Tag Archives: water park

Kalahari Adventures

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Following the Pennsylvania SWAN awards banquet on Wednesday night, we were invited to stay at Kalahari Resort for the next two days and make a family vacation out of the event.

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As if the award recognition wasn’t enough, we felt absolutely spoiled rotten by this special gift.

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Thursday and Friday were spent connecting as a family, playing as a family, laughing as a family, and enjoying a respite from life.

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The kids loved the abundance of water slides available at “America’s Largest Indoor Water Park.”

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Some of the slides were familiar, having ridden the sister slides at the Sandusky, Ohio Kalahari Resort,

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While other were unique to this particular park.

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When we weren’t off sliding, our family could be found enjoying the lazy river or the wave pool.

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Braden and Tyler were particularly fond of the basketball pool with its abundance of basketball hoops and balls.

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Many hours were spent in that pool bonding as biological brothers. The genetic connection is clearly evident in these two natural athletes who are more comfortable competing with a ball in hand than doing anything else.

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We also enjoyed the outdoor hot tub. The combination of warm water, cool breezes, summer sun, and gorgeous views brought home that vacation feel. It was lovely to sit and soak while visiting as a family, knowing I had nothing else to do for the next 12 hours.

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Our two lazy days also allowed for me to have time to sit and read a novel and allowed Toby a much deserved nap…two luxuries that have become a rare treat in our lives recently.

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It was a lovely luxury to let go of a month’s worth of worries and heartache and simply be present in the gift of today.

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It was a blessing to be still and simply breathe, soaking in the blessing of our mini vacation, and praising God for restarts and reconnection.

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That is what this time away was for our family. Tucked away in the gorgeous greenery of the Pocono mountains, we found the peace that had been so hard to grab hold of for the last two months. Somehow stepping away from outside influences we were able to remember what this journey was all about.

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It was a breakthrough experience for our child who had been pushing hard against the connection that he has fearfully been fleeing from since Mother’s Day. I’m not sure what clicked internally but amid the splashing and sunshine and celebration of adoption with hundreds of other families much like ours, he found some peace…

At least for the moment.

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And that was the greatest gift of all.

Ozzie turns 14!

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I can hardly believe it, but Ozzie is 14!

Last Friday we woke up and it felt weird not sneaking into his room with the traditional cupcake and birthday song. It is at times like this that I struggle most with him being away from home, despite the fact I know he is where he needs to be to have the life he deserves to have.

He didn’t have to wait to long for his birthday song and celebratory cupcake, however. By 8:00 am Grace. Molly, Tyler and I were on the road to pick Ozzie up for his birthday celebration. Because of President’s Day weekend he had Friday and Monday off school, allowing for an extra long weekend at home to celebrate his special day.

We arrived at his facility at 10:30, with cupcakes in hand. We were scheduled for a family session with his therapist that included all the kids. This was the first time they had participated in one of Ozzie’s weekly family sessions and is the next big step in his permanent transition home. Knowing that there was healing work to be done in Ozzie’s relationships with siblings, while also recognizing that we didn’t want to dig too deep or do anything too intense given the heightened emotions of the day, Halle planned a series of fun, team-building challenges using balloons. It was ideal. It resulted in a lot of positive connection, communication, and laughter. It was a great kick-off to future family sessions with the kids, and a nice way to start the weekend.

I entered this weekend with a bit of trepidation. It had a lot of factors working against it. Toby and Rusty were on their way to Florida, leaving Tyler feeling anxious and unsafe (and leaving me without four extra hands.) It was also Ozzie’s birthday… a day that stirs up a lot of hard emotions for Ozzie, emotions that have bubbled to the surface in the form of hurting behaviors in the past. Add to that the fact we were going to be spending the weekend at Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park, which meant sleeping in unfamiliar beds, being out of a routine, and a lot of extra stimuli, and you can see why I was a tad nervous.

