Monday, February 24, 2014

and then it rained

Last week we spent back in St. Augustine with Char's mom.  There's a good chance we won't see her for a year or so, so we decided to head back there on our way back up to northern Florida.

It rained.
We stayed inside.
This is a very exciting blog.
The taxes are done.
Lots and lots of laundry is done.
We moved to Topsail Preserve State Park on the Florida Panhandle over the weekend.
It rained.
We watched "Because of Winn-Dixie," because we'd shopped at the Winn-Dixie.
We rode our scooters out to the ocean, through the rain, to celebrate a break in thunderstorms.
And today, it stopped raining!

Before we left Ohio, my husband had been saying he felt like we were too busy.  It's true, as we all know, that by the time the kids spend the day at school, they get home and you spend time helping each of them with homework, attend practices, games, and go to meetings, life feels pretty busy and crazy.  It was pretty much okay with me, as I like busy and crazy.  However, to appease my husband, I'd been trying to cut back on the "crazy."

I knew this trip would be interesting, as there would be no homework that needed to be done, no practices, no games, and no meetings.  It's just our family.  We go on adventures together at lunch times, and adventures again after work and school in the afternoon.  It's been really nice, and it will be a tough transition back to the crazy and busy American life we all lead when we settle somewhere again.
However, it rained.  When it rains, there's no lunchtime adventures, no late afternoon adventures, and a lot of thoughts on my part about how nice it would be to take the kids to a practice and let some coach run out their energy while I sat and chatted with a friend.  There's nice things about the crazy-busy life, especially when it rains.

But, we made it through the rain, and here are some pictures.

This campground is full of great scooter paths.  This particular path was under at least 6 inches of water for 20 feet.  I've never seen such joyous scootering as I watched my kids try to create high-speed splashes through this river-path.  Char and I probably enjoyed it just as much as they did.  :)

The beach here is wonderful.  We love the mile scooter ride out to it, and then the sand is the whitest, and the water the blue-est, of any beach we've visited on this trip.  The boardwalk over the dunes, the heated pool, shuffleboard, playground, and basketball hoop are nice, too.  As for a beach vacation - this seems to be a great spot!  The beach is open and beautiful, empty of developments.  Topsail Preserve State Park - remember it if you want a nice beach camping spot!

At the beach, there were more effects of the rain.  A new, temporary creek had been created by it all, and fish were floating down into the ocean.  Here, our kids are "fishing," by scooping up fish with their hands.  They put them in "Fish Adventure Park," to keep these freshwater fish out of the ocean.  It was a fun time!

Scootering through a river-sidewalk and creating Fish Adventure Park.  Good things result from the rain, even if I had been grumpy that our adventures had been limited to laundry.

Leviticus 26:4  "I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Adventures of Canoe-y Baby

Meet Canoe-y Baby.

The youngest Utter has a baby for almost every occasion, and they are all appropriately named.  For example, Swim-y Baby came with us over the weekend when we went to swim at Rainbow Springs.  There are a lot of springs here in Florida, and they are very fun for swimming.  Some look like a big, clear, natural pool, like this one:

Although the weather wasn't the warmest, the five oldest members of the family jumped in the water to enjoy the spring.  It was fun to swim out to the middle of the "pool" area, over the spring, and feel how the water was warmer there, where it comes bubbling out of the rock.

We also did some hiking at Rainbow Springs, and it was beautiful.  I love waterfalls!  (Hmm.  Maybe we need to get a baby named Waterfall Baby!)

But, back to Canoe-y Baby.  This week we are camping in Chassahowitzka River Campground, and so Canoe-y Baby has been very busy in the S.S. Utter.  We are making the most of our lunch breaks every day to do some good canoeing.

We got to paddle out to a little cove off of the main river and float for a bit.  This particular cove is known for the manatees that like to hang out there.  As we waited to find a manatee, one swam over by us and put his nose up so close to me in the S.S. Utter that I could feel his breath.  IT WAS THE COOLEST THING EVER!!!  (Canoe-y Baby thought his breath smelled bad, but how how cool to be close enough to the manatee to notice that!)  There is something so wonderful about being so close to such a huge, but gentle, creature!

Char, B, and E all got to reach out and pet the two manatees that were swimming with us.  Then, one of the manatees got underneath the S.S. Utter and took us for a ride, by pushing up on our boat with her back, and swimming under us.  This day may end up being one of my favorite memories of this whole trip.  Another person who was also floating in the cove in a canoe told us that the manatee must have thought there was something tasty on the bottom of our boat, as she was nibbling on it.  Canoe-y Baby found this a little disturbing, as the S.S. Utter is an inflatable canoe, but it was still the best experience!

