Monday, August 10, 2009

An epic tale of a vacation in Florida

I'm back, I'm back. I'm sure you all missed me like mad and were wondering where I was and how I was doing, and whether it was fun. Well, I won't leave you guessing any longer. Here's the epic story of our trip to Florida for Kaya's birthday (and my cousin's wedding). Sometimes I feel like we're a real life version of the National Lampoon movies...


Wake up.
Feed kids left over pumpkin pie.
Clean up house like mad.
Finish packing.
Freak out a bit.
Rene drives us through to Omaha while Kaya asks every single minute how much longer until we get to the airport. Oh boy. This is going to be a long day.

We finally get to the airport (felt like such a looong trip) and I take the kids to look at this wall while Rene gets us checked in.

We play, I chase them, take them to the bathroom. He's still checking in? We play some more. I start getting nervous. Still checking in? Ok, something's up. Turns out our first flight was going to be delayed due to bad weather in NJ, which was going to make us miss our connecting flight. She was in the middle of booking us onto an alternative connecting flight, but then just before she finished, the last tickets sold out. So her only option was going to be to fly us to Houston where we'd spend the night and get to FL the next day. They wouldn't pay to put us up in a hotel.

So I break the news to Kaya that we're probably spending the night in an airport that night and we won't make it to Disney the next day. Tears. Screaming. Disappointment.

I take the kids to eat something and 10 minutes into it Rene comes bursting up saying she managed to get us on flights to get us there that night, but the plane leaves in 10 minutes. We leave the table and run for our lives and catch the plane.

But our seats are not together. I'm beside Zoe, Kaya is across the aisle and Lana is behind her. Rene managed to land himself at the other side of the plane.

This is the first time Zoe and Turtle have flown. I had expected Zoe to be difficult and Turtle to be easy. But Zoe is enthralled with it all and as long as I keep a constant supply of chocolate and lollypops going, she's happy as can be.

Stressed? Who, me?

Turtle however, is desperate to pull all the papers out of the front pouch and throw them all over the plane. He also likes the sound of his own voice over the top of the engine noises. And he is so keen for me to put him down to try crawling down the aisle.

Eventually, Turtle falls asleep and all is good.

Get off one plane in Texas and run to the next one - make it just in time. This flight is not quite as fun. I'm seated with the 4 kids, while Rene is a few rows away. The novelty has completely warn off for Zoe and Turtle isn't tired for any more naps. The guy in front of Zoe, who has his seat completely reclined, turns around and asks me to stop Zoe from kicking the back of his chair. I say, "I'm very sorry. It's hard to get her to stop, she's only 2". He decides to turn around and give me an angry look every time she puts her feet on his chair. I start feeling very flustered. I'm constantly asking Zoe to stop, and trying to distract her. She continues, he keeps turning and looking angrily. I start restraining her feet and she starts screaming. And biting me. She feels claustrophobic. She screams and pulls my hair. I start crying. Turtle is still fighting for me to put him down. The guy keeps looking. I decide I don't give a crap if she kicks his chair, which is still totally reclined. He can look all he flipping wants, and if he brings it up again, I might not manage to be as polite as I was the first time. But he doesn't bring it up.

Zoe eventually watches a movie without throwing the dvd player on the floor. I try to discretely breastfeed Turtle, but he insists on lifting my whole shirt and popping off for all to see. But at least the kids are happy. And we're almost there. Then it will be over, and we can get our car and get to our room, get our jammies on and crash out. I can't wait. I dream about it. Not much longer to go. Or so I think.

Plane lands. We survived.And heck, at least this didn't happen to us!

Get to the airport. Get to baggage reclaim. There's the car seats. There's a guy tapping our shoulder. He tells us our suitcases didn't make it. They will arrive sometime the next day. He'll give us some free mini toiletries to make up for it. He is very courteous. We decide to laugh it off and look forward to just getting back to the hotel soon. It's now midnight.

