by Jenny)

After too few days (four days to be exact, I could have used another week really) in Austin, we left for our second awesome flight going first to Dallas then to Miami as our final destination for the day. The flight to Dallas was on time, not full and Zoë fell asleep in my lap as soon as we sat down. This is the first time that she has ever fallen asleep without some sort of cuddling or nursing, I was happy and thankful to say the least! She slept the whole way and even through the Dallas airport for a bit after we landed. What a great daughter I have! (Sorry about that, proud mommy moment.)

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(Chad and Zoë boarding the plane. Photo Taken by Jenny 

From there we were transferring to another flight in two hours headed to Miami. We settled in and had some crappy food at TGI Fridays in the airport and waited for our time to board. We finished eating and headed to our departure gate, somewhat lackadaisically because it was close by and we had a little time before we were to board . When we arrived at the gate, we realized that the gate had changed and boarding was already starting. (For anyone that has taken young infants and/or children on planes, you know that it is imperative that you get in line and board before all the other coach passengers, so you can get settled before the mad rush of business people and other people unencumbered by little ones.) So we ran to the gate (which was 23 gates away) and got there just in time (see…more positivity)! We boarded and were finally on our way to Miami. The flight was late in arriving, but we were in the balmy warm rain of the southernmost tip of America safely and I was happy with that.

When we finally arrived in our budget motel which was a good half an hour away from the airport, we decided just to relax, let Zoë run around the room a little and not do any sight seeing in Miami. Traveling days are hard and we really just planned on staying in Miami to break up the flights on our way to Curacao. Plus, the hotel that we chose seemed to be in one of the bad less touristy neighborhoods, and so we decided to just stay put for the night and head to the airport for our flight to curacao without really checking anything out.

We woke up the next day feeling rested and ready to go. I was so excited to be in Curacao relaxing on the beach, and also to be done with flying and airports for the next two weeks. I felt that we were becoming pro’s at travel and flying, I mean, Zoë was so great on all the flights, Chad and I had gone through many flight delays and problems without wanting to run back home and this was the last one for a bit. This plane ride would be a cinch. What is that saying again… oh yeah… pride comes before a fall.

We arrived at the Miami airport two and a half hours before we were to board. When we entered the airport it was chaos, and not structured chaos either. There were crowds of people, that I think were supposed to be lines, everywhere. I just figured it was a busy day, but when we went to the international check in area, we were told that the American Airlines computer system was down and would possibly be down all day. The self-serve kiosks were still working though and we were told to check in there. So we waited in line (Zoë was sleeping in her stroller peacefully, thank God!) and we attempted to check in. Since we were checking in with a lap infant, we could not use the kiosks, we were told to speak to a service attendant and when we did, the helpful woman told us that most likely we would not be able to get on our flight today, but to go stand in an extremely long line and hope that there was something that could be done. We went and we waited, patiently even, while Zoë continued to sleep and we researched what was happening using our phones. (How did we ever get along without smart phones? The American Airlines employees couldn’t give us any information, but our handy iPhones could)

April 16th must have been an incredibly expensive day for American Airlines, their whole system was down, from coast-to-coast. Stories were being told via the airlines Twitter and Facebook page about cancelled flights and people having to wait in a plane for over two hours only to have to disembark and wait for another flight. These stories reminded me that I should be thankful that we were still in the airport. Even though we were in a line the length of the Great Wall of China (that’s only a slight exaggeration), we were able to take turns and get food and coffee freely, and Zoë woke up and was able to walk around and play with us while we waited in line.

After waiting in line for over an hour (and having them move our line to the end of another very long line), their systems came back on, and we finally got up to the front! The whole time waiting, Chad and I were thanking God that we were not on a sitting plane and hoping that we would still make our flight. The really cranky helpful employee that called us up to her desk informed us that our flight had been cancelled and that she was getting us the last room available in the area and then would rebook our flight. We were put on stand-by for the next days flight and were given vouchers for a nearby Comfort Inn and dinner and lunch (by the way, American Airlines- $24 for dinner and $14 for breakfast for three people is almost impossible these days). I was bummed, I had so been looking forward to the beach, but I was so thankful that we got a free room and food. I heard later that many people had to sleep in the airport because they ran out of rooms to rent. That would have been horrible!

