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Jan 22, 2011

Happy 3rd Birthday, Daniel

Daniel just turned 3, and I am amazed at how quickly time went by. I find this age very interesting. On one hand, Daniel has grown so much in the last year. He now can lead very interesting discussions and asks a lot of questions that shows that he understands and observes a lot around him. Sometimes, our commute to school turns into a bombardment of "why" questions that build on top of each other... Very fun. On the other hand, Daniel is currently in a phase where he loves to behave like a baby. I think a lot has to do with Charlotte's development at this stage. She is not mobile yet, but she badly wants to walk. So she gets carried around a lot, and we are holding her to practice walking. Also, she has gone through a phase where she had a hard time sleeping and we would stay by her crib to help her calm down. Daniel obviously observes all of this, and he also wants to enjoy the same attention. This creates a lot of tense situations, where he asks to be carried right when I just picked up Charlotte, or needs a lot of hugs before bed. Sometimes, he really behaves as if he was a baby all over again. Sigh!? Or should I just enjoy the fact that he loves hugs right now?

On the literacy front, Daniel is making a lot of progress. He knows all the letters and is starting to decipher a few easy words. There is a new activity at school, whereby the kids sign in themselves in the morning. It means that Daniel needs to write his name very day now. The beginning was quite hard, and Daniel showed some resistance in even trying. But after 2 weeks, he has already been able to write his name somewhat legibly!

Language-wise, Daniel is making a lot of progress in German and French, even though his main language is still English. He can now say easy sentences in both French and German, and he is always very proud when he does it. His German definitely developed drastically when my in-laws came to visit over Christmas. He spent an entire week with them alone during the day (while we were working), and wow, this paid off. Daniel now spontaneously speaks a lot in German, sings in German, and he really makes great sentences now. So, all the prepping really paid off. One week in an immersion environment, and all the knowledge that had been dormant at the back of his brain is coming out now. This is very encouraging!

We celebrated a couple of times this year. We had the chance to pre-celebrate during our family vacation in Jamaica, which was great since we rarely get to celebrate birthdays with all the grand parents. We had a cake and candles at home on the real birthday (which was a Friday) and then we had the big party with friends at Safarirun on a weekend. Everyone had a great time. The kids enjoyed climbing, hanging, sliding, running, etc... It was easy for the parents and the organization was flawless.

And after the party, it was very interesting to see how Daniel enjoyed opening his presents. For every present, he would say things like "this is amazing, wow, I love it." Hopefully, this means that he will really enjoy playing with all these toys for the next year without ever being bored!?

Now on to Daniel's 4th year!

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Jan 12, 2011

A great review of the Franklyn D. Resort, Runaway Bay, Jamaica

We spend a week of vacation with our extended family in the Franklyn D. Resort, and I can definitely recommend it for families with young kids. It's focused on families with young kids, and yet nice and attractive for adults as well. What sold us most was the nanny service. Every room comes with a nanny that takes care of the kids at least 7 hours a day (more if you pay extra). Our nanny, Althea, was exceptional. She quickly got to know Charlotte and became her primary care-taker. It was great since Charlotte is still on a different schedule than the other kids. We didn't have to worry about waiting for her to finish her nap or bringing a bottle with us every single time we went out. Althea had her covered. Althea taught Charlotte clapping and waiving while we were there. She definitely knew what stage of development she was at, and helped her achieve a new milestone. Charlotte was very happy with her.
The resort itself is pretty small (70 rooms I believe). It means that the kids quickly found their way around the resort. The beach is small (so not for people who hope for long strolls on the beach), but it's perfect for kids. There was no concern about kids getting lost or walking away.

There are a handful of pools, which also cater to different levels of interests. The baby pool was perfect for Daniel to learn swimming (he could stand in it, which increased his confidence level), and even Charlotte who loved to splash in it.
That said, this resort is also great for adults. There are 2 excellent adult-only restaurants. The food in general is pretty good by the way (I think some of their pastries can compete with the best bakeries in France). Every day, the hotel offered adult-only activities, which ranged from bike tours, yoga, fitness and a lot of games.
The service is really top-notch. The nanny is such an integral part of the family that she understands our needs and makes sure they are all met (from replenishing the fridge to finding the right toys for the kids and advising on excursions). We ordered a "birthday" party for Daniel since his birthday was going to be the following week. We got decorations, a gift and a mouth-watering birthday cake at no extra charge (love the all-inclusive)! And by the way, if you were thinking that people in Jamaica were not punctual, think again. Everyone in the hotel was good at staying on the expected schedule! The birthday party was ready before our family was!


For full disclosure I would also add that the facilities are starting to age a bit. The accommodations are still very comfortable. But it's not luxury, and the resort could benefit from a new layer of painting and some better paved paths in some areas. The reception area is quite underwhelming: a couple of chairs in front of a desk under a roof. Nothing to compare with some of the more luxurious hotels we saw in the areas. That said, we didn't come to be in a 5-star Las Vegas hotel. So it didn't bother us much, and the kids definitely didn't care. Definitely a hotel I would recommend for a relaxing vacation.

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Jan 11, 2011

Jamaica vacation

This year, we started what we hope will become a tradition. Because we didn't have a lot of vacation time, we didn't want to go all the way to Europe over the holidays, since the kids' jetlag negates a lot of the benefits of a vacation. We suggested to our families to meet "in the middle" in the Caribbean. Pros: less travel, less jetlag and warm weather! Cons: nothing really, except some health concerns and the question whether everyone across our families would enjoy the vacation.
We met with my parents, my in-laws and my brother in law and family. It was a first in many ways: first time with all family members, first time in the Caribbean. It turned out to be a great idea!

We picked a wonderful hotel in Jamaica, the Franklyn D Resort, which I describe in detail here. It was so family-friendly that it took away any issue that could come from traveling with young kids.
I have to say that I had some health concerns going to Jamaica with 2 young kids. But they proved to be completely unjustified. The hotel even had drinking tap water for Charlotte's bottles. Yes, really! No mosquitoes, clean facilities, healthy food. Really, nothing to complain about. We even got to check the quality of the medical support in Jamaica since we brought 2 sicknesses from home (I got strep throat and Charlotte had bronchitis). The doctor we met was really knowledgeable and got us back on our feet really quickly.

Outside of 2 of us being sick, everyone had a great time. The grand-parents got to do tours around the island, and they saw jungle, local animals, nice beaches, etc... Daniel loved being able to swim, build sand castles and get ice-cream on demand.

He had a lot of new experiences, from going down the huge water slide to taking the glass boat and taking a few first steps at swimming.

Charlotte seemed to enjoy herself despite the bronchitis and being thrown into a new environment with a lot of new people. She loved splashing in the pool and learned how to clap her hands. This made her very proud.

My husband and his brother went all the way to the other side of the island to check out Pelican Bar, a shack in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by diving pelicans. Very unique! As a family, we went to Dunn's Waterfall, which was fun climbing. I wish I had seen more of Jamaica, but unfortunately, my strep throat came in the way. It was still wonderful to be able to know everyone had a great time, and not to worry about the kids needing more attention.

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