Sunday, March 23, 2008

From the mouths of babes...

I couldn't help but laugh at the things the girls said while they were here...

"You know Aunt E. The three chipmunks, Alma, Simon, and Teadork" - Emma

Emma is recently taking Claritin to drain some of the fluid in her middle ear. Friday morning she woke up with a tummy ache requesting medicine. Caitlin calmly explained, "you don't need Claritin, that is to help you SEE better!" (After some thought we realized the Claritin commercials start out in a "fog" because of allergies, and through the commercial, things become in focus again)

Passing the World's of a Fun Water Tower Emma proclaimed, "Look Aunt E!! An Easter Egg Taller Tower!!" I said, "You're does look like an Easter egg water tower!" "No!" she corrected me, "a TALLER tower!".

Topping off the day...

Because it was such a hit last time Caitlin visited, we decided both girls would like to experience the T-Rex Cafe. This time cousins Hannah and Abby, as well as Uncle Ben and Aunt Julie joined us. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of the younger nieces, but maybe Julie will have some on her blog sometime soon. The girls did a spectacular job following directions and waiting patiently...I think environment was stimulating enough they didn't mind the two hour wait--the adults on the other hand...were feeling a bit overstimulated. :-)

Digging for dinosaur bones.
Being a good archaeologist takes time and patiences, gently brushing away the sand. Needless to say, I don't think that will be Emma's calling.

Emma loved the interactive trivia games.
Caitlin was more in favor of the memory/concentration games. She mastered the games very quickly.
Finally!! Both of them looking at the camera!

The next day we met up with Mike, had lunch, and I headed home, enjoying the once again, quiet car.

Their big surprise!

As I've mentioned before, a childhood memory of mine living in Kansas City was Kaleidoscope. A part of Hallmark that encourages children to create, experiment, and play with all sorts of fun crafty things. Mom would take us with our friends and it was the time our lives! I wasn't sure due to the popular week for spring break if we would be able to get in, but thankfully we were. I didn't tell the girls much about it...except how much fun it would be. Typically, children, ages 5-12, go into Kaleidoscope independently, while parents watch through a one way mirror. This week was special because it was all family sessions, meaning kids of all ages were welcome and their parents (or Aunt) were allowed to attend with them. Just after entering each child is given a bag to put their name on and carry all their projects in. Below is a brief photo journal of just some of what the girls were able to do...

Outside Kaleidoscope, waiting in line...don't they think they're cute?

Here is Emma at a coloring station with stickers.

Emma at a painting station. Next to the painting area was a machine that would quickly dry the girls artwork so they could add it to their bags.

Caitlin is dabbling in Emma's paint because hers was quite yucky.
Artists are very serious about their work.
Doesn't it look like a fun place?

Here Caitlin draws a on small cardboard, that would be later turned into a personalized puzzle.

This area of Kaleidoscope is dark with black lights.

Caitlin was standing in front of a machine...and honestly, I'm not quite sure what the purpose of it was...but they liked it.
This was my favorite area. Art created with melted crayon wax...but of course in the dark room with black lights it looked much cooler than in the picture.
Emma showing off her mask creation.

Not bad for 40 minutes of free fun! The girls loved every minute of it!!

Caitlin and Emma's Spring Break Visit

As a very last minute arrangement, Caitlin and Emma came for a visit while Caitlin and Aunt E were both on spring break. They arrived Wednesday, but once we did a quick dinner and church, it was time for bed.

Thursday morning, Uncle George got up early for work, and apparently the girls heard him, and were up with the sun as well. Admittedly, not quite how Aunt E had dreamed of spending her spring break mornings. Apparently Caitlin was a little confused too, "Spring break is much more funner than school," she explained, "During school I have to get up at like 8:00"...I laughed, as I attempted to explain to her that it was only 7:10. The girls curled up on the couch with their blankets as I made breakfast. We had a big day planned ahead of us.

First off, I had to go to work for short time due to a situation that arose earlier in the week. Not a big deal concerning me, but I was asked to come in and give a hand if possible. The girls entertained themselves in my "little classroom" (according to Caitlin and Emma), and eventually they went and played in another room, while they were able to watch a movie and play with toys.

The next stop was a "healthy" meal at Culvers and we headed downtown for their big surprise. We arrived at their surprise location to get tickets, but had about 45 minutes to spare, so we headed next door to the Hallmark Visitor's Center.

Here the girls were able to watch some clips of some Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.
The girls sat on big tubs of "paint" for a picture opportunity. Emma was convinced the large orange container with the syringe was "just like my nose spray".

