Monday, January 9, 2012

The Creation of a Vacation

The day, the hour, the minute...finally arrived. January 2, 2012 - VACATION!  If you follow my life at all, you will know that it has been a very long time since our last vacation. Even our last vacation (3 days in Miami) was wonderful, but it took me 2 days to stop crying and then I only had one day of pure enjoyment. I don't know how else to explain the emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that comes from caring full time for an advanced Alzheimer's loved one can be (but that is what caused my 2 days of crying on our last vacation). We absolutely are grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to care for Pop for all of those years. It was an honor and our way of honoring our elders. We would do it again without question. However, even the facility director of the home where Pop and happily resides and Pop's physician told my husband and I that we went way above and beyond what anyone would ever expect. We didn't know...we wouldn't have even considered putting him in a home if God didn't orchestrate every detail leading up to that decision. My family unit is blessed to be able to know that we loved and cared for Pop for so long and we continue to love and care for him, he just doesn't live with us anymore.

With all of that said, the thought of going on vacation seemed like a distant reality. With Mike in school and our finances extremely tight, we really couldn't justify going on any vacation...our day would come...when Mike got a job.

Well, as the Lord would have it, we were blessed by another family who were unable to use their entire stay at their condo this particular week and they offered for us to stay in Kissimmee, Florida. I remember the day I was approached about this, I felt like Jimmy Stewart from "It's A Wonderful Life."  We happily agreed.

The week or two leading up to this particular day found my dog very sick and in need of x-rays and medication and 2 vet visits, my need of 3 medical exams, (a brain scan, mammogram & an ultrasound...all without health insurance), and finally the day before we left found out that we were never sent our homeowner's insurance bill and our policy lapsed and we now owed more money and a new policy had to be drafted. Whew there blew our budget, like in no time at all. I really didn't think we could do anything that resembled a vacation. I cried a river at how rapidly our funds were disappearing, but after my quiet time three days before we left, I had a new vision about our stay in Kissimmee. My goal was not to spend more than $50 a day on anything. We did it and I am amazed by God's favor once again!

So off we go! I was going to name this blog "Having a Blast on a Budget", but opted for the Creation.

In the beginning, God created an opportunity for us to get away...

Day 1 - found us drooling over the condo and feeling like giddy little children!
 My children could hardly wait to unpack their little bags and make their rooms "their rooms."
 Just being surrounded by "new to us" is always refreshing!
This little spot is where I wanted to do my morning devotions. However, it was way too cold, so I opened the blinds in the morning and stayed nice and warm in my blanket. Oh and I will save what the Lord taught me on this vacation for another blog...stay tuned. Powerful quiet time!
So on our first night, we knew we had to go grocery shopping, but we've never been to the Mall at Millenia and wanted to see what was so special. Well, it was indeed special...a very pricey mall, but so festive and beautiful.
We walked around, took lots of fun photos, dreamed big dreams, and my children rode the escalator several times. (Throw us into a closet and we could have fun..I kid you not!)
Took pictures of fun items. Some were not bad prices (not on my budget right now) those Star Wars cookie cutters from William Sonoma..aren't they cool?

Some were way way to pricey..but beautiful, like this table from Pottery Barn. Put your coffee down...$2,800, or something close to that!
No we did not stop at one of the 2 Starbucks at the mall. My gift cards are all gone and well, I just wanted to be careful. So the night ends in smiles because we went to Publix and bought ice cream for my boys and a whole bag of Starbucks Coffee (which I'm still drinking as of this morning).

And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. - Under budget...success!

Day 2 - I can go a little crazy when I give myself my challenge - but we still had one of the best days ever..and spent NO money at all!

Kyle was the first one awake...he loves to find me doing my devotions..we started the day together, he sipping hot cocoa, me drinking coffee, both of us talking to Jesus.
Once everyone was awake we made homemade waffles for breakfast! YUM! Then it was time to get some energy out. We drove around looking for a park, couldn't find a public park so we took over the condo tennis courts and played for 2 hours.
Well, they played for two hours, I'm a lover not a fighter, so I gave up and went inside to do this....
and then I started getting dinner ready. When the boys came back they took showers and waited for me to finish dinner...all the while doing this...and it was peaceful, and we were happy and the house smelled of homemade pizza!
After dinner we settled in for some puzzle making and movie night! We had the absolute peaceful, free, fun day EVER!!

And there was evening, and there was morning, -- the second day.

Day 3 - After someone spotted my pictures that I posted on Facebook, via my phone..(did I mention that we didn't have wifi...another serious blessing actually) one of my friends mentioned that my vacation looked a lot like my normal life, minus the chores. I reflected on her words and, she is right. Any given day you can find my household watching movies, engaged in nerf gun wars, or reading good I've come to the conclusion that vacation is a state of mind. Day 3 found us doing things that we would do if we were home.

