The worst thing that's happened on the trip so far: My 3 year old decided he could swim without a life jacket. If I make him wear it, he refuses to get in the water, and just sits on the side to watch. Now, in the long run, this is actually great, and he is becoming a great swimmer really fast. But, selfishly, this totally ruins my pool time, which wasn't that relaxing to begin with! I used to be able to get the baby to sleep, and the Bushkin distracted by something not int he water, and then I could read for a few minutes. But NOW I have to watch Bubber the whole time, since I'm freaked out he's going to drown. The BEST thing that's happened so far: the Baby is sleeping through the night! Just look at that face, how could you not love him? Mom and Dad both are a LOT happier and well rested!
We got to camp in this cute little campground on Gieger Key, just about 10 miles from Key West. It was pretty small, but they had a little restaurant with a steel drum player, and our trailer backed right up to the ocean! It was fun to have a relaxed day with no where to go, and no driving. I took a vacation from cooking, so we had key lime pie (of course) and watermelon for lunch! We spent the day snorkeling with the kids, and found so many awesome treasures! I've never found so many wonderful, beautiful things at the beach! The girls were so excited every time they found a shell or a starfish, and Brandon helped them dive deep enough to pick up the treasures themselves. I think we were far enough away from public beaches, that the waters here hadn't been picked over. They also found an old sunken treasure box, which they pulled out and discovered it was actually an old crab pot, with a lobster and some shells inside. Of course, I didn't remember to take a photo of it. They felt like real pirates, discovering treasure. In the photo with us is one of the little friends we made!
"Key Largo, Montigo, baby we don't we go to Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mamma.......something I don't...... how to get to Coco-mo, that's where we wanna go to get away from it all......." Yes, we did torture our children by singing this, or at least our partial version of this song, all the way from Key Largo to Key west! We had to get our picture taken at the "Southern-most Point" in the USA! I think the Northern, Western, and Eastern points are all in Alaska! Maybe someday....it's the only state I've never been to. Every night they have a 'sunset party,' with street venders, performers, and food! The kids had a lot of fun watching the fire juggler, sword swallower, and the tuba player who was really bad, but had his dog collect all the money, so my kids loved it! And some random guy was there with a parrot, but at least he didn't charge us for a picture! And not the best picture of the sunset, but you never know what you're gonna get when you ask a fellow tourist to snap a photo for you! After this picture was taken, we turned around to watch the last rays of the sun. Little Bubber was excited, "Oh, so that's where the sun hides!" We also walked the streets a little, but it's hard to browse through shops when you have a double stroller and 50 little sticky fingers touching everything! I told my hubby, 'this would be so fun without kids!' I think we say that everywhere we go! Of course, it's fun with our kids too, and I'm grateful for the memories we're making as a family. And all the work is worth it every time the kids eyes light up about something new we're seeing, doing, or tasting!
We made it to the Atlantic Ocean! We got into the Fort Lauderdale, FL area around 6:00 at night, unhooked our trailer, and had to drive around for about an hour until we found a public beach. We swam and played for about an hour, and the kids had a blast finding shells and cool rocks and such. The water was so warm, the waves were small enough that everyone got to swim! So now it's official, we've made it across the entire country! Of course, we didn't start on the west coast, but we did take our kids to the Oregon coast a year ago, so now they've all been 'from sea to shining sea;' except for the baby! Someday he'll reach the pacific, and then it'll be official for him! We really live in an amazing country, I hope each of us will do our part to keep it so wonderful! So look around your area for somebody you can help, or even just share a smile with....and don't forget your own family!
We took the kids to see some real live mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, in Spring Hill, Florida. We got to have our photo taken with one, and watch them put on the play "The Little Mermaid" in there underwater theater. The sad news was the show had to end early because of technical difficulties....my guess is a shark swam up into the spring! We also got to take a little river cruise and watch an animal show, where we learned about alligators, toads, and snakes that are native to Florida. Then the kids got to pet one of the baby alligators! We just spent a couple hours at the park, which was plenty of time. It was fun, but also a little run down. They do, however, have a mini water park where you can go swimming, but it was over twice as much for admission, so we just opted for the mermaid shows. If I was going to do it again, we'd do the water park and everything.
Dad found this awesomely huge turtle on his run this morning, of course upstaging the turtle that I found a month ago! Oh well! We're in Sarasota, FL....and our campground host informed us that they have a couple alligators living in there lake! The kids were excited because we told them the first one to see an alligator gets a t-shirt. Of course, it makes me nervous, so I wont let the kids outside without me. But, I do hope we get to see him before we take off!
When we were in Tallahasee, we took a quick day trip up to Thomasville, Georgia. It's a cute little shopping town, and they have different festivals throughout the year. Of course, there's not much going on in the summer, since it's the 'off' season here....not very many tourists are crazy enough to brave the high humidity and heat of the Florida Summer! And even though I have never sweat so much in my entire life, we try to look for the positive! Like, how much easier it is to loose weight when you sweat off 5 pounds a day, and also what a great excuse to search out all the ice cream parlors wherever we go!
