Friday, August 27, 2010

Toes in the sand, fish in a tank

Editor's note: Videos to come later.

The Karlin Clan's summer has come to an official close. Erin went back to work. Jacob is back in day care. But we refused to let summer go quietly into the night.

Before Erin headed back to work, we embarked on an Interstate expedition to Houston, Galveston, Dallas and Atlanta. The nearly 3,000-mile trip took Jacob to the shore of the Gulf of Mexico and on a deep-sea exploration of the millions of wondrous creatures that inhabit our rivers, lakes and oceans, with plenty of pool time in between.

Getting there

Having already made the 11-hour trek from Nashville to Dallas when Jacob was 2 months old, we learned a few things in preparation for this go-around:
1. It's a really, really long drive with a baby and a dog.
2. If the baby isn't happy, none of us will be.

So we made a few adjustments:

First, we decided to break up the drive to Houston into two days. Last summer's 11-hour trip to Dallas turned into 13. There was no way we were going to drive straight to Houston, which was already at 13 hours. We drove eight hours to Texarkana (so nice, they built it twice), spent the night and then proceeded with the remaining five hours.

Next, we moved Jacob's carseat to the side behind the driver seat to give Dolly more room. Poor 60-pound Dolly was stuffed in the corner last summer for the entire drive. This time she was able to lie down, stretch out, and occasionally rest her head on the middle console like she did before Jacob stole all of her attention. Jacob now faces forward, so unlike last time, keeping him entertained would be much easier.

Erin came up with an idea to fasten our portable DVD player to the back of the driver seat with a bungee cord. It held up fine, but Jacob's legs were long enough to reach it. So he felt obliged to kick it. Erin then stacked it on top our cooler and a Cheez-It box so he couldn't reach it. That worked well until he figured out he could reach the Cheez-It box. So he felt obliged to kick it.

Annoyed, we placed the DVD player on the console between us. I couldn't rest my arm and Dolly couldn't come up to the front, but the baby was happy (see lessons learned NO. 2).

We were worried before the trip that Jacob would show a disinterest toward the DVDs. We couldn't have been more wrong. Elmo and Sillyville saved our sanity. The only times Jacob took his eyes off the screen were during boring parts. Then he would he just look out the window.

We also allowed him to suck on his pacifier. He's been 95 percent weaned from his paci (only using it when he sleeps), but we knew it would help him keep him content. Sure enough, when he wasn't feeling fussy, he would place it in his cup holder.

Overall the drive went surprisingly smooth. Jacob and Dolly behaved and didn't complain about stopping on our schedule.

Toes in the sand
After a brief overnight stop in Houston, the Karlin Clan (minus Dolly; she stayed at our friends' house), Uncle David, Nana and Papa Bodzin drove down to Galveston. Erin's parents rented a condo overlooking the beach.

Tropical Storm Bonnie was there waiting for us. Luckily she was out on her way out as we were getting in.

The rain stopped before sundown that night. After dinner we took Jacob to the beach. He was a little hesitant of the waves at first. He loved playing in the sand, though. We went to the beach the next morning. We plastered his pasty skin with sun screen and spent nearly the entire day on the beach. He napped in his stroller for a couple hours so we didn't have to cut the day short.

He preferred to play in the sand.

He helped me build sand castles. Well, I would mold the castle with his bucket and he would tear it down. He loved tossing the sand in the air and watching the rest trickle through his finers. And yes, he tasted it, too. He didn't make that mistake twice.

Georgia Aquarium
A couple weeks later, we drove a mere four hours to Marietta, Ga., to see Jacob's Mimi and Grandpa and Aunt Heather and visit the Georgia Aquarium. The spectacular view inside was well worth the pushing, kicking and biting through hoards of sweaty people outside. Atlanta's a very busy city.

Inside, Jacob saw sharks, sea dragons, penguins, otters, Beluga whales and jelly fish, among many other sea creatures. He also touched a sting ray.

After the aquarium, we walked across the street to Centennial Olympic Park so Jacob could cool off in the Olympic-ring fountains.

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