Monday, July 25, 2016

Zika Virus

Alright, so I gotta tie my vacation post to a medical one. Last year we went to Yosemite where there was news of the bubonic plague. I blogged about it here. This year we were just in the Carribean... and I have a TON of mosquito bites... so guess what I'm going to talk about?  That's right... here's a little 101 on the Zika Virus.



How do you get it?
Transmission is mainly from a mosquito bite. Other ways of getting this virus include:

  • mother to fetus
  • sex
  • blood transfusion.

What are the symptoms?
Most people will have no symptoms at all or get very mild symptoms.  Symptoms incude:

  • fever
  • rash
  • joint pain
  • conjunctivitis
  • muscle pain
  • headache
How do you treat it?
Treatment is usually aimed towards alleviating symptoms.  Rest, fluids, and tylenol as needed for pain or fever.

So what is the big deal?
If a pregnant woman becomes infected with the zika virus, the virus can cause a birth defect of the brain in the fetus. This can lead to a miscarriage or still birth. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the Zika virus is spreading very rampantly in the Americas and in January had declared birth defect due to Zika as an international public health emergency.

Areas with active mosquito-born Zika virus transmission include:
  • Americas
  • Pacific Islands
  • Africa
You can go to the cdc website for more detailed listings. 

Hm.. I don't see Turks and Caicos on the list. But no chance I'm pregnant anyway... so worse case scenario I'd just be sick with a flu-like illness for a week or so.

How do you prevent getting it?
There is no vaccine currently so best prevention is just protecting against mosquito bites with repellent, long sleeves, long pants etc. If pregnant, would avoid traveling to areas that have active transmission.

Friday, July 22, 2016

All-Inclusive Vacation With Little Kids

For the first time, we decided to go on an all-inclusive beach vacation with the kids. We’ve been on cruises and to amusement parks, national parks... but not this. So what did we think?

First of all, location is key… not sure how other all-inclusives compare but we went to Turks and Caicos and since I love the beach… this is the place to go to for a beach! Talk about soft white sand and crystal clear water!

Additionally, this place is only a 3 hour non-stop flight away from PHL. So getting here was a piece of cake. Just need to get passports for everyone. But unlike our 6 hour flights cross country the last 2 summers for family weddings… this 3 hour plane ride went by in a blink of an eye. 

Now the return flight with a layover in Miami and customs etc was not so fun... but still worth it. Just have to find ways to entertain. This was at the Turks and Caicos airport waiting to board our plane coming back...

Since our four kids are 8 and under… vacations are usually super draining for us.  Not just physically tiring (I literally got up five times during dinner one night just shuttling different kids to the bathroom)… but mentally as well (playing referee and judge for squabbles among the older ones especially)… 

Marvelously, this all-inclusive at Beaches includes watching the kids in different kid camp settings for all different ages! Even our youngest who is 2 ½ years old was able to be dropped off. Camps were open from 830a to 10p though I’m not sure if any parent would drop off their kids for all that time. We just use the camps for a couple of hours here or there throughout the day. There was a calendar of events for the different age groups and we basically picked the times to drop them off based on what activities were going on matched with our kids’ interests. 

The waterpark was a hit with our girls. 

Snorkeling lessons, bonfire with smores, pinata party, structured arts and crafts as well as the xbox game room more than entertained the older girls. The younger ones got story times, letter of the day with Elmo, Big Bird or one of the other Sesame characters. Baking cookies with Cookie Monster was a big hit... as well as the ride on the choo choo train that circled the property. In fact, all four kids got to sit on the train and parade with the Sesame Street Parade one evening. Overall, I thought the whole kids camp was pretty well organized. Though at first I felt guilty for dropping off the kids when we were technically on “family vacation”... the positive feedback from the kids was all I needed to convince me to do it again the next day.

We were able to correspond the times so that my husband and I got to go kayaking, sailing, and even go on a snorkeling trip without the kids. We also enjoyed 2 lunches and 1 dinner on our own! Our view while dining at Sky Restaurant...

Hey, a more relaxed and happy momma will make for better family time anyway when we are all six together! I really only need one to two hours here or there in my day to reset my happy meter… especially if it is on white sand with crystal clear water lapping my feet!

Not only did the camp give us adult time but also some quality one on one kid time. It was a useful way for us to divide and conquer. For example, while the youngest napped in the afternoon, one parent could spend some one on one time with another child while two others were entertained at camp. On another day we would flip flop. It would be hard for me to go snorkeling with my older two if I had to also watch my third child who cannot swim well, so he got dropped off for story time with Elmo while we snorkeled.

