Sunday, July 7, 2013

Smokey Mountain getaway

Last year, the week of Memorial Day, we were at the beach for our annual family vacation.  For the past couple of years (except 2011, the twins were born that month instead!) we go to Panama City Beach with my inlaws. It is always such an amazing time.
Panama City Beach 2012 (twins 1 year and 1 week old, Lyla 3.5 years old)

We decided to not take a vacation this year. The plan was to sell our house and be in the process of building. We were going to save our pennies to begin our dream home!
Ummmm yeah, thats not working. House isnt selling so we aren't building.  I began getting vacation fever. Either that or I was going to start my annual whine to get into needless debt and buy a boat or a pool.
I thought maybe an overnight trip to Nashville or Atlanta? So I started looking at hotels. All I really was looking for was an overnight stay somewhere that had a pool. So then I thought,  how about a water park?  I started looking into Dollywood Splash. Looks like a ton of fun..... in a few years. At this age group of kids we have, I think it would be a waste of money. Two adults and 3 non swimmers we are quite restricted with what we can do. This would be our first out of town trip with no other adult help so it is nerve racking enough. I started thinking the only water attractions we can do are a pool,  sprinkler fountain type thing and maybe a lazy River. Keeping with the Gatlinburg theme I started looking at hotels. Found one with. ....a pool,  sprinkler fountain type thing and a lazy River. And plus, water slides (for Tim and I)!
The resort at govenors crossing.
I used and ready many reviews,  mostly positive. You can now also read my positive review there as well!
We booked the hotel for two nights but decided to take the whole week off work. We both had the vacation time. Not to mention the daycare savings!!!!! I began constructing my "tripp staycation/smokey mtn getaway 2013" plan. Which,  living in Chattanooga is easy to do.
We have the best city to vacation in,  you dont always need an ocean. Just read this guys review.
We didn't nearly do as much as him,  but we managed to get into some fun!

Day #1
Dave and Anna, wedding vow renewal and 25th anniversary celebration.
My brother and his beautiful wife have been married 25 years and raised three adorable sweet boys, now men. Odds were against them from the beginning. They were teens when they got together and married as teen parents. Not everyone thought they would make it. Even their pastor who ditched them right before their wedding!  We told Dave and Anna they should send him an invite to their anniversary party. Hehe.
Not only did they make it, they are more in love now than ever and have gone through many struggles, including pancreatic cancer. Anna once again beat the odds and is a survivor!
Here are pictures from their special night. I wish I had Davids speech on video. No one else tells their story better...

They chose a beautiful venue on the TN River at a place call The River Inn on Suck Creek Road. Gorgeous place on the most gorgeous of evenings.  Anna created all the decorations herself!

dining table decorations floating candles and Hershey kisses. the most delicious center piece I have ever seen!

I played photographer and did some family photos for everyone. And then my sister in law helped out with taking photos of the ceremony since I had three rowdy kids to keep quiet.
My sister Adrienne and her husband Paul and daughter Kendra (their other daughter Kelsey is in the service and out of town)

My happy family of five :)

My mother and Olivia

My brother Mike and his wife Tiffany and daughter Savannah (their son Gabe was at home with the nurse)

My nephew DJ and his wife Casey, daughter Alonie and son Ethan

My sister Jenny and her husband Lance, daughter Lorien and son LJ

The happy couple my brother Dave and his wife of 25 years, Anna

My brother Matt and his wife Lindsay

My father and step mom

My nephew Andrew and his girlfriend Kimmie

Blue Mother Tupelo performed, an amazingly fun and talented blue grass group

The ceremony was so sweet. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. Especially as Dave told their love and life story to everyone.
Anna even surprised Dave! She wasn't able to get him a wedding ring when they first married years ago, so she got a cheap $10 one for their wedding day. It broke a few days later, and he has never worn a wedding ring since.  Anna bought him one for their 25th anniversary and proposed to him with it during the ceremony. Ahhhh, it was beautiful!!!

It was then time to watch a beautiful slide show of photos from the past 25 years. Lots of giggle and awwwwws.  Then it was time to party! Blue Mother Tupelo put on a great show. The kids especially loved them. Liv, Lyla and Savannah danced non stop. The videos (I will someday put on you tube) are adorable.

Day #2
Heritage Park with friends
The day started off with a backyard picnic. Sean then headed to nana's for the night. Then Libby and her two girls came over to place and decided to have a girls day. Off to Heritage Park!
We always knew of this park, been there for the moms of multiples Christmas party which is held in the mansion on the property. Didn't know they had a awesome little Creek to wade in. This is now one of our favorite spots on a hot day.
Tripp'lets enjoying a backyard picnic

Alexis teaching Lyla about honeysuckles

Sean off to Nana's house

Livvi and Lana

sisters :)

all the girls counting four leaf clovers

Day #3
Andrew and Ethan's Pump it Up birthday
These set twin boys are our neighbors. They were 18 months old when we moved in and I was pregnant with Lyla. Once I learned I was pregnant with twins I joined the moms of multiples group that their mom was involved in. Our family's have grown up together!  We were happy to celebrate the boys 6th birthday at one of Lyla's favorite places.