Get to the budget desk. The guy does a credit check and we come up as having no score. We haven't had any debt in the USA, so we have no score. So they can't give us a car. They're the only people in the airport who rent to people without a visa card, but they won't let us if we don't have a credit score. Rene has previously called and asked before booking and they had told him it wouldn't be a problem. But instead of complaining, he asks to speak with the manager and he begs him. He tells him we're stuck at the airport with 4 hungry (no food on the planes, no time to eat in between), tired kids, no way to get a car, no bags or belongings. Supposedly they never make an exception, but this time he does. He lets us pay in full, in cash for the car, and that's it! We are SO thankful.

We get in our awesome suburban 8 seater and get ready to drive to the hotel.

Ok, where's the GPS? In the suitcase? Oh dear. Well, it can't be that hard to find the place....

1.5 hours later, (should be a 20 minute drive) after driving all around Florida, we make it to the hotel. And we completely crash.


Wake up.
We stink. Our clothes are covered in chocolate from the plane and we just smell homeless. Rene phones the airline to ask when the suitcases will arrive. Sometime later. Great. Can they provide money for clothes? No, we should just wait til later, sometime.

We shower, then put our stinky clothes back on and head out to breakfast. It's hot out. We sweat some more. We look terrible. We smell terrible.

At the restaurant, Zoe lets us know she pooped in her diaper. We accidentally left the diaper bag in the hotel room. Rene takes her to the bathroom, takes off her diaper and wipes her bum and brings her back diaperless. She's wearing a dress so you can't see, but I spend the whole meal time worrying she will pee on the floor.

We find a thrift store and I go in and buy us some new clothes. The lady is so very kind and helpful. She is friendly, she gives me discounts and sympathy and she gives me a free CD of her brother's beautiful music. He passed away and has a beautiful story, and I will post more about it later. I don't want it to get lost in this post. She was so kind and we got new clothes plus 2 strollers for Disney for $24 all together.

Back to the hotel to get dressed. Oops, I somehow forgot to get clothes for Turtle. So he has to go to Disney in the same stinky, chocolate covered clothes he wore all day the previous day. Shweet. It does happen to be a Disney T-shirt, so we just go with it.

Get to Disney for 1pmish. (thanks SO much Grammy and Grandpa Burton for the Disney tickets!)
Kaya is way too overwhelmed and it puts her in a bad mood. She is so desperate for the day to be perfect and inadvertently brings about its demise. She's grumpy and upset about every little thing, but having a great time at the same time. She goes from saying, "this is the best day ever!!" excitedly, to stopping in the middle of a stampede of people, folding her arms and saying, "you're all mean to me. I hate this day. I'm not going". Then back to the best day ever thing. She is all over the place. It's just way too much hype, and too much stimulation for the wee lass to handle.

Zoe figures out how to scoot herself in her stroller, Flintstones style. She scoots all the way into the ladies bathroom at one point.

At one point we get hit by a thunderstorm and heavy rain. All the outdoor rides shut down and the indoor ones get overcrowded. We get soaked, Kaya complains some more.

Everything reopens when the storm passes. We enjoy the Monster's inc laugh floor, the tiki room show, the stitch's escape, racing cars, Minnie's house, the jungle safari cruise, the parade, and others. But by far the best and favorite exhibit is the Buzz Lightyear video game ride. It's awesome! We've gotta do Disney again if only for that ride. And the fireworks were cool too. We all feel a little sad walking away. We're so tired, but are sad it's over.

We get in super late at night again and are starving. We order pizza dead late and it tastes divine. Our suitcases arrive! Rene brings them up. We completely zonk out.

Drag ourselves out of bed. Get cleaned up and fresh clothes on. It feels good. Drive out to Shoneys, we've been looking forward to this. We're in a hurry because we have to pick up my brother from the airport later. We're kind of tense and rather grumpy.

