Monday, September 23, 2013

Hazardous Television

This was originally posted on Sept 22, 2006 on my knitting blog.  I'm just moving posts over here so that my knitting blog is really a KNITTING blog :)

Is anyone else annoyed with "Bringing Home Baby" and "Baby Story" on TLC?
They should come with a disclaimer: "Following any/all of the parenting activities in this episode might put your baby in danger and play havoc with their health".
My big pet peeve: car seat safety. I know 8 out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly. But if you watch "Bringing Home Baby" you might see more than 8 out of 10. For the past two days, both episodes showed the infant car seat in wrong for the trip home from the hospital. Primarily, they left the handle up. Don't people read the instruction books? What about the stickers that are right there, ON the car seat: "The handle must be in the DOWN position when used in a vehicle" or "The arrow must point this way when used in a vehicle" and if it's that way, the handle is down. On Wednesday, the mother was sitting RIGHT beside her baby in the backseat. Didn't she wonder what all the different stickers say? The handle was UP. The scary thing is....this mother is a lawyer! DOH! I also see chest clips too low, babies in snowsuits or swaddled under the straps, and convertible seats facing the rear that are not reclined enough. Argh.

But my BIGGEST pet peeve....the bottle feeding! The new episodes show a baby being bottlefed in the opening title sequence. So you see it in every episode. The statistics are now that just over 70% of newborns are breastfed. Bottle feeding is not only the un-normal, but also the uncommon, way to feed an infant. So why is it portrayed on TV as the "normal" way to feed? 

 So often the 'excuses' the mothers give are lame, indicating a lack of education or dedication: "My milk hasn't come in" (no one's milk has come in by day 2), "He's got a bit of jaundice" (giving a bottle of bovine breastmilk isn't the cure--more nursing or bili blankets work better), "Daddy wants to feed him too" (if Daddy works full time, how many feedings does that mean he can actually do? Out of 10 feedings, he might be around for 4---mainly middle of the night--not the greatest bonding time. Ever heard of a breast pump?). "It's not easy to breastfeed" (but it's not easy having kids with allergies, ear infections, asthma, diabetes, lower IQ, and cancer---and don't forget the increased chances of SIDS). Not to mention the increased cancer risks and other health issues to mom by bottle feeding.

There is no substitution for human milk. Formula (bovine breast milk, essentially) is more suited to feeding orphaned cows than it is for feeding human babies. Formula is so not the optional food for babies, that the World Health Organization lists it as the fourth option. It is better to have donated human milk than to use formula. There are human milk banks opening up in many places and mothers are willing to pay huge amounts to feed their babies with the food that the baby's body is designed to consume. There are Yahoo groups for women with milk to share, and parents looking for human milk. There are mothers that induce lactation to feed their adopted baby, or in one case I know--she induced lactation after nine years (that's years, not a typo) for her ex partner's newborn. Now that's love!

Now, I know there are some women who are going to cry "I tried, but it wasn't easy" or "I have to work" or "He didn't take to it" or "Bottles are more convenient". Those that get the most defensive about their position are usually suffering from hidden guilt. Having guilt means that you know, deep down, that you didn't do the right thing; make enough of an effort. Guilt is different from regret or remorse.  You may feel regret that you didn't breastfeed, but not guilty.  And that's fine!  If you have that defensiveness/guilt and have any more children, then that guilt might be a good thing actually. If you really tried--consulted LCs, BF clinics, books, videos, used pumps, herbs, prescription medication, etc--and it still wasn't successful, then you shouldn't have any guilt (but unfortunately too many mothers have guilt about everything). For an awesome article on guilt and breastfeeding, check out 'Rev Jan's' website.  However, we must keep in mind that each mom's level of "tried everything" is different.  You can't try everything if you don't know about something.  Making a mom feel bad because she didn't know about More Milk cookies, isn't helpful.  Yes, even with the internet, a mom may not learn everything, nor be comfortable with trying everything, nor even have access (or support) to try everything.  My "everything" may not be your "everything"....but is there a minimal "everything" that all moms should try?

