Top 9 things I miss about a winter wonderland Christmas

winter wonderland Christmas

Let me start of by saying that I love living in the Caribbean.  I love that it’s never cold, I love that I don’t have to shovel the snow, or clear the snow off of my car.  That being said, there’s something magical about Christmas with snow.  As a Canadian expat I grew up mainly in the tropics, but we did spend most of our Christmas holidays in Canada.  Because of that there are certain elements of a winter that, to me, make Christmas magical.

Here are the top 9 things that I miss about a winter wonderland Christmas:

9. Tobogganing

8. Snow-ball fights, snow-angels, and snow-forts

7. Snow-men.  Although I have made sand-men before and that’s pretty fun.

6. The cute clothing.  That’s right, I even miss wearing cute boots and sweaters that I cannot use in the tropics because I’d probably suffer from heat stroke.  Of course that does not mean that I long for the scarves, and jackets, and mittens, and hats…especially not for an entire season.

5. Is there anything more adorable then a baby or toddler all bundled up for winter?  I think not!

4. The beauty of white fluffy snow

3. Street after street of houses beautifully decorated with Christmas lights.  In my experience, in Central American & the Caribbean, very few people decorate the outside of their homes.

2. Christmas stockings hanging from a beautifully decorated mantle.  Living in the tropics, most houses don’t even have fireplaces because we don’t need them.

1. Drinking a delicious cup of hot chocolate next to a wood burning fire.  There’s just something about the smell and sound of the crackling logs, paired with a hot cup of chocolate that just spells Christmas to me.

So there you have it, those are the top 9 things that I miss about spending Christmas in a winter wonderland!  Perhaps next year I can get my family up to Canada for a little visit and so that my son can experience the fun side of snow for the first time.  In the meantime I will dig my toes into the sand and continue to enjoy our life here on this gorgeous island with the turquoise water and white sand beaches.

Did I leave anything out?  What makes Christmas magical to you?

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
Mummuddlingthrough
Running in Lavender
Mr and Mrs T Plus Three

Family holiday

vacation

So we just went on a little family vacation.  It wasn’t a very long trip, just about a week, but the getaway was needed.  It was also our first shot at travelling with an energetic almost one year old.  The last time we travelled our son was only a few months old so it was easy, he pretty much just slept everywhere we went.  This time he’s older, mobile, full of energy, and needing to be entertained.  So suddenly travelling as a family has become a vastly different experience.  A fun, exciting, chaotic, stressful, dynamic, and thoroughly joyful experience.

We spent about a week in Washington DC and were lucky enough to stay with friends.  It was so nice to spend time with great friends that we hadn’t seen in some time whilst also creating some wonderful family memories.  Our friends have an 8 month old baby which just made for so much fun and adorable photos of our two little guys playing together.  Our days were filled with lots of baby laughter, and just a few tears.  Of course having two babies hanging around meant that there was no fixed schedule, unless you count feedings and napping as a vacation schedule.  For the most part they were happy to nap out on the road, but we made sure to get home early so they could each get a good nights rest.  No more late nights out when you have a couple of babies with you!

We live in Puerto Rico so this was our little guys first experience in the cold weather, and lets just say he’s not a huge fan.  When we arrived and walked out of the airport into the cold night air he was taken aback and gave us quite the look of shock and horror.  He got cranky when we put a coat on him and the look of shock made its appearance every single time we went outside!  Even when we were indoors his discomfort continued.  His crawling and general ruckus was much more low key as apparently wearing long pants just slows him down.  And socks, no way!  If he’s inside there is no way he’s having socks on.  By the end of the trip he did get more comfortable in his cold weather clothes but my little Caribbean boy definitely prefers the heat and his shorts.

The plane ride wasn’t too bad.  The way there was a night flight so he was cranky as all he wanted to do was stretch out in his bed and sleep.  He did manage to sleep but if he did wake up he cried, and no parent enjoys that when they’re on the plane.  On the way back it was a morning flight so he didn’t sleep too much, he was full of energy and wanting to play.  Fortunately he was quite well behaved, he was content to just play with his toys and eat his snacks.  Unfortunately for the couple next to us their 16 month little girl cried pretty much the entire way.  She, and her parents, did not have a good flight at all.  I tried to be friendly and help if they needed something but we all know that being the parent of a hysterical child on a flight is just so stressful.  The look of exhaustion and relief on their faces when we deplaned  was just heartbreaking.

