Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Andrew's First Birthday

We arrived in Orlando around 9:30 PM. We stayed at the same condo complex as we did back in May...only this time, our condo was right by a big pond. We unpack and the boys, naturally, are wired and stayed up until around midnight. But this time, we expected that...so we knew to just go with the flow. The only really remarkable thing about our first night, other than the ridiculously late hour at which the boys went to bed, was that after dinner, Pete and the boys all got gas. I don't know from what, and why it didn't happen in the van on the way down (Thank God), but as soon as everyone got inside and started running around, they all got gassy. Pete, too. Even baby Andrew chimed in with a few tiny toots of his own. Must be a guy thing. And I said as much to Pete, or, to be exact, I complained in an exasperated tone, "what IS it with you all? Why are all of you doing this to me?" To which Alex replied, after overhearing me, "Mom, we can't help it...we're guys....we just fart!"

The next morning dawned cloudy and overcast. It pretty much rained all day, so we stayed in, after a run to Super Walmart to stock up on some food. Then, late afternoon, the rain stopped. It stayed overcast and cloudy, but it did stop raining long enough for us to go see "Sea World After Dark". We got there and everyone was in a good mood and feeling OK, but Austin seemed a little....off. Just not quite himself. Well, the highlight of the evening was Shamu Rocks, which is the after dark Shamu show. So we stand in line, finally make our way to the gate, and the 5 of us are huddled there, kind of squished up against the people in front of us in line. Alex is standing, Pete has Andrew and I"m holding Austin. All of a sudden, there is an explosion of....something. It landed on me, on Alex's head, on Austin, and on the woman and man in front of us in line. It looked like....bird poop. Where did it come from? We look up, we look around, we're all grossed out, and then....here it comes again. Oh my gosh, it's Austin! He's just puked all over everyone! Everyone starts freaking out, grossing out, shouting out....and I, of course, help matters a lot by just hollering, "oh, it's Austin....he's throwing up!" I don't know why I said it out loud so loud like that. I just sort of shot out of me, just like poor Austin. So everyone clears out. We take our 3 and head back over to the strollers and clean up as best we can. There's really not much you can do in those situations...just roll with the punches, I guess. At least when we got back in line, the gate area where we had been standing when Austin threw up was now all cleared out and empty. I guess that's one way to get through a crowd really fast!

So immediately after throwing up, Austin feels just fine. He's back to his old self. I guess the turkey leg he'd had for dinner just didn't agree with him. Once it cleared his belly, he was good as new. So we rocked out with Shamu, then went to see the polar bear and walrus and whale exhibit. We saw the turtles, the otters and sea lions (where I distinctly recognized the sound of my own home and my own children at that very rowdy, very loud, screeching, squealing, squawking, arfing exhibit) and ended the night at Alex's favorite place: the shark and sting ray exhibit. It sort of spooked him this time, because we were the only ones in there, as it was closing time. And it was sort of spooky, dark outside, rainy, and here are all these sharks, giving us the evil eye......chills.

After a few minutes of catching the fireworks display over the bayside, we said good night to SeaWorld. We headed back to the condo and had a late night dinner of pizza and sandwiches.

We also took some time this weekend to celebrate a big day for Andrew: his first birthday! Hard to believe he was already one year old! We got him cupcakes....green ones. He loved them! Happy Birthday, Andrew!

The next day dawned much clearer, but with one miserable drawback: Alex was running a fever. My poor baby was sick. He didn't have a cough, sore throat, ear ache, runny, stuffy or snotty nose...just a fever. And he was very lethargic. He napped a lot that day...we all did. By late afternoon, he was feeling a little better. We went over to the hot tub, to the play ground, and the best of all: the little lake by our condo. Pete had gone to Wal Mart and got Alex his first fishing pole, and we spend some time fishing there. Alex caught his very first fish! And a big one at that. Pete taught him how to cast the line, and the look on Alex's face when he first understood what it meant when he felt a pull on his line, and then to reel it in and viola! His very first fish! He caught a lot of fish that day. He'd catch them and then toss them back in. To be honest, it really wasn't much of a challenge for him. The pond was loaded with fish. Every line he cast, he caught something. But it didn't take long for my poor baby to get tired of the heat and the humidity. So we went back to the condo and never did get to Sea World that day, or anywhere else for that matter. Alex ended up throwing up a few times, and with all the kids tired and lethargic, Pete and I ended up watching an all day marathon of Law and Order while the kids slept. That was a huge change for us: no Scooby-Doo, no Sponge Bob, no Dora the Explorer. Real, adult television.

