Island Tidings: pictures and prose about our recent adventures on and off our tiny island
I could not have allowed my Icelandic-skinned little lady to go out into Florida’s sharp sun without her beloved bonnet. I wish I made it, wish I could take all the credit for the color choice, brilliance in design and exceptional form and functionality. Alas, a talented mama-to-be Bella Sol Bebe is bonnet master. I’m so excited to have Bella Sol Bebe back.
I love the adjustable yet never-unsnap-when-you-least-expect-it metal snaps. The reversible nature of the bonnet allows it to match any and all cute outfits Olive wears, all picked out by her older sisters of, course. She’s worn her bonnet in and out the salt water more times than I can count, and it’s shielded her from the Northwest’s cold wind and rain without a snafu. Best part? Baby girl loves it. So, bonnet maker extraordinaire, 34 weeks pregnant, is offering readers an awesome deal.
Bella Sol Bebe has invited Baby by the Sea readers to receive free shipping on any order placed now through May 15th. Enter babybythesea at checkout. I have three girls, but Bella Sol Bebe’s manly boy bonnets/baseball caps are great. So. Darn. Cute. Also, check out her sale in her Etsy shop.
For this giveaway, Bella Sol Bebe is generously offering the following to ONE winner:
~a bonnet of your choice, just in time for sunshine!
To enter, please leave a comment in this post (one entry per person, please). Comments will close on Sunday, May 8 PST at 3pm. Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced here in this post.
If you’re going to take a car, a ferry, a car, a shuttle, two planes, then a car to get somewhere south, it’s a whole lot better with good, island friends. The three oldest babes had wheelie luggage which invited ring-around-the-terminal games, giggles and inquiries from strangers on where to buy a Trunki. Our running joke was that the new logo of the Trunki should be a double edge sword. So much for for terminal rides and imaginative airport play; so much bumping into and rerouting of other travelers, so much turmoil over whose turn it was to pull and be pulled upon the Trunki. It was a long day.
Funny: two minutes before this picture was taken, the scene looked similar. A stranger came up and asked if we needed help. Maybe it was the shrieks, giggles and overtired peaks and valleys emanating from our small , terminal corner but, really.
After a night in a hotel and a day in the air, we were in weather fifty degrees warmer, bluer, thicker. We slathered ourselves in SPF near 100 to lie in weather of a similar level. Olive enjoyed her baby pool, the baby geckos running along lanai’s screen.
Lanai [n] a veranda or roofed-patio, often furnished and screened in.
I’m a big fan of an outdoor living room one can happily use all year long (unless, of course, there’s a hurricane). Within the screen, I wasn’t at all scared of the nearby pond’s alligators, resident armadillos, neighborhood snakes, and who-knows-what-else Florida wildlife.
There was a moment on a drive to the grocery store when I was stopped for road construction. A flagger on 100 degree asphalt kept cars backed up for miles while a utility crew pulled underground cable. As a lineman’s wife, I watched the power crew pretty close at roadside and wondered what strange creature hid in the drainpipes, thick brush, tree limbs. I wondered how the crew worked outside such heat, such humidity. Just then, three gnarly wild boars charged the power crew and they leaped atop the truck, out of breath, laughing.
Barely south for twenty hours and my babes missed their dad. Once summer long ago, their blonde hairs all turned too-much-chlorine green. Terrified of tainted locks, they beg for bathing caps, swimmer’s goggles. So we gathered up our protective gear and headed for the pool water, tranquil at 84 degrees.
Most days, we went to the beach. The Gulf’s water was 78 degrees, bathtub tranquil with a gentle swell, perfect for peaceful body surfs and giggly floats. The easy part was being at the beach – simply lounging. The packing, unpacking, sunscreen lathering on Icelandic skin, de-sanding and of course, the dreaded let’s go end to play, start of pack-up was the tough part. The girls created elaborate sand cities with shell roadways; the girls acted out fancy mermaid plays, debating why they should come ashore and leave their sea friends behind. I felt lucky to watch, to witness such conversation south of home. The ease and flow of a warm beach day made me miss their daddy, too.
