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Monday, March 31, 2008

Potty Time!


I was surprised last Tuesday when I picked up Arianna at daycare.

She didn't have any pants on. Actually neither did the other 2 boys there. They were all wearing underwear!

Karah, the teacher has been working on potty training the older boys (3 and close to 3) and has started with her son who is a few months older than Arianna. She had no intention of working with Arianna until she found she was really interested in what the boys were doing.

Now she uses the potty at daycare!

So I broke down and went to Target and bought her 13 pairs of underwear - Dora the Explorer (who she's never seen before but know who she is??!), Minnie Mouse and, of course, Elmo and Zoe.

We locked ourselves in the house this weekend and kept her in underwear almost all day (except nap time). Karah is using the 'timer system' at daycare - putting the kids on the potty every 30 minutes. Friday night I started with Ari and found 30 minutes was too long - so I shortened it to 20 minutes and Saturday she was dry most of the morning. She wouldn't go 'pee pee' in the potty at all. She doesn't mind sitting on the potty though!

She's kinda cute when she has an accident. The underwear are still a bit big on her (the smallest size they had was 2T, which is still too big for her) and they hold nothing and would immediatley end up on the floor when she wet herself. She stands there, looking at it, yelling "OH NO! Oh NO! I made a mess! OH NO! OH NO!". Its incredibly cute, the first few times.

We were vindicated though. Sunday I was visiting with my parents so we could go to the wake of an extended family member and Arianna did #2 in the potty!! I was so excited for her and she was too! I got her an Elmo sticker and she was so proud of herself!

I hope today marks another good potty day at daycare and that she'll soon transfer that to home. I'm still in awe that she JUST turned 2 and is getting this already - she continues to amaze me!

Our vacation review - Carnival Victory


I know it has taken AGES for me to write some more about our trip but finding time has been difficult. I had to write a review for an online publication and it took all week cause I'm lazy (and tired)

So... without further adieu, here it is!


Carnival Victory 3/16/08 – 3/23/08

I just returned from a 7 day eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Victory.

The ship left out of Port of Miami, traveled 2 days to Old San Juan Puerto Rico, arriving at 5 PM, leaving at 12 PM. We arrived in St. Thomas for 7 AM the next morning, left at 6 PM. On to St. Maarten for 7 AM the following day, leaving at 3:30 PM.

All in all we had a fantastic time and would gladly ‘do it again’ in a few years.

The CONS:

