Florida Articles

The Day I Lost Two Boys to Telemarketers

03.27.13

omni amelia island room view

Today was our first full day at the Plantation at Amelia Island. When we arrived yesterday before even checking into the rooms I rented the boys bicycles. With over 1300 acres and a 20 MPH speed limit I figured I’d let them have free range of the resort (minus any natural bodies of water).

Did I mention that since Jane is in London and Mr G is in New York I let Alexander bring a friend? Well, I did, the Australian Actresses’ boy is with us. That makes two preadolescent boys that I love like crazy.

This morning they were keen to get to the main swimming pool which is about a half mile away from our villa. I wanted to wake up in the shower a bit so I told them they could ride their bikes there and wait for me by the pool, I’d be 20 minutes behind them.

I took my shower and walked along to shore to the main pool and went in search of the boys. They weren’t there. I walked a second lap around the pool, no sight of them. I asked the attendants at the towel shack if they’d seen the boys (two 11 year old boys, one bright red hair… easy to spot, right?). No one could remember seeing them. Great.

I walked around the main building and asked the guys at valet but they hadn’t seen the boys. I left there and walked to the game room, the Xbox has been known to sing a siren’s song. Still no sign of them.

I called the room, thinking maybe they’d returned there looking for me but the phone just rang and rang. This is when I returned to the pool to ask yet another employee if they’d seen my boys. She hadn’t seen them but offered me a cocktail suggesting that I’d be more relaxed looking for them. I walked the resort and called the room a few more times.

To be clear there was no part of me that was worried about them. I knew that they were together and I knew that they’d stay away from the ocean, marshes and the ponds. Nothing else on site represents any danger worth noting.

I explained to the server that I don’t at all mind being the lady who lost her kids but that I absolutely do mind being the boozy lady that loses her kids. The mojito would have to wait until they were located.

I returned to the front of the hotel and asked a valet to call me the tram (there are trams that drive endless loops here so there’s no need for a car), while we were waiting for the tram I explained to him that I was going to hop into my car and look for the boys. The valet radioed security with descriptions of the kids and told them to radio us if they were located and then he started walking around with me to locate them. We skipped the tram and he drove me around to fun places for 11 year old boys. We were both sort of laughing and channeling our inner 11 year olds to imagine what on earth they’d been thinking.

After about 20 minutes of this I suggested he bring me back to the room and I’d hop in my own car to look. I didn’t want him to be gone from the valet stand so long. He assured me that there were two other employees there and he’d be happy to help me so I gratefully sat in the passenger seat and scanned the bike path for two boys on red cruisers.

Rather than checking the room I decided to call the room once again. Still no answer. So I ran up to the room to leave the boys a note, should they check in there. Imagine my surprise when I saw the two of them sprawled out on the sofa watching cartoons.

Why didn’t you wait for me by the pool?

Because we were done swimming.

Did you hear the phone ring?

Yes.

Why didn’t you answer it?

The only people who call landlines are telemarketers.

Arrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh that’s the part of being eleven that I forgot to channel.

 

Review: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

10.24.12

It’s impossible to anyone to give a full review of the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort because I’m pretty sure you’d need a two week stay in order to get through all the amenities on the 1,350 acre resort. In a few short days I was able to eat at a few of the restaurants, take a Segway tour of the property, shop in the village (and enjoy a farmer’s market), play tennis, swim in the ocean, kayak in the marsh, tour downtown Fernandina and have a bonfire on the beach.

Previously I’d posted some highlight pictures but I hadn’t really posted images of the resort itself. You see the reason I was at The Amelia Island Plantation Resort in the first place was for a topping off ceremony. Ask me what Topping Off means… seriously.

There was a really nice group of writers there.. all women actually and one guy. The running joke was that it was like dates from The Bachelor. This is how most of our dinners looked. There’s a second man at the table but he didn’t last long, it was a one man show.

 

And of course there were activities like kayaking, touring the city by Segway or coach and (of course) cocktails.

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Yes, I realize I’m posting very unattractive photos of myself but I don’t even care that I looked like crap for long weekend because the water was so delightfully warm that I couldn’t stay out of the ocean. Each afternoon at about 4pm we’d have an hour or more of free time. You can see that the women I traveled with took advantage of this time to get themselves looking great for dinner. I think some of them may have worked on their stories too. I ran to my room, stripped down as fast as humanly possible, put on a swimsuit and ran into the water each and every afternoon.

