I know it’s Christmas and all, and we should be spreading good cheer across the cosmos. But hell, I’m Jewish and I think it’s our God-given right to rain on your parade. Too much cheer makes Jack quite a dull boy. Where would the human race be if everything was always coming up roses? Quite a boring bunch, I’d say.
I noticed while I was away my site readership has plummeted to one quarter what it normally is and even given the fact that many blog readers are not reading blogs during the holiday season, it’s still about half what I figured it would be. Who knows, maybe not writing for so long (this is only my third post in two weeks–I normally write at least a post or more each day) has turned off the readership tap. Maybe after reading this, I won’t have any readers. Hey, I know. I’m bummin’ ya out. Gotta stop that. I promise I’ll add one really nice memory from our family trip even though much of the rest wasn’t so ay-yay-yay, as they say in Israel.
This winter has been rather hellish for Seattle. Torrents of rain (I know you furriners think it rains non-stop during winter, but it usually doesn’t). This winter has been an exception. It hasn’t rained non-stop. It only seems like it has. In addition, this month we had the windstorm from hell (which was also the windstorm of the century) and which turned the lights and just about everything else out for 150,000 Seattleites and over a million NW residents. For us, that delightful interlude lasted four days (I wrote about that in my last post). Then two days after power came back we were off for five days to Florida to visit grandma, uncles, an aunt and cousin.
Let me say before I begin that Janis and I love dearly all of them and they had nothing whatsoever to do with the experience of this trip. In fact, they tried valiantly to make the trip the best it could be for us. But in some ways, it was too much for all of us.
Our trip to Florida began with the standard two-leg, ten hours of flying and airport layovers. Our oldest boy was a doll about the whole thing. He helped herd our 2 year old twins through the airport and carried his special piece of rolling luggage. We didn’t know what to expect of the twins since they hadn’t flown since they were about a year old. All in all they were quite good. The worst was the descent into Houston and Sarasota with the air pressure driving them slightly batty (how can you tell a two year old to yawn and swallow to equalize the air pressure??).
Two days before we’d left Seattle we discovered that grandma has wrenched her hip. So that ended plans to have our oldest son sleep over with grandma during our stay. Which meant that our adjoining hotel rooms would have to accomodate five, instead of the expected four family members. That extra fifth person made quite a difference in the hotel experience.
For one thing, number one son would now sleep with Mommy. While I enjoy sleeping with my wife, I could survive without that for the five days. But this sleeping arrangement meant unfortunately that Janis was at the whim of my son’s sleeping habits. If he tossed and turned or had bad dreams, it meant she wouldn’t sleep very much if at all. And Jonah had all of that happen to him. The bad dreams, the wild tossing and turning. He even sleep walked out of the hotel room where my wife found him searching for the bathroom! On his way out to the hall, he’d tried to pee in the actual bathroom, but being asleep he hadn’t lifted the toilet seat. You can imagine what fun that clean up was!
Besides Jonah’s ‘adventure,’ Miriam treated us to quite a whirl on the second night. The first night, everyone was so exhausted from traveling that we all slept like rocks. But on the second night our luck ran out. We had the twins in separate cribs in the adjoining room. What we didn’t realize was that this Holiday Inn had a motion sensor in the bathroom hallway set to turn on a light if you moved through its field. Miriam’s crib was apparently placed within this field and this meant that unless she stopped moving, the light would continually go back on after it was automatically extinguished. This night she wailed piteously for over an hour before we realized something was up. By then, she was shot, our nerves were shot. It was a ballegon (‘utter mess’), as they say in Israel. I brought baby girl into bed with me and it took her another hour to go to sleep. Jonah had a hard time getting back to sleep himself which meant that Janis did as well. The next morning we didn’t wake till nearly 11 AM because of everyone’s interrupted sleep.
When you upset your sleep cycle AND you’re on a cross country trip it’s just plain hard sometimes to get back on track. And we never did the entire five day’s of our visit. Every morning we seemed to get up around 10AM instead of my family’s more normal 8 AM. That meant that by the time we’d gotten over to Grandma’s some family members had already made separate travel plans for a good part of the day. So we didn’t get to spend much time out and about in Sarasota with them though we had some quality time with them at Grandma’s.
We did hit the pool at the condo which is always great for gilled, web-footed Seattleite kids in the dead of winter. Though there wasn’t much sun for us on this Florida stay, we did at least spend some nice time at the pool. The twins had never been at a pool and it was a trip watching their alternating enjoyment and fear at the deep (for them) water. My wife got our twin boy in the water at one point. But Miriam would have none of it and was quite content throwing little stacking cups into the pool from her perch on the ledge. Jonah, for the first time, asked to swim with me all the way from the shallow to the deep end. All those swimming lessons with the wonderful Casey Brace (Aquatic Kids) paid off!
The one family foray we did make into Sarasota was to the Children’s Garden which Grandma recommended. It was truly lovely. A place of enchantment and delight. As we left, I said to my wife that when you’re a parent you become an aficionado of children’s destinations. You can easily tell which ones like Universal Studios and even Disneyland/Disneworld are marketing driven and which ones are truly local expressions. Sarasota’s Children’s Garden is the latter. It is the inspiration of local folk who had a dream and turned it into a veritable fairyland for the younger set. Unlike more polished and marketed children’s entertainment sites, the Garden is informal and hand-made. The exhibits seem like they were conceived and put together by artists and other creative folk rather than a contractor or design engineer. The website linked above definitely does not do justice to the site though it will give you an inkling of what’s in store if you visit.
