01 January 2011

Florida. family. firsts.

family time for the holidays meant we had to hop a plane to florida. at first there were no direct flights, so the idea of travel was unpalatable. but then westjet opened direct to orlando service on saturdays. and at good prices! yes please! sun and sand here we go!

so, our flights were to take us down to florida on christmas day and back on new years day (saturday-saturday). we cleaned the house, dropped nutmeg at the catsitter, packed, relaxed, and then peacefully got in the car on christmas afternoon to get to the airport for our 4:30p flight. X was having a great time looking at all the exciting stuff at the airport. things were going smoothly (for once), and then...in line for u.s. customs (halifax airport does u.s. customs in halifax before you even get on your flight) they pulled all of us heading to orlando out of line. our flight was canceled! mechanical problems. we had to go collect our baggage and go home. they hoped they could get us on a direct flight out the next day, but they werent sure. we had to call their customer service after 9p that night.

we personally didnt mind too much about this because X had no idea what was going on and had had a nice time hanging out at the airport. but some of the other families looked bewildered and frustrated (understandably). thankfully, westjet was able to commandeer a plane and take us all down to orlando together on a direct flight on sunday morning (the next day) at 7:30a.

the flight itself went well, but they kept us on the runway in halifax for an extra hour waiting to de-ice, so it was harder to keep X entertained than normal. we had to stand in the aisle with her twice, but she actually did a very good job for being cooped up for 5.5 hours (there was a 9 month old on the plane with us, and he was fussy the whole time. he woke X up from both of her naps). it was also quite windy in orlando, so landing was a bit nauseating for me, but X didnt seem to mind.

at the airport, my dad and brother, chip, picked us up. it was the first time X got to meet her uncle. he was very excited to meet her and she was curious at first and then started to cry. poor thing. it had already been a long day for her and we had more traveling to do. in order to give ourselves a little break, we decided to get some lunch before driving the hour out to melbourne.

we chose "five guys" hamburger joint. apparently its the latest "in n out" rival. and while their food was pretty good, i think in-n-out still wins (could have something to do with the seduction that is san fransisco, which is the only place ive eaten in-n-out). the cajun fries at five guys were pretty good though.

(watching pappy eat his tasty burger)

after food, we were back in the car. the weather was grey and windy and actually reminiscent of halifax. no thank you. i did not come to florida for maritime canada weather. anyway, we survived the drive, dropped my dad and brother off (my brother artie briefly came out to meet X. very sweet.) and then we headed over to my mom and als house.

our busy evening was just beginning. dave ran away to the grocery store to shop for the meal he was planning to prepare for everyone and i was plopped at the foot of the christmas tree and told to help X open her heap of presents. my mom had gotten a few outfits for X and a whole range of bath time goodies (colorful bath mat, water squirter toys, a tub spout protector, a bath toy sack). my grandma had also sent down a nice baby blanket for X. and then there was a surprise gift from my friend georgette. so very sweet. she sent a cute purple outfit for X (georgettes favorite color) and some yummy teas for dave and i. perfect gift for us and a new tea brand (adagio) for me to add to my list of favorites.

then als family started coming over. he has three daughters and four (or six, or seven. depending on how you count. blended families are complicated) grandchildren. my mom and al got engaged over thanksgiving (in key west) and als oldest daughter, amy, was taking a family engagement photo. so, we headed over to the hotel across the street from my moms house to have a formal looking setting for the pics. when we got back from that, dave got down to business with dinner.

(family photo at the hotel. thanks amy!)

we hadnt stopped for one second since we had arrived. and X was clearly wired due to all that energy whirling around. she hadnt napped since the plane and was basically refusing to do so. she was whiny (rightly so) and wouldnt let anyone else hold her, so i ripped open one of the packages i had sent to myself to my moms address and unpacked our new ergo! once X was deposited in her new, extremely comfortable pouch, i was able to bounce, chop veggies, and meet-n-greet while keeping her somewhat happy. dave was making a mexican buffet spread with two carne asada recipes (one more traditional recipe and one with ancho chile powder and cocoa), ground chicken (for the kids), black beans with jalapenos, rice, veggies, tortillas, and horchata.

i would say the dinner was a success. the food table was nearly barren by the time dave and i were able to eat (a good sign that everyone liked the food) and i was able to be somewhat social with als family, most of whom i either hadnt met yet or hadnt spent more than a few minutes talking to before. so that was good.

