We’ve adventured to a few libraries in the area – Largo, Seminole, Pinellas Park, Safety Harbor – all very cool, with fantastic programming for kids and fun children’s areas featuring slides, puppet shows, puzzles, and train sets (respectively). But they are nowhere near as awesome as the Clearwater Main Library’s children’s section. It has a pirate ship kids can sit and read in (or pretend to sail) located adjacent to panoramic windows overlooking the intracoastal waterway and Clearwater Beach. It’s beautiful, and mostly peaceful (considering I was surrounded by quite a few kids ).
Henry loved the touch screen computer the best, second to the pirate ship and other kids’ toys including a tic tac toe wall board. Elliot loved nursing and visiting the bathroom to get a diaper change. I loved the huge, extensive selection of children’s books. Every book I’ve been searching for Henry could be found there. Only problem – it’s not nearly as close geographically as I wish it was…so it can only be an occasional trip, versus a weekly trip. Luckily, we are fortunate to have three great libraries equidistant from our home, and the hold system that allows us to request books and movies located at other libraries in the county. Libraries are amazing.
In the days before Hurricane Matthew hit Florida, different models projected different paths for the storm. It seemed like the whole East Coast of the state had a hurricane watch or warning. Even Central Florida felt threatened by the storm – it was so huge and horrible. My brother headed out of town for a work conference when it was battering Haiti, leaving Amanda and the kids home alone. Since they hadn’t been in their house for too long, combined with potential flooding and high winds, we offered up our home to crash with us.
Seven people in our three bedroom house is A LOT, but the kids had a blast. Henry loves his cousins, Grayson and Finley, and the kids played (mostly) well together. The three adults were exhausted at the end of each day, but we had prepared for the storm Florida-style and we were stocked up on snackies and adult beverages.
I’m thankful their house turned out to be just fine; Orlando didn’t get hit hard by the storm. My parents home in Jacksonville lost power for a few days, and there were tons of trees down in their neighborhood, but otherwise they were unscathed. Unfortunately, St. Augustine and the Jacksonville beaches flooded and were torn up, and we have friends who live out there. Hurricanes, especially ones category 3 and above, scare me, and I’m definitely taking steps to make sure our home is secure for next year’s season.
A few weeks ago we realized that Elliot had never really been to the beach. Sure, he’d dipped his toes into the Gulf following his first trip to Frenchy’s, but that was it. And since the beach is one of our happy places we decided to go catch the sunset one Sunday night down at Pass-a-Grille.
We don’t usually go to the beach during the day. We’re pale, red-headed creatures who burn easily and have family members continuously getting skin cancer removed – it’s just not a great place for us during the day. But the hour or so before sunset at the beach is a magical place. It’s not so hot, the sand appears to glow, and there’s a relaxed atmosphere to it all.
We chose to go to Pass-a-Grille since I had never been there, and Keith said it’s really beautiful. Sold. We were going. It’s a little south of St. Pete Beach, in a neighborhood full of beautifully designed beach homes. There was plenty of parking on a Sunday night and little traffic – important things when traveling with toddler and baby dictators.
Henry loved digging in the sand and building castles. He also has an epic shell collection thanks to Keith scouring the sand looking for new ones. I think Henry could spend forever at the beach without getting bored, but again, his super white skin coupled with his fair hair prevents this. Elliot was his chill self and relaxed on a blanket for a while. He also liked (my) walking while wearing him in his Baby K’tan wrap. He could see the surf, shore birds, and people, and hear all the sounds of the beach. I think he loved it, too. We’re definitely making the beach at least a monthly priority, because why not…it’s a perfect, happy place.
This week’s playground of the week is located in the town of Safety Harbor, which has a cute Main Street full of shops and restaurants, a wonderful inn and spa where you can “take the waters” or just relax, and several parks within walking distance. We have visited its City Park (940 7th St S, Safety Harbor 34695) a few times now and love it.
Pinellas County’s first certified official “boundless playground,” it is the largest park in Safety Harbor at 21 acres. There is a skate park, baseball fields, a dog park, volleyball courts, basketball courts, a huge field, and boating access to Alligator Lake. It also has bathroom, which are definitely needed for toilet training toddlers. But we didn’t visit this park for all of those things – we love its giant playground!
There are two main playground jungle gyms protected from the sun by huge tents. They have so many things to climb (including a dinosaur!) and lots of slides, plus ramps and steps to run up and down. There are two bouncy race cars to pretend to drive, a climbing obstacle course for bigger kids, and a ton of swings. Only the main jungle gym structures are protected by the tents, however, so the other areas get hot. There is plenty of shade to cool down – under trees, beneath the tents, or in one of the picnic shelters.
As for safety, most of the playground is mulched (parts have that packed-down, recycled rubber material), so if your kid likes to collect and/or eat that kind of thing it is perfect for you (not so great if you’re a germaphobe and don’t like your kids putting mulch in their mouths). There is a fence around the far exterior of the park, not the playground area, but it shouldn’t be a problem to safely contain your kid from the street since the playground is set back from the road. I think this park is perfect for kids of all ages, and for all seasons.
Other than getting together as a family, the other thing we wanted to do was to treat my parents to family pictures, similar to what we did in Ohio on our last Trauger family vacation. I did my research and found a fantastic and affordable photographer to come out to our rental property to photograph our gang. This was no small task since our group of ten included a five, three, and one year old plus an infant.
Having two toddlers of her own, Brittany at Eighteenth Hour Photography didn’t even blink when one of the kids didn’t want to smile, and another wanted to roam free away from the group. We received a variety of photos, including the whole group, smaller family portraits, grandkids and grandparents, and sibling shots. Despite the extreme heat, we all look great, and I’m so happy to have the photos of all of us together.