Thursday, June 12, 2008

Getting there...

We're baaaaaack! We had a wonderful family vacation in Florida, and we are just about caught up with unpacking and laundry. We haven't really had a vacation in the last few years, with the exception of our trip to China, and we managed to cram as much fun into eleven days as was humanly possible. School let out for us on May 23rd, and that gave us exactly one week to shop, pack and clean the house. My neighbor is a loving freak of nature and actually enjoys cleaning...the bane of my existence...and stepped in to help me knock out the laundry and cleaning. Let me tell couldn't ask for a better neighbor...she is one of the most selfless, energetic, generous people I've ever met, and I am so thankful for her! Sooooo...we were set to leave for the airport early afternoon on Friday, May 30th. Yeah, well...just before we walked out the packed, baby strapped in the car seat...I looked at our itenerary...oops...our flight didn't leave until 6:30 pm. I had 4:30 in my head...guess that was our leave the house time. It turned out just fine, though. I put Caroline down for a much-needed nap, and the kids grabbed a snack and chilled out in front of the TV. Jon headed to the basement to finish up some work, and I tackled a few things left on my to-do list. Somehow, we managed to eat up a little extra time, and we got to the airport with little time to spare. Our plane boarded just as we walked up to the gate.

I was surprised after a trip to China
and back that Mickey was a bit nervous.
I was completely entertained
to find him studying the emergency procedures.

Our layover in Cleveland was a quick one. By the way, the first photo above was taken as we landed in Cleveland. By the time we straightened out our seat assignments...somehow our requested seats magically disappeared...we had just a few minutes to grab a bite to eat, knowing that our flight didn't get into Orlando until 11 pm and that we would have mutiny from our hungry troops. The very second Jon and the girls left to get sandwiches, they started boarding our plane...well over 30 minutes before our departure time. I started getting nervous as they made the final call 20 minutes before our flight. A minute later they were back, and we headed for the plane, supper in tow.

Caroline made us all howl with laughter when she squealed, "WEEHOO!"
as our first plane took off down the runway!
I think she's ready for Disney World.

Sugar love...Abby shares her sour gummy worms with Caroline...yuck.

Now let me set the stage for you...Jon travels frequently for business and usually flies carry-on only...which you can DO if you are a man traveling for two or three days. When we traveled to China, we had seven suitcases for six people (one of which was a baby I had never met) for 18 days in a foreign country, plus our carry-ons. My mother-in-law traveled with us, with two suitcases and her carry-ons. Jon and I were both in the military, and one of our hardfast habits is to do a frequent personal items check, a habit which has come in handy when traveling with children. Jon was a transportation officer, as well, and you would think that this would have prepared him for moving our family from Point A to Point B, but the logistics of our China trip just did him in. He had this little index card with him, and he would count the suitcases and carry-ons at every stop. At some point, he began to resemble The Rain Man, mumbling numbers under his breath. To hear him tell the story, we had 27 suitcases. I'm not kidding. It's like the fish story where the fish gets bigger with each telling of the tale. If you know us personally, you've probably heard the story. At first, it aggravated the snot out of me, but I've learned to laugh.

Are we there yet?

Subway surfing...a fine art taught to my children
on the subways in Guangzhou, China.
This one's for you, Kristi!

When it came time to pack for this trip, we were informed by my husband that we were allowed ONE suitcase and ONE carry-on per person. Period. Yeah, yeah. Technically, because of my husband's frequent travel, we could have had at least one extra suitcase for free, but I dutifully limited my packing, and it worked out okay. Funny thing...when he loaded the car, he started grumbling about the fact that we had SIX suitcases. Yeah, and? Well, by golly, there's only five of us, right? Yep, except for the fact that we've been a family of SIX for over a year now. Hee. To cover his faux pax, he began spouting off about how we should have been able to fit into five suitcases...after all, Caroline's clothes are tiny, right? This mantra continued all through the process of moving our luggage to the airport shuttle, then into the hotel, then to the rental car, then into our condo. By now, I was starting to steam, visualizing the fishy suitcase stories of the future. So I threw open the lids of the suitcases...filled with things like sunscreen and swim diapers that aren't even an afterthought for most men...and demanded to know what we could leave out to get it down to five suitcases. He sauntered up to his own suitcase and, waving said item in the air, declared, "Well, first of all, I wouldn't have brought this NOTEBOOK!" Insert howling laughter by our oldest daughter...she just thought that was hilarious...which led to me giggling, instead of wanting to take his head off. For the rest of the trip, every time he vocalized his "how I would do things differently next time" theories, Mindy would holler at the top of her lungs, "Well, first of all, I wouldn't have brought this NOTEBOOK!" Aaahhh...memories.

