Our Safari Honeymoon in Africa

It took us two years after our wedding, which was Labor Day weekend 2011, to finally go on our safari honeymoon in Africa. We went back on forth about where to go, when, and how much to spend. We almost did a shorter Africa trip in February, but we had to cancel when a work emergency came up just days before our deposit was due. We ended up going in late August, just before our anniversary. The weather was hot but not insufferable, there were absolutely no mosquitoes, and the animals were fairly easy to see, especially in Chobe, which is like the Disneyland of safari parks.

Our trip was 17 days and included Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. I love, loved our trip, but if I was going to recommend a honeymoon, I would stick with South Africa, doing a safari in Kruger (Sabi Sands if you can afford the splurge), followed by Cape Town and wine tasting in Stellenbosch.

That said, the Chobe River and Okavango Delta in Botswana were fantastic. The Chobe River is perhaps my favorite. It was very crowded when we were there — I didn’t expect to see as many people as animals — but for good reason. There are animals everywhere. It’s stunning. You see so many giraffes, elephants, hippos, birds, and impala that you almost get tired of seeing them. We even saw lions and (female) and a leopard in our first three days of the trip. We did a sunset cruise which was just magical. All the animals cross the river, which is set against an amazing orange sunset. It was incredibly romantic, except while I was on the cruise my husband was fly fishing elsewhere on the river, having a very romantic evening with his Tigerfish and a random man with a boat.

My husband having a romantic evening with his Tigerfish on the Chobe River
My husband having a romantic evening with his Tigerfish on the Chobe River

After Botswana, we headed over to Kafue National Park in Zambia. We saw a lot in Zambia: mating lions, a cheetah, a cheetah eating an impala, a pack of wild dogs, and a small nocturnal cat which I think was an ocelot. There were also biting flies in Zambia, which are a literal pain in the ass. We stayed along the Kafue River and could hear hippos from our “luxury” tents. I picked up the flu virus from one of the travelers on our tour and missed a day of safari (when they saw lions!), but I had a very close encounter with an elephant that came right up to my tent and flapped it’s ears at me.

From Zambia we went to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Hwange is an old park with man-made watering holes. The history is interesting, but I won’t go into it. We stayed in a hotel there and the rooms and patio had a great view of animals, but I actually could have skipped Hwange. It was a little underwhelming after the isolation of Kafue and the beauty of Botswana. However, we did see a lot of female lions and juvenile males, plus the elephants are tame enough you can almost touch them from your jeep.

Me standing in an elephant footprint in hardened mud
Me standing in an elephant footprint in hardened mud

We ended the trip at Victoria Falls, which is beautiful. We were on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, because it is supposedly a better view. You can hike around the falls from Zimbabwe, but I hear you can (or could?) actually swim in the falls from Zambia. We also took a helicopter ride over the falls (my first!), which I highly, highly recommend.

All and all it was a fantastic trip and it made me want to plan more trips to Afrcia. I would really like to do the Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and Sabi Sands trip in South Africa, as well as a Tanzania and Kenya trip, with a stay at Giraffe Manor. If you’ve been, don’t tell me about it, I’ll just be jealous :).

We’ve got spirit, yes, we do: Spirited Kids

On the long and winding road of our sleeplessness saga, I began researching child issues by temperament. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that an easy-going child is going need a different method of– everything — from a child who is more stubborn, or timid, or whatever.

There’s a lot of information out there on child temperament. Sleep consultant Rebecca Michi categorizes children as “easy,” “difficult,” and “slow-to-warm.” The easy child is, well, easy:

  • Regular eating, sleeping, elimination cycles
  • Not easily frustrated
  • Adapts to change
  • Good mood most of the time

Then there is the difficult child:

  • Irregular eating, sleeping, and elimination cycles
  • More easily frustrated
  • Negative response to new situations, such as tantrums
  • Slow to adapt to change

I have to admit that I have not read this book, only overviews online. These descriptions are so black and white, so divided, that I don’t find them helpful — at all. My daughter is bits of both. Irregular and easily — and loudly — frustrated, but she thrives on new people and places. In fact, she’s so social, she’s usually in a better mood at a big party then she is playing at home.

Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has a much more interested take on children who are not that easy to parent. She calls them “spirited” and refers to them as “more” children. She has her own spirited child and so she speaks from personal experience. Right off the bat, she lists traits of the spirited child, similar to Michi, but a bit more complicated. The gist is a spirited child is “more.” More intense, more persistent, more sensitive, more perceptive, and more uncomfortable with change. She also lists bonus characteristics, including irregular schedules (yes!), more energy (yes! yes!), more time to warm up to new things, and more serious mood.

Kurcinka emphasizes that not every spirited child possesses all of the traits, but her or she will possess enough to make them stand out. My daughter fits more bonus characteristics than the first 5 traits, so I am still not sure she would be considered spirited. If she’s not, that’s enough to make me seriously afraid of having another child. Maybe she’s actually going to be easygoing and I have yet to find out what a truly spirited child is??? Shudder.

Regardless, I think Raising Your Spirited Child is one of the more helpful baby/toddler/child/whatever books I’ve read (part of. Sorry, I have a spirited 1 year old baby. I’m busy.) to date. Kurcinka has a positive perspective on the more trying aspects of raising children who expect more from their parents (read: are demanding). It’s geared to kids who are a little older than mine, but it still gives me insight into her personality and what to do about it. If you, like me, suffer from night-waking-toddler induced insomnia and are looking for good midnight read (or 1 am, 3 am, and 5am read, I mean, who am I kidding?), check it out.


To Sleep or Not to Sleep

Toddler and baby sleep is such a big part of being a mom and having a mom blog, I just have to cover it at least once. I was actually inspired to write this post after writing a review of the Dockatot Grand (the bigger one for babies 9 months and older) on Amazon. You can read my review here, or wait for my upcoming blog post for more details. It was actually a comment from another parent who was going through the exact same sleep issues that made me think I should share my sleep story here.

When MK was about 4 months old, she just stopped sleeping. Yes, I know there is a developmental leap at that age and that babies go through a sleep regression. What you do during this sleep regression will, apparently, haunt you for the rest of their childhood. No one told me this at the time, but I’ve decided it is the undeniable truth.

At around 7 months, sick, exhausted from getting up every 45 min to 2 hours and not being able to get back to sleep, having failed at variations of cry-it-out because she lasted longer than I could (2 hours!), and feeling the pressure from folks who kept saying, “well, we co-slept for years and my baby slept through every night,” I finally brought MK into bed with me. And we finally, finally slept. For a few weeks that is.

Since then, my husband and I have been trying to get her to 1) sleep through the night, and 2) sleep in her own bed. Trying to get her into her crib was like trying to hold a hysterical, 20lb fish.  A red, swollen-faced puffer fish. I can’t do the Ferber Method, cry it out, or Ferberize her, whatever you want to call it. She can cry longer than I can stand it. That means we’ve stuck to “gentle sleep training” methods, the no cry-it-out kind, which means it’s not at all effective.

I did all the things – black out curtains, white noise, sleep routine since day 1 at home, dream feeding, cluster feeding, co-sleeping, milk in a bottle, milk in a cup, night weaning, night feeding. I even bought an over-priced dog bed for her — I mean Dockatot ;). I read all the books: the Sleep Lady,  Pantley, Dr. Ferber, Dr. Karp, Dr. Sears, Dr. Weissbluth, Dr. Seuss. You know who else read all these books? Everyone on the internet. At least everyone with a baby with “sleep issues.”

Some days MK sleeps perfectly through the night. Some days she still wakes every 2 hours. Sometimes I am woken up by dreams that I’ve been wrongly accused and am suffering sleep-deprivation torture at a secret facility.  Some days I’m woken by dreams that Charkie from Curious George has gotten off his leash AGAIN (seriously, people, that dog is a menace) while I’m out walking with the little and he will not leave my overprotective dog alone (do you really want to die, Charkie??) The only consistency is what I’m not getting — consistent sleep.

Do you have a baby or toddler who has trouble sleeping? Or did you solve your nighttime and nap time sleep problems? Please feel free to share in the comments.