Beach Vacation in Mexico (with Baby!)

It’s summer here in the Midwest and the recent unseasonably hot temps has me reminiscing about our first vacation destination with our kiddo, a beach town in Mexico. My husband and I hate the cold, so each (childless) winter, we took a trip south of the U.S. We skipped traveling the winter I was pregnant – and suffered through one of the coldest Illinois winters – so we had to ditch the Midwest the winter after our son was born.

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One of my coveted to-go cups

We decided not to go farther than Mexico and settled on Guayabitos, a small town a couple hours north along the coast from Puerto Vallarta that we had previously visited on a day trip. Our hotel was less than a block from the beach and right on the main avenue near plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, a laundromat, taxi stand, and the town plaza where there are often shows on the weekends.

Guayabitos has become popular among Canadian retirees during winter. It’s smaller and more relaxed than Cancún and Puerto Vallarta, but it has touristy perks such as English menus and toilet paper in restaurant bathrooms. (Are you wondering what kind of places we usually travel to?) The town is very safe with increasing “American” style amenities. A rare downside to a hotel near the beach: the fish truck. Each morning it drove up and down the streets blaring a “PESCADOS Y MARISCOS…” recording through a giant speaker, on repeat, starting at 6 a.m. (This didn’t bother our 10 month old at all.) You also never know when there might be a previously unknown celebration that culminates in a 10 p.m. bike race.

Our “must have” for traveling: a baby carrier. This was a must for easy maneuvering through the airport and the town we stayed in. We didn’t bring a stroller and sure didn’t miss it, especially after watching multiple families try to navigate strollers around the narrow sidewalks. We also didn’t have to worry about checking a stroller at the airport. I’ve become a bit of a babywearing nerd and have multiple types of carriers, but you can usually find reasonably priced mei tai or buckle-style carriers at big box stores if you’re just starting out. Most carriers don’t have any metal on them and I was able to go through security (at O’Hare and in Mexico) without having to take baby out of the carrier.

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Poolside in the kiddy pool

A “must have” honorable mention goes to a kiddy pool. We bought this in Guayabitos for pennies, and it served as a tub for bathing (our hotel only had a shower) as well as fun kid containment while we lounged poolside.

Something I wish I’d brought, but didn’t: a travel coffee mug! We had mugs in our room, but nothing with a lid! My husband scoffed at my dilemma, but coffee-loving parents will relate. I ended up getting coffee at the local OXXO (convenience store) then washed and re-used the same two plastic to-go cups the whole trip.

For the Beach
Besides the obvious bathing suit, swim diaper, sunblock, and hat, I’d also recommend one of those quick dry/rashguard shirts. We just put our son in old t-shirts, but it was a little messy since we couldn’t easily brush the sand off his shirt once it got wet. In town we also bought an umbrella, beach mat, and some plastic beach toys. They were all pretty cheap, and if we wanted to recoup some of that money, we could have sold them off before we left, but instead just gave them away.

Travel Activities
Before we left I bought a couple new cheap dollar store toys and stuck them and some other toys in an empty puffs container. Taking things out (and dropping them on the floor) and putting them back in (and dropping them back on the floor) occupied the kiddo for a good chunk of the trip. That, a couple books, and a variety of snacks got us through the plane ride and subsequent bus trip.

Plane Take-off and Landing
On our initial flight our son happened to nurse to sleep before we left and stayed asleep through take-off. I gave him a sippy cup of water for the descent and he didn’t even seem to notice the pressure change. He did a combination of nursing/water drinking on the return trip.

Our (amazingly) only plane issue was on the return flight when he was too overstimulated to fall asleep, even after nursing. I should have stood up and bounced him to sleep in the carrier (this worked until about 18 months when we’d travel by train), but I was too afraid of blocking the aisle or being told to sit down. So instead, there was about 20 minutes of fussing and fitful nursing before he finally zonked out.

