Day VIII: Where Dreams Come True and Wallets are Bare

I drank two cups of coffee to prepare me for what would lie ahead-Magic Kingdom! I did my very best to make it exciting for the kids, turning into Mary Poppins, almost. Katerina was dressed in her Minnie Mouse attire, and most especially wearing her M.M. ears. She smiled from one black circle ear to the other, and it was such a delight to be a part of her excitement. We quickly caught the bus and we were off! That was when I noticed some weird object that Nikolas was holding. It smelled and was even shedding, and I told him he had exactly until we stepped off of the bus to get rid of it.

The lines to enter the park were long, babies were crying, parents were grouchy and it wasn’t even 9 a.m. My caffeine still kept me chipper and Nikos was subdued. Finally, we were through and excitedly rushed along Main Street. There it was, that artificial yet magnificent castle, capable of filling even the most skeptical with awe.

Our breakfast consisted of monstrous-sized cinnamon rolls and grapes. After treating our bellies, we headed straight toward It’s a Small World, to serve as our first ride. There wasn’t even a five minute wait. The guys behind us were annoying, shouting out every country they saw. Wow, what geniuses they are (sarcasm), the decor makes it so easy to distinguish, Katerina even knew Mexico. It’s a beautiful ride, but more lovely was the delight I saw in the kids’ smiles. Elizabeth was singing along with those happy dolls or whatever they are. Hands down, it’s the best ride in the park!

We then went to Tomorrowland and took turns riding Space Mountain since Katerina of course couldn’t ride. We hit most rides quickly, since it wasn’t overly crowded. Nikos must have been in an exceptionally tolerant mood because I would not stop repeating how much more crowded it had been three years ago.

There was a show at the castle so we stopped for that before lunch. Katerina gasped when she spied Minnie Mouse singing, and waved nearly frantically at her.

We ate at some baseball shop for Nikolas, and it was uncomfortable. The chairs and tables were jammed together and all of that togetherness with strangers made me shudder. I might need to get some professional help at some point in my life! The piano clinked obnoxiously behind us and the unpleasant quick-pace of it added to my irritability. I chewed my hot dog rhythmically with that 1920’s piano and nearly choked. The kids had loaded nachos and I lost Nikos momentarily. I found him, hanging on the piano enjoying the tunes-he even left a tip!

The day wore on and our feet were inexplicably tired. Some of Fantasyland was closed, which felt like a break to me. We rode mostly everything, but I never got to go on my second favorite ride, Winnie the Pooh. Katerina was able to go on most rides, and we took plenty of breaks. I sat by Katerina on the speed track ride, and let her drive. I thought with certainly the car would topple off of the track. We jerked left then right and at one point Katerina fell clear on the side and almost out of the car. She had reached the height limit but I’m sure not the weight! I tried to help her steer, but I’d like to meet anyone with a three year old who can manage such a feat! Somehow, besides Elizabeth acting up a little, we had passed a peaceful day. This place can transform the most patient of parents into purse-slinging, cussing, hair-pulling abusive parents, yet somehow we were spared the wrath. Nikos held the backpack without complaining and we took turns holding Katerina when she was too tired to walk.

The very best part of this entire trip to Florida was when Katerina went to meet Minnie Mouse. That tiny precious girl was trembling, she could hardly contain her excitement. I felt giddy just watching her carefully step up and hug her hero. People waiting in line were taking pictures of Katerina, it really was that precious! Katerina was speechless and my cheeks ached from smiling.

It wasn’t until the kids were going to bed that Nikolas expressed feeling sad that we hadn’t taken a picture of him when he hugged Mickey Mouse. He said we were all too busy taking pictures of Katerina and Minnie. Honestly, this was one of the first times I witnessed Nikolas being outright jealous of Katerina, or at least telling me about it. How was I supposed to know that Nikolas liked Mickey Mouse?! I’m now at 175,943 reasons to feel guilty as a mother.

I chanced buying one package of cotton candy, expecting the kids would squabble unrelentlessly over who got more. I believe this was Katerina’s first time trying it, and out popped a new addition to the squabbling.

