Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in North Georgia

After visiting family, we decided to make use of our timeshare in Clarkesville, Georgia before heading back to "real life." The area is beautiful!! We enjoyed a quiet day with just our family on Christmas Day--bagles with cream cheese & smoked salmon for breakfast--yummm--and an assortment of other treats with stuffed shells for dinner.  Steve & I enjoyed watching our kids give gifts to each other. Coming from a non-gifting kind of family, I'm astounded at how good our kids are at giving gifts! Watching the joy on their faces as they watched a sibling open a gift, looking just as excited as if it were their own present, is priceless!!

Afterwards, we played a round of mini-golf that the littles could not possibly have enjoyed more! Seriously, Jake & Katie had soooo much fun! Katie kept swiping the balls on the course, and Jake somehow managed to find a way to wade through the streams winding through the course, all in pursuit of the ball, of course. ;) We also enjoyed (at least some of us did) a little tennis while the littles enjoyed playground time.

Somebody can't wait to open the presents
Smoked Salmon and bagels were a special treat on Christmas morning
On the best weather day, we decided to go to Tululah Gorge briefly. Really the best thing about this gorge is hiking down into the gorge, with the next best thing to just go down all the stairs to the suspension bridge & back up again, but we decided against all those stairs with all the littles in tow. The visitor center is a lot of fun for the kids though, will lots of animal displays on the bottom level & replicas of what the area used to look like in times past on the upper level.

It was a very pretty December day for visiting the gorge
Some people are so cute they can't help themselves
After a picnic lunch, we were off to see Minnehaha Falls. The drive to get to them was amazing--winding roads alongside the river with absolutely spectacular homes!  Even the kids were delighted by the sights! The hike to see the falls is short and the falls were totally worth the trek. It was definitely chilly, but the falls were beautiful & watching Jake & Genna hold hands while blasting down the hiking trail warmed my heart!

Beautiful Minnehaha Falls
He still wants to marry her ;)
We also enjoyed the fantastic playgrounds at Sam Pitts Park in Clarkesville.  For some reason, the area of Florida we're in just doesn't have many playgrounds. It was so much fun to see all the kids run & play, but it was especially delightful to see Katie discover the joys of slides for the first time!

We thoroughly enjoyed our time here & hope to come back exploring again!

The Clarkesville town square had a gazebo and lots of pretty Christmas lights
Katie did not 'allow' us to have a picture with just the parents
Dad has this merry-go-round spinning quite fast, but not with Katie on it.
Somebody really enjoyed themselves at the park
Giving Mom a kiss
It is always a treat to take a bubble bath in the jetted tub

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Visiting Family in South Carolina

After living far, far away from where I grew up in South Carolina for the last couple years, we finally live within reasonable driving distance (8 hours) to my parents & my oldest brother & his wife.  We decided to come visit over the week of Christmas because Steve's office would be closed for part of that time.  I had the crazy idea of bringing Shanan & Alyssa to stay with Glen & Cindy for the week prior to the rest of us coming  to visit. I figured they probably weren't ready for the whole crew just yet. ;)  I proposed my idea, & they took me up on it, offering to meet us partway even!

After burning off a little energy from the long drive, we enjoyed a late lunch at Cracker Barrel just outside of Atlanta, & then our big girls drove away to South Carolina & the rest of us drove back to Florida.  From the reports I've heard, I think Uncle Glen & Aunt Cindy made some great memories with my big girls & may have spoiled them just a little. ;)  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I mean RV, I spent most of the week purging, sorting, organizing, & being amazed at how different the dynamics are without my big girls around!  Jake & Genna got into an argument about which one of them missed Shanan & Alyssa more. :)   And I know Shanan & Alyssa were shocked to hear that I survived without having them around to do their chores. ;) Somehow, I managed! :)

Jake and Genna had fun playing with the goats
The next weekend, Steve & I drove back all the way to South Carolina with the littles to visit.  We got a chance to stay in Glen & Cindy's new cabin, which was awesome!  The weather for the majority of the visit was pretty rotten, but before it got too bad, the littles enjoyed helping to feed the goats & horses on "the farm."  We enjoyed yummy South Carolina bbq chicken from Maurice's, a visit to Shealy's, & Cindy's hot, buttery french toast & pancakes.  Somewhere in there, Alyssa made homemade rolls twice, & Shanan made cookie dough truffles dipped in chocolate. I think we might've all gained weight. ;)

We also got a chance to attend my extended family's annual eve of Christmas Eve dinner.  I enjoyed the chance to see my aunts & uncles & many of my cousins.  Time keeps marching on, & no one is getting any younger, so it is good to take advantage of the chance to visit!

