Finding Fun in Florida

  It's been a whirlwind month and the highlight was our trip to Florida.  While Papa K had been to Florida several times, Mama Juju & The Bugman were total newbies.  I had never set foot in the state or swam in the Atlantic Ocean.  And what an adventure we had!

  Our first three days were spent in St. Augustine enjoying the great combo of beach & historical sites.  I grew up on the Pacific coast, so I'm not so good at going to the beach and just staying there.  And we're all three very sun resistant, so the beach is an in and out activity.  This made St. Augustine a particularly good choice because we could spend part of each day doing different things and come back to the beach for a dip whenever we cared to.

  The middle three days were spent with Papa K at a conference while the Bugman and I gallivanted around central Florida.   Our first full day in the Orlando area was spent at Gatorland where we enjoyed both the alligators and the birds.  It was a hot, miserable morning, but the splash area and afternoon rain helped cool down both our bodies and tempers.  We ended up having a fantastic time.

 The following day we really went all out on the crazy adventure scheme.  A good friend from home was visiting her family in Florida near an attraction we really wanted to see:  The Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids!  First Bugman and I went to the springs state park where we not only saw the iconic mermaid show, but went on a remarkable boat ride where we were privileged to see birds and raccoons and an alligator and, most importantly, a manatee!  It was breathtaking and made me long to be one of the canoe paddlers on the spring.  This amazing morning was followed by a trip to Tarpon Springs, SPONGE CAPITOL OF THE WORLD!  Populated by Greek sponge fishermen, this little community is full of fantastic Greek restaurants (where we met our friend from home) and displays about the sponge trade.  It was hilarious and tasty and fun and, did we mention that it's also on the gulf so we also got to take a dip in the waters of the gulf.  First time in both the Atlantic and the Gulf.

Pretty good for one week!  But it wasn't over yet.

  Our final two days were spent with great old friends from college who teach at a college north of Orlando.  Avid birders, they were able to fill us in on lots of the species we couldn't identify and had that wonderful birder instinct that points out interesting birds wherever we went.  I was in heaven!  In addition to a tour of the area, lunch at the skydiving field (where they had actually jumped several years before!) and a fantastic concert, we spent some time just hanging out playing games and reacquainting ourselves.  It was a wonderful way to end the trip.

  On both ends we had long drives, but we pushed through in one day on the way home.  Papa K needed to get back to work on Monday morning and we just didn't want to cut our time short with our friends.  So 19 hours, one trip to the peach orchard & 3/4 of a long book on CD later we finally pulled back into the driveway of our cozy little home.  It was good to be back--just ask the cat--but we really had a fantastic trip.

I just can't express how much I love traveling with my family.  They are good travelers and good companions.  They both have good attitudes and bring fun, interesting ideas and perspectives to our travels.  Every trip makes me excited about the next one.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

Hannibal, MO--Mark Twain's Boyhood Home (and tasty Dinette)

The other day we spent the afternoon in what can only be called, super-cute Hannibal, MO.

In reality it was home and heart to Samuel Clemens, the writer Mark Twain.  Fictionally, it was the basis for Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher and Huck Finn and all the gang.  It's a cute tourist town with some sweet historical elements and on Thursday nights in the Summer they have concerts under the stars.  We watched a lovely blue-grass concert on the mall outside the Mark Twain Boyhood Home.

After a tour of the Mark Twain Boyhood home and the other historic buildings that make up the museum, the Fun Finding Family had dinner at the Mark Twain Dinette, home of the GIANT ROTATING ROOTBEER SIGN (insert monster-truck voice).  The Mark Twain Dinette inspired the Bug-man to compose a list of requirements for a dining establishment:  1. Homemade root beer 2.  Rotating sign  3. "Yummy food."  A fine list and not too much to ask.  Apparently the Mark Twain Dinette lived up to all three in his mind--he was particularly impressed by the tower of onion rings.

It was a lovely Summer outing--a little educational, a little kitschy and a lot of relaxing, down time for the family to share.

Fun in the Country


It's 9:00 am and so far this morning I've snuggled with my guys, made coffee & fixed bagels, done some bird-watching, oh yeah, and played with some chickens!  I know that it will soon be nearly 100 degrees, but right now it's cool and bright and the dew is still on the grass.  What a beautiful morning in the country.

We are profoundly lucky to have the opportunity to house-sit/camp/squat at some friends house this week.  We get a week of free camping out in the country with the added benefit of a house-full of amenities.  They get cat and chicken sitting.  I'm pretty sure we got the better end of the deal.  And we are deeply grateful.

