Our Toddler Beach Bucket List

bucketlist

Luna recently returned from her second annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC. This summer vacation was a different animal compared to last summer. Last year, Luna was a 6-month old not-crawling-yet baby. This year she is a fearless running wild toddler with a will to jump in deep water at a moment’s notice. Meaning? This year’s beach trip was the best (and sometimes scariest) one yet.

Luna had such a good time that I decided to compile a bucket list of her (well, my) favorite beach activities.

  1. Watch the sunrise on the beach. Luna and I did this a few times because someone likes to wake up at 5am, but one morning we shared a special sunrise time with some of our favorite people and we added champagne.
Champagne sunrise!
Champagne sunrise!

2. Let the littles swim naked. Luna’s favorite skinny dipping time with during the sunrise.

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3. Take lots of bike rides and stay active. We rode bikes every single day around the island, and while it may not look like it, Luna loved being pulled around in her private cart.

She is clearly overjoyed...
She is clearly overjoyed…

4. Buy a puddle jumper and let them swim. Luna LOVES her puddle jumper. She begs to wear it, and I love it even more. Luna went swimming in the pool and in the ocean every single day.

I swear she normally looks more graceful
I swear she normally looks more graceful

5. Get a little dirty. What else would you do on the beach if not play in the sand?

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6. Dress that baby in white and force them to take a photo on the beach. You’ve just got to do it.

classic
classic

7. After the photo, let them just be their silly selves and get that new white dress all broken in.

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8. Finally, spend as much time with your crazy family as possible. Even if it means learning weird new yoga poses. This is one of the few times you are all together and that everyone gets to bond with that toddler of yours. Embrace it and enjoy it.

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Anyone else have any fun beach traditions or activities to share?

Cheers!

Texas Memories

During our recent trip to Texas, my main goal was for Luna to live it up with her Grandparents and family that she so rarely gets to see. I let her stay up later than normal, eat more junk than I ever let her eat and basically let my parents do everything with her. They fed her, bathed her, played with her, walked with her… which basically means I was on vacation all week. Wahoo! Seriously, though, she had a blast with her Texas family!

Luna spent a lot of time getting messy. There is only a short period of time that a human can run around naked, rub food all over their face, eat dirt and look adorable while doing it. I want Luna to get the most of this time in her life, and I think we’ve been successful so far! One of my fav activities in Texas was one suggested from a friend. We used plain greek yogurt and food coloring to make edible finger paints! It was one big fun and super messy activity. She loved it!

ooooh my, those baby blues
ooooh my, those baby blues
Our sweet cousin had way too much fun playing with Luna and "helping" her paint!
Our sweet cousin had way too much fun playing with Luna and “helping” her paint!
"painting" Luna's face and body
“painting” Luna’s face and body
mmmmmmm
mmmmmmm

I’m sure this will probably set her up for a life-long habit of eating paint, but hopefully she’ll learn the difference between toxic and non-toxic.

We spent a day on the coast with the family and Luna’s boyfriend, Orion, too. Once again, we got a little messy and a little naked.

dirty beach baby baby in water baby butt beach

We made some unforgettable memories in Texas! Luna is one lucky little girl to have so many Texans who love her so much! Can’t wait until next time!

Cheers!

TBT: Drive, Play, Fall (Part II)

Here’s the continuation of one of our Albanian adventures that I began sharing a couple of Thursdays ago. These stories were first told on my first blog “Adventures of a Teacher”. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 3: Cave Journey

After our heated night in the hotel room we got up early and headed to the beach to rent some kayaks. We paid an eight year old boy 500  leke ($5) to use the boats for an hour and headed down the shore. Our friend, Erind, lead us to a beautiful cove with a tall cave entrance. The cave was not very deep, but the ceilings were high, and there was a large opening at the top that allowed sunbeams to come through and reflect on the navy water. We immediately pulled our boat on the rocks and began exploring. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t take my camera.)

Our view from where we ate breakfast.
Our view from where we ate breakfast.

I was barefoot so it was a little painful to climb around the coral-like formations, so I decided to take a swim. The water was icy, but refreshing. I swam across the cave to a rock formation where Boyfriend was climbing and kicked something that I thought was coral. However, when I exited the water to examine my foot, I found 4 barbs stuck in my toes from a sea urchin. It really stung, but I tried to laugh it off and talk about how I now had something to blog about.

Walking on the rocky beach before our kayaking adventure.
Walking on the rocky beach before our kayaking adventure.

The rock formation we climbed was about 30 feet tall and provided a window out of the cave and into the ocean. The water was crystal clear and very deep so we all took turns jumping off the cliff. It was a little of an adrenaline rush, and shockingly cold when we hit the water. We were past our one-hour rental time so we quickly got in our boats to head back. I could not stop shivering as we paddled so Erind kindly suggested we stop in another close cove to rest on the warm rocks.

