Sunday, March 8, 2015

Clearwater, Florida (2/20-2/25/15)

My Mom, the kids and I went to Clearwater, Florida February 20-25.  For me, this meant long days in hotel conference rooms with an occasional escape to the (relative) warmth outside.  For them, it meant non-stop shell collecting, sand castle building, swimming, and just enjoying thawing out a bit.  We did have a couple days (Saturday and Wednesday) when I was able to join in the fun all day.  Since I had the hotel room anyway for my conference and flights were $150 out of Chicago, this was a total no-brainer in the midst of one of the coldest Februaries I can remember.   
Nedy was surprised to learn that children in Florida go to school when the weather is so beautiful.  I wonder how many Wisconsin kids think kids in warm climates just hang on the beach or at the pool all day, every day? 
These three are just a really good time.
Pirate Nana.  Aaaaargh.
Who doesn't love a good selfie?
"Look, Mama...I made a friend!"
This is the shot after I told Mom to stop looking sinister in every photo.  ;)
 Sometimes it's hard to believe my peanut is 7 already.
Nedy thoroughly checked every shell after accidentally bringing a few Florida
Fighting Conch back to the hotel with her the night before.  She collected enough
shells to bring back for her school class...they were all uninhabited, we hope...  
The marina is an exciting place.  Pelicans, egrets, and cranky fishermen. 
It was funny to watch the birds gather 'round and try to steal fish.
Kamron is an animal loving dude.  He hung around the pelicans talking to them,
asking them how they were doing and referring to them as "buddy"--super funny. 
They let him get quite close.  One time he got whacked with a running pelican's
wing and he thought that was absolutely hilarious.  Conversely, Nedy cowered and
screamed (a pitch not intended for human ears, mind you) when one swooped down
over her head.  In her defense, the thing was huge and resembled a pterodactyl. 
Little Toot is an awesome little restored 1970s tugboat that creates a wake that dolphins love to
play in.  We thought we'd give it a try.  Who doesn't like a tugboat ride in the Gulf of Mexico? 
Kam and Nana chilling out waiting for dolphins.
Still on the lookout...
Whoa!  Dolphins in the wild!  Sooooo cool. 
(And yes, I am pretty proud of that shot.)
The Jolly Trolley, our main mode of transportation around town.  
(Why do kids adore any form of transport that doesn't involve a seat belt?)  
At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium--you know, the home of Winter, the dolphin with a
prosthetic tail?  The Dolphin Tale movies put this very humble (think previous wastewater
treatment plant) aquarium on the map.  And now the aquarium is trying to catch up
to itself.  So, we saw the tailless dolphin from the top, because her tank is a big, ol'
concrete former wastewater treatment pool.  (Ummmm...yeah.  I'm glad they're building
a new aquarium right now.)  They have the most fantastic staff and amazing animals. 
We tried to feed the stingrays, but holding slimy fish between your fingers and allowing
a stingray to swim over your hand and suck it up is just...well, I dropped the fish
a couple times.  It's...unnerving.  I tried it so the kids would see me do it and hopefully
try it themselves.  Needless to say, my performance didn't instill confidence.   
"Did you take my picture hugging this giant turtle statue?"
A big highlight for future scientist Nedy was holding one of Winter's
prosthetic tails.  That rubber sock goes on her "stump" first and
protects her skin.  The kids found this absolutely fascinating.
Inspecting prosthetic dolphin tails is exhausting
(During this period, I found the Jolly Trolley particularly jolly.)
Nana is awesome because, among other things, she purchases
goofy hats for demanding children at the beach shop.
I think perhaps this is where the idea that Florida children must not go to school 
originated from.  She thought this was a superb way to spend a school day. 
These two (and their poolside Nana) spent 3-4 hours a day in the water.
Why aren't all pools salt water pools?   
We stayed at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort.  Lovely place.  Off the beaten
path with a gorgeous white sand beach.  It was really a great place for both
conferencing and tagging along!  (And yes, we are now the proud owners
of not one, but two tailless plush dolphins.  Good times.)
Kamron has an appropriate reaction to creepy things and creepy people.
For this, I am thankful.
Good times in Clearwater!  The kids are already wondering when we're going back.
(I told them to ask Nana.)