I was hypnotized by the Gulf of Mexico. I sat on Florida’s west side with youngest babe by my side and understood Pacific Northwest’s vitamin D’s deficiency. The 91 degree air felt thick, nurturing. I’m pretty sure I smiled a bit more, toes in turquoise surf ~ all the while beside my youngest girl, gitty with her baby toes stuck in white, shell-y sand. In front we’d stare at Mexico behind the horizon.
[Lucy] The sandcastle work is my favorite. I really like learning here. This is important learning, just like school.
At the beach, the ladies ran a tight ship. Betty was the digger, while Lucy was the water runner. I wish I’d counted her beach bucket ocean fetches. Their consistent choreography kept me smiling as each feel into a comfortable groove. Olive kept the peace and was over-the-moon when allowed to destroy castles, explore sand toys, eat shells unnoticed.
Folklore has it that the hidden treasure was never found. Betty spent hours looking, while Olive enjoyed climbing to the sandy depths to see what the bottom had in store for her.
Olive began walking in Florida. South’s first few days gave way to scratched and rough knees from Olive crawling on tile’s gout, Florida’s rough grass, pool’s scratchy perimeter. I stopped at a Goodwill and made a fabulous $3 purchase. Olive loved it; it gave her the stability she was searching for. She’d been hesitant about hand holding, plainly putting forth an I’ll do it myself attitude. She was so happy to be *up* unless she saw something we don’t see much in our grey part of the north: her shadow.
My parents had a meeting one night, so I took my three ladies out to a fancy, waterfront dinner. There are times when I arrive places with three children when others (obviously without children at their sides) look frightened, bothered, interrupted. I get it. I’m the young parent eating in a retirement community. They expected screeches throughout their sunset meals without tantrums throughout their tropical super tales. Seems like the waitstaff was eager to please, and promptly came to all and every need.
Patrons and waitstaff were shocked, pleased. My three loved the special treatment, the coloring on the table, the extra lemons to suck on, the sliced carrots smothered in butter. With a gluten allergy, my oldest misses out on the basket of bread that signifies a restaurant trip to most babes. So, as my others smothered their baguette slices in butter, Betty pleasantly asked the waiter for an alternative, carrots, maybe and eagerly practiced butter knife’s skill.
I asked for a cappuccino, figured a triple frothy caffeine love however far from Seattle would taste great in a fancy place. It came in a plastic Coca-Cola cup. Really, Florida?
Betty talked about becoming a photographer, took a turn behind the lens and really seemed to capture the personalities of her sisters. Who knows, maybe she’s the next Sally Mann. I know Betty prefers black and white; it’s her childhood innocence of wonder that questions how the color evaporates, leaving shadows. I just love how she captured Olive’s constant teething drool-dribble and year-and-a-half wispy mullet.
And her directions behind the camera seem to center middle sister Lucy, who’s mostly always responsive to big sister’s cues.
Over Gulf shrimp, grilled grouper and freshly squeezed lemonade, I listened as the girls told tales of cockroaches, mermaids and fairy princesses. Seriously, kid art melts my heart like nothing else.
My mom has Lupus and its familiar sensitivity to sun. It’s hard watching her navigate through the painful rays of Florida’s sunshine all to witness her northwest grandaughters’ sunny smiles, beach side. Olive kept her company beneath the SPF umbrellas, snacking and giggling while leaning back in lounge chairs. Her one arm perched in contentment seems to say it all. Right?
Vacation always rocks when friends travel with you.
I’m still smirking at the similarities of the other island Jen who shared my last due date, my name, my eldest’s birthday and, a parent’s zip code. Lucy was ecstatic to share her extra set of orange floaties under a tropical sky, within a tropical 80 degree ocean with her preschool buddy. It should be a rule that little preschool girls wear pigtails. Adorable.
Their giggles say it all.
I could watch my girls play with one another all day, especially if it’s on a white, sandy beach. I love how Betty plays the way Olive plays, authentically finding joy in wave’s break, surf’s splash. I love how big sister and little sister Lucy is confident to continue her sandcastle building, checking in on splash’s giggles as she works thoughtfully solo.
So much difference in these girls, but how I love them equally so.