She does NOT count as a carry-on.

Back to Cleveland...we were last on the plane, of course. Our seats (NOT the ones we requested originally) were in the very back of the plane, of course. We needed to ask someone to trade seats a few rows up, of course. Every seat on the plane was taken, including one of our newly reserved seats, and it was boiling hot, of course. To top it all off, we were juggling our dinner and sodas and ONE carry-on per person and a carseat and a two-year-old and three other kids. Are you getting the picture here? Within seconds of getting on the plane, we were a traveling sideshow, trying to figure out which seats were ours and get settled. Finding our seating assignments was like deciphering Morse Code....15c, 25a, 25d, 26a, 26b, 26e, 27a...or something like that. As I mentioned, someone was already in one of our seats, and it was nothing less than a nightmare. The flight attendant appeared instantly and told me they were ready to take off whenever we were ready. THIS IS 15 MINUTES before our scheduled take-off. I told him we were doing our best and that we would get settled as quickly as possible. I couldn't get that darned carseat strapped for anything, and I was dripping sweat. A couple of minutes later, the flight attendant was back to check on my progress. I gave him THE LOOK and told him that if he would like to strap it in himself, he was welcome to do so. Jon wisely stepped in and took over, and we finally melted into our seats. There's actually another flight attendant story I could tell, but I'll leave it at that. Let me just say, Vicki Barr has seen her better day.

And neither does he!

Our flight arrived on time, and we had a lovely walking tour of the Orlando International Airport while we tried to locate our luggage. The airport was practically deserted at that hour, and we thankfully "lost" all the people on our plane by being last off the plane and making a restroom stop. By the time we found our luggage, it was stacked neatly in a pile, waiting for us. As we searched for our shuttle, the cell phone rang and we heard from our neighbor that a horrible storm was raging back home. There was a tornado relatively close to our house, a couple of houses had basements that were flooding, and my mother-in-law had been caught out in the storm and literally feared for her life! Poor little Baxter was still at our house, and our neighbor's husband...ventured out in the storm to check on my mother-in-law and rescue our dog! I guess the storm raged for quite a while, and he ended up wrapping Baxter in a blanket and dodging the wind, rain and hail in a mad dash for his own house! Trees were uprooted, trampolines were thrown about, my brother-in-law's yard and shed were trashed, an apartment complex was virutally destroyed, power was out for 12 hours, and at least two houses in close proximity to our house had flooded basements! Interestingly, we don't even have a battery back-up for our sump pump, and when our neighbor checked our sump pit, he couldn't even touch water. I was so relieved and thankful to God for His protection in all this. I can't imagine what we would have done, had something happened to our family or our house while we were gone.

Dotty has storm photos...I will add these tomorrow...

We finally settled in at the Embassy Suites for a quick night of rest. More to come...


Kristi said...

So many things to comment on, but perhaps the most important is sending a bit of love to my subway surfers ~ Good technique girls!
Ahh, suitcases, I remember the Rain Man mumbling, and I do believe I heard Jon say once that you had over 30 bags in China... Watch out Jon, the notebook will haunt you until you are an old man! Makes me think of our old family vacations and my dad insisting that we pack just a carry on!
Oh how I wish we could have been there with you ~ AFTER you got there of course...
Miss you guys!
Kristi & family

Glenna said...

I love the post, Cindy! I agree with Kristi....many things to comment on! First, such a beautiful sunset picture! I've been trying for years to capture a good sunset picture, but so far, mine have fizzled! The pictures of the kids are awesome! Caroline is a brave little girl to be having so much fun on takeoff! And....those suitacases on the luggage cart....were they all for your family!...Another question...did Jon pack the notebook or leave it home? Just teasing, Jon.....actually, I always pack a notebook when I travel! I love you all....Glenna

Shelley said...

Okay...sounds like you guys had a wild and crazy trip thus far in the story. Can't wait to hear all the rest of the vacation!!
I do love the Subway surfers picture...somehow we never managed to get on the subway in Guangzhou...either time! One of the many things I didn't get to do that I will have to save until our return trip with the girls when they are older.
talk to you soon!