Shoney's is so disappointing. We sit for about 15 minutes waiting to be served before we finally ask the lady if we can start the buffet because we're in a hurry. Fine. We start. After another 10 mins she finally takes our drinks order. Then eventually the drinks are brought out. The old lady, Helen, who is our waitress, comes over and starts yelling at Kaya for supposedly running. Ok, fine I understand kids shouldn't run in there - but I wish she wouldn't yell at my kid! Talk to me about it and I'll explain it to my kid and deal with the situation as I see fit, but don't just yell at my kid. We decide we won't tip - I am mad. Rene overhears her saying this was the second kid she had to yell at this morning for running. I go to console myself with chocolate pudding from the buffet, but a lady takes it away just before I get some, and replaces it with broccoli. We're running late now. Turtle accidentally knocks off a bowl and it smashes. No one comes to clean it, or see if we're ok. We pick up the pieces ourselves. The waitress finally wanders over and we tell them about the bowl. "it happens" she says and walks away without cleaning anything up. We notice Zoe has drawn on the wall with crayon, and we feel bad so we decide to leave a tip after all. But we're grumpy.

We leave, Rene drops me off at the hotel with the girls while he picks up Uncle Doug (actually, he gets lost and is very late to pick him up). Kids and I have a great time at the pool for a couple hours then we go back to the room.

They watch cable tv while I fiddle with my dreads.

Rene finally makes it home, then we head off to Cocoa Beach. We have an amazing time at the beach. So refreshing. Zoe is a little scared of the waves, but she does ok. Kaya is a little too brave. Lana is happy as a button. Our food gets so sandy. My camera gets a bit sandy.

Zoe runs out in front of a car in the parking lot and it sheds a few years off my life as I dart out to throw myself in front of the car since I couldn't catch her in time. It stops in plenty of time, but so does my heart for like a minute.

We drive back to the hotel room, then go back to the pool at night, in the dark. Zoe hears an airplane and thinks it's a "scawy monster gonna bite me. Everyfing wants to eat me". I think she's scared in the dark. But she plays games and splashes around and has fun. And so do the rest of us.

Order pizza again, late at night. Rene gets buffalo wings. The kids start talking about how they feel bad for animals that get killed for food. They talk about the chickens on the farm and how it breaks their heart. Then they look at Daddy with chicken bones everywhere and sauce and grease all over his face. Lana gives him a disappointed look and says, "Daddy, I don't like it when you eat animals. It makes me really sad".
He asks if it's really important to her and she says it is. So he commits to cutting out meat too. He's not ready for the title vegetarian yet, but he'll stop eating meat for his daughter. What a good Daddy!

Up, clean, breakfast. Mmm good breakfast. Oops, running late. Get dressed for my cousin's wedding. Oops, really late. Start sweating as we try to hurry and get the kids in the wedding clothes and do their hair. Just about to leave, cleaning lady is waiting outside, can't find the car keys. Throw the whole room around while drenching ourselves in sweat while the kids scream and the clock ticks away. We start screaming too while the cleaning lady wonders what on earth is going on. Finally find them and leave the room like a bomb site. Collect Uncle Doug then drive the 3 hour journey to the wedding. Meanwhile the girls are pulling out their pretty hair clips etc, and are messing up their dresses with sticky lolly pops. And I realize I forgot my make up and contact lenses. Oh well.

Have fun at wedding. The bride is stunning.

Get to see my dad and step mother again, as well as my cousins and aunts and uncles etc. It's a lot of fun. Take pics. They do the wedding dance thing, like this one.

We have to say goodbye to everyone, even though it seems like we only just said hello.

Stop at Wendy's late at night for some fries and baked potatoes. Rene resists any burgers. Go to bed. Turtle keeps making noises which set the girls off in giggle fits. Zoe says, "Ghenn is weely funny". We all finally fall asleep at about 1.30am


Alarm is rude to us at 5.15 am. We get up, packed, ready and check out. off to airport. The flights home are awesome! They see we have little kids and want to seat us together but they have a huge line of people waiting, so they upgrade us to first class to sit us together! Rene sits next to Zoe. We have tons of space. We're so comfy. A lady spills her bloody mary all over me and feels terrible, but I don't mind. I'm in first class! Kids all behave great.

Next flight is a tiny, cramped one but it goes ok because everyone is so tired and we sleep through it.

We get home, eat and then I start falling asleep all over the place, like I'm on drugs. Rene's calling himself a vegetarian. I try not to show how excited it makes me. (so as not to influence him one way or the other).

We're all trying to shift mentality back to being home, but we're kind of sad it's all over. It was kind of crazy at times. But it was tons of fun. And we were together. And we made memories to last a life time.

