As many you already know, Karen and I went to Florida to celebrate our 15-year anniversary. We left on June 2nd and returned home yesterday. It was a nice, long break, made even nicer by the fact that we didn't have to break the bank to go and by the fact that we were able to go just the two of us. We haven't had that sort of extended getaway in a long time, probably since before we had children. So it was nice to have time to really relax in an environment we love. We ate out, talked uninterrupted, watched American Choppers and Pawn Stars, shopped at Bass Pro and Bath and Body Works, walked for miles and miles in the surf, slept until we woke up (does 7:30 still count as "sleeping in"?), drank coffee, put shrimp in our salads, cooked frozen skillet meals, ate fresh mangoes and papayas, swam in the pool, did our devotions in a beach chair, read, napped, took a glass-bottomed boat ride over a reef, and in general reminded ourselves of all the reasons we got married in the first place. We simply love being together and can't imagine life apart. Life is hectic and harried sometimes, so it's good to go the beach to celebrate the other part.
We also spent all day going exploring in the Everglades and Big Cypress National Parks. And if anyone tells you that alligators are "endangered," don't you believe it. There were alligators in every pool and canal, lying in every culvert and under every bush. We saw over a hundred just in the little places that we walked through. Babies, adults, and great big monsters of the water. Gators were everywhere! I was amazed that the alligators would let me get as close as I did to them, and even more amazed that there aren't more rules, park rangers, and fences preventing such foolishness. We also saw hundreds of fish of every shape and size, turtles (including one immense snapping turtle), plus four varieties of herons, egrets, massive eagle nests, anhingas, black vultures, purple gallinules, giant grasshoppers, gumbo limbo and strangler fig trees, orchids, bromeliads, mango and papaya orchards (we stopped for a fresh papaya milkshake), and more gators. Overall, the area was much different than I expected. I was thinking giant live oaks and cypress trees, not mangrove swamps and oceans of sawgrass. But it was amazing, nonetheless. Oh, and in case you needed any reminders not to ever hang your feet off a dock in Florida, I hope you enjoy this photo.
We missed our kids like crazy by the week's end, so it was great to know that they weren't missing us overly much. They were too busy living it up at Grandma and Grandpa's house. They spent their days making banana splits, watching movies on a giant "screen" outside under the stars (with full surround sound, no less!), holding the various members of a new litter of puppies, swimming in the pond, having enough Nutella to affect the stock price, playing in the playhouse, riding the Mule (a 4x4 golf cart), and in general running amok. Still, when we got back, they remembered that they missed us, and were all happy to be headed home. At least, all except Ashley, who is happily spending "just a few more days" by herself at Chez Horn. (We agreed to let her do this because we are aware that in a family like ours, time for "just me" to do something is a rare occurrence. Nathan got his turn last summer. This is Ashley's year. Hopefully, we'll be able to do the same for Sara and John in years to come.)
So to sum up: We had a blast. We felt incredibly blessed. We are glad to have gone and glad to be home.