Happy Birthday

 

It is my mother’s 82nd birthday next week. Ever since she turned 80, we (my brother, sister and I) have been working extra hard to give her special birthdays. This year, we decided that it would be good fun for all of us to pay her a surprise visit in Florida, where she lives during the winter.

My brother lives in Dallas, my sister in Pennsylvania and I live in Chicago, so the first step was finding a weekend near her birthday that would work. We settled on the week before, as both of them were traveling for work the following weekend and my daughter is coming to Chicago the one after that. OK. Step one was completed⁠—we knew when we were going⁠—Thursday, Oct. 31 to Sunday, Nov. 3.

Move to step 2. Arrange travel. We all hopped on to our favorite travel sites and looked for flights that would all arrive around the same time. One quick round of confirmation texts and we all booked our tickets. My sister and brother were set to arrive at 2:00 and 2:30, my flight is scheduled for 3. My mother lives about 30 minutes from the airport, so all in we figured we get to her at about 4.

Move to step 3. Figure out how to ensure that my mother was at home when we arrived. Time to call in the co-conspirators. I called my Aunt Es and Uncle Albert who live about 20 minutes from my mother. After quickly letting them know that nothing was wrong (seems like anytime anyone calls these days, the first thought is what is wrong), I explained our plan. They were more than happy to help. To quote (or at lease paraphrase) my uncle: “Not to worry, we will tell her (my mother) that we are going to be up there and want to take her to dinner, then we will arrive, have a glass of wine and, you know, stall until you all arrive.”

The plans were set, all we needed to do was wait for the day. My brother and sister had uneventful flights and arrived right on time. However, Chicago weather is never your friend, and once again it did not disappoint. Snow. Yes, snow on Wednesday (just about an inch at the airport) and then then snow again on Halloween. My flight was delayed. Not too much, about 45 minutes, but then I had to check my carry on bag, which would have to be collected at baggage claim, not on the jet bridge. Oh dear, now we are arriving around 5.

My brother and sister texted my aunt and uncle to let them know. Luckily for us, they have concocted a story for my mother that involved waiting for my cousin to arrive. They quite admirably stretched out the stall for another hour while we got my luggage, piled into an Uber and headed to my mother’s condo.

20191102_112119We are planners. My brother, sister and I all thought through the approach as my mother’s living room faces the building entrance way.  We asked our Uber driver to drop us off at the next building and we circled around to entrance at that back of the building.

We snuck up to the door.

Knocked.

My mother yelled come in.

We yelled, “Trick or Treat,” and walked in.

To say she looked confused would be an understatement. We burst into a very very very very off key (and for me out of time) rendition of Happy Birthday.

My mother clutched her chest (a heart attack looked possible!!!!), tears streaming down her cheeks and great big smile on her face. Isn’t my husband the sweetest?!?!?!

ma

After a few minutes of hugs and kisses, everything settled down. We knew my mother was fine when she looked at my aunt and uncle and promptly declared. “You knew this! I will never speak to you again. Now let’s figure out where to have dinner.”

We are spending the weekend doing what we do best together.  Sitting around, eating, talking about our respective families and basking in the glow of a really great surprise.

…and in case you were concerned.  Aunt Es and Uncle Albert were forgiven by the time we got to the Thai restaurant for dinner.

A Long 12 Weeks A Comin’

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We went to Deerfield Beach: 84 degrees, humidity–hair-frizz level high

Today is our last day in warm, sunny Florida. I’m trying not to think about the 12 weeks of Chicago winter I will endure before we head to Costa Rica. We spent a lot of time strolling in the sun. So nice to be outside without four layers of clothing between me and the air. I’m not a lay-on-the-beach person, but I do enjoy being near the ocean.

IMG_20181227_125231846If you have been reading our blog, you will know that we love a good national park hike. We had planned to go to the Everglades National Park, but our moron in chief messed that up. We still could have gone, but there would have been no services and no way to buy our traditional fridge magnet, so I nixed the trip. Next time. Luckily, you don’t need the Everglades to see the alligators. We went to Green Cay Wetlands instead and I was able to satisfy my longing to see the prehistoric creatures. We joked that they were plastic and there for the tourists because we didn’t see a single one move. I know gators are all over Florida (there was one floating in the water right next to my brother Brian’s wedding), but I still like to get out and see them. Being outside in the sun with a lot of water that’s not a lake is a real treat. Green Cay has1.5 miles of boardwalk-type walkways over constructed wetlands and a nature center. If you’re visiting your favorite snow bird, it’s a good place to spend an hour. We also stopped at Wakodahatchee Wetlands, which was only a 5-minute drive away. The boardwalk loop is .75 miles There wasn’t a huge difference at this time of year, but many storks nest there in the spring. Both parks are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and are free. Of course, we also saw turtles, frogs, and snakes.

Now all that’s left is the packing and trip home after one last 5:30 dinner. I’m afraid to check the temperature in Chicago, but I know I will be lucky if it is above freezing when we land.

“Vacation” or Not, Florida Will Be Great

Now that I am down to one week before winter break, I am letting myself focus on Florida.

It’s sad to say that I don’t really consider visiting family “a vacation,” and it’s not because I don’t love family–especially my new, very lovely family. It’s just that we’re not exploring a new place, and I always crave new adventures, so it’s a different kind of travel and nourishes a different aspect of me.

This is comfort travel. There will be sunshine (I assume), a welcoming guest room, and plenty of food in the fridge. (Thanks, Ma!) What’s not to like? One of the best parts of marrying Steven is that his family came with the deal. (Yes, this is the sound of me sucking up. No wonder they all like you better than me!) But really, it’s true, plus it’s nice to have family in a warm place when you

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OK, it doesn’t look like this yet, but it will soon.

live in Chicago. Who wouldn’t want to stroll on the beach and smell the salt air instead of bustling again the cold wind and spreading salt on the ice?

 

So while I don’t think of Florida as a real “vacation,” (boy, am I spoiled!!) even if I get to see alligators in the Everglades or eat Cuban food in Miami, I am very happy to be going. We are also lucky, because we have the luxury of picking our dates of travel since, surprisingly, it is not cheap to get to Florida from here during winter break. When I get to the $500+ airfare mark (I will not fly basic economy–again, spoiled), I just start to think, “I could go to Paris!” We did manage to find only somewhat inflated airfares, so off we will go to fabulous Ft. Lauderdale!

 

 

 

We Have a Plan

This will be us when we visit Steven’s mom.

We got three inches or so of snow on Sunday night/Monday morning and the temps have stayed in the mid-20s. Oh boy, I love Chicago. Despite our best efforts, we just couldn’t figure where to go abroad for winter break. Everything was very expensive and the trips just didn’t grab us and say, “Come here now!” We decided not to force it, so we used our get out of Chicago free-ish card and are going to spend a few days visiting my mother in Florida.

To say she is excited is a mild understatement. Sue texted her to check on availability on Monday afternoon. I received 2 texts, 3 calls, a few telegrams, and a carrier pigeon…all before dinner. Apparently she has cleaned the apartment, changed the bed linens, gone to the grocery store and started cooking. After she calmed down a bit we confirmed our flight times and transport. Whew..

I know what you are thinking: “What about the dog?!”  Hey Mom! Surprise, we are bringing the dog!!! Only kidding. One of friends has quite generously offered to come and dog/house sit. This is the first time we have left the dog with anyone other than Jack, Sue’s son. Let’s hope it works for both our friends and the dog.

Today’s high temperature was 27 degrees. I am counting the days …

Oh yeah. We booked something for spring break, but I will leave Sue to tell you about that on Saturday….stay tuned!