We were recently blessed to spend four glorious days in Orlando, Florida with my brother and his family. While we were there Orlando had unseasonably warm weather, much to resident Floridians' dismay and much to our delight! We walked around in shorts and sleeveless tops enjoying temps in the eighties.
This was our second "family" vacation without our entire family. Our college girl's break didn't coincide with that of our high-schooler, so we once again had a vacation without her. (Sniff, sniff.) We dealt with this issue for the first time last year, when as a high school senior, Ashleigh took a spring break road trip to Texas with one brave mom and four of her best friends.
But this time was especially different. This was the first time we went on a trip that in the past, we've always done as a family. We all missed her presence—and sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get used to this parental/family transitioning stuff. I know we'll have to go through an even greater change in a few years when our youngest graduates from high school, but for now I'm determined to enjoy every second with him. Whether he wants me to or not. Cue the eye-rolling and dramatic sighs.
We did manage to have a lot of fun on our Ashleigh-absent Florida adventure, and enjoyed a great time as we always do with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew.
We witnessed NASA's final launch of the space shuttle Discovery.
And we made it to one of our most favorite places to go in Orlando. That's right…Gatorland! Oh, wait. You thought I was gonna say Disney World, didn't you? Ha, ha! We have a tradition of visiting Orlando's Gatorland on our Florida trips.
This time we opted to participate in an exciting Gator Night Shine excursion which allowed us a semi-private tour of the facility. Among other things, we all got to hold a baby gator, which had surprisingly smooth skin…
The highlight of the evening was when we all received flashlights and hot dogs, then headed out to the marsh to feed the gators. We shone our flashlights over the water and when the beams hit those gators' eyes they glowed like orange flames in the night. It was so creepy fun to have those blazing orbs coming straight at you in search of a nighttime snack!
For our final day there, we went to a restaurant right on Daytona Beach and ate the best clam chowder ever as we sat on the terrace, soaking up golden sunshine and listening to the susurrus of frothy blue-green waves sliding up and down that hard-packed sandy shore. It was so beautiful!
We even saw jellyfish washed up on the beach…
Of course my brother couldn't resist touching them to show us all that the dangerous parts were no longer dangerous. I still don't believe it and I'm NOT touchin' one, bro! Get it away from me!
It was a sunny slice of summer in an otherwise overcast winter week. Now we're back in our snow-covered house, looking out at our snow-covered yard with our bald tree branches, and dreaming of the spring that's just around the corner.