We made it to Spring Break, and it seems like its been ages since!! The kids really long for this week (not to mention Mom), to break from structured learning, to play freely and rest our minds. Sometimes we just need a break from the normal routine. Although, I like routine, A LOT! The kids have been talking about Disney, Disney, Disney for some time. Marcus and I discussed how we could incorporate a Disney vacation without interrupting our frugal lifestyle. It is very important to us that we be good stewards of God's money. So what is a family to do? Sweet talk, that's what! We called up who else, but Grandma and Paw Paw! It didn't take much more than a "pretty please" and they were sold on the idea of a visit! Now let's pause for a moment and delve into what exactly this visit entailed! We are a family of how many? Everyone say "SEVEN"! Sometimes it can be a challenge for this group of seven to get along easily in our own home, being used to the dynamic! We were asking for a family of seven to barge in on the harmonious life of five. (Grandma is giggling, or choking on her soda about now :-)Without hesitation, Grandma and Paw Paw opened their home to an additional seven people, five of which are children, for five days!!! I am sure they earned some jewels in their crowns for this!BLESS THEM!!
Grandma and Paw Paw living in Florida is difficult with such distance between us. It is especially hard for the kids who ask about them frequently. The family dinners are reduced to a few holidays, meaning less laughter, less hugs, less of Paw Paw's singing and less of the coveted heart-to-hearts with Grandma, a woman whom I consider another mother. If I linger too long on this reality, my heart aches tremendously. They are sorely missed! There is a freedom to belonging to their family. Leave your masks at the door. You can bear your soul and even if it's ugly, they love you anyway! You're accepted and never expected to look like the rest of the world. Thank goodness, because we don't, do we? They are not tight-lipped and will call you out when you're wrong, and believe me I have grown exponentially from it. Loyalty is at the heart of who they are, never judgement for shortcomings. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, they pat you on the back and expect you to keep going. No pity parties allowed. I take pride in being a West, very much! What a testimony they are to what God built marriage to be! They have been married 35 years! Their son and I vow to carry this tradition on in their name! That's right, he is stuck with me!! My mother-in-law teases me often that I may love him, but she loved him first! How so very thankful I am that she did, and still does. I dare not wonder who he might be today if she had not! I am blessed beyond measure that my husband was raised with such biblical values. He loves his wife and children, but loves the Lord first. That is essential in a christian home. I know exactly where he learned that. His father is head of their home and Marcus is head of our home. He is a hard worker and great provider, modeled after a great provider in his dad. One thing I will cherish throughout this lifetime is the memory each time we gather to share a meal together, we always take hands and Paw Paw prays over the food and always over us as if we are honored guests in his home. In this he mirrors Christ Himself, for He is honored to welcome us into his home which is His family. They are leaving a legacy!
And, they are quite cute aren't they? Still deeply in love to this very day!
During our entirely-too-short visit, the entire extended family of twelve was able to visit Disney World without the multi-thousand dollar, resort packages! It had been twelve years since Marcus and I had traveled to Disney World during a college Spring Break with a group of friends. We had fun, but the trip did lack luster this time around. The kids expected waving princesses as you walked by. For pictures with your favorite character, it was an hour wait. That was the wait time on most rides as well. We rode a handful of rides and walked (very slowly) through the massive crowds. The kids had a fun time nonetheless. We got to watch several parades including many of their favorite cartoon characters, one of which was a Disney street party and one was the Electric Parade in the evening made up of millions of lights! There were high points and low points. The advice I can give is: Do NOT go during Spring Break. It is possibly more crowded than during the summer, peak season. If you or someone in your party has a real reason for a wheel chair, use it! There are benefits! If you want the full "Disney Experience", be prepared to shuck out an enormous amount of money for an all inclusive package. With that you get the breakfasts with the characters, park hopper passes to multiple parks, freedom to enjoy Magic Kingdom as many days as you would like! The trip was not a bust for us. Actually more of a blessing now that we think of it. Disney is quite commercialized.
Enjoying a cool treat, courtesy of Grandma and Paw Paw.
Disney Block Party
This is just two-year old, Disney excitement!
(Are these even the same people?)
We also ventured to Sea World and had a FABULOUS time! Sea World had a much smaller crowd and was much less commercialized. The teaching opportunities were abundant! We were able to make the entire park in a day. We participated in Turtle Trek, a 3-D featured that even Eli was able to enjoy. We enjoyed watching the dolphins being fed at Dolphin Cove. We journeyed through an underwater aquarium with various tropical fish and massive sharks. The kiddos rode all of the rides they cared to ride with very little wait. Mom and Dad even got to take the two biggest kids on Journey to Atlantis, a water ride through the mythical cite of Atlantis, courtesy of a parent pass. This was a wonderful convenience for our family where one parent and child stood in line and enjoyed the ride, afterwards the other parent and child boarded ride with no wait. What a time-saver! We petted live sting-rays at Sting Ray Lagoon which was absolutely the highlight of that trip. So much so that they insisted that we go back to do it again before we left! To conclude the night each child chose a souvenir (within reason). The trip was certainly worth making!
Other activities we enjoyed while in Florida included a day at the beach, an afternoon of mini-golf, and a DATE NIGHT of Thai food for mom and dad!!
The love of my life!
First feel of sand!
First touch of the ocean!
Hole in one!
Thank you Grandma and Paw Paw for opening your homes to our family!
We love you and miss you terribly!