Tag Archives | Florida

Family Christmas Trip – part 1 Legoland

On Christmas morning, our boys opened up a “trip” from us to Legoland and Disney. Shortly after we came home from China with Philip we all went to Florida to the beach together and this time we wanted to do something to bond as a family – especially for the boys to bond together since Rand and Philip didn’t get to go on the trip to China. It goes against all the “cocooning” strategy out there for adopted kiddos but, we’ve learned that, for our family, we’ve bonded well by leaving home together, navigating somewhere new and then “coming home” has been good.  Wen especially seems to love to be active and going and doing things and has since the day we were first together.

So…shortly after the new year, we packed up and headed south.  We’ve made this drive a lot since I still have family in Florida and our favorite beach spot is there.  On the way down we stopped for dinner at a great, kid-friendly restaurant in Darien, GA called Skippers Fishcamp.  It’s a perfect stop with young kids because there is a little turtle and gar pond that our boys like to see. It’s also on the Altamaha river so you can walk around on the dock, watch the shrimp boats come and go and even see some alligators!  It’s about a 5 min. detour from I-95 and very scenic.  I normally don’t love my seafood fried, but Wes and I think they have the best fried shrimp we’ve ever had.  If you go, watch out for weekends (or GA game days) because it can get crowded.

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(Photo Credit: Necee Regis.  It was too dark for photos when we were there so I borrowed this one from a food writer/oyster blogger Necee Regis that I found online here)

After dinner, we drove another 45min-hour and spent the night in a hotel near Kingsland, GA.  Without thinking we booked our usual – 2 double beds and then realized when we got up to the room that it wasn’t going to work.  Because we were tired and didn’t have space for a cot, we put all 3 boys in the bed sideways and switched the covers around.  They thought it was so much fun!  However, me, baby Bo, Wes and my maternity pillow (this stomach sleeper can’t WAIT for April 2 to come so I can get some sleep again!!!) didn’t fit very well in our double.  From now on we’ve learned we need to stay in a hotel with the word “Suites” in the title!

In the morning, we had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel next to the hotel and then hit the road.  After a while, we were ready for a bathroom break so we stopped at one of our favorite “stretch your legs” spots for kids (other than visiting some sweet friends who live in St. Augustine, of course;) – Blue Springs State Park. Google it – the photos are amazing!  If you hit it on a sunny day the water looks so tropical.  It’s a great spot in the summer (you can swim!) but winter is the best because that’s when the manatees arrive.  They migrate in from other rivers to the warmer spring waters.  We hit it right at the beginning of the season since the weather has been so warm.  There were 5-6 manatees who had already come in and more were arriving.
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You can see one here between the boys heads – in the middle just above where their ears are.

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Rand is a little wet from the slide…another reason why this is a great stop off for kids – there is a playground, decent bathrooms and a long boardwalk that goes around the spring and a historic house to tour if you’re into that.  All perfect for getting the wiggles out.  There are some great picnic tables too if you pack a lunch, it would be a perfect spot for a picnic.  There are also 2 concession/ice cream places on site but we’ve never tried those before.

Then we were back on the road for naps with Legoland in the GPS.

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We checked in to the hotel – I would definitely recommend staying at the Legoland hotel if you visit.  It’s really well done and of all the places we stayed on the trip, we thought it was the cleanest and most comfortable! Big win!

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The rooms are themed – we chose the “adventure theme” but I think they are mostly all the same setup.  Sorry I didn’t take pics, but you can see them on the Legoland website.  Our room had a bunk bed with trundle bed in the “kids area” as well as a tv and treasure box – when you arrive to your room, you solve a puzzle that gives you the code to the treasure box which had some kids activities and legos in it…hence the immediate building that began!

In the middle of the room was the bathroom and tons of storage and closet space, then around the corner was a desk area with giant tv and king-sized bed.  The bed was REALLY comfortable for this mama!

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After the boys building session, we went downstairs to have dinner and explore the hotel.  The elevators are cute and play disco music when the doors shut – so fun!

