Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Edible Rainbow

Do you have memories as a child of jello salads for Easter or any holiday, for that fact? Do you remember the shredded carrot jello? The coconut jello? The diced fruit/ fruit cocktail jello? Do you remember wishing that for just once Grandma would not put anything in the jello? Yes? Great! You are on the same page as me. Now think back to the myriad of pot-lucks that you attended as a child. As you stood in line, trying to keep track of all your utensils, napkin and hoping your roll wouldn't roll off your plate, you scoured the line-up of casseroles, sides and desserts hoping for something you could sufficiently fill your growling all the way through service tummy with. You were willing to risk it on some slightly interesting dishes and you were also taught to eat what you put on your plate, even if it killed you in the process and they had another pot-luck after the memorial service to remember you by.
Well, gone are those days. For one, potlucks just aren't as common any more and your children have suffered the ill side effects of not having to eat strange food anymore. Except when it comes to holidays, such as Easter. That is when gobs of family and friends are invited over, bringing their dishes with them, and your never know what they are gonna get. I know you've done your best parenting when it comes to food and the kids will manage to choke down enough to satisfy you and their bellies, but what about if you come in as super-hero mom, aunt, grandma, etc and save the day with...

Rainbow Gelatin Cubes

4 packages (3 oz. each) assorted flavored gelatin
6 envelopes unflavored gelatin, divided
5 ¾ c. boiling water, divided
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
¼ c. cold water

In a bowl, combine one package flavored gelatin and one envelope unflavored gelatin. Stir in 1 c. boiling water until dissolved. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan that is coated with non-stick spray. Refrigerate until almost set but not firm, about 20 minutes.
In a bowl, combine the condensed milk and 1 cu. boiling water. In another bowl, sprinkle two envelops unflavored gelatin over the cold water; let stand for 1 minute. Stir in ¾ c boiling water. Add to the milk mixture. Pour 1 c. of the creamy gelatin mixture over the first flavored gelatin layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 25 minutes.
Repeat from beginning of recipe three times, alternating creamy gelatin layers with flavored gelatin. Chill each layer until firm before pouring next layer on top. Refrigerate for at least an hour after completing last layer before cutting into 1 inch squares.
Makes about 9 dozen cubes (if you cut it perfectly) recipe from a Taste of Home submission

Get whatever flavors/ colors of jello you like and go to it. The kids gobble them down. The parents eat them up and count their blessings one layer by one layer that their fabulous sister/daughter/mom made these for the kids so that there would be peace and fullness at the dinner table. This recipe does take a while to do since you need at least 25 minutes chilling time per layer. And the compliments? Compliments galore! Occasionally there is a child who doesn't like the sweetened condensed layer, but you can just sweetly whisper into their ear that they should be thankful and eat it up, otherwise their aunt will make them give her double the kisses!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter Reading

The message of the cross is important to our family and so is reading. So I try to compile a stack of books that we will read together as a family and that the kids and others visiting our home, will pick up and look at, especially during Easter and Christmas. Here are my current Easter findings.

I shared yesterday about Benjamin's Box by Melody Carlson. What a conversation starter to have a pile of eggs in a bowl waiting for someone to open them up and ask what the symbol means.

He is Alive by Helen Haidle is another good book to read with the kids concerning the story of Christ's death and resurrection. The pictures are well illustrated, one scene over a page and a half. It gives the kids something to reflect on while listening; images that will not be forgotten. You may want to read it over several days so as to let the story take hold.

The Robe by Lloyd Douglas is an interesting novel I read by recommendation. It is the fictional account of a Roman soldier who was put in charge of Jesus' actual crucifiction and later as the soldiers cast lots for Jesus' garmets, he wins the robe. Killing someone, no less, crucifying them is not something done and forgotten, especially to this Roman soldier, who's previous encounters with Jesus leave something amiss in the soldier's life. His quest to understand the person behind the robe, takes him to a point he would have never considered. Though I think this book is not quite a clear depiction of Jesus as Holy God and leaves large gaps where a person unfamiliar with Scripture and could be mis-lead (as in miracles possibly being somewhat watered down by way of human reasoning in the soldier's mind), the story is captivating. It gave me a new insight into the culture surrounding Jesus' time on earth and thus, deeper understanding of Scripture. It motivated me to be more, be inspired, be lead by the power of Jesus.

