At long last…the promised post!!!   Fasten your seatbelt…we uploaded 199 pictures, and most of them made it to the two posts we’re about to show you 😀

I’m not sure if we told you yet just why we ran off to Florida in January 😀   Mommy has been getting ready to certify as a T-Tapp trainer and certifications were in January.  (You can see her new website here.) We all thought it was an excellent idea to make it a family vacation, and through the generosity of an unknown person, we were able to stay in a house for the week that Mommy was certifying 😀  Dear unknown friend…THANK YOU!!!   This was one of our most favorite vacations ever!


As we said before, this is what we saw the day that we left Indiana.  We were all in the van, about a quarter mile from home, and realized that nobody had packed any kind of jacket or sweatshirt for the boys.   We were going to Florida, but we weren’t sure just how warm it would be in January and thought it would be better to have them.  So while we were waiting for Cassia to get the sweatshirts, one of the girls crawled out of the van and took this picture…




The next day we arrived here…only it was dark!  😀   This house was just minutes away from the beach, the grocery store, the mall (more on that later!!!), and where Mommy was certifying.

Everybody in the van…excited to start this trip and still bundled up in coats.  We didn’t take our coats off until somewhere in south Georgia 😀


At one of the gas stations we stopped at in Kentucky, we stopped for a bathroom break and to refuel.  After we all had went out into the van, Daddy went in to pay, and the people in there didn’t realize he was with us.  So as he was standing in line he heard them talking about us.

Lady to cashier: “Are they baby Christians?”

Cashier: “No, you know the ones that drive horse and buggies? They’re worse than they are.  At least they drive a van.”   😀

When Daddy was relating this to us, we were all laughing 😀  Those people (if they were watching) probably croaked when they saw Daddy get in the van with us 😀  We also weren’t sure if the Amish were ‘worse’ than us, or we were ‘worse’ than them…nor were we sure what ‘baby Christians’ were supposed to be 😀


We stopped at a gas station to get some gas and to stretch (and snack!)  Leah and Anna were doing hoedowns to help with the tired muscles 😀

The street that ‘our house’ was on.  Daddy said different times that he felt like ‘Jed’ in the Beverly Hillbillies…sometimes he started singing for us,

‘Let me tell you a story ’bout a man named Jed…’  😀

We did feel out of place a few times…but oh my was it fun!

The weather was beautiful…the flowers were beautiful…the sunshine was lovely,  the orange tree in the neighbor’s yard was amazing…and we laughed about how funny it was that we were gawking at their orange tree, and that it would probably be as strange to them if they saw our apple trees.  Apple trees aren’t so amazing to us 😀

The living/dining area of the house…

And another angle of the living/dining area.  The cathedral ceilings were very tall.  Every noise the boys made was suddenly magnified…sometimes to unbearable volumes 😀


The house had a pool out back, so the younger ones tried it out.  It was still a little chilly for us older ones to want to go swimming 😀  There were two little neighbor boys (about 8-10 years old) who were very curious, I think, as to who this large family was who had moved in next door.  They would walk by behind our house (all of the backyards were small and attached to each other), then go through the hedge and run back to their house.  They probably thought we were extremely strange to go swimming in January!!!

They would also watch us as we drove to and from the house (which was often, since we’d go to the beach, mall, etc.).  It was so funny because they just had this look on their face like, “Who are these people, and where are they going now?”


Once, Susannah was out on the patio by the pool crocheting, and one of the boys started to walk by, then let out an exasperated sound like, ‘I want to ask this girl something but can’t get up the nerve to’ and went back to his yard. Finally he walked by again and asked Susannah, “Can I ask you a question?”  Susannah said, “Sure!”  He said, “Did you guys move in?”  Susannah told him no, that we were just staying for the week.

To add to their confusion, when we first arrived, there was a ‘for rent’ sign in the yard.  Then a few days later, someone came and picked it up because the house was going to be rented after we were out.  So the poor boys woke up one morning to a large family that seemingly moved in next door over night.  I know how much fun I had with ‘mysteries’ when I was little…and I think we gave those boys a ‘mystery’ to try to solve for the first few days 😀


One day we heard someone ring the doorbell, and after realizing that none of us girls had done it (our doorbell at home doesn’t work, so it was a novelty!), we realized that the boys had done it 😀  Pretty soon they and two of their friends were on the other side of the street going by on their scooters, looking over at our house and smiling 😀  It amused us, but later we saw the offending boy being marched back to his house by his mom.

