We meant to do this post a long time ago, but sorting through the hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures that we took while we were in Florida this past October seemed like such a daunting task 😀 Thanks to Anna’s help of getting most of them uploaded onto Flickr for me, we just now getting to share these with you 😀
The fact that we were even able to go to Florida was a miracle and a gift from God 🙂 First the place where we thought we would be able to stay fell through, because our cousin was getting back surgery! For our family to stay in a hotel for two weeks was going to be pretty much impossible. Then we girls decided that if that was the only thing holding us back, we wanted to pitch in so that we could still go 🙂 So then began the search for the perfect house to rent. It had to be able to sleep us all (for insurance reasons, some houses wouldn’t rent if there were more than 8 people in your group), it had to be close-ish to the beach, it had to have a pool (of course?!), and mostly, we had to be able to afford it. So after much searching we found a house that was even better. It had all of the above AND it was a pilot’s community. Nearly everyone there had an airplane hangar, and planes taxied down the streets to the runway. What could be better?! 😀
Then on the way home from church the Sunday before we left, the transmission went out on our big van. We were only about 3 miles from home and that was a very quiet 3 minute ride as we all realized that this could very well cancel our trip. Our van is old enough that Daddy wasn’t sure if putting in a transmission would be worth it, not to mention it’s rather expensive 😛
A few days before we were scheduled to leave I was praying about it (all of us were, I think!), and I kept telling God I knew He could work it out and wouldn’t He please find us a way to be able to get it fixed? I thought of the children of Israel and the Red Sea and how God divided the sea right before them, so I specifically asked Him to divide the cost 🙂 Then later I was reading about the crossing of the Red Sea and God tells them “Why are you crying to me? Go over!”. Once we heard that there is a Jewish tradition that before the sea opened up, the prince of the tribe of Judah (which means praise), plunged into the water first with his horse, because he believed that God was going to do what He said He would do. I took that to mean that I should start praising Him for what He was going to do 😀 And the same night, unknown to me, Mommy was also thinking along the same lines 😀
The next day Daddy had someone look at it, and lo and behold, the cost was divided…not only was it less expensive at this place, but ALSO a friend gave us money to put towards our van 😀 When we got the phone call from the friend, I think we were all crying for happiness 😀 God is so good! He cares even about family vacations. Furthermore, the people at the transmission place were willing to work as fast as they could on it so that we could leave on Tuesday! After we got it fixed, the guy who tested it said that everything else ran really smooth and quite well for a van that age. Which is of course what we like to hear! We were so excited that ‘Big Red’ was going on another trip with us 😀
And so that is how we came up with the idea to drive through the night 😀 We usually take two days to get down there, but with the van not being able to be ready until Tuesday (our original plan was to leave Tuesday morning), we decided that with five drivers, surely we could go through the night?! 😀
Well…it worked, but we discovered that is not our preferred way of getting down there 😀 It took us 24 hours to get down there, with drivers changing every 2 to 4 hours. And every time we stopped, someone needed a restroom, so that made it go slower 😀 I remember being so tired and wanting to lay down so bad that I fell asleep on one of the benches in the short amount of time while we were filling the gas tank and the others were out to stretch or use the restroom.
By breakfast time we were in Georgia. You can tell by the looks on our faces that we are tired, hehe! We stopped at a Walmart to get bagels and yogurt (and fix our hair!) and that was our ‘breakfast’ 😀
Something we noticed right away was how friendly the people were…they really do get more and more friendly as you go south! The Walmart employees were asking how we were doing, having conversations with us, and telling us to ‘behave yourselves now!’ as we left 😀 At the Walmarts in Indiana the employees are so intent on stocking or doing whatever they do to hardly say ‘hi’ or look at you, so it was a lot of fun visiting the one in Georgia 😀
A neat picture with the map…
At last! Our destination! We got excited when we saw the airplane 😀
‘Our people’ were also very happy to see Florida 😀
The mailboxes were low to the ground and the street signs were, too 😀 We loved the street names, too…Earhart, Cessna, Skyhawk. How neat is that?
Some people’s hangars were very cleverly disguised…it took us a few times of passing this house to realize that that was the hangar.
All of our ‘stuff’…well, not all of it! As soon as we got to the house we went running (0kay, we walked quickly!) through it exploring and exclaiming over it all 😀 One thing we discovered…there were so many doors and it took awhile to remember which went where 😀
As soon as we could, of course we jumped right into the pool 😀 And it was solar heated, which made it absolutely perfect 😀 Anna is enjoying playing with her new friend, the dragon.
