Immediately after Melissa’s dissertation defense the family dispersed. Chris flew to Germany, Everett went with Gabby and Grandaddy to Cincinnati and Melissa stayed in Cleveland to finish her dissertation edits before the deadline to graduate. Fortunately, she had few edits and some of her committee members were still on town, so she finished everything in about a week! Then she drove to Chicago to pick Chris up at O’Hare. Chris had to teach one class on Thursday and a double-header on Friday (due to a missed class on Wednesday). Then we were off on a beach vacation for a week starting on Saturday. Photos of the trip are here.

Fittingly, the first thing we did when leaving for vacation was completely lose track of time. Our flight was at 5:40am on Saturday, so we both set our iPhone alarms for 3:40am. Curiously, Chris’ alarm went off at 3:40am as planned, but Melissa’s phone still read 2:40am. So we checked with two atomic clocks and determined that it was indeed 2:40am and we had another hour to sleep. Our vacation was on an island which we think is on eastern time (though not 100% sure). On top of that, Chris’ sense of time is already wonky due to international travel, and the resort we are visiting often has its own time which is different from local time. Lastly, our phones have persisted in the habit of changing time by an hour in each direction, then reverting back when they are unlocked. So we were really only able to estimate time to within a couple hours.

The family was reunited in the Charlotte, North Carolina airport and then we flew to Punta Cana in first class as a result of some sequence of events that we haven’t yet figured out. Went through customs and passport control in an hour or two. Each of us paid $10 for a visa in the form of a receipt which we held until moving about 10 feet further in line when we relinquished it to another official. It seems that not all countries share our American obsession with efficiency. Tensions were a bit high by the time we got to the resort but we decompressed for a while and then had a great dinner.

Day 1

Awoke about 8am and had family breakfast in the outdoor restaurant. We spent the morning at the pool and managed to commit the rookie mistake of getting sunburned the first day despite repeatedly applying SPF 50 lotion. Napped through the heat of the day and then spent some time on the beach in the late afternoon sun. Met for drinks at around 6pm, as which time Amanda told us that the front desk had called and asked us to move to different rooms. Responses to this news were mixed, and a couple people were just starting to get their feathers ruffled when she said “April fools!”. Good one! Went to dinner and then to see Crazy Signs and the circus show in the theater. Everett made it until about 10:30pm before finally admitting “Momma, I’m tired”, so we took him back and he and Trinity had a slumber party with Gabby and Grandaddy that night.

Day 2

Getting relaxed and into a routine of sorts. Got up at 8am and went to breakfast, then straight to the beach for some water, sand castles and family kayaking. Everett seems remarkably relaxed in the boat.

This trip was a generous gift from Gabby and Grandaddy, who wanted to have a beach vacation with all three generations. We are here with Matt, Katy and Trinity. There is so little to think about here it is remarkable. Seemingly the only decisions we have to make are when to eat. Virtually every need is effortlessly (on our part) taken care of. We are dimly aware of the army of people that must be necessary to provide such service.

After dinner we went to the theatre for the kids show and Crazy Signs. Everett was brave enough to go onstage by himself with all the other children, and was doing his best to learn the dance moves. He seemed to love it, which is not a surprise considering that he dances in our driveway at home to the sounds of the birds singing. Afterwards, in the midst of running around the theatre, he wiped out and hit his head on the concrete pretty hard. No blood, but we did put some ice on it (remarkably hard to find at a French resort) and he decided he had had enough dancing and music for one night. We took him home and put him to bed in Gabby and Grandaddy’s room.

Day 3

Everett and Trinity were both at Camp Gramapa last night, so the adults had a chance to sleep in, yet we still got up at 8am :). Breakfast and then off to the beach and later the pool. One thing Everett never seems to get enough of is water time – no matter how long Chris swims with him there is always an argument when it’s time to get out.