The Brave Five…the only ones who braved the cold pool water 😀

The day we dropped Mommy off at Safety Harbor for certifications, we first went grocery shopping, and then to the beach.  Grocery shopping was a fun experience 😀  Down in Florida they have these superstores called Publix (we don’t have any in Indiana that we know of).  We came to adopt the Publix closest to the house and called it ‘our Publix’.  That first time we went, we tried to get everything we needed for the week.  We divided up the list, and then split up to ‘conquer’ the grocery store.  Anna and I were sent to find the meat, and as we were walking along we heard someone behind us say, “The Amish…have come into the city.”  😀

Then as we and our overflowing cart were standing in line, Cassia was horrified to discover that we were halfway unloaded onto a ‘Ten items or less’ lane 😀  The lady was very nice and said not to worry about it, she’d still take us.  Maybe they meant ten people or less?!

Later that evening, we decided to find Clearwater Beach.  So we punched it into our trusty GPS…and wandered south, then back north for an hour!  We realized that our GPS wasn’t so trusty after all, and it was beginning to get dark, so we decided we’d better wait until the next day to go to the beach.  Then somehow when trying to navigate back to the house, it took us straight into Clearwater Beach 😀

It may seem like an hour wasted, but all during our stay there, we had all the time in the world to do whatever we wanted to do, so it was actually kind of fun to go wandering for an hour 😀

The next day we found Clearwater Beach much faster, and waded in the water.  We kept forgetting that it was January…when we were getting our parking ‘ticket’, or slip of paper saying that we had paid, the date said ‘JAN 16’.  Really?!  Are they sure it’s January?!!

At first we were very careful not to get our dresses wet, then we realized that we were going to have more fun if we did get wet.  We got lots of stares from the people on the beach who were in their swimsuits and not getting in the water.  They probably wondered what state we were from 😀



Our favorite story of all was when five or six teenaged girls in bathing suits came over and asked Susannah if they could have their picture taken with us.  Susannah said, “sure!” and they were so excited 😀  As we were getting ready for the picture, one of the girls said, “This seriously is the best day of my life!!!”

It definitely tickled us, and we were glad that we could make it so 😀  After the picture, they were asking us, “Aren’t you cold?”  We said no, this felt great to us, because it was lots colder in Indiana (it was about 75-78 degrees in Florida the whole time we were there).


This picture is very cute of Charissa trying to stay dry…

We saw a couple of ladies that we are assuming were Muslim by their dress (however, we could be wrong…people assume we are Amish by our dress 😀 ), but one was in a skirt, and the other in long baggy pants, wading in the water.  We girls said to each other, “Look!  There’s some more people who aren’t afraid of getting their clothes wet!!!”  😀

A couple walked by, also wading in the water, and asked us, “Where are you from?”  We said, “Indiana!”  and they said, “Minnesota!”  We crazy northerners know what cold is…and the Minnesotans even more so than us 😀

The boys were in little-boy-heaven at the beach.  They played in the sand almost non-stop, building sand castles and ‘ponds’ and motes 😀

There was a tourist ‘pirate’ boat that went up and down the beach.  At one point they fired a ‘cannon’ at the shore, and someone in a little ‘hut’ fired back. 😀  A couple of us strained to hear what they were saying on the boat, and they announced something to the tourists about getting their ‘t-shirt’.  Not a very pirate-like conversation, we thought 😀


Isaiah, engrossed in the sand 😉

We parked next to this funny car…it had ‘eyelashes’ on the headlights!

After the beach, we went to the mall.  Not to shop, but to ride escalators 😀   We hicks-from-the-sticks are easily amused 😉 I’m not sure how many escalators this mall had, but we probably rode them all.  The store we entered when we first entered the mall in our still-damp dresses and sandy feet was very fancy-schmancy.   The people who were shopping there were wearing suits.   I’m sure they wondered what a bunch of Amish were doing in their store 😀

 We tried to be as unobtrusive as possible…going up one escalator, wandering about, and then going down another 😀  Again we got many stares and smiles.  Once while riding up an escalator, a man behind us asked, “Can you smile for me?  I’m a photographer…” and he wanted our picture.

…and down again!

This note on the cart made us laugh…

There was an ice skating rink in the middle of the mall.  While watching the skaters, a teenaged couple came up and asked us, “Excuse me, are you Amish?”  we said no, and then the girl asked, “Why are you dressed up then?”

