Shannon did a perfect post about their Christmas trip so I’m stealing it and posting it here for my records. Thank you Shannon for sharing!
We surprised our kids with a fun trip to Florida for Christmas this year. We missed seeing Bret’s brother Ben, his wife Alicia, and their kids last summer and we were looking for a fun distraction from life in Ohio. Bret and I started making plans for a Christmas trip to Florida last September when we realized we’d have to stay a year longer in Columbus than had been hoped for. We were probably a little discouraged by the thought of having to be in school one year longer so we quickly came up with the idea to plan something fun we could look forward to. This was our last available Christmas we could travel anyway since Bret will be traveling a lot early next year with job interviews.
After asking Ben and Alicia’s permission to invade their home at Christmas time we began our plans to travel to Florida, and we kept it all of secret from the kids until the day we left. We woke up on the 19th of December just like usual and brought the kids down for family scripture time. Afterwards we surprised them with a letter from Mickey Mouse inviting them to visit the Magic Kingdom while we were in Florida. Then we gave them some tee shirts I had decorated with a black silhouette of Mickey and Minnie Mouse’s heads, personalized with their names on them. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed by the kid’s initial response to our Florida trip. Marissa was actually pretty excited, but the boys just sat there and smiled and didn’t seem to know what was going on. They were probably still a little tired after we woke them up so maybe that influenced their reaction a little. Everyone got more excited though as we told them all the details of the fun we’d have with Ben and Alicia, and our planned adventures at the Magic Kingdom and Legoland.After breakfast we got everyone dressed and put them in the car to drive to Atlanta, our overnight stop before getting to Florida. When we got to Atlanta we drove to Stone Mountain. Usually there’s a lot you can do at Stone Mountain, but we arrived in the evening so everything was closed up. All the historic shops were decorated with Christmas lights though and we were able to see Stone Mountain where the faces of three, important Civil War southern generals were engraved into the side of the mountain.. I was actually more impressed by the mountain itself. It is just one, huge rock, and nothing grows on it at all. We didn’t get too many good pictures so if you’re interested look it up on the internet. It’s pretty amazing. Despite not seeing too much the kids enjoyed having some time to run and climb on everything they could after being in the car all day. All the lights were fun to look at too.
Tyler loves penguins so I had to get a picture of him with this cute poster.
By Friday night we arrived at Ben and Alicia’s house. The kids hit it off instantly and kept busy playing practically the whole time we were there. My kids loved having cousins to play with as well as new toys to discover.
The day after we arrived in Florida we took the kids to a children’s museum. It was actually the best one I have been to so far. The kids loved all the different activities there.
When we passed this poster in the hallway Bret poked his head in and told me to take a picture. I keep telling him I am so anxious and excited for the day when we can take a picture of him graduating. He was hoping this picture would suffice me. It just doesn’t have the same effect for some reason
It does make me laugh though!
My cute fireman, Tyler.
At the end of our stay at the museum we came across a girl who was painting children’s faces. Tyler asked for an elephant.
Jax wanted a whale.
Derek got a spider on his cheek.
The girls opted for something cute and pretty. Marissa asked for a starfish and Sadie had Hello Kitty painted on her arm.
After our trip to the museum we bought some pizza and headed to the beach for dinner. It was windy and a little cool, but we had so much fun playing in the sand and visiting.
Sunday we went to church and took the kids to the park in the evening. We also had the kids enjoy a little quiet time in the evening while watching a Christmas show.
On Monday afternoon Bret and I left for our overnight date while Ben and Alicia watched our kids. What a wonderful Christmas gift! Thank you so much!!!
While we were out we went to a delicious restaurant in Tampa, right along the bay. We also went to the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” at a theater where they serve appetizers and desserts. We ordered a chocolate cake, but had a hard time really enjoying it because we were so full from dinner.
The next day Bret and I drove to Clearwater Beach for lunch and walked along the beach with a cup of hot cocoa in hand. It was a cool and windy day at the beach.
We also stopped by a shop along the beach to buy Bret a sweatshirt. While we were there we saw all of these beautifully decorated hermit crabs.
I just love the white sand! This was our version of a white Christmas this year.
A short time after arriving back at Ben and Alicia’s we jumped back in the car and headed to her brother’s house to celebrate Christmas Eve. Everyone brought delicious food and desserts to eat. Sarah, Alicia’s sister in law had also arranged for the kids to paint salt dough ornaments and then all the kids dressed up and prepared for their parts in the nativity play. Marissa and Derek were Mary and Joseph this year, Tyler was a wise man, and Katelyn tried to steal baby Jesus multiple times from Marissa during the play. It was so fun to do the nativity with so many kids.
Christmas morning we woke up to a lot of excited children. Marissa’s favorite presents were her doll table and chairs and more doll clothes. Derek and Tyler loved their cars and watches, and Katelyn’s favorite was her new baby doll.
When we were close to being done with opening presents Katelyn threw up, and then a little while later Derek started complaining that his tummy was hurting. So we spent most of the day helping Derek and Katelyn to feel better. They actually didn’t feel bad for too long. By late afternoon Derek got on the trampoline and was back to his normal self. Katelyn seemed to be progressing the same. We missed having Christmas dinner with Ben and Alicia and her family though.
The 26th we woke up and found everyone was feeling okay so we headed to Orlando for a day of fun at the Magic Kingdom.
By the time we got in line for our first ride Katelyn and Tyler fell asleep in our arms. They didn’t sleep for long though after going down a hill in a boat on The Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
There were a lot of people at the park that day, but we got fast passes for our favorite rides which helped us not to have to wait in so many long lines. We even introduced Marissa and Derek to the Thunder Mountain roller coaster ride for the first time. They loved it and are now big fans of roller coasters. Oh no. What have we done?
We had so much fun and noticed it was so much easier to get on rides in the evening so we stayed at the park until 11:30 p.m. Katelyn and Tyler slept in the stroller while Bret and I took turns taking Marissa and Derek on rides. It actually worked out very well.
The next day we went to Legoland. It had a much slower pace and lighter crowds which worked out very well after our marathon day at the Magic Kingdom.
This picture demonstrates the story of our day. Tyler and Katelyn were too short for most of the rides. They were pretty patient while everyone else got to go on the rides. In the future we’ll know that Legoland is really only designed for Derek’s age and older.
This is downtown D.C. built with legos.
The Star Wars lego exhibit was fascinating for all us. A lot of the memorable scenes from the movies were recreated using legos.
On Saturday we went to the Clearwater aquarium where Winter the dolphin lives. Katelyn had had enough of being confined to a stroller and held for two days straight so Bret and I spent a lot of time chasing her through the exhibits of the aquarium.
After visiting the main building of the aquarium we took a trolley ride to their other building across the bay.
Then a short while later we took the ferry back. Notice the next two pictures. First, Katelyn crying because we had her sit down for the picture. Next, she’s smiling. I don’t know how we did that, but it demonstrates how our day went with her.
The ferry ride was the most fun part of the day for the kids. Katelyn was in heaven.
Monday morning we headed back to Ohio with a night stop in Knoxville, Tennessee. We stayed in a brand new hotel and had a fun pizza party while watching more shows on their big t.v.
Now we are back to Ohio and enduring the coldest temperatures since the 1800′s. It’s been hard to get used to the cold weather again after being in warm, sunny Florida for a week.
Much thanks to Ben and Alicia for not only providing a place for us to stay while we were in Florida, but also for all of your Christmas gifts and the fun times we had together.