Chicken Sunday and Rechenka's Eggs, both by Patricia Polacco, are new ones I picked up this year. Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors (well, I have several) as her stories touch a part of you, no matter what nationality you are that make you hold your children close. Her illustrations are simple, yet bursting with character. Chicken Sunday is the story of 3 children who want to buy an Easter hat for their grandma. It shows the level of respect honest, diligent children can garner from adults. And it makes you want to hug your grandma and buy her a hat, even though here in Iowa, Easter hats are pretty much non-existent these days. After I read this one, I told Audrey that I have to stop getting these kinds of books since I always cry while reading them. Rechenka's Eggs is the story of Babushka (read Thunder Cake and you will love Babushka) and her eggs for the Easter Festival. Since Polacco's heritage is from the Ukraine, both of these stories are rich with tradition.

In this picture you see Ben reading to Luke. I think the book was Rechenka's Eggs and it was so fun to see these two together. And in Chicken Sunday, a store keeper says the children have "Chutzpah", which means courage. It is so funny, yet so amazing to hear Luke say "Chutzpah". This was certainly not a word we have used before in our home, but now because of these books, we just might!

Monday, March 29, 2010


This picture shows what we are going through with the kids this week for Easter. These are Resurrection Eggs and inside them is a little symbol or token for each part of the Easter Story. I found a book, called Benjamin’s Box, in which the story coincides with the eggs. Each day we read a page or two about a fictional boy named Benjamin who has a box and he fills it with a little something to remind him of his encounters with Jesus. We read the Scripture passages that correspond to the story as well. It is very short but memorable for our kids. Audrey loves the eggs and the story because she tries hard to remember the right order and guess before everyone else. Ben loves them because it is about a boy named Ben! The one having the most fun is Luke as he is instructed that he can only open the ones we’ve opened and not any others. He will sit for many minutes breaking open the eggs to see what is inside. He also tries to crack them open like the chef shows the students in the movie Sabrina (a-one-a-two-a crrrack)! I love them because they sit in a bowl with the book by it and I catch the kids looking at them and the book and sharing it with their friends.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Forget

I forget that that I’m saved by grace, by a gift, by a sacrifice.
I forget that there’s nothing in the whole wide world I can do to earn this.
I forget that someone really sacrificed his life for me, to buy me back from my sin.
I forget that I’m forgiven and set free.
I forget these things.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Revelation 1:5

And when I remember, it causes me to tremble, to cry, and to be thankful.
I will remember.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2: 6-11

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Before we left for vacation, I asked a friend of mine, Kate, to come over and see Audrey's room. Audrey's room has been, up to this point, essentially a room for storing stuff and sleeping in, but not a room that she wants to hang out in and not a room that even I want to cozy up in with her. I asked Kate if she would pretty, pretty please come over while we were on vacation and do something about it.

Well, she did. Now in this video (if it loads, hopefully), Audrey knows nothing about her room. We just got back from Florida and I found a reason to get her to go down to her room.

Are you smiling? I am. Everytime I watch this video, I smile. I can't help it.

Isn't Kate wonderful? She will humbly pass off the compliment, but she really is wonderful. I've had her come over a few times to rescue me- decorating for house showing, tweaking my Christmas tree, etc. I imagine her and her little helpers (Jenn, Mark, and kids) just sweeping in and with a wave of her magic decorating wand creating little paradises, one room at a time. I know it's not that easy. Mark had to move Audrey's bed, maybe more than once! Jenn had to go shopping with Kate, maybe more than once!

Many times over, Kate, thank you!!



