Spring Break - Florida (4/11/2009)
Armed with a new queen sized air mattress, plenty of sunscreen, and an unusually large pocketful of bravery, Mommy undertook the daunting task of flying with two munchkins and a Baba Yaga across the entire country for Spring Break. Daddy knew better than to get involved with the chaos of such an undertaking and stayed at work, er, home, that is.

Izabela was extremely excited about flying on an “aypane” again, and veteran Dante had all the proper procedures and behavioral requirements mastered. The journey itself was uneventful and the foursome arrived at West Palm Beach and then took a taxi to Baba Yaga’s condo in Lake Worth.

The next day, their adventures began with a day at the beach. On the way, Dante assaulted every palm tree he could get his hands around in an attempt to climb it. Mostly unsuccessful at this point, he vowed to make it to the top of one by the end of the vacation.

At the beach, the children found themselves instantly at home and the time flew by. Izabela rediscovered how much she liked to play with sand and cajoled Baba Yaga into making “towahs” all around her. She went into the water in Mommy’s arms every so often with a thrilled Dante cheering her on. She also really enjoyed going up to the edge of the water to dip her toes or hands and then run away as it got too close for comfort.

Dante was enamored with the water and as Baba Yaga had purchased a snorkeling mask and breathing tube, Mommy showed Dante how to use them. The waves were gentle that day and Mommy and Dante took turns using the mask to hunt for “beautiful shells” and coral. When Dante tired of diving under the water, he followed Mommy around with the bucket to collect their treasures. It had literally been years since Mommy had had this much sheer childish fun.

They came prepared with snacks so didn’t really notice that it was suddenly 6 pm. Despite extremely frequent reapplication of SPF 60 sunscreen, when the tired group arrived back at the condo, there was no doubt that Dante, Mommy and Baba had been burnt to a crisp. Izabela had turned a pleasant shade of brown, except right on her hands and feet, which were the only parts of her that were most frequently in the water. So Mommy attributed the problem to year-old sunscreen that seemed to have lost its waterproof properties.

The next day it was clear both Dante and Mommy had second degree blisters over not insignificant portions of their bodies. Dante was quite unhappy and not so thrilled about being in Florida anymore. Baba Yaga bravely refused to admit to her pain and administered plenty of aloe vera with lidocaine on the redskins, commenting that they all looked like American Indians. Dante found this idea intriguing and with Baba Yaga’s permission proceeded to use her makeup to apply war paint and choreograph an entire show for Mommy, starring Izabela, Baba Yaga and Dante. Everyone died multiple times during the epic play.

The hottest part of the day was spent inside, and the sun-wary and fully covered group emerged from hiding in the late afternoon for a walk to dinner and then to Dante’s favorite playground, which he still remembered from his last visit. The kiddos played until the moon was high in the sky and it was well past everyone’s bedtime, but this was vacation, after all. On the way home, they managed to find a milk-filled coconut on the ground, which would become the morning project the following day.

While Mommy got some sleep in the morning, Dante, Izabela and Baba divested the nut of its external shell. When Mommy awoke, she punctured it with a screwdriver and hammer, earning coconut milk for their morning coffee. Then she took the coconut outside and proceeded to break it open on the concrete patio, collecting the still moist and delicious meat for everyone to enjoy. It was now clear that all fallen coconuts would need to be inspected for snacking viability. And since the coconut was good, every fallen fruit-like item had potential. In this way, the group managed to supplement their daily fruit requirement with mangoes found on sidewalks.

Still painfully aware of their scorched bodies, they stayed out of the sun another day and once again walked to several playgrounds so that the children could play. Along the way they discovered a delicious restaurant in which Dante and Izabela both decided that frog legs "tasted just like chicken". At the park, Mommy and Baba played “camera wars” and took pictures of the amazing sunset and beautiful moon, trying to see which camera could capture the scene more effectively.

The next day it was time to have another adventure. And what an adventure it turned out to be!

Baba had “made friends” with the taxi driver that had driven them from the airport, and Mommy called him to inquire about a trip to Lion Country Safari. They agreed upon a price, a pick up time, and the excited group left the condo prepared for everything, it seemed, except for a Safari. Mommy, who had never actually been to one, envisioned getting out of the taxi and being ushered onto a bus of some kind to be toured around the zoo-like environment. So you can imagine her confusion when, upon being dropped off by the taxi near the entrance, a staff member approached her and asked her “what her plan was”. As you probably already know or have figured out, Lion Country Safari is not the bus kind of Safari. It requires that one member of the party drive the rest of the party through a bunch of wild animals IN THEIR OWN VEHICLE.

