Monday, October 30, 2017

Epic Florida Vacation, Day 3 - Ocala

 All right friends, now we got to Florida late Sunday night.  It was late, it was dark, we couldn't see anything of where we were, so we really didn't get to enjoy it until Monday morning.  But we did enjoy it!  The boys slept in until 8. And we didn't have to pack up Anything.  That was worth it, right there, that made it ok that we drove so late the night before, and Jacob had pooped 1/2 hour before arrival. Ugh.  But it was a New Day! 

Grandma told me there was bread in the fridge and peanut butter in the cabinet, so the kids were perfectly content with Toast and Peanut Butter for breakfast. 

We were looking at all the various bug traps in the daylight.  The boys didn't believe that Grandma's house would have bugs.  But I had to explain, the bugs don't die here in Florida in the winter, they just get bigger.  Chris was shocked.  "What do you mean bugs don't die here?! There's no Winter in Florida?"  Yeah, imagine if he remembered how they light up the palm trees with Christmas lights.  They have no idea how good they have it! 

Sam and I took the table, while the other boys ate in the kitchen.
I had a leftover yogurt and Ningxia Red for all.  I packed it so no one would get sick on our trip. 
I really don't want anyone getting sick!

The one thing that we had on the docket was to meet my friend in Ocala at the Discovery Center at 1 pm.  It was about 2 hours away. But the decision the boys and I came to the night before, was that having a free place to stay, and NOT having to pack up was Worth driving the extra few hours.  So we did it.  And we did it again. 

It was worth it.  
As we drove out for the day, we caught this amazing view of Tampa Bay as we crossed it from Clearwater, to head back to the major highway.  The night before, all we saw was darkness.  
This was Gorgeous. 

The kids are hypnotized by the view of the water as we cross the Bay to Beach bridge.

We stopped for lunch at a Wendy's on the road.  Jacob had gotten a happy meal while we were on the road, but it didn't come with a toy.  He was sad, so we tried again.  This time, loved the Transformer toy Optimus Prime, and he played with it while we hit the road.  

Unfortunately, when as we were arriving in Ocala, I received a note from Melissa, the friend we were meeting.  The Discovery Center was Closed on Mondays!  Oh no!  
I had her hang tight until we arrived.  I hadn't seen much civilization on my way in, however, as we pulled in to the parking lot across from the Discovery Center, we parked next to a park/playground. 
So we set the kids loose to play, while we came up with a plan. 

It turns out letting the kids play in the 90 degree heat in mid-Florida was great.  
After two solid days in the car, the boys needed some free play.
It was hot, they played hard, and they kind of let us talk.   

We did manage to hold them still all together for a moment to get a picture. 

It's clear as they get above age 10 that boys and girls are Different. 
Alexis didn't really play with the boys for much longer than a few minutes. 
Talking to the grownups was more cool.  
But the boys played hard.

I loved looking around at this park. 
Check out this Spanish Moss!
Melissa was apologetic, in her mind, this wasn't anything exciting.  
She'd offered to go to a Jump-n-Play sort of place, or SkyZone. 
I was like Nope.  Chris can't hear in there, and tends to go into his own world, and it's hard to pull him out.  He ends up quick to anger.  I didn't want that today. 
I walked around and took a few pictures of the trees. 
They are so different than what we have in the midwest.  
I think Melissa forgets what it's like in Fall in Indiana.  They've lived down here for 4 1/2 years, they moved just after Jacob was born.

Spanish Moss is not a parasite, living off its host until eventually it kills them.  But it does stunt the tree's growth.  It just lives off nutrients in the air and rain. Cool.

Meanwhile, the kids were not cool. 
They were hot. 

We were all so hot, that when the Kona Ice truck showed up, I caved. 
I bought all the kids their own small Shaved Ice snack. 
This truck was cool, and the kids could build their own flavors. 
Red 40 wary Sam of course, chose the green flavor, which was a Lemon Lime.  He liked it ok, but not enough to finish it. Jacob chose two flavors, Tiger's Blood (which was kind of like Pina Colada) and Strawberry.  Lots of Red, and it was Yummy, because he didn't eat much. Chris ate Blue Raspberry, and held on to it, until it pretty much melted and he could just drink it. 

