You might feel like Holden did if you could see how long this post is! I took such a hiatus from blogging that many fun things we did as a family this summer went unchronicled. I went back through all my pictures and posted them here mostly for myself as a record of the events of our summer. I just couldn't sleep at night thinking of all the things we did that didn't make it onto the blog! I am so glad I will be sleeping well tonight! We got home from Iowa late June and moved shortly after that and spent the rest of the month unpacking and getting our home organized and decorated. On July 3rd, we finally had something fun planned to do! We drove to Tampa for a free concert in the park given by Big Daddy Weave. It was a lot like the ones that were done in Coralville, one big park (with real grass, mud, and fire ants--this is the first place we have seen real mud and soft grass since we moved here--the fire ants are not unusual, but we had been able to avoid them until we parked in the middle of a giant colony and I didn't notice my sandalled feet were covered in them because I was holding Alayna to keep her out of the mud...I got 14 bites on my feet...yikes, they were MISERABLE...anyway, I digress) and everyone brought blankets and lawn chairs to sit on. We were significantly back from the stage, but it was still nice and loud. We went with a large group from Agape...A couple of the Handers (they have 3 boys and are expecting a GIRL soon!)
Okay, when exactly do boys outgrow the urge to put bunny ears behind people and ruin pictures???????
I am not sure what we were doing besides being goofy. It was getting late and we were all getting tired. The ground was wet from all the rain and I was still gun shy after all the ant bites. Paul graciously let Alayna and I pile onto his lap!
There were fireworks after the concert, we were really close to the place they were set off. It was beautiful!
July 4th was spent celebrating at the Johnson's pool (I have no pictures of that) and we went to the Nokomis bridge to watch the fireworks going on at the beach because we didn't head out to the beach in time to get across the draw bridge before they closed it down! We still got to watch the fireworks over the water which was beautiful!
On Sunday, July 5th, Gabriel was baptized at the beach! This was a fun and joyous occasion for our family! To watch your child grow in faith and follow through with baptism was such a blessing! Being baptized in the ocean by Rodney (the youth leader) and Dad was a special treat for Gabriel! I was trying to change my camera's settings and nearly missed the ENTIRE thing! Tim was there with his good camera and got lots of pictures too...I just don't have them yet!
And emerging a new creation!
Then, on July 9th, we went to Busch Gardens. Sarah had never been on a roller coaster or to Busch Gardens, so it was super fun sharing the place with her. This was the first time we got to see the Clydesdales close up. They were getting a trim and bath that morning:
They are so huge they need step stools to get to them. They are beautiful and so strong. We watched for quite a while!
We tried to get Sarah psyched up to ride a roller coaster slowly. One of our first rides was the log ride. They take your picture as you go down the big hill to the big splash at the bottom. We thought they were hilarious. I cheated by taking a picture of the picture...hey, it wasn't forbidden!
But we did heed it enough to think to take a before and after shot. So, this is the before...notice the poofy hair...
And the waterlogged after picture! This was the first time we had ridden this ride. We had watched frozen wet people this winter walk off this ride and wanted nothing to do with it! We decided it wouldn't get any warmer than July!!
Sarah got brave and rode the Cheetah Chase (no pictures) which in my opinion is the scariest ride in the park! I scream on every turn! Its the only ride I scream on and it doesn't even go upside down! She wasn't scared at all, so she was willing to try the Scorpion above which went upside down once. Alayna has ridden it multiple times, so she was trying to convince Sarah she would be fine! It was funny. Sarah did well again and went on to ride all the roller coasters eventually!
Later that week (also the week of Bible school for our church where we all either taught or participated), we went up to Siesta Key to learn to skim board. We chose this beach because it is the ranked the #2 beach in the country and is about 30 min from our house. It has powder fine sand that feels a lot like flour. You take home tons of it because its too light to just fall off on its own. I also figured if I was going to try to skim board and fall, I didn't want to be falling in the Nokomis or Venice sand that is filled with sharp shells. Good thing for that bit of wisdom because I fell 3 times on one knee and skinned it up badly (more like a floor or carpet burn) and I can't imagine the damage from the shells! I decided that kids with skinned knees do NOT get nearly enough sympathy!! I couldn't believe how long that knee took to heal!
