Baby Beach Day

Being able to have an awesome beach day is one of the best parts of living here in the BVI, but, as I’ve recently realized, heading to your favorite beach for the day becomes a lot more complicated when you have to cart a little one with you. Over the last several months, I’ve been conducting serious field research on how best to enjoy a beach day with a little one. Here are my preliminary findings on the best way to include a baby in your beach day.

fullsizeoutput_120f

Our baby containment unit is an inflatable pool.

  1. Contain The Baby. Maybe you have a mobile play yard or one of those zip-up cribs with the handles. There can be a lot to carry to the beach already, but trust me, bring that baby containment unit. My little one likes sitting in his inflatable pool, which we set up for him without any water inside. He likes to lean out of it to play with the sand, but I’m able to relax and enjoy myself somewhat knowing that he can’t crawl off into the bush or pick up any stray beach litter.
  2. Help Baby Entertain Him or Herself. For us grownups, it’s often enough to sit and stare at the water, but babies will insist on being wiggly, grabby little creatures, so now we bring toys (and things like plastic food containers that my son thinks are toys) which are great to keep him occupied so that the grownups can do stuff that requires two hands, like eating.
  3. Give The Sea A Few Tries. Our little guy loves bathing at home, so we figured some splish-splash fun in the ocean would be a cinch. Not so. As soon as a very mild wave touched his little toes, he cried. Hard. But after giving him a few minutes to get accustomed to the water (and making sure he felt comfortable snuggled up to his daddy), he got to really liking it.
  4. Put Things Away As You Go. It’s a bit of a hassle to keep track of all your various belongings on the beach, but when the little one has had enough and it’s time to go right-this-minute, you’ll be glad you didn’t leave everything you brought with you scattered in a 20-foot wide circle around you. If you can get a sweet spot on the sand right next to your vehicle, so much the better.
  5. Embrace Sand. It doesn’t matter how many rinses, how many brush-offs, how often you redirect a baby, a beach trip pretty much always means the kid is going to come away as the sandiest, messiest version of themself. So what if they eat a little sand? A day at the beach means the kid is also happy and exhausted, so as a mom, it’s a big win.

This column first appeared in the June 7 edition of the Limin Times.

Advertisements

Practical Island Fashion

Fashion usually focuses on style, taste and creativity as opposed to practical concerns, but I find that living on an island forces me to consider a host of unique matters when it comes to choosing my clothing and accessories. They may not be appearing on the catwalk or in a fashion spread any time soon, but they serve me well and (I hope!) don’t look terrible. Below are my island fashion must-haves:

  1. Walking shoes: No matter how fabulous they are, you will probably never see me working some strappy stiletto heels, because I really need to be able to walk. Maybe it’s my years of being car-less or the knowledge that any day might see me stuck standing in a long, slow line, but comfy, usually flat shoes are my number one fashion accessory.
  2. Shades: It’s way too sunny most days to leave the house without shades and still be comfortable. Since I am on the clumsy side and I have a grabby little one, I tend to go for sturdy and inexpensive frames. I picked up the pair I’m wearing today at a $1 store during my last trip to the states.
  3. A big bag: I love those tiny clutches or palm-sized pocketbooks suspended on a fine chain that I see so many women rocking, but I just can’t do it. My bag needs to hold sunscreen, water, a notebook, some pens, a snack and maybe a camera, and I need to be able to actually wear it on a shoulder rather than carry it in my hand. This means that I often carry a backpack rather than a purse, but I’m happy to report that my current one, with its slick fabric and cute silver-tone tag, is a big step up, style-wise, from the sweaty canvas pack I used to carry around town.
  4. Lightweight cardigan: I’ve accepted that I’ll never solve the mystery of why we like to have our air conditioners cranked to mid-Atlantic winter temperatures in so many buildings, but rather than shivering the whole time I’m in one of these places, I just toss a cardigan in my bag (since there’s so much room in there).
  5. Cute umbrella: It might be polka dot or bright purple but I love to have my umbrella with me in any weather. Is the sun shining? It’s my parasol or portable shade. Drizzly or pouring down rain? I’m sitting pretty under my one-woman shelter.

This column appeared in the May 31, 2018 Limin Times.

Bonus: because my favorite accessory to wear is the Wee Baby Abel.

IMG_1567

These shades were the best until I broke them that time I bonked my head getting into the vehicle.

I feel like it’s the most convenient and normal way to carry him but around here it’s a real conversation starter. One guy, who had to be able to see the baby’s little legs dangling as I walked (people often can’t see his face because of the big hats) had to ask whether I had a baby “in there.” Maybe he thought I was sporting a quirky backpack the wrong way around?