Later we stopped by Wendy’s to get a frosty for a treat.  But first we were all waiting in line for the one-person bathroom.  Suddenly the manager poked his head through the ’employees only’ door and said, “Yeeeessss?”  Not sure if we were somehow violating a ‘fire code’ by clogging up the hallway, or what the matter was, we just explained that we were waiting for the restroom.  He suddenly turned around and hollered at someone in the kitchen, “Shut up!  You’re playin’ with me!”  We figured that someone must have been playing a joke on him and told him that we wanted to speak to the manager?!  At any rate, it was amusing 😀  Poor guy!

We finally arrived back at the house where Anna made us a yummy supper.  She was going so fast, I had a hard time getting a non-blurry picture of her 😀

Cassia knitting…we had lots of lovely time to knit and read and just relax!

A funny picture of Susannah rinsing off her sandy feet while ‘plugged in’ to her mp3 player 😀

The boys in one of the bedrooms, coloring in our visual journals.  They were always asking if they could draw in our journals, so we have several little-boy art masterpieces of trains, semi-trailers, and dump trucks.

Bekah, reading her new book from Christmas

Leah reading out by the pool.  We’d turn on the pool light for fun while we were out there reading/knitting, etc.

The next day we went to the beach…again!  Only this time we decided we wanted to get farther into the water, so we wore our swimsuits.  We went out as far as waist-high, and some of us got all wet, swimming back.  It was a little chilly, but quite worth it.  A few times the waves would splash up in your face, giving you a good taste of salt!  All the sunshine, sand, and salty water was just wonderful!

Anna, Bekah and Charissa made this ‘sand girl’….

These pictures of the boys and the water are our girls’ favorites…they’re so cute!

Their facial expressions are so fun…


Isn’t he a cute little ‘dude’?

After playing in the sand, Isaiah needed a good washing off before he climbed back into the van 😀

One more funny story from while we were at the beach.  A couple of guys walked by and said ‘hello’ to Daddy.  He said, “hello” back to them, then Susannah, who was a little farther from us,  came over and said, “Did one of those guys say ‘hi’?!  Because I heard one say to the other one, ‘You did it!'”, like one dared the other to say hello to us   😀

This sign amused us.  Floridians just haven’t seen sand dunes!  I had just noticed this sign, then to my horror, I saw Bekah and Charissa walking all over the ‘sand dunes’.  I hollered to them and told them what the sign said. Charissa said, “Huh?!  Those aren’t sand dunes!”  😀

That day was when Courageous came out on dvd…so we bought it and piled up on the bed to watch the deleted scenes and extras 🙂

The day that we picked Mommy up from certifications, we first went down to the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs.  It’s an amazing little ‘village’ with every imaginable little shop.  It’s called the ‘Sponge Capital of the World’ and they still harvest sponges there.  It was a really neat experience to get to see how they used to harvest the sponges, and what they do to get them ready for market, and then to see all the many kinds of sponges.

The first shop we stopped at had more ‘touristy’ stuff…we bought a few post cards and things from here…

If you so desired to have your very own shark, you could buy one for something like $5.00.  We girls weren’t all that interested!

‘Broiled Octopus’ was on the  menu of this little restaurant.  It didn’t appeal to us!

Some of the many, many sponges…

A picture of a sponge diver.  In the old days, their air was supplied by someone using a hand pump on the boat, which went down to the diver through a tube.  One kink in your hose and you could die.  Underwater facts and stories are very fascinating to us, but going down there ourselves…hmmmm, no thank you!!!

Another sponge shop

This is the sponge shop that we bought our sponges from, Lori’s Soaps and Sponges.

We got a kick out of this t-shirt 😀

Another sponge shop, called the sponge factory.  We watched an interesting video there about sponge-diving.

We did not realize how much Greek influence Tarpon Springs had!  Everywhere you looked there were Greek restaurants, even a shop that advertised ‘Greek speaking children’s toys’  😀  We heard that some of the divers in Tarpon Springs now are from Greece.    Here there were Greek cookies and candy.  After being surrounded with ‘Greece’, we decided we wanted to visit Greece, along with Holland, and India, and France…okay, maybe we can just take a world trip someday?!!

Rather alarming…we were not about to buy any real alligator heads.  Especially at those prices!! Not the most beautiful souvenir!

“Grandma!  Look what I brought you from Florida!!!” 😀

And the penny smasher!  You may recall how much we liked these things when we went along the East Coast 😀  So of course we had to stop by this one!

