Sunday, March 2, 2008

February in Florida, Part 5--Final Days

Saturday morning we vacated our lovely condo and headed north on our long drive to Tallahassee. In previous trips, I'd been to Cocoa Beach and St. Petersburg, but not really anywhere else in Florida. Little did I know that the stretch from Orlando to Tallahassee is one of the most boring drives possible! Our trip became more eventful when Kieran vomited in his car seat--his turn to get the stomach flu (little did we know, which would beset our family for 2 weeks to come). Quick stop to clean his car seat and grab some fresh clothes for him out of the suitcase, and then on our way again. We stopped in a truck-stop style Burger King for lunch (ugh!), for lack of any other options.

The drive took about 4-1/2 hours, and by the time we arrived at the hotel, everyone was in a panicked state. Mike's mum apparently wouldn't even leave the hotel earlier that day because she was so worried about us arriving in time! We arrived at the hotel an hour and a half before the wedding, which I thought was plenty of time, but everyone was in a tizzy (including Mike). Our full family attendance at the wedding was in question because Kieran did not look at all well. He somehow pulled it together and allowed himself to be dressed up and dragged off to the church. We found a pew in the back and waited for 1/2 hour for the wedding to start! :)

When I met Mike over 21 years ago, he told me that he had relatives in Florida, and that was the only part of the U.S. he'd ever seen. I jokingly told him that Florida wasn't really the U.S. (what did I know? I'd never been there!). Mike's mum's brother Alex married an American woman, Nancy, had three daughters, and then very sadly and suddenly died at a very young age (in his 40s). Now all of Mike's cousins are married and have children, and the wedding was for one of the children, Matt.

Matt and his bride were very young, and I think all of us baby boomers and Gen-Xers were feeling our age quite a bit! The wedding itself was beautiful and very traditional (not really my style, personally).

At any rate, the nice features of this wedding were (1) the bride and groom, followed by the wedding party, the grandparents, and the parents, to a hip hop song!; (2) the bride made a gorgeous wedding album with photos of the couple for people to sign messages (instead of the traditional bridal ledger); (3) each family staying in the hotel received a gift bag with a photo of the wedding couple, info on Tallahassee, and cookies and snacks; and (4) they gave out jars of local honey as favors and threw Honey-Nut Cheerios at the couple (instead of the traditional rice or birdseed--apparently H-N Cheerios is the bride's favorite cereal).

Kieran survived the wedding fine (with a plastic bag in hand, just in case). We drove off to the reception and found it absolutely packed. Not an empty table in sight. We hovered outside on the porch for awhile, and after seeing how puny Kieran looked (in spite of actively climbing the jungle gym after the wedding) and the lateness of the hour, I suggested that Mike take me and the two younger boys back to the hotel. Chris stayed with Mike's mum and the rest of the relatives.

It was quite a drive back and we were pretty sure given the wedding crowds that Mike would miss the food at the wedding. So we stopped at a supermarket and I raced in to buy a frozen meal for me and a fried chicken meal for Mike. (I figured he deserved a treat because of all that driving and missing the wedding meal, and fried chicken is one of his favorites.) It's a good thing we did stop, because he did miss the food at the wedding.

Kieran immediately fell asleep, so it was a good call. When Nicholas also settled down, I spent the evening calling my mom, channel surfing, and eventually settling on the movie "Miracle," about the U.S. Olympics hockey team's gold medal season, with my Lean Cuisine and my glass of red wine.

Mike returned later with Chris in tow and reported that the reception music had been so loud that people could not hear each other talk! He then said he'd been invited to go out for a drink with two of his cousins' husbands. I encouraged him to go--why not make the most of the time he had with his relatives--and eventually I fell asleep. It turns out he had a highly provocative political discussion with them! When he returned to the hotel room, he found himself locked out. When I stay in hotels, I always lock the deadbolt and the bar across the door. Well, of course I didn't put the little bar across the door, but I did deadbolt the door for security purposes. I didn't realize that he wouldn't be able to get in with his key!