Code of the Baby

IMG_2271

The wee baby Abel’s smile lights up the room, but only when he can’t see the camera/phone, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

After spending some time observing my little one and those of my friends and relations, I’m convinced that somewhere in this world, there really is a Boss Baby, and that he or she has handed down the baby equivalent of a stone tablet filled with the code of the baby. Based on my investigation, here are some universal rules that all babies are required to follow:

  1. Thou shalt taste everything. Seriously, if it’s small enough to fit in your hand, put it right in your mouth. Too big? Just open wide and lick whatever portion of the object is closest to your face.
  2. Thou shalt always be on the lookout for sharp and pointy objects. Make your desire for the object known in classic baby fashion: urgent looks, followed by reaching for and grabbing the object and, if you can’t get it in hand after a moment, obnoxiously loud crying. Bonus Boss Baby points for painfully poking yourself in the face if you do manage to get a hold of it.
  3. Whenever placed on the floor, thou shalt always creep or crawl toward the dirtiest thing within reach. Pet food bowls are okay, but a low, open garbage bin is preferable, and a cat’s litter tray that hasn’t been cleaned out for a day or two is ideal.
  4. Thou shalt covet thy neighbor’s toy. Even if you are already contentedly playing with what is normally your favorite toy, and even if the neighboring child is playing with a toy you normally don’t care for, you should grab for that other toy anyway.
  5. Thou shalt squeeze face. The face squeeze is the universal baby greeting. Show interest in other humans and any pets within reach by grabbing a fistful of flesh, preferably in the facial area.
  6. If you have accomplished a new cute behavior and your parent or other caregiver pulls out a camera to document it, you must immediately stop doing the activity until the camera is put away. Similarly, when the caregiver calls a human witness to observe the new behavior, cease doing it until the second person leaves the room. When you start to talk, use this same strategy when you learn a new word or phrase.
  7. Humor they mother and thy father. Remember to keep a steady stream of cuteness going for your parents, lest they decide to call the stork and return you for following the other rules so closely.

Get Your Gratitude

I was having one of those mornings. You know the ones: it was raining, the roads were covered in rocks, puddles were hiding the new potholes, and to top it off I got stuck behind a trailer truck blocking both directions of traffic because its wheels had lost traction as it was backing into a driveway.

Then I remembered that not so long ago, it would have taken all day to get from where I live in Josiah’s Bay to Frenchman’s Cay and back because Irma mashed up so many of our roads. And not so long before that, I would have been making the trek via bus or several thumbed rides because I didn’t have a car. And then I remembered that I’m fit enough that even if there were no charitable drivers to be found, I could always walk, an option not everyone has.

thank god

And thank you, Lil Jon.

In other words, I remembered how fortunate I am to have problems like an inconvenient commute. Suddenly I was giving thanks for the same thing that was annoying me just a minute beforehand. Getting in a grateful head space is an instant mood lifter for me, but did you know there’s a lot of science showing that gratitude is good for you?

There’s the Northeastern University study that found a link between gratitude and more patience and better decision-making. One Swiss study found that people who were more grateful also took better care of their health. A UK study showed a link between more gratitude and more sleep. Yet another study on people with chronic illness found that those who kept a daily gratitude journal experienced fewer painful symptoms than their counterparts who didn’t journal. Then there was the study that found grateful people also have better self esteem than those that aren’t as grateful. There have also been a bunch of studies that show that the more you count your blessings, the happier and less depressed you feel.

So grateful people feel better and happier, which is pretty great, but in all this research I saw another theme emerge: gratitude actually makes you a better person! In one study of people in Germany and the US, those who said they “regularly and often” experienced gratitude were also more likely to do “pro-social behavior,” social scientists way of talking about good deeds. Another study, this one in Kentucky, found that grateful people are kinder to others, even when faced with unkind treatment themselves.

All these PhDs seem to agree that the best way to get more grateful is to practice gratitude daily with something like a gratitude journal. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m going to start mine tonight!

This column appeared in the May 3, 2018 edition of the Limin Times.

Baby Traditions, part two

IMG_2153

The Wee Baby Abel having a swinging good time.

Back when I was expecting, I shared some of the traditions that people told me about pregnancy and newborns. Now that I’ve had my baby and he is big enough to meet people all over the island, I am again hearing a lot more traditions, superstitions and, of course, advice. That’s right, it’s time for another round of baby traditions.

Ever hear the phrase “sleep like a baby?” My son’s sleep isn’t as peaceful as the phrase suggests, but according the old folks, when he and other babies do settle in and sleep, they always dream of angels. I like to imagine some of the family members who passed away before the baby was born are his personal angels.

My son has a head full of curls, so a lot of the traditional wisdom we hear is about hair. For example, did you know you’re not supposed to cut a baby’s hair before they can talk? (An alternate version says to wait until the first birthday.) If you do, according to one legend, they might never wind up speaking. Similarly, some folks say the early haircut will cause the baby to develop a stutter.

I’ve also heard that you shouldn’t comb a child’s hair while they sleep or they could wind up “slow.” I didn’t have the sense to ask at the time if this was a reference to physical speed or just a euphemism for a dull wit, but now that I have a crawler on my hands, I sure wish I had. I’d have no problem combing the baby’s hair while he naps if it meant he couldn’t scoot away from me so swiftly!