Dinner was at Pinnochio’s, fast food garbage. We dined where we could watch the people riding It’s a Small World. After, we went on it once more. It was nearly time for my favorite, the light-up parade! The kids begged for popcorn but I didn’t want to take any chances missing the parade or one of us getting lost. Just as the parade was about to begin, Nikolas needed to pee. I sent Nikos with him. I was temporarily immersed in a conversation with a grandmother from Chetticamp, Nova Scotia. We’d been there! It is a lovely quaint town, with a small population. I think the grandma was more surprised. We discussed primarily the view and the bakeries her town held.

The parade was all that I’d expected and pleasantly not too crowded. It was fun watching Katerina, and several of the characters spoke to her and blew kisses her way. None were as special to her as Minnie Mouse’s attention. On the way out, we stopped in the photo center to purchase a couple of pictures. Katerina wailed “Mama, help! Me need to go pee pee!” I looked down and right there on the red carpet, pee was running down her legs and shoes. There was nothing to be done.

I had to turn one last time as we exited the park, and see that amazing castle. For an instant, I was one of the thousands of little girls there that evening wearing their Cinderellas dresses, hoping to one day grow up to be a princess, and live in a castle just like the one before me.

We walked to our shuttle bus and watched the fireworks from there. My sweet little Minnie Mouse was asleep as soon as the bus departed. It had been a long, exhausting, fulfilling, even a magical day!

Day VII: Not Exactly R&R

We decided to take a break from the pavement stomping park adventures. Nikos and I headed downstairs after breakfast to get some much needed laundry done. I gave Nikolas and Elizabeth three directions. Don’t leave the room or allow Katerina to escape, don’t answer the door, and don’t watch anything scary on TV. They had the nerve to ask if we would pay them! The hotel laundromat wasn’t so outrageously priced, two bucks per wash and then dry.

I immediately became friends with an Australian woman, and then Nikos chatted it up with her boyfriend. They were traveling all over America for a month. We compared our countries and Jenny told me she could understand my accent more than any American she’d conversed with. We gave them plenty of advice and I loved her account of when they had eaten at the Outback, especially how her waiter had put on a fake Australian accent. Talking with the Australians passed the wash load time, and I realized we were fortunate as quite a crowd had developed, waiting for an available washing machine. Erik, my brother called, he was worried about his son’s possible allergies. Once I got everything in the dryer, I went ahead upstairs to be with the kids and finish talking to Erik. The kids were going crazy over a Brazilian info commercial about butts. This Brazilian cheeseball went on for who knows how long the kids watched it over his new butt video that of course worked miracles.

We needed to check out by 11a.m., so we gathered and cleaned and went on our way, just a mile over to Disney’s Coronado Springs. The feeling of having all of our laundry done is always exuberant and promises I’ll be in a good mood for at least two hours. That would have been the case had I not found Nikolas’ legs and squirming feet kickeing out at the lobby fountain while Nikos was checking us in. His arms were fully in the fountain, shirt getting drenched, while he collected foreign coins. It was so humiliating, as I scolded him and explained why he just can’t do that! That nut asked if he could just get the one I made him throw back in, that appeared to be real gold!

There was a Mexican food buffet, and we stuffed ourselves like enormous burritos for lunch. The carnitas with a tomatillo sauce were tasty, but the rest seemed processed. The kids loved the churros, and I was too stuffed for dessert, so I asked for some to go. The waitress told me that they didn’t give out to go boxes. I was staring at two desserts that I would not abandon, even if I stayed all day and night at that table! I made Elizabeth get me a paper towel from the bathroom and I wrapped my desserts, Grandma Sharp style. My precious grandma used to wrap even three french fries after our dinner at Frisch’s Big Boy. She was the sweetest!