I’m so glad we got to enjoy some time away as a family, and share that time with some really great friends.  Especially getting to know their little baby, kids grow so fast that I’m so thankful we got to experience him as a baby! 🙂

Autumn
Beautiful autumn colours. This was one of my favourite parts of our trip, it’s been far too many years since I’ve seen this!
the favourite bear
Little man’s favourite bear all buckled up and ready for take off!
playing on the plane
Entertaining himself on the plane. We had a couple of crying moments but for the most part he did really great!
Christmas tree
Beautiful Christmas tree at Mount Vernon

Planning for a trip with a baby

planning for a trip

We are planning a quick family getaway in mid November and it has is become clear just how much trip planning changes when you have a baby to consider.  Prior to having a baby any trip was all about the excitement of seeing something new and just going with the flow.  Now that we have a little one I have to plan out so many more details.  So here are some points that I have found necessary to take into account.

Where you will stay.  For this trip we are fortunate enough to stay with some good friends who also have a baby.  This works out great since they too live in the baby world, plus the little ones will be able to play together which is fabulous.  But wherever you decide to stay just make sure you also have somewhere safe for the baby to sleep, ideally a crib.  Most hotels do provide cribs which is great, but in my experience you should always take your own fitted crib sheet.  It has happened to me on two occasions that I call the hotel ahead of time to ensure that they have a fitted crib sheet and yet when I get there it turns out that they do not.  So it’s best to bring one with you just in case.

Climate.  If you’re travelling somewhere with a climate different to your own then you’re going to have to get appropriate clothes for your baby, and we all know that baby clothes are pricey.  I have been faced with this issue on this trip because we are going somewhere cold but we live in the Caribbean so I have no winter clothes for my baby.  To avoid spending a lot of money on clothes he will only use for a few days I’m keeping the items to a minimum.  Luckily he is a very clean baby so this shouldn’t be an issue.  The only things I’ve purchased are two long sleeve tops.  He already has a couple of cardigans so I plan to just use those over his other shirts which should be fine.  Fortunately another mom friend of mine has a warm coat so I’m able to borrow that for the trip.  Always ask around if you can borrow items from someone, but if you have to purchase look for clearance items or bargain shops.

Supplies.  All parents know that a baby requires a lot of supplies (diapers, food, wipes, bottles, etc.) so planning ahead helps.  Make sure to take enough to cover any situation like a flight delay, but if you can purchase things when you arrive to your destination then that will make packing a lot easier.  If you use specialty products that aren’t easily available then you should take those, but if you’re flexible on brands then you can likely get most of what you need wherever you go…unless of course you plan on going to a very secluded location.

Toys.  A baby needs entertainment so you have to take some toys along, but consider the wisely before packing everything you have.  Toys take up a lot of space so just take a couple of his or her favourite items.  For this trip I plan to bring one book, his teddy bear and one other small toy.

Activities.  When you have a little one you need to find activities that are baby friendly, so it helps to do a little research before you go.  But let’s not forget, sometimes a baby has other ideas so don’t get fixated on a plan.  Have a good idea of what fun family things you can do, but be flexible and don’t worry if the plans have to change.  In the end the most important thing is that you’re spending time together as a family and you’ll have great memories of this for years to come.

I have found that by keeping all of these things in mind I can avoid over-packing and unnecessary stress and simply focus on the joy and excitement of travelling and spending time as a family.

Always the foreigner

always the foreigner, travel

Do you know that feeling when you’re in a room filled with people, but you know that you stand out?  Even if you’re dressed the same way, doing the same thing, there is still just something different about you?  That’s kind of what it’s like being an expat.  As much as you love and enjoy where you’re living, you’re still that person who isn’t from around there.