These two met when they were toddlers.  They were in Kindermusik together for probably about 4 years, and graduated that class together! 

I went to find a photo of the two of them together, but they weren't alone.  
Then I found this.  They both used to love to dance!

Next to the park was a creek/river, and I saw some strange birds nearby. 
I decided to go in for a closer look. 
They definitely were not like birds in Indiana. 

They look so strange, like some kind of African bird.  
I didn't know what it was.

Upon closer examination since I've been home, and a bit of Google, we find it was a Wood Stork. 

Three Wood Storks take off.
Only after I come chasing. 

So Neat watching him fly off. 

After much heat, we decide to leave the park and go to Chick Fil-A. 
It will be cool and have a Playplace for the littles. 
Alexis was too tall to play, but she gladly sat in our Oily Discussion. 

Melissa joined my Oily Team back in 2015 from a Facebook class I held, but this was my first opportunity to be able to share oils and knowledge with her in person.
I had brought Cindi's Zyto Scanner, and I went ahead and scanned them both. 
We discussed oils for pregnancy and discussion, and both of them scanned for Aroma Life, a calming blend good for your heart.  

Alexis took our picture together.  
Melissa has the cutest Baby Bump.  She's didn't think children were possible, then God laughed, and Surprise! 
 I gifted her with a bottle of Gentle Baby, a Perfect Oil blend since she's going to be having her own little sweetboy soon. Hooray for Miracles!

I cropped Alexis' photo of us, and it turned out very cute!

On our drive home, we hit one of those famous Floridian afternoon popups.  
But as we stopped for gas, we discovered this one left us with a Rainbow!

During these long drives, I figured it would be a great opportunity for the boys to share deep things that are on their hearts.   So I often turn off the screens, turn down the Hamilton, and ask them for their thoughts.  Chris asks me his deep thoughts, "Mommy, do you think the Flash drives when he goes on vacation, or does he just run carrying his luggage? Does he need to make more than one trip?" The things that occur to this kid, they never occur to me. 

The boys begged us to stop for Panera on the way home for dinner, so finding one (not as easy while on the road) delayed us.  Still, we made it through the city just as it starts to get dark.  
I've decided I don't much like driving at night anymore.

The sun sets as we cross the long bridge to get back home.  

Epic Florida Vacation, Day 2 - Over the Rivers and Through the Woods

I'm sorry this is a Huge Post. 
There was Way too much Awesomeness not to put the pictures in this post.  
When we usually drive, we stop to do something groovy.  Yesterday, we had Gymnastics in the morning, and stopped at a McD's with a playplace for an hour and a half to Play. This second travel day, we wanted to go to the Georgia Aquarium.   I debated Coke World, we'd done it before with Eric, and so he wouldn't be sad about missing it.  But he'd also not had any interest in going to the Georgia Aquarium.  I had interest.  And the boys were interested too.  
So we chose to go.  
And I was so glad we did.  It ended being the Best Part of our journey down!

The boys chose their 'shark shirts' to wear for our Aquarium day visit. 

Turns out this place is not cheap.  Not at all. But at least we weren't paying for 5 people.

As we entered the Aquarium, there was a beautiful tank of these silver fish first to see. 
The kids all stopped, hypnotized. 
Me too.

Just walking into the Aquarium, there were these amazing fish tanks. 
These silvery sparkling fish were Amazing. 
The whole thing took my breathe away, and we weren't two paces into the place yet.  This wasn't even the full lobby, just a hall as we entered.  A foretaste of the fest to come!

Speedy little buggers. 
It looked so amazing.  
But when I got close, I could really see how dirty the water was.  
Still, cool. 

