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Made it to sunny Florida!

Who thought it would be a good idea to pack up six kids in a Suburban with just over 260k miles and drive thirty hours round trip into Florida and back at the beginning of December? We did!

Road trip breakfast.

Jack has so many work trips about this time of year that we start to miss him terribly. To solve that problem, we occasionally go with him and at the beginning of December, we got lucky. He happened to be going to Orlando. How could we resist sunshine, warm weather, and Disney World?

Queen of the Throne?

Right after Thanksgiving, we jumped in the car, drove halfway to Atlanta, Georgia, and the next day, arrived at the hotel as the sun was setting. If ever we were out of place, pulling up at a Hilton resort with a rusty, squeaky car full of kids got us all kinds of looks. But, our names were on the list and indeed, we were supposed to be guests there. We got settled in, found some dinner, then figured out sleeping arrangements, and crashed.


For most of the week, we’d get up, have breakfast, drop Jack off at the Orange County Convention Center, then spent our time at the pool. That wouldn’t have been such a big deal except the day we arrived, the temperature dropped from the mid-80’s to the low-60’s. It was warm in comparison to the low-40’s we were coming from in Indiana, but still, it was a bit chilly to go to the pool. What were we to do?

Put on your coat and gloves and run to the pool!
Swim anyway!
They had all kinds of beautiful flowers blooming, like the Birds of Paradise.

As midwesterners, you kind of have to do what you have to do if you want to enjoy a chance to get in the pool. Just like in Michigan earlier this year where we were blindsided with an unexpected cold patch in the middle of summer, we put on our coats, ran to the pool, and enjoyed splashing around and swimming with the three pools, two hot tubs, one wading pool, and one splash pad basically allll to ourselves.


The pools were warm enough that the kids could swim in them without getting hypothermia and since there were only three other kids in the entire pool, it was easy enough to lifeguard them. Peter, Zoey, and I hung out around the fringe of the water while the rest of the kids made friends with the other children that were there.

Jumping off the grotto waterfall with their new friend.

One by one, the kids started wearing out. In the warm sunshine, wrapped in innumerable pool towels (because there wasn’t anyone else at the pool to be using them), and lounging on a chair, it was pretty easy to fall asleep for an afternoon nap.

Peter was first, followed by Zoey…

…followed by Henry, who just couldn’t push through the exhaustion that inevitably follows a few days of overwhelming fun.


By the time Jack got home and we ate dinner, we were too weary and chilled to go back to the pool. The hotel was putting on the fourth Toy Story movie, so we went and had a relaxing evening in the theater.


When the movie let out, we decided to walk around the resort before heading back for bed. On our way out to the playground, we spotted the activity director trying to rouse up some karaoke participants without a shred of luck…because nobody was outside. Well, except us.

Claire was the first volunteer.

Never ever in my whole life have I done a round of karaoke. I’ve sung in my car, in the shower, in the kitchen, in front of Jack and the kids, but something about singing in front of strangers–even if it was just one guy running the karaoke at the hotel–makes me stall every time.

The kids’ grandparents had given us some souvenir money and I proposed to the kids if they would do a karaoke song by themselves, I’d give them $20 a piece. Claire was the first to take the bait.

Henry went next. While Claire looked like she was going to pass out the whole time, Henry thoroughly enjoyed himself, even though he couldn’t actually read the words to be able to sing. He did not appreciate help from Evelyn. 😂

Kate serenaded everyone with a Taylor Swift song, while her sister’s and brother danced and once she was done, Evelyn decided that maybe–just maybe–she was brave enough to do a round of karaoke, too.

Though Evelyn was probably the most sweaty-palmed, nervous, and shy of them all, she braved her fears, and of everyone, was definitely the loudest.

Zoey certainly wasn’t going to be left out, so everyone joined her on stage for one more encore performance of Holly Jolly Christmas to get us all in the mood for the holiday season. By the time we had to leave for bed, everyone was begging to go back on stage. Go figure.

We colored a page at the activity center…right before we went back to swimming.

For a couple more days, our lives were basically the same: eat, sleep, drop off Jack, swim, eat, swim, sleep. Funny thing, no one complained about that lifestyle.

Evelyn learning how to spin plates.

And pretty much every day, the pool looked the same–barren. There were a few other brave souls who’d come out to sunbathe in pants and a jacket, but otherwise, the pool was still ours.


One day, the kids had a particularly fun treat. As a person who hates balloons, I don’t go out of my way to get them for the kids, but when one of the entertainers was offering to make everyone a balloon hat, I couldn’t say no.


Their hats barely lasted until the evening, but those things were cherished while they were unpopped. They were definitely a memorable temporary keepsake from their trip to Florida.


After the balloon hats, it was more swimming, playing at the park, and waiting for Jack to rejoin us.

Shooting down the slide.

Staying in a resort was a different kind of experience than we normally have on vacation. A lot of times, we camp, stay in cabins, use AirBnB, sleep at a relative or friend’s house, or stay in a regular hotel, but this time, we felt especially spoiled. One of the kids’ favorite parts of our stay were the complimentary rides back to our building on their extended-length golf carts. Yes, the resort was large enough to need golf carts and yes, we needed the extended cab cart. By the end of our trip, Henry was friends with the driver and would jump in the seat next to him, talking his ear off the whole way back to our room. High five to the guy for being cool and engaging a four-year-old.


