Thursday, April 30, 2015

Six years of Liam Christopher

Happy birthday Andy!

Andy's birthday was a couple weeks ago.  I won't say how old, but suffice it to say he is still younger than me.  I was lucky enough to get the night off from work and Andy was able to be home from work early.  He was able to take Marcus to get new soccer cleats and also picked up a nice steak for himself for dinner.  I had time to make a couple pies for the birthday boy, too.  The kids were super pumped to celebrate Andy's birthday, eat pie and ice cream and see Andy open his presents.  

Kinley stayed up to wish Daddy a happy birthday!

Presents!  Lots of gum-which the kids promptly attacked.
A new game; Sheriff of Nottingham.  We love games here!
A replacement mug, replacing one he got for his birthday last year.

A new superhero shirt for our superhero dad!

Apple pie with and "A" on it for "Andy's pie".  The kids got there own so Andy didn't have to share.

Yea for Andy!  He's an awesome dad, husband, friend.  I hope this year is an awesome year for him!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

random other Tennessee vacation photos

In the interest of time and all, here are a sprinkling of more vacation photos.  Then that's it.  In no way are these in order, but I think you'll like looking at them.  

Monday night, we ordered pizza to watch with the NCAA men's basketball finals.  I took Ewan and Cale with me to pick up the pizza and to do a little geocaching along the way.  They each found a cache.

Can't tell you exactly where Cale's was....but now that he's had some experience with geocaching, it was easier for him to find.

Yes, this is the cache.  Yes, it is chained to the landscaping.  The placer of the cache actually has permission of the property owner to place the cache here.  The challenge was opening the box.

 Christmas Store
I forced the kids to go to the Christmas store with me.  I had originally wanted to go to thrift shops/antique shops because I had seen a fair amount of them on our drive into town.  But, I didn't drive the right way to find them and we went to a really junkie junk shop and then came back for some Christmas fun.

Look at how excited they were to shop with me.  The fudge we bought made them smile later.

 Just looking around...
The boys climbed up the hill on the side of the wax museum because 1. they could and 2. they thought it was cool.  It was.

At the hotel
Andy got us a killer deal on the hotel.  Days Inn in Sevierville, TN. We got two rooms, of course.  It wasn't the fanciest place, but it was clean, people were friendly, the rooms came with a fridge, microwave and coffee machine.  Winner.

Kinley liked climbing on all the furniture.

Cale, enjoying the fudge we got.

How cute to see them play together.

The trip to get there. 
Horrible.  Rainy.  Traffic.  12 hours.  I don't think I need to say anything else about it.  This trip should have taken 7 hours.  We can't explain why it took so long.  Was it because it was Friday?  The friday before Easter? The start of the entire state of Kentucky's spring break?  There was no severe crazy road construction to slow us down, just tons and tons of cars.  The kids did great, though.  And, thank goodness for the DVD player and handheld electronics.  Andy also got to use his McGyver skillz by taping the driver side windshield wiper in place after it snapped off twice in pouring rain. Once we got to almost Tennessee, the traffic was fine.  We got to the hotel at 10:30 that evening and I was so thankful to be done driving for the day.

Andy took this picture while I was driving.  So pretty.

One of the best buys we had and something the boys really enjoyed was buying passes to the NASCAR Speedpark. The price of the weeklong pass was around $30 per person and Andy and the boys went every day.  There are 7 tracks that cater to different heights-Andy was the only one who could drive all of them.  There was also a rock wall and some carnival type rides.  I highly recommend the passes.  You can't beat the value, or the fun.

That's it for Tennessee photos.  Again, it was so fun and I'm glad we were able to go.  I think we could go every year and not get tired of the area.  

I Love Tennessee Stamps

Friday, April 24, 2015

my little nerds

One of the things the boys were looking forward to for spring break and our return to Tennessee, was a return trip to Magiquest.  I think what drew them to it last year was that the building itself looks like a castle.  Pretty cool to see when you're driving past in a car.  And, inside, you choose a wand and go on quests in which the wand interacts with the environment in some way.  There is also a laser room, mini-golf and a mirror maze. My little wizards were stoked to go last year and pumped to get to go back this year.  Ewan, I think, even found an old booklet from last year and had started to reread and analyze it.  And, they got new wands since there was no way the old ones had survived a year of use in pretend play. No lies, to take 5 kids plus Andy as the adult watchdog, it is not cheap.  Definitely one of the big things we spend money on while we were there.  The kids had a blast.  I think they were also excited to go back because they knew how the game was going to go and felt better prepared.  Kinley and I did a little Easter bunny shopping and then went to the outlet mall and a shoe store while the rest were on their quest.

