Friday, September 11, 2009

The Lost and Found Month of August, Part 2

Our drive down to Florida was wonderful! Armed with a new DVD player and an album full of DVDs that the girls had not seen for a while, a car refrigerator (leftover from our trip cross-country 25 years ago with my father’s insulin) filled with water and juice boxes of Honest Kids, and bags full of our favorite snack foods, we proceeded down I-95 relatively free of traffic jams and bad weather. We stopped at various points along the way for restaurant meals, and Izzy developed a liking for Shoney’s because of a particularly favorite fish wrap that she had there. During the drive, we all watched the sun come up together and hunted for the first palm tree, which I actually saw in southern North Carolina.

After our day on the beach in St. Augustine on Monday, our three-hour drive to Orlando on Tuesday, and our big late lunch at Golden Corral, we had a late dinner at a Bahama Breeze. Because we were relatively late we were seated immediately. The food was good, and they also honored a slightly outdated, and other-location coupon for $10 that I happened to be carrying. We decided to spend the rest of Tuesday evening lounging in our beautiful house, in our pajamas, watching a DVD of the old “Charlotte’s Web” movie that we loved 25 years ago.

Wednesday, after crafts at the clubhouse and my meltdown, and then a few hours in our own pool, we took the girls to Downtown Disney and had dinner at The Rainforest Café. We were given a whole spiel by the hostess about a 90-minute wait which could be shortened by purchasing a $20 preferred membership which would also shorten future waits for dinner. When we turned to find another restaurant, we were told that outside dining was available with a much shorter wait. We were directed through a short, cave-like tunnel to a charming rustic veranda on the lake with a view of Pleasure Island and its hot air balloon. We were seated immediately. The food was quite good, although extremely overpriced, and the service was very attentive. We lucked out because the evening was relatively cool for August in Florida. The anxious wait for food at a restaurant with a five-year-old has now been eliminated with the advent of our new iPhones, which keep the girls occupied indefinitely with such games as Tic-Tac-Toe, Cooking Mama, and Chicktionary. We watched the sun set over the lake and then spent several hours as the girls amused themselves with constructing mini Legos characters, racing Lego cars, Mr. Potato Head and My Little Pony characters.

On Thursday, the girls and I made an elaborate breakfast of taro pancakes (with mix brought back from a Hawaiian trip), eggs, sauteéd mushrooms, avocados, and toast. Jess, Yona and Ari were due to arrive by airplane at midnight and our day was set up so that Saul would not be too exhausted to make the 45-minute drive at that hour to pick them up at the airport. We took the girls, this time together, to crafts at the clubhouse, where they made beautiful sand art paintings. Then, after a few hours in our own pool and lunch by our poolside, we drove a few blocks to the beautiful water playground on the grounds of Summer Bay where we all had a great time frolicking in the spray. We headed off to Golden Corral again for dinner that evening hoping to avoid a long wait for dinner, but we spent almost 20 minutes in a long line just to get our trays and be seated. I let the girls watch movies until they fell asleep that evening, and dozed while Saul headed off to the airport. All went according to plan, the plane arrived on time, and Yona was a trouper on the flight. We were so overjoyed to have them with us to enjoy our beautiful house. Although they had seen photos that we had emailed, they were unprepared for the true beauty of our set-up.

Friday, August 7, was Sami’s birthday, and we were up bright and early to spend the day at Disney World. As part of her birthday celebration, Jessica had booked princess makeovers for the girls at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Cinderella’s Magic Castle. After parking in the handicap area, we were able to walk the short distance to the monorail area, buy our tickets for the day and claim Sami’s free birthday ticket after waiting in line for about an hour. During that time, we took turns handing Yona around so that no one would be overtaxed in the heat. Sami received a button proclaiming her birthday so that all the park employees could make a fuss over her. After a short, air-conditioned ride on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, we rented a motorized cart for Saul, who has bad knees, and arrived just in time for the morning parade.

After that, I ran ahead with the girls and was able to secure great seats without any wait for the 3D movie, “Mickey’s Philharmagic,” which they absolutely loved. We had a few anxious minutes when we did not locate the rest of the group whom we thought had entered behind us. I had left my wallet, bag, and phone in Yona’s stroller. We checked out “It’s a Small World” thinking that they had continued on to reserve a place in line, but then returned when we did not find them there. As it turned out, they had not gotten into the same show that we had, and had entered the very next showing. We were very relieved to see them as they exited. Together, we all went to “It’s a Small World” and enjoyed it so much that we did it twice because the lines were so short.

We had just enough time for lunch before the girls’ scheduled appointments for their princess makeovers. Kosher food was available in the nearby Tomorrowland section. It was so crowded there, in a huge semi-circular venue, that we split up to purchase food and scout for tables. With the help of a Disney hostess and some aggressive table appropriation on Saul’s part, we were able to secure a tiny table against a wall which we traded for an equally tiny table more in the center so that we could crowd all the way around it. The food was passable.

