Tags: family, Florida, photos, video
This was by far the longest time we’ve ever taken to move, three weeks all told. We started the journey separately: I took Liam to St. Augustine while James stayed behind to supervise the packing and loading of the truck. I didn’t want to have to corral Liam with the movers there, plus I wanted one last Hurrah in Florida. So Liam and I drove north…and East. We found this awesome little playground that looked like a giant fort. We explored the real fort, strolled through the pirate museum, and saw a replica of a Spanish settlement.
We had such a great time, we both had a hard time leaving. But by late afternoon I knew we’d better hit the road. We made it as far as Savannah the first night, then spent a very long day driving the rest of the way to Lexington, KY, to stay with my in-laws. Driving with Liam solo has its difficulties. I had to stop every 90 minutes or so to change his DVD, get him a snack, or get out his video games. It was slow going. Especially through the mountains. When he got really upset, I placated him by talking up the tunnel that I knew we’d be going through in the Smoky Mountains. By the time we finally got there, Liam had fallen asleep. Oh well!
Liam got in some video game bonding time with his Papa. In fact, he and Papa spent most of our time there together. Liam and I made a day trip up to Cincinnati for Grandma O.’s memorial service. Aunt Cary and mom asked me to write a speech to deliver at the service, which I’d kind of put off until the last minute, and I was kind of dreading to write. But it ended up being a lot more fun to remember and write down all those good times with grandma that my cousins and I had, and the speech was a big hit. Afterward we drove to this beautiful cemetery to place her remains with the rest of our family. Such a peaceful, serene place. And, of course, Liam had to go to the bathroom. So we watered the bushes at the Spring Grove Cemetery. Classy!
Onward ho! Next stop, Springfield, IL, to stay with Grandpa Bob and visit with cousins Brady and Devin. Liam had a wonderful time at his cousins’ house, especially on the trampoline. He’s still going on about how he wants to go to the trampoline store and get one for our yard. Ha! While the big kids went to school, we sampled Horseshoes at D’Arcy’s (yummy…and filling), ate Cozy Dogs at the famous Cozy Dog Drive In (supposed inventor of the corn dog), and toured the Lincoln Museum. We ended our trip with a yummy steak dinner at Abe’s with the entire family.
Next stop, Lee’s Summit! Liam and I spent about a week at my parent’s house, and James just spent a couple of days before he continued on to Wichita to start his new job. We saw a lot of Grandpa Marvin, who was moving to an apartment in LS to be closer to mom. We took Liam out to Cool Crest for a round (or 3, while no one was looking!) of mini golf, which of course, he loved. It was a little more ghetto than I remember it, but so it goes with these old places. We also took him to Science City, where the train exhibit was a big it. The had a real Union Pacific train engine you could crawl around on. Afterward we stopped at the chocolate shop for truffles, yummy!
One evening a big storm rolled through and knocked out the power within three seconds of the first clap of thunder. Liam doesn’t like the dark, so we let him take a flashlight to bed. Then mom, dad, and I played Scrabble by candlelight. Mom always used to beat me, but I guess Words With Friends has honed my skills. Even though several of my favorite two-letter, high points words wouldn’t count in Scrabble, I won. The next day, with the power still out, we decided to take Liam out bowling. He’d never gone bowling before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured he’d balk at lifting the ball. Instead he took right to it…hilariously.
I didn’t get a photo or video of the most hilarious thing that happened: A one-year-old boy toddled over from the lane over and started touch the balls on our machine. Liam FREAKED OUT and laid his entire body over his ball, hollering, “Don’t let that baby take my ball!” The mom and I had quite a laugh over that, seeing as how her kid couldn’t even lift a ball. Oh, my kid!
Liam spent a few days with my parents on his own while I went to Wichita to organize the house. He spent most of his time glued to Grandpa Mark. Apparently they went on a two-hour walk to downtown LS to look at the train. This kid is nuts for trains. Every time one went by, he’d announce it. “I hear a train!!” The trains go by my parents house every half hour or so, lol. He also enjoyed helping grandpa in the garden. Poor grandma got stuck cleaning poopy pants for two days straight. Yep. He’s still doing that. Sigh.
Dad drove Liam up to our house and helped us fix a few things and hang a few things. Mom still hasn’t made it out – Grandpa needs a lot of attention these days because he’s practically blind and his memory is starting to go. I’m hoping she can bring him up some time this summer, but we’re not sure if he’d like to ride in the car for three hours. We still haven’t seen our family here, my mom’s cousin and her niece and kids. I’m sure they’d love to see “Uncle Marvin” again.
Tags: Disney, Florida, photos, restaurants
Lest you think we’ve been idle since Jill left, here’s what we’ve been doing all week before the big cross-country drive. Saturday night Brooke came for one last babysitting gig and James and I headed to Magic Kingdom for our reservation at the new Be Our Guest restaurant. We had to make them three months in advance. The setting was spectacular, just like the ballroom in Beauty and the Beast. We ate in a little room off to the side, the West Wing, complete with destroyed portrait and the rose in its glass case. It even shed petals! Beast would walk through the room every hour or so, and he even leaned down and waved to me. After dinner I begged James to stay for the fireworks, which were pretty underwhelming, and then we got stuck in the crowd all trying to get out. Oh well.
