One of the things that people are most curious about us is often in regards to our housing, furniture and stuff in general. I guess I understand that because in general as Americans we really do like stuff don’t we? Most of the time I feel like we are being at least mostly successful at giving our kids a more rounded world view and experiential education in relation to history, science, U.S. Geography and culture/sociology. But this week where the kids have been running a little high on energy and just being kids has caused our not-really-meant-to-last couch (it may have been two weeks ago we lost the couch, it’s valour surface made it difficult to attempt to patch) and living room chair (already patched once) to pop from their rough housing. (Really how long do you think this blow up furniture was meant to last?) also the kids have managed to pop Eve’s air mattress and break a ballast in Hannah’s (we have had those air mattresses for about a year). All the furniture that leaves us with is our double high queen bed that we have had for a year and a half, a card table and a cooler to sit on. Now the floor is comfortable and we could buy some more furniture, but we have three weeks left and we don’t spend much time in our apartment so it doesn’t really even make sence to do that. Though it is days like this that I wonder if we are just crazy or are we still doing what is best for our kiddos.
My hope is that out of this they will learn how few things we actually need to survive vs. how many things we surround our selves with. Although… A real couch and chairs at the dining room table are a few of the normal household items that I may never take for granted again.
After so little sleep the day before I didn’t expect that I would be up for doing anything on Friday. Surprisingly I had a little energy left after working all night. We weren’t sure what we would try to accomplish. Our list of things we would like to see doesn’t seem to have shrunken down any with the things that have already been crossed off the list. As we are getting closer to being done here we are reprioritizing and Gettysburg and visiting friends and aquantences within driving distance are at the top of the list. Gettysburg was close enough to be a day trip drive and a childhood friend of mine named Ann-Marie lived within an hour of there. We had talked about getting together some time earlier and she had said that since Lancaster county and Gettysburg are close to her house we could meet up at one of those places. I messaged her to make sure they were available and we made plans to meet up after noon in Gettysburg. We packed the kids and headed that way, arriving just a few minutes before our friends. We needed a bathroom break and time to stamp our passport book. Caleb smooshed a penny, Eve flirted with the older gentleman at the counter who gave each of the kids Gettysburg trading cards and Chad picked out patches.
I have to be honest, I found myself slightly nervous about this reunion. I had worked all night and slept only a few hours in the car. I felt like I looked like crap. Ann-Marie and I have been friends for a long time but we haven’t been that close of friends and we hadn’t seen each other since 2001 or 2002. In which time a lot has changed for both of us. We met at age five in the short time we attended the Bible church in Cambridge, but there are years of Vacation Bible Schools, Good News club, and Singspirations. The year (or partial year as it may have been) that we rode in the back of a car together going to a private school in Council when she taught me how to crochet (and maybe there was some knitting too) was when we were close friends. She asked me to call her Annie like her mom always did. She loved the way her mother said it and planned to change her name just as soon as she was old enough. To this day I catch myself calling her that although she goes by her given name Ann-Marie now. I wonder if it bugs her that I still call her that. I remember birthday parties, harvest parties, and playing basketball In highschool guarding one another. After that second or third grade year we spent commuting to school together we grew apart. I didn’t feel like I could be good enough for her. It was nothing she ever said, but maybe something I put on myself. She was beautiful, smart and athletic. I mostly just watched from a distance. We ended up going to the same smaller christan college in Nampa, Northwest Nazarene University (NNU). I had started the year before so I don’t think we had any classes together and I had my own friends. We ran into each other in the cafeteria, chapel, and just crossing campus, exchanging smiles and hellos. That stopped abruptly when she transferred to another school. At that point her younger sister attended NNU. I had inquired of her once on Ann-Marie’s where abouts. It was years before we found each other on FaceBook. We had spoken and commented on each others posts, but now we were going to meet again in person with me looking like I’ve been hit with a truck. The butterflies were short lived, our kids are all about the same age and played so well together it really was so fun.