Everett is just as inquisitive as ever. Today he asked “Do ants have lips?” And in case I forget to mention it otherwise, a few weeks ago he asked if it rains in outer space. At the beach there is an endless supply of material for an inquisitive mind: so far we have found three species of crabs, many sea urchins, a few fish, a sting ray that Matt spotted in the water, and many different types of seaweed. We found a free cabana and kept it occupied for most of the day. For Melissa and Chris this provided some much-needed relief from the midday sun, and for everyone else it provided a good place to nap.

Days 4-7

I was going to provide a day by day chronicle of what we were up to, but I soon lost track of the days and in any case our routine never changed much. Everett would wake up between 7:30 and 8am, and even on the nights when he slept in Gabby and Grandaddy’s room we didn’t sleep any later. Breakfast, then go the beach for a couple hours. Lunch and drinks on the beach followed by nap through the heat of the day (though we note that it didn’t yet seem hot enough to turn on the air conditioning in the restaurant). Everett has been taking especially long naps here, so we would usually get back out the door to the beach or pool between 4 and 5pm. After that we returned to the room to shower, then met at the main bar for drinks. Then dinner, followed by the childrens’ show and dance party. Then Everett went to bed and the adults either followed him or went back out for drinks and dancing. Most days Trinity has been in the kids camp while Everett spends time with Mom, Dad, Gabby or Grandaddy. This has worked out great, and no one seems to feel like they are missing anything. Today Everett said he wanted to sign up for some activities, so we may try that tomorrow if there is room.

Wrap up: Here are some thoughts and observations from the last 7 days.

We were initially worried that Everett would stop napping during this trip, though this perhaps isn’t the best way to put it. Melissa was worred that he would stop napping and that, because she is finished with her dissertation and will be watching E most days, she would lose her midday break. However, the opposite has happened. There is so much to do here that Everett rarely goes to bed anywhere near his normal bedtime. And since he discovered Crazy Signs at around 9pm each night he wants to stay up at least long enough for dancing. On Wednesday night the older children put on a dance show and as a result they skipped Crazy Signs for the kids. The next day he was pretty concerned about this. “There was no dance party last night”. We’ll try again tonight (Thursday). Anyway, the result of all of this is that his naps have gotten longer rather than shorter. He now sleeps for two or three hours during the heat of the day.

As with other trips overseas we had a remarkably difficult time getting cups of milk for Everett. We tried ordering in several different languages, but somehow that didn’t solve the problem either: when we got milk it was often served steaming hot. It reminded us of the time in Switzerland when we tried to order Everett a cup of milk using English, French, German and Italian, after which they served him iced tea. Anyway, the milk problem on this trip was solved after Chris figured out where they kept it.

Club Med has somehow resisted enacting rules the way we do in America. We encountered almost no rules and few guidelines while we were there. The only rule I recall is that children had to be six years old to go out in a kayak, but even this wasn’t strictly enforced. On the first day they allowed it, but after that the water was rougher so they asked us to just push the boat around in the shallows. In contrast to many places in America, the resort is not plastered with signs that provide little more than common sense information.

Everett loves stories. He loves hearing them and telling them. He especially seems to enjoy stories that have some kind of surprising element, or are about him when he was a baby. On this trip we encountered a lizard who zoomed away when we tried to pet it, and we also told (and retold) the story about Everett crawling onto Dad’s chest and removing his sunglasses while he napped on the beach in the Cayman Islands.

Animals: We saw lots of sea urchins and several species of crabs. We also saw spiny lobsters when they appeared on our dinner plates. On the last morning we were kayaking when Everett and Trinity spotted a live conch. We also saw a couple schools of fish swimming around us in the shallows. Matt and Katy saw a sting ray. There were several species of sea birds including one that looked like a small pterodactyl. Lastly, there was some species of mud sparrows or bats or both that nested in the edges of the thatch rooves. We found several lizards in the bushes near our room, some brown and some green, which were amazingly fast and able to jump long distances. There were several species of palms, several of which produced small fruits that Everett collected and put in a cup of water to watch during the week. He was performing an experiment to see if they would grow into palm trees.

Summary: The week at Club Med was exceptional and we are all thankful to have had the time together.

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