That night I called American Airlines and spoke with a wonderful guy named Cory, who informed me that the earliest flight that I could definitely get tickets for would be in two days, but that he would keep an eye on the schedule for the flight we were on stand-by for. If two seats opened up he would book them for us and give me a call and let me know.

Since we had one more day in Miami, we decided to splurge and take a taxi to South Beach and check it out. It was only 4 o’clock and we had plenty of sun left to enjoy it.

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(Chad and Zoë love the beach in Miami. Photo Taken by Jenny)

And enjoy it we did! The beach is beautiful and clean and the water was warm and pretty calm. Zoë fell in love with what she called the “puddle” and didn’t want to leave the water, but my hunger finally won and we walked around looking for a place to have a snack and a drink. We found outdoor seating at Bellini’s Italian Bistro and sat down to have an $8 cheese pizza and two-for-one cocktails. Just a side note here, we realized that it is very important to ask how much cocktails are when ordering, because these 2-for-1 cocktails cost $25 a piece! Granted they were equivalent to the size of 4 regular drinks, but still…

It turned out to be a great time, we talked to the host for quite some time who was really nice and told us all about how it is to live in Miami. It was fun to talk to a local and learn about what to see and do, we assumed that we wouldn’t be getting a flight for another day so were thinking on what we wanted to see. We left around 9 pm to go back to the hotel and get Zoë to bed and repack for our wait in the airport the next day for our stand-by flight. As soon as we got back into our room, I got a phone call from Cory at American and he said that he had booked us tickets on the 11:40 am flight the next day and we were all set to go! What a blessing and a surprise, God always provides!

The next day we packed up our stuff and headed to the airport. What a difference a day makes! We waited about 20 minutes in line, got our boarding passes and even got to go thru the handicapped line for the security checkpoint because we had a stroller. We got through security in about 10 minutes, it was amazing. The flight was slightly delayed, but after the previous days drama that was nothing.

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(The view from the plane on the way to Curacao. Photo Taken by Jenny)

Now we are in sunny, windy, humid and colorful Curacao. I am so excited to be here and plan on writing a full description of this interesting island next week.

Thankfully we have made it through all the trials so far and now can rest. God is good and I am thankful that we are safe and that all of the flight issues have been mostly administrative and not safety issues. Please pray for us that our flight to Portugal in a week and a half will go off without a hitch (that will be a 19 hour trip with 3 connections). Until then I am going to put airplanes and airports and anything else to do with that out of my mind and enjoy my lobsteresque sunburn burgeoning tan and time with my little family. Til next week family and friends! Feel free to leave a comment as it is a great way of asking questions or keeping in touch since we are technically phone-less now.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

The Happiest Place on Earth

Chad and I love all things Disney. We love Disneyland. We love Disney movies (well most of them anyways, can anyone really say that they loved Pocahontas?). I even love that Disney has bought the rights to Star Wars, because I personally think that they can improve it (I know Chad is cringing at that one). One of my personal life goals is to visit all the Disney parks.

I would love to be able to say that this healthy obsession began when I had my daughter and that I loved seeing the look of joy in her eyes as she looked at Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. It is true, I love watching Zoës face light up when we walk into Disneyland, but Chad and I had annual passes long before she was even a thought in our minds. Our favorite weekend get-away was aptly known as the “Happiest Place on Earth” and we visited it often.

We knew that Zoë would love Disney as well, I mean it’s in our genetic makeup, how could she not! We began brainwashing introduced her to Disneyland at the tender age of three weeks old. Just this week we started off our world travel with one last time (well at least for this year) enjoying the wonderful world of Disney.

This was Zoës sixth time at Disneyland, and there are many parents out there that think that we are crazy. I have heard some of the arguments, such as, taking a child before they are old enough to remember the trip is a waste of money, or it will be too difficult to keep track of them. The way I feel about that, is that you are making memories for yourself having special time with your child, even if they cannot remember it, you will, and that happy experience with you impacts them. As far as having difficulty keeping track of your little one, I feel it’s no different than taking a child to a crowded shopping center, except for the fact that Disneyland has amazing security and a child has never been taken from Disneyland ever. Thats right folks, in 57 years, not one child has gone missing from the park. This gives me a sense of security (but that doesn’t mean that I just let Zoë run around all over, I pay close attention to her and make sure that she doesn’t stray out of my sight).

