Monday, March 29, 2010

Goo-goo, ga-ga: Advice for baby & parents

PK and I had a baby shower yesterday for son Quinn & his wife, Heather, who expect their first child, Noah,  in early June. Parents no longer guess about their baby's gender, making it easier on shower guests, who still purchase the color-appropriate baby garments and accessories. Shower attendees were mostly good friends from forever, it seems, and one new young woman. Before gifts were opened, advice for the new parents and the person-to-be were solicited. Here, for your reading pleasure, are their words of wisdom followed by an invitation to chime in.

Advice for the parents-to-be
Michael: Don't shake the baby. No diaper pins. God, they cry when you pin 'em.
When the baby cries and works into a fit, lay him on his tummy and press down gently and bounce him. This pushes the air out. When his face gets red, he can't cry.
Paul: Be ready for anything. You don't know what's going to hit you, but something will.
Gail: Be consistent. They'll work you against each other. This is a huge issue. And don't argue in front of the kids.
Mark: You only have one chance. Do the right thing for your kids, same as love. Do what you need to do to do right by them.
Dave: Children are such a positive and special part of a marriage. But you have to work to keep your relationship together and not let it get hijacked by the kids.
Susan: If you are the stay-at-home person, keep your creative energy alive.
Ferron: Anyone who has raised animals knows that you make a prompt response to behavior. Bad! Good! Do this before they learn to speak.
Elke: You'll make mistakes. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Catherine: Don't coddle. Children are resilient.
Jeanne: You think when they're little that childhood will last forever and you'll never have time for yourself. It doesn't last forever. Enjoy your children. They're gone too soon.
Gary: Your children are always with you. It just changes.
Mary: Children are born with a temperament. You can't do anything about it except to observe and learn what the child's nature is, then accept this little person for who he is.

Advice for Baby Noah
Paul: Be patient. Your parents have no idea who you are. Believe that they'll learn.
Gail: Laugh a lot. Life is good.
Sueji: I love your name, Noah. It has to do with boats. I want to take you on the river! It is important to know that your parents are human. Cut them some slack. Good parenting is the hardest job in the world.
Ferron: Get together with other newborns, and seriously consider a class-action lawsuit against circumcision.

Elke: Be patient with your parents. And be happy.
Catherine: Your parents are smarter than you are. Listen to them.
Mary: If your parents are mean and unreasonable, call Grandma!
Katarina: You're the firstborn. You're the experiment. Your parents will try everything on their first kid. Be patient.

Heather and Katarina cavort in the kitchen with baby Noah present in some way.
Got any words of wisdom for Noah or his parents? Ears, eyes, and minds are open wide. And hearts, too. And maybe even fetal comprehension.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Where the hell is Roatan?

Cruise passengers (the white people) are greeted by Roatan dancers who aren't all that amused.

The cruise ship docks just a short pier off the tiny island of Roatan, much to the delight of locals who view the cruise  ship industry as an economic opportunity where economic opportunities are rare.
I've been back from two weeks in the Caribbean for one week and it seems like I never went anywhere! Before "be here now" takes over entirely, I have a few words and images.

Roatan. Ever heard of it?  Neither had I until the cruise ship stopped there disgorging about 2,000 passengers onto this small—37 miles long, five miles wide—and hilly Honduran island. 
PK and I opted for a day at the beach. At $35 each, it was the least expensive of about a dozen excursions offered that day. (We were still clueless about independent excursions. More on that later, if I ever get to "what I learned about cruising.")
Here's what we got: a van ride over hill and vale thru tropical jungle to the beach: a huge buffet cruise-style barbecue lunch (all cruise food comes in huge); a park-like entrance to the beach; lounge chairs lined up like this with cruisers in various states of, uhhhh, ecstacy? Are we having fun yet?
A line is drawn in the sand and inches outside are locals, toes on the boundary,  trying to make a buck off us cruisers. PK and I strolled outside of the sanitized area and were immediately accosted by the woman in the green and black striped blouse. She was selling massages performed by her daughter, Larissa, that younger woman on the left. I bit. A half hour massage for $15.
Most importantly, according to the cruise-line sales pitch, this beach had been sanitized of sand fleas, which are apparently a plague upon tourists and locals alike and probably the universe. At any rate, something toxic was sprayed upon the white sands and within the confines of the private beach, we were not bitten.

And here is Larissa, ready to  knead the white pasty flesh of some old woman from god-knows-where.

