Right Near the Beach

This Spring Break, Big Foot received his very first passport stamp! We spent a few days in Jamaica, and not only did he have a blast, but I was even able to relax.

First, let’s talk about money. This vacation was definitely a splurge for me, but with careful planning and timing I was able to pull it off. In the end, I spent about $1500 for the flight and 3 nights stay at the resort. Specifically, $900 for the resort (kids under 6 stay free), and $548 for the flight.

The outbound flight experience was wonderful. The security check at MCO was uncharacteristically fast and painless, and my first experience flying JetBlue was lovely. The inbound flight experience was something else, but more on that in a later post.

There were two big factors that made me choose this particular adventure for this year’s Spring Break. First, my son has been fixated on the idea of the beach since he was two, despite having the kind of mom who lives in Florida, yet never goes to the beach. In fact, he once drew me a beach “just in case I didn’t know how to find the beach”. Second, one of the way the Franklyn D. Resort  differentiates itself from others in the crowded tropical vacation market is though the inclusion of a vacation nanny assigned each family.

That’s right: the all-inclusive price includes all meals, all drinks, many activities, airport transportation, and a vacation nanny. Vacation. Nanny. Which means that even a single mom like me can have some time for self-care during the vacation.

We arrived at the resort on a Monday, and the reception staff was friendly and welcoming. I was informed that our room had been upgraded from a Garden/Pool View Junior Suite to a Beachfront 2 Bedroom Suite. The suite was clean and pretty, with TVs in each bedroom and in the living room, a beach patio with a view of the beach, and a kitchenette (with some cheese and crackers in the mini-fridge).

Although it was already close to 5:00pm when we arrived, the nanny still came to meet us in our suite, give us a tour, and stay with us for a bit so my son could go on the beach before dark. Before she left, she walked us to one of the restaurants so we could have dinner. There are multiple restaurants on the property, including one with grilled foods and kid favorites (right next an ice cream bar with a tree house on top!), an adults-only fine dining restaurant, and a buffet. During our stay, some of my favorites were the (very spicy) jerk chicken/pork and the guava-glazed chicken.

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Jerk pork from the grill

The next morning, Anna, our nanny, arrived at 8:30 while we were at breakfast. Big Foot warmed up to her very quickly and went off to play on the beach with her until her lunch break. By the time she returned, after we had our own lunch, I asked my son what he would like to do next, he enthusiastically said, “Go play with Anna!” Then, he grabbed her hand and took off running. Most of our vacation was spent with him playing with the nanny, and I really enjoyed listening to him recount his adventures at mealtimes and as we spent the evenings together. During his time with Anna, Big Foot played on the beach, tie-dyed a shirt, played in the club house, played on the beach some more, played on the playground, swam in the pool, had a beaded bracelet made, went fishing, and watched rabbits.

I had planned on taking advantage of the fitness center and glass bottom boat tour, but I spent most of the free time doing all the things I rarely do: reading a book on the patio (not for work, and without interruptions!), have a massage surrounded by the ocean, and get a pedicure without rushing. I was also able to enjoy a glass of wine here and there since I didn’t need to worry about driving home. I have to say that the pedicure was mediocre, but the massage was absolutely heavenly. The fact the two services cost me less than I would pay just for the massage States-side was a bonus, especially when the spa includes this view:

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And did I mention I was able to read a whole book during those few days? While sitting under trees and looking out at the ocean?

Oh, and apparently, I was even flirted with, but I’m in the stage of my life where I don’t notice these things until the young lady working as a nanny points it out to me.

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Reading Spot with a View

 

Some of the activities were not available because our stay ended before the weekend, but one of the highlights was the Wednesday evening beach-side barbecue. It was just cool enough to be comfortable, the anti-bug lamps were effective, and the food was both plentiful and tasty. Truly the perfect setting for the last evening of our stay.

Check out was at noon on Thursday, and someone came to pick up our luggage for us at 11:00 am, which means Big Foot was still able to enjoy some last-minute beach time. The check out process itself was quick and painless, and the airport shuttle arrived right on time. Big Foot was definitely sad to say goodbye to Anna, and I sure wished we could have stayed another day or two.

Overall, I would say the vacation was a success. Everyone at FDR was really friendly and helpful, and they really have it set to make it a perfect vacation for parents, including single parents. It isn’t a luxury resort per se, but for me the luxury was in being able to enjoy a vacation with my child (and get to be in the pictures!) while still having some time for myself. I would absolutely go again.

Plus, this moment alone was worth it:

 

 

Keep wandering,

                            ~Joëlle

 

Finding Passion

I once had a short lived blog. It was about living with passion and revolved around a list of 40 goals I wanted to accomplish before I turned 40. A handful or the goals were crossed off, and I thought I would easily take care of the rest over the remaining years.

However, despite careful planning, I found myself the single parent of a newborn when my husband left a few days before my due date. Suddenly, I went from trying to live life with passion to trying to make it through each day with at least some of my sanity and money left.

I must pause and say that I do enjoy several privileges as far as parenting solo goes. First, I have a full time job with benefits. Additionally, my parents live a mere five minutes away and are retired.

Nonetheless, the first year, keeping any remnant of my sanity was challenging. My mother stayed at my house for the first two weeks, so I could at least get a few hours of sleep each day and feel less nervous about caring for my newborn. She then returned home so that I could begin developing a routine of my own. Sleep-deprivation, spotty eating, and the seemingly constant crying (both my child’s and mine) created a dark background for my bitterness to fester. At times, it even verged on paranoia: perhaps my in-laws had convinced my husband to more cross country to stay with his father so that he would not develop a bond with our child. Maybe he had never planned to stick around in the first place. Perhaps I would fall into so deep a sleep that I would not heat my son cry at night, and he would become emotionally detached from me. Or maybe I would return to work and realize I had completely forgotten how to teach.

Then there were the rational things that were chipping away at my sanity. The postpartum hormonal roller coaster, the physical and logistical demands of breastfeeding while working full-time, the reality of financially providing for my son completely on my own—more factors that left me in survival mode.

However, things have finally settled, and I am again able to look at the possibility of really living with passion. In the end, most of the items on my 40 by 40 list had to do with wandering in one way or another, whether from my comfort zone or from my physical location. So here I am now, still doing what is natural to me: still wandering.