Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer vaca... final installment

(pt 6) It was a fun evening with dinner and family night and more cousins. Then we headed back up to Jacksonville for the last little bit of our visit. We went to the beach for our final day on Tuesday. This was by far the craziest weather of our trip too, well, maybe not weather, but certainly water J. The waves were very big and the undertow was really powerful (as in, enough to knock me down, when I was only about waist deep). We were especially glad Aunt Carmen and Caroline were able to come with us! We ended up spending most of our time playing in the sand, building a pretty terrific castle and complete moat-system, I really wish I had pictures of that one…

It was nice to have perfect weather for our trip, I’m almost glad to know it’s not that perfect all the time, or I’d be seriously tempted to move there J. We sure loved being spoiled by so many family members too. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, so we spent the rest of Tuesday making sure we were ready to head out fairly early Wednesday…

Now Wednesday you can imagine had the potential to be a pretty crummy day (all day driving, after a week+ of playing on the beach and such), but the kids did pretty well. We were also super-excited to stop in Alabama to visit with some old friends from Texas. It was very good to see the de Hoyos again, and they even fed us lunch! They have a ‘secret garden’ in their back yard, which is rather junglish, so they hack a path through every so often for more exploring and playing. Ironically, they moved right after we did from Texas to pursue a similar goal. We joined the Air Force, they (well, their dad) work for the Army as a civilian contractor, so we’re both in a military-frame. The kids only took a few minutes to pick up where they’d left off, I was glad J.

Wednesday evening we saw a gorgeous sunset that had the kids arguing for possession (we’ve been known to bequest pretty sunsets/clouds/etc on the kids… maybe not the best idea when they’re a little overtired or over stimulated… just imagine, ‘no, it’s my sunset!’ ‘I saw it first’ ‘I get the glowy part’ etc… is there an eye-roll emoticon I can insert there?!) I have to mention the sunset though, because I did get a few pictures of it on my phone, so if I can figure out how to download them, I can share a couple J.

That night we stopped at a grungy little motel that wasn’t quite all we’d hoped, but it had beds, and everyone was able to sleep, so the main goal was accomplished, and we weren’t at all in the mood to laze around the next morning, so we got a reasonable start for the rest of our l—o—n—g drive back through OK. For some reason, as soon as we crossed into OK the landscape got incredibly boring. I guess I’m a got a little spoiled with all the pretty greenery and life in the east. Thursday passed with reasonable boredom, but we were happy to make it home in time for dinner. And we were even happier to sleep in our own beds.

Thus ends our tale of summer vacation. And the moral of the story is, NEVER forget your camera on a family vacation! I’ve really got to get back in the picture-taking groove before baby comes J

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

summer vacation pt. 5

(again, reminder, if you want to read all this, you should probably start at the beginning )
And Sunday truly was a day of rest :) . The kids had fun being the visitors in primary, and I just gotta say, Asher went right into nursery and played the whole time (nary a tear!) I’m pretty sure he didn’t even miss me! (though this week back home was back to ‘normal,’ he spent less than 5 minutes there if you don’t count when I was there with him, and I don’t have much time to sit there with him… so mostly he was in primary with me, oh well) I enjoyed sitting still for all my meetings :). Kristi made a lovely curry for lunch/dinner, so we had one more nice visit before driving off to Orlando for a whirlwind trip to Aunt Dana’s. 

By this time the kids were a bit overtired and therefore a little crazier than most of the time, but it was a great evening visiting with Dana and Brent, Grandma W and Sarah, and a few more cousins (particularly Saralyn and Morgan with baby Morgan). Asher and Morgan were a little at odds over the trucks, though they were able to work everything out peacefully in the end :). We had a pretty big group to play telestrations (a fun combo of telephone and Pictionary), even Rayna and Afton were basically on their own (Rayna had a little help, because some of the words were a little tricky). It’s a fun game for a large group, especially with creative people! I think Afton ended up winning, though I’m not exactly sure. A lot of people were impressed with her art and her guesses. Rayna also did very well (they both definitely beat me and Paul, though I’m not sure of points). 

Monday we broke out of our beach mold to try something entirely different, though perhaps more common in Orlando, we went to Sea World! Fortunately Saralyn has a pass so she and baby Morgan go often enough to know where to go and how to get as much squeezed into the day as possible. They made great guides! I think my kids were far more excited about the aquarium aspects than the rides, but here’s some of what they remember about the day: 

Afton: I liked the shows. I liked seeing the dolphins while they were underneath the water. I also liked feeding and petting the sting rays. I liked seeing the seals and sea lions—they were barking loud begging for their food. My favorite in the show was the otter and the walrus, I just liked seeing them. I liked the flamingos, especially finding one of their feathers. I liked the wild ride to the penguins. 