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Downstairs in the main hotel area there are huge Lego pits where the kids can build and build…they also have contests and activities throughout the day for building and character visits, etc.  We were only staying the one night and planned to spend the following day in the park, but if you were spending 2 nights you could get more involved in all they have going on.  Also, the pool looked pretty fun and even though it was cold out, kids were swimming and the parents even claimed the water was warm too!

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The kids really got into building some fun…weapons.  Oh dear.  As you can see some of the parents really got into building too…

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Here’s Rand’s Lego gun.  In the background you can see the “Skyline bar” and restaurant.  It was smart to put it next to the lego pit and play area because the kids were having a blast and the parents could sit and watch them with a drink and appetizer.

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After our boys finished their creations and put them on the display racks in the lobby, we headed to the other restaurant on site which was a buffet-style dinner.  The food was decent with extremely kid friendly options. While you eat, some of the characters come around to your table and talk to you.  You can also purchase a “smores kit” from the restaurant and then head outside by the lake to the fire pit.  Unfortunately, it was raining that night so we weren’t able to do that so we went back to the room and the boys watched a lego movie in their beds.  They already had a great evening at Legoland and we hadn’t even been to the park yet!

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After a good night’s sleep and breakfast (breakfast was in the same place we had dinner – lots of options and some healthy options too like oatmeal and smoothies!) we got ready to head out into the park.  Walking from the hotel to the park took less than a minute – it is THAT close.  The park is beautiful – it is the former site of Cypress Gardens – a park once famous for it’s gardens and water-ski shows.

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The majority of the park was perfect for the ages of our children (we range from almost 4 to 12).  They are really sticklers about height and Wen wasn’t even allowed to ride some rides by himself so that was the only hitch for us – it would have been fine if we’d had a 3rd adult.  Without a 3rd adult, it meant that if it was a ride where a child had to ride with a parent, then one of us had to wait with the other 2 kids while one parent took turns rotating kids and riding.  So…if you’re a party of 2 kids/2 adults, you’re set, but if you have 3 young riders, it is helpful to have 3 adults.  The lines were not long and it really was no problem to wait and trade off kids, the hardest part was for the kids who had to wait behind patiently!!!

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Also, the rides did tend to skew younger overall but there still seemed to be something for everyone.  There were several roller coasters and water rides that we did not go on however that most older kids would have loved!  Also, one of our kids favorite things was the incredible lego structures and city recreations – don’t skip it!

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All throughout the incredible scenes made from legos there were little buttons the kids could push that did things like made the soldiers march or made a cannon go off or made something shoot water out so it was interactive as well.  We almost skipped it for time purposes, but it was one of the kids favorite things to see!

Their absolute favorite thing was the show!  Every day at “Pirate’s Cove” there are several showings of “Captain Brickbeard’s Battle” – it was pretty cheesy but the kids loved it and really got into it.  Wes and I enjoyed the water skiing and the wake boarders doing some crazy tricks.  Probably the healthiest place to grab lunch is right across from Pirate’s Cove (the stadium) and was called Lakeside Sandwich Co.  We headed there and got some sandwiches and wraps, fruit, chips and drinks TO GO and took them over to eat while we watched the show!  This was great because we saved time not having to stop for lunch and the kids ate really well watching the show rather than having to sit still at a table.  There’s a deal where you get a lego “lunch box” that we did but it was odd none of the food fit into the lego box.  However, the box did come in handy for all the little lego pieces back in the hotel room!

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After the show, we rode a few more rides – things like driving cars and boats…

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We played some “state fair type” games and won some prizes (not pictured, but they have an “everyone’s a winner” policy so you’re gonna end up taking home something stuffed:/)

We went on a safari…

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Wen rode a roller coaster (was really hard to get a good photo but he’s in the very back with Wes)

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And we saw a ton of cool Lego sculptures everywhere we went.

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(oh no…are they giving the Go Wolfpack sign???)