There’s the tire mountain, and Snuffy the Dragon, and the meandering maze, and finally the performance stage surrounded by hewn log seating. Though we came on a bad weather day when there were almost no other kids around, Jonah decided to honor us with one of his improvised productions. This one was something about a windstorm in the African jungle. There was lots of shaking and running back and forth on stage. Adin and Miriam had great fun trying to fall into the lily pond filled will two giant koi. While I’m no expert on Florida’s botanic heritage, I thought the garden displayed some extraordinarily beautiful flowering shrubs and trees. A real delight for the whole family.
Besides all this there is indoor fun as well with a children’s house decorated with ingenious toys and replete with a children’s library. I especially loved the hand-carved two foot high wooden replicas of the Seven Dwarves. Sleeping Beauty is one of my kids current Disney favorite DVDs. This delightful garden is tucked away on an otherwise industrial zone side street near downtown Sarasota. Just the kind of diamond in the rough find that I thoroughly enjoy when I’m traveling in cities I don’t know very well.
And sorry, but now I return to my tale of woe. For some reason, my body decided that every night at 2 AM it would wake me up bolt upright. There was almost no reason to try to fall back asleep. I simply couldn’t get tired enough. It didn’t help that if I got anywhere near sleepy my brain would be seized by some sort of horrible nightmare or another. Not to mention the clanky, ear-splitting hotel air conditioning which in the wee hours can sound more like an armored personnel carrier rumbling next to your bed.
By the time the last night rolled around I’d wised up and realized I needed to temporarily increase my dosage of doctor-prescribed medicine to give my body an extra boost in the sleep department. That and the ear plugs helped enormously. That was the only night I got a decent night’s sleep. Of course by then it was off to the airport for the trip home. And what a doozy that return trip was.
While in Sarasota, I caught a mild 12-hour stomach bug that I slept off with a long daytime nap. But Miriam wasn’t so lucky. She got something similar, but much worse with vomiting and diarrhea. It started Sunday afternoon and she still has a severe case of it tonight (Tuesday). She can keep almost nothing down. Even after nursing, it goes right through her. I like to say (actually I don’t ‘like’ to say it) that on this trip I became intimately familiar with my daughter’s bodily fluids. They ended up on her, on me, on my wife (especially), the hotel parking lot, a taxi seat. You’ve never fully ‘lived’ as a parent till you’ve changed a diarrhea-soaked diaper that has soaked through not only her diaper, but her clothing and yours as well. It was the real deal for a kiddie virus.
But other than the first day, she hasn’t had a fever. And she has an appetite–she just can’t keep anything down. She also has moments when she feels quite good mixed with lots of agonized crying when she has bouts of bug-induced pain. But all in all, it’s not the kind of experience where she needs to be seen immediately in the emergency room though we do plan on calling the nurse tomorrow.
I’m hoping that much of the problem was the stress of traveling. Now that we’re home, I’m guessing the healing will proceed much quicker. When you’ve been on the road AND sick almost nothing heals you better than being in your own home and sleeping in your own bed. Thank God, we all get to do that tonight. I pray Miriam will sleep long and well tonight and wake up a new girl in the AM.
Returning finally to Florida, every time I come to visit Condo-ville outside Sarasota, I wonder what possessed people to build here and what possessed retirees to buy here. I know from writing a past post about a past trip to this area that there are sections of places like Sarasota and Tampa that are historically significant. There are also community activists working to make these places even better ones to live in. Before developers pitched their tents and retirees put their money down there were real people living here in real homes and making real lives for themselves.
But what in heaven’s name is the rationale behind a carbuncle like Lakewood Ranch? It’s one of those “planned communities,” where everything seems measured out in teaspoons. You need a Rodeo Drive with ersatz Beverly Hills boutiques, a medical center where the retirees can get their medical care. Oh and don’t forget the water features. Every Florida development has to have its own man made lakes–and plenty of them! Not to mention golf courses. In the 1990s, I spent a rather unhappy year living in Irvine, CA. and Lakewood Ranch seemed to me almost an exact ripoff of Don Bren‘s Irvine Ranch formula. Everything looks neat and tidy, like some stylized, fossilized fantasy of small town America. And all so completely artificial.
Finally, one funny anecdote about our return flight. Adin worked off some of his irrepressible energy by walking up and down the airplane aisle stopping for the ‘sights,’ that is, people who looked just odd or interesting enough to catch his fancy. One aisle passenger had one big hairy leg midway into the aisle. Adin stopped when he got to his seat with his jaw slightly agape. Luckily the man was asleep. Not just asleep, but roarin’, snorin’ asleep. When I got there I could see why Adin had reacted. The man was a mountain replete with a vivid arm tatoo. On his ample girth he wore a beer T-shirt with the logo ‘Guiness Extra Stout.’ It was entirely apt, needless to say. Clearly one beer (or perhaps a thousand) too many.