And if you think this blog post took a long time to read - I promise it took longer to write!


lady mommy said...

That super bad thing that happened, you know being stuck on a plane for hours, that happened to Gabe, Sierra and I when she was 9 months old. Luckily she slept through the 3 hours on the tarmac and watched the little tv screens (it was JetBlue) on the flight without too much crying. We missed our connection and had NO diapers left. Our last diaper gabe managed to rip so some lady in the 3 hour long line for new tickets had a bandaid in her purse to tape sierras diaper together. We begged for our luggage after we got our tickets 6 hours after landing since the extra diapers were in there. We also had NO food either and no carseat. The airline let us borrow a carseat and we took an overcharged taxi ride to a cheapo hotel in NYC, which was overpriced, and tried to find an open pizza place at 1 am. There was a 24 hour store right next to our hotel, but of course they werent open on sundays HA! The next morning I had to go buy baby food for poor Sierra (thank God she still nursed!!) before rushing back to the airport to try and get home. After 400 dollars in taxi and hotel fees (On my parents credit card-we'd have died without it because we were BROKE) we got vouchers from jet blue for half that amount. thanks a bunch, jerks. But yes, I am very aware of travel nightmares. We mostly kept a good attitude and looked for how God blessed us in every situation - kinda like the first class on the way home. If you look for the Lord in all the bad, you can't help but feel grateful. I am glad you guys had a wonderful trip and lots of new memories :)

septembermom said...

You definitely had an adventure! I enjoyed reading about all the fun and craziness. The kids pictures are adorable. Love Turtle's expression. So cute! And Flintstone style, that's the way to go:)

me said...

What a trip! Memories indeed!

me said...

ps - How do you insert your signature at the end of your blog post? I would love to learn if you don't mind showing me...

Kinsleys4 said...

Whew! What a trip! Man, I feel the pain. I seriously think if a Christian ever wants to see the closest thing to hell we can ever experience on this earth, it's going on a plane trip these days. Oh and add kids. :-P Yeah, after our flight experience during our Dallas trip when Avery was 2 months, we are done done done with flying as a family as least for the next 10 years. We love our van and the luxury of being on our own schedule.

My favorite part of your story, btw, is the pudding to broccoli part. LOL! That's great. ;-)

Hey btw, I didn't realize you were away (actually I thought you must be off on a trip somewhere since I hadn't seen any posts or anything from you in a while) -- but anyway I didn't realize that when I sent those fix-it pics to you. So yeah, feel free to set them waaay on the back burner! I didn't intend for you to come home from a long trip only to find a 'can you do me a favor' email. ;-) hehe

Michelle M. said...

What a trip! I loved ready the whole story :) After having just traveled with my two kids (alone!), I can relate to a lot of what you went through. It can be rough traveling with little kids, but you did great.

2Shaye ♪♫ said...

Oh wow, Niecey. You wrote this when I hit a very busy time and I totally missed it. But I'm glad I found it tonight because I loved reading every last word.

I'm so glad you documented the whole trip briefly for those of us who couldn't be there. It was fun and the pictures and videos are a nice little touch to the whole thing. Welcome home and congrats on the no-big-deal-vegetarian thing!

P.S. My word verification thingy is "rearr" which sounds like an unhappy cat. Seemed fitting for the middle of your story. LOL

2Shaye ♪♫ said...

Oh, I also came back to add that I LOOOOVED the shot of Kaya in the middle of everyone walking around. Arms folded, strong stance, so wonderfully armed with that determined expression. What an amazing capture!!

MrsW said...

Oh dear - we've just booked 4 weeks in Florida next year, so that's about 27 times as many opportunities (just opportunities btw definitely not PLANS) to experience theme park melt-downs.

Great post, fab photos, reminds me of so many totally mental flights I've taken alone with my first 2 babes. I can't wait to get back there (but it will take us a year to save!).

Laura102281 said...

A month and a half later, I finally read this. I can SO relate to that sort of a trip! I've had a few myself. I love that you can still have fun and stay positive in the middle of mess after mess. You guys are so fun.

You know, Disneyland (right by my house) has the Buzz Lightyear ride too. ;) ;) ;)