Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bryan's Family Visits: Saying Goodbye with Flour

On Bryan's last day visiting they wanted to go to the beach one more time before their flight took off in the afternoon.  But after the crazy few days we had had, Daxton and I decided to stay home in the morning.  I pulled out one of his flour sensory buckets from his birthday in March.  We had a lot of left over flour and had been slowly using it for different learning activities.  This time I hid several ocean animals within the tub.  Everytime he would find one, he'd squeal with delight.  We practiced our colors and also names of each animal.  He sorted them by colors and then later by size.  I also tried to introduce counting them as he pulled them out, but he was not too interested in counting.  I found some fun collapsable colorful measuring cups for him to dig with.  It was the perfect way to spend our morning until the cousins got back from the beach.

Since the girls were already in their swimsuits, they immediately jumped in on the fun.  They helped Daxton find all of his sea animals and had fun building flour castles.
It was so much fun to watch them interact, create, and play with each other.  I sure love these kiddos and love the way they played with Daxton!

When we were cleaning up the flour, some got into Daxton's eye.  It was so much easier to clean off his face than sand!

Bryan came out to help with the clean up, which was pretty easy.  The girls scooped the extra flour back into the tub and then they used the hose to spray off whatever was left.  The flour mixing with water was pretty slippery so the girls got a kick out of pretending they were skating across the brick.  Daxton got a kick out of spraying the girls with the hose again!

After all the flour was cleaned up, everyone went inside for showers and packing.  It was a pretty sad goodbye for this little man below.  He kept calling out for his "fends" and for weeks after would ask for Mack and Sade.
I wish I could put into words how wonderful it was to have them stay with us for a few days.  It was so good to be with family and see Daxton interact with his cousins.  We loved being able to show them some of the beauties around our area, but mostly we just loved being with them.  We have the most amazing family.  We truly feel blessed!

Bryan's Family Visits: Lion Country Safari

After our amazing morning at Butterfly World, we were super excited to drive up to Lion Country Safari for an afternoon with the animals.  Dallas was a sweetheart and took half the day off so he could spend it with all of us.  It's always more fun with daddy around!  Once we got up to the Drive-through safari park, Dallas, Daxton, and I hopped in Bryan's minivan so we could all do the tour together.  The kids had a blast calling out the different animals they saw.  They all also had fun jumping around the car without their seatbelts on!  Since your only allowed to drive between 5-10 mph children are not expected to stay in their seats.  Daxton and Sadie both loved jumping from the front to back and sitting on everyone's laps.  The three older kids had fun taking turns in the "trunk" of the minivan watching for animals out the back window.

Technically you're not supposed to roll down your window, but we broke the rules when no animals were around.  Sadie was a pretty great side seat driver, telling her daddy where to go and when to stop.

Bryan was a sweetheart to let Daxton sit on his lap, while pushing all the buttons and turning the wipers and blinkers on.

I love how many animals we always see at the Lion Country Safari.  Not only do they have several different varieties from all around the world, but they have such a high quantity that you are bound to see something new on each tour.  This time the water buffalo were super close to our car which the kids all loved.

I was holding Dax for a lot of the ride and ended up not taking too many of the animals, but we all loved watching the rhinos and zebra drink from their watering hole.  Lucky for them, they don't have to worry about lurking crocodiles in their habitat!

After the drive-through portion of the park, we all hopped out to explore the rest of the zoo.

We loved showing them all the different plant life that naturally grows in south florida.  It's so different than where we are all from!

They have several different little rides for the kids to go on, but almost all of them simply spin in a circle, which makes me SUPER sick.  Max was a trooper to go on the rides with Daxton over and over.  He's not only an awesome big brother, but an amazing cousin as well!

Best seat in the house!
Daxton sure loves his daddy and missed him greatly during busy season.  Look at those matching curls!

Daxton and I's favorite thing to do at Lion Country Safari is feeding the giraffes.  There is a large platform built where you can literally be face to face with these beautiful animals.  For a couple dollars we bought a bunch of lettuce and took turns feeding the giraffe out of our hands.  It's so crazy to me how long their tongues are!  Each of the kids had a lot of fun interacting with them.

I have to admit there were a lot of bittersweet moments while Bryan's family was in town visiting.  My heart melted watching how deeply Daxton loves his cousins and how well they love him in return, it brakes my heart a bit knowing we are so far away from family.  Even though we love it here in south Florida and know that we are supposed to be here, it's hard seeing family so rarely throughout the year.

After exploring most of the zoo, we headed to the splash pad and water slides.  We were all very hot from walking around and being in the sun, so the kids had a lot of fun cooling off.  Heather and Bryan were brave enough to go down the massive slides with their older kids, but Daxton wanted to stay mostly in the splash pad.  He had so much fun running in and out of the fountains.

