Disney Wild Africa Trek

While we were in Disney World, we decided it was time to do something we’d never done before. The Wild Africa Trek! Indigo and Jade were too young, so while we were doing it, they went off and toured Animal Kingdom with some of Grandma’s friends.

I can honestly say that this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It was a three hour guided tour where we got to walk over the hippos and alligators, learn some swahili, get really close to some of the animals on the safari, and eat an african inspired lunch.  

First we got all suited up and took some pictures. 

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_11

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_12

Then we set off into the wild. First we went through the bird section. While we were there Jess pointed out some birds, and we got a lot of really strange looks. Not that it really bothered me – I’m used to it. My family gets strange looks whether we’re wearing strange gear or not. 😀

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_13

After we left the bird enclosure we left the set trail, heading into the woods. Colter told me, “It feels good to be back in gear, walking through the woods again.” I laughed and agreed with him. It was the first time I’d been in a situation like that since Outward Bound, and it was really nice.

We’d been hiking for maybe five minutes when Megan’s voice came over the headset that we were required to wear. She told us that we were nearing the hippo enclosure and told us the rules we had to follow. As we got closer we all unclipped one end of the harness attached to our vests. We handed them to Jess and she clipped us onto the metal rail along the fence, letting us walk past her into the enclosure (once we were securely attached). You can see our “tails” in this photo of us above the hippo enclosure. The vehicle in the background is one of the safari trucks. 

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_15

 One of the hippo experts met us there. He had brought along a bucket of food for the two males that we were going to see, but since they were asleep we didn’t get to watch them eat.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_14

After the hippo guy (I don’t remember his name) answered all of our questions, and there were a lot of them, we moved on. We continued hiking through the woods and along the way, learned some Swahili. Twende (pronounced twenday) means “let’s go”, and that has become a favorite word around here. We also learned Asante Sana, “thank you”, and Karibu Sana, “you’re welcome”. 

 We made it to the bridges over the river, and it’s a good thing that none of us is afraid of heights. 

Because this is the bridge that we were going over. Well, this is one of them. 

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_16

 Did I mention that we were walking right over the alligators? You can see them down below all of us.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_05

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_03

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_06

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_08

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_04

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_02

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_07

Don’t worry though – we were attached to a super strong cable above us by the harness on our vests. Because honestly, who wants to fall into this?

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_19

Then you’d get crushed by an alligator’s mouth… oh wait.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_20

KIDDING. That’s just a model they had out there for us to look at. It was surprisingly heavy. 

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_21

We also got to go into (but above) the alligator pit:

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_23

We were so close we were able to see them really well as the alligator expert answered our questions.  And because we’re curious, we had a lot of questions.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_22

I think there are 27 alligators at Animal Kingdom.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_24

Our guides -Megan, Jess, and Hilary – were awesome.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_25

Once we were done with the first half of our tour, we took off our harnesses and had our own private truck for the rest of the tour.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_26

We were able to get up close to a lot of the animals and we each had our own pair of binoculars.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_27

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_28

The truck would periodically stop so we could get up and look around.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_29

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_30

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_31

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_35

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_34

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_33

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_32

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_36

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_37

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_38

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_39

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_40

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_41

We got to stop at a boma (safe place) in the middle of the Savannah and have our own lunch.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_43

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_42

It was African inspired foods and most of it was really good.  We all even ate the flower.

 This is what the Boma looks like from the Savannah:

After lunch, we got back in our truck to see some more of the animals.  Particularly the big cats which the boys love.

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_44

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_45

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_46

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_47

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_48See the sleeping lions?

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_49

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_50

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_51

Asante sana, Jess, Megan, and Hilary!

Disney-Wild-Africa-Trek_52

The Wild Africa Trek is expensive, but if you at all enjoy animals and like to ask lots of questions, and get behind the scenes, we all agreed it was absolutely worth it.  Definitely one of our best ever Disney memories!

Brett

 

 

St. Louis Arch

As a homeschooling family, we always take every opportunity to explore cool educational things.

My brother is stationed near St. Louis, so when we went to visit him last year, we had to visit the St. Louis Arch. The children (and Jim and I) thought it was amazing, and we were very psyched to go to the top of it.

I got a bunch of facts about the arch from the Gatewary Arch website and will be listing them here.

Fact #1: “The Arch is the tallest national monument in the United States at 630 feet; it is the city’s best known landmark and a popular tourist attraction.”

DSCN0827_blog

Fact #2: “Construction began February 12, 1963 and the last section of the Arch was put into place on October 28, 1965.”

