Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The last leg of our trip was set to a more relaxed pace. After visiting Gainesville, Logan, Gibson, and I, traveled a bit further south to visit my dad, who moved to Florida early last year with his dog Maynard. After spending a day and a half with him, we drove on a bit more to spend time with Logan's brother and his family.

Admittedly, around this time, both Logan and I were dragging. Since leaving Monday morning, we had been on the go nonstop. Being the homebodies that we are, it was Thursday we also began to get itchy to come home.

It was nice to be able to visit with my dad. We watched a movie together, went out to eat at our favorite spot, and were able to relax in a comfortable setting.

Not wanting to miss an afternoon, the three of us decided to travel to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. When I was very young (Gibson's age, actually), my parents took me to Weeki Wachee and I thought it was just the greatest place ever. (I mean, what six year old little girl in 1990 wouldn't love seeing dancing mermaids under water?)

Needless to say, it wasn't how I remembered it, as a great deal has changed in 23 years. (Imagine that!) Despite a thunderstorm that rolled in as we were waiting for our boat tour, the three of us made the most of our day and had fun.

Weeki Wachee is a natural spring, and it's in the spring itself that the mermaids perform underwater. (Viewers watch from an underwater theater). From the springs comes the Weeki Wachee river, which, like the springs, is absolutely gorgeous; crystal-clear water where you can see straight down and get a look at the plentiful Sheepshead, Mullets, and turtles.

The water temperature is  74°F year-round, and while that sounds pretty nice, 74°F is actually pretty dang cold. (The ocean temperature in Fernandina when we visited was 81°F!) Still, Logan, Gibson, and I, swam out to the floating dock in the river, held hands, and jumped off together into 12 feet of that crystal clear ice water. We swam while gulping in giant heaps of air because we couldn't catch our breath. We walked around and searched for lizards and birds. And we cruised the river, where we happened to catch a beautiful osprey swoop down and snatch fish from the water.

After saying goodbye to my father, Logan drove us to our final destination: his brother's home in Fruitland Park. We have never visited his family in Florida, so it was exciting to be able to see where they live and to spend time with my nieces and nephews. As I don't have little girls, I'm quite taken with my nieces Riley and Ashlyn. (They let me paints their nails! Eep!)

Our visit was short and sweet. Both Logan and I were torn on whether or not we would stay for a bit longer, but in the end decided to drive through the night to get home. It was a long, long drive--13 hours--and it was at this point we were desperate for our own bed. So, that's what we did, and even though it was a rough drive, we were so happy we left when we did. It gave us the opportunity to come home and settle in before the week began.

As our mini-vacation ended, I couldn't help but realize just how far I've come from the girl I once was. Traveling was such a part of me before I met Logan, who hasn't traveled very much, that I found it difficult to adjust early on in our marriage. I've been a worm in Logan's ear for years--"We've got to go here!" "You need to see this!" To find myself fiercely wishing to be back home was surprising for me. Upon more reflection, I realized that I was always searching for the bigger and better thing--whatever 'it' may have been. I don't search anymore. I'm grounded. My home is where my family is; truly where my heart is, and I couldn't be happier to be right where I am. (Cue Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros!)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Today is a most special day! It's a day we celebrate our sweet, sweet boy Gibson Reece, who was born seven years ago today! I could lament on my pregnancy and birth, or how the toddler years passed in the blink of an eye. I could look back on the days that have led up to this one, and marvel at how far he's come. Instead, I'm focusing on the person he is today, turning seven, and how that's a Very Big Deal!

We're kicking off this year with Gibby's favorite treats and bowling with friends, a fine way to celebrate a birthday if I ever saw!

Monday, August 26, 2013


I grew up visiting Florida, and have always considered it my second home. As a small child, my family visited my grandmother and her husband, who lived in a small retirement community near Ocala. I spent seventh grade at a Dunellon middle school, insisting that everyone call me "Bari". Most of the six months following high school I was in Jacksonville, and I started a family of my own in Ft. Lauderdale. But during my senior year of high school, and over the course of the summer months that followed, I was in Gainesville:

I spent my spring break there, with my boyfriend who lived in Gainesville. That was the first time I had ever spent Easter away from my family; my first Easter without sitting in a pew wearing my Sunday best. It was also the first time I had ever spent an extended amount of overnight time with any boy, and this made me feel so  grown up.  (I'm rolling my eyes as I type this...) 