The next day, Alex's fever was completely gone. He had thrown up again a few times in the middle of the night. But he felt much better that morning and insisted on going fishing again with his dad, where they caught a few more fish. Then it was off to Sea World for a few hours that afternoon. But Alex was still a little weak from the fever, so we didn't stay long. He tired easily that day and we headed home that afternoon. All in all, it was a good trip...even it was what could now be referred to as "the birthday/vomit weekend"! Good times, huh?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


We celebrated July 4th, in big style as always. We took off Thursday after I got home from work. The 2-hour trip to Tampa took about 3 hours. We got to our hotel around 9PM. We were prepared for the boys to get all excited and knew it was hopeless to try to put them to bed right away, so we let them stay up and horse around while we unpacked. We did NOT expect them to still be up and wired and running around and playing and carrying on after 1:00 in the morning, however. Those boys would not settle down. And the real problem was Andrew! He would not let his big brothers sleep. He would pick at their feet, pull the sheets on the bed, grab their fingers and hands, crawl all around, bellow out; in general, make a bunch of noise and mess and would not go to sleep! Even Alex was ready to give it up at this point, but the baby would have none of that sleeping nonsense.

So the next morning, after about only 2 hours of combined sleep, the boys were up and raring to go before 7AM. We went to breakfast, which was such a catastrophe I nearly cried. Alex wanted peach yogurt, demanded peach yogurt, and I hate to say no to him when it's something healthy, so he got peach yogurt. Problem is: Andrew is severely allergic to peaches, so I needed to make sure the peach yogurt was not where it could be grabbed and gobbled up by Andrew, and end up in the emergency room on our vacation weekend (he's THAT allergic). So I put Alex next to Austin with his yogurt, and Andrew across and away on the other side of the table. That was my first mistake. Austin grabbed the yogurt and dumped it out and smeared it all over his face, all over his chest and down to his belly, legs, and his booster chair. Sticky, peach yogurt.
Next mistake. Trying to eat pancakes. Put a plate of eggs, sausage and pancakes on the table for Alex and Austin. Grabbed a couple of small containers of syrup. Set them down on the table. Turned my back for 3 SECONDS to get something and what happens? Austin opened the container of syrup, pours it down behind him, between his back and the chair, so it's now all over his back, stuck to his clothes and the nicely upholstered chair, and then he leans back and wiggles into his chair, just to make sure it's all squished and smeared over every possible inch of himself and the chair. Just wonderful.

Next: Alex spills orange juice and milk, and then dumps lemon wedges into what's left of his peach yogurt. I'm ready to scream, the hotel staff come over to compliment me on how cute the boys look (they are all in stars and stripes hats and outfits for the 4th of July). I try to stay calm, Pete takes over and tells me to go to another table, sit down and EAT! Great idea! I get a plate and start filling it. Alex feels sorry for me sitting alone and asks if he can come sit with me. OK, I say. He sits across from me. I see a lady go by with a plate filled with a fresh made waffle (not the yucky, stuck-in-a-steamer pancakes, not frozen waffles heated in a toaster, but real, from scratch, fresh waffles), and I decide that's what I want for breakfast. I fix my waffle, add strawberries and whipped cream to it. I set my plate on the table across from Alex and go back for silverware. My helpful, loving, caring son decides that the strawberries and whipped cream just are not enough for Mommy's waffles and, while I was up from my chair, dear, dear Alex decides to add his own ingredient to my breakfast: a HUGE helping of pepper, as in the whole pepper shaker! Right on my waffle and strawberries and whipped cream! I decide breakfast is done at this point. I'll just eat a granola bar.

