Thursday, June 25, 2015
Our Florida Vacation / Day 1
A week ago today we returned to Iowa after spending a short week on the Florida Gulf Coast. It was our first vacation as a family of four, Mila's first time on a plane, and likewise, our first time maneuvering two kids through an airport. We had memories of Cruz's first time flying when he was about Mila's age and used lessons learned from that experience to prepare for this one. We didn't over pack this time around, took advantage of TSA's leniency on kid snacks and sippy cups, and dug out the old lift-the-flap books that occupied Cruz when the electronic devices had to be stowed away. I filled sippy cups with water instead of juice, made a snack mix from cereal and raisins instead of depending on a $12 bag of fruit snacks, and tucked away a few new surprises for emergencies. As I wrote out outfits on notepads and weighed luggage bags the night before we left, I felt far more laid back than I remember feeling that first time around, although I did fight bouts of panic as I thought about my fiercely independent girl forced to be a lap child for a three hour flight, and cooperate through security. Lord help us!
We had a 9:00 non-stop flight out of Cedar Rapids, and hit the road with two hours to spare with two very excited kiddos. This was the first year Cruz could really anticipate vacation and for months he's been asking when we would go to Flowida. With his backpack packed with his very own set of headphones, his blanket, and a new Lego sticker book, the smile on his face said it all. No matter how far you go, there is something so wonderful about traveling when you're a child. We didn't travel much when I was little, but did make yearly trips to Minneapolis to watch the Twins play. And even more than I remember going to the actual games, I remember my pillow propped up on the window in the car, taking my shoes off in the back seat, playing car games with my brothers and feeling so excited. Packing my suitcase, getting up early the morning of, and stepping into our hotel room for the first time are the essence of adventure when you're a child, and I could see those same feelings in Cruz this year. It was just another one of those really neat, full circle moments you get to experience as a parent.
I was a little afraid when we pulled in the parking lot and Mila insisted on walking the half mile to the entrance by herself, while also pushing one of our suitcases, also by herself. Thankfully, the staff at security, as well as the big machines and fast pace of it all overwhelmed her a bit and she stayed pretty close to mama through the quick and painless process of getting to our gate. We boarded shortly after and found ourselves in row 36 of our jet, with only the flight attendants behind us. They must have seen us coming a mile away! Cruz settled in like a champion, immediately asking for Peabody and Mr. Sherman, and Mila adapted seamlessly, reading her favorite board books just like we do at home and greeting the passengers in the seat in front of us with her friendly "hi".
Mila was a little monster about three minutes before we boarded the flight. She took off in a sprint, heading straight for the escalators, and would have hopped on if a lady hadn't grabbed her for us. And as we were just about to show the attendant our boarding passes, a kind woman tapped Beau on the shoulder, asking if we had lost a shoe, aka, one from the only pair Mila wears. She had managed to leave her shoe on the escalator and a woman found it on her way down! Beau and I were both sweating before we even got our seats. :)
Thankfully, Mila got her wild out of her system and both kids did wonderfully on the flight. Mila fell asleep about a half hour in and slept until we landed. We hardly heard a peep from Cruz, except when he relayed (yelled) something funny that happened in his movie, his headphones on, oblivious to how loud he sounded. I actually read my book, a task I never dreamed I'd have a chance to do on this particular flight, and Beau took a nap, Mila snuggled up on his chest for maybe the first time since she was a baby. It was smooth and fairly effortless, and we felt like pros by the time we stepped off that plane and into the Florida humidity.
That is, until it took extra long to get our rental car and while Beau was fighting with Alamo, I was left with three suitcases and two rested, wound up kids who just wanted to run in a busy airport! At one point, I actually had to leave Cruz in the middle of our suitcases to chase my daughter who was running toward the automatic doors out to a street in front. She was only happy sitting on our suitcase, watching Cruz and I sing Bible School songs, with the actions to accompany them. It was my first, "no one knows me here" moments of our trip and I chose to entertain my daughter by acting like a fool instead of chasing her through a busy airport, to which I also looked like a fool. Ah, the win wins of parenting. :)
After finally getting hooked up with our tiny little Ford Escort (should have taken the upgrade), we cranked the AC and headed for our home away from home for the week, the Embassy Suites near Tampa. We made a quick stop at a Tijuana Flats for some fish tacos and chips and guac before finding our room, literally only unpacking our swimsuits, and heading down to the hotel pool to take a quick swim before dinner. The weather forecast was typical for June, with a 50 percent rain chance every day we were there, but this first afternoon was showing nothing but clear skies and hot hot temperatures. I had to do a double take when I saw one day had a heat index of 116!
After a good swim and a good dinner, we ended the night early with tired kids and the season finale of Game of Thrones on our HBO Go app. Tomorrow would be a big day and it felt nice to relax before what was sure to be an adventure of a week.
More pictures from Day 1...
Palm trees and front desk cookies would be frequent occurrences during our stay in the sun. :)
And what's a hotel room without some good wound-up jumping on the beds every night?! It's a kid things (and sometimes a mom thing, too).