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It’s for good reason that I’ve been M-I-A (<—-see what I did there?) for the last week: The fam and I just returned from an epic field trip…

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We did The Disney Thing. It was a blast.

We hadn’t done a Disney trip since the girls were 1 & 3, and Little Man obviously had never been. This was a very different visit than the last, and the kids’/my first time to Florida (husband has been a few times and was a perfect tour-guide/navigator/financier).

Our 2008 Disneyland trip was allllll about princesses, parades, pixie dust, and magic…

#throwback ((sob))

big enough for her own dumbo now ((sniff))

then/now

then/now

… this time the girls were pretty serious about hitting all the big rides, and we mostly dodged the long lines for characters.

made an exception to exchange mermaid secrets. “I’m actually also a mermaid.”

and donald, husband’s fave

husband & firstborn on splash mt

It has been determined that Little Man is not a fan of costumed characters. Or crowds. Nor excessive heat/humidity, strollers, lines, fireworks, dark rides, and sudden jumpy 3D movies. He DID enjoy the trains, planes, and boats– Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Small World, and Dumbo, to name a few. Oh, and the treats.

Thankfully, we didn’t hang all of our vacation expectations on poor Mickey.

epcot– my favorite, by a landslide

manatee rehab at epcot! a delightful surprise

replica terra cotta warriors in epcot’s china

a blissful, air-conditioned lunch in epcot’s morocco. very authentic (I spent time in morocco in 2010)

and then the belly dancer brought center sister up to perform with the live musicians

real hippos on safari at animal kingdom

can you believe they don’t allow mermaids to swim in the pools at Disney? crazy talk. this was just before the lifeguard broke the bad news and she was forced to use her human legs

the downside of Disney: early flights, skirts paired with ugly tennies and husband’s socks, stroller naps, beating the heat, and long, exhausting shuttle rides

While we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the mouse, the real reason we flew to the lush, sticky southern swampland was so that Firstborn could swim with wild manatees and Center Sister could visit the famous Weeki Wachee mermaid ballet. We rented a car and meandered to the Gulf side for both.

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cutest little snorkeler you ever did see, heading to the van with daddy in their wetsuits

saw a special about this place on the travel channel years ago and never forgot it

incredibly skilled divers and underwater dancers. the place was opened, and mermaids trained, by a former navy seal

matchy-matchy with one of the weeki wachee mermaids

I’ll admit I was most excited to cruise the scenic highways along the way, checking all the boxes off my Florida wish-list upon spying orange stands (with free samples of the best juice I’ve ever tasted) and alligators, and tasting authentic Cuban cuisine.

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i want this mailbox

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even got to swim in a natural warm spring

Though we live quite close to a fine airport, we drove six hours to Salt Lake City for a direct flight to and from Orlando; the reasons threefold:

First and foremost, it saved us 50% on our tickets! Times that by 5 persons (little man is no longer a lap-baby) and one can see that it was a no-brainer.

Secondly, we love a good road trip. Had Husband’s employers been able to part with him longer, we’d have rented an RV and driven the entire way.

Lastly, it gave us a chance to shop and stock up on items from some of our favorite establishments in Utah.

heaven on earth

yes.

drove by napoleon dynamite’s house in preston, idaho

pitstop

We are grateful for our adventure, a much-needed break. Travel is something that we are passionate about, and we have been planning this holiday for a year. Two bonus skills the arduous adoption process will teach any family are how to seriously SCRIMP and SAVE. It was worth every penny.

Besides, it really was educational. In fact, another patron at dinner one evening inquired if we were there for the homeschool convention. I told her no, but it was an excellent guess since we DO home-educate. I assumed it was my Birkenstocks that tipped her off, she confessed it was Firstborn’s french-braided hair.

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