We've thought about, dreamed about it, and talked about it for many years. But this year it became a reality - we took a family vacation to Florida! Not to see Disney World, but to see the Gulf of Mexico, alligators, seashells, & lots of other wonders in the Sunshine State.
We left our home state of Pennsylvania on a Friday morning, drove all day, and stayed with family overnight in North Carolina. We traveled all day Saturday and arrived to our destination in Florida on Saturday evening. After a good night's sleep, we were ready to see Florida! We stayed in a vacation house that belongs to some of our family. Nearby, there was a swimming pool we could use for free. On Sunday, we unpacked and spent some time at the pool.
We spent Sunday evening fishing at the beach and splashing in the water. We didn't do a whole lot of swimming at this beach due to the large numbers of jellyfish in the water. On one short walk along the surf, I counted over 30. The boys (with a lot of help from Daddy) did manage to land a few fish, all of which were thrown back into the Gulf. We also found a nice-sized hermit crab in the water.
On Monday, we headed to Myakka State Park - a large state park known for alligators. We saw two alligators from a bridge soon after we drove into the park. We walked a short nature trail, which included a swinging bridge and tower about 80 feet tall. We ended our time there with an airboat ride, which included 27 more alligator sightings & a fascinating tour guide.
The highlight on Tuesday was spending more time fishing at the beach and watching a gorgeous sunset there. We ate a picnic supper on the beach as well.
On Wednesday, Corby took AJ & CJ out fishing early in the morning. JJ, MJ, & EJ and I took a walk and stopped by a nearby fenced lake to look for alligators. We saw a pelican & lots of birds, but no alligators. In the evening, we hiked a nature trail and went out for ice cream.
Thursday was a full day - beginning with an early breakfast & watching the sun rise on the beach. We walked in the surf and collected shells. Some of the best finds were a horseshoe crab (dead & dried by the sun) and a whole sand dollar (that remained whole for approximately 15 minutes after we found it). In the afternoon, I took AJ & CJ to a small zoo while the others napped. We watched a reptile show and bird show. We got to hold a King snake, an alligator, a bearded dragon, and a parrot. We got to pet a skunk, as well as goats and pigs. (Yeah, petting goats was a REAL thrill for us :) We fed turtles, koi, and hand-fed a flamingo! It was quite an exciting afternoon!
On Friday, Corby took AJ, CJ, & JJ out fishing early in the morning. They caught lots of fish and had a fabulous time. We wrapped up our week in Florida with a visit to the #1 beach in the USA - Siesta Keys Beach. The sand was amazing! I'm not actually a beach person at all - I don't care for the gritty sand and squiggly creatures lingering beneath the water's surface (the infestation of jelly fish on the other beach we went to confirmed this fear!) However, the sand at Siesta Keys beach was very different - it was soft and powdery white. The kids played and played in the sand making train tracks, burying each other, and chasing EJ as he crawled around. Then we watched yet another gorgeous sunset - the perfect way to end our Florida trip. On Saturday, we packed up & headed home.
Many people have asked me how I occupied our troop - ages 7, 6, 4, 2, and 1 - on the 18+ hour drive to Florida. What worked for us was a small pouch of wrapped gifts for each child, except the 1-year-old. Half of the gifts were individually wrapped pieces of candy that I stashed away after our local parade. The other half of the gifts were sticker books, silly puddy, pencils, tablets, and coloring books. I also had the oldest three follow a map and color in states as we traveled. We opened these gifts every few hours or when we entered a new state. We also listened to lots of music and audio books. Overall, traveling went very well.
The best part of the trip was the feeling at the end - rested and ready to come home! I wasn't sure how relaxing driving and vacationing with our crew would be, but the Lord blessed us with safe travels and blissfully relaxing time there.
Now it's back to real life again! I realize I've been neglecting my little blog here, and I'm aiming to do a bit better. I do have some homeschool and animal updates from the homestead, so stay tuned!
Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
Independent Field Representative