Summer Vacation 2015

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).

Mario was a good sport about being crushed every game, which surprised me. Now if it was football, it would have been a different story….

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. 

   Meanwhile, Mario mastered the back flip. I swear he’s got more elasticity than a rubber band. His body contorts all sorts of ways!

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.

She finally erected out of her sand grave and we decided to build an OSU castle in honor of our hometown. We got lazy being in the sun though so we just did a block “O”. But a most impressive one.



 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.

After dinner that night, we walked along the Siesta Key “downtown” strip. Ri finally got the frozen yogurt she’d been craving and Mario got a shark tooth. 

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.


Reminder to Self: Take Vacation

Mission accomplished.

We took Naples for a ride this week, specifically the Ritz Carlton in Naples. Yeah, Maria and Mario in the Ritz Carlton. Very scary. We figured we’d be kicked out within 24 hours but surprisingly, I think management was ready to bring us back. Maria and Mario definitely added some life to the place with their unabashed commentary and their hilarious antics. Jon and I had our trepidation about the flights, the hotel, the itinerary day after day. But in the end, the trip could not have been more fantastic. The flights were a piece of cake. Maria is an executive in the making pulling her roller bag behind her with no problem at all. Mario is a hiker in the making throwing his roller bag/backpack onto his shoulders and carrying it through the airport. Jon and I could not stop watching them on the plane. They were so excited to look out the window and watch the plane ascend into the sky. And the amazement of being in the clouds! Jon and I found ourselves laughing every other minute at all of the little comments they made as we flew. 

The hotel was decadent. We were on the 12th floor and our balcony provided a good view of the beach (the kids loved going out on the balcony but it freaked me out!). They also loved the bathroom because it had a tv in it. They realized that before Jon and I, and they locked themselves in the room one afternoon and watched Tom and Jerry. We didn’t realize it until we needed to go to the bathroom and after knocking and knocking, Maria opened the door and Mario was on the counter top hunched over with eyes glued on the tv.  But other than those few episodes, the kids barely watched any tv on the trip. 

The breakfast buffet reminded us of heaven.  Pecan rolls, waffles with chocolate chips and whipped cream, omelettes, bacon, fruit loops, eggs benedict.  Every morning, the kids would sit back in their chairs and say “this is the life.”  Jon and I could not disagree.    

We lived at the pool and the beach.  Overall, the kids liked the pool better because it was not salty, you could see under the water, and it was less rough.  Jon and I would have liked to be on the beach more, but they were pretty good about heading down to the ocean after an hour or so in the pool.  Maria enjoyed the ocean more than Mario because she could go out farther in it.  She also liked riding the waves.  Mario would try to karate chop them as they broke; Maria would just move her body with them bobbing up and down.  Our first morning, we went out into the ocean and as we stood in the water, a dolphin swam 50 feet in front of us and then another.  We stood in awe – what a way to begin the trip.  The pool provided much fun, especially for Mario.  He dove to the bottom and swam all over.  Jon and I could not believe that he was not fast asleep by 7 pm every night the way that he did cannonballs off the side and swam five feet under the water to touch the bottom.  Maria enjoyed resting on the noodles, drifting around the pool.  We came up with a game where we named an activity and then we all went under water to act it out.  We picked apples from an apple tree, had a tea party, played baseball….  

Rapping it out in the elevatorWe broke up the morning and afternoon with lunch on the beach or in the pool area.  Maria loved the beach restaurant because they served chicken strips, french fries, and a cookie!  Jon fell in love with the grouper sandwich and I loved the chicken wrap.  All for only $90!  Yeah, that is right.  Luckily, our package had a credit of $100 a day so the lunch was paid for in the end.  If not, I would have had a coronary.  It was a treat to have everything right at our fingertips – the pool, the towels, the food, the beach, the sand, the shells.  In the evenings, we would head out for dinner to avoid paying $1000 for dinner at the hotel.  We hit Buca De Beppo one night, and Mario choked on a piece of mozzarella cheese.  Scared us half to death.  Jon threw him my way after he hit his back a couple of times and Mario continued to choke.  I stuck my finger down his throat and got the cheese out but I was a shaky mess afterwards.  Maria did that to me when she was about a year old – we were in Krogers and she choked on a grape.  Such a scary few seconds.  Ugh!  We hit Ruby Tuesday another night with all of the 70+ year olds.  That was a trip.  We had not been in one of those restaurants for quite some time, and remembered why afterwards.        