From the middle we opted to go into the Ocean Voyager area first. 
They told us they'd be feeding the Whale Sharks in a few moments, and that there would be plenty of time to get to the 'theatre' to see them. 
OK, so our reasons for going to this aquarium were two fold. 
A. We were reading this book, well, book on CD, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Mark of Athena, where the heroes of the journey stopped off to visit an ancient sea god playing at the Georgia Aquarium.  Now, we knew we'd find no sea god, but we thought it 
2. Whale Sharks - Finding Dory. 
D. Also Whale Sharks. The only Whale Sharks in the U.S. are found here. 

Whale Shark. 
They used to live off the coast of Taiwan, where they were caught by fisherman. 
Rather than eat them, the Aquarium bought them, and had them shipped, get this, 

30 seconds in to this exhibit, we hadn't even gotten to the main part yet, I saw this guy, and my eyes watered.   We stayed in this entryway for about 10 minutes just watching all the fish swim.  Then they announced feeding time, and we went around the corner, towards 'the theatre'.  

It turns out that was even more awesome. 
My eyes got teary, and I couldn't stop looking up. 
Good thing, they must've been expecting a lot of people like me, because they had a moving sidewalk in a tube, so that we could look around, and not block traffic, the sidewalk moved and did the walking for us.  Amazing.

Manta Ray. 
They are so Beautiful. 

All the animals swim around together, getting along, it's a Beautiful thing.

Two Whale Sharks! 
And a Ray! 
We'd only been there for about 15 minutes, and I felt it was worth it. 
This was the most beautiful Aquarium I have ever visited.  And though I balked at the high price, (it was $150 for all of us to get in),  after we spent a few minutes in this exhibit, and I saw these amazing beasts, looking healthy and beautiful, I didn't feel bad at all.  I got my money's worth.

Then we went to the Theatre, and got to go watch them be fed. 
There was a giant wall, where we could watch them. 

We sat down on the floor so we could be close. 

We were close all right. 

This is the kids, piled up next to the window, all three kids, and the fish.  
To give you a context, Sam is the size of a whale shark fin. 

We did get to watch them be fed. 
Do you see the cloud?  That's a guy in a rubber raft, dumping food overboard. 
Whale Sharks have to eat 20 pounds of food a day, and their throat can't swallow anything larger than a quarter, thus the giant mouth filtering stuff out.  If they accidentally catch anything too big, it's blown out the sides.  

Sea Turtle. 
For Kelly.  
My friend Kelly Rossi, her favorite animal was the Sea Turtle. 
She passed away in 2009, I miss her every Fall. That was our season. 

There was this great Manta Ray who kept doing backflips. 
He was fantastic.  
So I got the boys in a picture with him backflipping on the other side of the tank.

Can you see the raft?  It's where the guy is feeding the whale sharks with a scoopful of krill pellets dumped overboard. It's about 2 o'clock from the whale shark. It's a shady square shape, technically a yellow life raft, but still, it looks tiny compared to these animals.  Whale sharks are Huge!!

Technically, this was a forbidden photo. 
Somehow I missed the memo that we weren't supposed to take pictures inside the Sea Lion show. 
I got off a couple non-flash shots, before being told to put my camera down. 
At least I wasn't using the flash, and scaring the poor guys. They are super sweet, and way talented.
Also, the handlers... they have to be so smart, and on it, and have entertaining skills. 

But wait, there's more. 

As we left the Ocean Voyager exhibit, we came around back of the Cold Water exhibit where the Beluga Whales live.  This was the back door of their tank.  There was a room with small tables, the kind of place someone could have a Reception.  I'd have a Reception here.  Heck yeah. 
Much better than when they have a reception in Indy, in the Dolphin pavilion, but you cant see the dolphins unless you leave the room. 
The belugas were Right There.  

The only picture of me and the boys. 
I got one selfie, but because the glass screen protector on my selfie cam is broken, all my selfies indoors look very bad.  Even outdoor selfies look bad.  The glass didn't get fixed on our trip. 
Still, here's a bit of proof I was actually here too. 
The boys and I watch the Belugas. 
There is a beluga, the white blob by Sam's right arm was a Beluga whale.  