It was there I celebrated my 18th birthday with friends new and old, a bottle of Captain Morgan. 

I left home in Virginia and moved myself into my first apartment off of 34th St. I'll never forget how it felt to be lying on my bed, smiling into the dark, in my own space, surrounded by my own things, blasting The Doors as loud as I could just because I could. I remember thinking to myself, This is happy. (So what if it lasted only two weeks?) 

The night I got my first tattoo, I went to a house party and realized what it was like to really be on my own.

After I had Justice, I returned to Gainesville as a single mother and, swinging on a tire, through a cloud of hazy sun and fuzzy reverb from the Pavement record I had just been listening to ringing in my ears, I again thought to myself, This is happy.

* * * 

I hadn't been back to Gainesville since then--2005--and when I realized that my little family would be passing through on our way to visit my father, I felt a pull to revisit a place that held so much to me in my previous life. So, again, I set to work figuring out what we would actually do once we got there.

I discovered the Florida Museum of Natural History, that it was free, and Logan, Gibson, and I  decided that's what we were going to do for the day. We were really hungry when we first arrived in town, so we hit up one of the only places I know where to eat: Burrito Brothers.

I was surprised to find that the location had changed but relieved that the burritos still tasted (and smelled) the same. My guac was fresh and delicious, and Logan's chorizo burrito was spicy and filling. They hit the spot and we left for the museum.

I can't speak highly enough about our time at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It was full of interactive activities and loaded with information and fascinating, kid-friendly exhibits. The three of us easily passed over two hours, and could have stayed much longer were it not for the museum's closing. We did pay a small fee to explore the "Butterfly Rainforest", which, at the time, was highlighting Costa Rican butterflies. (Right now it's blue and orange butterflies, and if I lived closer I would totally go back. I'm double-bummed that we were a few days short on missing Surfing Florida: A Photographic History and Surf Science: Waves and Wildlife!) Logan and I did a similar butterfly activity at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, but truthfully, it didn't compare. I also appreciated so much the fact that the museum is free. Here in Hampton Roads, most everything is not free.

When I was searching for info on the Florida Museum of Natural History, I came across info on the University of Florida Bat House. After a little bit of poking around and reading reviews on TripAdvisor, I asked Logan if he would mind indulging me in staying the four extra hours until sunset, when the bats begin waking up for the evening. Blessedly, I married a fellow geek.

Since we had some time to kill before dusk, we scuttled about town in search of music stores. (If you're noticing a pattern, it's this: When we travel, I look into places or activities that will give us a proper feel of wherever we may be; monuments, museums, historic sites. Logan scouts out music and record stores). 

We had ice cream for dinner at a super cute shop called Sweet Dreams.  All of Sweet Dreams' ice cream is handmade in house, and they had some really fun flavors. I chose Vanilla Cherry, Honey Lavender, and Watermelon Sorbet. I'm still 
dreaming about the Vanilla Cherry. 

Logan drove us back to the bat houses after we doused ourselves with bug spray and grabbed our umbrella. Since we still had time before the sun went down, we took a walk around Lake Alice. We found two alligators and quite a few snapping turtles-- the lake itself was serene and beautiful. 

At this point I was geeking out pretty hard and just had to get to the fence in front of the bat houses. I waited  and waited and waited, and, just a few minutes after sunset, my patience (not a virtue I'm all too familiar with) was rewarded. At first just a few enterprising bats stretched their wings and came out, but, after a few moments, it was if a silent alarm went off and there they were. 

For over twenty minutes, the three of us
sat and watched as thousands upon thousands of Brazilian Free-Tailed and Southeastern Bats swooped down from their resting spots and feasted upon the buffet of mosquitoes and other insects that are plentiful in the area. It was one of my all-time favorite moments. Minus the smell. The smell was about as gross as you could get.

 I have (mostly) good memories of being young and having fun in Gainesville. While I am still (mostly) young, I can add my memories with my family to my Gainesville cache. I felt especially stoked that I was there with Logan. 