CHAPTER 4: What Goes Up Must Come Down

I laid out on the hot stones to stay warm, Erind went for a swim to find more sea urchins, and Boyfriend, being Boyfriend, decided to start climbing all the rocks around us. After about twenty minutes I heard Boyfriend’s feet stepping through the pebbles as he descended the cliff he had conquered. I turned around to tell him I was ready, and was shocked to find him limping and bleeding from almost head-to-toe.

I frantically asked what had happened, and he just limped past me and fell into the water. His face was pale and shocked, and he continued to ignore my questions. He had obviously fallen, and by this time Erind had noticed and we were both trying to get him out of the water to examine the damage.

Boyfriend explained to me hours later that while he was climbing down, a very large rock broke underneath him and he slipped a few feet down, then the large rock fell on top of his right leg and broke in half over his leg. It was apparently traumatic enough to make Boyfriend very sick once his adrenaline lowered. We had to wait on the little beach for almost an hour before he would get back on the kayak. Once that was done, I rowed the two of us for an hour to get back to where we started.

Everyone on the shore was shocked to find us in such a state. A very kind Albanian woman ran to grab her first aid kit and made Boyfriend lay back while she cleaned up his wounds. Another hour passed and we tried to get Boyfriend back to the car, which just made his leg more swollen and bleed even more. Erind and his friends decided to take us to the “emergency room” on the beach.

Here's Peter putting on brave face as the kind woman cleaned his wounds. I left out all the photos of the actual wounds...you're welcome.
Here’s Boyfriend putting on brave face as the kind woman cleaned his wounds. I left out all the photos of the actual wounds…you’re welcome.

This “emergency room” was more like a clinic you would imagine in a WWII movie. It was very small, concrete walls, little metal beds, and no A/C. The Albanian doctor was very soft-spoken and could not speak English. Luckily, we had our friends to translate.

After cleaning the wounds once more, the doc suggested he have stitches in his leg (and that there was a 90% chance it was NOT broken). This of course led to a local anesthetic which made Boyfriend sick once more. Finally, it was all cleaned and bandaged, and the extremely kind doctor sent us on our way. (He wouldn’t charge us anything so we left him a tip instead.)

doctor

Finally, (after a 7 hour drive), we made it home. We are still exhausted.

At least the drive home was pretty.
At least the drive home was pretty.

Overall, we really did have a great weekend. After only being here one week, we have toured the capital, made many new friends, seen the mountains, kayaked the ocean, and visited the hospital. Not too bad if I do say so myself. Oh, and Boyfriend totally stole the thunder from my sea urchin sting.

EPILOGUE:

Boyfriend is fine and will survive his little mishap, maybe even learn something from it. Currently, he is horizontal with his leg elevated and watching movies. Mostly, he is frustrated that he cannot leave the apartment. I have a feeling, that our next adventure won’t be too far away.

Annnddd 4 years later, Husband is still always finding away to get himself into trouble and do something dangerous. Everyday is an adventure with this guy.

Cheers!

TBT: Drive, Play, Fall

Last week, I shared a little TBT post from my former blog, “Adventures of a Teacher.” It ended with a bit of cliffhanger so I figure I should continue this story this week…and maybe next week as well!

As you may have read, we were invited Saturday afternoon to take a trip to Southern Albania. The entire trip was amazing, and quite a learning experience. I honestly don’t know if I can fit even just the minimal details into one blog. Let’s break it down…

CHAPTER 1: Car Sick

We rode with our friend Erind and his friend Dorian for 5 hours to get to the beach. The conversation was so interesting as we got to know our new Albanian friends. These two guys are so smart and speak English better than I do! Also, they were hilarious. You know a person is truly fluent in a language if they can joke around.

The last hour or so of the trip was spent driving up the windiest road on the tallest mountain I have ever experienced. By the time we got to our hotel everyone of us were carsick. (And I NEVER get carsick.) There was even a woman sick on the side of the road near the top. It was unpleasant.

the view
the view

On top of the wooziness, the roads were absolutely insane. Many of the streets were wide enough for one car and maybe a bicycle. Yet, somehow two cars going opposite directions were driving, and a third would try to pass on either side. Several drivers drove as if they were all having an emergency and drunk. They would pass other cars while driving up the twisted mountain roads, or stop their car just to look at the view.

Speaking of stopping cars….our car broke down on the mountain, on the curve, 4 times. I was scared. Luckily, it restarted rather quickly.

the very windy tiny road
the very windy tiny road

Another interesting fact about Albanian driving and culture is that this trip took 5 hours, but distance wise it would have only taken about two in the U.S. On top of bad traffic, we stopped about 3 times for coffee breaks and 3 more times for bathroom breaks. I don’t know about your family, but I used to reduce my liquid intake on family trips so I wouldn’t have to wait for hours to stop. It’s a different world here. I much more relaxed slow-paced world.

