Florida Vacation - Key Largo

Visiting the Florida Keys was something I really really wanted to do on our vacation.  Even though it was a three hour drive to Key Largo - the largest key closest to mainland Florida - we (I) decided it was worth the drive.

So, on our fourth day Naples, we packed up the car and headed out bright and early for Key Largo.  We drove across the state, from the west coast to the east coast, and then headed south past Miami.

The keys are the closest thing that the mainland US has to a tropical paradise.  Google "Florida Keys" on Google Maps and look at the satellite view - totally gorgeous blue water speckled with little islands.  It was totally up my alley.

Since snorkeling was high on my list of to-dos in Key Largo we headed to John Pennekamp State Park, which is a state park that is 99% (or so) completely underwater.  That much became evident when we went to the "beach" area.  It was tiny, and mostly rock.  Nowhere to put a beach umbrella for shade and you couldn't walk out into the water without shoes or significant discomfort.

We went to sign up for a snorkeling trip only to find that they were already completely booked for the day.  This was disappointing for me because I had read that during the summer you didn't really need reservations since it was the low season, so I hadn't even attempted to make reservations in advance.  We put our names on the stand-by list for a 3 p.m. boat, and were told to check back at 1:50 to see if there were any cancellations.

We were the first names on stand by so I felt good about that and we moved forward assuming that we would get on the boat.  Of course, this meant that we now had about 50 minutes to kill, so we drove to another section of rock beach and went for a little swim.  Again, this was painful because of all of the rock and coral.  It definitely was not a traditional "beach" - there wasn't any sand! I think that's because of the way it's protected from mangrove forests - there are zero waves.  The water is just flat and calm.  It was crystal clear though, in a way that I've never seen before.

We swam for awhile and then sat in the shade at a picnic bench, catching up on emails and facebook from our phones.  When it was time to check in for our stand-by snorkeling trip, we headed back to the registration desk where they confirmed that we were able to get onto the boat.  The girl at the counter was like, "Yay! You made it!" and I repeated her "Yay."  What I realize now that she was trying to psyche us up for the craziness that she knew would ensue once we boarded that boat, because by our horrible luck, we ended up two of the only 5 adult on a boat full of 8 year olds who were part of a summer camp.  The snorkeling was gorgeous and awesome - and I will cover that in a separate post since there are tons of pictures and this has already gotten quite long - but my god were those kids a nightmare.  They were loud and obnoxious and running into people and flailing about and touching the coral when the tour guides CLEARLY stated not too.. they were so annoying.

If I didn't already have a wonderfully charming child, I seriously would have decided at that very moment that I was never going to have kids in my life.  Seriously.

BUT... we saw tons of awesome fish and I got some great pictures.  That was the ultimate goal, right? 

Snorkeling pictures coming soon!


Oh boy!  In addition to having a parrot, we have a little daredevil now as well!

Let the bumps and bruises begin! (or continue really, since bruises have been happening since he started walking.)

The Parrot

It's official - EH is in the "parroting" phase of his toddlerhood.  He is acutely aware of things that we are doing or saying, and he tries to mimic nearly everything he can.

This morning when I was carrying him down the stairs in his car seat (yes, we're still using his infant carrier in my car - I like that I can strap him into it five minutes before we leave so that I can go up and down the stairs without worrying about him following me or getting into trouble) and the seat pushed down on my kneecap in such a way that excruciating pain radiated throughout my leg and I had to set EH down in the garage.  As I huffed and puffed and said things like "oh oh oh... " he said, empathetically, "Uh oh!"  I couldn't put any weight on my left leg at all, my vision was spinning and I started sweated and having trouble taking a deep breath.  In an effort to calm myself down, I leaned again my car and started taking deep breaths.

Breath in.
Breath out.
In. Out.

A moment later I heard a puff of air come from EH's mouth and he was smiling at me.  I realized that he was mimicking my deep breathing.  So I did it again.  And so did he.  He was so proud of himself, he was grinning from ear to ear.

He's so impressionable right now, and we're trying really hard to take full advantage of that.  That post a while back that I wrote about needing to be more present? We've totally done that and it's been amazing.  Our time together feels so much more quality and even DH is trying to get better at putting down his phone or magazine during EH time so that they can play and learn together.

The other day we worked on colors and he said "blue."  He says "row row" for Row Row Row Your Boat. He's said "I love you" when prompted although it sounds more like "Uh oh oooh."  His new day care worker (who I need to tell you about sometime soon!) also claims that he's said things like "circle," which I find hard to believe, but who knows! He says "Hi" non-stop and the other day he even picked up his monitor base, put it to his ear, and excitedly said "HI!" like he was talking on the phone. 