I’m not being paid by anyone to promote the hotel we stayed at, but I’ll post some links in case you want to check it out. It’s not an all-inclusive if that’s what you’re looking for, but a great, family-friendly hotel within easy walking distance of anything you’d need. You can check the place out yourself at the Bungalows Maria Teresa Facebook page and for booking: Bungalows Maria Teresa, Rincón de Guayabitos, Mexico.

Overcoming a Pregnancy Loss

Early pregnancy loss, or miscarriage, occurs in about 10-25% of pregnancies according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Pregnancy Association. That’s handy to know, but besides this and some other basic information on a few reputable sites, I had a hard time turning those numbers into information that would help me when I learned my pregnancy had ended early. I wanted to hear from women who’d experienced this: How far along were they when they found out? How long did it take them to have the miscarriage? For those who had a D&C, how was the procedure and recovery? There is much on coping with pregnancy loss and miscarriage, but for me coping would involve learning about what I could expect my body to go through.

I did eventually get answers through a local Facebook moms’ chat group, but I would have preferred to not yet have to share what had happened with people I knew in real life. I’ll share briefly here how this sad time played out for me in case someone going through the same things is wondering.

A few months ago we went in for an ultrasound, presumably a couple months into our second pregnancy. (This is after a successful first pregnancy.) While my husband and I can almost chuckle about it now, the ultrasound tech was so obviously awkward that we knew something was up. After measuring in complete silence, she hurriedly told us that she didn’t see a heartbeat and walked out of the room. The few minutes between that and when we saw the doctor were the worst.

The OB laid it out: the baby measured 8 1/2 weeks and did not have a heartbeat. A spontaneous abortion had occurred. At this point we didn’t have to do anything. We could leave and not come back until after my body had expelled the fetal “tissue.” The doctor also explained what a D&C is and said I could schedule one right then. Or, we could come back in a week for another ultrasound. We opted to come back in a week, even though there wasn’t much hope a second ultrasound would show anything different. Unless the tech’s (many) measurements were at least 3 weeks off and the baby was much younger than we thought, a heartbeat should have been visible. At this point I wasn’t considering a D&C.

A week later the ultrasound showed that the baby still didn’t have a heartbeat and had shrunk in size. Since I expected the baby to measure at least 9 1/2 weeks at the first ultrasound, I figured that by this point the baby had been inside me for 2 weeks without a heartbeat. Knowing that was pretty disturbing. I looked around online, and, finding little, finally asked some local moms how long it took them to have the miscarriage after they learned their pregnancies weren’t viable. For most, it all happened before the first ultrasound. For the few that learned then, the miscarriage happened anywhere from a few days to three and a half weeks after. (Three and a half weeks?!) By the second ultrasound my morning sickness had finally dissipated, but I was still urinating frequently, was getting bad headaches (but at least I could take Excedrin again!) and my stomach felt and looked (if only to me) pregnant. The constant reminder that I felt pregnant but wouldn’t be having a baby was wearing on me, emotionally and physically. I scheduled a D&C for a week later.

The procedure was easy. We were in the hospital maybe 4 hours total. We arrived 2 hours before, the D&C lasted 20-30 minutes, and we left about an hour after I woke up. I did heed the doctor’s instructions to take it easy for two days, but exactly 48 hours later I was able to get back into working out. It seems silly to say now, but I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was finally over, and I could begin moving past it.

Trashy or Cultured? Baby Out Late

It’s 8 p.m. on a Thursday, the first night of a local jazz festival, and I’m out at the bar, diggin’ the music… with my baby. Yep, with my baby. Trashy? Maybe. Considering I live in a small town (and there were no other babies or young kids out) I’m a little surprised that I didn’t get more criticism than just a couple of the expected, “Ha ha, you brought a baby to a bar,” comments, but folks were generally glad to see my kiddo out.