CHAPTER 2: When Mountains Meet Beach

Our hotel (a house that rented out rooms) was on the mountain side and overlooked the ocean. We had the most amazing view. I have never seen any beach quite like this one. The mountains literally run right into the ocean. The shore is not sandy, but rocky…very smooth little rocks.

The view from the balcony.
The view from the balcony.

We arrived just in time to watch the sunset. Our friends took us to have dinner with a group of their friends at a seafood restaurant right on the ocean. The food was great, but the time spent getting to know them was much better. I learned so much about their culture and was really taken back. Everyone knew more about every country (including the USA) than I did. It was embarrassing. They were raised to be culturally aware, and most make an effort to stay up on current affairs around the world. Not only that, but they really care about the issues effecting other cultures. Being raised in a communist country that luckily ended and became a democracy made them all very appreciative of what they have and grateful for their freedom.

After dinner we walked down the beach and sat along the shore to chat. Once we were all exhausted, we of course decided to head back. I could not wait to get a good night sleep right next to the ocean. Unfortunately, there was no sleep. Our “hotel” had no A/C. I have never been so hot!

Enjoying a nice night stroll on the beach.
Enjoying a nice night stroll on the beach.

Finally, the sun rose, and I was relieved to give up on sleep and get ready for our real adventure.

In next weeks episode of  TBT “Adventures of a Teacher” there is a kayak journey which ends in slight disaster. Will the teacher jump off a cliff? Will the boyfriend end up in a hospital? Will anyone ever get sleep?

Tune in!

Cheers!

TBT: Everyday is an Adventure

Here’s a little TBT post for you. This was written four years ago, about a week after we moved to Albania. Just goes to show you that we have always been the couple that seeks adventure wherever we go.

One thing I love about my boyfriend… we have a great time no matter where we are or what the situation. He makes everything adventurous, and I love him for that. (FYI: I wrote this on Sat. morning and did not finish it until now….on the next blog you will see why this is a very ironic statement…)

For dinner yesterday, boyfriend decided to invite a new Albanian friend to eat with us. What started out as a regular dining experience at an Albanian/Mexican fusion restaurant, turned into a late night excursion around downtown. Peter told our new friend that we are both adventurous and have a passion for traveling and having new experiences. I guess he believed us because that night we spoke with guards at the president’s gates, crossed Tirana University’s campus, went to an upscale bar in the tallest building in Albania, visited a fancy hotel, and climbed an enormous pyramid that houses Top Channel and overlooks the city.

I forgot my camera. boo… Looks like we will have to do it again!

Saturday morning, we went with several friends to the open market in town. It is very similar to the open markets in China. There is booth after booth of purses, shoes, clothes, jewelry, household items, funny Albanian souvenirs, etc. I absolutely love the atmosphere in these markets. There is merchandise everywhere, hundreds of people trying to haggle prices down, the smell of food being grilled; and several streets to shop through. it is similar to shopping on black Friday, which I consider a National holiday.

albanian market

Our trip was cut a little short for a few reasons. A) It was 2 million degrees outside, B) One of our friends got sick to her stomach and had to take a cab home, and C) we got an exciting invite from our new friend.

I only bought hangers and postcards from the market, but I will be back soon! I had my eye on very cute oversized bag and a few pairs of shoes.

Our friend invited us to take a road-trip to Southern Albania. It is the most popular vacation spot in the country and incredibly beautiful. We accepted his invite, ran home, and threw a few clothes in our backpacks. Our adventure began as an amazing trip through the mountains to one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and ended with a trip to the Albanian “emergency room”.

To be continued…

But here is a little taste.

me

Guess I’ll have to post the rest of the story next Thursday!

Cheers!

A Half-Crunchy Mom’s Fav New Product (Giveaway!)

goddessgarden

There’s this term people use when referring to hippy-ish Moms, they say Crunchy Moms. “Crunchy Moms” are the Moms who raise chickens, cloth diaper, grow and make their own everything, swear by all-organic products, home-birth and homeschool, don’t own TV’s and the so on. The nickname is not an insult (I don’t think, anyways), it’s just a trendy new name, and today I’m reviewing a trendy “crunchy” item that most Moms (the crunchy and the non-crunchy) will love.

For the record, I think I’m half-crunchy, half-what’s the opposite of crunchy? Chewy? Can I be crispy? I do use cloth diapers, drive a Prius, make my own baby-food, breastfeed and buy eggs from our neighbors, but I also eat Taco Bell, drink too much Starbucks, binge on Netflix, use paper towels and refuse to give up tampons so I don’t think the “crunchy” society would allow me to join. That’s cool, I prefer to be my own leader anyhow. However, I do love to find a good healthy and organic alternatives to mainstream baby products.

