Friday, December 23, 2011

Pictures... as promised

As mentioned in the previous post - there were so many pictures of Mercer that were great... too many to cram into the last entry. Now, they are here for your viewing pleasure... Enjoy and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another milestone birthday

For my 40th, we took a weekend trip to the panhandle of Florida. For years, we've talked about checking out a place called Seaside. It was developed 30 years ago +/- as a "New Urbanist" community. The design of the town promotes density, open space (public green space), and walkability. It's semi-circular in design and it should take no more than 5 minutes to get from the most remote residential area to the center of the town by foot.

We stayed in the center of town - above a retail corridor. It was a great spot and if we ever venture back - I would recommend staying in a similar area...well... if it were a quiet time of year like now. I heard that the first couple of weeks of December are the slowest weeks of the year in this upscale rental community. (This is the reason we could come... it was "off-season" pricing... and even with that it was a splurge) From our porch, you look one way and you can see the public green (complete with lighted Christmas tree) with the beach beyond. Looking the other way, we could see a criss-cross of strung-up lights which created a "ceiling" to the pedestrians below walking through the retail area down to another park.

There is a charter school located on the site. There's all sorts of retail (shops, yoga studios, salons, and galleries.) We've seen a couple of architecture offices located within the development as well. There are several pools, tennis courts, and a playground. Mercer really seemed taken with the tether ball area, as you get to whack stuff there. (BTW - it's very hard to get an action shot when in the reach of the swinging ball!)

We actually liked how quiet it was. We attended a quaint church service with only a dozen other people at the Seaside Interfaith Chapel - a beautifully simplistic chapel. We rode bicycles through the streets with rarely a worry about cars. We walked along the beach and only encountered a handful of people. Speaking of the beaches... they were beautiful. The water is clear blue and the sand is powdery white. A cold front moved through before we came down, but we still walked barefoot in the sand... we just tried to stay away from the water! It did make for a gorgeous sky, though, as seen in the pics that Todd took! We have a lot of good pictures of Mercer on the beach. We will have to post those on the next blog entry!

Pretty much everywhere you turn - there is attention to detail and thoughtful architectural design. The community is very artsy as well, as there are some fantastic galleries and shops here. We probably wandered through all of them at some point as well as attending the local farmer's market. We participated in a number of art activities (several of which were geared towards Mercer). Here, he's making "reindeer food" to sprinkle in our lawn at home at a children's store after reading Olive, the Other Reindeer book at story time. They even treated him to a nutter butter reindeer cookie after all of the fun!

Santa and Mrs. Claus were walking around the shops as well. Mercer blew Mrs. Claus a kiss & I think Santa was a little jealous. Mercer has been singing Jingle Bells pretty much constantly throughout the weekend.

Almost forgot to mention: Mercer said he wanted to get me something for my birthday. When I asked him what, he said "roller skates" then he changed his answer to "Legos."

It was a nice, relaxing family weekend & a gift to spend it with both Todd and Mercer. I'm so glad we took this opportunity to come.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Post-Thanksgving Post

We went to Orlando last week to spend Thanksgiving with my dad and family. The long drive down & back went much better than we anticipated. Once there, it did not take long for Mercer to spot dad's fire truck collection & start pushing all of the buttons / pulling on all of the ladders / and driving them around.... at least the ones he could get to. He also got to try on his grandpa's fire-fighter hat -- which is very heavy, so it's being held up on his head in this pic.

It took awhile longer for Mercer to warm up to their dog, Kinsie, but once he was not afraid to be around her, they became great play mates! Mercer would dance around, kick his legs up, and giggle if the dog would catch a toy that he tossed her way. The leg kicking thing was hilarious.... perhaps this is a new thing he's doing when he gets really excited?

On Thanksgiving day, we ate good food and caught up with most of the extended family.... step siblings , nieces, and nephews. Mercer was pretty outgoing, but got a little shy around Michelle's daughter, Katie. Hmmm.... It was really great to see how Charlie, dad, and the cousins interacted with Mercer and how he interacted with them.

The day after Thanksgiving, the three of us (Todd, Mercer, and me) took a little drive south of Orlando to LEGOLAND. The park opened in October & I think that the word was out about it - as it was very crowded. This is the first time that Mercer has been to a theme park... and... he had a blast. The park was built on the site of a previous botanical garden from what we've heard. There was a section of the park that looked lush - but most of it had been transformed into what images follow. The first thing we did was go on a double-decker carousel... probably let over from the previous park. The rest of the park looked like an iconic lego blue, red, and yellow plastic explosion. Being a new park, it seemed that there are some kinks to work out (mainly with the timing of the rides and the lines) Commentary from people in line behind us was that they could learn from Disney in that regard.

But - we had a good time. There are lego-related things of course, but there are roller coasters, boat rides, jeep rides, and even cars that the kids can drive by themselves. Yes - at 3 - there are cars that they can drive. Notice that Mercer is looking at a girl and ended up running onto the curb. An early lesson he can hopefully remedy before he's driving a real car! The park is ideal for children from 2 - 12. Mercer could ride most of the rides there. Because of the lines, we only got through about 1/2 of what we wanted to try out. (Mercer, of course wanted to ride the giant roller coasters for the older kids, but those had the longest lines of over an hour.)

The park also has an area with rides that are interactive. One ride that Mercer & I did... you go high when you pedal fast. Another "ride" was for the whole family where you have to pump an air-driven fire truck or police car to one end of a short road. Everyone hops out & runs to a water pump where you have to pump and shoot to put out a fire or knock down a burglar. When that's done each family hops in their vehicles & pumps their way back to the beginning. It was actually a lot of fun.

Finally, it is amazing what all can be made out of legos~ there were life-sized animals in the safari area, cool dinosaurs built that stood in front of a roller coaster, and the comprehensive mini cities that are extremely intricate. I don't know when/if we'll be back to that park or explore a different one when we're back down there - but we're very glad we went.

Running behind. I'll have to post soon about some advent activities that we've started. Have a great week~