We had an absolutely awesome time in Florida! The limo picked us up bright and early Thursday morning and took us to the airport. I haven't flown anywhere in years and didn't realize just how much security had changed! I didn't know you needed to take off your shoes. So, this is how the whole security run-down took place. Joe walked through carrying Brooklyn. Ta da.
Now, I'm there with the other five kids, trying to position two car seats up on the conveyor belt so they'll pass under the x-ray, attempting to fold up the big double stroller and lift it up so it'll fit in the x-ray thingy. Meanwhile I'm getting all the kids to take off their shoes, put their five backpacks, my tote bag, the diaper bag, my purse, and all our sweatshirts in little trays on the conveyor. A gentleman from security stops the machine and asks me if I have a DVD player in the bag.
Why yes, I do.
Can you take it out for me?
Oops. Sorry I didn't know it was supposed to be taken out.
OK, that's all fine. Then he stops it again and asks me what the round thing is in one of the kids' backpacks.
I have no clue what he's talking about.
He pulls the backpack out and Austin fishes around it and finds a baseball. Duh. What else would you take on a plane to Florida? You never know when the opportunity to play a little catch will arise.
In case anyone's wondering, it's OK to take a baseball on the plane.
After an hour and a half of regrouping and redressing, we caught up to my husband who innocently says, "What took you so long?" He not so convincingly told me that security made him walk through the metal detector and wouldn't let him come back to help us.
We flew Southwest Airlines which was fine, however I really don't like their boarding process. Parents traveling with little kids don't get to board first anymore. When it was our turn to board, we scrambled to find seats together for the eight of us and we held up the line while furiously trying to buckle in car seats and stow everyone's backpacks under the seat as if we were being timed. I don't know why they don't let families with little kids get on first to ensure they get seats together and to let them get situated before letting everyone else on.
Anyway, as we started to take off, Clay asked, "When is it going to start flapping?" He thought the wings of the plane moved like bird wings! After about three minutes in the air, he announced, "I want to go down now." I quickly grabbed out the portable DVD player I borrowed from my sister and bil and wouldn't you know - I either didn't charge it like I thought I did, or I inadvertently turned the power on after charging it and drained the battery. Anyway, it didn't work. The kids were all awesome on the plane despite the lack of movies. They hardly made a peep the whole ride and I needn't have worried anyway because there were several kids on the plane and even if mine had been loud, they would've blended in with the others.
We arrived in not-so-sunny Florida, got our nice 15 passenger van, and headed to the Marriott Grande Vista. Our hotel room was amazing! It was bigger than our house. Literally! It had three big bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, 2 sitting areas, 3 TVs, and 2 balconies overlooking some beautiful pools! On the dining room table was a "Welcome to Florida" note along with a gift basket full of goodies, snacks, bottles of water, candy, and a disposable camera. There were stuffed dolphins, whales, and Elmos for all 6 kids. There were Discovery Cove hats and Shamu backpacks for each of the kids as well. WOW!
(The view of the pools from our balconies)
The kids immediately changed into swimsuits and we went down to the pool where five of them swam. The sixth one spent most of his vacation looking for lizards which apparently run rampant in Florida.
(Jackson's new friend "Can we bring him home please?")
We met Angie, her husband and adorable little girls at the hotel and we all ate outside at the poolside bar and grill. The weather couldn't have been more perfect! I'm ready to move! That's where the toothless man with a beer in one hand, a bird in the other and poop down his back met us. :)
(Me and Angie from Mamaslike)
(The hotel bird-man)
This is the day we went to Discovery Cove. From the pictures, I knew we would like this place, but I had no idea we'd love it so much. Of course, we were given the total VIP treatment, but looking around it was easy to see that all guests were really catered to and pampered. When we first got there, we met our guide June, a wonderful, sweet woman who hails from Georgia and has the quintessential genteel southern drawl. She escorted us to where the breakfast buffet was located and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast outside in cloudy, but perfectly comfortable, warm weather.
(The gang with June, our guide extraordinaire)
After breakfast, we were fitted with wetsuits.
So June holds up this wetsuit that I think will fit my 6 year old perfectly. She tells me that it's for me. I eye the suit. I look at June. You have got to be kidding me.
It took me 45 minutes, but I squeezed into the wetsuit and walked outside to be laughed at by the world. June took one look and said, "I think that one is too big. Try this one."
Too big?!?!?! Well, I somehow managed to squish myself into the smaller size, walked outside and informed June that I would be definitely be needing the jaws of life to get out of the tight fitting garment.
After we were all outfitted in our snazzy wetsuits, we walked over to our private, secluded cabana which was surrounded by tropical foliage. It was filled with sand toys, lounge chairs, a table, canopy, plenty of towels, masks, snorkels, and a stocked refrigerator. WOW!
(Our private cabana - note the dune buggy stroller!)
(The view of the dolphin pools from our cabana)
In our cabana we met a two toed sloth named Lucky. No kidding he's lucky. He gets to live in paradise with his girlfriend sloth, he's fed lettuce and carrots every day, and he only needs to come down from the trees to poop once every two weeks! Imagine the time we could save if we only needed to use the bathroom once every two weeks!
(All of us with Lucky the sloth and a sweet girl from Discovery Cove)
Saying goodbye to the sloth, we headed over to watch a short video in preparation for our dolphin encounter. This part was amazing!