Monday I crossed off the last of the big rides on my list when I met Calli at Animal Kingdom for a morning at Disney sans kids. I kick myself for not doing these with her all year! This is only the second time we’ve met up after we dropped our kids off at school, and it was so much fun! We got soaked on Kali River Rapids, got terribly dizzy on the Primeval Whirl (and there were so few people in line, we got to go twice!), then redeemed our fast pass for the Expedition Everest. What a fun ride! At the recommendation of another patron, we waited to ride in the first car. At one point you hit the end of the track on a precipice, then start going backwards. Very thrilling in the front car! Much of the ride was in the dark, which is what I love about Space Mountain. The yeti made an appearance, though not as scary as I’d hoped. But still a very fun ride, and one I hope to coax James on when we’re back in October. Calli and I ended our day with cocktails and lunch at Yak and Yeti. I’m so going to miss these mom-only play dates!
Feeling a little guilty about how much fun I had with Liam while he was in school, I took him over to Nicole’s house to play after I picked him up. Her grandparents were there, and after many tries, we got a great photo of all of us. Mandy thoughtfully bought us a frame, and I’ve already got the print displayed with our other photos. This will have to go on the mantel in our new place in Kansas. We’re going to miss Nicole and Mandy, too! I invited them over on Sunday to raid the fridge, so we’ll have one last play date before we go.
I couldn’t leave Orlando without one more stop at my favorite burger joint, Pine 22. So after getting the oil changed and giving the car a much needed wash and detail, we headed downtown for my favorite burger and Liam’s favorite fries. I built my own burger with smoked gouda, applewood bacon, seared onions, shredded lettuce, roasted garlic aioli, and mayo on a toasted bun. Wow, that description makes me wish I was going there again today! After lunch Liam and I went to Lake Eola to feed to swans, ducks, turtles, geese, and other water foal. The playground was almost empty for some reason, so we stayed there until late in the afternoon. Liam was so funny, playing quietly on his own. This little boy approached him and asked if he’d play with him. Liam just matter-of-factly said “No” and went about his business.
Wednesday after school we met James at his office for the last time, then headed to another of my favorite Orlando eateries, High Tide Harry’s, for dinner. They have scrumptious hush puppies with cinnamon butter, and fried okra as a side dish. We have leftovers in the fridge…I think I know what I’m having for lunch today!
Thursday was the last possibly day we could go to Disney, so despite the 90% rain forecast, I took Liam to Epcot. There was one last playground we hadn’t played on, and there was one last food offering at the Germany pavilion I hadn’t gotten to try when James and I went last Saturday. The rain cleared up a bit once we got there, so I picked up the meatloaf sandwich and a beer, and Liam and I found a table by the lagoon under an umbrella. I know, meatloaf sandwich doesn’t sound that great, but with the mustard sauce and fried onions, it was to die for. Brisket, collard greens and jalapeno cornbread at The Smokehouse was even better. And I couldn’t leave without sampling our favorite drink from the France pavilion, a Vie Va Rose Slushy. By mid-afternoon I was feeling pretty good. Liam played in his favorite hedge maze in the England section. But, sadly, all the playgrounds were closed because of the rain. So instead we tried an indoor game Calli had told me about that her kids had loved. It had to do with saving money, and you got to carry a piggy bank to various stations to play the game. Liam loved it so much he wanted to play it twice. Big hit! Afterward I took Liam on the monorail one last time. We intended to pop over to Magic Kingdom to run around on Tom Sawyer’s Island, but by then the rain storm really picked up, so we headed back to Epcot to meet James for more dining at the Pavilions. Another meatloaf sandwich hit the spot.
Now it’s time to get down to business. Clean the house. Organize things for the movers. Make a pile for Goodwill. Somehow I’m going to squeeze in a hair appointment, a night out at the Wine Room and Bosphorous Restaurant in Winter Park with Mandy and Calli, and brunch at Stoneybrook Country Club with Maggie on Sunday. And because I’m completely insane, I’m taking Liam to the pirate museum in St. Augustine on our way out of town on Monday. James is staying in Orlando to oversee all the packing and loading. I just have to squeeze every ounce of fun out of Florida before we move to Kansas.
Tags: family, Florida, photos, video
On our way to Siesta Key on Tuesday we stopped at Dinosaur World. There’s a similar park in South Dakota where the kids can climb on all the dinos. But this was more realistic, and apparently more impressive, too. The kids had so much fun playing on the dino-themed playground, pointing out all of the dinosaurs in the woods, digging for fossils in the sand pit, and perusing the gift shop. And it was a perfect way to break up the long drive to the beach.
Next stop, Siesta Key! I got us a room in the same resort that Liam and I had stayed in almost exactly a year before. This room was a little better, though just as sparse. But the price was right, and the kids didn’t care. They had great fun in the courtyard playing in the little fountain. Milo kept dipping his binkies in there to wash them off, too funny! Liam spent 20 minutes playing in the kitchen, spinning the cabinet with the pots in it, and declaring, “Mommy, these pots are getting dizzy in here!” What a funny kid.