The front desk clerk told Nikos that we had a “garden view”, so when we went to our room, our “garden view” held a few cacti, some bushes and the parking lot. The rooms were a little dark for my taste and even a little aged. Nikos and Katerina both took naps, and I began feeling ancy and even a little melancholic. This spread to Nikolas and Elizabeth until they were jumping around, playing with the sliding doors, arguing, and finally getting grounded. We got our swimsuits on and woke up the two sleepyheads. The pool was nice, resembling Mayan ruins in a Disney sort of way. There were pool activities for the kids but mine just wanted to swim. I allowed the kids to keep getting free refills of rootbeer with our one and only Epcot cup. I managed a whistle from the lifeguard, and not the kind that I haven’t heard in fifteen years since I’m now scary in my swimsuit, rather to get my cup away from the pool. Nikos’ presence was hit or miss since he was often in the hot tub or back in the room due to the now questionable lunch.

Early evening, we decided to take the Disney shuttle bus to Downtown Disney. It’s like a human-sized ant farm, buzzing with manic activity. We walked all over the area and enjoyed several places where musicians were playing, and even watched a dance team perform. Katerina and Nikolas danced without inhibition. Elizabeth has officially surpassed that stage. The hi-light of Nikolas’ evening was when a guitarist came over, jammed with him while Nikolas danced, and the guy handed over a blue guitar pick. Nikolas could have won a rare coin book, and he wouldn’t have been as excited as he was at that moment! I managed to avoid Lego Land by promising the kids we’d go on our next trip up to MN.

All of the sit down eateries were so jam-packed we would have waited until midnight to get a table. We found an express Wolfgang Puck place, and ordered at the counter while the kids snatched a table with three seats. The table still hadn’t been cleared and was dirty, but it was all there was. That fast food dinner cost us nearly $70, and that’s with ice waters! We’d ordered tortilla soup for Nikolas and Elizabeth, and three pizzas since they were small. Midway through our meal, Katerina needed to go to the bathroom. This was no easy feat with maneuvering through the congestion and even finding it, as it was in a different dining area. I was uptight and grouchy because I have boundary issues when it comes to crowds. So when I came back and my pizza was gone, I threw a bonafide fit! Nikos kept apologizing and said that the waiter had taken it and had the nerve to blame Nikolas for eating the rest of the other pizza, so why did Nikos still have food in his mouth?! Elizabeth was sure to point out that she had only eaten the crust.

I couldn’t wait to get out of that place, and on the bus back to our hotel. It was getting late, nearly after nine. Nikos went into the gift shop and got Nikolas’ Epcot ball, which had been delivered from the Epcot gift shop. He was so excited and I had to allow him to play it for at least a few minutes. It was cute. I put Katerina in her Minnie Mouse pajamas and sang “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” when we cuddled in bed. Finally, I dished out my threats that we wouldn’t go to Magic Kingdom unless they went to sleep. My two long-anticipated desserts were tasteless even the strawberries were void of any flavor.

Day V-Aquatica Mate and Nikos Saves Two More

The castle provided a decent sleep for our exhausted lot. Also, when I put on my swimsuit skorts, they snapped much more easily than they normally do. Thank you horrible service shark restaurant, at least I lost a temporary  two pounds! There’s always a sip of lemonade when there’s a lemon wedge! We all shuffled downstairs to the breakfast room, with its dark wooden paneling, too many guests, and dusty ornamentation. The East Indian woman informed me that the free breakfast applied to all of us except for Elizabeth, since she is thirteen. That’s a fine way to make a self-conscious newbie teen feel included! There was a guy making waffles at the bar, and I stifled my laugh as best as I could, since this dump was nothing more than a typical free breakfast at any chain motel! Why on Earth did they have that dude making the waffles, as if we were in some fancy place, when every other chain hotel you make them on your own?

We ate alot of bacon, Katerina enjoyed the fruit, and the grits/oatmeal/mystery food remained untouched. Nikolas could hardly eat because of the showcase of dolls staring directly in front of him. Nikolas said those freaky looking dolls, including a couple of clowns and a jester, would most definitely give him nightmares. They were extremely creepy. In fact, the whole breakfast experience was creepy. The chairs were so large and heavy, it was impossible to scootch in to allow another guest to pass. Katerina found her way under the table and I couldn’t do anything about it, even when she bonked her head. I was trapped in the chair getting as freaked out as Nikolas over those dolls!  On the way out, Nikos commented that the owner of the hotel actually was smart, by taking an aged place and turning it into a castle rather than completely renovating it or tearing it down.