I grew up as what they like to call a 3rd culture kid.  Both of my parents are from different countries (Canada and El Salvador) and they moved around so my brother and I were raised in a few different countries.  For this reason I have spent most of my life living in countries other than the two that I am from.  As a result, when I’m in Canada I’m the foreigner because I did not grow up there, then when I’m in El Salvador I’m also the foreigner because I did not grow up there either.  But when I go anywhere else I’m still the foreigner because I am not a citizen of those places either.  So basically, no matter where I am, I’m always seen as the foreigner by most people.  This is both a beautiful and a frustrating thing. The frustration comes from other people thinking they get to decide where you are from.  Many people think you have to live in one place for most, if not all, of you life in order for it to be your home.  The beauty of the way I was raised is that I got to see different cultures, learn different ways of doing things, and all the while still having somewhere I could consider a home base.  It’s true that I will never know what it’s like to have a best friend that I’ve known since kindergarten, but I do know what it’s like to have friends all over the world.  Growing up as a foreigner gives you an appreciation for different cultures and different ways of thinking.  It’s made me who I am and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Now that I’m married and with a baby, my husband and I are expats once again (we live in Puerto Rico).  Sure, it can get lonely when you’re missing family.  Especially with a new baby, I find myself having days where all I want is to be near family so that my son can grow up with his grandparents close by.  But when I have a day like that I just try to remind myself of all of the great things about this life because there are so many positives.  We get to live the beautiful experience of calling the Caribbean home, and we get to learn about a brand new culture that we haven’t experienced before.  Not to mention all of the people we have met here that are also expats and from various countries all over the world.

If I had to give one piece of advice to anyone who is preparing to embark on the life of an expat for the first time it would be to keep yourself open.  Open to new experiences, open to new cultures, and open to diversity.  Take advantage of the opportunity to discover your new destination.  By which I don’t mean to simply go and hit all of the tourist spots, I mean don’t close yourself off by surrounding yourself only with other expats that are also from the place you’re from.  I’ve seen this happen many times.  A lot of people prefer to socialize only with those who are from the same country as themselves.  I think it’s better to keep yourself open to locals as well as to fellow expats from around the world.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a community of people who have a similar background to yours, but sometimes people can miss the beauty of a new place because they concentrate only on what they left behind.  Treasure your home base and your past, it’s why you are who you are, just keep yourself open to truly enjoy you’re new surroundings, you might be surprised by how rewarding that can be.

Life as an expat; Saying goodbye

IMG_5898

Living life as an expat can be full of fun and adventure.  You get to explore new parts of the world, learn about a new culture, and meet lots of interesting people.  But life as an expat also has an unavoidable sad side to it, saying goodbye.  Along the way we meet lots of lovely people and make great friends.  Eventually, some of those friends will continue their path onto another country.  They will start a new, exciting adventure, and you will be forced to say goodbye.

Today I said goodbye to one of the girlfriends that I met here on the island.  This parting is particularly difficult because we met when we were both brand new to the island, we were pregnant together, and we had our babies together.  So we shared a special time in our lives, experiencing all of it together.  Her son is one my son’s first friends, and we are very sad to see them go.  I’m excited for her to embark on this new adventure, but I’m sad that we must part ways.  I’m sure we will remain in contact and I wish her and her family all of the best in their new home.  Bon Voyage my friend!

La vida de un expat puede ser emocionante y llena de aventura.  Es bonito explorar el mundo y conocer países, culturas y personas nuevas.  Lamentablemente esta vida también tiene su lado triste, despedirse de las amistades.  Hoy me toco despedirme de una buena amiga que conocí aquí en Puerto Rico.  Nos conocimos cuando las dos éramos recién llegadas a la isla, juntas vivimos nuestro primer embarazo, y juntas vimos nacer a nuestros hijos.  Su hijo es de los primeros amiguitos de mi bebé.  Hemos compartido etapas de la vida tan lindas y no es nada fácil tener que despedirnos.  Aun con la tristeza de verla ir, estoy segura que nos mantendremos en contacto y le deseo todo lo mejor para ella y su familia en esta etapa nueva de la vida.  ¡Bon Voyage amiga!