Thursday, July 31, 2008

Year End Softball Team Party

With the end of the summer season comes a good time at Kartville every year.

You've got your bumper boats...

...and the kid who fills the bucket and ensures that you walk away thoroughly soaked.

Then it's good clean fun out on the dirt. Yee-haw!

But, do NOT forget the blue snow cones!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ever Changing

Life never seems to stay very still for us over here. It seems like summer just began and now it's going to be over in 3 weeks when the kids go back to school. I thought with the end of summer sports and summer activities that we would have a breather, but I was fooling myself because I honestly don't know how to not be busy.

Ashley is excited to go back to school and has gone straight from summer ball to school ball. Softball try-outs started this week for the middle school and while she's made the team, we still have yet to find out if she will be on the Varsity or Junior Varsity team. Practices start immediately on Thursday and will be everyday except for Fridays and Sundays. Whew, here we go. Sometimes I feel more like a chauffeur than a parent.

Ryan has scaled down to just swim lessons, with only two more remaining, so things are momentarily calm there. With the start of school comes the whole stress of making sure Ryan gets what is needed with his hearing and learning disabilities. We've given him the summer off from working so hard, but it's time to get cracking again.

In other news, we're adding a new dog to the family. We currently have Daisy (see picture on masthead above) who is 9 or 10 years old. She is the biggest sweetheart and everyone commonly calls her the neighborhood dog. People love her that much and welcome her into their yards.

My aunt has a 4 year old Golden Retriever, named Luke. She's moving and sadly cannot take him with her. We've offered to take him and the kids are really excited and having a hard time waiting the 3 weeks until my aunt can bring him down here. It could have been sooner, but we have our upcoming annual weekend vacation to Grand Bear with Bret's brother and his family and didn't want to upset his adjustment period here.

So, that leads me to a question I've got for all of you. I've found a lot of valuable information in regards to adding another dog to your family online, but I'd love some advice from anyone who's been through this. Daisy has her annual appointment at the vet tomorrow and I'm going loaded with questions for him. Does anyone have any suggestions on making the transition easier on both dogs? I'm pretty sure Daisy will be the dominant dog as Luke is very laid back and easy going while Daisy is pretty laid back herself and very well behaved, but is very protective of her turf. I'd love some feedback!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back To School

I'm cracking up over here. Ashley and I went school supply shopping today and she and her friends are comparing school supplies like it's Christmas morning. What a gag!

St. Pete's Beach Vacation - Day Four

We were off to a great start on day four. Still not quite sure what we were going to do today, so while the kids decided whether they wanted to go to the zoo in Tampa or back to Busch Gardens, we drove around and found this beach at the other end of the island we were on. It was absolutely breath taking - all soft sand and no seaweed.

The kids decided on Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa so we headed out that way. While *EVERYTHING* in Florida is ridiculously expensive, admission prices at this zoo were worse. Twenty bucks a person to get in. Thankfully, we have a zoo membership for the zoo in Peoria that gets us in to over 150 zoos nationwide, so we got in for free. Yahoo! That sucker paid for itself before all four of us were even through the gates. Our excitement didn't last long when we saw how much everything cost inside the park - on top of admission prices. While it's a very beautiful zoo, I don't think any zoo is worth spending $150 for one visit. Sorry, Lowry.

Just one beautiful exhibit after another.

Sweet. I think we'll leave him there.

In the African Safari section of the zoo, we came across this beautiful giraffe. I had never been so close to one before and were mesmerized by her eyes. She was a little put off that we didn't have a cracker to feed her, but we were still in shock that it cost $2 per freakin' cracker.

Another log flume ride and Ryan would have ridden this sucker 10 more times had it not cost $4 per person, each ride.

Another $4 per person for the Sky Ride. They must be on to something here, because we did pay it. I'm not sure that we would have ridden any of these rides if we had been required to pay to get in.

Ryan loved the Munster Ride.

Around 2pm, we still had the other half of the zoo to see. We hadn't anticipated the zoo being so big and really didn't want it to become an all day thing since it was our last day in Florida, so we took a vote and unanimously decided to skip out and spend the rest of our day swimming.

Two weeks ago this kid wouldn't put his face in the water. Amazing.

After some time in the pool we ordered dinner from the outdoor bar with the intentions of eating it outside at a table overlooking the beach. The seagulls proved to be pretty aggressive so we took the food back to the shelter of our room and ate there.


Then we spent some more time in the ocean where the waves had gotten pretty big in comparison to the last three days. We think it may have had something to do with Hurricane Dolly over on the other side of the Gulf.

I really wanted to get some pictures of the sunset, but the clouds were moving in. It was still a beautiful site, though.

One more swim in a different pool (there were 3) before heading upstairs to start packing.

This vacation was so much fun, but it went way to fast. We had to get up at 5am the next morning to make our flight home. We had called for a wake up call, but to be on the safe side Ashley set the alarm on her cell phone as well. Guess what time her cell phone went off at? 1am. At 1am, we started waking up thinking it was time to go. As Bret started getting out of bed, he looked at the clock. We had a good laugh over it, but it was hard to get back to sleep and we were all dragging on the flight home.