So we go back to our room and get cleaned up and dressed for what is now the second time this day, and it's only 9AM. Around 9:30 AM, after getting back from the store, our company arrives: Andrew's birth mother (Casey) and her family: her mom, Lorraine (grandma 'Rain), her brother Matt, her uncle Benny, and Casey's 94-year-old great-grandmother, who is Andrew's great-great grandmother, from Italy, known simply as "Granny". My parents and Aunt Boo-boo join us around 11:00 and we spent the day swimming in the pool, and lounging in the room, having holiday bar-b-q from Sonny's, and just generally having a great time. The boys, of course, put on quite the show, just horsing around and running in circles and dancing and chattering. It was quite the honor and blessing to meet Casey's great-grandmother, and she was so thrilled to meet her first great-great grandchild. Of course, we'd met and spent time with Casey and her mom and stepdad and brother last summer when Andrew was born, and for a couple of short day trips to Busch Garden this Spring, but we really got a chance to spend quality time together over the weekend and I have to tell you: Alex has a huge crush on Casey. He calls her "my Case" and loves to smell her feet (a true sign of true love on Alex's part)!

Here is one example of how accepting Casey's family are of all my boys (not just Andrew). It was mid-afternoon and Alex still had his swim trunks on. He and I had gone to the hotel lobby so I could use the computer and look something up on the internet. While in the lobby, Alex pooped his swim trunks. We headed back to the room and Casey's granny had to leave, so Casey's mom was taking her home. I wanted to speak to speak to Granny a little before she left, and thank her for the presents she brought. But I desperately needed to get Alex cleaned up, and was trying to be delicate and discreet, instead of just saying, "Alex pooped, hang on a minute!" Well, the bathroom was kind of small and had no room to change and clean Alex, and the living room/kitchen area certainly was not appropriate, so I had to change him in the vanity/closet area. Again, I was trying to have some dignity, for myself and for Alex in this whole thing, and didn't want to be just all out gross in changing his swim trunks. But they just had to be changed right away. So we're on the floor, I'm struggling to get the swim trunks off of him without getting the poop on me, when Alex announces, loudly (as always, because he is physically incapable of speaking in an indoor voice) and for the whole world to hear: "Mom, I think I dropped my poop in the living room!" right where everyone was standing and could hear. Now, I rarely apologize for my kids being, well, just kids....and this was one of those moments. So I just laughed and prayed for the best. This proves they are true family, too: they all just laughed.

Casey spent the night with us in the hotel room on Friday night and we set out for Busch Gardens on Saturday. It was another great day there. We saw crocodiles, chimpanzees, gorillas, turtles, birds, ducks, elephants, the African show Katonga, and rode the merry-go-round and rode the sky-ride over Busch Gardens. Austin danced the Cha-cha Slide with the deejay and a bunch of other kids, even Alex tried to dance a little. We watched the ride Sheikra, which is an awful, sadistic, twisting, turning ride from hell with two (not one but TWO) 90 degree drops, straight down, and Alex says when he gets bigger, he's going to ride it. Over my dead body.

We concentrated mostly on seeing shows during this trip, because in previous trips, we had already seen a lot of the animal exhibits. One of the shows I wanted to see was the Pirate Adventure in 4-D. Now here's a little background on Alex and pirates. In spite of the fact that he was a pirate for Halloween in 2006, he has since become afraid of pirates, because one of his Aunt Gloria's friends, an old fart named Nobby, got drunk while dressed up as a pirate one time and really became obnoxious going around saying, "aaarrrgggghhhh! I'll make ya walk the plank, matey!" and other such nonsense. He scared Alex. Nobby is an old, English, retired Navy seaman, and to his credit, with his English accent and craggy, sea-worn face, he makes a really great pirate. However, this one particular time, he was sloppy drunk, and really wouldn't let up on little Alex and scared the baby but good. Now, every time we go out to Gloria's, Alex asks, "pirate not gonna be there, right?" This went on for months. And Nobby thought it was a hoot to carry on like that and would not take the hint to stop. Finally, a few months back, Pete had a talk with Nobby and told him that if he kept it up, we wouldn't come out there anymore if he was going to be around, so Nobby had a talk with Alex and explained that the was a good pirate, not a bad pirate, and promised the pirate would never hurt him or scare him again. Since then, Alex has been OK with pirates, though still not his favorite thing, and he would rather go see the animal exhibits while at Busch Gardens.

