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Jamaica: FDR II…Love For Water Knows No Boundaries

As parents I think our three main responsibilities are to keep our kids safe, help them to grow up to be good citizens, and keep them happy. I think that last one is the thing that keeps us going sometimes, seeing the unbridled smiles on our kid’s faces. I mentioned in my prior post how Dylan really had a great time in the water on our vacation. She had a great time and it gave me a chance to really bond with her.

While we tried to take advantage of the nanny program with our wonderful nanny, Sharlene, Dylan still wanted to hang with Mom and Dad in the morning, instead of playing with our nanny, because we were going to the beach.

One particular morning she cried and cried  as we tried to convince her she would have more fun playing with our nanny, as Mom and Dad were ‘all played out’. She cried and so we said come on.

Dylan and I played for about an hour in the ocean that morning then I told her I had to get out and rest.

She said, “OK Daddy, I’ll go to the Kid Zone with Skylar then and I won’t cry.” Atta way Dylan!

We went to a downstairs restroom where I could put some dry clothes on her. AFTER, I changed her she told me she had to go to the potty. I huffed and started to unpeel her play clothes. How dare her discomforts get in the way of my play time! 🙂

Dylan said, “Sorry Daddy. I didn’t want to pee in the ocean.” What a cool kid I thought. Even I don’t like the ocean THAT much.

When asked what Dylan wanted to do before we went on vacation without hesitation she would say ‘ride the big blue slide’. We viewed some videos of our resort on Youtube before we came down. Ol’ Miss Fearless wanted to have some fun combining a giant slide with her love for the water. Each day, we found out, I had to ask the lifeguards on duty to ‘turn on’ Big Blue, since the resort’s occupancy was so low. The lifeguard would give us a time for when Big Blue would be primed and ready. Once she got on the slide she would keep playing there until lunch. She would slide down and then I would pretend to race her in the water to steps at the other end. She loved it and never tired.

If you want to see what I mean, as well as some smiles and personality from Ms. DYLANism check out some of the fun on the video below.

But her love for the water and craziness was not restricted to Big Blue. As I mentioned earlier, each day she did something new and amazing in the water.

One day she finally held her nose and dove under the water. This had been a summer long project with no results. Now, finally, in the clear blue Caribbean, she said, “Watch this Daddy!”. Then she did it! No prompting. She just gave it a try.

The next morning, while we were swimming in the pool with “the red slide”, she uttered those same amazing words as she stood on the side of the pool: “Watch this Daddy!” Then she took a leap from the side and did a flip into the water! I gasped and laughed at the same time.

Where did this come from? She popped up from beneath the water with a big smile on her face (so cool to see). I had to laugh. She took my laugh as winning approval for her stunt. She made her Dad smile. She enjoys that about as much as I do seeing the smiles on their faces. “Hey Mommy, did you see what your daughter can do?”

“No problom mon”

The next day we rode in the resort’s glass bottom boat to a reef about 15 minutes away. I wanted to show our kids the colorful fish in the water in hopes they would be interested in learning how to snorkel with mom and dad.

We got to our destination and the staff threw some food in to attract some fish. Then, two other vacationers in our boat jumped in the water to do some snorkeling themselves. After about 5 minutes of watching, Dylan told me she wanted to get in the water too.

We all had our life preservers on so I thought why not. I jumped in the sea and then Dylan jumped into my waiting arms. She swam and kicked around a bit and then just flipped over on her back to float. She was so at ease doing this and smiling at all times. And then it hit me. She was floating on her back about a half mile from land in about 40 feet of water and didn’t have one care in the world. Amazing! A four year old that loves the water this much. I wish I would have brought our camera as it was such a Kodak moment.

We stayed in the water about 10 minutes or so. Everyone had returned to the boat so we had to make our way back. The boat was anchored at the reef. I know. I wasn’t a big fan of dropping and dragging an anchor on a reef either. However, the wind and tide had carried us both about 20 yards from our boat. So in an attempt to get her out of the water I said, “Come on Dylan, I’ll race you to the boat.” And that girl paddled and kicked her way, into the wind and tide, all the way back to the boat. Again, four years old! It took her a lot more kicks, given her size, then it took me. And she did it with a smile on her face.

An international hot spot

One of the nice things about traveling is that you can meet some really nice people.This trip was no exception. On our first full day at FDR I saw a father playing with his two daughters in the big pool. I soon found the man had two daughters the same age as ours, ages 2 and 4. Both of his girls loved the water too.