The morning was already warm and it was absolutely ridiculous that Nikos insisted on using his stupid GPS for Aquatica when there were a half-dozen signs and we weren’t even one mile from the place! Aquatica was like a breath of fresh air! It felt like a peaceful Sunday afternoon compared to all of the walking and exhaustion of Seaworld. We were all amicable and Nikolas and Elizabeth were getting along, taking off to ride on the slides. Nikos and I took Katerina in one of the wave pools and later, a kiddie pool with slides. The place was enormous. It seemed there were no Americans at the park, which made people watching more entertaining. It was a calm crowd with several different languages blurring together. I was hoping many were still on jet lag when I noticed that several parents were already drinking beer at ten in the morning.

Lunch was the typical fast food fare, and Katerina was occupied momentarily by feeding her apples and borrowed fries to her Shamu food carton. Nikolas and Elizabeth couldn’t wait to get back on the slides, especially the tubed one that had dolphins swimming around it. That was the one and only slide I went on for the day. It was a cool concept, but flying through the tube, it was impossible to see any dolphins. The lazy river passed by the dolphins and a fish aquarium. The coolest attraction was this raging rapids mile long loop. It really pushed you along as if a waterfall should emerge up ahead. Elizabeth kept wanting to go in the gift shops and I was getting irritated. She finally purchased a cute top and I had hoped she’d spent the rest of her spending money, but no such luck since she’s a bargain shopper.
Nikos spent way too much time texting and checking his email, while Katerina plopped in the sand playing with her shovel and leftover lunch cups. For one last plunge we all went back to the raging rapids and when it was time to get out, Elizabeth pushed Nikolas back in so Nikos stayed with them. I rocked Katerina in the lawn chair until she drifted off to sleep. The feeling of holding that sweet little girl in my arms as she slumbers away, provides me with more satiety than anything else in the world. What happy moments to carry me through my life!

The kids ran up panting that their Daddy had saved yet another life! The story goes that the raging rapids loop has pockets where you do get trapped into, I know because it had happened to me. You really need a life vest if you are a weak swimmer. Anyway, this East Indian woman was drowning and calling for help in-between choking on mouthfuls of water. Her baby was completely submerged in the water at times. They were stuck in the pocket, wedged up against the curve. The swift current kept them lodged in there. Nikos grabbed onto the edge and used all of his power to get back to her. She was now under the water as well, and it happened right where the lifeguards could not see. He pulled the baby first to the edge and then the woman, who was so water-logged, she could only gasp for air. Both were fine. It’s the strangest thing, Nikos seems an unlikely hero type, with his brusqueness and loud almost rude mannerisms, but he has a very gentle and generous nature, more so than anyone I have ever met. What’s even cooler is he is so modest about what he has managed to do now for three people within three days! He did claim, “At least this nightmare wallet choker of a trip has saved three lives”!

We said our goodbyes to Aquatica and headed back to Seaworld while Nikos protested the entire five minutes, and even after we were walking around Seaworld. He was grumbling and rumbling and I told him he could sit in the car if he was seriously that lazy. He tried to get his revenge by saying that since I’d forced him to return to Seaworld then he was going to go back to eat at the shark restaurant and ask for the same waitress. I knew that was an empty and useless threat since he would never spend a hundred bucks to avenge me.
The dolphins were swimming and a crowd had gathered to pet them. We literally had to drag an arm-flailing, whining Elizabeth away, who was even crying she wanted to touch those dolphins so terribly much. She was getting really mouthy and I swatted her on the rear right in front of everyone and didn’t give one care about it. She also was grounded from her little track phone she’d received in her Easter basket. That mouthiness is unacceptable. She was still carrying on when we were gazing at the dolphins underwater. They are indeed beautiful creatures! I swear she didn’t stop talking about those dolphins for two days after.

