Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Notes on a Family Vacation, from New England to Orlando

A random collection of observations from last week's trip where two 12-year-olds, a 9-year-old, a mom and a dad jumped on a plane in Providence, Rhode Island bound for Orlando, stayed for a week and visited all manner of amusement parks and a space center just to mix things up a little:

“Feeding our family is difficult.”

That was the astute observation of The Girl. It was also a gross understatement.

Take one mom with a dairy allergy, one 9-year-old insanely picky eater who pitches a nutty if he doesn’t eat something every two hours or so (preferably something with carbs), one 12-year-old boy who gets very distinct notions in his head about what he does and doesn’t want and toss in a trying-too-hard-to-please-everyone-dad and you have the recipe for angst and drama during lunch and dinner times. (We had breakfast at our room each day, so breakfast didn't stress anyone out and I could eat without fearing that I was being poisoned.)

When your eating choices are limited to the crap at amusement parks for most of the week, by Day 6 figuring out what to do for lunch for people with disparate needs becomes a tense proposition. Add to that the fact that I wound up going on an involuntary diet comprised of mostly salads --because they were safer choices for me because they didn't contain dairy -- that yielded one hungry, cranky mom. Made me long for being back at home where I could control the ingredients in my own food.

Key Cards are Cool and Coveted, Apparently

The Picket Fence Post kids still argue over who gets to push the button to call the elevator, press the button for the floor number and who gets to use the hotel key card. Somehow, these things never get old and they never seemed to work it out between the three of them.

Image credit:
Princess Fiona as a Human Princess, Not an Ogre

While we were visiting Universal Studios, The Spouse made his own interesting observation: In nearly all the images of Princess Fiona on the products for sale in the gift shop at the end of the Shrek ride, she was shown in her human form, not as Shrek’s ogre wife. Why?

Red Sox Nation Really is a Nation

The Picket Fence Post family wore Boston Red Sox caps a lot while we were in Florida, a fact that tended to elicit a lot of responses from people, ranging from thumbs up and knowing nods to sarcastic digs:

The wise-cracking Donkey from Shrek, who was posing with the other characters from the film and amusement park-goers, broke out into Boston's “More Than a Feeling” upon hearing that we were from the Boston area and noticing our hats.

A guy running an amusement park game in the Amity section of Universal Studios kept yelling out, “Hey! Boston Red Sox!” every time I saw him. It was cool the first time. After that, it was just awkward.

The manager of a nice hotel restaurant, upon learning that we were from the Boston (as we weren’t wearing our hats in the restaurant), talked our ears off about the Sox and the time he said he used to work for the team. Afterward, we couldn't decide if he'd really worked for them or whether he was just trying to chat up gullible tourists. You never can tell.

One cute-as-button senior citizen employee manning the Men in Black ride at Universal saw our hats and eagerly pulled out his wallet and extracted a laminated photo of himself and his grown daughter standing in front of the baseball diamond at Fenway Park. He wanted to let us know he was a "real fan."

That was a stark contrast to the snarky hotel employee who gave The Youngest Boy’s Miami Heat hat his approval while telling the rest of us he’d have to overlook our Sox caps.

Once our waiter at the NBA City restaurant learned we were Sox fans from the Hub, he told us he was a Yankee fan but would still give us good service nonetheless.

We ran into another Yankee fan at the car rental return next to the airport who joked that he was going to charge us at a higher rate for being members of Red Sox Nation.

And there must’ve been at least one other female Red Sox fan in the women’s bathroom in the Jurassic Park section of Universal Studios because when The Girl accidentally left her Sox cap there, it never turned up again, despite the fact that we checked the bathroom and Lost & Found three times over the course of three days.

Jaws & Reliving the 70s

The Spouse got to relive part of his 70s childhood by venturing onto the Jaws ride at Universal Studios. Twice. I, the Picket Fence Post family's ride wimp, accompanied him during his second time through while the three kids, who had absolutely zero interest in the ride, sulked on a bench and played with my cell phone. As the cheesy plastic shark first emerged from the water, The Spouse and I realized that this was the only time during the daylight hours that we'd alone the whole week.

Space Shuttle: The Last Mission

It poured, absolutely poured to the point where you couldn’t see the road in front of you, as we were driving from Orlando to the Kennedy Space Center and The Youngest Boy was thoroughly ticked that we’d taken a day off from patronizing amusement/theme parks and opted to visit a NASA institution. And boy, did he let us know it, during that awful car ride in torrential downpours.

After spending a half hour sitting in the parking lot and waiting for the rain to let up, then another half hour standing in line to buy tickets to get into the Space Center, we finally boarded a bus to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis that's currently sitting on the launch pad. By the time we scaled the observation deck, luckily The Youngest Boy’s skepticism, and whining, was on the wane. When we left, he was thoroughly impressed, mostly because he "touched the moon," meaning a moon rock that was available for people to touch.

Image credits: Meredith O'Brien,

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