Tag Archive | vacation

Alaskan Adventures

A few weeks back, Mr Minion and I went on a cruise to Alaska to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. We actually got married in January, but a cruise in Alaska in January is probably a bit difficult. And cold. And dark. Little Miss Minion stayed with her grandparents while we were gone, since half a day on airplanes does not sound like a fun time.

We began our adventure at 2:45AM local time. Our flight left at 6AM, so we wanted to make sure to leave plenty of time to get to the airport. The first leg of the flight was several hours and took us to Seattle, where I got the obligatory Starbucks in Seattle and we boarded our next plane: a prop plane that we had to board directly from the tarmac. An hour later, we were in Portland, and 3 more hours later, we were in Anchorage. After a 2 hour bus ride, we arrived in Whittier, Alaska and boarded the ship. We got there just in time to drop our bags off in our room and head down to dinner. The ship left Whittier at 8:30PM local time, which ended up being several hours later in our hometown. It never got dark, which was kind of off-putting, but the curtains in our room blocked all the light so we were able to sleep.

The next day was a Sea Day and it started off foggy. We had breakfast at the buffet and  by the time we finished, the sun had come up. We headed up on deck to check out the Hubbard Glacier. It was huge and we could hear the ice cracking, but didn’t see any calving. We got sushi for lunch and explored the ship some more, then went on our balcony to watch more of the glaciers and landscape. We also had coffee cards, so we each grabbed a fancy coffee before heading back to our room. Dinner was a formal night, so we got dressed up and met our official dining companions. There was a couple from Colorado, a younger couple from Minnesota, and an older lady who was by herself. We decided to nickname her Mrs Peacock, like the character in the Clue movie. She kept telling us REPEATEDLY that her husband was in isolation because he was sick. She was also convinced that hazelnut was what they make coffee out of and got rather intoxicated from a single glass of wine. We requested to switch tables the next night, partially because she was a crazy person, but also because we didn’t want to get infected from her husband, who was allegedly being released from isolation the next day. After dinner, we hung out in the indoor pool area and read books until we got tired.

Another sunny sea day followed, and we had breakfast as we approached Glacier Bay. The ship picked up some Rangers who narrated what we were looking at and told us information about the area. There was a special information session that we attended where the Park Rangers gave a presentation and then we headed back to our room to check out the view. We stopped at three glaciers (Margery, Great Pacific, and one more whose name I have forgotten). The ship was 60 miles from the nearest area of development, and only two cruise ships are allowed in the Bay daily. The whole Glacier Bay area used to be covered with thousands of feet of ice. The glaciers carved the mountains as they receded.

The next day was our first port day: Skagway, Alaska. Skagway is a small town of about 900 people and it our favorite of the three ports we visited. We went into town on our own early in the morning and went shopping for souvenirs. We also took a brothel tour at the Red Onion, which was fantastic and very interesting. It was a slightly overcast day, which made for some cool pictures of the mountains. We went back to the ship for lunch at the grill area, which was provided by a local restaurant. They were crab cakes, which are my new favorite thing. After lunch, we headed back into town for a bus tour up the mountains. Our bus driver was essentially a PG version of Ryan Reynolds and he provided a great commentary and fun facts while we went up. We stopped several times for pictures and ended up at the summit of 3K feet. They get 40 FEET, yes FEET of snow up there each winter. When we got back to the ship, there was a flyer in our room about a respiratory illness that was going around. Given the fact that nobody wants to get sick on vacation and that we didn’t want to bring anything back to Little Miss Minion, we immediately instituted a no-elevator rule and took the stairs everywhere. We also tried to stay on deck as much as we could.

The next day was Juneau. We took a bus to the Mendenhall Glacier and everyone was coughing. After what felt like a year (but was probably only about 20 minutes), we arrived at the glacier and had about two hours to walk around until we would be picked up again. Mr Minion and I checked out the visitors’ center and then walked to the glacier and waterfall. It was about 6 miles round trip through woods that had warnings about bears. The views were beautiful and the trail had markers that showed where the ice had been in the past. It was strange to think that only 80 years ago, the glacier had reached halfway through the trail, so about three miles from where it is now. After we got back to the ship, we grabbed some fish tacos from the grill area and found a good spot on deck to read. We ordered a pot of coffee from room service and I snagged some blankets from the pool area so we could be warm on our balcony. That evening, we watched Bohemian Rhapsody from the hot tub in the rain, which was pretty fun. There was a huge TV screen up on the funnel and we sat in the hot tubs while the movie played.

Our last port day was Ketchikan, and it was POURING rain the whole day. This was “true Alaska weather” according to the locals, and we had one excursion in town. We boarded a tender and made our way to the Lumberjack Show and Competition. This was even cooler than it sounded. We got front row seats to watch as about ten lumberjacks showed off their skills in several areas of lumberjacking (new word). After the show, we stopped at a couple of souvenir shops and then headed back to the ship. We had scheduled a package at the spa called “A Perfect Day” and it was a special for anyone who had purchased shore excursions. It included a massage and a facial for a pretty reasonable price. At the end, they had a sales pitch for the products they use. I ended up buying one of the aromatherapy oils and it was the same price on land as onboard, so I counted it as my treat to myself.

