January 2016 – Florida Family Visit

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We had changed up our usual pattern, and instead of coming to Florida for Thanksgiving, we were spending New Years there instead. Brian had to leave work a little early so we could catch an afternoon flight to Tampa, on Dec. 30. Before we even left, I got notified that our flight was delayed 🙁 And by the time we got to the airport, it was delayed further.

We had dinner at the steakhouse restaurant in Concourse C. We’ve eaten here several times and it’s never very good, I don’t know why we keep coming back. It was the start of what would be a very rough night though, maybe some foreshadowing.

Finally we were on the plane, ended up being about and hour-and-a-half delayed. I was hoping the time change would not make our 1am arrival seem quite as miserable, but we were all feeling sleepy and exhausted when the plane finally landed.  

I was hoping getting the rental car and getting to the hotel would go smoothly, because I was barely keeping my eyes open! After collecting our bags, we headed out to the car rental counters. As we were walking, I noticed that Fox, our rental company, wasn’t listed on the sign and suspected that we weren’t going the right way. After a few minutes of wandering around, it became obvious I was right. They must be one of the offsite places, we needed to find the shuttle. That was bad enough news, but as I was trying to convince everyone to come with me to the shuttle area, I saw a Fox shuttle leave. So we had to wait about 15 minutes for another one once we got over there. Not off to a good start.

Once on the shuttle, I thought the hard part was over. Just a “short ride” they claimed. A 20-minute “short ride”. Blah. Surely at 2am, there wouldn’t be a line at least, right? Wrong. 5 people in line, and 1 person working the counter. One very friendly but very I’m-not-in-a-hurry person. And once we endured that 30 minutes, we had to wait another 5 minutes for another -very-friendly-but-not-feeling-the-least-bit-rushed person to personally take us to our car. I was about to lose it by now, and we were probably not as polite to him as we should have been.

At least the hotel wasn’t far, just get the room and crash. Except that when we got there, they seemed to have given up our room already. So much for credit card gauruntees. I’m sure they were going to charge me for that room anyway. But, she was able to get us into a King-bed room, assuring us that it also had a pull-out bed, so there would be room for everyone. What she thought it pulled-out of, I have no idea. Because there was just a king bed and small chair. So… back downstairs to the desk, where she was totally baffled and had no idea what to do. I sat in the lobby for 20 minutes while she ran frantically around the hotel trying to find the only other person working there, apparently he wasn’t answering his radio. He finally told her to give me this other room, and assured me we would have plenty of space. Everyone else was already asleep in various places in the old room. But I drug them out and up the elevators again.

This was the weirdest room I have ever seen. I think it was meant to be more of a meeting room. It had a large table and full kitchen. But off to one side, it did have a loveseat with a pull-out bed, and a small murphy bed that came down from the wall. I think the single king bed would have had more square footage for sleeping, but by then I gave up and decided we would have to make do. Except that the pull-out bed had no sheets or blankets. Exasperated, I called the front desk and he said he would bring some up “in a while”. 15 minutes later he showed up with a stack of sheets, apparently they were out of blankets. At least the kids both had warm pjs.

So, it was not the most restful night. We finally got settled into our make-shift beds around 3am. We slept in a little the next morning, but the light woke us all up by about 8am.

We made a quick stop at Panera, then hit the road to Naples, about two hours from Tampa. Hopefully we had used up all of our bad luck on this trip! It was a weekday afternoon, so as we were coming into town it was hard to track everyone down, they were all still finishing up work. So we ended up going to my brother Mike’s house for a bit (my niece Cassie was there to let us in).

We left though to grab a quick lunch, and while we were gone my parents came there to find us. So they were there waiting when we got back, and Owen had fun playing with them and showing off his Christmas present toys that he had brought along. He and Grandpa especially enjoyed playing with his transformers 🙂

Mike and Tina came by briefly, but were still finishing up some work stuff. We decided to go to the Naples fireworks show on the beach. We assumed the New Years fireworks would be at midnight, but luckily we checked because they were actually at 7pm. That’s Florida for you, lol!

My mom decided to wait in the car since we had to park a long way from the beach, so Brian, my dad and I took all the kids (we had met Ashley to take Aiden and Isabella too). We hung out on the beach until they started, actually I think Brian and Lily ended up watching from the water. They were pretty wet when they came back. Owen and Aiden did okay during the fireworks, but were far more interested in the sandcastle they were building. This was byfar the quietest crowd at fireworks I had ever seen. It was so silent around us that I kept feeling the need to hush the boys for fear their playful conversation was going to bother people. Oh well.