We finally stopped at Safety Harbor to pick Mommy up from certifications…and the good news is, we finally have a certified mother!!!  😀 We had fun teasing her about that, as well as teasing her that it took Teresa Tapp to train her 😀   She passed with flying colors and we were very happy for her.  This unusual tree was outside of the place Mommy was staying, so we had to get a picture by it.

That night we met ‘Uncle Mark’ and ‘Aunt Teresa’ at a favorite Italian restaurant of theirs.  The waitress was going to split us up into two tables, but none of us wanted to be separated from all the fun (a.k.a. Uncle Mark and Aunt Teresa), so as soon as we saw that one side of the table was a bench, we quickly offered to ‘squish’ 😀  The waitress asked a couple of times, ‘Are you sure?!’.  We replied, ‘Yes! Yes!  We’re sure!’

The pizza was delicious, and Uncle Mark kept us very entertained with stories of when he was growing up.  He was the third oldest of twelve children.  He told us that the oldest boy and the oldest girl got their own rooms in their family, and how ‘unfair’ it was that his sister got the best room of the house, “with a balcony”. 😀  Different times he’d say, “and my sister’s room, with a balcony!”  It was so fun and funny to hear his stories!   He told of another time when he was playing in the upstairs closet, and noticed a coin underneath the baseboard.  He pulled it out, and another coin came down.  So he took of the baseboard and a whole pile of coins came tumbling out!  He said that he hid it and then treated his friends at the candy store for three months on that money 😀

He also told us about a snow-slide that started at the roof of their house, curved down, and went onto the ice on the creek.  He said it was probably about 500 feet long.  All the neighbor kids played on it until it melted 😀

The food was delicious…and Uncle Mark treated us all with an Italian ice cream that had a name we can’t remember…it wasn’t gelato, but it was spicy and good 🙂  We stayed at the restaurant for three hours, eating and visiting.  We had so much fun and couldn’t wait to spend some more time with them at their farm on Saturday.

  On Friday, we visited Honeymoon Island.  It used to be called ‘Hog Island’ until a New York developer put 50 thatched huts on the island for honeymooners.  Now it’s a very pretty state park.  We walked one of the trails and saw several osprey nests, as well as pine trees, palm trees and cactus.

They say that what you see on Honeymoon Island is what Florida used to be like.

The trails were ‘wild’ and very pretty 🙂

We even saw some honeymooners on Honeymoon Island  😀

We heard that there were bald eagles on the island, so every time we saw an osprey or nest we’d look to see if it was an eagle.

This osprey was enjoying a tasty lunch…

Finally, we saw the eagles!  There were two people there, who apparently watch these eagles every day.  They knew when the eaglets had been born, and all kinds of things about them.  They also had a couple of pair of binoculars and a telescope that they very kindly offered for us to borrow so that we could see the babies up close.

You can see a little gray eaglet in between the two branches…

Later, one of the parents flew over to another tree and Anna got some really good shots of him.

Isaiah looking through the binoculars.  He had a hard time seeing the eagles through them, but I think he was enjoying himself anyway 😀

After seeing the eagles, we went to the water and spent about half an hour collecting shells and walking along the water.  Isaiah had pile after pile of shells, so we had to limit him to only a few!!!

Isaiah, Mommy, and Daddy…


At the end of the trail there was a play set…here Bekah was giving the weather report on ‘TV’.  I think she said it was sunny… 😉

 There was a ‘bridge’ over a low area that  must get wet at times…

…and while we were on it,  I decided I’d give Leah a lift.

She wasn’t cooperating, so Anna helped me out.

We don’t have a picture of it, but we did succeed in getting her over the rail and down into the ‘water’ (that wasn’t there).

We hope we haven’t completely put you to sleep with this extremely long post 😀  We do have one more nice long one coming about our time at WaterMark, Uncle Mark and Aunt Teresa’s farm.  They call it ‘heaven on earth’, and we have to agree!








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Florida Farmgirls – Part 1
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20 thoughts on “Florida Farmgirls – Part 1

  • February 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    wow! it looks like you all had a lot of fun!! Thanks for taking a picture of the pool Anna (or I’m guessing it was Anna 🙂 ) I love looking at the pictures from your trips so I’m really glad there are more parts! see you tomorrow!

  • February 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Hi girls, (and boys)
    LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the pictures and the narration especially! What a blessing to be able to experience all of that. I wish you would have tired the Octopus…it is very delicious!! Can’t wait to see the next set of pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    • February 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      Ohhh….I don’t know, Ann…octopus is just so…so weird, lol! 😀 But then you did get us started on liking coffee, hehe!


