Monday, December 9, 2013

NZ Girls Visit Day Four: Everglades Holiday Park

On our fourth and last day together, we decided to spend the morning exploring the Everglades.  It was a major priority to show the girls a few alligators before they flew home!  The first time I went to Everglades Holiday park was with Dallas and my mom the weekend we moved into our new house.  I posted about our adventures here.  I figured that Daxton would do really well like he had before (he fell asleep within the first ten minutes of our airboat tour.)  Boy was I wrong!  He basically flipped out the second the airboat left the dock.  I felt horrible that he was so scared and that his crying was disturbing others on the boat.  Luckily it only lasted the first 15 minutes.  I was able to soothe him with constant snacks and taking off his life vest.  Because I was so busy taking care of my little guy, I didn't take a single picture from our everglades tour.  The below three pictures are from my first trip to the Everglades Holiday Park.

 Absolutely stunning...


I was able to snap a few pictures on my iPhone while Daxton was chomping on his snacks...

Of course Mafa fell right to sleep and slept like an angel!

 Unfortunately we could not find a single Alligator on our hour long tour.  We were all pretty bummed, since I had seen four different gators on our tour before.  Luckily there was an alligator wrestling show put on by the "Gator Boys" directly after our tour where we were able to view and hold gators.  I'm a total nerd and a fan of the Gator Boys TV show, so I was ecstatic that the main guy, Paul, was working that day.  He even let us get our pictures with him after the show.

I was holding Daxton during the wrestling show so I wasn't able to get any pictures, but I have several pictures of alligator wrestling from Gatorland and our first trip to the Everglades.  Daxton loved watching the show and was very glad that I was holding him to see over the fence.  He's at such a fun age now, where he's understanding and recognizing things more and more.

Pictures of Paul catching an cleaning up after the show...

After the show there are baby alligators that you can get your picture with.  It was pretty awesome to feel how soft their skin was.  I thought their scales and belly would feel rough, but in reality it was very smooth.  Daxton loved being so close to the gator.  We had been working on being soft with things and he did great.  He softly felt it's back and then grabbed it's foot gently.  He loved holding hands with the gator.

Heather also loved holding the gator; her last Florida adventure this year.
Katy and Mafa's turn.  Mafa was not too excited about being so close to the gator, but Katy loved it.
After our adventurous morning in the Everglades, I regretfully had to drop my girls off at the airport.  Our time went much too quickly, although I'm quite proud of all we were able to pack in.  I wish I could put into words how much I love these girls.  Every year I am reminded how blessed I truly am to have such incredible friends.
I can't wait til next year!

NZ Girls Visit Day Three: Dania Beach

After exploring a bit of Miami, we changed our clothes and headed to the beach.  We didn't want to compete with the "spring breakers" along the Miami coastline, so we drove back up to Dania beach (15 minutes from our house.)  I am still constantly amazed at how warm the water is here.  I am so used to the frigid Pacific.  We set up our beach tent, chairs, blankets, and then headed to the water.

We brought our sand toys, which Mafa Jo and Daxton loved.  They loved shoveling sand in and out of the buckets.
I loved watching the little gestures between our little ones.  So funny to watch babies interact.
Daxton may or may not have eaten some of the sand...

Heather was sweet enough to take some pictures of us swimming in the warm water.  I love the sneaker wave that got us as we were posing for the camera!  Both Daxton and Mafa are total water babies.  Daxton loved putting his face in the water to blow bubbles.  It was funny to watch him lick his lips after and make funny faces as he tasted the salt water.

Views of Dania Beach and pier

For their future wedding album!

We had such a fun day exploring Miami and the beach.  As we were unloading the car, our neighbors bunny ventured down the street for a visit.  Needless to say, Mafa was very determined to catch that bouncing bunny!
We were once again pretty exhausted after another fun-filled day of adventures!

NZ Girls Visit Day Three: Miami

On our third day of adventures, I decided to take the girls down to Miami, which is about 30 minutes south.  Dallas is much more familiar with Miami than I am.  I had only been to Miami one time before so I was a little nervous.  It's pretty intimidating trying to show someone around when you don't know where you're going!  I quickly remembered what it felt like to be new in San Francisco, though.  When we first moved to the Bay area I was quite nervous to drive in the city and show visitors the local sights, but by the time we moved I knew that city inside and out.  I hope south Florida will feel like that someday too.

We ended up driving to the American Airlines Arena where the Miami Heat Basketball team plays.  I heard there was a fun shopping area right on the water with lots of fun places to eat.  I had heard correctly.  As we walked up to the entrance we saw a large Bubba Gumps and several other fun restaurants.  There was an enormous Banyon tree right in the center of the shopping area that looked like it had been there for centuries.  I love how different all the vegetation is here compared to the west coast. 

We didn't end up eating at Bubba Gumps, but as we passed we couldn't help but pose for some silly pictures...

Miami is absolutely GORGEOUS and I can't wait to explore it further.  We loved walking along the waterfront and saw some beautiful boats.

My favorite, by far, was the live entertainment.  I swear the whole city is constantly pulsing with some kind of Latin beat.  We found a great outside amphitheater with amazing Cuban music being performed.  The thing I loved most was how people were dancing.  Not silly teenagers trying to be funny, but the ELDERLY showing off their serious rhythmic skills.  Everyone was having so much fun cheering each other on and singing along to the music.  Daxton immediately wanted out of his stroller to join in the fun.  He started kicking his legs, pumping his arms, and bouncing his head and belly.  I love that my little man loves dancing and music so much!  He definitely takes after his parents.