Part of the reason we chose to go to Orlando with Jack was because his trip was going to overlap with my birthday. By my age, I would have been fine with having a regular day doing my routine, then celebrating when Jack returned, but that’s not how Jack rolls. He makes sure I’m spoiled every single year. Since we were going to be driving back to Indiana on my day (see? I really don’t mind doing humdrum stuff on my birthday), Jack took me to his favorite Jamaican restaurant he’d visited the last time he was in Orlando, and we had a nice meal together.


And by nice, I mean as crazy as usual when we eat-out with all the kids. They squirmed and spilled water, visited the bathroom multiple times, argued with each other over crayons, whined about the food…but at least I didn’t have to cook or clean up! As a special treat, Jack ordered a beautiful piece of coconut pineapple cake for us to share.


It was literally like eating in the middle of a shark’s feeding frenzy. The waitress put down the spoons and everybody converged on it. I think I got a spoonful and a half before the kids were licking the plate. The funny thing is, someone else who was eating nearby, stopped at our table on their way out and complimented us on our beautiful family. That was the nicest thing anyone could have gifted me. So, thank you random stranger!


The night was still young when we returned, so we hurried into our swimsuits and jackets, ran to the pool, and dove in. The three younger kids and I sat in the hot tub with a few other brave souls, while Jack and the older girls played in the waterfall.


When the people in the pool were blue in the lips and those of us in the hot tub were feeling like boiled lobsters, we towel-dried, then air-dried at the playground.

Swimming pool hair. 🏊🏻‍♂️

While the kids would have loved to stay up long past their bedtime, the next day, we were going to Disney World. The hotel had started their heaters (which was sort of laughable, since it was barely jacket weather, but it was a nice touch when coming from the pool), and we rode the golf cart back, got in our jammies, and tried to convince everyone to go to bed. Easier said than done when the kids realized they were going to a theme park the next day.


In a nutshell, Disney World was fun but the highlights of the day were A) Zoey meeting Cinderella and B) Jack catching a brown anole for me to hold–something I’d been trying to do since getting to Florida. He knows me so well!


Like it always does, the time came for us to go home. That doesn’t mean the end of the adventure by any means. When we stopped for lunch at a Florida Taco Bell, instead of Canadian geese that hang around like they do in Indiana, we were surrounded by ibises and Muscovy ducks.


I don’t know what it is, but I cannot say no to getting up close and personal with a creature who’s equally curious (even if they are only trying to beg a free meal from me). A few of the ducks were so bold as to wander over to the front door and tap on it.


While we waited for our food to be made, we went out and said hello. The ducks panted and quacked, sounding a lot like an overweight dog as they begged for some food.


Like typical farm kids, they couldn’t help but get down on the level of the personable ducks, even if they were a bit nippy. We went inside, washed our hands, ate, then scraped up all our crumbs (waste not, want not!) and took them across the street to share with the waiting fowl before we got back at it.

Driving with a bunch of kids isn’t easy, but I really enjoy road trips. There’s so much to see that would be missed if we flew right over it. Atlanta certainly didn’t disappoint!

Truer words were never spoken by a bunny-snail.

When we were about half an hour from the ramen restaurant we’d decided to eat at, the kids started crying about being hungry, so Jack diverted them with an imaginary cooking game. He assigned everyone an ingredient, then had them dream up what kind of dish they’d make with it. The distraction worked like a charm…until we made it to the restaurant and realized it was in a too-rough part of town that we didn’t want to be in. Eek! Jack quickly found a comic-ridden pizza place instead.

Atlanta is all kinds of interesting.

The pizza was delicious and different and filling. I could have gone to bed happy, but because it was my actual birthday, Jack decided we needed to celebrate some more.

Henry loved seeing his favorite superheroes.

When it comes to celebrating, Jack never does anything on a small scale. Instead of an ice cream cone, he took us to Ben & Jerry’s and bought a Vermonster–21 scoops of ice cream, 2 brownies, 2 cookies, whipped cream, and toppings. We could have eaten it all but we paced ourselves and enjoyed it for breakfast the next morning, too since there’s no way to take it ice cream home on a road trip.


We spent the night in the crappiest AirBnB we’ve stayed at yet, but before we left for home, Jack insisted we stop and get one of his favorite southern treats: boiled peanuts.


For the most part, the second half of our trip home was uneventful. Still several hours from home, we stopped at a southern food buffet and ate our fill. In an attempt to blow off some energy, I challenged the kids to a race. Everyone gave their all, but Claire pulled through and won.


That came at a price, though. She ran her heart out…and her lunch. No one will ever accuse Claire of not giving it her all. In a race that didn’t mean a thing, she ran so hard she threw up just so she could say she won. 😂

Whoops. Made her puke.

The rest of the way home was rather uneventful. The kids were content watching movies, having a sucker to tie them over, and using the wrappers to pretend their lollipops were real people. It’s not constant, but one of the very real joys of parenting is being witness to those magical moments when the children are all happy and getting along, and that’s enough.


Along the way, the sun and warmer weather gave way to gray skies and flurries. We were back home to the reality of winter.

Gray clouds ahead, sunshine and blue skies in the rear side mirror.

And just in time, too. The whole time, we didn’t have any car trouble but we woke up the morning after to a flat tire. Better at home than on the road. 🤷🏻‍♀️


Florida was a much-needed break, a chance to escape the mundane and every day, and even if the weather wasn’t entirely ideal, it was still very much appreciated.

What a fantastic and memorable family trip to Florida!


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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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