I love my Los Angeles beaches but they aren’t warm. It’s a treat to be in a warm salty ocean and I just couldn’t stay out. Every afternoon I thought to myself, “I wish the kids were here I’d be playing with them right now.” If you aren’t a competent swimmer you need to know that there are no lifeguards at the beaches. This also means that if you’re bringing your kids to the beach you need to actually watch them. I know we’re supposed to do that anyhow but I can’t say that I don’t depend on a second set of eyes most of the summer.

The resort is luxe beachy. It’s not uptight and overly fussy but it’s also not beach bum time and you can expect to see guests well behaved and well turned out (except me… oh dear). Southern hospitality abounds and everyone smiles greets you kindly. There are a lot of yes ma’ams and I don’t think I heard no a single time. Vacations without no’s are the best vacations of all.

My guestroom had an ocean view and it was fun to watch the sun rise over the ocean and then to head over to the golf course and watch it set over the marshes. The room was comfortable and clean (no need to ask for a second room here) but it was dated and worn. The resort is actually closing in a few weeks and will reopen in March of 2013 with a new building that is absolutely stunning. A pool that left April and me stuttering because it is so amazing and a massive conference center (our new goal is to get BlogHer to use it for a conference).

Here’s a snapshot of one of the new guestrooms.

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This is a rendering of the pools. There’s a splash area for little kids the long middle pool is for everyone and the squared off pool closest to the hotel lobby is adult only. With hundreds of beach chairs and just one ocean they wisely decided to create the pool deck on many levels providing a sort of stadium seating so you can see the ocean from every spot.

amelia island pool rendering

There are also villas that are one two and three bedrooms with kitchens. This is a fabulous family option as eating breakfast out isn’t my favorite. I much prefer to eat in the room and not have to get dressed and ready just to have a couple of eggs. Also with little kids they’re hungry all the time and having a place where they can easily snack is key.

Even though the trip was short we did a lot and I’m going to have to give y’all a second post where I share all the great food and drink from the Amelia Island Plantation Resort.

See all the pictures here:

A Bit About the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

10.16.12

I’m busy editing about an hours worth of video I took on my recent trip to the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Florida. There should be about two quality minutes of tape for me to share with y’all which will (hopefully) include a turtle marching across the beach, a turtle ziplining with a magnum of champagne in his hand (really!), me and another Jessica figuring out what Topping Off means and a bunch of writers racing each other on Segways.

While I’m busy editing and preparing a proper post I’ll give you a little photojournal of the trip.

This is an afternoon view from my room. From every room really.

As a California girl it's strange and beautiful to see the sun rise over the ocean

If you don’t love waking up early there’s a consolation with a beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean

The breakfast buffet features a gluten free grains selection

The breakfast buffet features a gluten free grains selection. They’re very sensitive to the high maintenance traveler (me)

We also had a breakfast over the marsh, which is beautiful

We also had a breakfast over the marsh, which is beautiful

The boathouse reminded me of a horror flick when I applied a filter...

The boathouse reminded me of a horror flick when I applied a filter…

Kayaking was fun. Yes, I kayak in a dress

Kayaking was fun. Yes, I kayak in a dress

Cliff Drysdale helped me with my groundstrokes

Cliff Drysdale helped me with my groundstrokes

It took me a while to get the hang of the Segway everyone else was much better

It took me a while to get the hang of the Segway everyone else was much better

Smoked duck salad from 29 South Eats

Every afternoon there was a treat for us in the room. Fresh peaches and cream were appropriate since we were a stone’s throw from the Georgia border

Notice anything funny about this hardhat?

Dinner at Racquet Park took my breath away

Dinner at Racquet Park took my breath away

The table looked magical as the sun set

The table looked magical as the sun set

All of the food was local and regional with a sophisticated flair

After sunset I felt like I was living in a movie. A good movie

After sunset I felt like I was living in a movie. A good movie

Dinner at the Marsh View Bar and Grill. Their new deck is bigger than most houses

What's a beach vacation without a firepit and s'mores?

What’s a beach vacation without a firepit and s’mores?

If your flight is early in the morning they'll send you off with a breakfast box

Omni will pack you a breakfast if you have to go to the airport in the (horrible) pre-dawn hours.

