I grew up with lakes and hiking trails and gorgeous rocks. Michigan country. I remember despising the thought of leaving home for one whole week and having to stay in a cabin with my family. Now, I long for it. Funny how that works.
But this summer vacation was not in Michigan. Rather, it was in Florida. Hiking was replaced with pool swimming and the lake was replaced with the ocean. 60 degree nights were replaced with 85 degree nights. I am a cold-weather fan; the heat kicks my butt. But with two young kids and a hubby who crazily wants to spend vacation chilling out rather than hiking twenty miles, Florida was the right speed.
The kids have gotten completely spoiled by Jon and his frequent flyer miles – upgraded to first class each time we fly. They have no clue what it’s like in the back of the plane – they will have a rude awakening when their knees are to their chests and their elbows pressed tightly to their sides … and no one immediately offers them Sprite and chips.
Mario was also excited because Jon bought him a rolling suitcase. He still had his Spider-Man one from years ago and he made it clear that “there was no way he was taking that one.”
We arrived in Sarasota in the early afternoon. The kids were so excited to see the condo; Maria was naming every store we drove by like she always does on vacations. It didn’t take long to find our place and it took no time for the kids to run through the condo announcing everything they found.
“We have a tv in our room!”
“Look at your bathroom!”
“Come see this room off the house!”
They immediately loved it. So did Jon and I. It is so much more relaxing and comfortable to have your own rooms, a kitchen where you can cook, a table where you can play cards and eat. We are addicted now. No more hotels for us. And boy did we use that table at the condo to play – except it wasn’t cards – it was Quirkle. Jon has been brushing us off for weeks whenever we ask him to play but he finally gave in on this trip. And he became quickly addicted but only because Ri would demolish him every game (and the rest of us). It was ridiculous; she’d win by 20+ points. He was determined to beat her (which never happened on our trip; it finally did back home).
This vacation was one of the most relaxing ones ever as a family. We woke up and had some breakfast, watched a little of the Today Show, and put on our suits for the pool. We’d go and swim a bit, play ball in the water, and then play some air hockey or ping pong.
Maria learned to dive during this trip! Mario and I spent one of the mornings showing her different tricks to try to learn how to dive head first and then finally – BAM – she got it! I was so proud of her since she kept swearing she couldn’t learn it.
After we tired of the pool scene, we went back to the condo to rest, and maybe have a sandwich, watch some tv, or play a game. Then we’d head down to the beach (in the heat of the afternoon) and swim in the ocean. Jon and I worried about Mario getting in the ocean because he swore up and down before the trip that he would not get in the water. Probably a mistake on our part to let him watch Jaws and Jaws II prior to the trip! But he follows his dad and wants to be just like him so when Jon put on his goggles and swam out under the waves, Mario trailed after him. And after a bit, he forgot all about the sharks. We all dove under the water to try to find cool shells and acted scared when Mario would pinch our ankles trying to act like he was a shark.
Ri was our adventurer, as always, swimming out to a buoy located a few hundred feet from shore. None of us had braved it – surely thinking about sharks swimming way out yonder. But not Ri. She didn’t think twice about it. However, after conquering that feat, she had enough of the ocean. Way too hot for her even in the water. Mario, too, tended to like the pool better. But not Jon – he could have waded in that ocean all day. I liked the ocean, too, but am not a big fan of just sitting on the beach in the pounding sun all day (my A.D.D. does not help). Maria did try to stay on the beach while Jon swam by asking to be buried in sand (my worst nightmare). Mario and I covered her up and she was perfectly fine chillin’ while we worked on sand castles.
We went out to eat in the evenings. I chose the restaurant the first night – it got good ratings and it had a huge menu. Jon was hesitant but I convinced him. We pulled up after a 20 minute drive to hardly any cars in the lot. I remarked “it looks like no wait – great!”
We walked in and were the youngest people by 30 years. It was like MCL Cafeteria. Not that there is anything wrong with that – I love that place – but for vacation, it doesn’t really hit the mark. Jon did a good job at not poking at me the entire dinner but we did laugh hysterically when an old man complained to the waitress that he got to the restaurant by 5:30 so he should get the early bird rate. To add fuel to the ambience fire, the food was subpar. But the kids liked it so chalk the night up to them!
The next couple of nights we decided to take it easy and eat in – pizza and pasta. It was pretty awesome to go between play and rest all day and then head down to watch the sunset on the beach. It surely puts life in perspective: worry less about the small sh– and laugh more.
We did nab some good seafood at a local spot three minutes away from the condo. Susie had recommended it when we were on our way to the wanna be MCL restaurant. The kids scored frisbees to take home; their food was served on them.
But the best part of the trip was the 6 hour boat ride we took. Jon got up early and rented it for us. We had the most wonderful time together. Mario got to fish, Jon got to drive and act like he was in Miami Vice, Ri got to relax up front while dad cruised, and I got to find shells on a little island.
We were bumming on Tuesday night wishing we had rented the condo for the entire week. And although I’d trade the Florida sun and beach for the lake and dunes, I loved the quiet and peaceful flow of our Florida days. However, poor Ri was bumming on Tuesday night because her ear hurt. She had been complaining that evening at dinner and it seemed to be getting worse. Sure enough, I was up all night with her as she cried in pain. It hurt her for me to even touch it. At 4 am, I started the internet search. Not sure if this is a valuable tool or a nightmare. I read all sorts of stories about kids whose ears had ruptured while on a plane because they had an infection beforehand. By 7 am, I woke Jon up and told him I was nervous to take Ri on our afternoon flight. We called the doc and he thought it was low risk. Jon and I were debating whether to keep the rental and drive home or try the plane when all of a sudden we heard a cry from Maria. She had yawned and her ear popped. She was miserable. That is all we needed to see to make our decision.
And so there we were packing up the rental car and heading to Wal Mart to buy a portable DVD and a handful of cheap movies. I had to accept the fact that the kids’ brain cells would die for a few days. We drove nearly nine hours that first leg of the trip stopping several times to get our gas station snacks and trinkets. Mario had to continue to pee every hour so Jon just decided to pull off the side of the highway. Mario loved that action. He stood next to the car door and made a fountain of urine. Then he started asking Jon to pull over every 20 minutes.
We stopped at a Best Western at 10 pm and loaded Ri up with Ibuprofen. She only woke up once during the evening which was a gift as we had eight hours left to drive home on Thursday. We got up at 6:45 am and set off for round two. We lucked out with little to no traffic along the way. And the kids were really good for being in the car that long. We went through hangman and the license plate game and the “a my name is” game before they went back to DVD world. But I must admit I was ready for them to stick their nose in a screen because I was tired. I cannot stand being in a car that long. Jon, on the other hand, didn’t mind it a bit. In fact, he rather enjoys it. I feel rest assured that if he ever needed another job, truck driver would be a possibility.
We arrived home around in the afternoon on Thursday and got Ri to a doctor. She got meds and was on the mend in a couple of days. We look back on the trip home and laugh now that it’s a distant memory. Funny how the mind forgets the bad and only remembers the good – the funny remarks the kids made, Jon getting Mario’s hangman word right away and leaving Ri and I in the dust, Ri writing down the states we found on license plates, me getting excited at seeing the Cincy skyline. It’s all about experiences and we sure have a bundle for Summer Vacation 2015.