Rayna: I liked going in the little globe tunnel to see the sharks. I also liked ride—seeing the mountain with pretty colors and the crystals and the movie kinda story about the baby penguin. I also liked the flamingos. It was fun to see the shows and the things in the shows, like the people dressed up like birds doing acrobatic tricks (waving their arms and splits in the air and diving into the water). It was fun seeing other people on the rides, but I was glad I didn’t go on them. I liked the sea dragons. 

Malachi: Now let me think. Going to both of those shows; the dolphins. There was a big turtle, as big as me; it was a hawksbill (ps, Grandma W was very impressed that Malachi could correctly identify a hawksbill, though I’m pretty sure it was the only kind of sea turtle he could remember and he got lucky ;) either way, he’s a smart cookie). 

Elise: We started our trip with a little ride to Antarctica to see the penguins. The line wasn’t too bad, and the kids particularly enjoyed that there were two ride options (mild for babies and wild for big kids—and they liked that the wild ride wasn’t really very wild). There was a little story to follow of a baby penguin swimming through a cavern to the other penguins at the other end, so we followed Puck on his adventure, and ended in the penguin exhibit… it was freezing! They even had real snow. There were something like 250 penguins in the exhibit, and they were pretty fun to watch, though we didn’t last long in the cold. We also had a blast at the dolphin show, which could have been named the dolphin and bird show. There were quite a few acrobatics and some live birds that would swoop over the audience. Very pretty. I think the kids particularly enjoyed walking though the aquarium areas, seeing an octopus, sea corals, lots of fish, seahorses, etc., and there were 2 huge tanks we could walk through and see sharks. I particularly loved the manatees, if I were ever to swim with marine life, I don’t think I’d bother with dolphins (too much energy), I’d float with the manatees :). Fun fact, they’re more closely related to elephants than fish, and have skin ‘like a hairy basketball’ (to quote the girl that works there), they even have toenails on their fin! I think I may have felt more of an affinity towards them because of my big pregnant belly ;) nice, fat floaters :). We ended our afternoon early with the sea lion show. I think they were even more impressive than the dolphins! Lots of fun tricks and silly jokes, I definitely recommend it if you’re headed that way! 

We had to head out of Sea World reasonably early to drive back north for FHE with Uncle Gaylon and Aunt Madonna. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer Vaca. part 4

(again, reminder to read these in order or at least skim in order for it to make sense)

Saturday with Mark and Kristi was bound to be amazing J. We started off the day with a trip out on Mark’s boat. We all had a turn tubing (even Asher!), and I think it’s safe to say we all enjoyed it at various levels… Asher lasted about 2 minutes ;), Malachi liked it when it was very slow, but even then he only wanted about 5 minutes… Rayna loved it, til it got too fast… Afton could have gone all day! In fact, she and I had one long ride (2 tubes at a time), and she had a couple long rides with Paul (one with Paul and Malachi—he was much more confident with dad, of course). When we got back to shore, Uncle Brent and Aaron had arrived, ready to join us… but the little kids were done, so we took them back for a little lunch and then out to the beach. Afton decided to stay and try wakeboarding. She’s a natural! She managed to get up on the wakeboard her second try, and stay up for a few minutes by the third or fourth (her arms were sore later, she’s decided next time we plan a trip to Florida she’s going to do lots of push-ups to prepare for more wakeboarding ;) ). I’m pretty sure she had fun watching the other, more experienced family too.

We’d hoped to catch the rest of the cousins and aunts at the beach when we went back, but as we were arriving, they were just leaving. Grandma W (who’d driven down with Sarah to Orlando and was spending the day with us) came back to the beach with us, though the others had to leave. The waves were higher than any other time we’d gone to the beach, and the kids were a little more tired than usual after boating all morning, so we spent more time on the shore looking for shells and playing in the sand. We buried the three kids that came with us all partially (no one wanted to be buried to the neck) but then we got creative and gave them something fun… Rayna had a mermaid tail, Malachi had a helicopter (you had to be very creative to see it, but he could), and Asher had a pretty good race car… that he didn’t want to get out of! He sat there for more than 10 minutes! I wish we’d gotten a picture of that one, it’s rare for him to sit still, and it was a pretty good sand-rendition of a race car too. We did still have fun playing in the water a bit too, just with the kids keeping with a parent instead of venturing out on their own. It was a very full day. I should point out too that Aunt Kristi let us have ice cream in the afternoon instead of having to wait til after dinner ;). Then in the evening we had a little unwinding time in the hot tub (we called it treat time). By this time everyone else had headed back to Orlando so it was a bit calmer, it was a great way to unwind and relax before bed, though I couldn’t really get in (pregnant), the kids all loved it, and when they got too hot, they could get out and chase lizards—there are even more there than in Jacksonville (where Afton had been counting… I think she got to 100 in less than 3 days there).