Now a few other things...

Besides the waterpark, there were lots of swimming pools. My kids love water so they were here a lot... even at night.

In fact, they love the pools more than the beach... but not I... no... beach for me...

And what about the food? This part felt like a cruise ship except many more choices. There were lots and lots of restaurants to choose from. The restaurants all have different themes, ambiences, and serve different types of foods. In fact, there were so many restaurants we were unable to try them all. The kids' favorite restaurant was the hibachi style restaurant called Kimono. Here the chefs cook Japanese hibachi in front of you but the entertainment was different than what we’ve experienced in the States. These guys can sing! Food was just mediocre in my opinion as far as Japanese hibachi food goes… but the entertainment value made up for it. Here is our chef singing and cooking for us!



Hesitations in coming back? Mainly cost… with four kids, we had no choice but to book one of their bigger rooms with concierge service. 

Great room that walked out to the pool... but I don’t think we used the service very much and neither my husband or I are very big alcohol consumers. I wish they would offer a no alcohol package but I guess it would be too hard to enforce. I suppose it was nice to order fruity drinks by the pool and even the kids were able to order virgin drinks which they got a real kick out of… 

Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure if we were to add up all the tab we spent way under what we paid. Well, maybe the childcare made up for the rest of the cost...  

All in all… my kids thought this vacation was “awesome” and I would have to agree. This trip was a nice combo of family time and some adult rest and relaxation time. We found this tree with this sign on it which basically sums up our feelings.

But... back home to reality...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Mom's Weekend Out... Visiting Chicago

Well, it has been forever! 

So every now and then, I'd get these ideas in my head to type up some thoughts for this site.. but then somehow they just slip away into the depths of sleep.  This period of motherhood has been physically draining but I feel I'm in that turning point now... where my younger two kids are still pretty hands on physically demanding, the older two have slipped into the emotional drama world of the pre-tween years!

Therefore, a weekend away with my roomie from college was a welcome break from reality. So it turned out to be a pretty windy, cold, and wet weekend in Chicago... but that was the city we picked... a mid point between Cali and PA.  Despite the miserable weather, I still had a blast.  Not so sure it was as rewarding for my friend because she had to leave sunny, gorgeous San Francisco... but maybe next time we'll choose somewhere in the middle... but south!

Now about Chicago... I want to write a bit about this city.  I've never really spent much time here before and I love to visit different places.

I learned a lot about the history of the city and the architecture of the buildings making up the Chicago skyline on this fabulous river tour called River Cruise Tour.  Too bad it was freezing cold... lasted as long as we could on the top deck listening to the tour guide and gazing at all the tall buildings before heading inside for hot drinks and defrosting.

So what is there to do in a city when it is windy, cold, and wet?  Why, go shopping and visit museums of course! The Magnificent Mile  really does have a ton of stores. My friend bought a scarf and umbrella on this mile. I bought some tasty homemade toffee for my kids at the One of a Kind Spring Show. We also visited the  Art Institute of Chicago and spent most of our time admiring  Thorne’s Miniature Room display.
Doesn't this look real?

Now, a weekend is not complete without good eats.  Boy, we sure hit some yummy spots. Our hosts at our B&B Sono were super nice and made us delicious breakfast every morning.

Wild Berry Pancakes & Cafe  had amazing brunch food, so well worth the wait!  Totally get why they got 2260 reviews on yelp.
This was the mexicana sizzlin' skillet.  Mmmmm!

It was also nice that this place was right next to The Bean ...popular tourist attraction.

Shaw’s Crab House was pricey but a great place for seafood.

The Russian Teatime was probably my favorite. This was surprisingly filling!  We were so full from the top and middle plates that we packed the dessert plate to go.

Café Ba Ba Reeba for Spanish tapas was our last stop before we hit the airport.




Now thinking back to all of the places we visited in Chicago, I was most surprisingly impressed with the Lincoln Park Zoo.
 
For one thing, it is free... but what's more I loved how they organized and displayed all the different animals. It seems much effort was made to present each habitat to closely resemble the animal's natural habitat... more so than any other zoo I've visited... creative and artistic.
Look, you can almost touch this lion!

I now so want to take my kids here. We will have to plan a family trip here... but that will be a very different kind of trip.
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