Beach life so far has been wonderful. We’ve had a lot of great memories already. The key reason why we are writing our blog is to document this time with our kids. We want them to read it someday (and hopefully) spark their memories. This entry captures our first month in (Kelly’s) paradise.
When we finally made it to Fort Myers Beach it was surreal. Likely because we were delirious from being on the road for 5 days, but when we first walked into the condo and saw the view of the Gulf from the balcony we danced a jig. We felt a great sense of accomplishment mixed in with a bit of “what the hell did we just do” panic!
We quickly unpacked and began our new lives on the beach. The first couple of days we hung out with our friends Helen and Mark (our new awesome landlords). Lots of catching up, grilling and downing the very necessary margaritas.
Kids would demand pool time each morning, snubbing the beach. We’ve discovered our kids are part fish! Within a couple days Zoe swam the full length of the pool. Alex simply amazed us though. He took a few swim lessons before we moved, but within 4 days of us working with him he was swimming half way across the pool. We were so excited to be able to actually teach him something!
We celebrated Mother’s Day with breakfast at Skye’s Restaurant across the road. It was that same day that Helen and Mark headed back north to Chicago. We are so grateful to them for letting us make their new beachfront condo our home to start our adventure. We also felt sorry for them as they were leaving for much less favorable weather conditions!
Helen and Mark’s departure marked the day that we’d be alone as a family and settled. It felt good. It felt relaxing. It felt right.
Our First Guests
After a few days alone as a family, my brother Dustin and his girlfriend Lara arrived. A day later my mom, Debbie (aka Grammy) joined the fun. It was our 2nd annual beach vacation together. But his time we wouldn’t have to head back to Chicago (and work!) after Memorial Day weekend.
We enjoyed being in complete vacation-mode. Mornings were spent at the beach (usually listening to Zoe whining to go to the pool), afternoons actually in the pool and followed up by grilling for dinner. The weather was perfect; the drinks were cold; the food delicious. The company wasn’t too bad either.
One of the nights we went out for dinner and drinks with Lara’s brother Paul and his family. Conveniently they live in Naples (about 30 minutes south). We went to Matanzas on the Bay. The live band, good food and bay views made for a “chill-axing” (a Zoe word) night. We even saw some dolphins during dinner.
Lara’s family was so much fun that we decided to have everyone over for dinner the next night. I cooked up some sliders made with chorizo (thanks McMorrow’s for the recipe), Paul and fam brought the sides and dessert. Grammy brought balloons and glow sticks that made for a fun project and lots of laughs.
This was also the day of the jet ski ride! I had a blast taking Zoe out for her first ride (while Kelly practiced mediation on the beach to calm her nerves!). Zo Zo loved making circles in the water and going fast.
My mom stayed for a few extra days so we drove across the bridge to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. As Kelly said, “Holy shells Batman!” We had no idea the entire beach would be made up of mounds and mounds of shells. We came; We saw; We shelled like hell and even made a stop by “She Sells Sea Shells” shop to get a couple of extra special shells for the kids and a plastic toy shark, aka “Sharkie” for Alex.
The First Roadtrip
Our first road trip was to visit our friends Chad and Bree from back in Chicago-land as they vacationed in Stuart, Florida with their family. Their daughter, Riley, and Zoe have been friends since they were just a few months old. And their other daughter Addie is good buddies with Alex.
When we arrived early afternoon it was straight to the backyard pool and we cracked some beers. The kids swam until dinnertime and we headed out to Conchy Joe’s restaurant. It was a perfect night with a nice breeze, good food, and even better beers. The kids fed catfish and two small kitties some bread from the balcony.
I got up at 5 AM to head out fishing with Chad and his cousin Tim. Turns out I was not prepared for what was ahead. These guys were serious fisherman. We headed out in Chad’s dad’s fishing boat, grabbed some live bait that were the size of fish I’d expect to catch in the lakes of Wisconsin, and after 30 minutes of heading straight out into the Atlantic ocean, they cast out 4 different fishing lines and continued to drive the boat at about 10 mph looking for fish bigger than my 3 year old.
Did I mention that I easily get motion sickness? Now, the water wasn’t that rough, but it doesn’t take much with me, so yep – got seasick out there. Unfortunately that didn’t help our chances and we came home without any fish that day. Amusing side-story is that while I was yacking off the side of the boat, my poor wife was in rough shape from too many IPA’s the night before back with the kids – the Opheims were down for the count!
Aside from the seasick part, I had an amazing time out on the water. Watching the
sunrise over the Atlantic was just as beautiful as the sunsets I’ve seen on the Gulf. Being out on the open water, learning about big time fishing, and seeing 7 sea turtles that were so big you’d think they were fake made the seasick part all worth while.
The next day we took the kids to a water park. Zoe was brave and went down the BIG slide. She was so cautious at first the lifeguard had to tell her to use her hands to get going again. She went much faster the next few times. Alex loved the big bucket that dumps a ton of water or as he calls it – “the woosh!”
We said our goodbyes not knowing the next time we’d see our friends. It was a reminder that our adventure does have some downsides, but we know we can always make plans for another get together… hopefully soon.
Of course the whole idea of Project Pink Day is going to be unforgettable, but there have been some moments that stick out so far.
The first one is Zoe losing her first tooth. It started to get wiggly about a week before we got to Ft Myers Beach so it didn’t take long to pop out! She was really brave as I wiggled it free. I was so proud of how she handled it. The tooth fairy brought $5 (a few bucks extra than the going rate of $1 for the occasion).
Another great memory was seeing 4 pelicans at the pier downtown Ft Myers Beach (aka Times Square). They were in the water at first just floating like we’ve seen them any other day. But then, they started getting active and diving for fish. They kept diving and gobbling up fish. Pelicans are officially Alex’s favorite now.
The next couple of memories happened in 2 consecutive days. The first was at the Naples Zoo. It is a fantastic, little zoo where you can get closer to the animals than any other zoo I’ve been to. Funny part was seeing the honey badger – ‘cuz you know it just don’t care.
The unforgettable part was when we said goodbye to the tigers. Alex’s favorite animal is a tiger and he had to see them one more time. We are sure glad he asked as we saw these two, male, brother tigers fight. It started when one of the tigers jumped on top of the other, who was sleeping. The fight between the two kept flaring up so we were able to get it on video. Amazing!
The very next day while at the beach we had an up close and personal encounter with a dolphin. It kept swimming up and down the shoreline chasing a snook fish. This allowed us time to get some pictures, video and even get in the water as it swam right next to us. This is where we live!