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Journal Key:

Green = Steve | George = navy | Janet = Purple | Evelyn = Black

6/28/12 (Thursday)

Today was Grandpapa's last day of work ever, and Owen, Cara, and I went down there to surprise him and celebrate. We parked out near the tennis courts and walked across the park to the house, so that our car wouldn't give us away! This confused both children. I got to carry the diaper bag and Owen, who has been kind of clingy with his cold. He did detach once we were in the house, fortunately.

When Grandpapa got there, Owen had played with amamals for a while and was ready to go outside. Grandpapa and I stood around in the back yard while Owen rode a very small ride-on car back and forth on the little sidewalk. Then we walked across the park (I got to carry Owen but no diaper bag!) to bring the car back. This also confused Owen.

Owen ate some yogurt at dinner. Grandpapa and I had different techniques for dealing with this. Grandpapa's technique was to say things like, "Owen, just use the spoon and get your chin!"or "Owen, your yogurt is falling! You have to fix it!" My technique was to have an extra spoon, since Owen wouldn't let me borrow his, and to scoop yogurt off his chin once in a while. I think that Grandpapa probably has the right idea, though. After I saw a video of Cara, at 18 months, getting her arms out of her car seat straps when she'd been unbuckled, I've been having Owen work on that. I think he's making progress. The biggest sticking point has been that when I tell him to get himself out, he wants to go legs-first.

We'd barely started dinner when Owen started saying "Maybe I'm done." Well, maybe, maybe not. Either way, he left. He took Grandmama with him. (Thanks, Mom!) Sometimes she'd come back to the table, but in a little bit he'd come running over, urgently needing her. Once I was done I headed his way. "No," he said, "not you."

After dinner and ice cream cake (Owen tried a bit then went back to yogurt) and a bath, we hit the road. I explained to Cara that when we got home Owen would get put into bed, she'd take a shower, and I'd run an errand. "Mommy, I don't want to go to sleep," said Owen. And he didn't, until we'd gotten home and Daddy had read him some books.

6/29/12 (Friday)

Friday our trip to Florida began! I'm writing now from almost a week later, so things are a little hazy at this point, but I definitely remember that Owen was HORRIBLE all morning while we were trying to pack and get ready. He wanted us to pay attention to him, of course, and we couldn't. But we made it through that and got ourselves going to the airport.

We parked in the big lot and went up the elevator to the exciting AirTrain, which Owen was not nearly as impressed with as he should have been (I think he appreciated it more on the way home). But when we got out of the train, lo and behold, there was Grandpapa! And then Grandmama! It turns out that little people who are younger than twelve no longer have to take their shoes off for airport security, which was handy. Owen's juice from his sippy had to be tested, however--it checked out.

Once past security, most of us ate lunch--Owen was not in much of an eating mood, however. In fact, he didn't eat very much for most of the trip. There were exciting things going on that probably distracted him. Grandmama took him for walks around the airport food court, and his mommy took him for a walk and bought him some Pringles. One unforeseen problem: he was riding in his stroller, and he associates the stroller very strongly with getting puffs to eat. So he kept asking for "crunchies," but we didn't have those kind of crunchies.

Airports are really very exciting places for little children. Owen had a wonderful time at the gate, sitting on the floor and playing with all of his little guys that we had brought. Little guys are not He-Mans--mostly they are Imaginext brand action figures, I think, just a couple of inches high but sturdy and poseable. Owen also enjoyed crawling from seat to seat and having Grandmama almost sit on him.

Once on the plane, there was more excitement, because all of the seatbacks had TVs in them! Owen was very proud of himself as he feverishly pushed various buttons on his armrest control, none of which seemed to accomplish much. The TV commercials and previews were a very nice distraction, and Owen was too little to realize that he wasn't getting the full show. At one point, he lit up; pointing to a female newscaster on the TV, he cried "It's Miss Minal!" She did look a little like Owen's teacher at YBR.

After some careful negotiating with Cara, we ended up sitting in two rows: Grandmama, Cara, and Grandpapa in the front, and me, Owen and Evelyn behind. Evelyn and I could double-team Owen if necessary, but it turned out to not be all that necessary: after takeoff, Ev read him one or two books and he drifted off to sleep. He very helpfully slept through the entire flight and woke up in time to get off the plane.

More excitement was had as we got our bags and eventually found our way to Grandma Anne's house, where we met Anne and Nancy. Owen and Cara settled right in and were soon running all over the house. It was the perfect house for a little boy, because the main living area is totally open and he could run through it in a big circle. He spent a lot of time running around with his hands up by the sides of his face--which, we explained to everyone, means that he is a monster. Anne admitted to me later that she at first wasn't sure he could even talk, because he spent so much of the first evening growling at everyone.

6/30/12 (Saturday)

To our astonishment, Owen slept fine through the whole trip! He only got up before I did once.