Katie had a blast at the family reunion
Katie and Linda's cousin Marty had some bonding time together
One of the best parts of our visit was watching my mom pass on her passions/hobbies to her granddaughters.  My mom can crochet better than anyone I know, & she worked with Shanan, Alyssa, and Genna, teaching all of them to crochet!  It was priceless to see Genna so enthralled with the chance to learn to do something that her big sisters were also learning to do!  She was focused & determined!  My mom also taught Alyssa to embroider, something she'd expressed interest in learning.  Knowing we'd be visiting, I asked my mom to teach her since I remember her embroidering all the time when I was a kid!  When my mom found out that Alyssa's current favorite pastime is drawing women's faces, she provided her magazines with lots of face shots to study & attempt to duplicate.  It was truly a treat to watch my mom & my girls bond over something my mom is passionate about!  I think she's definitely passed on the creative, crafty gene!

Of course a visit to Shealy's BBQ is a must 
I also really enjoyed watching my littles enjoy & roughhouse with Grandpa & Uncle Glen! I think my brother enjoyed them, too, although after we left, he also probably enjoyed the ability to sit in peace & quiet without being attacked by the littles. :)

All in all, it was a great visit!  Thanks so much for the hospitality & allowing us to add much chaos & noise to your lives, Glen & Cindy, Mama & Daddy!

There was lots of roughhousing with Uncle Glen and lots of Jake nosepicking, this shows both
Time to say goodbye
Until next time...

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ponce De Leon Spring State Park

As the weather has cooled down, we've had to get a bit more creative in finding things to do together as a family on the weekends.  It's still super important to do something, as we've found quite a bit of cabin fever setting in otherwise!  We heard about Ponce de Leon Spring State Park, just a bit over an hour's drive away from us, and decided it was worth the trek.  The weather looked good for the weekend, with the lingering days of Indian summer, 70s & mostly sunny. After everyone having been sick, we were all itching for a chance to get out!

We found this delightful hole in the wall
Nothing like thick, hand-formed, never-frozen burgers
We arrived in the area & scoped out Sally's Restaurant.  Alyssa had requested that we eat out as a family, and Steve's online research netted this gem of a hole-in-the-wall.  Don't go to Sally's if you're in the mood for gourmet offerings or health-conscious choices. However, if you're in the mood for a simple *really* good burger made from fresh, never frozen, meat, with hand-formed patties, you won't be disappointed!  The sides were nothing special (though the kids were pretty enchanted with the corn fritters), honestly, but the burger is worth going back for if you're ever in the area.  The fish sandwich got rave reviews from the kids, too.  The doll displays & the clocks on the walls provided lots of interest factor for the littles.

It took a while to get these two in the water
But they did finally jump, the splash on the right is Linda
Guess I can't walk on water
Just one of the ten times or so that we made the plunge into the 68 degree water
There's not a whole lot do at Ponce de Leon--a nature walk, fishing if you remember your gear (we didn't), and a dip in some pretty chilly water--68 degrees always.  We worked up the nerve to all go for a dip, even those of us who are a little less adventure-seeking than others.  It was an example of how sometimes the difference between having an ordinary time & having an extraordinary, memorable time is being willing to stretch yourself & act a little silly! :)  I'm happy to say that everyone chose to make memories. :)  Good times were had by all!

The spring lets out into a creek, on the left is the path to the nature trail

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Riding the 30-A Bike Trail on Thanksgiving Day

(By Steve) On Thanksgiving morning I took a few hours to explore the 30-A bike trail. The house we rented had seven bikes in the garage for renters to use. I took the least crappy bike, which in actuality was still fairly crappy, but to be expected with a rental.  It was a mountain bike with loose suspension, which caused the first part of my energy to be spent moving the suspension.  If you ever mountain biked, this might make sense.

he 30-A is a fairly well known part of Florida that consists of many villages along the 30-A highway. It's about 18 miles in length and sits between Destin and Panama City Florida. The whole road has a well developed bike trail alongside of it. The house we rented was in Blue Mountain Beach, which does have a beach, but no mountain, of course; this is Florida, after all! We were halfway between mile 5 and 6 of the 30-A.

