Goodbye For Now, Anna Maria Island. As Always, You’re the Best!

I did not in any way, shape, or form want to come home from vacation this year. And that is putting it mildly! I shed a couple of tears as we drove off Anna Maria Island.

What a relief it was to leave my own town for a couple of weeks. The stress around here has taken a large toll; between the final days of school, the closure of our school, and this long, annoying house remodel we have going, I was ready to get out of here, and as quickly as possible.

My house has been in shambles for over a month. I don’t have a kitchen. I’ve gained seven pounds because I can’t cook anything I like that is healthy in the microwave downstairs. I have nowhere in the house to chill out and even nothing to clean, because it is all a disaster.

So when we hopped in the Jeep and took off for Seattle and the airport, I was ready! Get me out of here!

Our first stop was Disney World and the Magic Kingdom. To be honest, the Magic Kingdom wasn’t really my thing. I appreciated that my older kids and G enjoyed it, and I also appreciated that G went all out on rooms at the Polynesian Resort so we could simply ride the monorail to and from the Kingdom. Because after four hours of sweating, hour-long lines for ten-minute rides, crowds, and general chaos that is the Magic Kingdom, my youngest daughter and I were ready to hop back on the monorail and get back to the hotel pool. Quickly.

Next stop on the vacay was Anna Maria Island on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. I’ve been to Anna Maria several times with George; before marriage, after marriage, before kids, and after kids, and it remains my favorite place in the world. There is not one thing about Anna Maria I don’t like. No matter where we stay or what we do while we are there, I love it all.

This year, especially. It was nice to be in a house with a kitchen. A house that was clean and open. With a dock and waterway outside, and a pool, and tables aplenty for outdoor eating. We swam in the pool and the Gulf, walked, ate at our favorite outdoor bar and grill, boated, played, and slept, all the while taking it slow and easy.

Nowhere to go and nowhere to be. I couldn’t believe my good luck and I was grateful for and relished every single minute and moment of our time in this house and on Anna Maria Island this year.

I have posted some pictures of our trip in this post to give you a general idea of where we were and what we did.

One different thing we made time for this year was visiting the Caylee Anthony memorial when we got to Orlando on our way back to the airport. I’d wanted to visit the memorial in the past, but it never happened. We had extra time this year and it was nearby, so we found it. Having followed the case of the murdered two-year-old from start to finish, read a book on it, and watched the trial on TV, it seemed surreal to finally find the spot and pay respects to the little angel, who was left in a swampy area near the end of her own street.

My Eva was also two years old when Caylee was murdered, so that might have been part of my original interest in the case. My Valerie is now two, which accounts in part for my continuing interest. As we drove down the street leading to the memorial, three smiling brown-haired little girls who appeared to be about eight (the age Caylee would have been now) rode past us on scooters on the sidewalk. We couldn’t help but think that Caylee could and should have been riding with them on her own street. Instead, I looked at the spot where her little body was left, and saw how swampy it was. How overgrown and neglected and sad.

I don’t regret stopping to pay respects, though. I am glad we made the effort. I just wish someone would come through and clean it up and create a memorial befitting a precious two-year old whose life was caught tragically short.

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Please enjoy some pictures of our trip. We are now back home to all the chaos that is construction, and I am already planning what I hope will be next year’s trip back to my favorite place in the world.

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On the Disney Bus from the Orlando airport, headed to the Polynesian Resort and the Magic Kingdom.

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Phew! Out of Disney World and back to the resort pool, the pool bar, music and pool games.

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This photo of Valerie sort of represents the way Valerie and I felt about the Magic Kingdom.

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Standing on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

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The pontoon G rented and docked right outside the house.

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Heading back to the harbor in Anna Maria Island after a day on the water.

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Getting ready to jump off the boat and walk through the water to the sandbar and bird sanctuary near Eggmont Key.

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Standing on the dock outside the house.

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Organizing the loot from the best 4th of July parade ever, in Anna Maria. Candy, frisbees, necklaces, popsicles, and toys were all enthusiastically tossed from floats and captured by the little ones lining the street.

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At the outdoor Island Time Bar & Grill on Anna Maria, which features the best burgers ever and awesome live music everyone can enjoy.

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We met up with my cousin and his family for dinner, conversation, and cheer in St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.

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The kids sitting on the bench on the dock.

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The house came with a pool; what a treat to have it all to ourselves!

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Valerie playing on the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

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G and Eva jumping waves.

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Not surprisingly, this tired baby slept most of the six-hour flight home.

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We visited the Caylee Anthony memorial in Orlando to pay respects to that little angel. We were surprised about the condition of the memorial. It appeared neglected, overgrown, and of course, unbelievably sad.

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