My personal opinion, through 7 years of research and practice: Newborns under 6 weeks should only receive formula if there is a medical issue. Infants under six months should only receive formula under the guidance of a doctor. Free samples of formula at hospitals should be banned (some hospitals have made great gains in this area). Nestle and Enfamil (and any other company that has infractions) should be held accountable for breaking the WHO Breastfeeding protocol that they signed. Currently there is no punishment if a formula company signs and then does what they please anyway! Every workplace should have 'pumping rooms' like at Starbucks' head office. Doctors should go over the 100 reasons to breastfeed with a pregnant mom before delivery. The US program WIC (Women, Infants & Children) should not provide formula for babies under 2 months and should increase their support of breastfeeding. Over half of the formula sold in the United States is through the WIC program. Guess who pays for WIC? Taxpayers of course. New research into the "virgin gut" indicates that babies should have only breastmilk for the first 6 months, and that even powdered formula is not a good option because it's not sterile.  Formula should go back to being the emergency food it was originally intended for.  Our want of convenience is causing a health crisis.

The 70%+ breastfeeding rate is better than it was 20 years ago. But it should be higher, to match the number of women that can actually breastfeed, not just the ones that 'want' to breastfeed. However, much improvement needs to be made in sustaining this number over the first 6 months. It is currently recommend that babies receive nothing but human milk for the first 6 months, but only about 17% of babies are still breastfed at 6 months. That's lousy. Even my LC was surprised when I said I 'only' made it to 9 months with my first two. She thought it was awesome; I was disappointed.

So, I guess I can't call myself a 'closet lactivist' now, LOL.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lucy in the Sky with Scissors

Originally posted on my knitting blog, August 30, 2006
This is the Jane of the Jungle bikini from www.knitty.com. I added a lot of short rows to get the bottom to cover the curvature of her behind, especially with a diaper on, LOL.
But take note of the beautiful long, curly, blonde hair. Oh so darling. A total pain to comb, but oh so cute!

I don't know how well you can see it...an interesting, asymmetrical shag...Lucy decided in Feb. to cut her own hair. While I was in the shower. Normally, Huey the Policeman would have come upstairs and yelled. I asked him why he didn't..."This is my favourite show and I didn't want to miss it". We were about to head out to meet Huey's occupational therapist, there was nothing I could do at that moment. We went later that day to get it 'evened out'. Sob.
 
For a long while we had been planning, and talking to Lucy about, to donate her hair to Locks of Love--a charity that makes wigs for kids with cancer. We kept saying, "After school starts", "After Christmas" "After New Year's".... It had just gotten long enough to donate, without looking like she'd cut all her hair off. I hadn't chosen a place/time to do it, but it WAS going to happen.
Until I walked into the basement and saw the heap of hair on the little table... I had to leave the room I was so upset. I called Rob at work even! After we got back from the OT, I collected a wavy section and taped it together, and bagged up the rest. She had cut it right down to the scalp underneath at the left back. The hairdresser was shocked, but the end result was cute. Unfortunately, dressed in Huey's hand-me-down winter coat, she looked like (and got called) a boy, a LOT. Then early in the summer, we went back to get it evened out some more, and she put too many layers. It's cute, but boyish. It was starting to grow out and we had finally done ponytails again.
 
 This was April 2006, about two months after the haircut.
June 2006, 4 months post hair cut.

Yesterday, Lucy made a paper crown and wanted to tape it to her head. But her hair was in the way. I trimmed her bangs, and around the face and thought that'd make her happy.


Nope. Not good enough. She got her kid scissors and scalped herself again! Right above one ear, underneath at least, but no cute ponytails for the first day of school next week :(

Spewey Huey!

Another post from my knitting blog.   This time I've deleted the knitting content for here, and deleted the family content for the knitting blog.  This was August 28 2006.

I had another great kid quote the other day. So great, I was going to log in and just post it. But life happened, and now I can't remember what it was.

Spent last week in Bancroft at my parents. Saw lots of tornado damage from earlier in the month. I had phoned my parents that night to tell them of the tornado warning. They had just come inside to have dinner, like I expected, and knew nothing of the warning. Five minutes later the lights went out, and shortly after a tornado came across their pond, split into two-one between the two houses and one on the far side of the other house. No property damage, but damage to the gardens. They said it was very loud!
 
We've been having trouble with the kids getting car sick. Indeed, Huey spewed as we were coming through the Holland Marsh, before getting on the 400, thankfully. I hate pulling over on highways. Any type of highway. No one was sick on the way home, but man...they were NOT getting along. Lucy started calling Huey a baby, and it got PHYSICAL! Over top of Megan in the middle! Megan was very cranky on the way home. It seemed like a long long trip, especially as the rain started as I got on Highway 11 at Orillia.

