Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vacation, thy name is insanity

The first few days back at school after a week off is brutal. The kids are tired, I'm tired, and I wake with some very difficult to lose thoughts of just calling in and taking another day off with them. It's not like they aren't whiny, arguing, or bored. Mostly it's that I'm lazy, and the driving back and forth to get them all where they need to go is actually worse sometimes than having them all home. Luckily for me, 2 out of 4 have Croup, so I have an extra solider at home today. Again.

Sending them back to school got me thinking about vacations in general, and then led me to reflect on a few vacations that we've had in the past that were less vacation, more mini-massacre. Thousands of people travel across the USA and Canada every year with their children, some take their kids to Europe, Australia, or Africa. I've never been THAT ambitious, but I still like to take the kids out and show them the world if I can. Generally this ends us up at Disney, but as they grow older I want to show them other parts of the USA as well. I really believe that everything you need to teach a kid about the world exists right in the USA. At any rate, most of our vacations have been in the California and Florida regions.

We haven't been back to Florida in 4 years. Partially this is due to economics and it being less expensive to go straight down the coast to Cali than it is to fly across to Florida. Also, I am a horrible flyer, as I've discussed on the old blog here, and the flight to Florida is 4 hours to Dallas plus almost an other 2 to Orlando. Scary stuff.

As I am a varied freelance writer, I've been asked to write about everything from plumbing to recreational skiing. As such, I have copied below my travel article about Orlando and our trip there in 2006.

Walking off the plane in Orlando holding two small hands and a 5 month old on my hip, I am struck by the instant theme park feeling that you get from just being in the airport (maybe that is because I was covered in vomit from the flight, from the baby, not me). Within the first five minutes of landing, you are taken with the crowd to the monorail that leads to the baggage area, and my children are thrilled at their first 'ride' of the trip. It was 9 pm Orlando time, which was only 6 pm in Vancouver, but time changes mean nothing to people who fly with children. 4 hours on a plane can equal 10 hours of actual time at home, so if they weren't exhausted I certainly was.

After getting our 10 bags and car seats (back in the time before extra baggage fees), we discovered that our double stroller had been broken by the baggage handlers. The American Airlines department of broken strollers was staffed by a semi-crazy lady with a bad attitude, so we quickly grabbed a damage claim form, our now wonky stroller, and get out of there.

Pulling up to the hotel after the chaos of the flight and airport, I look for the tropical oasis surrounded by palm trees that was advertised online. At the very least, I had the palm trees to look forward to. Unfortunately, I got to look at them from the back of a parking lot and through some very dirty windows. This hotel did not live up to the photos online at all. Not only was it in what I would call a 'sketchy' part of town that was sort of close to Disneyworld, the room itself was the size of my closet and had a rugged double bed that had seen better days and a kid's 'cabin' that was at the most a hole with bunk beds and at the least a place my kids didn't want to sleep.

I felt guilt, I really did, and I would have left instantly if my brother hadn't already prepaid and was on his way to Florida the next day. Word of advice: Disney value priced resorts are actually the same price as many of the places just outside the gates. Don't waste your money on a hotel 'deal'. You'll get what you pay for and then some.

Waking the next morning to pounding rain, I thought I was back in Vancouver.  It took going out into it to realize that the rain in Orlando had bigger drops. I swear one drop completely covered my 3 year old son when he put a toe on the pavement. All worries were erased once we drove through the gates of Disneyworld, and because I've been to Florida before, I fully expected the rain to stop.

Walking from the parking lot to the shuttle, we got completely soaked. The month was May, so the expectation of summer heat was there. This was Florida after all, but expectations do not a warm day make. On the shuttle, the breeze was blowing, we were all soaked, and were were blessed with teh miserable misfortune of being dressed as though it was August. By the time we departed that shuttle, my kids were blue and I was ready to call it a day.

We hopped on the monorail that took us to the Magic Kingdom and the first thing we did was buy $8 'rain jackets'. These were essentially ponchos with Mickey's face on them. I could fashion the same from garbage bags, but it wouldn't have that Mickey face so there really is no point in competing. I also have to buy a $20 towel at the Buzz Lightyear ride, because my baby was freezing to death and soaked. Great pictures of him wrapped in that towel, because Mom was too silly to pack an extra blanket. You can't tell here, but 3 year old's lips are as blue as that shirt.

We went in and out for the rest of the day, and even left for a bit so we could nap at the craphole, er, hotel. We stopped at Albertsons for some groceries to save a bit of money, but most of what we buy in stores when on vacations seems to go to waste. Disney tip: Not sure if they provided this service back then but Albertsons will now deliver groceries to your hotel. This is great, especially if you don't have a rental car and are staying just on Disney property. We spent the evening at the Magic Kingdom, and it quiet, dry, and a lot of fun.

Our 2nd day was back at the Magic Kingdom with my brother and his family. Every trip with my brother involves him not wearing sun screen and getting a whopper of a sun burn. This time was no exception. It was hotter than hades, and due to our rain day the day before, we were unprepared. I don't remember much of this day, sunstroke had me by 4 pm. Disney tip: Buy your own sunscreen. If you buy it at the park, it's double the price and by the time you put it on it's too late.