It's nice to be home, but if we had an ocean view from our backyard deck, that would make things perfect! We sat our back on our deck with some friends on Friday night, and the ocean was the only thing missing.

More pictures at Flickr.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

St. Pete's Beach Vacation - Day Three

Tuesday morning arrived with a late start due to getting back late from the Tampa Rays game the night before. This was our big day at Busch Gardens.
They just may have some of the most beautifully landscaped habitats I've seen anywhere.
There were plenty of Florida's lawn ornaments walking around.

Around noon, the sky started getting dark and the rain moved in so we found shelter in some dry exhibits. The tiger below is obviously not real, but it was definitely a pretty good replica.

The rain moved out pretty quickly, the humidity level shot back up and the kids wanted to try out some of the rides in Timbuktu. Ryan flew his helicopter...

...while this beast reminded me that I'm getting way to old for this stuff. Ashley loved it while I held on for dear life.

Lots more beautiful animals to see. Some real...

...some not, but very playful regardless.

We weren't sure what to expect when it came to Ryan and rides this year since he was still so scared of all of them at Disney last year, but he LOVED the water rides. We first took the kids on the Log flume ride where the last drop is pretty steep. Then we took them on Congo River Rapids. Ryan loved that one and would have ridden it over and over again for the next two hours, had we let him.

Bret and Ashley wait for the Congo to take off.

The whole day was pretty much Busch Gardens and nothing else. We did so much walking that day that by the time we got back to the resort, we were ready to collapse!

I'll work on Day Four tomorrow...

Friday, July 25, 2008

St. Pete's Beach Vacation - Day Two

Monday morning was a big day for us. We had lots of fun things planned to keep us busy.

Ocean still there? Check. Okay, now we can leave.

We drove down to The Pier in St. Petersburg for our Dolphin Cruise. Along our walk up on the pier, we came across these gorgeous birds of paradise flowers. We had a little moment here because this was Bret's mom's favorite flower. She loved Florida and it made us feel close to her being there. We took this picture of the kids in front of the flowers. As soon as Ashley can string some of the sea shells that she brought home together, we're going to take the shells and this picture over to the mausoleum to leave there for her.

Okay, enough of the sad stuff - moving on. There were lots of different stores at The Pier and Ryan went bananas in Just Hats over this Indiana Jones hat. We started calling him "Illinois Jones" since we are from Illinois.

Our dolphin cruise on the Dolphin Queen was ready to take off so we made our way down to the dock.

This was by far my favorite part of our vacation. There is just simply nothing better than a warm, sunny day out on a boat on Tampa Bay, where the wind blows against your face and the dolphins are so playful that they swim along with you. Ryan got to steer the boat. It totally made his day.

We saw many dolphins - some playful, some reserved and protecting their calf's. These dolphins in the picture below (along with 2 others) were showing off, trying to impress the female dolphin that was with them.

There is a 96 year old man (pictured below) whose nurse takes him outside daily to watch all four of the scheduled Dolphin Cruise's go by. He stands there and waves every day.

This playful guy swam along side us as our boat cruised by, jumping high out of the water and landing with a big splash. It was the highlight of the trip for me.

When our cruise was over, we ate lunch and drove back to the resort to swim in the ocean and pool until it was time to go to the Tampa Rays game. The game that night was a lot of fun. The Rays won and Ryan got to see his first Major League baseball game.

We were exhausted by the time we made it back to the resort and quickly took showers and got to bed since the next day promised to be a long one at Busch Gardens.

I'll work on Day Three later...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

St. Pete's Beach Vacation - Day 1

We're back from this summer's trip to sunny Florida. We had (mostly) great weather and enjoyed lots of activities that kept us busy the whole time we were there.

Sunday morning we were up, dressed and out the door by 8am. After a quick stop for breakfast, we made it to the airport in Peoria in time for our flight.

As soon as we got our baggage and rental car, we made our way to our hotel (big thanks to my brother for letting us borrow his GPS Navigator, whom the kids named Pat). While Bret was checking us in, Ashley texted everyone the picture of this palm tree and let them know we had made it down safely.

Our stay at the Sirata Beach Resort included a great room...

... with a great gulf side view. I was in pure heaven, having never seen an ocean before. (Yes, it's actually the gulf but that still counts.)

So after eating a quick lunch, we made our way down and swam in the ocean. It took me awhile to get past the whole seaweed and salt water thing, but I did get over it. It didn't seem to bother the kids at all.

After our long swim in the ocean, we rinsed off under the outdoor shower and headed for one of the resort's three pools. We really were just looking for some easy, relaxing fun.

After eating dinner and souvenir shopping, our first day of vacation was coming to an end. We walked down to the beach and walked along the water, listening to the peaceful sound of crashing waves. I could have stayed there on that beach all night listening to the waves. Nothing could have been more relaxing.

Check back later for Day Two.