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Splash Lagoon was Ozzie’s birthday request and after looking into deals online (and a lot of discussion with Toby, Tina (Tyler’s therapist) and Halle (Ozzie’s therapist) we felt that this was a doable request and a great litmus test to see where we are it in everyone’s therapeutic journey towards healing. It had the added benefit of being only 10 minutes away from Ozzie’s facility where we could find support if Ozzie was struggling too much. The fact that I was even entertaining the idea was a HUGE testament to how far we have come in the last year. 12 months ago I felt incapable of managing something as simple as taking Tyler and Ozzie to the store together without Toby to help, and now a year later we are spending the weekend at a waterpark without Toby or Rusty. God is so gracious!

This weekend has been a powerful reminder that the dark seasons of life don’t last forever. When we are struggling with the night we need to remember that the dawn always comes…

ALWAYS!

 And down the road we will look back on that darkness and see it for what it was: a short stretch of time on our eternal timeline.

After our family session we stopped for a quick lunch at Burger King (Ozzie’s request) and then headed to the Comfort Inn at Splash Lagoon to check in for the night. When looking for deals for Splash Lagoon we soon discovered the package deals, offered to lure in visitors, were far more economical (½ the price) than purchasing 5 2-day passes…

And a lot more fun!

I mean, what kid doesn’t love staying at a hotel overnight, especially a hotel with a pool and a free continental breakfast. In addition to our overnight stay, our package deal came with 2- day passes for everyone, a $30.00 arcade card, tickets for free ice cream cones for everyone, and a $25.00 gift card to Quaker Steak and Lube.

Once we checked into our room we put on our swim suits and headed to the water park. It was such a treat to be able to walk through indoor hallways to get to the water park, rather than braving the frigid temperatures outside. February is a great time to visit an indoor water park. I found the hot air and pools of water were all the more appreciated with the freezing temperatures outside!

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Once inside Splash Lagoon our first stop was the Aqua Tumbler. This new addition came with an additional cost, but because of the fact it was a special day I paid for Ozzie and Tyler to each take a ride. (The girls opted to pass on this one.)

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The Aqua Tumbler is a giant inflatable ball that the rider climbs inside. Once “zipped in” the ride begins. The ball spins while the rider tumbles around inside. The spinning and the addition of a small amount of water inside the ball makes getting a foothold or handhold impossible. That is what makes it so much fun to ride… And even more fun to watch!

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Both boys LOVED it!

The remainder of the day was spent enjoying all the fun Splash Lagoon had to offer:

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Both boys did awesome.

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They paired up with the girls and rode slides,

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played basketball,

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rode waves,

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floated down the lazy river,

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ALL WHILE

playing well with each other,

 transitioning from activity to activity easily and without argument,

and verbalizing their needs easily.

 It couldn’t have gone any better and I was so very proud of both of them.

I was also incredibly proud of my girls who were so good, and patient, and selfless with their younger brothers.

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At 7:00 pm we called it a day. We still had dinner and a birthday party on the agenda before we could call it a day, so we headed back to our room, changed into warm, dry clothes, and ordered Quaker Steak and Lube wings for dinner. It was such a treat to have dinner delivered to our room and to be able to offset the cost of dinner a bit with our complimentary gift card.

While we waited for dinner to arrive Ozzie took the seat of honor and opened the pile of gifts we had been accruing over the last few weeks as packages and cards arrived in the mail from family and friends.

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Much thought and a great deal of love was put into the gifts given. All were so reflective of Ozzie and his interests. From loved ones he received a tornado simulator, a few new Lego City sets, Harry Potter playing cards and favorite treats.

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His gift from the family was a telescope and a book of 50 things to find in the night sky with a beginner telescope.

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He was over the moon! (Pun intended) 🙂

We didn’t open it up that night but on Sunday night the clouds cleared and he was able to do a little star gazing with his new scope.

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Around the time he had finished opening his gifts our dinner arrived and we enjoyed a wonderfully relaxed evening eating wings in our hotel room while watching the new Disney movie, Zombies. While he watched, Ozzie had fun building his new Lego set from my parents.

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It was a joyful birthday!

By 10:30 eyelids were heavy and little boys were all worn out from their day of swimming, so it was lights out. Everyone needed to be rested for our 2nd day of play at Splash Lagoon.

Happy Birthday, dear Ozzie.

 How blessed we are to call you our son.

May your 14th year be one of growth, healing, hope, and happiness.

We love you to the moon and back.