While up in B'croft, we went blackberry picking. Megan likes blackberries. She also likes beets. Both on the same day made for a very pretty diaper! Lucy ate the bowl of blackberries as Dad was showing me the hunt camp he's been working at building. I wish I had the camera. Her eyes were big, and there was purple smears all over her face!

Got home on Friday and found out on Sat. that Rob's dad was in the hospital with a major infection. So we zipped off to Oshawa, and I played in Alexandra Park with the kids while Rob went in, then we all went in for a few minutes.

Lucy wants a hair cut! I think she's learned not to cut her own hair now!

NINO Graduates!

I posted this on August 18, 2006 on my other blog, which at that time, was my only blog and covered all my life, not just knitting/crafting.  I'm moving posts to here in an attempt to clean up that blog and re-focus it on knitting :)
Not El Nino (although for Megan, it would be El Nina I think). Nine In, Nine Out. It's an organization/movement promoting a calm, baby-led transition from womb to world. Fuelled by the Attachment Parenting beliefs of Dr. Sears and The Happiest Baby on the Block guru, Dr. Harvey Karp, NINO is sort of the public side of attachment parenting (AP). Babywearing and breastfeeding are the two biggies. We flunked at co-sleeping.
Megan is now 9 months old. Although she is (mostly) an 'easy' baby, she is impatient. She (still) has reflux. She got 5 teeth in under two weeks. She nurses every two hours...at night only. It has been a very challenging 9 months. If she were my only baby, it wouldn't have been too bad. But she's the baby of the troop and the other soldiers want to commit a mutiny.

When you're young, say, in university, sleeplessness is no issue. Two weeks of exams and all nighters? No problem, you've got lots of time to sleep in. But the sleeplessness of a baby is different. This type of sleeplessness is so invasive to your daily life. My eyes hurt. I pour water in my mug...and see I forgot to put in the Nescafe Frothy mix first. I cook dinner and realize I forgot the veggies. I walk into things (more than usual), I can't add, or multiply (so important for knitting), and working the microwave suddenly needs a university degree.
Five hours of sleep may be enough when it happens all at once, but when it happens in 90 minute chunks, your body starts to complain. Despite not having grown (height wise) in over 20 years, growth hormones are still released while you sleep, to fix the miniscule muscle tears of daily living. But, these hormones are released during the deep sleep portion of the night, which cycles about every 90 minutes. Do I need to say more?
Then, after the 3rd or 4th time of getting up, you go into insomnia mode. Your body, so exhausted, has forgotton how to hit the off button and go to sleep. You lay there thinking "I've GOT to get to sleep" but your brain is thinking "What luck that Classic Merino IS the same dye lot as last year's purchase. Enough to make that basketweave sweater from IK a few years back...but you don't want to hand wash something like that and you have no gentle cycle on the washer in the new house and he won't wear a knit sweater anyway and you don't know any other man you'd handknit something like that for maybe a pair of socks but before you start more socks you've got to finish the ones you've already started and perhaps finish the alligator you started LAST Aug and what colour are you going to paint your toenails cause you can't go to your cousin's weddding looking like a momma of 3, one who only sleeps two hours at the most and are you going to make meatballs or meatloaf with that 2lb beef tube in the fridge oh there's no evap. milk for meatloaf so it's meatballs or a casserole but it's nice out so you should bbq but ground beef falls through the grill and do you think anyone would take the Blue Cheese Hamburgers if I offer them on Freecycle..."

How do you know if you've been successful at the NINO principles? Where' s the check list? Do we get a cap and gown? Obviously, we're still nursing, cause getting up to make bottles during the night sucks (making bottles at anytime, sucks). We've started having some bottles now that she's on 'real' food. There's no way I'd ever WANT to feed my babies bovine breastmilk (formula) as their primary source of nutrition. Last I checked, I gave birth to a human, so I fed her human milk. But since she's eating just about anything (including orange beads, tree leaves, and cherry stems), then I'm okay with some formula. But not soy! Oy! Banned in Britain, should be banned here. We're still babywearing....the collection of carriers has grown...with more in the planning stages. So convenient when we go out, great at home when she's cranky. When she was a newborn, I couldn't understand how parents could leave their awake babies laying in bassinettes, playpens, etc when they're not even old enough to hold a rattle. Sure, a few minutes in the bouncy chair (the most basic one, no toy bar even) here and there...but most of the time she was in her pouch, quietly observing the world within the safe confines of fleece. I swear it helped make her my most social child (any baby could be more social than Lucy was). We don't swaddle anymore, but still do the shushing noise and swaying. I've been swaying so long I don't know if it ever leaves your subconscious. You SEE a baby and start to sway.

