Monday, July 17, 2017

Day 3: Finally, FLORIDA!

We woke up on day 3, totally ready to go. The sketch hotel had a really terrible breakfast so we decided we would eat at the quintessential breakfast place of the south: Waffle House.

It was as great as I remembered. (Which, admittedly, doesn't say much because I don't remember but I do remember that this was a place we went to when I was younger so it was on the list of must do's for this trip.)

We drove for a little while and then we saw signs for Florida, the kids got immediately excited. I told Matt we would stop at the visitor center, I would get brochures and stuff, see if I could get coupons or something, and let the kids go to the bathroom. Turns out they have a photo op spot so we got in line, much to Matt's annoyance but he went along with it. And some really nice lady took our picture.
Which didn't turn out great, but we don't have many family pictures and it's hard to get four kids to look in the same direction at the same time, so we take what we can get.
The big kids' excitement wore off a bit when they realized how much further we still had to go. Our destination was Indian Shores, Florida which is smack dab between Clearwater and Madeira Beach, minutes away from St. Petersburg, which is where I was born and lived for awhile. And every time I go back I always felt home. Matt and I honeymooned on Madeira Beach but my grandpa drove us to St. Pete Beach, which is where we spent so many days as a little kid. I don't remember the visit but I have a picture of me standing there looking out into the water and I wrote next to it that I felt at home.

Which, I'm going to be honest with you. We financially, could not afford to go on this trip at all. But I had a lot of reasons for going. First and foremost dying does something to you as a person, it changes who you are, and I have had this feeling in me that I needed to see my family. You know how when something happens you just need a hug? Well I just wanted a hug from my grandma and grandpa. I also had to get away from home. I feel like I've been a prisoner in this house for a year and despite my trip to Vegas with my friend Tammy, I feel like I never get to leave except for doctor appointments. I used to be adventurous. I used to do things, be social, I used to live life. I was just desperate to LEAVE. And I have a third reason for wanting to go, but I'll save that for my book. (I know, I'm just so mean.)

But we drove. Once we got closer to our destination I saw the pillar for St. Pete and I expected to feel something...
... and I didn't feel anything. It was strange.

I figured I was just exhausted, and I most certainly was because by this point it was a little after 6, we were all hungry and tired. Finally, we reached our hotel for the week which ended up being a two bedroom condo. I had no idea that's what I booked but apparently when I did this way back in March I had some kind of rationale, or maybe that's all that was left, I have no idea but let's all just appreciate the fact that my post AFE brain actually worked in our favor for once. The place was called Barefoot Beach Resorts and I would absolutely, hands down, highly recommend it.  The place is gorgeous and it comes with a kitchen (with dishes!) and the closets had beach chairs and umbrellas.. and the ladies in the office were so kind. Truly. This was such a great place, I would absolutely stay there again and recommend it. It had beach access right across the street and that's pretty much what we did all week.

We sent Matt off to go get us pizza dinner, which ended up being super delicious AND cheap (and just down the street), and I busted out the wooden blocks I bought before our trip that I had hidden in the van for the sole purpose of entertaining them in Florida.
It turned out to be genius and it worked super well.
Lucy was more excited about dragging items across the tile floor, but once she realized she could kick blocks far on this floor, she was all about that.
The kids doled out room assignments, but we learned that Penelope, Olivia, and Jackson cannot share a bed together because it ends in laughing and someone crying. So the week was spent with Matt and Jackson sharing a bed with Lucy in a pack and play in the corner, and then me, Olivia, and Penelope sharing a full size bed in the smaller room (with the beach view, so I'm not complaining). I don't think I need to tell you that I got next to no sleep all week except for the nap I took one day because I was so tired my body couldn't go any longer.

After dinner, and by this time it was close to 8:30, but I told the kids we could go to the beach for just a little while. I didn't bother with swimsuits because we weren't going to swim, but I brought our new sand toys and I wanted to watch the sun set.
Olivia and Jackson have been to the beach a few times so their visit wasn't documented as much. But Penelope and Lucy had never seen the Gulf of Mexico but they LOVED IT.
I am sure that every citizen of Indian Shores, at least anyone with a hotel room there, heard their happy squeals because these girls were all about it. And immediately got drenched from head to toe. I should have brought the swimsuits. Rookie move.
Lucy was totally enthralled with sand, and the water coming up to her. Penelope tried to conquer the waves, it was hilarious.
After a little while, Lucy crawled back up to me and started digging through the sand toys, which she doesn't get to do at home because the sandbox is a standing one and she's a little too little still.
I just sat and watched and her and thought about what a freaking year we've had. How she'll never know the mom I used to be. How she will always have this watered down version of the mom I wanted to be because that's all that I have left in me. Her birth did a number on me and so many times I've been asked if I knew then what I know now, would I have had her? And I have always said, she wasn't planned. She was 100% an accident baby, a baby who came to be despite Plan B (two of them!) and four was never in the plan for us. I don't regret her, I would always choose her because I think there's a reason this little nugget is here. This special little girl is here, and she is such a sweet, lovable little soul. She's meant to do something in this world, I just don't know what it is yet. So I would always choose her. I just don't know that I would choose me to have survived. That has been my crux in therapy this year. It's always been me. 
But this girl... I feel like she gets me. And she doesn't expect more from me. She knows that all I can give is what I've got and she's OK with that. She loves me anyways.
Then there's this guy. Who drives me fully crazy sometimes, but he loves me too. In his own way. Which isn't the way I always need, or want, but I have to learn that sometimes as people we can only give what we've got and give it in the way we know how. So I have to really give him props because this year has been tough on him, too and we're living the whole "in sickness and health" bit. It really sucks but we're doing it. Some days aren't so bad and some days are really awful. But we go to bed each nice with a kiss and we know that tomorrow... it's a toss up. We don't know what it's going to be. But we're doing it together.
So while I was reflecting on the beach, quietly crying to myself, these two clowns were drenching themselves.
Penelope was having the time of her life.
So much so that we would end up having to physically carry her off the beach. In fact, we had to do that every time we left the beach- she's definitely a sunshine and beach gal. She was never meant to be cooped up in the harsh winters of Wisconsin.
Matt took pictures with his phone to prove that I also was on vacation. I don't have many pictures of me from this year because I hate what's happened to me physically. I have gained so much weight because of the steroids I take to stay alive, and I hurt everywhere so any type of exercise leaves me bedridden the next day. Needless to say, I feel terrible about myself, but that's for another day.
But I'm glad he took them because I also feel like I have hardly been a mom this year. I've been a mom, obviously, but I'm just going through the motions. It shows me being a mom.
It also shows that Lucy, indeed, ate her weight in sand this week.


Oh!! The super cool thing the kids loved? We saw two turtle's nest areas on our beach!
The kids were so hoping we'd get to see them hatch or see evidence that the turtles made it to the water during our week but no, we never got to see that. But it was very cool for them to see a turtle's nest and they would check it out every day for progress.
At the end of a VERY long day, we watched the sun set into the water.
I thought about the week to come. The year I've had. And how lucky I was that I made it. I made it through the hardest year of my life.


Miranda said...

The Clearwater area is so beautiful! Definitely one of my favorite places here in Florida. Looks like you had a wonderful time!

Julie H said...

I just love that picture of Lucy looking at you. Pure love.