one area where i felt i did a poor job was tending to Xs needs. i had her in the pouch with me, true. but she was clearly desperately in need of sleep. when i finally had a chance to take her off my back, i got a look at her face. it was splotchy red from being tired and she had the glazed eyes of a zombie. it was almost frightening. i had tried every hour for the whole evening to coax her to nap, but she either flat out wouldnt, or she would last 10 minutes and then wake up screaming. she just didnt want to miss the action. even being bounced in her carrier, the number ONE way i got her to sleep as a newborn, she was able to fight off sleep. until the guests left i could see i wasnt going to win the fight. but her face really scared me. i felt like i was putting her at risk of getting very sick (airplane travel, encountering lots of different people and germs, lack of sleep, crying more than normal...all good ways to make a baby sick) and the idea made me nauseous with guilt. probably the worst momma guilt i have felt since she was born. it was the first time i knew what i needed to do to help her (and i was mentally/physically capable of providing it for her) and i wasnt able to do anything. but, finally everyone left, and we were able to calm her down and get to sleep. and she slept like a champ in her new location.

X woke up with a bang on monday. out of a dead sleep her eyes shot open and she started bucking her legs and stomach (we call this "dolphin girl"). she was up and ready to start the day with gusto! we were able to spend the morning all to ourselves, hanging out, eating, and checking out the house on Xs level. after Xs first nap, some of als family came over to hang out (specifically, his daughter from st louis, jodi, and her husband, derek, and their two kids harlan and roxy). we had wanted to go to the zoo with the kids but it was actually a chilly and windy day in florida and it didnt seem like a fun idea to be outside for a few hours. so we just hung out at the house. it was nice to just be able to chat with adults while the kids roamed around and took naps when they felt like it. it was also nice to just spend the bulk of the day in one spot after all the chaos of the day before.

that afternoon, a package from my friend ntina arrived. more goodies! some clothes and books for X and a surprise treat for us. homemade caramels, french style. she had loved the salty caramels from france as much as we did when she came to visit and was inspired to create the tasty treat at home and send us some love. :)

then the house cleared out for the final naps of the day and after X woke up we headed over to my dads for some time with "the boys" (my dad and two brothers). X got to get friendly with her uncles and grandpa and all the dogs and kitties at their house. my childhood kitty, mickey (of mickey and minnie. minnie died a few years ago), is still alive and kicking (hes 20 years old), so it was great to get to scratch his ears. we also got to open a gift my aunt jean (and family) had sent down from grand rapids. santa did a good job finding us this year. lol.

our final stop of the night was als daughter christies house for dinner. it was the last time to see jodi and her family before they left and it turned out to be our last time seeing amy too. :( we also got to taste a favorite food of theirs, a white hotdog called a "coney." not to be confused with the coney dogs you can order in michigan which are hot dogs with beanless chili on top (yum). their "coneys" are from syracuse (where they grew up) and are apparently a famous local thing. i thought they were interesting: crunchy casing, soft inside, mild flavor, not super salty. i dont think my tastebuds knew what to do with it. i was used to the hot dogs from the detroit area i guess. the syracuse dogs werent bad, just not a nostalgic tastebud stimulator for me. but its always fun to try new foods, especially famous niche items.

hung around the house in the morning. X visited the backyard for the first time and got to see some florida grass, trees, etc. she seemed scared. maybe it was all too new for her, too much to take in, and she didnt know what to look at first. so, we loaded her in our lovely new ergo and went for a walk.

we stopped at the jungle cafe for some soup to go, which sounded like a good at the time of purchase. then we decided to hit the beach. we didnt have the camera so i hoped it wouldnt turn into something momentous and photo-worthy. dave took off X pants and shoes and let her stand in the wet sand and wait for the calm leftovers from waves to catch her toes. and, while the water was chilly, she seemed not to be bothered by it. she kept standing there staring, trying to figure things out. i opened my carton of soup and promptly got sand in it. on second thought, who eats soup at the beach? anyway, X ended up getting really interested in the waves, she was smiling and asking for more. crazy kid.

after tiring herself out at the beach, she took a nice nap while dave went out to grab lunch from thai zushi asia. it was as good as i remembered it from my last visit, so that was nice. but after that the day started to go a little downhill. later, while at the grocery store, i started to feel rundown and crummy. i was coming down with something. my throat was sore and my body was achy. i used it as an excuse to buy my first electric heating pad (win?). we spent the rest of the day at home where i could drink georgettes tea, suck on throat lozenges, relax and try to kick this thing as fast as possible.

dave went out to pick up dinner for us and brought back some enormous burritos from the beachside surf shop called "da kine diegos insane burritos." they were huge and warm and tasty. not the best burrito of its kind that ive ever had, but definitely a good option for a filling, cheap, and tasty meal.

