Pictures will be uploaded soon, but for now, a step-by-step, as I remember it.
We spent almost every day with my sister and nephew, mother-in-law, and her partner. You can not imagine (unless you have done it) what it is like to take 4 kids on vacation, and squeeze them into a two bedroom, one bath house that is already occupied by two adults and two giant dogs. :) We spent the entire ten days in the cutest little camper, in true Tampa trash style. Which means it was parked in MIL's driveway in the front of the house. I am sure the neighbors were tired of looking at it, but it was great for us. Bunk beds, and a fold down table-to-queen bed were our sleeping spots, as well as a futon and a couch in the house which the two older kids rotated using. The camper was loaded with cool stuff like; a digital TV antenna, a flat screen, and a DVD player, as well as a bathtub (really unusual for a camper), a fridge, microwave, stereo, and gas range.
We arrived in Tampa on Friday the 22nd of July, and had a great flight. The only hiccup was the torrential rain as we loaded the car, and the unfortunate breakdown of the cart that moved our luggage off the plane, so we waited for an hour and a half for the little belt to deliver our car seats and main suitcase. We live in the same area as the unclaimed baggage center, so I know too well how many items are never found again. I was getting a little panicky that they had sent the plane to its next stop without unloading it first. YIKES. However, it did eventually make its debut, and we were on our way.
We spent most of the weekend in the pool, and enjoyed a visit form my youngest sister, and lots of food on the grill.
On Monday I got to visit with a long-time friend and her bunch, as well as a sweetheart friend from high-school who just recently had her first baby. I could not have had a better time, and it was so wonderful to catch up. Facebook can NOT compare to face time, although it is way better than nothing.
Tuesday was spent re-acquainting myself with Tampa, and visiting Aeden's godparents. Since they are not on Facebook, face time is beyond missed, and I hated to leave them when we had to get back to my sister to return her car.
Wednesday was a great day spent almost exclusively in the pool, broken only by lunch with Jason's cousin who came to eat and swim with us that afternoon.
Thursday we had the opportunity to visit my baby sister at work. Most people wouldn't want to do that, until you find out that my sister works at an animal rescue center, and my kids got up close and personal with some VERY cool animals. We were greeted by a camel, and immediately given a full male-dominance display by a HUGE turkey. He is tremendously friendly, but may suffer from delusions of grandeur. He is convinced that the place runs solely on his whims, and that his shows and noises are the only commands needed to keep the rescue going. We were introduced to hedgehogs, squirrels, rabbits, marmosets, groundhogs, dagus, and who knows what else. Then we met a very sad anteater with PMS and a badly broken nail. She snuggled right into my sister's arms, and then Blake's, and then Noah's, and then Aeden's. After that, we played with a room full of ferrets, and then moved on to see, touch, and talk to some of the coolest birds I have ever seen. One large cockatoo took one look at Aeden and fell in love. She danced, and talked and moved with him for a very long time, and if he tried to look a the other birds, she would imitate a home alarm until he returned. We moved on to the back porch and yard of the main building and got to see two kangaroos, one was an albino. In the yard we saw guinea fowl, chickens, and a gopher tortoise (my favorite Florida native) that had been hit by a car. We continued walking, and met sheep, a miniature cow, a ram, and some llamas. It was soooooo hot, but every animal was worth it. We took a look at some large goats, and then left that enclosure to move on to my favorite part of the day. We got to have a long play session with kangaroos and white-tail deer. The youngest independent roo, really thought Annika was fascinating, and spent a long time making eye-contact, nudging her hands, and kissing her arm. I was completely taken with the mamma roo with a new-ish baby still rolling around in her pouch. She was obviously aware that I am also a stressed out mom, and came to talk to me. She licked my hand, bent her head to have her ears scratched, stood tall and balanced with her tail, and was just generally very cool to be around. We walked through the same enclosure to the area where white-tail deer were lounging in the shade. The larger female immediately realized that we were there to shower her with attention, and was all-in. She nuzzled and nudged each of us until we were overwhelmed by her affection. Annika was very tentative to have this big deer in her face, but eventually Lily (the deer) realized that Anni was frightened and spent a long time approaching her slowly, with her head down, and waiting for Anni to be ready. After that we might as well have left because they had bonded. Lily