Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Break 2017: Gulf Specimen Aquarium and Alligator Point

Jack will often tell me that he wishes we lived closer to cousins, and while that would be nice, there are perks to getting to visit family in a different state. On these trips to visit family, we always spend as much time as possible visiting and playing, but we also make sure to do something fun.

On past visits we have gone to St. George Island to swim, taken an alligator boat tour at Wakulla Springs, visited the Tallahassee Jr. Museum, and gone spelunking at Florida Caverns State Park.

On this particular trip we had a jam-packed day planned for Saturday. Our initial plan was to visit the Gulf Specimen Aquarium in Panacea, Florida. We grabbed lunch at Momo's Pizza in Tallahassee before making the 30-minute drive to Panacea. I'll share a food post later, but the pizza slices at this place are gargantuan!!

At the aquarium there were quite a few touch tanks where the kids were able to touch and examine various sea creatures including all kinds of crabs, starfish, sand dollars, and much more.

There were also look only tanks that housed fish, several nurse sharks, sting rays, a large sea turtle, and even an entire tank devoted to octopi.

Izzy and Levi, my niece and nephew, loved the touch tanks and we very interested in touching every possible creature.

My sister, Angela, was accommodating and helped to get any creatures that they had difficulty picking up or were just too afraid to grab – like the horseshoe crabs. I was impressed by her willingness to touch everything.

Jack was a little more cautious with touching the animals. He was curious but didn't necessarily want to touch it all.

Isaac mostly wanted to do his own thing, pushing the stroller around to where he wanted to go. He did touch a few things and even held a couple of shells containing small crabs.

Overall it was a successful outing.

When we finished at the Aquarium, we thought it would be good to find a park to let the kids burn some extra energy before heading home.

However, we made a wrong turn and missed the park that Angela had in mind. As we drove, we realized we were close to Alligator Point and that we might be able to find a beach.

So on a whim, we decided to drive out to the end of Alligator Point. It was a beautiful drive, though part of the road was washed out next to the beach which involved a detour, but even that was kind of neat to see.

Since we had not planned on going to the beach, we didn't have swimsuits (though we did have one towel in the car and several changes of boys clothes). Angela and I thought we had enough to make the beach worth it, so we found a beach access and walked out to the Gulf, fully clothed.

Angela and I enjoyed sitting in the sun, watching the waves and two kite surfers. Izzy combed the beach for shells and briefly waded in the cold water.

Jack and Levi managed to get completely soaking wet from wading in the waves – which were a decent size and pounding the shore quite furiously. 

And Isaac discovered that maybe sand isn't so bad and even spent some time plopped down and digging (a first for him!).

When we got back to the car, we used water bottles to clean sandy feet, we dried Jack and Levi off as best we could with the one towel and then changed the two of them into dry clothes (yay for extra clothes in the car!) and then we were on our way.

The car was surprisingly sand free by the time we were on our way, which was a bit of a miracle considering our lack of beach preparedness!

We enjoyed Alligator Point and are glad to know that there is a nice beach for swimming within an hour of my sister's house. On our way home we stopped at Angelo & Son's Tropical Shrimp Trader Company for dinner and then we found that playground that we were originally looking for!

At the playground the kids burned the last of their energy. They had a foot race out to the pier and chatted up a fisherman, who kindly answered their questions and didn't seem annoyed that three busy kids were asking him all kinds of questions.

Jack informed him that he wanted to go fishing and he planned to catch a shark and then eat it. The fisherman laughed and said that he wanted to go fishing with Jack!

It was a lovely, though busy, day. Isaac was asleep as soon as we got in the car. And we played a comical game of "Would You Rather" with the other three. Example: Would you rather be eaten by a shark or a hippo? The kids all came up with funny questions and it was a fun way to pass the time on the ride home.

We arrived home with four tired kiddos. They all were tucked in shortly after taking baths. Another successful cousin day in Florida.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Break 2017: Florida with Cousins

I have to say that I have been enjoying Facebook's "On This Day" feature. It turns out that our family life is pretty cyclical and we have consistent times throughout each year when we manage to visit my scattered family.

Mid-to-late March seems to be when we see my sister and her family. Facebook let us know that this is the weekend we were together last year and also a few years ago. Yay for quick snapshots of recent years.

The last five weeks have been a bit crazy in our household, we have been traveling non-stop: St. Augustine as a family, the Cayman Islands for a girl's weekend, Daniel going to Cleveland, Ohio for a week of training, and then the boys and I going to Tallahassee to kick off spring break. I think we are all ready for some time at home.

With all of our recent comings and goings, it made sense that this trip to visit cousins needed to be a long weekend instead of an entire week... I'm not sure I could have handled being gone that long.

I always enjoy trips to see my sister and her family. Normally our brother Mark comes with me, and Daniel stays behind to catch up on work (this weekend he was doing some weekend-warrior projects on our house). Unfortunately Mark was unable to make this trip. This meant I had my first long road trip without another adult to help out.

I downloaded a ton of podcasts to listen to (Story Pirates for the kids and The Homeschool Sisters and Wild & Free Children for me), loaded up, met Daniel for a late lunch in downtown Chattanooga and then headed south.

The boys were troopers and made it to supper time without any complaining. Really, they were great travelers and we only had to stop one additional time before arriving in Tallahassee for a late bedtime.

On Friday we decided to be lazy. Angela made us banana bread, the kids played outside, running as wild as they wanted. Florida was experiencing a cold snap, but the kids didn't care and soon had the hose out and were wet and muddy.

I helped Izzy make our families traditional Pistachio Cake – we make it for birthdays but the green cake seemed fitting for St. Patrick's Day. Jack made his favorite green smoothie for his cousins (they were not impressed).

After lunch, we made our way to a local park. The kids had a blast, and then managed to find a sprinkler post (evidently these are common in Florida, I have no idea if that is what it is called – basically a post that has a water fountain and a sprayer).

Before we knew it, the boys were soaked. Again. With no spare clothes in the car, we made them strip down and ride home in their skivvies.

After dinner we settled the kids down to watch Pete's Dragon on Netflix with a slice of pistachio cake. Isaac was a "good little brother" and bugged Jack until Jack gave up the prime seat on the couch. It was a good way to kick off our time in Florida.

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