The trail runs near Greyton State Park
I kept looking for gators in the lakes but saw none
I didn't get an early start on Thanksgiving morning, so it wasn't until 11AM that I actually left. The temperature was pretty chilly that day with a high of 59. Despite being chilly, it was bright and sunny.

I promised Linda that I wouldn't be out too long; it was Thanksgiving Day after all, & she was slaving away in the kitchen. I set the timer on my phone for 1:20 and headed West.  I had hoped to make it all the way to the West end of the trail, but I stopped around mile 17 in the town of Seacrest Beach. When I turned around, I discovered the dreaded head wind and knew that it would be difficult getting back in time.  The wind was vicious and cold, and I really began to hate the bike.  I felt like I had to pay the first tenth of my energy to the stupid suspension.

The much photographed post office in Seaside
In places, the trail runs very close to the beach
There are no dunes here, and a longer stretch of sand than the beaches farther West.
It took me about 20 minutes longer but I made it back okay.  I managed to ride 24 miles on a crappy bike depite being out of biking shape.  I was pretty sore for the rest of the day, but then I got to enjoy my football team the Philadelphia Eagles beat the snot out of the Dallas Cowboys.  Of course, after the game, I was more than ready for a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner.

Alys Beach struck me as a pretentious kind of place

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Week with the Bradfords

My sister Wanda & her family decided to come visit us over Thanksgiving.  It seemed like an awesome idea--going halves on a house close to the beach, fun times with family, & a chance to have a special Thanksgiving! Little did we know all the *fun* times that were in store for us!

The house...was great, really!  Our bigs enjoyed having a big, soft bed to sleep in and a room to share, just the two of them. Genna & Jake loved having a nightly slumber party with their cousins -- 4 bunk beds shared amongst 5 kids, with a different combination sleeping together each night and more often than not, one bed completely unoccupied!  The huge master shower with  two shower heads was a unique experience, too!

The house was called Cabana Blu
The beach here was just OK, not near as nice as Navarre
The weather...not really so great.  Two full days of rain, many cold (50s) sunny days, and one partly sunny, warm day.  Now, if you're from up north & dealing with below freezing temps much of the time, that might not seem so bad, but if you're hoping to actually play in the surf, the weather was a tad disappointing.

The beach...not as awesome as what we've experienced for the most part around here.  It was okay, but the sand was not nearly so fine & white, and the water not as clear blue & green, although the water color may have been due to the time of year. The beach was a solid 5-10 minute walk (depending on the eagerness & energy levels of the little people in tow) from the house. The kids still had lots of fun playing in the sand & at the edge of the surf on the tolerably warm day(s).

Cousin time...was definitely a win! I love watching my kids enjoy their cousins; there's something heartwarming about watching family bonds grow & strengthen. The most hilarious interaction would have to be between Thavyn & Genna.  It all started when Thavyn asked Genna to sit next to him at mealtime. In Genna's words, "I had no idea that everything Thavyn says would be sooooo funny!  I can't stop laughing!"  There were endless giggles & merriment.  I think it was a classic case of a cousin crush! ;)  Shanan got some new subjects for practicing her hair braiding, and Alyssa rounded up Aunt Wanda for a makeover. Fortunately, those took place before the yuckies surfaced in full force!

These three couldn't resist getting in the cold water
Might as well jump
The bike trail (the 30-A)...well, I couldn't tell ya since I didn't get to check it out.  The Bradfords did manage an outing with our two big girls and all of their crew & they survived!  Steve also managed a solo outing.

The hiking trails...on Thanksgiving Day, I did manage to go on a short little jaunt on a hiking trail "through the fawrest," just along the edge of the subdivision with the well, or mostly well people. It was a fun little diversion!

Grayton Beach State Park...on our last full day, we visited and had good spite of my less than stellar condition. The kids had a blast playing along the hiking trails, & there was also much fun to be had on the beach.  The ocean was literally like glass here!  Jake had so much fun trying to catch seagulls, of which he informed me, "We don't eat seagulls." True that!!