 Serious dance skills!!
Loving the music and dancing!
Dancing with mom...

For lunch we decided to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe located on the waterfront.  We had a great meal, ate lots of yummy food, danced to more music, and fell in love with Miami.  Can't wait for another adventure there.

NZ Girls Visit Day Two: Lion Country Safari

I modeled our second day of adventures after my parents last day visiting, since we had so much fun.  So after Butterfly World we drove north another 30 minutes to Lion Country Safari.  I posted a little of the history and some interesting facts on a previous post.  When we arrived, we were again given a CD with the narrated guide to listen as we drove through the park.  Since we were never driving more than 2 or 3 miles per hour I took Daxton out of his car seat to sit on my lap.  I knew this would keep him occupied and interested instead of screaming in the back seat.  Within a few minutes of our tour both pregnant Katy and little Mafa Jo were asleep.  While we were looking at some of the animals we started to smell something a bit questionable and our fears set in that Daxton had gone #2 in his diaper.  Now the main question...where do we change him?  Usually I would lay him on the backseat or lay him in the trunk bed, but since we were at the beginning of the safari we couldn't get out of our cars and there were no facilities in sight.  Thus the ridiculous pictures below!
I just had to document how amazing auntie Heather was and how awkward it was going to be to try and change Daxton's diaper while sitting in the driver's seat!  Luckily for us we soon realized it was a false alarm and continued on our journey.

I was very surprised with both Butterfly World and Lion Country Safari, because I had visited both just two days earlier and yet this days experiences were totally different!  We saw so many new things and were especially excited about some of the new animal behaviors we were able to observe as well.
As we were driving through one section we found a large number of Ostriches.  It looked like their food had just been placed, because they were surrounding tall feeding structures.  All of a sudden an aggressive fight broke out between a few of the ostriches.  It was crazy to see them chase one another and how fast they were.  I'm still surprised that they didn't run into our car since they were waving in between vehicles to get at each other.  They would raise their wings and squawk at one another.

 Daxton LOVED sitting on my lap while driving.  Often times I let him take the wheel and guide the car (at 1 mile an hour I had more than enough time to correct the wheel before driving off the road!)  He was pretty proud of himself.  There were a couple times where he was started by different animals right next to the glass of our window.  He even fell asleep in my arms midway through the tour and I got to have the best snuggles!

Just a few of the awesome animals we saw along our safari...
White Rhinos

Tortoise, zebra, and African donkeys...

Finished with the chimpanzees on their intricate island system.

After we finished with the drive-through safari, we stopped at the Safari World Park located at the end of the tour.  My parents and I didn't have the time to stop at it before, so this was my first time exploring everything and I was greatly surprised with everything it had to offer.  We obviously could have spent most of the day here instead of a couple hours.  It has several more animal enclosures, a boat ride around the monkey islands, pedal boats, giraffe feeding, camel rides, mini golf, splash park, shops, eateries, and also random amusement rides as well.  It was a bit run down in parts, but a lot of fun.

Katy and Mafa, after their afternoon nap, at the entrance to Safari World Park.  I still have no clue how Katy physically handled everything on this trip while being in her first trimester!  Traveling, caring for a 10 month old, dealing with the heat and humidity, and then also being pregnant!  She's a tough girl for sure and I definitely need to remember her example when we get pregnant again.
I love how everything in Florida is covered with growth and greenery.  No matter where you walk there are gorgeous trees, vines, ferns, flowers, and bushes.  It makes everything that much more beautiful.  I love the different types of trees they have down here with roots and vines growing everywhere.

Looking out at the different monkey islands and areas to pedal boat.

One of the things Heather wanted to do most was feed Giraffes.  So we headed to the Giraffe encounter first to make sure we didn't miss it.  For a couple dollars we were given pieces of lettuce to feed to the giraffe.  I forgot how incredibly LONG their tongues are!  We spent forever observing and interacting with a few of these beautiful creatures.  I also loved that the feeding station was located on a raised platform so we were eye to eye with the tall giraffes.
Our new friend!
(Daxton was mad I made him turn around from the Giraffe for the picture)

Showing how tall the Giraffe was...

I love how brave Daxton is.  He really does want to try everything and fed the giraffe several times.  The employee working was so kind and gave us several more pieces of lettuce since we were all having so much fun and there was no one else around.

Katy and Mafa's turn!

Heather's turn!
(Love the top left picture showing how long the tongue was!)

After the giraffes, we wandered around the park and found some fun bongos to play on which Mafa loved.

We also decided to take a camel ride!  I hadn't been on the back of a camel since I was in Egypt so it was quite fun to relive the experience.  They also let us take our little ones with us, which I think Daxton was more concerned than excited about.  He never cries though.  He just furrows his eyebrows while concentrating on everything.  Such a brave boy!

Heather, Katy, and Mafa's turn!
I wish I would have planned to spend more time at Safari World since there was so much more to see and do, but we decided that there's always next year!  After it closed, we went out for a yummy dinner and made our way back home.  We were all pretty exhausted after such a fun second day of adventures!

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