Here’s a little ‘tour’ of the house…this was the master bathroom. It was huge!
We really liked the sinks in this bathroom 😀
It was almost like having a hand pump beside your sink…only you didn’t have pump it 😉
The master bedroom
The bedroom that Anna, Bekah and Charissa shared (every bedroom had a king size bed 😀 )
The formal dining room that we never used 😀
The family room
One angle of the kitchen
The little dining room that we all crammed into 😀 Sometimes we split up to the counter or ate outside, too 🙂
Yet another bedroom 😀 Susannah and Cassia shared this one.
The room Leah and I shared…
Another angle of the kitchen. This was a really nice kitchen and fun to cook in 😀 There were wall ovens, all kinds of cupboard space and fun lights like the rope lighting under the counters 😀
The laundry/entry. The fancy schmancy washer and dryer were a lot of fun…everyone wanted to do laundry 😀
The living room
After spending a day with Mommy at ‘our house’, we took her to Safety Harbor for her T-Tapp certifications. This was the fourth time to Safety Harbor, and it was fun to see other ‘T-Tappers’ that we’ve heard about or have seen on Facebook, and to see some of the same ones that we get to see every year 😀
So, so pretty!
We always like seeing the Spanish moss, too.
Once we got back to the house, we went back to being lazy vacationers 😛 😀 Leah started working on her visual journal 🙂
Swimming! That pool was so nice! Some days we pretty much just lived in our swimsuits 😀
The pool area. One really nice thing was that the whole pool area was screened in, so we could open these big sliding doors wide open and walk in and out without any bugs getting in 🙂
We had to go on a grocery run to get all the ingredients for our food we were going to cook while we were vacationing 😀 Before we left, we made menu plans and shopping lists to try and make things as easy as we could 🙂
Whenever we go down to Florida, we usually find a Publix near us and call it ‘our Publix’ 😀 Publix, we have adopted you.
So happy to shop, hehe!
We all went in, then split up into four or five groups and ‘conquered’ our list 😀
We wanted something really simple for that evening’s meal, so we did macaroni and hot dogs 😀
It must take a lot of macaroni to feed us all 😉
One day we decided to go visit a couple of beaches someone had told us about. Our favorite bleach is Clearwater, but it was about an hour away.
The first beach we went to was not worth being called a beach. We paid to park, then we all walked to the water, looked at the ‘mudhole’ as we deemed it, walked around a little and decided it was not worth staying at, even if we did pay to park 😀 There was no way anyone wanted to play in that water!
The second beach we went to was at a state park on Caladesi Island. It was much better, but just not the same as Clearwater. We discovered that the seagulls at Caladesi were very bold! We had brought cookies for a snack and one of them swooped down and snatched Noah’s cookie out of his hand!
It didn’t take us too long to decide that we would rather swim in our clean pool, so that’s what we did 😀
Anna got some fun pictures of Noah and some water droplets while he was splashing…
Just for fun, we put together a series of pictures Susannah took when we all jumped in together 😀
And another series of pictures… 😀
We thought that this was neat, especially since the house is in a flying community 🙂
Noah found a friend 😉
Ahhh! The airplanes! We would hear an airplane engine and we’d drop what we were doing and run out to see one taxi by 😀 It was great! We eventually learned to tell the difference between the sounds of the washing machine spinning out, the air conditioner, a truck and an airplane. There were a few times we went dashing out of the house only to realize it was the washing machine we had heard. If the neighbors were paying any attention, they probably thought we were crazy 😀
One evening it was dark out, and we were all in the pool when we thought we heard a plane. We all got out of the pool as fast as we could and ran out front to see a truck spraying for mosquitoes! There were exclamations of ‘Eewwww!’ and laughing as we all ran back into the pool, away from that stinky truck!
THIS was one of the best days ever 😀 We rode our bikes down the runway and got to see this plane take off.