Will Someone Clean This Up?!

It's piano recital time. So that means I spend hours pouring and playing through book after book of music, looking for just the right pieces for all my students. All 18 of my students. This is how my studio looked this afternoon after a morning of searching. I have my music organized neatly, but when it comes recital time, everything seems to kind of spill out. I make piles of I'll try these and piles of yes, but who, maybes and rejections. It's quite a process.
I think about recital music all the way back at the beginning of the year, when I'm searching for festival and contest music. I think about pieces when I'm away from the piano, like doing dishes, getting ready for the day, going on a walk with Luke. It sort of possesses me for a while. I jot down notes on lessons, post-its, my blackberry, anywhere there is a scrap of paper to remember it. I keep a running stack, sometimes ear-marking who I think fits the piece. (Music is almost never put away entirely in my studio.)
Then comes crunch time, in the spring, when I must get the music out to the students or the show will not go on the road! I make a list of each day's students, pull out all the files of music and start rifling through. If I find a perfect fit, I write down who and what and then label the front cover with a sticky note saying whom it should go to and what page. It is a good thing Bill works at 3M. I use sticky notes of all varieties a ton in my teaching.
I strive to have each student perform two pieces from memory and that is a lot of music. I have students ranging from just their first year of lessons to their 10 year. And I want to make each one of them sound their best! I'm a little over halfway there. I had asked the women in my Thursday morning Bible study to pray for me as I worked on this and their prayers have helped.
Now all I have to do is figure out where all the music I'm not using goes back to!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I have a brother. Between our two families, we have produced SEVEN children! We have Audrey(11), Ben(7) and Luke(4) and Philip and Jessica have Cora(9), Obi(7), Gavin(6) and Athan(2). We are a full house when the cousins get together. (My sister has more kids, but what person in their right mind invites all 11 cousins over at once?)
Do I love them? I am the crazy aunt who has whispered “Aunt Mindy” into each one of their precious baby ears until they say it, forces them to give me a kiss whenever I point to my cheek and generally makes their lives slightly uncomfortable, but totally loved.
They are spending the night tonight. What do you need to house seven children between the ages of 11 and 2?
Lots of room, pillows, and blankets.
Lots of food. Lots.
Lots of room and good weather to go outside.
Lots of throwing and catching things and riding vehicles.
Lots of food.
Lots of time to watch whatever drama is being acted out.
Time. Energy. Patience. Resourcefulness.
Lots of room for time outs (just in case).
Lots of books, games, and movies (for sanity, goodness sakes!)
Did I mention food?
An in fridge water dispenser is very entertaining. (They suddenly become very thirsty when they are here.)
Lots of love.
They were planning to move to Michigan but are not going to anymore. I am glad for that. There is a lot more love to lavish on them. We want to remain forever Unco Bill and Aunt Minny to them. And I’m thinking about starting to moisten my lips just before kissing them, just to seal the deal.

A Vacation Confession

So, did we have a picture perfect vacation with just less than perfect weather? Did we bond together for a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle? The kids were perfect, Bill and I had engaging conversations once they were busy playing in the sand and surf? And then we came home refreshed and rejuvenated ready to take on real life again? Uh, no. Emphatically no.
How should I put this? I wasn't exactly Miss Relaxed and Go With the Flow on our trip. In fact, I was distant and distracted and it affected Bill greatly. Proverbs 21:9 says “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 17:1 says “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” I’m tellin’ ya- Bill would have preferred the cold balcony of our condo with that scrap of bread I tossed to the alligators at the mini-golf than a vacation with me. I was pretty awful. There wasn’t any arguing but there certainly wasn’t any talking and that is just as bad. Not communicating is not communicating.
Bill took me on a date the week after we got back and we started talking things out. But it has taken us at least this long to recover and get things straightened out after our vacation!
Now, this perspective is obviously one-sided. It wasn’t all me, but I’m the one writing here. I didn’t want to gloss over our vacation and make it seem like we had the perfect family vacation. This is a real look at us. A look at what happens when our energies and affections go awry. Bill said that relationships are not about not having conflict but how you respond to that conflict, and so we are learning how to respond rightly.(Could I not have learned that before our vacation?!) I am thankful for Bill, for our family, for our time away, for the lessons we learned and mostly for the grace and forgiveness that is given to me everyday.
We can’t go back to Florida to try it again, which is unfortunate. We missed out on what should have been the best part. But we can move forward with a different perspective and a deeper relationship still because of what we learned together. We still had time together as a family and the kids had a great time. I am thankful for all of that. I really am.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Going Home