We decided to skip eating at restaurants and get take out to eat in the courtyard. So much less stressful for our collective brood. Then it was off to the beach for the spectacular sunset.
That night Jill and I indulged with wine and cheese while the kids played with their beach balls in the courtyard. After all the children went to bed, Jill and I took turns taking a midnight stroll along the beach under the full moon. Such a magical experience..an empty beach, white sand reflecting like daylight, and the waves gently lapping on the shore.
The next morning we went back to the beach for a day in the sun. Evie and Jill walked along the sand hunting for seashells, and Milo and Liam made sand castles.
Then the kids found a hole near the surf that slowly filled with water as the tide came in. A perfect place to look for buried treasure.
We spent the afternoon souvenir shopping and eating ice cream at the Orange Octopus. Jill and I discovered Sea Salt Caramel flavor…wow. That night, more takeout in the courtyard from a nearby restaurant, then back to the beach for another sunset. Although the clouds obscured it, the kids had another wonderful evening playing in the sand.
The next morning we had a chaotic breakfast at The Broken Egg. But by then I was getting used to the chaos, and my breakfast was outstanding, so it was all good. We had a very sleepy ride home.
Friday I took Liam to school, left Jill and Milo at home to recuperate, and I took Evie to Animal Kingdom. We had such a great time! She got her face painted (which I beg Liam to do every time we see it, and he always refuses), we saw tons of animals on the safari (with many exclamations from Evie, the animal lover), and it was all I could do to tear her away from petting the goats, sheep, and pigs. We stayed for the Flights of Wonder show, which I’d never seen before. Lots of big birds, and Evie kept raising her hand to be a volunteer. Another thing I can never get Liam to do, of course. They didn’t choose her, but the show was still pretty awesome.
We ended our day on the Triceratops ride, Animal Kingdom’s version of the Flying Dumbos. We’ve taken Liam to Animal Kingdom so many times, it’s become old hat to him. It was so much fun to introduce it for the first time to his cousin.
And then it was Saturday, time to pack up and head out to the airport. I’m so, so glad that Jill and her kids could to come down to Florida before we moved away. No telling if we’ll ever live here again while our kids are the right age to enjoy Disney. While Milo will likely not remember, I’m hoping both Evie and Liam will remember it fondly.
Tags: family, Florida, photos, video
Two weeks is a long time. But also, somehow, not long enough. Jill’s trip was punctuated with resounding hits (the science center and Siesta Key) and dismal failures (mini golf, ack!) But through all the hectic outings, mayhem at home, and wine drinking that started earlier and earlier each day, we came away with great photos and priceless memories.
The week started out rocky. The first night’s bathtime made for adorable photos…and a wet floor. Evie drew on every conceivable surface and we had to keep Milo from pouring water out of the tub. But three kids in a tub? A-freakin-dorable.
Liam had school on Monday, so Jill and I headed to the Ikea for lunch and shopping. No surprise Milo liked the meatballs. This kid will eat anything! When Liam got home, the kids played upstairs and Jill and I opened our first bottle of wine. Wait, this was Monday…this was probably the third, heh. Milo made use of Liam’s potty, and not to be outdone, Liam suddenly decided to make good use of it, too, earning himself a prize from the prize basket. Evie was quite excited by the prospect of a new toy, and they had great fun playing with it:
We started off Tuesday morning at the mini golf place, one of Liam’s favorite morning activities. But Evie decided she didn’t want to play, so she moped through most of it. Once she snapped out of it and actually started playing, Liam threw a fit because she jumped ahead of him and he didn’t get to go first anymore. Milo happily picked up each ball that was hit and put it in the hole, grinning and oblivious to all the fit-throwing. None of the water features was working for some reason, so the whole experience was a bummer. By hole 10 Jill was asking if we were done yet. And I was disappointed because Liam and I usually have such a good time there. Oh well.
Later that day we headed to the Downtown Disney Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to get Evie all dolled up like a princess. She wasn’t wild about the up-do process…
But in the end, she was beaming. Liam got antsy, so I missed all the makeup, which was apparently her favorite part. But I was tickled to see her so happy in her little pink dress and tiara.
After dinner, Princess Evie, Liam and I took a train ride. Which left Liam beaming almost as much as Evie.
Wednesday we took all three kids to SeaWorld. I had the honor of taking Evie on her very first roller coaster ride. And while she didn’t cry the whole time like Liam had, I could tell after that first drop that she was not enjoying it. It didn’t deter her from riding some of the other rides with her mom. This girl is made from sterner stuff!
We had a hard time ferrying the kids from exhibit to exhibit. Liam whined every time we had to leave something, and by lunch time, Jill and I were beat. We finished up the day with Liam’s favorite show, Pet’s Ahoy. It’s the one with the dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. Evie, the consummate animal lover, enjoyed the show, of course. And Milo kept shouting out, “Doggie!!” and pointing enthusiastically. So he enjoyed it, too.