If it were up to me, I'd be in the parks from opening to closing every single day. Unfortunately I was with a bunch of party poopers, and they dragged me back to swim in the hotel pools. I thought that perhaps this was the only redeeming quality of the hotel. The pools were huge and fairly empty. We thought it was odd to discover that they had salt water in them, but the kids enjoyed themselves and that was all that mattered. HOWEVER, I recall that each child took a hit of the salt water in the mouth. I am convinced that this is what caused what I like to call "The night of a thousand pukes," which followed shortly after the ingestion of the water. Disney tip: Don't drink salt water. 

All went well until our last day at the Magic Kingdom. Daughter woke up with an upset stomach, and didn't want to go to the park. I thought that was really strange, because she's normally as gung ho as I am and it was our last day. We put her in the stroller and did a bit of touring the Animal Kingdom. Once again, blistering hot and packed full of people. The strong stench of animals filled the air as well, so it was no surprise when she threw up right by the train. Within 2 seconds a cast member was on their radio saying, "We've got a protein spill by the Animal Safari." Good job Disney! It was cleaned up within 10 minutes. I guess a little vomit kind of ruins the illusion of the happiest place on earth. Disney tip: Throw up at the parks. They will clean it up for you. If you want a nice little spot to be sick, I recommend the shady areas at the haunted mansion.

We packed the kiddies up and headed back to the hotel. By this time she was getting sicker, and I knew she had to get out of the sun. I felt guilt bringing her back to that hotel, as it was a disgusting place to be when you are ill. By 5 she seemed to be feeling slightly better, so my SIL and I took the babies and headed back to Hollywood studios for a look around.

It was truly bizarre that we walked straight into Star Wars Weekends. I had no idea. Husband says after that he knew it was there, but when I talk about how I sat on a fighter bike and saw the Stormtroopers dancing, a strange look passes over his face and I know that it's time to shut up.

I did see StormTroopers dancing, and I also saw that bounty hunter guy, but the rest of the park was not crowded so I wanted to get away from all of the insanity and go see other stuff. We took turns watching the babies so we could go on the Tower of Terror (much better in Florida) and bought a few souvenirs.

Heading back to the hotel, I found that daughter was still throwing up and son was getting sick. Not good. By 11 pm, I had two pukers and one who was doing a shuffle dance between toliet and bathtub. There was vomit everywhere. EVERY.WHERE.

By 3 am, my 5 month old started to develop a fever and throw up. Here we are, in some crappy hotel in the middle of Florida, with no Advil or Gravol and three seriously sick kids. My husband made a video at this point of us laughing hysterically. It was too bizarre. This is where the vacation took a downturn and never rebounded. Fevers, chills, throwing up, and other bodily functions were abounding. I used every single towel in that room and then asked for more. We were checking out, so I had to bundle them up into the rental car and clean the room, but I gave up after 10 minutes and settled for just getting out the door.

Our next stop was my aunt's house in Tampa for a graduation party. I'm not sure she'll ever want us to visit again. 3 year old threw up orange gatorade on her new rug. 5 year old spent half the day in the bathroom, and I never even got to socialize as I was rocking, wiping, and taking care of the kids the entire time.  We spent some time in a walkin clinic with 3 year old, where I analyzed his symptoms and asked the doctor what we should do. He asked if I was in the medical field myself, as I seem to know a lot. I swear, that was my first smile in 3 days.

We spent a few hours at the beach in Clearwater. I'd been before, but my daughter loved it. 3 year old and 5 month old spent the entire time sleeping on a blanket under an umbrella. Our flight home was the next day. To say I was grateful that the vacation was over was an understatement.

On our flight home, 3 year old finally came back to life. Unfortunately my daughter left her stuffed kitty on the airplane, and we didn't discover that until we were through customs. I immediately called them and they directed me to lost and found. A word of advice: If you leave it on the plane, it's gone. American Airlines couldn't possibly have a lost and found. Their cleaners pick it up, throw it in the garbage, and that's it. You'll never see it again. Serafina kitty was long gone. It was a crappy end to a 'interesting' vacation.

The moral of this vacation story? Hmmm, I don't have a moral. Wait, wait, I do have one: It is POSSIBLE, if not PROBABLE for you to be miserable at the happiest place on earth. Lower your expectations people, don't drink salt water from the pool, and bring your hand sanitizer.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peeing in garbage cans and watching my baby crawl across the floor

I don't normally blog about my kids, but lately they have been doing some strange/awesome stuff and I really want to write it down.

My baby, my little tiny baby, just crawled across the floor. He's not really going fast yet, but he's inching his way to things he shouldn't be touching and it's just as amazing watching him as it was when I saw my first baby crawl (she inched on her butt to the dog dish and helped herself to some kibble, but at least she moved!).

Even on my 4th go around, all of his baby goodness is amazing to me. I sometimes sit and just smell his hair, because I know how quickly they grow. His nicknames are growing too. For me he's gone through a bunch, and I am currently settled on "Pooper", which I am sure everyone hopes wears off soon.

My first son, who is currently 6 1/2, is and always has been a horrible sleeper. Rather than spending my time writing lately, I am painting my boys room so that he may actually consider sleeping in his own bed for an entire night. Given that he is such a horrible sleeper, he is also a sleep walker. Last week he slept his way straight into the kitchen, walked past my husband, opened the cupboard door and pulled down his pants to pee right into the garbage can! Husband narrowly thwarted his plan and sent him in the right direction. There is always a lot of pee on the floor of my bathroom. Parents of only girls, you can feel thrilled that you will never experience stepping in a small puddle in the middle of the night.