I forgot to include these two pictures yesterday. This was the 2 hour ride back to St. Petersburg after Disney, where we checked into a hotel for about 6 hours before flying out.

Here the kids are waiting for our flight back home. Do you recall the first picture of our trip? Yes, well the novelty of flying has worn off. Also, the kids were pretty tired since we had a late night, then had to get up by 6.

Luke was fascinated with the emergency procedures pamphlet. He kept pulling it out to read it, both on the way there and on the way back. I'm not sure what the other passengers thought about this, nor how the flight crew perceived our confidence in the skills, but it was funny to us.

We were certainly glad to touchdown in Des Moines. Even though it was overcast, cold and the snow was dingy, it was home. We were home less than two hours when Ben came up to me and asked me to make cookies with him. Then Luke wanted me to play with him, so we lined up the wooden tracks and steamed our trains on them. And we surprised Audrey with a makeover of her room, done by our friend Kate while we were gone. It was good to be home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Dizzying Amount About Disney

On Saturday morning we said adios to our condo, The Caprice, on St. Pete’s Beach forever and headed out to Orlando. We stopped before we got to the Disney exit to load up on provisions (lunch) since we weren’t too interested in paying six bucks for a burger. Very good idea! Do this. You are able to bring in bags and backpacks full of food and drinks (unlike airlines!) into the park. I think our backpack had to weigh at least 20 pounds when we started out, but it was worth it.
Okay, back to Disney. Paid for parking ($14), and took strong mental note that we were in the section Grumpy and row 121- another very good tip. You will really want to remember this when it is 10:00 at night and you are tired, cold, hungry, and possibly grumpy yourself.
We hopped on the tram that took us to the ticket center. The parking attendant said he hoped we had a magical day. The tram driver said he wished us a magical day. Then we arrived at the ticket area. We didn’t have our tickets since they hold them at Will Call and we anxiously made our way to the Will Call area and… stood in an unbelievably long line!! Seriously, this was not what we were expecting and we got into the line where the queue reached the end of the queue. Patience is a virtue. We were getting to go to Disney for an extraordinarily low price. We were running out of snacks. It wasn’t magical yet. Alright, enough complaining. Once we got to the ticket window, the lady was extremely pleasant, was completely knowledgeable and would have possibly let us get Luke in for free if we said he was 3 or under. 2-3ish and under is free to Disney. The volunteer program is for ages 6 and up. Luke is 4. We were honest and admitted to Luke’s age and paid for him.
Once you are done getting your tickets, you are still not actually in the park. You must take either the monorail or a ferry to the park. And then go through bag inspection and then actual admittance into the park. On the whole, it took us about and hour and a half to get in. There are a lot of people! Oh, and a lot of strollers!!!
We decided to ride a car driving ride and got in line. When you go to Disney you are going to spend a lot of time in line. There are ways to bypass lines but we didn’t do any of that. Luke loved the ride. Next we rode a train that circles around the park and although we couldn’t see all of the park, we could see some parts and Ben spotted at least one place he wanted to go to.
Friends of ours said that we should see the afternoon parade, so we found the parade route and had a pleasant view. This is a great activity to do before you are completely tired as a breather. The kids can see most of the favorite Disney characters and you don’t have to worry about them getting run over chasing after candy. (no candy) After the parade we were ready for more. Probably my most favorite ride was A Small World. I heard about this from one of my students, who also said it was her favorite. Allison, you were right!
More rides, more lines. Lines for everything: rides, gift shops, food. But amazingly, I did not hear one grumpy word from any parents, not one whiney fit from any child and no tired looks from any Disney cast member! Sure a few kids reached the end of their limit and broke down, including Luke, but then they caught their second wind and were off again. I think Disney somehow scents the air with some sort of happy scent that permeates your body and you are somehow able to remain calm throughout the entire visit. I even dreamed about this that night!
Like I said, Ben spotted a rollercoaster ride and we all got in line for it. I don’t remember the name of it, but you see it on all the commercials. This line was definitely 45 minutes long. It wove around and around. You can see this picture of Bill and Luke smashing each other’s noses. We were a bit bored. I tried to see if I could start a contagious yawn chain, but it didn’t catch on. We also thought about seeing if we could get the wave going, but weren’t daring enough. Bill sat in front of us with Luke; I sat behind with Ben and Audrey. It was so great. We would be climbing up a hill and Ben would be shaking his head, saying, “I don’t know abouaaaaahhhh!!!!” Then, we would start another incline and he would do the same thing. He loved this roller coaster. Audrey was proud of herself for getting on another roller coaster (insert parents rolling their eyes at the drama) and Luke wasn’t too sure about it but he rode the whole thing with his head turned, but eyes wide open.
From then on, we were set to enjoy the magic of Disney. We had our second wind. Well, sort of- after a breakdown from Luke and a couple of turkey legs and some milk to refuel. Then we found a good spot and prepared to watch the fireworks. Luckily, where we ended up sitting, I spotted a line and guessed that Tinker Bell would fly right over head. Sure enough, she did. Then the fireworks started. It was a great display. If you can stick around until later in the day, you will miss the big crowds, thus the lines and also the heat. We did several things after the fireworks because a lot of the crowds were dissipating. We really enjoyed our time at Disney after dark.
Disney World, The Magic Kingdom, admits a huge amount of people each day and employs a humongous number of employees each and every day. Yet every one was pleasant and everything ran like a well-oiled machine. The kids had a great time and we were grateful to be able to experience this together.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