The kids and I wanted to go on Journey to Atlantis one last time. We used our quick queue pass and while waiting there was a confrontation between a father and the employees of the ride. He had a daughter in a wheelchair who appeared to have cerebral palsy. They refused to allow her to ride saying she couldn’t sit up on her own. It brought tears to my eyes, not out of pity, rather by the obvious love and devotion the father carried for his daughter and standing behind her in an unjust world. When the barely twenty-something employee at our gate shook her head and said, “He just needs to realize she can’t ride this.”, I had to stand up for him by saying, That’s his daughter, and I’d be the same way.” A parent must stand up for their child, be their voice when they haven’t one. I have been there and promise to visit that place many, many times throughout my life. In fact, some of my greatest regret stems from being too passive and not standing up for my children when I should have.

We left Seaworld in plenty of time to make it to our Disney hotel, The Dolphin. It was awesome with a beautiful view. Our first prerogative was to eat. We ate at a horrible place within the adjoining hotel, The Swan, called Pickabou. It took a great deal of time for the cooks to heat up our food and poor Katerina claimed she had to “go pee pee”. The server told me the restrooms were way down the other side of the hall, and before we could get poor Katerina there, she went all over the seat and felt so bad about it. I need to mention that Little Katerina could not have been more easy to potty train. I postponed it as long as I could until her third birthday, and she was fully trained within a couple of days. The poor thing is always vocal and expresses when she needs to go, and feels so bad when she has an infrequent accident.

It was an early bed time for the kids and I enjoyed watching some “House Hunters” even after Nikos was snoring away.

Day IV-Shamu, We Love You, However…!

We were all excited to get up and enjoy our day at Seaworld. I made my coffee in the room and decided one day I’d like to own one of those k-cup machines. We packed up and I found a cleaning lady to ask for two more Shamu toys. I cannot express how lovely and pleasant this hotel, the Renaissance is. I purchased Seaworld for one day and Aquatica, Seaworld’s water park, for the following day. The guy gave me five rain ponchos and told me to sit in the splash section. The guy was so nice, he made me two notches sweeter.
I was apprehensive to return to Tradewinds downstairs for breakfast, but the kids had free meals. The buffet was superb and each of us had sample shots of fruit smoothies. Nikos and I barely managed a sip since the kids loved them so much. While Katerina was eating her enormous strawberries, she plopped one in the silver creamer server. She then attempted to drink out of it, and it flew all over Elizabeth, who began to nearly have a meltdown. Three of the waitstaff rushed over and were manically cleaning, while we were doing our best to help but were also annoyingly in their way. Elizabeth tried to wipe up the cream that was splashed on her face, hair and outfit. Nikolas muttered, “Yep, we are cursed”, while smirking and enjoying that Elizabeth was bothered, and he didn’t even need to get in trouble for it.
Nikos and I reluctantly checked out but headed on over to Seaworld. Immediately, Nikos was highly stressed and I told him to relax, it was only ten. The first thing we did was make reservations for the Shark restaurant. This was one of our best memories from three years ago. We sat beside the wall-sized aquariums and literally dined with the sharks, with delightful food. I couldn’t wait until seven that evening! Nikos was being whiny about wanting to see Shamu already and the kids wanted the thrill rides. Our hotel had given us free wristbands to allow us to use the instant queue. We saved hours this way. The kids’ favorite ride was the Manta and we made the Manta entrance our “if you get lost meeting place”.
We saw dolphins and manta rays and the park is filled with so much to see and do. We all honestly prefer it over Disney. Nikos and I took turns riding the larger rides with the kids, but I refused to ride the Manta since I’m a big chicken. I went with the kids on Journey to Atlantis, which is such a cute water ride. Just as we were ascending the big hill, the ride stopped for roughly thirty minutes. Nikolas looked back and again reminded me of the curse. I think I even dozed off I was so hot, bored and uncomfortable. At least they handed us quick queue cards if we wanted to come back the following day.
Lunch was very simply five huge croissants. We were all still filled from breakfast and just needed something to tide us until dinner. Nikos would not stop bugging about going to see Shamu, and the heat of the day, combined with my tired feet made me annoyed to death by the way he pronounced “Shamu”. I told him we were going to the most crowded show being at 2p.m. and he debated with me saying it had to be the last show at 5p.m. When we arrived, the entire stadium was packed and I just had to ask a Seaworld attendant who confirmed that we were at the most crowded showtime of the day. Nikos refused to believe her. Then, we all were separated, since Nikolas and Elizabeth wanted splash seats and there was only room for two. Nikos held Katerina waiting for the unused handicap seats to be open to the public, and I went to the school trip seats to open up, and then waved wildly for Nikos to come yet he never did. The show began and I was fuming! The show was magnificent and I was sad to not share in Katerina’s delight and so mad at Nikos I wanted to leave him stranded on the Journey to Atlantis broken down for two days. There were a few Shamus and I wished I was a Shamu trainer but I felt I’d look more Shamu than the trainers in their wetsuits.