Thursday we took all the kids to New Smyrna Beach. It was a beautiful warm day for it, and Jill’s kids had never before seen the ocean. Liam was being his usual whiny self, and he wanted to play on the playground while everyone else wanted to see the beach. So Jill took hers to the sand and surf and I sat with Liam at the slide. Probably just as well because amid all this sight-seeing, I had to stay in touch with James about the Wichita house hunt. After awhile, Liam and I made our way down to the beach where we spied Milo chasing after seagulls, Evie making new friends with other kids, and Jill ready for wine. We had decided to skip our swimsuits and just stay in clothes, which worked out ok for me, but not so much for Jill. Milo went headlong into the surf, and then she had to carry him. Evie kept going down to play near the waves and getting upset because she couldn’t find us again. Milo wouldn’t stay put, and Jill and I took turns chasing him and bringing back to our stuff. Liam pretty much stayed put, playing with his sand toys and refusing to get near the water. Same old, same old for him. I guess I usually have it pretty easy when it’s just him and me! I helped Evie make a sandcastle, then Liam got jealous and knocked it down. Evie got sand in her eyes, and that pretty much ended the beach outing.
The day wasn’t a complete waste…on our way back, Jill and I stopped to pick up some gator jerky, which turned out to be the best snack ever!! It went quite well with the Malbec I bought and the gourmet white cheddar Jill brought. So at least we got to unwind that night with good food and a drinky poo…or three.
On Friday we took the kids to the Science Center and, finally, they all played well together! They had a great time picking oranges off the trees, making tracks with pipes on the magnetic wall, racing cars down the big track, and looking at the dinosaur bones. And I think Jill and I were happy to be indoors…the temps had been climbing into the high 80s all week, and being outdoors was getting tiring.
We ended the week with a sister’s day out, god bless our babysitter! Jill and I went to see the new Evil Dead remake, which was hilariously gross. We kept joking that duck tape heals all wounds (the main character seemed to believe that, at least), and the twisted new ending left us laughing incredulously. Then we headed to my favorite sushi bar for happy hour sushi and sake. Yum, yum! The kids didn’t burn the place down while we were gone, though they’d made a huge mess of everything. So we spent the next couple of days resting up and cleaning up, preparing for week two. More to come!
Tags: family, Florida, photos, video
Spring break, time for Disney World! Chris, Ann and the boys drove like mad to make it down to Florida for a whirlwind Florida vacation. James and I had initially thought we’d just meet them for a couple of days while they were at Disney, but we decided to go whole hog and get as much family time (and theme park time) as we could.
We spent Monday night at Hollywood Studios. We arrived just in time for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Ann had saved us front row seats. From there it was Star Tours, which the boys really loved, then we all ran around the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground. Liam was delighted to chase his cousins around again. He hadn’t seen them since Christmas. After we left, the rest of the family stayed for the Phantasm show, something James and I still haven’t done. We may have to come back and see it before we go. Ann said they projected images on a giant waterfall. Very cool!
Next up, bright and early for a full day at Magic Kingdom! We rode go carts, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan, and sat through the Mickey Philharmonic (another first for us, and very cute. I’m still astounded that after two years we still find things we haven’t done here). Then we took the kids on Pirates of the Caribbean and The Jungle Cruise. We weren’t sure how Liam would do on Pirates, but he seemed to like it despite the dark. James volunteered to take Liam and Devin to Tom Sawyer’s Island while us big kids rode Space Mountain. And Brady discovered his inner adrenaline junkie. We had a couple of extra fast passes, and Brady loved it so much, we decided to ride it again. I convinced him to try the front car…best seat on the coaster in my opinion. Brady became my little roller coaster cohort!
Devin isn’t as wild about the thrill rides, but we managed to coax him on to Big Thunder Mountain, which is relatively tame as coasters go. Check them out, all in yellow, third car back. Liam helped me spot them, very adorably, I might add. “Is that them? No, I don’t see yellow shirts. Maybe the next one.”
After the sun went down we made our way back to the Pop Century Resort for some swimming in the heated pool. Liam predictably stayed on the steps, but Brady and Devin were fun to watch horse around. It was painfully cold to get out and dry off…by then the temps had dropped down to the 60s, but by 10 PM, we thought it best to call it a night. We still had an hour to drive home. Another late night for the weary vacationers.
Wednesday we met up in the afternoon for a rainy day at Epcot. Actually, it only sprinkled, so it wasn’t so bad. In the spring, Epcot does a Food and Garden Show, complete with topiaries of Disney characters. Here’s Liam posing with his favorite. Can you guess who that is? They also had playgrounds set up everywhere, and that’s all Liam wanted to do. We mostly stuck to the one by the Cars pavilion while the rest of the family rode Soarin’, but we’ll have to come back another day to explore the others. I was surprised and delighted to hear that Devin tried Mission Space, and he really seemed to like it. He kept pulling his hands up and letting them drop back on his chest, exclaiming, “This is cool!” And, of course, everyone was impressed by Soarin’. After dinner at the Coral Reef (another I can add to my highly recommended list), James took Liam home and the rest of us toured the countries. We had just enough time to ride Test Track before the fireworks. My little thrill ride junkie and I rode it twice! Then we met Ann and Devin for the big fireworks show.
