Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jack’s Birthday Party

In mid-August, after we had returned from our trip to Florida, Jack had a little birthday party with his best friends.  Noah and Jackson came over for a sleepover and the three boys pretty much just played to their hearts’ content.  Year after year, for as long as we can remember, Jack has considered these two boys his steadfast favorite friends.  His only request for his birthday: a sleepover with his best buds.  We’re so thankful they both could make it to help Jack celebrate.  Eight is great!  Happy birthday, Jack!

{pool time and showers came before the ice cream sundaes and ‘happy birthday’ song.}

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Florida in August – Scalloping

This day in August is one we will never forget.  If you know me well, you know that while I may have once been a morning person (I swear!), these days I would love nothing more than to sleep in past 8:00 each morning.  For this day trip, I was up by 4am and had the kids in the car by 4:45am.  We left my parent’s house before sunrise to drive up to Crystal River (southwest of Gainesville) so we could meet Jacqui and Randy for a day of scalloping, a trip they had planned for us.  We chartered our very own speed boat (the kids loved that we were the fastest out there as most scallopers were on pontoon boats) and Captain Cletus drove us a few miles out into the Gulf of Mexico to gather scallops on the most temperate, dry (as in not stiflingly humid), gorgeous day I have ever experienced in August in Florida.  This part of the Gulf was a sandbar of about 4-feet deep for as far as you could see (boats of scallopers were scattered for about as far as you could see, too) and covered in tall grasses.  Only the adults could stand in the water and, as there was a little surge, the kids swam with a buddy.  Jack was my buddy most of the day while Ella took turns swimming with Jacqui, Randy, and Randy’s mom.  The method that worked best for Jack and me was for us to snorkel along the top of the water holding hands both scanning the bottom for scallops and then when one of us would spot one we’d point at it, he’d take a deep breath, and then I’d give him a little push to help him swim down to retrieve it.  The scallops were pretty well camouflaged, but we got the hang of it quickly and scored big on a few of our stops (we took the boat to several different spots).  While snorkeling around looking for scallops, we also saw several different types of fish, an eel, several starfish, and coral.  After a few hours, we had met the quota for our boat (each vessel can only legally gather 10 gallons of scallops per day) so we headed back to the marina, dropped off our scallops with Cletus’s family which runs a shucking business, and then headed off for the second part of our fun day—swimming in the natural springs.  While the water was warm and shallow out on the sandbar of the Gulf of Mexico, the natural springs of Crystal River are very, very deep and are at a constant temperature of 72 degrees (sounds nice for air temp, but for water temp it’s a bit, well, refreshing).  Ella and Jack LOVED it—we had to put a limit on how many times they could climb up into the boat and jump in the springs…some of us were ready for a nap by that point… Once we picked up our shucked bay scallops from the marina and dried off, we headed to Jacqui and Randy’s house in Orlando.  Randy cooked up a delicious—and fresh—scallop dinner that night.  Such a fun, exciting day full of so many firsts.  I truly hope we make this trip if not every year, at least every other year—and hopefully with Jonathan next time! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Florida in August – Nonni & Papa’s House

The second leg of our trip to Florida in August was out to the Gulf Coast, between Sarasota and Tampa, to my parents’ house.  Most of our week isn’t documented here in these images but was on Instagram instead.  We spent a lot of our time taking advantage of my parents’ country club.  Ella and Jack did a golf camp for four of the mornings we were there, my mom and I played two rounds of golf together (my dad was recovering from back surgery), and the kids and I played tennis a few times.  We all loved it—makes me wish we had courts and a golf course within walking (or golf cart, I guess) distance from our own house.  We also did the activities we’ve always come to love at the “Casa de Slaton” resort—swimming in their pool, enjoying the hot tub, doing some art and craft projects with Nonni, and cuddling with Papa during an afternoon rainstorm movie.  These images are from the adventures we had during our time visiting my parents.  One afternoon we snorkeled together at a beautiful Gulf Coast beach—love the clear, aquamarine water.  And then, the last morning we were there, my parents took us on a Sea Life Cruise through the Mote Aquarium in Sarasota.  It was a gorgeous day, and we all love boat rides, so this was definitely a special treat.  We toured the Sarasota Bay, talked about marine life and birds in the area, stopped off on a little island (where we actually saw a manatee in the water), and then touched and looked at some fish and other sea creatures caught with a fishing trawler (Jack’s favorite part—he loves learning about animals).  We loved every minute of our visit with Nonni and Papa and were so glad we could spend more than just a few days on this trip.  It was perfection, beginning to end.  Can’t wait to head back!

{“we love you, papa”—a sign that was high in a tree on the little island we explored.  we call my dad “papa” so i had to document.}

Monday, September 9, 2013

Florida in August – St. Augustine Beach

In August, I took the kids down to Florida for nearly two weeks.  We stayed in St. Augustine Beach for several days with Jonathan’s family (Jonathan was able to join for this part of the trip), out at my parents’ place on the Gulf Coast side for several more, and then with Jacqui and Randy for the last few.  It was an amazing trip and I’m so glad we were able to travel for so long and therefore get plenty of time with each group we were visiting.  Last August we had a great trip to Florida, too, but it seemed like our time with each subset of family went by so quickly that we left for the next segment of the trip unsatisfied, not ready to say goodbye.  We certainly weren’t ready to say goodbye when we left family on this trip to Florida either, but we enjoyed having a good amount of time with everyone.  We definitely fit in a lot of fun activities while at Nana and PopPop’s beach house in St. Augustine Beach—surfing, playing on the beach, celebrating Jack’s birthday, hanging with the cousins, playing with sparklers, walking the beach at sunset, and sharing plenty of laughs, hugs, and cuddles.  Love our family—I hope our kids realize how good they’ve got it.  These images warm my heart because they definitely show some of those small moments of love shared between Ella and Jack and their wonderful aunts, uncles, Nana, PopPop, and cousins.