Lately my little guy seems bigger every time I see him, so I shouldn’t be surprised that people have so much to say about what makes babies grow faster. One woman told me that the more you bathe a baby, the faster they grow. I can’t deny that once my little one started moving around more and eating enough to need daily baths, he did start to pack on the pounds.

Speaking of weight, it’s not a good idea to call a baby heavy. “Only the dead are heavy,” the saying goes. I especially like that one because it reminds me as a parent that my son might be a bit of a physical burden – he’s now big enough to give me backache if I carry him for too long – his life is a blessing.

This column appeared in the April 26, 2018 edition of the Limin Times.

Read part one here.

Returning to Paradise

sunset

From #docklife to #decklife, the view from my new place.

The BVI had Irma-geddon, then I had a baby. Baby, hubby and I escaped (okay, evacuated) to California for a while, which was both delightful and difficult.

People have asked when I will be writing about all of that, but the truth is that it’s still hard to talk about and I’m not sure I’ll ever write about it… So I guess the answer to that question is: not yet.

Anyway, seven months on and things are feeling almost normal around here, including at work, where the Limin Times is back!

kermit

Here’s my latest Island Life column, which ran April 19th.

Island life means sharing your mornings with roosters, goats, cows and all kinds of other creatures, but recently I had my worst island wake up call ever. I was roused from my slumber by the feeling of something cold and wet on my shin. Without thinking – let’s be honest, I wasn’t even fully conscious yet – I grabbed the offending object and flung it away into what turned out to be the closet.

This was not a quiet process, so soon I was trying to explain to my groggy husband what the commotion was all about. As my mind cleared I gradually realized that it must have been a frog. I cannot articulate my disgust. A cold, damp frog had been in my bedroom, on my bed, on my leg, and then, shudder to think, I had held it briefly in my hand.

Hubby, hero that he is, wasted no time hopping out of bed and handing me the hand sanitizer. He advised me to take the baby and leave the room, heavy shoe in hand.

“Are you going to kill it?” I asked, realizing that there is indeed something more icky than a live frog hopping around the bedroom.

Beginning to be fully awake himself, hubby put down his shoe and, as if in answer, we heard a rustle in the closet. The frog appeared on the ledge of our son’s play pen and hubby lunged for it. The wily frog, evidently drawn to the sound of his friends outside the bedroom window, started climbing the curtain.

Watching the frog awkwardly make its way up the curtain was like watching a muppet flail its arms and legs. Suddenly, it wasn’t so icky. It was just Kermit. I watched as my resourceful husband coaxed Kermit into the play pen, covered it with a mosquito net, and carried the pen onto the front porch. Kermit was clearly no genius: after he hopped out of the pen he lingered on the porch until hubby made some noise before rejoining the other frogs that love to hang out croaking in the yard.

Even though I fervently hope Kermit never again finds his way inside, I do find myself wishing him well in a way. Now excuse me while I go scrub down everything he might have touched while he was there.

Baby Traditions

Since anybody who sees me these days can immediately tell, I think it’s safe to let the cat out of the bag: Come September I’m expecting my first island baby.

hello2

A onesie graphic I made to match some sweet knitted gear gifted to the baby.

Now that the pregnancy is pretty far along, people are really starting to notice when they see me – and boy do some of them have a lot to say! It turns out that there are loads of old wives tales, superstitions and traditions about pregnancy and babies that I had no idea existed until now.

One common theme has to do with “marking the baby,” or doing something that will lead to a child being born with a birthmark. Among the things that might mark your child are bumping into something, which in theory leads your baby to be born with a mark on the corresponding spot on their body; or denying yourself a food you’re craving while pregnant and then scratching yourself. If my child is born with a birthmark that looks like a carne asada taco, everyone will know why.

Another theme has to do with predicting the sex of the baby. Friends from the United States swear that because my “baby bump” is visible right under my ribs, my baby will be a girl. Meanwhile, friends from the Dominican Republic think the opposite: most of the extra weight I’m carrying is located around my hips, which, they say, means the baby will be a boy. A few different friends have also predicted a boy, but for entirely different reasons: a girl baby makes the mother sick and miserable, the thinking goes, and I’m having entirely too pleasant of a pregnancy for this not to be a boy child. Since I’m waiting until the baby’s birthday to find out the answer, it’s easy to nod along with everybody’s predictions.

My favorite Caribbean baby related traditions are the ones that have echoes in other cultures. For example, it’s common to hear folks in the BVI say that the first time you meet a child you should “put something in their hand.” This is a polite way of saying that you should give the baby some cash. The literal blessing you give the child helps make sure he or she will be blessed with good fortune. This is very similar to a tradition among Filipinos that says that the first time a baby visits your house you should give them cash, although my understanding from the Filipino “aunties” who did this when I was growing up was that giving cash to the baby would bring the giver the good fortune.

Anybody else heard any good wives tales about pregnancy and babies?

This column first appeared in the Aug 24th edition of the Limin Times.