15 June 2012

Road Trip Part 3

Back to blogging - yay! Had to take a break from the blog to get some stuff done around the house, but now Daphne is peacefully napping on my lap and I can type for a bit. Hopefully.

And next post will be my giveaway! It will actually be shortly after I finish this post. Hopefully.

I'm feeling optimistic today, can you tell?

I feel like this is the quintessential Florida picture . . .
 We arrived at my Dad's house in Florida on Friday night in time to eat the dinner we picked up on the road. It was really good to be off the road! Dad and Thomas, my brother, came out to the van right away to see us, although I think they were more interested in seeing the kids! Who can blame them?

Edward, GrandDad and Sophie

Daphne and Uncle Thomas - she wasn't too sure about his beard . . . Thomas is going to make a fantastic Dad one day. I'm looking forward to seeing him in action as a Dad . . . I think he'll be in his element . . .one of his elements, anyway.
 All of the kids settled in right away. Karen, my step-mom, had put up some baby gates to keep the kids contained in the living room/dining room area, which was dubbed "The Compound" by my Dad. Edward ever after called it "compound" whenever he wanted to go in to play. My Dad has a dry sense of humor, which is sometimes shared by myself . . . this was one of those times.

First popsicle - ever! Thank you Nana!

Sophie's first popsicle.
Family dinner - such a great time together!

The "famous" cranes that live in my Dad's neighborhood. They had a baby!
 I could hardly wait for Thomas' fiance (now wife) to get off of work and come over so that I could meet her. When she arrived, I rushed outside to the driveway (I was excited!) so I could meet her and welcome her to the family and say hi. All of that good stuff. Leigh-Ann is so sweet and such an amazing, Godly woman. We all hung out and talked and got to know each other that first night.

Thomas and Leigh-Ann
 On Saturday night, Leigh-Ann was having a "last single girls night" dinner at Universal City Walk in Orlando, FL, and she invited me along. I was so glad to go and I got to meet some of her friends, Alex and Angela, and it was a great time. We ate at Jimmy Buffet's restaurant Margaritaville, which was pretty good. It was really neat seeing City Walk . . . it felt a little like cheating in the sense that it felt like you were at Universal Studios, but you didn't pay to get in. After dinner, they had some music going in the square and there were some people dancing (we didn't) and there were people walking around on stilts. Apparently that's the big thing now because there were also two people (at least) in the restaurant walking around on stilts. Daphne was quite in awe . . .

Alex, Leigh-Ann, Angela, me and Daphne at Universal City Walk

Daphne was just like "Whoa! That dude is tall!"
 Sunday we all went to Bell Shoals Baptist Church, which is my Dad's home church. It is definitely a mega church and has one of the biggest auditoriums for a church that I have ever seen. They also send hundreds of missionaries to dozens of countries all over the world, which is really awesome. It was really good to see all of the people who had prayed for me for years before I was saved. I am eternally grateful for them.

Monday was a nice day at home away from home. Karen had a little blow up kitty pool that Mike and I set up for the kids in the front yard. It had a sprinkler in the front of it so we hooked that up as well, but when we turned it on, Edward screamed and ran for the house. Even after we unhooked it, he refused to get in the pool. Or maybe it was because the pool looked like a gigantic crab . . . Daphne thoroughly enjoyed the water and Sophie had a good time as well. Dad thought it was all hilarious seeing the kids in their little sunhats and sunglasses sitting on their towels on the front walk.

Edward is demonstrating the proper way to wear sunglasses when out in the sun.

My little Stepping Stones - so cute in their sun hats!

Edward was all about the pool until the sprinkler came on.

We did do a touristy thing and went to Lowry Park Zoo, which has been voted by Parents magazine as one of the best zoos in the country for kids. I can definitely see why. A lot of the animals were really active, which was really neat. The kids loved it! We even got to meet a giraffe up close. And by up close, I mean by about a foot away. They had this really neat elevated platform where you could go and feed the giraffe, or just visit him, which we did, and take pictures. Sophie and Edward were definitely in awe! The elephants were another favorite - Sophie had actually been asking to see the elephants since we arrived. We didn't see the whole zoo, which was fine, but it was a good time. Dad and Thomas went as well. Edward ended up riding on Thomas' shoulders for a lot of the time that we were there, which was really cool. Good bonding time between Uncle and Nephew.

Edward and GrandDad - so precious!

Uncle Thomas and Sophie - I love the pictures of hand holding - it's so sweet!

This guy was amazing - he was all over the place swinging about - it was really neat!

Daphne is chillin' in the stroller

Edward getting a ride with Uncle Thomas

Up close and personal with the giraffe. They are extremely beautiful creatures - I had never really noticed how amazing they are until I had this opportunity. Incredible!

Sophie he was pretty incredible too.

The elephant had a cooling bath . . .

Edward is not getting a ride with GrandDad

Daphne was helping me push the stroller - I love hand pictures!