I had a problem at the beach, in the sun. I was scared of sunburn, wrinkles. While my brother-in-law-dermatologist’s skin care spiel danced in my head, sweat-sunscreen stung my eyeballs from constant reapplication. This eyeball affliction is so obvious in my pictures, as my manual settings create a washed out color palate. Luckily, the baby-buddies are so darn cute it’s hardly noticeable. Olive and her due-date buddy will love this picture at their high school graduation slide show. And, how cute is Betty and Lucy’s robot dance in the background?!
Beetle Jen the Beetle Cat holds a special place in my heart. Each daughter has posed for the photo of my father’s dreams: little lady at the tiller in the Florida driveway. Olive looks like a natural with her eyes on the horizon, super-cute under the sails of my childhood.
Olive totally cracks me up. And in this picture [where my sunscreen in the eye got the best of me] I asked her to look spiffy and this is what she gave. Love her.
My girls have all been great with accessories and Olive is no exception. She picked out these shades and wears them proudly. I’ll always love this picture: she’s found her tongue and uses it for concentration; she’s growing some great year-and-a-half fine, blonde mullet baby hair.
And in this picture below, she’s found her tongue but in an entirely different way. She was singing babble, almost as if to practice a Spanish R sound. Hilarious.
Sometimes as I watch my girls play, wrapped in giggles, sunsets and a far away creative land, I wish I could freeze time and remember, always, how if felt to stand beside such joy, such simplicity.
Towards vacation’s end, we found one of the most interesting places in SW Florida: a water park at water’s edge. Totally free, totally fun. As big sisters had a blast, Olive walked out into the wet and instantly fell apart, hysterically sad. Lucy immediately noticed, and ran, bottom lip empathetically upturned, and hugged her little sister. So sweet, these moments of sibling love and care.
There are places of vacation’s travel that sum up weather, relaxation and new experience. This AstroTurf 95 degree playground with a strange, climbable monkey bar arch. My girls wanted to know how the trees knew to grow in such a way to leave enough space for a playground, water play fountain. Looks like landscaping isn’t a word in their repertoire.
[me] Pose, please.
[Lucy] Peek, a-boo:
I thought this picture was beautiful because my husband is a lineman. I’m trained to look at segments of line, some sagging, some transmission, some beside things I’ve learned to call transformers. I had no idea water and high line is a bad idea, a safety issue. Something about conduction, something about safety standards. Still, even after his giggle over infractions, I still look at this and see our girl, deep in joy, deep in play beside ocean, palm tree and hot, tropical sun.
I love how my mom keeps the important things of my childhood. Visiting, I got to share my large Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls made for me by my mom’s mom. They were perfect nighttime buddies for my ladies who missed cuddling Daddy. In a high bookshelf, I found my tattered, red copy of Raggedy Ann, a hand-me-down book with a 1961 copyright date and the beginning marks of my name, largely scribbled J E N N I F E R across the title page. It’s something like THIS book. Chapter after chapter, night after night the girls were mesmerized with the story at both similar ages and in similar ways to my own childhood.
Olive, although she loved the embroidered hearts of Ann and Andy, she fell head over heels for a doll I got in the Bahamas some thirty years ago. I couldn’t believe the condition and brilliance of the handmade doll from an island of long ago. I had a hard time getting it from Olive’s loving hands, who tenderly ripped an arm off during hours and hours of carrying during her week’s first steps. I’m inspired to make some rag dolls, fancy and unique like this beauty. I’m inspired to fix this doll and keep her forever.
At the end of my southern, tropical escape Luke joined us. I felt strange about posting on the blog — Hey, we’re all in Florida. It seemed like this open invitation to say, Hey, our home is vacant. There, I admitted it. I’m a bit paranoid.
Luke and I had the most amazing day-night-day away from our children. It was like a dream, the first time away from our babes in seven years without a babe with us, by side or in belly. I better go edit that piece about an island getaway. And another about an awesome party. And another. Lots written lately, waiting in the posting wings.
MacBook Pro arrives tomorrow, I think. Sad to lose my desktop buddy of seven years, happy to have an awesome friend who loaned me one to get me through to my dream delivery.