Fun With Monkeys

The monkeys of CrocoCun Zoo keeping tabs on the new expat family.

Living in the jungle comes with the occasional monkey shake down… 

These monkeys are from the CrocoCun Zoo in Puerto Morelos (Cancun area). They have been keeping tabs on us since we played in the park behind the zoo earlier in the week, and then we saw them at the zoo. The keepers have named them all, and Yessica here is the ring leader. 

I will be posting a separate bit about the zoo because it is worthy of its whole, special post!

What’s in That Diaper Bag?!

As we travel the Mexican Riviera, we have edited the diaper bag several times. “Strolling around” has a different meaning here than in the US, where the roads can be rough and banos even rougher. When day tripping with small children, my goal is to keep us safe and comfy, but also pack light so we can be flexible if plans change. Here are the essentials that are in my bag right now:

1. Extra onesie. In addition to diapers and wipes, an extra onesie is essential in case of blow-outs. I have learned over the years to use a loose fitting onesie as an extra in case months go by before it is used (it will likely still fit a growing baby). The key is to replace it once used, of course. Traveling with children takes a few extra minutes before you leave your room or rental to make sure you refill those essentials so you don’t get in a bind without them.

2. Wet wipes. This is a small, travel pack of sanitizing wipes that can be used to wipe down high chairs or tables when you go out to eat, or a dirty toilet if you forget number 3…

3. Toilet seat covers. I buy extra large, disposable toilet covers in bulk from Amazon. If they are too small, your potty training tot might rub her legs on a poopy pot (ick!).

4. First aid kit. This is essential for Mexico, where there is rocky terrain, coral reef, hard tile, and concrete everywhere. Little knees and elbows get bumped easily. We never even used a band aid on our youngest until we moved here. Now we have gone through a box in one month, along with large knee patches, medical tape, and a couple travel sized bottles of Neosporin. That’s what’s in the kit: various band aids, antiseptic spray, and a roll of medical tape (I prefer the tan, waterproof foam tape because it stretches over the knee when it moves).

5. Bug repellent. For the kids, we use a local concoction called Maya Bug Repellent, but it needs to be applied often and in large amounts. We brought several bottles of California Baby bug repellent with us, and went through them very quickly. The mosquitoes just bite right through it. We also use OFF on adult legs and feet. There are fleas and sand flies after 4pm, and they need a strong repellent as well. Don’t make the mistake of leaving for the day without your bug spray. UPDATED: As of January 2018, we are only using Picaridin bug repellents now (OFF Family and the natural concoctions did not prove to be strong enough for the mosquitoes, long term).

6. Bug bite itch cream or roller stick. Even with all that repellent, we still get bites. Don’t let a bad itch take away your fun. There are some roller types that contain menthols and ammonia, which work great for adults, but are not safe for small children. Benadryl spray or cream seems to help, and poses less danger. You’ll want to pack these in your suitcase because they are hard to find here.

7. Decoy wallet/ decoy purse. I have both. I use them for different occasions. You want to keep a low profile here so that you do not become a target for theft or extortion. I keep my nice handbags in the states, and I have a small Vera Bradley crossbody with lots of pockets to hold my wallet with one credit card (not debit), and some petty change, or a small wad of pesos for snacks, etc. Most gift shops take credit cards, and they are easier to cancel if your wallet is stolen. A debit card, we are told, can be a source for extortion, where the perpetrator will demand you take it to the atm and make a withdrawal. I just like to avoid any possible targets, especially when my children are with me.

8. An amazing toy. This week it was a lime that baby A found on the street under a tree. For whatever reason this was the most interesting item to him, just second to the ipad (which we do not like, but surely keeps the peace while on longer drives in the car). This lime ended up nearly rotting in my bag, but I found it just in time to throw away. Totally worth every penny (especially since it was free). Other great toys have been teethers with bristles, a singing elephant that speaks Spanish, and a bucket of sand toys (not able to fit those in the diaper bag, but we stow them in the back seat or stroller).

9. Finally, a lightweight cardigan in Mama’s size. Good on those slightly chilly days here during the winter, or an especially powerful air conditioning unit. It doubles as a blanket, sun shade, napkin, etc.

I mentioned diapers and wipes before. You will have no problem finding affordable baby products here in the Riviera Maya, at any grocery store and many corner stores too. The locals love babies, and are very family oriented, so you don’t need to overpack! Stop by the grocery store on your way into town. It will give you the opportunity to see the other great deals to be found here locally.

Fill Their Cups

Over the past three years I have noticed that my daughter thrives on interactions with other people– kids or adults– it does not matter! She just loves communicating and learning from others. When she has spent time interacting with others, she beams a smile to the moon! I have often said, “her cup is full” when thanking others for spending time with her because she truly benefited, perhaps more than they did. They have no idea. We could safely call her an extrovert!
So, it is no surprise that when you subtract the people interaction from her day, she becomes less happy. As a toddler, she has a limited vocabulary for communicating her need for people, so it has taken me awhile to figure out the source of her violent outbursts (which began around the time her brother was born and escalated recently as brother started crawling and eating everything he could find off the floor– thus requiring much more of my personal attention). We jumped to the conclusion of sibling jealousy, but the normal techniques for “treating” typical sibling jealousy did not seem to work.
Recently I thought of a concept I call the “Fill Up Station”. I put down whatever I am doing, hug her, and allow her be the center of attention for the moment. I ask her to tell me how she is feeling, and usually she gets tired of me pretty quick and jumps down. The main idea is to keep her “cup” full of love throughout the day. All day long I ask myself, “what have I done to fill up her cup?” and this reminds me to keep giving to her throughout the day…whether it is setting up playdates with friends for her, going to the zoo or park, working on “school” (which we do at home right now while our home is in flux), doing her hair, making a clay sculpture with her, a walk around the block holding her hand, or just some quality cuddles on the couch, giggling at the silly stories she tells me and giving her my undivided attention that she craves. I can tell she is soaking it up by the ever growing spark in her eyes…and the lack of violent outburts towards her brother during in the day. The idea is to not only give love to her, but to give her so much love that her cup is overflowing and the need for attention is obsolete…thus the violent behavior used to get my attention is also gone. 
Children need love and attention. That’s well known, but I didn’t realize sibling violence was something I could personally control. It turns out that my daughter’s violence towards her brother (hitting, shoving, pushing, scratching…you name it), was a her way of telling me that she needed more love from me. She was not trying to hurt him. She was not even jealous, as we thought. She just knew my attention was on him, and hurting him was the quickest way to get it back.
Giving of oneself continuously as a mom is no easy task, especially with another little one crawling around, who technically requires a lot more attention for his safety.
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Finding ways to balance this makes for a very active day for me, but it is well worth it to have happy, peaceful interactions between my kids. I am grateful to have a few minutes during naptime to type this out, and I hope it reaches other parents who might need it.


Getting some much needed summer rays at the park.