We are now through our second week of family visitation. While we have thoroughly enjoyed everyone coming to visit, it is nice to have fewer people in our small space and be back to our normal routine.
Heather’s mom [Karla] and sister [Hailey] (and Hailey’s little one) arrived from Ohio via car (later in the week Heather’s other sister [Holly] arrived by plane for a shorter visit) with lots of Christmas presents for the kids onboard. We celebrated Christmas (round three) outside on the picnic table where we could all spread out and show off our new gifts. Luckily for us our extended family has become more attuned to our living situation and the gifts were not quite as physically large as in past years. (This in contrast to the much loved powerwheels vehicles our kids recieved two Christmases ago that we struggled to find a place to transport every time we moved until the kids outgrew them and we gave them back to grandma to store for the next grandchild.) We are very thankful for our Christmas gifts. 🙂 It was an enjoyable morning!
On Friday we took Heather’s family to IKEA, and then on to Orlando, where Karla had rented a condo for a week. As soon as we pulled up to the gate the rent-a-guard started harassing me, and when I returned later a different guard harassed me further. While the rest of the family seemed to enjoy our stay at the Villas on Seven Dwarfs Lane, I had less than an enjoyable visit mostly because I felt like an outcast instead of a guest. I was discriminated against due to having a lightbar on my truck, and was required to park off-property and walk in. I was not allowed to drive my truck on the property under threat of having the police called and my truck towed. I asked the manager of the rental office, Francisco Rosado, for their terms and conditions of rental so I could see the basis of their discrimination against me, but he refused to produce the requested documents. Part way through the week I was getting pretty tired of dealing with the rent-a-guards and I just started jumping the 6-foot chain-link fence between the condo and my truck instead of having to deal with the harassment from the guards at the gate. For what it is worth, the actual condo unit was nice and we made the most of our time with Heather’s family while we were there.
On a lighter note, the condo had a very large jetted tub in the master bathroom in which Heather and I both fit with room to spare. She decided to add ” just a little” Bubble Bath to the tub. However, after turning on the jets we soon had a LOT of bubbles. The bubbles rose higher and higher, raising over the top of the tub. By the time the bubbly peaks stopped rising we had literally a foot of bubbles on top of the bath water. Yes, a full 12″ tall blanket of bubbles from one end of the tub to the other. If you don’t believe us, we called Hailey, Holly, and Karla in to witness the mass of bubbles…and there were pictures taken.
While in Orlando Heather’s mom took the whole crew to Sea World. Heather and I had been there about 3 years ago with the kids, but with the kids a little older I found it more enjoyable. I especially liked watching the kids’ reactions to things. Pie and Bug wanted to sit down nice and close to the front at the whale show, which we allowed, even though we knew it was deep within the “Soak Zone”. The first good jump of the whales got both of them soaking wet. As soon as the water hit them Bug leapt to his feet and ran up the stairs past where Heather and I were sitting. He stood there dripping and stunned for a minute as we started to laugh at him. He elected to come sit with us for the rest of the show.
Other highlights of the trip included petting sharks in a ‘touch tank’ and seeing real penguins. I was entertained that the kids were thrilled to see “real snow” in the penguin exhibit. I guess the last time they saw real snow was prior to starting our travels. That would have been the winter of 2014-2015.
We also enjoyed climbing through a huge playhouse of nets and webbing tunnels. The whole thing was about 40 feet high and a few hundred feet long. I think the adults had as much fun climbing through the nets as the kids did. It was also a good way to run off some excess energy between shows.
We finished the day by going to Chuy’s Tex-Mex Restaurant on the recommendation of my sister who lives in Orlando. We were not disappointed! The food was great, portions were nice, and the service was fast, even with a party of 9 people. There was even a balloon lady that came around to our table and made some awesome balloon creations for the kids. I would definitely return to Chuy’s. I was also happy to see that the restaurant has its headquarters in Texas, so we may be able to eat at one of their other locations in Texas this spring once we leave Florida.
We also decided to go putt-putt golfing in Orlando, which was very enjoyable. We decided to actually count the kids’ strokes this time, as they are getting a little older, and that made them try a little harder to get a decent score. The course was a Congo jungle theme, and the props along the course were neat. To keep with the tradition of basically any putt-putt course I have been to in the past, there was a waterfall to putt around and underneath. Heather, to avoid pushing a second stroller through the putt-putt course, decided to put Miss Kicky Feet in a Tula carrier for the outing. Of course, this meant she got to putt with a small child strapped to her chest. Even with this added degree of difficulty, she did pretty well. At the conclusion, Hailey was even able to hold a baby alligator, which she was thrilled about.
As I still had work commitments in Tampa, I had to return a few days early, leaving the rest of the family to finish out the week at the condo. They enjoyed swimming at the pool and playing on the splash pad within the condo community as well as shopping at various stores and shops around the Orlando area.
Upon returning to Largo from the condo we decided to head to the beach before our Ohio family needed to head north to their frozen tundra. We elected to go to Clearwater beach this time for a change of venue (We went to Indian Rocks beach with my parents the week prior). We spent a few hours at the beach playing in the sand and water. Heather and I got the large inflatable tube out that we still had after selling our boat in 2014 and used the kids’ play shovels as oars to “raft” ourselves out and around a large pylon on the bay. We had a bunch of fun with it, even as Karla was shaking her head at our silliness.
After the beach we roamed the shops along Clearwater Beach and enjoyed dinner at Frenchy’s Seafood Restaurant. If you are in the area it is worth the stop to try their variety of seafood and their unusual dishes, such as alligator bites.
Once Heather’s family pulled out and headed back toward Ohio we started preparing for our next adventure to the Florida Keys in a few days.