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Overall, we were really impressed with Legoland.  It was uncrowded, easily manageable with 3 kids and amazingly clean – especially the bathrooms – I think we tried almost all of them!  We were able to move at our pace and the lines were short.  The park was easy to do in 1 day – we got there at opening (hotel guests got to go a little early) and left by 3:30pm.  We didn’t ride everything – probably would have taken another hour and a half to do it ALL. For those wondering, we took our double stroller for the little guys – it was helpful and needed.  They walked some but there was a lot of ground to cover for their little feet and some hills!  Also we packed snacks and our own water bottles that we filled up at breakfast with water.  It was great not to have to purchase drinks or snacks – other than a candy store there weren’t a ton of snack options that I remember.  When we were taking turns riding some of the rides, the non-riders would have their snack, which was helpful.

Since we already checked out and packed the car up, we walked back over to the hotel to use the restroom and wash our hands and then we hit the road to our next destination – Disney World!  Thanks Legoland…EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME!

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Also, we have to thank our friend Krissy Yoder with Be Our Guest Travel Company – she planned our Legoland and Disney portions of the trip which was so helpful to not have to figure all of that out!  She even booked our dining reservations at Disney (we couldn’t have gotten reservations to some of the restaurants without her help because they were all booked up!) and our FastPass reservations.  If you’re interested in a trip, you should use her – doesn’t cost any more and saves lots of time!

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Best of Summer

Since I haven’t blogged in 3 months…a recap seems like the most appropriate way to restart.  Notice, it is called “Best of Summer” – I have left out the 2 year old tantrum moments, the awesome new recipes that I didn’t try and my window box/planter fail…so…without further ado, here is a peek into the best moments of a great summer:

Summer began early for us…we headed down to our favorite New Smyrna Beach, FL and were delighted to be joined by the Stokes family for a few days!
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We had to visit our sentimental place on the Indian River.
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And we found some fun new places…

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Staying in a small condo that, at high tide, felt like we were actually on the water was heavenly – especially since the upkeep was so easy. Every morning, Rand would line up his animals. I would say his summer fascinations have been: animals, fishing, golf (his own versions of the last two, of course)

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So it was especially cool, if not somewhat unnerving to me, to see the fisherman catch exciting things each day.
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We had a special evening with my Great Aunt Bebe, who Rand got to meet for the first time
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And Wes and I got to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary (10! I know!!!)
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With Sangria at our favorite New Smyrna restaurant, The Spanish River Grill.
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The highlight of the day was that we found out our Dossier officially went to China…a huge milestone in the adoption process for us…more on that to come.
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Who are those two young love birds???
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We also got to share the end of our trip with my mom, or “Ema” as Rand calls her, and got to see more family, including the Wallis cousins! Rand was overjoyed to get so much attention. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone!
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Coming home wasn’t so hard because the Kings came to visit! Here’s a photo of Jackson and Rand perfecting their snow cone eating skills:
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We are finally enjoying our pool (it warmed up mid-June!) this year too! Rand loves to walk around it and “fish” and he enjoys rescuing bugs and frogs with the pool net.
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Rand got to spend time with both of his grandmothers (and his pops and Aunt MD too!)
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The boys did a little more “fishing”
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I did a lot of blackberry picking
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and I figured out that Rand and I both share a love for the “Go Green” smoothie at 195 Nature’s Own. It has been our “special snack” place!
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This next photo deserves its very own post – the most major event of the summer – we were blessed with a new niece. Sweet baby Kara was born at the end of June (that’s right, we’re not even to July yet)! Here she is less than 24 hours old.
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Another important summer event included James’ ordination as a deacon in the Episcopal Church.
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We spent time with Wes’ family at Myrtle Beach (don’t let my amazing sis-in-law fool you – this photo was less than 10 days after baby Kara was born! We are all taking lessons from Jax and Matt on how to rally.
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Rand and MJ got to have some quality time that also involved lots of bubbles, duck feeding and swimming
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which all make for one happy kid
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We visited the Myrtle Beach Aquarium – which was awesome!!!  But then we realized they make  you exit THROUH the gift shop, which is also on the opposite side of the building as the baby ducks that Rand saw outside.  So going home was not as fun…
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We also took a trip to Wilmington to hear James preach on his first Sunday at his new church.
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And then we stayed for lunch and snuggles.  It is also important to note that this was the day that Rand first met “Buster” and “Maggie” – they are James and Samantha’s 2 dogs who have unknowingly been prayed for 2x a day (nap and bedtime) every day since.
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Overall we did a lot of swimming (bathtub, pool, ocean and lake)