Now, back to Busch Gardens. We go to see the pirate show. I even got a picture of Alex out front, standing in front of the pirate exhibit. I knew the show was in 4-D. I did not know it was also going to be special effects on the audience. Casey is holding Andrew, and Austin is on my lap. Alex is in a chair by himself next to me. The show starts. It's OK for a while, then when the pirate ship was being tossed about on the ocean, the special effect was to have water squirted on the audience from the backs of the seats immediately in front of us. Then when the pirates were being attacked by wasps, the special effects was a loud, buzzing, vibrating motion in the seats...you get the picture. Austin and Andrew did OK, being babies, I don't think they knew enough of what was going on to be scared. But Alex was another story. As the show progressed, he got more distressed. What really sent him over the edge was when our seats began shaking and even the floor made a snapping effect of some sort. Alex lost it. He began crying and wanted to leave. However, we were in the middle of the aisle, with crowds all around us, and with Austin on my lap, it was hard to get up. Pete and I managed to cover him up and were trying to comfort him and kind of turn him around in his seat so he couldn't see the screen, but the special effects kept coming. He really hated it. We kept patting him and stroking him and reassuring him, "it'll be over in just a few minutes and then we'll leave. It's OK. Mommy and Daddy are here. It's all right." More tears. Austin and Andrew: just fine. Finally, the show ends. The screen shows a pirate on his ship, looking through his pirate looking glass. It says, "The End". We tell Alex, "Look. See. It says The End. It's all over. It's all done." Alex looks up at the movie screen. Sure enough, the pirate's looking glass turns towards the audience and becomes really, really huge and 4-D and appears to come out of the screen and then, one last, final special effect, our seats give a huge pop and jolt and buzz and crackle and everyone screams. Poor Alex just about jumped out of his skin. That really sent him over the edge. So we sit and hold him while the theater clears out and when the lights are back on and we're standing up to leave, my brave, big boy says, "Mommy, can we PLEASE go see the amals [his word for animals] now" I don't know if we'll ever get him to see another pirate movie ever again!

So that about sums up our Busch Gardens adventure. It started to rain, and it was late in the day, so we headed back to the hotel, where we had BBQ leftovers and Alex proceeded to entertain us with his impersonations of all the animals we had seen that day, and Austin danced to some disco music I found in my old boombox. Even Alex and Andrew got in on the dancing. Alex's dancing consisting of him walking backwards in circles with his arms stuck straight out in front of him, singing, "I'm a backhoe, I'm a backhoe" and Andrew sitting on the floor, bopping his head feverishly back and forth to the music. All is all, a great end to a great weekend and a great 4th of July. After breakfast the next morning, after yet another all-nighter with the Triple A Threat, and finally, when we got home, and they were all in their own beds, the boys CRASHED! Blessed sleep for all!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mother's Day 2008

That was a good weekend: we first went to a Mother's Day banquet at church on Friday night. Mom couldn't make it because of work, of course, but Aunt Chris went and there was dinner and then dancing by a troop of young girls, and singing by some members of our church, and a Mother's Day poem read by a youth in our church.

On Sunday after church, the whole family (us, the boys, Mark, Granny, Pawpaw and Aunt Chris) went back to one of favorite places, the Gateway Grand, where we'd been for our Easter brunch. It was, as always, delicious. Austin had his first bite of chocolate mousse there. After brunch, we came back to our house, where we all exchanged Mother's Day cards and gifts...and unbeknownst to any of us ahead of time, we all got the same thing for each other....a fruit, marshmallow and chocolate Edible Arrangement!

After naps that afternoon, we went to the duck pond to spend a lazy afternoon feeding the ducks. It was a relaxed, enjoyable time, but a lot of other families must have had that idea for Mother's Day too, because the ducks hardly ate any bread at all. But Alex had a good time...he kept running very close to the water's edge, making me a nervous wreck. Austin was fascinated by it all, kept pointing, grunting and yelling, "dat"! But after hours spent there, trudging through duck doo-doo, bird doo-doo, mucky, muddy water, and two poopy diaper changes while there, Alex decided he'd had enough. He announced, loudly and firmly, "Let's go, this place is a mess!"
Discriminating this fella, eh?