Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dec. 25th Christmas Day

We had already had Christmas, but the rest of the world had not. So we were on the hunt for something fun to do that would be open on December 25th. Luckily for us, the Everglades are open 365 days a year (we trust it now, even though we were worried both on Thanksgiving and then again on Christmas that maybe, just maybe, our sources were wrong...haha) and we were ready for a family bike ride! 

Walking into a visitor's center with Sterling is like a kid walking into a candy shop. He LOVES everything about road trips and wants to stop at every single pull-off and check out all the signs and things. I used to roll my eyes at all of that--my dad always tried to get to Canada the FASTEST possible and never stopped for anything!--but I've started to get the feel of longer road trips and enjoying the memory. I couldn't help but catch the spirit and start to really get into our visit to the Everglades. It made it feel like we were traveling for the break!
We are here!
 They had some really great exhibits in the visitor's center, so I was glad we stopped by for a bathroom break!

I had no IDEA there were black panthers in the Everglades!!!! 

We saw one of these signs before we hit the Visitors Center, so when we were paying I kept bugging Sterling to ask the lady what to do if we saw one. But then, because we wanted to buy a year pass (it's $40 and a day pass is $20, and we want to go more than once, so it just seemed to make sense) and they didn't have any, she let us in for FREE!! In all the excitement, we forgot to figure out what to do in case of a black panther encounter. I thought it'd be fine until we saw the SECOND panther crossing sign!!!!!?!

We took a little detour to see the Nike Missile site that was the sole US area dedicated to the Cuban Missile crisis. But the road was blocked. Sterling was sad cause he was pretty interested in the learning about the history. Maybe next time. Also, the bike trail I had researched ended up being underwater (thanks a lot crazy week of rain that dumped 26 inches of rain when South Florida usually gets about 2 inches of rain in December) so we tried the Old Ingraham Highway. It is something like 11 miles one way, but we were just going to go to the first marker, at 3.5 miles, and eat lunch. We hit water before that and had to turn around, unfortunately. But I don't think it was too much further. So we got a pretty great ride in! 

This picture makes it seem pretty tame, but there was some pretty wild terrain--deep potholes and TALL grass. It was fine for me, I have a mountain bike and I was just carrying Molly. But Sterling got quite the workout because with the trailer it was hard to miss the grass.

These tall reeds were my favorite. They were endless and the wind sounded so beautiful! 

I know, terrible photo--I was biking--but as we got closer to civilization, the more jungle-like the vegetation got. This was when I worried about a panther! Haha!  
We biked along this road for awhile.

We stacked all our bikes away and headed to another little station to hike a trail. We thought .3 miles would be breezy--I didn't realize how much the bike trail had worn me out!!! Also, it was a little disappointing. Two separate park rangers told us that usually the gators are just STACKED on top of each other on this trail at this time of year, but because of how much rain we've had, they don't need to come so close for food, so we didn't see a single one. But we did see several HUGE blue herons, anhingas, and a couple other pretty birds. 

I was SUPER surprised at how many people were there. It was a PACKED parking lot! I guess Christmas Day in the Everglades isn't so random as we thought?!

 On our way into the park we passed Robert Is Here. I've been twice, but Sterling has never had the opportunity. It was open when we headed home, and we were all DYING of heat, so we stopped to get a shake to share. I really love strawberry shakes. But every time I go I feel like I just HAVE to get some of the crazy tropical fruit they have. They have the largest selection of tropical fruit in the U. S. (or so Sterling read). I got key lime last time because it's supposed to be their best. It was tasty. But tart. I like sweet shakes. So I asked this lady what their best kind was that was SWEET. She said their most popular was guanoabana. I got it. I didn't like it at all. HAHA. Next time, I'll stick with strawberry, or blackberry. But Sterling LOVED it and so did Molly (Will took a bite and then went off to play, so I don't think he liked it either, or he would have been right there until it was gone.) so I was at least happy that Sterling had a great first experience there!

We looked around at the animals in the petting zoo, tasted a handful of kinds of honey so Sterling could experience it, and headed out. A great ending to a spectacular Christmas day!

I love Molly's squatting!
Now to get a bike rack so Will isn't squished in the back with bikes all over his lap! Haha.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Books

I wanted to post this as a reference for myself and maybe other people might like it too. But also as a sort of journal page to remember what my children loved at this age and what our Christmas was like.

I was determined to do two gifts (one from Santa of course) and a book. Our apartment is small and toys are plentiful and we just don't need a lot. But then life happens (like a killer $15 deal on a used wooden Pottery Barn kitchen that I only had to paint) and more than anything, I just could not seem to whittle down the books. So we got some used ones and some deals and since we just finished reading for 45 minutes tonight, I figure it was all worth it. 