One benefit of babywearing that I don't think NINO or Dr. Sears promotes is weight loss. At delivery, you instantly lose about 11-13 lbs of baby, placenta, and fluids. So that leaves another 10-15lbs of increased blood supply, edema, increased uterine muscle and pregnancy fluff. But...strap on a 7lb baby, and your body says "Oh, we suddenly weigh more. We've got to burn more calories!" A couple weeks later, you might have 8 lbs of pregnancy fluff to lose. You put the baby on, and suddenly you weigh 10lbs more and your body says "BURN those calories!". As the weeks go on, you might carry her a little less as she gets more adjusted to the world, so your body is surprised one morning when you strap on an extra 14lbs. You keep surprising your body with an increased weight load, even as your own body mass goes down. Add to that the need for perfect posture when picking things up while you babywear...squats galore! Lunge to the side instead of up and down! Step back and lunge! Feel the burn as you work that butt that usually just provides your cushion as you surf or nurse! Before you know it, you're at pre-pregnancy weight with great buns! But don't stop there....babywearing while exercising (or just babywearing FOR exercise) is fun, socializing, and incredibly effective!!

Has Megan adjusted calmly and favourably to the outside world? All I want is to curl up and not join the outside world for a few more months, LOL. But until I can knit while I sleep, I guess I'll get by somehow.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Health

Back in 2009, when we moved back to Whitby, I had a bit of a health crisis.  I probably wrote about it---the tooth infection that lead to the discovery of thyroid lumps, weight gain, blood pressure up, cholesterol up, etc.

Let me go back to the real beginning.  Long, long ago.

Growing up in the 70s, my mom was crunchy, granola-making, vitamin taker...my brother had troubles in school, so my mom was trying the Feingold diet and supplements with him.  I had a hard time swallowing pills, especially the stinky B one.  Used to hide them in the bench seat of our dinette.  Still can't stand the smell!  And the diet was horrid.  There weren't many options back then, except to do it yourself...there was no Wonder Invisible bread, LOL.

Then, in the early 80s, my little brother was born.  We were quite busy, there were more convenience foods, and the diet world was anti-fat.  When I was about 16, my dad had a heart attack and later, a quad bypass.  We started following the Heart & Stroke diet....low fat.  We didn't seem to get healthier.  I walked everywhere.  I ate low fat.  Yet, in my early 20s it was discovered that I had a poor cholesterol profile and slightly high blood pressure (though I was at an okay weight).  I was told to walk more (I was a poor student, walking everywhere while carrying a load!), eat less meat (I was a poor student, meat wasn't high on my priority list), and to eat low fat.  My weight continued to climb.  It plateaued in my mid-20s, and stayed there until 2009, though my blood pressure went up and my cholesterol kept rising (and I was on meds for both).  I just kept being told to lose weight, exercise more, eat low fat.

Spring of 2009, my weight started to climb.  We were going through a stressful time, selling our house, moving to a new city (back home).  Then the tooth infection hit, and an ultrasound showed lumps in my thyroid.  Slightly under the threshold for biopsy though.  My bloodwork was "normal", with no antibodies present.  My cholesterol was high (8.1 in the Canadian scale).  My blood pressure was high.  Meds weren't bringing either down.  I tried exercise programs.  I even gave the Ornish diet a try--very low fat, whole grains, very complicated recipes that no one really liked and left us unsatisfied and I tended to cheat.

Then, late in the summer of 2011, one of the Yahoo knitting groups I'm in started to talk about diet.  Someone who's life/health seemed similar to mine, mentioned being low carb, high fat.  How the heck could THAT be healthy?!  She recommended another group and some books for more info.

