Florida 2018

I think this may have been our best trip to Florida yet. Our family is definitely a creature of habit so once we test out a vacation spot and find our way around - restaurants, the right lodging fit, etc., we'll often go back for an easier, more enjoyable trip again. Of course we've been going here for years because it's where Dave's parents go but we really love it (minus the difficulty getting here from the West Coast).

This year we arrived on Christmas Eve and after a quick dinner with Linda, we got the kids to bed and tried to unpack and get settled. We woke up on Christmas morning and with very little food at our place, headed over to Linda and Gary's condo to spend the day with them, starting with a big breakfast of pancakes and bacon. The kids loved opening their presents -- the bigs ones like the Lego train set and the Calico Critter's dollhouse for C, as well as the art supplies and play dough that was used a bunch throughout the trip. We had a fun day playing games, swimming and ending with a seafood feast of stone crab claws and black grouper, and of course Linda's delicious eclair pie.

The next day Linda came over to help Dave at the pool with the kids while I ran all the errands to get us set up for the next two weeks at the condo. It definitely made a difference this year not to have to stop to rent a high chair or baby seat or any of that stuff.

Our next two weeks were endless action of time at the pool and the beach. We filled that in with some meals out with everyone at our favorite spots, like burgers at Brookes, breakfast at Skillets, our favorite pizza at Baci and getting ice cream almost every day. The kids were in heaven! We made it back to the great park downtown and picked up the best fresh fish afterwards.

Something new we tried this year was special time with Ma and one of the boys at a time. W&G had been getting at each other a lot, and William in particular seemed to be pushing other's buttons, I'm assuming for attention, so we wanted to take advantage of having another adult, plus all the extra time to work with and it turned out great. The boys absolutely loved their special time with Ma and Grandpa. William stayed over one night after we all came over for dinner and then we met up with them for breakfast so we discovered it wasn't enough time for them to do everything they wanted to. The next time George went in the afternoon and then stayed over until lunchtime. He had so much fun playing Life and immediately asked us to buy it. George got to go to dinner with Ma and Grandpa Gary, complete with a shake. He was in heaven!

The boys have to share a double bed at the condo we rent so it's nice to break up that dynamic every few nights by splitting them up too.

Dad, Ma and William went to see the new Mary Poppins. George debated going if they were getting a treat after, but ultimately decided to stay behind. I took him and Coco over to a fun park with a splash pad and George had a blast running through the water. Then the three of us played restaurant for awhile which George loved. We walked across the street to the mall and rode the carousel a couple of times before the mall closed. George and Coco play so well together when it's just the two of them, and they both want to play, meaning one hasn't interrupted the other doing something else. They really are two peas in a pod.

We did a day at Clam Pass beach with Ma and had fun collecting shells. We even tried to split the boys up for bits of these days, me taking W for a long walk down to a sandbar to find more shells, and Dave working with G on a sandcastle. We stopped at our favorite Rita's custard and gelato on the way home.

This year while thinking of a few new things to try, we decided to rent bikes, Coco on the back of Dave's and the boys on their own. They did okay, everyone made it down to Delnor Wiggins State Park fairly well and we stopped to eat something and play in the water in their underwear. It's a great beach that we'd like to try to grill dinner at next year. On the way back, G started complaining and it took us forever to make it back, but we did it. I think it was hard to be on a different bike, not as comfortable or what they're used to with double hand brakes etc.

Coco is still in a travel crib so we decided not to have her sleep over at Linda's just to avoid the hassle  but Linda did get to stay with her for a few hours on New Years Eve. Naples does a great New Years celebration on the beach and we had been to it once before but it's hard with little kids. This year I decided last minute to make an early reservation downtown for just the boys and Dave and I. It was so nice to eat dinner outside with everyone out and about and chose a great Italian restaurant that had just opened the week before (and thus actually had NYE reservations left!). The boys enjoyed their pizza and Dave and I had great pizza and steak too. The only downfall was it took forever for our entrees to come so we didn't have time to get ice cream on the walk down to the beach like we planned. We made it to the beach and barely found a spot it was so crowded, and watched the fireworks but the boys weren't that into it. Then we walked back up the main street to get ice cream and the line was sooo long by that point. We waited 40 minutes, ugh!