Disneyland, Universal Studios Florida and California, and Legoland VIP Tours

02.8.11

In the past eighteen months I’ve accompanied my children on VIP tours of four theme parks. Disneyland in Anaheim, Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Hollywood, and Legoland in San Diego. If you can swing it I highly recommend a VIP tour at any amusement park you go to. It is quite often more than double the price of admission, but the experience is more than four times as pleasant. You can see a park, sometimes two, in a day, and the likelihood of your child (or of you) melting down is significantly reduced. If you’re in the habit of taking a trip to a theme park every year I’d even suggest cutting the visits down to once every two years and making them VIP trips instead of the traditional trip.
Disneyland:
Surprisingly this was the least impressive of all VIP tours. We were a large group of 30 with three guides between us, so there is clearly more risk. The morning was lovely, the kids were able to get in a half dozen rides before lunch, and then we had lunch at Goofy’s Kitchen. The food here is absolutely revolting. It’s a sugary fatty buffet where everything is overcooked and oversalted. The service was excellent, but the salad bar was an afterthought. I hear that the mac and cheese was good as was the mac and cheese pizza… which to me is a delicacy that should only exist in a college dorm after a night of binge drinking. I do love that there are stands with fresh fruit all around the park, I picked up a few bananas for some quick energy, and bless Disneyland for keeping the water fountains peppering the park so you don’t have to walk around with water bottles.

Our guides were good until one of them got tired, and there was some eye rolling at our children. Sadly this coincided with a horrendous bartender at California Adventure who refused to provide us with proper wine glasses (as opposed to plastic) because the people in the dining room were the priority. This was said in between loud sighs. Explaining to her that we’d just purchased four bottles of wine at $60 a piece as well as a dozen appetizers did little to appease her. An apologetic and embarrassed server brought us water glasses that had been hanging in the rack right over the bartender’s head, and assured us that she would explain the situation to the manager.

It was all very good, and certainly much better than Disneyland would have been without the VIP experience, but still it was Disneyland and they could learn a thing or two from the folks at Legoland and Universal.

Universal Studios Orlando: I’ve documented my experience with Universal Orlando here. I was lucky enough to take my kids there on a press tour, and to date I’ve never seen anything so impressive. I recognize that we (as press) were likely given the best two guides in the park, and treated to the best food that a theme park can offer. It is with that information that I offer you a highly skewed rave review of Universal Orlando (though I do include pictures of our guides so you can have the same fabulous experience).

Universal Studios Hollywood: ($249 per person) The kids loved Universal Orlando so much that we ended up having a similar day at Universal California. The tour was worth every penny, the guide was attentive, efficient, and like our guides at the Orlando location she had a plan that would take us through the park in a way that wouldn’t exhaust everyone and would also give the kids (and I) the theme park experience (the good part of the experience).

Universal Studios is a little more adult than the other parks, so as evening approaches it’s still family friendly, but you’ll get the boozy twenty somethings. In the last few years they’ve done a good job of cleaning up the City Walk at night, but there’s still a skeeze factor at night that persists.

Legoland: This was another large party. Fifteen or so boys and their mothers, three guides and a very difficult day. It was raining so the guides had to maneuver us through the park in a way that made sense in the rain. Legoland was just incredible, the guides were polite and attentive, they gently suggested different areas when the rain would start, and then as sunlight peeked through they’d whip us in another direction and bring the boys to a place where they could ride something.

Even in the most uncomfortable moments, freezing winds (okay it felt freezing to this So Cal native), grey skies, rain, whiny kids, the guides at Legoland never stopped smiling, never stopped helping and they always had another plan. It’s not a great place to go on a rainy day unless you’ve got someone to help you through it and fourteen of your closest friends (the kids had a BLAST). Also, the food there was not nearly as impressive as the food at Universal Orlando (no one’s has been) but it was possible to cobble together a healthy meal.

I’m Not A Good Traveler, but I Play One on the Interwebz

09.1.10

Orlando was a blast. It wasn’t a little bit fun, it was two and a half days of having every second planned. We had theme parks, restaurants, a luau, The Blue Man Group and a movie in the pool (that was impromptu). The kids were tired, I’m not sure that they’ve ever had that level of activity before. A VIP Universal Tour isn’t the vacation I ever would have planned, but it’s the vacation I should have planned. I’ll post about that another day.

I have to say we lucked out. There were a half a dozen families, and a half a dozen terrific kids. Two days can be a very long time if you aren’t in good company, and all the kids were just fabulous. I realize I’m being vague. I’m tired. I’ll have to write a long post about our days, because y’all really won’t believe all we did in just two days.

Last night, after two solid days of running around Universal I got to meet a group of bloggers I’ve been wanting to meet. It was about four years ago that I started to follow Mike online. Mike led me to Steven and then to Keith, and before I knew it I was eavesdropping on the funniest guys online. And some of the kindest too.

