Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Our Time in St. Petersburg

When all was said and done, we spent the better part of two weeks in June in St. Petersburg before and after Toni passed. Much of this time was spent taking care of related business, but we did try to have some fun mixed in there, too, both as a mental break for us adults and a treat for our kids, who were so insanely good the whole time.

I have to mention in particular how good the kids were at the services for Toni, too, before I get into the rest of the stuff from our visit. We took both children to both the private burial and the public celebration, because it felt important to us for the whole family to be there. At the burial, I wore E.J. in the wrap the whole time and he didn't make a peep. As for Ellie, she announced that the cemetery was "just like a beach" when we walked along the sandy path towards the ceremony, which I thought was a beautifully childlike, optimistic, sweet thing to say. During the ceremony she sat quietly in a chair under the tent, looking at her books when she got restless. When Eric got up to give the eulogy, she looked at him, patted his empty chair next to her and said, "Daddy can't talk. Daddy just has to sit down." Frankly, I think Toni herself would have loved that! When it was time to place the flowers at the end of the service, Ellie announced that she did not want to leave her flower, but was persuaded to place another one if she could keep her original.

After the service we all went out to eat at Olive Garden, and the kids were absolute angels. Both were overtired and under the weather but they were so good. I'm so glad we didn't chicken out and leave them at home.

Ellie having fun with Uncle Ronnie at Olive Garden

The whole grouop

At the celebration of life service, once again both kids quietly kept themselves happy during the program (E.J. in the wrap again, and Ellie sitting with Grammy). Afterwards, E.J. entertained himself by collecting ALL THE DIRT IN THE WORLD on his right leg when he was allowed to crawl around, and Ellie had fun playing with various family members. She also danced with Eric when "Perfect Fan" by the Backstreet Boys came up on the playlist, which I thought was beautiful—that's the song Eric and Toni danced to at our wedding.

Ellie and Aunt Kelley

E.J. showing off his masterpiece: that right leg. That is not a shadow, my friends. I can't even tell you how many baby wipes it took to see his actual skin color again.

So basically, the kids were wonderful. Sure, Ellie had some bad tantrum days and E.J.'s sleep was all screwy (it's never a good thing when your kid has been up so long already that they're due for a nap by 7:30 in the morning), but when it mattered, they were at their best. What a lucky mama I am!

So anyway. As I mentioned in my last post, our drive down to St. Pete the first time was the stuff nightmares are made of. Here is Ellie expressing how we all felt about our 3.5-hour drive taking us SIX TORTUROUS HOURS:

Preach it, girl.

Once we got there, though, we managed to find some time for fun. Here are a few of the things we did to keep ourselves occupied:

E.J. spent a lot of time finding ways to get into trouble at Papa's house. Favorites included: trying to get mauled by the cat; trying to explore the litter box; opening all the kitchen cabinets and carrying packages of cookies around the house; banging his head into the front window repeatedly; yanking on the vertical blinds; climbing into any and all tables he could find; trying to climb into bookshelves; pressing all the buttons on all the electronics all the time; trying to stick his fingers in the un-childproofed electrical sockets; enjoying the breeze at the air vent; and climbing up Papa's chair and sliding down the footrest.

E.J. in the middle of the dining room table, and quite pleased with himself

The boys at the front window

VIDEO: Sliding on Papa's chair

He did also get in some good bonding time with Papa, however. Man, he loves that guy! He was forever crawling to his feet and reaching up to be held. He and Papa even have a nose-pinching game now that is a huge hit.

Playing with Papa

Meanwhile, Ellie got lots of good Papa time, too. They played together a ton, cleaned the pool, washed our car, and spent some time in the pool. Papa even taught her how to get in and out of the pool and swim all by herself (with her Puddle Jumpers on)! Impressive!

That Papa sure is a slave driver.

Washing our car

Reading together

VIDEO: Ellie showing off her swimming skills: "I'm an octopus! I'm an octopus!"

And speaking of fun with grandparents, Ellie got to spend the first weekend we were down at Grammy's house, which she enjoyed quite a bit!

You know you might be at Grammy's when you're eating bubblegum ice cream after your pizza dinner.

E.J. also got to have fun at Grammy's house when we picked Ellie up that Sunday. He was especially a fan of the skinny dipping.

Loving his naked pool time

E.J., my dad and I also went downtown for the Saturday Morning Market and walked over to the Sundial for a bit.

Checking things out—lots of changes to downtown St. Pete that I hadn't seen yet!

Fresh fish inside the Locale Market

We also went up to the splash park in Dunedin and met my mom and Gary there for some water fun.

E.J. was not bothered by all the water in the slightest!

Ellie didn't like the noise, but she managed to have some fun, too.

E.J. and Eric enjoying the cool water

With my mom

And, our family foursome plus my dad spent a morning at the Florida Aquarium, which Ellie loved and talks about quite a bit.

Aquarium time!

That gator better quit eyeballing my baby like that.

Touch tank

Ellie and a turtle


These guys were a hoot.

Lots to see!

On our last night in town, we had a little early Father's Day celebration with my dad: fun in the pool and pizza for dinner. It was a great time! E.J. got to join in the swimming, courtesy of a new raft I picked up for him. I thought he would stay in there for a minute or two for pictures and then want out, but he was happy as could be just floating in that thing forever.

Real men float in pink.

Ellie the fish!

Laughing at Papa

And that was that! We had some good fun in there, but we were still very glad to be home when the time came. We'll be back again soon for E.J.'s birthday party!

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