We made our way back to the cars afterwards, but traffic was going to prove significant, to say the least! It took us about an hour to get out of the area, so we settled on a quick, easy dinner of iHop. There were only 3 other groups in there, and the service wasn’t exactly fast. But we made it back to Mike and Tina’s house just in time to go with them to a New Years party at a nearby friend’s house. Hopefully the kids wouldn’t be too wild, celebrating the New Year without us! (Cassie and Cam, the older cousins were there too)

We hung out at the party for a few hours, until around 1am. Brian and Tina did a good amount of dancing, and we all rung in the new year with Champagne. I tried to call the kids a couple of times, but apparently they were having far too much fun to answer the phone.

Once back at the house, the kids wanted to see the party scene (and neon-lit motorcycles) so Tina drove them back over there to spy a little (and they almost got caught by a police officer breaking up the party while they were riding in the back of the pick-up truck, whoops!)

Then we finally got everyone settled into bed (staying at my brother’s house). Another late night! We were slow to get going the next morning, and spent some time playing with the puppies. One of them, Wookie, was my brother’s new addition. The other two were just spending the night. Owen especially fell in love with Wookie while we were there.

We made our way over to may parents house. Most of the day was spent lounging, visiting, cousins playing, and of course lots of time in the pool. Mike and Tina came over (with Cassie and Cam) and while I don’t have a lot particularly interesting to report, it was just a nice, laid back day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Sometime later in the day, Brian even climbed the tree in their front yard!

Dinner ended up being complicated. Not being able to find a restaurant that could satisfactorily accommodate all 14 of us,  we finally ended up at Soup-r-Salad. So of course, I had to stop later to get Brian some chicken wings since he doesn’t handle vegetarian dinner very well, lol!

The next morning, Mike and Tina wanted to take us canoeing. Our cousin was kind enough to let us borrow some kyacks, and we rented a couple of canoes as well once we got to the river.

We hadn’t worked out who was riding in what yet, and Brian and Lily were really the only ones with real experience. Lily, Cassie, Cam, and Mike ended up taking the 4 single-person kyacks. Brian and Owen went in one canoe, Tina and I in the other. It was tons of fun, but Tina and I must have been a hoot to watch. Especially at first, when we had no idea what we were doing!

We kept ending up head-first in the mangroves, having no idea how to steer! We finally managed to work out a pattern that worked for us, though I’m sure it would have made “real canoers” cringe. Lots of fun though! The water was so calm, we almost couldn’t tell what was up and down stream. Had a couple of tricky navigational spots, and we got stuck more than once, but no one fell out, so I’m counting it as a success, lol!

We had brought stuff for a picnic, so once out of the water, we walked over to the picnic area and spent another hour or so eating and generally hanging out. Luckily there was a playground there, so Owen stayed easily entertained.

We had invited everyone over to Mike’s house for dinner, so we had to get back and start cooking. My parents came over, and later, Ashley and Scott with Aiden and Isabella. Hectic, chaotic, and not quite enough room for everyone, as usual, but still a good time and good food.

The next day, Sunday was our last day of the visit, in fact we were leaving later that evening to drive back up to Tampa. My parents wanted to have a formal family dinner, since we hadn’t been there for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. We headed over to their house in the morning, but they were at my aunt’s house preparing some of the feast. So we hung out with Ashley, Scott and the kids for a while. Lily apparently jumped in the pool, fully dressed! I had just seen her, not a minute earlier, when Scott casually mentioned she was in the pool. I assumed he meant in the pool area, but no, he said she was IN the pool! Apparently Brian dared her to do it, and she took him up on it. So the other kids ended up swimming some too.

Mike and Tina came over too, and brought the kyacks that they still had from yesterday. Ashley was interested in trying it out, having missed the outing yesterday. So we put them in the canal behind their house, and after a humorously rough start, she got the hang of it quickly and even took Aiden along for a stroll down the water.

While they were in the water, I got a call from our realtor that we had an offer on the house! After some negotiations that evening and the following day, it did result in a contract. (Though sadly, spoiler alert, it later fell through. But it was exciting at the time)

Dinner was ready when they got back from their kyack trip, and we enjoyed one last meal all together, before we had to get packed up and ready to leave.

Fortunately our trip home was much less eventful. We stayed at a much better hotel this time in Tampa, and although the night was short, there was no unusual drama. We were laughing that on the shuttle bus ride back to our car, we were trying desperately to sign the (later doomed) contracts for our house. The bus kept jostling and bumping, and it took several attempts to get our fingers in the right place at the right time, lol! But we were down to a matter of hours to get it signed.

Overall, another good visit in the books. I thought it was a good balance of fun activities, and relaxing family time. Hopefully more of these to follow in the future!