Although we spent the majority of our time at our awesome rental house, we took a special trip to Silver Springs State Park, Florida’s first tourist attraction and one of the largest artesian springs on the planet. It’s located on the edge of the Ocala National Forest, and has been habituated since at least the early 1500s when Hernando de Soto explored Florida (a dugout canoe dating back to that time period can be seen underwater).
Since people are not allowed to swim in these particular springs (Florida has many other state parks where you can swim in the chilly water), the park offers 30-minute Glass Bottom Boat tours of the springs ($11 adults, $10 seniors and youth, under 5 is free), and it is totally worth it. We could easily see fish and turtles swimming underneath our boat, spotted an alligator sunning himself nearby, and spied one of sources of the springs. There’s not really anything like it, and it is amazing. The short trip was perfect for traveling with tired toddlers, but if you want a longer voyage the park offers extended boat tours during the season.
There are plenty of hiking trails throughout the park. We walked a short boardwalk path through the forest and along the water. It was an lovely, easy trek, and I wish we had more time to check out some of the other ones. The kids really liked seeing animals inside small, air conditioned (yay!) space outside the boat docks. We didn’t make it to Wild Waters, the water park at the Springs, but I remember always having fun when going as a kid with my swim team (FCC forever!) We will have to plan a return trip soon. I love the Florida State Park system, and want to try to visit all the parks in my lifetime.
My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last January, and in honor of their relationship, the whole extended family was supposed to take a Disney cruise (read more about how that didn’t happen thanks to an ill-timed first migraine here.) Since we didn’t all celebrate together as planned, Scott, Amanda, Keith, and I decided we needed to try again and do a mini summer trip. We told our parents we wanted to keep it relatively close geographically since Scott had recently started his new job at Animal Kingdom and Elliot was a newborn. They selected a super sweet home in Ocala, Florida as the place to vacation.
Now I know what you’re thinking (because we thought it, too): Ocala, really?! A small town in the center of the state where there are no breezes in the heat of a Florida July. Although it was brutally hot, we had a relaxing time just being present together. Our house had 5 bedrooms in the main building, a pool table in the living room, and a separate guest house that we didn’t even use. There were a couple of screened in porches, a gigantic Southern-style front porch with rocking chairs, a playground area for the kids, and plenty of room to run around outside. We had so much space, totally worth it with four kids aged five and under.
The kids loved playing games, running in sprinklers, splashing in a little pool, and swinging in Keith’s hammock. We were able to cook meals together and hang out as a family without much distraction from the outside world. The adults re-discovered we all suck at pool, and giggled over celebration victory dances and drinky-drinks. The vacation was both loud and peaceful at the same time, and perfect for honoring the first 40 years together of our parents. I can’t wait to travel with everyone again in the future…maybe getting back to my dad’s roots in the Philadelphia area? Or to San Diego to see Amanda’s project at Sea World? Who knows?
My smiley, little Elliot is four months old now, and doing things. The past week he has been focused on rolling from his back to his stomach, waking us up multiple times a night when he realizes he can’t easily return to his back. Even better, he has started to laugh – mostly at us for doing silly things, but also at life in general. His spirit is so joyful he is a pleasure to be around. He had his first cold and trip to the doctor to assure us it was only a cold, and still has the remnants of a cough. He is always drooling…copious amounts of drool the likes of which I have never seen. Please don’t tell me he will be getting teeth; I like to live in blissful ignorance that they are probably forming sooner than later.
- Henry, Mama, and Daddy (in that order)
- Chewing on whatever he can grab – fingers, toys, blankets
- Cuddling with people
- Reading (eating!) books
- Sophie the giraffe
- His car seat
- Not being able to roll off his belly (even though he has done it in the past)
This week’s Playground of the Week isn’t a playground at all, but I don’t care because it is sweltering September and it has air conditioning. The George C. McGough Nature Center (11901 146th St N, Largo 33774) is one of our favorite places to visit year round. We love to check out the animals (rescued and otherwise) and learn all about them. There’s a sound board where kids can hear different frog and toad species, and now there’s an interactive touch screen system where kids can learn about the water cycle and wastewater runoff.
The past few times we have visited the staff has been renovating the building and exhibits so Henry’s favorite microscope wasn’t there this time, but the rescued bald eagle was hanging out, getting used to being on trained staff’s arms. I’d say that more than made up for it, especially when it kind of freaked out and tried to fly off (it can’t actually fly because of an injured wing, but it still tried.)
We fed the turtles, because you have to when visiting the turtle park, and we dug for fossils in the giant sandbox. We stayed away from the playground since it has a rubber ground cover and is in full sun. It will have to cool down for us to play there, especially with baby E. Come on Florida fall and winter, we’re ready for cooler temperatures.
We signed Henry up for the fall season of 3-4 year old soccer at the Bardmoor YMCA, because he always seems to be either running or kicking things (often, both)! His division practices and plays a scrimmage game on Saturday mornings, and his first one occurred this past Saturday. Not having any experience with organized sports other than playing when I was a kid, we dressed him in his gear, all piled in the car, and drove to the Y.
I’m not sure why I thought it would be like my practices when I was in high school, but what awaited was chaos. Perfectly fine chaos when you’re organizing soccer skills with 25 or so 3-4 year olds at varying levels of competence (seriously, the coaches were excellent angels). Keith, of course, was prepared and able to relax and go with the flow. Not me. My Type A, disliking trying anything new because I can’t do it perfectly attitude was not helpful one bit. I panicked, my anxiety went to eleven, and I tried to compensate by sticking close to Henry to help. I wasn’t actually helping, but instead enabling his three-nager sensibilities (upping his crying and whiny-ness). I realized what I was doing, and managed to snap out of it, but the damage was done (for me, anyway). Time to obsess how I made everything terrible and did it wrong and how he was going to hate soccer. Yada, yada, yada.
My brain gets in these negative loops that only cause things to feel more horrible. I have to actively work to fight against my natural inclination to obsess over the bad. They are simply thoughts, not reality. I know that. It’s just really hard when I’m in the moment.
Later on in the day, Henry told me he had a lot of fun at soccer. He loved running and kicking the ball (despite face planting two steps into the scrimmage), and was the fastest kid at dribbling the ball across the field (running is his superpower, after all). He said he did not like how far away me and Keith were from him during the practice and game, so he didn’t even notice I was feeling anxious. Kids are outstanding, especially mine.
Next Saturday, I’ll be better prepared. And if I need a break, I can always go inside the gym to Body Combat class.