Push Away the Screen: Iron Girl Clearwater 5k Recap

by jennifer17. April 2014 15:31
For the 2nd consecutive year, my oldest daughter and I were up way before the sun to #PushAwaytheScreen and participate in the Iron Girl Clearwater 5K & Half Marathon. We did the 5K as a mother/daughter team.Last year we actually ran most of the race. This year we decided to walk most of the race and just talk. As mom to the #TampaTrio, the opportunity for some 1:1 time is hard to come by, so we made the most of it! We looked for friends in the 1/2 marathon corral, we took selfies, and we made new friends!This is a new friend I made because I recognized her CrossFit 14 shirt. I can find CrossFit friends anywhere.Haley felt it necessary to do a little pre-race stretching. Always good to stretch.  And soon we were off! We remembered the course from last year and knew when we made it to the top of our Florida Mountain that we would be at 1 mile.We made it to the top of the bridge and there was no 1 mile sign. But there was the Best Damn Cheer Squad.Haley was confused why there were men with their shirts off screaming and holding signs. She's only 10, so not quite ready to fully appreciate all the Best Damn Cheer Squad has to offer. We ran down the bridge and I knew that there would be water at the bottom. Thankfully there was because Haley was thirsty!!  We made a quick off-course detour to some port-a-potties that were on the opposite side of the road, and then began our climb back up the Florida Mountain. At the top there was the 2 mile marker! We were so close to being done!We came down that mountain and knew we had just less than a mile to go!! We continued to hold hands, chat about school, friends, our upcoming summer vacation to Jekyll Island and before we knew it, we were approaching the finish line! But not before the 1/2 marathon leader came swooping down in front of us with her police escort. It was so cool. She was so fast and Haley and I just looked at each other in shock. And then we saw the finish chute! We have a rule in our house. No matter how much of the race we walk, we MUST run through the finish chute!Ahhhh....FINISHED!!Haley was very happy to find the Aqua Sphere water mister!! But she was sort of ambivalent about the mascot from the Clearwater Threshers.We did it! We were Iron Girls!I tracked our walk with the new Samsung Galaxy S5, and I'm happy to report that the pedometer function was spot on for Iron Girl. This distance includes our walking to the expo, the race, and then walking back to our car!We didn't stay for the post-race breakfast, or any of the awards. I didn't even stay to find my 1/2 marathon friends. I had a ton of yard chores calling my name, so we needed to head home. Maybe next year we'll be able to do the 1/2 marathon as a mother/daughter team. Have you even done an Iron Girl Race? Have you been part of a mother/daughter team??

