MODS = Amazing!!

We highly recommend The Museum of Discovery!! As I stated in the last post, if you have a membership to your local Science Museum you should check out the Passport Program that allows you to get into museums around the USA for free or reduced rates. In this case we got 2 people in for free.

This place is sooo cool!! You could easily spend 2-3 days here. The main floor starts out with an explanation about the Everglades, when and how they started to be destroyed by humans, what the results have been, and how Florida is dedicated to reviving this important place.

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A Change of Plans – Again! MODS, Water Trolleys, Iguanas and the Beach!

This change of plans seems to be a regular thing for us. Sometimes we are disappointed, but that doesn’t seem to last long since we always seem to be blessed in some way, or happy we changed plans.

Today we had planned to go to the Museum of Discovery (MODS) and then to a State Park. We, of course, got a little later start than I wanted. And I forgot  to look up where to park. We happened upon an amazingly lovely area, by accident, and I could pay to park by phone. And I was pretty sure it was one of the areas we could catch the FREE Water Trolley that goes up and down New River.

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Huck explained how we ended up here. It was kind of desperation. We just needed to fill in the gap between Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. It was in the middle of nowhere, but it was cheap and we needed a rest, and to catch up on laundry and school.

The owner was super nice on the phone, but he warned there wasn’t a playground or anything for kids. He said his 4 year old was the only kid, but I saw at least 6 kids while we were there. The reason I bring this up is there is a FB page for Full Time Families and people are constantly posting about the RV Parks, especially in Florida and other snow bird states that don’t allow kids, or they charge “kid tax.”  One place we considered was going to charge $7/kid, but that is the only time we’ve run into that so far thank goodness!

As we got closer to the Villa Margaret I got nervous. There were a lot of feedlots. And then we passed a juvenile detention center. Oh boy, what did I get us into?  Luckily there was a river separating us (honestly it wouldn’t have done much good.) And it was only 2 nights.

We entered the RV park and it didn’t look too bad. I saw a couple of food trucks and I did wonder for a minute if this was the off season housing for carnies or something. In actuality, they currently have a lot of people who work for Florida Power living in this park (thus the kids I saw). Also, they had been very affected by the flooding 3 weeks back. That is why there was an opening. They had even had to turn people away. The ground we parked on was very soft. I just prayed for no more rain. 🙂 Huck referenced the grumpy old man who was a resident, but NOT the owner. In some ways the guy was right with what he said about where we parked – IF we were going to stay long term and IF we had a longer water hose. It was a great lesson in asking questions so you understand what needs to be done and why before you boss people around. 🙂 Luckily he didn’t live too near us.

As I drove away to go to the store I noticed a HUGE bird in the yard across the drive from us. The lawn was very decorated with lots of lovely plants and flowers. At first I thought it was a lawn ornament – like the big plastic flamingos you see. Then I realized it was walking around! I called Huck and told the kids to go check it out. It was very cool!

Our neighbor

After Disney and Universal Studios we were tired and just needed to veg and relax so we didn’t check out the area. I was actually wondering why so many snow birds would choose this area to stay. It was not impressive on our way in. AFTER we left I found out we were right above the 2nd largest fresh water lake (in the US?). There is also a state park and a historical site there. I think there is actually quite a lot to see in the middle of the state, oh well we cannot do it all. As we were getting ready to leave we looked at the river that was literally across the driveway from us. And Caden spotted an alligator in the water! A Big one too! Sadly he was shy and swam away before we could really study him.

Overall, it was great. It was quiet and peaceful and the people, except one, were all very very kind.

Pretty Pretty Princesses

Mission – Find the Magic

Today’s mission as declared by Brielle – meet as many princesses as we can find! Meanwhile, the boys are finding their own magic in Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. You should have seen the strategy sessions going on last night designing plan A and plan B in order to maximize rides for the boys and princess meet and greets for the girls.

With one vehicle and two locations the plan: Brielle and I drop off the boys at Universal and then head to the Magic Kingdom and hope we get there as close to opening as possible. In the end, no worries – we even got to help open the park 15 min early! Yay!