On New Years Day, we rented a boat to take out along the channels toward Marco Island. We did the same last year, but before Christmas, and it we barely saw another boat out there. This year there were so many people out, and we made it all the way to the beach we were told out. By 10:45am, there were already probably 50 boat pulled up on the beach, so we pulled up right alongside. We picked the right spot because not long after we docked, the ice cream boat pulled up next to us! There was also a bar boat with drinks and a food boat with tacos, hot dogs, etc. The water was so calm where we were docked so it was great for the kids. We also walked 5 minutes across the little peninsula and we were on the gulf coast side so the boys had fun swimming there too. It was the best day!

We always love to do an evening at the beach for sunset so Linda and Gary joined us at Lowdermilk and the kids had a blast as usual. Then we had our favorite burgers at Brooks and played lots of games with the boys while we waited. That really made a difference this year that we could bring some travel-sized games to play.

Before we headed to the beach that afternoon, I went to get towels at the pool and they asked if we were going to do the reptile show. So I went back to the car and of course everyone wanted to stay. It ended up being really cool! Though the highlight for all the kids was when the turtle pooped and peed :)

We made it to almost the end of the trip without our annual visit to Vanderbuilt Beach but I told Dave we had to go. I love going up there because they have the chairs and cabanas to rent so we don't have to buy and lug stuff. Then lunch at the Ritz next door is always fun. This year the boys were old enough to ride the jet-skis (they've been waiting for what seems like forever!) and we even saw dolphins from the beach. It was such a great day. We got there about 10:30 and stayed until sunset around 6pm. What a day! This was the first year we had that kind of flexibility. Coco only took maybe one or two naps the entire trip and we found that worked better for us since she would go right to sleep at night. It was so nice to be not have to rush back by nap time and to just leave when the kids seemed ready. Going to the beach is always so much work, getting everything and everyone cleaned up after etc., but it's so worth it.


Eating the rest of Dad's burger after finishing an adult fish tacos

We went to a fish shack on Isle of Capri near Marco Island which was a fun outing Gary joined us on. Plus, the kids could play on the small beach while we waited for our food!

We always love going to the Botanical Gardens and the kids had a lot of fun again.

We made a visit to the zoo and fed the giraffes again, though it looks like they don't have the camels (or camel rides) anymore. We had dinner together with Linda and Gary at Cracker Barrel before dropping the boys off at their place so we could go back and pack everything up on our last night.

The only flight back to SF (from Ft Lauderdale, closest direct to Naples) left at 8am so we checked out of Naples Bay Resort Saturday morning and headed to Linda and Gary's for the day before driving to Ft Lauderdale and staying by the airport that night. We were so lucky that Ronda and Don could make it down for a visit that day so we got to visit and play games with them, and also swim a bit more before saying goodbye. Oh and they brought a new Lottie doll for Coco and cool snap-on watches for the boys. They loved them!

We had not been keeping up with sight words and reading for the boys much at all so far this year (and the teachers don't really push it anyway), but when William's teacher mentioned right before break that some practice at home could help, we took it to heart and worked on the words each day and they read a book each day. They weren't reading AT ALL before the trip and it's amazing that within a week, G knew close to 50 sight words and both made awesome progress with reading. They still look at it as a chore but I'm really hoping that they get some satisfaction soon over being able to to read a book straight through.

