Tuesday: Disney Day Three

Up at 7AM and to bed by 11PM. As I write this post, the kids are sleeping soundly. The grace of God was all over them today. They never stopped from early to late and their attitudes were incredible. I was so thankful at how God worked in their little hearts today. It could have gone bad with all the heat, the foot traffic, the lines, the worn out bodies, and the very long grind of a day at Disney World.

Did they have a blast? I’m not sure they could have been more encouraged. We were one of the first ones at the gates before they opened. I bought Tristen an autograph book so she could get all the princesses autographs throughout the day. She was so grateful.

The Disney crew came out and did their opening song and then the gates were opened. We headed right to the Dumbo ride at the back of the park. There were no lines. The first two hours in the park for us were rides, re-rides, and no lines. It was pretty cool. Most of the folks went right or left when they entered the park and swept either clockwise or counter-clockwise and eventually converged where we were. By the time both groups got to us, we were gone. It was a good day.

Ansa had her first roller coaster ride. All of them liked Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad rides. I believe those two rides were their favorites. We went on them several times. They couldn’t stand it (that’s a good thing). As they came off, they were cheering to get back on. It was fun times for them.

The first character we saw were the step-sisters of Cinderella. I had no clue who they were and went to them to get their autographs for Tristen. One of the mean step-sisters was mean to me. I was slightly offended because I did not know she was acting. I thought, “Who the heck are you? I only want an autograph.” I mentioned this to Lucia only to find out who the character was. I didn’t read those stories as a kid.

When we got on the Mad Tea Party, I spun the cup we were in as hard as I could. I nearly threw up. The kids couldn’t get enough. Being fifty-one is a bit different than being 4, 6, or 8. Ansa loved the tea cup. I was done!

We had planeed on returning to Kidani Village for the afternoon and going back later, but we were so energized that no one wanted to go home, especially me. It was just too much fun. I’m sorta not looking that forward to getting back to work. I’d love to be here with my family for a month. This is fun.

Monday: Disney Day Two

Today was off to Downtown Disney. It was a full day for the kids. We finished it off with some monorail rides. The kids got their first glimpse of the castle. That has been the main point of discussion over the past few months.

Surprisingly, Tristen said, “It’s pink! I thought it was white.” She was disappointed. It was funny.

The cool thing about the kids is that it takes nearly nothing to stimulate their imaginations and bring enjoyment to their lives. They live somewhat simply and can enjoy the most modest things. With that in mind, you can imagine how “off the chain” they are about anything they see or experience.

Whether we’re looking out the window of the Kidani Village at the animals, or swimming in the bathtub, it’s all awesome to them.

They also get their free pic of a Disney movie from the gift shop. As a guest, you can watch any Disney DVD for no extra charge. They watched Pocahontus II tonight. Can life be better? I bought a $15 mug and you can refill it as many times as you want. I think it has been refilled 15 times the first day! Life is good.

The folks at the registration sent us some cake, whip cream stuff in ice cream cones. They wanted to bless us. They knew we were first timers and thought it would be a nice touch. It was!

We went to Lego Land at Downtown Disney. I had a cuban sandwich at Bongos. Haydn ate half of it. I was surprised. He totally loved it. Haydn and Ansa had 1/2 my Cuban coffee. That revved their engines.

We went on a ferry ride. We bought a box of Mr. Potato Head parts. You could fill a box for $20 and it didn’t matter how many parts, as long as you could close the box top. We got mostly “Mickey” type parts.

A friend back home gave the kids some pins to trade. You can go up to any Cast Member and ask them for one of their pins if you’re willing to trade yours. They have been trading pins all day. That has been good for them, in that they are interacting with adults. They have traded many times now.

It rained a little, but no big deal. I hardly think this week could be ruined. The kids (and us) will need a week to recover, but it will be well worth it.

Tomorrow…off to the Magic Kingdom…

Sunday: Disney Day One

Today was packing and travel day. We packed the van and made our way northeast for the two hour trip to Walt Disney World. The kids maxed out St. Pete Beach and were ready to go. It seemed perfect. They were not “pre-thinking” Disney, while missing out on St. Pete. They fully enjoyed St. Pete up to the last minute and when it was time to head to Disney, they transitioned appropriately. It could not have been better.