The show was over and I immediately went in the direction of the kids and couldn’t find them. Nikos and Katerina were nowhere to be found and I just waited at the exit down the ramp for twenty minutes. I couldn’t understand how it wouldn’t make perfect sense to meet where I was, but I was dealing with Nikos, after all, and I knew he’d blame me, just as I was blaming him. I walked all over the stadium, through the stadium, stopping to help some women from Zimbabwe, giving them Seaworld advice. In fact, I would have preferred world trip talking with them for the better part of the afternoon than dealing with two year old Nikos’ brain at the moment.
Finally, I walked to the other side of the park to the Manta entrance and there was my family, and the brilliant smiles of my sweet kids, and Nikos’ scowling, not the least bit handsome at the moment face. He started off in a mean way, too loud baby mode and I was talking right back making an even bigger spectacle than the breakfast spill. The poor kids were listening to us arguing instead of having fun and I felt immediately guilty and determined to make the rest of this day enjoyable, and told Nikos to quit talking to me. He wanted the last word, then I needed it, and this crap went on until the kids told us to grow up. Nikolas told me he was afraid he’d never see me again. Will my kids always love me like they do now? Nikos claimed to have never seen me waving wildy for me to sit where I was, saying he looked for my hat. Of course I wasn’t wearing my hat in a stadium with a freaking roof! We walked over to the kiddie ride area and Katerina reveled in sheer joy and didn’t protest a hair when we pulled her from the roller coaster because she didn’t meet the height requirement. Elizabeth felt sick after riding the twirling jellyfish ride and said the only thing that could help was ice cream. She was overheated and I knew she’d be sick and knew she’d find a way to get that ice cream after I’d told her she couldn’t have any. The older two rode that Manta coaster five more times, and still Nikolas wanted more. poor Katerina kept pointing saying she wanted to go too.

We made it to our reservation at the shark restaurant. We were so excited and thrilled to be there! My back was aching, legs and feet hurting and I could ave slept for the night right there with the sharks. We didn’t bring the stroller with us this trip and she only occasionally needed held or on Nikos’ shoulders. She is such a great little walker!
The restaurant was crowded and we were seated in a great spot, with the exception of the deadly silent family next and above us. There was a mom and dad and their teenage daughter seated between them. They never spoke, not once for the hour and forty five minutes we were there, only stared and stared some more at us. Even the kids noticed and Elizabeth asked what was up with the creepy staring family. At that moment I felt sad. That was how it would be when Nikolas and Elizabeth are grown and we just have Katerina, who would be a teenager. After ten more years, Nikos and I may even be too burned out to bicker, but that seems doubtful.

The food took a ridiculous amount of time, and do I need to write that Nikolas mentioned the curse yet again? The bread had been eaten, the butter squabbled over, and our waters needed refilled three times each. Then, the meals arrived! Yet, mine was not what I’d ordered. I will never order a boring salmon fillet in a restaurant, so I know darn well that I hadn’t ordered it. I ordered the halibut and that was what I’d waited to eat for well over an hour! The waitress seemed annoyed and actually told me that I’d ordered the salmon and then asked if I wanted it anyway and I didn’t. I make salmon all of the time at home, and I doctor it up with pistachios or pecans, or some kind of Bearnaise or aoli sauce. It is very boring plain. The waitress said she’d get the order in right away and Nikos tried his best to wait but I gave him the go-ahead. I watched the rest of my family devour their food and had a few bites here and there, and yet my food never came.