Overall it was such a great trip. The weather was perfect - low to mid-80s and only dropped below 80 on the day we were leaving. We were so busy every day since Coco didn't take naps, we didn't really get a 'break'. The boys would do a short quiet time when we'd get home from an activity, which gave us time to clean up and put away stuff from whatever we'd done, and then off to the pool we'd go. We didn't really adjust to Florida time, so the kids were going to bed at 9 or 10pm and Dave and I were falling in bed shortly after. I think we caught up on some good sleep which was much needed since we all woke up together around  or 9am, but didn't get a ton of down time. Still, it worked well. I read 4 books on the trip, Dave and I didn't watch any shows and I think in general, things were just more manageable so despite going-going-going, it worked and wasn't necessarily exhausting. It's so special for us, and the kids especially, to be able to see their grandparents every day for 2 weeks straight and be able to get some quality time in there where it's not all crammed into a single weekend. The boys could play in the sand for hours building walls and trenches and Coco did a great job entertaining herself too, which did give Dave and I moments to sit and relax. It was a nice glimpse (hopefully!) into the future. On the way home from the airport, one of the boys asked when we're going to Hawaii again... seriously?! These kids have no idea how lucky they are to go away for so long! Not to mention to beach weather in December :)

Notes from Ma:

William, George and Colette
Fun times at Ma’s Hot Beach!  I had so much fun with you.  You all are getting so big with new teeth, new skills and new stories and conversation!  I love going to the beach with you... digging giant holes and playing in the ocean is really fun.  We had some very good breakfast meals and dinner meals as well.  Burgers and shakes are always a big hit!  I think George and William really like Cinnamon Rolls!  Your daddy loves them as well...but I think they were all gone by the time he got here. You have all improved your swimming skills and it is fun to see you in the pool and in the ocean! We had so much fun with the Lego train... first building the train and then building the city too! 

George... you are such a great scientist!  Your knowledge of animals is amazing.  And you are so curious about the world around you.  I was also impressed with your game skills.  On our overnight we played many Life games... and you loved that game!  You played with the Play-Doh as well...those zoo animals were very creative and colorful! I also thought it was so cute that you had to think about an overnight at Ma’s house.  You told William he should go first and if he liked it you would try a sleepover too!   I’m so glad you did... we had a blast!   But sometimes you just like to explore the world and your thoughts on your own.  I respect that.  Sometimes it is good just to have some quiet time to think.   You are very good at soccer as well... and I thought it was so sweet that you told William to “ let Ma have a goal”!  I loved our time together, George.  Thanks for spending your Christmas holiday with Ma and Grandpa Gary in Florida.  Love and kisses, Ma

William... you amaze me with your athletic ability and  your artistic skills.  You are so fast when we played soccer in the side yard. Ma couldn’t score any goals!  But it was fun and our search for gators in the pond was fun as well.   We didn’t see any but we did retrieve a great Calloway golf ball for Grandpa Gary to use! We really had fun at our sleepover nights.  You caught on to Blokus and not only played the game but we made a beautiful design.  We had several awesome sleepovers... it’s fun to share stories and books with you. But I especially liked our quiet time just before you fell asleep... soft back scratches and sweet snuggles.  You are on your way to being a good reader.  You really enjoy chapter books and I can tell by your expression you are IN the story not just listening to the story.  You are a fun boy and I loved our time together, William.  Thanks for spending your Christmas holiday with Ma and Grandpa Gary in Florida!  Love and kisses, Ma

Colette... the littlest princess.  So sweet and full of smiles and laughter.  You are such a talker, with great expressions too!  I love your pretend stories about all the princesses and it is really fun to watch you play with your toys and your Calico Critters house.  We had a great sleepover night at your house on New Year’s Eve!  It was fun to spend time with you and eat a burrito and play in the tub!  You are also very creative with Play-Doh and loved rolling out the clay and making animals! I am so impressed with your water skills...no fear in the pool!  Dunk and jump and swim.  Awesome to watch.
We had fun playing Cootie Bug too!  Such a good game player... taking turns, following the rules, and having fun with me and your brothers.  Pretty impressive for a 2 year old!
Life is such a great adventure with Colette... full of new and exciting discoveries!  Coco, I loved our time together.  Thanks for visiting Ma and Grandpa Gary in Florida at Christmas.  Love and kisses, Ma