So many things I didn’t know. The park opens at 8:45, not 9 like they advertise. I didn’t find out until 2 days ago that I could have booked Fast Passes up to 30 days ago. Well that made me panic a little thinking the princess FP were all gone. The line for Elsa was an hour long the other day, so of course I tried to get a Fast Pass for Elsa. No luck. (Luckily I found out while in line that a lady tried to get FP 30 days ago and couldn’t) Ok, plan B. We ran straight to Elsa and bingo – the line was only 15 min long! And we got to see both Elsa and Anna! The day started out awesome and only got better! While standing in line I realized we didn’t have an autograph book – doh! Of course in the gift shop AFTER we met the princesses we bought one. Why didn’t that catch our attention the other night when Brielle was shopping??

We decided it was worth standing in line again to get the autograph of Elsa and Anna, even if it meant an hour wait. Luckily, I mentioned it to a cast member and she told me they could take the book back and have it signed so we didn’t have to stand in line again! We didn’t get to go in again, but atleast she got the signatures! Whew.

Brielle and Elsa    Brielle and Anna

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Ellie Schiller – A Day Filled with Wonderful Surprises!!

(I thought I had published this blog post. I’m taking you back in time!)

Several people had recommended we go to Ellie Schiller and based on the website and the brochure I saw it was definitely on our agenda.

It did not disappoint – in fact it far exceeded all our expectations. I think we were all a little worried after yesterday and only seeing one manatee at Three Sisters. We didn’t know exactly what to expect at Ellie Schiller. From the website and brochure it seemed like it might be kind of like a zoo, but it was a preserve, and so far, at most preserves we had seen a few birds and not much else.

Ellie Schiller did start out as an attraction. Then the state of Florida bought it and decided to make it into a wildlife preserve. They gave any non-native animals to other zoos, etc. The only non-native animal that is still there is Lu the Hippo. Everyone loved Lu and petitioned for him to stay. The Governor made Lu an official Florida resident so that he could remain at Ellie Schiller. Other animals are here because they were injured or abandoned as babies and couldn’t be released for some reason. They do not breed here, but if nature happens, then an occasional baby is born.

Our first surprise came because we drove to a different entrance than I had planned. I’m so thankful for that mistake – it meant we got a free boat ride to the park and we learned about Anhingas and the Homossassa area and native people on the way!
Happy sailors   Me and Brie

There are educational programs at certain times throughout the day, so much like our visit to the Zoo, I kept watch of the schedule so we could see and experience as much as possible in one day. 🙂

First off the Wildlife encounter. We were all surprised to learn about opposums! They are so interesting and cute! There were gators – lots of gators! And we learned so much about them in another ranger session. Actually it made sense why we haven’t seen that many. They are resting during the winter season and do not eat (in fact can die if they eat below a certain temperature.) And they don’t move around much during the cold.

We loved this presentation   Its a gator!

Another section had birds galore! So many different types of cute owls and hawks. I wish we had taken more pics. We did take quite a few pics of the water fowl being fed – that was entertaining!! There was a reptile building.  A cute otter and a couple bears were in another area of the preserve. One visitor was particularly loud and she thought she could get the bear to come (which it did) and sit (which it didn’t). Even Brielle could tell the lady was annoying the bear.

The manatees were neat. We saw a ranger session feeding the 2 manatees that are permanent residents. (There used to be 3, but sadly one passed away.) We decided to eat lunch at this pavilion on the other side of the park. I’m so glad we did! There is a covered dock there and we were able to observe probably a dozen WILD manatee over the course of 30-45 minutes. It was so fun to see them! Some were alone, most were in groups of 2-3. One looked like a baby, mama and dad. We were so excited! And it made up for yesterday’s disappointment. It was so neat to see the kids fascinated by these creatures.

This was such a fun day learning a lot about animals we didn’t know much about! And, like most other places, the rangers are passionate about their job, the animals, and the area. Ask a question and the floodgates of information open!