It was getting close to nine, and I finally told the waitress (politely) to just not worry about my dinner, explaining that the kids were exhausted. Poor Nikolas had dozed off and Katerina was resting her head on my lap, primed for a long Spring nap. Wouldn’t you know that my plate miraculously appeared while we waited for our check, and I still declined which I could tell bugged the waitress. Why would I put my poor kids through more waiting just to eat my food? It sucked to not have that dinner I had been so excited for but it was the curse in play, and yes, Nikolas reminded me-again! On the way out of Seaworld, I bought two cupcakes and I didn’t care that the kids were whining about wanting something, they had their dinner!
We drove to our next hotel, a laughable excuse of a castle, the Holiday Inn Castle hotel! It was as cheesy as I’d imagined it to be, and not very clean. I was in a grumbly and feel sorry for me mood and my cupcakes didn’t even taste good. I also felt guilty that I’d been selfish about not sharing them with the kids so I saved the rest for them.

Day III-Adios Daytona and the Curse Goes On

I was up and drinking my coffee at my usual 5-ish hour, on the balcony enjoying my treasured solitude. Elizabeth told me she wanted to go “fake jogging” with me, so we took off as the sun was rising leftward.
We bickered on and off because Elizabeth kept walking faster than I was fake jogging and I kept telling her to at least pretend to run, and she kept telling me I needed a brain transplant, and why should she be pretending in the first place. I was not even capable of reprimanding her on respect since I was so out of breath. Let this nearly forty girl peacefully go pseudo jogging on the blasted beach!
When we made it back, cranky and my legs shaking a little, the kids begged for boiled peanuts for breakfast. Why not? It’s better than donuts. They weren’t bad and we even had watered-down lemonade to go along with them. This is one of the best combos in the world, forget pb&j, but no attempt of boiled peanuts stands a chance to the strawberry stand on the way to Myrtle Beach.

The tide was naturally high when we brought our towels down to the beach. Nikos spent a questionable amount of time taking our luggage to the car and finding out if we could check out. I guarantee you he was in the computer room, and likely caught a nap poolside, again. Does he seriously believe that he’s in disguise with a towel covering his face?! He’s like the guy back in the seventies with a paper bag over his head, and I can’t remember which show it was.

Meanwhile at the beach, we picked a spot directly in front of the mile long army of chairs and umbrellas rented out for a shameful $30, which I will never, as long as I live, rent. So far, most of the chairs were empty so I thought it was fine that we parked our towel in front.
Ten minutes later, while enjoying the rare and fleeting moments when the kids are peaceful and getting along, an older couple claimed their chairs which were behind us, and the queen of bitties immediately complained to her husband that we needed to move and mah mah mah…that we were in “their” space. I silently armed myself up with all of the comebacks my little imagination could conjure, my heart racing and clamping my jaws, ready for the verbal attack. They did not own the beach, and I would be swept out by a tsunami before I’d move my big rear for her! I was keenly aware of the curse taunting me. The kids remained oblivious to it all, while Nikolas rambled on and on about getting the surfing started. That sweet boy was up at 4 a.m. thinking it was time to go and surf. I made him go back to sleep, of course.
The husband came over and softly asked if we’d move once the tide went back, and I politely told him I’d surely do just that, but in the meantime, the chairs should not be placed right at the ocean. I heard the couple whispering and the orange tanned hag grumbling and mouthing off until she picked up her chair moved it one inch from Elizabeth’s head, and parked her feet. My sweet Elizabeth never noticed.
After forty minutes, Nikos came by and set up beach camp behind the couple, and had the kids come and tell me to move. Yeah right I was moving, what a good joke! The kids played in the ocean while I kept my mama hawk eyes glued to them. I also took great pleasure when the tide washed up, soaking our towels which didn’t matter, and tan bitty’s belongings, as she went hopping around to collect them. Once the kids and Nikos had migrated to the pool area, I unleashed my resolve and thanked the man for being patient so I could keep watch over my kids while swimming.
I also need to mention that in the early morning, Elizabeth and I witnessed people waiting for the pool to open and then they were running to empty chairs like a Black Friday special. It was incredulous and depressing that human greed is apparent on every dimension. Our towels were taken off of the chairs three times. Nikos needed to speak to a manager to be given more towels, because they were attempting to charge us $25 for each. The most pitiful part of this was that there were empty chairs, yet people wanted what others had.
We had a beautiful picnic lunch of gyros, while we gazed at the ocean. This was the most splendid part of our beach stay. Nikos packed everything and checked out while we took a walk on the beach. I held Katerina in the ocean so that her new found fear might subside, and indeed it did! She was giggling and although clinging to me like a baby chimpanzee, we splashed and played in the warm ocean water. The kids competed for my attention and it was a lovely ending.