No rest for the weary! I thought surely James would want to accompany the boys to Universal Thursday. He’s completely addicted to Butterbeer. But I guess all of the running around got to him, so he decided to stay home with Liam. I contemplated doing the same, but I got psyched about introducing Brady to some of my favorite rides in Orlando, so I sprang for a ticket. We had a packed day, hopping both parks and getting the express pass so we could avoid the long lines. After a short ride on the Dr. Suess kiddie coaster and walking through the Posiden’s Fury show, we finally arrived at the place the boys were the most excited about. See how excited they are?
The only place we couldn’t use our Express passes was on the Hogwarts ride, and the line was 90 minutes long. Noooo! But, by some stroke of luck, while standing by the exit to the ride, one of the Universal employees approached me and asked if we wanted to ride the ride. I told her we’d love to, but the line is so long. Then she leaned in and said conspiratorially, “I can get you in.” Sure enough, after hastily stuffing our things in a locker, she brought all five of us to the front of the line. Sweet! And the boys looooved the ride.
Despite the relatively cool temperature, I convinced Brady to ride the Jurassic Park water ride with me. I told him we wouldn’t get that wet. And from past experience, that was partly true. But I guess it depends on where you sit. So, yeah, we got soaked. And the hill freaked Brady out a little. But he was a good sport about it.
The two big roller coasters were a little intimidating for Brady, so I rode Hulk with Ann and The Rip Ride Rockit by myself. I’m used to riding the latter one by myself – I still haven’t found anyone brave enough to go on it. Which is too bad. It is so awesome! The boys both rode all of the motion simulator rides – Minion, Shrek 4D, Simpsons, Spiderman, and Men in Black. But I think Harry Potter was still their favorite. Brady, Ann and I braved the Mummy roller coaster, an indoor coaster similar to space mountain except with fire. And dead things chasing you. Brady and I really liked it.
We had just enough time to go through the Hogwarts castle and ride the Harry Potter ride again. And get some Butterbeers and dinner at the Three Broomsticks. Yum!
The only things we didn’t have time to do was the Pteradon Flyers, a ride that adults can only do when accompanied by a child that’s tall enough. We’ve never ridden it with Liam (even though now he’s technically tall enough, I doubt we could convince him to do it.) It seats one adult and one child in a hang glider that hangs down from a conveyor, and you get to fly above the whole Jurassic Park section of Universal. But our Express pass didn’t work on that, and the line was over an hour. Oh well.
After resting up a bit Friday morning, we headed to Playalinda Beach so the boys could soak up their last bit of sunshine and warmth. They built castles, knocked them down, swam in the freezing cold surf, jumped the waves, played tag, and buried each other in the sand.
Ann took lots of photos, and Chris (in the background there), mostly rested up for the long drive home. The weathermen were predicting a big winter storm to hit Springfield Saturday night, so they decided to hit the road Friday after we got back from the beach. What an exhausting and fun-filled trip, for all of us, really! I’m so glad they made it down here before we had to move. I know it was hard to drive all the way down and all the way back in such a short time, but I think it was worth it. Memories for a lifetime.
Here are the rest of my photos. Enjoy!
Tags: Florida, photos, video
Last weekend we went to Green Meadows petting zoo down in Kissimmee for an afternoon of cow milking, chicken chasing, and goat petting. At least, that was the plan. But after watching one cow milked and visiting one water buffalo in its pen, Liam refused to follow the tour group any longer. So we spent an hour playing on the playground while Nicole and her mom got to chase chickens, feed ducks, pet goats, and see dozens of other farm animals. Granted, their playground was pretty cool, so Liam did have a nice time going down the slides, sticking his head in the flower cutouts, and playing in the little play houses. But I couldn’t help being annoyed at having paid admission (half off with the a Groupon, but still) and hardly seeing any animals. So after I’d had my lunch (Liam: “I’m not huuuungry! Leave me alone.”), played Words with Friends, checked Facebook, and decided I’d had enough sitting around, I dragged my kid kicking and screaming over to the tour group. We arrived just in time for the hayride, which he calmed down enough to enjoy. He and Nicole weren’t interested in the pony rides, so that gave them the perfect opportunity to eat some lunch. Then we finished off the tour with a train ride around the park. Actually, the tour wasn’t quite over yet, but our kids said it was. By then poor Mandy, whose due date for her next kiddo is in about a month, and Nicole were ready for naps. And Liam was, too.
All in all a fun outing, though I wish my kid were more of a team player. I keep thinking this will get better when he’s older. But I have a feeling that while his vehement protests will lessen with time, his feelings about joining in a group won’t. At any rate, he did have fun playing with Nicole. They enjoyed playing chase (though neither seemed to get “tag”) and playing house. Here’s a cute video.
Tags: Disney, family, Florida, photos, video
Mom and Dad set off on their first big post-retirement trip this month, heading down to Florida to stay with us a week. Along the way they stopped in Memphis, tried to stop in Gatlinburg (apparently it’s a huge Valentine’s weekend hot spot, and traffic was so bad they had to bypass it), saw the Biltmore in Ashville, NC, took a slight detour up to Cincinnati to settle grandma’s estate, stopped off in Atlanta for a night, then finally made it down to Orlando. Along the way they saw some of the coldest temperatures they’d seen all winter, accompanied by some snow. But down here in sunny Florida, they were greeted with highs in the 70s and 80s.