(the burrito was almost as big as X!)

after food was bath time. X wanted to try out her bath goodies and i was interested in sitting in some hot water, so we made a date of it. she had a blast! she was splashing, kicking, and dipping her face in the water. im not sure what she expected as she repeatedly went back for more, but she seems to have become a fish. maybe it was the ocean influence?

started out with a fussy morning around the house with X. she would only calm down being outside, but she still wasnt pleased. she then went on to have a crummy first nap and we threw together a makeshift lunch. it felt like a bad start to the day.

we went to pick up my brothers to go to the brevard zoo. when we pulled in to the parking lot the placed was PACKED! total fail for the day? well, we decided to park and wait in line and pay and get a ticket and just see what we could see since the weather was finally decent.

headed to the petting zoo first, before X got tired. she was able to pet an alpaca, see some fish, and avoid a headbutt by the "pet-able" goats (not so petting-friendly in my book). my brother artie and i also got to feed some 9-ringed armadillos. they snorffle maggots off your hand. sounds gross, but they were cute.

after the petting area, we went to the south american section of the zoo. X actually seemed to enjoy watching the spider monkeys play. at first i thought she couldnt follow them fast enough with her eyes, but she was and i think she was curious about it.

after the monkeys and a few parrots, X fell asleep in the ergo. we snapped up the sun shade and continued our visit of the zoo while she dozed in style and comfort. we toured the north america, australia/asia, and africa areas. the africa area had gotten some new cheetahs since the last time we were there (circa october 2006), and the giraffes were pretty neat. all in all, we ended up having a really great time at the zoo. i hadnt had a more lovely time with my brothers in years. X even scored a new book (eight silly monkeys) from the zoo gift shop.

(a picture of all three of us has not been in existence like this in AGES. i love it. and X is kinda in the picture.)

after a quick snack at chick-fil-a, we headed home to decide on dinner plans. with my mom and al we tried out a seafood restaurant that was new to them called "eau gallie river crab house." it had kind of a dive/local place type atmosphere (think drab decor and neon lighting) so i was hoping things would be simple but decent tasting. and they were. i got crab cakes and dave got blackened grouper. both were yummy. X enjoyed herself while waiting for the food by repeatedly walking (with help) over to the fountain/wishing well in the center of the restaurant. she is like a magnet to water these days! when the food came, we plopped her in the high chair and gave her a taste of something she got a HUGE kick out of...corn on the cob. dave ate most of it first, but left her two full rows. she gnawed and nibbled and in the end, basically ate all of what was left. and she seemed to have a fun time doing it!

so, while the day started out as a poop-fest, it ended up smelling like roses. (does that analogy work for anyone else but me? no? get over it.)

started the day at the grocery store (yum, newmans own hermits), which also happened to be near the quizzically named bealls (look at their logo. is it "bells" or "be-alls" or are they just damn fools? dave and i debate this every time we are in florida). we stopped in to buy a cheap bathing suit for X, since she had outgrown the cute hand-me-down one from daves cousin.

back at the house we had a sandwich lunch with my mom and al and had a chance to sample the weird fruit known as a pomelo. huge and yellow, it seems like a grapefruit on steroids, but the taste doesnt have the bitter bite. in fact, the sections of peeled fruit taste almost like nothing. like a chewy water sack. not unpleasant, but odd to be sure.

anyway, after lunch, we all went down to the beach. upon arriving at the beach, we discovered the camera hadnt been packed, again. this time we did in fact miss some truly fantastic footage of X and her beloved ocean. she LOVED it. the waves totally soaked her pants as she kept leaning forward trying to drag us out deeper. i would pick her up after a few minutes (thinking "shes GOT to be cold") and try to put her on dry sand. she would immediately spin around and hurdle herself back toward the waves. she marched right back to the wet sand and kept going toward the rushing waves. i once squatted down to her level and saw how scary the waves were from that height. the girl is fearless! and the water was cold! the smile on her face was from ear to ear though and she could not be convinced to do anything but get wet.

