Oh, I am soooooo loving summer this year! I really have tried to enjoy these days of rest and fun and the awesome feeling of not having to work the next day. It has been glorious! Getting to go to lunch or dinner with friends whenever I want, swimming every day (or almost) with Jayce, reading, napping, cooking, playing with the doggies... so wonderful.
Our first trip has already come and gone. We went back to Arizona for 8 days and had an even better time than last year. It was 108-111 degrees each day which felt like the 90s here so perfect swim weather. We had some sort of adventure each morning (Tom cars, jeep tour, zoo, horseback riding, etc) and then we'd swim for hours. We went out to eat a million times because the food there is INCREDIBLE. It was so insanely good. Yummo. The last day I took the car and drove to Scottsdale and shopped all day while Jayce and Lois did a second horse ride for "advanced" riders. Jayce said that was her favorite part of the trip- after the zoo, that is.
The place we went was actually a wildlife preserve, not a zoo. There aren't tons of animals for you to walk around and see. You do walk around...in the 100+ degrees heat...all day but you're looking at wide open spaces with fences around them. Each huge space may contain 1-4 animals (hyenas, wolves, tigers, lions, bears). There are several shows that you can go to in order to find out more about the animals and get up close. Each show only has one time, not several during the day, so any of them that you want to go to you need to know in advance. I, of course, read everything I could about the place and we got there when it opened at 9 (it was an hour and a half or so away from our resort) and stayed until 3:45 or so. We had a great time there seeing all of the animals so close. The tiger splash show was really cool- getting to watch the guys play with tigers and blow up pool toys. The tigers aren't trained to do anything particular- they have just learned how to play. It was followed by an opportunity for people to feed the tigers (giant chunks of raw meat) with tongs through a fence. Jayce loved it, of course. We didn't realize that there'd be wolves at this place so she was THRILLED when we saw them on the map. She loves wolves, draws them all the time, but has never seen them in person. Of course, in this place, you have to kind of walk around their huge habitat and hope they come close to the fence. Luckily, they did and she was within inches of one and got lots of pictures. She was in heaven. At one point he stood on top of this rock and let the wind blow through his fur and Jayce just about fell over- she was in love!
Another part of this place is that you can take these shuttle rides all around the property and allow the guides to point out the animals in their habitats and tell you about them. We paid for a special shuttle ride that was more private and got to get super close. We rode around to different animals with this great lady who talked to each animal and got them to come close to us. The zebras were particularly funny because once you feed them, you spend the rest of the ride trying to ditch them. Hehe! We loved feeding the "cookies" to the camel and giraffe because we got to do it by hand and with our mouth. Sounds gross but when will I ever have another chance to get a camel kiss? So fun.
The animals were so loved and taken care of by these people. I learned a jillion facts about the hyenas, for example, because the guide was so knowledgable and loved them. Each animal had a huge amount of space- acres and acres. It wasn't like a zoo where you walk ten feet to the next animal. They are very, very well spaced out and happy (it seemed to me anyway). At the end of the day, after all of the shows and animal experiences, we stayed for the Predator Feed. This is when you can walk behind the guides as they ride in a truck through the trail and throw gigantic pieces of meat over the fence to the predators (the veggie eaters obviously don't participate in this activity). They only get fed like this 2 or 3 days a week and the animals know when it is predator feed day. Around 2:30 or so the lions, wolves, etc start pacing up and down their fences waiting. It was so cool! The guides told us this is more than they'd actually eat in the wild but they have to feed them a little more to keep them "happy." They have to be inside those habitats cleaning and moving stuff around so they need happy, well-fed predators that won't attack them! Hehe.
It was really cool to see how each animal reacted as these guys threw whole turkeys over the fence to them. The lion was our favorite part so we ran ahead of the group to make sure we got a good spot. He roooared as he waiting for the truck to come closer. It is so cool to hear a lion's roar 3 feet from where you are standing! The guys throw a huge horse leg to the lion, not some little turkey. Yowza.
Anyway, Arizona was super fun. We stayed at Boulders again and loved it. The pools are awesome. There's food served at one of them so we were there a lot. There was also a pool 25 feet from our door so we went to that one quite a bit as well. It was hardly used by anyone else. If we wanted food we just ordered room service and asked them to deliver it to us there. We were insanely spoiled.
We have a little over a week now until our next trip. We are trying to save save save to make sure we have enough money for these trips. We want to be able to go out of town without having to worry about money so no daily Target runs for me this summer! It has been a challenge but we are trying! No eating out either except for Fat Tuesday (greek with Al and Shelly) or the exceptions (like we're eating with Linda, Chris, Matthew, and Lindsay for her birthday this week). We're doing pretty well but there's SO much to save for. July is not only J's birthday but Addi's and Alexis's as well. In addition to birthdays we have 3 trips. Then there's an entire list of "extra" that I'm trying to keep track of. These are things that need to be purchased for the house or dogs or school or whatever that aren't included in my budget. At this point the list has maybe 15 items on it? Things like mulch/flowers for the yard, J's trumpet for school, tune up for the air conditioner, orthodontist, etc etc. Oy.
Jayce is excited about turning 11. I am really loving this age but she's growing so fast. She's almost as tall as me and she is wearing a size 7 shoe. Ugh. I love the funny, sarcastic, thoughtful, caring person that she is though. She's a good person and I'm so grateful. I know that in a few years she'll make some mistakes as a teen, we all did, but I trust that she'll come out of it all okay. God has surrounded her with such a village that will ensure she stays on the right path.
She's decided to have a little sleepover party for her actual birthday. She's inviting 3 girls. They'll swim, play games, watch movies, stay up late. All that fun stuff. Then on Saturday we'll have a cookout at our house for family and friends. I am thankful that Tammy has umbrellas that we can borrow for our deck. That way people can be inside and out. We'll have a slip and slide going for the kids also. I am thinking I'll grill hot dogs and hamburgers, nothing fancy. Jayce just really missed seeing everyone on her birthday last year (my fault- thought she was too old to have a party). I always get nervous having a group over at my house but I think it will be fun nonetheless.
Our next trip is Atlanta in a little over a week. We're going for a few days with Al. We're going to the Big Time Rush concert and to Ikea and we'll also spend the 4th of July with his sister and her daughter Hannah (who J has already met and likes). They have a pool as well so I'm sure we'll be swimming too.
A week after we get home from Atlanta we fly to Boca with Al. We're staying at Lois and Lou's place. Nothing huge planned- just beach and pool time.
A week after we get home from Boca, we drive to Disney with Kasey and Addi Rose. We have been plotting with Kasey for weeks to plan this trip out. I think it will be awesome! I've tried to get on as many websites as I can to help me plan this thing out. I want Addi and Jayce to have the most fun that we can pack in this week without overwhelming them of course! I know that Jayce will have a great time but I am also really looking forward to experiencing this with Addi. I feel very blessed to be able to be there when she meets her favorite princesses and sees that castle for the first time! And Kasey is much more adventurous than me so I expect that Jayce will get to experience parts of Disney that she hasn't before- because Kasey will do things I won't! I am reeeally looking forward to the trip and hope that we are able to have fun and not get super bogged down by the heat and crowds.
That's our summer so far. Blessed!!!!
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