  • The Lido Deck buffet restaurant was ALWAYS 20 – 30 degrees colder than the rest of the ship. By the time you finished your meal, your coffee would be cold. We could never find a booster seat or straws for my 2 year old and spent AT LEAST 10 minutes searching for them or for someone to help us find them. By the time we found them our eggs/bacon would be cold. So it got to the point where one person would go on the hunt, thusly getting out of the long line and by the time they got to the table, everyone else would be done.
  • The ‘bar’ area in the buffet restaurant was always closed and there were never enough staff to get soft drinks from the other bars and we had to walk to the other side of the deck to get them.
  • Camp Carnival wasn’t available for dinner time until day 3 so we didn’t get to eat dinner in the dining room until day 4 (day 3 we ate on shore in Puerto Rico). Day 2 was Captains Dinner, which we obviously missed. The Lido deck restaurant was mostly vacant, understandably, but there was only 1, yes 1, person working the buffet and he wouldn’t get us sodas – instead directing us to the other side of the deck to the bar by the pool. He wouldn’t clear our tables either. The food in the buffet was really kinda nasty that night – none our 5 person party finished their food. As a matter of fact the 4 adults sat there complaining about the trip thus far – we were really NOT having a good time by this point. We were very upset that just because we weren’t at the captains dinner we were dismissed – we paid the SAME price as everyone else and only required the service customary to the buffet during the day. It was a sorry sorry excuse for service that night.
  • Our Dining room waiter ‘rushed us’ every night. We’d have a member of our table still eating their main entrĂ©e when he would bring the dessert menu over. He was forced to order dessert even though he wasn’t done eating. We did not linger at our table. Our seating was at 6:15 and we were almost always out of the dining room by 7:30 – giving us 10 minutes to finish our food would have been a common courtesy.
  • Hubby and I are big jazz fans and I was disappointed to see that although they had jazz every night they were only held in the cigar lounge. Sitting in there for too long made my pregnant stomach want to hurl. Very disappointing as the groups were really good.
  • There were very few things of interest during the ‘fun days at sea’ where the weather wasn’t sunny/hot. Our first ‘fun day at sea’ was cold and overcast – if there wasn’t a casino I think we would have slept the ENTIRE day. It was spring break week and the ship seemed to be full of dumb ‘hairy chest contests’ and art auctions. As a matter of fact, if you asked me, prior to getting to St. Thomas if I would go on another cruise the answer would have been a RESOUNDING ‘NO! NEVER!!!’ I found one item I wanted to do on day 6 – Scrapbook Crafts. It was held in the dining room where they were cleaning and the chairs were stacked awkwardly preventing us from getting to the tables. The woman running it showed up with scraps of paper (literally, scraps) and glue pens like my 2 year old uses. She then told us we had to spend $30 on their scrapbooks and hastily develop pictures we’ve taken on the trip thus far at $.23 per print (I get it for $.9 at home). She should have, instead, given us a discount on the scrapbooking supplies offered on board and spent some time showing us a new scrapbooking technique instead of showing us how to use supplies that are not photo safe. Had I not been pregnant and watching a 2 year old (thusly in bed by 9:30/10 PM every night) I think I could have enjoyed the shows more but it was sad nothing of interest is available on ship for days at sea until after dinner.
  • Ports of call were too short. We got to Puerto Rico at 5 PM and had to be back at the ship for 11 PM. We grabbed a tour of Old San Juan which was very fun. It ended in the shopping district which was dirty and smelled like garbage. We managed to have a meal at a local restaurant and had to walk back to the ship (not a long walk). I got nice pictures but would have gladly missed this to spend time in another port. St. Thomas was wonderful. I would have enjoyed it more if my mother-in-laws boyfriend stayed home (he was a lead weight this whole trip, he lingered in the shopping areas forcing us to miss the skyride to paradise point and the only reason I lugged ALL my camera equipment with me). We had a great island tour and enjoyed the shopping immensely! The next day we docked in St. Maarten along with a RCI ship at 7 AM. The seas were rough. RCI let all their patrons off the ship with instructions to be back for 4 PM. Carnival would not let us off until 10 AM and had us back at 3 PM. This was not enough time to see ANYTHING. Carnival had discrepancies in what they considered ‘safe’ – as there were sea swells. One minute the captain would let us off, next minute corporate said no, next minute you can get off but come back in 2 hours. It was horrible. I was very disappointed in the way Carnival handled this – my parents have a time share in St. Maarten and I was very excited to see all they loved of this island… but no such luck. We had enough time to go into Philipsburg where my daughter got to play in the surf and we got a bite to eat – then it was back toward the ship and some of the small shops outside the dock. The line to get onto the Carnival ship gangway was as long as the ship – funny that RCI didn’t have any lines and we were leaving at the same time.
  • Camp Carnival took many breaks during the day, at odd times. 2 hours at lunch, 2 hours before dinner and would frequently start at different times every day. This made trying to plan your day very difficult. I heard many parents complain about this in the long lines to pick up/drop off your kids – they all said Disney handles this much better.