They became focused on Disney when we headed to Disney.

The trip was quick. We stopped once at the restroom and kept moving. We did not give the kids any hints about when we were getting close to Disney. We wanted them to figure it out through their own observations. When we hit the exit off I-4 they figured it out.

Tristen said, “Daddy, all things are becoming colorful.” That was an awesome quote.

Ansa said, “We made it; we made it; we made it; we made it…” She was singing it.

When it was time to be at Disney, there were fully stoked about being here.

Tristen’s quote reminded me of what I might say when I get to heaven. I would not want to equate Disney World with heaven, but I do think when I get to heaven there will be obvious, quick, and discernible differences.

We are staying at Kidani Village. Let’s just say it is incredible. Disney is Disney. They do things right. The folks are kind. The facilities are clean. Things are administrated in a common sense way. We are well taken care of. The condo is huge.

The kid’s first Disney experience was getting in the jacuzzi tub with the jets roaring. The kids are small, the tub is huge, and the fun was quite entertaining.

We’re here!! Praise God…

3 Mile Trek

Today was our last day at the beach according to our vacation plans. It was also noticeable in that Tristen was not asking to go to the beach today. That is quite remarkable! Tristen loves the beach as much as any place in the world. She was born to be in the water. She is just like her mother. However, today she was not asking to go to the beach. I think she is nearly worn out. That, too, is amazing. The hot sun, the non-stop activity, and endless fun has brought her down to a mere mortal girl. She’s tired.

Today we donned on our roller blades and rolled to the Don Ce Sar, the pink hotel on St. Pete Beach. I rolled about 1/2 mile and then walked the rest of the way. Lucia and Tristen went all the way there and back on their roller blades. It was three miles. Haydn rolled part of the way, took the blades off part of the way and rolled back to our house. Ansa got the royal treatment as she sat in the stroller the whole way. She was the only one who really complained about the weather. It was hot.

Tristen was amazing. She went the whole distance on her blades and never complained. It was a fun trip, but probably about as long as we could go under the circumstances. We took pictures of beautiful flowers. We stopped at a picnic shelter and then a convenience store for ice cream and a potty break.

That was the highlight of our day.

We came in and sat under the cool air conditioning for awhile. Then we went to the beach around 5PM. I did not get in the water for the first time this week. Lucia spent a good bit of time in the water, more than I expected. Tristen initially stayed on the shore digging out a village. She eventually wandered into the water and played quite a bit. Haydn went in, though he was still a bit hesitant after the jellyfish incident on Wednesday. Ansa went in and splashed around a lot, but was ready to crash about two hours later. She lay on a beach towel for about a 1/2 hour. She is my only child who listens to her body. When she is tired, she says she is tired and cooperates 100 percent when asked to lay down. She knows she is ready to lay down no matter how much fun she is having and she does lay down. Quite amazing. The other two push themselves past wise limits.

I continued reading “The Cross Centered Life,” the larger volume. I told Lucia that it is more meaningful this time through than ever before. The message of the Cross becomes sweeter as the years pass along. That was a pleasant and welcomed surprise to me.

The kids did some broad jumping (Haydn and Tristen) on the beach. Haydn jumped nearly 9 feet. Amazing. I was more than surprised at how far he could jump. He naturally gets athletics.

We came in to eat and pack. Tomorrow (Sunday) is our day to go to Disney World.

This has been our best vacation ever, no doubt.

“I like this house, mom, because the bedroom is close to the kitchen, the living room is close to the kitchen, and the bathroom is close to the kitchen.” -Haydn (I see a pattern here.)

Down Day: Moving Day

We paid for a four-day stay, with us leaving on Friday AM. We figured if we didn’t like the accommodations or if the kids had enough or if the weather was stormy or if we wanted to do something else or if we wanted to go to Disney two days earlier and just hang in the hotel, we would not be locked into a longer term lease in St. Pete.

