Happy New Year!

Obligatory Christmas photo
Obligatory Christmas photo

Holy crap, it’s 2012. Time sure does fly, doesn’t it? Let me just say that 2011 was a great year. There really isn’t a whole lot to complain about. Yes, the economy is bad, but Annie and I are both fortunate to be happily employed.

Let’s get right down to it. Being a parent is one of the greatest things that can happen to a person. I certainly wouldn’t have said that 10 years ago. Back then it would have been to be signed to a major record contract. Now I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. This past year has been fantastic. I’ve tried to keep everyone informed with this blog, but as you faithful readers know, it’s been sporadic at best.

To close out the year we took a much needed vacation to Florida on Christmas to meet up with my mom and dad who drove down from Kentucky. We stayed at my aunt and uncle’s condo near the beaches of St. Augustine. My parents hadn’t seen Frances since our drive to Kentucky in June, and they were fascinated by her growth. FYI, she is now 34 inches tall and 24 lbs! Maybe she will be a basketball player. That would please me greatly.

Frances looks out the window
Frances looks out the window

Anyway… My parents picked us up from the Jacksonville airport. Our flight left from San Francisco, with a layover in Atlanta. Frances was, for the most part, a very good traveler. She was fascinated with looking out the window, and of course, didn’t want to remain still. But we bought her her own seat, and always had me and Annie on each side. The biggest hurdle was getting her to nap. It just wasn’t happening. She fought and fought her sleepiness, but instead of napping when she should have, she decided to pass out 30 minutes before landing. So when we started to descend, wow, the screaming from being woken up began. Yeah, for a few minutes, we were THOSE PARENTS.

"Why can't I sleep!"
"Why can't I sleep!"

You know, the ones with the kid that won’t shut up. Luckily there were a few others on the flight. We were flying on Christmas day, so there were quite a few families.

So needless to say. Frances wasn’t in the best of moods to meet the grandparents. But after a good night’s sleep she was good to go. My parents couldn’t get enough of her. It was kinda funny seeing their reactions too. Frances walks on her tippy toes, but is very nimble and tends to run that way too. My mom would gasp every time she fell or ran into something. We’ve grown accustomed to her falls, and she hardly ever cries. So pretty soon my mom stopped worrying after seeing her continuously bounce back up asking for more.

Sleeping like an angel...
Sleeping like an angel...

The things we saw:

The view from above
The view from above

The first day we decided to take in St. Augustine. We drove to their famous lighthouse and walked to the top. Unfortunately Frances wasn’t allowed, so my parents babysat at the bottom. My mom was still healing from a knee surgery, so she wasn’t going to make the climb anyway. This is the same lighthouse that has been featured on the SyFy show Ghosthunters twice. In fact the whole city seems to promote its ghostly past. I couldn’t tell you how many “haunted” tours they offered about town. We didn’t see any ghosts, but we enjoyed a great view of the city from the top of the lighthouse.

Next up was the Alligator Farm. That was quite the fun, and Frances seem to really enjoy the scenery. I had been to this very one when I was a little older than she is now, and I remember having a blast, so I hope that she can remember it too.

We capped the evening off with a dinner at a local restaurant where my parents are always shocked by the amount of food my wife can eat and still be skinny. It truly is one of the wonders of the modern world.

Look at all the people!
Look at all the people!

The next day was quite the adventure. As many of you know, Annie is a Harry Potter nut. She can recite lines from the books, and knows every character. I too enjoyed them, and as a fan of Stephen King, I liked how each book got denser and darker. So one of the many reasons we decided on going to Florida was to also get a chance to visit Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, Orlando. Apparently this is also what everyone in Western civilization thought too. I’ve been to Disney Land, Disney World, Universal Studios California, but I’ve never seen the mess like what we drove into that day. Perhaps you saw it on the news. You know, the little blurb about record setting attendance in theme parks over Christmas. Yep. That was us. We were the poor schmucks standing in lines like everyone else. Harry Potter world is a part of the theme park, but it reached capacity instantly and we were diverted to another line were you got a ticket to come back later to be let in at a specified time. We thought OK, no worries, let’s do it. We’ll get our ticket and walk around the park to see what else that had. So we stand in line for a ticket to get into HP World… Now keep in mind, we had ALREADY bought tickets and were already INSIDE the Universal Studios theme park.

Hogwarts Express!
Hogwarts Express!

We now wait in a line at 10am for 30 minutes to get a ticket saying come back at 3:30PM! Let me repeat that… 3:30!!! PM!!! So we both said “screw that” and went to see if they just had a stand-by waiting line to get into HP. They did, and of course that line was over an hour long, but since Harry Potter was basically the only reason we came, we decided to wait in line and press our luck. Fortunately the line moved fairly well, and we made it to the land of butter beer and wizardry in under an hour.

Once inside, it was visually stunning, and very cool. But good gracious was it crowded. The line to the rides were over 2 hours long, and to even get into the gift store was almost an hour. We bought ourselves some butter beer, chocolate frogs, and got the hell out. FYI, we didn’t bring Frances. I can’t imagine what kind of hell it would have been if we had. I saw so many looks of misery on children and adults while waiting in line. It really made me wonder why we do the things we do. With that said, though, it was fun seeing all the cool scenery, but count me out of the next trip.

Wow, the ocean!
Wow, the ocean!

The next day was the trip to the beach. It was truly a hilarious time watching Frances. We had taken her to a beach before she could walk or really understand anything, so this was really her first big exposure to the ocean. The day was mild, and the water warm enough. In other words, it was a great time to show her. Initially she was a bit skeptical of the waves and getting wet. But she loves her bath time, so we figured she’d warm up to it. She loved the sand, and my mom got a big kick out of watching her dig it up and put it into a pail. But most of all, it was blast seeing her get in the water. She was all smiles, and I really believe she was fascinated by the ocean. As an adult I see the waves and the gigantic body of water, and I don’t’ think much about it, but seeing Frances really see it for the first time and go “WOW!”, really brings a smile to my face. Now I understand just how much we take for granted as we grow older.

You know I had to wear Kentucky blue in Gator country!
You know I had to wear Kentucky blue in Gator country!

All in all, it was a great trip and I’m glad we went. I don’t get to see my parents enough now that I’m in California. So seeing them anytime makes me extremely happy. I only wish that we could have seen my brother and sister, but we just didn’t want to risk the weather in Kentucky over Christmas.

So that’s it for 2011. 2012 looks to be very promising. Stay tuned for another post coming soon. I promise, you don’t want to miss it.

Cheers!
Eric, Annie, and Frances

Frances trying to figure out if waves are good or bad
Frances trying to figure out if waves are good or bad