You see, in December 2001, I had planned on hitching a ride with a friend's band to Gainesville, where I would meet up with my boyfriend for a bit before coming back home with the band. I can't remember the reason now, but I was unable to go down to Gainesville that weekend, and my boyfriend came to Virginia instead. Had I gone on that trip, I would have met Logan... Unbeknownst to me, he was one of the guitar players in my friend's band. 

That story is one I think back on and just smile. It's one of the reasons that back up my claim that Logan and I were meant to be, because if we had met back then, I can say with confidence we just wouldn't have worked out. (Mostly because I was W-I-L-D). But really, I think back to all of my past experiences and see how they all led me to the life I have now; a life I lead where I feel secure, loved, and optimistic. So, in a way, Logan and I were making up for the trip we never took to Gainesville.

Maybe it's me being way too introspective, or just plain emotional, but our day in Gainesville was my favorite on our trip. It was a day where my face hurt from smiling, and my heart was light from the pleasure of spending the day with two people I love beyond reason.

Friday, August 23, 2013


 We've been home from our mini-vacation to Florida since Saturday, and I've been replaying some of my most favorite moments in my mind. What was slated as a work trip for Logan transformed into ten days off of work, and a short tour about north/central Florida! For me, it was the highlight of the summer!

One evening L. came home and announced that he would have to travel to Georgia for five days to work, and that Gibson and I would be able to travel with him if we wanted to. (Justice was spending five weeks with his father for summer visitation). Immediately my mind began whirring, thinking of all the spots I'd like to re/visit along the way--Raleigh, Charleston, Savannah--because that's just what I do. (In my mind, I was already fanning myself under the Spanish moss with a sweet tea in hand...) So I set to work: mapping routes, planning activities, and consulting Southern Living

Needless to say our plans changed, as they always seem to have a way of doing. Instead of staying in Georgia, we found out we could stay on Amelia Island, Florida, in a hotel within a block of the ocean! (!!!) So that's what we did. And believe me, the happiness I experienced after the ten hour drive (which I drove damn near all of thanks to L.'s uncanny inability to stay awake at the wheel for more than 45 minutes at a time... jokes, jokes) was virtually unparalleled. I literally jumped out of the car and bee-lined it to the shoreline before the sun sank for the evening. 

The rest of our evening was spent under the stars. The three of us made our way to a restaurant on the beach for a late night supper and cold beer. We were able to sink our toes in the sand while we ate and drank, and took in the sounds of a man with his sweet voice and acoustic guitar playing Van Morrison covers. 

Tuesday morning at breakfast, we found out we were able to have the entire week to ourselves and do as we please. Naturally, we were on the beach, in the water, before 9AM! It was a gorgeous morning, and the three of us were able to body board together; precious moments I'll tuck away forever. The rest of the day was spent traipsing around my old haunts in Jacksonville, and discovering new ones. (If you're a guitar player, or just enjoy learning, you'll want to check Chip's out. We scored on two pairs of pickups and had an overall great experience).  Once back on Amelia Island, we went about having dinner at La Mancha, where I enjoyed a perfect glass of Sangria with our tapas and flan, before topping off the evening with a dip in the hotel's pool.  

Wednesday was our final morning in Fernandina. Logan and I surprised Gibson by waking up before him to watch the sunrise over the ocean. I felt so happy and at peace. After breakfast we had a bit of an adventure searching for the Amelia Island Lighthouse. (For those of you who love a bit of trivia or are just plain nerdy like myself, it's the oldest lighthouse in Florida!) We discovered it nestled in a residential neighborhood but were unable to tour due to it being closed for the day. 

In our searching we toured Downtown Fernandina: historic, charming, and incredibly pretty. A place to make you smile and want to dance. One aspect of Fernandina I loved is it's old-world charm and how it isn't yet inundated with chain/big box stores. It's virtually untouched by corporate USA, and is exactly the type of small town Bill Bryson seemed to be searching for in The Lost Continent... I fell in love. 

As I mentioned, our plans changed, so we were free to leave Fernandina. I could've stayed the rest of the week, but being in Florida, Logan and I decided to seize our free time and make it into a proper mini-half-family vacation. But. Fernandina. Amelia Island. A gem if there ever was. 

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