After being here a couple of days, we all wanted to stay longer, so we talked to our owner about extending another two days. We knew our bungalow was reserved beginning today, so we would have to move to another place that she had, if it was available, or move to a different kind of place altogether.

The Lord was extremely gracious to us, not that he had to be, but he was: she had another place two doors down. It was a bit smaller, but for us it was perfect. Small or large matters not. Being together matters most. So we have a smaller place with the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and dinning room all in one big room. It’s pretty cool actually.

We spent from 10 to 12 moving and then hung out watching cartoons for a few hours. This was the first day that we did not do anything as far as a planned activity. Nobody really complained about it, which was a clue that slow was best. I think everyone is tired. We’ve been going at it pretty hard.

(Right now Lucia is in bed and I’m watching nickjr with the kids. They’re sitting together on the couch eating popcorn.)

Lucia took a nap after we got all moved in. Then I took a nap. By that time it was 4PM and we decided to head out to the beach for a 3-hour splash time. That was great. We buried Haydn because you’re supposed to do that when you go to the beach. Ansa wanted to be buried, so we buried her too. Tristen found more sand dollars.

I threw the kids up in the air a bunch, launching them into the ocean. They really liked that. The sad news is that Tristen is getting so big that I can’t lift her anymore. I’m sad about my little girl getting bigger, but life must go on.

Toward the end Lucia saw a jellyfish, so I had the kids get out of the ocean. Haydn still has sting marks all over his wrist from getting stung on Wednesday. He has been super-tentative about getting in the ocean. I don’t blame him. He will go in if I go in. He’ll go in with Lucia. Sometimes he will go by himself, but prefers to be close to someone.

We were going to go roller blading when we got back to our place, but after Lucia took a shower and we all got turned around, I wasn’t really up to it and no one else was terribly disappointed. Food was more important. It was a good and much slower day. I think that served Lucia and the kids much better today.

Fort “Mosquito”

Yesterday Lucia met Emily on the beach. Emily is from Kentucky. She had a cute little baby daughter with her. Her husband is in Japan for three months. Emily is staying in the bungalow in the same house as us. There are three “apartments” that this house has been converted to. Emily went to DeSoto Beach yesterday and raved about it. She said we should go. Desoto Beach was rated as one of the top ten beaches in America for 2005.

We did the research and also found out there was a fort on this peninsula. It is called Fort DeSoto. Blue water, white sandy beaches, and an old historic fort. It was a no-brainer. We must go. And it was 27 minutes from where we were.

We arrived at the fort first, since it came before the northern tip of DeSoto Beach. It was a concrete walled fort with several artillery guns. I thought it was odd that the “Walmart” size parking lot had only about three cars on it. We parked close to the fort, since there were about a hundred different choices. Ansa had to pee.

Mommy took Ansa to the potty, while I went with Tristen and Haydn up the long steps to the top of the fort. You could walk around the top of the fort and see what they saw as they looked out into the ocean. It was over-grown with a lot of weeds and other plant life, but it gave you a good idea of what it was like back in the day.

By the time I stepped onto the sidewalk a mosquito bit the back of my leg. I thought, “Oh, that hurt! I wonder how many mosquitos are out here?” By the time I stepped on the first step I was bitten five times. The really odd thing was that these “birds” didn’t just bite and leave. They bit and stayed latched onto the skin. And it didn’t feel so much like a mosquito bite as much as something taking a chunk out of your skin. I looked down at my leg and there were 1/2 dozen of them leached to my leg. I looked at the kid’s back and notice welts popping up on them. I yelled at the kids to get off the fort and let’s run out of there. Tristen was already yelling, “Something bit me.”

By that time Mommy had come back from the restroom trying to find us so she could get the key, to go to the van to get the bug spray. When she got up top with Ansa I yelled at her, “Let’s get out of here!!” It was absolutely horrible.

We went down below to do some adventuring, but the mosquitos were relentless. We stayed as long as we could, but everyone was scratching their legs, arms, backs, and necks. There was another couple walking through the fort and I noticed they were swatting mosquitos as well. It was torturous.