Liv was not scared to go down by herself!

the birthday boys

Lyla reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to her American flag balloon

Day #4
Memorial day cookout
Poolside with my favorites, daddy's nana and papa, mommy's nana, sandie tony and kyler,Tim and the kids. We cooked out and laid out and swam. This was our first time in the pool this year and it was cold! We bought some puddle jumpers from Walmart. Highly recommend these!  I really wish we had skipped all the floats and life jackets the past 5 years and went straight to these. They are safer too because it keeps their head and chest above water. The twins still struggle a little and need holding in the water, but Sean especially is making progress to becoming a swimmer. Lyla, as usual will not get in the water unless she is being held. She is almost 5, we have two babies that need water help, it's time for this girl to learn to swim. I set a goal for her to be swimming by her birthday (with floaties). I began working with her on Memorial Day. I promised I wouldn't let go unless she told me it was okay. We started with me just holding her and roaming around the pool. Then holding one hand and her floating. Then learning to kick her legs. I talked her into trying to float on her own but I kept with my promise of not letting go unless she was ready. Kids are at their most scared and vulnerable point when learning something new like this. I didn't want to betray her trust. But finally she was ready and she gave it a try!! We all made a huge deal or of it and she feed off of our reaction and got braver. Within the hour she was swimming all over the pool. This makes life so much easier for us! Now Tim and I and all three kids can be in the pool together on our upcoming trip! 

On our way home we decided to stop at Coolidge Park to spend some time with my two best friends Britney and Libby. So glad we did. Was such a great ending to the holiday.

Day #5
Chattanooga Ducks
The day started out a little rough. I worked in the office a few hours and got home pretty late in the morning. Our original plan was to picnic at the aquarium water area and let the kids splash around and then head to the Chattanooga Ducks tour. That didn't happen. By the time I got home all the kids were in melt down mode and Tim had no patience left. We took a deep breathe and came up with a new plan and headed straight to the duck tour.
The Chattanooga Duck is a land/water vehicle built back in the 40's. I can't even comprehend how this thing is still running and actually made me a little nervous!
The tour starts out driving around Chattanooga and gets into the history of our great city. I couldn't hear a word the guy was saying so we just waved to people. It was fun acting like an annoying tourist. We then head down to the river and go down a long ramp and splash into the water. Tim and I had death grips on all three kids. They did great and weren't restless. For the most part. About half way through the River portion they were over it. It was so neat seeing Chattanooga from the other side!  Lyla even got to be the captain for a while.

After going home and resting, we headed back out and got some dinner at Panera, and took it to Heritage Park. We ate at the picnic tables, walked around, swang, and played.

Day #6
Canoe at the nature center
I had intended for us all to go on  picnic lunch to the nature center but seeing as we were leaving to the smokies the next day I had alot to do to get ready. So Tim and Lyla got to have a special day together. They went to the library and then to the nature center for a short canoe trip. I threatened Tim and told him he absolutely had to take some pictures of lylas first canoe trip!  He has my old iphone now, no excuses for not taking pictures. So a few pictures I got!

When they got home, we had a little pool time in our new kiddie pool before it was time to start packing and get a good nights sleep.

Day #7
Knoxville Zoo
After loading up the car with what seemed as much crap as going to the beach for 7 days, we headed North to Knoxville. We wanted to go to the zoo and let the kids see some new animals. I love our zoo and all but it is small and not a whole lot of big animals. Lyla was ecstatic to see zebras! My sister in law had mailed us a coupon (they live in Knoxville) plus we got a discount for being zoo members at the Chattanooga Zoo. We walked in and first thing we did?  Family picture!  I just love this family picture because it really shows how grown up the twins are as opposed to our usual having to hold them. 

We had a great time at the zoo. It was hot so we took it very slow and drank lots of water. We stopped at their Cafe and feed the kids a packed lunch and Tim and I got some nasty burgers. I will pack myself pb&j next time too. They have an amazing splash Park there that looked like so much fun!  We skipped it since we would be in water later in the day. We stopped at the chimpanzees. They were all in one cage while the keepers were cleaning their outside habitat. What a riot they all were!  Running, chasing, screaming and picking on one another. Occasionally they would hang upside down in front of us and make faces. I could've stayed there all day to watch them.
Lyla and I stopped at this photo booth that was so cool. Not only do you get a photo strip but you get a link to a video of us taking the photos to put on your Facebook. 

We took our time and enjoyed all of the animals. Liv slept for a while. When she woke up she was completely soaked in sweat, poor thing. We headed down to the kids area. So much for them to do down there! 
The play area was packed with elementary kids on a field trip. I took the three in while Tim stayed by the strollers. Big mistake. I hear lyla scream and cry. I took off up a slide to grab her. Some kid accidentally kicked her in the head. Kudos to the teacher who later made the boy come apologize to her. After rescuing lyla I turn around and Sean is running off and Liv is missing. You hear many moms that talk about that sheer panic mode. This was my first time. She was no where in sight. I yelled to Tim to get down here and I hauled ass up the stairs yelling for her. My sweet adventurous liv walked up a huge tunnel slide to the top of the play area. We got everyone our of there fast. It was just too chaotic, even for me.
We went over to the Lego store and let them play while we relaxed in the air conditioning and I got to catch up on some work emails and get a little work done.
Afterwards Tim wanted the kids to try dipping dots. Lyla loved them. The twins, eh...not so much.
In the kids area they also had a little splash creek that reminds me of our aquarium courtyard. I really wanted them to play there but they didn't have a change of clothes. Next time. 