I joined the other Yahoo group and started learning, and questioning.  Grains/bread/pasta are bad?!  "But I eat "healthy" whole grains!"  well, actually, I ate a lot of white crap, LOL.  The Heart Association says to eat lots of grains (and back in the 80s, there wasn't a focus on whole grains).  The government tells you to eat low fat!  Eggs are evil!  Skim milk is the answer!  Jelly beans are great because they're fat free!!  I really thought these guys in the LCHF group were crazy and an isolated group of people.

But I kept an open mind.  I read, read, read.  Wow.  It really could be possible that eating all that pasta, bran flakes, whole wheat bread and fat-free candies, was affecting my health!!

I used to eat a measured bowl of bran flakes, with 10 chopped almonds, and a tablespoon of dried cranberries, for breakfast, at least 5 out of 7 days.  With 2% milk.  Lunch was a sandwich, usually on whole wheat, with lunch meat, cheese and lettuce.  Or, if with the kids, I'd have Kraft Dinner, soup, etc.  Dinner was a small piece of low fat meat, veggies, and a carb side--potato, noodles, rice, etc.

Switching to LCHF wasn't instant, quick, or easy.  I wasn't just making substitutes (skim milk instead of 2%, whole grain instead of white).  I was totally changing what I ate for most of my meals.  It was daunting.  I wasn't a fan of eggs.  I didn't like "cooking" breakfast or lunch.  Fatty foods made me gag.  I like sweet things.  My family certainly wouldn't change....I started with breakfast.  I had always wanted to get more protein in the morning, so I switched to eggs, bacon, sausage, or hot flax cereal, most mornings.  Lunch was hard.  I started making mini salads with some left over meat and cheese, or a bunless hot dog, or protein shakes.  Dinners were pretty easy, I just didn't eat the carb side, which made the kids happy as there was more for them.

As I was getting started with these changes, I went on that cruise.  I thought it would be tough, but it was a great way to really get into LCHF.  I could have eggs, bacon AND sausage for breakfast (and yes, I still had a couple home fries or hash browns!).  For lunch, we loved going to the gourmet salad bar.  Dinner was pretty easy too.  The hard part was the dinner dessert and the little treats at the cafe.  What was so motivating was how I felt.  Usually, I needed to eat every two hours or I turn into a witch.  Really.  But with these high protein, low carb breakfasts, I did not need a morning snack, and often I wasn't yet hungry for lunch!  Meanwhile, Rob, still eating a high volume, high carb breakfast, would need a a snack before lunch!  And then after lunch he wanted a nap.  I came home with no weight gain, and he had trouble buttoning his jeans :)

I threw myself into learning more as my weight quickly dropped off.  By the time I was Christmas shopping, I kept getting light-headed and feeling like I would pass out.  I took my blood pressure frequently, and the readings were quite low!!  I had to stop my med cold turkey.  My follow up blood work showed my cholesterol levels/ratios had greatly improved---without meds!  This was the first time ever that my LDL had gone down!  My GERD was gone.  I was sleeping well.  My joints weren't stiff in the morning, and I rarely had the acute neck and hip pain I used to have.  I was a LCHF convert by 3 months.

Rather than take the time to list a bunch of resources (since barely anyone reads this LOL), if you have a question, let me know and I'll tell you what to check out.  The best site to start would be "the Diet Doctor", and read Gary Taubes' "Why We Get Fat".  Also, Dr William Davis' "Wheat Belly" is a fabulous book, except for his use of "calories", which after reading Taubes, you'll never use the word calorie again :) 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wacky Wednesday

I think I'm going to start a new theme for Wednesday.  Wacky Wednesday.  Cause I sure had a wacky moment earlier today.

I've been walking to my job as a lunch supervisor.  One stretch is along a major road, and goes through some green space behind a Catholic high school.  There is a creek through this green space, and I have sometimes encountered teens coming out of the bushes with interesting fragrances wafting behind them. 

Today, I was walking along this stretch, on the sidewalk, crossing over the creek.  Grooving along to Jann Arden, no one else in sight (except the traffic).  All of a sudden, I get accosted by the strong scent of pot!

Every time I cross this bridge, I think of the song from "Dora the Explorer":  "There's a grumpy old troll, living under the bridge...".  Not this time, LOL.  I don't think he could be grumpy today!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Where Were We?