For Your Time and Effort

What do three fleece blankets and one evening have to do with a vacation to Florida?
Quite a bit, actually. Here is the abridged version of our story…
Disney is offering up to six 1 day only tickets to one of their theme parks in exchange for your time as a volunteer. You must go through Disney’s website and sign up under the Give A Day, Get A Day program to qualify. You then pick a volunteer program you want to work with in your area, volunteer, follow all the steps to complete your participation and make your way to Disney!
The program I chose for our family is called Project Linus, which supplies homemade blankets to children who have suffered from illnesses or other tragedies. This was a great thing from the beginning. We picked out three fleece blanket kits from Jo-Ann’s, took them home, and started and finished them all in one night.

Audrey chose a very sweet girl pattern with birdies on it. I can just imagine some tween wrapping herself up in it! Ben chose a Mickey pattern because we were going to get to go to Disney ourselves. Maybe the child who receives Ben’s blanket will have their Make a Wish dream come true and get to go to Disney someday! Luke chose a puppy pattern because he LOVES puppies. I know that there is another little boy out there who scampers around on all fours, barking and insisting that his mommy call him a big puppy, instead of a big boy, too.

Audrey’s was perfect because though she had to measure and cut all the tabs herself, she was able to do a very good job and kept at it diligently. And I thank God because he allowed me to put aside my perfectionist tendencies (thus ruining a great thing) and let my daughter do it her own way. Ben’s was perfect because his was pre-marked and so he was able to do it almost entirely on his own, as well. Luke’s was perfect because he went to bed before the other two and Audrey and Ben did his for him, which ended up being a perfect example of teamwork!

