Friday, March 16, 2012

Six Days, Many Firsts

You know how something seems like a good idea in theory and soon takes on a life of its own?  

Now that we're both retired, Tony and I decided it might be time to start taking a few trips.  Last summer I suggested a trip to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit family members and perhaps for Tony to run River Run, a fabulous 15k race that meanders through some very pretty neighborhoods and across 2 suspension bridges over the picturesque St. Johns River.  Tony thought it a good idea, so we started making plans to go the second weekend in March when the race takes place.  We encountered an obstacle when we discovered there were no flights that weekend for which we could use our AAdvantage miles, nor were there any the previous weekend, so we finally settled on Feb. 23.  Then I had a fun thought: since Zoey is now 5 but not yet in school, wouldn't it be fun to take her along?  She'd get to experience a lot of firsts -- first flight, first glimpse of the beach, first time meeting some family members--and she's very self-sufficient and mature.  Her parents thought it over and gave their blessing to the idea.

Before we could book our tickets, though, Jenni had a change of heart.  She couldn't bear the thought of missing Zoey's firsts, so she suggested coming along and bringing Ruby and Maggie.  My sister Lisa (gracious hostess extraordinaire) agreed to the plan, and the 6 of us got the show on the road.  Here's a little pictorial journal of the trip.

Friday, Feb. 24--The Beach!

Zoey and Ruby excitedly anticipated their very first beach adventure.  Notice Ruby's upside-down heart sunglasses (always!).  Kids are such fun trendsetters.
Maggie was always happy to go anywhere as long as her mommy wasn't too far away.  She later came down with a fever, but she was very sweet and pleasant the entire time.  Considering she was staying in a strange place with a lot of new faces--Lisa and Bob have 3 dogs and a cat--she adapted very well.  We've discovered Maggie LOVES dogs!  She even likes Millie, who must seem like a horse after spending time with the Doxies.
Zoey was a little apprehensive about the surf, so she clung pretty tightly to Papa (who, of course, didn't mind a bit).  We chose a beautiful day to go to the beach, which was fortuitous since it turned out to be the best weather day of the whole trip.
Ruby, Jenni, and Zoey enjoyed strolling through the gentle waves.  The water was pretty chilly but we soon adjusted to the temperature.  Maggie didn't like getting her feet wet at all, so Jenni carried her in the ErgoBaby.
Soon Zoey was an old pro at letting the waves wash over her legs.  The older girls also gathered a nice collection of souvenir shells.
Ruby boldly strutted through the surf, screeching with delight when the waves came up a little too high.  (Heart sunglasses are still upside down!)  And by the time this outting was over, the girls were so soaked we had to strip them down to panties only--which they didn't mind at all.

Saturday, Feb. 25--meeting Great-Grandma for the first time

Up to this point, my mother had met only 1 of her 5 great-grandchildren.  When little Leo was a baby he, Erika, and Josh spent a few days in Jacksonville after a family funeral in Georgia.  Now that Mom is 85 and no longer traveling, she didn't believe she'd ever meet the rest of the kids.  This was a real treat for her.  Above is our "4 generations" picture; Jenni, Zoey, and I are all first-borns.  (Mom=85, Mona=61, Jenni=34, Zoey=5)
Since I talk about the grandkids all the time to Mom, I was so glad she was able to experience them in the flesh.  She really enjoyed getting to know their personalities.
My brother Mark, chef de cuisine, took a moment from creating his marinade to smile for the camera.  Somehow I missed getting a good picture of Mark's son, Brendan.
Later that day we took Lisa's dogs for their daily walk, and Zoey was thrilled to be allowed her own pup, Annie.  That's Arthur looking on.
Ruby was allowed to walk Arthur.  The dogs are just the right size for little ones.

Sunday, Feb. 26--Visiting Aunty Olga and celebrating her 90th birthday!