      • February 20, 2012 at 7:43 am

        @Jessica Some of us…you…that is 😀


  • February 19, 2012 at 12:19 am

    You were so close to us–I wish I had known because my girls and I would have come to meet you all and hug your necks. 🙂
    Even though I’m familiar with many of the places you visited, I really enjoyed the pictures and reading about it through your eyes.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • February 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm

      Oh wow! That would have been fun to meet you!! 😀

  • February 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    so much fun! And I didn’t get bored 😀

    • February 19, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      Good! I’m very glad it wasn’t boring, Rachel!! 😀 Now to work on the other post… 😀

  • February 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Ladies- I know your mom from the TTapp forum, so my daughters and I started following your blog.

    We just love seeing all your smiling faces and fresh outlook on life…especially the joy and humor in normal, everyday living. Your sweet spirits yet playful attitudes come through loud and clear and are so refreshing!

    We are also praying for your friend Meredith and her family

    Nanci (mom), Gabriella, Madison & Lydianna
    P.S. Our little brother, 4, loves to see pictures of your little brothers!

    • February 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      Thank you, Nanci! Both for your comment and for your prayers 😀

  • February 20, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I just recently (3 months ago) started reading your blog. I don’t remember how I found it, but I’m glad I did. I love reading about all your adventures and you are all so inspiring! I’ve always wanted to live in the country and still hope to someday. It looks like you had a wonderful vacation and enjoyed some warm weather. You are so lucky to have such a large family; you always have friends to spend time with. I come from a small family and being homeschooled, never had many friends and always wished we had a larger family. Anyway, I won’t bore you any more with my lack of writing skills. 🙂 God bless you and your whole family!! May you continue to be an inspiration to all your readers.
    Praying for your friend Meredith every day!
    PS. I live in the PNW and will be 1/5 of a century in June.

    • February 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      Thank you, Hannah! Both for your encouraging comment and for your prayers for Meredith 😀 And I have to agree…it is wonderful having ‘built in’ friends 😀

      p.s. Happy 1/5th of a Century Birthday!!! (a couple of months early!) 😀

  • February 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I think you should have gotten an alligator head because then you could put it in your room and then if you had a bad dream you will wake up see it,scream and think that your dream wasn’t that bad after all. 😉

    • February 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      LOL! Hope, you are so funny! 😀

  • February 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I noticed something interesting in one of your pics. It’s the one of the Sponge Factory with the 2 wooden boats with Greek words on them. Panagia is the Greek word for the Mother of God, and Agios Pantelimonas is a coastal settlement in Greece and it means Holy Pantelimon or Saint Pantelimon. In the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, Saint Pantelimon is called the healer and many Orthodox Christians pray to him for people who are sick. I thought it was really neat esp. because I am an Orthodox Christian. That’s why I know strange things like that. 🙂

  • February 20, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Neat! Thanks for sharing that, Hannah…we had not a *clue* what it all meant, lol!

  • February 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I really enjoy reading all of your posts and looking at your pictures thank you for sharing 🙂

  • February 22, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Looks like a really great trip! The house deal is very cool 🙂
    how odd for so many people to think you are amish! Hahahahaha 😉 I would have thought that most people would have noticed the differences. I guess not 😀
    Have any of you girls ever cut your hair? It’s very long and pretty :o) I’m letting mine grow out; I’m excited to have a long long braid 🙂

    Charissa’s yellow dress is so cute!

    75-78F on the beach sounds heavenly! Ferbruary in Alaska, we haven’t seen grass in about five months! My backyard is under nearly eighteen inches of snow 😀 I guess it takes some cold weather to make you appreciate the Floridian “winter”!

    I’m not sure I would try Octopus either!! My mom says it tastes like rubber bands 🙂 But you never know what you might like… we’ve had moose quite a few times, and it always tastes like good, lean beef!

    hmm…. I don’t think I have anything else to say, just that I enjoyed looking through all 199 photos 😀


  • February 29, 2012 at 8:44 am

    One more comment–
    When we were in a Muslim country last spring, we thought we were finally somewhere we wouldn’t be taken for Amish. But nope, in a marketplace in Rabat someone came up and asked us, “Are you from Indiana?” “I thought so. You look just like the people I saw when I was there!” and someone else in Mohammadia said, “Your daughter reminds me of the Amish in Indiana!”

    You just can’t get away from it. Except in Indiana, where MOST people know better.

    • February 29, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Oh my! That’s hilarious! We knew there were lots of Amish in Indiana, but didn’t realized it was so well known for having Amish 😀


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