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.