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The final moments of summer

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Friday: the final day of an already wonderful summer vacation!

We had big plans to go out with a bang.

In the spring we vacationed at Kalahari Water Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. This is our fourth year attending Kalahari with our co-op friends as part of a deal offered by the church of a previous co-op family. Their church books a group of rooms and locks in an amazing rate that we then can take advantage of. The deal is an awesome one, allowing a family to stay the night and enjoy two “day passes” to the indoor water park for $125.00.

This year became an even sweeter deal when, as a result of some water slides being closed during our visit, the park apologized by sending each participant a free day pass to enjoy another day at their park (in the upcoming year) for free.

It was a generous apology for a miscommunication mistake on their end. Although, we didn’t fully realize how generous, until we spent the day there last Friday and saw the cost of a day pass to the park had we not had the complimentary day passes…

It would have cost our family $420.00 if we would had paid out of pocket!!

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(Not that we would have ever considered it had we not had free day passes) 🙂

When discussing summer plans we talked early on about saving our day passes for the last Friday of the summer, thinking it would be a fun way to end summer vacation. We also thought it would be fun to go during the summer months when the outdoor areas of the resort would be open since we usually go in the off-season when just the indoor water park is open.

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I sent out an email inviting other co-op families (with free day passes) to join us. We ended up having the Caylors, the Holt boys, and the Hudaks join us, with Lana and her kids riding with us in our new van.

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It was a perfect day!

Catching the girls for a photo before they head to the next slide.

Catching the girls for a photo before they head to the next slide.

Miss Saga

Miss Saga

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Miss Tatum

The big boys sunning themselves :)

The big boys sunning themselves 🙂

Cheetah Racers Slide...a family favorite.

Cheetah Racers Slide…a family favorite.

This is what happens when I ask Tyler to pose :)

This is what happens when I ask Tyler to pose 🙂

It was so much fun exploring the amenities offered outside, as well as enjoying old favorites in the indoor section of the water park.

The outside play area enjoyed by the little boys and Saga.

The outside play area enjoyed by the little boys and Saga.

Waterfall fun!

Waterfall fun!

Ozzie and Saga

Ozzie and Saga

Friends enjoying the outdoor pool.

Friends enjoying the outdoor pool.

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Just a bunch of monkeys...

Just a bunch of monkeys…

Toby and Rusty enjoying the lazy river...

Toby and Rusty enjoying the lazy river…

A favorite ride, affectionally nick-named:

A favorite ride, affectionately nick-named: “The Toilet Bowl!”

The wave pool.

The wave pool.

Daddy and son

Daddy and son

And down he goes...

And down he goes…

Tyler ready for the next slide!

Tyler ready for the next slide!

LOVE this picture...LOVE these boys!

LOVE this picture…LOVE these boys!

We spent all day there and pulled out of the parking lot at 9:00pm wet, tired, and supremely satisfied with our final day of summer.

Tyler fell asleep in the final minutes of the trip home.

Tyler fell asleep in the final minutes of the trip home.

Let the school year commence!

For a Fun Vacation- “Just Add Water”

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This past week we joined our co-op friends for our annual Kalahari vacation. The church of a previous co-op mom rents a wing of rooms at Kalahari Waterpark in Sandusky, Ohio every May. This year was our fourth year joining our friends for this fun, end of the year, mini vacation.

The deal that they offer is incredible. For $125.00 (for a family of five) you could get a night stay at the resort and two all day passes for each member of the family. Now that we are a family of 7 our cost is a little bit more.

The kids woke up early on Wednesday morning eager to get to the waterpark and begin the water fun. Before we left, however, there were animals to feed and water, and chores to be done. When we were ready to leave we had one more stop before we could get on the highway:

Rainbow Veterinary Clinic.

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Teddy, our new baby goat, is too little to stay home for long periods of time on his own. He is still on a bottle four times a day so we needed to board him where he could get the round the clock care that he needed. We arrived at the vet office and the girl working the front desk was unsure of what to do with this little anomaly. He had a stall in the barn booked for two days but they didn’t want him all by himself in the barn. (There were no other farm animals boarding.) They didn’t want to board him in the puppy room for fear that all the barking would scare him. We assured her that Teddy was quite accustomed to barking, noise, and all other forms of chaos, and that he would do fine with the puppies…and he did. 🙂

After dropping off Teddy we began the three hour drive to Sandusky, Ohio. The kids got more and more wound up the closer we got, and then they saw it!