Problem 1: They did not have a vehicle.

The kind gentleman noted that that was not too much of a problem, because they did indeed have vehicles that could be rented for the drive. So perhaps Mommy wasn’t the only one who had delusions as to what kind of Safari this was. The anxious travelers went to the rental office with great trepidation because…

Problem 2: As Baba was paying for the trip, carrying unnecessary documents seemed… well… unnecessary. So Mommy did not have her driver’s license!

Apparently this was also not unheard of, and the office staff smirked as they essentially handed Mommy the keys to a large unwieldy van on good faith and a simple signature.

Problem 3: Mommy does not like driving. She likes driving vehicles that are unfamiliar to her even less. And she REALLY does not like driving amidst herds of wild beasts.

But on their way to the entrance gates an elderly couple came to the window and handed Baba a bunch of coupons, which decreased the rather steep entrance fee to the park to a much more palatable one. And once on their way, Mommy realized the van was mostly easy to operate. The road was paved, she had a zillion cars to follow, and most importantly she never had to go above 8 mph.

So, all obstacles overcome, the kids enjoyed snacking on Doritos while watching giraffes, elephants, monkeys of all kinds, zebras, gazelles, lions, and many other interesting animals wandering about amongst the cars while listening to the cassette tape tour. An excited ostrich even came to peck at the window of their van.

After the drive-through portion of the trip was concluded, the kids were let loose in the amusement park. Thrilled by activities including mini-golf, mini train rides, walk-through mazes, a carousel, and a water geyser park for which Mommy had brought swimsuits, the children also experienced a goat-petting zoo, stingray petting, bird feeding, and giraffe feeding (up close and personal!). Dante’s dislike of Florida disappeared and he declared it “the best day ever”. Their friendly Taxi driver got stuck in traffic on his way to pick them up, so by the time they got home everyone was thoroughly exhausted.

The next day, equipped with brand new waterproof sunscreen and covered in hats and shirts, the foursome made another journey to the beach. The waves were stronger that day and Dante was disturbed to hear that the waters “could contain some jellyfish”. Finding a few clear globs on the beach unnerved him. To appease his unease, Mommy had him speak to the lifeguard, who explained a bit about which ones were dangerous (Portuguese Man ‘o War, which are technically not even jellyfish) and which ones were harmless and simply interesting to look at. Reassured, Dante jumped back into the wavy waters whenever he got too hot from doing gymnastics in the sand. Inspired by a beautiful sand castle nearby, he also made a first attempt at his own. Izabela once again found digging in the sand to be most entertaining. This time, the sun did not seem to do any additional damage to their healing epidermides.

Up for another adventure the next day, they once again employed the services of their now “personal driver” for a ride to the South Florida Science Museum, where the main attraction was a Body Grossology Exhibit. Amidst learning about the science of snot, pimples, burps and other equally distasteful bodily functions, Dante and Izabela still had time for a game of Operation, miniature golf, an Imax film, brain teaser geometric puzzles, hieroglyphs, and lego-like construction projects. And this was still before lunch.

Later in the afternoon, a quick jaunt past a lake threatening to contain alligators led them to the Palm Beach Zoo. There they observed many animals they had not seen at the Safari. Unsurprisingly, it was sometimes unclear as to which side of the fencing contained the more authentic monkeys. Mommy’s favorite part was the Mayan Pyramid. Dante’s favorite part was imitating the monkeys and climbing his way up to the top of the metal pole at the food court. Izabela’s favorite part was lunch.

With one last day of their vacation left, the tired but happy group revisited the beach one last time. This time the surf was even higher. The kiddos played in the waves more timidly but chased each other gleefully in the sand. And on this day Dante finally conquered his nemesis, The Coconut Palm Tree. Discovering that wearing shoes was the cause of all his problems, Dante instinctively perfected the Frog Technique while a concerned Mommy, terrified Baba Yaga, quizzical Izabela, and various thoroughly astounded spectators cheered him on. Dante wistfully abandoned getting all the way up into the fronds at the behest of Baba Yaga, but not before he was well photographed by everyone. He made his way down safely and, his personal goal attained, announced that it was now “ok for us to go back home to Washington”.

And so they did.