We were staying in a handicapped accessible room, so when his key failed to work, he pushed a little alarm button outside of the front door, and a light in the room went on with a little alarm...but then it would go off again. This happened a few times, and I was just about to get up and call the front desk to see whether we were having a fire alarm (thinking to myself of the potential joy of evacuating 3 children, one of them sick, during a fire alarm!!), when Mike rang my cell phone. This all occurred around 12:30 a.m., so I was very bleary-eyed to say the least!

By the next morning, Kieran had rallied again and seemed mostly recovered but tired. We hung out in the hotel most of the morning and into early afternoon, and I finally met the bride in person (the wedding couple stopped by the hotel to say their goodbyes to family). Many of the family members, including Mike's mum, were going off to stay in a beach house Mike's cousin Tanya and her cousin Stan (who currently live in Chicago) rented, about 45 minutes from Tallahassee.

Chris and his cousin Anna (the last time we saw Anna was when we visited her family in Laguna Beach, CA, in October 2002, when Chris was 6 and Anna was 3 or 4)

Kieran visiting his Grandma England's room
while we were getting packed up and ready to check out

Big Nicholas (aged 4), Tanya, Aunty Nancy, and the new baby Alison
(Mike's cousin's granddaughter)

Chris and Nick

Stan with Chris and his son Nick

The two Nicholases exploring the Toyota Prius together

Mike with Olga, hamming it up in Kieran's Pluto hat (Mike and I agreed that Olga seemed very happy and healthy in Florida...I think being with her sister-in-law is rejuvenating for her. They seem to really enjoy each other's company. We told her that she should become a Missouri Synod Lutheran and move to Florida! Aunty Nancy lives in a Missouri Synod Lutheran retirement area.)

Olga with me and Nicholas

The sisters-in-law together

On our trip back down to Orlando, we arranged to pay a quick visit to an old friend in Gainesville. We knew Jo during our lives in Japan--she is half Japanese and half American, and her husband is Japanese. They had an adorable little daugher (who was 3 when we first met her) named Megumi, or Meg. Jo was the senior English teacher at the women's junior college I taught at my first year in Japan. In fact, one of the first places that Mike and I went as a "couple" after we started dating was to Jo & Yoichi's house in Osaka for lunch.

They moved back to Florida in the 90s, but for the past several years, Jo and Yoichi have had a transcontinental marriage, as he lives in Tokyo and she lives in Gainesville. The last time we saw them was in 1995, before children, when we met them for a day in the Magic Kingdom. We'd fallen out of touch over the years, but I was able to locate an e-mail address for Jo on the internet, and we arranged to stop in on our way down south.

It was fun to catch up and see Meg, who has now grown into a bright, beautiful young woman with two bachelor's degrees and who is currently studying intensive Japanese in Tokyo, living with her dad. We were very lucky to catch her at home on a brief hiatus from school.

Nicholas admiring the tiny daschund with a big bark, Mikan (Japanese for orange)--at first he was terrified of her (while fascinated at the same time), but eventually he grew brave enough to go up and pet her

Kieran, Meg, Mikan, and Nicholas (we didn't even try to talk Chris into going near her--he seems to have a terrible fear of dogs, based on a few dogs jumping up on him
and a neighbor's dog giving him a nip)

Meg, Jo, and Mikan

All of us, 20+ years after Japan!

On our last evening we stayed at the Embassy Suites near the airport because we had an early flight out the next day. We were astonished to see the astronomically long lines for security at the airport, and it gave me a renewed appreciation for our wonderful PDX airport. The flight home went smoothly, although again I did end up holding Nicholas for part of the way. We had a layover in Dallas, and we were all happy to arrive home in PDX, with no stomach ailments having occurred on the airplane!

Toward the end of the visit, Kieran began berating us for taking him out of preschool. He was upset to miss his Valentine's Day party, but I found it interesting that all the complaining started AFTER the visits to the theme parks. He now is also tying our Florida trip into the illness that has plagued our family for the past 2 weeks. It's true that Chris and Kieran first got sick there, but I would hardly blame Florida. He has had to miss another week of preschool because of his relapsed stomach bug. Tomorrow he will return to school, and I'm hoping that he will return to his mostly happy self! This morning he announced that he wanted to be taken out of preschool to go to Hawaii, and I told him that I was not going to fall for that trick!

Florida is fun to visit every once in awhile, but we were all happy to return home!

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