Saturday, March 31, 2007

On her way!

Steve is driving now to pick up Katie Margaret, our new furry family member! We think we'll call her "Margaret." Katie already calls her "Mar Mar." It took about two months of persistence and patience on our part, but we finally proved ourselves a worthy home to the Scottie Kingdom folks. I'll post more soon!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Animal Kingdom

We woke up early Tuesday morning to pack the van with supplies and sleepy children and to drive east to Animal Kingdom at Disney World. On our last visit, we spent a day at Magic Kingdom. Our plan is to work our way through the parks, one trip at a time.

As you may expect, I had been planning this day for weeks. (Later I was talking to Steve about the benefits of extensive planning. Everything went just as I hoped it would, which left little room for surprises. That doesn't mean I enjoyed the day any less. But after reading countless Web sites and a couple of books about the park, I was able to anticipate just about everything. Of course, just enjoying the day with Katie, Cooper and Steve was the best part.)

We were the first car in the line at the AK parking lot! Later, Steve & Cooper were the first riders, in the first car, at Expedition Everest, the latest blockbuster ride at AK.

We ate breakfast in the park an hour before it opened, enjoying tableside visits from Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Mickey. Katie was so enamored of the giant costumed characters. I don't have a single photo in which you can see all of her face -- she just stares lovingly at the Disney friends.

She did amazingly well, especially considering she napped for only 15 minutes, during the end of Finding Nemo -- The Musical. She loved the safari (we spied lots of elephants, giraffes, birds, warthogs, crocodiles, hippos and more), the shows (though she understandably got jumpy during It's Tough to Be a Bug and that was without the 3-D glasses), playing in the boneyard and just walking around.

Cooper was brave enough and tall enough for the big rides, including Everest (twice), Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl. He had been doing his own prep work for the trip, watching a Discovery Channel special on the park, looking at the official Web site with me and studying every detail of one of the books Julie loaned us. He was thrilled to actually see the Tree of Life (which is beautifully detailed), go on safari, watch the parade, all the characters, etc.

Until our next trip, we'll enjoy the many photos, which are here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A day on the Gulf

Matthew and Gretchen were kind enough to take vacation days Monday and head to the beach with us. When they lived in Sarasota and we were childless, we'd spend a lot of our visits at the beach. The Gulf Coast of Florida is where I feel in love with beach -- the white sand, clear water, reassuring sound of the waves, listening to the gulls.

This time we drove to Fort DeSoto Park, outside St. Pete. Monday's weather was perfect -- sunny but not too hot. Steve and Cooper built a grand sand castle/fort. Steve, Cooper and Matthew played baseball with a water noodle and splash ball. They also tossed a Frisbee in the water. Katie played keep-away with Gretchen. Some of us were brave enough to get fully immersed in the still-chilly water. We all dined on Gretchen's picnic food.
Many more photos are here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kind of like a small State Fair

On the second day of vacation, we headed a few miles west to Plant City, home of the Strawberry Festival and apparently the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.

The festival was like a mini State Fair of Texas -- midway rides, games that look easy but aren't (as I said to Cooper at least a dozen times, every time he begged to play one), plenty of fried food, expo buildings, cheesy children's shows, outdoor concerts. It was great fun!

Cooper hit the midway, mostly sitting in vessels that would spin really fast. We all watched the Grandpa Cratchet show, which warned kids to stay in school and keep away from drugs and alcohol. All good messages, of course, that I agree with, of course, but the goofy slapstickish manner in which it was presented just made me giggle.

We devoured strawberry shortcakes (made with sponge cake, not biscuits), looked at some winning entries in contests such as quilting, Web design and baking, devoured a cup of fries with cheese (though certainly not real cheese).

On the way in, Matthew realized that he never changed out of his slippers and into real shoes. So he had to walk around the festival grounds in house shoes.

On the way out, Gretchen bought the most fragrant, beautiful flat of strawberries I've ever seen. For $10! It would have cost at least $50 for that many berries at home, and they wouldn't have tasted as good. Cooper was so won over by the scent, he even tried one, abandoning his normal distaste for berries. He loved them! I'm hoping this means I can successfully add another fruit to his repertoire of apples, grapes and watermelon.

More photos are here.

Return to the bug and water park

Lakeland has some great family-friendly facilities , including the Barnett Family Park -- the bug and water park. The playground is filled with insect-themed equipment, including a giant spider web for climbing, a spinning beehive and caterpillar swings. On the other side is a splash park, with fountains that spray from sculptures, walls and the ground.

After the ballgame, the kids were ready to run around, so we hit the park. On our November 2005 trip, Katie was much too young for playing. Not this year! She spent most of her time splashing and enjoying the water. Cooper split his time between both.

More photos are here.

Boston 7, Detroit 6

We're home! (And have been for a week. The postings are much later than I had hoped.)

We were part of a record crowd (9,140) at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland for the Red Sox/Tigers game. We bypassed our bleacher seats for a spot in the grass. Either way, there was no shade, which was desperately needed. It was sunny and hot, though thankfully not humid. We didn't last the whole game, but we were there long enough to enjoy pizza, ice cream, lemonade, visiting with nearby fans (Cooper managed to find two guys from Dallas and engage in serious Mavs conversation) and baseball, of course. There was even a bench-clearing brawl.

Before the game, we walked three miles around one of Lakeland's many lovely parks.

More photos from our Saturday adventures are here. (You'll notice that Steve was still dealing with Bell's palsy. He recovered amazingly quickly over the course of our vacation and is now almost 100 percent better!)