Boat ride

Me and Brie

Happy sailors

Its a gator!

Cute kids and cute opossum

Opposum lecture

He is sorta cute

We loved this presentation

Gator presentation

What the?


Photo bomb

Reptile house



Rub rub rub

My girls!

Watching the birds


Bald eagle

Checking out the eagles


Lu the hippo

Watching Lu eat

Huck the volunteer

Brie and a manatee

Pelican with eggs




Three Sisters Springs and Fort Island

Our search for manatee was not as fruitful as we had hoped. But the sanctuary is GORGEOUS! I had done a little reading and followed some other people’s posts about manatees. I knew that they were most abundant in this area in January.

At some point I realized that once it got too warm/late we might not see the manatee. By the time I made that realization it was pretty much too late to do anything about our schedule except hope the manatee would still be around.

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Carrabelle – The Bottle House and the World’s Smallest Police Station

We chose to stop in this general area because Dacen wanted to try oysters and Huck heard that Apalachicola was the place to get them! Unfortunately I was told by a local that local oysters would be hard to find since there had been so much rain. Oysters filter 50 gallons of water/day! The salinity is constantly tested and monitored to make sure they are safe to eat. I was bummed since that was the biggest reason we stopped here. (The next day we learned just last week they were allowed to start farming local!)

Overall, there is not much to do in Carrabelle, unless you boat or fish, BUT the people are incredibly nice and friendly and there is a lot within 20-30 min! I went straight to the visitors center while the others checked out the beach across the street. The lady was super friendly and full of lots and lots of good info! Due to the weather forecast I decided we would do things around town the next day and then venture to beach areas after that.

We like to ride bikes and I was a little concerned about having the kids ride along the highway (speed limit 45mph) and over the bridge. The lady said it was safe and the shoulder on the bridge, unlike most we’ve seen, was actually HUGE. Brielle was worried she wouldn’t make it, but everyone did great!

We rode into town to see the 2 most interesting things – The World’s Smallest Police Station and the Bottle House. The Police station is a phone booth! Got a picture – mostly just a funny thing for the kids to see.

Very light inside  Officers B, C and D

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Oysters! And Sooo Much More!!

(As usual I’m posting this after the fact, so don’t get confused! I didn’t realize Huck was publishing the posts from this week already :))

Todays agenda: Tate’s Hell State Forest, Oysters and the Free Nature Center AND Apalachicola

Boy we packed a LOT into this day! At the end I’ll post Huck’s flikr album so you can see more of the pics.

The museum director told us that Lynn’s was the best place to get oysters. We decided to go there for lunch the next day. On our way we drove to the board walk in Tate’s Hell State Forest. There are acres of dwarf cypress trees. It is a mystery they haven’t solved. If you take a seed from one of these trees and plant them elsewhere the tree will be full sized. But not here. They are only about about 8 feet tall. And it is odd as we had driven through miles of pine forest and you can see the cypress are surrounded by pine forest. (Later someone told me there used to be a lot more cypress around until they got cut down.) There are supposed to be a lot of alligators in the waters under the board walk, but it must have been too cold for them as we didn’t see a sign of one anywhere. And we looked long and hard!

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Weathering the Storm – and Blessings in moving on too fast

Yikes! That was more excitement than I needed in one night! (And to explain our mental capacity or lack of: we had been up the night before with B whose final bout of sickness ended at 3:30am.) At 7pm Huck told me that there was a tornado warning. I looked it up and thought that’s fine, hopefully, surely we will have nothing to worry about. We’re right on the water -do tornadoes occur right on the water? We looked at the radar a couple times and it seemed like the worst and biggest part of the storm was past and the remaining bits would head north, so the storm would remain west of us. I had finally decided we were in the clear and we could rest easily. My head hit the pillow and minutes later our phones started going off and it was now “Extreme Alert – Tornado Warning in effect for the next 30 minutes or so.” Ok.

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