We introduced the kids to each other and they all, except Eve, pretended to be shy for about two minutes. We decided on a plan to do the driving tour through the historic battlefield. Ann-Marie led the way for the first 4 stops then we switched places as they had been to Gettysburg before and didn’t know what we were most interested in seeing. That way we could slow down when we wanted to and we still would all stay together. There were so many monuments and cannons. The kids were adorable and with each stop they warmed up to each other more and more.
4,000 soldiers died in this field alone…it isn’t even that big. I can’t imagine…
The moisture in the air gave it a serreal look and feeling. It is hard to imagine the sheer number of dead laying out in the fields.
Ann-Marie and Josh had extended an invitation to stay the night with them and we gladly excepted. It was all back roads to their house and Josh was home from work when we got there. It was fun to see first hand all the projects they have completed and are still working on in their new home. The kids played until so late then watched the Lego movie. They were all so cute and so tired by the time we got them in bed. We stayed up and tried out a local brand of ice cream called friendly’s and had tea talking and catching up. We could have talked for hours more but I was dragging And knew the kids would get up early. I was up at 5:00am to use the restroom and heard the boys talking. I’m not sure the kids got any sleep at all, but I’m sure they had fun. There was no lull in the playing and everyone got along beautifully. When it was time to head towards home around noon Eve tried demanding that she would not leave. Of course that didn’t work but it was definite proof that we all had a blast. We took this picture together before we left.
I’m so glad that our travels brought us to Pensylvania and close to friends. Ann-Marie I have loved being witness to the Wife, Mother, women of God that you have become. Thank you for your time and friendship.
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the NRP mega code on the 7th but I wasn’t dreading it either. I could have tried a little harder to get prepared for it. Everytime I would try to read the book I would find myself nodding off, and there just hadn’t been much time at work for that anyway. The mega codes I have been to in the past have been about one hour long at most so I don’t think too much of having to do it after a 12 hour night shift. When we started hitting two hours then three I began to wonder how wiped I would be feeling for work that night knowing full well that if I didn’t get clocked out by 10:45 I would not be able to come back to work at my regularly scheduled shift because I would not have been off a whole eight hours. We finished up and clocked out at 10:30am, drove the hour home and got into bed at approximately 11:45am with my alarm clock set for 4:45 pm. I slept hard and probably could have slept all night but instead got up and ready for work.
We tried boiled peanuts for the first time yesterday night. I guess it was good road food as we were searching for good ways to fight off sleepiness for the last portion of our drive. The kids decided they tasted and had the texture of stewed potatoes and to me they tasted more like beans. They had a soft mushy texture and very savory flavor. I don’t know that we will try them again since everyone besides me stopped after their first taste. For sure it wasn’t bad, just different. We arived home at 11:55pm to 19ish degree weather. Brrrrr. That seemed so cold and of course none of us were dressed for it. We grabbed our essentials and dashed for the door. Getting everyone through the bathroom and into bed as quickly as possible. We all sleep on air mattresses so we are deffinately glad to have a real bed when we travel but for some reason even with air mattresses there is something about being back in your own bed. We slept in until 8:30 am at least us grown ups did. The kids were up around 7:15 am. I had to get my NRP on line test done and a few other online tests for my next assignment done. I started working on that. The format seemed a little strange and stranger yet a few of the questions. I had Chad looked at it and there didn’t seem to be any red flags that he saw. I submitted it to the RN in charge of education in my current unit and went on to complete the ones required for my next assignment. By the time I was done with those I had a message from Roxanne saying she had checked it out and the sight and instructor were not valad as it was not the AAP NRP certification. Seriously we searched for NRP online exam and totally did not get the right one. I don’t think we get suckered in to scams too much but this time they did get our recert money. :(. I logged back on and registered for the correct exam and passed it finishing just before 4:00pm. Yay. At least that every two year requirement was mostly filled (I still have the mega code skill test scheduled for 1/7), but now I had only 45 minutes until I needed to be getting ready for work….I just wanted to cry. I was tired and it had already been a long day. I layed down and covered my head the dark and warmth was nice, but no sleep came to me. A warm shower cheered me up and the music on the radio in the car was nice too. It will all work out, and yea maybe I don’t feel like going to work, but do we ever feel like doing the things we know we must do? I have my cinnamon tea in hand and I think I’m as ready as I will ever be.
