Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
150Trip End May 16, 2008
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I'm going to start with Christmas Eve. We all know I already wrote something for December 25th, Christmas Day, but I had to get my Christmas wishes out at Christmas time and not a week later. Christmas Eve day we took a drive out to Coco Beach. The plan was to lay on the beach. That never happened. It was cloudy and cool. I won't say cold because relatively speaking it wasn't cold for the kids. The locals would have said it was cold, but for someone coming from Canada it was cool. So we get to Coco Beach, park the truck and walk along the pier. The Pier in Coco Beach is privately owned. It's mostly bars and restaurants on the pier though there is some place to walk on and fish off the pier, but if you want to go to the end you have to pay. We didn't. From there we walked through town for a bit then came back to the beach to head back towards the pier where the truck was parked. There were dead, decomposing, stinky fish all along the shore. Definitely not a place to spend the day relaxing. The sun poked it's head out every so often and it was hot. We decided to drive further south and find a beach where there were no dead fish. Also one where we didn't have to pay for parking. We drove for a while and finally found one by Patrick Air Force Base. (Nick figured it would be neat being posted there. Right next to the beach.) We get out of the truck and the girls start coughing. We grab our stuff and head to the beach. It was still quite cool. It didn't look like the sun was going to make much of an appearance. There was also something in the air that was making the girls cough. The kids decide that they're going to forget about their day at the beach.
It's almost lunch time. We stop at iHop for lunch. Then we drive back to the camper and play cards all afternoon. The sun finally poked it's head out for good at about 4 o'clock. The kids fly out the next day at supper time. We had decided to have our Christmas Celebration this night. We have turkey and stuffing and all the trimmings with pumpkin pie for dessert . I had suggested to the kids that we would go out for supper but they insisted we do it at the trailer. Once we're done with supper we opened our presents. Well...it was more like I opened my presents as the kids had gone shopping and had selected their own presents, that plus the whole trip being their present. The kids had also decided they wanted to go to midnight mass and not a Christmas Day mass. The kids hadn't been to a midnight mass since the last time we were in Winnipeg for Christmas. The churches in Calgary we've been to don't do midnight mass for some reason. We have a few hours to kill so we play some more cards. One of the games we had been playing the past few days was Rummy 500. I had won 3 games in a row because for some strange reason I was getting all the right cards at the right time. Well this evening's game wasn't going to be like the other games. It wasn't like I purposely "lost" but I wasn't making much of an effort to win. At the end of the game I had -600 points. Yes..that's right...negative 600. I'm not sure if that's a record but I'm sure it's close.
We went to midnight mass at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St Cloud. About a 30 minute drive away. Getting ready to leave and not needing to bundle up in 10 layers of clothing was sweet. I remember so many Christmases in Winnipeg were it was -40 or colder with the wind chill and the snow blowing. Without a doubt an evening where it would have been preferable to stay in and cuddle up in front of a fire. The Irish Priest was one of the better priests I've heard. His sermon was about the Christmas present he received after one of the earlier evening masses. After mass as he was walking back to the rectory he saw this large box with beautiful Christmas wrapping on his door step. He loves getting gifts. He brings the box inside and excitedly starts unwrapping it. Slowly at first so as to not rip the paper and then giving up on that and tearing it all off. He opens the box and it's filled with packing foam peanuts. He slowly empties the box of these foam peanuts and finds at the bottom of this large box a much smaller, beautifully wrapped box. He opens this box...and....it's empty! He goes through the pile of foam peanuts and back into the big box and finds nothing. He starts wondering what kind of sick person does this on Christmas Eve, or which of his parishioners or friends would play a joke like this. He goes back outside and on the doorstep is an envelope. He takes the envelope and goes inside to read it. All that is written is: "It's what's inside that matters!" He has to think about that for a while. The box is empty. Then he gets it. It's the thoughts and memories that are inside the box. Fill up your big box with memories and then it isn't so empty.
The kids wanted to head back to Disney World on Christmas Day. Alexis wanted to have her picture taken with the various Disney Characters. She had done it before in 2000 when we went to Disneyland. I figured it would be a great day to go. Should be few people there as all the locals will be spending it at home with family. We get to the park at 10 heading towards the Magic Kingdom. There's one slight problem. The roadside sign says that the Magic Kingdom parking lot is full. We detour to the nearest turnoff to go to another part of the park. We see hundreds of cars lined up trying to get into the Magic Kingdom parking lot. We decide that the other theme parks are going to be just as packed. We choose to go to Downtown Disney to see the shops and whatever else is there. We do some shopping at Virgin Music (great sales) and wander through a lot of other stores. Alexis still hadn't purchased gifts for a few of her friends.
That done we head to Denny's for a late lunch, early supper as the kids won't be getting much of a supper on their flight home. Back to the trailer to get the kids stuff and off to the airport. They get checked in with some difficulty. I had checked them in online the night before and indicated how many suitcases they had. We had also printed off their boarding passes. Now, the airline staff had no idea how to print off the luggage tags. With the help of a supervisor they get that done, plus they print off new boarding passes. You try and use technology to speed things up and then you come across people as though you're the first person to do it that way. We check out the security line up and it's not that long and we are early so we go get something to drink and sit down where we can keep an eye on the line-ups.
The kids thank me for the awesome trip. Then the topic turns to the priests sermon at midnight mass. The kids confirm it's not the various toys, electronic items, cloths and other items that they've received over the years that they remember from past Christmases or other times of the year. It's the activities that we've or they've done that are forever burned in their memories. The family trips to Mazatlan and to Disneyland in California. Katrine's Gold Medal curling win at the University Olympics, Nick's Air Cadet summer camps, Alexis' scout camp to Vancouver Island. It's the memories that fill the (not so) empty box that is the most important gift you can give your kids.
...and so I want to steal a page from the Mastercard commercials!
Airfare to Orlando....... $1200
Universal Studios.......... $350
Toll Booths .....................$40
Disney World ................$950
Kennedy Space Center.. $250
Hard Rock Cafe ..............$120
10 days at Christmas with the kids!....PRICELESS!