Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On the first night, we stood in line for our rental car under the Florida stars and watched the palm trees wave around in the breeze. It had snowed that morning here at home and we were just so happy to be someplace warm. Jason struggled with the carseat and finally had to put the top up on the Mustang convertible we thought would be fun for the girls to ride in for four days.

"It's like a convertible!" Jemma said. She had recently risen from her position lying prone across my carry-on with her socks and shoes scattered about the airport floor.

"It IS a convertible," said Annie. We got in and shot down the highway to our hotel, waited around to check in, waited for someone to come bring linens for the pullout couch where the girls would sleep, waited for sleep to come in spite of the kicking and general malaise that comes with sharing a bed in an unfamiliar place. We slept fitfully, wanting to see where we were and what we could do.

On the first morning, we woke up bright and early and walked on the beach while our shadows were still long. We saw two dolphins very close to shore and collected a bag full of shells. (It is easier to love your children when they are running wild on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico than it is at 3:30 a.m. when you have to go in and settle their sleep-fighting.) Then we went back to the pool and swam until lunch. There was a water slide and music and, really, it was all we wanted.

We ate lunch with Jason's parents at their condo and spent the rest of the day with them, swimming more and wandering around downtown Naples, getting frozen yogurt and happy hour drinks on a deck overlooking the water. We tucked sleepy girls in their bed after dinner, and there was no fighting that night, just the hard sleep of children who have been mostly underwater and in the sunshine.

The second day we mixed things up: beach all morning, lunch at our pool, afternoon hopping from the hot tub to the water slide and back to the pool. I went running along the path to the beach before the sun was hot. The girls found a tiny coconut that sank and spent hours diving for it. Jemma dove down to 8 1/2 feet one time and came triumphantly back to the surface, her pink goggles fogged, the coconut in her hand. They had to be literally dragged from the pool every hour or two and forced to drink water and reapply sunscreen. Jason and I lounged by the side in chairs, reading The Sunday New York Times Magazine and Anne Lamott, sipping orange mojitos and water with lemon, eating Chex Mix and almonds, looking around and smiling, cannonballing in from time to time. At 2:30, Jemma asked to go take a nap, so I took her back and we both slept for an hour and a half. We went out to dinner in Old Naples and the girls charmed the acoustic guitar player by requesting Bob Marley and James Taylor. We got hazelnut and chocolate gelato, then watched the sun set from the fishing pier and played frisbee in the leftover light.

The third day Jason and I swam laps in the morning and then, predictably, alternated between the beach and the pool for the rest of the day. He and the girls hiked down to the inlet to watch an osprey catch fish and to hunt for tiny mangrove crabs. I built an elaborate sand castle and river system with them when they returned. We swam in salt water and chlorine and applied sunscreen every hour. Jemma's under eyes and Annie's cheeks still got pink. We went back to our room for lunch and ate leftovers while the girls did cartwheels and played statues in the grass. Late afternoon, we met Jason's parents and their friends for cocktails before leaving the girls with them and eating homemade pasta and clams on our own on 5th St. We went in the hot tub before bed.

The fourth day we went running on the beach and drank coffee by the pool before stuffing all the things into suitcases and wishing we could stay one more day. We swam for one last afternoon at the condo and biked around town while the girls had their toenails painted by Aunt Bonnie. We took one last ride in the convertible back to the airport, and Annie cried the whole way. The girls fell asleep on the plane, and then Jemma took her turn crying (and also refusing to walk) when we landed back at home close to 11:00 p.m., where it was colder and darker than we were used to.

The fifth day we were a little disoriented, a little sun kissed, a lot grateful for what I'd call our best, easiest, most successful family vacation yet.


  1. Love this, Steph. And love that you came home to gorgeous Michigan weather. Perfectly lovely.

  2. Sounds perfect! Was the fresh pasta and clams at cosmo's by chance?

  3. Thanks, girls. The dinner out was at Pazzo, Kellie.