It's true. I held a live, very hairy, very large spider in my bare hands. Which basically means I climbed Mt. Everest in my mind, but we will get to that in a minute.
After spending 3 years in San Antonio it's been a little tough coming back to snowy, cold winters. So we headed south to Florida for an extra dose of vitamin D and a complete lack of obligation. It was dreamy. I looked and looked for a great place for us to stay on AirBNB and what sold me was the fact that the place was within walking distance to the beach, several restaurants and shops. Honestly, once I booked our place I didn't look up any other plans until we were already in Florida. After we drove from the airport to the condo, I don't think we got in the car for 3 more days. We woke up, hung out, ate some food, eventually made our way to the beach then back again for good food and possibly ice cream. Friends, this was an actual vacation.
One of my favorite little moments at the beach came when Lamp was sitting near me, digging in the sand, then suddenly said, Mom, I'm going to go make a new friend. Bye! And off she scooted in the sand to those two littles above. Their grandparents were very cute and welcoming of Lamp and wouldn't you know it, she played with those two kids until they left. When I went to go get a few up close -up shots I captured this magic little moment... Lamp' and her new friend both using their feet to hold their shovels and stir the 'soup.' This happens quite a bit, but I haven't seen it a while and made all of us smile.
Toward the end of our vacation we decided to get out a little more. First, we took a day trip to Naples and spent the majority of the day at the botanical gardens. We had only planned to stay there for a couple hours, but stayed pretty much all day. If you're ever in Naples, GO. Their children's garden alone is worth it.
OK, so here's the truth. Yes we wanted a day trip and to get a way for a while, but we could have chosen a few destinations...the main reason I wanted to go to Naples? To meet Kelle Hampton. Natch. She agreed and we met up with all 6 kids (and B of course) for ice cream. As we were pulling up to the ice cream place I felt like I was stepping into Kelle's blog seeing these familiar faces I've known so long via the world wide web. She was of course delightful and her kids were as adorable and sweet as they are online. I don't regret meeting up with Kelle and all our kiddos like this--I wanted to meet them and for her to meet my kiddos too--but Kelle is one of those people you want to sit down and have a good long talk about all the meaty stuff in life. Chasing 6 kids around an outdoor ice cream shop and into a pool store where our kids slowly deconstructed said pool store little by little does not allow for much meaty conversation...so next time. But still it was one of the highlights for me.
Followed very quickly by another highlight as promised in the title. Holding a tarantula. Which I did. Because I'm a bada... wait, where was I? OK so B found this place called Safari Edventure where they rescue and rehabilitate animals and promise some up close and personal animal contact--like holding an alligator and petting a wolf. It was a little home-made-zoo-ish...but better. It was lush and tropical and there were so many different kinds of animals.
Finally we sat down for the presentation portion of the day where dude comes out with our very first animal encounter. A tarantula, aka my worst nightmare. I'm cool with snakes, I really want to dive with sharks at some point, but tarantulas have no place in my life. Ever. My most common reoccurring dream growing up were spider dreams and there were always terrifying. And sometimes at night when I'm trying to go to sleep I'll suddenly imagine there is a tarantula in my bed and then I'm awake again for a very long time. In short, they are the worst. But the weird thing is I've thought about this scenario for a while, like if I'm ever somewhere where they are talking about tarantulas and offering for people to hold them, I was going to do it. So weirdly when he first walked out I recoiled in disgust but knew almost immediately that I was gonna hold that s.o.b. if it killed me. As you can see by my face, it almost did.
But at the same time I was like Boom! Take that fear. Conquered! And honestly I'm a lot less freaked out about tarantulas now. I know this is all sounding very dramatic, but this felt like a very big deal to me. But get this, who know who else held the tarantula? Yes B.... but also...
This girl. I STILL CANNOT GET OVER THIS.
This was not even a big decision I looked over at her and was like Are you really going to hold it? And she nodded and gave me a look like, calm down woman. She was so zen about it. Seriously look at her face, she was all, Sup' 'ranchy. She was the only kid who went near that thing. A day after holding it I said, I still can't believe you held that tarantula! And she said, What's the big deal? It's just a large, hairy spider. Exactly kid. EXACTLY. Nerves of steel.
You might be thinking whats the big deal? Lots of kids aren't afraid of spiders and even have tarantulas as pets. What's weird is that this girl still gets freaked out by small spiders. I have to come kill and/or remove any small insects from the house. And in fact, while we were on vacation we saw a spider on the balcony--a cool semi-big one. And she had a mini-freak and proclaimed, great...now I'm going to have nightmares. Go figure... either way, she's the coolest kid I know.
We also held an alligator, a Burmese python, petted a skunk, a sloth and a timber wolf.
But it should be noted that not all of us conquered our fears on this trip. Zuzu wouldn't go near the sand. Sand was like death to her and she avoided it's strange shifting surface at all costs. You win this time Zuzu.
For us, at this time and season, it was the perfect trip.