Our 8 year old had learned about Helen Keller this year in school, so she was excited when we got to come see her house. We learned a little bit more about her and her family, and what an amazing person she actually was, and super smart! Of course, I have to sing the praises of Annie Sullivan, who was her teacher, and companion until the day that she died. It wouldn't have mattered how smart Helen was if her parents hadn't found such a competent and patient lady to help Helen learn. Here we are at the famous "Water Pump," where Helen learned her first word "water," and began to understand the hand signs Annie had been teaching her were actually the names of things, and a way for her to communicate.
I get to pay tribute to 2 great men in my life today! First, the Father of my kids, who does so much for me and our family! I really don't know what, or how, to say all of the things he does for us. This picture pretty much wraps it up! Actually, he's got it easy in this picture....usually he's corralling all the 4 big kids, and all their stuff, while I get to hold the baby (notice, he's even smiling!). He puts the kids and myself first every day, every minute, in everything. I wish there was more I could do for this wonderful man, and wonderful father. I'm so grateful. I thought I knew what a wonderful man he was when I married him, but every year I grow to appreciate him more and more! And, of course, a tribute to my own father! Shown here with my youngest, and his youngest grandchild out of 11! I would have put a better picture in, but he has a goofy camera smile! (sorry dad, but you do!) I can't say enough good things about my own dad, who I gain more and more appreciation for now that I am a parent! All my childhood memories are full of love and happiness. My dad always put his children first, and he always had time to play with us. I'm grateful for his patience and wisdom that have guided me, and helped me become the person I am today. Hopefully, as I continue to grow up, I can become more like him. I don't know if you're reading my blog today or not, but I love you, daddy.
I hope all my readers are having an equally awesome Fathers Day, and hopefully you all have wonderful men in your life to celebrate as well.
We try lots of different things to help our kids learn about where we are and what we're doing, and one of our favorites is the Vinyl US map on the side of our trailer. It helps us keep track of where we've been, and gives the kids a visual on where we live, where we are now, where grandma and grandpa are, stuff like that! The only down-side is the kids all want to put every state on, and since Dad and I can't remember who did what state last, we get a little arguing! Sometimes Dad even sneaks out and puts the state on before the kids remember....I know, I know, we're bad....but our mental health counts for something!
We stayed only over night in Hunstville, and we're not able to go into the space center due to time, but we walked all around and saw rockets, space ships, and this bomber jet....or whatever it is. My husband always like to do 'karate' poses to support our little 3 year old...so that's whats going on here! And, we had a better picture of the whole rocket, but there was a glare or something, so our heads were blocked out by whitish something....I'm obviously not a photographer, and although I have a nice camera, it can't compensate for my ignorance! Anyway, once I found out how much the Kennedy space center costs ($50-$80...yikes!), I wish we would have gone here, where admission is $25 for adults, and $18 or something like that for kids. So, if you're traveling to or near alabama, it's probably worth the stop!
My Mom sent a little care package for the kids that included these GINORMOUS MARSHMALLOWS! The photo doesn't even do justice...they are at least 4 times bigger than the normal marshmallow. So, we had a family s'more roast, and everybody got good and sticky! These Marshmallows are made by "Campfire" and are called "Giant Roasters." I have no idea where she found them, but I'm sure you could find some on-line. Anyway, these are not only giant, they are also the best marshmallows I've ever had...and super soft, they are easy to roast to perfection! So, If you're planning a camping trip this summer, these are a must!
As with any family vacation, after a few days, or weeks, as the case may be, everybody starts getting on each others nerves. Especially when you're all living in a sardine can! My poor kids all sleep in this one tiny room at the back of our trailer in bunk beds, so they really have no personal space. Especially little Bubber, whose bed is consistently invaded by little sister Bushkin. She has not learned how to stay in her bed yet, so getting everybody to sleep each night is always a challenge. Once the door closes she goes on a rampage. Pulling down her big sisters blankets, pinching her big brother, crawling all over her big brother, getting into big brothers treasure box, dumping out all the socks, undies and jammies.....you get the idea! Usually this only goes on for 10 minutes or so, and then she falls asleep, but heaven forbid she should take a nap---then she could be up for an hour or two! This happens at least once a week!
And our poor little guy gets the brunt of it! Sometimes he falls asleep amid the whirling dervish of death (I have no idea how), and then Bushkin will crawl up into his bed and sleep with him! Sometimes I feel like I spend my whole day scolding, or correcting, or time-outing, or refereeing, or what-ever-elsing that's not pleasant....then I get little moments like the 2 above, and I figure it's all pretty much worth it. And maybe I'm not such a bad mom after all. Or maybe it has nothing to do with my mothering, and everything to do with my 5 wonderful kids, who pretty much are the best kids in the world, in spite of me!