There were two large displays of keepsake ornaments they were able to see.
This is the machine I remember as a child seeing at the Visitor's Center. The bow making machine. There is a large spool of ribbon in a machine, and you push a button and watch a bow formed right in front of your of get to keep the bow!
It was more difficult than I thought to get both girls to look at the camera at the same time.
Here Emma is guilty of straying eyes...a kind group of ladies who had fun with Caitlin and Emma at the bow machine took the picture for us.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Florida--Day 4...time to go home

Admittedly, when vacations are over, I am typically ready to get home, or even worse, passed ready to get home. This vacation--I wanted to stay...I could have spent another week there. Dan had to work on our last day there, so it was just the girls and George. Kerry has fallen in love with a small town, about an hour from them called New Smyrna Beach. So for our final day in Florida, we headed up to New Smyrna. I think this was my favorite day there. It was such a neat town; lots of amazing homes, both old and new, cute shops, good food, and beautiful shore.

We parked the car and started walking a beautiful wood pathway. Periodically in the path there were lookout towers where you could enjoy the scenery. As we walked we could see lots of plants, trees, and a few animals too. At the end of the path we ended at a fresh water river.

We began to walk up the shore of the river, stopping periodically to dip our feet in, or take a picture. Then we came to the point that the river flowed the ocean. It was neat to see how the color and flow of the water changed as it flowed into the more rough and rocky ocean. There was a large group of men and women (most men of course) fishing on top of a mound rocks into the river/ocean. It was quite picturesque. We took our time, sat on the rocks, enjoyed the sunshine, watch the people, etc.

As our stomachs began to rumble, we decided we should head back. Rather than taking the shortcut back to the car, we walked our same route up the ocean shore, then up the river. After all, we never really got bored with the water. How could you? As we walked and talked, George said, " over there!!" I didn't see anything...then all the sudden three fins, and backs popped up just 20 feet from where we were, then another two, a little further away, moments later. Dolphins! It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the beach.

First picture of dolphin fin, but you have to look closely. This was one the dolphins that was much further away from us than the larger group.

Edited photo, enlarged to show dolphin. Of course it doesn't do it justice.

For lunch we decided to hit a local fish place, JB's Fish Camp. It was a place on the river, that had outdoor seating and just a very casual, no glam-type of atmosphere...perfect for having just spent the morning on the beach. Although neither George or I eat fish often, I do enjoy fresh fish on the coast, it always tastes better! I encouraged him try something fishy, and with reluctance he did...The food was fabulous, even George thought so. We even indulged in some key lime pie!

Our last stop before the airport was to wander through downtown to look at a few of the local shops. A crowd favorite was Mosquito Mud Pottery. It was the first shop we stopped in, and although it was small, we hurried through it, and decided to duck back in on the way back to the car. Like Kerry said, "you know it is a good shop when you see things you didn't see the first time when you go back through." It was full of handmade tiles, pottery, and although not seen on their website, jewelry. I could have spent a fortune buying the beautiful locally made jewelry. It was all very unique and colorful.

To conclude this journal of our trip, although it still isn't the same as being there, here are two brief video clips of New Smyrna Beach. The first clip is when we were still walking up toward the rock line, and mostly still on the river shore. The second clip is taken from standing on top of the rocks, panning the ocean, over the river and back. As you can tell by the was a very windy day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Florida--Day Three

On day three of our Florida trip, we slept in and again enjoyed coffee on the patio as we debated between visiting another beach or going to a nearby town called Mt. Dora. Dan and Kerry had never visited Mt. Dora, but had heard of its quaintness and friendly atmosphere. Instead of getting more sun exposure, we decided to explore Mt. Dora.

We started at a local winery, Ridgeback Winery, where we were able to sample some of their wines. It was a cute little building with very friendly owners. Their winery business started from a post-retirement hobby. The owners are definite dog lovers, and each wine label has a dog on it, with clever names such as "Smelly Sneakers".

After wine tasting, we strolled through town and ducked in and out of various antiques shops, boutiques, and locally owned businesses. It was time for a light lunch so we stopped at One Flight Up Cafe. As you can guess by the name, it was on the second floor of a downtown building. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed watching the locals and other tourists. It was a beautiful place to sit and rest awhile before we continued shopping.

This is the view from where we were sitting, enjoying our casual lunch.

A view from the street of One Flight Up Cafe.

After grabbing cupcakes from "Cupcake Delights" around the corner, and had a hearty discussion about the entrepreneurial opportunities...After all, who would think that a cupcake shop would be a great business? We headed back towards Orlando.