On Tuesday, we traveled to the Everglades.  We saw a slew of alligators off one of the roads recommended by the hotel for alligator sightseeing.   The kids rolled down there windows to see them, and Maria kept yelling at Jon not to fall into the water.  Mario dared Jon to get out of the car.  Quite a difference in the reactions of these two!  We took an air boat through mangroves hoping to find some alligators but didn’t see any on that trip.  We caught an osprey on our return to the dock, though.  After the air boat, we went to the Wooten’s, which we were told was a kids’ museum.  It was really an alligator farm.  In addition, it housed a turkey, bobcat, tiger, river otter, and turtles.  It was a bit disturbing.  The kids held a baby alligator, and Maria even kissed it.  Mario lifted it up over his head and the caretaker grew concerned when the alligator began squirming (as did I!). 

On the way to the farm, Maria had asked whether alligators crossed the road after we saw a sign for jaguar crossing.  Jon and I laughed and told her that alligators probably don’t cross the roads.  As we pulled out of the farm and traveled up 41, a five foot alligator waddled across the road in front of our car.  Jon and I looked at each other and pointed him out to Ri.  She proceeded to yell “I told you so!  In your face!”  Our sweet little 6 year old talking like a 14 year old.  While she was yelling that at us, Mario was singing “I’m sexy and I know it” out the window.  When we hit a more pedestrian area, he kept repeating “Where is a hot woman? Come to daddy!”  Jon and I almost fell out of our seats. Where does he get these crazy sayings?  I have never heard Jon talk this way and I don’t think he is bottling it up and going down Grandview Ave. shouting it out so I have no clue where it is from.  All we can think is that it is innate in his little brain.  God help us.  We laughed so hard together in the car that day – it was wonderful.  

We played putt-putt on Wednesday in the burning heat.  We just had to break up the day at the pool because we were starting to get burnt even though we were lathering up on 50 sunscreen.  Of course, it probably wasn’t the smartest move to head to outdoor putt-putt to get away but at least we could cover our shoulders with shirts.  That is where we were all getting burnt.  I remain the putt-putt queen but Jon gave me a run for my money.  Maria and Mario both got two hole-in-ones, thank god.  They would switched back and forth getting mad about not getting one when one of them got one. 

In the evenings, we would head down to the beach for the sunset.  It was cloudy all of the nights except one.  That night was amazing.  Maria and Jon stood in the water watching the bright red sun descending on the horizon, and Mario and I watched from the beach.  It is those moments that rejuvenate me like a shock to the heart.  Ahh, so this is what matters to me.  Now I remember again.  My family, laughter, time away.  We all walked back up to the hotel room and as I stared at Maria and Mario ahead of us and Jon by my side I felt such joy and contentment.  This is why vacations are needed.  Re-start those engines. 

We packed it all up on Thursday afternoon and hit the trinket shop to buy souvenirs.  The flights home were uneventful.  The kids fell straight to sleep on the second flight from Atlanta to Columbus.  We arrived at 11:30 pm, and poor Maria had to wake up and walk the entire airport with us since Jon had to carry luggage and I had to carry Mario.  She cried during most of the walk but she persevered and walked all the way to the car while sobbing “I just want my bed!”  She is a trooper. 

Mario woke up in our bed on Friday morning and asked whether it was a dream that he was in an airplane the night before.  We chuckled and told him that he had fallen asleep and we carried home to the car and put him in his bed.  As I unpacked our clothes, I caught myself wondering the same thing – was it all a dream now that we are back in our “routine?”  No way – the sunsets, the pool-time, the beach, the dolphins, the car trips, the time together was all too real and too refreshing to ever be a dream.