Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blue Spring

Levi, James and I went to Blue Spring State Park.    Levi and I had never been to a springs before so this was our first adventure.   We really enjoyed it and plan on going to see other springs as well.   We had a picnic lunch, swam and snorkeled in the springs, watched a rain storm, and then walked up and down the wooden path while Levi kayaked.    

Hello dragonfly!

 Thursby House -  Before this was a state park, people lived in this house and the spring was their front yard.   How different it would be before all the wooden paths, camp areas, buildings, playground, and all those people!

 Because fishing is not allowed, there were a ton of huge fish who make their home at the springs.    These are mostly alligator gar, nearly as long as Levi.  

We put on snorkel gear and swam towards where the spring starts.  At the head of the springs, there is a big deep hole with a fallen tree branch across it.    Diving down, you can see how far it goes.   I can't hold my breath long and the pressure down there is amazing making my ears pop.     There were lots of people in this area, making noise, swimming around, splashing - some with no concept of personal space.   But if you could tune them out or go underwater, you could focus on seeing the beauty of the spring.    And there were moments of open space, where one could imagine what it would be like to be in this place all alone.  

 The water is super cold, so when we decided we were freezing, we swam back to where we got in.   A storm rolled in and we waited under a covered picnic area, watching Levi play on the playground in the rain and pick beauty berries.   Beauty berries are edible and can repel bugs, unless maybe you have stinky feet in which case I don't know what works.  

When the rain slowed down, we had a look at the river, and then got Levi's kayak out.   Blue Spring has a "boat" area for kayaks, and a "swim" area, separated by a rope and a sign.

 Levi launched his kayak by shoving it down the stairs into the water, and took off.    Because there were only 2 other kayaks in the water, I didn't think he would stay in for long without us.

We walked up and down the path.

And watched the water, the fish, and the boy. 

 That kid stayed in the kayak for a very long time, going back and forth just exploring and experiencing nature.    A calm and mostly solitary activity for someone always in motion.   He occasionally followed the other kayakers but for the most part was on his own.   He even scared some people who thought he was going to get eaten by a gator.   Right before he got out, he picked up a foam cup that was floating in the water, removing a piece of something so out of place.  

Me, just looking.

 It was a wonderful introduction to Florida Springs.   We left with a guidebook of more places to visit, this was just the first of more adventures to come.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Junior Lifeguard Camp

Levi has spent a good part of his summer attending Junior Lifeguard camp through Space Coast Youth Multi-Sports.  It has been a wonderful experience for him, full of learning, friendships, hard-work, and lots of fun on the beach.   
The kids did lots of surfing, beach games, yoga, learned about water saving and recycling, did beach clean ups, learned CPR/First aid/Lifesaving,  running, swimming and paddling.

Beautiful beach where camp takes place

The kids did a lot of surfing, one of Levi's favorite camp activities.  

They learned how to do CPR (good thing, in case Levi ever needs to save my life!)

They played fun games....

Sack race

Beach flags -  I'm not sure I'm clear on how this one is played, but from what I gather, they lay on the beach, heads go up and down and at some point they hop up and run to grab flags.  The cap Levi has on is a lifeguard cap, look a bit silly but he doesn't mind!

Here, the kids learned how to put someone on a backboard while protecting their neck.   They learned lots of rescue skills. 

Practice rescues

And of course, one of the best parts was that Levi got to hang out with a great group of kids. 

Thank you Vanessa for organizing all of this and giving Levi a great summer!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Levi's 8th Birthday Camping Party

Levi had a wonderful birthday weekend, and turned 8yrs old!    He chose a camping theme this year so we had his party at a local park near the water.    It was a lot of work but all came together in the end, the kids really enjoyed themselves.   Our friend James decided to help me get organized for the party, and set it up, and clean it up, and even take some pictures!   It was very helpful to have backup this year, the party turned out great! 

My favorite camper in his mommy made outfit.   The shirt stayed on for all of 30 seconds, and everything was covered in water and dirt 10 seconds after that.  

And I look like a weirdo here, but was convinced to get my picture taken with my not-so-little guy.  

Camp Levi signs

Our "campsite" camp #8 of course.

This one I made for his 2nd birthday, before I had a decent sewing stash, or sewing machine, and these colors no longer suit Levi, but I still pull this out every year!