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Jenny

Push Away the Screen: SeaWorld's 50th Celebration and Sea of Surprises

by jennifer27. March 2014 09:27
Disclaimer: The #TampaTrio and I were invited by Sea World to attend the opening day of the 50th Anniversary Celebration.   The kids and I arrived bright and early, were warmly greeted by our personal host, Britney. The trio munched on cupcakes and orange juice while we watched a montage about the history of Sea World. Fun fact: My MOM was kissed by Shamu in 1976. She was picked from the audience, dressed up like George Washington, taken up high on a platform, and Shamu jumped straight up out of the water and kissed her (more like licked her.) She has a photo somewhere and I remember always loving to look at it when I was a kid.The kids watched the facts being presented across the screen, but what they really wanted to do was get on that roller coaster that they could see behind the screens.The fact show ended promptly at 9am, and we were granted admission into the park. We immediately headed over to guest services to get Ronin his special needs pass. They also measured him, and put a 54" green bracelet on his wrist. He was SO EXCITED!! He had been wanting to ride Kraken since our visit in November. We walked with our friend, Tampa Mama Marisa who was there with her wee one. Along the way we saw some of the new interactive exhibits that Sea World is adding to further engage visitors!Park pathways come to life with spontaneous entertainment. “Bubble Blowout” is sure to be a guest favorite with a fantastical vehicle creating bubbles of all sizes and shapes throughout Shamu’s Happy Harbor. Engaging performances with sea-inspired costumes and props will pop up at unexpected moments to surprise guests throughout the day, like “Splash Dance,” near Nautilus Theater. On June 21, a new nighttime Shamu show, “Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night”, debuts. The high energy show will include new, original music and production elements, as well as new killer whale behaviors. The “SeaWorld® Surprise Squad” will roam SeaWorld Orlando on a daily basis giving away, at random, prizes and special gifts, including exclusive access to rides, behind-the-scenes experiences, Shamu-themed merchandise, reserved show seating and more.* SeaWorld guests are often greeted by an animal ambassador, many of whom were orphaned or injured in the wild and given a second chance thanks to the SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team. As part of SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration, there will be more surprise encounters with animal ambassadors throughout the day. Share the wonder of close-up encounters with amazing animal friends and learn how SeaWorld cares for the natural world at the all-new SEA Garden. Completely re-designed, the SEA Garden is where guests can learn more about SeaWorld’s animals, many of them rescued, including eagles, spoonbills, opossums, and more. To showcase SeaWorld’s commitment to the environment and passion for protecting the ocean, four giant sea life sculptures will be displayed at the SEA Garden. SeaWorld commissioned environmental art group The Washed Ashore Project for a collection of larger-than-life sea-themed sculptures – many weighing more than half a ton. The material used to create these pieces comes from the billions of pounds of garbage – mostly plastics – that wind up in our oceans. These amazing works of art point to the urgent need to protect marine animals from such dangers and preserve their ocean habitats. On display at SeaWorld Orlando are a parrot fish, sea horse, sea anemone reef and octopus. As part of its continuing commitment to new technology that enhances the guest experience, SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration will include new ways for fans to connect to the parks and each other though digital devices. The parks will be launching a variety of enhancements, from interactive apps that provide fun new ways to experience the park to new games and video content.But my kids were on a MISSION for roller coasters. But they weren't open yet!! Ack! We made a pit stop at the Dolphin Nursery, but after receiving a behind the scenes tour in November, the Tampa Trio were quickly ready to move on!We parted ways with Marisa and made it over to Manta. It was open, we quickly got on! Whoa!We were sat in the LAST ROW!! I have never been on the last row in a roller coaster like this. It was FREAKY! We sat Ronin, me, Ella, and Haley. Haley knows right where the cameras are, and you can see her sticking out her tongue! Silly Pixie. After Manta, off we went to Journey to Atlantis. Which is an amped up log-flume type ride. WATCH OUT! MEDUSA might get you!! That's Ella in the front row with her hands up in the air!!We ended up going on Atlantis a total of 6 TIMES!! Well, I made it 5 times. The last round I sat out!Who knows what round this one was! Or this one!Or this one, where is Ella is rolling her eyes at the bottom of the large splash zone. She barely got wet, looked back, rolled her eyes and said "is that all you got, Atlantis." That kid cracks me up.But during one of these trips through Atlantis, we decided it was time to try Kraken. Off to went to put our stuff in a locker and this happened.  