Archive for March, 2011

Sofia at Jungle Gardens.........

Besides time spent at the beach and pool. we tried to take the kids on trips to some attractions in Sarasota which are appealing to their age group. As we have every year we enjoyed hours at Mote Aquarium and had lunch at the New Pass Grill which  we have visited every years since 2007 when we first came to Venice. We walked, played and had lunch at the Marie Selby Botanical gardens where the pool of koi with a serene looking statue of Buddha and the temple bell which they could strike themselves were a delight to Sofia and Clara. And we finally located and visited Jungle Gardens, an older style Florida attraction which has been in business since 1940. My high school friend Mary Alice has been promoting this since the first year we were here, but this was the first time we were able to get there. It was fun. The girls loved the reptile show and the fascinating birds and trails. But we had a bit of slightly scary experience when  we found ourselves in the Flamingo Lagoon. Flamingos are large birds and since the park sells food to feed them, we discovered they can be a bit aggressive about trying to get it from the visitors. Poor Clara ended up having her leg nipped by one. This was not a serious injury, more of a simple scratch, but it frightened her quite a bit.

My daughter has taught them to say, “No thank you,” when someone is doing something they don’t like. Indeed, she says, “No thank you” to them when she isn’t happy with what they are doing. So for the next several days we heard Clara’s firm little voice declaring, “No thank you, Mingo!” at random intervals.

Both girls got small stuffed animal flamingos as souvenirs of Jungle Gardens and have been reenacting the flamingo “attack” ever since.  I’ll be interested to hear in a few years what Clara’s memories of this will prove to  be. But it seems they are working through it quite well just now!

flamingos and their interesting legs

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Sweet Fia at Nana's beach house

Well, it was fun while it lasted! But change is the name of the game of life and last Friday I drove Em, Fia and Clara Maus to the airport in Sarasota to begin their journey north……And now the house is very quiet here.

But I like quiet sometimes. I’m beginning Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages again (a daily writing exercise) and getting things back to the way I found them when I arrived. All the library books were found and returned. I had been a bit worried about that because there were some kid books here to begin with, then my friend Nancy loaned us some library book sale books from her daughter Siri, and my grandchildren signed out a raft of books from the local public library. But I think that is all sorted out and Nancy and her husband are coming with their truck tomorrow morning to pick up the baby swing, pack-n-play, car seat, two bikes and assorted miscellany they were kind enough to let us use for the  two weeks they were needed.

Two Sisters

The bikes proved a great joy to Nathan and then to Sofia……..Nathan had a “date” with his Mom and they biked around for an hour and a half and then wandered around downtown Venice and found a great bakery, The Upper Crust, where they indulged a little….

For Nathan Alice removed the training wheels and for Sofia Emily put them back. She was so proud to be able to ride a bike! I think Clara wants to do this soon…She wants to do everything that her sister does! Sofia is a champion hopper, and Clara tries mightily, but I’ve only twice seen her able to get both feet off the ground at the same time. Apparently this is a sort of developmental marker I certainly do see the influence of a big sister here!

Sofia on the Slide

Determined Clara!

The last day that Em, Sofia and Clara were with me we went to a playground in the morning and then to the Venice Art Museum for lunch.   There is an outdoor area with a fountain which both girls enjoyed a lot. And I had another of those “small world” moments which have been surprising me on this vacation. Talking with our waitress who asked where we were from we discovered that she (Molly Bartlett) and her husband had founded the first CSA farm in Ohio and were among the advisers for Crown Point, the CSA farm we belong to, when it first began. We have a number of friends in common. I have also met a man whose family started The Victory Gallop, a place where handicapped children can ride horses for therapy and fun. This is just a few minutes down the road from my home in Ohio. And I also met a young woman whose family owns our favorite pizza restaurant  at Lake Chautauqua where we’ve been spending summers since 1981. Perhaps this is not so surprising because a lot of people from these areas come to the sun coast of Florida to vacation or live, and I am that embarrassing sort of mother (to my kids when younger) who exchanges large extracts of life stories with nearly everyone I meet. But I like to find these connections with people. It is somehow very reassuring. And I wonder why? Or is the question, why do I need to be reassured?

Sofia Talks to her friend “Honey Bear”

After their nap on the Last Day, Emily wanted to take the girls to the beach again, but somehow, Sofia only wanted to swim in the pool that is with our house, so that is what we all did. It was lovely. And then dinner and putting the girls to bed. Em and I played a last game of Chicaneuse, a double solitaire game I learned from my mother in law who learned it from her grandmother who was born in the early 1870s. We played it for about a quarter of a century when suddenly, she told me the “real” name of the game was Garibaldi. Well, whatever it is called, it’s a lot of fun. And then we watched another dvd of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Oh, it is such a wonderful series and I hope, hope, hope that they will make more episodes. But meanwhile, let’s be grateful for the ones they did film, mostly with the late wonderful director Anthony Minghella.

Yesterday, in the afternoon, I finally found The Venice Rookery. Last year, or two years ago, someone gave me wrong directions to it and I gave up for a while, but this year I found good directions online from the Venice branch of the Audubon Society.  It is a small bird sanctuary, a little island in a very little lake behind the Municipal Buildings. I live near a large heron nesting site in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and this is much smaller. But there are so many species of birds nesting on this little wooded island. It was quite amazing. I took some photos from the car, but will go back soon. I saw Snowy Egrets and

What is it?

Spoonbills and Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons and other birds I couldn’t identify. So much activity! I will certainly go again……….

Egret Landing

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Mr. Smiley aka Captain Adorable

I really meant to post something about our time in Florida a little sooner than this, but truly, we are all having too much fun and seem to be too busy every day to do it. The moment we are not busy, we all sort of collapse.  The house I rented this year is much the best I’ve found in the five years we’ve been coming here to the sun coast. Probably the fact that it has a pool and the kids are just the right age to enjoy playing in it, and learn new skills every day, has made it so. I’ve been here 11 days already and Al, Em, Nathan (aka NayNay by his cousins) and Stephen known as Captain Adorable because it is written on one of his onsies, and Sofia and Clara have been here a week already.  Every day we swim two or three times, usually visit a beach, do two or three playgrounds, jump around the fountain in town, and have fun grilling meals outside and playing board and card games and chalking up a storm and painting and drawing and watching an occasional Clifford the Big Red Dog.  No time for blogging. We’ve visited an Aquarium and seen Nemo and Dorie.We’ve picked lemons from our own trees and made delicious lemonade!  Life is Good!

Near the Clown Fish

Picking our own lemons

Made Lemonade

Clara and a purse named Nemo

Fia the Brave!

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