The boutique set-up was, like most things at Disney, over-the-top. A salon inside The Magic Castle with a couple dozen hairdressers, manicurists, and make-up artists dressed as ladies-in-waiting, all rehearsed to play their parts, and furnished with just the kind of banquettes and mirrored stations that you would expect to see in a baroque castle. Izzy chose to have long, blond hair extensions, and Sami chose rainbow hair extensions, very representative of their personalities. Their hair was elaborately braided, teased, and sprinkled with glitter from a star-tipped magic wand. They were fussed over for more than an hour. When given a clear plastic, handled, face protector for the glitter application, Izzy asked why it was called a “magic mirror” when it didn’t reflect anything. The attendant was at a loss to answer as no child had ever asked that question before. We spent another hour on the Peter Pan ride and the carousel as we headed out of the park as the weather became unbearably hot. I thought we would all faint from the heat on the short walk back to the car.

When we arrived home, the girls asked for and received permission to destroy their elaborate coifs in our pool. Ari and I headed over to the Publix supermarket to purchase Shabbat dinner fixings for Sami’s birthday Shabbat. We purchased sparkler candles and an absolutely gorgeous and delicious white chocolate and raspberry-filled vanilla layer cake for which a helpful employee provided a box of assorted plastic “happy birthday” picks from which we could choose. Another employee marinated sea bass filets, which were on special, in our choice of teriyaki sauce. We bought ice cream and good fresh-grated parmesan cheese to make fettucine Alfredo. We also bought some pre-packaged salad and added tomatoes, cucumber and avocado.

While the girls and I napped, Saul, Jess and Ari, set the table, and prepped our simple, but delicious, meal. After dinner, we debated about whether take the 15-minute drive back to the Magic Kingdom. We were all tired and groggy from the heat of the day, but decided, in the end, to push ourselves to take advantage of all the money we had spent on the park to re-enter for the spectacular lighted parade and fireworks display. We were very happy we did push ourselves because we all got a second wind, the weather was delightful, and the show was breathtaking.

Saturday, we lounged around the house all day, taking advantage of our pool, jacuzzis, and great leftovers. In the evening, we again headed for Bahama Breeze. We had feared encountering a long wait on Saturday night, but were pleased that they honored our “call ahead” and we were able to bypass a big crowd. The line of traffic to get into Downtown Disney on Saturday night was so long that we opted to go shopping for crocs for Izzy that we had promised her. In trying to avoid the traffic, we went several miles in the wrong direction, wasted an hour, and were very happy to discover that Target is open until 11:00 p.m. in the suburbs of Orlando on a Saturday night. Izzy got new crocs and was very happy.

In view of the crowds we had encountered on the weekends, and the fact that we had a 3-month old baby to worry about in the heat, we decided that our forays to the parks would be during the week.

Sunday, we again spent a full day enjoying the house and pool. We had dinner at a nearby Chinese/Japanese buffet that was quite good, had passable sushi, and was really reasonable.

On Monday morning, while Saul, Ari and I were at a craft session at the clubhouse with Sami (Izzy was being punished) making foam picture frames, Adele called to give us the terrible news that Mom’s condition had worsened and that hospice had changed her status to “actively dying.” Her breathing had assumed a pattern indicating that the end was near and her swallowing had deteriorated so that consuming liquids in anything but small quantities was causing her to choke. She was no longer able to get out of bed even to use the bedside commode and the aides were changing regular adult diapers because she could no longer lift herself onto a bedpan. Our vacation house had been reserved for two weeks from a Tuesday to a Tuesday. Saul and I had bought vacation insurance for $50 at the outset. We offered to fly home leaving all of them behind with the car to enjoy the second week, but they would not hear of it. When we inquired about canceling our week, we were directed to see a manager in a nearby office complex who immediately told us they would refund our time-share points. Ari and Jessica had been scheduled for a flight home, but they preferred to accompany us home the next morning. Ari spent long hours on the phone Monday morning trying to arrange a trailer to carry our luggage as we would not all fit in the SUV with our luggage. In the end, it turned out to be most economical to rent another car, one way, to be returned to National Airport in DC.

While Ari was making these arrangements, Saul and I took the girls to the water playground at Summer Bay. When we had finished making the arrangements, we headed out to Universal Studios City Walk, which is free and is Universal Studios’ equivalent of Downtown Disney, except that the parking cost $12. The heat was crushing and, as we had remembered from a previous trip a few years back, there was still nowhere to get into the shade except souvenir stores and restaurants. We opted to have a late lunch at Emeril’s. At 2:30 p.m. we were practically the only ones in the restaurant. The food was really delicious and served in elegant ambience on white tablecloths. The price for an ample three-course lunch was under $25 and a great value. Afterwards, we let the girls frolic in a fountain where the water would spurt up intermittently to cool off, despite the fact that they were not in bathing suits. In the evening, we headed off to Downtown Disney so that the girls could buy souvenirs. We split up because Izzy was hungry and Sami was not. I stayed with Sami so that she could play while Jess and Ari got Izzy a tuna wrap, which I understand she threw up when she choked on it while swallowing. The girls chose their souvenirs, a custom-constructed Star Wars lightsaber for Izzy that Saul helped her build. Sami chose a rainbow-lighted spinning toy.

We finished whatever packing remained early Tuesday morning while Saul and Ari went to the airport to pick up the second car, a PT Cruiser. We all loaded the cars, reluctantly dropped off the keys, and had breakfast at a nearby Cracker Barrel before getting on the road for the long drive back home at around 10:45 a.m.

To be continued…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

not bad! the only misinformation was that you purchased Izzy's crocs after the 1st bahama breeze trip since she already had them when I got there. :)

BTW it may be random, but my word verification for this submission is "mickey" WEIRD!