Levi decided we needed "rules" so this is what we came up with.

And he said kids needed to "sign in" (I suppose like they do at his lifeguard camp)
The kids each got a red or blue strip of fabric tied around their wrist for their "team" and had a painter's tape name tag.  

The food:

This is a vegan chocolate cake, with melted vegan marshmallows and graham cracker.    I made the tiny tent, and the fire pit is pretzels.    Its much messier than I intended, however, it was made at 1am so not so bad.   It tasted good!    I also made healthier banana cupcakes with chocolate icing, which we put on the "tent" cupcake stand from last year's birthday.  

Ants on a log (made with sunbutter)

Can you see my mistake on this sign?   No one seemed to notice, I didn't see it until the day after I made it.   Too much work to change it!    Make your own s'mores station included marshmallows, chocolate chips, crasins, and sunbutter.   Kids put their toppings in an ice cream cone, wrapped in foil and put on the grill to heat.  Yum!   

Baked beans, which no one really ate, even though they were really good!   My dad's recipe.   I also made corn which was re-heated on the grill, manned by our friend Ted from church.     
We also had bunny food (carrots/hummus), birdseed (sunflower seeds), and various trail mixes.    I brought along 3 jugs of water, one with orange in it, and another with a "green juice" blend thrown in (made it taste like fruit water, but look like swamp water).   Kids and adults were reluctant to taste that one, and one guest ran out to get extra water (Thank you Laurie!) 

The first main activity was a scavenger hunt.   James and I found a bunch of random "stuff" that started with different letters.    He hid these along with our ransom note tags in two different colors.    Each team had to find the items, pull off the tag, and bring it back to the apple boxes.   There, they had to unscramble to spell the word "birthday".   It was a tie!   An exciting finish as both teams got the word spelled at the same time. 

The kids had time to hang out at "camp"

Making friendship bracelets in the "arts and crafts tent"

Playing in the river.   (Levi was full on swimming, everyone else just waded! 

Eating and chatting while making s'mores cones

Trying out the slackline

Cake time!

Levi enthusiastically sang "Happy birthday to ME!" along with all of his friends.  

The next activity was a watermelon explosion.   This looked much better on youtube than it turned out in real life, but still had an interesting result.

This is what it was supposed to look like:

First, I chose a watermelon.   People thought I was awfully strange putting rubberbands on watermelons in Publix, and then taking pictures.   I ended up choosing the bigger one.

You can see our problem started right away, the kids didn't get the rubber bands all in one spot on the watermelon.   Because they were spread out, the pressure wasn't all in one spot.  

Different kids, and finally a few adults worked on this the rest of the party!  

Levi didn't help much, he was too busy eating cake.   

Back to the watermelon later, it took a long time....

Meanwhile, the next activity started, obstacle course! 
Kids had to weave, step, hop, fill a cup with water, carry it over their head and fill up a bucket.  

 Back to the watermelon....

Finally, someone gave it a good whack and it split in half, much to the delight of the kids who got to finally eat the watermelon.   Because of the "squishing" a lot of juice same out too, so they drank that up.

Me scooping while now muddy Levi drinks watermelon juice.  

I set the watermelon on the picnic table while the kids continued to eat.    Scooping out some of the melon must have weakened the half that was left with rubber bands still on it, because while we were gathered round, all of a sudden it gave way sending watermelon flying.   The spoon, which had been sitting in the watermelon, held all the rubber bands.    It was crazy!

This is my favorite picture of the day.    My crazy mess boy, and his bewildered friends.  

For whatever reason, we didn't get any pictures, but another thing we did at the end of the party was water balloons!   James made a contraption with an exercise band and a funnel that shot water balloons an amazing distance.   3 people launched, and the kids tried their best to get splattered.    Fun stuff.  

Lots of work planning, carrying everything, running activities, making food, and cleaning it all up.    But Levi went home tired, happy, and of course, a complete mess!    Thank you to all our wonderful friends who helped with the party, and came out to celebrate with Levi.   Happy Birthday Levi!

Bonus pics!    A friend sent me some of the pics she took... 

The other tent...

Party favors ("stick" pencils... the tag says "Thanks for sticking around at camp Levi" 

Making s'mores

S'more station

Food pic

Lounging area