and Anni stood together playing, snuggling, petting, licking, and talking for I am sure it was at least 20 minutes. We went back inside and Aeden got to see the face of the giant parrot that had been calling "peek-a-boo" the whole time we were watching the deer. I am not sure why birds like my son, but they really do. That bird barked like a dog, said hello, and hi and whatever else all at the request of a 4 year-old, but had no use at all for the adults. He came down from his normally very high preferred perched, just to be face-to-face with my sweet son. Aeden was fascinated by talking to this bird, (which was taller than him) and the amazing colors and personality he was all-too-willing to share. We grabbed some fruit and veggies, and made our way back to the car. On the way out we fed a deer that had been hit by a car and her tongue hangs out to the side, and she drools, and she is so sweet. We fed two rotten little pigs (Blake and I love pigs, and were very happy to get to scratch on the big pink one.) We were followed by the big friendly turkey (or led by him depending on your point of view). The last thing we saw was the camel who greeted us, and we gave him some treats. All in all a very cool experience. After all of that craziness, we got in a quick shopping trip (which held a new shirt for me in waiting), and went to my sisters for dinner and to get Blake and Aeden a haircut (my sisters other job). We were joined by my sisters new husband, one of my other sisters, and her son. Burgers on the grill, and macaroni and cheese. It seems like all we have eaten this summer is hamburgers and mac and cheese, but we never get tired of it. Sadly, we left to go back to our camper in the drive, and made plans to have drinks on Saturday.
Friday was a crazy day at Adventure Island, and except for a baby who is still a bit frightened of the water, we had a great time. I have a family of adventurers, and they were in full swing all day. Big slides in every direction, and my kids didn't shy away from any of them. Luckily, we took the camper, and the babies and I got in a nice nap despite the stifling heat. Annika didn't hit her stride until the end of the day, when we found a way to snuggle in the lazy river, and float along. She was finally content (or too tired to fight it anymore). We left about 8:45 and spent a good long time changing and prepping the camper to go home. We made it back about 10, and were exhausted. Annika and Aeden were too wound up to settle, and ran around like someone had spiked their dinner with speed. I thought I was in real trouble, but they went straight to bed as soon as the camper was re-positioned, and we all slept like logs.
Saturday was a great day. Jason's grandparents and Aunts and two of his cousins all came to visit for the afternoon. We ate, and talked, and caught up. I love them!!!! I have often told Jason that if we were ever to split-up, I would hire a hit-man so that I could keep his family for myself. They are too awesome to let go (then again, so is he). We followed our pool, play time, by an evening out at Carrabbas with my sisters, and brother-in-law. We had a few drinks, and some munchies, and laughed until we were all gasping for breath. I don't ever want to move back to Florida, but I really miss them. Our time is almost always good, and I hate living without them day to day.
Sunday was a recovery day. We packed, swam, cleaned, washed clothes, swam, ate, swam, and relaxed. Jason took Blake and Noah to see the final Harry Potter movie, and came home late. We finished getting everything together for this morning, and again, SLEPT.
This morning, Monday, we were up at 5:40, and on the move. Jason is not a morning person, and had a ROUGH start. Blake and Noah popped right up, Annika snuggled for a minute, but was on her way pretty quickly. We hit a speed bump with Aeden though. He opened his eyes and immediately burst into tears. After much effort, I got him somewhat calmed, and he said "I didn't want to go home in the middle of the night." We assured him the sun was on it's way, and he settled in to having to get up earlier than anyone wanted. We were pretty quickly out the door, and if it hadn't been for my slow-poke, morning-hater husband, we would have been at the airport on time. As it was, we were there in plenty of time to inhale breakfast sandwiches that we picked up on the way, and boarded the plane pretty quickly. We had a mildly bumpy flight home, and landed 20 minutes early. Luggage was already in my dad's hands by the time we made it to baggage claim, and we took a long drive home. We all managed to stay awake in the car except Anni and Jason, and after a nice nap, we are having dinner, and heading back to bed. A little sleep, and I think we will all be a lot happier. Tomorrow is August 2nd, and I have a lot to do to get Blake ready to start school. Where did this summer go???
PS K, and anyone else I didn't get to see... We missed you, and hope to see you soon. I am sure you can see from this post we were BUSY, and I can't convey how much time we spent working out logistics.