Thursday, February 05, 2015

We are Tavernier

We have had a fantastic time in Florida, and I want to post some of our favorite happenings.

We did a LOT of school. Coming off of Christmas and with the surgery coming up a few days after we get home, I didn't want to take too much time off with the boys. We usually did writing, reading, and math around a table. Then we took the memory work outside, playing and working in the pool facing the ocean. Grandma often took the littlest distraction Ward for a walk and that helped us get even more accomplished. It wasn't half bad, I tell you what.

In the last 3 weeks, they did 5 weeks of CC memory (history, science, math, english, latin) and threw in 10 verses of Shakespeare between laps and jumping. I say this not to brag in any way. "Memory work" means we break sentences into little bits and repeat them. That's it. The fanciest I get is to do funny voices. Sometimes, when I'm really on my game, they get high fives. Within 7 out loud repetitions and a couple of days, I've been shocked what the boys really get. They are proud when they make progress, and especially on this vacation we have seen them take ownership and want to spontaneously recite things throughout the day, just because they can. You can almost see it become solid in their brains.

Traveling took a LONG time and I felt like THIS for the first two days straight.
Over the past three weeks we've seen several kinds of jellyfish, stingrays, barracuda, needlefish, egrets, pelicans, a parrot fish and a thousand more we didn't recognize off this dock in front of the house. Shockingly, not one child or adult fell off the thing. (Well, there is still one day left so knowing us I should probably add "so far" to that.) 
UnREAL how much sun exists outside of Oregon right now.
It felt comically bright on that first day. Haha, good one Maker of the Stars!
And BAM! it was Toby's birthday. NINE!

He was given a bunch of fun gifts. We got the little bugger a Kindle,
allowed him to read the next Harry Potter, and have barely seen him since.
After a good 4 years of working through the basics of reading with barely a spark of interest
I am so very grateful to see him engulfed in the power of his brain in a book. 
Last time we came to these lovely islands, I had done a free lapbook about sea turtles in preparation for visiting the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL. This time, we prepared not a thing and completely wung it. (As you can see, I was NOT homeschooled. Yuk yuk.)

We discovered a bird sanctuary where pelicans uncharacteristically allowed us to pet their heads. We had to go to this one more than once. Isaac says he wants to be a nature photographer now.

This was on her birthday. BAM and she's already two.
I thought about her birth family and China in general that whole day.
We went to a new aquarium and both saw and petted 3 kinds of stingrays. There were so few people there we were able to have a lot of the tanks to ourselves. We must have spent a half an hour petting the rays alone. It's so fun that the boys are old enough to remember all this. I don't wish her childhood away but I can't wait to build some proper awesome memories with FangFang.

Some of Isaac's pictures are looking pretty good, too!
Scavenger hunts are the bomb.
We were missing J's sister on this trip. Hopefully next year everybody can be here!
This tank had sea stars, urchins, horseshoe crabs, conchs and some smaller snails we were encouraged to touch.
We ate a lot.
Like, a lot a lot.
And then today, our penultimate day, we went to see the animal shows at Theater of the Sea. It was phenomenal. Not crowded, and the boys got to do ALL the hands-on things, as if they were the stars of a TLC reality show. Their grandma came with us and we all enjoyed it, even though it was our first truly rainy day of the whole vacation.

Front row for silly fun Wilson the Sea Lion.
Beautiful parrot on an ecstatic little boy's arm!
This one had done math for us in the parrot show, including addition and subtraction.
I couldn't see any signal given by the trainer, and it seemed legit. Isaac was way impressed.
Front row again for a dolphin show we decided to see twice!

I love this little video of Toby. Sadly, in the first show he didn't get into the group of "volunteers" to pet the dolphins, and the cutoff for number of kids was right after Isaac. The trainers felt so bad about that and were impressed he was stoic about it even though it was clear he was kind of shocked, so they gave us a tag for Toby when we returned a second time before the show even began to be sure he was one of the chosen. I was impressed they noticed and cared. This small-ish animal park is a gem. We had been here before but missed a couple of the main shows. This will be a must-do park if we get to come back to the Keys.

There was also some general relaxing and laying-around to be done on this trip. Having not read a fiction book in several years, I forced myself to get one done a few weeks before we traveled. Then I downloaded and brought 6 more and finished them ALL while here. (How did I miss The Giver quartet when I was growing up??) J and I also got in two dive days on this trip, but I'm not sure his camera worked the one time we took it down and I kept leaving my cell phone in the car. No goofy wetsuit/goggle selfies for you. We have our names in for a deeper wreck dive with Conch Republic tomorrow, but it's already windy tonight and we'll probably be blown out this time. I should probably try to sneak in a few more hours of practice anyway. My viola loves the humidity here. It isn't ready to go home, either.

Now for the onerous task of extracting ourselves from the house. As always with packing, it will take lots of time and more space and energy than we had budgeted. Even when you're in paradise with wonderful people, three weeks away does make you allllllllmost ready to go home to be near your familiar things and obligations... or it makes you want to move in permanently. Good thing we don't have to debate a choice this time!

Predictably, Primrose's impending surgery makes it that much harder to want to go home. We're trying to keep a few fun things on the horizon to soften the blow. If all of you, our friends and loved ones, could just go ahead and move on out here, that would be greaaaaat, okay? We'll be here napping by the pool with key lime coladas all around.

This whole trip has been a gift, literally and figuratively.
We are so very grateful.

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