in fact, not having the camera for documentation purposes may actually be useful here. it will allow us to recollect the memory of her first beach encounters with such romantic imagination, that by the time she is old enough to ask us about it, the story will have morphed into something like "well, the water was so cold that ice was floating in it, but you insisted on wading in up to your armpits. you stayed in there so long that you grew gills, and then a pod of dolphins came by and asked if you were the mermaid queen. you said yes, and they carried you on their backs out to sea to play with the penguins and whales." seriously, it was that magical to see her reaction to the ocean.

but the fun didnt stop there. it seemed like she had enough steam to try a dip in the crowne plaza hotel pool. we changed her into her suit poolside and she got in with dave and had a great time splashing and kicking and dipping her face in the pool water (she even blew a few bubbles!) that was much warmer than the ocean. she seemed so revved up i thought she would jump off the side of the pool and swim by herself.

after all that action, she had a nice nap. when she woke up, we dressed to meet my dad and brothers for dinner at coasters pub. the place was noisy enough to let us relax comfortably with X and the food was good too. standard pub fare, but done well. had a nice visit and a nice family meal.

(with uncle chipper at the pub)

today we had the camera WITH us when we went out. the morning started at the playground down the road from us that has access to the beach. X had a great time on the swings, slide, and on the bouncy walking bridge. if hadnt known how much she loved the water, we could have stayed at the playground all morning. but, we did head for the beach after a while.

(playing on the playground was fun!)

she had a similar reaction to the water that she had had on the two previous occasions. pure bliss. squeals and giggles of joy erupted as the water rushed around her legs and was sucked back out to the sea. she was all water, water, water, go, go, go until she had squealed and walked so much that she started whimpering for food. no one was around, so i did my famous walk and nurse and she was out. she had played in the ocean until she actually hit her breaking point. she then proceeded to have a very long nap.

(video i was able to catch of X playing in the ocean. nowhere near as awesome as the thursday experience. also, in case you cant tell, there are several times where dave is holding X back from advancing too deep out into the water)

(bliss on the beach)

since her nap was so long, mom and al went and picked us up some more da kine diego burritos and we had a quick lunch before we went to hang out with my brothers. X got to play with molly the dog and delight in all the dog toys. then we were back at home for another X nap. i wasnt sure how long it would be this time, so dave and i headed out to the grocery store while my mom stayed and waited for X to get up. when we got back, X was red faced and crying. apparently she had taken a short nap and then proceeded to cry for most of the 25 minutes she was with my mom after she woke up. :(

dave then made a simple grilled dinner and we enjoyed a backyard fire. a very unusual new years eve for us. not that we have really ever gone out partying and boozing, but usually we plan a bit more action, and there were a few lovely years there where we actually got to spend a fancy night out with good friends (mmmm, mamma maria in boston, i still have dreams about you. and a gourmet night in in DC. the days gone by...). this year, we sat by the fire and listened to the hilly billys in the neighboring houses shoot off shit fireworks every 30 minutes from 7p until midnight. and we packed our bags for the travel day home. :(

woke up and headed to my dads house. said goodbye to my brothers and then had an easy drive to the airport with my dad. our flight was on time, we had an excellent tailwind, X was good, the flight attendants were nice (one even held Xs hands and walked her up the plane aisle. i like westjet!). i also found 18 rabbit granola bars at the MCO airport, and they were healthy and yummy! a rare find in airports these days.

landing in halifax was easy. the luggage pick up was quick and X napped on the way home. easy peasy right? once home, we realized we left the diaper bag on the shuttle from the airport to our car. :( dave had to go back for it. after a long day of travel requiring early wake-up times, that just isnt the most fun way to end it, but we survived.

overall, the trip was great. very busy at first, but then it became pretty relaxing. we were successfully able to keep the driving to a minimum so that made things easier for X. the best thing was being so close to the ocean and getting to see the awesome reaction X had to it. plus, she was able to spend plenty of good time with her family. it definitely was the smoothest trip with her so far, though the airplane travel seems to be always morphing. she is so much more mobile than she was in september, so keeping her occupied in the seat was much more difficult. i suppose every trip will bring new and different challenges though, so we just constantly have to be on our toes and try to anticipate as much as we can.

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