Lots of School But a Lot of FUN Too!

The cardinal rule of blogging is that you must keep up with it every day. I have more than broken the rule! This has mostly been because we hit school very hard the first couple of weeks we were in Florida. We DSC01608wanted to be able to spend as much time as we could with family and friends we have in the Sarasota area and we also wanted to be able to take a spring break without getting behind. I’ll give a brief rundown of the days I’ve missed and then I’ll hit Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park in separate posts.

January 30—We left Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground-Resort in Madison, FL, and moved to Three Flags RV Resort in Wildwood, FL. Both parks were very nice and we enjoyed our time at both. On our way to the new park we passed the site of the very tragic accident that occurred just the day before on I-75 that was due to fog and smoke from area brushfires. Except for a few pieces of debris, the site was remarkably clear. It was easy to spot the area, because of the many news crews that were still reporting about the accident.

January 31—We drove to The Villages to do a little shopping. We knew this was a nice area but had no idea how nice.

February 1—We bought Florida Oranges and Grapefruits from a citrus fruit stand. We finally met another full-timing family while doing laundry at the RV park. We also enjoyed talking about home with a coupleDSC01611 from the Flint area.

February 2—We moved to Winterhaven Encore RV Resort in Bradenton. Barry’s cousin and his family visited us at the RV Park. Just a note about Encore parks… they are AWESOME! If you plan to spend any time RVing in Florida, an Encore membership is well worth the money.

February 3—We did a little shopping at an area mall before going to Barry’s Aunt and Uncle’s house for a delicious dinner. We had such a great time that we completely lost track of time and stayed until mid-night. They taught us a new game called PIG that was a lot of fun!

February 4—The girls and their 3rd cousin hit it off like they’ve always known each other. She invited us to attend her softball practice. It was fun watching her play and enjoyed the extra time we had with her parents. We spent the afternoon finishing up some school and then headed over to St. Petersburg to do a little shopping.

February 5—A dear couple from our church in Michigan live in this area in the winter. We attended church with them in the morning and then had a wonderful Sunday dinner at their condo. They live on a beautiful lagoon that is bordered by palm trees. We enjoyed watching the nesting birds and lizards from their back porch and a wonderful afternoon catching-up.

DSC01613February 6—While we were in the Tallahassee area, one of Eva’s back molars broke off. Since she was pain free, we decided to wait until we got to the Sarasota/BradentonDSC01624 area to find a dentist. We are so pleased to have found Dr. M & M, a wonderful pediatric dentist (http://www.smileworkskids.com/). Eva was very nervous but the dentist and his staff soon put her at ease and she had so much fun during the exam that she was excited to find out that she had to return the next day. After the appointment we met Barry’s parents who had driven down to Florida for a visit. We grabbed a bite to eat and then went to De Soto National Memorial where Eva was asked to take part in a Ranger-lead demonstration. She enjoyed having her grandparents there to watch her get sworn in as a Jr. Ranger at yet another park. Papa got sworn in as a “Sr. Ranger” along with her. Later that evening we all went with Barry’s cousin who is an amazing photographer. He took the girls out to Sarasota Bay and to some beautiful shots of them as the sun was setting. Afterwards, we drove around Lido Key where we stopped at Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream. (Desoto National Memorial: http://www.nps.gov/deso/index.htm)

February 7—Today our Jenna turned 16 years old! How in the world did that happen? We surprised her with a trip to the mall for a second ear piercing and some presents of her choice from her sisters at a Bath and Body Works. A local Dairy Queen was very gracious to accommodate us with g-free ice cream cake.

DSC01621We took time out from celebrating to head back to the dentist where Eva had to have two teeth pulled. Once again, the dentist was so amazing and made a scary experience very fun. He truly is an expert in pediatric dentistry. Everything went very well and we were soon on our way with a pain-free child ready for more pictures. She no swelling whatsoever! Barry’s cousin met us at Myakka State Park where we saw some large alligators, beautiful birds and wild pigs. The girls especially like walking a suspension bridge that lead to a tower where they had a great view of this fantastic park. We had a great afternoon with him but alsoDSC01629 got some more amazing photos of our daughters.

