Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Family Vacation 2015 - Anna Maria Island

Earlier this year Donna & I were at dinner with my parents, somehow the topic of my hometown, the beach specifically came up. I left my hometown 16 years ago. My parents moved from there before I did & slowly but surely the majority of my family relocated to other areas of the country leaving only my grandmother & a few cousins that still live there. Donna & I visited a couple times a year, seeing my grandma & an aunt & uncle who still lived there while we lived in Orlando. Shortly after we moved to NC, my aunt & uncle moved to TN. After that & once the boys were born our travels to the area greatly decreased. 
Sooo... we all thought it would be great to take a family vacation back to our hometown. We coordinated our time off with my parents & my sister. I searched long & hard for the perfect beach house to occupy all 11 of us. My criteria was pretty specific since I knew exactly what part of the beach we wanted to be on & what floor plan would work with 5 children 4 & under. My work paid off & we scored the most perfect 5 bedroom beach house with a fenced yard & pool. 
Not that the decor inside really mattered much since we spent most of our time outside but when we arrived we couldn't have been more impressed with the place. A gourmet kitchen with top of the line appliances that was easy for 3 or more of us to be in at a time getting meals ready. A laundry room I would kill for in my own house. The living area was open & roomy, we never felt crowded or ran out of places to sit, even with extra visitors stopping by. And the bedrooms were spacious with uber comfy beds & linens. 
We divided up cooking days, each couple taking on an entire day of meals & cooking. Between eating out & excursions each couple only had 1 day of cooking duty & there were always plenty of leftovers for in between. In the end though, we spent the last day eating up leftovers so Donna & I never really had "a day."

The day we arrived, my sister & I took our families & stopped by my grandmothers for a visit. She just had 2 back surgeries, we didn't want to overwhelm her with all the kids but wanted everyone to be able to visit for a bit, so we just picked up some lunch & took it to her place. It was so great to see her! We all sucked & took not a single picture :( 

From there we stopped by the grocery store for some hamburgers, hot dogs & fixin's & we headed to the beach! My parents arrived within minutes of all of us & it didn't take long for us all to get unpacked & settled in. 

The kids all wanted in the pool immediately & we spent the entire evening on the lanai grilling, visiting & enjoying the giggles & squeals of 7 kids playing late into the night. A good friend of mine from high school stopped by for a visit with her family. Her girls joined in on the swimming & Lela brought up the time my mom chased us around the house with a ruler scolding us for smoking, lol... It was hilarious that she remembered that because I had forgotten all about it. Unfortunately neither of us thought or stopped talking long enough to take any pictures.

The boys went to bed late the first night we were there but they slept awesome & didn't wake up until 7am. After we all had an amazing breakfast of my moms homemade biscuits & gravy we decided to load up as many beach chairs, sand toys & bottles of water as we could into the wagon & haul them across the street to the beach. I had forgotten just how beautiful the beaches were on Anna Maria Island. It's funny how we took for granted what we had growing up, but really love & appreciate it all these years later.

Every since I was pregnant with our boys I had this fantasy of them playing on the beaches I grew up playing on. It's kind of weird I guess since we live so close to the beach here but it made my heart so happy to watch them play on "my beach."

Aunt Autumn & Caden

Crazy Garren!

Sweet little Nadia

Love this shot!

Papa & Nadia

Nana building sandcastles with Garren & Kellan

More swimming in the pool

That evening my bonus brother came for a visit & dinner, he couldn't get the time off to hang with us longer but it was good to see him even just for the evening.

Family dinner with everyone including my step brother who came by for a visit

After we got the boys to bed (early after a long day at the beach & swimming) Donna & I went for a sunset walk on the beach. A storm blocked our sunset but we were able to watch the storm move across the Gulf of Mexico. As we walked we came across a bird that we originally thought was injured. It was sitting in the sand with its legs sticking straight out from each side & it wasn't trying to get away from anyone who walked near it. I quickly googled bird rescues, made a couple calls & got a brief education on Loons :) The commonly belly up on this particular part of the island this time of year to stretch their legs but they cannot stand on land, when the tide came in a little closer he did scoot back into the water & swam away. The nice gentleman on the phone also informed us that if someone did in fact try to pick up the bird they would most likely loose a finger because Loons have very strong & very sharp beaks. We were happy to see him make his way back into the water & enjoyed sharing our new found knowledge when we got back to the beach house.