Signing off now to go read on the porch or commune with the chickens or play down at the pond.   Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Home on the Range

Free Range Parenting.  It's a better name than what I used to call us:  Play-in-traffic parents.  Both Papa K & I have always felt comfortable letting the Bugman widely explore his world and push the envelope.  Now I know not everyone is comfortable with that style of parenting for themselves, and that's OK by me.  But I love allowing Bugman as much independence as possible.  Everyone has their own threshold, ours is just a little further out in traffic so to speak.
Today, for the second time, the Bugman rode his bike five blocks over to the local donut shop and bought us breakfast.  After picking out the donuts and making change, he strapped his bag to his back and proudly returned with snacks for us all.  He is so proud of his adventure.   I'm proud of him and us, as parents, and our wonderful neighborhood.  He gets to have a special relationship with the local shopkeepers.  He learns, in a safe neighborhood and on relatively calm streets, how to navigate the world.  I want him to know in his bones that even though bad things do happen, the world is generally safe and wonderful.  And the donuts are out there waiting for him.

Having Fun Planning for Fun

I'm usually the travel agent in our family.  I'm usually the one who figures out the best route & the options for lodging & how we can afford our adventures & all the crazy fun along the way.  Recently that has changed and I'm a little thrown off by the whole thing.

My husband has wanted to go to Yellowstone forever and several months ago he decided that we were going to go this fall.   I told him that if he could pitch it to me and prove that we could afford it, I was game.  So pitch and plan he did. I'm totally convinced and really psyched!  He's got a great schedule and really cool campgrounds, but it's just weird that I'm not the one bringing HIM the info and asking for opinions.  It's usually the other way around.  But with the heavy lifting of budget and route and schedule and lodging out of the way, I'm free to scour the travel books and internet for fun activities to slot into the itinerary.    I love research.  The planning and preparing for our adventures is such a big part of them for me.  I truly have as much fun planning as actually doing.  I just love knowing what's out there in the world.  And as usual, I'm struck by how much there is that looks fun and how little time we'll have.  Never enough time.

Now back to my part of the planning.

Ah memorial day

We almost never go camping on memorial day because it can be hot and horrible and filled with loud, drunk campers.
This year we have stayed home, generally speaking. Technically, we have probably spent more time driving to our various events than we would have if we went camping. But we've had some good fun. Bugman is a big fan of the musical OKLAHOMA, so on Friday we met another family and went to a production put on by teens & kids. Saturday there was a kid birthday party followed by the parent bbq with some new friends. That was a great opportunity to get to know the parents of some new kiddos who have been coming to our homeschool park days. It's always so exciting when new acquaintances emerge into friends. Some part of me is constantly surprised that I'm still so busy meeting new people and making new friends. I guess I thought that by my 40s that would have slowed down, but it's just not the case. New activities and interests and situations introduce new us to new people and the next thing you know, new friends!
     Sunday we spent the day at the Renaissance Faire. We almost skipped it. Had, in fact, decided that we weren't going to do it. And at the last minute we realized that it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Afterall, Bugman is studying the Renaissance in history right now. So we packed up the Bugman & swooped up his friend N and headed out to the hot and sweaty fields of play. The St. Louis Renaissance Faire is mostly a commercial venture, selling everything from fairy wings to steel blades, but there is a little history thrown in. We watched a joust, played with the animals in the petting area and had the boys knighted. Fun was had by all.

Much of this weekend's fun has been shared with one or more of the Bugman's friends--which got me thinking about how much I love having an only child AND having his friends over. It's the model I grew up on--I'm an only child who had parents who encouraged my friends to be a big part of my life. I love the way I interact with my one child AND the way we all interact when we have a housefull of kids. It feels like the best of both worlds. Or at least the right choice for us!

Happy Memorial Day to you all.

Welcome to the Fun Finding Family!

Who: Our little family of three--Papa K, Mama JuJu & The Bugman
What: Fun and learning. found with and without the help of our trusty trailer, The Fun Finder X
When: All the time!
Where: We're based in St. Louis, but our adventures take us far and wide.
Why: Adventuring? Because we all three love it! Blogging? To keep track and share our experiences.

First some history: a year and a half ago, for my 40th birthday, our family bought a small travel trailer. We already had a pick-up truck. We loved camping, but the erratic Missouri weather in Spring & Fall (and, if you ask my husband, the heat in the dead of Summer), make it hard to get a lot of tent-camping weekends in. So we found a used travel trailer, the FUN FINDER X, and began a new phase of our adventuring lifestyle. We've always been people who could find a good time, but the trailer has ramped up the fun and expanded the radius of our wandering. So far we've been on one long trip out to the Grand Canyon/Utah/Rocky Mountains, and many long weekend trips.
Our escapades are not confined to camping, however. We also travel with Papa K (usually without the FunFinder) when he heads places for work. And we find that we generally live our life with a spirit of adventure. We homeschool and consider traveling & exploring & adventuring an important part of learning.

Where will the Fun Finding Family go next?