When my life was falling apart I would get almost daily emails from Mike. There was so much safety for me when I would get those emails. As I was saying goodbye to my dearest friend Steven I was having a hard time managing my day to day existence. My girlfriends and my neighbors would say, “hi, how are you?” and they didn’t really mean how are you. They just meant “hi”. I’d start to weep, or worse, grit my teeth.

Having friends at a distance can be extraordinarily helpful when you’ve run out of nice. Mike will never know the real impact of his words.

Last night I got to meet Mike, Steven and Keith, and they did not disappoint. It was absolutely magical to meet someone that you feel like you already know, only to find out that all your instincts are absolutely correct. Warm, funny, irreverent… They brought along Manny and Mark, who are also absolutely hysterical. I’m pretty sure I’d abandon all my housework if I lived near these men. Everyone knows that a housewife without her gays is a pot without a lid.

My friends the DeVores came and joined us. I’d never met Tessa before, but I’d met David through Jeff Pulver, and everyone knows David Junior. Being able to introduce two sets of friends is a great joy, and I was pleased that everyone laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.

From nine to 11 pm the eight of us nursed cocktails while the kids watched The Karate Kid in the pool of the Hard Rock Hotel. It was a wonderful night. Saying goodbye was difficult.

Except for the fact that the kids and I had to get up at 3.30 in the morning to catch a 6am flight. You see, last week I got an email asking if I could do a cameo on Funny Or Die. They wanted to know if I was available on September 1. I swear to all that is holy, had I been scheduled for open heart surgery, I’d have postponed it.It’s Funny or Die. It’s WHY the Internet was invented (shut up, not everyone thinks the net was invented for porn).

So we hopped on the 6am flight, the kids were, once again, terrific, and I dropped them off at home, took a quick shower, and ran to be on set by eleven. I had my hair and makeup done, and then I sat in the video tent to watch the actresses do their thing.

As I’d been chomping at the bit to have my cameo I’d forgotten one important thing. This isn’t Momversation, the news, or Dr. Phil, this is acting, and they expected an actress. Once again, I hadn’t really thought things through.

Just after lunch they got to my scene, and with about 800 pounds of makeup on I did what they asked me to. And I realized that it was difficult. i think we had seven takes on the one shot, and two or three on the closeups, and the worst part of it was how nice everyone was.

I know, that sounds weird. But I’d spent an hour watching two very good actresses turn a script into a great scene with tons of energy, and I just felt weird. There were like twenty people watching us, and they kept telling me that I was doing a great job, but it didn’t feel great. I just felt nervous and out of my element, but  it was fun, and then I was nervous again.

And ohmygoodness I’m not an actress, but I’d totally do it again just to have my hair and makeup done. Oh, and to have those guys from Funny Or Die tell me I’m great. I have to say, that in the normal course of my days I’d have to wait weeks to hear that I was “doing great”, but on set with them I only waited about twenty seconds. I don’t even care if they were telling the truth. It felt good.

I was finished with Funny or Die by three, and I came home, washed my face and fell into bed for a two hour nap.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll spend most of the day tomorrow moving very slowly, and perhaps napping again. In reality I’m not a great traveler, but we’ve been just about everywhere this week.

I shot a quick video with my FOD hair and makeup done. I couldn’t quite let it go to waste.

The Day I Took My Kids And My JewFro to Orlando

08.29.10

Dessert offerings at The KitchenLast week we were supposed to be in Mexico. Unfortunately I have been starting treatments for my RA, and I absolutely could not be further than a car ride away from my specialists. We did a modified getaway and had a superb time. I got started on Prednisone, and I’ll need several posts to explain just how unpleasant (and sometimes scary) that drug felt.  It was nice to be able to move my hand (for a change), but the trade-off was jitters, nausea and insomnia. It was a difficult week for me.

Sunday morning the kids and I left for Orlando. The folks at Universal invited us here to check out the theme parks and hotels. Well, to be perfectly frank, they invited me and one kid here, so I did the tacky thing and asked if I could bring two. It’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice, but…

Jane, Alexander and I were on an 8 am flight from Los Angeles to Orlando. Once again I found myself on United, and once again I found myself absolutely delighted. Since our tickets were booked last minute all three of us had middle seats, and we were scattered all over the airplane. When I got to the gate I showed our tickets to the gate agent and explained that Jane is 11, but Alexander is just nine, and I’d really like to have them together. I could sit nearby, and I really wanted to be with my kids, but if she could only get two seats together I’d be very grateful.

And then the plane started boarding. They called first class, then section one, and as they were finishing section two the gate agent paged me.