They were from Switzerland. They had been to FDR before (yes, either brainwashed or magic). He and his wife knew how to play the nanny game. I could tell. Every morning, while they were off diving, Dylan got to play in the pool with their oldest, Lillya.

Both of these girls were shy at first. Reto, the father, said as much. But you could tell Lillya loved the water. And I think a mutual admiration quickly built. Lillya could do some things in the water Dylan couldn’t. And Dylan could do somethings Lillya wouldn’t dare.

That first morning they would watch each other after they came up from the water. At first, it seemed, they were watching to see what the other was doing. Later it was to see if the other was watching.  If Dylan jumped in the water then Lillya would jump in from her side of the pool. If Lillya went down the slide then Dylan would. And both would show off with their Dads. It was cute to follow.

With the help of the Dads the girls were introduced. Then they played with each other in the pool every morning for the rest of the week. It didn’t matter that they could not communicate real well. Lillya did know some English. Lillya’s mother, Heather, was born and raised in the US. The girls mainly communicated by their love for the water and seeing and appreciating what the other could do. Dylan had met her match. They played all day in the pool that first day after the introduction. Then, as we walked back to the room at the end of the afternoon, Dylan looked up with the towel wrapped around her and said, “I think I made a new friend today.” You couldn’t help but be happy for her.

Take a look at some of Dylan’s and Lillya’s fun:

Both Heather and Reto were swimmers in college. And they educated their daughter(s) well in both English and swimming. She reminded me of Diane Lane with red hair. He looked like an Olympic swimmer. Both were special people and avid travelers. I am glad we all had a chance to meet. Once again I was happy for our daughter as she got to experience a little bit more of this big world with Lillya, although she couldn’t appreciate how far away and different the two girl’s lives actually were. Yet you could tell she did feel special for making friends with someone just a little bit different than the girls back home.

The last afternoon they played together. Reto tried to get his daughter out of the pool to get ready for dinner and so did I. Reto had trouble with his girl and then so did I. Dylan just kept swimming and playing in the water like she didn’t hear me. Finally, after my third attempt to get her out and my tone getting a little louder, Dylan yells back without looking up, “Princesses Rule!”

Well, a….a….yes, they certainly do.

Jamaica: FDR… License To Chill

Well, we made it back! The girls and I snuck off to the island of Jamaica for 7 days ~ barely. Thanks AMERICAN AIRLINES! That was sarcasm.

We found a nice all-inclusive in Runaway Bay, Jamaica called the FDR Resort. Parents, this is the place to be! When they say “all-inclusive” they take the term a little bit further and give you a real-life nanny every day from 9-5. They are the only resort in the Caribbean that does this and one of only 2 resorts in the world (I read) that gives you a nanny. These nannies come highly acclaimed (Trip Advisor) and become part of your family.

Also, you get a small kitchen in your suite and the nannies stock it for you! We had a sheet where you can request any of 6 soft drinks, beer, wine, a cheese and cracker tray, cereal, milk, fresh fruit and more. This was so cool I thought.

To get there, we had to be on a plane at 7:00am. So we had to be at the airport by 6 Saturday morning. We flew to Miami and the girls did great. We were supposed to head to Jamaica but had difficulty leaving the town through a myriad of difficulties with our airplane, at one time wondering if we were going to go at all. It truly was a comedy of errors, yet not funny at all, and surely not one of American Airlines best moments (more to come).

But we finally landed in Jamaica. Due in at noon, we landed around 4:45pm. A very timely shuttle took us to our destination. Once there, our mood quickly turned around as we found our reservation had been upgraded! I requested an OF 1 BR Suite and we ended up an OF 2 floor 2BR Suite. Our new vacation home had a nice big living room with pseudo-marble tile floors, mahogany and cherry wood furniture and fixtures, high ceilings (Ugh!), and more. What a great surprise and a nice ending to a long and difficult day!

A sunrise from our room.

I asked for a second floor room in our reservation so we could get an ocean view with no worries of the kids running away at Runaway Bay while we were in the shower. That part was nice. Now, with a two-floor suite with high ceilings, my calves were burning the first two days. Do you realize how many trips you make to a kid’s room? Now that room was upstairs. Those high ceilings made for some steep, steep stairs. I thought I was in shape but my calves were hurting. Be careful what you wish for, right?