It was cool again this morning which made it a little easier to leave Florida, but I don’t think any one of us was ready. It has been a good trip, but as they say all good things must come to an end. We had planned to make one educational stop on the way back to Virginia at Magnolia Plantation. I had found a half off coupon good for this month that would have gotten our family of five into everything there for $90-100. That was a lot but I was most interested in the house tour and slave barracks. Neither which were included in the general admission price but both were included in the all inclusive package that was cheaper than the itemized tours+general admission. We pulled into Magnolia Plantation and parked the car. Grabbed our coupons and walked up to the ticket booth. We described what we were wanting to see and the lady at the ticket booth said that they do not recommend the house tour for children, because if anyone talks they are asked to leave and the tour price will not be refunded. We, knowing Eve, knew that there was no way that she would not talk. The lady also told us that the plantation house, the most visited historic plantation house in the US, was not the original, but the third one built at this location and really just a museum of the time period. Well that really wasn’t what we were hoping for, and we couldn’t pay that much to visit a historic plantation home and not look in the house, a replica or not. There was no way to keep Eve quite for the length of a tour. The lady at the ticket booth states that next door there was an original plantation house that was open to the public that is more kid friendly. She pointed us in the direction of Drayton Hall Plantation which was only a half mile back up the road. The price was better for the tour of Drayton Hall, but also it was amazing to be in and see a building that was present during the revolution, and servived the civil war because the Dr. who lived there at the time had posted quarantine signs all around the property and clamed that he was operating a small pox hospital on the premises. Eve has become so bold in social situations after so many capitol building tours that she feels like she should have a right to ask a question or put in her two cents at every new room on the tour. She actually did pretty well though she was far from silent. The tour guide did well with her sometimes undecernable questions. The house itself was amazing. The charming window seats under each and every window and hidden spiral stair case were among the most charming features. The view of the river and the in general stunning bones of the house’s architectural beauty make you totally speechless. A playground for the imagination who might try to recreate the many life moments, look and personality of the property over time. The gardens that were described in journals, the carriage circle, and the guest houses which no longer stand would have added so much too. I would have also loved to see the original furniture. I felt like we missed a big piece of the plantation farm era with out addressing much of the slavery. John Drayton had owned 76,000 achers and hundreds of slaves but only a few of them were on this property. Any slave quarters that may have bee built around the original house were no longer standing and no evidence left where they were. I think we will have to get that portion of the story from books. So if you all have books that you might recomend let me know.
Above the shutters and window seat in each window. Below there is so much detail in the wood and molding. The mantle of the fire place in this side room was stolen by trespassers in the 20th century.
Another look at the window seats and shutters.
A closer look at the two above pictures will show a door jam with 250 years worth of children’s growth recorded in pencil. There are names on both sides of the door. In 1974 after being owned by seven generations, the Drayton family passed this building to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But still, as recent as three weeks ago (12/19/15) a family member has visited to mark their child’s height on the wall. Above is the hidden circular staircase for the servants/slaves to access the house from the basement. Later a second staircase was build below the grand staircase that also accessed the basement.
Plaster circlings, so cool!
Upstairs social hall/ dance hall. Below the view out over the balcony.
The ceilings were so high. Below the grand staircase.
The outdoor entrance to the basement. The basement was the kitchen and servant’s quarters.
After the tour we walked out to the river.