Sunday, August 9, 2015

summer vaca. pt. 3

(if you're reading all this, remember to read in order... it makes a lot more sense that way :) )

Friday we had another amazing trip to the beach (with Aunt Sarah!). This time, we brought a boogie board so the kids could practice a little wave riding/body surfing. Afton really got into it! The waves were a little bigger this time, and the sky was pretty overcast, so the ocean was a little cooler and a little more intense. I’m sure Sarah has a few pictures of the kids (hint, hint, send me some if you do!). The boys both got knocked down a few times, even in the shallows, but they both had fun going deep to float with mom and dad too. We saw lots of pelicans, and a few fish… it was fun to watch the pelicans dive. We made it back to Carmen’s to visit a little with Grandma W (who’d arrived late the night before) before driving off to Melburne to see Uncle Mark and Aunt Kristie J.

Mark and Kristie are exceptionally cool because they live on an island, and Mark is a surfer (he also makes boards). We had a really nice visit with them (the kids warmed up very fast there!). We were even able to go for an after dinner walk to the beach. The beach there is a little cooler and steeper than in Jacksonville, so the tide was coming in strong when we got there, it was an absolutely gorgeous evening with a nice salty breeze. The kids collected some dead fish on the beach, and we all managed to get a little wetter than we’d planned (splashed by waves, cause it was too perfect to not wade ;) ). There were also come cool jellyfish bodies that had washed up to the shore (no tentacles attached, just the bodies), so we may have played with them just a bit… this sounds morbid… the animals were cool, just dead. We could also see the clouds of fish (looked like darker blue areas) in the ocean, where the pelicans were diving deep. The breeze seemed to be bringing in a classic Florida evening storm, so we had to head back, but we managed to miss the rain, and we needed a good night’s sleep anyways so we’d be ready for Saturday J.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

summer vaca. pt 2

(ps, if you're bothering to read all this, do it in order)

When we got to Florida, we first met up with Great-Grandma V, and she took us out to lunch. I was a little worried about the kids being good in a restaurant after the long car-trip, but it was a fish place with a big aquarium and some fake giant fish on the walls, so there was plenty to look at and talk about while they waited. Afton even ate seafood! (shrimp), and I think a couple kids tried some of dad’s oyster soup, so they’re branching out a little J. We also got to explore G-Grandma’s house a little and see pictures of Grandma W as a child, we picked some grapefruit and figs right off the trees, and the kids found an old Edison record player to listen to (the kind with the really fat records). We were happy to find a place at Aunt Carmen’s house to crash for a few days without having to repack all of our things and call it a night after all that. It was also especially nice to see all of Aunt Carmen’s kids, they were all in town for their Grandfather’s (on Uncle Mark’s side) funeral, Catherine and Emma were only there that night, but we had a great family dinner with them at least J.

Wednesday morning we finally made it to the beach! It was a perfect Florida morning, the sun was shining (though there were a few clouds so it wasn’t too hot), the waves were pretty gentle, so we spent most of the morning practicing riding the swells. The girls have been swimming a lot this summer, so they were pretty confident, and I don’t think anyone was surprised by a wave they couldn’t ride. And the boys were happy to float with mom and dad nearby. We played in the sand a little, and had a great picnic (though we didn’t share with the greedy seagulls that were squawking and trying to demand our sandwiches ;) ).  We had a great afternoon exploring Carmen’s toy closet and later playing with Sarah when she got off work (she’s been commuting back and forth between Jacksonville and Orlando often in the last few weeks with her training for her new job). Asher also made friends with Fritz, the cat. His new favorite word is ‘meow.’

Thursday we took a break from the beach to rest our sunburns (they were minimal, I’m happy to say), and we headed to downtown Jacksonville with Aunt Carmen, Millie, and Caroline. We rode the monorail into town (per Malachi’s request to ride a train), which was a big hit in itself, and walked to Sweet Pete’s candy store! It was three stories of candy, including a balcony where we could look down into the candy-making room. They had some gorgeous candied apples (chocolate, caramel, sprinkles, nuts, etc), a whole room of fancy chocolates (including candy shoes for sale!), and a floor of mix and match bins where you could taste some samples and each kid was allowed to pick 3-4 kinds to buy—Afton just mentioned the rock/pebble candy (chocolates that looked like rocks). I think the kids are fairly unanimous that the chocolate covered things were their favorites (cherries, potato chips, cashews, etc). Afton also mentioned that she loved being able to ask questions about how things were made, and Rayna probably asked for the most samples J.  They had a giant gummy-snake at least 3 feet long, and a huge gummy bear that was bigger than Rayna’s teddy bear. The kids loved seeing lollypops bigger than their heads. The decorations on the porch were even memorable to Afton. I think we may have a picture I’ll try to post later.