Even though he was over two, we still had him dressed in his 18 month swimsuit, which was pretty cute to show off his "muscles."  We've realized that we swim so often that we need to just purchase  a couple more suits, but he didn't seem to mind the snug fit!

Sadie and Daxton had a lot of fun playing in and out of the fountains together.

On our way out of the park, the kids wanted to ride on the different rides one more time.  It was pretty cute to see them all in their dripping wet swimsuits, but it was the perfect way to dry off since all of us had forgotten towels.

We ended up eating at Panera Bread for dinner on our way home.  It was so funny to watch these two cuties interact!  So many giggles and hugs between the two of them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bryan's Family Visits: Butterfly World

Our last full day with Bryan's family in town, we jammed two big adventures in; the first being Butterfly World.  The first time I went to Butterfly World a year ago, when my parents were in town visiting, we couldn't help but think of sweet Mara; her symbol being the butterfly.  It was so beautiful and brought so much peace to my heart that I ended up getting a membership.  I've since brought several of my friends to visit and Daxton often talks about the colorful butterflies.  I knew Heather and Bryan would also love it there, so we made sure to plan for an early start and arrived right as it opened.

Before entering the Butterfly Aviary we looked through the research center and were able to watch several caterpillars hatch from their chrysalis.  It was pretty cool to see the process up close.

I wish I could put into words what it was like entering the butterfly aviary.  The pictures do not do it justice.  Heather said that when she thinks about being reunited with her Mara in heaven she imagines it like when we walked into the aviary, covered with hundreds of beautiful butterflies and Mara running into her arms.  It was such a special feeling knowing she was so close.  
Like I mentioned before, I've been to Butterfly World several times, but NEVER have I seen so many butterflies.  They were flying everywhere, landing on the kids without being afraid.  I had to be very careful with the stroller to not run over any of them since they would often land right in the pathway.  If you look closely at the picture below on the left you can see several bright blue butterflies zipping through the air.

It was a perfect day to go since no one was there.  We were able to stay in the aviary as long as we wanted.  The kids had so much fun trying to get butterflies to land on them.  They were all so gentle with them, even Daxton was soft!

Natalie holding one of the butterflies that landed on her.

Sadie had so much fun pointing out all the butterflies to Daxton and Daxton had so much fun simply following Sadie around everywhere.  They were like two little peas in a pod.

There are several benches throughout the aviary donated and dedicated to loved ones, but my favorite one we call the "Mara bench."  It says, "They are dancing with the butterflies, Fluttering and free for Eternity."  I have no doubt that she is dancing in heaven.

It was so hard to capture the butterflies with their quick movement, but I was able to snap a few while they were resting or eating.
Several would congregate around the ripening plantains.

Looking for more butterflies...

Sadie actually had several land on her and was able to hold a few different ones throughout the morning.  She was pretty excited!

By far the sweetest most touching moment happened while Bryan was walking through the aviary.  He looked down while wearing his Mara tshirt and noticed a beautiful butterfly had landed on him.  When he stepped into the sun the wings shined deep Mara purple.  I can't think of a better way for Mara to let her daddy know that she was with him!  The beautiful butterfly stayed on Bryan's shirt for several minutes and then fluttered away.

The kids had so much fun exploring all the different paths and looking for hidden butterflies within the flowers.  They also enjoyed giving Daxton big hugs!

Trying to get a nice picture with this crazy toddler is next to impossible.  In the pictures below he was acting like a Lion...

I was amazed at all the new colors and designs on some of the butterflies we found.

Daxton LOVES his auntie Heather!

After the butterfly aviary, we wandered through the different exotic gardens.  There are so many gorgeous and unique passion flowers and hanging chandelier flowers.

Daxton's favorite place has always been the suspension bridge leading to the different bird aviaries.  He loves to run back and forth and get the bridge really swinging.

Our last stop was to feed the Lorikeets.  Each of the kids were able to take turns feeding the birds.  They held a small container filled with a fruit smoothie which the Lorikeets LOVE.  Within seconds they were covered in birds!

Max feeds the Lorikeets

Sadie's turn...I especially loved when one landed on her head!

Katrina's climbed in her ponytail and on her shoulder.

Natalie loved when one started to climb up her arm to her neck!

Daxton hasn't gotten the nerve to hold the birds on his own, but he loved talking to them while they were climbing on mommy.  He even waved hello to them and started jabbering like a bird.

Bryan and Heather's turns...

It truly was a perfect morning.  We loved interacting with the birds and exploring the tropical gardens, but everyone's favorite were all the gorgeous butterflies.  We loved having a piece of sweet Mara with us on our adventures.

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