I started writing about our cruise on Nov 1, 2011, with good intentions to get it written quickly and get back to regular blogging.  No such luck!  Here's a quick recap of the past (almost) two years:

Hugh's foot healed, though x-rays revealed a small bone chip on the outside of his right foot.  He said it hurt sometimes climbing his loft bed ladder.  We all have a fear of crossing busy streets, and we're all more cautious (especially in front of Wal-Mart).
 First day of school, 2012
 First day of school, 2013
 Second attempt at a good photo...

The kids had just started at a new school in 2011 as their previous school (where they had been for the two years after our move) closed.  We enjoy the new school, Captain Michael VandenBos PS.  It's named after Michael VandenBos, a pilot with the Canadian Snowbirds (the Air Force's acrobatic plane team).  He was killed in a routine training flight back in 98 or 99. I knew Michael in high school, so I feel a good connection with the school.  The kids have had great teachers, though it hasn't been all smooth sailing. 
Meg has really advanced in her figure skating.  She got moved from CanSkate 1 to CanSkate 2, where they really start "figure skating" early in 2013.  By the end of the season (May), she was moved up to StarSkate 1.  The spring "bonus" weeks, and casual summer lessons didn't get her much further ahead, but we're back at the rink twice a week now, and she's started working on her first test piece, the "Dutch Waltz".  Last week at the club sale/swap, we found her a used Zuca bag, which is what ALL skaters carry their gear in, as well as a club sweater, so now she really looks like a real skater too!

In Sept 2012 I started a business, "TracyKM Designs".  I make all sorts of things--photo props for newborn photographers, gifts, etc.  I sew, knit, and crochet.  I try to focus on thrifted, repurposed, or upcycled materials.  It's keeping me busy and gives me a little extra cash.  Check out my sites:  www.tracykmdesigns.weebly.com and www.facebook.com/tracykmdesigns
Last year I sewed a bunch of mittens which were sold in a boutique in Toronto, owned by Cherie, a friend from high school.  She didn't sell as many as I had hoped--it seemed most people wanted brighter ones than I had made; I had tried to stay fairly neutral and had had trouble finding bright sweaters (the picture shows some for the store and some I did as gifts).  I was hoping to spend this September making another pile for her, but I'm busy knitting orders!

 Reversible water bottle holders, headed to Arizona!
 A custom knit for a little baby who's mother's name is Hershi.
I was given an "inspiration" photo of a red and green hat, and the photographer wanted something more neutral.  I love this hat!


My parents moved into their "big" house, (they have two houses on their property, and had been living in the "small" house (above---it really is much bigger, but it did start out as small, most of it is at the back) while renting the big house. 


The tenant left, so they had a lot to do to fix it up.  It still needs work, since last summer my dad (and mom) spent Monday to Friday living in Kingston while Dad had cancer treatment.  He's doing fine now (though has some other health issues).  The big thing is, they both quit smoking, after 50 years!!  We have our own room upstairs, with ensuite.  All 5 of us can sleep there, or adults can sleep in another room if no one else is visiting.

For the past two summers, Rob's sister, Lou, has come to visit, bringing her daughter Nya.  This summer they brought Pawel, Lou's husband.  We had lots of fun being tourists.  Last year we went to Wonderland, Cedar Park, bowling, the kids had a sleepover...this year, we went to the CN Tower, Wonderland, Peterborough Zoo, splash pad, movie....but no sleep over LOL.  Someday when I have nothing to write about, I'll make a post, LOL.  Some pictures are on facebook; I'll add this summer's soon.

This summer, Rob's aunt and uncle from England came over and stayed with his parents.  Leon and Anne came to our wedding (1997), and again in 2007.  We didn't do a whole lot with them; we went to Canada Day at Cobourg Beach, but it was SOOO cold!  The kids went swimming, but no one else, LOL.

Summer 2012, I did a lot with the kids, taking them to beaches and splash pads because it was such a hot summer.  But this past summer zoomed by (it was one week shorter), and it rarely got hot!  Any day it was actually hot, one of the kids was either in day camp, or away, so I didn't want to do something and have one kid miss out.  Late August of 2012 I took the kids to Kingston for one night, to visit my parents, and we stayed in a hotel/motel!  The kids were so excited to stay in a motel for the first time. 



The one big thing we did this summer was go camping for the first time since 2008!  I will write about it in it's own post.