Unfortunately, Liam brought home The Plague right before they arrived. Thursday I took Liam to the doctor and the prognosis wasn’t good: strep and pink eye. James and I weren’t feeling so hot, either. So all of my plans for early in their trip went out the window. Instead we took a leisurely stroll through Ft. Christmas, let Liam run around on the playground, and explored some of the old homesteads.
On Saturday we had planned an entire day at Epcot, and Liam was going to stay home with the sitter. We had made reservations at Le Cellier three months in advance. But James was starting to come down with the crud, and I was starting to feel better, so James stayed home with Liam while I took my parents around Epcot for the day. We rode some of the tamer rides, then I got up the nerve to attempt the milder version of Mission Space. Dad loved it! And so did I! After that it was easy to convince them to try Test Track, a ride that’s been closed for the past year and one I’d been wanting to ride since I moved here. Just enough thrill for my retired parents! Dad almost lost his hat, lol.
Then we met James and Liam for dinner at Le Cellier, which didn’t disappoint. Though I wish James and I had been feeling better. It’s no fun eating with a cold. After dinner, mom, dad and I redeemed our Fast Passes at Soarin’, which they absolutely loved! I giggled as I could hear mom next to me gasping as we soared down over the ocean. It really does feel like you’re going to get your feet wet. Then we rode Spaceship Earth with Liam and James right before they left the park. And got some pretty sunset photos of the big ball.
Only then did poor mom and dad realize we’d only seen about half of Epcot. We spent the rest of the night walking around the World Showcase. All the countries look so beautiful at night, so I think mom enjoyed it despite her aching feet. We found a nice place to rest and enjoy the fireworks display at the end of the night. Very spectacular, and right up dad’s alley.
By Monday my cold took a turn for the worst, so mom and dad took Liam to the Science Center while I went to the doctor. Liam and mom lasted about 10 minutes in the Star Wars exhibit, so they left dad to read every sign and watch every video like I had done a few weeks before without Liam. Liam knew all his favorite spots – the orange grove, the tornado and earthquake room. Dad volunteered for the wind machine and apparently put on quite a show for some other patrons. Much to my surprise, they even got Liam to sit through the 3D movie about tornadoes. Perhaps I have a future weather nut on my hands. Fitting that we’re moving back to Tornado Alley, then.
By Wednesday I felt well enough for a little adventure, so we took Liam to this mini-golf place by my house I’d been wanting to try. They boasted live gators. Teeny tiny live gators, but I won’t quibble. I wasn’t sure how Liam would do, but he absolutely loved it. The smallest club was just his size, and he would position the ball about 2 inches from the hole and hit it in. The course had a lot of interesting twists and turns, and Liam had a great time dropping his ball in the first hole to see where it came out on the next green. We’ll definitely be going back soon.
After a quick lunch at home, we ventured out to Clearwater Beach for dinner and sunset watching. It was a cold day, only about 65, and windy, so not terribly pleasant near the shore. But we got some great views from the restaurant.
Thursday, left with a stomach-wrenching cough but determined to enjoy the day at Kennedy we had planned for months, I drove with dad over to the space center first thing. Mom took Liam to preschool that day, and he seemed to be on the mend. Dad and I had a fabulous time walking through the rocket garden, taking a simulated ride of the space shuttle (very cool!), and checking out all of the artifacts from the early days of space flight. We had lunch with an astronaut, in which Jon McBride regaled us with all the tales of space flight. He took questions at the end, and of course all the kids wanted to know how they used the bathroom. He showed us a slide and said, no joke, they have to practice this just like everything else. Complete with camera in a place no one wants to see a camera. In the middle of the presentation mom called. Apparently Liam laid his head down and fell asleep at lunch, and they sent him home for the day. Poor kiddo!
I was feeling pretty lousy myself, but the cough drops kept the worst of it at bay through our two-hour tour of the launch pad. We saw the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building and launch pad 39A, where they launched most of the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions. We caught it right between space programs, so we got a rare glimpse of the facility. Soon Space X will be launching commercial flights there, and it’ll be closed to the public again. Our tour guide was fantastic, and we got lots of geeky photos. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Apollo/Mercury museum, totally in awe of the size of the Saturn V rocket. We also saw some of the original Mission Control equipment, and relived the harrowing experience of the first moon landing in a stage and video show. Regretfully we couldn’t squeeze in the two IMAX shows about Hubble and the Space Station. But it still felt like a very full day, and we two space geeks left very satisfied. Dad was my very own tour guide through the rocket garden and museum. It was amusing to him, I’m sure, that I always pictured him as a little kid watching the moon landing. He was actually an adult, away at the Technical Institute in Kansas City, watching it on his TV in his own apartment.
Friday morning we got up bright and early to see the Falcon 9 rocket launch at 10. Liam seemed better and mom was coming down with the crud, despite copious doses of Zicam both mom and dad were taking, so we took Liam along with us. As usual he was both cute and a pain in the ass, complaining that he didn’t want to go to the beach and get dirty, but sitting quietly in his chair once we got him out of the car. The launch was a little underwhelming, but still cool to see. I think the photos do it a little more justice than the video.