There are things that infants and children can do at Disneyland no matter what age they are, and that parents can enjoy too. I want to share our experiences with you and maybe you too will want to take your little one to our favorite place.

3 WEEKS OLD

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 (Zoë and Grandma Mitchell. Photo Taken by Chad)

At this age, babies are just eating, sleeping and pooping, which makes this age very easy in my opinion. Zoë couldn’t even hold up her own head but was able to ride all of the Fantasyland rides, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Winnie the Pooh (near Splash Mountain), the train, Small World, the Submarines, Roger Rabbit, and the Haunted Mansion. She was also able to go on the Little Mermaid ride, Monsters, Inc. and the Bugs Land ride in California Adventure. She, of course, was too young to really enjoy it, but I was! (New moms want to have fun too).

A great part of the Disney parks, that many people don’t know about are the Baby Centers. These rooms (one in Disneyland and one in California Adventure) have a nursing area, diaper changing tables and tiny toilets for potty-trained toddlers. They are air-conditioned (or heated in the cold months) and are comfortable and private. I spent a lot of time in these rooms this first time.

8 MONTHS, 10 MONTHS, and 13 MONTHS OLD

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 (Zoë and Nana McKeever. Photo Taken by Jenny)

I am lumping these trips together because these ages are not hugely different, at least as far as taking them to a Disney park. There was not much change in the rides that Zoë could go on in either park from 3 weeks to 8, 10, or 13 months old, but there was a huge change in the amount that she observed and reacted to. She was moving around more (she started walking at 9 ½ months) and was pointing to things that she wanted to see. I loved watching her and seeing what she would react to. I loved hearing her squeal and laugh and use the words she could say to describe what she was experiencing. I used the Baby Centers all the time but enjoyed the time away from the crowds for a bit. At these ages she was grabbing everything and putting everything in her mouth, so I had to be hyper-diligent in making sure she didn’t pick up any thing off the ground and to sanitize her hands often, besides that it was pretty easy going.

 16 MONTHS OLD

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(Zoë Playing in Donald Ducks House. Photo Taken By Chad)

Zoë had a growth spurt at this age. She was finally 32 inches tall and had graduated to more big girl rides. She was able to drive the cars in Autopia in Disneyland and ride on the new Cars Land – Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in California Adventure. Mater was her first real ‘”roller coaster” type of ride. It was very exciting! Tom Sawyer’s Island, now called the Pirate’s Lair, was especially fun for Zoë at this age. It was perfect for her new running and climbing capabilities. She loved running around and tumbling in the dirt, and we loved it because it wore her out and she was willing to stay in her stroller longer. There is nothing better than a happy and exhausted toddler.

A side note, Zoë finally started to notice the characters walking around and was scared to death of them. We had to watch them from afar.

22 MONTHS OLD

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(Photos Taken By  Auntie Lisa, Jenny, and Disney Cast Member)

As everyone knows the closer that a child gets to two years old, the more difficult it can be to take them places. There is a reason the twos are called terrible. It can be exhausting and frustrating taking care of a little person who is asserting their personality, desires and emotions, mostly without words. There are tantrums, disobedience, and many moments of fun as well. This age is not all bad. It is such an honor to see how this little person that you made is becoming who they are. Disneyland is a great opportunity to explore your almost 2 year old’s growing use of words and the way they deal with their new and confusing emotions.Tantrums are inevitable, but the bribery options at a Disney park are so much easier and more accessible.

I digress. Now back to the great things about taking a 22 month old to Disney parks. Disneyland has many options for toddlers to play and run around, Pirate’s Lair, the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and the Bugs Land water parks are great for your toddler to cool down and tire themselves out. The Bugs Life show, Muppet 3D show, and especially the Disney Junior – Live on Stage were favorites for our almost 2 year old. She wasn’t able to ride any new rides, as she has not reached 35 inches yet, but that is okay because this time she understood and participated with the rides she could go on. We realized that she loves to cry “WHEEE” as we go down the drops in rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, which was so cute!

This time Zoë noticed and loved seeing the characters, even so much as to give Mickey Mouse a high five and a hug. It was great! This was by far the most fun we have had with her, not just with her around.

Disneyland is still my favorite theme park to go to and will always be. I hope that Zoë will share in our love for it and find it fun and fascinating. Besides teaching her to love travel and new places, I hope that she will also love and cherish the ones that she has been to a hundred times.