Yes, we are in first aid. I slammed Haley's thumb in a locker. It was bleeding. It was bruising. I felt so awful. Thankfully we had paramedic Raul who made Haley feel (and me too!) all better. He wrapped up her thumb and gave her a dose of Tylenol and an ice pack.She rebounded quickly and off we went to Kraken.We were in the 7th row! Me, Ronin, Ella, and Haley. And again Haley knows right where the camera is and has her tongue sticking out!! But on that ride I got stung in the neck by a bee. Seriously? Yes. Seriously. Apparently it's quite common, and it didn't really bother me too much, but really?? First a finger slam at the Kraken lockers, and then a neck sting while riding ON Kraken. Should have took those two signs that Kraken wasn't our ride. But they loved it, and that's what counts!We did a few more things. Ate lunch, went through the penguins (man...that was COLD!!) did Atlantis once or twice more, and then around 1pm we decided to head back to Kraken for another ride. I had decided that I didn't want to ride it again, but the trio did. So I brought them up, told them I'd wait right there for them when they got off and this time they were in row 2. They climbed in the seats, but suddenly Ronin was "flagged" by a staff member who told him he needed to get out of the seat and be measured. He looked at her like she was nuts, said "but I have the band, look, see!!" She said it didn't matter, she needed to measure him. He climbed out of the seat and went to the measuring tool. And he was too short. Say what?? He had been measured, went on Manta twice, had already been on Kraken, and suddenly he's too short? Ronin has autism, and the news that he wasn't going to be able to ride did not go over well. He went in to a position that we call "Tucker Turtle" which is basically him on the ground where he tucks himself into a ball on his knees, covering his head with his hands. Like a turtle going into his shell. He was sobbing, uncontrollably , his sisters were looking on so very confused.The ride attendant said she was going to call over a supervisor if we wanted to wait. I told her to let the ride continue on, and Ronin and I would wait. I got down on the ground with Ronin, was rubbing his back, and trying to get him to come out of his shell. He suddenly popped up, snot running out of his nose, eyes full of tears, face red from sobbing, walks over to the measuring stick and says in a pretty loud voice "MEASURE ME AGAIN MAMA" I measure him, and he's not tall enough. Back down to Tucker Turtle. Fairly quickly the area supervisor came up. She got down on her knees close to Ronin and told him she'd like to measure him to make sure the ride was safe for him. She had a very nice calming voice. Ronin responded to her, and back to the stick he went. She explained how the stick needed to be stopped by his head, and the stick was being stopped by his beautiful blond hair and he was too short. But not by much. By 1/4 of an inch.But rules are rules. The girls had come back from the ride by then, and were so concerned for Ronin. They too were hugging him and telling him it would be okay. He was standing up looking around, and quite confused. I had managed to clean up his face and nose, and he had stopped crying hysterically. Hannah bent down again on one knee, looked Ronin in the face and said she'd like to take him down to the measuring tool at the entrance to Kraken. He agreed, and held her hand as they walked down the ramp to the entrance. Again, he was 1/4 of an inch too short. She explained that we SHRINK throughout the day, so he was tall enough at 9am when he was first measured, but as the day went on, he lost 1/4 of an inch. Poor dude. He started to get teary eyed again, but Hannah quickly asked what she could do to make it better. Could she take him over to see the penguins, did he want to ride on Journey to Atlantis, did he want VIP seating at an animal show? He said YES, he wanted it all. And Hannah said OKAY. We first headed over to Journey to Atlantis, they again held hands and chatted. We quickly got on the ride, and Hannah was right there waiting for us when we got off. Then we walked over to the penguins. Hannah pointed out the different types of penguins in the exhibit, but the Tampa Trio got cold quickly. We exited the exhibit and Hannah walked us over to a gift kiosk where she told the kids they could each pick out a stuffed animal.And then she wrote us a VIP pass for the 4:30 dolphin show. Hannah spent nearly an hour with us. Just us. She listened to what Ronin was saying, she responded to his needs, and made what was an awful experience into something that he hasn't even brought up since we returned home. Instead he talks about his cool stuffed animal that he got at Sea World. The dolphin show was amazing. Our seats were front and center. And we saw amazing feats from one of my favorite ocean mammals (Beluga Whales are my favorite.)   There was also an animal who refused to participate in the show. Normally a large crane (gosh I think it's a crane) flies through the audience. But this guy refused to budge, and the acrobats were waiting so patiently.Eventually the show continued without the big bird. Dolphins are such smart mammals and they reminded us of our puppy back at home, sweet Matthew, so playful and who will do anything for a treat. The finale of the show was amazing. I always love seeing pods of dolphins jumping together.It had been a very stressful day for this mama at Sea World. From paramedics, to a bee sting, to an autism meltdown, I deserved this beer. And it was so good. My son was smiling, I was smiling. The day wasn't a total wash.We left the park right after the dolphin show and chatted in the car about what a fun day we had. And then suddenly we were one voice short. Ronin had fallen asleep, exhausted from the #SeaofSurprises we had experienced at Sea World.