She had three seats for us, all together. The kids gave her a chorus of “thank you’s” and when we boarded I realized she’d put us into Economy Plus. I wanted to run out of the plane and hug her, but I’m pretty sure she *might* not have appreciated it. So Ms. Gate Agent in Los Angeles, you know who you are, the blonde at the 8am flight, I owe you a hug, and the kids do too.

Unlike my flight earlier this month, I didn’t meet the captain, but they did give away a bunch of 10% off coupons for folks who listened in on the air traffic control channel. I love how United treats me as a passenger. Really, I do.

So we got through the five hour flight and my son literally hopped and jumped through the airport. It was like he had little springs on his feet. The flight was, quite simply, too long for his little body. We took the long way around the airport, and finally found our driver. Poor Alexander had to sit down and buckle up again. I felt like I was punishing him.

Our driver pulled out of the airport and began the twenty minute drive to the airport. He asked us if we’d ever been to Florida before, “nope, it sure is lush though”. And made some other small talk. Then he asked me when my return flight was, and I didn’t really have an answer for him. I hemmed and hawed, and as we drove through an elevated highway transition he pulled out his cellphone and started scanning the calendar.

My heart stopped. My children. Me!

I asked him if he could check all of that when we got to the hotel, and he was nice enough, but I was not recovering quite so quickly. I don’t know if Florida has texting and driving laws, but I know that California does. Since the loss of Dr. Frank Ryan I think we’re all on a heightened awareness.

So we arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel, and I swear it’s like we’re the Hatfields showing up. Jane and Alexander and strolling through the lobby Oh my gawding, and I’m dragging my luggage along, refusing help from the bellman, just because I’m really not in the mood for small talk.

As I check in and I’m trying to explain to the clerk that I’m not a bitch, I’m just bitchy because of the car ride. She gets sweeter and sweeter, and my stress melts away. Alexander then joins us, as she’s giving us our room keys (room keys that incidentally allow you to jump the line at the theme parks) Alexander looks at me and says, “Mom I don’t think Florida makes your hair look very good. It’s all frizzy in the front and it’s lumpy here and here and here.” And the little stinker walks around me patting the poofy parts of my hair, which is all of it.

Inside my head I’m screeching: Listen kid. I know I’m due for a Keratin Treatment, but we’re in Florida, no one knows us, and I’m rockin the JewFro*. Leave me alone.

I feel the bitchiness return, and I do not want to take it out on the clerk so I take my darling (but honest) children to our room.

The room is nice. It’s clean and fresh. It’s a standard room which is not how I typically travel with children (I’m a connecting room or a suite kind of mom), but we’re happy to see the room, and the kids are even happier to see goodie bags. There were plush toys, visors and Harry Potter things. I say things, because in reality I have no clue what they are.

And for me, there is a goodie bag, but also a mammoth fruit plate and bottles of water.

I am home.

We settle into the room and unpack (this is quick it’s a short trip) and I go into the bathroom to pee. Then I have to try to not cry. I’ve just finished a few weeks of antiinflammatories, steroids and antacids and my body really doesn’t even feel all that great, and peeing is the most exquisitely painful act. I am alone with two kids and I am brewing a urinary tract infection.Sucktastic.

Fortunately I have a good doctor. I was able to locate a 24 pharmacy (Walgreens around here closes at 6 on a Sunday) and my Doctor called in some pain relief as well as an antibiotic. We met up with the rest of the group, The Simpsons, Scooby Doo, and Woody the Woodpecker, and us Moms (and Aunts) realized that seven is the perfect age to meet characters. One of the kids was such a joy to watch interacting with the characters that I’m unable to wipe a grin from my face in the retelling of it. We then had an amazing dinner at The Kitchen, and after dinner the kids and I hopped into a taxi and got the goods.

Does anyone ever take a vacation without needing a prescription? You’ll be happy to know that I peed without crying, pyridium is very effective that way.

So I’m trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour (failed already) so that we can check out the theme park tomorrow.

Thus far we have a few things to report:

  • the kids love me best
  • the kids realize I have bad hair and would like me to fix it
  • the kids are aware that this might be a three day sugar binge if they don’t sit next to me at all times
  • The Hard Rock Hotel is less Rock and more Family than I’d have imagined.

If you know the difference between a Methodist, Lutheran and a Protestant Church I advise you to NOT use the term JewFro as you will be seen as anti-semetic. Catholics typically are able to get away with it for a time, as they share our passion for guilt, fattening food, wine, incense and candles. They also tend to have unruly hair, unlike the Protestants who taunt us with their blonde bobs.