Ready to go in.  They weren't the first ones there when the place opened, but they were close.
Random mini golf pics, thank you Andy.

A little bit of a wizard duel while they waited for Mom.

They love it.  I'm glad they got the chance to go back.

Probably the cutest thing I heard was Marcus say that the building, "..looks like a level 8 town hall." (from Clash of Clans).  

Oh, my sweet little nerd.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

up the mountain: Clingman's Dome

For our second half of spring break, way back a couple weeks ago, we went on a trip to Tennessee.  We stayed in Sevierville and did tourist-y things for several days.  The kids had a blast, the adults had fun, too.  These pictures and events are in no particular order.  I uploaded photos to my computer from 3 different sources-our camera, my phone and Andy's phone so I will post as I find the photos stashed away on the computer.  And, as I have time.  

The pictures for today are from are trip to Clingman's Dome.  It's at the top of a mountain in the Smoky Mountains National Park.  The kids were agreeable to to trip-they don't have any fear of heights to keep them in the valley.  I was the only one having an almost-anxiety attack as I drove our van up and up and up.  I even saw clouds out the corner of my eye as  we were driving-at tire level.  We were so high up we were driving through the clouds!

Here's a bit from the National Park Service website:
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.

When you get to the top, there is a parking lot that has no rails or anything off the side of the mountain.  That's when I about lost is and just circled the van around to go right back down.  How could I let my children out to stand on this sidewalk with no rails or safety anything?  Several deep breaths later, I stopped the van so everyone could get out and then I squeezed our van into a parking spot.  We went early in the day and I'm glad we did.  By the time we were getting back into our van, the parking lot was full and people were parking on the side of the road leaving the site.  No way would I have parked this van and my children on the side of the mountain, gotten out and walked in traffic to the start of the path.  Thankfully, that wasn't our lot. 

The air tastes different up here, crisper, cleaner.  The temperature is cooler.  I made sure everyone had a jacket to wear.  We even saw a little bit of ice as we drove up.  

No lies: it is beautiful up there.  The views are amazing and we were lucky enough to go on a clear day when you could see for miles.  

You walk up a paved trail to the top of the dome.  The trail is paved, but steep. Steep. We were some of those people who pushed a stroller to the top (because a certain princess didn't want to walk-which was probably a good thing-we would have ended up carrying her).  It was a good work-out for me that morning, a good work-out for everyone.  Andy also wore the hiking backpack with Kinley riding in it.  

And now, for the pictures....

The view from the parking lot.  Notice, no guard rails or anything.  I did feel a little better after realizing that you can't walk over the edge and fall straight down the mountain.  There are plenty of trees to stop your fall.

Boys posing on rocks.

At the top of the dome, bottom of the observation tower.

The group that walked up the observation tower ramp.  I'm sure the views were amazing, but my nerves had had all the heights they could take that day.

How the princess traveled.

Did I mention we went on Easter?  What a great way to celebrate-surrounded by God's creation.

The boys on the actual Appalachian Trail.  This trail takes you up and down the mountain.  6,600 feet.  You know, because it's a lot easier to walk up on down a mountain than to stay on a trail in the valley.

Random boy pics.

Kinley, along for the ride.  

Pretty sure I told Andy not to sit the boys on this bench for a photo op.  The one place that I'm pretty sure you could fall straight down the mountain.  Of course this happened while I was in the gift shop getting our magnet to celebrate our hike.

Onto the Sugarlands Welcome Center.  They have a nature center there with lots of displays. 

Liam, working hard on his Junior Ranger scavenger hunt.

Liam, getting sworn in as a Junior Ranger.  This was so fun for him.  The Junior Ranger program is at many national parks.  You can even do activities from home and send in your packet to get your badge.

He was so pumped to be a Junior Ranger. 

And, Kinley really liked this bear.

I love the Smokies.  Love the park.  Love being out in nature and letting the kids experience it.  I see many more trips to the mountains in our future.