It was a little hard prying these very warm blankets away from their own bodies. It was also a bit difficult explaining to a four year old that this very cute puppy blanket is for another child that they will never meet. Out of sight, out of mind is a very good thing.
There was a chance that Disney might not process our information in time and it wasn’t until two days before we went that we discovered that we did indeed have tickets reserved for us at Disney. After that, though, we had our final day planned for us!

Even if you never intend to go to Disney this year (or ever), I would highly recommend you follow through their link to see the local organizations you can donate your time and efforts too. Start at

Monday, March 15, 2010

On the Lookout

By Friday, we were on the lookout for some nice beach weather- and we got it! We broke out the suits and hit the beach. Well, after liberally applying sunscreen. The kids played in the surf a bit, but it was still cold and the water just wasn’t warm enough, so we just walked along a bit, found some shells and headed poolside.

If you’re serious about running on the beach, you need these kinds of shoes: Vibrum Five Fingers. Bill loved them. I got a new suit for the trip, Bill got new shoes.

We had supper at a great restaurant- Skidder’s. They have great Greek food, but also American food.If you are in St. Pete’s Beach, you must eat here at least once. We ended our day with fireworks that I happened to notice being set up while I was going for a run on the beach. It was a nice closure to our beach front time.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Executive Decision

By Wednesday night, Bill had decided that this wandering aimlessly around St. Pete’s was not going to cut it for the rest of the week. While we were still on vacation, the weather was just not cooperating and we were left twiddling our thumbs. So, Bill made the executive decision that we should go to Kennedy Space Center. The reason I say executive decision is because I, myself, wasn’t exactly cooperating with this vacation thing, but more on that in another post…
Since it only took about 3 hours to drive across the state of Florida to the other coast, we didn’t have to get up too early. We arrived at the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitors Center a bit before noon and started touring around. We got to walk through a section of a full size model of a space shuttle and look at full size models of the rocket boosters used for the shuttle. They also had a launch simulator that you could ride. It looked like a lot of fun to experience that, but 1. Luke was too short, 2. Ben was barely tall enough and 3. Audrey was completely panicking before we even started up the ramp. Since we had all three strikes pretty much against us we opted for the observation area, which was not quite as fun as the actual simulator, but still enjoyable.
The Visitor’s Center has arranged a bus tour of the NASA areas, including a viewing area of the two launch pads, a drive past the shuttle assembly building (which is humongous), a visit to a building containing an Apollo rocket and everything related to the Apollo rocket era of space flight and then to another building which housed the training facilities of the astronauts and a model of what live is like on the international space station. The whole tour, depending on how fast you moved was about two hours long. We spent quite some time at the first two stops but by the last one the kids were tired and we were off and on the bus quickly.
While we were at the viewing area, I happened to notice a guy that looked familiar and he turned out to be our friend, Stuart, from church. He and three more of his friends were vacationing in Florida, also, and we all just happened to be at Kennedy at the same time!! We took a group photo for them and they snapped one for us.
But really the best part of the trip to Kennedy was the rocket launch. Part of Bill’s determining when to visit the center was based on the fact that a rocket was scheduled to launch later that day. So we stuck around and waited. It got dark. It got cold. The kids were getting tired. I was running out of creative ideas to keep the kids happy, warm and occupied as the launch was being pushed back because of weather. Finally, the countdown was on. I hoisted Luke onto my shoulders, Bill had Ben on his and Audrey manned the camera. Before the launch, I turned to watch the crowd and it was amazing. Everyone either had cameras or cell phones out to record it. Just one single thing bonded everyone for one moment of time. I turned around just in time to see the flash of light and we all watched the rocket successfully launch. Then we clapped and cheered. No, this wasn’t a very momentous launch, just a satellite being placed in space somewhere to monitor something, but still a feat, nevertheless. And we got to witness it. Amazing!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Best