 Seriously - melt my heart.

(By the way, my knee feels better although my entire leg still aches a bit.  But I'm fairly confident there was no permanent damage done.) 


EH is a lucky boy - he has two cousins who were both born within 11 months after him.

He may not see them much, because they both live far away, but we can already tell that whenever they do end up getting together it's going to be a good time for everyone involved.

I'm pretty sure EH is already dreaming of owning a motorcycle

They're adorable together now, and they can barely interact with each other.  I can't imagine how much fun it's going to be when they can start playing together.

This boy's got moves

There are many things that are universally cute with babies.  Their toothless grins.  Their clumsy crawling.  And their goofy, little kid dancing.

I like to call this one the baby booty dance.  I'm pretty sure he learned it from his aunt Emmy.

On this particular night, our evening was that scene - or a scene very similar to that one - replayed over, and over, and OVER and over again....How is it possible that something that should be so annoying ends up being so cute?  Oh, that's right.... it's the rule of universal cuteness.  What can I say?  The boy's got moves.

(Video not working? Here's the direct link:  http://youtu.be/FEsb_ldHWYQ)

Charming Our Pants Off

Many many months ago when we EH was only about two months old and we were still those painfully difficult early months where there is no schedule and no sleep and not much of anything but baby and chaos, we went to a wedding where DH asked one of the guests what her "favorite age" of her kids was.  She said, in a sort of whimsical tone, (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Oh, I don't know... I know its sounds crazy but I like all of the ages. I think they're all good." 

In my mind I was thinking, "Woman, you are crazy.  There is nothing good about the age of two months!"

And I am not here today to tell you that my opinion on that has changed. I still can't find many redeeming qualities of two months old.  (Sorry baby lovers - harsh, but true.)  But now that EH is over 13 months old, I have an inkling of understanding with what she meant about each age being good in it's own way. 

Ever since EH turned about 6 months (basically, ever since we pulled him out of day care) he's been healthy and growing and charming our socks off each and every day of his life.  Each month we love him more, and each month we remark on how "this age" is our new favorite ago. 

He's seriously the light of our lives. In the morning his goofy smile is brighter than any sun that may or may not decide to come up that day - the smile is always there.  He can charm the pants off of anyone he meets with his southern accented, high pitched "Hhhiiiii!" He is oozing with personality, picking up on new words, forming new habits, mimicking things that he sees us do. 

There are so many moments in the day when he does something and it makes me stop whatever it is that I am doing because I realize that I need to be more physically and emotionally present for him in the few hours of each day that I get with him.  I look away for a moment and I could miss one of the cutest things he's ever done.  Lately he has protested when we pick him up from his babysitting - he would rather stay with her than come home with us.  This made me sad in a sense, but then I realized that I don't blame him.  When he's home with us DH and I are usually both doing something else - cooking dinner, washing dishes, lesson planning, reading something on the internet or one our phones.  When he's with the babysitter he has the dedicated attention of something who is kind and loving and is giving him the feedback that he is looking for.  Too often he doesn't get feedback from us unless he's getting into trouble of some sort, or unless he's fallen and hurt himself. 

My god, are we crazy!?!? That's totally not right!  He may NEVER be this fun, or cute, or charming, or innocent, or at the very least, this "13 months" old age ever again.   Look at that face in that picture above!!!! How in the WORLD could dishes be more important than that? I know I've said this before, and I feel like it needs to be said again because it's SUCH an important thing that I want to remember.

Be more present. 

That is my goal.  It's harder than it sounds, but I already know it's worth it.

Florida Vacation - Sanibel Island

On our second full day of our trip, we made the 1.5 hour trip north of Naples to Sanibel Island.  Sanibel is well known for the fabulous shells that supposedly wash up on its beaches.  I say supposedly because although there were a lot of shells, none of them were amazing.  They were mostly tiny, boring, broken shells.

But that aside, Sanibel is still a really interesting place to visit.  It's sort of throwback - you feel like you've taken a step back in time when traffic lights didn't exist and everyone gets around on bicycle.

Biking is what you do on Sanibel Island.  It's totally flat and the little town laid miles and miles of bike trails just off the main road out of the way of traffic.  Some of it's even in the shade.

 We first biked to the tip of the island, where an old, tiny, unimpressive light house was the main attraction.  I was more impressed by the beach - crystal clear water that was ridiculously warm and super shallow for a long distance.  We didn't go out far into the water - we still had a lot of biking to do and we had really just started - but the distance we did walk out didn't have the water over our knees and the waves were mild.  It would have been a great spot to take little kids.