After the candy store, we walked through a plaza downtown that was really well designed. The kids found a place with big foam blocks and noodles that they could build with. It was really cool, and I know I made Paul take a picture of their finished product, they built a castle they could even climb inside of. The man that’s in charge of taking care of the toys even commented it was one of the best/biggest he’d ever seen. Carmen and co had to leave earlier than us, but we managed to have fun playing a game of giant chess (wizard-style, Rayna was a Queen, Malachi a king, and Afton a bishop); Paul won. And we heard some live music with a flute and guitar combo with a modern twist on some Indian-style themes. Then we headed over to the MOCA (museum of contemporary art), where we got in free with a military ID… it wasn’t our favorite museum, but it had a lovely photography floor with 2 displays we liked. One was using really old photography techniques to take pictures of civil war battlegrounds, and the other was of underground railroad sites… mostly black on black night scenes and a few of the buildings that were safe-houses along the route. It was rather poignant. The top floor of the museum had an interactive room where the kids could do some little things with balance, color, and texture. All in all, it was fun, but I’m glad we didn’t spend money to go there J.

Friday, August 7, 2015

summer vacation, part 1

As I contemplate the last two weeks, it occurs to me that I am the worst mom-photographer ever J. Fortunately, I’m not the worst mom ever, so the rest is okay in the long run. We just got home from a 2-week vacation (certainly the longest trip I’ve ever been on, and the kids too!), and the one thing I forgot to pack with us was the camera. This basically means I’m using this blog post as a huge travel-log so I can write as much as I can remember, even without pictures. Paul was able to get a few with his phone, but there were lots of places we went where we left our phones in the car (like the beach), so I’ll get a few pics from him at some point. Basically, what I’m saying here is these posts will probably be really long and boring, but I want to write them anyways J, feel free to skim or skip altogether.

We started our trip by driving to Grandma F’s house to play for a day or so with the Ponczoch cousins before heading out to the Fluckiger family reunion. The kids loved seeing their cousins again, and playing in the swimming pool at grandma’s all afternoon was definitely a highlight. Grandma (and some aunties) were generous enough to take the kids to the park Friday morning so Paul and I could go to the temple. It’s been a really long time since we were able to go together, so I really appreciated that. The kids particularly enjoyed catching frogs and tadpoles at Bethany Lakes.

Friday evening we made it out to the family reunion. I loved seeing all my dad’s siblings together, and hearing their stories. It was also nice to reconnect and catch up with some cousins I haven’t seen in a long time (for those that weren’t there, and want an attendance roll, all the siblings were there, and all the spouses except Michelle and Judy, as well as Larke & family, Lisa, Emily & family, Amy & Stephen, Camilla & family, Laura & family, Kara, Analise (sp?), and of course, Katharine & fam, us, Becca & fam, Nicki and Naomi). Sheryl had brought an updated family list that showed Grandma and Grandpa’s posterity, and if I remember correctly (I have it somewhere…) there are now 88 great-grandchildren with 4 currently on the way. Steven and Dorothy also shared some slides from their mission and shared a little more about their experiences in Portugal.

Saturday was a blast with a dunking booth, a giant blow-up slip and slide, and the pool. The kids had plenty of time for crafts, visiting, and feeding the animals at the little ranch (mostly donkeys, and a bison, some horses, etc). I loved ‘story time’ on Saturday evening, hearing more about dad and his siblings growing-up years (which involved a fair amount of sneaking out and car crashes!), as well as stories about Uncle Norville’s farm. I’m assuming everyone that wanted to saw the link from Uncle Richard to the slide show he put together of the sibling’s baby photos.

Sunday we went to church (fortunately Emily thought to warn them we were all coming, so they had enough bread for the sacrament ;) ), though we figured it wouldn’t be fair to double the primary without more warning, so we went back after Sacrament meeting. Nicki put together a phenomenal treasure hunt for the kids, which they all loved! And we spent the afternoon with a bunch more crafts and visiting. It was really nice to relax a bit and visit. We ended the night with a family testimony meeting.

Monday we headed back to grandma’s house (with a little mixing and matching of the kids, I love that the cousins wanted to spend just a little more time together—my girls went with K and Jacob came with Chi in our car, they spent the trip playing a modified alphabet game involving a surprising amount of bugs, guts and cars J ). The kids played hard all day so they’d be ready for a good night’s sleep… Paul took a long nap so he’d be ready for a long night awake! We headed out after dinner to drive through the night—thus taking advantage of the cooler air and calmer children. Fortunately, they all sleep okay in the car, and there was no rush to wake and get moving in the morning, so they were reasonably well rested by the time we got to Florida.
to be continued...