Saturday morning, Grandma Anne came over and the five of us went to the dollar store. It was perfect--when the kids wanted something, there was no reason to say no! Cara got some mermaids, some art stuff, and a set of fake finger nails, complete with fake finger tips. Owen got a new Spider Man puzzle, a pair of ninjas, and some plastic bugs and lizards.

We also got the kids some bubble stuff, which we never actually used for bubbles but which was wonderful anyway. We had two big bubble wands, each attached to its own tray, and Owen quickly discovered that it was very exciting to hold them so that the trays touched the ground in front of him and run around and around and around. And around. Sometimes he'd use both, and sometimes he'd get one of us to join him. It sort of looked like he was a lunatic with a couple of metal detectors.

Owen really didn't eat well. He didn't want to sit still long enough, in part. He had a few bites of lunch and was done. He played a little bit, but then he wanted Grandmama to read him a story. He'd figured out that asking for a story was fairly likely to get him results. She read to him back in the bedroom, and then we took a big chance and put him down for a nap. He went! Cara, Steve, Grandmama, and Grandpapa went to the pool, while I stayed back with Nancy and Anne to be there when Owen woke up. It was the first time he'd napped in a place that wasn't home, daycare, or a car, and he slept for over two hours!

The house was wonderful for Owen. It had two big sectional couches that he loved running around on and falling on, so I, for one, was continually apprehensive lest he should fall right off. He never did, though. There were tables to run around and bedrooms to run into. In one of them, he practiced his habit of pushing buttons whenever they're available and discovered that he could turn on the television. He thought that was pretty funny, so he did it a lot. He'd run in, push the button, and leave almost before the screen had lit up.

7/1/12 (Sunday)

The first big event of Sunday was our traditional trip to Lion Country Safari. We could have wished for some more engagement from both children; Cara, who has seen the safari a few times now, wanted to spend some time working on her sticker book in the car. Owen, who hadn't seen it at all, was at first very interested in perusing the colorful safari pamphlet instead of looking out the window at the real animals. He was done with that after the first ten minutes or so and then he did see the real animals--he loved the rhinos and all of the "deer." Later he spent some time telling people about all the "amimals" he had seen--some of which weren't actually at the safari (there were definitely lions, but they don't have any tigers!).

After the safari, we took a pretty quick tour of the accompanying park. First we had to get some souvenirs: both kids got hats, which we realize are rather necessary accessories in the Florida sun. There were fish that could be fed, birds that could be watched. There was a nice carousel which Owen consented to go on and actually enjoyed! That was a step in the right direction. We then took him into the lorikeet enclosure, which didn't go as well. The birds seemed particularly intrusive and nippy that day. Owen almost immediately ended up with a bird or two on his hat. One of them got onto the brim of his hat, then flipped upside down and was hanging right in front of his face. I do believe that it nipped him right on the cheek, also, which is probably what set him off screaming! I took him out of there and while everyone else finished feeding the birds, we took a walk around a nearby path where there were a lot of big statues of dinosaurs. He liked that part. Later, dinoraurs were among the animals he claimed to have seen.

In the evening we visited Nancy's house and had a nice dinner, which Uncle Arnold attended, so all the family was there. Owen also got to meet Nancy's cats, especially Calvin the big black cat. Calvin is very friendly and liked to lay on Owen's jigsaw puzzles. This was actually upsetting for Owen. He also, we discovered, liked playing with Owen's rubber dollar store critters, which was fun to watch.

7/2/12 (Monday)

Our Monday morning adventure was for the four of us and Grandma Anne to get into the car and go to the nearby nature preserve. Evelyn, Cara and Anne had been there on the last trip, and had seen some alligators. This time, we were lucky enough to see one lying right by the side of the walkway! There were also plenty of birds, and quite a few turtles swimming in the water, and also a couple of what the sign at the begnning of the walk had designated as "marsh rabbits." Owen always likes a good trip to see amimals, and this was no exception. Afterwards we all had a late breakfast at IHOP, where Owen once again didn't eat very much.

Cara had been going to the pool every day and staying as long as she could, but we hadn't taken Owen there yet. Technically, since he still wears diapers, he was not allowed in the public pool. But Anne had acquired a kiddie pool, which Grandmama generously toted to the pool patio. We filled it with water and plopped Owen in it. He had a fine time splashing in the inches-deep water, playing with some dollar store plastic boats. Later, we carried him over into the sun so he could see his sister swimming in the big pool. He thought this was fantastic! He got such a big smile on his face watching Cara swim around. Since no one objected, we did hold him and take him into the pool for a little bit.