I understand many young and school-aged children have an early bedtime which makes parents hesitant to take them out late. But even so, parents disrupt kids’ sleep to get them up early in the morning for school, church, sports, etc. Why is messing with the nighttime sleep routine so frowned upon? Or maybe it’s not as much as I think it is, but I rarely see young kids out of the house after 8 p.m.

When our son was first born, I read Mei-Ling Hopgood’s How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and Everywhere in Between). The section on Argentine parenting – which pointed out that children often stay out late with their parents at family gatherings and restaurants – was no surprise since my husband I witnessed this phenomenon on our South American and Mexican travels. We saw kids out late all the time. They were totally fine, even the kids in the (somewhat official-looking) parade biking up down a main thoroughfare at 10 p.m. one night in Mexico.

So when it was time for my town’s annual jazz festival, I knew I’d be taking my one year old to some of the evening events. He loves music, plus, his Dad is a musician and I knew the kiddo would get a kick out of seeing his Dad on stage. And he did. He had a great time, loved interacting with the people, seeing the instruments up close, and wasn’t in bed too much later than usual.

The next time you’re wondering to take, or not to take, children out late somewhere, consider the Argentine perspective. I might not be ready for late night children’s bike parades, but will definitely continue to take my kiddo to live concerts, even some late night ones in bars.

Parenting is done differently around the globe and various practices will probably serve as fodder for future posts, but if I’ve piqued your interest in Hopgood’s book you can catch more highlights in this NPR story and this Cracked.com piece. Read the whole book if you have time!

(Also, I definitely just decided to plug the book and links on my own since it’s a topic I’m interested in. No way am I fancy enough (yet?!) to have people approaching me to do reviews.)

Train Travel with Baby

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Wearing baby to board

The small town I live in happens to have an Amtrak depot and for trips to Chicago (where my parents live), nothing beats the train. My son just turned one and has been taking the train with me since he was a couple months old – about half a dozen trips – and we just got back from our most recent. It’s a 3 hour ride each way, and usually just the two of us.

What We Bring
The most important thing I bring on any trip is a baby carrier. I don’t think I could manage getting a stroller on and off the train by myself so I always wear my son. It also helps for moving around the train too, as I can strap him in and still have my hands free to steady myself if the train gets jerky. On one trip when he was little, I stood in the back and bounced him to sleep in a Moby wrap (and still had hands free to catch myself when the train jerked). Plus, yep, I wear him when I use the restroom.

I usually take a carry-on sized suitcase and one backpack. I stow the suitcase and keep the backpack which I’ve stocked with changing supplies (except the awful time I forgot to pack diapers), nursing cover or scarf, entertainment for baby, and water and snacks for me.

The "random things" I brought on our train trip: old wallet with plastic-y cards, small kitchen funnel, plastic lidded container (old bullion cube jar) with colored contact lens case, stickers, and a long strip of cloth.
The “random things” I brought along on our most recent trip: old wallet, small silicone kitchen funnel, plastic lidded container with more random things inside, stickers, and a strip of cloth.

I take a mix of toys, books, and random things I think my son will be interested in. Now that he’s eating solids, I also bring snacks for him and I put some baby apps on my devices *just in case.* I try to set aside the toys and books a week in advance so they’re fresh on travel day. The “random things” probably entertain him more than anything. He’s really into containers with lids now and stickers are always a good diversion. (Stick them on baby’s hands, clothes, or the container itself.)

Keeping Bud entertained was simpler when he was younger and slept most of the trip, but now as long as I can keep him busy he’s content. As he’s gotten older he’s also gotten more social and making friends on the trip passes some time too. He likes looking out the window when we’re going through towns and we can move to the lounge car or dining car (outside of meal times) when he needs a change of scenery or if the train is packed and we don’t have double seats to ourselves.

Where to Change Baby’s Diaper
In the bathrooms there is some counter-like space next to the toilet that’s almost even with the top of the lid, so when he was smaller I put my changing pad on that and hoped he didn’t touch too much! I have also placed a large garbage bag under my changing pad on the toilet area, and even on the floor when the toilet area looked too gross. Some cars have a “dressing room,” which isn’t roomy enough for an adult to actually dress in, but has counter space that’s just the right size to change a small baby on.