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There were shouts and cheers as we arrived.

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We unloaded the car and began the walk into the resort over the wooden bridge that connects the resort to the parking lot, stopping to check out the water fowl.

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There had been some renovations on the resort since our visit last year. The biggest change was the new revolving door at the front entrance. Tyler, who is quite the fan of “spinning doors” declared this one the “best one ever!” It was quite impressive with its display windows and the large number of people who could fit in it.

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After checking in we went up to our room to change into our swim suits so we could begin enjoying the indoor waterpark.

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We met up with some of our co-op friends, found a place to park our things, and began playing. The kids were a bit disappointed to discover some of the slides were closed for repairs, but were excited to find out that, as an apology for the closures, the resort gave us 200 tokens to spend in the arcade and a free day pass to return to the resort at another time, for each member of our family.

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Well worth the loss of a few slides, don’t you think?! 🙂

The kids loved all that the park still had to offer:

The wave pool,

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The water slides,

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The play area for the kids,

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And the lazy river…

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The kids had fun riding the slides and hanging out with their friends, and Toby and I enjoyed the more relaxed feel of this year’s vacation. Oh, what a difference a year makes…and this trip really showcased that growth. Last year was a much harder year and our last visit to Kalahari was filled with temper tantrums, high anxiety, and a lot of emotional meltdowns. This year there were no time outs. Everyone listened well, acted obediently, followed directions and as a result the little boys were allowed a bit more freedom to go off on their own with older siblings and friends. This made for a much more relaxed vacation for Toby and I. It was so good for us to be able to see the incredible growth from last year to this year. Ozzie was a different child and it was wonderful to be able to celebrate his growth and successes.

His joy is finally bubbling forth…

Ozzie looks so much like my brother as a child. I have no idea how that is possible... ;)

Ozzie looks so much like my brother as a child. I have no idea how that is possible…  😉

For dinner we joined friends at a pizza joint that had received great reviews:

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Because of our large size as a group we were placed in a back room where we had the place to ourselves. Our entire family ordered the pizza/wing bar where everyone enjoyed salad, many types of pizza and six types of all you can eat wings. There was something for everyone and everyone left FULL!

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When we arrived back at the hotel Toby took the little boys back to the room to get ready for bed and put his feet up, and I took the big kids to the lobby where we met up with friends for some late night visiting. While the parents visited, the kids sprawled out in the corner of the lobby to play board games.

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When we arrived back to the hotel room Toby was almost asleep  and everyone was ready for bed. That long day of swimming and climbing wore everyone out and the combination of sleepy kids and really comfy beds made for a great night’s sleep! In the morning we met friends for breakfast at Steak n’ Shake. We told the kids to fill their bellies. The goal was to have them last until we left so we didn’t need to buy food in the park. So the kids stuffed their bellies and then we took off.

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Our friend, Wendy, couldn't join us so we made a "Flat Wendy" so she could join in the fun. Here she is, complee with he very own limerick:  Thee once was a girl named Wendy, who was as sweet as candy. She came for the fries, and we drew in her eyes. Now she is good and bendy."

Our friend, Wendy, couldn’t join us so we made a “Flat Wendy” so she could join in the fun. Here she is, complete with her very own limerick:
There once was a girl named Wendy,
who was as sweet as candy.
She came for the fries,
and we drew in her eyes.
Now she is good and bendy.”

Then it was back to the waterpark for another day of swimming. Here is a look at the fun we had on our mini vacation:

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Love this freckled faced cutie!

The day ended with a trip to the arcade to use our 200 free tokens. The kids loved this unexpected treat. It was also a good incentive to get the little boys out of the water and dressed. Nothing like the promise of video games to get the boys moving toward the door!

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Another wonderful year at Kalahari!

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For a good time- “Just add water!”

Kalahari Adventure

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How blessed I am…my heart overfloweth!