All of us (Jackson's behind Brooklyn) petting the dolphin
(Me kissing Natasha, the dolphin)
(Austin with the dolphin)
(Lexi kissing the dolphin)
(Joe and Jackson with the dolphin)
(Savannah swimming with Natasha)
(me swimming with the dolphin)
We also got to hand feed sting rays while wading in a pool with them. We snorkeled with tropical fish and rays in a coral reef, and we swam and floated in a lazy river of warm, freshwater. The river meandered through Discovery Cove. It ran through the aviary, home to tons of exotic birds. The river drifted by waterfalls, beautiful plants and trees and even through a cave. It was so relaxing that Brooklyn fell asleep while floating!
(Sleeping on the lazy river)
Here she is sleeping again. This time she fell asleep after Savannah fed her some chocolate cake.
(Note the puddle of chocolate drool)
Speaking of chocolate cake - the food was delicious there! I had yummy, yummy lobster salad on a buttery croissant and Joe is still talking about the salmon he had for lunch! The cool thing about Discovery Cove is that it's all-inclusive. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and drinks including Anheuser Busch beverages, are included in your admission. You don't need to bring money for anything but souvenirs. And unlike many parks, there are not souvenirs stands and shops every five feet at Discovery Cove.
I really hadn't planned on writing tons about Discovery Cove, but I was honestly so impressed that I just had to share. The people there totally take care of you. I don't remember the numbers, but there's a really high staff to guest ratio so there is always a staff member nearby ready to help in any way they can. Every time I walked into the bathroom, there was an attendant sweeping the floors so they were dry and sand-free, or emptying bins of washcloths used to dry hands, or stocking more towels, or filling dispensers with Crabtree and Evelyn shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. Every time I walked with one of my kids to the snack shop, a friendly person greeted us and offered drinks, hot pretzels, animal crackers for the baby, or other yummy snacks. The life guards stationed all around the water were attentive and friendly, offering to take pictures of us with our cameras. This place gets an A+ for service, atmosphere, food, and overall experience!
We started the day bright and early at breakfast with Elmo and friends at Sea World.
(The gang with Bert and Ernie)
(Me and Cookie Monster, the character I can most relate to!)
(The gang with Elmo)
(Us with the Count)
After breakfast we went to a seal show where we got separated from Lexi. We found her just a minute later, but she very upset and cried for some time. :( We walked over to a ride called Journey to Atlantis after the seal show. I went on the ride with Austin, Savannah, Jax, and Lex. Lexi did not like it. At all. She started crying about halfway through the ride and didn't stop for the next half hour. Every time she even looked at the ride, she started crying again. Note to self - in the future, even though Lexi insists she wants to go on a ride, do NOT let her go!
(Journey to Atlantis ride)
We met Angie at Sea World and hung out for a bit while our little ones went on some kiddie rides in Shamu's Happy Harbor. This sign cracked me up. I know you can't read all of them, but do you see how many rules there are for going on this ride?
(I think there are 11 rules for going on this ride)
(this one especially cracked me up - "You must not ride if you are unable to understand safety procedures.")
OK all those rules and regulations were for THIS ride. It's a boat that rocks gently rocks back and forth .
(while I was watching the kiddos on some rides, Joe sat down with Brooklyn to try and get her to take a nap. Uh huh. WHO'S taking a nap?)
(Shamu up close and personal while we had dinner behind the scenes of the Shamu show, which by the way, has a really yummy bananas foster - the dinner, not the show)
Oh yeah - if you choose to sit in the "soak zone" at the Believe show with Shamu, you WILL get wet. Even if you're sitting at the very back of the "soak zone" twelve rows up! Trust me.
Oh and if you need medical help while at Sea World, just head over to Key West and the sting ray pool. First Aid is located right behind there. Skipping across a bridge that was slippery and wet from the rain, Clay fell and bit through his lip, bruising the gum around his tooth at the same time.
(this picture doesn't do it justice. It was nasty.)
(nighttime view from our room. We didn't want to leave.)
As I was taking a shower the night before we left, the kids came and started banging on the bathroom door. I ignored the banging and finished showering. When I got out, the kids ran to me and said, "Austin threw up!"
Let me get this straight. Austin threw up, so you thought it would be a good idea to bang on the bathroom door while I was in the shower? Did you think I was going to run out in the middle of my shower, dripping wet, shampoo in my hair, to clean up his barf? Have you ever seen me clean up barf? Ever?
Actually, Austin got sick in the garbage can and Joe took care of it. He continued to get sick all night. Lexi was also up all night with a fever, crying that her ears hurt. Unfortunately her ear drum ruptured on the way home. I took her to the doctor to get some antibiotics and ear drops. I took Savannah to the doctor again because, despite the antibiotics she started the day before we left, her ears are still infected too. I think Austin's done throwing up and Clay's lip is less swollen today. I have to laugh at those things. It just wouldn't be a Meehan vacation if stuff like that didn't happen.
Oh and on the way home, while in line to pass through security, we realized we'd left the car seats sitting at the ticket counter. Joe offered to run back and get them. Guess who went through security with all the kids again. I'm beginning to think he may have left the seats behind on purpose. ;)
We had the most wonderful time! Everything was awesome! The kids were great the whole time. I was really proud of them. It's amazing what a change of scenery can do for a person. They didn't misbehave at all. Of course, they were on a vacation of a lifetime and they (WE ALL) enjoyed every minute of it. I only wish we'd had more time to spend there.