Larissa claimed to be 15 but seemed older. Although we occupied an unsanitized area of Roatan, I didn't suffer any flea bites. Only sound bites of Larissa's life. I asked if she and others were able to buy food at the opulent cruise barbecue buffet, which was wafting tantalizing aromas from maybe 100 feet behind us.  She scoffed, "No. They'd rather throw food away than give it us, or even sell it to us. They treat us like dogs," she said. She pressed her thumbs especially hard into my shoulder muscles. Ummm.
She slathered me with baby oil. No pricey scented oils here. No massage table. No licensed massage therapist. Just Larissa, a teenager who told me she's still hoping that a former  cruise customer from Syracuse will make good on a promise to house her in the  U.S.A. and help her with college. Larissa went on at length about this woman, who Larissa believed, would deliver her from the poverty that plagues Honduras. The massage went past 45 minutes. Maybe I knew this woman? Larissa said she had the woman's phone number and had called her many times. But the woman hadn't called back.Why hadn't she called back?
Silence. What could I say about the temporary goodwill extended by tourists?
A local beer and the groomed entrance to the private cruise-ship beach just beyond.
Larissa said the food sure smelled good. "You want some?" I asked. "Would you?" she replied. I went through the buffet line and piled barbecued chicken, coleslaw, beans and rice, and wonderful tropical fruit onto a paper plate. I covered it with another plate and sped to the "line in the sand" where Larissa whisked it away, followed by two others. I saw them under some palms savoring the feast. She glanced over at me and nodded her thanks. Believe me Larissa, it was nothing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cruise Blues #1

Not exactly what you want to see when you step onto your cruise ship balcony to gaze at the tropical sea,  right? Not just that there's a crapload of tankers out there, but it's a metallic morning with a stiff breeze and just 64 degrees and you've signed up to go snorkeling. You're committed. The cruise line has a Draconian 48-hour cancellation policy. The $74 per person excursion charge has already been added to your swiftly escalating cruise account, and no matter what, you're going. This is kinda like eating a restaurant meal even though it sucks, or staying through a revolting movie just because you've paid for it.
And besides, it's a "free" cruise, which means I won it. No kidding. I took my elderly mother to a promotional event at a retirement center where the big prize was this cruise.  My number came up. It seemed really lucky to win, even though PK and I aren't exactly cruise material. But here we were a couple days into the cruise thinking that an opportunity to skim above a piece of the world's second largest coral reef—we were in the Caribbean off the coast of Belize on the Yucatan Peninsula—was not to be missed—or dismissed just because our teeth were chattering.
So we followed the herd onto a safe and comfortable craft (everything on cruise vacations is safe, if not  always comfortable) and headed with about 125 of our closest friends to the reef six miles distant. It wasn't getting any warmer.
This is a crew member enjoying the unseasonable March cold.
We arrived at the reef and were given our safety briefing; wear the mandatory flotation and don't go beyond the approximately basketball-court-sized area defined by crew members in plastic boats. And don't drink the rum punch until afterwards. Rum punch? At 9 a.m.?
So we floundered over the rail and with at least 100 other eager cruisers, splashed into the cool aquamarine.  Some wiser souls, including a couple of college girls in spaghetti straps, however, said NO WAY and got a head start on the  punch. More on that later.
I didn't mind the cold too much as I possess adequate natural insulation—fat. My ectomorph husband, however, quickly became, uh, chilled, a condition that would soon spread from his body to his mood. Especially his mood toward his wife. 
The pleasures of snorkeling with the masses in an intimate area is not to be downplayed. You will come into contact, fin or face, with at least 75 of them, one for each dollar paid for the experience. We were allowed an hour to snorkel, but most people couldn't hold out that long. PK and I soldiered on for maybe 30 minutes before I got sick of seeing way more people than fish, and  PK got sick of shivering. 
I took the above photo when we were back on the boat and all but the most persistent had called it quits. PK was wrapped in a damp towel and quaking like a hairless dog. Determined to cut my losses, I sought out the plastic barrel dispensing rum punch, the only free alcohol on the cruise where even a simple lite beer costs $6. It was maybe 10 a.m.  

College girls (?) on spring break cavort under an imagined sun.
A Scottish lad celebrates the not-so-fair morn.
And his fair lass goes along for the fair ride.
A lubricated couple prepares to smooch.
Rumless PK was not amused.
The cold was forgotten. The dance tunes were cranked up and whoo hoo! I believe the crew had  dumped an extra load of rum into the barrel out of sympathy for people who had paid too much for too little.  I think I can safely say that no one who signed up for the snorkeling on the world's second largest reef expected to be snockered before noon. 
Later PK and I  took a tender (a boat transporting cruise passengers into ports without proper depth to accommodate behemoth ships) into Belize City. Judgment clouded by the punch, I ordered a daiquiri on shore when PK got a beer. I couldn't drink the daiquiri, however, and handed it off to this receptive individual who was crafting trinkets near a bridge in Belize City. I believe his expression captures the spirit of the day.
I don't know this man's name, and I can't identify any of the people pictured above—except for that one unsmiling and annoyed person. If you were along for the ride this March 2010 day and happen to be pictured above and don't like it, please respond and I will remove your photo. Until then, thanks for a good time and bottom's up!