On our way home one night, we spotted these 2 alligators near one of the lakes near our house...yes, that is someone's back yard, and that alligator is huge! I haven't seen it again since that day. He probably got hauled off somewhere safer!That is what I tell myself anyway!
The last day of Bible school was water day and the kids all wore their Bible school shirts (its called Extreme Camp maybe because of the extreme heat during camp!) and had fun playing in the water. Those shirts were easy to spot anywhere! We had over 100 kids that week. Sarah and I taught in Preschool, Gabe helped out with the school age kids and the other three got to be a part of the camp. They had a blast! Many parents and adults from our church took the week off to be a part and it was an amazing success!
That same day, we went to Anna Marie Island to meet up with our friends the Abrahamsons. They were in Orlando for a basketball tournament their oldest was playing in and took the time to come see us. We didn't have nearly enough time together, but it was great to see them and how the kids have grown. Paul saw them just before we left Iowa last year, but the rest of us did not and we hadn't seen them in 2 years. What a difference 2 years makes! We were all in awe of how much the kids have grown. Our kids are all about 2 years apart except Alayna, so we had a 5 year old, 8 year old, 10 year old, 12 year old, 14 year old and 16 year old. We keep marveling at how fast the time goes every time we get together.
And of course Alayna's buddy Mary Katelyn was there too!
And of course Alayna's buddy Mary Katelyn was there too!
One Saturday, Alayna complained that her tooth felt funny. The next day at breakfast, she pulled it out! She lost her first tooth on Sunday, August 2nd. She was SO excited and told everyone at church! She was really excited that the toothfairy visited her that night!
The next weekend, August 7-9, Paul and I went away on a holiday! We were invited to a wedding in California. Ryan Prouty (he did our pictures on this blog and stayed with us for a while last year while he was finishing up one year of service to Agape making professional videos for the missionairies in Haiti and the DR) and Nancy Gonzales were married in Redding, California. They invited us to come and even paid for our airfare to make it happen for us. The timing was perfect. We desperately needed a break and some time together. We were able to utilize this time to pray, talk, and really connect and discover what God wanted us to do with our service to Him as He was calling us away from Agape. We flew in Friday (it took us ALL day to fly across the country!) night and had all day Saturday to site see since the wedding wasn't until 7pm. When we arrived at our hotel after traveling for 13 hours by plane and car, we found a lovely care package for us with water bottles and snacks and a warm note from Ryan's mom! Ryan had reserved the room for us as well as the rental car, it made things SO easy for us! Our hotel served breakfast as well as snacks in the evening that passed for a meal easily!
We set out first thing Saturday morning for the Sundial Bridge. It was easy to get up early since they were 3 hours behind our internal Florida clocks! This bridge is a landmark and was just a few miles from our hotel. It spans the river and if you look through the haze caused by the forest fires, you can make out the mountains behind me! It was beautiful! It was hot, just the same as Florida, but no humidity! We felt so light!
Here is Paul with the actual sundial part of the bridge. The sun shines on this part and the shadow on the water tells the time. It was beautiful!
We walked across the bridge and onto a trail that went under the bridge to the water. Paul took this picture looking up into the sundial part's structure. Interesting architecture.
From there we decided to head off to the nearby state park that boasted a waterfall. When we got there, there were forest fires right in the vicinity (in fact, teams of firemen from other parts of the state were staying at our hotel and working for a few days at a time to help out the local departments), and we could watch the helicopters fly over with what looked like a thimble full of water to drop onto the fires. You will have to enlarge this photo to even see where the helicopter is in it! Just double click, then click back to come back to the post...that is if you are still reading because this post has gotten SOOO long!!!
