Saturday, November 17, 2007

16-23 October 2007 - Grandparenting continued

Our First Grandparents' Breakfast

This grandparenting thing can be a fun deal! A few days following the kids visit to NCL, we dusted off the coach tires and rolled the big box out on the road and made our way south to Clearwater to be on hand for a 'Grandparents Breakfast" at Kai's school.

Kai, at two and a half, is in his second "semester" of school, this year going for a half-day, five days a week. School has been a wonderful experience for him, giving him the chance to interact with other kids in an environment of educational play. He has positively bloomed.

We arrived and were ushered into the auditorium where we sat with his best friends Tovar and Darra along with their Moms and special guests, along with over a hundred other guests. Breakfast was a nice buffet of bagels and muffins and fruit salad. Afterwards grandparents were ushered into a Scholastic book sale where we could buy books to donate to the classrooms as well as for our own kids. We came home with a cute book called Tyrannosaurus Reg and, with Halloween around the corner, another called Bats on the Beach.

Birthday at Fort De Soto Park

That afternoon we drove to the Clearwater office of Pinellas County's Ft. De Soto Park. The Park itself occupies the beaches and islets at the southernmost tip of the St. Petersburg Peninsula and offers camp sites right on the water. With my birthday on Saturday, it was my heartfelt wish that we could get a site there and have the kids come for a camping weekend together. It was a rather naïve wish as Ft. De Soto, like most Florida parks, can be booked up to seven months in advance, meaning that weekends even in the off season are usually sold out. However, luck was with us thanks to the recent addition of three RV spots that don't come up on the computer.

We drove down Thursday to cement our claim only to find that the new site, unfortunately, was not only not right on the water but, being new, looked a lot more like a regular RV park spot that a wilderness campsite. I hated to be ungrateful, but it was not exactly what I'd had in mind.

Our first afternoon Don and I made our bicycling debut of the year by following the bike trail out to the beaches some 4-5 miles away. Reconnoitering first by car would have been smarter because the trail offered no shade and in the afternoon sun the temps soared to the high 90s. There were two pretty unhappy captains by the time we straggled back to camp. On Friday we made the trip back by car with chairs, books and a couple of tall lemonades from concession stand. Now this was more like it. Lots of people-watching. The outgoing tide made a perfect place for boys to slide on their skim boards while two young girls rode the one foot waves over and over to the beach. By the end of day, however, a threatening front had moved in and seemed like it might blow out all our plans. The silver lining to the gloomy weather report was it resulted in a bunch of cancellations Friday afternoon, and when we happened to be in the office when someone canceled out, we were able to move to a much neater site -- still not on the water but embedded in woods near one end of the island. Much more atmospheric!

The kids arrived Saturday morning with a pan of birthday cupcakes from Cindy and all the gear to keep us shaded on a hot beach. Ironically, the cloud cover that rolled in with the front and dumped heavy rain inland cooled off the beaches without shedding more than a drop or two. As a result our beach time was spent kicking the soccer ball in long sleeves rather than swimming and sweating! Quite interesting to Kai were a bunch of Japanese tourists who arrived with the usual cameras as well as a volleyball. Kai made it his personal responsibility to chase down their ball whenever it got loose and return it to them with a vigorous kick. They were most impressed with the little blond-haired kid.

We also visited the historic fort for which the park is named to check out the cannons mounted there. I think Kai got as much of a kick out o the cool windowless subterranean rooms that were once magazines for powder and shot, but for Kai made great echo chambers.

Back at the campground, there were kids everywhere, riding bikes, throwing footballs, and fishing from the banks. We did pretty much all of the above ourselves the rest of the afternoon and into the long evening. We divided into teams and played some football in an open grassy area. Kai can not only throw the ball like a pro, but he is a wily runner when he gets a hand-off from his Dad. Only hitch is, I think he likes to be tackled! Later he made friends with a boy about five years older who was very impressed at Kai's ability to throw, and they tossed the football back and forth as we went for a walk around the grounds. Another kid who was obviously experienced at being an older brother patiently demonstrated how to catch a fish, baiting the hook with a shrimp and casting smartly into the green water. There was a lot of catch-and-release going on, adults as well as kids. You'd think the fishies would vacate the area, but maybe it's worth it to them for the free bite of shrimp! Anyway, all this activity is what I love about this kind of park experience, and indeed it was exactly what I'd had in mind for the weekend.

On Sunday morning we finally initiated our grandson into boating by renting two two-man kayaks and taking him on the one-hour paddle tour. We were quite touched that Kai opted to ride with the two captains, which we thought showed his good sense. However Derek revealed a previously unreported talent, and the grandparents had to work hard to keep up...despite Tiffany taking a distinctly passive, Cleopatra-like role! Most of the tour was through quiet mangrove waters, but in the open the wind was up, making a pretty decent chop in the one exposed leg. Kai took it all in stride and did not get antsy or restless, enjoying the herons and egrets on the banks, the pelicans and terns making headlong dives, and the crazy fish that seemed to be popping out of the water all around us.

The kids headed home Sunday afternoon leaving us to enjoy a quiet evening on our own. We could have had our choice of any number of waterfront sites that night as the weekend campers emptied out. Instead, we got our private beach fix the next morning when took our coffee to the peninsula's East Beach to walk and watch the sunrise over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We were the only people there.

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Blogger geodesic2 said...

NICE - almost like being on a boat - almost - liked the 'being alone on the beach' nothing like a sunrise over water - even from the shore

stuck at the dock abaord s/v Geodesic2

November 18, 2007 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The sun has faded your moustache as it has mine.
I guess I should look at your link from time to time.
Good to see the updates. Living on the ground???
Good organic produce at the Bloomington Farmers Market.
Chris and Jon bought 34 acres South of Bloomington. We bought 3 adjoining acres and house. Fourth year of organic produce.

December 7, 2007 at 8:44 AM  

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