In the evening--which was our last evening there--we all met at a restaurant for a nice dinner. Owen ate some of it; actually it was one of his more successful meals there, if I remember correctly. We ususally don't want the kids' meals to come out first, because what happens is they finish before us and want to leave while we're still eating. But in this case, we had ordered Owen spaghetti and meatballs, which is a very difficult meal for him to eat by himself. I spent a lot of time before my food came carefully getting bits of spaghetti into his mouth, and he continued to take a bite here and a bite there after everyone else's food came.

Afterwards we drove to near the ocean and walked to the beach. The idea was to just sort of get a look at the ocean, but Cara was determined to play down by the sand. One thing led to another, and suddenly she was sitting in the ocean up to her neck. We had not brought a change of clothes for her. Oops! Owen mostly stayed in his stroller during this adventure, watching from a distance. We got Cara's feet washed off and took our damp child to have some ice cream before driving back to the house.

The children spent a lot of nights up late. Monday night we were trying to get them to bed at a more reasonable time, but I don't think it ended up that way. They were each getting to bed about an hour later than usual. At the house, though we had brought several DVDs, it seemed like all we ever watched was Scooby Doo. Late in the evening, after the last Scooby Doo episode had been watched, we would sometimes turn off the DVD player and actually get a chance to watch cable TV--we don't have that at home! The only thing interesting on was the Olympic tryouts, and they were pretty interesting. Cara got a chance to see some girls doing some very impressive gymnastics feats.

There was also one evening, though it wasn't Monday night, when Evelyn took Cara out for a nighttime walk. This is always fun in Florida, because you are bound to see some frogs and lizards along the path. I was going to take Cara on a walk on this night, but the little girl ended up in her pajamas and decided she would rather stay inside and watch Scooby Doo.

7/3/12 (Tuesday)

The last day of our trip! We needed to leave for the airport around noon, so a lot of our morning was spent packing. The four of us had basically been living in Anne's house for the past few days, so you probably won't be surprised to learn that our things were strewn all over the house. Dollar store items, He-Mans, little shoes, bags, bubble wands, camera, swimsuits--fortunately, Owen was much better-behaved during this packing session than he had been at the beginning of the trip. It was still somewhat difficult to pack all of his toys, though, especially if he caught you doing it, because of course whatever thing you were packing was the thing that he wanted. One of the hardest things to put away was his jigsaw puzzles. Owen spent a lot of time on the trip putting together his jigsaw puzzles, especially one particular one with Spider-Man and his friends on it. He got good enough at that one that he could basically put the whole thing together by himself! Though, sadly, he seldom wanted to do it all by himself, and I got quite tired of playing with puzzles.

Cara and I had one more quick outing to the pool, then we drove all our packed-up things and some leftovers to Nancy's house and had a quick lunch. Then it was off to the rental agency and the airport! It was well past Owen's naptime at this point; he had actually almost fallen asleep on the short drive to Nancy's house, but Evelyn had talked to him to keep him awake. On the trip to return the rental car, he fell quite asleep. I pulled him like a sack of potatoes out of the rental car, and he slept on me during the shuttle bus ride to the airport, and during the checking of our bags.

We had a long wait at the gate, made longer by some sort of "maintenance" issue on the plane which delayed boarding. But, as I have already mentioned, an airport gate is a fun place. We got to look out the window at the plane being loaded with our luggage, and we got to walk along the terminal (though the West Palm Beach airport is sadly lacking the exciting moving sidewalks of Newark Liberty International), and we got to climb on a lot of seats, and we got to eat pretzels. There were signs advertising Florida wildlife, and we got to go and look at them several times. Once on the plane, we got to play with our TV controls again.

This flight with Owen was a little rougher than the first one, because he did not want to settle and go to sleep. We tried getting him to lay down in his seat, but he was not having it. He had a short tantrum session, which ended with my holding him against me, where he finally did quiet and fall asleep. Eventually at Evelyn's suggestion we put him back in his seat, where he lay and continued to sleep for the rest of the flight.

A day of travelling is long and tiring! After the plane flight, we still had to go and get our bags, get back to the AirTrain (where Owen seemed more excited than last time to look out the window and spot airplanes), get back to our car, and finally drive home. The first thing Owen did on getting home, after we said hello to the kitties, was to walk into his playroom, where he found his Transformer robot, picked it up, and started making noises for it.

7/4/12 (Wednesday)

Independence Day! For us, this was mostly a lazy day at home, recovering from our trip. We had a Skype session with my parents. The kids have learned to enjoy Skype; Cara likes to do little dances in front of the computer camera, and wave toys right in front of it. Owen mostly likes to make a lot of noise; many of our conversations were drowned out by some pronouncement or other. There was also a lot of growling, which Grandma and Grandpa were happy to reciprocate.

We had the traditional cookout for dinner, but after Owen went to bed we made a fire in our little firepit and made some s'mores. The Loefflers came over for some sparklers, glow sticks, and running around in the dark, while explosions were popping off all around us (which fortunately failed to wake up Owen).

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