We made it to the waterfall and were absolutely amazed. It was so beautiful and a lovely cool breeze came up from it. We couldn't tell we were blocking most of the waterfall since Paul took this picture with his long arm!
We got it figured out after we hiked down to the bottom a ways. The tempurature dropped about 25 degrees! It was chilly!
I didn't include the picture of Paul filling up his empty water bottle with water from the waterfall and drinking AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF IT! I warned him not to do that, but he didn't listen. He said it was very cold and tasted GREAT!! I didn't try it. Yes, its true, I am a germaphobe.
I'll not rant here about the difficulty our camera gave us during this trip, or how we spent lots of time turning it off and back on and changing the batteries to try to get one picture. The fact that we have pictures of this trip at all are a miracle! By the time we got to the wedding Saturday night, it wouldn't cooperate at all and this is the only picture I have of the couple! Pathetic! The wedding was at his mom's house and the reception in the back yard around the pool. It was beautiful and we were so honored to be included in such an intimate affair. There was a dance floor and a chocolate fountain, so it was a hit for all! No one fell in the pool either!
On Sunday, we didn't have to fly out until evening, so we had our morning to do more site seeing. We drove about 30 minutes to the 2nd largest dam in the US. Shasta dam is 602 feet tall and is the 2nd tallest in the world! Hoover is the tallest and I have never seen it in person, so this was so fun! I guess we are complete geeks, because we really enjoyed this tour! We HAPPENED to show up MINUTES before the tour started, or we wouldn't have gotten to see it. We stopped on the road on the way there to take this picture:
Here we got to go down near the base for an idea of how big it really is.
This is one of the turbines, the part that turns and actually makes the electricity. That was fascinating. It boggles my mind that it just takes something turning to create the right environment to fabricate electricity! Again, we are nerds, I guess we already established that!
I am skipping Riley's birthday on August 11th so it can have its own post...and I don't have any pictures from my camera, because it was still acting up, so I will skip to our last hoorah before school started. Our church had an ice cream social called Sundaes on Saturday at a local park. All the kids who came to Extreme week were invited to come back with their parents and get to know more about our church and play games and have sundaes. We had a great turnout and so much fun! We sang a couple of the silly songs from the week, this one is Gorrilla, man, gun (just like rock, scissors, paper only more fun!)
Then, each child and several adults were given a can of silly string and there was a silly string war! The kids had so much fun and a GREAT mess was made!
Not the case for Gabe though!
We planned to go to Busch Gardens one last time as a family. We had to drop Paul off at the airport to go to Colorado Springs for his training and were going to be right near there. The morning was hot, but had a beautiful breeze and was sunny, perfect for a day of playing. We had frozen water bottles and had loaded up on snacks. We were set. BUT, right when we dropped Paul off, it started to rain:o( We drove around a bit (because the GPS told us to go south instead of north and I couldn't tell which way was up in that downpour) and finally made it to the park. It was still raining pretty hard and we could see a couple of the roller coasters from the road and it was obvious they were not running. We decided to get some lunch and reassess after we ate. By the time our food arrived, it stopped raining. I had called Paul and had him go on line and see what the radar said about the afternoon in Tampa. It was bad news. Sure enough, by the time we got done eating, it was raining again, and we went home. We drove out of the rain in Sarasota and the temperature at home was 20 degrees warmer and sunny. Hard to believe Tampa was still getting pounded with rain. We settled for renting a movie instead and spent the rest of the evening playing games, swimming and watching Madagascar 2 (cute movie!). Needless to say, no pictures!!
Okay, there it is, pretty much everything we got to do as a family this summer. We had fun in spite of the turmoil we were going through. We were able to talk with the kids about the changes (but not the details of our reasons for the changes) and keep them apprised so they wouldn't feel insecure, and they have handled all of this very well. We thank God for all the blessings of our kids, friends, and family and all the fun things we got to do this summer!