It was so so so beautiful. Before leaving we made our way back to the gift shop. The kids had completed their scavenger hunts and wanted to turn them in for the promised prize. They each recieved a Drayton Hall pencil for which they were thrilled. Chad sharpened Hannah’s and Eve’s before we left as they were wanting to try them out right away. As we had just got everyone piled into the car one of the tour guides walked by with a gift bag that he handed to me. He said that our tour guide had said that the kids did really well on the tour and she wanted them to have this, Merry Christmas. Inside the bag was two little stuffed puppies named Nipper that the kids had been ooing and aweing over before our tour had started. Eve had asked how much they were and had lamented over howshe would have to save her allowance. Needless to say they were thrilled by the gift.
The Everglades National Park!!!!!! Needless to say we were so very excited to have a chance to visit this natural wonder. The wildlife was AMAZING. It is worth at least two weeks of someone’s time to feel like you have explored it thoroughly, that and some kayaks as well as taking the list of walking, slogging, and boating tours. We walked several of the scienic loops seeing numerous birds and butterflies, two turtles, fish, a snake, caterpillar, alligators, crocodiles, and a manatee. That and we saw a dolphin driving through the Keys yesterday so I feel like for the time we had we were able to see quite a bit. The manatee was fun. It was in the boat dock area by one of the visitor centers. One time it came up and showed us its head back and then tail. We could have watched all day. The idea of paddling around amongst the crocodiles and alligators in a kyak (the bay had crocks the inner ponds had gators) didn’t seem like a very responsible thing to do, but this isn’t their first rodeo so if they are letting all kinds of people rent kyacks and canoes for this kind of adventure it must be mostly safe. We didn’t do it this time, though if we are to ever come back and get to spend a week I’m going to have to spend some time in a gym prepping my arms for all they kyacking we will have to do to see the Everglades well.
The first park with scenic walks took us off gaurd when we pulled into the parking lot to discover all the cars covered in blue tarps. What was going on? We soon discovered the birds that make this part of the park their home have a thing for the soft rubber on cars and will peck at your car and destroy the rubber unless you use one of the provided tarps to protect your car.
The Everglades National Park was nothing like we expected it to be. We weren’t surprised that it was beautiful, but we had expected the proverbial swamp. We learned that instead it is a 50 mile wide river basin that’s shallow depth and slow moving water allow for grass and other plants to grow up to the surface of the water so that it looks like grasslands the areas that are slightly higher in elevation make little mangrove tree “islands” and cypress trees cover the ground that is slightly higher than that. The plants filter the water making it surprisingly clear. Animals big and small can move easily through the water. As the water moves toward the gulf it becomes brackish and hosts different animals. There are some 200 spiecies of birds, 50 reptile spiecies and many different land and marine mammals that call the everglades their home. Soooooo cool! On the way out of the park we had noted that the Coral Castle was a mere 13 miles away. It is a historic and engineering wonder that Chad had been talking about visiting ever since we graduated from college in 2004. It didn’t look like too much from the pictures online. We were very pleasantly surprised.
10 cents was the price Ed, the builder of Coral Castle charged for a tour of his home. Below is a life size cut out of him. At 5’0″ tall and a whopping 100lbs we can not attribute his stone castle to be built by his Amazonian physique which makes the castle even more of an engineering marvel.
The 6000 lbs gate was no match for the kids they were able to rotate it with just a push.
The reading area with chairs not only positioned for the beast lighting for morning, evening, and afternoon but were surprisingly comfortable.
A table the shape of Florida.
Lake Okeechobee geographically acurate on the Florida shaped table.
A hole in the wall that is aimed at another hole in the rock behind it that aims at the North Star all year long. Of course it is not dark so I couldn’t see if it worked.
Looking at the sun dial clock that is somehow accurate with in a minute.
Below is a better look at the numbers inside the sundial.
Above is a sunning table. Supposedly Ed was from the Pacific Northwest and had been diagnosed with Tuberculosis he was told he needed to move to a place where he could get lots of sunshine and fresh air to get better. They think it is possible that he was misdiagnosed but there was no sign of Tuberculosis in his lungs when he died. Below is a look across the courtyard the building in the corner is on the first floor a tool shed and the second story a small room so if the elements required it he had shelter.