 Woo hoo…Kalahari time! For the past three years we have had the opportunity to join a group of friends for an amazing getaway at Kalahari Indoor Water Park. A former co-op mom organizes the getaway for her church each year and we are able to tag along and enjoy the group discount. It is something the kids look forward to each year and this year was no exception.  The kids began planning and preparing for it weeks beforehand, knowing the fun that was in store. Ozzie, who had never been there before, could only dream of the fun that awaited him.
On Tuesday morning we left after breakfast to drive the 2 1/2 hours to Sandusky, Ohio where the resort is located. When we arrived Ozzie was in awe of the lobby and all there was to look at. It is a beautiful resort that makes you feel as though you have stepped into another world. The kids looked around the lobby, as Toby checked us in, and they could be heard squealing with delight when they saw a six-week-old lion cub that was sleeping in the hotel lobby.

We arrive for 2 days of fun!

We arrive for 2 days of fun!

After checking in we headed to our rooms…yes, plural. We have finally outgrown a single hotel room. It is funny as we look back on our last three years of visiting Kalahari…year 1 we came with 5 people, year 2 we grew to 6, and this year we were a family of 7. This growth required a boys’ room and a girls’ room and yes I definitely got the better end of that deal. Poor Toby 🙂

Girls' room!!

Girls’ room!!

After checking out our rooms (the little boys were amazed by the peep holes in the door) and changing into our swimsuits we headed down to the water park. It was so nice to have the water park in the hotel itself because we could just walk through the hotel in our swimsuits without having to change in the locker rooms. Here the boys wait in the hallway for their sisters to finish changing.

I don't think Ozzie appreciates being used as an arm rest. :)

I don’t think Ozzie appreciated being used as an arm rest. 🙂

Once we arrived downstairs we found our spot with the other co-op families and the fun began. The girls spent most of their day riding with friends and occasionally checking in while Toby and I took turns walking the boys around. Toby and Tyler rode all of the big water slides together while my two more cautious boys enjoyed the water play area, hot tub, lazy river and wave pool with their less daring Momma.

Toby riding one of the more adventurous slides.

Toby riding one of the more adventurous slides.

Waiting for the water to fall at the water play area.

Waiting for the water to fall at the water play area.

The girls checking in for a moment before running off again.

The girls checking in for a moment before running off again.

After swimming all day we met up with our friends in a quiet corner lobby for a pizza party. We ordered 13 pizzas and the moms brought salad, drinks, fruit, chips and treats to share with the group. The kids had a blast eating and playing games with their friends while the adults visited.

Pizza for 35!

Pizza for 35!

The kids used the unused luggage carts for tables.

The kids used the unused luggage carts for tables.

We headed back upstairs around 9:30 pm to get ready for bed. All the kids were worn out after a full day of swimming and climbing the stairs up to the water slides. The little boys climbed in bed right away but struggled to fall asleep due to an impressive thunderstorm raging outside. The girls in my room, however, had no problems falling asleep and lights were out soon after 10:00pm.

In the morning we joined up with some of the other families for breakfast at Steak n’ Shake restaurant before heading back to the water park for a full day of play.

Breakfast at Steak n' Shake.

Breakfast at Steak n’ Shake.

Ozzie enjoying breakfast.

Ozzie enjoying breakfast.

Day two was spent enjoying all the fun things that were tried on day one as well as braving some new water activities. Ozzie decided to try surfing and did amazingly well considering how small and lightweight he is.

Surfing Oz

Surfing Oz

 One ride ALL the boys enjoyed was The Cheetah Racers. The boys loved being able to race each other down the slides and spent a good deal of their day doing just that.

Tyler won that round...

Tyler won that round…

The boys :)

The boys  🙂

We stayed until dinner, enjoying our vacation as long as we could, before we had to head home and face the reality of school, appointments, and work the following day. It was a wonderful escape from reality for a couple of days as well as an opportunity to bond and create magical memories with our newest son.

The girls enjoying the water slide they renamed "The Toilet Bowl."

The girls enjoying the water slide that they renamed “The Toilet Bowl.”

Kalahari, we had a GREAT time!! See you next year!

Kalahari, we had a GREAT time!! See you next year!