Crazy Loon

Friday morning my mom, sister & I went for pedicures. When we got back we decided that it (friday) was going to be the best day to take the kids to see Snooty. We grew up going to Snooty's birthday parties & taking field trips to the most boring museum for a floridian ever, lol... Snooty was always a treat but the South Forida Museum is about everything native to Florida & well when you grow up there, you don't necessarily need a museum to see what lives in your own backyard :) Also I think it was the most expensive museum we have ever taken the kids too, I hope they enjyed snooty & remember him for years to come because we won't be going back for another visit unless we happen to be in town during one of his FREE birthday party celebrations. If you don't know who Snooty is, he is the oldest Manatee in captivity, he'll be 67 this July. He was born in captivity by an injured manatee who was rescued in Miami. I'm not a fan of such large animals being kept in captivity but I guess they weren't sure exactly what to do back then & just kept him. He does have a pretty decent set up as far as living conditions & a companion now. He is also a big part of the community hence Manatee County. :)


We had ice cream on the river just outside of the museum & while we had planned to have dinner at our favorite hometown pizza joint, the kids wanted to "go back to the beach house." So we headed back & my parents picked up pizza & salad from Demetrio's to bring back for all of us. It was as good as I remember & sadly there were no leftovers. 
The kids all played in the pool again while we stuffed our faces & relaxed on the lanai. They enjoyed a good game of jumping through the hole, lol... 





On saturday morning our childhood next door neighbors/friends joined us on the beach for a little while. I saw them at my dads funeral but it had been several years since my mom had seen them. It was great catching up & seeing how big Amanda & Frankie's kids have gotten. The boys are always happy to have new friends & they all played great together, especially their 12 year old daughter & Garren, lol... That boy just LOVES the girls!

Garren helping Papa put the umbrella up

7 kids, 2 adults, it's a good open water ratio ;)

Garren & Kami, Grady in the background

Again, 7 kids, 2 adults :)

Grady & Kami

Back in the pool & Nadia finally warming up to the water

Dinner; boys at the bar

Crazy Uncle Steven!

MomMom & Garren

Caden with Nana & Papa

That crazy Uncle Steven again :)

Sunday morning my parents headed back home, Papa apparently had to get back to work on Monday :( The rest of us took inventory of what food was left & decided how we would fend for ourselves for the remainder of the day & next morning. We had a ton of leftovers so it really wasn't an issue. 

Garren loves to make Nadia laugh!

 Once my parents took off we dressed the kids & headed to The City Pier. There is always good fishing there & usually some interesting sights in the water. This trip did not disappoint :)

Nadia, Autumn, Caden, Chandler, Garren, Donna, Kellan & Steven

The kids thought this pelican catching his lunch was great!

Just when I thought we weren't going to see anything good this HUGE school of stingrays showed up :)

and this baby tarpon. We also saw some skate (fish)  jellyfish & lots of smaller fish

Kellan & Chandler

The kids of course wanted to go back & swim some more.


After more swimming & lunch we took the kids to a new playground on the opposite end of the Island & then for some homemade ice cream,

Caden rockin' my headband

Check out this pirate ship playground!!!

Garren, Caden, Kellan, Chandler

That night while bathing the boys, I finally caught a great sunset from the balcony (the afternoon thunderstorm showed up every evening right at sunset until this night) :)

Monday morning it was time to say goodbye to the beautiful island & to the fabulous house, Whitecaps, that we called home for 5 days. So we cleaned up, loaded up & headed back to my bonus mom's where we left our pup pups & kitty cats while we were away.

Farewell until next year...

Donna & I agreed, it was the most relaxing vacation we have had in a long time, probably ever! While I think the family may want to go someplace new next year, Donna, the boys & I will make this trip again next year, maybe sooner ;)


  1. What a fun trip! The pictures of the ocean are beautiful and I can't believe you saw a school of sting rays! That seems like a once in a lifetime kind of thing to see. Your family reminds me so much of my own because you all really enjoy spending time together. We just got back from a 4 day lake trip and people are always surprised when I tell them that we do stuff like that often. A friend just asked me, "you guys go that many days without fighting?" LOL! I guess most families can't travel together like our families do, haha! What a great tradition for the boys to experience. :)

  2. Wow, that looks amazing! The beaches are gorgeous and like the PP said, it's SO lucky and wonderful that you love spending time with your family!

  3. That was an amazing family vacation! Your kids are obviously keen to swimming, given the number of times they swam both in the beach and the pool. Looks like Anna Maria Island is simply the perfect destination for you, not only because it’s your hometown, but also because it offers the perfect beach house that caters the needs of your family. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I hope there’ll be more getaways like this for you and your family in the future. :-)

    Lucille Foster @ The George Hotel At Cley



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