The PROs

  • Our balcony room! I will never cruise without a balcony again! The rooms were much bigger and it was so nice to have a private space. We’d put my daughter down for a nap in her crib and could then sip drinks or just talk on the balcony. They were surprisingly sound proof and opening the leaflet between our adjourning rooms was so nice!
  • The food in the dining room. Even though we only experienced 4 nights in the dining room, we were not disappointed. We had two waiters – one was great, one wasn’t. Luckily we didn’t get the ‘not so great one’ often and really enjoyed our time there – I’m in love with the molten chocolate cake!
  • The staff in the dining room. They were so wonderful. Filling our drinks before they were empty and offering seconds on whatever we seemed to like. The little dances and songs were very entertaining and the highlight of dinner. I was very sad to see their farewell dance/song the last night.
  • The housekeeping staff. Carnival is doing something right with these folks because they are some of the NICEST and most COURTEOUS people I have EVER met. We scarcely passed someone in the hall that would say hello to us. They always had our room sparkling clean (which is a feat with a messy 2 year old) and were very respectful of my daughters sleeping/napping time. They would leave extra chocolates for her (we told our steward how much she loved them) and even left chocolate chip cookies with cute smiley faces on them for her. Turn down service was wonderful – even making a separate towel animal for her crib and folding her blanket for her. It was always so cute to see them tuck her bear in and even put her pacifier in its mouth! They really went out of their way with our room (even so much as FOLDING the dirty clothes my messy husband left on the floor!!) Not only that but the ship is AMAZINGLY clean, just amazingly clean – I want them at my house!
  • Photography staff. They were great. The photos are horribly over priced but it was so nice to have nice formal portraits of my husband and I.
  • Camp Carnival. I can’t say enough about this service. My daughter is 2 years old and no other cruise line with take a 2 year old that is not potty trained. They were the only reason we could go ashore and enjoy our time in the formal dining room. My daughter loved going to camp. She was actually quite a bear to be with during the day – she wanted to go back and ‘play toys’, and we were happy to oblige.
  • Pursers Desk Staff. Very informative, fast, courteous and accommodating.
  • Shore Excursion Staff. Very helpful – they let me return my skyride tickets, giving me an extra $100 to spend on jewelry!
  • Jewelry shop. There were some good deals in St. Thomas but the best deals we found were on the ship – my husband got a beautiful watch and I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘inch of gold’ special during the last day at sea.
  • The live music! I’m a musician in my past days and my husband is a music fanatic and we thoroughly enjoyed all the live music on board. The jazz trios (especially with vocals) were great and the classical trios were wonderful to sit at the bar and listen to. I really enjoyed writing in my trip journal while listening to them.
  • The pools! My parents cruise often but have never been on a carnival line. My dad gripes about not being able to enjoy the pools onboard because they are salt water. The pools, at least on Lido Deck, were chlorinated! Ya!
  • The walking/jogging track. On the days when it was sunny, this was my favorite place on the ship!
  • The ship management. We had two medical emergencies on the ship during our voyage – thankfully on day 6 and 7. They were immediate in communication to everyone when the coast guard needed to get a helicopter onto the ship – it was fast and efficient. Communication in multiple languages even!

Overall, yes, we had a great trip but there are many things that could have been done/handled better. We will gladly cruise again after the second baby arrives later this summer but we will wait until they are old enough to enjoy the amenities on a Disney Cruise. If hubby and I ever get the chance to cruise alone (which is doubtful any time soon) we may try Carnival again as they seem to be very fun for adults – but we will be more careful about which route/ship we choose. More time in the ports of call would have been nice and a cruise director with better plans for on ship fun during the day is essential.

Monday, March 24, 2008

We're home!

I've got lots to fill you in on but I've got to recoup from our vacation! We had fun, and Ari loves her new hair!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Great news!

Shawn dropped Arianna off at daycare this morning where she proceeded to eat another entire breakfast - I love seeing her eating! She's over the horrible stomach bug she had a few weeks ago (actually, we all had it) and back to eating in full force!

The lady that runs her daycare is a teacher - she still tutors high school students on nights/weekends. She is starting up a preschool program for the 4/5 kids she watches (3 are full time). This morning she told Shawn that Arianna is going to be in a different 'program' than the boys she watches. She's going to be advanced!! She said none of the boys know their ABCs or can count to 10 and they certainly don't sit still through an entire book like she does.

I can't believe I'm hearing this - my little 2 lb. preemie peanut is advanced for her age!! OMG, its music to my ears. I seriously can't stop crying... she continues to amaze me!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

EI evaluation and general update

Arianna had her two year evaluation with Early Intervention a few weeks ago.

Last week her nutritionist came to the house to check on her progress and her EI caseworker accompanied. She's doing well eating - she eats alot. But she didn't gain so much as an ounce in nearly a month. I was very disappointed. She's still hovering about 10% for her actual age - which I shouldn't be disappointed in, but I am. She's still 22 lbs. exactly. But she's eating, so I'm happy. She has an appointment with her pediatrician next week so we'll see if her height has jumped up considerably or not - I hope thats the reason in the lack of weight gain.