The kids got a huge kick out of Beluga whales. 

Me too.  
You know, they have so much blubber, and yet, they are majestic, graceful, and beautiful. 
They make blubber beautiful. 

These Belugas were playing Tug of War with a blanket. 

It was the funniest thing, as they kept fighting over the blanket. 
We could see inside their mouths (that's the Beluga's jaw on the left) and all their muscles rippling through the water.  Amazing. 

The boys laughed and laughed, and watched these Belugas roll around trying to get those blankets.  
I finally talked them into moving on after 20 minutes. 

And we found another Beluga window. 
The kids loved to watch them. 

I got one last photo of the boys with the Belugas before we moved on. 

On to Penguins!  

These are the African Penguins.  
They remind of the little ones we have a the Indy Zoo. 

But this exhibit is also quite kid friendly.  
They have a tunnel that goes through the exhibit. 

Check this out, all three of my boys INSIDE the Penguin exhibit!

African Penguin diving down.  
So flipping cool.

After Penguins we got to go visit the Sea Otters. 
These guys are a lot bigger than the Otters we saw in D.C. this last spring. 
But so cute.  We watched them play for a while. 
They were about the size of the big boys, and so neat. 

Sea Dragons. 
Always a classic. 

The kids were starting to get hungry, but we didn't want to have lunch here. 
I bribed them with cereal bars, and we kept going.  
They got to see Sea Urchins and Sea Stars on our way out.  
It looked like a tempting touch pool, but it wasn't.  No Touchy!

The boys found the Gift Shop. 
Sam found a rocking awesome Shark Hat. 

Jacob wanted the Ray hat. 
He looked pretty adorable. 

But Chris won the day with trying on the shark hat. 

We didn't buy any of them. 
I got them some snacks, and we chose a Christmas Ornament.  
I also found a cute bracelet with a dolphin on it for my niece Kaylee's birthday, it actually had her name on it, AND spelled correctly without being fancy schmancy custom made.  That never happens. 

We stopped for dinner just north of Ocala, and over supper discussed, if we wanted to call it a night.  This was their last chance to stop for the night, or keep going and stay at Grandma's.  I must admit I sweetened the pot by saying, if we stop at a hotel we won't be able to afford one with a pool given how much we spent at the Aquarium today, BUT if we went on to Grandma's, though it would be a late night, probably not get there until 8-ish, we wouldn't have to pack up in the morning.  
To Grandma's we go!

I got the biggest kick out of driving on.  
First we crossed the Chatahoochi River,
and I started singing the song, "Way down Yonder on the Chattahoochi", 
Then we crossed into Florida, and crossed over the Sawanni river. 
"S'wanni, how I love you, how I love you, my dear old S'wanni."

Watching the sun set over Florida.  
Then we got to drive through the woods. 
I tell you, some of these woods, were a little scary as the sun was going down, 
reminding me of that movie in the swamp that I never saw all of, Deliverance. 
Still, I have a Black Belt and a Super Screamer with me, I'm pretty safe.

We made it all the way down to Mom's about 9 pm safe and sound. 
I wasn't worried about bad things happening, but when Jacob blew out his pants 30 minutes before the end, that I couldn't handle.  I just made him sit in it until we got there.  Then I had to scramble to get a hold of Mom so she could guide me through cleaning supplies and how her stuff worked, so we could clean the kid up, and start some laundry!
I think I've also decided I'm becoming less and less of a fan of driving at night.  I tend to slow down driving in places I don't know, and at night, that's getting even worse as my eyes age. "I'm getting too old for this $#!^".  But it was good to be at a location where we didn't have to pack up in the morning.  All of us were exhausted and ready for bed when we crashed at Mom and Dad's.  Their place is cute, a 1 bedroom condo in Dunedin.  Her fold out couch was broken though, so we ended up having Chris on the couch, and Sam, Jake, and I on the king bed in the master bedroom. 
It was a pile of cuteness. And we were ready to sleep pretty good. 
We couldn't wait to see the place by day!