We decided the fort was not worth it and beat it back to the van. We had used nearly 1/2 a can of spray during our 15 minute stay. I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie. The couple who were on the walking tour were right behind us, getting in their car. They had enough too.

In 51-years of living I have never experienced anything remotely like that, as far as mosquito bites are concerned. I told Lucia they were “skeeter-hawks.” We named the fort, Fort “Mosquito.” On the way to the beach Ansa wrapped up in a towel in the van. She was afraid she would be attacked in the van. Though it was hot in the van, it didn’t matter. She was not taking any chances.

DeSoto Beach was pretty cool, but we were whooped by the time we got out there. The mosquitos were out there as well. The good news was that once we got to the water the mosquitos were not too bad. Sadly, I had to go to the potty, which was back in “Mosquito-ville.” I had to do a #2 and when I got to the stall I saw a swarm of mosquitos waiting on me in the stall. I had to take my pants down to poop and really didn’t have a choice. I dropped my drawers and told the “skeeter hawks” that I was going to show my @$$ and they had better not bite me. They did not honor my request. It was another horrible ending.

Jelly Fish

Ran into this on the way to the surf shop

Today started out great. I slept late. Lucia and the kids went to the beach. I got up and ran 3.5 miles, from where we are staying to the Don Ce Sar, which is a major hotel in the area. It was built circa 1910 and was a hubbub of activity during the roaring twenties. Al Capone, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others frequented the very large, pink hotel. It has 220 rooms, a couple of pools and is right on the beach. It looks like a very large pink castle.

It was pretty hot for a 12 Noon run down the shoreline, but it was good. When I got back the kids were still swimming with no sign of letting up. They are having a blast. We then went on a road trip to WINGS (a surf shop), the DQ (also known as the Dairy Queen). I bought Haydn some snorkel equipment and he was stoked. We came back to head out to the beach again.

All was well until Haydn was stung by a jelly fish. He was screaming his head off, while simultaneously yelling at me to get one of his flippers that had come off. In-between screams, he was yelling for is flipper. Sadly I couldn’t find it. Rather than the flipper coming into the shore, it floated out to sea. More importantly (and soberly), Haydn’s arm welted-up. Lucia put some vinegar on it, with a little aspirin and things calmed down. They came back out to the beach, but Haydn was done for the day. He stayed at the shoreline for the next two hours. We walked the shoreline twice trying to find his lost flipper, but to no avail.

He’s doing better now, but was not convinced that the ocean would be a good option for the rest of the day. We’ll see how things go tomorrow.

  • Mommy’s favorite thing today was watching the fishermen catch a shark and going on a walk with the kids.
  • Tristen’s favorite thing today was going on a walk with mommy.
  • Haydn’s favorite thing today was scuba diving in the ocean.
  • Ansa’s favorite thing today was making a sea shell necklace. (Daddy found a cute seashell on his run.)
  • Daddy’s favorite thing was eating dinner with his family, snorkeling with the kids, and adventuring along the seashore.

Haydn is doing well tonight. Thank you Father.

We sat out on the beach for over an hour in the dark. The kids ran around with flashlights!!

Full Disclosure!

I have never cared much for the beach. It is hot, sweaty, sandy, windy, and generally irritating. I go to the beach because I am head over heels in love with my wife and I find few pleasures better than serving her. She loves the beach!! This does not even get into the issue of women running around wearing something akin to their panties. For me it has had less to do with my spiritual walk as my practical walk. Though the beach is a spiritual downer if it is summer and well-attended by women, I don’t like the hassle of the other things I mentioned above.

This week has been different. The difference is more than subtle. There has only been two other beaches that I have thoroughly enjoyed. They were in Hawaii and Sea Brook. The St. Pete beach has been a joyful third candidate. There is hardly anyone down here. The heat is not bad at all and it is not as windy as some of the SC beaches.

I told Lucia today that if we could swing it, as far as finding another place, I’d love to stay a couple more days before we go to Disney. We had planned on heading inland Friday, but we may stay until Sunday morning if we can find another place.