Group photo at Grayton Beach State Park

The nature trail was fun for all
The health of the Zavockis??? an all time low this visit.  Seriously, if you ask a Zavocki or Bradford about Thanksgiving 2014, the predominant memory would have to be how many times a Zavocki got sick.  When we arrived, Genna & Katie had colds, snot & coughing.  No big deal, really, just that time of year. However, after Steve left to return for work on Monday & Tuesday, I came down with some 24hour crud, headache & body aches.  Kudos to my sister for feeding everyone, & my bigs for watching Katie while I essentially went to bed at 4:00. While I was down with this crud, Jake woke in the middle of the night screaming, holding his head & proceeded to throw up.  Fun times, I say!  Again, thanks to my sister for helping him get to the bathroom, grabbing a barf bowl in a timely fashion, & helping clean up the puke on the floor! Fortunately, by morning, his head & stomach were fine, and I felt much improved. Tuesday proved rather uneventful, if you don't count the rain.

Wednesday morning, Katie woke with a bit of crud in the corners of her eyes. I didn't think much of it because she'd had cold symptoms & occasionally, those go hand in hand. By evening, however, it was starting to look like a classic case of pink eye. Hmm...lovely, really. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, dawned with Thavyn & Genna looking slightly pink in one eye, & Katie looking altogether miserable.  Having used eye drops for pink eye with the bigs when they were little, I wasn't anxious to do so again.  Shanan fought the drops so badly she burst a blood vessel in her eye which looked worse & took longer to recover from than the pink eye itself, so this time I used some remedies I have since used with success--tea bags & breastmilk (benefits of not having weaned yet!).  Alyssa also woke with the same headache, body ache crud that I'd had on Monday, so she was out of commission for most of the day. Sharing is caring, right??!

Despite all the yuckies, we managed to pull together a yummy Thanksgiving meal--Turkey & stuffing, grilled lamb, mashed potatoes & gravy, roasted cauliflower, carrots, cranberry chutney, brandied cranberries, beet casserole, sweet potato casserole, & pumpin pie, pecan pie, & one of Tracy's famous cakes!  Even Alyssa was feeling better by the time dinner was served & was able to be up & enjoy it!  Definitely a win!

With one full, sunny day remaining, we had high hopes of all being well & enjoying some activity together before the pack up/clean up that was looming!  Friday morning, Katie was looking better, though still pretty rough, but Thavyn & Genna were looking better!  I awoke with a bit of crud in the corners of my eyes, but I was optimistic.  We began the process of packing & cleaning & by late in the afternoon finally made it out the door to go explore Grayton Beach State Park.  My eyes were continuing to bother me, but again, I was hanging in there.  The state park was such a great outing, the kind of the thing we had all hoped we would be doing most days while we were "on vacation." was becoming clear that I was definitely getting pink eye...and a pretty rotten case at that.  Lovely, so lovely.  I'm sure you're all grateful that I'm wearing sunglasses in all the pictures; I know I sure am!

Sisters-good thing she loves me through thick & thin!
Steve and I on the last full day

We returned from our final (& only "everyone together") outing to eat more leftovers & try to make more headway to get ready to leave by checkout at 10am on Saturday. Jake skipped dinner, then complained his head hurt again, and proceeded to throw up (albeit a miniscule amount) again, before falling asleep on our bathroom floor. This time, I'm reasonably convinced that with me being sick, he was definitely overtired & possibly hadn't drank enough during the day, & either one, or both, could contribute to feeling pretty crummy. Or...he could have been fighting some bug. Then, Genna was partying hard with her cousins when she also randomly threw up on the floor. Again, not much, but seriously??  Meanwhile, I was growing increasingly miserable. And, we still had to prepare for our 10 am checkout, followed by a mere one and a half hour commute for us, and a good solid ten hour drive for the Bradfords....

The good news...we survived *and* we made memories! :) I was pretty sure that the accompanying symptoms indicated our pink eye was probably viral, so we didn't rush off to get prescription drops. Somehow, we did indeed make it out by our checkout time.  So grateful that we don't typically get slammed with sickness like we did this time!  Upon arriving home, the pink eye continued to spread throughout until the all the Zavockis got it, some very mild cases with mine & Katie's being the worst. A few Bradfords got it, too, but since they're family, they still love us anyway! :)'s good to vacation...but sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation, lol! :)

The night the Bradford's arrived, Steve took the girls to see the Christian band Third Day in concert
The concert was awesome, we highly recommend see Third Day in concert