DSCN0840_blog

Observation #1: Parking isn’t super convenient, so bring a stroller or prepare to carry little ones:

DSCN0835_blog

Fact #3: “The Arch is a structure known as a catenary curve, the shape a free-hanging chain takes when held at both ends, and considered the most structurally-sound arch shape. The span of the Arch legs at ground level is 630 feet, the same as its height.”

DSCN0847_blog

Fact #4: “Each year, approximately a million visitors ride the trams to the top of the Arch. The trams have been in operation for over 30 years, traveling a total of 250,000 miles and carrying over 25 million passengers.”

Observation #2: The arch is a popular spot, so be prepared for a wait.  But they do a good job putting around educational stuff to entertain and distract educate.

DSCN0848_blog

Observation #3: Anybody who makes soap always has to take photos of anything having to do with soap, no matter how silly:

DSCN0856_blog

Observation #4: When one child pulls the steam boat whistle, all the children want to pull the whistle:

DSCN0852_blog

DSCN0857_blog

DSCN0859 (2)_blog

DSCN0863_blog

Fact #5: “The Arch weighs 17,246 tons. Nine hundred tons of stainless steel was used to build the Arch, more than any other project in history.”

Observation #5: The pods to get to the top are small.  Do not attempt if you are claustrophobic (which we’re not):

DSCN0866_blog

 

IMG_1095_blog

IMG_1096_blog

DSCN0896_blog

Observation #6: You’re never too old to be curious:

IMG_1098_blog

Fact #6: “The Arch was built at a cost of $13 million. The transportation system was built at a cost of $3,500,000.”

IMG_1106_blog

IMG_1105_blog

Observation #7: The windows are much smaller than I expected them to be. When I googled it I discovered that, “Over 500 tons of pressure was used to jack the legs of the Arch apart for the last four-foot piece to be inserted at the top. A larger window would not withstand that pressure.” Source

IMG_1107_blog

Fact #7: “In order to ensure that the constructed legs would meet, the margin of error for failure was 1/64th of an inch. All survey work was done at night to eliminate distortion caused by the sun’s rays. Since the Arch was constructed before the advent of computer technology, relatively crude instruments were used for these measurements.”

DSCN0880_blog

DSCN0888_blog

Observation #8: The arch really is right on the Mississippi River:

DSCN0878_blog

Fact #8: “The Arch sways a maximum of 18″ (9″ each way) in a 150 mph wind. The usual sway is 1/2″.”

IMG_1111_blog

Observation #9: It is possible to get a non-blurry photo of the arch while driving 60 mph over the bridge.

Personal Opinion #1: If you get a chance to visit the arch, definitely spend the money to ride to the top.  The children still talk about it a year later!

 

 

PJ

Overgrown!

We took a huge vacation this summer that began with my brother’s wedding and grew to include a trip to the beach and a tour of Virginia. When we came home, the backyard and the children’s playground was completely overgrown with weeds:

DSC_0776

So, we had to tackle it.

Here’s Fletcher kinda stunned by the enormity of the task (can you see the weeds are taller than he is?) LOL

DSC_0787

We had cattle panels that had been lying in the grass that were completely buried.  The boys had to get them out of there before the area could be mowed:

DSC_0797

DSC_0806

Some of them were so stuck, that they needed a bit more muscle than the boys could provide:

With all the stuff flying from the mowing and weed wacking – Greyden decided to get protected.  I think the snow gloves are a nice touch, don’t you?

DSC_0803

I’d like to report that it is all finished, but there’s still quite a few weeds to pull up in the playground.  The rest of it is in good shape, though.

 

PJ

Good-bye Topsail Island

It was so sad the last day, saying good-bye to the ocean:

Untitled (33) 0 00 35-05

Untitled (33) 0 00 39-07

No.

I mean it.

It was sad:

We got all the cousins together for a last picture:

Untitled (39) 0 00 04-05

And then just my kids for a last picture with the ocean:

Untitled (41) 0 00 10-26

In case you’ve ever wondered what was involved in getting that many children to pose and smile at the same time, it goes something like this:

And when Hewitt is sad because he doesn’t want to leave the ocean, then it looks like this:

The children are desperate to go back next year. We’re all praying we can visit Topsail Island again!

 

PJ

Pirates

My sister-in-law planned a huge thing for all the children while we were at Topsail Island. She made a treasure map, stuffed it into a bottle, and planted it in the sand for Colter to find. (He was SO geeked out by it. LOL)


IMG_3893
 
 
IMG_3894

It directed them to different clues:

IMG_3923

 

IMG_3935

IMG_3938

It was a long walk to the pier and the next clue (at least that’s what I was told, I stayed on the beach with the girls):

IMG_3939

IMG_3940

And then they had to walk all the way back to where they started. LOL (that was pretty cruel IMO).  But that gave the time needed to bury the treasure, which the kids found and dug up:

IMG_3943

IMG_3944

 

IMG_3946

And like any good, respectable buried treasure, it contained lots of fake guns and swords:

IMG_3949

IMG_3956

And a pretty cool chest to hold it all:

IMG_3963

There was even a pirate flag:

IMG_3964

It was really fun for the children and I’m so glad that Heather put it together. 