Have you taken your little ones to the Happiest Place on Earth? What do you think was helpful or good for you and your infant or child?

5 Ways to Make Your Move Easier

Now that we are officially on the road and have been living out of our suitcases for the past 6 days, I have some hindsight on things I would do differently next time around. Hopefully this post will save you some pain and suffering if you decide to move or travel to a foreign country.

  1. Give Yourself Time

This is something that Chad and I both thought we were doing right, but it turns out we were a bit too lackadaisical with. We gave ourselves 5 months to plan this trip. We planned our first four flights. We decided on types of baggage, travel insurance, and took care of all the paperwork needed for our trip. We felt that we had everything under control, the things on our to-do lists were getting checked off. Its not until a move is almost over that you realize that there is a ton of stuff that lies beneath the surface waiting to reveal itself when you least have time for it.

Chad worked until the Friday before our move on the following Sunday. We had our going away party on Saturday and so Sunday had to complete all that was left (which ended up being a lot more than I thought) with massively bad hangovers, both emotional and physical hangovers. I can say that it was an unpleasant experience and the lesson that I have taken away from this trying experience is to give yourself enough time when planning a move such as this. One and a half days was not enough time for us. Make sure to give notice at your place of employment at least one week before your planned departure date from your home. Figure out what amount of time you think you will need and add a week. This gives you time to get all those little surprise tasks out of the way without making you a walking talking stress ball.

  1. Pack Your Bags Numerous Times

This morning I realized that I have no shampoo/conditioner, no body wash and no hair goop. I have not had a chance to go buy some either. Because we did not give ourselves enough time (see how I tied that all in?) to do everything and double check our bags, I look like the crazy cat lady in the Simpsons. It’s hard enough living out of a suitcase without the added embarrassment of people crossing the street so as not to walk past the crazy looking traveler. Check your bags many times before your last day at home and then check it once more before you leave for good.

  1. Work Together

    Chad and I are a good team. We are able to communicate and discuss things that need to be done and then do them. What we should have taken advantage of though, is working with others. There were many people that offered their help to us, whether it was to move heavy furniture, or play with Zoë while we packed boxes. We didn’t want to impose on anyone and we tend to shy away from letting others help us. We are a bit too self-sufficient sometimes and I think that that was to our detriment, we should have utilized the offered help and lowered our stress levels.

  2. Exercise More

    I know this may seem a bit weird, but to someone who enjoys eating as much as I do, the possibility of gaining weight while traveling is high. Like red alert high. I wish that I would have gotten into an exercise routine (even just doing a few sit-ups everyday) before we moved because once one is on the road, routines get harder and harder to make and hold onto.

    We have stayed with my parents for three days and are currently staying with Chads’ parents and the amount of good food that they have made for us is both awesome and scary at the same time. I have to be very careful to watch the amount that I eat because I want to be able to fit into all those lovely clothes that I packed for the whole trip. I really wish I would have exercised.

  3. Say Good-bye Only Once

    This last one is probably the most important one to me. I felt that it was imperative that we take some time to stay with family before we head out on our adventure. I thought that it would give us quality time to visit and make memories with our extended family. And indeed it has been a great time of bonding with both sides of the family, especially for Zoë, who is completely attached to her Nana and Grandpa, and Grandma and Grandpa. She also probably loves the fact that she has been spoiled rotten this week. It will take many weeks to repair the damage of her being completely doted on for the past week.

    That’s not the only reason that I think that this week long good-bye is too long. It is way too emotional for me. Between wanting to cry all the time and pulling away from my family and getting cranky so as not to cry, it makes for a stressful situation sometimes.

    I love our family, but for my own emotional well-being, I know that if I were to do this again, I would have a going-away dinner (or maybe a whole day) with them and then say good-bye and leave. This would also save me from having to retrain my daughter in every way imaginable (okay maybe that’s a little exaggeration), not that I don’t love that fact that Zoë is special to her grandparents. She is one lucky girl and I am happy that her grandparents want to give her everything.

I am sure, absolutely sure actually, that there will be many more things along the way on our journey that I will look back and want to change. I know that I will be making more lists like this, it is inevitable, we learn from our mistakes. I accept that challenge, I will learn from my mistakes and hope that I can help you learn from my mistakes too. Now it’s your turn to share, what are some things that you wish you could have changed about the way you left your home and/or family behind?