Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Abby and I flew to Tampa for our first mother/daughter trip. She has been wanting to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium since she saw Dolphin Tale and learned that Winter lives there. I signed her up for the Trainer for a Day program. She was able to spend time with different animals. She counted and recorded Nicholas’ respirations. Then we went into the kitchen and learned about the different animals’ diets. She didn’t like the dead fish but managed to get through it. After the kitchen, we went to the otters. Abby was able to work with Cooper and Wally. From there, she went to work with Ricky the pelican (aka Rufus). We got to see Winter’s tail and learn about the different equipment the trainers use with the animals. Then Abby worked with Hope the dolphin. I think that was the highlight of her day. When the Trainer for a Day ended at 1:00, Abby and I had a snack and explored the rest of the CMA. The other building was not open so we just saw the movie props that were at that building. It was a great day and one that Abby and I will not soon forget.

Bay Area Discovery Museum:: Sausalito, California

The kids were having a great time on our road trip, but after awhile they started missing their toys. At one point Cade said, “I miss my Legos.” The Bay Area Discovery Museum, located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, came at the perfect time so the kids could just play. There were many places to explore outside. The kids started with giant blue blocks and spent forever building and making ramps.

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Another fun place was another outdoor area with a boat, a tree for climbing, and other areas to explore.

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BADM Collage 3.jpgAfter we explored the outdoors, it was time to head inside. The kids had just as much fun inside as they did outside. The favorite was building boats and watching the wind send them downstream. After a puppet show and a wave machine, the kids had a snack and we had our best view of the Golden Gate Bridge that we would end up getting (it was very foggy!). We spent nearly 4 hours at the Bay Area Discovery Museum and still didn’t see everything. There is so much to do there. It was a great choice for us on our long road trip. The kids loved having time to play and explore.

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We had a great time being guests at the museum and all thoughts about our visit are my own.

Making Plans

Well, I started some online work a few weeks ago and every extra moment I have had has been spent working on my projects. I took a quick break today to make a reservation for our trip to Hawaii. Abby (aka my dolphin obsessed daughter) will have an amazing birthday party in Hawaii complete with dolphin encounter. She will be beyond thrilled.
I have also been trying to figure out itinerary for NYC which is coming up soon. I have put our summer road trip on the back burner for now, but after NYC I’ll have to start back in on that too.

Walt Disney World:: Epcot

We went to Epcot on January 4, 2014. We started with Spaceship Earth which is inside the “golf ball.” Abby loved it and it was the first time we’d been on that one. For some reason we missed it in 2010. We rode a few rides in the morning and then ate an early lunch at Electric Umbrella. The best thing about this restaurant is that the drink machines were accessible to us. In other words…free refills! Electric Umbrella is also where I found out that Disney does not keep track of adult and child quick service credits. Since Cara was under three years old, we couldn’t get her a meal plan. So, there were times that we were sharing meals. Sometimes the kids wanted what was on the kids’ menu but sometimes the same thing was on the adult menu. It made sense to order the adult meal and get more food for the kids to share.
Epcot collage editedAfter lunch, we walked around the World Showcase. We rode a few rides, including Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros at Mexico and Maelstrom at Norway.  After we walked the World Showcase, we used our FastPasses. We did the rider switch again and Derek, Abby, and Cade rode Soarin’ while Cara and I went on The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Then Derek and I switched so that I could ride Soarin’ with Abby and Cade. It really worked well. After we rode Soarin’ we headed toward Akershus Royal Banquet Hall for dinner. We met Belle on the way in and met more princesses inside. I had the grilled pork chop with mashed rutabaga and it was amazing. It was one of the best meals I had the whole trip. When dinner was finished, we went into the Norway store to peek at Elsa and Anna. The line to meet Elsa and Anna was so long that at that point it had been stopped for the night. Earlier in the day  it was a wait of 4 hours. After we looked at the Frozen characters, we decided to call it a night and headed toward the front of the park and on to the hotel.

Matthiessen State Park


I almost hate to post this. I love that most people think of Starved Rock State Park and not Matthiessen when deciding which park in the Illinois Valley to visit. When visiting nature, I like to not be surrounded by hundreds of people. My own three children provide enough noise as it is. One particular place that holds a special place in my heart is the bridge at the entrance by the Deer Park Golf Course. My brother and his wife got married there back in October of 2001. It is also about 5 minutes from our house. This is our entrance of choice. I like starting on the bridge and either just walking a little ways up the paved path and back again if we want a short walk or being able to hike all the way to the lower dells area from there. If you visit after some rain, the waterfalls are quite amazing. I love going down into the lower dells and feeling like I’m far away. Sometimes it is hard to believe that this amazing place is just a few minutes from my house. Anyone visiting the Illinois Valley should visit Matthiessen State Park, but if you would rather visit Starved Rock, that would be okay with me. After all, I am hoping that Matthiessen continues to stay overshadowed by it’s more popular neighbor.