So… my mom got bubble wands and my sister-in-law did the buried treasure/pirate thing.  What did I do??

Ummmm….

Nothing.

Except buy lots of ice cream.

 

PJ

Odds n Ends

I have a few random photos leftover from the air show, so I thought I’d post them all here.

Hewitt and me admiring the corvettes:

DSC_0039-1

Greyden all scrunched into the stroller and watching the airplanes:

DSC_0055

Emery getting a video:

Colter:

Indigo and Grandma:

DSC_0253 (2)

Grandma watching the planes:

DSC_0605 (2)

Me and my baby brother:

DSC_0664

Hewitt resting in the stroller:

DSC_0675

Emery:

DSC_0039

Me (Jim had the camera and kept taking photos of me):

Hewitt carrying the chair home at the end of the day:

Poppy pulling the wagon and me carrying Jade as everyone trudges home:

DSC_0930

Emery pushing Indigo:

We’re so thankful that my brother and his family are stationed within driving distance from us.  It’s wonderful to be able to share memories with them!

 

PJ

Cousin Love

One of the best parts of our vacation was the fact that the children got to spend so much time with their cousins. Since we’re the only part of our family living in Indiana, cousin time is very precious. I wish I had taken more photos of them together, but here are a couple of cute ones:

IMG_3996

IMG_4092

IMG_4093

Untitled (38) 0 00 04-05

IMG_3995

And here is a game of hide-n-seek I had to film. Jade is way too funny:

It was a week full of cousin love. 

 

PJ

Vacation, the Next Phase…

When the wedding was over, we all went back to the hotel. There was quite a bit of laughter with all of us crammed into one room, just hanging out:

IMG_3766

And then it was time to leave Florida and head north – destination Topsail Island in North Carolina. Jim and I talked everybody into a hokey stop at South of the Border. For those of you who don’t know it, South of the Border is this cheesy location off I-95 on the southern side of the North Carolina/South Carolina border. I’ve driven past that place dozens and dozens of times in my life, but I’ve only ever stopped there once.

As we were getting near it, I asked my nephew, Tyler, (who was in our car) if he could tell my children what South of the Border was. He didn’t know. Jim then said, “Ask Victor, (my other nephew in the car with us) he’s driven past it lots of times.”

So I said, “Victor – do you know what South of the Border is?”

He answered, “Ummm… Canada?”

Jim and I just had to laugh.

Anyway – we stopped at South of the Border, got some ice cream, and used the nasty bathrooms. We declined the ride up to the top of the big Sombrero.

Here’s an appropriately cheesy photo of all of us in front of Pedro at the nasty public restrooms:

IMG_3773

I love sharing cheesy locations with the children. 

 

PJ

Having Dinner with the Gang

Our last night at Disney, we had dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. They normally don’t have character dining, but since the Crystal Palace is being renovated, they moved the characters to the Liberty Tree. So we got to share our dinner with some good friends:

800

803

809

817

819

781

789

796

799

 

Mom and Dad’s favorite part was that the children all got one big round table where they got to eat together, and the adults got their own separate table in the corner. Jim thought the evening a great success:

786

 

PJ

Ohana

Our absolute favorite restaurant of our entire Disney vacation (and this is unanimous) was:

581

 
It had the most amazing family buffet you can imagine.  We didn’t take pictures of the food (because we were too busy eating it), but they brought around huge skewers of the tenderest food ever.  My mouth is watering just sitting here.  (Of course the fact that Jim and I are doing the Power 90 workout and are on a strict eating plan has nothing to do with that).
 
We did take photos while we were waiting for our reservation.  Here are my (soon to be) sister-in-law, Shannon, and I enjoying our fruity drinks:
 
570
 
Poppy and the girls:
 
571

During the meal they teach you a hula (complete with lei and all):

591

Not sure what Jim found so amusing (but he’s guessing it was Jade twirling her hips):

595

The girls are concentrating very hard:

597

Emery and I are marching to the beat of our own (different) drummers:

601

Hawaiian Princess Brett:

605

Brett trying to cheer up grumpy Princess Indigo:

608

But Princess Jade is happy:

610

Finally getting happy:

613

Did I mention they had good food?  Yep, even the dessert:

616

Time to leave (don’t forget all the leis):

IMG_1888

Definitely recommended if you ever visit Disney World!

 

PJ