 The picture above shows what most of the beach looked like. Yes, there were a lot of shells, like we had read about in the books.  But they were all like this - extremely disappointing.  Perhaps we needed to come after high tide or after a storm?

We hopped back on our bikes and rode just over 7 miles to the J. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve.  I was nervous about making that trek because of the distance - I knew we'd have quite a hike left - but we did it anyway.  

Sadly we didn't see much wildlife.  A few birds, that was it, really.

I'm still smiling at this point, but don't let that fool you.  I. was. HOT.  As you can see, I had already shed my shirt by this point, something that I don't do unless these are extreme circumstances, given that I still have 10 ponds of baby weight I neglected to lose sitting around my stomach region.  But oh my god was it hot, and any unessential clothing had to go.  Thus, bye bye shirt. 

DH maintained a much more respectable appearance than I.  Also notice that his face isn't beet red, and for some reason, his sky is a beautiful blue whereas mine was a murky gray.  Was that a sign?

Anyway, we biked the 4 miles or so through half of the park, taking the short cut bike trail, and by the last two miles, I was done.  I stopped looking around for any wildlife. I stopped making conversation.  My only goal was to get to the end alive.  I kept my face down and took deep breaths. 

When we got back to the information center it had started to rain.  DH went to fill our water bottles and I laid out a beach towel in the middle of the sidewalk near the bike rack and just laid there in the rain, trying to get over the dizzy, nauseous feeling that overwhelmed me.  Yes, I was in the middle of pedestrian traffic and no I didn't care.  Yes, people gave me funny looks, but no, no one asked if I was ok.  I didn't care thought.   I just knew that I wasn't going to lay in the wooded areas where there might be a lurking crocodile so the sidewalk was my only option.

The ride back to the bike place was long and hot, but I made it.  I was drenched in sweat in ways that I had never been before, my legs felt like jelly and I was more than a little cranky, but I survived. 

After that we went to Bowman's beach for some relaxation.  Now I was in my element, but DH was starting to experience the heat exhaustion that I had already gone through, so he didn't last long at the beach.  His crankiness kicked in and after less than two hours we headed out.  It was too much biking for me, and too much beach for him.  Oh well.  Lesson learned - don't oversee it on the second full day of your vacation.

Day three was the Everglades, so the next Naples post involves LOTS of gators!

The First Birthday Cake

In exactly one week, EH is going to be 13 months old, so I figured I better get around to posting his 12 month birthday pictures before it's too far past to even be relevant any more!

This post is going to be all about cake.  Because honestly, giving a one year old a cake to smash and smear all over themselves is what first birthday parties are all about, right?

Actually, our original plan was to not give EH a birthday cake.  We've kept him away from sweets for this long, we figured, why ruin that now?  We lined up my mom to make him zucchini bread - since zucchini is one of his favorite foods anyway - with a little frosting to make it exciting, and we figured it would still be a blast for him to smash away at something.

I'm sure it would have been.  And I'm sure that EH would have been perfectly happy to eat nothing but zucchini bread at his birthday party.  But a few days before his party when DH called Giant Eagle to order the "adult" cakes (an almond torte and a 1/4 sheet cake that said "Happy 1st Birthday, EH!") the bakery person let him know that they give families a free smash cake for first birthday's when you order a regular cake through them, so DH said OK.

So that afternoon, EH's birthday cake table looked like this:

(Thanks to my mom for taking this picture - I was too busy to take any pictures!)

We put a candle in his little cake (which you'll notice was actually quite enormous for one little one-year old) and we sang "Happy Birthday."

He was quite intrigued when we put it down in front of him. (And thanks to my older sister who took all of the rest of these pictures with my camera.)

His thoughts, "Well ok then, I guess I'm allowed to have this!"

He was so intrigued.

Then his uncle S showed him how to really smash a cake.  (The good news? Uncle S's little girl turns one next July, so we'll have plenty of time to plan our payback!)

After that, it was all over.  The cake, that is.

 "Yay! This is awesome!"

Starting to get a little full. 

 "Yaaay.... umm... ok, I think I'm done here, people."

"Dada, do you want some?"

"I guess there's always room for a little more." (Spoken like a true Hartman boy.)

"Time for a nap."

So, even though we thought we were going to be the people who bucked the trend of the smash cake, we gave in, and it was ok.  He enjoyed it, the guests enjoyed it, and we got some really good pictures out of it.  Plus, he got to enjoy the zucchini bread for the rest of the week! (Or, at least, for two days, until his daddy discovered and devoured it.) 

You only turn one once, right?  Live it up!