We finished up with the rest of the exhibits around 3. I was so happy with their zoo and can't wait to go back again soon! We got in the car and headed a few minutes south to Pigeon Forge to check into our room.
The best thing ever happened as we were pulling into the hotel. I got a phone call from the magnet school we are on the waiting list for. They had a spot open for Lyla!! I was so excited that after I obviously accepted and hung up I began crying. Face in the hands sobbing. I was so overwhelmed by emotion and giving praise to God as He had answered our prayers! Tim thought we had an offer on our house and that is what the phone call was about. He was thrilled to hear it was about lylas school. It is such a great feeling knowing that all three of our kids education is taken care of until college. 
1 week after we returned from vacation, Lyla completed her  Kindergarten screening, and we make it official!

We got all checked into our hotel. It was a great condo style room. We were so pleasantly surprised. Full kitchen, living room and bedroom. Staying in a hotel is one of my favorite parts of vacation. There is no stress of housekeeping looming over my head. I just get to enjoy the moment and the people in the moment. The twins looked out the Window and saw the pools and went nuts! 
After a couple of hours of play we got ready for dinner.  We drove all through Pigeon Forge and after 30 minutes settled on TGIFridays right next to our hotel. The twins were in rare form. Handfuls. Noisy Handfuls. It was really good food but not the most enjoyable dinner. A tad stressful! It was such a long fun and tiring day and way past everyone's bed time so back to the room we went. We were all in bed by 9 and slept great!
We wasted no time, changed into our suits and went to play in the water!

Day #8
Day of Fun!
We slept in and it was amazing. No rushing, nowhere to be and no schedule. Best part of vacation!  We decided to get in the car and find some rides for the kids.

We headed back to the room, packed lunch and awaited the arrival of my sister in law Lindsay and the two boys she nanny's for. We all had lunch at the playground. It was so great to see Lindsay and to meet her boys. I enjoyed seeing this side of my sister. She is sooooo good with kids. Her and my brother will make amazing parents someday soon :).

After a very fun day in the sun we said our goodbyes to lindsay, matthew and stephan. We relaxed in the room for a bit and got ready for dinner. I wasn't interested in another stressful restaurant outing so Tim got to go food from a steakhouse and we ate at the playground. I thought it was a great solution and everyone was happy!  Well, except that our food was wrong and we couldn't do anything about it.
After dinner and the playground we loaded in the van and went to sweet frogs to end our night.

Day #9
Smokey Mountains, knoxville and sweet water.
Our last day was our busiest day! We started off with packing up the room, checking out and going for pancakes. Lyla had been looking forward to eating at flapjacks for days now!  Excellent food. Can't wait to go back! 

After filing our bellies we headed to the smokey mountains and walked on the trails for just a few minutes. When the twins are older I look forward to going back and spending more time here. 

We drove through Gatlinburg for a little sight seeing then were on our way to Knoxville to visit with my brother matt. We spent an hour with him and the kids loved his cat! Sean especially, has a small fear of cats so this was surprising. And entertaining. 

checking out Uncle Matt's garden

I enjoy time with my brother and don't get to see him often enough so this was a special treat for me.
On our way back to Chattanooga we passed the exit to the sweet water cheese farm. After sharing my sob story with Tim about how I have passed this exit for 20 something years now and never get to stop and was always told "next time", Tim turned around! !
The farm was amazing. Endless samples of cheese, a short lesson in how cheese is made and a visit to the museum in the barn. I even bought some tasty cheese (garlic cheddar and fajita flavored cheese) and a new cutting board. I was happy. 

We then stopped at the next exit at The Lost Sea. It's an underground cave system that leads to an underground Lake. It was a neat experience and reminds me of our own Ruby Falls. Beautiful. However, with three hungry tired kids and two strollers pushing through miles of an underground cave (uphill and downhill) it was exhausting. This is a trip we probably should have waited a few years to do. It was neat though and lyla really liked it. 

We got back in the car for our final leg back to Chattanooga. After 9 days of perfect weather it started storming heavily. It was so passed our dinner time so we made a quick stop at Moes for some to go food. Perfect ending to our vacation!

Day #10
back to reality
We spent Sunday at church, unpacking, playing in the backyard and settling in to go back to reality the next day.
It was amazing getting to be with my family every moment for ten days! It was a hard transition to get back to routine, but we all love our routine and need it.
That evening, Lyla started VBS at my Mom's church Abba's house, so she had another week of adventure upon her.

We are ready for our next big vacation. Next year we will probably do the beach and the year after we will be ready for Disney!!

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