There’s a little ‘flip-flop’ your stomach does when you take off, and mine did one just watching this one go! Such a beautiful sight 😉
Bekah and Charissa journaling 🙂
Another day we went to Clearwater Beach…we decided that driving an hour was worth it 😀
The sand is clean, the water is clean, and the beach is BIG! If there is dirt or sand anywhere, Noah and Isaiah are sure to start digging in it 😀
Happy, happy, happy 😀
The first day we went to Clearwater the waves were choppy and the water was so warm. We liked wading out to our neck and then letting the waves roll over us, or we would jump with the waves 😀
Building a sand castle
I did not know that Leah was taking this rather interesting series of pictures of me as I was describing to Susannah what it was like when the waves splashed over your head. I had just had a big wave go completely over me and was saying something like…
‘…it’s so salty…’
‘…and this big wave came up behind me and went up over my ears…’
‘…and I could taste the salt water in my mouth…’
‘…and it went down my nose and throat and burned!’
Then I realized what Leah was doing 😛 😀
I love this picture of Anna jumping the waves 😀
More fun ‘beachy’ pictures…
This poor seagull must have had an accident with his foot, but the persistent little bird still walked on it and got around just fine.
Another of our favorite things to do was to draw a line in the sand…
…shout ‘ready, set, GO!‘
…and race to the water and run until we couldn’t run anymore,
… or until we fell into the water, often with salt water going into our mouths 😀
Another day we went to Clearwater, the water wasn’t as choppy. We weren’t exactly excited about that because we heard that it was stingray season, and that they like calm waters better 😛 Once we were wading up near the shore and suddenly saw a little stingray, maybe eight inches across. It blended in with the sand so well, we didn’t notice it before! Once we saw the stingray, though, we quickly scrambled out of the water and stayed out for awhile until we could talk ourselves into going back in 😀
(This picture was funny because of the angle of the picture, it looks like Leah and I are holding hands, even though we aren’t 😀 )
As the sun started setting, we girls made shadows…
I’m not sure what this is supposed to be, but it looks kind of scary!
Different nights we watched dvds we had brought along, and a few times we watched the Duggars. And it was also while we were in Florida that we watched Duck Dynasty for the first time. Before then, we would see their pictures and Uncle Si’s quotes all over Pinterest, and we thought, “Why is everybody so crazy over these people?” So we thought we’d find out for ourselves 😀
Well, we discovered that we liked them a lot, too 😀 Maybe it was the way Phil isn’t afraid to speak the truth, or maybe how much they made us laugh, and how they love each other and love Jesus Christ…it was just quite fun to see 🙂 We noticed that in some of their earlier shows they’re a little more mean to each others sometimes, (and as we’ve seen more, the earlier ones are sometimes too much on the crude side for our liking), but we’ve wondered how much of that was encouraged by the producers? We don’t know. But in the Robertson’s “I Am Second” video, the grandson said that the producers wanted them to fight and swear, but they wouldn’t because that’s not who they’re family is.
Anyway…we decided that we liked them 😀 And they made us laugh. A lot!
Daddy and the boys playing Mexican Train
After Mommy’s retreat was over, we went and picked her up and brought her back to the house for a few more days before we headed to Watermark, which is our adopted aunt and uncle’s farm 😉
It is so, so pretty! We were having so much fun visiting that we did a terrible job of taking any pictures while were there.
While we were there, there were two other couples that we know through the T-Tapp program, but one couple we hadn’t met in person yet 😀 We older girls got to talking with Adam and found out that he knows everything! 😀 He taught us binary code with chip bags, and then went on to teach us hex code and how to convert it into binary (which we use for web design colors) and then he taught us Ascii code and how to convert binary to Ascii…it was quite an afternoon! He was teaching us for about two hours, maybe more…it was a long time, but it didn’t seem like it 😀
He used paper plates for his ‘chalkboard’, and he ended up filling four paper plates front and back with diagrams and codes 😀 We kept the paper plates so that we could take pictures of them.