Our last day was a Sea Day and it was the busiest of the days in terms of activities that we wanted to check out. After breakfast, we did a culinary demonstration with the head chef and maitre d’hotel. They have been working together for a long time and it shows. They made little jabs back and forth while the chef cooked and it was pretty funny. After the demo, they took us on a walkthrough of the galleys. There is an actual escalator in the galley, since there are two main dining rooms on two floors. After that, I watched other cruisers paint watercolors. I have zero artistic talent, so it was fun to watch some talented people paint. One girl painted a picture of a mountain from her phone and it was gorgeous. I took a picture of it and it has inspired me to try my hand at recreating one of my own pictures. After that, I met up with Mr Minion and we got coffee and read on deck in the fog. Once the fog let up, we watched jellyfish off the side of the ship. In the afternoon, we went to an entertainment show where a music group was playing songs from the 50s forward. After dinner, we had to pack up our stuff and get ready to go home in the morning.

We docked in Vancouver British Columbia and had breakfast, then grabbed more coffee and headed to our lounge to wait until our group was called for disembarkation. We met a lady and her friend who were cruising together and spent about an hour talking to them. The bus ride to the airport was hot and everyone was still coughing. We arrived at the airport around 10AM local time. Our flight wasn’t until 7PM. We spent our time at the airport napping, reading, and wandering around. Our flight was delayed by an hour and a half, so we were afraid we were going to miss our connecting flight. When we finally boargot airborne, Mr Minion and I watched The Sandlot. We caught our connecting flight with ten minutes to spare and finally arrived home around 8AM local time. We immediately went to bed.

All in all, it was a great vacation and we had a wonderful time. I loved seeing actual mountains for the first time in my life. Highly recommend.

8 months old

Sorry it’s been so long since the last post…time flies. 

Little Miss Minion turned 8 months old on the 14th! And she turned five months adjusted on the 6th! Some of her favorite things include smiling, laughing, screeching, grabbing things, and putting everything in the world into her mouth. She’s rolling from belly to back pretty consistently, although only over her right arm. Her PT thinks this might be a muscle imbalance from her last surgery, since she preferred her right side for so long due to the new shunt. We are working on getting her to equally use her right and left sides, which is something I feel like we’ve been doing in one form or another since she came home. First it was the left, now it’s the right. 

Mr Minion and I went on our first vacation in like a year and a half. It was also the longest we have been away from her since she was born. The previous record was about 16 hours. This was four days, and it was not nearly as hard as we thought it would be. We felt like terrible parents until we realized that we had gotten used to leaving her at the NICU. Plus, we knew she was in good hands (thanks to Mr Minion’s parents). We went to Universal Orlando to see Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley (Harry Potter) and it was amazing. We had seen Hogsmeade before, several years ago, so we focused on Diagon Alley. And they have hot Butterbeer now! I’ve been researching recipes since we got back. 

I was very anxious about traveling and pumping. Going there was not going to be a problem, since all I had was my pump, but coming back, I knew I would have several days of milk, about 100 ounces. What would I do with it while I was in Orlando? Would they let me on the plane with it? I did some research and printed out the TSA rules about breastmilk and pumps as medical devices (therefore not counting as one of your carry on bags) and highlighted the parts that applied. I put several copies in my pump bag, just in case. They sent the pump through the X-ray machine and cleared us without a second glance to leave home for Orlando. Coming back through, they pulled the cooler bag full of milk for a physical search, which I totally understand because it looks like a bag of liquid, which, as we all know, is VERBOTEN on airplanes. The guy put gloves on (which must be standard procedure), which the preemie mom in me appreciated because of germs. He opened it and picked a couple of the bags up to see what was in the cooler. 

Another mom (with a baby) was getting her formula and a couple bags of milk examined as well and said something like “good job, Mama! Liquid gold right there. I wish I could pump like that.” It made me feel really good to have a total stranger acknowledge that the effort and time and frustration of pumping is worth it. And it reminded me that, even though I would much rather LMM take it “from the source,” I’m still doing something that not all moms can do. Even though breastfeeding was incredibly difficult for her in the nicu (suck, swallow, breathe is so much easier with a bottle), and I pretty much gave up on it because she handled a bottle so much better, and even though that was my last possible “normal” childbirth experience that got thrown by the wayside, I am still doing something incredible for her. 

LMM got her monthly Synagis shot this week, and her newest weight is 14 pounds and 0.8 ounces. I’m totally counting that 0.8 ounces because that is 2% of her birth weight. She’s now 7 and 1/2 times her birth weight of one pound fourteen ounces, and she’s 24 inches tall, which is only 3 feet shorter than me. 🙂 And it’s so close to double her birth length of 13.5 inches. 

I’m going back to work at my physical office in a couple weeks, but they are going to let me keep working from home a couple days a week. I’m so unbelievably lucky that they have been willing to let me work from home since she came home in August. We hope to start her in daycare around May or June, but I’m positive that keeping her in isolation this winter has made a huge difference with her immune system. I asked her pediatrician about when Preemie lungs catch up to full function and immunity, and she said that it’s usually about a year for every month of prematurity. Since LMM was born three months early, she will probably catch up at around three years old. Since she was such a rockstar at birth, not needing a ventilator at 28 weeks gestation, I have high hopes for her lungs. Thank you, steroid shots and surfactant!

Other than that, there isn’t too much going on here.