The disappointing part of the visit is that Arianna is not being released by EI - she tested very badly in gross motor, which has always been her weak area. She tested at her actual age level in every area and advanced in expressive communication (she was very social that day). She's supposadly at a 15 month level for gross motor - which was worse than I thought. They had her go upstairs and she did very badly. So they're not releasing her but I hope they do soon. They'll re-evaluate her in 3 months to see if she's progressing

So to help that we're taking Arianna to gymnastics class, starting tomorrow. I debated taking her to Gymboree or Little Gym but those classes were very expensive ($330!) and concentrated on many different parts of development where I just want to concentrate on gross motor development. The gymnasium is very close to her daycare and less than half the cost of the other services! We'll probably meet up for dinner and the two of us will take her over to the gym for her class. At her age they require parental involvement - problem being that I can't lift anything over 20 lbs. for the remainder of this pregnancy - so I'm going to the first class to see how things run and what will be required of me and if I can handle it Shawn won't need to come - but I have a feeling it'll require lifting.

The classes sound very well structured:

Little Gems emphasizes a Fun-Learning Environment. Instead of children just sitting and waiting their turn, we set up circuit ( picture an obstacle course in your mind.) The instructor works one on one with you child then the child leads themselves around the rest of the circuit. Not only does this decrease boredom and behavioral problems it also improves upon:

Gross Motor Coordination Attention Listening Skills Memory Development Strengthen Muscles Sense of Accomplishment Memory Retention Agility

Skills

We teach in progression and use many creative, fun movement ideas and themes. They are great teaching aids that the children really enjoy doing. Gross motor coordination is developed through the use of:

Beam Trampoline Bars Tumbling Shapes Slides Tripod
P - Bars Thumper Boards Tunnels Rings Mats

... And So Much More!

Song Activities

Another highlight of our program is the use of music activities. This aids in improving eye-hand coordination, better listening skill and rhythm not to mention its fun. For song activities we make use of:

Bean Bags Rackets Balls Balloons
Ribbons Hula Hoops Lummi Sticks

... The list goes on and on...

I think it'll be great for Arianna. A few weeks ago we took her to the mall (so we could finish our clothes shopping for the cruise - next weekend came so fast!) and they have a little indoor play area for toddlers. It was the weekend so the place was absolutely PACKED with kids - easily 30 kids in this little area. Shawn walked around with her helping her play with everything and even though she didn't play like the other kids (she didn't climb on anything or slide down the slide) she wasn't intimidated, which is one less obstacle to overcome. So I hope being around other kids jumping on mats and tumbling with help her.

A few weeks ago we went to the birthday party of one of our friends little boys. It was held at a kids only indoor playground (very neat!). It had lots of toys to climb on, slides and push toys. A few weeks ago her daycare teacher told me she's trying to do girly things with Arianna since she's the only girl in her care - she tried playing with ponies etc. Arianna wanted NOTHING to do with girly stuff, she wanted to play with the snakes and trains the boys were playing with. She hasn't had alot of exposure to gender specific stuff (I actually have tried to discourage it) so it doesn't surprise me - but at this birthday party I thought I would capture a moment of 'girly-ness'. She had walked up to a doll carriage that had a baby doll in it and started to pick up the doll! I was so happy - camera ready and all. Only to find she was lifting up the doll to grab the matchbox car under her dress... oh well, so much for that!

Arianna's second birthday party is this weekend. Due to our upcoming trip and my new restrictions we decided to not have it at our home. We wanted her to play with friends and our house is still in a minor state of construction (that will now wait until the baby is born) and I don't want to worry about a clean house, frankly. So we've rented the My Gym near my parents house - they have a whole program set up for birthday parties. We're bringing the party to them basically. My parents, very graciously, purchased the cake from an EXCELLENT bakery nearby. I made up some really cute goodie bags for the 10 or so kids that will be coming and then we invited family. The best part is that it's only 2 hours so I don't have to worry about entertaining for too long.

I still can't believe 2 years is already gone. Here at my desk at work I have a wall dedicated to her pictures. I have copies of photos from 3 months to 18 months and I can't believe how big she's gotten. She's still my peanut but she's come so far. She amazes me every day!