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Jenny

Push Away the Screen: Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens

by jennifer13. March 2014 10:47
Disclaimer: My family and I were provided with passes to Busch Gardens to experience the Serengeti Safari. All opinions are our own. It's no secret that my family loves Busch Gardens. I write about it often on the blog. I've been going to Busch Gardens since I was a toddler. In fact, one of my first memories was of being trapped in a horrible rainstorm while at Busch Gardens, and running with my sister, parents, aunt and uncle (and our babysitter) down the ramp (where the birds are located) and there being huge puddles and Lori and I sloshing our way through them. I must have been around 4 years old. 38 years later and I'm still frolicking away at Busch Gardens. But in all my years of visiting the park, I have never been on a Serengeti Safari tour. I knew the #TampaTrio would LOVE the opportunity to see the animals up close and were all smiles when I told them what we'd be doing! We were planning on staying all night at the park to see the Steve Miller Band (another post on that will be coming up!!) so decided that we'd get to the park closer to our tour time which was 2pm. We arrived just in time and the kids were excited and ready get on the jeep!Our safari guide went over some rules for the safari and we began to head over! Ronin took lead with our guide and group photographer and led the way over for our 30 minute tour!The rules of the jeep were pretty easy to remember. Hold on and don't touch any animals. The driver would beep the horn several times if were going to go over a bumpy patch. We could only bring a water bottle and camera with us. No bags at all. Base camp is located just behind the elephant exhibit. Not sure how I missed seeing it after all these years, but I guess if you're not looking for it, it doesn't stick out!There were 6 other people on our tour, for a total of 11 of us (crazy to think my gang nearly doubled the size of the tour ) but we had plenty of room in the open bed of the jeep. We all thought it was super cool to be "behind the scenes" and as we drove through these gates, Ronin grabbed my hand and excitedly said "mama, it's like we're going to Jurassic Park."I started to keep my eyes peeled for a T-Rex, but quickly learned from our guide that all the animals we'd see on our tour were vegetarians. Whew. I was worried there for a second. Quickly we arrived at the Rhino habitat where we were informed that the driver would no longer be able to beep her horn because it could cause the rhino to charge the jeep, so we all better just hang on because she'd be stopping and going without warning. I wouldn't want to mess around with this guy.That is a Black Rhino, named for the color of mud it covers itself with when it's in its native African habitat. Here in Tampa, the staff at Busch Gardens provides him with a red Georgia mud, but he's still a black rhino. And black rhino's like to be left alone. They are the only species of rhino that prefers solitary living. We also saw a lot of zebra. These two zebra's playing and snuggling reminded us of our big puppy, Matthew. We learned that this species of zebra does not have stripes encircling their entire bodies. Their stomachs are white.We stopped along the way and learned about gazelle, ostriches, and cranes. The crane is the only animal on the Serengeti Safari tour that eats meat (carrion). It's a big bird and I wouldn't want to mess with it, that's for sure!But what the Tampa Trio were most excited about were the giraffe. Our guide told us we'd be driving over to not only see the giraffe up close, but if the giraffe were in the mood, we could even feed them! We learned that giraffe lick on the palm trees to get salt into their diet. Pretty cool! Some of the trees had their bark completely licked clean!Giraffe have very long, dark colored tongues! And teeth! And my kids wanted to put their hands near this giant creatures mouth?? Our guide demonstrated the correct way to feed the giraffe, and went over some specific rules. For example, NO hugging the giraffe. Apparently in the past a guest hugged a giraffe and got lifted right out of the back of the safari van! That would not be happening on this trip! We quickly caught the attention of Beka (or Becca) the Giraffe and she made her way over to the jeep for some yummy Romaine lettuce (see that big tower in the background? That's Falcon's Fury....opening in May! ACK!!)The Tampa Trio where chosen to feed Beka first, and they all waited patiently to see whose hand she would pick from.And it was HALEY!! You can see Haley with her mouth agape as Beka munched on the lettuce in her hand.And then it was Ronin's turn!And Beka made sure to save room for Ella's handful of romaine!Actually, Beka seemed to have a bottomless pit of a stomach as everyone on the jeep had the opportunity to feed her several times! We even had the opportunity for a family photo with Beka, though the sun was right in our faces, and the picture didn't take with my camera, so this is a picture of a picture that I took from the photo kiosk.Our family had a great time out of the Serengeti Safari tour at Busch Gardens, and the kids have now set their sights on the Jungala Insider Tour. The tour is an additional fee to your daily park admission and fees range from $19-$39 depending on the season. I highly recommend taking the Serengeti Safari tour! Make sure you wear sunscreen and bring bottled water. It gets HOT out on there on the African plains! All children must be at least 5 years old to participate in this tour. It was a great way to see the animals up close. We always see the animals on the train ride, the sky ride, or when we walk through the Edge of Africa, but this was a totally different experience and one that we won't soon forget! Our family fully supports Busch Gardens and its mission of envisioning a global community rooted in human understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the natural world and its wonders. If not for places like Busch Gardens and Sea World, our family would only have the chance to see animals on TV. We want to teach our children to Push Away the Screen, and get out, be active, and explore the world around them. Have you ever taken a behind the scenes animal tour at a zoo/park? What did you think??

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Jenny

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