February 8—We spent most of this day grocery shopping and stocking up in preparation for the next day’s move. Our first stop, however, was at the assisted living home at which Barry’s Grandmother lives. We haven’t seen her in a number of years. The girls were very grown up to her and we enjoyed our visit.  On our way home, we tried to stop at Siesta Beach but parking was impossible. The girls did get a glimpse of the beautiful water, though. That evening we had Barry’s parents, aunt, uncle and cousins over to our RV park for a picnic. We had great time around the pool watching the cousins swim and enjoying their last evening together. It was a beautiful, clear night.

February 9—We moved to Pine Island KOA RV Resort in St. James City, FL.

February 10—School…lots of school!

February 11—Sanibel Island! We didn’t find as many shells as we thought we would but we still had a great time exploring this beautiful island. The winds were pretty strong so the waves were quite high. After running some errands in Ft. Myers, we headed back to explore Pine Island. We drove the length of the island and discovered that it has a lot of beautiful tree nurseries. After growing up with forests of pine trees, it was very interesting for us to see rows and rows of various types of palms.

February 12—Another day of just school.

February 13—Being from MI, we’ve seen the homes, workshops and laboratories associated with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison many times at Greenfield Village in Dearborn. We’ve read about the friendshipDSC01657 between the two men and have seen many photographs of the two vacationing together. Today we got to visit their winter homes. Located in Fort Myers, FL, The Edison and Ford Winter Homes are surrounded by beautiful botanical gardens. The two homes are beautiful but not as lavish as one might expect. The Edison home was our favorite with DSC01669its sparse but well planned furnishings and its high, airy ceilings. Both homes had very large and inviting porches. We enjoyed the homes but the gardens that were so carefully planned by Edison and his wife were where we spent most of our time. They truly are amazing and very educational. It was the perfect day for our youngest who is studying Botany this year in Science. All three girls were especially taken with the large Banyan Tree that was a gift to Edison from Firestone.  After learning so much about the two men’s contributions to the industrial world it was very interesting seeing a more personal side of the two families. Henry Ford, we learned, wasn’t all business but loved to dance. We enjoyed hearing some of the songs and dances that he and his wife wrote together. I believe the estate houses the collection of the songs. Edison remained quite busy while at the winter home, even maintaining a botanical laboratory which we toured but there are several more personal details about him as well. The wheelchair he used in later years but refused to be photographed in is there. There is also a beautiful moonlight garden that was planned for him by his wife that surrounds his office.  (http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/)

After our beautiful day outside, we weren’t quite ready to go home so we stopped at Lee County Manatee Park. We got there kind of late in the day but were still able to walk quite a bit of the trail and see some manatee. Fortunately, for us a volunteer stopped and told us to come back in the morning when the visibility into the water would be much better. DSC01665

February 14—We got up bright and early and headed back to Fort Myers and to the Lee County Manatee Park. The lady who took our $3 park entrance fee told us that she had just returned from the water and that the manatee were waiting for us. They did not disappoint! There was no waiting for one of the amazing creatures to come up for air to only get a short glimpse of their nostrils. There were so many manatee in the water that there wasn’t a time when we didn’t see several. They were a little more playful than the previous night. They rolled around and when coming up for air, they would pause and look around. We were delighted to see quite a few babies swimming alongside their mothers. There is also a listening box that allows you to listen to the sounds that the manatees are making under the water.

DSC01702In addition to the manatees, we also saw several types of fish, turtles and birds. At one point on the trail we saw large, black fins coming in and out of the water. A volunteer told us they were tarpons. We would later see a mounted tarpon and realize how big they really are!

The park offers an educational program guide for families which contains a series of questions to answer at various points of the trail. Most of it is about the varied plant life of the park. All three girls completed the program but again, it was especially timely for the child who is studying Botany. DSC01674

Many people volunteer their time at the park. We found each of the volunteers to be very knowledgeable and eager to answer questions. Especially interesting and helpful was a class about the manatees that was held under a large, Spanish moss covered live oak. Lee County Manatee Park

As you can see, our time wasn’t all work and no play, but we did squeeze school into every spare minute we had. Most of our sight-seeing was sandwiched between morning and evenings of school.

My next posts will be hard to write as I try to do justice to Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. Then we’ll be off to the Keys!