May 1, 2013 I started working as a lunch room supervisor at the kids' school.  I'm in the kindergarten rooms.  It's every other day, full day kindergarten.  On Tues/Thurs (and every other Friday) I had one classroom, but on the other days, I had two classrooms to supervise.  Then, one day, the EA (educational assistant) for a boy with autism wasn't there to feed him, and the vice-principal came in.  I guess she realized how crazy it was (I did have student helpers), because this year, there is a supervisor in each room (and it's both classrooms, every day this year).  The new JK kids are so young, LOL.

And, I guess we're up to date!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Allure of the Seas: Decks 17 & 18 Overview

Here's what I know of Decks 17 & 18.....

Deck 17 has the Pinnacle chapel, Pinnacle lounge, and Viking Crown lounge, as well as the first floor of the 2 storey loft suites.

Deck 18 has the second floor of the 2 storey loft suites.

End of review.  LOL.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Allure of the Seas: Deck 16 Overview

Royal gets a little funny with the upper deck plans/floor numbering.  At the back of the ship, the top of the Flowrider is considered a different deck than the bottom of the Flowrider (which is at the same level as the mini-golf, and has open deck area that the plan doesn't really show you can get to).  Between the two Flowriders is another bar (surprise!), and the launch pad for the zip line.
 The Flowrider is almost always busy with spectactors and participants.  Check the schedule each day early to sign up.  The really neat time to go is late at night when the staff are practicing!
 Not busy at all!  During the day, due to the close location of the bar and the possibility of seeing some bathing suit mis-haps, this can be a rowdy spot.  But not at night.
 This is the zip line launch pad.  You stand on the white blocks after getting suited up.  They connect you, and you just step forward and take off.  Yikes.
 And this is where you "land".  There are foam blocks to cushion your landing.  You're supposed to make contact with that white ramp on the left and sort of "run" up it, but it took too long for my short legs to find the platform and I pretty much landed at the top LOL.
 Fun for everyone!
 Some are more brave than others, like this "thumbs up" dude!
 The view of what you're zipping over.  The take off is to the left, above the A in Allure.
The view from down below in the Aquatheater.  Can you see him, way up there?

Looking at the plans, it says you have to go down a deck to get across that gap.  It's not really a whole deck below, it's just the height of the Flowrider.
Across the gap is the Windjammer buffet restaurant.  A few floors higher than on the Freedom class, and you don't get quite the same rear views.  It also felt a little busy at times.  It didn't seem much bigger than the other Windjammers.  I guess Royal figures there's many more other food options on this ship that the Windjammer didn't need to be much bigger?
Usually when you board a Royal ship, you want to head straight to the Windjammer for lunch before it gets too busy, and your rooms aren't ready right away anyway.  This time, we got in our room right off, and it was early so we weren't ready for lunch!
I don't have pictures of the inside of the Windjammer, but from the Windjammer you can see cool things like these:

 Kitchen staff from the Norwegian Pearl trying out the hammocks reserved for the suite guests...
 The water slide ride on the Disney AquaDuck
And the sports court on the Pearl.

The rest of this deck is around the edges, open to the pools below.  There's two more bars in the middle, and then at the front is the Solarium Bar and front viewing areas.
This is where I get a little confused by the floor plan and my pictures.  The floor plan in the brochure leaves out a lot of details...like doors.  And how to access the front deck on Deck 15, in front of the children's area.  I assumed that was just for the children, but the hallway does go to the front; it just doesn't show a door.  And when you look at the front of the ship:


 



See the captain's bridge at the front...if you click on the picture, you can see a person above it.  That looks like it should be this area in the photo, below:

 which I assumed, from the plans, was inaccessible and just the children's area.
This area below, is clearly the Solarium area, showing the top of the hot tub.


 This picture below shows the upper level of the solarium, and you can just see the pool.  However, that upper deck is all covered by glass, and the photo above shows no glass cover...

 Another view of the viewing platform.  I'm guessing that's actually deck 14.
Okay, I'm looking at the artist sketch of the ship in the brochure.  It doesn't show being able to go out over the sides of the bridge, and it looks like the area at the front of deck 14 is for children (the deck is shown with partitions, painted floors and says "Youth Program").  It shows the Solarium pool level, then the upper level which is at the roof of the hot tub, and then another level which isn't shown on the floor plan!  So, I'm calling this upper level deck 16 1/2, LOL!  I don't know if I have any pictures of that level!  Or if it really exists?  Well, on the cover of the 2013-2014 brochure, they show the front of the ship, and it does show another top level, with deck chairs.  And the front deck on 14 is totally open with no partitions or kid's stuff showing.  Confusing!