Now that my baby is getting older I hate to use the bathroom because he tries to touch everything. There is a lot of open space in the front and back of certain cars and on this most recent trip I just put our changing pad on the carpeted floor. On the long-haul routes there is also enough room on the floor between seats if you have a set to yourself. I also did the world’s quickest change right on the seat once when he woke up from a nap just as we were approaching Chicago.

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Looking out the train car window

Tips
Even if your car looks crowded, don’t be afraid to ask if other cars have more space. On this most recent trip, we were in a packed car (next to someone taking up more than their half of the seat and floor space too, the nerve!) and I assumed the whole train was full, only to find out an hour later on our walk to the lounge car that there were a ton of double seats open in other passenger cars.

Nursing while sitting right next to a stranger stinks, but if you’re breastfeeding you gotta do what you gotta do. Ask to switch to the aisle if you think it’ll help. Or, if baby can hold out until after an employee scans your ticket, just move to the lounge or dining car. If there’s no room anywhere, you can always nurse in the bathroom.

Pack diapers! (And wipes and a change of clothes.) This seems so obvious, but on our first trip I, the then-rookie-traveler, somehow managed not to put any diapers in our bag for our return trip, and of course baby had a blow-out. I did have plenty of wipes and also happened to have a pad and some disposable nursing pads so I got creative. It was as horrible as you’re imagining it to be, but we made it.

Don’t worry if baby gets fussy. While my kiddo usually does well, he gets fussy if he’s hungry or too over-stimulated to fall asleep for a nap. It’s only recently that I’ve started to take my own advice, but try to not to worry about what other passengers think. I’ve heard people talk on their phones or play video games louder than my baby fusses, plus, the train itself is pretty loud and drowns out some baby noise.

For us, train travel definitely beats car travel with an infant. If you get tickets in advance, the prices beat gas costs and children under 2 ride free with an adult. Except for just a few instances, I usually see Amtrak employees go out of their way to be accommodating to families, seating them together and giving extra extra space when it’s available. At Union Station there is a separate boarding area for people traveling with young kids and I’ve loved the perk of not having to wait in ridiculously long boarding lines.

Do you want to travel by train with your baby, but are afraid go it alone? Have you done any long-distance train traveling with younger children? I’d love to hear from you. Happy travels!

My Hate-Hate Relationship with Cooking

I’ve never particularly enjoyed cooking and had no delusions that I’d suddenly be Martha Stewart once I became a stay-at-home mom. But I did expect it to become an easy part of our daily routine. As a SAHM, I figure my priorities are to keep the baby alive and make the house not look like goats trampled through it. Adding, “make dinner,” to that nearly-empty to-do list should be easy. I was wrong. My aversion to this domestic art has only intensified as I try to meet my lofty goal of producing one edible family meal a day. Here’s why cooking and I don’t mix.

1. I stink at it. I burn frozen pizzas, my boxed brownie mixes repeatedly end up raw in the middle and crusty around edges, and at thirty-two years old I have yet to properly hard boil an egg. Not even the “How to Make the Perfect ____” tutorials seem to be able to help me.

2. I get no joy from it. None. Chopping vegetables makes my wrist sore, I hate wondering if meat is the right temperature (because of #1, I also seem to be incapable of properly using a meat thermometer), and I’d rather be at the dentist’s office than just standing there waiting for something to boil. (Yes, I have to just stand there. I’ve tried multi-tasking and it always ends badly.) Add to that the gray hairs I get while keeping the kiddo out from underfoot while carrying something hot, sharp, or opening the oven. Even when a rare meal turns out, I’m just glad to be done and wonder where my whole evening went because…

Smiling only because it's a picture.
Smiling only because it’s a picture and only making pie because someone gave us a bunch of peaches that I didn’t want to waste