GrandDad, Edward, Sophie, Uncle Thomas and Mike

Mike and I really wanted to go for a swim after seeing the penguins.
Sophie walking and talking - she uses her hands to talk a lot. Can't imagine where she gets that from . . .
You can't have a trip to Florida (in my family) without playing a game of Blackbeard, known to us as "The Pirate Game". It's a war game (meaning it takes about eight hours to play and is quite complicated - not your typical board game) and we have been playing as a family for right at twenty years. Long time! We have so many wonderful memories of playing that game together. Everyone wants to be Bartholomew Roberts, and I actually drew him this game!

It was Leigh-Ann's first time to play - it felt so neat to welcome her to the family in this way.

Mike was indoctrinated in the Pirate Game ways a few years ago after we were married.
 On Friday Mike and the kids and I drove down to Sarasota, which is right on the gulf of Mexico, to visit the Mote Marine Laboratory and see my friend Kenna. Kenna and I were childhood best friends when we lived on Okinowa. Both of our Dads served in the Marine Corps and we were all stationed together. It was fantastic to see Kenna! We caught up on our lives since we'd seen each other, since, you know, it had been about 23 years. To me, it felt like we picked up right where we left off! It was so great to see her again. I so wished that we lived closer so we could spend more time together. She brought her son Aidan with her, and it was really great to meet him as well. And the Marine Lab was really cool too. Sophie was so excited to see the sharks. We also saw turtles that had been rescued, and a dolphin, and lots of fish, all native to the Florida area (Gulf or Atlantic).

Family picture - something obviously is of much greater interest to Sophie and Edward than taking a picture. Daphne is asleep . . .

Sophie was jumping for joy about the sharks.

We do a lot of this in our family . . . Mike is such a great Dad!

Up close and personal with an injured sea turtle.

It was lunch time for the manatees. Daphne was enthralled with the manatees.

Sophie and Aidan watching the dolphin and talking.

Edward, me and Kenna!

Aidan and Kenna!
 I had told Mike about the heat in Florida and the humidity, and even though we have to been to Florida in the past, Mike hadn't been there in the summer months. He said that he agreed about the Florida heat - it was hot! He said this as sweat was pouring off of him . . . it was definitely really humid while we were down there. More humid that I remember actually. Maybe I've gotten used to the desert dryness. . . .

While we were down in Sarasota, we decided to take a very short trip to the beach (we were there for all of five minutes), just to take the kids to the ocean for the first time. We went to Lido Beach after some driving around, and were able to find a close parking spot for free (score!). We lathered the kids up in more sunscreen, walked out to the beach. They were pretty afraid of the water, which I expected, so Mike held Sophie and then Edward and walked out a few feet. The water was absolutely beautiful and the sand was so white . . . Unfortunately I had my camera on the wrong setting, so the pictures are terrible. It was very bright out, we'll just say that . . .

Saturday was the BIG day - the wedding!! I'll save info on that for later! I know I'm keeping you waiting . . . hehehe.

And of course while we there we hung out with family - Nana, Uncle Mike and Aunt Sarah and Cousin Haley, Uncle Chris and Aunt Vicki, Aunt Brittney and Cousin Braden. I love to hang out with family and I think we had a good time. Nana (Karen's mom) and I had the chance to get to know each other better this trip, which I thought was really special. She is such a sweet lady and I really enjoyed her company tremendously. It does help that she really appreciated my cooking . . . I am so glad to have that opportunity to get to know Nana better and I look forward to seeing her again on our next visit.


Grammy Karen and Cousin Braden


Cousin Haley
 It was also really great to spend time with my Dad, of course, My Dad and I have not always had a close relationship (I was a very rebellious teenager), but thankfully we have grown closer again. My Dad has often encouraged me with phone calls of encouragement to lift my spirits when I have been down.I am so grateful for my Dad and the relationship that I have with him. And I can't believe that I didn't get a picture of the two of us! I am really kicking myself about that one . . .

Dad took us out to eat for breakfast quite a bit while we were visiting, which was really nice. We went to Cracker Barrel a few times, and also to Freddy's in Plant City, which has a delicious breakfast buffet. I was hoping they would have fried green tomatoes, but that wasn't on the menu that day. The kids, Mike and I really enjoyed all the visiting with Dad.

My wonderful family at Cracker Barrel

 Almost forgot! The trains! My Dad has a model railroad that he built in his sun room. I think this is his third model railroad that he has built of this scale, and he has put a lot of time and work into it. I am so amazed when I see it because my Dad did all the wiring for the tracks and the layouts, and built it all from scratch. It really requires so much talent. He hasn't finished all of the scenery yet, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished product. Sophie and Edward really loved seeing the "choo-choos" and running trains with Dad. Mike is also a big fan of trains and really enjoyed running trains with Dad. I'm just waiting for Dad to put the little farm I bought him on his railroad . . .

Dad running trains

Dad built all of these buildings and "weathered" them.

I just wanted to give you an idea of how complex his railroad is - and he did all the electrical wiring for it. All the trains run on switches and stuff. He has told me, but when I hear electronics/mechanics talk, my brain kind of tunes out . . .

Dad did all this scenery by hand. If you look closely, you can see where he carved the rocks and stuff.
 Mike and Dad also went to watch real live trains for an afternoon, which was really neat for them. I'm really glad that Mike was able to spend some bonding time with my Dad; they get along so well. I love that so much!

Sunday we headed back out on the road. . . .