Thursday was a low action day. We were hunting and searching for things to do since the weather was not exactly cooperating with lounging by the beach. It was cold and windy.
We had heard of a seabird sanctuary and decided to check it out. It was free so we figured it was at least something to do. We got to see a lot of birds in confines and were very glad for a breeze since many birds in cages are, um, stinky.
After lunchmeat sandwiches in the car, we decided to try our luck at mini-golf. We had coupons for Smuggler’s Cove so off we went. After looking at prices, the kids only got to golf. They had live alligators that you could feed for a price, so we skipped that part. Instead, I tried to feed them a bit of Luke’s leftover sandwich but the alligators were forgoing dry crust for a bit of sunshine and a snooze. This was the nicest mini-golf course we had ever been on. I mean, the course was nicely maintained, the greens were green and it was a lot of fun. Luke scored a hole in one, amazingly. You should watch him golf. It’s more chasing the ball around and no aiming whatsoever. But the kid has luck on his side. He will probably grow up to be the kind of kid who is naturally talented and if he worked hard he could really go far, but occasionally just gets lucky (thus deterring him for really applying himself). And his cute looks totally work for him! Anyway… the kids loved the course.

We decided to check out downtown St. Petersburg. There were a couple of art museums that Bill, Audrey and I would have loved to see, but decided in a couple of years would be better. Instead we went to The Pier, which would be a really great place to watch all the boats on a nice, sunny, non-windy day. But today was not that day. So we looked through the binocular thingy at whatever we could see, ate some ice cream, bought a couple of post cards and left. We traveled back to the mini-golf for a second round. Audrey scored a hole in one. We would recommend the mini-golf if you have nothing else to do on a windy, cold day in St. Pete.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


After the Marine Aquarium, Bill wanted to take a drive up to a park he’d heard about. So we drove up to Honeymoon Island. The beaches there are rated the best. Unfortunately, it was way too windy to hang out on the beach, though we watched a few guys kite surfing, so we took a short hike through the nature preserve. It was only about a mile in and back. We saw many osprey and their nests. It is said they are always hunting and always protecting. Their squawks as they spotted us definitely told us to keep away from their nests.

Ben found a good size stick and spent the rest of the hike peeling the bark off, dragging it through mud, pole vaulting and whacking things. Luke was not much into the hike, so he spent a lot of time on my or Bill’s shoulders. I snapped this picture of Audrey and Daddy a little too late since right before that they were walking ahead holding hands.

A sign before we entered the park said that rattlesnakes were very common and we should be aware (we never saw any!). It also mentioned the osprey and a couple of other animals, but it never mentioned armadillos. We saw 5 on our walk! The novelty of armadillos wore off quickly for Ben and he asked us if we were going to keep stopping every time we saw one. Their eyesight is not very good so they passed right by us without even noticing, unless we were upwind. I snapped this picture for one of my students, Gabrielle, who had just composed a piece about a jumping armadillo!

We got to what ended up being the top of the trail and met a couple who told us that there was a bald eagle’s nest just a bit further in. The entire area had been fenced off so as to not disturb the nest. We could see the birds through the trees. There were two older babies. What a treat for us!

The vegetation along the way was so amazing. We really enjoyed this area!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Little Wet

On Tuesday we went to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Here they rescue and rehabilitate hurt sea animals. We saw a short video about a dolphin named Winter who has a prosthetic tale. Apparently, Winter’s story of determination is inspirational, especially to those who also need prosthetic limbs. The video was very touching and when I looked over at the kids afterwards, Audrey was teary and I think Ben was too. (I didn’t say anything, though, because that would have ruined the moment.)
We saw many sea turtles and Ben got to reach in and touch a sting ray.

Then we watched the dolphin show. The trainer was working with two dolphins. They did several tricks and the kids really enjoyed the show. They were able to sit right up next to the glass and got splashed a little during some of the tricks. They thought it was great.
Finally, the show was over and one dolphin did one last trick, which was to swim by very fast and slap the water, which in turn SOAKED the kids! The audience jumped back in surprise and laughed, except for my two boys, who cried. Audrey got the most wet and later on she was the stinkiest, since getting splashed with marine aquarium water is not the same as pool water.