On a different lunch break, we paddled the opposite direction on the river.  Paddling this way takes you to the "Seven Sisters," or seven springs that are close together.  These springs look completely different than the spring we visited over the weekend.  The river is about knee-deep, but then there are sudden holes, maybe 7 feet in diameter, and 10 feet deep, and you can see water bubbling up to the surface from them.  They were really special to canoe around and examine.  Then, the five oldest members of the family again jumped out of the S.S. Utter and into the springs.  It was amazing.  So clear!  Several of the springs are connected by underground tunnels, and it is possible to swim through the caves from one spring to another.  We did not do this.  Canoe-y Baby was a little concerned because of the signs saying that people had died attempting this underground swim, but we had a great time jumping into the springs!

Okay, so it's really hard for me to get good in-the-water pictures.  Trust me that this spring looked awesome!  (You can barely see the circle with the more turquoise water in it.)

If anyone likes to kayak or canoe, or in general loves the water or manatees, we highly recommend Chassahowitzka River Campground!!  Go there!  :)

It would be nice if this were the end of Canoe-y Baby's adventures for the week, but it was not.  Before dinner, all the family members were told to go wash their hands.  One family member forgot to turn off the water in the bathroom sink and flooded the bathroom.  That was a little more excitement than we needed.  None of the children would admit to doing this, but finally, the littlest Utter confessed on behalf of her baby.  Guess who flooded the bathroom?

Yep, it was Canoe-y Baby.  Hmm.  Canoe-y Baby's mama has now been educated in the importance of turning off faucets.  There will be no photos of this, as we'd prefer to forget the whole thing.

We hope that you have been having a great week, and that wherever you are, your dolls have been well-behaved.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

a year of juvenile diabetes

One year ago today, my second son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  The best advice I got from another diabetic during the year is to not allow diabetes to define my son.  He is my son who enjoys playing soccer, tae kwon do, and likes writing books for his sister.  I will always pray most that he becomes a strong Christian man of God, and I'm enjoying seeing his personality develop in that direction.  He also has diabetes, but that does not define him, and I don't talk or write about it much.

However, today is the one year anniversary of his diagnosis, and it's on my mind.  I think a lot of people don't understand the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, so if anyone's reading this, I'd like to clarify.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own pancreas until it no longer produces any insulin.  More exercise or a more healthy diet will not change type 1 diabetes.  It's very serious, and he needs to be injected with insulin four times per day.  You can't take a pill of insulin, because insulin is a protein and the body would digest it.  These are all facts, but you know the part of type 1 diabetes that hurt me the most to realize?  If there were a national disaster or some problem where we could not get him injectable insulin, he would die in under 3 days.  It still makes me tear up to type that.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't function as efficiently.  It can sometimes be controlled with better diet, exercise, and pills to help the pancreas function properly.

There have been a bunch of people who've asked me something like now that E has diabetes, will I have my family stop drinking so much pop.  They've never had pop except for birthdays.  Does that sound defensive?  I'm sorry.  I know people always mean well and are concerned about him, and I appreciate that.  If you want to ask me that kind of question, I'll just smile, but I kind of always wanted to clarify.  :)

So, what are we doing on the anniversary of E's diabetes diagnosis?  My friend celebrated her son's one year diagnosis by getting him a puppy.  Sounds like such a fun idea!  But, I don't want one more thing living in our 40 foot 5th wheel!  So, I'm celebrating it quietly.  I'm not even going to tell him, and he won't read this blog, because I don't want diabetes to define him.  He's happily playing right now, and that's what I want!

Quietly, on my own, I'll be spending some weeks praying for E, praying for our family, and praying about the direction God has for our family.  I had our lives so planned out before this diagnosis.  Now I'm understanding that planning our lives is not my responsibility, it's God's.  It's time to surrender my plans again and listen to God again.  I think this camping trip is part of that process, and who knows where God will lead.  I can smile as I look over at my E, know what a blessing he is, and know that God is caring for him and for our family.  We are safe in the plans of God.  A year of juvenile diabetes has taught me that.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Life in an orange grove

Greetings from an orange grove!  When we started this trip, I had the idea that I'd sometimes like to camp in non-campgrounds, just to experience life around the country better than always being with tourists.  Camping in an orange grove seemed like a great place to do this!  My brother and his wife had picked oranges in Florida and made it sound like something we must do.  My brother likes orange groves so much that he came to visit us here, and it was great to see him!  As I'm typing, I can smell orange blossoms and campfire smoke.  It's a nice combination!

