The Florida Summer Camp Experience 2021

Time for a vacation recap post! Some camp pictures, some vacation stories, and one trip extension later, we’re finally all home and fully unpacked.

Saturday – We kissed the older three goodbye and were on the road by 8:30 a.m. We hit some awful traffic around Washington, DC, and we arrived at South of the Border in South Carolina around 7:30 p.m. We ate at the Sombrero Restaurant, and checked out the largest gift shop. The handicap accessible room was huge, but unfortunately, I stepped on a cockroach the size of my thumb while rolling Fulton in the middle of the night. But did I cancel our reservation for another room on the return trip home? No! Because Fulton and Teddy wanted to come back and try to experience all that this roadside attraction had to offer and sanitary conditions be damned!!

And while I didn’t want to publicize it online during our travels, the older kids got to experience being home alone for some of our trip. I liked being given that responsibility when I was in high school, and I felt our kids were mature enough to handle it. So while they did spend time with my parents, they also had a few days on their own, which all went fine. It was honestly less exciting for them than they expected, but thankfully for us, they did the important things like mow the grass and take out the trash, and not say, throw a house party.

Sunday – We left by 7:30 a.m. so we could make a mass in Georgia by 10:30. We hit some rain and heavy traffic, but we still made it to our rental in Bradenton, FL by 6:30 p.m. After only having one really bad AirBnB experience, I was a bit worried about how things would go this week, but the rental was great. There was a small step we used our portable ramp on, and the boys had no trouble getting in and getting around. It was clean, well stocked, and comfortable. My faith in using AirBnB was restored.

Monday – Up early once again since camp check-in was 8:30 a.m. and we were 30 minutes away. Check-in is always a process because I’m trying to explain everything about the boys as quickly as possible. I actually have a sheet that lists all their daily care items, medications, etc. that I give to the nurses and counselors for them to reference during the week. Although it was a completely new camp with no familiar faced, Fulton and Teddy were pretty chill about drop off. We left by 10 a.m. to start Mama Papa week! I tried not to think about the worried and overwhelmed looks on the faces of the counselors as we pulled out. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at our rental, admiring the huge amounts of lizards that seemed to live everywhere, and for dinner we walked to a ramen shop with more sakes on the menu then ramen selections.

Tuesday- We finally got to sleep in, but I didn’t really need to since I got such a solid night’s sleep the night before. Getting an undisturbed night of sleep is so unusual for my body it woke up at 6:30 a.m. ready to climb Mt. Everest. We went to Holmes Beach for a bit (and learned that arriving early is the only way you can score a free public parking spot). Lying on a beach without kids is such a novel experience. I’ve never been on the gulf coast to my recollection and I was surprised how calm the water was, and how salty! It was so peaceful to just go out and float. On the way home we stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the water (nothing special and not worth mentioning). Later in the afternoon we walked the trail at the DeSoto National Memorial before the sky opened up. That seemed to be the pattern for most of the week; very hot and humid, then storms in the afternoon, before clearing up in the evening. Funny thing is, Fulton and Teddy claim they had no rain at camp all week. We also got ice cream before heading back and settling in for a movie. I love watching inappropriate comedies when I’m on vacation and so we watched Bridesmaids.

Wednesday – We got a call from camp first thing in the morning saying Teddy was having digestive issues. This happens every year so I wasn’t too concerned since he had no other symptoms. I said if he still had issues in another 12 hours to let me know, but thankfully, I didn’t get any more calls. It was a slow morning but later in the afternoon, we went into downtown Bradenton to check out the Art Village and Riverwalk. A lot of the shops and galleries were closed, and it was super hot, but we did find a tattoo parlor/ comic book shop where we picked up souvenirs for all three boys. (Comics, not tattoos.)

For dinner we wanted to try Edelweiss, a German restaurant we’d passed and it was AWESOME. Thankfully we’d arrived early because usually you need a reservation to get a seat, but they were able to squeeze us in. I got a fabulous schnitzel and potato pancakes and I even had some of the German beer on tap. Plus, there was accordion music. We were, not surprisingly, the youngest people there. It was a huge highlight for us being the lovers of German food and culture that we are. We went back and watched Old School that night.

Thursday – Hit the beach again in the morning. Relaxed in the afternoon and participated in another OSV Challenge class. The program kicked off this week and it was nice to participate in the Zoom calls without needing to resort to bribes of Disney+ to keep kids quiet in the background. I also did a video call with Edie. She was preparing to leave on a Sea Scouts cruise and wanted to see me (and Tony) before she left since she would be gone when we arrived at home. It was nice that the older kids could contact us when they wanted or needed to, but thankfully, there wasn’t too much back and forth. We wanted to go back to the German restaurant and sit at the bar that evening, but the parking lot was already packed so we went to Motorworks Brewing instead. It was a great outdoor seating area and the weather was perfect. Food and beer were okay, but most of the brews I wanted to try were out of stock so maybe I’d find something I liked better on another trip.

