Friday, March 30, 2018

Surprise Easter Egg Snack

This is pretty simple stuff: grab those plastic Easter eggs you keep year after year or head to the store to buy all new. Your choice, but you need the eggs to put fun, small snack items into. This year in our "surprise egger snacks" (as the kiddos called it) we had cut up strawberries, Goldfish crackers, cereal (sugar cereal at that. Big deal around here), and jelly beans (it is the Easter season after all). Close the eggs, put on a child's plate, and let them open them to discover what's inside.

There's always some confusion at first about whether it's okay to actually eat what's inside the eggs, but after reassuring them it was a-okay, it was a really fun snack time!

Some other ideas to put in the eggs (that we've done in the past):
  • Cut up grapes
  • Baby carrots (this only works if you use large plastic eggs, not medium or small sizes. Speaking from experience on that one)
  • Blueberries
  • Pepper dices
  • Small raspberries
  • Cheerios
  • Peas
  • M&M's
  • chocolate chips
  • Puffs
  • Yogurt melts
  • Marshmallows

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

TWO National Parks In One Day

Day #2 in Miami was all about National Parks (our favorite)! Miami is lucky enough to be in close proximity to TWO National Parks: Everglades and Biscayne. We decided to tackle both parks in one day, although I'll be upfront with you, we totally didn't get to explore Biscayne because 95% of the park is IN the water and we got to the Park late enough that we missed the last tour boat. However, we LOVED both parks and thoroughly enjoyed our time. 

The minis were such troopers on our trip, never once complaining about all of our drives and being on the go nonstop. I was feeling a bit guilty that we were spending another morning loading into the car to drive somewhere so I treated them to donuts. I avoid our DD's at home at all costs because I'm really not impressed with them, but we received such excellent costumer service and decent food that we went back a second time (later in the trip). The minis were thrilled when I treated them to donuts for breakfast.

We then made the drive towards Everglades National Park. It wound up being about an hour drive from Miami due to traffic, but it was an easy, couple of turns type drive that was enjoyed while we spotted alligators on the side of the roads. Our first stop was Gator Park for an air boat tour of Everglades National Park. Gator Park is one of three boat tours that are allowed to go into the National Park. All of the other air boat tours go into the everglades (wetlands) but not the national park*.

* If you're confused by this, I'll inform you of what we learned: the Everglades technically start up in Orlando and go as far as the Keys. The National Park is only a small part of that. If you're planning an Everglades air boat tour, I encourage you to book with one of the three approved companies as the NP receives money from them for each ticket booked.

We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do an air boat tour. I chose Gator Park because of their gator show afterwards (we figured the kids would enjoy it). We were completely impressed with the tour and the knowledge of our guide. We saw more wildlife on our air boat tour and walking through the Everglades during our six hour visit that we did in our week at Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Big Sky, MT.

Elizabeth got all of the gear: a life jacket and ear phones, while the rest of us got ear plugs to wear when the boat got up to higher speeds.

He still lets me love on him every so often.

As we were sitting in the boat waiting to leave the dock, we saw birds, turtles, and alligators. There were alligators everywhere! The creepiest thing of all was watching them slither themselves into the water and hearing that plop! Then not knowing where they were. Talk about a mini panic attack. Oddly, when they would pop us next to us in the water or as we walked through the National Park later in the morning, that didn't seem as creepy.

Our guide actually got into the water! Without knowing what was in that water. He told us to feel free to touch the water (we weren't allowed to get in obviously). I opted out of that one, but each mini fearlessly stuck their hand in.

After the Everglades tour, we got to see a gator show. Yes, that's a scorpion in my face. Basically, it was a trainer feeding the alligators and telling us about them. We learned a lot of interesting facts about them.

When we were done with our airboat tour and show, we drove down the highway a bit further to go to Everglades National Park. We went to Shark Valley visitors center to look into a tram (check this out), but decided against it to walk on the trail for a bit. Though we didn't get to the lookout tower (obviously), we did get to see plenty of interesting while we walked.

Initially I was disappointed about missing out on the tram to the lookout tower, but in the end, I'm really glad we chose to walk to get us up close to things. While at the visitors center, we learned more about the Everglades. It was then we regretted not leaving a full day for this park. There's the wetlands/swampy portion of the park (which we saw) and also the salt water portion (the part in the ocean and along the coast). We are slightly regretting we didn't leave time for the salt water portion of the park, but either way, we were not disappointed in Everglades National Park at all (and we only saw a small portion of it!).

Standing next to the National Park sign, trying to get everyone situated, Harrison says (a bit too calmly for my liking), "there's an alligator right by you mom." Yep, there was an alligator right by me. That was a regular occurrence throughout the day. As we learned on our boat tour, alligators are more likely to run from you, while crocodiles are more likely to run at you. We only came across one croc during our time and that was down in Key Largo (two days later).

Again, super friendly tourists around. Whenever anyone saw us taking a selfie, they'd come up to us, arm extended, and ask, "do you want me to take the picture for you?" We never once had to ask anyone at all on this trip. 

As we walked along the trail we kept our eyes open for alligators (they were all over the trail) and noticed shells scattered along the sides of the trail. We wondered what they were. Once we were back at the visitors center, we learned they were snail shells. So cool! We also saw some of the damage done to the Everglades by Hurrican Irma. 

Sweet silly boy.

There were alligators all over the canals from our drive to Miami into the Park and then from Everglades National Park to Biscayne National Park.

Then for my favorite drives of our entire trip: the back roads, highway driving from Everglades to Biscayne (and Biscayne back into Miami). We came upon all of the fruit and tree farms in the area. There were fruit carts on the side of the roads and we were able to get a first hand look at all of the farms.

Biscayne was a last minute decision because the minis wanted the ocean, but we knew beaches in Miami close early. Well, as it turns out, Biscayne National Park closes at 5:30 p.m. as well, but we got our toes wet and some great underwater views. We were limited to what we could do here anyways because of the minis. 95% of Biscayne is, well, underwater or only accessible by kayak, boat, canoe, etc. It made it a tad difficult to do with younger kids in tow, but as usual with national parks, gorgeous and has such a cool history.

The visitors center and the Park employee was a wealth of knowledge about the park, especially for people who didn't get to fully explore it.

We totally saw a few manatees swimming in the water along side us as we walked the only trail in the park.

Crystal clear waters and coral reefs. So cool and beautiful. I really wish we had gotten to do some snorkeling here.

Our drive back to the house took us through gorgeous Coral Gables. We took a moment to look at the beautiful houses and mansions in the area. I am in love with that area.

Another full, fun day in Florida it was! Bedtime didn't come quite as easily because not only were the minis wound up from a successful day of seeing wildlife (they could not stop talking about the alligators that were within an arms reach), but we were all super excited for the next leg of our crazy road trip: driving the Florida Keys!

The middle minis is always the one to read bedtime stories to the other two.