He was a really good teacher and he made sure you understood before he went on 😀 He just let us ask him all kinds of random questions, so in the two hours of teaching we talked about binary, hex, Ascii, how the RGB translates into binary, the 7 steps of how a computer sends an email, electricity, how pictures are translated into binary (so you can send them over the internet), direct and alternate currents in electricity and somehow we got to talking about jazz, which none of us are fond of, but Adam loves (he’s a professional pianist, too). To top it all off he’s a pilot, a plane mechanic, knows Hebrew, and he works on and teaches people about computers 😀
At one point when he was talking about electricity, he wanted to show us a breaker box, so he asked Uncle Mark if we could see his breaker box 😀 Uncle Mark was so funny, because he didn’t know what we had been talking about in the other room, so he was mystified as to why in the world we’d want to see his breaker box 😀
Aunt Teresa had a bunch of hickory nuts that she wanted picked up before she mowed, so she told us that she would pay two pennies for every nut 😀 Anna, Bekah, Charissa, Noah and Isaiah picked up a ton of nuts! Okay, not literally a ton, but we counted a few thousand 😀
It was so cute to see the boys out there working as fast as they could, picking up hickory nuts 😀
We spent the night with our ‘aunt and uncle’ on Saturday, then we had to say goodbye on Sunday. We were so sad that our vacation was almost over, and glad that we had a two day drive to get us ready to get back into ‘real life’ 🙂
We drove up as far about an hour south of Atlanta and met up with some Georgia friends at a Waffle House for a late ‘supper’ 😀 It was about midnight when we stopped there, and on our way in, we noticed a pretty cat hanging around outside, and it looked like someone had given it a piece of bread with meat on it :D. We had a lot of fun visiting for about two hours, then when we were getting ready to leave, we were all outside talking because we didn’t really want to leave yet, and suddenly we smelled this horrible smell!
Daddy and some of the girls were already in the van, so they didn’t smell it and they were wondering why those of us outside were suddenly covering our noses and laughing so hard. I thought maybe the cat had done it’s job somewhere nearby, but the smell got SO BAD and someone said, “That cat has problems!” We have cats, and I know how bad they can smell, but this smelled like a herd of cats…it was horrible! We then turned around and realized that the sewage truck had picked 2:30 in the morning to pump out the sewage…oh my! It was awful smelling, but it sure made for a very good laugh!
We got a hotel shortly after that…we were so tired!
Daddy…the master packer who somehow finds a way to fit everything we think we need into the space in the back of the van 😀
On the second day of our trip home, Daddy surprised us and we stopped in Cherokee, North Carolina to just enjoy the scenery and look at the shops. Daddy didn’t want to just race through the Smokies just so we could get home at a certain time (he’s so nice, is he not? 😉 ). So we went through the shops and bought souvenirs of course 😀 The boys both got Smokie Mountain shirts and we girls all bought fudge, among other things. We noticed that there was a stage set up where a couple of guys dressed as Indians (and as we found out later, really did have Indian heritage 🙂 ) had jewelry to sell and they did Indian dances, too 😀
We aren’t so much into the dancing, but we went over there to see what they had to sell. They did end up doing an Indian dance for us and a few other people who had gathered. They wanted us to do the ‘friendship dance’ with them, but we were all thinking, “No, no, no! We will just watch!” Susannah who doesn’t even like ‘dancing’ at home (when we girls are goofing off) was about to jump over the rail when they asked us to get up and dance…it was hilarious 😀 Afterwards we got to sing our Fugue for Fast Food and Heaven Medley for them 🙂
After this stop, we realized that we were pretty close to Clingman’s Dome, and it had been three years since we’d visited it last 😀 So, we took yet another ‘detour’ and drove up to it 😀
It was such a pretty (and very curvy!) drive 🙂
We stopped at one point and got a picture together 😀
Compared to our picture three years ago…oh my! My ‘little’ sisters and brothers are growing up 😀
The mountains were absolutely beautiful.
We drove up as far as we could go, then started the half-mile hike up to the top…
It was also very cold! Most of us had crocs or flip flops and light jackets, and it got colder the higher we went!
It was so windy and cold 😀 A couple of photographers were up there with their tripods and cameras, hoping to get the sunset. One of them was so kind as to take our picture for us 😀
Trying to get away from the wind 😀
We found the part of the Appalachian Trail that we had visited before, and we walked the entire width of it to say that we did 😉 We were SO frozen by this time, our fingers were stiff from the cold!
On the way down, we were blessed with an amazing sunset, even though it was cloudy!
Several other photographers were out with their cameras, too 😀
We ended our adventurous day at Cracker Barrel in Pigeon Forge, and because we had spent so much time at the Smokies, we had to get another hotel somewhere in Kentucky (which nobody minded!). That day turned out to be SO much fun, mostly because it was so unplanned and unexpected 😀
We finally arrived home at about 7:00 p.m. the next day, and thus ended our lovely vacation 🙂
If you are still here, you deserve a vacation yourself, hehe! Or maybe you had to take a vacation to read it all?! Anyways, we do hope that you enjoyed all of our crazy pictures, and maybe it helped you feel a little warmer, seeing all of those warm Florida pictures while we’re in the cold of winter 😀
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