For Christmas this year, Ruthie got: a redheaded, brown-eyed doll with matching pink dancing tutus for them both.
Will got: a car race-track mat and a set of matchbox cars.
Molly got: an incredibly soft jellycat stuffed elephant and stacking cups.
Ruth also got lip gloss in her stocking and they all got some Fisher Price princesses in their stockings which pretty much re-ignited our Fisher Price princess castle and Molly has played with it NON-STOP since Christmas. Yay!

On to books.
This I got for Molly as we have checked it out from the library SEVERAL times and she carried it around a lot. But ALL of the kids enjoy it and I really, really love the illustrations and the expressions of the little mouse. Priceless. Will has already ripped the cover and it has had to be taped---sigh.
This one was a for everyone gift, and while it rhymes and has cute illustrations, was the only book I got that I really don't love. Meh. 
I got this for Will and he LOVES it! Another TRUCK book, he says! I love the rhymes and I think it is hilarious.
This was Molly's second book. I had never read it, but it was highly recommended. I think the illustrations are adorable and the story line has a little uplifting side to it, so I think it's a fun book to have. 
For everyone, because this is Will and Molly's favorite song to sing at library story time right now and the illustrations are SOOOOO cute!!
I got this one for Ruthie and I could not have chosen better, let me tell ya! Ballerinas and cowgirls and pink sparkly shoes!??! It's an older book but it is ADORABLE and I recommend it to everyone!
Because we love Mo Willems, I got this as Will's second book. It is a hit! He has taken it to bed with him every night since Christmas! Sterling laughed out loud at it and Ruth already has it close enough to memorized that she'll sit on the floor and pretend to read it to Will. Definitely a good one.
This was Ruthie's second book, which I had also never read before but was highly recommended on some websites. I love it. Quirky and a little weird, but hilarious and fun. A good library builder for us.
I know, I know, Ruthie already got her two books. But she got two more because I want to build a little bigger repertoire of books that are ALMOST chapter books, but not quite, to read to her in the evenings. Stretch out her sitting still abilities and such. We read this one entirely through from cover to cover just tonight. It took about 25 minutes. Will and Ruth sat and listened the ENTIRE time and on the last page Ruthie was laughing out loud! Haha! Definitely a good pick! Will wanted to read it again, but at 25 minutes a pop--haha.  
This one we have not started yet. It is a bit bigger of a beginner chapter book than the Enormous Crocodile and I plan on starting it with Ruth and reading a chapter every night. If you have never read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (there's a series) you should right now. My first introduction was on a trip to Canada and we listened to it as a family on audio-tape. We LITERALLY were excited to get back in the car to hear what was happening next. It is a super young reader, but SO WITTY and hilarious. I can't wait to read it with Ruth.
So that was our awesome Christmas! I love books! Also, our good friend Sister Hadley (I teach four of her girls piano lessons) got the kids even MORE books--I love her--and so Ruthie got a Fancy Nancy and Will got an Olaf Summertime book and Molly got a board book with flaps that all of them love. Yay!!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

On the Night of Christmas Day...

After all our present opening and playing games and lounging about, we had extra long nap times. Then we decided to go see some Christmas lights that our friends had told us about to finish Christmas off right. (Also, everything Christmas-y was still going on because it was the 23rd.) This is just a local person's house/fence/yard and it is AMAZING! They have a little box for donations for an autism awareness program, but it is better than ALL the lights we've ever seen! Much better than paying for the zoo last year. It has awesome Christmas music blasting that matches the lights, and they lights are going CRAZY and are totally in sync with the music. It's even better than any youtube video you've ever seen of a house. Each individual string and light would do something different. 

Ruth and Will were totally freaked out and scared by the whole thing. HAAHAA. So they sat on our laps for a bit while we just watched until they got a little more comfortable, then we got a closer look at all the cool things.
Those mickey mouse ears on the top left had TEN THOUSAND lights by itself!!!

Will could not have been happier, we found Olaf!!
Sitting in Santa's sleigh.
Looking at Olaf and the Elsa poster.
We watched this sweet train go around and around for quite some time. Will loved it!

Sterling and I were really happy to see this beautiful nativity set up off to the side so we could review the true meaning of Christmas with the kids before calling it a night. It was so beautiful and so much fun!

Once home, we made some hot chocolate (no, it was not necessary after a 80 degree excursion, but it did feel traditional) with marshmallows and watched clips of Claymation Christmas on youtube. Which almost felt like being home and watching the dvd, haha. That house is definitely on our list to see again next year, it was just so great! What a perfect end to a perfect Christmas Day.