Monday, August 31, 2015

Alligators, Hangouts & Fun in the Sun

Our second day in Alabama was kickstarted with cinnamon roll waffles (yes!) and a trip to Alligator Alley. This one of the things Taylor was MOST excited about and, honestly, holding one was on the top of most of our priority lists.


Tiny thought they were very interesting but any time one made a slight move toward her, even though there was a fence in place, she scrambled on top of Dave's shoulders. I'm not sure why she thought climbing higher was the answer but it was interesting to watch.

{She was never in ANY danger. Let's be clear.}


We saw gators all the way from just born to many years old. It was interesting to note they don't grow very fast - only 8-10 inches per year. So the giants are REALLY old. And, yes, both the older girls and I held a gator. But neither was super stoked about how they looked in the pic so I promised not to post it. (Ahhh...teens...) So I'll just show you mine. :)


The back area is where all the big guys were located. In an actual swamp, actually. The smaller ones are kept in smaller enclosures where they're all of similar size. Probably so they don't chomp on each other, I'm guessing. You walked all through the swamp on a boardwalk of sorts. Thankfully it's really well built.


No one fell in, we were able to feed them, and Tiny kept pointing out the big ones. Surprisingly, she had no issue with the bigger ones. Who knew?


It was such a fun outing - highly, highly recommend. We finished up with the keepers feeding the big guys. Like, feeding them raw meat - not the large pelleted food we were entrusted with - and it was really cool.


Later in the day, Nana and Boppy arrived and we all went down to the beach for several hours.


It's a requirement, in my mind, that you have beach and pool time every day while on vacation.


So we did.


And it was beautiful.


After some fun in the sun, we cleaned up and headed out for dinner. We tried The Hangout, on the advice of a sweet friend, in Gulf Shores and it was a lot of fun. Not formal AT ALL. In fact, Dave and I both - in separate instances - ended up dancing on the table. As did all of the other parents trying to have a leisurely dinner. :)


Super fun day two, friends!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sun, Sand & Surf

So this time last week we were on the beach. Orange Beach, Alabama, to be more specific. And it was glorious. Well, everything except for the drive anyway. That was a looooong way to go with a toddler. But let's focus on the positive.

We left Friday evening and drove through the night to Maw Maw's house. After spending the next morning with her, we set out on the second leg of the trip and arrived shortly after 3pm. We unloaded our suitcases at the condo, grabbed some lunch at Gulf Island Grill (yum!), hit Wal-mart for a few necessities and then set out for the first of many trips to the beach.

Tiny, who I thought would hate the sand, was all about the grainy stuff. In fact, she even tried to eat it several times. She led the way to the waves and let us know quickly she wanted NOTHING to do with the water. :)


The views were spectacular even though it had rained a bit earlier. And we all played in the sand with our new sand toys...


...took in the view...


...and prepared ourselves for a week of fun in the sun and relaxation.


Tiny made it even more clear that she wanted nothing to do with the water a bit later on...


...and we bid adieu to the beach and set out for the condo pool.


That would be where the older girls spent most of their time for the entire week. But I didn't take any photos of the teens on this particular day because, well, they have a lot of requests these days. They only want pics when they are camera ready. And, even then, they have to approve the shot. 

So...while I recap vacation here, just know that I would LOVE to take TONS of photos of all of the kiddos on said trip. It just wasn't my choice. :-)

And that was day one...sweet and sandy. The next day Nana and Boppy would arrive shortly after our trip to Alligator Alley. Yep. You read that correctly...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Country Girl in the Making

Despite my penchant for city comforts and, well, Starbucks, it seems my baby girl is becoming more country as the summer blazes on. Paw Paw bought some acreage and got some goats. And Tiny looooves them. Perhaps more than they love her tugging on their tails. :)


She also really enjoyed climbing up on the tractor.


Repeatedly.


Ahhh...this girl. She's gonna give me grey hair daily. But she's definitely worth it. 


On Friday we made a trip to Rogers and picked up Taylor's new show goat, Gus. Tiny was asleep when we got him but woke when we met Nana and Boppy so she could spend the night with them while Taylor and I shopped for back to school clothes. She was realllllly curious when she woke up. And alternated between wanting to pet him and be afraid of him.


This boy is so sweet it's gonna be difficult to not get attached. Last time that happened we ended up not being able to sell Bruiser and found him a new home.