We received our upgrade, in part, because I told them that Saturday was my anniversary (it actually was Friday) and also because the resort was fairly empty so they had rooms to spare.  Being the middle of September I imagine most of the resort’s target market had just taken their kids back to school this month. FDR had 8 buildings for guests but only the ocean front building was occupied. We had the place to our self!

So there we were! We made it to vacation, finally. Upon inspection of our new digs in Jamaica we found a chocolate cake and a bottle of champagne in the frig with our name on it too. THANKS FDR! To the resort’s credit, the whole staff did go out of their way for you, from the bartenders to lifeguards to maintenance to our great nanny, everyone went above and beyond with smiles on their faces. This was just the beginning we found out.

Nicely done FDR!

Further inspection of our upgrade revealed a nice, anniversary size king size bed upstairs. The bed may have been a bit old as it creaked quite a bit; maybe louder than any bed I had ever heard. But it was OK, we were on vacation. No problem mon!

The kids didn’t see ‘king size’ bed but a ‘jump castle’. And so, before we herded them off to bed our first night, we first had to shush them after jumping on OUR bed for 45-60 minutes. That next morning it became apparent how noisy that bed was as I got a high-five, two thumbs up, a wink and a nod from many of the guests down at breakfast. Not all of those gestures came from the men either. Those kids had made me ‘Legend’!

FDR was really built to cater to the kids too; young and old. Skylar enjoyed playing in the Kid’s Zone with our nanny the most. Both girls enjoyed feeding the rabbits and fish and doing crafts. They each made necklaces and tie-died Tee’s. The last day was goat races!

While both our girls like the water, Dylan is much more acclimated to it. She would follow mommy and daddy to the beach and pools in the morning. She made me ask the staff to turn on ‘Big Blue’, the 50 foot water slide, each morning so she could ride it. (Stay tuned) It seemed every day she either surprised or amazed us on her lack of fear and love for the water, including doing flips and floating in 40 foot ocean water. She also made a new friend, Lillya, from Switzerland. While they didn’t share much of the same language (Lillya did know a bit of English at 4 years old) they did communicate by sharing their love for the water, impressed with what the other could do. It was cute to see.

Lillya and Dylan jumping in together

Mom and Dad found a friend too in a secluded sanctuary at the edge of the resort, where we could hide from the rest of world, daring it to find us. We had a good breeze, great weather, and some crystal-clear tropical water to appreciate and cool off in.

A view from my lounge chair in our hidden sanctuary

The resort had an open-air gym that was actually above the poolside bar. There, the treadmills dreadmills had a beautiful view looking down at the neighboring beach, water and reefs. In fact, the water was so clear that, while running on this second-floor treadmill I could spot and follow fish swimming in the shallows at this beach in front of me. It may be the best view from a treadmill in its portion of the northern hemisphere!

Not your usual beach run

We did lots of research in shopping for and choosing this resort. Our other choices were a Disney Cruise, a fabulous Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos, and our favorite Breezes resort in Curacao. We chose this resort, relying heavily on all the great comments by past vacationers on Trip Advisor.com. It seemed three out of four commentators on the resort, had been to the resort before and vowed to return again and again. in fact the reviews were so identical that the tourists seemed some sort of brainwashed. Everyone raved on the nannies and called them family. Everyone. They all sounded the same, brainwashed.

But Monday afternoon, 15 minutes into my specially beach-laden Ipod, the therapy started to work on me too. I have a special coastal Ipod I have taken to the Caribbean for the past few vacations. After listening to it for those prescribed 15 or 20 minutes, if you could wring me out, you would get drops of liquid sunshine, a salty coastal breeze, all wrapped up in a Tanqueray and Tonic flavor.

So, with my Ipod, sprawled out in my lounge chair, relaxing quietly in our own little sanctuary by the clear blue sea, sipping endlessly on my T&T,  the magic hit me too.

I’m coming back!

These nannies give parents a License To Chill; a rare, coveted document to new and old parents for ‘extended’ relaxation. Not just the 5 or 10 minutes we occasionally get.

Here’s a quick look at one day of our vacation:

We had few other fun things occur on our trip too but my wife made me do a ‘pinky-swear’ that I wouldn’t blog about them.

So take some picturesque Caribbean water, add shots of wonderful Jamaican weather and breezes with a splash of coastal melodies, finish with a scoop of ice and a well trained nanny, shake (not stirred) and you too can have a ‘License To Chill’.

If I haven’t bored you I would like to tell you a few more stories from our vacation over the next few days. Pack your bags and come a long with us!

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