Zoey, Aunty, me, and Ruby in Aunty's assisted living apartment.  When we moved her to Florida from New York State 2 1/2 years ago, we were so worried she'd hate it, but she's adapted extremely well.  She has no worries, and she calls it her "house".  Lisa takes excellent care of Aunty and all her needs.
Here Lisa, Zoey, Ruby, and I had the pleasure of serenading Aunty Olga before she blows out her candles.  Listen carefully; she asks why there aren't 90 candles, and we tell her there's not enough cake.  She's a riot!!  (I apologize for blaring into the microphone.  Lesson learned: DON'T sing while videotaping!  The mic is too close.)
Dear Aunty turned 90 March 3rd.  Her memory is iffy but she's still physically healthy and has the BEST sense of humor!  I hope she lives another 10 years at least.
Ruby and Zoey enjoyed some of Aunty's yummy birthday cake.  The table and chairs are from Aunty's home in Endicott, NY and fit perfectly in her tiny kitchenette.
Later that same day, amazing Auntie Lisa brought Cousin Erin's old Barbie Dream House, complete with Barbies and all accessories, down from the attic.  Needless to say, Zoey and Ruby fell instantly in love and would probably still be playing with it had we not scooped them up to return to Texas.
Auntie Lisa also brought out a brand-new dog bed for her Dachshunds, which Ruby promptly appropriated. She and Zoey often pretend to be cats or dogs, and this little bed seemed a perfect fit!
Is this a happy 5-year-old or what?  Zoey is very much into brides and weddings, and the Dream House ensemble contained everything a well-dressed bride could imagine.

Monday, Feb. 27--Last full day of Florida adventures

The girls loved the beach so much they wanted to return for more fun, but the weather had turned chilly and cloudy with a few sprinkles.  Still, we didn't want them to go home unfulfilled, so we took them back for one more frolic in the surf.  It didn't last long since they got cold very quickly.  It was obviously a very gloomy beach day, not very conducive to beachcombing or wading.
In the evening we had a wonderful impromptu dinner and fun at Auntie Alix's and Uncle Larry's.  Both had been ill the rest of our visit, but they rallied like troupers in order to spend a few hours with the girls.  In typical inept Mona fashion, I didn't get a picture of either Alix or Larry to post (which they no doubt appreciated since they still weren't 100%).   Instead, here are a few favorites, beginning with Princess Ruby with her pretty Cousin Erin.
Lisa was in Auntie heaven with cuddly Maggie, who still had a fever and loved the comforting.
The cowgirl boots came to Florida with Ruby, but sweet Auntie Alix produced several tiaras and hobby horses.  What more could a Texas princess want?
After being photographed at least a billion times since her birth, Zoey knows when and how to strike a pose.

Tuesday, Feb. 28--Heading home  :-(

As always, it was hard to tear ourselves away from Casa Deason.  We'd had such a wonderful visit, and 3 little girls enjoyed their new adventure very much.  They were so well behaved, happy, and cooperative from the time we left DFW to the time we returned.  It was truly a great trip in every way.  In this picture Jenni, Maggie, and backpack-laden Zoey anticipate the ride to the airport in our rented van.
Bob, Lisa, Jenni, and Maggie were intently focused on something--I'm thinking it was probably Zoey and Ruby, or the 3 Dachshunds, or all of the above.  Or maybe it was the random blue stone we found imbedded in the Deasons' earthy, pebbled driveway!
All buckled in for the return flight, Papa Tony offered Maggie some baby puffs.  We all thought the girls would need a lot of hands-on attention on the plane, but they really did fine on their own.  The older two brought plenty of books and craft materials in their backpacks plus wonderful princess sticker sets from Auntie Lisa, and Maggie (still slightly feverish) enjoyed being held and cuddled the entire flight.  There were some other noisy kids on both flights, but I'm proud to say they weren't ours!
Zoey and Ruby sat with Grammy (who was more than happy to chat with them and answer all their questions) on both flights, and they were a pure pleasure in every way.  I had downloaded a couple of kids' movies on my iPad before we left Dallas and the girls tried valiantly to watch and listen, but jet noise was just too excessive for them to hear well through the earbuds, and they eventually gave up.  Lesson learned: next time either bring noise-cancelling headphones or a laptop with better volume controls.  Even with that disappointment, these two sweet dolls had plenty to do and were excellent travelers.  I'll gladly take them on a trip again any time!