Friday, September 6, 2013

The Allure of the Seas: Deck 15 Overview

Almost to the top now!
Deck 15 starts out at the stern with the mini-golf on the left.  On our first cruise, I thought "Mini golf?!  Meh."  But we played a round, and it was actually very challenging!  And I got a hole-in-one!  So now we make sure to play a few rounds over the week.  One of the great things is that it's "self-serve", you don't have to book a time and try to remember :)



 As always, RCI incorporates art into every aspect of the ship!
 Look who we found on the course!  LOL.
 There is also a little children's course right next to the adult course!
 Adorable!
Back here, you can get a view down over the Aquatheater and see just how high those upper platforms are!  Scary!

We're talking on the deck above the upper "Allure of the Seas" label.  Look how high it is compared to the Norwegian Pearl, which is not a small ship!

On the right side is the Sports Court.  Can't tell you much about it except it's a multi purpose sports court :)

Ahead ship, on the next section that goes across the ship, is the teen area.  There's a pizza/burger type joint, a patio type area, ping pong tables.  A great spot to watch the AquaTheater shows if you don't get tickets.  I don't have pictures of the teen area, though I'm sure you'll find some online.  Inside here, there is "The Living Room", a hangout, Fuel Teen Disco, and Challenger's Arcade. All intended for teens, but I think anyone can walk around.
Across the hall is Sea Trek (snorkel/scuba outfitting) and "Breeze" which I think was a little gift shop.

Then the ship splits again.  On the left is the sports pool, and on the right, the kid's "H20 Zone".  Then there's a bridge, with two bars, and then it splits again with the main pool on the left and the beach pool on the right.
It's hard to tell in my photos which pools are which, except for the Beach Pool.  It is salt water and has a sloped area where the chairs can sit so you can get your feet wet.

This is the Beach Pool

 This is someone beached by the pool..
 This is standing near the front and looking back, so the beach pool is on the left/upper portion.  I imagine those aren't quiet and serene balconies...
 This is taken from the same spot, just a little more to my right, so it's showing the main pool and two hot tubs
 This is showing it from the other end
 This is the kid's H2O Zone at the top, and the sports pool in the foreground.  The kids have their own hot tub (on the left) and a "whirlpool" on the right.  That is so much fun when you get a group of people going around the circle fast...
Here's the Beach Pool at night, after it had rained.  The water was quite a bit higher.
 
While three pools (and water play area) might sound awesome, there were a few issues, due to how it's spread out and split by the open middle area.  If you have multiple kids, then you'll have to make them all be in one area.  The H20 Zone and Beach Pool are too far apart to be supervised by one parent.  Also, if you want to leave your stuff and roam around the pools, it'll be out of eyesight quickly.  It is nice to have variety though, especially if you don't mind there's no shallow ends, and they're not very warm!
 
Further on up, on either side, are the giant hot tubs that extend over the side of the ship. 
 See how big it is?  Up there in the middle of the picture, right next to the Norwegian Pearl.
And again, centre of the picture!

Some of it is open at the top, and they had TVs on showing sports (no sound).  There's also pretty twinkle lights that change colour.

Really, each hot tub is split into two.  Each of the smaller ones is about the same size as the hot tubs on the Freedom class.  You can fit a lot of people in one of these!  Keep in mind though that quite often one will be shut down for cleaning, often around 11pm.
At the front of the ship is the Solarium Bistro...a "healthy" alternative...if your idea of healthy is turkey bacon and egg whites...we tried it once.  Since I do low carb/high fat, I didn't go back again.  It's a nice spot, but was very busy for breakfast.  At night it becomes a Brazilian restaurant. 
In front of the Bistro is the Solarium adult only pool.  Actually, the brochure says "hydrotherapy pool".  It's definitely NOT a swimming pool.  We were rather disappointed.  The Solarium pool on the Freedom ships is a real pool.  This pool...a wet gossip joint for the older folk :(

This was the best time we had in the pool---late on the very last night!
They show really cool chairs with awnings...but they're never available.  It was still a nice place to relax, away from the children and noise of the main deck areas.  It's just too bad there wasn't a real pool for adults that want to swim without kids (the sports pool does have lap swimming in the mornings, but I'm not a lap swimmer).