We hung out and finished that puzzle..we were all addicted! Then we went to one of our favorite places...Downtown Disney. It's free by the way..and although we would so much rather have been in Disney...Downtown Disney is far more relaxing and still gives the feel of the magic of Disney.

My children can't help but have a good time. When you see these two locking arms, you know its a good time!

Any and all photo opportunities...we are all about that!

I'm not sure what it is about us and trying on cool hats. It's just fun! Looking into the General Store at Fort Wilderness Lodge. You know you can go and visit any lodge or resort from Downtown Disney..yes you can!

We stuck around for Chip & Dale's Sing-A-Long and roasted marshmallows too. We brought our own marshmallows but did purchase the sticks...35 cents per stick. We also brought those sticks home with use with our own fire pit!

They also offer a movie under the stars...we opted out and went back to the condo and watched "The Fantastic Four".
When we got back over to Downtown Disney, we caught a concert, and an opportunity to line dance with 75 other people. So much fun! Great night had by all - and way under budget.

And there was evening, and there was morning, -- the third day.

Day 4 - When we woke up there was this feeling of...this is our last "day" here. Kyle was the first to utter it in actual words, but we were all thinking about it. I tried to break the mood, by focusing on the fact that our day out wasn't going to be long and we still had one more movie night here in the condo.

So off we go...
Now Gatorland didn't break the budget. Nope..normally it would have, but this particular week tickets for Florida residents were $9.99 per person...that works for us! (Also, seeing as how we hardly touched our budget for the first 3 days, this was going to be our most expensive day out. Not bad!)
There were so many alligators and I happen to love them all! Really, they are so beautiful and I would love to be able to get real close...this one was right under my feet. There were shows throughout the day and they were hilarious. Such a fun time.
Shane however, spent $8.00 of his Christmas money so he could actually get up close and personal with a gator...he got to wrestle a live gator! That was COOL!!

Worth every single dollar if you ask him. I was a tad jealous, so happy for him! Next time I'm totally doing it!

 There were all sorts of snakes and birds...this really is our kind of fun!

 And of course hysterical photo opportunities...come on, we're the Engels, my kids are conditioned like Pavlov's dogs to smile and pose for the camera. too..I just don't post a whole lot of me. lol!

And there was evening, and there was morning, -- the fourth day.

Day 5 - The final day = Legoland

It was bittersweet. We knew we would be going to see friends, but leaving...was a tad more difficult for some of us. Particularly Shane, Kyle and myself. Maybe it was the bonding time, the sleeping arrangements, the lack of a cat, dog, 3 toads and fish to take care of, I'm not sure...but I sure am going to miss our little get-a-way! Off we were by 7:30am

Legoland, didn't bust the budget either. I organized a field trip and invited a bunch of homeschoolers and if we had a minimum of 15 children on this organized trip, we could get tickets for $5 per person. So for $25 my entire family got to experience a super fun filled theme park. All of it for less than the price of one ticket normally. We had an incredible time and even more special because we could share it with our friends, but I have to say, I would never pay $75 to come here...Disney, yes (even though that is hard to swallow too). However, my children would say was worth every cent! I agree it was awesome and I'm thankful we each paid $5.

Here are just a few of the me..some of those Lego creations were breathtaking! I won't show all of my pictures, don't worry!
 The weather couldn't have been more perfect!!

 If you start asking yourself, "Is that made of legos?" Just answer yourself..."yes."

 My pictures don't really do justice to the enormity of this place!
 We went of every single ride I think...some fast, some slow..all fun! I had the most fun walking with good friends, seeing our homeschool buddies in line at rides and sitting at lunch. I just love our community of homeschoolers. So blessed to have such great people in my life!
 This one made us laugh. This is Las Vegas...but our children see it and scream..."Look Africa!"
 We had our friend Seth join us & it made an even number..nice for riding rides!

 Look, Brendan got to sit under the nose of one of his heroes!

 The boys even got their "driver's license"!
You can see the shadows of all of us parents who were cracking up at the thought of these crazy kids ever getting their license. They were running stop lights and switching lanes, but by the end, they all got the hang of it!

The park closes at 5:00pm..which was exactly when we left. We had such a good time. We went a little over our daily budget because we had to buy lunch...too much thought going into making lunches and packing up my car. I wasn't prepared with the proper equipment to pack lunches on this we bought lunch...the good thing was a big enough lunch to cover two we went straight home after this.

We talked about how much we missed our pets and what a wonderful vacation we had. So thankful that the Lord provided a way for us to get a way, and provided people to take care of our pets! I almost cried when I picked up Dodger...I was worried he wouldn't remember worries...his tail is still going!

And there was evening, and there was morning, -- the fifth day.

I look over all of these pictures and all of our memories and I can see that it was all very good! And there was evening and there was morning --


Alexa said...

Such a great post, and a great vacation! You are truly blessed with your wonderful family!

Allison Reynolds said...

Great review of your days. We loved our similar vacation...not spending a lot of money, but spending a lot of time together. We are already planning our next trip of relaxation!