Bowling Green, Kentucky. I just think that's a beautiful name. It sounds British or something. In fact, we weren't planning on going into Kentucky yet, if at all, this summer, but when I read Bowling Green on the map I wanted to come here! Since I'm the navigator (me and our GPS) we came!
We brought the kids to the Corvette museum...we wanted to take the Corvette factory tour, but you have to be at least 7 years old, so that pretty much ruled it out! We did get to learn about corvettes, and pictured is us with an original 1953 corvette! You have to admit, they're pretty cute!
If I look tired in all these pictures, it's because I am. All you mom's know what I'm talking about! We're all having fun (me included!) but it's exhausting for Dad and Mom. We've been on the road for about 5 weeks and I'm ready for a vacation!
The kids enjoyed visiting Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace at Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky. The bummer was that the memorial building where the 'one room log cabin' is was closed for renovation. The Super-Bummer was the National Parks department recently discovered that the cabin they have on display (the one we didn't get to see), isn't the original log cabin. Oh well! The fun thing was seeing the "sinking Spring" for which the farm is named. Very cool! I wish I had this where I lived! It was just beautiful, and I could imagine myself gathering my water for washing and drinking here! Then we drove about 8 miles to Lincoln's Boyhood home on Knob creek. Here, as a boy, he almost drowned, and was saved by his best friend. The cabin pictured is the original cabin of his friend, which the parks department moved here to the Lincoln farm. After the Lincoln's left here, they moved to Illinois, where most people believe Lincoln is from....probably because they claim to be "The Land of Lincoln!"
We got to spend the weekend in Cave City, Kentucky. It's actually a pretty cute little town with lots to do. Mini golf, amusement park, dinosaurs, stuff like that! But the main attraction is Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth cave is the longest cave in the world, over 350 miles...I don't remember exactly. Sometimes it's hard to hear the tour guide when you're watching 5 kids :) It was very interesting...we learned about how the cave used to be mined for salt peter, which is used in Gun Powder. There are still mining tools, pipes, and boxes from pre-cival war era in the cave. In mining salt peter they use water to filter through the dirt until it's all "petered out," which is where that term comes from!
We've been reading "Tom Sawyer" to the kids at night, so they were imagining how scary it would have been for Tom and Becky to be stuck inside the cave, with no light. Our little Bubber kept wanting to go to where the lights ended and stare off into the void....he thought the total darkness was pretty scary!
Jackson Tennessee is home to the Casey Jones village, where you can learn all about how Casey Jones gave his own life to save the lives of the many passengers on his train. There is a museum there, and Casey Jones home, which you can tour for about $5 per person. The village has several train cars around, a few shops, and the cutest little country store, I wanted to buy everything! Luckily for my husband, we are greatly limited on space in our travel trailer! We also visited another train museum in the town, which was free. We like doing all the 'free' things, since with 7 people admission prices add up really quick! This museum was small, but cute. Located in the original train station, we got to look through an old passenger car and caboose, pull the train whistle (way to many times), and learn all about trains! They have mini electric trains that drive all around one room, with scenes, people, train yards, and villages where you get to play "I spy" using a list they have prepared. My kids loved this. You have to admit, trains really are cool!
This was a really cool thing in Memphis, and totally free...if you don't mind walking across the footbridge. They also have a monorail that takes people across for a small fee, but we walked over, and it wasn't too far.
It's on a little island in the middle of the Mississippi River, and is called "Mud Island Park." It's full of biking trails and such, but we spent our time playing in a scale model of the Mississippi River. It's very detailed, including elevations, cities, bridges, dams, flood areas, spillways, and where the rivers that feed the Mississippi come from. At the end of the river, in New Orleans, is the delta area, a fountain, and a pond where you can rent paddle boats. It was the perfect way to cool off after a long, hot and humid day! So, next time your in Memphis, make this a planned stop!
No visit to Memphis, TN is complete without a tour of Graceland! It was interesting to see the Home of Elvis Presley, purchased when he was 22 years old. It's actually a very modest home, considering who owned it! We got to see a lot of his costumes, and also his groovy 'street' clothes, plus the 'jungle room,' decorated in faux fur and green shag on the floor AND the ceiling! His 2 airplanes...the awesomest being the 'Lisa Marie,' with dining room, 3 TV's, and seat belts plated with 24 Karat gold. Even the queen size bed in the back room had a seatbelt going all the way across...plated in gold!
My kids just kept saying how they thought their uncle looked just like Elvis (this is due to his frequent Elvis impersonations!). I fixed Elvis's favorite 'Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches' for lunch, which went over pretty well! The kids all enjoyed the day, but by bedtime they were pretty much fed up with me insisting they say "Thank you, thank you very much," in there best Elvis Accent every time their dad or I gave them something!