Monday, February 17, 2014

Tampa, Florida

We had such an enjoyable time visiting with Steve’s family in the Tampa area! 

When we first arrived, we managed to get into town in time to go to our nephew’s tenth birthday party.  It was a nice afternoon, and it was wonderful to be able to see our nephew’s mother for a short while.  The party was a success; we had tired little boys afterwards! 

Later that day, we went to Largo Park to see the Christmas decorations and to meet Santa.  It was a beautiful day, and the park was festively decorated.  We relaxed for a little while before meeting Santa.  Then we met with everyone in the family at a local restaurant before saying goodbye for the evening.  (And it was here that we had our first meeting with our seventeen-year-old niece, who is now living with Steve's step-mother.  Due to her unusual circumstances, we hadn't ever met her until this evening.  She is a lovely girl, and we wish her the best future.)

Steve left the next day to work in San Antonio for a couple of weeks while the boys and I stayed behind.  Mostly we did schoolwork (although we did hit that snag with the air conditioners that I explained in a previous post). We did arrange to spend some time with the family while he was away.

Also, we met up with some friends of ours whom we have known for a long time.  We met them back in the late 1990’s when we were assigned together at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota (near Rapid City).  We became friends because they had identical twin boys who were only two months older than our identical twin boys.  Throughout the years we kept in touch.  They went on to have three more girls, and we had four more boys. At one point they did a short duty tour in San Antonio, and we were able to see them a few times when we lived there.  However, they are now assigned to MacDill AFB, so we got in touch.  We spent an afternoon at their house one day, and then later in the week we met them at the park along with some other military homeschoolers.
One other interesting fact about this family:  they always homeschooled their children, like we have.  However, since their boys are slightly older than ours, they were always one grade level ahead of our boys.  So this past fall was their twins’ first semester away at college.  And that college happens to be the same one that one of our boys will (hopefully) be attending some day!  We were able to reintroduce our kids to their family, and our son had a nice chat session with them one evening when they visited us in our camper.  (Yes, all of their family and all of our family somehow managed to squeeze into the camper – all 15 of us!)  They are a great family, and I only wish we had more time to spend with them while we were in the area.

Once Steve returned from Texas, we invited all of his family out to our campground’s private beach for an afternoon of visiting.  Steve also took the older boys to Busch Gardens with Grandma on two different occasions while the younger boys and I just relaxed at the beach.
Steve also had an opportunity to meet up with a friend of his from when he was deployed to Iraq.  They met one morning for coffee before Steve headed to Busch Gardens with the boys.

Christmas came and went.  Somehow Santa still managed to find us even though we are far from home.  We had a “fire” on our camper “fireplace”, opened presents, and had our traditional Christmas breakfast.  Later in the day we went to Grandma’s house for a family get-together.  We managed to see everyone in the family that day. While we were exchanging presents and watching old home movies, I was reminded about how much we all miss Steve’s mother and father, both of whom passed away within the last few years.  Their absence was notably felt, and our memories of each of them filled our hearts. 

The two days following Christmas we said our last goodbyes to everyone and prepared to hit the road once again.  We were so blessed to be able to spend this time in Florida with the family.