It has been a joy.

Haydn and I went roller blading today. We picked up some smoothies at the Paradise Grille and then bladed on back to the girls. I used my ski poles, which caused quite a few looks from the beach goers. I guess they have not seen ski poles at the beach, but for me it was all about pragmatism. One older person did see the wisdom in the ski poles.

And the good news? I was unscathed from our roller blading excursion.

Another evening under the gazebo after a “swim until it is pitch dark” adventure.

Of all the beaches, in all the towns, in all the world…

…there is nobody at this one!

Amazing. Day two of our vacation we awoke early and headed out to the beach. We’re in the Gulf of Mexico, in St. Petersburg, FL and there is hardly a soul to be seen. Amazing.

The beaches are clear, the water is clear, and it’s all our own. We have to walk 99 steps to get to the beach from our bungalow. The kids are way over the top stoked. Lucia asked, “Do you think they will be like this all week?” Rick said, “Probably.” I’m not sure if they could get any more excited. They have no fear and no worries.

Oh, to be like them. The security they have in their parents is off the charts. Note to self: I want to be like them, as it pertains to my Dad. I’m preaching the Gospel to myself right now: “If God is for me, who can be against me.” And he is “for me.” The Gospel tells me so. I’m good.

Tristen found three sand dollars. Haydn found two. Three of them we kept because they were spotless. Ansa got hungry. We walked 99 steps back to the bungalow to eat under the outside gazebo. Haydn and I are about to go roller blading downtown. While the mosquitos were out in force last night at dusk, they are all gone during the day.

I finished chapter one of “God’s Healing for Life’s Losses.” I’m reviewing the book for my friend, Dr. Bob Kellermen. I hope to do some thinking and writing on “sufferology.” Chapter one was good.

There is very little wind. The heat is minimal. The people are all gone, for the most part. Of all the beaches, in all the towns, in all the world, this is one of the better ones I’ve been to.

Relaxing in the sun, with a slight breeze.

Thank you, my Father!!


“Daddy? Ansa won’t share her cereal.” -Haydn

I gotta go…

I’ve got my blanket, my teddy, and my gun, Daddy!

…and how else would a boy begin his vacation?

We left the house at 6:38AM this morning. My kids heard the garage door go up, which is right under their room and Haydn was seemingly buckled in the van before the door got all the way up. He wasn’t that quick, but nearly so. Surprisingly, he was the most stoked this morning about the beginning of our two-week journey.

I told them four months ago that we were going to Disney World in September. They have been patiently waiting ever since. We actually began putting money in our “disney jug” several years ago, so the anticipation had been building for a lot longer than four months, but the reality hit them four months ago when I gave them the official date.

Today is the day!!

We’ll spend the first week in St. Pete, kicking the white sand of the Gulf Coast and enjoying the clearer waters of the gulf before we head inland to see Mickey. So off we went at 6:38AM this morning.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • 6:40AM: “So, this is how the school people live.” -Haydn, my late-sleeping home school boy!
  • 6:59AM: “Are we out of South Carolina yet? -Haydn
  • 7:24AM: “I need to pee.” -Haydn
  • 8:56AM: “Are we out of South Carolina yet.” -Haydn
  • 9:03AM: “Are we there now?” -Ansa

We arrived in St. Pete at 7:33PM. We made numerous stops for food, gas, and ….. God gave us much grace because we were tired. I think I was the only one who sinned. I asked my kids to forgive me for getting angry when they got too loud. Other than that, it was a seemingly sin-free trip.

By the time we unloaded, there was enough sunlight left to hit the waters and the kids appeared to be launched out of a canon. They were jumping, splashing, laughing, and swimming until we could hardly see them anymore. They are so stoked right now as I type this. They are in their room, giggling, hugging, laughing and enjoying one another.

Our bungalow is a two bedroom, full-kitchen house that is quite nice. It is 99 steps from the ocean, which is super-convenient. We’re looking forward to five days of water fun before we go see the mouse.