Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Week in Florida with no Leapster

We just got back from a week of family vacation in Florida. This was our first relatively long vacation as a family, and if I'm being honest I was a little bit scared. Ok, if I'm being totally honest I was terrified.

I wasn't scared of flying or of encountering Jaws in the ocean. I was scared that we would be driving each other crazy stuck in a small space that was hundreds of miles away from our home.

My executive decision to leave Alec's Leapster home did not help with my fear. At home I let him play with his Leapster a bit every day if he wants to, but this week I wanted him to experience our vacation without his nose glued to a 3-inch screen. So I was completely anticipating a melt down when he realized it was back home...but I'll get to that later.

Believe it or not, our vacation was actually somewhat relaxing, despite Tropical Storm Debby arriving at the end of our trip. The boys loved being in a different place. They loved the ocean and sand. They really loved the kid's museum that we found on a rainy day. They just loved the adventure all around.

Our view pre-Debby

The same view after Debby arrived

As with other trips I've taken, I used this vacation as an opportunity to reflect on my life and learn about myself. When Chad and I were in New York City last year, I was reminded of my stay-at-home mom wardrobe and my blessing of having wonderful family in my life, among other things (see What New York Taught Me About Being a Parent). Here is what our trip to Florida reinforced to me:

My kids are awesome. 

I mean, I knew that -- but sometimes I forget how awesome they really are. One example of how they were so awesome on this particular vacation was the way they handled a 17-hour return trip that was only supposed to take seven hours. I'll save the details for a possible future blog on my new opinions of United Airlines and why I will never fly them again.

Let's just say that my boys handled a 10-hour airport imprisonment like champs. In fact, they handled it better than Chad and I did.

While Chad and I stomped around muttering angry statements under our breath, Alec and Chase ran around squealing with delight at our airport adventure. Sure they got bored and were tired (after all, they were up at 6:15am, and we didn't get back to our house until 11:30pm). But they had fun exploring the airport, going up and down escalators, jumping over lines on the floor and spending quality time with Mom, Dad and Grandma. I'm sure they now know Dulles airport better than most of the employees there know it.  

I'm getting older. 

Ok, I also knew this one. But one particular experience in Florida made sure to remind me of this fact. We had passed a fun-looking place called the Daiquiri Shak a few times, so one evening Chad's mom stayed back at the condo after the boys were asleep so that Chad and I could try it out. When we arrived, we saw that there was a rather large crowd and a band playing. Neither of these bothered us, so we found a seat at one of the few remaining empty tables.

After we were settled and had ordered our daiquiris, we took a better look at the crowd and realized that there was a birthday party going on. Without judging (too much), I will guess that the members of the birthday party were in about their low to mid 20s and liked to party. Chad and I were quickly surrounded by dozens of people wearing neon pink hats with their names on them, guzzling beers with neon straws. The names on the hats ranged anywhere from Aimee to Smash and Big Taco.

Once I was able to tear my attention away from Big Taco, I started to pay closer attention to the band, which was way louder than it needed to be. Despite the volume of the band, their song selection wasn't bad. But their performance was terrible. They went from playing an incredibly out of tune version of "Kryptonite" to an even worse version of "Play that Funky Music."

When the band finally stopped playing long enough for Chad and me to hear each other talk, we both agreed that this was not our cup of tea. So when our daiquiris came, we chugged them faster than Big Taco could probably chug a beer, paid our tab and headed straight back to our condo. It wasn't even 9:00pm yet, but all I could think about was getting back to the couch and curling up with the latest Janet Evanovich book that I was in the middle of reading.

At some point in my life I could have been one of the people sporting a neon hat and partying to a bad band. But this defining moment made me realize that I have definitely moved on to an "older" phase in my life.

I have incredible family.

Hey, just because New York reminded me of this doesn't mean Florida can't remind me as well. Chad's mom came along with us on our trip, and I'm pretty sure I would have been a stressed out mess if she weren't there. The boys adore her, and she's pretty fond of them as well, so she spent a good amount of time playing with the boys and keeping them entertained. If Chase was napping, Alec would have "special Grandma time" that he looked forward to every day. And Chad and I even got to go out to two dinners by ourselves (not including the Daiquiri Shak!) while she stayed back and had pizza or Chinese food with the boys.

Headed out to dinner without the kids

Children are always learning.

One of the reasons that I think my boys did so well on this trip was because it was a learning experience for them. To them it wasn't about tropical storms or delayed airplanes or men in pink hats that say Big Taco. It was about learning. Learning what sand feels like. Learning first hand where dolphins live. Learning how to turn the reading lights in an airplane on (and off, and on, and off, and on...). Learning that there are other places in the world that have museums for kids that are just as good (and in this case way better) than the ones that we have at home.

Sure they'll learn most of these things in school, but learning it first hand makes it so much more exciting. There's something about experiencing things in person that just can't be expressed in a text book or even movie.

Honestly, this is the main reason I didn't want Alec to bring his Leapster. Sure it may have made the 10-hour delay a little bit easier. And it would have been a quick solution to the (very few) times when he got bored on the trip. But he survived without it and learned so much more in this week than he will probably ever learn with his Leapster, despite some of the fairly educational games that come along with it.

Alec learning about stingrays at the Florida Aquarium

Chase learning about seashells on the beach

I am so glad that my boys embraced traveling as well as they did. I love to travel, and it gives me hope that we will be able to have many more successful adventures together as a family. Hopefully exposing them to these opportunities as they grow up will show them that there is a whole other world out there with so much to see. And if it doesn't, at least I know I've done what I can.

Oh, and the Leapster? Alec didn't even ask about it once the whole week.


  1. What a nice post! Seems like the boys had an adventure for sure. The daquiri story was funny- I'd feel the same way. A good book and a glass of wine sounds much better to me. :) Nice to meet you- Jen. Stopping over from SITS.
    Creative and Curious Kids!

  2. You DO seem like you have a wonderful family! I loved that you were terrified about this long trip, but really saw your blessings through it all. Awesome!

    Stopping by from The SITS Girls!

  3. Hello SITStah! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. It reminded me of my first time traveling as a young girl and all of the things I once found interesting and new . I feel the same as you and Jen, a good book and a glass of wine sounds good to me! I'm only 24! haha I guess I got all of my "Smash" hat experiences out of the way before I reached 21 that at 21 it was all so boring and pointless! Living on a military base helps you mature quite a bit as well. Were constantly reminded of a younger immature less responsible lifestyle everyday from younger immature less responsible people. Anyways, this isnt my blog so i digress...Im stopping in from SITS as a new follower with hopes that you will follow me too! Have a safe and Happy, but relaxing, 4th!

  4. Hi, Brooke from SITS.. follow back