We got to pick our own oranges.  Apparently, the regular workers can harvest a big orange tree in 10-15 minutes.  It took us 2 hours to fill up our bag, but the oranges are delicious!

The particular orange grove we're staying at has 2900 acres of farm, and they do eco-tours of the farm, Florida scenery and wildlife on these huge monster trucks.

Our three boys could not have been happier, because part way through the tour, the guide allowed each of them to drive the monster truck in an open field.  They would like you to know that they drove the world's biggest monster truck.  It had been made from a school bus.

For those of you who think I can't write a blog without including alligators…  our tour guide talked a lot about wrestling alligators and having a finger bitten off.  Our daughter thought she'd see what would happen with an alligator and her head.   Here is the mandatory alligator picture for the week:

This week was full of favorite adventures for our kids, as we also went to Legoland.  My parents had been nice enough to give us our tickets for Christmas.  Our kids were absolutely thrilled!  They had fun rides for each age - B loved the roller coasters and the littler ones had a great time with the more lego-themed rides.  It was also great to see all the things you can make with legos.  We saw the fort in St. Augustine that we'd toured a few weeks ago made out of legos, and we saw a lego space shuttle blast off.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!

I guess this isn't a very deep blog - just everyday life in an orange grove!  We hope you're enjoying your everyday life, and we hope that you all have a good weekend!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

of dreams and wombats

My college roommate sent me a link to a video of an adorable wombat.  I loved seeing it and having it remind me of one of the world's best college professors, and it also made me want to go to Australia, and find a similarly adorable wombat.  Our kids were watching the video with me, and I asked them, "How would you like to go travel around Australia when we're done traveling around the U.S.?"  They said that would be fine, and I promptly forgot the conversation and went to work tidying the camper and getting ready for the day.

I went back to the kids a half hour later, and our youngest three were discussing what they'd do on the really long flight to Australia, what time of year we should go in order to avoid Australia's more dangerous exotic animals, and how they were going to play with whatever wombat they'd see.  It was great!  I hadn't been serious at all.

It's interesting, there have been years when my husband and I have dreamed of doing a bunch of things, but never did any of them.  Lately, though, it seems the crazy ideas and dreams we've had, we're doing.  Now that we've sold the house and are traveling around the country in a 5th wheel, our kids apparently think we're just crazy enough that they'd better start preparing for Australia.  I like, though, that they take our ideas and dreams seriously, and consider them reasonably likely to happen.

How often do we act on our dreams?

Here's an example of a dream we almost didn't do.  It includes trip pictures, if you were waiting for them.  When planning this trip, we'd wanted to see Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys.  However, all those really southern campgrounds were booked, and so we only had one weekend to try to see both of those major destinations.  It was a lot of driving, and I wasn't sure it was worth it, but we decided to go anyway, and this last weekend, we spent Saturday at the Everglades.  It was really, really neat to see, and definitely worth the crazy schedule and lots of driving.  Here are some pictures:

boys with the Everglades welcome sign
view from the trail
with an anhinga as an honorary family member
some trails looked more like a jungle than a swamp

Then on Sunday, we spent the day in the Florida Keys.  Again, it was a fantastic day!  Here are some pictures of John Pennekamp State Park:

warm enough to swim, but the broken coral pieces were pretty sharp!

And some pictures of feeding tarpon:

See the fish in E's hand?
It was so fun to watch these huge tarpon jump out of the water to eat the little fish

And pictures of the local library.  Every library should have a little beach!  This beach includes mangrove trees!

The Keys were different than we expected.  It was harder to find the "treasures" of what to do.  There's a lot of restaurants, bars, hotels and souvenir shops, but the beautiful places can be found, and our family loved exploring by the water!

Now we're back "home" at our camper in Fisheating Creek.  The kids were a little afraid of the gators, so we never did get to take our the S.S. Utter.  You wouldn't think that this would seem safer to them, but we have weird kids.
Y gets helped up to the rope swing
E hangs on tightly
B swings out over the gators - I mean lake
Char shows what a running leap will do with a rope swing

It was fantastic!

For us, it was a week full of acting on dreams we've had.  I'm so thankful to have had the opportunities!

Dreams.  Fun things we've desired.  Everglades.  Florida Keys.

Dreams.  Things God dreams for us.  An extended camping trip, and time to invest in our family.  Time to work and grow, love Him and love each other.

Dreams.  What are your dreams?  What are God's dreams for you and your life?  Are you following them?