After sitting back with our feet up for awhile, it was dinner time (don't all vacations revolve around good food?) My request was to try a local place for dinner. Dan and Kerry had wanted to try Lazy Moon Pizza near where they live. Their home is located near the University of Central Florida, so we weren't surprised that it was very much a college hangout. We pretended we were in college and went on in...the advantage of it being a college hit? It was CHEAP! Where can you get a slice of pizza and a drink for $3.60? Trust me "a slice" was more like 4 slices! We concluded day three reflecting back on our college days, the silly, stupid, and funny memories.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Florida--Day Two

On day two of our trip we decided to take it pretty easy. We slept in and woke up to eat a leisurely breakfast of fresh fruit, croissants, and coffee outside under the warm Florida sun. We eventually decided to head to the beach. Dan and Kerry took us to the beach near Titusville, Florida at Canaveral National Seashore. As we climbed the stairs to get over the dunes, I captured my first look. For those of you who don't know, I've never had a true ocean and beach experience. I had always said, "I'm not a sun, water, beach kind of person", well...I was was breath taking. Beautiful, calm, quiet, and quite the demonstration of God's handiwork.

The beach is located near the shuttle departure pad, and they are forced to close the beach several days before and even the day after the launch due to the heat emitted. Thankfully, it was not one of those days. At one point we heard and saw a helicopter coming at a fast rate of speed toward us. It was flying low and was within 100 feet of us. I tried to quickly grab the camera, but I only captured the back end of the NASA chopper.

We were able to spend about five hours enjoying the scenery and even taking a few dips in the water. The temperature outside was about 87 degrees, while the water temperature was in the low 70s. A little cool at first, but with time, it was quite comfortable. Kerry had packed a delicious lunch of oysters, cheese, crackers, grapes, carrots, hummus, and sausage.

As we were out in the water I questioned Dan and Kerry about fish or critters biting your toes or legs. They were in the midst of answering my question when "ouch!" I felt my ankle start to burn. I pulled it out of the water, but there wasn't much to see. It felt like a large bee sting. After got out of the water, I tried to ignore it, but I looked down and my ankle was bright red with a small white line going around, yes...I had been stung by a jelly fish. After about 20 minutes the sting went away, but even today, four days later, there is still a mark. Chances are, a cute little jelly fish was probably just swimming by and a tentacle just brushed against my leg. From that point on, after speaking too soon about not every sitting on a runway waiting for a flight to take off, and about critters, I decided I needed to watch my words.

I can't express how relaxing it was. I could have stayed there the entire time were in Florida. Around dinner time we decided it was time to head home. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some steak and shrimp for dinner. Once again, the food was wonderful. As the night passed we came to realize the mark the sun had left. Thankfully, we applied, and reapplied sunscreen through out the day, but unfortunately, our feet had already been covered with sand, so they didn't get any sunscreen. George and I each had a few spots that we had missed putting the sunscreen, but for a day in the sun--we both faired very well.

In the next few days I'll try to write more and share a few highlights of our trip. Even now, in typing about it...I'm not doing the trip justice. Maybe I need to go back to get some more pictures?

Orlando, FL - Day One

About a year ago, a friend of mine, Kerry, and her husband moved from living in the KC metro area to Orlando, Florida due to an employment opportunity. After nearly a year of saying, "yeah, we'll come and visit", we finally booked the flight and headed out.

After working all day, and George working a half day on Friday we took off from Kansas City to Atlanta where we would have a 2 hour layover. On our first flight as we were lining up for departure we were chatting about previous flight experiences and getting stuck just sitting on the runway. I boasted that I had never had much difficulty once boarding a plane, while George had several stories. We then took off for a uneventful flight and looked forward to the trip ahead.

Since we were short on time getting from work to the airport we skipped dinner, and were quite hungry by the time we arrived in Atlanta. We found an airport restaurant for dinner and quietly waited for our flight, sitting back, watching the commotion that airports so often have. There were families on spring break, young college students, business men and women trying to get home, one young daughter was hanging on to the pull bar of a luggage bag, with her legs wrapped securely around the bag, as her mother pulled her to their destination.

We boarded the plane and got settled in for the next leg of the journey. Of course, as I had boasted before, the Lord showed me different. A severe thunder storm barreled over the Atlanta airport as we sat on the runway, grounded until further notice. We sat for an hour as they tried to keep us informed and comfortable, handing out water bottles. The next day we found out how bad the storm truly was, and the extensive damage the Atlanta area experienced. Needless to say, it was worth being late.

We arrive in Orlando at about 12:45am local time. We met up with Dan and Kerry, and headed to their home for a much needed night of sleep.

Florida--March 14-17, 2008

More details on the trip...coming soon!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!!

A year ago today... I married my best friend. Happy Anniversary dear---I look forward to all the years to come. I know it is said it only gets better, I just don't know how it can. I love you!!