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It was a good summer and we were so blessed to be able to enjoy all the “new” things with a 2-year-old!

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Look, it’s a…

Rand-deer!  (or Rand-dear to us)

I have to show you his adorable “Rand-dear” outfit too…sent with love from “the Rands” down in Florida. We love it!

p.s. Friday flashback coming soon (I’m on the search for a good one)…I can’t believe I haven’t posted since Dec. 10! Sorry about that!

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Home away from home

We just spent the past two weeks at our 2nd home – New Smyrna Beach, FL.  We’ve visited every summer but, this year, due to my grandmother’s illness, we pushed the trip back to the Fall.  I think we’ll visit in the Fall from now on.  It was nice to have temps in the 80s and low 90s vs over 100 degrees. The water was definitely warm enough for swimming.

Plus, we almost had the beach to ourselves (I even took this photo on a Saturday!)

We visited all of our old favorite restaurants (with no wait time!) like JB’s Fishcamp, the Spanish River Grill (just ask Wes about his Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding with Maple Bacon and a Fresh Farm Egg that he had for brunch…) and a new addition, the Taco Shack. It is exactly what it sounds like, except for Monday night we lucked out with $1 tacos, yummy queso and sangria!

Ocean’s Seafood was still crowded…

Not just with people…

 

But most days we just ate in.  I’m obsessed with Publix and wish we had one here at home.  We got some great things while we were there but my favorite had to be the Wheat Italian 5-Grain bread.  We stocked up before we left.

We had an entire week all to ourselves and enjoyed showing Rand the beach, relaxing and being a family of 3. Since Rand wasn’t really ready to “beach it” all day, we did some other fun things like visiting the local farmers’ market

where we bought some yummy mangrove honey to have on our Publix Wheat Italian 5-grain toast, experienced the local life

and lingered around to watch the boats sail in.

It was a full week of sunrises, sunsets and sea air.

After a whole week to ourselves, the family arrived and that was fun too. Rand got some quality time with his uncle Sam

He cheered up his “Beebo” who had lots of good stories about Florida

He met his Granny (on the Franklin side) – they really hit it off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we hung out with uncle Sam some more.

After our “Geah’s” memorial service in Orlando, Rand got to meet lots of family.

Including his cousin (twice removed???) Rand. Here are some of the “Rands.”

It was sad to not have Geah with us – singing the songs and reading the scriptures she chose.  Rand cheered us all up with lots of kisses though.  His Geah would be proud.

 

We also tried to get a good family photo, but I just finished looking at them and there wasn’t a single one with all 3 of us looking at the camera.  Oh well.


The only downside to the trip…it was the end of “love bug” season. The Tahoe really took one for the team.

Is anyone still here?  This post is almost as long as our trip.  I still have a wildlife kayaking adventure to tell you about, but I’ll save it for the next post.

Finally, it was time to go home just as the rain set in.  Which made leaving a little easier.

Reminds me of a song I sing to Rand each night before bed…

Jesus, let us come to know you,
Let us see you face to face.
Touch us, hold us, use us, mold us,
Only let us, live in you.

Jesus, draw us ever nearer,
Hold us in your loving arms.
Wrap us in your gentle presence,
When the rains come bring us home.
(by Michael Card)

 

And so we’re home. For now.

Update: Speaking of bedtime songs…check out my guest post on fellow mom Johanna’s 101 Things I Love Blog


	
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