Friday – Our last morning alone! Nothing too exciting. Pick up was a 3. Everyone said how much they enjoyed having Fulton and Teddy and hoped they come back again next summer. Their counselors looked tired, but happy. The boys were only slightly embarrassed when I gave them both huge hugs and smooches. They shared about an epic prank they pulled on another cabin, how they managed to avoid taking more than a couple showers, and showed off some arts and crafts projects. They couldn’t help making lots of comparisons to MDA camp but both had a good week.

Saturday – Our plan was to go to Give Kids the World Village, which is where we stayed when our family was awarded a trip to Florida. They allow alumni families to visit up to four times a year. Unfortunately, they’re only open to visitors from 9 until 12 p.m on Saturday so, for something different, we woke up early to make the two hour drive to maximize our time. The boys were really excited to visit GKWV again. We arrived right at 9 and got breakfast, visited Fulton’s star in the Castle of Miracles, rode the carousel, played in the arcade and spent an exhausting amount of time running through the epic splash pad. We even managed to squeeze in some ice cream before it was time to go.

Each of those stars represents a child who has stayed at GKWV. They’re organized so that when you visit, they can find the star your child decorated. She’s using a laser pointer to show us Fulton’s.

Then it was time for Gatorland! It was so hot, and so crowded, I was seriously second guessing this decision before we even got in line to buy overpriced tickets but the boys were so excited we went ahead with it. The crowds and heat did dampen their enthusiasm a bit, but we did watch some great shows and we got to see lots of gators jumping for food. We could’ve stayed longer if we weren’t so sweaty and wiped out. We would all like to go again and take our time and maybe even try their accessible zip line!

Sunday – How about we wake up early???? Sure thing! We packed up and did all the check out cleaning around the rental before leaving for a 9 a.m. Mass. We were on the road by 10 with the hopes of getting to South of the Border in time to buy some fireworks and maybe get some chili-dogs. Unfortunately, we hit lots of heavy rain which slowed us down and we didn’t arrive until 9 p.m. We were put in the same room but thankfully, there were no roaches this time. (For the record, I really like South of the Border and would go again, I just don’t think I want to stay overnight there anymore. Fulton on the other hand would like to plan a vacation just to SOB.)

Monday – I didn’t set an alarm this morning and although Tony and I really wanted to get home, we managed to sleep in a bit, pick up a few souvenirs, some fireworks, and Fulton even got the chili-dog he wanted for breakfast. Because of the awful traffic we hit on the way down, we decided to take a different route home. It would be slightly longer but would be more scenic and less stressful…or so we thought! (Cue ominous music…) After driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, we hit a stretch of road with several traffic lights. We’d noticed some noise from under our van, but now it had become a horrible loud banging that was especially loud as I tried to accelerate from a stop. We decided we needed to pull into a garage and get it looked at ASAP. We discovered our drive shaft had broken loose and was laying on our under-mount wheelchair lift, which isn’t really great for either part. We were forced to get a hotel room nearby and wait for the necessary part to come in, and for the repair to be made. While our handicap accessible hotel room had a roll in shower, it was small with little room for the chairs to move around, had weak wi-fi, and worst of all, it smelled like cat urine. And everything was sticky and damp, oh, and there were tons of flies. Teddy said, “It’s like a hydra. You kill one and two more appear to take its place.” While there were no cockroaches (that I saw) it was a dive for sure, and the pool was closed. Thankfully I’d packed enough extra supplies, and Tony or I could walk to McDonald’s or CVS for extra food or supplies, but I was praying we’d only be there one night.

“Bonus” Tuesday – On Tuesday we sat around. Tony couldn’t do much work due to the poor wi-fi. Because of our location on a four lane highway, I couldn’t walk with the boys anywhere. We watched TV, played on tablets, listed to an audio book, read, and tried to kill time while we waited for news from the garage. Thankfully, our van was fixed for a fair price by 5 p.m. After packing, we were on the road by 6 and only made one quick stop on the way home. We finally pulled in at 10:30 p.m. Addie and Byron came outside to greet us and we immediately made them help unload the van. All the animals gathered round for attention as well. I was very happy to be home.

Showing my happy face in the new Lego room at GKWV. Perfect visualization for how I felt when we got home.

Phew! How was your week? Write it down then link it up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

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  1. I loved seeing the pictures from GKTW. Our boys wanted to visit again but we weren’t sure they were letting visitors in already.

  2. I’m legit surprised y’all were the youngest people at the German place, though i guess I’m spoiled. Texas has a still pretty vibrant German culture (especially central Texas) and families young enough to still have kids in the house are a definite part of it.
    Also… schnitzel…mmmmm….

  3. Wow. What an experience! I wish that German restaurant were closer. So happy you had a good trip, except for the cockroach (ugh) and the car trouble on the way home. How wonderful that Fulton and Teddy had such a good time–and you and your husband!

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