Above is a well in the courtyard and below is his refrigerator. Down in the insulated ground water Ed would store his parish able food in water tight glass jars. By the looks of it I had guessed it was going to be a bath.
Above is the back gate. Much much heavier than the front gate it used to turn with just the push of a finger, but over time it has stiffened and no longer turned as Ed had originally designed it.
Above is an outdoor bedroom including a bassinet, child’s bed and child’s chair besides the two adult beds. He had always hoped to get married but it never did happen.
Outdoor cooking station.
The meager furnishings of his indoor space.
Suspended bed looks fairly comfortable.
Hannah has grown a bit…she needs to lay off the GMOs.
I don’t know how many of you have ever looked at the picture of a road over a surprisingly calm gulf with no land in site and thought about how fun it might be to drive on that road and visit those islands. Hanging off the tip of Florida it is bound to be gorgeous and sandy right?!?
We drove past the Everglades and noted the sign Aligator crossing the next 5 miles. I was wondering how an Aligator could cross over this road but it must be able to or they wouldn’t have a sign. There was a lot of similarities to Hawaii but a lot more differences. I liked the smaller businesses and would have liked to stop at a few, but we wanted to go swimming and we wanted to make it to the end so we pressed on. The holiday traffic plus an accident meant instead of that picture of remote calmness it was bumper to bumper. On the drive out even though we were reading the signs “Seven Mile Bridge” it never really felt like we were on a road in the middle of the ocean with no land in site. This was a little bit of a disappointment. We all rolled down our windows even though it was quite hot and heard from the kids all at different times lamenting about how much they missed Hawaii. Even Caleb who never gives much hints that he cares about visiting any place besides Salem Oregon stated, “The only time you don’t miss Hawaii is when you are there, then you miss home.”
There doesn’t seem to be much sand instead a plant that we think is called the cocoplum grows so crazy thick. It has multiple trunks/stems and grows into the salt water so something that looks like it might be solid land could just be an extension of this plant out into the water.
It was a hot 80 degrees so we got snow cones. I had been wanting to get the kids good snow cones for pretty much their whole lives…in Idaho in college I had become hooked on the little shaved ice stands that crop up all around Nampa in the summer. The flavors are actually amazing. They don’t have that kind of shaved ice stand in Oregon. I had hoped to get it for them in Hawaii but the shaved ice stand was never open when we were near it. Besides that we have to majorly pinch pennies all the time to allow for the gas and hotel portion of our travel budget…we have attempted to master traveling as cheaply as possible to make it possible to go more places. Well in hopes that I could get the kids a snow cone I grabbed a $20 bill out of the car of my own personal spending money not realizing that the cones would be $6 each…. Ok ok, I don’t know how much tax will be so I guess we can get two and share. The kids picked out dragon’s blood as their flavor. When it was our turn to order the lady said there was no tax, yay, so we ordered three of the same dragon’s blood which we learned was coconut, strawberry, and green apple. She looked around at how many of us there were and asked if she could make us a fourth one for free to which we graciously accepted the gift. She made each one purposefully and handed them out to the kids making conversation and encouraging each of the kids to taste theirs to make sure it had enough flavor. After the fourth one was handed out she asked if she might be able to make us one more and we declined as Chad only wanted a few tastes of mine. We handed over the $20 bill, thanked her and asked her to keep the change. It was the very least we could do. It was awesome so so so yummy. It made our walk down to the changing rooms slow as Eve can not eat and walk at the same time but we were all smiles. What a wonderful gift. It made me wonder by her way about things if this wasn’t her ministry. A calming, peaceful presence loving on all the people who come to her snow cone booth.
The above building is made out of coral.
We arived at 3:00pm and left at 5:00 it was only two hours but we are all so glad that we made it.
On our way back toward Miami we stopped at a shrimp shack to have some dinner. Caleb ordered this Aligator poboy (a kind of sandwich) which recieved two thumbs up even though he was unable to finish it. He shared with everyone.
The drive back up the keys was way more relaxing and solitary as there was a lot less traffic and the lights reflecting off the water was amazing.