Liam just couldn’t stop talking about the rocket, so afterward we headed to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, promising him we’d get him a rocket in the gift shop. But, after playing on some of the exhibits, we discovered the gift shop had been shut down. So of course he cried. The ticket agent told us we could park for $10 and go to the gift shop at the main center. Ummm, I don’t think so. But Liam got over it, as all four year olds do.
Saturday we took them to our favorite restaurant in Winter Park, Bosphorous. It was a cold, blustery day (for Florida, anyway), and they seated us by the door, so the lunch wasn’t as pleasant as I’d hoped. Plus I think we were all feeling the crud by then. But we took home lots of yummy leftovers that I’m still enjoying this week.
Sunday Mom and Dad posed for one last photo with Liam. In all the down time, Liam took walks around the neighborhood with his scooter, showing grandma and grandpa the play ground, and he spent many an hour playing trains with grandpa in the play room. We had planned to travel up to St. Augustine together to see the fort and the pirate museum, but with all of us feeling so sick and the weather staying stubbornly cold and windy, we decided to stay home. Mom and dad spent a blustery day in St. Augustine, skipping the fort in favor of the Lightner Museum and a drive around town to see the oldest house and the oldest neighborhood in America. St. Augustine is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year, and it being the beginning of spring break, the streets were notably crowded. Probably best that Liam and I skipped it. Today they should be sight-seeing in Baton Rouge, then on to the Clinton Presidential Library tomorrow in Little Rock, AR. And then home. A long trip, with an unfortunately cold thrown in, but a good one, I hope.
James is negotiating his starting date for the Wichita job in the next week or two, and if things go accordingly, we’ll be seeing mom and dad again very soon. It was so great to see Liam really bonding with his grandparents, more now than I think he’s ever done before. Usually we have to share them with Evie and Milo, or Liam spends most of the time clinging to me. But this time he firmly told James and I to “go away” so he could play with them. I’m looking forward to him really getting to know his grandparents for the next couple of years at least.
Tags: amusing, Florida, photos
Meet Swampy. He’s the World’s Biggest Gator, according to the sign out front. And here’s Liam doing his best NOT to pose for a photo. And there’s Mandy trying to coax an even less cooperative Nicole into posing, too. Friday we met for a play date at Jungle Adventures, one of those old-school theme parks full of gators, assorted warm and cold blooded animals, and a shop full of kitschy souvenirs. This is the taste of Old Florida that I love, before Disney and Universal and Sea World arrived. This place was dirty. And it smelled. Y’know, like how a swamp is supposed to smell, because this was the Real Deal.
Liam, of course, didn’t want to participate in the guided tour. So we wended our way along the multiple bridges and wooden walkways, peering into cages and over short walls at alligators, cougars, snakes, monkeys, and parrots. After a picnic lunch, where we said hello to Mr. Peacock and his flock of hens, Liam perked up and started running around. We saw on the map they had a replica Spanish fort, but the gal at the front told us it was on the other side of the swamp and not open for the kids to climb around on. However, just down the road was Fort Christmas, and we could pop over there if we wanted to and check that out. By that time we’d pretty much covered the entire park, the next Jungle Cruise wasn’t for another hour, and the sulfur smell was starting to get to me. Plus Liam really wanted to climb on the fort, probably because of our recent trip to Tom Sawyer Island. So, off to Fort Christmas we went.
And what a gem that turned out to be! Turns out Historic Fort Christmas not only has a huge fort with tons of artifacts and ramps for the kids to climb on, but also a bunch of old farmsteads, an old school house, and an awesome playground to explore. We were sad we only had an hour to kill. We didn’t have time to explore the homesteads, but I’m sure my parents will love to see this when they’re here in a couple of weeks.
Back at Jungle Adventures, we hopped on the Jungle Cruise with a handful of passengers and an adult ball python. Her handler agreed to sit in the back after some ruckus from a few of the young girls on board. I guess they’d had enough of snakes for one day. I, for one, didn’t mind, fondly remembering my sister’s pet ball python in her St. Louis apartment. Wonder whatever happened to that little guy after he escaped…anywho…
Our tour guide’s name was Daryl, and what he lacked in teeth he made up for in panache. After the girls settled down, he proceeded to tell us why snakes make better pets than dogs or cats. He made some valid points. Filing that one away for later. We took a turn around the swamp, and he explained the unpleasant odor came from the swamp’s natural sulfur springs. The water was completely covered in what he termed Duck Weed, a solid mass of plant life that apparently ducks love to eat. But in a swamp swarming with gators, the ducks usually start with a mouthful and leave as a mouthful. It looked nearly thick enough to walk on, and it was super creepy to see the gators just disappear under it without a ripple.
All-in-all it was a fun afternoon, though if I hadn’t gotten half off with a Groupon, I don’t think it would have been worth the admission. Perhaps with older kids who would sit through all the tours and demonstrations it would be. They sold food you could toss down tubes at the animals, which would have been fun if Liam had been interested. I doubt he would have wanted to get his hands dirty. He seemed to really enjoy the cruise, though he spent more time pointing out all of the bridges we’d gone over and going ballistic over the Spanish Fort than he did looking at any animals. This kid cracks me up sometimes.