So here's hoping I (and the rest of my family) can remain somewhat distant until early March. :)


And let's not forget sweet Dottie is suffering through being pregnant in 100+ degree temps. Bless her heart - she is large and in charge - and we're sure hoping to have a healthy calf at the end of next month. And we're also hoping it will be a GIRL so we won't have to go heifer shopping since Dottie will age out in early 2016.

So, yeah, I now have two country girls. But as long as I can continue wearing bling to stock shows, all is well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An African Safari Sidebar

The morning after Sea World got a bit of a late start. We all kind of felt this way but only Tiny is small and cute enough to pull off a pic taken while sleeping that's acceptable for posting.


We eventually mustered enough energy to have breakfast and get dressed before saying a quick goodbye to the mesmerizing (to some) fountain and head back north. 


We had initially planned to hit the Riverwalk; however, there was a HUGE convention being held there and none of us are really all about big crowds. So then we decided to hit the outlet malls. But then we saw a sign for Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch and decided that sounded like a much more fun adventure.

I mean, who doesn't like an African safari type animal experience?

Now, I'm not gonna lie - we were all a little less than impressed with the actual experience. It appeared as though no one in front of us had ever seen a deer before because they just stopped their vehicles and stared at every single one for a loooong time.


But we did have a few interesting encounters. They said not to hand feed the animals but everyone else was so we may have done so as well.


We made a few friends...


...and even somehow convinced Tonto to drive through a second time so we could see the entire park.


And then we got stuck behind another caravan and we literally sat still for longer than I care to mention. Clearly Taylor took advantage of the situation for a little relaxation.


But we did find a few more friends the second time around.


And, though we paid way too much for this adventure (who charges per person instead of per car for this type of activity???), we still managed to feed some animals, learned that Tiny has an affinity for the feed they provide for said animals, and have some new memories to laugh about.

Which is exactly what it's all about.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dolphins and Whales and Sea Lions, Oh My!

So the weekend after Fourth of July (and after Taylor had worked VBS at two churches AND attended late night youth VBS), we decided to head south to Sea World. Knowing vacation was still over a month away and that the girl would be gone for two straight weeks, we just needed to get away for a bit. {And it certainly didn't hurt that one of the hospitals Tonto works for was basically giving away tickets.}

So we loaded up really early on Friday morning and made it inside before the gates were technically even open. After snapping the obligatory "hey, we're here and don't look absolutely terrible yet" pics...



...we headed to the new show (after feeding the sea lions, which Tiny thought was great as long as they didn't make ANY noise), which features rescued dogs, cats, pot belly pigs, etc. and Tiny (and everyone else) absolutely LOVED it. The only downside is that she really wanted to play with and pet all of the animals. And, well, that wasn't possible. Obviously.

Once the first show wrapped up, we made a beeline to Taylor's favorite - the sea lions. The babe was interested for a very short while (see below) and then she was ready to run around. :)


This was a new sea lion show and it was super cute. The otters have a more prominent role now (yes!) but, unfortunately, the walrus did not make an appearance. I'm afraid that means he's no longer with us but I didn't confirm that because denial is sometimes a nice place to live.


We saw some penguins, rode the roller coasters...


...and Tiny began her quest for the absolute perfect stuffed animal. She tried out every option available at the park throughout the day.


After catching half of the ski show...


...and doing some acrobatics and tumbling of our own...


...we made the trek to the temporary dolphin area and then decided it was time for a break. And lunch. We were able to check into the hotel early, take Tiny swimming (this hotel is where she swam for the first time EVER a little over a year ago) and get some rest before heading back for some evening fun.

We caught the beluga whale show, had some ice cream and purchased some stuffed animals. Shamu for Tiny and beluga whales for the older girls. The teens and I then hit some water rides while the babe hung out with Daddy. And the girls got SOAKED.


It was about this time I decided to walk double time to find the others back at Shamu Stadium so we could get seats for the night show. Unfortunately, we had a bit of miscommunication and it ended up with the teens sitting in the splash zone in a completely different part of the stadium while we wondered where they were and if they made it.

But they did. And they were even more soaked by the time we found them. And all of us were exhausted, to say the least. It was such a fun day and capping it off with Whataburger was like the cherry on top for my peeps. They do love a good cheeseburger. :)