3. Cooking seems to take for.ev.er. First, double the estimated prep time listed on a recipe because they’re a lie. And I rarely cook kiddo-free anyway, so that adds time. When the boy senses I’m actually trying to get something done, he immediately goes from being my self-entertaining cherub to a leg-clinging whiner. Constantly pulling him off my leg or shooing him away from danger (or the garbage can, because he likes to get into that too) adds significantly to the prep time. We’re usually eating by 8. And all that time just to make the mess. It doesn’t even include clean-up tasks like…

4. The dishes. One skillet, a large saucepan, serving bowl- whoa, I already can’t fit just those on one rack of the dishwasher. And that’s if I can even use the dishwasher. Did I empty it after the last time I used it? (That’s tougher than it sounds since my 11 month old is like Pavlov’s dogs to the sound of me unlatching and lowering the dishwasher door so he can try to climb on it or grab something sharp from it.) Is the item dishwasher safe? Ridiculously, not everything is. Oh, and I just read here that it’s healthier to do dishes by hand anyway. Hello even more clean-up and another kid-related thing to worry about.

5. It’s expensive! We all know healthy food isn’t cheap, but come on. Frozen pre-pitted cooking cherries from a local grocery cost $9.99, but I can get a whole ready-made cherry pie for $7.99. By the time I’ve made (what loosely resembles) a cherry pie I’m down $2, a couple of hours, and my pride. Plus, dishes. I could buy cheaper ingredients, but if I’m just going to get canned, processed foods anyway, why cook at all?

I do keep trying though. I have about 3 meals I can make without ruining and those get rotated in often. And I try a lot of slow cooker recipes that sometimes work out. My kiddo is still young, but I like our family meals, even when the baby’s food turns out better than ours.

I may get a C for execution, but with an A for effort, I’m still a “pretty good” wif.

(Wondering why I’m missing the “e” in wife? Read the story behind the blog name here.)

Why I Haven’t “Lost” Myself in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom

I knew from early pregnancy that I was going to resign from my job to stay home with our new baby. Since we could swing it income-wise, I knew having mommy with him all day would be best. Sure I considered whether I’d feel guilty not contributing to the family income, or whether I’d get bored not having an out-of-home job, but what better way to contribute to our family than raising our child up right? Right?

I plan to go back to work at some point – or at least do something besides be with baby all day – when the time is right. Like when he (and any future kiddos) are old enough to go to school. Just months into my new mom gig though, I started hearing, “Are you ready to go back to work yet?” “Aren’t you bored?” “What do you do all day?” I didn’t expect others to assume my stay-at-homeness would be so short-lived. Of course there were folks who applauded my decision, but all the questioners got me questioning. Should I find something at least part-time? Why am I not bored? I do do a lot of just sitting around in my pajamas. (I really do. But my “work” day never ends, so I’d be silly not take advantage of the perks when I can.)

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On a fall walk around one of our farms.

Maybe I should feel flattered that folks think I’m ambitious enough to raise a baby and work too, but I continue to be put off by the fact that staying home with kids still isn’t considered ambitious, or “enough,” or takes away the from the “me”-ness of the mom who decides to. I definitely have less time for certain pre-baby hobbies, but I’ve also incorporated baby into some of them (jogging, just with a stroller), and have new ones (babywearing, this blog!). And really, anything he enjoys, I like watching (or hearing) him enjoy. I certainly haven’t lost any of myself; my interests and priorities have simply evolved, just as they did over time in my pre-baby life. And as for what I do all day? Well, probably much of the same things a day care provider or babysitter would, except that I get to witness all the moments I’d otherwise miss. And all that is way more fun than work so, no, I’m definitely not ready to go back yet.

So I haven’t lost any part of me, but I have added “mother” as the biggest aspect of my self-identify (as I imagine many out-of-home working mothers have as well). The evolving me is mostly mother now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As long as my number one priority is raising my little boy, I’ll embrace that identity and love being “Mom.”