The first stop was McDonald’s because I had been craving sweet tea, and we were off to Orlando! We called Daddy on the car speaker phone. He told me he would feed the chickens while we were gone. This put Nikolas at ease because there is no kid out there who is more comfortable with their chickens. He cleans their claws, perches them on his shoulder, and picks them up like a football while petting them. I love those ladies, and they sure are cute!
The Renaissance hotel is just across the street from Seaworld and one of our favorites. You can find great deals on it and they give little Shamu toys, which will delight any kid. The pool even has a water park. Well, the curse continued, and I’d accidentally booked a hotel ten miles away. Nikos called and cancelled and we only managed to get one night at the Renaissance, and for more than we had expected to pay. Our view was magnificent overlooking Seaworld. While waiting in the lobby, I checked my email and was hit with some disappointing news, the most recent agent to my book query informed me that my sixty page sample wasn’t right for their company. It is very difficult to break into the publishing world, and it is a discouraging process, to say the least. I’m sitting on a book I completed several months ago and it makes me question if I did it all for nothing or can even write for that matter.  Actually, just so you can get a feel for how a rejection note goes, here is a copy of the rejection letter:

Dear Rebecca,
Thank you for sharing your work with me. You write well, and I enjoyed
reading this—but I’m afraid that this is not quite right for us.

Still, I hope you will continue writing and sending out your work. If
you haven't done so already, you may wish to look at The Jeff Herman
Guide to Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents - there, you should
be able to find someone who's a better fit for your work.

Again, Rebecca, thank you for sharing this with me. Best of luck with
this and future projects.

All best wishes,



There were large glass caraffes filled with water and sliced oranges. I asked Nikolas to get two cups and he came back with seven. I made him return two. He wasn’t even joking. He worries me!

We ate downstairs at Tradewinds. My calamari was delicious but the the service was atrocious. We were at that mediocre restaurant for two hours! I even had time while I waited for my dessert to go, which by the way ended up being a two bit deal, to purchase tickets and get away from a timeshare rep who gave me a free bottle of lotion. The other diners looked frustrated and bored, and laughed when I remarked to Nikos that I’d see him up in the room in two hours.
We swam in the pool, however a disappointment to the kids was that the water park had closed only ten minutes prior. The lush landscape was tropical and a warm breeze blew softly, while we waded around. Poor Katerina began trembling with cold, and I couldn’t find Nikos anywhere. I knew he was in some hot tub. I finally got out of the warm water and froze along with Katerina and found him chatting away with some Swiss dudes. Nikos tried to introduce me but I was in a haggy mood, and was even a little rude. Something about holding a trembling tiny Katerina who needed to be in bed already and also still under a curse cloud, will cause havoc to any good mood. Plus, I couldn’t wait to try that banana chocolate mousse dessert.
Katerina was asleep in one minute, all warm in her jammies, and the excited kids and grumbling Nikos because I’d been rude followed shortly after. Once the kids were asleep, but first announcing the order of rides for tomorrow, I delved into that tiny dessert, which left me wanting more times four.