Before our annual beach vacation I began looking for baby-safe beach products, partially because I’m an awesome Mom who wants only the best for my baby and partially because I like any excuse to shop. While searching I immediately came across many all natural baby-safe sunscreens. I was intrigued and decided to try Goddess Garden’s Natural Kid’s Sunscreen. The crunchy half of me LOVES that it is made in a recyclable container, made with organic and all natural ingredients (like aloe vera, sunflower oil, soy beans, zinc oxide, lavender and radish). The consumerist side of me loves that it’s pretty, smells good and does the job.

Luna sporting her new sunscreen while enjoying the sunny deck.
Luna sporting her new sunscreen while enjoying the sunny deck.

I have now tested this sunscreen at the pool, at Holiday World, at the beach and at home. The outcome? Luna has never gotten a sunburn. We did our best to follow the instructions: reapply after 40 minutes of swimming or 2 hours in the sun. We mostly remembered to reapply at the right time, but we aren’t perfect and Luna still never got any sun. We spent ALL day EVERY day in the sun at Hilton Head too. It isn’t exactly like other sunscreens, but Husband an I used the mainstream brands and both got burned… I’m thrilled I used the all natural brand on Luna.

Happy to be on the beach for the first time.
Happy to be on the beach for the first time.

This sunscreen is very watery, so I shake it before squeezing any out to thicken it up a bit. I found it easiest to apply quickly because the longer I took to rub it in the thicker and pastier it became. It left a bit of a white residue on Luna’s skin (mostly when she got wet), but who cares? She’s a baby and it kept her from getting burnt, isn’t full of chemicals and left her skin soft and smooth; that’s much more important to me than having a completely invisible sunscreen. Overall, I am really happy with the product and the company.

pool time!
pool time!

Goddess Garden was created by a Mom who wanted skincare products that would be safe for her daughter who is allergic to chemicals. She saw a need in the market and went for it. She also happens to care about the planet and is just an overall nice and generous person. In fact, she’s so nice that she is giving away a two bottles of her sunscreen to two of you! One of you will get a 6oz bottle of the the Kids Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 ($20 value) and one will receive a 3.4oz bottle ($15 value) of the same.

Daddy-Daughter time in the sun!
Daddy-Daughter time in the sun!

To enter, just follow these 3 little steps!

1. Follow me on my blog, Facebook, or Instagram (or all 3!).

2. Follow Goddess Garden on Facebook.

3. And comment below! How old is your child? Or, do you want the sunscreen for you? Either way it will work!

Thanks for entering and good luck to everyone! I’ll randomly select two winners in week, Wednesday August 13th.

Cheers!

The Annual Beach Photos!

You KNOW that anytime you take a family vacation, you’ve GOT to take a big group family photo. It’s just a rule. Then everyone can share it on Facebook, email to their relatives, frame it until you take next year’s photo and years and years from now your kids will look back on it and say “What were we thinking? Why did you dress me like that? Gross!”. In our family we have the ones who love taking the yearly photo and the ones who despise it, but the lovers always win. Obviously I’m on the “lovers” side. I love photos and a I love family traditions. I look forward to looking back at our previous Hilton Head photos and can’t wait to show Luna the ones from her first year!

family photo

We typically spend one evening taking photos of everyone on the beach. Most of us dress up a little and we pose, jump, act silly and take hundreds of small and large group photos as the sun sets (hello magic hour!). The most important one is the big family photo. Every year we get everyone together for the big group picture. This year may have been the biggest year yet.

new fam

My parents were invited to join us (Husband’s side of the family) for the second time and it was perfect! They got to spend so much time with Luna and experience a lot of her “firsts” We are really really grateful that our parents get along. It makes life a hell of a lot easier. I love Husband’s family soooo much so it means a lot to me that my family has become part of his family too.

My parents and me (2012 vs 2014)
My parents and me (2012 vs 2014)

Clearly we have an issue with taking jumping pictures…I know, it’s so 2012. Whatevs.

All of the cousins and their significant others. Some of the coolest people I know, for sure.
All of the cousins and their significant others. Some of the coolest people I know, for sure.

Husband’s family (my family now) is super close and really good about spending quality time together. There are few families I know who get along with their cousins so well. We spent every single night staying up super late playing Murder, Apples to Apples, Scattagories, gossiping and whatnot. Well, to be honest, Luna and I missed a lot of the quality time… apparently infants need to go to bed much earlier than us big kids.

cousins

the ladies
the ladies
Aunt Zoey got some serious quality time with her "Lulu".
Aunt Zoey got some serious quality time with her “Lulu”.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s photos. It’s crazy to think that last year I was ten weeks pregnant and next year Luna will be running around and swimming.

zimbicki

 

What are some of your family’s summer and vacation traditions?

luna butt

Cheers!