Tags: Disney, family, Florida, photos, restaurants, video
Grandpa Bob couldn’t wait to leave the bitter cold of Illinois and visit us down here in sunny Florida. And Liam couldn’t wait to see him, either. He had lots of new toys to show him (most of which grandpa had bought him, lol), including his new guitar and scooter. He also took the Big Wheel for a spin, though still not using the pedals. Oh well.
On Saturday we decided to try a new Cajun place we’d heard about, Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen. Holy cow, was it good! We’re always disappointed in the gumbo at Cajun restaurants, but theirs was almost as good as the stuff we make at home. James’ crawfish etoufee was decent, but I decided to order their specialty, Andouille sausage and shrimp on cheddar grits with a red wine sauce. Which was absolutely fantastic! We’re definitely adding this to our list of favorite Orlando restaurants.
On Sunday we headed to Animal Kingdom to see the lions, tigers, and slushies. Pictured above, Liam and grandpa are waiting outside James’ favorite food stand to get a yummy slushy. Just across the way was the Yak & Yeti, and now that I’ve tried it two times, I can safely say it meets my approval for good Disney dining. We took grandpa on the Safari, took the train to the petting zoo, and finally caught the Finding Nemo musical. That last was a bust – crappy seats, and Liam kept wanting to leave – but the rest was lots of fun.
Tuesday we dropped Liam off at school and spent the afternoon outlet mall shopping. I took a slight solo detour to the nearby JCPenney’s in Kissemee and finally found some jeans that fit. That seems to be the only place I can find jeans short enough for me. For lunch we tried a new Indian place we’d heard good things about, Saffron. Instead of a buffet, they offered a lunch plate that included Naan, appetizer, soup, and dessert. It came out on a perfect little rectangular plate with dividers. The food was great, and I think we’ll be coming back here to try dinner sometime. Another to add to the list!
Wednesday we decided to give Disney another shot, this time at Hollywood Studios. I shouldn’t be surprised, but after a year of season passes, we’re still finding parts of the park we’ve never seen. This time it was the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, which Liam absolutely loved! They had all these tunnels and slides and caves, and it made you feel like a tiny insect crawling along all the tall blades of grass and candy wrappers. Very cute.
We had lunch at the Sci Fi Drive In, where we sat in a car in front of a big screen and watched clips of old black and white sci fi flicks and cartoons. There was some sort of problem with the kitchen, so our food took a really long time. But Liam didn’t mind sucking down most of James’ milkshake and bouncing on the car seats. Best of all, to make up for the inconvenience, our server brought us a fast pass that we could use on any ride at any time. So we got to bypass the 90-minute wait for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, which I’ve been wanting to try since we moved here. It was really fun, though I don’t think Liam cared for it much. But at least it was something he could ride.
Of course, we can’t leave Hollywood Studios without seeing the Cars show. Liam couldn’t get enough of Lightening McQueen, of course. He insisted that I shoot some video this time so he can watch it later. You can hear Liam saying, “That thing’s on FIRE!” In fact, I think he mentions fire in every single video I shot, lol. Here’s a good shot of the finale. Enjoy!
Tags: Florida, photos
Yesterday I ditched Liam at preschool and headed to the Science Museum to see the new Star Wars exhibit. Don’t worry – I promise I’ll take Liam another time. It’ll be here until April 7. But I wanted a chance to read every sign and watch every video, and that’s impossible with an impatient four-year-old who only wants to buy something in the gift shop. I even took a simulator ride in the Millennium Falcon, thinking the whole time, “Liam would hate this because it’s so dark in here.” The exhibit was marvelous; lots of original costumes and props, cool videos about the science behind the film, and several hands-on stations that combined Star Wars with real science. I skipped most of the latter, which was geared more toward kids. Perhaps I can get Liam to try those when I take him. Now I’m jonesing to watch the entire Star Wars saga, so Liam might be more amenable to geeking out with me after he sees them all. He made it through most of the Phantom Menace and the beginning of Attack of the Clones yesterday after school. Today we’re going to try Revenge of the Sith. He’s already seen parts of the latter episodes, which are my favorite, of course. Anything with R2-D2, Yoda and Ewoks holds his interest.
Another feature of the science museum I never get to see are the films, so I stayed to watch both of them. Space Junk, all about the hazardous debris left in low-earth orbit, was shown on the IMAX-like Cinedome. Interesting movie, though I think I preferred the second film shown in 3D, Tornado Alley. This guy custom built his own truck – more like a tank – that he drove into the middle of a tornado and filmed. Sweet! Funny enough, seeing all of those tornado chasers tearing through the plains made me miss Kansas a little bit. I do love those summer storms. Who knows…maybe we’ll be there for tornado season this year. The idea is growing on me…but just a little. Friday, Liam and I are headed to Cocoa Beach with Nicole and Mandy, and I’m sure all thoughts of moving to Kansas will be shuffled aside for the warm, January Florida breezes and ocean surf.